Thursday, January 31, 2019

DNF&Y [13]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


DNF at 51%

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Once Upon a River was very descriptive with extremely fleshed out characters, but I didn't have the patience for the pacing. Before you grab your pitchforks, I'm aware this was a story about storytelling, and the writing was reminiscent of someone orally telling a tale. However, reading this book was mentally exhausting. There were a lot of characters, a million little details, and a thousand threads to follow. I never felt connected to the characters, and that's likely because we were constantly jumping from one person to the next.

I just wanted to know who the little girl was! Why did she resemble so many people? Was she actually dead? Where did she come from? I was tempted to skip to the very end to see if any of those questions were answered, but even that seemed like too much effort.

The history, the language, the characteristics of people and places -- all amazing. I enjoyed learning about their lives, but all of the details made the book feel a little dense. I prefer stories with a quicker pace, so maybe I was doomed from the start. Despite feeling like some of the information was unnecessary, it did enrich the overall story.



White Stag (Permafrost, #1)
by Kara Barbieri
Synopsis (via Goodreads): The first book in a brutally stunning series where a young girl finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home.

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.


Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

DNF at 28%

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really, really wanted to like this. Goblins, a snowy setting, action and adventure -- all things I enjoy reading about. However, the story didn't deliver. It might have been my review copy, but there were a lot of inconsistencies that really detracted from the book. Also, Janneke has supposedly been around Soren for a century, but the two acted like total strangers.

“No, I mean, does your kind normally have that really cute nose crinkle when they make certain facial expressions, especially ones of humor or anger?" 

I would assume that was something he'd have noticed in their ninety-nine years together, but it was like they were seeing each other for the first time. Additionally, Soren didn't seem like the type to use words like cute. Janneke was also equally surprised by his actions, even though they were things he's been doing forever. Their relationship was unrealistic and it would have been difficult to picture a romance between the two.

Janneke was always angry or feeling guilty about something, but it was hard to tell where those feelings were directed. Herself? The goblins? Humans? She seemed be angry with everyone and everything. Based on what I read, Soren never gave her a reason to hate him. He tried to keep her safe (albeit against her will at times), and was quick to offer comfort and reassurances (as much as a goblin can manage), but she still distrusted his intentions. 

I thought the world-building was interesting, and I liked the idea of goblins and The Hunt, but a lot of the story was repetitive and the language was often redundant. It also wasn't believable when Janneke fought Goblins, especially when just showing their power crippled her. It seemed unlikely she'd ever be able to get the upper hand.

In the end, there were just too many things distracting me from the story. I think it's worth mentioning that there is a lot of brutality, detailed accounts of rape and abuse, and psychological torment. Goblins need humans to create (since they're only able to destroy things themselves), and some humans are treated better than others. Janneke's past has influenced her present, and it was often dark and unpleasant.




My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life
by Rachel Cohn
Synopsis (via Goodreads): "I'm here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!"

In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World's future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS-the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.

Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her sixteenth birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahari, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hyper-critical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn't exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of uber-cool international kids who spend money like it's air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who's frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.'

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family, and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.

DNF at 18%

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

It's been awhile since I've read something by Rachel Cohn (really love her books with David Levithan), and I was excited to start My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life. Regrettably, this one didn't work for me. I disliked the main character, Elle, which made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the book. Her attitude and personality left a lot to be desired.

Elle's relationship with her mother didn't feel authentic, and the one interaction I read about wasn't believable. It didn't feel like they were having conversation between mother and daughter, but one between two people that happened to know each other. Her mother has kept a lot of secrets, but she did very little to explain herself when given the opportunity. Even their banter felt forced and fake.

Elle has been in foster care for a few months now, and she's experienced some truly terrible living conditions. I felt bad for her at the beginning, and thought she'd be happy (at the very least curious or relieved) when her father asked her to come and live with him, but she was bratty about everything. She complained about the clothes, the way people greeted one another, how they ate their food, and various other customs. I hated how disrespectful she was of the culture and traditions -- even her inner thoughts were obnoxious. I know her circumstances weren't ideal, but ugh. I wish she had at least tried to understand and accept her new surroundings.


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26 comments:

  1. I think I only heard of the first one but not the other. Sorry it asn't that good

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    1. It's okay! We can't love every book we read. <3

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  2. I'll probably be giving White Stag a pass... I've heard less than ideal things about a lot of things in it...

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    1. I was incredibly bummed when it didn't work out! It's been ages since I've read a good goblin story. ;)

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    2. We, as a society, always need more goblins, you know? I think it's just a good stance to have, really. There are so many interesting options for goblin stories!

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    3. Haha! I agree! We need more goblins and the like. Where do they even come from? What makes a goblin? Are they capable of more than violence? I want a goblin love story!! <3

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  3. The pacing on the first one sounds like it would make me DNF too!

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    1. The story itself was lovely, but it felt soooo long! An hour of my time was like ten minutes for the characters, haha. They moved at a much slower pace, so I never felt like the story was progressing.

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  4. I don't DNF many books but I'm sure it happens to most readers at some point.

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    1. I respect that you finish what you start! I used to do that, but it really impacted the enjoyment I get from reading. Now I DNF when I'm not loving something, and I've been reading a lot more books. <3

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  5. I got White Stag from the library after seeing and reading one glowing review. Unfortunately every single review I’ve seen since then has been middle of the road to outright negative. I’m so iffy about fantasy as it is that I decided to just return the book and not even attempt it. LOL There are too many other books I’m super excited to read.

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    1. That's what happened to me! I read one or two reviews that spoke very highly about the book, but it really didn't work for me. A lot of what they did just didn't make sense. If you've been with someone for a century, side-by-side, I'm sure you've picked up on their mannerisms and behaviors.

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  6. I totally agree on White Stag. 😝

    Theres a "new" sub-genre of Historical Fiction called "atmospheric" and Once Upon a River falls into that category. I have read two others recently: The Essex Serpent, and Melmoth. I thought my last ARC, Blackberry and Wild Rose, was also going to be atmospheric, but it was just straight up Historical Fiction. There is definitely a distinctive difference. You are right they are not quick reads. 📚

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    1. White Stag was driving me bananas, haha. She was so determined to hold on to her humanity, but there wasn't really a reason for it. She's been living with (and similar to) the goblins for over a century, so she should know there's no way she's going to return and act like everything's peachy. It's not realistic. I also think there was a lot of unnecessary death and destruction.

      Atmospheric is a wonderful way to describe Once Upon a River! The story was very rich and authentic, but the pacing was a tad slow for me. Just a personal preference!

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  7. I finished White Stag, you missed nothing.

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    1. Haha! Thanks for letting me know. ;) You should DM me and let me know who caught the stag.

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  8. I've heard mostly good things about both of these, but I haven't really been in the mood for fantasy lately. I think I'd have issues with them, too.

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    1. You might have better luck with them! If you don't mind a slow pace, you'd probably enjoy Once Upon a River. The story is very detailed and creative, but it takes a looong time for things to happen.

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  9. Ah no! I had hoped for better things from The White Stag. :(
    Once upon a river sounds weird... I think that would have annoyed the ever loving crap out of me so I'm impressed you got half way through before giving up!

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    1. Me too! There were just too many holes and inconsistencies.

      Once Upon a River was really interesting! I just prefer a quicker pace. I felt like the author was talking in circles (so we could see various perspectives), so it took forever to get from one thing to the next. I may try it again on audio in the future.

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  10. I just read a review from a blogger who pushed through White Stag and was so mad at herself! She really disliked it. Good call on DNFing :)

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    1. I really wanted to like White Stag! It's been ages since I've read a book with goblins. Unfortunately, the characters and story didn't work for me. The goblins gain power by killing, so the most powerful among them are also the most murderous. It was a weird system! I wish it had been expanded on more at the beginning of the book, because I was curious how it worked.

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  11. Sorry to hear these didn't work out for you. I really liked Once Upon a River but White Stag was mainly just okay for me. I liked it enough to finish the book but haven't decided if I'm interested enough to continue the series.

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    1. I'm so happy you were able to enjoy Once Upon a River! I thought the writing was beautiful, but I like books with a quicker pace. I might pick up the audio in the future (if there is one), since I tend to do better with slow books when I can occupy my hands with something else. White Stag was disappointing, and not one I will likely attempt again. I didn't like how unrealistic everything felt, or how conflicted some of the information seemed to be.

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  12. I had a few other friends who weren't fans of White Stag either, which is such a bummer because it sounded fascinating. Hope your next reads are better!
    Jen @ Star-Crossed Book Blog

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    1. Right? It was a book about goblins! I was super pumped for it, haha. I was totally bummed when it didn't work out for me. Do you know of any other good goblin stories?

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless