dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: When I Am Through With You

Today I’m sharing another installment of the DNF Diaries! In this series, I discuss why I chose to DNF a book, because life is too short to read bad books. The book I’m chatting about for this DNF Diaries entry is When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn, out on August 1, 2017 from Dutton/Penguin Random House.*

when I am through with you

“’This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.’

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.“

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The Good: Ben narrates this book, and it’s clear at the very beginning that he’s recounting his story from prison. I liked that we get thrown into the action, and that Ben is working backward in telling this tale. The fact that Ben is so upfront at the beginning – he killed Rose, he’s not sorry, he’s going to take his time – made me think that he would be a great, unreliable narrator with a lot of twists along the way. If nothing else, this book has a great start.

The Bad: This book is essentially about a bunch of kids who suffer through a series of events on a camping trip, and presumably most of them don’t survive. I don’t like camping/things go to shit while outdoors stories. I knew that going in, but I thought the mystery/thriller aspect would draw me in enough to compensate for that. It didn’t. Also the sheer amount of stupidity committed by these kids in the first 80 pages already convinced me that I 1) didn’t care about any of them, 2) knew they probably caused whatever bad stuff happened, and 3) was already so bored that I honestly didn’t even want to know how/why Ben killed his girlfriend.

The Ugly: The worst offenders when it comes to this book are the writing and the characters. Stephanie Kuehn’s writing somehow managed to make me simultaneously bored and offended. I can’t even describe how badly the writing style irritated me. Then we have the characters, primarily Ben and his girlfriend Rose. To describe them as “unlikable” would be too kind. Ben is a spineless loser (who still manages to have sex at least 4 times in 80 pages – including cheating on his girlfriend in the bushes of a wilderness trail!), and Rose is a controlling manic pixie dream girl who makes Ben feel like shit just because she can. Combine awful characters with awful writing, and their conversations had me banging my head against the wall. Just…so bad.

I DNF’ed this book at 85 pages, and I probably shouldn’t have even made it that far. There’s no beating around the bush – I hated pretty much everything about this book, and would not recommend it. My friend Karen told me that she personally DNF’ed two of Stephanie Kuehn’s previous novels, so I’m now convinced that I’ll never attempt to read another book by this author. Sometimes certain authors just don’t work for certain readers, and this is clearly one of those cases.

Do you DNF books? Tell me about the last book that you DNF’ed!

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: Spaceman of Bohemia

spaceman of bohemia

“Orphaned as a boy, raised in the Czech countryside by his doting grandparents, Jakub Procházka has risen from small-time scientist to become the country’s first astronaut. When a dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him both the chance at heroism he’s dreamt of, and a way to atone for his father’s sins as a Communist informer, he ventures boldly into the vast unknown. But in so doing, he leaves behind his devoted wife, Lenka, whose love, he realizes too late, he has sacrificed on the altar of his ambitions.

Alone in Deep Space, Jakub discovers a possibly imaginary giant alien spider, who becomes his unlikely companion. Over philosophical conversations about the nature of love, life and death, and the deliciousness of bacon, the pair form an intense and emotional bond. Will it be enough to see Jakub through a clash with secret Russian rivals and return him safely to Earth for a second chance with Lenka?”

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It’s time for another installment of DNF Diaries, and I’m really disappointed that this one didn’t work out. Spaceman of Bohemia has an epic premise, as evident above, and I was really looking forward to a fantastic space opera read. Unfortunately, I had to DNF this book at 34%.

As I said, the premise is intriguing enough, but I felt that the executed just fell flat. Everything about this was a bit too simple for my enjoyment, from the writing style to the barebones narration to the actual characters. Spaceman of Bohemia has two alternating timelines, which I usually enjoy, but both (Jakub’s present in space and his childhood) were quite frankly boring. Bored is probably the best word to describe my reading experience, since I had to force myself through that 34% with little to no enjoyment.

It didn’t dawn on me until after I chose to DNF this book, but Spaceman of Bohemia actually reminds me of another lone wolf in space story – The Martian by Andy Weird. Why did I love The Martian, yet couldn’t finish Spaceman of Bohemia? Because Jakub severely lacked what Mark had in spades – personality. Jakub as a protagonist was dull and unexciting, something that I’m apparently shallow enough to need when I’m reading about a man alone in space for months.

We also need to talk about the elephant in the room, or rather, the alien spider. Reading about an alien arachnid with a Nutella addiction was too weird. And not even weird in an engaging way. I was expecting something profound from this story, and perhaps that occurs by the end, but I couldn’t stick around for it. A deathly combination of boring and strange meant that I couldn’t force myself to see if Jakub even completes his mission, much less figure out what the deal was with the space spider.

dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: Girl In Pieces & And the Trees Crept In

Welcome to another installment of DNF Diaries! It’s been a while since my last post, which I suppose is good for my reading (and man, did I read a ton so far this month), but I’ve recently DNFed two books for very different reasons. So today’s post is a dual DNF Diaries!

Title: Girl In Pieces
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: ARC*

I hesitantly gave Girl In Pieces a try after picking it up in the flurry of book acquisition that was BEA. If I had taken the time to read the synopsis, I probably wouldn’t have taken a copy. Girl In Pieces is about Charlotte “Charlie” Davis, who wakes up in a psych ward after a suicide attempt. This book should have “trigger warning” written all over it – the entire story revolves around self-harm, sexual assault, and substance abuse. I’m not triggered by any of those things, but I still usually avoid books with these subjects because they can quickly devolve into torture porn, or otherwise completely mishandle these topics. I thought Girl In Pieces would tackle how the system (healthcare, social services, take your pick) fails people, particularly young people, who are struggling with addiction or mental health disorders. But I honestly couldn’t get far enough into this story to see if any of that is actualized.

I DNFed Girl In Pieces at about 75 pages. Very little happened in those 75 pages – Charlie wakes up, adjusts to life on the ward, and has some flashbacks to certain traumatic experiences. The chapters are very short in the beginning, only a paragraph or a few lines, so realistically there was far less than 75 pages’ worth of content. There was nothing to connect to, nothing to keep me engaged, and through Charlie’s narration and flashbacks, I could tell the story was setting up something I wasn’t interested in following. Ultimately I DNFed this book because I did not want to suffer through hundreds of pages of Charlie suffering. Usually I DNF books for technical issues, or a strong emotional response, but in the case of Girl In Pieces, I simply did not want to read this story.

Title: And the Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: ARC*

This DNF is much more straightforward: I am a wimp. I don’t like scary movies, I can’t watch creepy TV shows, I think people who say being scared is “fun” are crazy. So when I pulled And the Trees Crept In out of the black hole that was my book suitcase after BEA, I knew how this would end up. Two sisters move in with their aunt, whose house is conveniently the color of blood. The younger sister speaks to a man no one else can see, and the trees surrounding the house apparently begin to close in around them (And the Trees Crept In, get it?). I’ll be totally honest here and admit that I only made it a chapter into this book before I had to give up. I wasn’t immediately drawn in, I knew things were about to get scary and weird, and my anxious little heart wanted none of it. Will this be a great read for some people? Yes, absolutely, but I’m just not one of them. I DNFed And the Trees Crept In at 15 pages and am now highly suspicious of the tree outside my window.

* I received these books from the publisher at BEA in exchange for a free & honest review.

What’s the last book you DNFed? Do you DNF books? Let me know in the comments!

dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: A Tyranny of Petticoats

I fully expected to love this anthology of short stories that feature badass girls in American history. Unfortunately, that’s not at all what happened. Welcome to another installment of DNF Diaries!

“Crisscross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.”

The Good: Some awesome YA authors wrote stories that about women throughout American history, which is an amazing concept. Further, they’ve covered the entire gamut of American history, from colonial days to the Civil Rights movement, and created protagonists that are as diverse as the American population.

The Bad: I read roughly 100 pages before giving up, so I obviously can only talk about the stories I managed to finish. Those stories, however, were not well written. I wasn’t engaged by any of the early stories, perhaps because short stories are difficult for me to enjoy, but mostly because the writing and plot lines were just meh. I forced myself through one underwhelming story, assuming the next would be better. It wasn’t. Rinse and repeat until I just couldn’t handle another subpar attempt at historical fiction. As someone from Louisiana, I found Jessica Spotswood’s story particularly shitty. Just…nope.

The Ugly: Why, I ask the universe, on my knees, shaking my fists at the sky as a torrential downpour splatters raindrops on my tear-stained face, why did this have to be magical realism?!? Whyyyyy??? It is already so difficult to find quality historical fiction in YA. As a trained historian, I was ecstatic to read what I thought would be an awesome anthology about young women in America’s history. I was not ecstatic to read those stories, with the addition of supernatural creatures and magic. What that says to me is that these authors didn’t think history was good enough for young readers – we need to add magic! But not all of the stories have magic, so on top of the confusing magical realism this anthology isn’t even consistent! History is already interesting enough, and the insistence to include magic was distracting to the point of irritation. Why couldn’t this just be a straight up historical fiction anthology? I was obviously so annoyed that I couldn’t force myself to read another page.

arc review · dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: Into the Dim

It’s time for another installment of DNF Diaries, in which I share the books that I abandoned, and explain why I didn’t finish reading them. I know DNFing books is still a somewhat touchy subject in the book community, but one of my Bookish Resolutions for 2016 was to not be afraid to DNF books. Life’s too short to read bad books.

Today’s DNF Diaries post is about Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor. I received an eARC of this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so…I’ll be honest here. Into the Dim is published on March 1, 2016, and it joins the ranks of the recent influx of time travel YA novels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite stack up. I DNF’ed this book at 51% and haven’t regretted that life choice.

“When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she’s alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.”

The Good: Thanks to many years spent in the Doctor Who fandom, I am predisposed to want to like time travel stories. And Into the Dim has the most interesting time travel period of its contemporaries (no Antebellum period corsets and such here) because Hope and her fellow travelers go back in time to the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. I was so excited to read a story set in this time, because Eleanor of Aquitaine was such an amazing figure in history. So really, the good parts of this book were how excited I was about Eleanor, and that time travel is inherently a cool concept.

The Bad: Into the Dim follows the same basic premise as every other time travel story that’s come out this year, or is slated to come out this year: young girl is separated from her mother, only to find out that – surprise! – time travel is real and she has to go on a quest to the past in order to save her mother. Paternity, if unknown, will be a latent plot point for twisty plot effect.  Rinse and repeat. Passenger did this, Into the Dim did this, and The Girl From Everywhere did this slightly differently. It’s a tired premise at this point, and I’m done with reading it over and over again.

Further, the actual apparatus behind time travel was like every possible time travel explanation rolled into one…ley lines! Tesla coils! Super computer tech things! Way too convoluted.

The Ugly: Hope Walton does not have a personality. If she does, it is so nondescript that the only word the publisher could come up with to describe her in the blurb above is fragile. I never felt connected to her, or cared about her, and her characterization felt inconsistent while still not managing to construct a personality for our dear protagonist. I don’t mind an unlikable main character, but I cannot stand an annoying or boring main character. Hope is both.

Many characters in this story are Scottish, and it’s clear from the blurb that this is Outlander for teens or something, but good lord. The way Taylor writes the Scottish characters was unbearable. If I had a dollar for every time she wrote “och,” I could cut my student loans in half. Every Scottish character felt beyond cliché, and the Outlander angle was pushed awkwardly and too hard. At the half way point, we’re very obviously being set up for a love triangle between Hope, a fellow traveler, and another guy who is even more obviously part of the rival/evil group of time travelers. I just can’t.

The worst part, and the most damning, is that I didn’t think about this book when I wasn’t reading it. In fact, I never thought about how much I want to continue reading, or see what happened next. I still don’t. And ultimately, I knew I had to DNF this book or I would end up with an underwhelming to the point of infuriating two star read.

Into the Dim doesn’t come out until March 1, but if you’re interested in reading this book, I’d recommend saving your money and checking it out from the library instead.

What’s the last book you DNF’ed?

arc review · dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: The Casquette Girls

Title: The Casquette Girls
Author: Alys Arden
Publisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Format: eARC*

“After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return. Adele wants nothing more than to resume her normal life, but with the silent city resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

Strange events—even for New Orleans—lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she accidentally unleashes threatens not only her but also everyone she knows. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, Adele must untangle a web of magic that weaves the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has secrets and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless…you’re immortal.”

I should have posted my review a long time ago – this book was released in November, and I had the ARC for a month or so before then. But the truth is, I didn’t know what to say. This book sounds so intriguing from the synopsis: New Orleans! Magic! Secrets! I thought I’d be reading a post-Katrina version of American Horror Story: Coven. I thought, since the author herself is from New Orleans, there was little chance I wouldn’t love this story. Turns out, I couldn’t even force myself to finish it.

Welcome to DNF Diaries.

I’ve decided to start a new series of sorts on my blog, DNF Diaries, to discuss the books that I simply did not finish. I feel like DNFing books is still a slightly taboo topic in the book community, and many people think that once they start a book, they have to finish it. Life’s too short to read bad books, so I’m going to use this series as a means to have a more open forum about DNFing books, and what leads us to ultimately abandon a book.

For this first installment of DNF Diaries, I’m discussing The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. Now, I had high hopes for this book. It’s published by Skyscape, Amazon’s self-publishing teen imprint that also put out the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy by Susan Ee. I’ll admit that I have my reservations about self-published novels, which is perhaps elitist of me, but nonetheless true. Unfortunately, this book didn’t change my opinions.

The Casquette Girls tells the story of Adele, who returns to New Orleans after The Storm (never actually named, but obviously meant to represent Hurricane Katrina) and uncovers secrets of the magical sort when she starts exploring in her attic and attending a new school.
The Good: I really enjoyed the concept of this story, and thought a YA novel about post-Katrina New Orleans would be brilliant. There is so much potential! So much of New Orleans’ history and culture is woven into the story in a way that isn’t all Mardi Gras and whatever tourists expect when they visit Louisiana. However…

The Bad: The author is from New Orleans, and she never lets you forget it. The reader is constantly beaten over the head with long, winding, and unnecessary exposition about the neighborhoods in the city, the street names, and how much Adele LOVES NEW ORLEANS OK SHE LOVES IT SO MUCH. This book is over 500 pages long and it felt like the vast majority of the first 200 were wasted in this manner.

The Ugly: The fact of the matter is that the writing is the biggest downfall. Characters are unbelievably written, with little to no personality between them except to fulfill recycled YA tropes. It’s the interaction between characters, however, that was especially unpleasant to read. Every conversation feels forced, like the author is just trying to connect plot points, and the way Adele converses with people is unrealistic at best. I made it to 25% of this novel and literally nothing had happened other than Adele waxing poetically about New Orleans and having contrived interactions with a handful of other characters.

You can probably see why I had to DNF this book. Nothing felt natural, or enjoyable, or gave me any hope for improvement as the story progressed. I had to quit at the 25% mark because I was so frustrated. As someone who experienced Hurricane Katrina and lived close to New Orleans, it’s disappointing that this book fell so short of my expectations. But ultimately, there are far better urban fantasy novels out there to read. I highly recommend you pick up any one of those instead, or watch AHS: Coven.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of DNF Diaries! Let me know what it takes for you to DNF a book.

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.