The DNFs for 2019: On to 2020 books!

I am finally done reviewing books read in 2019. Not to worry, though! I have read 15 books so far this year and am reading two others. It’s been a little harder to listen to audiobooks due to COVID-19, since now we’re all in closer quarters, and I don’t want to bug my family. I still listen when I’m in the car, when I’m in a room by myself doing dishes or folding laundry, or when I’m out in my garden pulling weeds.

I have said before that I generally don’t review books that I don’t finish, since I don’t feel like I’ve given them a fair shake. But sometimes I have so many thoughts about a book, or I think it’s good but not for me, that I have to share them anyway.

Two books that fit in this category are Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief and The Light between Worlds.

The Lightning Thief cover (link to Goodreads)

First, Percy Jackson. It’s so popular that I felt obligated to give it a try, at least so I could know what it was all about. From the beginning I knew exactly what it was that kids liked about it. Percy’s voice is snarky, funny, perfectly middle grade. The plot clipped along, and Percy was always an active player in it. So far so good.

But there were things about it that MAJORLY annoyed me, to the point where even though I was mostly enjoying the book, I had to put it down. One was the premise that Olympus moves to where the center of human advancement is. This really rubbed me the wrong way, to say that Greece was the pinnacle of humanity at the time, when China, Egypt, and the Mayans gave the Greeks a run for their money in 800-700 BC.

I was also annoyed with the fact that Percy was dealt a HUGE blow early in the book and then got swept up in mysteries and adventures and barely processed it for more than a few pages. That rang false to me.

And when all the adults in Percy’s life basically told him, “Yeah, we have big secrets, but we’re not going to tell you for reasons,” I got bored.

Abandoned a little over a quarter of the way in.

The Light Between Worlds cover (link to Goodreads)

The Light Between Worlds is an entirely different story. The premise is that two sisters have come back from a world like Narnia and are adapting to normal life, each in her own way. One sister is really, really struggling. Nothing seems to matter. She can’t connect with people who don’t know what she’s been through, and she lives in memory most of the time. The other sister is doing better but almost going too far the other direction, with university, makeup, young men, etc.

Honestly, it was beautifully written. But I read it in the fall, and I tend to struggle with seasonal blues in the fall, and it was just so, so depressing. I think that’s what Laura Weymouth was going for (an honest look at depression). But I couldn’t do it at that time. Abandoned at about the 2/3 mark.

The DNFs

There was a time in my life when I felt compelled to finish every book I started. Even if I didn’t really care about, it felt wrong to never find out what happened. But now, I have a to-read list a mile long, and I just don’t time to read book that aren’t great.

Which is why even a 2 star rating is “it was okay” for me. 1 stars are extremely rare–they’re books I kept thinking I would like all the way up until the end but that ultimately left me EXTREMELY unsatisfied.

The ones I really don’t like I don’t finish. I don’t feel like I can truly review a book I didn’t read all the way through. Still, in case it is helpful to anyone, I will share one post with a tiny bit about these “DNFs.”

Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron. Usually if I start reading a book and don’t like it, I give up pretty quickly. This one I read more than half of, hoping it would eventually transition from cliche to intriguing and new. It hadn’t by the point I gave up. I read some reviews at that point that indicated it probably wasn’t going to. Skip this one unless you want something that feels safe and comforting.

The Runaway King, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I was willing to give the sequel a chance, since I did really like the main character, and I couldn’t put the first book down. Surely she wouldn’t pull the same stunt twice. But this one had more of what I didn’t like in the first book and less of what I loved, so I abandoned it. Especially because I was dying to read Winter.

Hunted by Megan Spooner. This was beautifully written, and I liked the main character from the beginning. The setting felt very present, and while I’m kind of tired of fairy tale retellings (I read a TON of these a while back), this felt fresh. But by the time the MC ended up in the Beast’s castle . . . I started having reservations. Those reservations became bigger when I saw that she was becoming drawn to him even as I became more convinced he was NOT a good person. Nervous, I checked out reviews, and they confirmed my worst fears. I decided I’d spare myself the discomfort of watching these two “fall in love.”

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. A few years ago, I decided to become well read in the middle-grade and young-adult age categories. If I wanted to publish mg and ya books, I needed to know what was out there, both to help me improve my craft and make sure my books were current and to help me find comp titles. Recently, I was feeling as if I had a huge Percy Jackson shaped hole in my knowledge of adolescent lit, since most kids have at least some exposure to it. I got about 25% of the way through, I think. The voice was snappy, so I could see what kids liked about it. But I had some issues (issues kids won’t likely have, admittedly), including Percy’s relative non-reaction to a huge, life-changing event and the repetitive avoidance of giving him any answers by every adult in his life. Plus, I felt like the premise was kinda Euro-centric, and it made me uncomfortable. I decided to move on.