DNF List #5

About 40% of the books I start, I do not finish. For those completed, see their full reviews under my blog page. Otherwise, check below for eight recent DNF and random thoughts as I read.

If We Were Villians by M.L. Rio

I like that the chapters are broken down into “scenes,” reflecting the theater element and Shakespearean vibe. However I don’t enjoy the way the dialogue is shown inconsistently. It messes with the flow. Here is an example:
“Richard sighed, a sound of profound satisfaction that rumbled in his chest like a cat’s purr. ‘This is going to be a good year,’ he said. ‘I can feel it.’
Wren: ‘Could that being because you’ve got the part you wanted?’
James: ‘and half as many lines to learn as the rest of us?’”
Half of the dialogue is traditional, then half is shown with labeling who is about to speak. Maybe it’s done because so many people are in the group at a time, but that’s part of the problem. There’s too many main characters. I really enjoyed the prologue and wondered what the crime was, who was innocent, who was guilty, & the story. But since it rewinds to the beginning I already lost interest from knowing the end result. I want stories to move forward. Otherwise, I don’t care since I know who I put into prison.

House of Earth and Fire by Sarah J Maas

House of Earth and Fire (#1 in Crescent City) Bryce and Danika are great names. I love the elemental concepts of the four houses since it resembles my Linked Trilogy
The House of Earth and Blood would be my “Draven.”
The House of Sky and Breath would be my “Vayu”
The House of Many Waters would be my “Cydon”
The House of Flame and Shadow would be my “Elidi”

In the first chapter, just one page had all these proper nouns:
White Raven
Pack of Devils
Keres rebels
Eternal City
Haldren Sea
33rd Imperial Legion
Micah Domitus
Archangel of Crescent City
Prime of the Wolves
Fae Autumn King
Five Roses
Bone Quarter
Viper Queen
Meat Market
Old Square
River Queen
Blue Court
Aasphodel Meadows
This is usually a sign that there’s too much info dump and backstory and explanation that I’m not interested in.

At the end of chapter 1 I have no idea what I’m supposed to be focused on, whose story this is, their goal or what to expect from the story other than a lot of history of the world and slow world building.

I made it to page 42/800 which is only 5% of the novel so if you have more patience than me and read further you may LOVE this novel and series. Unfortunately nothing interesting happened and I didn’t care enough about the characters or the plot to continue trying.

Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

DNF this sequel. I liked the first book, “Timekeeper,” a MM romance set outside London with a mix of both historical fiction and whimsical fantasy. However after starting this sequel, the POV switched from Danny’s story to Daphne. I  wasn’t super interested in this inconsistent feel. Also, after having a break with other books in between, the writing felt a bit more juvenile than I remember. So, I wont be reading the third in this story either, but recommend you give it a shot. The sensory descriptions when inside the clock are done really well.

The Secret, Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams

In a land where scones next door can’t be duplicated because the ingredients are based on people’s fondest memories,  Nora owns a healing bookstore that helps customers overcome their physical or emotional pain. Nora represents scars, mistakes & regret from past mistakes and needs to learn how to forgive herself. The mystery of a suspicious death in this quaint town changes the flow.

Ellery’s prose are beautiful & the concept is intriguing. However the story felt a little slow for my taste. I think I have to be in the right mindset for this type of novel & I didn’t latch on the way I wanted. However, I love novels of books within books, librarians, and the great “bibliotherapists” of course.
This is the first of an entire series. Check out the rest.

Quote- “You have to sink to the very bottom, my child, after that you can push off with both feet and start swimming toward the surface. You can get there. But it’s going to hurt. You have to clean out the wound before it can heal.”

The Other Story by Tatiana De Rosnay

I love that the character is an author and I also love the Paris and Tuscan references. The premise is intriguing about digging into his past to unravel secrets but the pace was too slow and heavy for me. I don’t mind deep character depth, but i mean the literal prose felt weighed down. There is too much telling and too many filtering words that messed with the flow. Here is an example of the type of writing that bothers me: “He is asked whether he prefers tea or coffee; he answers Lapsang souchong. It is brought to him in a heavy teapot within five minutes. He waits a short while, then pours out the Lapsang.” Not only was the dialogue not shown but minutes of boring mundane activity have passed in a single sentence. I skimmed forward and found the same trend so I don’t regret moving on to another novel

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Quote- “Hard thoughts are held in small words.”

Chapter 1- Simon needs money, a new job & I’m guessing “a purpose.” He feels lost. What he wants is his sister to come home & to figure out why a mysterious book was just mailed to him by a stranger. Apparently, his grandmother’s name is on one of the pages, but with both his parents deceased, he has no one to ask for the answers … time to read it himself. Luckily, Simon is a librarian and adores all books. (I’m hoping there’s a romance option with coworker, Alice.)

Chapter 2- this Wild Boy and circle show is interesting but feels like a different book than the first chapter, even the way it is written. It feels removed and then there’s head hopping mid paragraph to different characters. I know the two stories will intersect but I hope it feels less random soon

Chapter 3- Simon feels like the gloomy character, Linus in the beginning of House of the Cerulean Sea.” He’s boring, dull, flat, and sad. I don’t care about him as a person or what he wants. I’m intrigued with the mystery of his mother’s potential suicide and how it relates to the circus events in the book. Is she still alive? Is it a cult? Were they planned? Does that date give them special powers? What’s the significance? 

Chapter 4- now I’m getting vibes of the novel, “Ladies of the Secret Circus.”

So I made it to page 60/340. The writing was just too dry for me. There wasn’t any emotion or feeling in their exchanges or dialogue or connections. The mystery hooked me about his family’s past but it wasn’t strong enough to outweigh the parts I struggled with.


Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home – a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards and seldom calls.

In late June Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who worked in a traveling circus more than 200 years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes. His best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm.

Why does his grandmother’s name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Is there a curse on his family – and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her – and perhaps himself – Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Gorgeous cover, but the story wasn’t for me. The “Summer Sons” first chapter was extremely unique. I couldn’t figure out if the two were brothers or friends or MM romance or a mix of all three. Andrew’s (friend/brother) Eddie died, possibly from suicide, but that seems to be the question.  Andrew is on a hunt to figure out what happened while taking over Eddie’s life at his house and driving his car and receiving his inheritance. The prose were both enticing wording yet also felt staccato at times. I need to adjust to this style of writing. Here is an example: “Dregs of primal fear clanged around the inside of his head with the dissolving remains of a nightmare: the specter’s punishing gift to him, disorganized visions of pain, fear, cut wrists, desperation without structure or clarity.”
This is a heavy sentence and almost overcompensates for the recommendations of authors to use strong verbs and avoid “to be” verbs in writing.  Page 26- there have been two “haunts” or nightmares so far and they’ve both been a bit confusing. I’m not sure how abstract vs concrete it is & I need to reread the paragraphs to try and make sense of it. So far the pacing is slow, but the vibe is appropriately gloomy for a post-death period of a grieving friend. It was refreshing to witness a make cry so hard, but it makes me question if romance was involved in their past, but I thought they were brothers so I’m confused. I made it to page 40. The vibe reminded me a little of author, John Green. After reading a little about Lee Mandelo, I learned this is the first time I’ve read a work by a writer who uses the pronoun, “they” and “their” for self description. I admit I’m not as aware of gender pronouns & will need to further educate myself on this to prevent referring to someone by the wrong pronoun. I’d want to avoid making anyone feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, or alienated. I recommend “Summer Sons” to those who enjoy darker vibes in a contemporary setting with layered secrets.

The Righteous by Renee Adhieh

This is the third in a quartet

Chapter 1- It confuses me when sequels of books start out in the head of a different character than whose POV we were in earlier in the series. There are more filtering words than I recalled from The Beautiful abs The Damned books and I’m not really sure what’s going on with the plot. There’s a lot of characters being re-mentioned all in the same room so my focus is split between several things. Where is Celine? It was her story I cared about. 

Chapter 2- okay so this is Arjun and Pippa’s novel apparently, side characters to the earlier story.

Unfortunately the rest of the series doesn’t live up to the first, “The Beautiful.” Now that time she passed between reading the first two, the writing seems to stand out as for more YA than it originally felt in the first novel.

I loved the famous quotes by other authors at the beginning of each chapter but they kind of shifted the mood of the dark New Orleans vibe. 

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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