Sunday, April 27, 2014

DNF Explanation: A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey

DNF Explanation

Read: 177 of 496
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Released: January 7, 2014

First impressions

 My immediate impressions were that I loved it. It had that bright, fun feeling of Bewitching Season and I LOVE those kinds of light historicals (even while I'm always slightly disappointed that they're usually not all that deeply historical). But still, they usually have adorably intrepid main characters, sweet and ever so slightly sizzling romances and a bouncing mystery to keep the plot rollicking.

And then. At first I wasn't exactly sure what the problem was, but even early on I was feeling like this was going to be no more than a 3.5 star read. One of those "nice" but largely forgettable books.

Who are these people?!

Here's my problem, which I think is exacerbated even more by the ever-shifting POVs and absolutely gigantic cast of characters: I didn't connect with any of the characters and I had an extremely hard time distinguishing any of them.

Whenever someone spoke I had to keep mentally reminding myself, "Oh, she's the one with the bottle" or "she's the one with the ring" or so on. And I was only ever mildly certain that I was even matching them properly.

By the 130 page mark, I still hadn't entirely figured out who was who (nor cared much to try), which is a ridiculous amount of page time to still be wondering, "Wait, who is speaking?" They're very much "types" but even with that authorial crutch, they're very ill-defined. Even worse, there are are few types used twice (Cormac's three sisters are nearly identical to the three main girls).

Still, I liked all of them, I think, because I like the overall "type" of character they are. Put a character in period-dresses, make them speak in that girlishly proper way, and then add a dash of "game for escapades" and I'm usually good to go.

Take thee to an editor!

I feel like a whole lot of stuff got left on the cutting room floor. This whole book feels like it's suffering from something that seems to be happening to a lot of YA books lately: It feels thrown together. A rush job. A SLOPPY rush job.

I'm all for jumping right into the action. That's great and I don't think that's necessarily the problem. I think it's more that no time has been spent on actually developing things properly. The rules, the characters, the basic framework of the plot. It's all just thrown together with a haphazard "oh they'll figure it out" feel.

Let's take the page count, for example. 496? Ok, that means either a TON of things are happening, or there's a lot of filler (and in A Breath of Frost's case, it's a mix of filler and extensive, yet vague and haphazard, set up). Either way, the book shouldn't be suffering from fuzzy characterizations and an overall feeling of "I'm missing something."

There is a serious amount of editing and re-writing that needs to go on to tighten up this narrative and better ground the world, plot, and characters. I know I read an ARC, but it felt extremely unpolished and I have little faith that the finished version will miraculously fix these things.

It's historically WRONG

Look, I'm not expecting exacting period detail here (and I've made peace with that), but some ground rules still must be followed if I'm going to have any kind of historical immersion.

For example, a minor slip of anachronistic fashion is fine, but the girls couldn't go walking around in pants without reprisal. Likewise, I'm all for Emma breaking some social norms of propriety and cornering Cormac in an unchaperoned corner of the ballroom to demand some answers (as she well should!), but she doesn't do that.

What she did instead (and the character reactions surrounding it) was SO historically unbelievable I nearly gagged. Not only that, but in not paying attention to the particulars of her historical setting, the author inadvertently damned her character to TSTL status and at that point I was really starting to lose interest.

But the magic IS fun

I like the idea of animal familiars, and they did seem to have interesting potential. But, potential. Because, like everything else, I didn't fully understand this magic system. I'm sure it's explained more later on, but I feel like I should have a better grounding than I had after reading over 177 pages.

He did WHAT?!

The love interest engaged in some actions that landed him on my Unforgivable list, which is a terrible place for a romantic hero to be. How am I supposed to swoon at a man who does that?

I thought maybe, just maybe there was the tiniest chance he could be redeemed, but then read a spoiler for something he (and the heroine, gah!) does toward the end of the book and, nope, he's firmly persona non grata. That was the last straw for me and I DNF-ed then and there.

Bottom line

There was a lot of potential, and I really, really wish it had been realized. Just a little more editing to pull things together, even out the narrative, flesh out the characters (and remove the awful things they do) and I could have loved this book!

Sadly, DNF.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

DNF Explanation: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Read 188 out of 354
Received: ARC via NetGalley

This is a review for the final book in a series. DO NOT read this review if you haven't read the series

Haven't read the series yet? 
Check out my review for the first book Touch of Frost

What is it with me and series enders this year?

Mythos Academy is yet another series I've been following for years, another series I've enjoyed overall, and, devastatingly, another series I'm DNF-ing on the final installment.

Full disclosure? I knew the Mythos Academy series wasn't the strongest out there. The plots have always been on the weaker side (and steadily getting weaker), narrator Gwen tends to get really (really, really) repetitive, and ever since book three, Mythos Academy has had a serious case of series stretching.

But that's ok. Why? Because I'm a character girl.

Gwen was dorky and shy, Daphne was brash and totally unexpected, Vic is a bloodthirsty talking sword! Plus, all the other characters, creatures, and mythological little details MORE than made up for the series' weaknesses.

Except, bit by bit, book by book, the things I loved about the series were slowly whittled away. Daphne had less page time, Carson practically disappeared. Instead, I got to spend time with new characters, and I don't like them (I loathe Gwen's cousin. She is the Mallory of this Babysitters' Club. The flat-footed Skipper to Daphne's pink sparkly Barbie).

Worst of all is Gwen. I LOVED Gwen. BFF charms, sleepover party invites, a permanent seat at my lunch table. I was that serious. 

But no more. Gwen went from an awkward wallflower who I could totally bond with to The Chosen One, complete with sulky "no one gets it like I do!" specialness and Mary Sue Amazingness.

Which would be fine, I guess, if Gwen were actually smarter than everyone. But she's not. She spent almost all of the 188 pages I read lone-wolfing it on the dumbest kick EVER (honey, there were, like, FIFTY other options to your problem! ALL of them better than your half-baked plan!) all while grumbling about how everyone else was wrong *foot stomp*

I just cannot abide that sort of thing.

Bottom line

It was nice while it lasted and I'm happy for the time I did spend with these people in this world. I think I'll just mentally pretend books 5-6 never happened. 

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