Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DNF&Y [16]

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!

How to  Make Friends with the Dark
by Kathleen Glasgow
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.
Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

DNF at 20%
"But I need the other half of my machine to beep and whir at me, and to do all that other stuff moms are supposed to do."
I received an ARC from 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 Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

How to Make Friends with the Dark wasn't what I was expecting. It's actually pretty heavy from the start, and it only gets worse as the story progresses. Tiger's mom dies, so obviously it isn't going to be about sunshine and rainbows, but the entire thing felt a little off. The way people reacted to certain scenarios, and how they spoke... it just didn't ring true. At times the story and conversations felt rushed, and other times I felt like Tiger was over-explaining her feelings and rambling.

It also threw me when the author kept changing Tiger's point of view. One chapter she's saying, "and you drag yourself, sick as you feel, but elated," and the next it's, "ready to strike me down if I don't cook drugs for her." I can see how this might work for the story, but it almost feels like Tiger is two people, and it was more confusing than convincing.

Tiger is also incredibly repetitive with her descriptions of things. I'm not sure if it was intentional, or if the author didn't realize her character had previously made similar comparisons.

"And Kai, who looks dreamy and sweet, plucking his bass, his brow furrowed, like one of my books might say."

"His brow is knitted, as they might say in one of the books we read last fall in Lit class."

And then there were times when I didn't understand the main character at all, "Suddenly the smear of acne across his jawline wasn’t something I was embarrassed for, for him, but something I found tender, and wanted to touch." Would anyone really think that?

Side note: Tiger and her mother are barely scraping by, there's no food in the house, but they both have cell phones. Details like this irk me, because food is a priority, texting is not. I understand having a phone for emergencies, but Tiger's mom was calling and texting her despite knowing her daughter was in school. Also, phone bills are expensive, and that money could have kept Tiger from going to school hungry, and desperately trying to scrape Life Savers from the bottom of her backpack.

In the end, How to Make Friends with the Dark just wasn't a good fit for me. I've read other raving reviews, so don't simply take my word for it. If you think it sounds interesting, try it for yourself. I didn't get very far into the book, but I did glimpse Tiger's first negative experience with foster care, so be warned. Children are often mistreated even when they are under the "protection" of the state, and I have a feeling this book is going to touch on some of the more unpleasant aspects of being in the system.


Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Can you love someone to death?

Some would say Becky Gerard is a devoted mother and would do anything for her only child. Others claim she's obsessed and can't stop the vicious circle of finding a cure at her daughter's expense.


Fifteen-year-old Meghan has been in and out of hospitals with a plague of unexplained illnesses. But when the ailments take a sharp turn, doctors intervene and immediately suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker, typically the mother, seeks medical help for made-up symptoms of a child. Is this what's going on? Or is there something even more sinister at hand?

DNF at 65%

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.

Honestly, I should have stopped reading this one long before I did, but I was just curious enough to continue. The mystery was interesting, and I wanted to know who was at fault. Was Meghan really sick? Was it in her head? Did her mother have anything to do with it?

After awhile, some of the clues stopped being vague, and were more in your face, so I guessed the ending (not necessarily how the story ended, but who or what was at fault) pretty early on. I know this, because after reading sixty-five percent of the book, I felt somewhat invested in the outcome and skimmed the remaining pages to see how the story would end.

The characters in Saving Meghan are not likable. I really thought I would relate with the mother, but her shameless flirting to get what she wants (whether it's for her daughter or not) was unnecessary. She's a woman that knows she's beautiful, and she knows how to work her body to get the results she wants. Meghan was bratty and made decisions with very little actual thought. Carl, her father, was horrible from the start. No one, not even the depressed doctor, made me feel anything for the people in this book (although I could sympathize). From an outside perspective, it was horrible and sad, but I wasn't invested in the character's lives.

Additionally, I think this book was much longer than it needed to be. There were a lot of medical phrases and terminology, while described adequately, didn't really add anything to the story. I'm sure it lent some authenticity to everything, but sometimes it was too much. 

The majority of the story is told from Becky's perspective, followed by Zach (the doctor), while Meghan received the short end of the stick. This is all happening to her, but we actually see very little of her thoughts and experiences. Yes, we get the crucial bits, but not enough for me to connect with her individually, or understand her as a person. She's the girl that's always sick, and may or may not be crazy. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives, but I wish everyone had been given an even amount of time. 

Overall, I think this had the potential to be a really interesting story, but I just didn't care about the people in it.


The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh 
by Jess Moore
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Jeremy Warsh has been in off-mode ever since his grandpa’s death a couple years ago. He set aside their shared passion, comic art, and hasn’t looked back. As an introvert from the other side of town, he fully expects to spend his boring life bagging groceries until, maybe one day, he’s promoted to store manager.

Yet, his two best friends, Kasey and Stuart, are different. They’re not afraid to demand more out of everyone. When Kasey comes out, Jeremy’s inspired. He picks up his colored pencils and starts drawing comics again, creating a no-nonsense, truth-talking character named Penny Kind. Who speaks to him. Literally.

The friend group set in motion Stuart’s plans for a huge Homecoming prank, and if they can get Penny’s comic trending, they might be able to pull it off. Could this be a stepping-stone to a future Jeremy’s only dreamed of? And after he kisses a boy at a college party, will Jeremy finally face what he’s been hiding from?

DNF after a few chapters

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I tried starting The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh a few times, but it never worked for me. I didn't care about the characters, and their conversations frequently felt forced and unnatural. They've been friends for years, but their interactions lacked the familiarity of a long friendship. Jeremy often tells us details about his friends and their lives, but we don't really see it in action. I also found it a tad unbelievable that Stuart only recently stumbled across his grandfather's drawings.

I kept trying to find the flow of the book, but my attention was easily diverted. Occasionally, an outside factor was to blame, but more often than not, it was something the characters did or said that caused me to lose interest in the story. I really liked the concept for this one, so I'm super bummed it didn't work out.


All These Things I've Done
by Gabrielle Zevin
Narrated by Ilyana Kadushin
Synopsis (via Goodreads): In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Engrossing and suspenseful,
All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

DNF at 31%

First of all, I'm not entirely sure why chocolate and coffee were illegal. Anya mentions them being chosen (something to do with politics) because they were things people could live without, but there was very little talk about why. Also, I didn't really believe it when people were getting high from caffeine. Everyone had been living with it for years, but suddenly it impacted people like a drug? I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept, and the author wasn't very clear about the specifics. If you're going to change how the game is played, please provide detailed instructions. 

I really liked Anya as a character, and I adored her family. She and her siblings survived a lot during their formative years, and everyone was affected in a different way. Leo's story is heartbreaking, and I both love and hate that he was so trusting. Natty was your typical annoying little sister, but it was easy to tell how much they loved one another. I'm not entirely sure how their grandmother continued to have custody over the children, since she was incapable of taking care of herself. 

Once Anya is accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend (it's in the synopsis, but it would have been obvious regardless), I stopped feeling as invested in the characters and their lives. She's supposed to be really great at reading people and noticing details, but she seemed to miss the most important ones. Those missed details are what got her into trouble in the first place, and then everything went downhill from there. 

I enjoyed the beginning of All These Things I've Done, but lost interest once she was arrested. The police officers in charge of her case didn't behave in a professional way, and they seemed giddy about trapping a sixteen-year old girl and accusing her of murder. They weren't interested in anything she had to say, because they went into their interrogation self-assured and single-minded. Everything about it felt wrong.


Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair
Chronicles, #1) by Tamora Pierce
Narrated by Ariadne Meyers
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalรญn came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

DNF at 19%

This was my first experience with Tamora Pierce, so I wasn't sure what to expect going into Tempests and Slaughter. Honestly, the cover is what grabbed my attention and made me want to read it. After a little research, I discovered this book tied into another series, but could also stand on its own. However, the pacing was incredibly slow, and at times I was bored with the story. I felt like every chapter was just more of the same... Arram gets a new and more advanced schedule, he goes to class, and then he hangs out with his two friends. 

I really wanted to like this one, so I was disappointed when it didn't work out. I appreciate the author's detailed descriptions and thorough explanations of the world, but I wish it had been condensed a little. Maybe Arram could have flashed forward by years instead of semesters? I'm sure it was important for us to see his growth, but everything developed at a snail's pace.

Additionally, Arram has the ability to see magic, but fails to bring it to anyone's attention. It's likely an important aspect of the story, since he saw magic in the sand and in the concoction given to his roommate. He just forgets to ask about it, which means it's probably addressed later on. I wish he'd remembered to voice his questions when they happened, so maybe it would've felt like we were getting somewhere with his story.

On a more positive note, Ariadne Meyers was a fantastic narrator! I enjoyed her many voices and the way she read through the story. I'll definitely be checking to see if she's narrated anything else.

36 comments:

  1. Wow, that’s a lot of DNFs. The shifts in perspective in HTMFWTD sounds awkward and confusing. I feel like I would have been pulled out of the story every time it changed.

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    1. I know! It's another reason my blog has been so light this month. Nothing was working for me. :( Yes! Every time the perspective changed like that, I would have to readjust and then it would change again.

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  2. Sorry none of these worked out!! The first one was the only one I was thinking about but I'm not sure now.

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    1. April just wasn't my month! I hope May is better. :) I know a lot of people were excited about How to Make Friends with the Dark, and I love the cover, but I couldn't lose myself in the story. What happened to her was tragic, yes, but there were a lot of aspects that didn't make sense. If you're still thinking about it, maybe try the audio? Sometimes I have better luck that way! :)

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  3. I haven't tried reading any of these. I DNF'd a book this month. First one in forever.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that! It's always a bummer when a book doesn't work out. Luckily, there's always something else to read. ;)

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  4. I've seen at least one other not-so-great review of Saving Meghan - it's hard when the characters are unlikable or you don't care about them!

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    1. I really liked the premise for the book, but I need characters that I can root for (or at the very least, characters that I can love to hate). If they're all terrible people, or just generally unlikable, I have a hard time caring about the story.

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  5. I haven't heard of any of these books, but I have heard that Tamora Pierce is a good writer. I haven't read any of her books so I wouldn't know, but I will keep a mental note later on if I do stumble across her work :) Hopefully you have better books waiting to be read!

    Elle @ Keep on Reading

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    1. I've only heard wonderful things about Tamora Pierce! I was told I could read this one on its own, but maybe it needs to be read after the other books? Context could have made the slow character growth more manageable, especially if I knew what they were developing into.

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  6. I'm curious about the ending of Saving Meghan now though...

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    1. Haha! I was curious enough to skim to the end, but it felt overly dramatic and unrealistic. Meghan was too trusting of others (especially those that had been sketchy in the past), and didn't really think for herself. I'm sure some people will enjoy this one, but it was meh for me. :(

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  7. I haven't read any of these books but I'm hoping to try Tamora Pierce books sometime this year so the fact that it's very slow worries me!!

    Uma@Books.Bags.Burgers.

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    1. I have a hard time staying focused when stories move slowly. I had the same problem with Strange the Dreamer. The writing was lovely, but the dude was at the library FOREVER. I felt like it took hours of reading before he finally left to go somewhere else.

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  8. I LOVE this post!! Most people just DNF a book and never talk why they DNFed it. I am guilty of it for sure! I have Saving Meghan and How to Make Friends with the Dark on my TBR I may reconsider now! Thank you soo much for this post!! =)

    ~ Kendra @ Kendra Loves Books

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    1. Feel free to join next month if you have any DNFs! I don't always have them, but I'll still do a post just in case others want to add theirs. This was just a bad reading month for me! Nothing was working.

      I think people should explain why they didn't finish a book, because it can be super helpful to other readers.

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  9. I have How to Make Friends with the Dark, so I'm in for a bumpy ride because I don't DNF review books. Ha ha. ๐Ÿ˜›

    I don't know where it explains the whole caffeine thing in the first Birthright book, but it does, somewhere. It's trying to show how the government can take anything relatively innocent (I think it was pointing out the failures of criminalizing pot) that humans crave and make it illegal, setting it up for criminal activity, and in turn black market activity and mob/gang wars. ๐Ÿซ

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    1. You never know... you might like it! I remember you saying you don't DNF books, so kudos to you! I used to finish books no matter what, but it really started to impact my enjoyment of reading. I want to love (or at least like) the books I pick up, so I simply stop when they're not working for me. I've been much happier since I started doing that!

      I remember her saying something about the government adding chocolate and caffeine because they were things people could live without, but I didn't understand the addiction. People were blitzed out of their minds after eating a single bar of chocolate. That seemed so weird to me, like it was a drug, but it shouldn't have that effect on people, especially if they're eating it all the time.

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  10. I DNFed like 2 books this year, so that list is overwhelming for me. Glasgow is known for heavy books, which is why I don't read them. Just not my thing. My daughter loved her Girl in Pieces book, but I know that sort of book doesn't work for me. I hope you get a better run after this.

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    1. Haha! Sorry to overwhelm you! I've been trying to read a lot of books from my backlist, and my April choices just didn't work for me. This was my first Glasgow book, and I wasn't sure what to expect, but something didn't click and I moved on. When situations feel too unrealistic, I have a hard time staying engaged in the story. I'm not saying her life wasn't possible, because I'm sure people deal with that in real life, but it didn't come across that way on paper. They're starving but both have cell phones? She's at school, but her mom's calling her nonstop about a dress? It didn't make sense to me.

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  11. Wow, sorry to see you've had so many DNFs. Thanks for sharing why though. That's always helpful for me in deciding if I want to try a book or not.

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    1. I'm happy this post can help in some way! I might not like something that you find interesting, but at least you know it's there. I think explaining why we didn't like something is more helpful than pretending we never read it in the first place (what I used to do). Are any of these on your TBR?

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  12. Bummer these did not work for you. I did not really understand that acne part in the first book. I agree with you who would think that.

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    1. It was a really weird thought to have! It didn't fit in with the rest of the story, so it made the comment stand out even more.

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  13. I heard how to make friends in the dark was good but heavy. I'm curious. Just not sure if heavy will work for me right now
    Sorry these didn't work for you.

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    1. The heaviness of the book wasn't the issue, but the unbelievability of the story. The characters didn't react or respond how I expected them to, and their priorities seemed a little skewed. I know that death and foster care are no joke, but the main character seemed somewhere else. She even spoke through different perspectives without warning, which I found really confusing.

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  14. As a kid I loved Tamora Pierce but I DNF'd Tempests and Slaughter too.

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    1. No Matt today? ;) Tempests and Slaughter was just so slooooow. I had a hard time remaining interested in the story. Also, and I'm sure this was a realistic aspect of the story, but I didn't want to hear about his "member" over and over again. Yes, little dude is going through puberty, but it was too descriptive for me. He's, like, 12.

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  15. Oh some DNF. I confess that they're all new to me there!

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    1. It happens. Sometimes a book just doesn't work out! There's always something else to read. ;)

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  16. Interesting. I remember reading ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE years ago, but it's been so long that I can't remember if I liked it or not. LOL.

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    1. Hah! That happens to me sometimes. Someone will review a book I read years ago, but I only remember my general feelings about the book. I guess it means we need to re-read more often. ;)

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  17. Oh no, I've really been looking forward to How To Make Friends With The Dark after loving Girl In Pieces and saddened to hear it didn't live up to the hype. Girl In Pieces is also incredibly heavy as well. I'll still going to give it a read eventually but much more cautiously now. Sorry you couldn't have enjoyed these Linds but loved the reviews nonetheless.

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    1. I know I've said this in other comments and my review, but some of the aspects were too unbelievable. The mother and daughter are literally starving, digging through cabinets for a single can of coke, or scrounging the depths of a backpack for ancient Lifesavers, but they both have cell phones. If you have literally no food to eat or feed your child, a $100 phone bill will buy A LOT.

      Also, the social worker seemed to be very aware of the type of woman she was leaving the main character with, yet she does it anyway. If you know a foster home is crazy, creepy, or nearly impossible to live in, I think it's the social workers responsibility to say something, NOT leave another child there.

      After awhile I just didn't want to read anymore. :(

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  18. I really disliked All These Things I've Done, but it was the first book I read after I started my blog, so I pushed through it anyway. I really don't recommend it.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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    1. It's always worse when you force yourself to finish something you're not enjoying! I was the same way when I first started blogging (on my first blog, years ago), and thought I needed to finish every book I received for review. I felt like a bad blogger when I didn't, and it started to impact my enjoyment of reading. After awhile, I started DNFing the books that weren't working for me, and now I'm a much happier reader. It's also why I started this feature! I would DNF a book and just remove it from Goodreads like it never happened, but that's not helping anyone. I feel like people deserve to know WHY I didn't finish a book, because they could agree or disagree with my thoughts. Both are helpful!

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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