DNF List #7

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

I think it’s a compliment that I didn’t finish and here’s why… the author did TOO good of a job messing with my emotions so early on. The reality of anxiety and depression in the mom and the reality of the daughter not being thrilled with her job and not happy with life hit too close to home. Immediately I felt like I was walking in their shoes and that felt too much to deal with. So at this point I’d rather dive into something that doesn’t feel as realistic. Read this if you enjoy parent/child bonds, Alaska territory, and love that may or may not work out given the cards life throws.

Here’s the blurb:

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

The Stolen Lady by Laura Morelli

Chapter 1- Florence, Italy in 1472 we hear about Leonardo, an artist studying under his master and right after we go to “Anne” in 1939 then back in time again to 1479 in Bellina’s story. All seem to be in third person and are short chapter so we’re moving to different perspectives quickly instead of settling in.
Theme assumption- we’re all hiding something.

Page 20- I’m excited to learn who Marcel is. The pacing is slower with a lot of narration and details so it fits the historical fiction vibe. I wish there weren’t as many filtering words. When many sentences start with “Anne believed …” or “She heard …” then I feel more removed.

Here’s the blurb:

France, 1939

At the dawn of World War II, Anne Guichard, a young archivist employed at the Louvre, arrives home to find her brother missing. While she works to discover his whereabouts, refugees begin flooding into Paris and German artillery fire rattles the city. Once they reach the city, the Nazis will stop at nothing to get their hands on the Louvre’s art collection. Anne is quickly sent to the Castle of Chambord, where the Louvre’s most precious artworks—including the Mona Lisa—are being transferred to ensure their safety. With the Germans hard on their heels, Anne frantically moves the Mona Lisa and other treasures again and again in an elaborate game of hide and seek. As the threat to the masterpieces and her life grows closer, Anne also begins to learn the truth about her brother and the role he plays in this dangerous game.

Florence, 1479

House servant Bellina Sardi’s future seems fixed when she accompanies her newly married mistress, Lisa Gherardini, to her home across the Arno. Lisa’s husband, a prosperous silk merchant, is aligned with the powerful Medici, his home filled with luxuries and treasures. But soon, Bellina finds herself bewitched by a charismatic monk who has urged Florentines to rise up against the Medici and to empty their homes of the riches and jewels her new employer prizes. When Master Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to paint a portrait of Lisa, Bellina finds herself tasked with hiding an impossible secret.

When art and war collide, Leonardo da Vinci, his beautiful subject Lisa, and the portrait find themselves in the crosshairs of history. 

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

This book is everywhere and really popular, so I had high expectations but didn’t make it very far. The main heroine character was nails on a chalkboard to me and I expected she’d improve as the novel went along, but her personality stayed the same for more chapters than I had hoped, and her Hollywood attitude lasted too long for me to hang in there. I bet if I were more patient, she’d have an amazing character arc, but she was a bit too cringe worthy for me to handle. Here’s the blurb if you’re interested:

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

I made it to chapter 18, which was almost halfway. I flipped through future pages and skimmed, and almost went ahead and gave it a  3.0/5.0 stars but decided to put it in DNF instead.

Here’s some random thoughts while reading:

Chapter 1- I love the world so far of unfinished stories that Claire has to keep inside the pages of the books. In a library in hell, she has her quirky assistant sidekick to help her wrangle characters back into books who have fled their stories. The prose feel a bit heavy and slower with a lot of description so this might take me longer to get through, but the premise is intriguing. They’re on their way to Seattle to find a missing book that has run from its author.

Great quote: “He’ll remember the story, turn it over carefully in the back of his mind, feel the edges of it like he would a lucky coin. A story will change him if he lets it. The shape in the spirit of it. Change how he acts, what dreams he chooses to believe in. We all need our stories, I just fed him a good one.”

Chapter 2 is full of witty and sarcastic humor and I adore the way the author is poking fun of our profession as writers in general. It’s done delicately and tastefully to perfection. I can’t wait to see how this hero who jumped out of his book is pushed back inside his story. This second chapter was in the demon, Leto’s point of view, but I honestly didn’t get much more info from his perspective and forgot we had switched heads. This meant that he showed us that same info that Claire showed us which meant the POV switch wasn’t necessary. What we learned from Leto was done by dialogue which could’ve been accomplished from the same POV as the first chapter.

“Eternity bends to the whims of mortal imagination.”

Chapter 3 felt like a different story completely than the beginning. How is the Devil’s Bible related to Claire, her team, and the runaway book she’s hunting? Where does Rami fit in with the characters we already met?

The cover is gorgeous and every bookish girl’s dream, yet it doesn’t give me the whimsical vibe. I expected something darker but given the humor, this Library from Hell reminds me of “Under the Whispering Door.”

At page 100 I’m wondering who the main protagonist is …?

Chapter 12 was a bit boring but I’m excited for this duel

Chapter 13’s concept was absolute writing genius but still a bit slow.

At chapter 17 Brevity has her first chapter POV which feels a bit late in the game. At page 148, I’m just kind of bored. Not quite at halfway yet but events are lagging a bit. I enjoy the concept of heaven and hell being an evolving concept based on society’s views and how in the afterlife your situation is dependent on how your own soul judges you.

Page 200- a lot of the dialogue feels aimless and without urgency

By page 300 while skimming, I wasn’t able to hold attention to the parts I picked up or cared much about what would happen to the characters and the overall outcome.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Chapter one showed that Sophia is in love with Erin and she wants to run away together instead of facing whatever fate awaits young women at the traditional ball tomorrow. What would make them want to run? Why does Erin turn her down? Chapter two didn’t give me many more answers. I’m unsure what happens if they are chosen. Why is it something she fears? Why is the ball required? Why is it also bad if she’s not chosen? In chapter four I felt exhausted by the recurring theme of women being powerless and used and “selected” like a prize by the men. The double standards are tiring and reading about it in so many novels is also tiring. I’m also to blame since I’m writing a whole trilogy about a woman hating all men because of xyz. But for once I’d love to see a strong heroine that doesn’t have to overcome the obstacles of being seen as “less than” her male counterparts. How are we ever going to change society if we keep showing the same patterns are holding us back? Why don’t we model a future of what we’d want to be the norm and start fresh?

Pardon my rant. We also learn here that Sophia isn’t accepted by her parents for being a lesbian. So that doubly sucks.  Unfortunately so far my feelings are ‘annoyed,’ ‘irritated,’ ‘frustrated.’

I made it to page 51. I’m not interested in reading about women being abused by men as the main plot and premise of the story. Sophia will probably change all the society rules and fight back. She will probably be victorious and run away with the love of her life, Erin. Or maybe she will show the king how wrong he is with all the rules. She will most likely stand up and make a difference and to be the voice of those in need. I don’t know. But the way it’s going so far isn’t working for me. I’m a bit disappointed since I adored Kalynn Bayron’s novel, “This Poison Heart.”

Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno- Garcia

After chapter one I was pretty bored and not invested. The only intriguing part was the short letter from her cousin. Prose like this got me excited: “The house loomed over them like a great, quiet gargoyle. It might have been foreboding, evoking images of ghosts and haunted places, if it had not seemed so tired, slats missing from a couple of shutters, the ebony porch groaning as they made their way up the steps to the door, which came complete with the silver knocker shaped like a fist dangling from a circle.” …. But so many other parts highly bored me. I was excited for a dark vibe but that was too intermittent, and the writing and energy didn’t dive “deep” enough into the darkness.


An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

I don’t think I’m in the mood for third person narrative these days. They feel removed and as if I’m being talked down to. The first scene of going to a party felt to stereotypical and I didn’t connect. In the beginning, there were too many filtering words that told me how the main character felt instead of letting me dive in and experience it on my own. This was distracting so I couldn’t settle into the feelings. The dialogue felt like mundane small talk that didn’t grab my interest. I liked the premise of the blurb, so read it below if you’d like to try out a “dislike to lovers” trope.

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend
2. They hate each other

After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.

Pre-order my novel, “Scorched,” and see if it’s one you’d finish or not 🙂 I double dare you!

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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