Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly discussion topic originally created by gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. You can check out the Goodreads Group to learn more.

This is my first “Top 5 Wednesday” post, and while it isn’t the happiest topic to jump in on, it’s a pretty easy one to put together. I hope to continue to participate in the Top 5 topics this year.

My Top 5 Most Disappointing reads are mostly books that I expected to love going in, but I just didn’t. Mostly this is due to hype surrounding the book and it originally sounding like something I would love. This does not include books I absolutely hated, which I normally rate 1 star, though there is a 1 star book on this list. The rest are all 2 star reads. I do not mean any harm if I do not enjoy a favorite book of yours– we are all welcome to our own opinions here.

The list is in order from least to most. I will include links to my review if I have one.

5. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente opera
This story is pitched as Eurovision in Space. A washed-up punk rocker has to participate in an inter-galactic music competition for the fate of Earth itself. It sounds like a lot of fun, and the author includes a lot of witty jokes.  I think the way in which it was told was very fun at first, but it got to be old very quickly. I enjoyed the first couple chapters, but slowly realized the plot wasn’t going anywhere.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ready
This is actually a book very similar in theme to Space Opera, though it definitely differs in writing style. The writing style was much simpler, but the book focused more on cramming in 80’s references rather than focusing on any sort of plot. Many video game nerds enjoy this, and since I am also a gamer, I really thought I’d love this.

 

3. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson calamity
I didn’t necessarily go into this book with too-high of expectations as I heard this book was the worst one in the trilogy, and I only gave it’s predecessor 3 stars. However, Mr. Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, and it’s always disappointing to read a book you don’t like that much from one of your favorites.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade final for Irene
My review mentions this, but again, a fantasy book involving multiple Londons and a Coat of Many Sides seems right up my ally. But it was so boring, all I did was fall asleep while reading this… I’m sorry…

 

1. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence red
Unfortunately I did not write a full-review of this, but my short Goodreads review says I just couldn’t get into it, and I really just didn’t understand what was going on. Many fantasy readers loved this, and it even won the BookTube SFF awards as Best Fantasy Novel in 2017. I may give it another go one day, but for now, it remains my most disappointing read of the year.

 

Thanks for checking out my first Top 5 Wednesday post! What were your most disappointing reads of 2018? Feel free to link your post in the comments so I can check it out!

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Shadowland (The Mediator #1) by Meg Cabot

Synopsis (From Amazon)

Suze is a mediator—a liaison between the living and the dead. In other words, she sees dead people. And they won’t leave her alone until she helps them resolve their unfinished business with the living.

But Jesse, the hot ghost haunting her bedroom, doesn’t seem to need her help. Which is a relief, because Suze has just moved to sunny California and plans to start fresh, with trips to the mall instead of the cemetery, and surfing instead of spectral visitations. But the very first day at her new school, Suze realizes it’s not that easy.

There’s a ghost with revenge on her mind…and Suze happens to be in the way.

Don’t miss the delightfully funny supernatural Mediator series, from New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot.

My Review
4 out of 5 stars

Meg Cabot was definitely my favorite author from when I was between the ages of 10-14. I read a good majority of the Princess Diaries books (at least those that were out at that time), and many of her standalones like Avalon High and Teen Idol. My early teens is when I switched to primarily reading fantasy, however, and I fell behind on the Princess Diaries series as more came out. While never forgotten, I think I figured I just outgrew Meg Cabot’s quirky romances.

But, I’ve been in the mood for some Meg Cabot recently (for what reason, no one knows) and contemplated starting a reread of The Princess Diaries to perhaps even finish the series. I own up to volume 7, so I’m pretty sure I stopped there; I do not recall checking further volumes out from the library. This leads to me naturally deciding to start one of her series that I’ve never read instead. Yeah. Partially, it is because I have a new Kindle Paperwhite and I wanted a good reason to use it. I picked up an ebook that I already owned and wasn’t feeling it, so I just bought some good old Meg Cabot to read instead. Now I love my new Paperwhite, so clearly it was a good decision. The idea of a girl falling in love with a ghost isn’t something I encounter too, too much, and so I thought I’d give this series a try.

Well, good ol’ Meg Cabot doesn’t steer me wrong. She delivers exactly what I expect. It’s a little spunky, a little cheesy, and all around a good time. Her books are always quick reads for me and I rarely don’t enjoy them. I don’t know if there is much to say about this if you’ve read her other books, but the premise is different. Her only other paranormal/fantasy work that I’ve read by her is Avalon High (which might still be my favorite). It still mostly has a very contemporary feel. It is funny to see how much her books age, though. Our lead here, Suze, talks about how her mother got her a 2nd phone line just for her to use as her mother thought she would hog the phone line all the time talking to boys. Yeah, not many people even have home phone lines anymore due to cell phones.

It’s a pretty decent start to a new series, and I look forward to our spunky lead, Suze, and the awkward and cheesy crush she has on the ghost haunting her room. And also in her adventures in serving as a mediator, fighting evil spirits one ghost at a time. 😉

See this review on Goodreads.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

My Review
5 out of 5 stars

What struck me most about this book is despite reading it just short of 20 years after it’s publication date is how relevant it is today’s world. People still have struggles when it comes to speaking up about abuse or other traumatic events that have happened to them. And even if you have not had a traumatic experience and are just like me and struggle with speaking up in general, you will still find something of yourself in this book.

Mrs. Anderson writes this book using first-person, giving us an inside view of Melinda’s head. It reads so very much like how I was as a teenager. I related to a lot of the thoughts that she has, and there are so many supporting characters that I can connect to people I met in high school. It is just phenomenal. That said, it is a very psychological novel; it is mainly focusing on what Melinda feels. Melinda is depressed due to her social status in school. She lost all of her friends and is very unhappy. She needs some help but is afraid to talk to someone about what has happened to her. I think Mrs. Anderson writes a depressed character very well. While reading, I was just so much inside Melinda’s head that I felt that I just understood every thought she had and what she was going through. You’ll feel why she is sad and feel how hard it is to talk to others for help. It’s not so much that you want her to get better but only wonder if she can. Is it possible? And it’s this type of book that can help you connect to others who have been depressed and who have been a victim.

See this review on Goodreads.

 

 

The Radleys by Matt Haig

Synopsis (From Goodreads)

Meet the Radleys. Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in a typical suburban English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But, as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.

My Review
3 out of 5 stars

I’ll start off this review by saying that, as a small child, I watched a lot of The Addams Family and The Munsters (with The Munsters being one of my favorite childhood shows). I love macabre families trying to blend in with normal society to this day; it is just my sort of humor. So when I heard this book pitched as a family of vampires trying to live a normal, suburban life, I was sold.

This book. however, isn’t really that funny. It has its moments, but Mr. Haig’s portrayal of a vampire family in suburbia takes a route that is much more reminiscent of the movie American Beauty. All is not perfect in the land of the suburbs, that the families there have problems like relationship struggles between husband and wife and children having low self-esteem. And I get that approach. It creates a more realistic family, even if it is depressing. Life does have its ups and downs, after all. This book does a very nice job with that approach and has its witty moments of them being vampires on top of it. But I wanted a book featuring a happy, perfect vampire family similar to those of the Addams and the Munsters. I am a romantic at heart, so I just want cute, happy, married couples with cute children.

It’s still an enjoyable read for me, and it came through at the end. My favorite character was the Radley’s son, Rowan. He’s the traditional romanticized vampire (even if he doesn’t know it). He writes poetry and fantasizes about his high school crush dressed in old Victorian wear riding in a carriage with him. But Rowan is as cute as this book gets so don’t let that lead you on.

See this review on Goodreads.

Top 12 Books to Read in 2019

Happy New Year everyone! This is my list of books that I aim to read this year. Feel free to skip straight to the list, or read below if you want to know how I select the books that go on this list.

The way I craft my “top-to-read” list for the year is by selecting books that I already own. Roughly half are ones that I have owned for a very long time and never read. The other half are books that have been on my radar to read for quite some time, but I have yet to pick them up. There are certainly cases where books fall right in the middle (owned for awhile but also still on radar) as well. The goal when creating this list for the year is to cull down books I’ve owned for years and have not read while also preventing books being owned for a long time and falling off the radar. It also helps to have some books I am looking forward to still reading in a mix with books that I am just not that excited to pick up anymore. You may wonder why some books fall off my radar, and the most likely reason is that I have grown as a reader and they don’t particularly sound interesting to me anymore. I still want to read the books, as I have spent my own money in acquiring them and I do not want to be that wasteful without at least giving them a try (I can DNF any book on this list, but generally I am pretty good at finishing books). I also want to work very hard on trimming down my owned, unread books. I would like to get to a point where any books that I am purchasing are being read within the next year or preferably less. That way I am reading the books when I am still the most excited to read it, and not wasting my money and time on them.

This is my 4th year of doing this and most of my books that I have owned for over 10 years are now read. Many on this year’s list are to continue series that were either listed on last year’s list, or just sequels I’ve been putting off. I have previously required at least 1 ebook put on this list, but I’ve acquired many more ebooks over time. It’s hard to pass up those $2.99 Kindle daily deals, you know? Plus I got a new Paperwhite for Christmas, so I have more of an excuse to try it.

The past 3 years have all been “top 10 to read”, but I have decided to up it to 12 so it forces me to read 1 a month. I originally went with 10 as a nice round number, and it gives me a little wiggle room to not have to do 1 a month. What ends up happening, however, is that I wait until October to even really get started on the list, and I am cramming a lot of them in during the late fall/early winter when a lot of new releases are more what I want to be reading.

Top 12 Books To-Read 2019

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    Pretty sure I picked this up on sale back in ~2012 as a Kindle Daily Deal. It will hopefully be a very good self-help book for me, and I plan to read it within the first 3 months of the year to kick off 2019 with some nice advice. It’s also the first nonfiction title to ever appear on this list.
  2. The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell
    I bought this back in 2013 when it was released in the US. I did start it back then but never finished it. It’s possible I may end up officially DNFing it the 2nd time around, but I think the idea still sounds cute so I hope I like it.
  3. Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
    The first book of this trilogy, The Darkest Minds, was on the 2018 list, which I did read in preparation for the movie. I did not go see the movie because after I read it, I did not think it would make a good movie (and according to Rotten Tomatoes, it didn’t). But I’d like to continue on with this series while things are still fresh in my head; I gave the first book 3 stars, so I rather enjoyed it.
  4. Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
    Similar to above, the first book of this trilogy, Stormdancer, was on my list last year, so I’d like to keep the momentum going. I also gave the first book 3 stars.
  5. Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher
    Bought sometime back in ~2014. I liked the author’s Incarceron duology.
  6. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    I actually started reading this a year and a half ago and still have my place saved. I was enjoying it but wanted a break. Unfortunately, I think I will have to start over as I don’t remember anything, but now I will have to push through to the end of this 1000+ page book.
  7. The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
    The 3-time Hugo winning trilogy needs to be finished. I read the first in 2017 and have yet to continue on. I own all 3 books, so I have no excuse.
  8. The Muse by Jessie Burton
    Another Kindle Daily Deal, purchased in 2016. Maybe not that old in comparison to other  titles I have, but I read Ms. Burton’s other book, The Miniaturist, last year. I didn’t enjoy it very much, but reading this will help teach me a lesson in book buying. Either the lesson will be don’t buy more than one book by an author you haven’t read yet, or it will be try an author more than once as you may be pleasantly surprised the 2nd time around. 😉
  9. Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell
    I have this one in both ebook and audiobook, so I have no excuse to keep putting it off. These were both a Kindle Daily Deal and an Audible deal…
  10. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
    Guess what? Kindle Daily Deal number 4! However, this one I still hear many people rave about, and I am excited to finally pick it up this year.
  11. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel
    Fittingly at #11 (for no reason other than to be fitting). Also very excited to pick this one up (but it is a paperback… that I bought on sale…).
  12. Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
    I read the first Expanse book, Leviathan Wakes, back in 2017 and would also like to continue on in this series.

In conclusion, I have a hard time passing up a good deal on a book and acquire way too many! xD

I do have a Goodreads list created for this, so if you’d like to see it, it is located here.

What books are you hoping to read this year?

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Synopsis (From Goodreads)

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

My Review
3 out of 5 stars

This book was just so… average. I recently have heard a lot of good things about it– it came out last year and I didn’t hear much at all about it then. But it’s a book centered around Christmas, and so it makes sense that I’d hear about it around Christmastime the year following its release. I usually pass on books that take place during Christmastime because they’re just so predictable and cheesy, and if I am  being honest, I am a bit of a Scrooge myself. Christmas was much more fun as a small child; as an adult I just find it exhausting. But hey, a Christmas book about a former Scrooge that fails and now has to work as a Ghost of Christmas Past? That sounds really different! I have not heard of a Christmas Carol retelling that focuses on the work of the Ghosts. And while this book does focus on the Ghosts of Christmases preparing for upcoming year’s Scrooge reformation, it was really just another cheesy Christmas story.

The synopsis leaves this out (it’s a super vague synopsis), so feel free to skip this paragraph if you’d like to avoid spoilers at all costs, but it ends up being a love story of Holly, our Ghost of Christmas Past, and the 17-year old Scrooge, Ethan Winters, that the Ghosts are hard at work preparing for. The Ghosts have to learn about the upcoming Scrooge’s life so that they are able to give them an accurate past, present, and future scene sequence that the original Ebenezer Scrooge got (e.g., who is the Tiny Tim of Ethan’s life?). Naturally, with our Scrooge suddenly being in Holly’s age range, she starts to fall for him, and she relates to him a lot since she was also a former 17 year old Scrooge. It’s kinda cute but pretty predictable.

It does focus on some other aspects, like Holly better learning from her mistakes as a mean person. But it just wasn’t exactly what I expected. Also, I think the worldbuilding is super poorly done. Holly is apparently a ghost but also a functioning member of society. The company that she works for as a Ghost of Christmas gives her a monthly stipend that she has to use to pay for food and other necessities. Her company also pays for her rent at an apartment in NYC, and she can be seen by others. It’s only when she is wearing her “Hoodie” is when she is invisible. It doesn’t make sense to me; why does a dead ghost need to eat and pay for real food?

I don’t know– I think if you are a huge YA contemporary reader that likes romance, you’ll probably like this book. And it does have a little extra going on for it when it focuses on Holly realizing her past mistakes. But I think I wanted more of a Sanderson-esque Ghost of Christmas fantasy story.

See this review on Goodreads.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Synopsis (From Goodreads)

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving–and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way–Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

My Review
4 out of 5 stars

Slightly more of a 3 star read for me, but I think I went into this book with a little bit too high of expectations, and I think it deserves a higher rating. A favorite fantasy author of mine, Brandon Sanderson, reviewed this novel as a 5 star read and praised the worldbuilding and unique magic system. He mentions that it has a small amount of info-dumping, but for the most part, Mr. Bennett is able to introduce the reader to his fantasy setting through the eyes of the character. I sadly have to disagree to an extent. There was a good portion of info-dumping of the magic system, most of which is very detailed conversations between the characters that talk about the limits and powers of the magic. Sometimes explanations are really interesting, but I think it was overused and made the magic system more complicated than it really was. I feel like the reader gets a pretty good grasp of it through the various phases of introduction and doesn’t need an explanation every time it is encountered.

That said, it is a fairly unique magic system and somewhat interesting to learn about as you go on. I’m not sure I am 100% sold on it yet, as again, it seemed to get overly complicated and a tad bit strange. But I’m happy to continue on with it and see where it goes.

As for the characters, the thing that makes them different from other fantasies is mainly their interactions with the magic system. We have our main character, Sancia, that is able to use her abilities connected to the magic system to be an expert thief. She’s a strong female character looking to do what it takes to survive, as she is a low-class member of society that lives in the Foundryside, which is basically the slums of the city. The city, Tevanne, has 4 high-class families that basically rule the city due to their sheer amount of money. Each of these families has Scrivers who work for them, which are basically the scientists who are able to manipulate the devices involved with the magic system. That introduces Orso, a Scriver for one of these families, and his assistant, Berenice. Orso is a little unconventional and mostly just does what he wants; Berenice is the assistant who does the grunt work and mainly serves as a love interest. Lastly, we have Gregor, a man of the law who wants to enforce order into a city without rules. He wants to do good and change the city for the better. In a nutshell, I think you’ve probably encountered characters like these before, but they’re all well done and fully integrated into the setting.

The plot moves pretty quickly and I did not find it slumping at too many parts. This is the first time I’ve read a book by Mr. Bennett, but he has a very nice pacing when it comes to revealing things. He gives you a little time to put two-and-two together, but doesn’t hold it all in until the end to keep things moving.

All in all, I think it’s a pretty decent book to a new fantasy series. I will slightly curve my expectations going into the second book and hope I end up enjoying it a little more.

See this review on Goodreads.