DNF 2012 (part 2): We Tried to Read Them So You Don’t Have To

September 24, 2012 DNF 11

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We do our best to only accept books for review that we think we will enjoy, but it’s impossible to safeguard 100% against bad reads.  These are the books we Did Not Finish (DNF). We don’t give up on books lightly.  In fact we hate not finishing a book, even a bad book, but there are times when for one reason or another, we just can’t bring ourselves to reach the end.  In our latest poll you guys said you wanted to hear about which books made it onto our dreaded DNF pile, so here are the DNF titles the second group of DNF titles for 2012.  We’ll be posting them when we collect a few DNF reads once or twice a year depending.

Sins of the Son (Grigori Legacy #2)

by Linda Poitevin

When homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis sees a photo of Seth Benjamin on a police bulletin, she knows that Heaven’s plan to halt Armageddon has gone terribly wrong. As the only mortal who knows of Seth’s true nature, only she can save him. Aramael was a hunter of Fallen Angels until a traitor forced him into earthly exile. Now, with no powers and only a faint memory of Alex, his mortal soulmate, he will stop at nothing to redeem himself-even if it means destroying Seth in the name of the Creator…
Despite Abigail’s mixed review of SINS OF THE ANGELS, I gave SINS OF THE SON a try.  The mythology of this world isn’t particularly accessible without having read book 1, but I disliked the narrative flow enough that I had no interest in reading either book.  While I don’t mind a paranormal reimagining of familiar theological figures, “The One” seemed to be an awkward meld of The Black Dagger Brotherhood’s Scribe Virgin and the feminine version of a Christian God (based on her juxtaposition to Lucifer).  Furthermore, enough of the story seemed to focus on heavenly politics that Alexandra got minimal page time, giving me anchor character to carry me forward through all the clunky theology.  An unsuccessful introduction to the series, SINS OF THE SON didn’t work for me at all. – Julia

Fallen Angel

by  Eden Bradley

Haunted by a military mission that ended in personal tragedy, Declan Byrne still bears a soldier’s scars. As a park ranger on the secluded Mendocino coast, he guards his heart while standing ready for anything. Anything except a beautiful, ethereal woman with a mysterious past, falling from the cliffs to the rocks below.

Angel, as Declan decides to call her, has no memory of what happened. But as her body heals, disturbing dreams emerge. In Declan’s protective care, Angel feels safe to act on the undeniable passion between them, without the threats from old, unnameable demons. And, in time, she senses Declan needs her as desperately as she needs him. But when her past returns with a vengeance, Declan must decide just how much he’s willing to risk in order to keep the woman he loves safe.

Despite an intriguing, evocative first chapter, FALLEN ANGEL’s mix of relentless sexuality and infantilized, cult victim creeped me out too much to continue.  Angel’s masturbatory interludes with Asmodeus were off putting, and even when her status as a victim began to become clear, anticipating any sort of sexual relationship between her and Declan was too disturbing for me to stomach.  I was intrigued by the symbols and ceremony the precipitated her fall from the heavens, but not enough to want to read about the sexual deviant cult that seems to be responsible.  I’d like to think Angel grows into her own agency, but I’m not going to read along with the “sexual healing” that takes her there. – Julia

Dead Reckoning

by Mercedes Lackey, Rosemary Edghill

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.
I struggled with the story’s opening. The paragraph establishing Jett’s secret identity was a mess. First I thought Jasper was her twin brother, and Philip and Philippa her siblings. And the timeline for when she played acted being a boy was muddled with being separated by the war. This confusing introduction was followed hard by Jett’s less than convincing reasons why her boy persona had to be a flashy, attention grabbing shootist (if she has the real skills to protect herself with a gun, why pick the over the top costume that guarantees she’s going to have a confrontation with someone in every new town?), and these two narrative snafu’s made it hard for me get invested in the story.

Unfortunately, even a third of the way in I wasn’t any more interested. Jett and White Fox and Gibbons are each caricatures of their own particular flavor, and the tomboy, bluestocking, stalwart Indian scout trio made for super awkward fireside chats. I got as far as tracking the zombie horde to a cult before I couldn’t take it any longer, both Jett and Gibbons’ POV are so clunky with vernacular I have no interest in continuing.   – Julia

Talulla Rising

by Glen Duncan

When I change I change fast. The moon drags the whatever-it-is up from the earth and it goes through me with crazy wriggling impatience . . . I’m twisted, torn, churned, throttled—then rushed through a blind chicane into ludicrous power . . . A heel settles. A last canine hurries through. A shoulder blade pops. The woman is a werewolf.

The woman is Talulla Demetriou.
She’s grieving for her werewolf lover, Jake, whose violent death has left her alone with her own sublime monstrousness. On the run, pursued by the hunters of WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena), she must find a place to give birth to Jake’s child in secret.
The birth, under a full moon at a remote Alaska lodge, leaves Talulla ravaged, but with her infant son in her arms she believes the worst is over—until the windows crash in, and she discovers that the worst has only just begun . . .
What follows throws Talulla into a race against time to save both herself and her child as she faces down the new, psychotic leader of WOCOP, a cabal of blood-drinking religious fanatics, and (rumor has it) the oldest living vampire.
Harnessing the same audacious imagination and dark humor, the same depths of horror and sympathy, the same full-tilt narrative energy with which he crafted his acclaimed novel The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan now gives us a heroine like no other, the definitive twenty-first-century female of the species.

Jumping in with book two of The Last Werewolf series, I didn’t know what to expect from Duncan’s mythology.  Primal, murderous, despairing darkness was what I found.  Talulla, seven months pregnant, mourning the death of her baby’s father, spent the first part of the book exploring her  own “filthiness”, depraved proclivities, and the numerous ways that human expectation didn’t fit her own experience.  I made it as far as her baby’s birth before throwing in the towel.  Given how she had compartmentalized her condition (and need to kill and eat a person every month), I can only imagine that she would eventually find new personal strengths to protect her child.  That’s a journey I had no interest reading along with, however.  For pleasure Duncan’s brand of human exploration is neither light nor entertaining.  And as anything other than entertainment, TALULLA RISING was too dark and joyless for my full attention. – Julia

The Darkest Day (Immortal Heat, #1)

by  Britt Bury

ALL-CONSUMING DESIRE . . .

Izel Campbell was raised to believe she is an immortal Fionn with the magical skills of persuasion. But when she travels to Scotland to visit her ancestral home, Izel discovers that she is actually the world’s last living human. Forced to run for her life, Izel crosses paths with Kelvin Kerr, the Campbells’ greatest foe-and the most magnificent warrior she has ever seen.

BURNS BRIGHTEST . . .

A thousand-year-old battle chief of the Kerr clan, Kelvin lives only to avenge his father, who died at the hands of the bloody Campbells. Honor demands he kill the Campbell heir, but when he learns that the lovely Izel is both Campbell and human, Kelvin is torn between duty and desire . . .

ON THE DARKEST DAY 

My first issue was with regards to Kelvin, the hero, reacting to his father’s death, NOT with the vow to kill the murderer. Oh no. He was going to wait for said murderer to find a wife, settle down, have children, and then our fine boy was going to kill them all. That’s pretty darn premeditated and creeptastic.

Skip forward to the “present”, humans are extinct, our heroine, despite seeming pretty normal all around, claims she’s never experienced an emotion. She claims this just as she’s, well, experiencing emotions for the first time. And growing boobs and new hair. Yup, insta-puberty. Raging hormones, new body… and a panic attack that causes her to pass out.  Despite her visceral reaction to all these new emotions, and the deep psychological consequences of having your face changed (in the real world), she reacts to her “new self” pretty well. She looks nothing like herself when she looks in the mirror.  New hair, new body, different color eyes.  She’s “pretty” for the first time, and apparently that makes up for everything else.  Physical attraction sends her off the deep end, but for some reason a complete identity/species change isn’t even a blip on her radar.

At this point, I was still relatively on board with these two (suspend disbelief, power through), but then we get to the good stuff: the “Fated Mate” explanation. Both hero and heroine are fighting their attraction when Kelvin decides to explain some little “quirks” of Razorback Pookah biology. They can only have sex with a woman once (winners). If she’s not their mate, they’re never interested again (typical). If she is their fated mate, they’ll never want anyone else again (awww, that’s sweet)… unless they sleep with her on any day other than the Solstice, in which case, even though she IS their mate, they’ll never sleep with her again (What the hell?). In addition to being silly and arbitrary, this little science lesson sucks any anticipation that may have survived thus far right out of the book. Let me tell you a secret: they’re going to sleep together on the Solstice. Not until then, nope, feel free to skip all the weird family feuds and heavy breathing, they’re going to wait until the Solstice. Someone will probably try to kill them or they’ll have decided they’re mortal enemies or Izel will have to chose between Kelvin and her “family”, but it’s going to happen, they’re going to bang.  I can imagine the author may come up with some weird loophole to mean (gasp) they don’t bang on the Solstice, but still get to be together forever, but I’m just not interested.  This paranormal romance has structured itself right out of being readable for me, despite some funny dialogue.  – Julia

Wrecked

by  Anna Davies

Secrets of the sea have never been sexier than this. Ever since the death of her parents, Miranda has lived on Whym Island, taking comfort in the local folklore, which claims a mysterious sea witch controls the fate of all on the island and in its surrounding waters. Sometimes it’s just easier to believe things are out of your control.

But then a terrible boating accident takes the lives of several of her friends, and Miranda is rescued by a mysterious boy who haunts her dreams. Consumed by guilt from the accident, she finds refuge in late-night swims—and meets Christian, a boy who seems eerily familiar, but who is full of mystery: He won’t tell her where he is from, or why they can only meet at the beach. But Miranda falls for him anyway…and discovers that Christian’s secrets, though meant to protect her, may bring her nothing but harm.

Seductive and compelling, Wrecked brings a contemporary, paranormal twist to a classic enchanting tale.

This is another case of a great premise gone wrong.  The story is basically a flipped version of The Little Mermaid where the guy is the mermaid who falls for the human girl.  I love the idea of that, but unfortunately I didn’t love WRECKED.

I only made it through the first three chapters or so when I finally had to come up for air after nearly drowning in info dumps.  Almost the entire first few chapters are backstory and long, long info dump sections.  To make matters worse there are a dozen or more characters introduced here and not one of them stood out.  I had zero motivation to keep reading at that point. – Abigail

Hearts of Darkness (Deadglass, #1)

by Kira Brady

In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war—and an irresistible passion…

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

Having read and reviewed the prequel novella earlier this summer, I was hoping the longer page length would lend the romance more credibility.  It didn’t.  Kayla is as drippy and weak a heroine as I’ve read in ages, and Hart was a sleazy and boorish pig.  They literally meet over her dead sister’s body.  She’s a sobbing wreck and he can’t keep his eyes off her rack.  He even crudely propositions that they dump the dead girl on the floor and screw on the autopsy table within minutes of meeting her.  I figured he was supposed to be the villain at this point, but Kayla starts getting hot and bothered right there in the morgue.  What the hell?

I’d rolled my eyes about a dozen times at this point, but after some guys broke in, stripped her sister naked and checked all her body cavities while Kayla watched.  I felt a little queasy.  But not Kayla.  She’s gazing into Hart’s eyes and wondering what a virgin like herself is doing fantasizing about a guy she just met.

I forced myself to keep reading after that, but Kayla became more insipid and Hart kept reassuring me that he belonged in prison.  I couldn’t make it past the third chapter (which is low even for a DNF).  The dialogue was pretty dreadful, the characters completely unlikeable, and the romance was beyond off-putting.   - Abigail

The Blood Keeper (The Blood Journals, #2)

by Tessa Gratton

Paranormal romance fans who are looking to up the ante will be drawn to this tale of horror, fantasy, and romance.

For Mab Prowd, the practice of blood magic is as natural as breathing. It’s all she’s ever known. Growing up on an isolated farm in Kansas with other practitioners may have kept her from making friends her own age, but it has also given her a sense of purpose—she’s connected to the land and protective of the magic. And she is able to practice it proudly and happily out in the open with only the crows as her companions. Mab will do anything to keep the ancient practice alive and guard its secrets. But one morning while she is working out a particularly tricky spell she encounters Will, a local boy who is trying to exorcise some mundane personal demons. He experiences Mab’s magic in a way his mind cannot comprehend and is all too happy to end their chance meeting. But secrets that were kept from Mab by the earlier generations of blood magicians have come home to roost. And she and Will are drawn back together, time again by this dangerous force looking to break free from the earth and reclaim its own dark power.

Going from a perfect 5/5 review for the first book in a series to a DNF for the sequel is a first for me.  I’m devastated that THE BLOOD KEEPER couldn’t capture even a spark of the magic of BLOOD MAGIC.

Mab and Will are nothing like Silla and Nick.  Nothing.

From the first page, THE BLOOD KEEPER was strange and confusing and it never stopped being strange and confusing during the eleven chapters that I read. Worse still, it’s painfully slow.  Yes, Tessa Gratton has a gift for language and the ability to string together beautiful sentences, but when that writing has no discernible plot and the prose fails to create even one engaging character, it’s all for naught.

As much as I adored BLOOD MAGIC, the only words that come to mind with THE BLOOD KEEPER are boring and confusing.  I can only hope there were some explanations given to readers who persevered to the end, but I had to struggle to find motivation to read as far as I did.  – Abigail

Reaper (Lightbringer, #2)

by K.D. McEntire

After the death of her mother, Wendy learns that she is part of a powerful and ancient family of Reapers. She has only a matter of days to unravel the mysteries her mother left behind and to convince her wary family to accept her as one of their own.
As much as I enjoyed LIGHTBRINGER, the colloquial speech of the various ghost has always been a pet peeve for me.  And regrettably, REAPER very quickly buried me under the relentless, dated dialog of Lily and Elle.  Rather than just skipping all instances where anyone other than Piotr or Wendy is speaking, I decided it was time to throw in the towel.- Julia

Poltergeeks

by Sean Cummings

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.

In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.

First person narration can be a very tricky prospect, and I find YA first person is doubly difficult.  POLTERGEEKS is a story lived through dialogue, either with the chatty inner thoughts of the heroine or her and her companions stating basic background and plot points out loud.  I never managed to relax and see Julie and Marcus as characters, they were just puppets pretending not to notice me as they stated perfectly obvious things to each other.  This disconnect coupled with a very young tone had me checking out early, though what I’d read thus far makes me likely to pass POLTERGEEKS on to the pre-teen readers in my life. – Julia

The Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire 

byAbigail Gibbs

The sexiest romance you’ll read this year…

One moment can change your life forever…

For Violet Lee, a chance encounter on a darkened street draws her into a world beyond her wildest imaginings, a timeless place of vast elegance and immeasurable wealth – of beautiful mansions and lavish parties – where a decadent group of friends live for pleasure alone. A place from which there is no escape… no matter how hard Violet tries.

Yet all the riches in the world can’t mask the darkness that lies beneath the gilded surface, embodied in the charismatic but dangerous Kaspar Varn.

Violet and Kaspar surrender to a passion that transcends their separate worlds – but it’s a passion that comes at a price…

I should have known better.  THE DARK HEROINE began as Twilight fan fiction in the mind of then fifteen year old Abigail Gibbs.  Three years later, hot on the heels of another Twilight-fan-fiction-turned-huge-best-seller, Harper Voyager is publishing this sloppy, poorly written, and often upsetting mess.

Violet witnesses a vampire attack, and the vampires decide to abduct the witness and keep her at their family estate until she dies or agrees to turn. The Cullens they are not.  They intimidate, threaten, and assault Violet regularly. Kasper is basically a sexual predator with fangs.  He tells Violet that he will have sex with her eventually whether she wants to or not.  He has has loud, wall shaking sex every night in the room next to her.  At one point he even breaks down her door and attacks her when she thwarts his “date” plans one night, pins her to the bed–in front of his ‘date’–and threatens to ‘use her instead':

In a blur he launched himself across the room. He collided with my side to take me with him, and I was sent rolling across the bed, coming to a halt when my head hit the bedside cabinet. I let out a scream as he landed on top of me, pinning me to the bed. I winced through gritted teeth as the corner of the cabinet dug into my spine.
“Get off me, you horny git!” I screeched, kicking and flailing, revolted at his closeness.
“Why, am I making you uncomfortable? Maybe I will use you instead!” he snarled, a tormenting smirk twisting his face. His eyes were devoid of any emotion—he meant it. Straddling me with one leg either side of my stomach, he forced me deeper into the mattress, pinning my hands above my head. He began to pull my shirt up, and I heard squeals of protest from Charity, which merged with the protests of the mattress as I tried to fight free.

The breaking point for me comes when Violet is brutally attacked, and sexually assaulted by another vicious and psychotic vampire.  He says and does truly abhorrent things to her including detailing his plan for necrophilia.  A scant second before he rapes her, she is rescued by Kasper.  Days later, they have their first sexual encounter when Kasper attacks her in her sleep:

He snarled, hastily clamping a hand down over my mouth. I attempted to bite at his fingers but found myself quickly subdued.
“Play nicely now,” he mocked, pressing himself closer. I caught sight of the deranged, lustful glint in his blood-red eyes. My eyes widened and I was hushed to silence, terrified.
“Come on, Girly, just a little drop of blood. I’m so hungry. You’ll enjoy it.”
I scowled and thrashed about as he lay draped across me, pressing his crotch hard into my stomach.

It just got worse from there and I gave up. – Abigail

What are some of your DNF titles from this year?  Did you read any of our DNF titles?  Disagree with us?  Let us know in the comments or on twitter @AllThings_UF

11 Responses to “DNF 2012 (part 2): We Tried to Read Them So You Don’t Have To”

  1. Arianne

    I’m sorry you didn’t like Wrecked. I wanted to read it. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t win a copy before?

  2. Vicki R

    Sorry to see you didn’t like The Sins of the Son. I adored both it & the first book.

  3. Lady Ruby

    Wow, thank goodness I just read this. I was actually about to pre-order The Dark Heroine, paperback version, I even had it up on Barnes & Noble, on a differnt tab. Glad I decided to stop by before I hit that button.

  4. Jessi

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t finish Wrecked! I got about 3/4 of the way in, and believe me, you didn’t miss much. Just a nasty vomit-inducing instalove.

  5. Readsalot81

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who had trouble with Kira Brady’s Hearts of Darkness. It was recommended by several people I like and I thought the book was a mess for just about all of the reasons you listed.

  6. sharonstogner

    surprised with the Sin of the Son. I love the writing and tone of both books. but not all books appeal to all people :) I liked Poltergeeks, but it is for the younger end of the YA spectrum.

  7. Stella (Ex Libris)

    I also loved both Sins of the Angels and Sins of the Son, but you shouldn’t have been brave and started right off with book #2 as it’s so heavily connected with the 1st one, no wonder you were feeling lost. Me personally I enjoyed that while book #1 was mostly about Alex and the hero’s romance book #2 showed us more of the bigger picture.

  8. Ginny

    Wow, thinly veiled rape fantasies are becoming less and less subtle. How soon before we get “Shut Up and Take It, Bitch – a dark romance”?

  9. Lege Artis

    Oh, Hearts of Darkness was DNF for me, too… It was announced as new Fever series, but it just…isn’t.
    My DNF this year was Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead… ::cringing painfully::
    And I still can’t make myself to finish Lover Reborn…
    Great post!