Tag Archives: DNF

The Bladed Faith (The Vagrant Gods 1) by David Dalglish

Stars: 2 out of 5

DNF at 45%.

There are the makings of a good book in there, that’s why I am not giving it a one star review, but the execution was sorely lacking, at least for my taste.

First of all, it drags. Even the battles move slowly and the narrative parts between them are never-ending. We get a long training montage at the beginning of the book that was interesting for the first 10 pages, but rapidly lost my goodwill after it dragged and dragged. 

I think the reason for that is because even though the characters acquire new skills and evolve physically, they never grow mentally. I found that the character development is next to null in this book. I never got to bond with the characters because I was never allowed in their heads. What drives them? 

Why does Cyrus decide to endure this harsh training? Just because he was told that he could become the avenger of his people? He didn’t strike me as someone that selfless and patriotic at the beginning of the book. I would understand this better is I was privy to his inner thoughts and doubts instead of just his relentless training. 

Same goes for all the other characters. They are kind of there and going through the motions, but I can’t picture them in my head. They are not “alive” to me. I am a character-driven reader, I don’t do well with books that lack those. I can forgive a lot of flaws and plot-holes as long as I’m invested in the characters. Here, I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some interesting ideas in this book. The whole idea of the origin of divinity is one I would have loved to know more about. This is one of the reasons I kept reading for as long as I did. But then I caught myself skipping pages upon pages and stopping just to read the major plot points. That’s when I knew that it was time to abandon ship. 

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Flotsam (Peridot Shift 1) by R J Theodore

Stars: 2 out of 5

DNF at 45%.

There is a good book hidden somewhere in there. Unfortunately, it’s buried under tons of overwritten plot and bad characterization. It feels like this story isn’t quite done yet. It need more time to “cook” in the author’s head, or maybe a strong developmental edit.

The premise is fascinating: a whole planet shattered by a cataclysm that left it in chunks. Yet somehow life still exists there. There is atmosphere and gravity even if that revolves around the “islands” – floating bits of planet. There are five “gods” that remade their respective people in some ways to facilitate their adaptation to this new environment. And these deities are not fictional. They exist, they interact with others sometimes. There is a mysterious ring and some even more mysterious aliens. And the crew of a smuggler’s ship caught in the middle of all of that. Sounds interesting? Sounds like lots of fun and action, doesn’t it?

That promise kept me going for almost half the book. That’s when I realized that the flaws of the book made it almost impossible to enjoy the story. I was skimming most of the chapters just to get to the juicy bits, but even those weren’t enough to keep me interested.

This book is horribly overwritten – I don’t need descriptions of what every character is wearing and all the weapons they have unless it’s relevant to the story. And while yes, I’m interested about how Sub Rosa was founded, I don’t need 6 pages of exposition about it. This kills the momentum and makes the book a chore to read.

The other problem is the extremely stilled and unnatural dialogue. The characters don’t talk like people. In fact, most of the time, the characters barely talk. The protagonist talks and assumes what her crew is about to say from their posture or the look in their eyes, when they barely said a word or two before she interrupts them. This is extremely irritating and makes the protagonist look unstable, even unhinged sometimes. Prone to mood swings and quick to lash out… without any provocation. 

This impression comes from the fact that the author tells us everything, but is very bad at showing it. So the author tells us that the crew is being insubordinate and even disrespectful, but nothing in the scene actually “shows” us that. Half the time, when I read those scenes, I came away confused – exactly why did the protagonist lash out? Nothing in the dialogue provoked that response. I don’t really want to follow a character I don’t like and can’t understand.

All of these flaws just kept adding up and by the time I decided to say goodbye to the book, I was just not getting any enjoyment out of the experience.

PS: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book of Sand by Theo Clare

Stars: 2 out of 5.

DNF at 60%

I tried so hard to like this book, or baring that at least finish it before I reviewed. I struggled for the last 10-15% of the story, hoping to get some answer or that the story would get more interesting. Unfortunately, it didn’t, so I am calling it quits.

The beginning was really promising, though I wasn’t a fan of the dual storylines. McKenzie’s story in particular was a little bit too YA for me. I am not a fan of YA, so getting through her parts was a struggle. It was especially hard and off-putting because of how intermingled these parts are – you have several paragraphs with Spider and the family in the Cirque, then we jump to McKenzie for a paragraph, then back again with no warning, no rhyme or reason. 

The desert storyline was intriguing enough to keep me going though. And I wanted to know how the two stories tied together. Unfortunately,  the answer to that question was rather blah. Also, the book went downhill once the two stories merged. There were too many questions left unanswered and too many deus ex machina moments. Also, nobody communicates in this family. Everyone withholds information for no other reason but to keep the mystery of the story. It’s infuriating. 

These people are supposed to be a family, and the author mentions several times how much they love each other. Yet for some reason they all despise Hugo because he is “entitled”. Well, I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen anything entitled about him in this book. He’s been nothing but helpful and self-sacrificing throughout the story. The reaction of the other family members makes no sense. Same with Spider’s constant suspicion towards Noor. Like dude, why don’t you two talk it out, like normal human being would? And why are your so-called Elders speak in riddles and never answer any questions? And why do you constantly just let it go? It’s a life and death situation you guys are in, but Spider would be just like, “cool, you won’t answer me about why I should explore this city, so I will just go away and do something else.” Really?

Also, with such a big cast of characters, it’s sad when the only well-defined and interesting one is a camel. 

And this book is way too long. It sits at a hefty 600 pages. So I made it to about 350 by the time I called it quits, and the story hadn’t given me any satisfying answers yet. Nope, I’m out.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Hollows by Daniel Church

DNF at 50 %.

This had so much promise! A small town cut off from the rest of the world by a snow storm. Mysterious creatures attacking its inhabitants. A lone policewoman trying to keep order and make sure as many people survive this as possible… Yup, the description was right up my alley, so I went into this book with a certain amount of excitement.

And the beginning was good. Ellie discovers a body and realizes it’s one of the residents. Apparently he froze to death and there are strange markings next to his body. That’s creepy. The introduction to the monsters was also creepy and frankly terrifying. Those are the stuff of nightmares, alright. I wouldn’t want to see one of them outside my window at night.

But that’s about where the positives end for me. The book is way too long for its own good. It drags. The story meanders at a leisury pace when it should be rushing along revving up the suspense. I mean I quit reading right after our first real glimpse of the Tatterskins, and that was at 50% if the book. And I would have tried to stay with the story if the constant distractions were useful to deepen the character relationships or tell us more about the town. But it really doesn’t. 

My second problem, and the one that ultimately made me call it quits, is the fact that all characters are caricatures of themselves. The bad people are so villainous, they don’t even feel like real people, like that one inbred family at the farm. The good ones are good, but one-dimensional. I couldn’t tell you what Ellie looks like or what her story is. Yes, there is mentions of her loosing her son, but never in much detail. Other villagers just blend into one indistinctive mass of people.

But what made me throw the towel was how the wife of the second cop was portrayed. I understand that we aren’t supposed to empathize with her. I understand that the protagonist doesn’t like her. But why did she have to be portrayed as an arrogant screeching harrigan who cares more about her car being totaled and tearing Ellie a new one than the fact that her husband is missing and presumed dead? Unless she is so heartless that she was planning her husband’s murder and the monsters just happened to hasten things, this is an extremely unnatural reaction. That was so jarring to me that I closed the book and never looked back.

There is a good story somewhere in there, it’s just buried under excessive wordcount and poor characterization.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Engines of Empire (The Age of Uprising 1) by Richard S. Ford

Stars: 1 out of 5.

DNF at 30%.

The description of this book sounded so promising, and I was really excited to start it… Unfortunately, my excitement quickly turned into puzzlement, then annoyance, then simply boredom.

This story feels so… disjointed. First we have a prologue that has almost nothing to do with the story itself – we are introduced to characters that never appear in the book again (at least in the part I read before I called it quits), in a location that is barely mentioned again, only because one of the protagonists is sent there. But then again, that particular protagonist has the least page time, so I maybe got to read his POV twice before I dropped the book.

Then we are briefly introduced to our protagonists who are promptly sent their separate ways, so we don’t really get a feel for their family dynamics or feelings. They are together for maybe a couple pages and manage to squabble like kindergarteners for that whole duration. There is no sense of familial ties or history there. Then they leave to their specified locations… and that’s it for the ties between them.

I understand that that the author wanted to show different parts of this seemingly vast empire through the eyes of the protagonists. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for me. There isn’t enough meat in the worldbuilding to visualize the actual world. We have this Empire that is seemingly ruled by industrial Guilds. And the Emperor is the head of the most powerful Guild… Okay, how does this work? Apart from a brief reception for a foreign dignitary (during which the emperor behaved like a simpleton), and a sham of a trial in front of the Guild council, we get nothing about what makes this empire tick – what about the non-guild citizens? Army? Militia? Judiciary system? Anything? Same for the “Demon empire” that supposedly was their enemy for a thousand years. We get disjointed glimpses of things but they don’t make a clear picture.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t like any of the protagonist enough to care about them. Especially Tyreta, who behaves like an entitled brat with no self-control for most of the story I managed to get through. And while that could have been excused for a teenager, her mother, who is supposedly in her 40s, isn’t much better. This book suffers from a distinct lack of good characterization.

Finally, the fight scenes are… uninspired to say the least. Who could imagine that a fight scene can be boring? Well, they are in this book. They last for pages at a time but aren’t dynamic or suspenseful. They are just boring. I found myself skipping paragraphs during the fights.

Maybe I am just spoiled by other great epic fantasy books I read this year, since a lot of people seemed to have loved this one and left me cold.

PS: I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Extinction Trials by A. G. Riddle

 Stars: 1 out of 5.

I DNFed this book at 55%. You would think that reaching the halfway point there would have been some exciting action, right? With a name like Extinction Trials, you would think there would be some high stakes, trials, etc., right? Wrong. 

Yes, there seems to have been a mass extinction event, but even halfway through the book I’m not sure how long ago it had happened or how the characters ended up in Station 17. And apart from them leaving the station and getting on a boat, there hadn’t been any trials either. Unless you count them trying to repair the boat as a trial. But then one man was working on it and the rest were just mulling around waiting, so that’s a boring trial.

And that’s the crux of it – this book is boring. The characters are uninspiring. Heck, I am not sure I can remember most of them after dropping this book a few days ago. I mean who the heck is Blair and what is her purpose in this story anyway? They have no personality, no quirks, no inner strengths or weaknesses. And even though the book is told from the perspective of two of those characters, we never really get familiar with them. 

The reason for that is because the author doesn’t know how to show things. What we get instead is never-ending exposition. Each character has to tell their backstory. Then they find a journal and a character needs to read every single entry out loud. Then they find video recordings, so those are narrated as well. Heck, at one point, the two character even read excerpts from a self-help book… Yawn.

By the time I reached the halfway point and discovered that nothing major had happened yet and I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters, I decided that continuing this struggle wasn’t worth my time. So I skipped to the end just to see how this whole mess was resolved and… let’s just say that the ending is very disappointing. If you want the events in a book to make sense and abide by the rules of the world that the author created, this book is definitely not for you.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Of Starlight and Plague by Beth Hersant

Stars: 1 out of 5

DNF at 52%

I know that zombie books aren’t a paragon of high literature. I expect that. But when I pick up one, I expect to be entertained at least. This is the first boring zombie book I’ve ever read, so that must be a record. I picked it up because it has a bunch of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, and now I am honestly baffled. Were we reading the same book? Was there a particular lens I forgot to put on before I started this? I came for mindless zombie fun, what I got instead is a poorly written snooze fest. 

I think the biggest problem here is that the characters are skin deep. Granted, I don’t expect great characterization in a zombie book, since most of them will be zombie appetizer, but I expect to have one or two main characters that I can follow through the story. I need to have somebody I can associate myself with and see the world through their eyes. 

Here, we have no such thing. The two people responsible for the plague die by end of part 1. Which is a shame, because it would have been an interesting story to follow them through the pandemic. To see them realize the horror of what they have unleashed and do everything in their power to stop it before the world is destroyed. It’s a wasted opportunity and it’s such a shame.

Then we have Tammany, an old wise mambo in New Orleans. She seemed interesting and had at least a little depth to her character, even if most of that depth was full of  clichés about voodoo practitioners.  But her story was cut short by the end of part 2. 

By the time I decided to part ways with the book, we were introduced to yet another smart old lady who was planning on surviving the plague with her family. That felt redundant. Why not just continue with Tammany? Why introduce a whole new character, when they serve exactly the same purpose. The story of survival would have been in a swamp in New Orleans in Louisiana instead of a farm up north, but it would have served the same purpose. As it stands, that’s yet another character that has to be introduced, yet another conflict that has to be set up from the beginning. 

And that’s another problem with this book. Since the author has to set up so many characters, the action constantly jumps back and forth in time. We get to the inevitable “zombie” outbreak from the point of view of one character… then we switch to the very beginning of the story again for the next one and follow them to the same precise moment of the outbreak again. Rinse and repeat. This made me feel like the story is just spinning its wheels without going anywhere. And if a story isn’t going anywhere, I eventually loose all interest in it. 

Or the author introduces a character just as they get killed or loose their soul to the New Rabbis then backtracks a few days or weeks to show us how they got there. Problem is, we already know that character is zombie food (or zombie themselves), so why invest time in making an emotional connection with them by learning their story? We won’t be following them for long. 

And what about this irritating way all characters have to quote scientific journals or other sources in their conversations or even in their thoughts? Who, in their right mind does that? Who stops in the middle of their dream to explain a term that she’d known since she was a child? A term that is part of her culture? Yes, that term might be confusing for the reader at first, but most of us are smarter than an average monkey. We can figure out what it means based on the context. Explaining it so blatantly in the text does two things – it insults the reader’s intelligence and it immediately pulls them out of the story because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Same with incessant quotations of scientific articles and research. I get that the author did her research and is proud of it, but why make your characters shove it down my throat in every conversation? If only one character did that, it would have been a quirk and an interesting layer to their character, no matter how strange, but they all do that. The neuroscientists quote medical journals at each other. Wouldn’t they have read them independently if they are so good at their job? Tammany quotes voodoo research… which is even more weird. Why would a mambo read research done into her religion by outsiders anyway?

All this made for a very frustrating and boring read. This book had potential. But it needs a good developmental editor to unearth that potential out of the confusing heap of dirt the story is right now.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles 1) by Mike Brooks

 

Stars: 2 out of 5

DNF at 51%

This book suffers from the first book in a series syndrome. The author is so excited to introduce the reader to his brand new world, that he throws everything but the kitchen sink into the first book. This leads to a book that is a hefty 700 pages long… that are a slug to read. 

I know there is a story there, but it’s so muddled by the different side-stories and a multitude of different POVs that it progresses at a glacial pace. Well, glaciers move faster than this story, actually. I mean, when I called it quits at 50%, only two weeks narrative time had passed, and only a handful things had happened.

As I already mentioned, this story has too many narrators. I counted at least 8 or 9 different protagonists whose POVs we are privy to. That would work if they all contributed to the same story. Unfortunately, at least 4 of them (that I remember) are narrating events that don’t even happen on the same continent, that I could tell. And have no connection whatsoever to the main events in the story. Maybe the connection becomes evident later in the book, but seriously, if I can’t tell why half of the characters are even in the story after reading half of the book, something is wrong with the plotting. 

It doesn’t help that of all the protagonists, I was truly interested in maybe 2 or 3. Daimon, Saana, and her daughter. They felt fleshed out. I could understand their motives and desires. The rest of the cast? Cardboard cutouts, all of them. I couldn’t care less about them or their stories, especially since they mostly had nothing to do with the main story.

This book would have benefited with sticking with the main story of the Raiders coming to ask asylum from the very people they had been pillaging for generations. Cut all the other POVs out. Put them in the next book in the series if you want, but don’t muddy the waters unnecessarily. This forced cohabitation story was so ripe with conflicts and possibilities! It had so much potential for violence, reconciliation, and character growth! It would have made an excellent book all by itself.

My other problem with this book is the dialogue. I get what the author tried to do, and the idea that different cultures have different languages and different ways to defining genders (one culture has 9 of them) is fun and exciting in theory… but the execution of that was less than stelar.

How do the character define which gender they are and where they stand in the hierarchy of their society? By talking about themselves in third person. I mean seriously! After the tenth “This lord wants you to do this” or “This woman/sister/daughter is telling her brother/father this”, I wanted to scream. After 400 pages of this? I wanted to throw the book at the wall. Since it’s an eBook on my kindle, I had to refrain myself.

This doesn’t sound natural. It makes for stilted and convoluted dialog that grated so much on my nerves that it took me out of the story every time.

Finally, since so little time was spent on the main storyline, the author didn’t explore any of the cultural and historical conflicts that should have arisen between the two people. Oh, some of those conflicts are mentioned… then resolved in what seems like minutes. It’s all too tidy and civilized, when it’s never so in real life. I mean slavery was abolished over 200 years ago, but the repercussions are still felt in modern USA even now. Don’t underestimate the potential for violence the human race has. This easy resolution makes the story less believable and it lessens the stakes. 

But even though I DNFed this, I cannot give this story a one star rating. There is potential here. The world seems really interesting. And dragons! Well, more like dinosaurs, but still. This book would have benefited from a good developmental edit that would have cut the fat, tightened the plot, and moved the extraneous storylines out. As it stands, however, I am not interested enough to continue with the series.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota 1) by Ada Palmer

Stars: 1 out of 5

DNF at 42%.

I was lured to this book by the abundance of 5 star reviews. I was really looking forward to reading it… The first chapter had me baffled, confused and disappointed. But I decided to stick around to see if the story would actually get good and justify all those raving reviews… it didn’t. And as you can see, I stuck around for almost half of the book waiting for something to happen, so I think I gave it more than a fair chance.

I have so many problems with this book this review would become a laundry list of complaints if I were to touch on all of them. So I will limit myself to the aspects that raked me the most.

First, this story is told to the reader post-factum by a narrator that was there for some of the events and collected oral accounts of witnesses for the events he wasn’t part of. That can actually work, if done well. I read a few books told postpartum and loved them… But that doesn’t work if the narrator constantly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly. I was about ready to throw my tablet at the wall after the third “Dear reader, you might not know but blah-blah-blah…”. After the fifth one, I was contemplating murder.

My second problem is that a combination of good ideas doesn’t make a good story. I got the impression that the author got so enamored with their worldbuilding, that they forgot to actually tell a compelling story. We get introduced to Bridger, this boy wonder who will supposedly change the world, in Chapter 1… then we don’t hear about him again until almost 30% into the book. Instead, we are introduced to an endless parade of characters, places, and philosophies, that I honestly stopped caring about after about the third chapter. My reaction became “yawn, who are all these people?” 

It felt like a kid showing me their collection of random shinies they have accumulated over the years – they are all pretty and unique on their own, but they have no connection to each other. Like I said, a collection of ideas doesn’t make a story.

The final nail in the coffin of this book, at least for me, was when at 42% mark we finally come back to Bridger… then the narrator has to recap something that happened before (and he wasn’t present to witness, so it’s a third party account of a third party account). Yay, we finally have some action, even if related post-factum! Things are happening. Shenanigans are afoot… and then the action grinds to a screeching halt because a new character is introduce and it takes three pages to describe him, and what he is wearing, and how they are standing, and how others are reacting to him… Momentum = dead.

That’s when I threw my hat and decided to bid the book goodbye. This is a sad moment, because I probably won’t bother checking out other books by this author because my first impression was so disastrous.

PS: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

cinders on the wind by louis emery (The tapestry of retha 1)

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

I made it halfway through the book before I decided that enough was enough. Unfortunately, I am DNFing this one. I’m sure there is a good story somewhere in there, but even after reading half the book, I’m still waiting for it to grip me. The author would have benefited from a good content editor, because this book suffers from a lot of pitfalls rookie authors encounter:

1. Infodumps. We got literally the whole geopolitical introduction to the world in the first few pages. Problem with that? My eyes glazed over after a few paragraphs. I didn’t know those countries or kings or events, so I didn’t know to CARE about remembering them. So when they are mentioned again a few chapters later, I’m lost. I already forgot who was fighting with whom and why.

2. Endless flashbacks. Every time a character is introduced, we get a 4-6 pages flashback that explains their story, their motivation and what brought them to the moment in time we are reading about. EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! We are in the middle of an action scene, there is a build up in tension, then bham! new character… and a snooze-fest of a flashback. Yes, let’s kill the pace of an already very slow moving story even more.

3. Lots of tell, not enough show. You might have inferred that from the infodumps and flashbacks, but the author doesn’t know how to show very well. Or thinks that the reader isn’t intelligent enough to understand the character’s reactions and actions unless it’s fully explained to them. Trust me, the reader is smarter than you think, and being spoon fed the information is very annoying. 

4. The blurb is misleading. That young Seer mentioned in the blurb? Haven’t heard or seen her after the first 3 chapters or so. The Kingsguard that is supposed to protect her on her journey? He is off to a neighboring kingdom waging war for his king. There is no mention of that journey and I am halfway through the book. Instead we have 4 characters stuck in different locations doing seemingly unconnected things. There is talk of a rebellion, but who is rebelling, and who is attacking whom is cryptic to me. Probably because my brain switched off during the 6 page infodump in chapter one.

5. I don’t think the author has a very clear idea about his own mythology and divine system. He mentions that the main divinity is the Dragonmother and that there are a bunch of minor gods. The kingdom where most of the action takes place worships the Dragonmother… yet their elite soldiers are called God’s Burden? Yes, with a capital G…

So after wading through half the book and battling with the above mentioned irritating details, I am throwing the towel. This is not for me.

PS. I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. Sorry, it had to be negative