Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.


This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?


17 thoughts on “Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

  1. I love hearing why you didn’t finish these. I did read The Luminous Dead, but for me it was an OK story and I only considered DNFing once but pushed ahead. I hated the romance and I agree, nothing seemed to happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly I think The Luminous Dead I might have enjoyed more if I’d read it earlier in the year- but on the heels of The Last Astronaut, Salvation Day, Walking to Aldebaran and 2 Stephen King books, it just wasn’t living up to the horror side of things. I don’t even think it’s a bad book- just a little boring and not something I wanted to continue.


  2. The only of those I’ve read is Luminous Dead. I did enjoy that novel, but I agree the added romance could have been left out. Pitting them against each other woul have been awesome! Overall, I enjoyed that book with minor letdowns.

    This is why I love the book community! Vast difference in feelings toward the same book. Thank you for sharing these insightful review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No judgement from me- that’s what I love about it too! And DNF sounds harsh for The Luminous Dead, because I definitely didn’t hate it, I was just a little bored and feeling like I was trudging through. To be honest- I didn’t hate any of these books, I just wasn’t feeling them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to hear yer opinion on the luminous dead. I will skip that one as I abandoned the last astronaut due to the writing style. Thank ye for more saved time. I adored walkiing to aIdebran though. I also set aside a hero born because I wasn’t feeling it. I am not adverse to trying that one again at some point now that I understand more about the writing style. It is just hard to get into. I would have to push to see if I could adjust.
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw your review on A Hero Born and I was relieved it wasn’t just me. I couldn’t connect with it at all and was finding myself frustrated. But I agree- I’d be willing to give it another chance sometime in the future, I just didn’t want to leave it hanging.


  4. A lot of times when I DNF it’s because the book isn’t working for me at the time. (I actually have a “hibernating” shelf on Goodreads just for that purpose.) But if it’s not working, don’t force it! (Unless you have to for school or something, but that’s luckily something I don’t have to deal with any more.)

    Also, a 72 page chapter? I just read a (very good, well-written) novelette that was 41 pages. I can’t imagine a chapter that was nearly twice as long, especially if it wasn’t that interesting.

    (The very good, well-written novelette was P. Djeli Clark’s A Dead Djinn in Cairo.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please don’t let my DNF review of A Hero Born discourage you if you haven’t read it yet. I am largely a mood reader and if I’m being honest I’m just not in the right mood to read it right now. I’m hoping to try that one again someday. The other two are totally safe to skip… lol

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your DNF mini-reviews, the Sponge Bob reference made me laugh (sorry, I know it must’ve been painful for you and I feel your pain, but your frustration bleeds through in a uniquely funny way :)) Not intending to pick up any of those, though I heard some good things of the Luminous Dead – I definitely prefer to read Tchaikovsky 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha- it’s okay go ahead and laugh. It was meant to be funny.

      And yes- go for the Tchaikovsky novella! The price is steep for a 100 page book, but maybe pick it up from a library if you can? I loved that one.

      Liked by 1 person

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