DNF List #3

Here are a dozen novels I did not finish in the last few months. The genres range from urban fantasy, historical fiction, epic fantasy, contemporary, suspense and women’s fiction. These may be your next favorite reads, but they didn’t work out for me.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called was recommended by a librarian but it wasn’t the book for me. The writing was distracting. When I do critique swaps with fellow writers, I often notice passive voice, filter words, tense hopping, weak verbs, and telling instead of showing. I’m no master at perfecting these in my own prose, but unfortunately when I want to dive into a story, I can’t do so effectively when these things pop out frequently. For those of you who don’t notice those details, then this werewolf story may be right up your alley. 

Here is the blurb:   

Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, and while she was raised by werewolves, she can never be one of them, especially after the pack ran her off for having a forbidden love affair. So she’s turned her talent for fixing cars into a business and now runs a one-woman mechanic shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. 

But Mercy’s two worlds are colliding. A half-starved teenage boy arrives at her shop looking for work, only to reveal that he’s a newly changed werewolf—on the run and desperately trying to control his animal instincts. Mercy asks her neighbor Adam Hauptman, the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, for assistance.  

But Mercy’s act of kindness has unexpected consequences that leave her no choice but to seek help from those she once considered family—the werewolves who abandoned her… 

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

I got through the first two chapters but wasn’t very interested. The talking mice also weren’t my thing. The strong bad-ass heroine was definitely my style but the ghouls and overall vibe just didn’t connect wit my me.

This is the second urban fantasy novel in a row that I DNF. Maybe this genre isn’t my style but I currently have two more from the library. If it’s not my cup of tea then I need to figure out if my current work in progress is urban fantasy or fantasy romance.

Here’s the blurb if you’re interested:

Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science. See also “Monster.”

Crytozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea. See also “idiot.”

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night…

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them.

Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed.

To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

I did not finish Dead Until Dark. I did like that the main character could read minds, but that’s about it. Overall, there was too much info dump early on and the descriptions of the characters felt like a grocery list of traits instead of interactive sensory experience. There were also too many people introduced too close together early on. I wasn’t a fan of how the term “pretty” was used multiple times in a way that kind of made me cringe. The cover wasn’t one I’d pick out for myself but a librarian recommended this fantasy. Even though it didn’t work for me this vampire story may be the one for you. 

Here’s the blurb if you’re interested: Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Bon Temps, Louisiana. She’s quiet, doesn’t get out much, and tends to mind her own business—except when it comes to her “disability.” Sookie can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. Then along comes Bill Compton. He’s tall, dark, handsome—and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life… 

But Bill has a disability of his own: he’s a vampire with a bad reputation. And when a string of murders hits Bon Temps—along with a gang of truly nasty bloodsuckers looking for Bill—Sookie starts to wonder if having a vampire for a boyfriend is such a bright idea.

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison


I didn’t finish “Dead Witch Walking,” but this may be the very book for you if you like trolls, pixies, witches and vampires. Although, I don’t understand the difference in the living vamp vs dead vamps vs the undead. Overall I felt bored and kept getting distracted and losing my spot then rereading without realizing I already read it. Anyways, I wanted the main heroine to have more of a purposeful objective and initiative. I felt like I was being dragged along and wanted more of a point and clear idea of where it was going. So I lost internet when things felt stagnant. I like when characters have agency but unfortunately this story didn’t connect with me. Here is the blurb if you’re interested: All the creatures of the night gather in “the Hollows” of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party . . . and to feed.
Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining—and it’s Rachel Morgan’s job to keep that world civilized.
A bounty hunter and a witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she’ll bring ’em back alive, dead . . . or undead.

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

I did not finish “Skinwalker,” because the writing felt forced and a bit choppy. A lot of the sentences started with the same pronoun and the movements felt like stage directions. Then the physical reactions were “explained” to the reader so I felt like the author was talking down to me instead of letting me figure it out on my own. There were also many filter words which slowed the pace and took me out of the scene.

Here is the blurb if you’re interested: “Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own…”

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

I did not finish “Catherine House.” The blurb was super interesting and other reviews seemed great. I loved the premise of this cult like school with strict rules. But I only made it to page 40. Nothing happened. I was just bored and waiting for something interesting to occur. This may be a great read for someone else, but I was too impatient to wait for something to grab me.

Here is the blurb if you’re interested: Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

You should read “Afterlife” if you love family, friendships, and deeper philosophical topics. I love when snipets of languages other than English are dispersed in novels as well as a variety of cultures. I didn’t enjoy the monotony of multiple short sentences, making the writing often feel choppy or maybe because it was in third person present tense which is rare. This was a slower read for when you have time to immerse fully into the story.

Here is the blurb:

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves—lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack—but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.

Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including—maybe especially—members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?

The Captive by Fiona King Foster

Unfortunately I was bored for too long and didn’t get hooked. There was a lot of dialogue and a bunch felt unnecessary with small talk. I also Had to reread dialogue often because of the infrequencies of dialogue tags so I was unsure who was speaking when abs had to clarify. Because of this, it slowed down the pacing. I didn’t get far so if this novel might be your style here is the blurb:  

In a secessionist rural state that has cut itself off completely from urban centers, where living is hardscrabble and poor but “free,” Brooke Holland runs a farm with her husband, Milo, and two daughters. Their life at the fringes of modern society is tenuous—they make barely enough from each harvest to keep going—yet Brooke cherishes the loving, peaceful life they have carved out for themselves. She has even begun to believe she is free from the violent history she has kept a secret from her family.

When escaped criminal Stephen Cawley attacks at the farm, Brooke’s buried talents surface, and she manages to quickly and harshly subdue him. She is convinced that he has come in retribution for the blood feud she thought she escaped years ago. Brooke sets out to bring Cawley to justice, planning to use the bounty on his head to hide her family far from danger. Fearing that other members of Cawley’s infamous family will soon descend, Brooke insists Milo and the girls flee with her, travelling miles on foot across an unforgiving landscape to reach the nearest marshal. Their journey, started at the onset of winter with little preparation, brings already strained family dynamics to the breaking point. As Brooke’s ghosts—both real and imagined—close in, the ruthlessness that let her survive her past may become the biggest threat to her hopes for a different future. What follows is a harrowing exploration of family loyalty, trauma, and resilience.

As haunting and propulsive as it is powerfully written, The Captive is a thrilling debut novel about the impossible choices we make to survive and protect the ones we love.

The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton by Eleanor Ray

I truly wanted to love “The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton” because of the charming blurb, yet it was a DNF for a few reasons. For example, the first sentence stood out as one of the weaker first sentences I have read in a while. Usually I don’t even notice first sentences or analyze them, but this one jumped out at me for the opposite reason intended. The 1st sentence: “It really was too much.” Because it’s so abstract this doesn’t give me anything to latch onto. I don’t have a sense of genre or character or plot. As I kept reading there were many filtering words used, that were “telling” instead of showing, like “Amy found she was glad she’d come after all.” or “Normally the train home on Fridays was less busy than the rest of the week.”
These could be written stronger, more captivating, more sensory based, with alluring prose that would engage me. But unfortunately I didn’t connect.

Here is the blurb: Amy Ashton once dreamed of becoming an artist and creating beautiful objects. But now she simply collects them. Aquamarine bottles, bright yellow crockery, deep Tuscan red pots (and the odd slow-cooker) take up every available inch of space in her house. Having suffered a terrible tragedy—one she staunchly refuses to let herself think about, thank you very much—she’s decided that it’s easier to love things instead of people.

But when a new family moves in next door with two young boys, one of whom has a collection of his own, Amy’s carefully managed life starts to unravel, prompting her to question why she began to close herself off in the first place. As Amy embarks on a journey back into her past, she has to contend with nosy neighbors, a meddlesome government worker, the inept police, and a little boy whose love of bulldozers might just let Amy open up her heart—and her home—again.

Malice by John Gwynne

I was excited when this story started out with the main character, Corban, but then there were way too many POV for me to enjoy including Evnis, Veradis, Kastell, Cywen, & Camlin. This felt like a predominately male character base also geared for male readers. Something rare for me that worked in this book was I I loved how the descriptions were written super detailed (where I felt like I was watching a movie at times for the visual sensory stimulation which was poetic and gorgeous,) but sometimes I was wishing, “okay, let’s get onto the point…”

The cover is breathtaking but this novel wasn’t for me. Here’s the blurb if you’re interested: 

The world is broken. . .and it can never be made whole again. 

Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin’s rule — to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood. 

Evnis has sacrificed — too much it seems. But what he wants — the power to rule — will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path. 

Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother. 

Nathair has ideas — and a lot of plans. Many of them don’t involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father’s idea to summon his fellow kings to council. 

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Now, the stones weep red and giant wyrms stir, and those who can still read the signs see a danger far worse than all that has come before. . .

Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer



This was the first time I purposefully picked a Christmas themed book around the holidays. I think I’d rather stick to cheese Hallmark movies in the background then take the time to read it. Too fluffy for me.

Here is the blurb if you’re interested:

A Nantucket shopkeeper discovers that Christmas is the perfect occasion to make unexpected friendships . . . to warm the coldest of hearts—and maybe even find love.

Christina Antonioni is preparing for the holidays at her Nantucket toy shop, unpacking last-minute shipments and decorating for her loyal Christmas shoppers. But when her Scrooge of a landlord, Oscar Bittlesman, raises her rent, it seems nearly impossible for Christina to continue business on the wharf.

Even so, Christina hopes there is a warm heart underneath Oscar’s steely exterior. When she bonds with Wink, his sweet, young granddaughter who frequents the shop, it becomes clear that perhaps he isn’t so cold after all. And with the help of Wink’s uncle, who happens to be a charming and very handsome bachelor, this may be the best Christmas any of them could have ever imagined. Nancy Thayer’s enchanting Nantucket setting provides the perfect backdrop for this holiday love story.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

I was originally super excited about the blurb & the cover but didn’t make it far due to the excessive backstory & more “telling” than showing. I’d like to read more historical fiction novels, yet I’m trying to find more that aren’t as heavy and slow. I’d like a historical fiction book that is a faster read, not necessarily “light-weight” in regards to the conent but for the writing style. I want the prose to feel like they were written in a more contemporary in style, like the Lost Apothecary  Also, this one moved timelines often from each chapter but not consistently. For example, the story went from 1782 to 1915 to 1792, eventually to 1807 then 1945.

Here is the blurb if you’re interested:

Most castles are protected by men. This one by women.

A founding mother…

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.

Courting Darkness by Robin Lafevers


I made it to chapter 10. Overall there were too many characters, the writing was too dry, & I felt bored. After the fact, another reader informed me that a separate trilogy, His Fair Assassin, takes place before this duology which would decrease confusion, however I felt frustrated that it’s not obvious to the consumer since they’re marketed as separate (book 1, book 2).

Here were some thoughts while starting out:
Chapter 1 – I LOVE books in France with French names. But it started out with an index of 3 dozen character names and their role which overwhelmed me.

Okay, by the start of chapter 5 I understood the story revolved around Genevieve and Sybella, half sisters. Their father was Death who ironically died and they’re unsure if he took their powers with him when he left. However, there were still confusing scenes where I couldn’t tell who was speaking when and needed to reread a lot which slowed the pace. I also had the “floating head syndrome” where I couldn’t picture the scenery around them in some settings. The first dungeon scene in the beginning was great, then led to some vagueness.

By chapter – 8 I’m intrigued about the mysterious prisoner. The secret task traded between sisters (different sisters than mentioned earlier) also has me interested. The writing is dryer and slower so far, but I’m trudging through in hopes that the plot will keep my attention. 

Quote- “My soul is hungry for risks. A taste for them was fed to me with my mother’s milk … to not take risks feels like leaving fruit to either and die on a vine.”

Here is the blurb:

Death was only the beginning.
 
Sybella has always been the darkest of Death’s daughters, trained at the convent of Saint Mortain to serve as his justice. But in a desperate bid to keep her two youngest sisters from the family that nearly destroyed them all, she agrees to accompany the duchess to France. Surrounded by enemies, their one ray of hope is Sybella’s fellow novitiates, hidden deep in the French court years ago—provided Sybella can find them.
 
Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she struggles to remember who she is or what she’s meant to be fighting for. Her only solace is a hidden prisoner who appears all but forgotten by his guards. When tragedy strikes, she takes matters into her own hands, even when it means forsaking the long-awaited orders from the convent.
 
Followed from alternating perspectives, Sybella’s and Gen’s paths draw ever closer. As their worlds threaten to collide, the fate of everything they hold sacred rests on a knife’s edge.

Check my other two DNF lists from 2021 in other blog posts on my website.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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