Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DNF: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

 Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Pages read: 143 of 320

I started out strong with Darker Still, but then I lost steam. The pacing slowed to a crawl, and you know I have no tolerance for that. After taking a break for a few days I realized that I didn't want to pick it up again. 

It was pretty much love at first sight for me when it came to Natalie. She has a great narrative voice, which comes through strongly in her diary entries (the whole book is told through Natalie's diary entries because Natalie is mute). She was snarky and had a lot of sass while still being super relatable. 

I felt like I really got to know Natalie through her diary entries. I would love to invite her to my lunch table. But, as much as the narrative style worked well with this, I think it was a major factor in why I lost interest in the story. 

Every event was told after the fact, and so I really didn't feel that burning desire to find out what would happen next. It was all very "meh, who cares?" for me.

The other reason was Denbury, the romantic lead. I know! I just...wasn't feeling him or their romance. It was insta-love and the whole thing bored me. I don't know anything about HIM outside of the fact that he's good looking and nice. Nice. How awful when that's the best word I can muster up.

The mystery started out interesting, but that didn't last long. I think it was a combination of too little information and too easy mystery. 

There was too little information in that the framework of the world and magical elements seemed thin to me. I didn't feel like I was absorbed in the world or grounded in the magical rules. I knew so little that I couldn't even try to work through the problem on my own and that made me feel like a spectator instead of an involved reader.

The problem also seemed overly simple. I didn't get a sense of peril and I never worried that the bad guy would win in the end. The villain didn't interest me. The mystery didn't have any hurdles or complications. Instead, clues were easily found and quickly understood by Natalie and Co. This killed my interest.  

When I think of this book I think a combination of "meh" and "nice" but obviously neither of those get my heart pounding. I don't feel much need to find out what happens next, so I guess I won't.

Have you read Darker Still? What were your thoughts? I hope you liked it more than I did!


  1. I'm so sad :( I actually bought this book because I loved the cover so much. I hope it works better for me-I do have a very high tolerance for epistolary style novels and I happen to like nice men (did I just quote Princess Leia?) But seriously, in books, I do like the nice guy even if he's a bit bland. The scoundrel needs to be on screen for me to swoon. OK-now I just want to watch Star Wars, which has nothing to do with this but whatever.

  2. I think thats why I never read books that are in diary format. They just seem to lack the heart pounding/page turning suspense that you get when your actually there with the characters, you know? I don't mind the "nice" men characters but the scoundrels are what I really love (Bookworm1858: now I want to see Star Wars.lol)
    Nice review! To bad the book didn't work for you though.

  3. Aw, that's too bad. I'm really curious about this book, but almost everyone I know has had a middling reaction to it. Appreciate the honest review.

  4. Books in diary form should come in warning labels, in my own very sad opinion. I had heard some very good things about this book and so when I saw that you DNF-ed it I had to know why.

    I can't get into diary entry only books. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I'm in a position where I agree with everything you say, but I really liked this book!

    I'll explain why: Like you, I loved Natalie as a character and while I know exactly what you're talking about when you criticise the central plot and the diary format, I liked that the book was a bit...silly, for lack of a better word. I felt like it was mimicking classic Gothic novels with its tongue firmly in its cheek and I found it fun to read precisely because it was simple and not overly serious.

  6. Sorry this one wasn't for you, but I really liked it. I liked the slow pace and kind of stilted language. Here's a quote from my review:

    "The story kept my interest, and the plot moved along steadily. There is a wonderful puzzle to solve and I thought the way the two women worked it out was clever. They had to work for the solution—it didn’t just happen. I really didn’t feel a heart-pounding terror during the climax, but I did enjoy the resolution of the story."

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. It's always interesting to see different views of the same story!

  7. I liked this one but yeah, the slow pace made me really sleepy. I loved Natalie and the setting though.

  8. Too bad it didn't work for you. I love your DNF reviews. You do a great job explaining. It goes to show that great characters aren't necessarily enough to make up for a weak plot - or a slow plot.

  9. You know, you're the second person to mention that the diary entries didn't work out so well. Not because of Natalie's narrative but because everything was re-told after the fact so there was sense of peril.

    I think this book keeps getting bumped down my list of books to read.


    Thanks for the honest DNF!

  10. I'm sorry to hear this didn't work out for you. After reading your review, I can understand why it was difficult. I haven't been able to read a book that is all diary entries, I find myself having trouble with those ones. Great review!

  11. You bring up some fair points.
    I actually enjoyed this one a lot!

    I do love a book written in diary format - my only quibble with that in this novel was that some of her explanations of where she got the diary from, and why she hadn't had time to update in a while were bordering on tedious (even if that IS what someone might really write in their own diary) and the fact that she gives the diary (including the racy bits!) to her father at the end, and it's read by the police constable. What?? No way.

    Whoops, I probably spoiled that for you, although since you're DNF'ing it, perhaps that won't matter.

    Other than THAT, I really really enjoyed it. I liked the Gothic feel and the slow and mysterious pace.

  12. I haven't read this one, but I really want to. Even though you weren't really a fan, I've heard good things. Although, I'm kind of deterred by the insta-love. It'll help going in knowing that, though. (I'm still a fan of your DNF reviews!!!)

  13. *sobs* Here's hoping this one is better for me, especially since I just bought it.

  14. well. :( That seriously stinks. I was looking forward to this one, though that was mainly because the cover was so pretty.

  15. *cries* I was seriously hoping that this was going to be so good despite the 3 starish reviews. I thought, if anyone would like this book it would be Small and then I'll know for sure... But, alas, you did not like it! I hate instaluvy stuff in books, so that's a major turn off. And I WANT HEARTPOUNDING excitement and romance! This sucks! :(

    - Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)

  16. Bookworm 1858, I love the cover too. I can see you liking this one. We tend to like different men and I think Denbury is probably more to your taste than mine. Although apparently we are in total lockstep when it comes to Star Wars :D Now I want to watch those movies all over again!

    Sarah, I don’t mind diary format books on the whole, but I do have a problem with enough of them that I am wary. You’re exactly right—they often lack that page turning suspense I love so much. I know just what you mean :)

    Wendy, Of course I can’t remember them now to give you links, but I do remember reading a bunch of glowing reviews, so please don’t be deterred!

    Rapunzel, haha, I love your idea of warning labels! I would like all kinds of warning labels, like, hm, ooh one for insta-love and one for love triangles.

    TG, I’m so glad you liked it more than I did! I really wanted to love it. I like your reasons very much. If I ever pick the book up again I am definitely going to keep your approach in mind. Thank you!

    Annette, Yay! I’m glad you liked it more than I did! I agree, I love reading different views. Thank you for sharing yours. :)

    A Canadian Girl, Wasn’t Natalie great? She had zest.

    Alison, Thank you! Yup, this is a perfect example of what you’re saying. I loved Natalie, but she just wasn’t enough to make up for the rest for me.

    Alex, Aw, I’m sorry to bump it down for you. A lot of people did enjoy it more than me, but the lack of peril does seem to be a common observation on both sides.

    Andrea, I’m about 50/50 on diary entry books. I think it really depends on the type of story being told. This one was a story with a lot of suspense, but all of that was killed with the diary format.

    Madigan, I’m glad you liked Darker Still! Oh wow, that is a little far fetched! I’m feeling mortified on her behalf just thinking about her father reading the racier parts. Don’t worry about spoiling it for me. I don’t think it’s likely I’ll pick it up again anytime soon, and if I do, I’ll probably forget what you said by then anyway :P

    Jen, I’ve heard a lot of good things, so definitely give it a shot if it sounds good to you! The insta-love bothered me, but I think looking at it through a Gothic lens is a good way to approach it.

    Logan, Aw, you might still like it! A lot of people did (just look at the comments here!)

    So Says the Whale, The cover really is very pretty. I love the image of her stepping into the painting (and in that gorgeous dress!). I think you should still give it a shot. Lots of people liked it a lot.

    Asher, You might still like it! But, erm, given your tastes, I don't know how much you'd be feeling this one. :(

  17. AHA! I knew there had to be somebody out there who hated this book, too! Yeah, I read it over the weekend and thought it was god-awful. One star review, sadly enough.

    The insta-love, diary format, and degrading/sexist representation of romance was too much for me. I barely managed to finish it.

    Loved your review!

    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

    1. haha we're not alone! A lot of people loved it, but a bunch didn't. You did finish it? That's more than I could do. The insta-love really killed my interest.

  18. So sorry you didn't like this one. I haven't read it. Don't even know if I have it. That was last year. Can say though, I'm not looking forward to it now! LOL Maybe I should have read a little more about it before I ordered it!


    1. I know that feeling! I have books stashed in so many places I can't even keep track of what I have and what I don't have. :P I hope you like Darker Still, especially if it turns out that you do have it!

  19. I had high hopes for this one as well, and for me, it did fall a little short. I managed to plow through the end but nothing really stood out to me. You're definitely right about Denbury though. :/ I didn't find him all that appealing, and his "relationship" with Natalie felt quite forced.

    I actually never quite thought of the epistolary style as the culprit for the lack of tension and suspense, but now that you mention it, I think it contributed to why I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped.

    1. You had the dress that looks exactly like the one on the cover, right? Lucky you. :) I agree, their relationship felt very forced. That's the perfect word. Sorry you didn't like this one much either. :(


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