Worst Books I Read in 2021

2021 was…well, it was a year, wasn’t it? Was it worse than 2020? I guess not, but it wasn’t great either.

Despite all that, there were a lot of good parts in 2021. I got a job, and then another job, and then another job, and then got offered another job, but decided four jobs was just a bit much. I also got to go out in public and do fun things for about three months… And I read some great books!

I also read some bad ones.

The bad books of 2021 range from really bad and possibly quite offensive to a large majority of people, to simply mediocre. And, luckily for you, we’re going to take a look at some of the books that made 2021 just a little worse than it was otherwise.

(You can take a look at my worst books of 2020, and 2019. Also, we’re not going to be completely negative here, I will post about my favourite books very soon!)

A Darker Shade of Magic: V.E. Schwab

This book made me question literally everything. It’s so beloved by basically everyone, it has a strong premise, I love the idea of Kell and secret Londons and everything.

And then I read it and was simply…confused. I kept waiting for the story to start, until it finished? And it wasn’t bad, it was just confusing. Was there a story? I don’t know! I kept waiting for the inciting incident, and then I read The End.

So basically, I didn’t like it, it was mediocre, but I want Kell’s coat (and Kell).

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: Kim Michele Richardson

Oh boy.

This book was “Let’s make a book about racism…but let’s still centre white people because having an actual black character would be scandalous”.

Like really. This book is about Cussy May, who is a blue Tennessee woman (her skin is blue because of a genetic issue, which deoxygenises her blood, making it a chocolate brown, rather than red colour, and thus making her skin appear blue). Now all this is fine, and Cussy’s job is super cool, because she delivers books by mule to the almost impenetrable mountains of Tennessee. And there’s a lot of opportunity to tackle how people view those with disabilities and facial differences. But Richardson doesn’t do that. Instead, she decides to tackle racism.

Yes, racism.

Cussy is repeatedly referred to as a “coloured” and at least twice as a “n*****r”. She has to follow the same rules as the black residents of the town. Then, spoiler alert, her husband is arrested and imprisoned for marrying a “coloured woman”. Which is obviously ridiculous because the whole reason she’s blue is because she’s white.

To sum it up, could have dealt wonderfully with facial/skin differences…instead tries to tackle racism and fails completely and is also just boring.

The Vanishing Point: Val McDermid

This book was…bizarre.

Essentially, it’s about a ghost writer, who’s hired to write for a B-list celebrity from a trashy reality show, who’s about to have a baby. They become friends, the baby is born, and a whole list of increasingly weird things happen until eventually, the celebrity dies (this isn’t a spoiler, as it’s literally in the blurb) and leaves her son in the custody of the ghost writer.

Then the son is kidnapped. But who did it? and why?

The answer is so weird, and because I’m assuming none of you will want to read this, I’ll tell you that the kid was taken by his mother, who actually isn’t dead, but instead murdered her cousin, who looks just like her {and used to masquerade as her for the paparazzi} and she’s now living in a de facto relationship with her oncologist.

The book ends with the ghost writer murdering the celebrity because “you can’t kill someone who is already dead”, and then taking the kid back.

Wow.

I’m gonna leave it at that.

A Pho Love Story: Loan Le

I feel kinda bad sticking this one on my worst reads list, because it wasn’t bad. It was just boring and mediocre. I didn’t connect with the characters, I thought the story was a tad melodramatic, and the descriptions of the Vietnamese food made me hungry.

Over all, it was a solid three star read, not great, but not bad.

CSI Told You Lies: Giving Victims a Voice Through Forensics: Meshel Laurie

This book was bad because it really got me hyped, and then dashed my expectations by being completely different to what it promised.

Essentially, if you pick up a book called CSI Told You Lies, you would expect it to be about the lies that CSI has told you, for example, the myths perpetrated by crime tv shows. Which I was so keen for, because I love mythbusting and I love forensic science.

Instead, this book was just a badly cobbled together, badly edited collection of interviews with different forensic scientists. There was no overarching theme to the book, nothing to really link the different people and events together, it was just…not great. And there was absolutely no mythbusting.

Also, there’s a crystal skull on the front cover, so…um?

The Real Silent Witnesses: Shocking Cases from the World of Forensic Science: Wensley Clarkson

This book was boring and confusing. It’s like a tie in nonfiction book to the show The Silent Witness, which I’ve admittedly never seen. But basically it’s a run down of forensic science, and…I just couldn’t work out who the target audience was? If you’ve watched the show, you probably know all of the info in this already. Each chapter is around 250-750 words on a subsection of forensic science, or a well-known crime case. It wasn’t particularly indepth at all, and I think there would be very few mystery or true crime who would find this interesting.

And then again, maybe it was aimed toward people who don’t know anything about forensic science and haven’t seen the show…but then why make it into a show tie-in and constantly reference the characters and plots?

So, overall, I haven’t seen the show and I’ve learnt too much about forensic science to really enjoy this one.

English History Made Brief, Irreverent and Pleasurable: Lacey Baldwin Smith

Unfortunately, this book was everything but brief, irreverent and pleasurable. It was long, boring and covered the most basic, whitebread version of English history.

I went into this thinking it would be something along the lines of Bill Bryson, or Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets, where we would learn about the amusing, weird and taboo, secrets of history. But no, it was really just the same old stuff we’ve heard before, William the Conqueror, Henry VIII, WW1, etc. Nothing exciting here, and it was also just far longer than it needed to be, and not brilliant editing.

The Last Wish: Andrzej Sapkowski

You know when you’re in your happy place, reading lots of new fantasy novels, where diversity is celebrated, women are people (and not sex dolls or goddesses), and the setting is more than a carbon copy of England.

And then you read an older work and you’re like…ah, the sweet, sweet taste of misogyny.

But seriously, the way women were treated in these stories was just so gross and made me so uncomfortable. I would like to blame it on the translation, but unfortunately I don’t read Polish, so I can’t confirm.

However, I just spent the whole of the book cringing at the, uh…descriptions of the female characters (even the young girls!)

Anyway, I did love Geralt, so I will give the next one a chance and see how it goes.

Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator: Patricia Wiltshire

This book was disappointing because it could have been something great, and it wasn’t. It was aggressively mediocre, and I’m kind of salty that I spent an Audible credit on it.

For some background, Patricia Wiltshire is a forensic ecologist, who works mainly in rape and assault cases, using forensic evidence from the environment to work out who was where and did what, etc. She’s a trailblazer in her field (the literal and figurative field, lol) and an amazing scientist…but just not a great writer.

I think this book could have been brilliant if she’d had a ghost writer, or an interviewer, or even a really good editor. But as it was the book was boring, jumped around between timelines, spent a lot of time focussing on Wiltshire’s childhood, and was very repetitive. Over all, not the greatest forensic science book I’ve read (stay tuned for my BEST OF post, which will have a few!)

Did you read any really terrible books this year? Please rant about it, I want to hear your woes.

17 thoughts on “Worst Books I Read in 2021

  1. That’s a real shame about “Traces”. Like you said, from the premise, it could have been an amazing piece on forensic science. Sometimes aggressively mediocre books can be worse than just plain bad books to me because sometimes I find a book so bad that I HAVE to keep reading and can later make fun of it.
    Hope you have a happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t want to be too rude, since I’m an author and people could have quite the negative opinions about my books, but I do wonder how and why some books are allowed to be published. I get some are selfed, but surely the betas and editors would be kind enough to tell the author their manuscript needs work. Just goes to show, I guess, that a good book is in the eye of the reader. These books won’t be making it to my TBR list. Thanks for the head’s up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Didn’t read many disappointing reads this year

    Well, read one of your disappointing reads last year, and have to disagree- A Darker Shade of Magic (well, when books are recommended by Park Road Books, they usually find what you like based on what you previously read- so barley fail)

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  4. I’m sad to hear that A Darker Shade of Magic wasn’t that great. I was kinda of hyped about it cause it sounded so good. I still want to read it though, just not as eager about it now.
    I am on the fence about starting The Witcher series. There are so many fans for it and their excitement about it makes me want to read them… but like I am also so hesitate and uninterested about them. Especially in the light of your review.
    I only had one book I hated with passion this year, which was Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim. It was just so long and boring and I was so disappointed because the whole cliffhanger ending got me SO excited. I am annoyed that such an interesting concept was done in the most frustrating and boring way ever. And the fact I could have stopped with the first book and not make myself suffer longer with a plot and characters that I didn’t care much about in the first place. I should have seen that I would dislike the sequel more, but sequels have improved the story many times before with me so… One good thing out of this though, is that I appreciate the first book a lot more now. XD
    There are other books I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have with them, but I don’t consider them bad or mediocre, just not my taste or preferences with stories. Two of them are indie books and I admire and follow the authors. I feel kinda bad I didn’t like them. Though I have enjoyed other stories by them so I don’t completely dislike their works, which is good. That would have been awkward. XD
    The last one was Fairest by Marissa Meyer and I mainly didn’t like it because of how uncomfortable it makes me feel. But it was an interesting read too. It wasn’t a complete waste of time.

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  5. 2021 didn’t even feel like a real year to me. More like 2020: part two I guess??

    Anyway I have heard so many bad things about A Darker Shade of Magic and I didn’t really like the book by V.E. Schwab that I read. It was aggressively meh and I kind of think that her books might not be for me?

    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek sounds awful. Just. Why would you do that.

    I was kind of lowkey wanting to read A Pho Love Story! That kind of sounds like my experience with 98% of YA contemporary though, so I’m kind of a little more hesitant to pick it up. I mean, I was already hesitant to pick it up, because YA contemporary, but you know.

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  6. I like this premise for a blog post! I also read A Pho Love Story this year, and I DNF’d it, lol. Hmm, worst book I read in 2021… the one that’s coming to mind is Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. It was this weird kids’ book about these boys who were stuck on this island where they were being tortured… the plot was weird, the writing was confusing, and overall it was just bad, lol. Which confused me because that author’s book The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favorite books in the world.

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  7. Yeah, it was a highly disappointing book! I love forensic science, but the writing/editing of this one just made it a pretty bad read.
    And I know what you mean! there’s some books that are so enjoyable to hate read, mediocre books are never like that though 😦
    Wishing you a happy new year as well!

    Like

  8. I know right! Sometimes I just wonder if publishers have any standards anymore πŸ˜›
    You’re right! There’s so much reliant on the person reading!
    No worries, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!

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  9. That’s good! Considering how many books I read, I didn’t have too many disappointing ones either.
    I’m glad you enjoyed it! I could see a lot of potential in it and lots of my friends liked it πŸ˜€

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  10. You should still definitely read it! I think I’m in the minority of not liking it. But if you wanted to try one of her other books, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is absolutely brilliant! It’s on my top ten of this year!
    Unravel the Dusk was on my worst reads of last year! I’m completely with you on that one. I liked Spin the Dawn enough to want to read the sequel, but the sequel was awful. I also started to read her new book this year, but gave up a few chapters in. I guess her style is just not for me, much as I love her concepts.
    Yeah, it’s always awkward when you don’t like your friends work, I’ve had that happen a couple of times.
    I think Fairest is the only Lunar Chronicles book I haven’t read, mainly because I’d heard from a lot of people that it was a bit questionable!

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  11. 2020 Part 2 is EXACTLY what it felt like.
    I think Schwab probably just isn’t the author for me, having said that though, I did love The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I thought it was really good, but I haven’t enjoyed any of her other books.
    It wouldn’t be an end of year wrapup if I hadn’t read at least one aggressively racist book πŸ˜›
    The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has a very similar concept to a Pho Love Story, but was much better (in my opinion)! I would definitely recommend it!

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  12. A Pho Love Story was just so incredibly mediocre. I did not care about the characters at all. I probably should have DNFed it as well, but I’m a bit stubborn about it.
    Wow, that sounds really weird! I hate when favourite authors disappoint like that. It’s just so much worse than if it was a random author you didn’t care about.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ohhh, that one is on my TBR too (somewhere)! If A Darker Shade of Magic fails, I will try that one out for sure! I am looking forward to your thoughts about it! πŸ™‚
    Yeah, I am tentative about her new book, Six Crimson Cranes I think it’s called, because I didn’t overall enjoy her Blood of Stars Duology. If I get around to picking it up and not liking it either, I know I won’t read her stuff anymore, even if the concepts sound amazing. I don’t have time for that.
    Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, judging from people’s comments about it. I mean, it still has questionable content, haha, but it was still interesting to read and kinda of worth it, for me at least. Though I won’t recommend it for most people despite those things.

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