I love when people explain the reasons they didn’t finish a book — not their genre, not their style, not their plot. Whatever it is, I like to know why. One of the best things about loving to read is that there’s always something new, but when this leads to one million new items on my reading list per month… it’s a nice option to eliminate some books! Thus, a DNF (Did Not Finish) review can be very helpful.
Hopefully, this post does something of the same! As much as we’re all ✨good vibes✨ around here, it is also nice to discuss reading we didn’t particularly enjoy now and again. I encourage everyone to write a list like this!
FYI this isn’t in chronological order, because my memory isn’t that stellar. I also have left off a few books I hope to give another chance soon. And editing it down means I can include my reasoning without this being too much of a mammoth post!
The Discomfort of Evening – Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (author), Michele Hutchison (translator)
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jas has a unique way of experiencing her universe: the feeling of udder ointment on her skin as protection against harsh winters; the texture of green warts, like capers, on migrating toads; the sound of ‘blush words’ that aren’t in the Bible. But when a tragic accident ruptures the family, her curiosity warps into a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies – unlocking a darkness that threatens to derail them all.
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages I read: 100ish
I had this book on my TBR for a while before it won the International Booker Prize (what a hipster), but when it did win the International Booker I thought I should finally get around to reading it. What I will say, is that the translation certainly does deserve a prize, because it’s stellar work. This book is filled with turns of phrase and particular descriptors that work very well in English, they sound poetic and profound; but I didn’t for a second forget that this is a Dutch book, set in the Netherlands, which the culture and worldbuilding still reflects. (The International Booker Prize is shared between the writer and translator).
Therefore, I am sure the writing itself is also very good, but it’s really not for me. This book goes into disturbingly dark places. I can understand why this part-biographical novel (or, drawing inspiration from the author’s life, anyway) is critically-acclaimed, but personally I found the discomfort too off-putting to read, and found I wasn’t enjoying it at all — even as a literary exercise. The narration is from the perspective of ten-year old Jas. She’s growing up on a dairy farm, and trying to find her place in a world where her older brother died, her parents are drifting apart as a result of that and she and her other two siblings are more or less left to fend for themselves. Everything is written from such a childlike perspective that the uneasy world of adults seems to linger over the reader. Reading the book feels intrusive, particularly when it gets into issues of self-harm, sexuality, animal cruelty… You name it, it’s in there.
I seriously thought I was imagining things, not enjoying this at all, but I checked out a few reviews and what I saw didn’t seem very promising, so I ditched it.
Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
Synopsis: Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land.
I recall attempting to read this book in my teens and never finishing it, which is why I picked it up again this year and… didn’t finish it. At least I’m more informed as to why now? And I really did try to read this book. The amount of times I renewed my library loan!
To start off, I will say that I know this is a teen book, so clearly I’m not the target audience and thus I probably have a biased review. (But saying that, how many excellent teen/YA books have I read and enjoyed?) I also know it’s widely loved and I am also hoping to read the author’s newest adult fiction book, Crescent City, of which I’ve seen positive reviews of from various bloggers. But this book in particular just felt like an endless chore.
First off, the characters are all over the place. I mean, is the prince character meant to be roguish and charming or ambitious and determined? Is he in love with the protagonist or not? Is the knight in love with the protagonist or not? Is the main character herself in love with either of them or not? I mean, I get ambiguity and build-up~ is a fun part of romance stories but here, where it maybe should have felt complex, I was just confused. Mixed! Signals! Everywhere! This can’t-decide thing was also present in the main character, Celaena, herself. Whether she was a scared girl, or a skilled assassin, or magical, or non-magical, or kind of a misogynist or a true feminist or…. Like I was unsure who I was supposed to be rooting for, or who I mwas meant to like, and I haven’t even got into the whole mess of the worldbuiding yet, either.
This book is only the first to a longer series of maybe, seven? Books? But due to the fact that I did not get very far here, I guess we’ll never know if it gets better.
Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
Synposis: The world is messing with our minds. Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index. How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? How do we stay human in a technological world? How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
Publisher: Canongate Books
I think that the biggest thing I learned from trying to read this book is that this genre just isn’t for me. I decided to give it a go because the title and concept were very charming. It represents this idea of retaining our humanness vs increasingly overwhelming tech and the way the whole, global lot of us are slowly becoming more and more anxious as the days spin on. It’s a much more entertaining way to approach any subject about mental health, and I did appreciate that.
However, a few things made this book a slow read for me. First, the incredibly short chapter lengths. While they were nice in the fact of, ‘you’ve finished another chapter’, it also meant I felt like I was stopping and starting again and again throughout the book. For example, the writer shares a personal anecdote then moves onto a new chapter for the take-away the reader can have from that anecdote, and maybe I’m just used to reading way long novels but it felt too choppy for me. Second, this mix of anecdotal storytelling and goal-driven entreaties also made me feel thrown out of the narrative many times, and I couldn’t bring myself to continue this for a whole book.
I think this is the first ‘self-help/health’ book I’ve attempted to read and I didn’t even finish it! I don’t think they’re for me. I need a much shorter format for writings of this kind.
Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh
Synopsis: Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
This is the first book I’ve read by this author (wait actually, I didn’t read it… does it count?) but I am going to check out a few others I think, as with the other books, so I get a wider variety of samples. 🤗
I decided to read this book because I heard it was kind of inspired by the story of Mulan, but set in feudal Japan, which is a setting I certainly have not consumed enough media about, fiction or nonfiction. And then I read the summary and it sounded incredibly badass! Unfortunately, while it definitely did start out intriguing, I just could not bring myself to read on. I think maybe there’s a little too much ambiguity in the beginning of the novel, and not enough hints that the wait for answers will be exciting. Admittedly, I did not spend long enough with the characters of this book to form an opinion of them, but… they didn’t seem very interesting.
OK I realise this whole review sounds vague and that’s because: 1) I read this book at the beginning of this year (eons ago) and 2) I just didn’t care about what happened. Very quickly! I definitely am here for samurai and women being secretly cool, but I found the story was hyping itself more than it maybe deserved.
As I said in the beginning, there are actually a few more books I DNF’d this year, but I’m maybe going to give them another chance, as I think the main reasons I didn’t finish them was time.
Do you have any books you decided to DNF this year? Which ones?