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.

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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.

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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?

Pride Month: Books on my TBR!

Last week in celebration of Pride Month I talked about some of my favorite queer characters in fiction.  This week I want to talk about some of the books on my TBR featuring more LGBTQIA+ characters.  I’m going to start with a few that have already been released and I’m hoping to catch up on, but I also have some exciting future releases too.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (and the rest of The Machineries of Empire series):  I am really scared to start this because I feel really confident that I’m going to love it and it will end up a new favorite read.  I am also scared to start this because I have a tendency to form expectations and then let myself down.  It’s supposed to be super complex and I’m hoping to see some elements that remind me of another favorite series, Terra Ignota.

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The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling:  My favorite genre mashup of all time is always going to be Science Fiction and Horror, and The Luminous Dead looks like the perfect combo of both.  I think space lends itself so very well to all kinds of horror situations.  Whether you’re just trying to survive the freezing desolate landscape of an undiscovered planet, being chased by alien creatures, or you’re adrift in a derelict space ship with no one to call for help, chances are, things will end badly.  I already have a buddy read planned for this one in September and I can’t wait!

Annex by Rich Larson

Annex (The Violet Wars #1) by Rich Larson:  This is a YA book about an alien invasion that somehow or other, leaves the world without adults.  At first, Violet and her friends think it’s pretty great to have so much freedom… but then the invaders come back.  One of my regular buddy readers enjoyed it and said it has trans rep (and that the character was one of her favorites), so I’m very excited to check it out. (PSA: this is currently $1.99 in the US Kindle Store as of 6/13.)

Love beyond body, space & time anthology

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time Anthology edited by Hope Nicholson: This is a collection of indigenous short fiction all featuring LGBTQ+ characters.  It’s a pretty quick read (125 pages according to GoodReads) and I picked it up on sale awhile back.  Indigenous authors seem to be severely underrepresented in not only speculative fiction but fiction in general, so that makes this doubly exciting.

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne: Meena lives in futuristic Mumbai, but feels she must return to Ethiopia, her birthplace.  She’s not sure what’s waiting for her there, but she decides to cross using a forbidden energy bridge that spans the Arabian Sea.  Mariama, a girl from another time, is fleeing to Ethiopia from across the Saharan Africa in hopes of finding a better life.  It’s described as melding the influences of Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Erin Morgenstern, and it’s been on my TBR for way too long.

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch:  This is a Joan of Arc retelling in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscape.  Do I really need to say more?

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht (releases September 24, 2019): I talked about this one not too long ago, but I love the idea of lovers being villains together.    This is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated fall releases.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

Overthrow by Caleb Crain (releases August 27, 2019): I stumbled across this on Edelweiss, and everything about the description had me falling in love.  The blurb is too long to summarize here, but buzzwords that caught my attention: telepathy, tarot cards, poets, the 1%, and utopian spirit, all featuring a m/m relationship that will be put to the test in a dystopian world that sounds similar to Orwell’s 1984.  Viking denied me the ARC, but luckily, August isn’t that far away.

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim (releases January 7, 2020):  A gender flipped Count of Monte Christo retelling with Ace and Bisexual rep in space.  I have a feeling this will be huge when it finally hits shelves.  Right now, January feels very, very far away.

The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep by Chana Porter (releases January 21, 2020): The Seep is about an alien invasion that brings new technologies, dismantles hierarchies, destroys capitalism, and introduces utopia.  The story follows a trans woman after her wife, seduced by Seep-tech, leaves her.  I really wish utopian stories had the same popularity as dystopians.  Mostly because I’m curious what others imagine utopia to be and how human society could ever get there.  I’m super excited for this, but have been holding off reading it until closer to release day.

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton (releases January 7, 2020):  I am reading The Queens of Innis Lear now, sheerly in preparation for this book, which I added entirely for the title without realizing that Hotspur is a character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.  Fiery lady knight falls in love with a female military commander known as the Wolf of Aremoria?  I need this in my hands like, yesterday.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (releases September 10, 2019):  From GoodReads: “Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.”  To that I say, sold!  I’m already in love with the personality of Gideon from that one line alone.  Necromancy is usually not my thing, but if a character is well written I’ll read just about anything.  It’s already getting rave reviews and thank goodness I don’t have to wait until 2020 for this one!

That’s it!  I’ve already seen a few Pride Month TBRs floating around in the blogosphere, but please let me know if you have any additional recs- I’d love to hear them!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This top ten Tuesday is about my most anticipated upcoming releases.  I don’t know if I’ll make it to 10 for only the first half of 2019, but I’ll put up as many as I can.

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10. The Lost Puzzler by Eyal Kless; release date: January 8, 2019 – As of right now I’m a little on the fence about this one.  There aren’t many reviews out for it yet, and it’s being published by HarperVoyager.  Why it isn’t more highly publicized is kind of a red flag to me.  But it seems like a nice blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and I love puzzles.  So I’ll keep an eye on it for a bit.  (Also- that cover is gorgeous!)  Blurb can be found here.

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9. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse; release date: April 23, 2019 – This is a sequel to last year’s Trail of Lightning (review here).  I felt pretty lukewarm about Trail of Lightning.  It had a lot of issues.  The romance in particular was not good.  (And just so we are clear, I actually like the romance genre even though I don’t read it often.  I only ask that it be done well.)

But what I loved was the Native American cultural elements Roanhorse worked into her story.  The sad truth is, there aren’t enough Native American voices in fantasy or science fiction today and those aspects of the book were so good, I think I am willing to give Storm of Locusts a shot.

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8. The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling; release date: April 2, 2019 – Soo.. Everyone who knows me knows I love to gush about Jurassic Park, Godzilla, The Meg, Anaconda… for better or worse, I love me a good a monster movie.  I don’t care how bad or corny the actors are.  I don’t care if it stars Jason Statham or a couple of Baywatch extras… I really don’t.  Give me lots of teeth and some blood and gore and I’m there.  I don’t even know if there are monsters in this book, but the cover looks sinister enough that I’m willing to give it a go.

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7. Golden State by Ben H. Winters; release date: January 22, 2019 – Mr. Winters has a pretty dedicated and loyal fan base out there.  I’ve only read his The Last Policeman (review here) but I fully intend to finish the series.  Fellow SFF lovers always seem to speak very highly of it.  I think what’s put me off for so long is that I already know how it ends (right?!).  So when I saw this new release from Winters, I was pretty stoked.  I do like his writing and it featured this tagline: A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.  I was sold at Minority Report.  I feel like The Minority Report was the sequel to 1984 I never knew I needed.  So if what I get here is an modern, more high tech Minority Report, I’ll be a very happy girl.

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6. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine; release date: March 26, 2019 – I actually won this one in a GoodReads Giveaway but I haven’t received it yet.  Condensed blurb from GoodReads:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor…has died…Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court….Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.

A political science fiction murder mystery?  Sign me up!  I discovered over the past couple years that political science fiction really is one of my favorite sub-genres.  The one thing that makes me nervous about this book and blurb, is the crazy names!  Authors why do you do this to your readers?  Please don’t take away from the awesomeness of your book by baffling me with your names.  Is it ma-hit? Ma-heet? Z-Mare?  Z-Mar-EE? Is the goddamn Z silent?  Cut me a break here!  I really hope there is a pronunciation guide because I will not be pleased if I have to pause and try to sound out this name every time I read it.

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5.  Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear; release date: March 2019 – Elizabeth Bear is a surprisingly prolific author, and she has a ton of novels on my TBR because everything she writes sounds crazy inventive and original to me.  To date I’ve only read her Carnival, but I thought overall it was pretty fantastic (review here).  Here is the blurb:

Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.  She thinks she knows who she is.  She is wrong.

A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates…and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information…Authorities prove corrupt…To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever.

Ancient alien technologies, space pirates, corrupt authorities, and deep, dark personal secrets?  Yes Please!  The best part is, I already have an ARC.  I’m trying to hold off on reading it so that my review coincides with the release date, but it will be a tough wait.

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4.  The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie; release date: February 26, 2019 – For the most part I really enjoy Ann Leckie.  Ancillary Sword was a little disappointing to me, so I haven’t actually gotten to Ancillary Mercy yet, but I enjoyed both Ancillary Justice and Provenance, so I’m excited to see what she can do in the realm of fantasy.  The blurb is pretty long, and Leckie is pretty well known, so I’ll just link to the blurb here if you haven’t heard of this one yet.

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3.  The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky; release date: January 29, 2019 – I am SO SO SO excited for this one.  First of all- if you’ve been following along you’ll likely have noticed that I’ve worked a mention of vikings into every post possible.  I love everything about viking history and norse mythology.  I honestly can’t get enough of it.  So when I read this tagline: The heroic journey of an Inuit shaman and a Viking warrior in an epic tale of survival, love, and clashing gods in the frozen Arctic of 1000 AD.  I honestly might have squealed out loud.  This might even be something I pick up on release day. (For full blurb or to preorder- check it out here.)

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2.  Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James; release date: February 5, 2019 – Own voices fantasy!!  I heard about this one from buddies over in the Sci-fi Fantasy book club.  Generally speaking, this club is on point when it comes to new releases and recommendations.  Granted- I don’t think any of them have read it yet, but they’ve never steered me wrong before and I’ve picked up quite a few things I would never have read otherwise based on their picks and recs (Too Like the Lightning comes to mind).  Here is a condensed blurb:

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

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1. Moon Rising by Ian McDonald; release date: March 19, 2019 – This is my number one most anticipated release.  Seriously, if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, New Moon and Wolf Moon, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIVES?

Haha- just kidding (not really though, go get them).  First of all, Ian McDonald writes a really diverse cast.  Race, sexuality, he leaves nothing out.  Secondly, I described the plot of the first book as Capone vs. O’Banion ON THE MOON.  Instead of bootleg alcohol the turf war is over Helium-3.  Most of the characters are wonderfully gray.  The world building is absolutely superb, and the plot is intense.  I wouldn’t even mind a re-read of the first two books prior to release.  Assuming I can find the time.

And there it is!  I think I made it through all 10.  What about you?  What are your most anticipated releases?