Tuesday Reviews Day: The Dreaded DNF List

It’s easy to read all my TRD posts and think that I hardly ever read a book I don’t like. And really, that’s usually true. I don’t run across many books I don’t like, partly because I just enjoy reading so much, but partly because I tend not to branch out as much as I should. If I find something I like, I seek out other books like it and read as many of those as I can. Of course, it’s easy to never be disappointed when you’re not really leaving your comfort zone all that often.

That’s why this week, I wanted to do something a little different for Tuesday Reviews Day. This week: my recent DNFs, or, all the books I tried so hard to read but just simply could not finish.

Listen. I know, as a voracious reader myself, refusing to finish a book can sometimes feel like a failure, or an admission of personal weakness, or even laziness. But life is too short for reading books you just don’t like (unless they’re for homework. Stay in school). There are far too many good and even great books in the world to waste time on a book that feels like work. So without further ado, here is my recent DNF List.

  1. The Bollywood Bride, by Sonali Dev.
    The back cover of this book tells us about Ria Parkar, a high-profile Bollywood actress who does something impulsive that “threatens to expose her destructive past.” To get away from the paparazzi, she goes home to Chicago to attend a cousin’s wedding. But at home, she’s confronted by Vikram, who I guess is supposed to be a former lover? I don’t actually know, because I stopped reading.
    Ria was nearly insufferable, and not because she’s a woman. She displays every characteristic I tend to hate in main characters of any gender: arrogance, immaturity, and this weird attitude of resentment for their own self-imposed importance or popularity. On top of that, we learn early on that Ria’s industry nickname is the “Ice Princess,” and the way the back cover explains this (“beautiful, poised, and scandal-proof”) doesn’t exactly bear out in the novel. Apparently, she’s called this because she doesn’t get emotionally attached to or involved with her less-famous male co-stars. Ice Princess apparently is code for “frigid bitch,” as one character says when he forgets not to say the quiet part loud. Cool, internalized misogyny! Just what I wanted in a romance novel.
    I also found myself more than a little irritated by the random italicization of non-English words and phrases. In one page, in a single sentence the phrases “feng shui” and “vastu shastra” were used back-to-back. Only the latter was in italics. Earlier in the novel, Ria has a conversation with her housekeeper, a conversation we are told the housekeeper is not speaking entirely in English, and nothing is italicized except the English words. There appears to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to this formatting choice, which makes it even more annoying. (For reference, I 100% agree with D. J. Older on the use of italics for non-English words.)
  2. The Truth Beneath the Lies, by Amanda Searcy.
    This book follows two different girls of similar ages, both in horrible situations. Kayla lives in government housing with her mom, a former drug addict. She has a crappy job and really just wants to run away. Betsy is starting a new-ish life at a new school, but has a mysterious burner phone under her bed that she has to use to call a mysterious man at a mysterious phone number every day at the same time for some unknown reason. She seems to also have some sort of illness or instability, because she keeps refusing to eat and the one time she does, she gets sick almost immediately.
    I gave up on this book pretty quickly. It’s trying way too hard to be some sort of YA grimdark urban fiction, but it just ended up being a nonsensical mess. The parallel plot lines were too similar and vague to easily tell apart, and the hazy mystery surrounding Betsy and her weird hidden burner phone was set up so lazily it was hard to even care.
  3. A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab.
    Ohhh boy. I wanted to like this book so badly. I’ve been so looking forward to reading it, and I finally had book-buying money so I went and purchased a signed (!!) copy from my local Barnes and Noble. And here’s the thing: I don’t hate this book. It’s not nearly as annoying as the previous two. But it has the unrefined, somewhat immature feel of early LiveJournal fanfic. And don’t get me wrong on that point either: I have been a LiveJournal RP writer for going on 16 years, and the self-pub anthology I was published in a few years ago grew from one of my beloved RP communities.
    I suppose my problem with ADSoM is that it’s predictable. The main character is every trope I can remember from my early days of RPing: he’s attractive but not conventionally so, he’s tough but quiet, he’s different and super powerful but not a show-off. I get it. I’ve been there. I wrote a guy like that once, but he quickly got boring, much like this book.
    However, there are other qualities ADSoM has going for it, not least of which is its worldbuilding. I’ll probably come back to this book just for that, but I’ll definitely be doing so with lower expectations.


What books have found their way into your DNF pile lately? Have you read any of these books? Share your thoughts, vent your frustrations! But don’t be a jerk. Comment moderation is still in effect.


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