Top 5 WedTuesday – Disappointing Books of 2018 That I Still Appreciate

“Kathy. I think it’s time for an intervention.”

“Uh, I have no idea what you’re talking about. As usual.”

“‘Top 5 WedTuesday‘? Published one day before the next Top 5 Wednesday?”

“Oh, get off my back. You make it sound like I do this every other week. This is literally the first–”

“And speaking of skirting deadlines, you still haven’t put up this month’s Discworld announcement post yet. Or your Best Books of 2018. Or your Best Indie Games of 2018. Or the reviews for books you read two months ago.”

“Listen, I’m running on a sleep schedule of my own devising right now. You know the Aussie Open started last week and you know their night matches go past 3 AM. What am I supposed to do, not watch them because I have blog-running responsibilities now?”

“Here’s a novel idea: you could do your blogging and watch the Open at the same time. I know, crazy!”

“Yeaaah, about that…”

*Looks over to the TV screen which shows tennis. Then at the the desktop screen which shows more tennis. Then at the tablet screen which shows, you guessed it, tennis.*


“Maybe a rich oil prince will get me another screen for my birthday. :)”


So while the other half of my brain is having a breakdown, I’d like to clarify that yes, this was supposed to go live last week, but due to reasons that uh, may or may not have to do with tennis-induced sleep deprivation, it’s going live now! Because this is a topic that I actually really wanted to tackle.

The original prompt was “Disappointing Books of 2018” but I put a bit of a spin on it. These are books that didn’t quite live up to the expectations I set for them, but ones that I still appreciate for x, y, z reasons.

(And I’m hoping to get all (er, most) of those overdue posts up before the end of this month. Knock on wood!)


Temper by Nicky Drayden


I loved Nicky Drayden’s debut Prey of Gods–a rollicking scifi-fantasy mashup featuring angry gods, drugs, and dik-diks (which belong alongside narwhals and quokkas in the “I can’t believe this isn’t a made-up animal” category). I could never really get a good foothold on Temper, unfortunately; I couldn’t connect with the main character and the rampant worldbuilding that I fell in love with in PoG I felt overwhelmed by this time around.

What I appreciate: I freaking adore Nicky’s imagination and her willingness to take the genre to batshit crazy places. Temper is even more weird and unconventional than Prey of Gods (which is saying a lot) and even though I couldn’t get into it, I still love the fact that it exists.


Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

girls of paper and fire

This is one of those overdue reviews that I still have to finish. The TL;DR version is that I wanted to love this book so, so hard but it ended up being rather…underwhelming. The worldbuilding felt underdeveloped and Lei is one of those very reactive, blank slate protagonists that I’m not the biggest fan of. And the emperor, while a terrible person, kind of just starts and ends at “He’s a terrible person.”

What I appreciate: The heart and foundation behind this book is everything–an unapologetically Asian setting (the food descriptions are to die for), and love and friendship between two girls prevailing in the face of brutality.


Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor 2) by Mark Lawrence


An unpopular opinion: I thought Grey Sister was a step down from Red Sister, mostly due to character reasons. I felt that Nona’s development had stagnated and secondary characters that I adored in the first book took a backseat in this one.Β  [Full review]

What I appreciate: I love Mark’s writing style and his ability to move from poignancy to snappy action with fluid ease. Also, this is one of the most female-centric adult fantasy I’ve read in recent years–women loving women, women befriending women, women betraying women. Books like this are the reason I created a Goodreads shelf called “Boom goes the Bechdel test.”


Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky


I think this is one of those stories I would have enjoyed more as a TV show. I mean, I watched a quite a few scifi anime that deal with similar themes of alien evolution and ended up liking them all, but apparently if you stick it in book-form my brain just laughs and says “Nope.” (Maybe it’s flashbacks to all the evolution textbooks/articles I had to read in undergrad–by far not my favourite biology topic). It didn’t help that I wasn’t much invested in the human half of the story.

What I appreciate: This is probably the best example (textbook, if you will) of evolutionary scifi that I’ve ever read and my scientist heart will root for the success of any SFF book that explores biology to this degree. It’s also pretty dang cool that the author shares a name with one of my favourite composers.


Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Strange Grace

Okay, overall I wouldn’t really call this one “disappointing,” but considering the sheer amount of potential it showed in the first half, the second half proved to be a bit of a letdown in terms of character development and pacing (and now I’d give it a slightly lower score than what I originally gave). [Full review]

What I appreciate: Polyamory. In YA. Plus creepy forests and pagan rituals. Enough said.

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0 comment

Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books January 22, 2019 - 1:43 pm

What a great post! I love that you can say why the book disappointed you but also why it still had merit!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2019 - 2:00 am

Aww thank you! <3

thebookwormdrinketh January 22, 2019 - 1:54 pm

Ha ha ha!!! Speaking of…. I still haven’t put up an announcement for this month’s Discworld book, either…. And it’s almost time for the post for this month’s Discworld book!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ We’re doing well….

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2019 - 1:56 am

Oh we are doing SO well. πŸ˜‚ You can find my picture under the dictionary entries for “prepared” and “organized” and “timely.” πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚

I’m still reading Pyramids so I can probably put up a double whammy Pyramids+Wyrd Sisters review by next week. πŸ˜›

thebookwormdrinketh January 29, 2019 - 3:43 am

Ha ha! Well, I haven’t posted or read anything… So, I may actually put up a post telling people to put up their review of pyramids if they want to.. But, I may hold off until February…. I’m unsure at this point…

Tammy January 22, 2019 - 2:30 pm

This is a great spin on disappointing reads! I’ve heard so many good things about Children of Time, I’m going to have to read it at some point😁

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2019 - 2:01 am

I hope you like it! I’m looking forward to the sequel that’s coming out this year, which apparently features a new cast. So hopefully I can connect with them better this time around. πŸ˜€

Kaya @ afictionalbookworm January 22, 2019 - 4:39 pm

LOL I seriously relate to the first part of this post! I’m so sorry these were disappointments for you. Here’s to the new year!πŸ€—

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 23, 2019 - 11:58 pm

Thanks Kaya!! The same to you! <3

waytoofantasy January 22, 2019 - 7:26 pm

I like your spin on this list. I’ve heard mixed things about The Girl of Paper and Fire, so interested to see your full review later. Have fun with all the tennis! πŸ˜€

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 23, 2019 - 11:36 pm

The Girl of Paper and Fire is one of those negative reviews that I kind of feel bad about writing because the representation is SO good, and I don’t want the review to diminish that. And thanks! Tennis sleep deprivation is the best sleep deprivation. πŸ˜€

Aurora Librialis January 22, 2019 - 8:31 pm

I love your spin on this! I always love your spins on things ❀️

Polyamory, pagan rituals and creepy forests! Thanks for reminding me I need to read Strange Grace. I was kind of underwhelmed by Red Sister and now I can’t decide if I want to try Gray Sister or not. I love that you have a “Boom goes the Bechdel test” shelf and now I kind of of want to go reorganize my Goodreads and make lots of shelves with cool names too, but not really because that sounds like a lot of work.

Lisa (@TenaciousReader) January 22, 2019 - 10:20 pm

I have a copy of Temper, but just haven’t been motivated to read it for some reason.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 23, 2019 - 5:01 am

Hope you like it when you get to it! It’s…quite the experience and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it. πŸ˜€

sjhigbee January 22, 2019 - 11:38 pm

I take your point about Children of Time, though it is one of my favourite books:)). I appreciate you taking the time to explain the source of your disappointment and I hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2019 – and find a writing clone to get all those overdue posts written… I’ve got one or three I’d like to get finished before the end of January, too!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 23, 2019 - 11:32 pm

Thanks, Sarah! I know the sequel Children of Ruin (which I’ll definitely be reading despite the issues I had with this one…:D) has a new set of characters, so I’m hoping that I can connect with them a bit better. And hope you can finish all those overdue posts! Sending all the positive productive thoughts. πŸ˜€

sjhigbee January 25, 2019 - 12:01 am

Thank you – the theory is that I get those posts completed this weekend! And we’ll both see how we feel about Children of Ruin:))

jennifertarheelreader January 23, 2019 - 1:07 am

Once again, I love your positive spins. Beautiful job. I also love your passion for tennis, Kathy! 🎾 β™₯️

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 23, 2019 - 4:58 am

Thanks, Jennifer! And I’m trying hard to find other book bloggers who are also into tennis! Maybe if I gush about it enough in my posts I can draw them out of the woodwork. πŸ˜€

Meeghan reads January 23, 2019 - 2:19 am

Kathy it’s FIIIIINE!!! My blog schedule is booked until April as I’m trying to get to all the book reviews I didn’t write last year. (As in I literally wrote a post yesterday for a book I read in January 2018…) Life is hard! And tennis is so much fun to watch! xx

Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum January 23, 2019 - 5:00 am

Temper did not work for me at all, but yes! I too appreciated Drayden’s imagination and writing!

Norrie January 23, 2019 - 4:25 pm

I haven’t read any of these, but i have a few books that were not particularly great, but i still liked them a lot.
Like, you know, i expected a clever thriller, and it was just mildly thrilling and nothing clever, but at the same time it was entertaining and easy to read and didn’t give me existential crisis, so overall was good fun πŸ˜€

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2019 - 1:49 am

“Didn’t give me existential crisis” LMAO. I mean, that’s all we can hope for. πŸ˜€

PerfectlyTolerable January 23, 2019 - 8:15 pm

I love the take you took on this, and as long as you post it before the next Wednesday then I think you are right on time πŸ˜‰ I don’t watch tennis but I hope the people you are rooting for win! )or won? is it over? haha)

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 28, 2019 - 2:40 pm

Thank you! It just ended on Saturday (or Sunday, by their time). My choice for the men’s side didn’t win (but he made it to the finals!) but my choice for the women’s DID, so I’ll take that. πŸ˜€


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