DNF or Did Not Finish books are rather high on my list this week. Nowadays, since I’m mostly using my Kindle, I do get a lot of samples from books I am considering. This week I decided to start weeding through the pile as I need some juicy reads to keep my mind off the virus.

My DNF pile often grows because I get into a book and within a few chapters something has repelled me so greatly that I cannot continue without suppressing bile in my throat. What turns me off, might turn you on – but here’s the list and why.

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

It certainly has won a lot of praise but by the end of chapter one I could see the author loved to go on and on and on with redundant descriptions of both the scenery and characters. Information was re-written into a new sentence and fed to the reader again as baby pap.

Frankly, it was tedious and boring.

I perserved for a few more chapters only to find, once again, the book was drifting into trope territory with the bookish heroine who is drab, being sold off in marriage to a mysterious person for mysterious reasons.

I guess that was suppose to intrigue me? Instead, all I could think of was legalized rape and in this world nowadays I don’t find that interesting to read. The fact that this is YA means it perpetuates the idea that girls can be sold off to submit physically and emotionally because they are powerless.

It really sends a very unsettling sub-text of girls: 1.) she is helpless, 2.) she has zero self-action; and 3.) she will need to be saved. I’m sure though, as the first book in a series, we are supposed to see a redemption path where our little Mary Sue realizes her power (eventually). If I had to guess, probably with a love interest to help save her/make her realize her value etc..

Yes, but it’s a fantasy, Byrd, and just a book.

Books influence readers, never forget that. I don’t. Your fantasy rape story with the suffering girl and an asshole man becoming the romantic hero is just not my thing. Neither is reading long passages of a writer navel gazing about their words.

I didn’t find this book appealing and looking over the reviews, it seems there is going to be a lot of trigger stuff (no surprise there). I’m suppose to be happy reading a THICK book #1 in a series with a pathetic heroine as she will grow through the books (eventually, maybe). Meanwhile, though just enjoy reading lots of boring chapters where nothing happens. No thanks.

If you want to read about a bookish heroine, check out the much more superior story in The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

I didn’t know about the controversy regarding this book (search the book title + racism for the brohaha), but I did see immediately that the story was trite and hackneyed. You can’t get over the fact that the book is poorly written and filled with tropes. But that’s what passes for quality with the folks at Kirkus Reviews nowadays.

The heroine is an unlikable and stupid Mary Sue character. I was supposed to care about her journey – I didn’t.

From reading the reviews, I think this is a story that was too big for the writer to handle. She wanted to show how racism (by using non-human races) was prevalent in a society and how individuals get roped into thinking this way. Instead, well, it comes across as a big steaming pile of racism and appropriation of other cultures.

One thing other reviews didn’t touch upon was it also appropriated the Gardnerian Wicca group and made them racist and Nazi AF! Truthfully, coming into it blind, when I saw the appropriation of the Gardnerian religion I was like Red Flag.

Reading further, I thought, “Oh, this is someone who considers themselves ‘woke’ writing a pretentious ‘woke’ book.” Wouldn’t it have been interesting if these fawning reviews about this book was written by People of Color instead of big wheels like Kirkus (who I doubt has a POC in their review office)?

BTW this book is published by Harlequin Teen. Let me tell you something about this publishing house. Their romance books have advocated rape as the path of true love between hero and heroine for over 80 years. Their books are usually poorly written and filled with tropey trash. This is the second Red Flag.

Don’t worry – you are not missing anything profound or deep by taking a hard pass on this book.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

I must have a pile of rape books in my TBR or something, for once again, we deep dive into the idea that continuous and unrelenting violence is somehow appealing for a reader to spend hours of their time digesting.

Maybe I could have waded through all the killing of animals, men, and women if the story had some historical relevance? Read the Amazon 1 star reviews by Steph, and J. Renaud for more detail on the inaccuracies of the Jewish religion and the history of Rome.

Instead, like many romance writers, Quinn throws the facts out of the window, and writes a series of tropes that pose as a book. Big Bad Thug Killer type (who regrets killing, but since he goes into uncontrollable rages can’t be held accountable) and the Prostitute Slave with a Tragic Past (who while she continues to remind us she is a Jew, doesn’t act Jewish in any form whatsoever) come together to screw on the streets of fantasy Rome.

Riding on the recommendation by Diane Gabaldon (who of course is immensely popular right now) this book is finding an audience. Should it be you?

Well, if you like your stories about Rome being completely inaccurate, enjoy reading about harmful behaviors like cutting, want to read a good amount of Anti-Semitic writing disguised as ‘wokeness’, and simply don’t give a rat’s ass what your eyes digest, go for it.

Havenfall by Sara Holland

Oh yes, I certainly need another book about a Mary Sue. My library wouldn’t be complete without about 100 of these cookie-cutter stories about a young vulnerable girl who is running away and comes into her power to save the world.

I’m on the fence with this one. I could see it has an audience for those teen readers who want some pseudo-wokeness with a gay female side character who will be the second lead love and shows prejudices against alien races.

The cover is beautiful, and the worldbuilding is interesting. As part of a series, it does sound like more is given in the next few books and the first one is just a long run-on sentence to get you hooked.

But the writing really threw me off and the story was unappealing. I just couldn’t get into another teen girl who knows what is right, and will be given the chance to be the heroine because all the older, more experienced, people are not as smart/gifted/talented as she miraculously is.

Sorry, got enough Mary Sue – I’m sixteen/seventeen, I’m an outsider, but only I can save the world through my mysterious power I don’t know I have/can’t control just yet, but give me a chance because I’m your only hope, books.

Not for me.

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