And I’m back! Happy New Year!
2021 has come & gone in the blink of an eye and a pile of books (that keeps getting bigger, please send help.) And let me tell you, some of the books I picked from that pile in 2021 were fucking shit. So, as is my tradition at Here’s The Fucking Twist, the first post of the new year is dedicated to all the books I read last year that were disappointing, rage-inducing or just straight-up garbage.
Before I write a new post for this particular series, I always go back and read the one I wrote the previous year to see what I had to say – what was my mindset going into the new year?
Apparently, I had a lot more optimism at the start of 2021 than I ended with. It was a hard year, a stagnant year, another year of a global pandemic that really revealed to me how stupid people are and how much we all hate each other. So that’s fun and not at all depressing. It’s one of the reasons I’m going into 2022 with trepidation. I’ll keep some optimism, because I have to, but like… from a distance. I’m giving 2022 a wide berth. This year can stay over there and I’ll be over here, in my house. Again. Still. Forever. No one fucking talk to me unless you are definitively not an asshole.
While 2022 will certainly bring its fair share of shit books because I’m like a goddamn magnet for them, let’s get back to saying goodbye to all the terrible ones I read in 2021. Books that did nothing to distract me from the plague-ridden hellscape we call Earth. I was my hands (for 30 seconds!!) of them!
I did, however, manage to read 75 books in total which is an improvement from what my trauma-response brain was capable of in 2020. Like, I traded Twitter doom-scrolling and mainlining American 24-hour news for Goosebump books and shitty ARCs.
That’s got to count for something. Do we consider it a step up? We’re going to.
So, cheers to all the truly shitty books out of 75! *Barry Manilow voice* Looks like we made ittttt!
I read them so you don’t have to, friends!
🔪The Skeleton Tree by Diane Janes
Filed Under: Set it on fire, collect the insurance
What the Fuck It’s About: Is Wendy’s dream house about to turn into her worst nightmare?
From the moment Wendy Thornton first laid eyes on number 37, The Ashes, she knew she had to have it. It may seem neglected on the outside, but Wendy is convinced it’s her perfect family home. It just needs to be loved. It needs her.
When Wendy receives an unexpected sum of money from her aunt’s will, her dream of buying The Ashes becomes a reality. But as Wendy moves in with her young family and starts uncovering its past, she soon learns that The Ashes is hiding a number of dark secrets.
Is Wendy’s dream house about to become her worst nightmare? As she is drawn further into The Ashes’ dark history, Wendy’s own life starts to unravel in the most spectacular and devastating way…
My Fucking Thoughts: I’ve never before given a half-star rating. This novella gets the honour of being the first-ever because it’s the worst fucking story I’ve ever read. I’m sorry, but I have to just say it like ripping off a Band-aid.
It’s not even that the writing voice is bad because it’s not, but the plot and the characters can get fucked. I can’t even believe I gave three hours of my life reading about a fucking idiot being obsessed with a house that wasn’t even haunted! There was no point in any of this. I guess we’re here to watch a woman’s descent into self-inflicted isolation, but I hated it very much, thank you.
Full review here.
🔪Six Little Secrets by Katlyn Duncan
Filed Under: Jigsaw for kindergarteners
What the Fuck It’s About: Some secrets can never stay hidden for long…
Six teenagers meet in Saturday detention: a brain, a beauty, a cheerleader, a rebel, a recluse and the new girl.
But someone is watching. Someone has made sure that they are all in the same room at the same time. Someone knows that each of them is hiding a terrible secret…
…and by the end of detention, everyone will know the truth.
My Fucking Thoughts: If you lifted lines straight out of The Breakfast Club and plopped them down into One Of Us is Lying, but with worse writing and not an original idea to speak of, you would get this novella.
It’s basically a B-horror movie without any of the things that make a B-horror movie fun, and it’s walking the line of just being straight-up plagiarism.
Full review here.
🔪The Birds That Stay (A Russell and Leduc Mystery, #1) by Ann Lambert
Rating: ⭐ (DNF @ 65%)
Filed Under: Treatment for insomnia
What the Fuck It’s About: In a small village in the Laurentians north of Montreal, a reclusive older woman is found strangled and frozen outside her home. Roméo Leduc, the enigmatic Chief Inspector for Homicide, is one day away from his first vacation in years, and reluctantly answers the call on the case. Roméo suspects a local biker gang is involved in what appears to be a robbery gone awry—or was the old woman a victim of a violent hate crime?
Marie Russell, a 58-year old writer and divorced mother of two, lives next door to the victim. Marie becomes an inadvertent detective when her mother, suffering from dementia, offers a startling clue that links the woman’s murder to a terrible incident that happened on Marie’s suburban Montreal street in the 1970’s. Together, Marie and Roméo discover that the murder goes even further back, to another crime during the darkest days in Hungary at the end of WWII. As they combine wits to find the killer, they are forced to face demons from their own pasts as they confront a cast of characters from the Quebec of yesterday and today; where no one and nothing is really as it seems.
My Fucking Thoughts: This is, by far, the most boring book I’ve read in a very long time. Like, my book nerd brain is fully blown by how totally unreadable this is. I really… I just don’t have the words to explain it. You want dialogue? You don’t get any! Fuck dialogue! It’s like a ratio of 20:1 with the description and backstory.
By 65% into the book, nothing was happening. I was still reading about who had lived in what house and for how long and how everyone knew each other…
I just…. No.
Full review here.
🔪The Lodge by Chris Coppel
Filed Under: Meat are Murderers
What the Fuck It’s About: Ever wondered what it would be like if hunted animals were able to fight back? The Lodge unveils the mystery of a hunting lodge in the remote hills of the Scottish Highlands during the Christmas holidays. After the report of an accidental death at the lodge, Andrew, a young constable from the nearest town, drives up through a growing blizzard. Snowbound, Andrew and the guests take cover at the lodge as the terrifying ordeal unfolds. These animals have souls. Souls that won’t rest until they’ve had revenge… But will the hunters become the hunted?
My Fucking Thoughts: For me, this was terrible. I can’t even begin to describe how badly I feel it missed the mark on what the blurb sets the expectation to be. Is this supposed to be a horror-comedy? Because nobody was funny, but like the mounted deer head crawling across the floor using its antlers? Sure, Jan. I don’t feel like I was in on the jokes, if there were any.
I have said in the past that locked-room mysteries are good even when they’re bad, but this is an exception to the rule. Because this was boring, and when it wasn’t, it was ridiculous.
Full review here.
🔪The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine by Peter Staub
Filed Under: Thirsty for old boners
What the Fuck It’s About: Meet Ballard and Sandrine, the eponymous protagonists of Peter Straub’s extraordinary, deeply unsettling new novella. The two are lovers, widely separated in age but bound together by a common erotic obsession. Their story, which takes place over a period of twenty-five years, is set primarily within the various incarnations of a mysterious yacht making its endless way down the Amazon River. Their journey encompasses moments of beauty and horror, mystery and revelation, pleasure and pain, culminating in the vision of an astonishing–and appalling–apotheosis.
My Fucking Thoughts: I don’t even know what the fuck I read here. Like they were on a boat? And an old dude – Ballard – admittedly falls in love with a CHILD when her dad was his client, but now she’s old enough to consent so they’re in a really disgusting relationship.
This is weird and gross and being told about some pervert’s constant erections got old real fast.
Full review here.
🔪The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized The World by Sarah Weinmann
Filed Under: Only enough information for a magazine article
What the Fuck It’s About: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.
Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.
Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.
My Fucking Thoughts: This is a true-crime telling that doesn’t really have very much to tell. It’s like someone stretched out a personal essay to 300-pages. It feels like mostly filler and a lot of nothingness.
Most of this book is made up of presumptions, conjecture and wishing really hard that connections exist where they don’t outside of Nabokov saying one time that Sally Horner inspired him. But is that even true? No one can even tell you that much. It comes across like the whole point of this book was to argue that Nabokov is a creepy asshole who wrote a problematic book. I don’t know what that opinion needs to be turned into a book.
Full review here.
🔪Rewind by Catharine Ryan Howard
Filed Under: Press fucking EJECT
What the Fuck It’s About: PLAY – Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges on-screen, kills her, and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?
PAUSE – Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t-not until she’s found what she’s looking for …
REWIND – Psycho meets Fatal Attraction in this explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…
My Fucking Thoughts: Again I’m in the minority with my review, but this was a fucking mess. Honestly, wtf. The concept is unique – all the chapters are Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward and Play as direction for the fucking endless time jumps that are happening. So it’s kind of fun and different in one sense. But, fuck me, with the actual execution I could just not keep this shit straight. And I wasn’t even high! Maybe I’m just fucking stupid at this point. Who knows.
Full review here.
And that’s it! I mean, I have a bunch of 2 and 2½-star reads on my list, too, but I didn’t hate those. Honestly, 2021 was such a shit year for book selection for me. I’m hoping to make up for that this year.
Part of that will be reading books I already own and being intentional with my choices, instead of meandering my way through new releases and whatever available audiobooks I can find on Libby.
I started the #ReadWhatYouFuckingOwn challenge over on Instagram if you want to play along. You can find me as @thefuckingtwist, obviously.
My next post will be all about the books I ♡loved♡ in 2021, I promise. Good and bad. Dark and light. Shitty books and good books. It’s the balance for me.
Stay safe. Be Kind. But, take no shit.
Later, Booknerds ✌️🔪