Friday, May 4, 2012

DNF: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Did Not Finish Explanation

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Read pages: 250 of 432

I'm SO torn about this book! I am absolutely in love with the premise. Secret societies, letters from the past, conspiracies, clues, a mysterious book, and it's all based on actual REAL life things! It's so, so beyond cool.

I don't like these people

Main character Nora is that New England boarding school type of character (not that New England boarding school students are actually all like that) who embodies that "affected cool" where they're all world-weary and detached. Think Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.

This type of character and I almost never get along, mostly because she strikes me as trying waaay too hard (plus, she'd probably scoff at me if I tried to extend something as puerile as a sleepover party invite).

We just don't mesh well. I mean, I'm all about the pink and the sparkles and the OMGBLSAHIOFH!!!11!!1!Yay! I'm not sophisticated enough to hang in her circles and speak like I'm trying very hard to construct Really Deep Poetry with my every uttered thought.

With the exception of Chris (who bites it in the blurb...but takes about 150 pages in the book), all of the other characters turned me off. Nora's boyfriend straight up creeped me out. He's more controlling than Twilight's Edward and he's scary quick to enrage. He's also a dark-corner-sulker, which I don't find very attractive.

I wasn't buying the characters. They're incredible geniuses with photographic memories, get stellar grades, and of course all of this comes naturally to them. And they look like runway models. Oh, and they're mega rich (except for the MC, who complains about not being rich but basically lives the life of a rich person anyway).

Yeah. Ok. And to make matters worse, despite their incredible mental powers, they make the DUMBEST decisions imaginable (an enigmatic past and stalker tendencies do NOT make a good foundation for trust!). They're all TSTL and between their noxious personalities and astoundingly BAD decision making skills, I was hoping the secret society would hurry up and knock the rest of them off.

Where is the exciting mystery?

But whatever. I would put up with those people if I could get into the plot (which is awesome). But, I was also really not liking the execution.

It's sooo sllooooowww. There's a lot of talking about boring stuff I don't care about. Yeah, your brother died, you're sad. Oh, does this cute guy think you're pretty? Wait, your BFF who is gorgeous and randomly bends her body like a sexy gymnast all the freaking time (who does that??) is sleeping with your secret crush and you feel really conflicted about this? WHO CARES FOCUS ON THE CENTURIES SPANNING MYSTERY!

Ok, ok, these interpersonal things were well done. They're just not for me. I would have cut out the dead brother arc entirely, but then again *I* almost never like dead anyone arcs (unless they're ghosts). I like adventure! Intrigue! I don't like long monologues about the MC's "perfect day" when the sun was shining and she found a pebble that was smooth and poignant and then the whole day was cast in shadow when she realized her best friends were having a very different kind of perfect day without her.

Yawn. For me.

Plus, it takes forever to say really simple things. I know, the writing is all about showing off Nora's smarty pants status, but here's an SAT word I'd like to introduce her to: PITHY. Spit it out already.

Or, if we're going to ramble on about minute details, can the rambles please be about the super interesting mystery and stack of old letters?? THAT I would love to dissect with nerdy obsessiveness. My favorite parts were when we got to read the old letters Nora was translating.

Sadly, the mystery parts are glossed over and doled out in a choppy manner with little bits given out here and there amid a whole bunch of irrelevancies and Nora's boring thoughts and feelings. Big puzzles were presented, but they were all quickly resolved in absurdly unbelievable ways.

Bottom line

There was so much potential, but the overall package just does not work with me. I do want to find out what happens though, so, I don't know, I may pick it up again at some point in the future, especially since then I'll be able to read it as a real book and not have to deal with reading on my computer (which is a sucky way to read a book and always lowers my tolerance).

Have you read The Book of Blood and Shadow?
I hope you liked it more than I did!

Does the mystery get good enough that I should pick it up again?


  1. I just looked this one up on goodreads and I think they're describing Nora's boyfriend Max as: "Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming" which sounds completely opposite to how you read him. He definitely doesn't sound like my kind of guy at least.

    Due to the mixed things I've heard, this is on my maybe list. I might pick it up if I see it at the library one day but I probably won't request it.

  2. I haven't read this yet and am not sure whethet I'll get a copy sometime soon, considering that I've heard quite a few mixed things about it. Thanks a lot for your honesty!

    Fictional Distraction

  3. Ohh I loved your review!! This is the first one Ive read where the reader didn't like it...Ill be honest this doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I actually like reading a good negative review every now,and then! We can't like them all! Thanks for being honest. I'm not too familiar with this one so I'm not sure ill even try...maybe if I see it at library.

  5. Oh this hurts my heart! I adored this book. But you make very good points about how the character personalities don't mesh with yours. That's an important distinction to make - and it has definitely happened with me (New Girl by Paige Harbison!).

  6. Oh I hate when that happens! I had a similar reaction to American Heiress. It looked so awesome and then when I read it is like drinking flat soda. Thanks for pointing out what didn't work for you. I got this on my tbr and I think I'll put it lower in the pile.

  7. Ew ya not sure this will work for me.
    Thanks for your honesty.

  8. What a bummer! I'm going to give it a try...just for kicks, but I'm thinking I might feel the same way. :( Thanks for your honest review Small!

  9. I'm so sad you didn't like this one. I'm really excited to read it!

  10. I had a feeling this one wouldn't be for you, because even the people who love it describe it as quite slow to get going. I'll be interested in your thoughts if you ever do make it to the end.

  11. I really enjoyed this one, but I can totally understand why it wouldn't be for everyone. I loved how it was all so meticulously researched, the historical elements, the European setting -- it was just really my kind of thing. It is a slow burn of a book though, and I had a tough time connecting with the MC too.

  12. Small-
    Though I may not have put it quite like you did, I couldn't finish this one. I barely got started. I was confused from the beginning and stayed that way until I finally gave up. I think it's just not the right story telling form for me. And I just wasn't that interested. We can't all enjoy the same ones.


  13. I actually really enjoyed this one, but I can completely understand why you didn't get through it. It definitely was very slow going in the beginning, but I found it picked up after awhile, I just had to stick with it. If you try again, I would be interested to see what you think if you're able to finish it.

  14. Secret societies and boarding schools are still enough to make me want to read this one.

    PS - the dead person arc made me laugh, you know why? My writing ALWAYS has a dead person in it. That's just how it's always turned out. *blush*

  15. Ohh, it sounds like the set up didn't deliver at all!!
    I think I would hate the characters too!! :D

  16. Ugh! That kind of bites since I've still to read the book for NG! I value your opinion and if you say it's so than it must be so. I was hoping for a better read, personally.

    The synopsis itself got me. When I got it, there was no cover and frankly, the cover doesn't do much for me, now. But I am bummed by what you've said and a few of your commenters about the book. I'll still give it a try, that's my way but hopefully I can get through it, if not I'll let Netgalley know why :o]

    So, I do get where you're coming from, though. I'm always honest with NG and tell them if I finish this book my kindle will end up in the plaster and I heart my kindle way to much. Something along those lines with a better explanation. I've probably done that 7-9 times since I've been on NG. Reading time is to precious to me.

    You go girl, just because you get it on NG doesn't mean you have to review it :o]

  17. Lol, I read another review for this and they basically had the same problem as you, Small. The premise was interesting but the characters ... not so much. Just from reading your review, I have a feeling that I wouldn't like them either. Perfect, beautiful, rich characters that are TSTL just aren't for me.

  18. It's a shame this one didn't grab you! You're right, it has such a good premise. But I hate those 'Prep'ish kinda characters too.

  19. Sorry to read this wasn't a good fit for you! I heard a lot of people say it was slow, but I sometimes enjoy books like this. It's sitting on my TBR pile, so I guess I'll wait until I'm in the mood for something slower! I wonder how I'll feel about the characters.

  20. Really interesting review, sounds like this is a book I would really enjoy.

    grace of Skagway


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