Universally loved books I hate: More unpopular opinions

Well guys. We’re back at it again. (The compulsion for me to make a devastatingly outdated Damn Daniel reference was almost insurmountable. But, with a heroic amount of strength, I resisted. You’re welcome.)

As we all know, I hate many a book. (2.96 average rating — yes, it dropped! — on Goodreads, tons of one star ratings, etc etc, we’ve heard it all before.) I also read a lot of — dare I say “mostly” — popular YA stuff. You know, the stuff I hear about from blogging and Goodreads and Bookstagram.

Basically what I’m saying is I read the books my friends really like and then I hate them.

Here are some examples.

More unpopular opinions -> here

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Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.


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Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)I just don’t like this series that much.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal. Space battle. Romance. Unique formatting but it’s like 700 pages long so you feel accomplished. The occasional joke. What’s not to love?

Except for all the things there are not to love about it, and also that all three books are exactly the same, following the exact same plotline and just throwing a couple more characters in for flair, like if the Lunar Chronicles followed the same arc every time but for some reason an ever-growing cast of kids with fairytale-y names were along for the ride.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t well and truly call these books out for being the exact same thing every time. Here’s Illuminae AND Gemina AND Obsidio in one go:

  • ragtag group of space citizens is ruthlessly attacked by corporate greed
  • there are some teens there
  • the teens are funny and edgy and heterosexual
  • two of these unrelentingly straight teens should not be together, because they probably have been together previously or otherwise one has been sexually harassing the other (shoutout to Nik!)
  • they will be together though, and flirt a lot in order to cruelly detract from the book’s waning entertainment value
  • the teens must do CRAZY, ORIGINAL stuff, like crawl through ventilation ducts and brush with death
  • like wow guys seriously they are really close to dying!! one of them is even shot, maybe. someone is definitely seriously injured
  • this makes people realize they are in love with each other! cool.
  • insert chat logs with the same banter structure here x 1000
  • insert summaries of surveillance footage with quirky jokes and physical descriptions x 2000
  • someone else gets shot at. more almost-death
  • wow they narrowly saved everyone, or at least a good chunk of everyone, against all the odds and using a complicated pseudo-science principle
  • the teens win!!! until next time, corporate greed!!!

Boom. That’s the series. If you ever felt like reading it, gauge your interest based on the spot-on synopsis I just wrote – but be advised my wit and charm is NOT included.

I didn’t LOVE either Illuminae or Gemina, but Obsidio felt like an especially weak installment to me. As mentioned, each book in the series takes it upon itself to bring on another quirky-in-the-exact-same-way-as-every-other-character Heterosexual Duo, who will take it upon themselves to fall in love over the course of 700 pages of chat logs and confidential documents.

In the first book, this was Kady and Ezra. In the second, it was Hanna and Nik. (I’m not checking names or spelling but god I think these are right. Tragically stuck in the ol’ memory. Why do I retain what I retain?)

I didn’t really care for any of them, but when do I care for anyone? (Too real?) Basically, these characters were meh to me, but they felt like characters at least.

Can’t say the same for this book!

This book gives us Asha and Rhys. (I did have to look up those names, because those two lovebirds left zero impression in my brain.) Asha and Rhys are exes – and if you’re saying, wait, weren’t Ezra and Kady in Illuminae exes? Isn’t that their whole thing? The answer is yes! This book didn’t even try to distinguish itself!

Both of these two, but especially Rhys, have all of the characterization and boisterous personality of a saltine cracker. And absolutely none of the delicious yet affordable snacking appeal.

Also – and I hate to say it – doesn’t the name Rhys just need to be retired from YA? Say what you will about the A Court of Thorns and Roses series – and I’ve sure said a lot – but that name has one association and one association only. Hang the jersey from the ceiling of the stadium and retire the number my dear boy.

Yes, I know sports. I’m overwhelmingly multifaceted.

Which leads us back into this formulaic, characterization-less bummer of a finale. (Because it is not at all multifaceted.) (Sorry if that was hard to follow – it’s 2:23 a.m. and now I’m mostly thinking about saltines.)

More complaining to be done.

The nicest thing I can say about this book is that it was exciting throughout, and I can only say that because past-me kindly wrote it down as one of exactly six bullet point notes on the subject of this review. Thanks for looking out, future me. I would not have remembered this book as exciting.

Anyway, it’s allegedly exciting throughout, but…a few of the major plot points are solved wildly quickly? Like, so quickly I expected something to go wrong and then omg actually the major plot-deciding issue is even WORSE now will we ever be able to pull this off??

But it wasn’t that. It was just boring.

One of my other notes is the extremely helpful and detailed “sexism.” That’s all it says. Luckily, some of these moments are seared into my memory! Moments when characters are crowded around card games and laughingly gossiping about their hyper-misognystic conquests.

How sweet. How very modern and 2018 and YA-pretending-to-be-inclusive-and-progressive!

Bottom line: I wish I liked this book, just like I wish I liked this series. But I just don’t see much to like.

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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


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To Kill a KingdomI am proposing a new law: Books that are not good should not be allowed to have really good opening lines. Because then I open them in Barnes & Noble and am like “wow I should buy this” and then I do (except not immediately because I don’t have B&N levels of money honey) and then I’m disappointed and I hate it and it’s honestly bad for all of us.

This law is for the good of the people, you know?

LISTEN TO THIS OPENING LINE YOU GUYS. And by listen to I of course mean read. But like, come on: “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

Tell me that doesn’t seem like the rest of the hundreds of pages that follow it should be good!! Tell me! You’d be wrong. It seems like they should be good and yet they aren’t and that is an injustice so massive I will dedicate the rest of my life to getting legislation on the books that will prevent it from ever happening again.

Hahahaha. “Legislation on the books.” Get it? Like that’s what you say about passing legislation successfully, but also it would be legislation on books? God I’m funny.

But let’s talk synopsis. To Kill a Kingdom is (allegedly) a high fantasy about this gal Lira. Lira’s a siren – the princess of the sirens. Sirens RIP the HEARTS out of dudes!! Pretty rad stuff, violent af, we love it. Lira is especially badass, and she ONLY steals the hearts of princes. F*ck the system, girl, I get it. Take down the patriarchy/our capitalist oppressors/etc etc. I’m still into it.

Here’s where you lose me.

This is a Little Mermaid retelling (okay actually still rad) in which Lira is given human legs because she takes a heart without it being her birthday (she can only take a heart for every year yadda yadda) and her mom (the queen, a Very Bad Lady) says oh you think you’re so tough??? Okay. Get me the heart of an Extra Special Prince – the Siren Killer.

Dun dun dun!

This might sound good, unless you’re like me and cynical and well-versed in YA and you know what that actually means. Because if you guessed “Lira will now participate in a not-so-slow burn but absolutely teeming with sh*tty banter romance with the Siren Killer himself, Elian,” you’re today’s lucky winner! Congratulations. Your prize is universal suffering.

This should have been violence and revenge and piracy and maybe some cool monarchical world-building if there’s time. Instead, it was boring and romance and boring and terrible banter and boring and confusing info dumps and boring and weird flat writing and oh my god you guys this book was so f*cking BORING!!!

I hated this book!!! It’s been so long since I’ve read garbage YA fantasy that I almost forgot why I don’t read YA fantasy like ever!!! Contemporaries can be worse than fantasy could ever be but they are never so horrible to read.

Like, let’s talk about the basic requirements of high fantasy that this book does not even BEGIN to satisfy. For one, language??? It’s not that hard to not use slang!! And like I’m SO sorry but when you’re pretending you’re writing high fantasy while using the word “okay” it doesn’t work for me again I’m SO sorry.

And if you’re going to write a standalone about a world with one hundred separate island kingdoms and do this bad of a job worldbuilding, honestly please at least give me a map so I can gaze lovingly at it and pretend to enjoy it. This world could have been so cool but we get basically zero geographical or historical or general information, just weird random details about specific island-nations, and I’m quite seriously sick of it!!!

I hated the romance. It was mostly banter that was just uniquely terrible, really just a whole new level of unfunny and bad but with characters being like “Wow…she is very funny…I quite like her…ha ha dare I say she is one of the gang…lol you may have met your match, dear sir…sounds like someone else I know…ha ha ha, I kid, oh yes, we have fun, lmao.”

Also as established, the language is like one step above using text abbreviations anyway.

Anyway once we get past the banter stage of the romance, we jump straight into “icky gross touchy feely lovey dovey I hate it get it away from me.” And then betrayal, and then more of that again! It’s painful in a hundred different ways and it never gets better.

Part of this is because THE CHARACTERS ARE AWFUL!!! Lira is nowhere near the cool violent siren I EXPECTED and DESERVED. She’s just mean and prissy and thinks she’s really funny and badass but god she is not at all. A lot like another red-haired fishy nemesis of mine.

And Elian is just…boring. The siren song of the YA male love interest. A real poor little rich boy type situation. SO SORRY YOU MIGHT HAVE TO RULE OVER AN ISLAND MADE OF GOLD, ASSHOLE. WE WEEP FOR YOUR SUFFERING, WE REALLY DO.

Speaking of boring, this sh*t had absolutely no right to be and yet here we are. This is the most boring book in the history of ever. I don’t get it! The world-building was god awful, half the characters were flat, there was no setup or explanation or exposition of any kind, and yet NOTHING HAPPENS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE BOOK. I got halfway through and thought I was only a fraction of the way in! Nope, just bad writing!

How do you pitch a violent siren/pirate high fantasy YA retelling of the Little Mermaid and somehow make it boring? That’s almost so awful it turns in on itself and becomes impressive.


Plus this wasn’t violence-y anyway. It was just “““character development.””” Elian spends half the book crying about how it’s so mean of him to kill sirens (they’re only killing his people for no reason, guys!) and Lira spends half the book thinking about how it’s too mean of her to kill someone as sexy great as Elian even though she should be planning that grand revenge plot on her mom she swears is happening and will def involve murder for sure.

We get no violence. We get pondering and crying and more pondering and the ultimate condemnation of violence and it is a hundred thousand million times worse than if this were a straightforward Little Mermaid retelling with no violence at all.

Bottom line: Boring. Bad characters. Bad romance. Bad world-building. Weird bad writing. Bad, inaccurate synopsis. Boring boring boring, bad bad bad.

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Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Care to yell at me for either of them?

What’s a book everyone liked and you didn’t?


59 thoughts on “Universally loved books I hate: More unpopular opinions

  1. Mike Kott says:

    Sorry in advance for typos, I have a large female orange tabby in my lap who refuses to leave. I don’t argue with those dagger claws. Do you ever take an assignment read? Like for $$$$?
    I’ve never read any of these books but I know the type. Why are the girls always princesses and the guys princes? And you lied. There is a character you care a lot about – Gansey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      you’re typo-less!

      & i haven’t taken money to review a book, no. but not for moral reasons – i take money for instagram posts on the reg.

      ooh very good point. i do certainly care about gansey


  2. Kaya @ afictionalbookworm says:

    Oh my goodness, that IS a low average! Lol but that does me I trust your higher ratings more!! And SAMEEEE about the Illuminae Files. Like, the hype makes it out to be this super thrilling! And unique! story but no it’s the same skeleton underneath a bunch of tech mumbo-jumbo and teenage hormones.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Captain's Quarters says:

    Ahoy there matey! Well I understand completely why ye be on me crew. Great minds think alike. I thought Illuminae was just okay. I enjoyed the formatting but the plot had problems. Can dead characters stay dead please. The reviews of book two solidified me choice not to read the rest of the series. Why follow new characters? Oh I see for more love story. No thanks. As for the bad siren book. “This should have been violence and revenge and piracy and maybe some cool monarchical world-building if there’s time. ” Why can’t I have that version! Links to me reviews be below. No pressure. Arrr!
    x The Captain


    PS. I know that I abandoned the siren book due to the awfulness. But I had forgotten that I didn’t write a review because I hated it so much that I didn’t want to waste more time on it. I didn’t even include it in me readin’ chart. Now that is hate! I am going to give it a rating and link to this post on Goodreads. Arrr!

    PS2. I just finished me Goodreads review. Much thanks for entertaining me. Arrr!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Never Not Reading says:

    I wasn’t crazy about Illuminae for a lot of the same reasons you talked about. Also because apparently I’m scared of zombies. Who knew? But at least you’re not alone on To Kill a Kingdom, because I’ve seen several other book bloggers eye-rolling about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jamishelves says:

    GOD ILLUMINAE FILES IS SUCH A MOOD. Like … I liked book1, and the format is really cool, but so much of it was SO BORING. And ridiculously heterosexual I agree. I also hated how they framed it as being SO dangerous and SO deadly but literally every single character escaped their brush with death in the most silly ways urgh

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      okay so basically i’ve been thinking about this for a while but this really sets me over the edge: i’m probably in love with you

      I COMPLETELY AGREE. like how many times can straight couples get shot and then crawl through ventilation tunnels and survive?? i wanted to like it so badly but what is there for me to like


  6. Kelly Brigid says:

    Ah! *hearts breaks* I love To Kill a Kingdom, but definitely agree that the romance was SUPER cringy at times! I’m trash for hate-to-love romances though, so I didn’t mind the trope too much. It definitely could’ve been less cliche’d though! Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      omg </3 i think it's so funny how our tastes are sooo similar and different though?? keeps things interesting. & yes i'm typically a sucker for hate to love but i think i'm soso picky about how it has to play out

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike says:

    Okay, I got a partial answer to my previous question but that’s okay.
    You are a huge fan of Alice so I have 2 questions regarding that.
    1) Have you read Alice’s Adventures Underground? Your opinion.
    2) Have you seen the Royal Ballet Production of Alice in Wonderland? Trying to decide if it’s a
    worthwhile purchase.
    You kid about being a tough reviewer but it’s why we all trust you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      sorry for any unintentional evasion! i sneak-replied to the comment while in class.

      two answers (hopefully in full):
      1) i juuuust read Under Ground this week! liked it mostly for what it shows about just how creative Carroll was.
      2) i have not seen the royal ballet production of alice in wonderland. sounds rad (but i’m really just saying that b/c it involves alice more than any passion for ballet on my end).

      hopefully the trust continues to outweigh the anger that i hate everyone’s favorite books!!


  8. luapalmera says:

    I think it’s really my own fault for the Illuminae files series. I kept thinking that it would get better because there’s so much going on! Wow, space wars, AI, hacking the mainframe! All the junk going on made me feel super smart for liking a series with a more complicated premise than the usual high fantasy YA. But then it’s like I started getting annoyed and my annoyance grew. I’d like to thank you Emma for pointing out the obvious things I wish I noticed before doubling down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      not your fault, i did the same thing!! you think they’ll get better b/c they get more complicated, but really they’re the same story over and over so…the complication is a facade, really.


  9. thebookcorps says:

    This is such an awesome post Emma! I love when people share their unpopular opinions because it makes me feel less alone haha! I’m currently reading Obsidio and I’m … not enjoying it. I thought it was just me! Everyone I know loves this series and I like it for the most part — Illuminae was average, but Gemina was awesome — but this one is so boring? And you’re right — this book is full of heterosexuals. I can’t read too many books with straight people, it gives me a headache 😉
    I’ll try to finish it just so I can say I’ve finished the series, but I cbf for now
    Please share more unpopular opinions! I love that your GR average is 2.96 lmao! Mine’s 3.59 — not too bad

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you thank you!! i love sharing unpopular opinions and also they’re like 99% of my opinions anyway so…more coming for sure.

      ugh!! yes!! tbh i didn’t even love Gemina that much but i was so desperate to love this series i HAD to continue and…boom. obsidio is the worst of the bunch. truly sending you strength in order to finish it (and struggle through all that heterosexuality)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. howlsmovinglibrary says:

    I hated To Kill A Kingdom when I reviewed this book earlier this year. The worldbuilding is just so fucking lazy – if you’re going to do a quest that travels across countries please make those countries somewhat believable.

    I also found it really annoying that they had a marriage of convenience between two women (awesome) but it was implied to be For Any Other Reason Other Than Being Gay (why??). Like both women seemed to be happy to get married to each other but went at great pains to explain exactly how this had nothing to do with their sexual orientation an entirely to do with other factors at play. Just let them be gay!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      YES!! i didn’t even hate the idea of the world, but it was insanely fantastical and therefore needed some really solid world building to give it any foundation of believability. and we got absolutely 0.

      omg you’re so right?? that whole plot point felt so strange and overly convenient to me that i mostly ignored it but true!!! i do not understand any YA book in 2018 that goes out of its way to avoid diversity


  11. malanielovesfiction says:

    i’m so happy bc you have saved me from reading either of these, I’m trying to teach myself how to Really Love? and Appreciate? (high?) fantasy/sci fi but ////it’s a long journey///

    it warm my heart + brings me comfort to see other people (you whom i adore) hating popular books!!??? i hate so many popular book and I hate being alonnnne slkdjflsj

    especially bc my ‘popular book low-rating confidence’ is low bc whenever a friend recs a book and I hate it I have to ask myself:::: WAIT do u really hate it, like, can you make a detailed list of reasons OR are you being a disaster mood reader ((((((in which case refrain from doing anything except watch Golden Girls and complain about life)))

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      i am having a wild fantasy Moment right now but i’m still not a sci fi b*tch. & i’m so so picky with both (but truly not as picky as i am with contemporary so…it works out)

      i love when people hate popular books!! especially you, and sometimes i don’t mind when i do it too as long as no one is yelling at me!!

      omg i like never take direct recommendations b/c it feels so Personal when you don’t like the book…..like i feel like the person who recommended it will look at my negative review, take a deep breath, and say “ah. she hates me with her life” and i’m like nO I’M SORRY I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M LIKE THIS

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Kay Wisteria says:

    I loved to Kill a Kingdom but I just couldn’t deal with Illuminae lol. The style drove me absolutely insane and I didn’t really care for the plot either…pretty sure I’m not going to be continuing the trilogy lol

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Norrie says:

    I only read Illuminae but i liked that one. Even so, when people say whoa it’s 600 pages, i kinda just think ok, but a lot of those pages have literally just one word, or only pictures… anyway i listened to the audio while reading and found it enjoyable. Only the book wouldn’t have appealed thst much.

    Haven’t read to kill a kingdom and don’t even want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Eleanor @ On the Other Side of Reality says:

    OKAY I THOUGHT I WAS LIKE THE ONLY ONE WHO WASN’T INTERESTED IN ILLUMINAE. I don’t like that weird, quirky formatting as much. I definitely see the appeal, but it’s not for me. (I can’t even stand graphic novels.) And I was wanting to read To Kill a Kingdom for some time, but now I’m not so sure. Nothing about Lira really appeals to me — like you said, she just seems prissy and mean. It was interesting to hear your takes on both of these!

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      tbh i really like unusual formatting so i was hype but it fell so!! flat!!

      i don’t like warning people away from books, but To Kill a Kingdom is one i cannot in good faith recommend

      ty ty!! ❤


    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      oh my god yes exactly!! i put it down for a day or two while reading it and when i went to pick it back up, i assumed i was 1/4 of the way through or something b/c nothing had happened…nope!!! i was over halfway done!!


  15. Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says:

    Hahaha I love these unpopular opinions posts of yours! And I love that you love them too xD

    It’s always such fun to plant discord amongst everyone and watch how they react to it… Not in a mean way, though, just in a very Loki way. Mostly benign, but with a hint of evilness that makes the world go round.

    I can’t even be mad that you featured one of my all time favourites here (TKaK) because I was too busy laughing my butt off ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      lmao thank you!! yes exactly. just a lil bit of slytherin.

      omg so grateful you’re not furious that i hated a book you love (although if i could sign up to never hate a book you love i’d do it in a heartbeat)


      • Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says:

        Whaaa are you crazy? I could never be furious with you, not even if you trashed every single book I love (Well, maybe I would want to stab you in the first few seconds but then I would be totally chill, I promise!)
        Aawwnn you soft munchkin ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • emmareadstoomuch says:

        asgdhjashg STOP MAKING ME SOFT. i’m trying to uphold an edgy brand here and you being all nice and great and perfect is NOT HELPING


plz give me attention

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