Since I’ve become more ruthless about putting aside books I’m not enjoying, I thought I would talk about the books I’m not going to finish. I’ve realized that I want my reading to be as good an experience as I can make it, so if a book is grating at me, I stop reading it. I don’t force myself to push through anymore just so I can write a review about how much I hated it. It’s not worth the time and effort. Here are my most recent DNFs.
Deathless by Catherynne Valente. I actually got over halfway into this one. I was really hopeful, and I very much wanted to love it. I love fairy tale and myth retellings, and this one seemed even more unique because it was based on Russian folk tales. Unfortunately I had too many problems with it. For one, the pacing. She had a tendency to time jump in such a way that our main character would go from someone I felt like I knew to a completely different character. And since we’re not seeing her growth, it didn’t ring true for me. Also, the romance plot was pretty off-putting. Koschei is a complete jerk, and their love has no reason to be other than it’s decided that they should be in love. For me, it wasn’t worth continuing.
The Melancholy of Mecha-Girl by Catherynne Valente. I tried this one, too. I wanted so badly to love Valente’s work, but this also was a miss. This was a short story collection based around her time spent as an American military wife in Japan. Because her time there wasn’t fantastic, she has a very love/hate relationship with the country and culture that she was trying to explore through these stories. As a result, you have Japanese-inspired stories written by a clearly bitter American, and it didn’t work for me at all. Also, her style here was often experimental, so trying to sift through the word salad and get to the meaning of what she wanted to say was a challenge.
The Devourers by Indra Das. In my book purge post I talk a bit about this one. It was a fantasy-horror novel about werewolves, which sounded like it would be right up my street. But the writing style was not anything special. Das chose an interesting topic to zero in on, the existential crisis of being a monster among men, but he was very heavy-handed with his delivery. No subtext here. It was all text, and it wasn’t engaging. Then I reached a sexual assault that was so poorly handled. Sexual assault and rape should be discussed and not ignored. There are very important things to say on those topics. What he did here wasn’t even remotely the way I feel it should be addressed. Not with the aggressor insisting he’s in love and “can’t resist” her. No. Nope.
Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo. I think I only got about fifty pages into this. The writing was so bad. Shockingly bad. It was written in the first person, and it was so poorly done that any respect I might’ve had for this character started somewhere in the negative regions. The world-building was not particularly stellar either. These characters are traveling on a “generation ship”, meaning they’ve been in space and away from earth for a long, long time. I’d expect them to lose some knowledge we take for granted, but mysteriously they’d regressed in a lot of ways that you’d think would’ve been lost to them. The ship ran like a kingdom. The church was very active, but there were female priests (called Father, not even Mother like might make sense) instead of nuns. How can you have Catholicism but lose major parts of how it functions? No explanation. So seeing how it was already that sloppy, I bailed.
Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher. This one hurt. I was so excited for this book and so let down. This is a fantasy world where delusions can become realities if enough people believe in them. That sounded awesome. Well, it turns out that this world functions that way because most everyone is mentally ill. Because this is grimdark fantasy and not at all pleasant, that means everyone who is mentally ill and has these powers is also villainous. I didn’t feel great about that. I’m not saying anyone should feel bad for enjoying this book. I’m saying it rubbed me the wrong way personally. On a lot of levels. That mental illness is automatically linked with being a terrible person. And that being mentally ill gives you super powers, which sort of negates what mental illness even is.
Also, every name of every person, place, and disorder is in German. That was a pill to try to read. I also saw some reviews from German speakers who said that all the names amounted to things like “Bad Brain” and “King Forever”, which was clumsy and laughable to them. So another deal breaker there. The female characters are not shown much love either. The one major female player is described as ugly and stinky, and she spends most of her time trying to get one of the men to sleep with her, but they both refuse regularly. Really unnecessary to make that a huge part of her story. I could go on about so-so writing and how nothing about the book was even remotely fun, just bleak. Beyond Redemption only made me feel like I should be reading Joe Abercrombie instead of settling for this.
Death Instinct by Bentley Little. Oh, I hate to do this, but I just couldn’t. I love Bentley Little. As a horror fan, he’s one of my go-to authors. But this was very clumsy. I could tell where the story was going immediately, and I told myself, “if we’re headed toward the reveal that I think we are, then to hell with this.” I decided to spoil myself, and yep! I was right. It’s a really horrible twist that is ridiculously stupid. That’s not even covering the fact that there’s a character who is intellectually disabled and is consistently referred to as a “retard”. After a character points out how terrible it is to use that word. And then uses the word over and over! I don’t know what was going on there, but it was very tone deaf.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I had high hopes for this one. It’s that classic tale of a woman chosen by the Hades figure and taken into the weird kingdom except this one was told with Indian myths in mind. The writing was very beautiful, and the world was very lush. The characters left me feeling numb though. The female lead was inconsistent and kind of immature for a seventeen-year-old, and when she meets the male lead, there weren’t any sparks. This is supposed to partially revolve around a romance, and they didn’t have chemistry. I considered moving forward, but I could already see what one of the major plot points would be, and that left me feeling bored with it. So DNF.
There you have it. The books I couldn’t bring myself to finish. In the future, I might put my DNFs at the end of my wrap-ups, but it felt right to do a separate post this time. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy geeking!
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