Recent DNF

I don’t always finish every book I start. I typically give a book 40 pages to grab me, but if I’m bored, uninterested, annoyed, or I think it’s poorly written, I move on. I’m not going to spend my time on books I’m not digging when my to-read list in Goodreads tops 250.

That being said, here are some books I couldn’t get through in the past few months.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
The premise of the book is intriguing, that there is a virus killing pregnant women. The first half of the book sets up this world and it was really good. Then the second half hit. The book is told in the first person by a young, narcissistic teenager, and the second half is focused so much on her. I got sick of hearing her talk about herself and her plight. If the book had been more about the crumbling society I might’ve kept reading it, but this teenager was too annoying for me.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
I really thought I’d love Red Moon. Werewolves? Check. Humans fighting werewolves? Yep. Werewolves on the run? You got it. This book sounds like it’s designed for me, but it never kept my attention. There were too many scenes that weren’t played out but were later examined by a character. I want to see those scenes play out. The writing is really good, but I wanted something more. I wrote a really long review on Goodreads on why I didn’t connect with this one.

Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
I gave this one 40 pages. I didn’t like the lead character, and what is with all the exclamation points? They don’t seem to fit. I doubt she’s saying “Sure!” so enthusiastically all the time. I had no doubts when I stopped reading this one.

Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers
So many people praised this book, so I thought I’d enjoy it, but it all moved too quickly for me. First, a girl is beaten by her father and her soon-to-be husband, but she is stolen away by a priest who gives her to a convent full of assassin nuns. In an extremely short conversation, she’s told that if she wants to stay with them she’ll have to be trained as an assassin and kill people based upon what an old god tells them. I don’t know how this old god lets them know who is to be killed, but somehow they know and if she wants to stay with them she has to kill. She agrees to this VERY quickly. I rolled my eyes at how fast it happened. Then, after this very brief conversation where she magically agrees to this silliness, she convinces another girl to stay. She has no clue what she even signed up for, but she’s going to convince someone else to stay? And then it jumps three years ahead to the night of her first kill. So I’m supposed to believe that she’s now this badass assassin? It all happened too quickly for me, and I found myself scoffing and rolling my eyes, so 50 pages in, I was done.

I do reserve the right to try books a second time, usually years later, after I have forgotten why I didn’t like them in the first place. I could see myself trying Red Moon again, because I still feel like that should be my kind of book. Maybe next year I’ll try it again and you’ll see me praising it.

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Under the Dome

Under-the-Dome-coverYou may have seen commercials for “Under the Dome,” a miniseries starting in June based upon Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The premise got my attention right away: a dome suddenly, and without warning, encompasses a small town and mass chaos ensues.

This series is pretty much designed for me, so for the past two weeks I’ve been making my way through Stephen King’s 1072-page behemoth. You should be very impressed that I finished it in two weeks, not only because it’s 1072 pages, but because this isn’t a small book with large print. I feel like these 1072 pages are really 1500 pages of a normal book, so I’m pretty proud of my two-week readathon.

It didn’t hurt that this was actually a quick read. Stephen King knows how to create suspense, curiosity, and disturbingly bad, but completely satisfying, characters. And he really likes to kill people.

Under the Dome begins on October 21, the day a clear dome suddenly surrounds the small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine. No one can get in or out, and no one can actually see the dome, which makes for some disastrous airplane and car crashes. But the dome is the least of the town’s worries. In true Stephen King fashion, the people in Chester’s Mill are way more frightening than a stupid, mysterious barrier. This is pretty much Lord of the Flies but with adults.

It doesn’t take long for the town to break down after the dome appears. Power-hungry James “Big Jim” Rennie, the town’s second selectman, sees this as an opportunity to gain even more control over the townspeople, while his son Junior starts cracking and causing a lot of trouble. Dale “Barbie” Barbara, a former Army captain turned fry cook, is put in charge of the town through an edict issued by the President of the United States, but that doesn’t sit well with Big Jim. Trying not to lose his power, he turns the town against Barbie and conspiracy theories, criminal behavior, and vigilante justice are rampant. The clashes between Big Jim and Barbie, and townspeople on both sides, make up this tale of a town gone crazy.

Stephen King does a great job turning Chester’s Mill into an awful, totalitarian town. Panic is widespread and supplies are dwindling, including the propane that runs generators. All of this is terrifying in and of itself, because there seems to be no end in sight for when the dome will go away, but King takes it one step further and creates abominable characters.

Actually, when it comes to the characters, either people are really evil, with their evil quadrupled because of the dome, or they’re really nice and can’t comprehend the evil doers. There aren’t that many in-between characters, and it’s shocking how many evil ones there are, like the newly appointed police deputies. Big Jim thinks they need more police, so he scrounges up twenty somethings and teenagers, which is just what we need in a crisis – armed, untrained teenagers. These deputies really highlight the mob mentality, and, sadly, even though some of their actions made me cringe, I believed them. I don’t know if that’s because of King’s writing or because there are awful people in the world, but I believed the mob mentality.

I think the pacing in the book also should be praised, because even though this is a long book, full of many characters (there are three pages of characters listed at the beginning of the book), this moves at a breakneck speed. The whole thing takes place over a week, which probably helps with its speed, but nothing here is expendable. Not one thing should be left out because it all works so well. It jumps between characters in different parts of town, sometimes seeing or hearing the same events from multiple perspectives, and I loved it.

The thing I didn’t like as much is the ending. It was just kind of…boring. Everything leading up to it is fabulous. I was nervous, gasping, and scared, but then it just ends. We find out about the dome and why it’s there, but I found it rather simplistic. I wanted it to be more grand and ominous like the rest of the book, especially because the death toll is so large. With that many goners, I want something more.

I still really liked this book and I can’t wait for the miniseries. I’m curious to see the changes they make, because watching the commercial I see younger, prettier people than I saw in my head. Let’s hope not much changes, because this was a fantastic ride.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.