The DNF List

So, I have this *thing* where I don’t feel like it’s fair to give a full review to a book if I don’t finish it. I’m also not in college anymore, so I’m just not going to force myself to finish a book just so I can write about it. If I’m not enjoying a book for some reason, I’ll put it down. Sometimes the book and I just aren’t gelling, but another reader might love it. Some books are fabulous, except that they’re totally full of coarse language or really graphic sex, and it’s more than I can handle. Some books (and this is really rare) just turn out to be not that well-written. All of these, and more, are reasons why I’d DNF (“Did Not Finish”) a book–usually reluctantly. Here’s my running list of DNFs, and a brief description of why, for each.

 

indelible

Indelible by Adelia Saunders

I stopped reading this after strong language popped up really early (and a search proved my instincts right–it was only going to keep up the pace), but I was really enjoying the story up to that point. Such an interesting premise!

 

keep-me-posted

Keep me Posted by Lisa Beazley

I really enjoyed this book about two sisters who decide, in the digital age, writing letters is more intimate and will help them feel close again. I loved that the sisters really liked each other, and were supportive. I loved that they had real-life mom/wife/friend problems, and shared them openly. I liked the narrator and her neuroses. I didn’t like the crude language sprinkled throughout, and gave up at about 1/3 of the way through the book. Sadface. Otherwise, it was a fantastic read.

juliet-in-august

Juliet in August by Dianne Warren

I struggled with the style, here, and might have liked this book if I’d been in a different mood. The first chapter is all about a day-long horse race, and the details are interesting, but I found myself a little bored. The style is reminiscent of a book of short stories, though other reviewers seem to hint that they’re at least woven together. I couldn’t get into it and gave up.

 

great-aunt-sophia

Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach

Honestly? I thought the book just didn’t live up to the cover. It sold 1940s charm and instead I got shallow man-catching blather. Also, any book that’s using the phrase “her breasts started tingling” in reference to looking at a man, particularly within the first 15 pages, gets a huge eyeroll and tossed across the room. Just no.

 

lost-found

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

With four main characters, I really thought this book was going to be a breath of fresh air. hated it. I disliked all of the characters, and found the writing style so tiresome after about 60 pages. Couldn’t do it. Not for me.

 

bradstreet-gate

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirkman

I reeeeeeally liked this and thought it was so well-written and fascinating, and then it got too sweary. Cue sad wah-wah trumpets.

 

the-alex-crow

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

I gave surrealist fiction a try. I really did. Andrew Smith was coming to town and I was supposed to interview him (his interviews all got cancelled sad news) so I felt strongly about reading the book he was promoting. I did NOT get it. As a woman with a piece of paper from a university that says I’m pretty decent at decoding literature written in my own language, I’m OK with this.

 

wildflower-by-alecia-whitaker
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker
I love music and books about musicians (see below) but I just couldn’t get into the groove with this one. Honestly, Bird drove me crazy. She seemed really immature for a 16-year-old, and after 50 pages, there was no complexity to the plot, at all. Bird likes Adam. Bird crushes on Adam and can’t even separate her feelings for him from, say, deciding whether her Coke is good or bad. It just seemed kind of silly, and I kind of rolled my eyes when the music exec showed up. I guess it was just too bland and predictable to catch my interest.

 

staging-the-blues-by-paige-mcginley

Staging the Blues by Paige A. McGinley
I was so danged excited for this book, because I love musicians and jazz and blues and the whole package. I guess I just wasn’t expecting this read to be quite so academic? I’m a smart girl, and while I’m perfectly capable of reading and understanding a tome written for academia, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for in my pleasure reading, know what I mean? I may skim through this at some point and end up using it as a sort of reference, but it’s not what I’d call a gripping read. Major bummer.

 

enchantress-by-maggie-anton

Enchantress
I just couldn’t get into this one. I didn’t realize it was a sequel when I requested a galley, but I was willing to overlook that–most books do a good job of catching readers up on the details. I spent about 20 (jam-packed, densely written) pages being confused, but still enjoying the book’s cultural color. When the full explanation for the book’s main love interest finally hits, it turns out that everyone hates each other, apparently? But they “desire” each other, so let’s hook him and get married? I don’t get it, and I’m clearly missing background from the first book that’s not being explained well enough. I’d have loved to enjoy this one, but I gave it five days of good, solid attempts, and I need to move on.

 

afterworlds-by-scott-westerfield

Afterworlds
I was so excited to have been approved for galley access to Afterworlds! But then I saw 49 f-bombs and…yeah, it’s just not worth it for me. Sigh.

 

zac-mia-by-aj-betts

Zac & Mia
Not only did I get an e-galley, but a print copy, too! It’s getting really good reviews, but Kindle says 63 f-words, so that counts me out. I did give away my ARC to someone who I hope will love it!

 

crow-blue-by-adriana-lisboa

Crow Blue
This one’s been waiting patiently on my Kindle, and I was so excited to have time to tackle it during ARC August! I loved the synopsis, but I just could not wrap my head around the writing style at. all. I felt like it was trying so hard to be esoteric that I was struggling to even get a sense of what was happening in the plot. At 5% in, I had no clue where we were or what was going on, and it just wasn’t working for me.

 

mortal-danger

Mortal Danger
I enjoyed the first 100 pages of this one (3 stars, at least?) until the book took a random 90-degree plot turn and became a completely different book. It didn’t deliver at all on the plot synopsis, and the writing kind of fell apart and got confusing and the pacing was strange. I kept trying for another 50 pages or so, but honestly, I ended up frustrated and grumpy, and it just wasn’t worth it for me, anymore. I’d have loved to read the book I was promised on the back cover!

big-little-lies-by-liane-moriarty

Big Little Lies
More language issues here. :/ I was really disappointed not to be able to read this one, since a couple of people I trust really enjoyed it.

 

2-am-at-the-cats-pajamas-by-marie-helene-bertino

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas
I was really excited to start this one–it centers around a jazz club!–but I found myself frustrated by the constant shift in focus. Madeline is not, really, a “likeable” heroine, but I wanted to find out what would become of her, and I was intrgued by Miss Green’s storyline. But I couldn’t make myself care about Lorca, his friends, Alex, or anything that was happening with them. I assume all the plotlines were going to connect in the end, but after reading more than half the book, I still just couldn’t connect with this book, emotionally.

 

wanted-dead-or-in-love-by-kym-brunner

Wanted: Dead or in Love
I didn’t dislike this book–I just wanted more from it. The plot concept, (the spirits of Bonnie & Clyde inhabit the minds/bodies of a couple of teenagers and get up to all kinds of mayhem) caught my interest, and I liked Monroe, but the pacing was just off, for me. The reveal for the “how” of it all was way too fast, in my opinion, and I felt like everything was neatly explained before I cared enough about the characters. Monroe and Clyde are also both a little more blatantly crass than I prefer, so by the time we hit the “rebellious swearing” portion…. Eh. It just wasn’t for me.

 

everything-i-never-told-you-by-celeste-ng

Everything I Never Told You
Beautifully written, thoughtful, and filled with emotion, Everything is the story of a how one family copes with the loss of a daughter who’s found drowned in the nearby lake. The writing is deeply contemplative and imbued with a quiet grace. It says a lot about a book when I’ll read 1/3 of it in one morning while lying in bed, wincing and uncomfortable with a migraine, and continue to read anyway, knowing it’s only making my headache worse. However, I quit just before hitting the halfway point and skipped to the end because the infidelity was bugging me. It’s written in a sympathetic way: James is going through a traumatic period, and his motivations make sense. It just got under my skin.

I did still have to read the end rather than DNFing completely, though, because I had to know what happened! The subject matter is a bit dark, at times, but the writing flows beautifully, and the characters are so real I almost felt I could reach out and touch them. I have several passages highlighted because I enjoyed the turns of phrase so much.

 

i-am-the-mission-by-allen-zadoff

I Am the Mission
I was grabbed by this book, instantly. Zadoff writes with immediacy, and reading his work is a fully sensory experience. Unfortunately, the book violates my policy on profanity, so I reluctantly stopped reading, but if swearing doesn’t bother you, this could be your jam. Despite the fact that it’s the second book in a series, I wasn’t at all confused, and found myself really intrigued by the story.

 

the-boy-in-his-winter

The Boy in His Winter
I may yet return to this book. Lock’s writing style is less dense than obtuse and circuitous, at least up to this point (10%), and  I just can’t get into the groove. The book’s premise sounds fascinating in the synopsis, but even this far in, I still have no sense of what’s going on. Huck’s narration is fragmented and meandering–it’s intended to be conversational, as if dictated, and as clever as that may be, it’s still necessary to provide a thread of narrative for the reader to follow. I’m just not quite in the mood for figuring out why and how Huck and Jim are stuck in an ice age in 1850, just yet, or why they’re going to meet Martians in 2070, if I have to fight this hard for it.

 

the-from-aways-by-cj-hauser

The From-Aways
As charmingly as this story began, the hard language started pretty early (which makes it easier on me, really–it’s like parting from an old friend if I get truly invested and then have to stop!). A search proved that there’d be 114 instances of my least favorite word, so clearly this book is not right for me.  I was enjoying Hauser’s characters and writing style up to that point. If profanity were not an issue for me, I would definitely recommend it, up to the point I had read.

 

we-were-liars-by-e

We Were Liars
I hit my profanity limit about 2/3 of the way through the book. I did skim through the rest, though, and read the end, because the writing was that good and I wanted to know what the secret was. I found the book interestingly written, and enjoyed the characters and was intrigued by Cady’s story. I was frustrated with Cady not knowing what had happened to her, and with her cousins not telling her, once she asked–though once I read the ending, I understood.

This was definitely a different sort of voice for Lockhart. I did enjoy that, and the sense of mystery, here.

 

a-life-apart-by-lf-marlow

A Life Apart
This is a work of historical fiction about an interracial love affair that starts in the 1940s, during WWII. I thought that sounded great, but for some reason, I didn’t put it together that that meant one of the members of the affair would be having an affair–e.g. cheating on his wife. Even that would have been OK, as far as reading material goes–I read stuff about things that don’t make me happy, all the time–but I really struggled with it, emotionally, because I just liked the wife so darned much. The book was supposed to be (I think) about this interracial couple struggling against the odds through the decades, and though I wanted to root for them, I was mostly just mad at him for being so dense and such a jerk to both his wife and his mistress. I was almost relieved to put it down once the language hit R-rating level. The writing itself, though, was excellent. I just struggled with the one main character. Others might enjoy it quite a lot, and the historical settings were fascinating.

 

what-i-thought-was-true-by-huntley-fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True
I actually only read a sneak-peek of this book which is probably only about the first 5% or so of the full novel. I really enjoy Fitzpatrick’s writing, and I was already drawn into the story and eager to see what happened next. I really liked the full cast of characters Fitzpatrick had put forward up to that point–even (maybe especially) the crochety ones. That said, I clicked over to Amazon to buy the full version, and after reading reviews it looks like maybe this book isn’t for me. It gets great hype, but a couple of the plot points just aren’t my thing. However, I’m still waiting on tenterhooks for the sequel to My Life Next Door!

 

what-i-thought-was-true-by-huntley-fitzpatrick

Afterparty
I was really intrigued by the way this book began–not every novel can start off with scriptures, mentions of God, a parable, and come off without sounding either preachy or abrasive. Afterparty captured my attention immediately, but it became apparent pretty quickly that it just wasn’t going to be for me when the language cranked up. I’m disappointed not to be able to follow the story, because it sounds like it gets to be one crazy adventure!

 

first-fifteen-lives-of-harry-august-by-claire-north

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
I was so fascinated by this book, but it hit R-rated level swearing, which is my threshold for putting a book down. I really like Harry, and I think the twist on the reincarnation premise is interesting. The way the story unfolds is clever, too. I’m disappointed not to be able to find out what’s going to happen, since at 13% finished, I’m still mostly getting background. It’s always a bummer when I have to DNF a book like this. Claire North is a writer to watch.

 

the-last-forever-by-deb-caletti

The Last Forever
Uuuurgh. I was so looking forward to reading this, but the first ten pages were a drug-addicted dad and several F-bombs, so I wasn’t going to go any further.

 

the-word-exchange-by-alena-graedon

The Word Exchange
As a lover of language, I was so excited about the premise of this book. The first chapters were interesting, and I didn’t mind having to look up a few of the words–the vocabulary is so rich and powerful. After a while, though (*cough*Bart*cough*) I struggled to keep interest in the dense prose. It just felt like it was trying way too hard, but I was willing to keep up with it until the heavy swearing started.

 

waiting-for-wednesday-by-nicci-french

Waiting for Wednesday
So. many. characters. This is book 3 in a series, but it seemed like I still should have been able to figure out who the main players were and how they related to each other. I hung with it for several chapters, but the sheer quantity of people I couldn’t figure out got a little crazymaking.

 

deep-winter
Deep Winter
Starts off with a bang, and is heavy with atmosphere. The characterizations are fabulous, right up to the point that Sokowski’s introduced, and there’s just so much language that I’m not enjoying it anymore. (Obviously, we’re supposed to despise him, so it’s part of the package, but I’m picky.) Gailey is clearly gifted, and if I could selectively skip these parts, I’d be more than thrilled to read this!

 

eleanor-park
Eleanor & Park
Both this book and Rainbow Rowell get rave reviews. (Also, she is one of my most favorite people on Twitter. She’s just plain charming!) I was really excited to dive in, but holy cats, the swearing! Right from page one, it’s just rampant. It’s supposed to take place in high school, so…yeah, I get it. But you guys know how I feel about this stuff.

 

wake
Wake
I was all excited to read this one–it’s historical women’s fiction, set post WWI, and intertwining the lives of three women who have all lost someone dear to them in the war. (Oh, and I discovered it’s authored by an actress I’ve seen on Dr. Who. I liked that.) It sounded like it’d be right up my alley, but with a handful of f-bombs in the first couple of pages…not so much. Sometimes I’ll deal with language when people are in critical situations or under duress, but–eh. I just don’t need to read it in constant everyday speech. I know it’s “realistic.” I don’t care. This one just wasn’t for me, I guess.

 

a-star-for-mrs-blake
A Star for Mrs. Blake
As I got drawn into this story, I started thinking of it as an American, WWI-era Enchanted April. It’s an ensemble sort of narrative with a large, somewhat eccentric cast of characters, and the tone is extremely observational. It can take a little getting used to, but after I adjusted, I really enjoyed it. I was mightily disappointed to have to put it down, about 75% finished, because of a swearing issue that cropped up. I’ll even admit to skipping to the end to find out what happened to my favorite people. (!!)

 

scent-of-butterflies
Scent of Butterflies
The synopsis for this sounded fascinating, and the narrator’s voice was unique. Until she started swearing gratuitously, on about page 15. Particularly weird, since she’s Iranian, and supposed to be quoting her grandmother; presumably there are several words she could have chosen to use in translation, eh? GAH.

 

dream-girl
Dream Girl
I couldn’t get past the first couple of pages. There’s just way too much plot development thrown at us up front, without any character development at all. Without any chance to get to know or care about the main character, giving us a love interest on page 2 with descriptions like “melancholy practically pour[ing] off him,” yadda yadda, is a bit much to handle. We don’t even know who Christine is yet! I just couldn’t get into it.

 

the-clearing
The Clearing
Started off well, and then it got really slow, but I was willing to stick with it, if it hadn’t been for the language. There was also an awful lot of describing of nipples. Like, a lot. The setting (St. Lucia) was fabulous, though, and I really wanted to see how it turned out.

 

real-downton-abbey
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
Suuuuper slow. Obviously, I didn’t expect the “real” Downton to be like the show (soapy and full of intrigue and death and sexytimes). And as much as I like to believe that everyone has a story worth telling, I’ve come to the conclusion that not everyone’s story will fill a novel. The portions referring to Lord Carnarvon V’s involvement with Tut’s tomb were fascinating to me, but the rest read like faithful journalling, rather than an attempt at storytelling. I took what I intended to be a weekend hiatus, and just couldn’t make myself go back. Bummer, all around.

 

4-to-16-characters
4 to 16 Characters
Another language issue. I pushed farther into this one than usual before I gave up; I really wanted to know how it turned out, and I liked Jane and the story so much. It’s really well-written–just really sweary.

 

chasing-shadows
Chasing Shadows
I was really sad to have to put this one down. Chasing Shadows is both a YA novel and a graphic novel, and both are really awesome–good story, well written, and draw you in from the beginning. It’s a killer book, and I was really excited about reviewing it…and then the language got out of control. Boo. :(

 

dad-is-fat
Dad is Fat
I love Jim Gaffigan. A lot. But apparently, a lot of Jim Gaffigan at once means nothing gets edited out, including the mediocre stuff. This just wasn’t nearly as funny as his stand-up, and I got bored partway through.

 

enclave
Enclave
Could have been good, but I thought it needed stronger editing. I only read through about 18%, and I noticed at least 3 different points that were repeated almost verbatim. Everything just seemed really forced or overexplained, and I got frustrated. Bummer, because I liked the premise.

 

article-5
Article 5
The synopsis sounded cool, so I downloaded the sample, and reading it made me kind of stabby. It felt like I was reading something a teenager wrote. Apparently, many hundreds of readers on Goodreads disagree with me, so tastes are what they are, you know?

 

how-i-live-now
How I Live Now
This is one of those books that wins a zillion awards, and I get so excited to read, and then when I start it, I *hate* the narrator. It’s not even that I hated her (apparently questionable) behavior; I just couldn’t stand her voice. She was so cynical and negative and snide that I couldn’t get past it, though I hear that softens, later, and becomes part of her charm? I couldn’t deal. Anyway, I gave up because it was so full of language.

 

gone-girl
Gone Girl
Another award winner I was really sad to put down. It was a very different sort of novel, and the writing was intriguing, but I wasn’t willing to read that many f-bombs per page. Sad.

 

counterfeit-farm-girl
Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl
It’s rare that I find a book I truly hate. I *hated* this book–so much, in fact, that I returned it to Amazon after getting about 30% through. It made me angry. It was occasionally marginally amusing, but I found it so hard to relate to an author (this is, purportedly, a memoir) who can’t find anything much to talk about other than her highlights, designer clothes, and booze. I get that she’s trying to be over the top and amusing, but it came off as a giant snide fail. The best words I can find to describe it are grating and awkwardly self-conscious. My shoulders are up around my ears just thinking about it.

 

mary-sutter
My Name is Mary Sutter
F-bombs in a Civil-War-era novel? Hmmm. Could do without the graphic masturbation, also, thanks.

 

zone-one
Zone One
TOO MANY METAPHORS OMGOSH STOP.

 

twilight-guide
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide
I should have known better, right? I do like the books, but if you’ve read them, there’s no point to this book.

 

book-thief
The Book Thief
I just couldn’t do it. I got almost halfway through, but that took me more than a week, which is s-l-o-w for me. A couple of the characters were interesting, but I couldn’t get into the pace of the story–I think the narrating threw everything off, for me. I’m sure it was effective in the end, but I just couldn’t get there.

 

dracula
Dracula
I am dying (hahaha) to actually finish this at some point–it’s really well written, which is clearly why it’s a classic. I just got distracted by new, shiny things.

 

room
Room
I know this was one of those big, important, trendy novels, but I could not get past Jack’s voice. His speech patterns made me nuts. DNF.