Positives and Negatives: The Five Books that Disappointed Me Last Year and Five Books I’m Excited For

I didn’t read as much last year as I have in previous years. That much is certainly true. However, life and reading always finds a way, and find a way I did. And this year, I hope life allows me to read even more!

According to Goodreads, last year I read 21 books. Of those, I averaged a 3.14 review score. Looking at my list, a lot of reviews were either four stars or two. It was a very mixed bag in terms of reading choice. This year, I’ve again set my reading goal to twenty books.

It’s with this that I present the five books that disappointed me and the five books I’m looking forward to. Neither list focuses purely on ratings, but also on my expectations for them/reasons why I was excited and whether I thought/think I’d enjoy them.

The Five Disappointments of 2018

1. Words from this Woman: A Fantasy Anthology by Shannon Massey

I originally saw this book on Twitter after mentioning my preferences in fantasy. The author presented it to me and I was interested in the premise, so I elected to get it. What’s not to love about a fantasy anthology putting women first?

Well… As it turns out, a lot. Unfortunately, a lot of the main characters read the same to me, and they were all the same hyper-aggressive “strong female characters” that I’ve kind of grown tired of reading about. Their strength was only physical and that was it. I love women with muscles, but you don’t have to shit on everything feminine and that is what it felt like this book did – plus make the main characters shallow as a result. To add insult to injury, the writing was lackluster and nothing really stood out to me. Another round of edits was clearly needed.

2. The Lullaby Sky by Carolyn Brown

I saw this on one of Kindle’s many ebook deals and the premise interested me. A woman escapes an abusive relationship and rebuilds her life. Surely, that would be a great book for me!

Unfortunately, it was not. While at first Hannah certainly struggles with her trauma, the plot shifts very early on and it’s evident that this, at its heart, is a love story. And that’s fine and all, but that wasn’t what I was promised and I’m so very, very, very tired of abused persons in fiction whose problems are all solved by a love interest. Romance doesn’t make your trauma go away! We need to stop acting like it does.

Aside from that, again, the romance was obvious very early on. The author was practically beating my face in with this fact and it annoyed me.

3. Slave by Candace Blevins

I… Wanted to like this book, but the writing made it impossible. This was one I saw in a Facebook group and I was very excited. Queer women! BDSM! Fantasy! It ticked off all of my excitement boxes, so I got it.

Unfortunately, it was a let down. The sex is lackluster and at times, cringey to read. At one point, the Queen shoves her entire hand in the slaves (redacted) with NO prep and NO warning. That’s not hot! That’s dangerous and scary to think about. On top of that, I’m subjected to the same shit a lot of other erotic writers are guilty of: ridiculous names for genitalia. If I ever read the words “cunny” again I might just blast into orbit. Perhaps this just wasn’t the book for me. But I thought it might be.

4. The Cellar by Natasha Preston

This was one of the only Wattpad-turned-published novels I was excited to read, and it was a massive fucking let down. So much so it kind of made me angry.

The basic premise is a girl gets kidnapped and forced to live with three other women in a cellar for some creepy pervert. I’ve read this before. In fact, I read it with The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison and liked that so much better.

The problem with this book mostly comes down to narrator. She’s annoying the entire way through and, eventually, I only kept reading because of the other girls in the cellar. On top of that, the writing is painfully repetitive. Several actions are recycled throughout the book. We’re told about experiencing the same feeling or sensation several times over. We also tend to jump into flashbacks for what seems like no reason at all. After reading the entire book, I felt like a lot of the flashbacks didn’t serve the plot at all. And we dip into the antagonist’s point of view a LOT and it made me want to scream. I don’t care that Clover’s mother made him fucked up and he decided to kidnap a bunch of women as a result. I just don’t.

I think the biggest slap in the face, though, is what happens after Summer and Co get rescued. Two women died, Summer and another girl survive. And they act… Barely traumatized. At all. They were locked in a basement for seven months. They would have scars, but they really do not. We need to stop brushing aside trauma. Otherwise, stop writing about traumatic events.

5. Beyond Midnight: Volume One (an anthology)

This is another one of those books I heard about on Facebook and thought I might like. Of course, with all anthologies, there’s going to be a mix of writing style and flavor.

Unfortunately, most of these shorts were so lackluster and painful that I couldn’t finish them. The writing was clearly not edited and tended to center on plots I really do not care about. To add insult to injury, it’s evident a lot of the participants do not know how short stories work.

The only saving grace of this anthology was the… I think three shorts that I actually liked. They’re the sole reason I finished and also the reason I rated this book two stars over one. Those three authors I checked out and plan to read more from.

The rest…. No.

Five Books I’m Excited to Read in 2019

1. Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

I love Welcome to Night Vale to pieces; both the podcasts and the books. They’re a fun dive into such a strange desert town. As such, when I saw one of the creators has a book released, I figured I had to get it. I’m hoping this book doesn’t let me down.

2. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

This came highly recommended to me by one of my best friends and I’m stoked to read it. It’s fantasy and queer and basically all the things I love. I can’t wait to crack this open!

3. The Black Tides of Heaven by Jy Yang

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book from friends and from people on my Twitter feed. It’s another fantasy novel in a world that isn’t medieval Europe. This year I’m devoted to spending my time reading diverse books, and this is one of them. I’m excited beyond words!

4. They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera

This is another book I’ve heard nothing but good things for and I’m hyped to read it. I can already tell it’s going to make me cry and be frustrated. I’m prepared for that. I just know it’ll be good.

5. Rat City by Tyffani Clark Kemp

The premise of this book is reminiscent to me of Remember Me and Mirror’s Edge, both of which games I love. I love reading about falling cities and information dealers and unique societies, so I know that when this book launches I’ll be one of the first in line.

And that wraps up my list! What books falled short for you in 2018? What books are you dying to get your hands on this year?

Author: draconako

Alex is a queer writer, game-maker, and mountain of incomprehensible goo living in the Pacific Northwest. When they aren’t being paid to manage insurance accounts, they’re researching whatever interests them, reading from their arsenal of books, playing video games, or spending time with their partner. They can be reached at @draconako on most of the internet or at authoralexharvey@gmail.com

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