Thursday, February 22, 2018

Two DNFs, why I stopped reading them, and whether or not I'll give them a second chance

I haven't done a DNF post in quite a while and my friend Sandie just reminded me that I need to get back to one of these books, soon. The other is a recent DNF. Seems like a good time to talk about a couple unfinished books and why I set them aside.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker is an unusual DNF in that I was enjoying it immensely when I stopped reading. It's a Viking saga, something I've never read before, and I was absolutely captivated by the story, amazed at the depth of characterization, impressed by what was, I thought, well-researched and unusually convincing writing.

So, why did I set it aside? Time and place. I started reading the book while I was on vacation in Hawaii and I was honestly so distracted by the palm trees, the ocean waves, and the constant packing (we moved quite a bit from one hotel to another on two separate islands) that I was reading in bits and snatches. As wonderful as The Half-Drowned King is, I needed some lighter reading and switched to reading a middle grade book. At home, I was just worn out and decided I'd come back to the story later, when I could give it more attention.

I will definitely return to The Half-Drowned King and hope that will happen soon - probably when I've finished Don Quixote, since The Half-Drowned King requires a bit more concentration than I can probably give it while balancing 4 books. In spite of only having made it 92 pages into the ARC, I can already tell you I highly recommend The Half-Drowned King and look forward to finishing it as soon as I can.

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente is a book that has an unfortunate relevance at this moment because it's about the aftermath of a school shooting. I'd read 70 pages when we left for Oklahoma, on Friday, and I opted to leave it at home because I was pretty sure I was going to abandon it but I wanted to let it rest for a few days.

I came home to a reply on Goodreads. I'd asked a reviewer whose thoughts seemed to mirror my own something to the effect of, "Do you regret finishing the book or are you glad you read it in spite of not feeling like you connected with the characters?" He replied that he didn't think it was worth finishing because it was so depressing.

So, what's the problem I had with Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down? Distance from the characters. I wanted to step into the shoes of a person experiencing a school shooting, feel the terror with that person and the grief afterwards. Instead, the author chose to write about a circle of friends using "we" as the subject, part of the time, and then diving into a particular character for certain scenes. I think that was a mistake. While I was getting to know each of the 4 characters' lives slowly, by page 70 I was frustrated about how difficult it was to connect to them. I also thought there was a bit too much focus on what they intended to write about the victims in their yearbook. The 4 friends all were yearbook staff. I was on my yearbook staff and we had some shocking losses during my sophomore year. It wasn't all that difficult -- at least, not enough to make a focal point.

There are also some arsons in the book and only one of the arsons had taken place when I gave up. Will I return to this book? I don't think so. That inability to feel like I really knew and cared for the characters and had a strong sense of what they were feeling just ruined it for me. But, boy is it a book for our time.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. The Half Drowned King sounds good but I’d have to be in the mood. The other one sounds far too depressing and if you can’t connect to a character I wouldn’t be interested.

    1. Mood is a factor in all my reading. I wasn't in the wrong mood for The Half-Drowned King, but I was definitely distracted. The middle grade book that I read kept my attention but I think it was the only thing I managed to finish, that week. I'm sure with a little more time to focus on it, I'll love The Half-Drowned King. There's much to love about it.

      As to the other book . . . the lack of connection really was what killed it for me, although I also found the writing style a little odd. I'm not sure how to even describe it. It was not a particularly smooth read.


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!