Books I Say No To: Recent DNFs

Books I Say No To is an informal review segment where I take time to discuss why I couldn’t finish a book or dislike something about it enough to say so and why. This is not a means of discouraging reading of the book. You are always encouraged here at Lurv to seek out and read what interests you, despite less than enthusiastic opinions. A score is only given if it’s for Amazon Vine, where I occasionally receive ARCs.

As much as I enjoy all forms of reviewing – including why folks can’t finish books – I still waffle sometimes about discussing my own DNF reads. I dunno why, but maybe I’ll chalk it up to laziness for now. Also, maybe sometimes people don’t want a downer…but plenty of us also want to know why books didn’t work for others sometimes. So with that astounding logic in the forefront, away we go.

Warning, there may be spoilers for some of the books. Blurbs are from Goodreads.

Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, Edie’s mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she’s not entirely sure it’s a bad thing . . . until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn’s side, he dies. If she doesn’t cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.

But Edie’s abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn as her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she’ll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure . . . a world called Scarabaeus.

I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me. This one started off strongly enough. Great concept, very fair beginning to some interesting characters. The love for this book has been SO enticing.

The book unfortunately hit a big ‘ole Middle Sag, and that sag just never let up from that point on. The writing was wonderful, I loved it, bu the sequence of events had become slow and painfully boring to me at about page 178. I started having that dreaded feeling like, oh crap, I still haven’t finished that book.

Then the characters kind of stopped becoming these interesting, developing people to me. The more these people just floated in their ship in space the more I wanted that ship to just float away. Far away. At a certain point, I needed the characters to enable me to care about them, to, frankly, give a shit about why they were bothering to attempt to do anything and it just wasn’t happening.

I also wanted, after half a book of waiting for Edie, the main female character, for her to become more. I got the distinct impression that she’s not a character that causes things to happen, but instead watches everything around her and lets it all just go by. This kind of characterization really irks me when nothing evolves from this in a timely enough way to show the reader that the character can be more. Instead I felt like Edie was only in the book for everyone else to use, which got boring and depressing after a while.

I’d hoped to try to finish this one eventually, but I doubt I’ll be going back to it. Disappointing in the extreme, because I was hoping to glom on to a new scifi series, but this one isn’t for me.

Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter’s body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife.

I got this one from the publisher, and being that it was Mercedes Lackey, I was pleased and looking forward to it. She was one of my foremost inspirations for reading fantasy as a youngster.

And my how times do change.

I admit I had no idea that this was whatever installment in an ongoing series. Discovered that after I started the book already. Still, I thought the concept was engrossing. Basically, a father goes batshit insane, wants to resurrect his dead wife, and decides that his estranged daughter would be the perfect vessel in which to house said wife. With elemental magic and stuffs.

I think any of us who’ve been touched by the V.C. Andrews shadow of ickdom will know why this was so interesting.

Will he succeed in some fashion? Will there be father/daughter/dead wife shenanigans? What will mom think of this (Suzanne’s mom, not yours or mine…)?

I couldn’t hold out long enough for the shock value to really take hold, though, because the shock value is smothered in this other character dude who’ll eventually be the one to save Suzanne, or I’m supposing he will. The voice and writing are interesting enough, but once again, this book’s sequence of events also felt slow, boring and just blah. Blah blah blah. I didn’t hang in very long before bailing, I admit. Onward.

They’ll never see her coming. . . .

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue—in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there—her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night she and the two other members of her Triad were the city’s star bounty hunters, mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor—and she can’t even remember what it was.

Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice—and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days Evy will die again—but this time there’s no second chance. . . .

Again, great concept for a book! I’d had this one on my TBR shelf for a while, and I’ve been trying to commit more time this year to that growing pile. I dunno, this is a weird case for me where I just could not connect with the author’s voice and writing style. There was no connection between me and the heroine, and even though I liked the concept, the immediate execution of it in the beginning of the book felt poorly put together and far fetched.

Sometimes when a book starts to lose me I’ll skip ahead and scan pages, trying to get a feel for whether or not the story picks up. So then I stumbled on a scene where the heroine was apparently raped, nearly so or something to that effect. And you know, I just decided I didn’t want to go there, no matter if it was a detailed ordeal or not. I’ve still had quite enough of that in my urban fantasy and fantasy reading (yet I was grossly fascinated with the idea of a father forcing himself on a daughter above – GO FIGURE I must be crazysauce). And that’s where this book and I parted ways.

Welcome to a new America that is built on blood, sweat, and gears…

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death. Then he’s offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers-and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth.

In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only things a man can count on are his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he’s going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all…

I’ve come to believe that it’s almost impossible not to build up some type or kind of reader expectations at some point. I love Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series, and I fully, completely anticipated enjoying this book and hopefully the entire coming series. Unfortunately, and you just don’t know how much it pains me, this book and I didn’t see eye-to-eye.

I’ll keep my complaints to a minimum (or, a minimum for me anyway) since it’s not out till next week. When this one came in the mail, it was scooped up with the kind of glee that should come bottled and sold at retail. Because we all wants that, oh yes. And wants that the continue and build and evolve as we read what started it in the first place.

And that was what became my main issue with this book. Again – GREAT CONCEPT. And let’s face it, the still-emerging steampunk genre of lately still needs some additions to really boost it into an exciting fantasy sub genre. I really felt like this one would be it. I did love me some worldbuilding in this book. I loved some of the characters. I loved what they were trying to do, both in terms of story development and character arcs. But what became apparent to me is that there was no complexity to the people. Sure, the building blocks were there, but there was no rich layering of the plot or the characters’ machinations or wants, desires, fears. And this really, really frustrated me.

The writing, oh my, the writing is eloquent and exquisite, and the steampunkiness is quite pleasingly steampunk – it’s actually a part of the book’s culture and society and not some laid-on veneer. But even all that got old when they weren’t used in a way that really delved at and pushed beneath the surfaces of these characters. Yes, I got the general ideas behind each of them, but there was a point at which that development stopped, like a sign posted with a warning that a cliff is ahead, you might want to turn around and find another way. While each character was driven by an initial purpose that I could see entwined each other character in turn, there was just not enough depth to any of it. The book needed more of everything, from the interesting yet under-realized world, to the characters themselves.

And I don’t think this was an issue of it being the first in a series. Yes, those can be so tough to find the right balance within, but this one, quite simply, did not go far enough. As a result, at over 200 pages into a 352 page book, I felt like I was wasting my time. The satisfaction I wanted to feel at investing time in these cahracters was never realized.

And that, fellow readers, is how some of my reading’s gone lately. Anyone else having a hard time finishing/remaining interested in a book lately? Have you read any of these and are wondering what’s wrong with me? Believe me, I am too, I’d much rather enjoy them.

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  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that even negative reviews help spark interest in a book.

    I think when the negative reviews are as thoughtful as yours (you aren’t saying the authors dress funny and their moms are calling them), readers can still say, “Hmm, not her cup o’ tea, but sounds just right for me.”

    Reading your DNFs made me want to blog about these books — not as DNFs, but as new reads.

  2. I’m sorry Three Days to Dead didn’t work out for you. I really enjoyed it and need to go back and read the second novel.

    Right now, I’m about eight chapters into Dead Iron and I’m finding it really slow. And there have been a few too many POV jumps for me. But I’m gonna give it a couple more chapters before I make any sort of decision.

  3. I never mind hearing about DNFs since what makes a book non-enjoyable for one person can be a forgivable offense for another. My husband and I are completely different in what we want from a movie and he’ll easily forgive a movie for lacking characterization and for being a big misogynistic while I’ll hate it to the day I die. On the other hand, he might feel a movie too quirky or offbeat while I’ll think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I think books can work the same way.

  4. Oh that’s so annoying when you just can’t bring yourself to finish a book, and all those other TBR books are just sitting there calling out to you while you slowly slog through it.
    I can never not finish a book, mainly cos I’ll feel supremely guilty but also I hate spending all that time on a book and not getting to the end.
    I really enjoyed the Scarabaeus books, I do get your gripe but towards the end of the first book Edie does start taking some action so I hope you get to finish it one day!

  5. I love these posts. *g*

    I’m sorry Song of Scarabaeus didn’t work out for you.

    My last DNF? Pleasure Me by Monica Burns. It just didn’t do it for me.

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