DNF List #4

These are some of the novels I did not finish over the last month.

See below for the different reasons why.

And check out my blog for 130+ reviews on finished novels.

The Idea of You by Robinee Lee

I stopped at page 43. It had an intriguing premise, but I felt extremely conflicted. Solene is 39 single mom(with a 12 year old daughter) and Hayes is a 20 year old international boyband phenomenon. I haven’t read many age gap novels. The few I have tried; the guy is older. So, I give this author/story props because Solene is strong, comfortable in her skin, confident, & likeable. This is the type of feminist character I love. But so far Hayes just feels yucky and arrogant. I’m just a bit grossed out. I don’t think it has to do with the age gap but because of the celebrity entitled vibe. When they flirt, it’s cringe-worthy for me. I’m not sure if that’s intended or not. Their connection will most likely deepen over time, but I can’t imagine making the choices Solene does when I have a young daughter of my own. Maybe if she weren’t a mother, I’d feel differently. But that’s not fair … because moms should get theirs too. Idk … I’m very conflicted about being on board with the feminist aspect of this or mildly repulsed by the dynamic.

Murder at the Book Club by Betsy Reavley

I loved the title name and cover.
The blurb was super interesting to me, which I’ll post at the end of this mini rant. I didn’t enjoy the head hopping. In one line/paragraph we were in Toni’s head, then the next line or paragraph we were in Marion’s or Barbara’s or Kim’s POV. The prose felt dry and flat with too much telling and not enough showing. Filter words were used often which made me not care enough/connect with the characters. The main character was all extremely irritating (which I assume was intentional because of how vain and insecure she was). I don’t enjoy reading about a cast list of predominantly white, upper class, entitled group. But take into consideration I did not finish this, so there’s a great chance my above concerns were all resolved as the novel progressed. This might be your next favorite murder mystery so try it out for yourself


Imagine nine women meeting. Tea and cake are on the coffee table. They’ve come together to share their love of books. They are friends. They trust each other. It’s a happy gathering. What could be more harmless?

Then scratch the surface and look closer.

One is lonely. One is desperate and one of them is a killer.

When the body of a woman is discovered on a Cambridge common, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer are called in to investigate. But the motive behind the crime isn’t clear…  And it all leads back to a book club.

As the lies, volatile friendships and tension among the group rise to the surface, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer must work out the motive and track down a cold-blooded killer. But just when they think they are on the right track, a twist in the case throws them off course…

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I did not finish “Uglies” because it was too far on the young adult spectrum compared to other YA reads. Some YA are intended for only teens and some are read by adults as well. This one didn’t grab me as an adult like others. The vibe felt too school-oriented and “best friend forever” focused. As beautiful as the scenery descriptions were in the prose overall the writing had too much “telling” instead of “showing.” I also cringed each time pretty was brought up, which was too often. This still might be your new favorite, so try it out for yourself. (FYI- third person past tense, in case you’d like to know). 

Here’s the blurb of this dystopian if interested: Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. 
But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I loved Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy but this duology wasn’t for me. I didn’t finish “Six of Crows.” Overall, I didn’t connect with the characters or the plot. The chapters felt too segmented and unconnected from each other. There was too much “telling” instead of “showing.” Unfortunately, I was bored and confused about all the high ratings. I read further than I would normally just because this is so popular and plastered on Instagram. Try it out for yourself since it may be your new fave!

Page 20- it had a pretty slow start and there were too many characters and proper nouns introduced at once. In one paragraph all of these were mentioned:
Black Tips
Harley’s Pointers
Big Bollinger
Crow Club
With all of these, my brain kept having to go back and reread to put all the pieces together.

Page 34- I have no idea what’s going on. Some sort of blackmail in a neutral zone but I don’t know who shot who or why. There’s too much complex explanation weaving too many characters and stories together too quickly. I’m totally lost

POV alternates and includes:
There are six Parts of this novel, which feels excessive since I’ve never read one with six books nor have heard of a beat sheet for authors with six parts. Do you know of any resources?

Page 40- I often don’t know who is talking in the dialogue. Half a page will go by of 7-8 exchanged without a dialogue tag or action beat associated with a character name.

Page 43- it feels like every page there’s a new proper noun introduced that didn’t exist before. The world building isn’t working for me. I’m feeling frustrated and close to giving up but because this book is so popular and well rated I’m pushing through for the sake of it.

The scenes with the ghost or someone walking through walls is interesting but abrupt and confusing.

Page 50- I honestly couldn’t tell you the premise of the story at this point and went to read the blurb.

Aesthetics – The exterior of the pages being black are really pretty though and eye catching.

Few pages later ALL of these are mentioned back to back:
The Shu
Van Eck
Ice Court
Per Haskell
Kerch Council
Mister Brekker
… I’m sorry but I have no idea what’s going on.

Here is the blurb, if you’re interested:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

(Sequel to An Ember in the Ashes)

I made it to page 300/450ish

Character Development- meh…

Best part- Elias and Laia and Keenan moments

What I would most change- many events seemed to happen without progressing the novel forward and didn’t seem relevant to what I cared about

Setting- great descriptions

Prose- above average

First chapter- I really like that this sequel started minutes after the first novel ended. But I don’t like that they have backtracked with their character development. I was hoping they’d grow and learn about themselves and then the sequel would be a new/alternate character flaw to overcome. Now we’re just reliving their same issue/inner struggle as before 

Character goals/motivations- (some spoilers)- Laia was set on one thing and one thing only. Elias’s motivation didn’t seem believable since he doesn’t know or care about Darin, yet let ____ happen to his foster family…. I don’t believe it. Helene’s motivation was to serve the emporer, but I didn’t believe it because her heart was elsewhere so I didn’t buy her as a character. She let Elias run free when she could’ve captured him, then a chapter later was like “I’m gonna kill him.” … um, no you’re not ma’am. It was frustrating and tiring.
Vivid sensory descriptions- yes, especially in the sand storm. I wish I knew more about what the fantastical creatures looked like. They felt abstract in nature.

Diversity- We’ve got a red head and someone with golden skin. We’ve got slaves and Martials and Masks. I’m unsure of their ethnicities or if it matters. I don’t recall LGBTQ characters.
Ethics/morals- too much unneeded killing. I get that the author was trying to show how terrible the antagonist is, but I was just sick of it.

Conflict/tension/obstacles- lots, yes. I don’t like when Elias split from Laia though. It would’ve been better to spend time together.

Ending- I didn’t finish. You’ll probably love the ending though, because I’m weird and DNF 40% of the books I start.

Pacing- slower

Thoughts while reading-

Page 30- Dude! I totally called this. I knew Helene would have a POV in this novel. Hopefully the author sticks with just 3 though.

Page 58- well how the skies is he gonna fix that problem? Everything is already doomed.

Page 66- Helene’s chapters are a little slower so far. And I expected the command the emperor gave her.

Page 90- so I’m a little tired as if everything is going wrong too soon and I can’t last 400 pages of hopelessness. I need some hope.

Page 103- yay! Cook is back! Maybe she is someone more important. Wink wink.

Page 112- rounding the whole gang together on this long journey!

Page 120- I don’t like the “2 weeks earlier”

I don’t care about Darin. So when their reason to keep going is because of him, that motivation isn’t strong enough for me.

Page 190- I’m invested but feel bored

Page 213- I’m not hugely interested in this going to a war book. The unnecessary slaughtering and violence doesn’t entertain me as a reader or feel like it gives purpose to the theme/message. I’m hoping the rest will be more of the journey or Elias & Laia and the romance and overcoming his dilemma and not Helene’s perspective.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Definitely didn’t expect chapter 1 to start with year 1880 based on the contemporary cover. But moving on… okay, so yikes. This might sound harsh so stop reading if you’re sensitive. In the first chapter there were way too many adverbs. Way too much info dump right away. Way too many unnecessarily long, complicated sentences. Way too many filtering words. Way too much monotony of sentences starting with a pronoun. Way too much passive voice used. Way too much telling and not enough showing. The best sentence: “She hurried after him, water squelching between her toes.” That’s a great verb. Otherwise most sentences used “was.” It felt so wordy that by the end of the chapter I didn’t even know what I had read. This might be a great book for you but it’s not my style & couldn’t stick with it. This novel is part of “A League of Extraordinary Women” series.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Some books are YA but suited for older ages and some are purely YA only suited for younger teens. “City of Bones” is the latter so I didn’t get very far. I wonder if the older YA will merge into NA soon. This sounds like a great fantasy series for 14 year olds, but be aware it’s a loooooong series. Happy reading! Here is the blurb if you’re interested: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. And she’s more than a little startled when the body disappears into thin air. Soon Clary is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own. And Clary is introduced with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque monster. How could a mere human survive such an attack and kill a demon? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I loved that this was in first person POV, but I didn’t make it very far due to feeling disconnected from the story. It seemed like the character was telling the story after the fact instead of living through it. I felt “talked down to” and things being “explained to me.” Sidenote- the world building is not for the faint of heart. Before the novel starts, it shows a page of Soothsayers, Seers, Mediums, Sensors, Augurs, Guardians, Furies, and Jumpers. This chart had a total of 60ish of these titles/labels which felt overwhelming. I’d love recommendations from dystopian readers where the writing feels more “active.”

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

(I also did not read the sequel or third in this fantasy series)

Firstly, the prose were excellent from what I read 
During the prologue I was a bit confused how 8 year old Simon was related to the newborn princess. Are they siblings or no?
Then the first chapter started with 2 years earlier but I’m unsure if it was 2 years prior to the prologue or “current day story” what age is Simon at chapter 1? Is he 6? The POV changed from the prologue to the first chapter so I felt like I wasn’t introduced to the main character. Then because of what I read in the prologue, I’m not super interested in reading Rielle’s POV (great name by the way).

So I was a bit confused through chapter 1 because of so much information given about the potential war and leaders and politics. I guess Rielle’s goal was to live a normal life but that goal did nothing for me after reading the prologue. The motivation was from proving her dad wrong since he is terrible to her in order to restrain her magical power. But I feel like the prologue ruined me caring about this. I just want the story to start where the prologue left off. Going back in time after I knew what I happened to her date made me care much less.

Wait… It looks like Simon and Rielle aren’t the two POV but instead back and forth between Rielle and Eliana. And chapter 2 starts at 1,020 years later. I’m not sure I’m going to like this pattern and need to flip a head to see if all chapters start like this. (Yes… they do the main characters are separated by a thousand years).

 I liked Eliana’s POV more than Rielle’s and just didn’t care about Arielle because of the prologue. There was too much going on and I didn’t what to focus on as a reader for what was important so it felt slow.

After deciding to DNF, I read other reviews that stated that the romance level was low in this series. This concensus made me glad to move onto a different series with stronger romance factor.


When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and one of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed as the Blood Queen…unless the trials kill the queen first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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