Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A few DNFs -The Matchmaker of Kenmare, Eyes in the Mirror and The Lantern

I need to tackle my review backlog very soon, but I've got this little pile of Did Not Finish advance readers that I'm tired of tripping over, so . . .

Books I Did Not Finish and Why:

The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney - Released in February of 2011, my copy of The Matchmaker of Kenmare is an ARC that's been haunting me. Haunting, I tell you! I read Delaney's Ireland for HarperCollins' now-defunct First Look program (thumbs up) and The Matchmaker is at least partially set during my favorite time period to read about, WWII, so I wanted to love this book. I deeply desired to fall in love with it. But, after two attempts, I gave up.

Why did I set it aside? The simplest reason: I didn't find it engaging. But, I still keep looking at the book longingly, certain that if I could just get past the first 50 pages I'll love it.

The Matchmaker of Kenmare has received some pretty sparkling reviews and just bizarrely passed a spontaneous flip test, so I will probably give it a third chance. But, I'll do a little skimming within those first 50 pages in the hopes that doing so will get me past what I consider to be a yawn of an opening.

Eyes in the Mirror by Julia Mayer is a YA novel that I got from Sourcebooks for review. I must admit, the combination of cover image and description completely sucked me in. I wanted to read that book! It was one that I dived right into the moment it arrived on my doorstep.

Mini-description: Dee always desired to escape into another world but was stunned when she fell through a mirror, into the parallel life of Samara. Samara was friendless until Dee showed up in her life and agreed to switch places with her. Now, Dee is convinced that Samara's life needs fixing and has set out to change things. But, Samara doesn't like living in Dee's world and just wants her own life back.

Sounds good, yes? Unfortunately, the bit I overlooked in the description was the bio. The moment I began reading, I started to wonder how on earth such a simplistic, poorly written book managed to end up a published work of fiction and I flipped to the author's bio hoping that it would shed some light on that dilemma.

Oh. Okay. Mayer wrote the first version during an 8-week program between her sophomore and junior years of high school. Quite an accomplishment, really. The writing is at least justifiably immature. But, honestly? It's just flat awful. I will not give Eyes in the Mirror a second chance. I set it aside in flabbergasted horror (although not as soon as I read that bio -- I gave it at least another 20-30 pages before giving up). I've read beautiful, mature writing that's been passed over by publishers because the subject matter wasn't considered timely and I truly believe this book was only published because paranormal books are currently "in". There are probably a few people out there who will enjoy Eyes in the Mirror, but I will not be recommending it to anyone.

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson - A gushy, buzzy favorite in many corners and a book whose gorgeous cover you can't help but ogle, The Lantern fell completely flat for this reader. I would blame high expectations if I hadn't received the book early and found it pretentious and irritating before it even managed to work up a buzz.

Actually, I hate it when people use the word "pretentious" to describe someone's writing. I don't know the author. She might be totally down-to-earth, not one whiff of pretense about her. But, even flipping through randomly, just this moment, I found myself cringing. The writing just comes off as overwrought to me.

It's not unusual for me to end up absolutely hating books that get a lot of praise, but darn it! It sounded so good! I just peeked at Paperback Swap, where there are 168 people waiting in line for a copy (4 stars based on 2 ratings) and Amazon (4 stars on average and a broad range of reactions). With that many people waiting, I think I should offer up my ARC on the off chance it will find a happy home.

So, if you are dying to read The Lantern, leave a contact email in the comment section and tell me why you so desperately want to acquire a copy (sorry, US residents only). No need to broadcast this giveaway. I'd rather give it to a regular reader than someone who happened to read a random giveaway tweet. This will be a quick giveaway. I'll draw a name by Friday, December 2 at 10:00 AM, and if nobody signs up I'll just donate it. That gives you about 48 hours to sign up. *Remember to leave a contact email or you're basically screwed*.

Unfortunately, the ARC does not have that dreamy cover, sorry. The cover of this book I purchased last week, however, does:

I know the whole hands-holding-whatever thing has been done to death, but Amaryllis in Blueberry strikes me as the kind of book cover I'd like to stick into a frame and hang on my wall. I just love that stunning electric blue. Unfortunately, the story didn't live up to either the beautiful cover or the appealing description. I got to page 40 before giving up on this one. Too much negativity from the characters turned me off. I mulled giving it a second chance for about 2 nights before deciding, "Nah," and have already swapped it. I've mentioned this one in a past post but I had to share that cover. I adore that cover.

All three four of these "boo, hiss" DNF opinions are just that -- merely my personal opinion. If you're one of the authors and I meet you in a dark alley, someday, I promise not to kick your butt for wasting my time. Wait! I meant . . . remember my opinion is just one drop in an ocean of opinions and there's no need to pick a fight with me. Plus, I probably have at least 50 pounds on all of you and could roll you flat, although I hope to be all muscle and no flab by the time we meet.

The mailman just rang my doorbell!

He delivered some books for Kiddo's birthday (the only thing he asked for -- three books from a series he's currently reading) and Christmas Stories from Mississippi, my face-to-face book club's December selection. The plan is to read "one or two stories per year" because nobody in my F2F group apparently likes to read books that require a lot of thought during the holidays and they always struggle with selections.

It'll be interesting to see if I can actually stop myself at a mere two stories. The very last story is by Willie Morris! I love Willie Morris! Okay, I think we just answered that question.

Next up will be a review of a book. Which book? You've got me. I'm not sure just how I'll approach the reviews, yet -- most recent or first read? Whatever I feel like reviewing? We'll just burn that bridge when we get to it. Or, something like that.

Bookfool in a Goofy Mood

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. You know, when I first finished The Lantern, I thought I enjoyed it. As the days went by, and thinking about it now, I think it's decent. I do see why you felt it could be considered pretentious and cringe-worthy in some sections also. Ah, well. On to the next one!

  2. Natalie,

    Isn't it funny how the way you feel about a book can change after you've finished and the story has had a chance to roll around in your head a bit? I've always found that fascinating -- and it's one of the reasons I got away from using a numerical rating system. I found I kept wanting to adjust my ratings.

    Absolutely. Onward! There are always more books crying, "Read me! Read me!"

  3. I enjoyed this post. I should steal the idea. There's been a few really bad DNFs for me this year. There's so many good books out there that it's just not worth it to insist on finishing one you're hating.

  4. Jenny,

    Steal away! I love reading why other people didn't finish a book. :)

    I sooo wish I'd come to that conclusion earlier in life. Yeah, there's no sense continuing to read a book that you hate. I've shoved my way through far too many books merely because "I paid for it!" I'm over that, now, thank goodness.

  5. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I'm afraid I was in the gushy camp for The Lantern. But I loathed The Poisonwood Bible, a book everyone else seems to love, so I figure that redeems me.


  6. Jill,

    I know you were! I remember reading your review of The Lantern. By then, I'd long since rejected it so I was pleased to see that not all of your commenters were equally gushy.

    Hmm. I probably need a little redemption for not having yet gotten around to The Poisonwood Bible. I've had a copy of it floating around the house since . . . uh . . . well, probably at least for 10 years. I haven't actually read a thing Barbara Kingsolver has written and my daughter-in-law says her books are "my comfort reads". Need to read her if only to understand what it is our newest family member finds comforting, you know?

  7. Sorry The Matchmaker of Kenmare didn't grab you. I really loved it. It does start out a bit slow, but I just love Delaney's storytelling. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  8. Anna,

    The Matchmaker of Kenmare is the only book I can't bear to part with. I'm going to give it a third chance. I know he's a great storyteller -- if I can just get past that beginning. Thanks! We had a terrific Thanksgiving. I hope you did, too!

  9. The Matchmaker was a DNF for me too. And I love Delaney in other things, but not this!

  10. Oh, I am sorry to hear that you didn't like The Lantern! I really liked it and thought it was atmospheric, but I can get why some wouldn't like it. I also have Amaryllis in Blueberry, and have heard so many negative things about it that I am scared to start it! When it initially came out there was a lot of hype for it, and then the tepid reviews started pouring in. I think I bought it right before that time! Great mini-reviews! I enjoyed them!

  11. The Lantern looked and sounded so good, but now I'm glad I didn't request it. I agree about hesitating to call someone's writing pretentious, but sometimes there's just not another word for it, and in that case I think it's more about writing style and less about anything to do with the author's personality.

  12. I think I may have to steal your idea for DNFs too...it doesn't happen often that I don't push through a book...but to be honest...since I started spending so much time on blogging I have to make my reading time really count.

    I'd been eyeing that Delaney book--maybe I should skip it!

    Amaryllis in Blueberry is a lovely cover...and that hands thing...well if done well there no overdoing it!

    I've been dying to read The Lantern for ever now (I even recommended it for my book club--now I'm a bit worried)...just haven't picked up a copy yet though it's been sitting on my wishlist. I was thinking of using some Christmas money to pick it up after the holidays. I even featured it as a wishlist pick on my blog last Wed.!

    I'd love to throw my hat in the ring for your copy...

    My email; Melissaseclecticbookshelf at gmail dot com

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

  13. PS.. I'd love to read a review of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter!

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

  14. Jill,

    That is great to know, thanks! I may just skip giving the book a third chance and find something else to read by Delaney, instead. :)


    It was the setting and the idea (which really did make it sound atmospheric) that interested me, but The Lantern wasn't for me. On a side note, neither was The Thirteenth Tale, which most book bloggers were crazy about. I guess "atmospheric" books are a toss-up. I like some but I'm picky about how they're done.

    As to Amaryllis in Blueberry . . . it's gotten a lot of negative comparisons to The Poisonwood Bible, I noticed (haven't read that, yet). Some people really like it, though, so you never know. You might fall in love.

    Thanks! :)


    You can always flip through The Lantern at your library if you're curious, though, right? You seem to have a pretty good library.

    As I was writing, I decided "overwrought" might be a good substitute for "pretentious" but still . . . good point. While it feels like a very personal criticism to me, sometimes it just fits.

  15. Melissa,

    Reading review books does really enhance that need to make your reading time count. For me, though, it's mostly the fact that I'm getting old enough to feel time slipping away. I used to force myself through bad books! Now, I will not hesitate to abandon a book even halfway through, if it's not working for me.

    I always feel bad if people skip a book because of me. Um . . . Anna liked the Delaney! But, it definitely did not grab me and suck me in like Ireland did.

    Yay! Finally, someone has signed up! This may end up being the easiest contest you ever entered. ;)

    I'll try to get to Crooked Letter, ASAP. Thanks for mentioning that. It helps to know which books interest you the most.

  16. I'm with you on The Lantern; anyone who thinks they can follow Rebecca, or even simulate it, has rocks in her head. "Overwrought" seems a good way to describe this book I found rather tedious, although it seemed so promising.

    I was glad I stuck with The Matchmaker of Kenmare, but it's not in my top ten of 2011 list. By any means.

    You and I agree on so many of the things we read. Or, don't. ;)

  17. Bellezza,

    LOL Rebecca definitely is a book that set a high standard! I'm glad you felt the same way. I'm in good company.

    The Matchmaker of Kenmare . . . I've rethought that one. I was considering giving it a third chance but after Jill mentioned liking Delaney's other books but not Matchmaker, I started thinking about how exhausting the beginning was and how much trouble I had getting through those first pages. Nah. I'll donate my ARC. Someone else can try to love it.

    Yes, we certainly do agree on a lot of things! :)

  18. I haven't been reading enough lately to have any DNF books, but I have been having that problem with audiobooks. Frustrating!

    Wonder if Matchmaker would have been better if you read Venetia Kelly first? I enjoyed that one (and Ireland), but let my stepmom borrow Venetia Kelly and she didn't like it.

    I was surprised to see your reaction to The Lantern. I don't know anything about the book except for the extreme buzz it's received. Sounds heavy-handed.

    Hope you have some winners with your next few reads!

  19. Trish,

    DNFs are frustrating, regardless of format. I tend to dislike audio books so I don't even bother with them, anymore. I'm way too picky about narrators.

    Hmm, I don't know. Venetia Kelly didn't appeal to me at all. It was the WWII bit that caught my interest when I was offered Matchmaker.

    The Lantern is definitely extremely buzzy. That's why I'm offering it up. There are so many people who are enjoying it, out there, that I figure I ought to give it a chance to find someone who loves it.

    Thanks! I'm loving the two books I'm reading, right now. I just need to work at getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I'm playing through my reading time. Gotta stop that!!!

  20. I enjoyed your post. I tried to read The Matchmaker and couldn't although I enjoyed his other books greatly. I would like to opportunity to try The Lantern very much. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  21. Learning what you appreciate is interesting and worthwhile. Sometimes certain books are duds. Perhaps The Lantern would be fun. I would like to try it. Thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  22. I'm with Natalie -- I really loved The Lantern immediately upon finishing it, but now, some five-ish months later, I'm sort of 'eh' on it. It was a fun stay-up-all-night fluffy read for me. (I ended up DNFing Alma Katsu's The Taker which everyone else seems to love, so my tastes are often out of step with the world, it feels!)

  23. Traveler,

    It's so great getting confirmation that I'm not the only one who couldn't finish Matchmaker! Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    Okie doke! Thanks for signing up! The odds are *really* good, right now. ;)


    Yes, you never know until you try.

    All righty! Best of luck. :)


    That's so funny and fascinating that you both felt iffy well after the reading of The Lantern. I think most of us have at least one book we can mention not liking when it seems like everyone else loved it, when you get right down to it.

  24. Traveler is the winner of The Lantern. I'll be emailing you soon, Traveler.

  25. I enjoyed Matchmaker, but it did start slowly. I had already read Venetia Kelly, though.

  26. Carrie,

    I had zippo interest in Venetia Kelly because of the circus setting (one of my big turn-offs) but it usually doesn't bother me to read out of sequence. Might have been a mistake, in this case. :)

  27. Yeah! Finally another person who didn't love The Lantern. I was so disappointed in it and everyone else just loved it. Another one I wanted to really like was Venetia Kelly and I just couldn't get into it at all.
    I have my ARC of The Lantern so if you have a second runner up I would be happy to send it to them.

  28. Paula,

    It's always a relief to find out you're not the only person who disliked a very buzzy book, isn't it? I skipped Venetia Kelly, so I'm glad to know it didn't grab you, either.

    Second place was Melissa:

    Melissaseclecticbookshelf at gmail dot com

    Just in case you don't see this message, though, I'll get in touch with you. :)


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