Mini-Reviews: Recent DNFs

So, it turns out that once I get on a DNFing streak, I really get on a DNFing streak. Here are some more mini-reviews from books I’ve abandoned.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Source: Borrowed

This whole grim reaper thing should have come with a manual.
Or a diagram of some kind.
A flow chart would have been nice.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

With scorching-hot tension and high-octane humor, First Grave on the Right is your signpost to paranormal suspense of the highest order.

DNF @ 6%

I don’t have a lot to say about this because, as you can see, I made it to 6%. This is roughly page 18. In eighteen pages, Darynda Jones managed to:

  • sexualize literally every character except for an old man ghost
  • make not just one, but two inappropriate and racist statements
  • insinuate that women have to be below a certain weight to be hot

This one just wasn’t for me.

#romanceopoly: dungeon


Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source: Borrowed

He watches her from across the crowded dance club, a sensual black-haired stranger who stirs Gabrielle Maxwell’s deepest fantasies. But nothing about this night—or this man—is what it seems. For when Gabrielle witnesses a murder outside the club, reality shifts into something dark and deadly. In that shattering instant she is thrust into a realm she never knew existed—a realm where vampires stalk the shadows and a blood war is set to ignite.

Lucan Thorne despises the violence carried out by his lawless brethren. A vampire himself, Lucan is a Breed warrior, sworn to protect his kind—and the unwitting humans existing alongside them—from the mounting threat of the Rogues. Lucan cannot risk binding himself to a mortal woman, but when Gabrielle is targeted by his enemies, he has no choice but to bring her into the dark underworld he commands.

Here, in the arms of the Breed’s formidable leader, Gabrielle will confront an extraordinary destiny of danger, seduction, and the darkest pleasures of all. . . . 

DNF @ 8%

Okay, to be fair, I actually said, “I’m probably going to end up DNFing this,” as I borrowed it from Hoopla. I know my romance tastes, and vampires aren’t really part of that anymore. But romanceopoly recommended this for one of their prompts, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Nope.

A big nope.

An hour in, and literally had nothing happened. Except a lot of fighting, I guess, but I don’t read romance for fights.

#romanceopoly: warriors way


Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 19, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Wicked Comes Calling…

When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain…

Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion…

But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos, and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted…and the only thing he’s ever desired. 

DNF @ 2%

To be fair, I think I made it a little further than 2% in this one. There’s an interview with the author at the end of the book, but since I’m not sure where the book stops and the interview begins, we’ll just go with 2%.

If romanceopoly has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t do straight-up historical romance. I can’t get into it, it bores me, it comes across as completely ridiculous, and I just don’t care. This is nothing against the book, which has tons of positive reviews and I’m sure is great, but this genre just isn’t for me.

#romanceopoly: mayfair


Have you read any of these books? What’s the last book you DNFed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.

Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

Carrying all the trademarks of her other beloved works, including brilliant writing, fantastic world-building and exceptional, diverse characters, Becky’s first audiobook outside of the Wayfarers series is sure to capture the imagination of listeners all over the world.

I’ve only ever seen good things about Becky Chambers’ books, so when I saw this novella pop up at my library, I figured it was as good a time as any to give her writing a try. I guess that, after finishing, I just feel kind of conflicted.

On the one hand, the writing is really good! The setting is super vivid. There’s a ton of casual diversity and it’s never a thing, it just exists. On the other hand, very little actually happens. This novella is only 153 pages and it dragged. I kept waiting for something to actually happen and it never really did.

I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly I felt about this book until my boyfriend asked me what I thought of it. I blurted out, “It felt more like an exercise in worldbuilding than a real book,” and you know what? That’s exactly it. The four characters explore some worlds — and they’re really well-written worlds, with their own plants and wildlife — but that’s it. I mean, sure, there’s a message in there about humanity and whatnot, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel like I’d read an actual book and not just a ton of description.

I’m not mad that I took the time to listen to this one, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more of Chambers’ books any time soon.


Have you read To Be Taught, If Fortunate? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

I have previously read three of Shaun David Hutchinson’s novels with varying results. We Are the Ants was an easy five stars for me. I could have cried while reading it. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley? Four stars. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried? One of my most anticipated books of 2019 and, really, kind of a disappointment.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. I’d seen really mixed reviews when it first came out, I remember seeing people yelling (in a bad way) about the trans rep, and then there were all of the reviews that screamed “BUT NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.” Well, I’ll tell you what. I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it a lot.

There’s some definite social commentary here. Elena makes frequent (negative) references to the current president of the United States. There are discussions about the right to choose, not necessarily with regard to abortion, but just in general. When Elena learns that she has the ability to heal people, she has a bit of a crisis about whether she should really be playing god. This is exactly what I expect when I read one of Hutchinson’s books, and I was so happy to find it here.

As for the story, I thought it was really interesting. Elena doesn’t have a father, and she doesn’t mean that in the usual “my dad is a deadbeat and left when I was little” way. As the product of a virgin conception, scientifically known as parthenogenesis, she literally has no father. This has had little bearing on her life, aside from a lot of teasing from her classmates, until she suddenly learns that she’s capable of performing miracles.

I’m not going to get into all of that for fear of spoilers, so instead, I want to talk about the subtle diversity of this book. Elena is a bisexual Cuban girl. Her main love interest is Freddie, a girl she’s had a crush on forever. Elena’s ex-boyfriend, Javi, is a fairly main character, and nobody makes any sort of deal over her having an ex-boyfriend and now pursuing a girl. Elena’s best friend, Fadil, is Muslim and in the process of figuring out his own sexuality. Since none of the characters made a big deal out of this and all of this diversity was woven very seamlessly into the story, it never felt like flashing lights and ringing alarms screaming, “HEY, GUYS, DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S BI?!?” It just existed.

And also, that thing about bad trans rep? There’s like one sentence in this entire book and it’s one character saying something like, “Hey, how is [male name]?” And another character being like, “Actually, she goes by [female name] now.” How anybody found anything to hate in that is beyond me.

So, yes, this book is basically about Elena deciding what to do once she finds out that she can heal people. I suppose I can see how some people might consider that “not much of a plot.” I really enjoyed it, though, and I hope to read At the Edge of the Universe after I take a little SDH break.


Have you read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Recent DNFs

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me talk about how rarely I DNF books. It happens, at most, a couple times a year. But when I get in a DNF-ing mood, I really get into it. I DNFed three books in one day recently, and here’s why.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Talk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I’ve previously read one other book by Helena Hunting (I Flipping Love You) and I thought it was fun! I’d seen a lot of good things about Meet Cute, and it sounded just like the kind of book I’d enjoy.

Well, I didn’t. I made it to 7% before I quit.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with this book. It’s just not for me. Kailyn is a grown woman practicing law and she still spends an inordinate amount of time obsessing over one small event from college. There’s nothing sexy about her love interest other than, I guess, he’s supposed to be really hot?

I don’t know, I just couldn’t get into this story or these characters.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

I checked this book out from the library because it sounded so interesting and I figured the whole “moon” thing would make it count for one of my reading challenges. Well, I made it a whopping 5% into this one before I gave up.

This is the kind of book I would have probably loved as an actual middle grader. As an adult, not so much. Much like with Meet Cute, there wasn’t anything wrong with this book. I just didn’t like it.

#ps19: a book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title


Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA. 

Of the three books I DNFed, this is the one I wanted to like the most. I’d really been looking forward to this book and even did an interview with the author. But after reading this book for more than a month and only making it to 28%, I had to be honest with myself. I was not enjoying it.

To be fair, I’m not sure this is really the kind of book that you enjoy reading. It’s about conversion therapy, bullying, and an alcoholic parent. It’s really heartbreaking and it’s just not something that I need in my life right now.

I didn’t really get along with the writing style either. I didn’t mind it at the beginning of the book, but as it continued on, it just got to be way too much for me. Like, when Jonathan slams a door, the description is “whambamthankyouma’amSLAM.” Too much.

A lot of people have rated this book highly, but it wasn’t for me.


Have you read any of these books? What’s the last book you DNFed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Backstagers 2018 Halloween Intermission #1 by James Tynion IV

The Backstagers 2018 Halloween Intermission #1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 24, 2018
Source: Borrowed

With the days getting shorter and the nights getting SPOOKIER, the Backstagers are back for the Halloween season with all-new tales of terrors and creepy creatures. When Sasha accidentally falls asleep backstage, he ends up locked in the theater overnight! What lurks in the shadows, what terrors will he discover, and what the heck are the stage managers chanting?

From writers James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) and Sam Johns (The Backstagers: Valentines Intermission), and artist Rian Sygh (Adventure Time Fionna and Cake Card Wars, Regular Show), this haunted oversized one-act is a night at the theater you won’t want to miss!

With back-up stories from artists Shan Murphy, Abby Howard, and Savanna Ganucheau this spine-tingling tale of the stage will leave you with goosebumps you can see from the back row!

I really enjoy the world of The Backstagers, so I was excited to find this little intermission on Hoopla! This is a single issue set in the magical Backstagers world over Halloween.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about this one. Of all the characters, Sasha really isn’t one of my favorites, so I was a little apprehensive about this story that primarily features him. I didn’t need to worry, though, because this was super cute. I may even love Sasha now.

I really liked that we got to see more of the stage managers and I wouldn’t mind getting to know them even better. I also really liked the positive message in this issue! I said it already but I’m going to say it again — this was just so cute.

I haven’t checked out the Valentine’s intermission yet, but I really think I should.


#mm19: tricks and trades


Have you read The Backstagers? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.

Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.

When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

One of the things that I really love about being able to listen to audiobooks at work is that I have the opportunity to listen to things that I probably wouldn’t get around to reading otherwise. Sourdough is one of those books.

I didn’t really know what this book was about, just that I’d seen a few good reviews of it and it was available at the library. This ended up being a really fun, light read and a classic kind of feel-good book. I loved the Lois Club and originally I thought that the author made it up, but it turns out that it’s a real thing!

The underground world of the farmer’s market was so much fun to read about! More than anything, though, this book made me want to bake some sourdough bread. Even writing this review is making me hungry. I’m headed over to my library’s website now to see if they have Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.


Have you read Sourdough? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… 

In case you weren’t already aware, Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact is one of my favorite books. From the characters to the message to the excellent texting, I loved everything about it. Permanent Record was at the top of my most anticipated list for 2019, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC while at BookCon.

This book was not Emergency Contact, Part Two. Part of the blame is on me for thinking it would be. But instead of loving this book, I was really, really disappointed in it. So disappointed that I’m really just sad thinking about it. I won’t get into any spoilers in this review, but here are some bullet point reasons why I didn’t like this book:

  • The slang. In Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam talked like actual teenagers. In Permanent Record, the amount of slang Pab and Lee use is almost embarrassing. Nobody talks like that. Nobody.
  • The lack of responsibility. I get that it’s one of the main conflicts of the book, but I could not get over how literally every single one of Pablo’s problems could be solved if he’d just take some responsibility for his actions. You can’t ignore your problems until they go away, Pablo!! Life doesn’t work like that!!
  • I didn’t really see a point to it? I slogged through all 417 pages of this book only to get a non-ending. That’s not even mentioning how bored I was the entire time I was reading this book.

Am I mad that I took the time to read this book? I guess not. Did I enjoy it even a little bit? No. I’m just disappointed, but since I loved Emergency Contact so much, I’m still planning to read whatever Mary H.K. Choi publishes next.


Have you read Permanent Record? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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