DNF Digest [4] – Stranded, Falling Kingdoms, Into the Dim


I didn’t intended on making “DNF Digest” a regular thing because honestly? I always hope to finish a book! Lately, though, I’ve been more inclined to mark a book as DNF because there are just soooo many books I need to read (you’ve seen my shelves) so I just can’t afford to be pushing through books that I’m really not enjoying. If I’ve read a lot of the book I finish, it’s sort of a policy of mine to try to write a small “review” saying why it didn’t work for me, but today’s collection of DNF round-ups didn’t quite warrant reviews because I didn’t make it as far as I’d hoped.

I actually haven’t DNFed very many books recently. I’ve been really trying to be more selective about what I’m picking up and what I’m really looking forward to reading. It’s been helping a lot but sometimes there are still books that I think I’ll LOVE and end up walking away from. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on STRANDED, FALLING KINGDOMS, and INTO THE DIM.

Author: Melinda Braun
Format I was reading: egalley approved by pub via Edelweiss
Started reading: 7/30/15
Date marked as DNF: 7/30/15
Marked DNF at: 35 pages
Reason for marking DNF: (My mini-review from Goodreads) Oops, that was a pretty quick decision. I stopped at about page 35 because I was not enjoying any part of it at all. In fact, I was actively disliking what was going on.
I picked up this book because my husband and I go camping all the time — backwoods camping too so similar to this situation. No phones, no cabins, just camping and the wilderness. I thought I could easily get into this book because it was so many things that I loved and seeing as we weren’t able to go camping yet this year, I wanted to live vicariously though it. But this book and I got off to a rough start and I didn’t see it improving.
Right off the bat, the narration was awkward. Similes comparing a seat belt buckle sound like a gunshot underwater (have you heard things underwater? You do know it’s muffled, right? Like a lot?) and lies flowing out of the MC’s mouth: “Sliding out of my mouth like spit.” Kind of gross and weird. The writing continued to be difficult for me to read with little character development throughout the first portion of the book which is early, I know, but each character was introduced and then the narration immediately moved onto the next thing. There wasn’t much time spent with any character to appeal to the reader. The descriptions and development that there were seemed shallow. The only girl besides Emma is a very girly girl and seemed very stereotypical (Her: “Starting college in the fall. They say you should be single.” Emma: “I heard that.” — thrilling conversation? And already pushing Emma to flirt with some of the guys) and the boys also seemed very “typical boy” (insert cannonball contest and dropping frogs on girls).
I didn’t make it far into the plot so I can’t say much about that overall but I was disappointed that the story seemed to just be “Scene. Scene. Scene. Scene.” and didn’t have any real flow. The characters barely had any conversation and what little they did say to each other was unimpressive. Some things I thought could be skipped or summarized in dialogue to spend more time with the characters and developing a setting.
I’m not exactly sure how much time the author has spent camping and in the wilderness or canoeing but I will say for ME, canoeing and paddling is not an easy thing. Emma and Chloe (wait, was that even her name?) paddle together like it was so natural and I don’t know about anyone else, but paddling a canoe isn’t the easiest thing if you don’t know what you’re doing (they didn’t) and you’re trying to work with someone new (I was canoeing with my husband and he was constantly trying to help me do it right haha). MAYBE they had a knack for it but the more realistic thing, I think, would have been to have these two girls struggling to keep a canoe straight. Just sayin’.
Normally if I’m not getting along with a book, I’ll give it more time to allow the book to pick up or wait for the action to kick in but I just can’t do it when the writing is difficult for me to read.
Extra Comments: 35 pages doesn’t seem like I’m giving the book a shot but sometimes you just know when you’re not getting along with something. I could have pushed through but I always feel like why bother when it won’t be a good read and I will struggle? This one just wasn’t for me.
What did I do with the ARC? N/A – egalley

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1)
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Format I was reading: Paperback received from Penguin
Started reading: 10/28/15
Date marked as DNF: 11/4/15
Marked DNF at: Not sure because I accidentally deleted my review with the status updates but it was about halfway through.
Reason for marking DNF: (Mini-review from Goodreads) It’s the end of the year… I’m halfway through this book and still nothing has happened and I don’t like the characters and I’m about to get a massive infodump of world building. I think I’ll just stop here.
I’m SUPER bummed because I’m always looking for more awesome fantasy books and I felt like this one had so much potential but honestly nothing was coming together. One of the main reasons I always choose to DNF is when the plot is slow and nothing is happening. Here’s what’s happened in FALLING KINGDOMS halfway through: The one thing that sets the plot in motion in the beginning, lots of characters contemplating their romantic feelings. Then one character making a hasty, dangerous, and immature decision to go save a family member. That’s it.
Don’t get me wrong — plot doesn’t always have to RACE for me to enjoy a book, but when there’s no world building or character development during that time either, the book is taking me nowhere.
The characters are all incredibly shallow. Cleo is young and she acts like it and I really didn’t get along with her character at all. Yes, teenage characters are allowed to act like teenagers but her rash decisions were driving me nuts and she really did seem a bit spoiled. The kings are all just awful and none of the authority figures feel developed so I just felt like these countries were being run on a whim instead of having actual leaders. Theon was probably the character I liked the most at this point but because he was the strong, silent type.
All of these characters have the most bizarre romantic relationships. (view spoiler) I mean… they all just feel like awful people. Yes, yes, I understand that not all relationships are cookie-cutter happy and easy — that’s not what I’m saying. Like can’t ONE relationship be a nice crush on someone and it develops there? What’s with all the things that make me uncomfortable? I was also incredibly frustrated that everyone’s motives seemed to be romantically driven up until Cleo decided to help her sister. Everyone was making choices based on their love life and I was frustrated that there was no leadership, no plans for the country, no strategy, no family love. There was a bit here and there but it felt very soap opera-y.
I was also sorely disappointed with the lack of world building. The spot that I decided to stop at was just about to explain a whole backstory of how the magic worked but it was too much information all at once. This could have easily been distributed among the first 200 pages instead of coming at the readers in the form of an old woman telling a story. That’s fine to give some backstory but I was too in the dark about the magic and then it’s like BAM, all the knowledge at once.
I mainly decided not to finish because at this point, I had already decided that even if I did complete the book, I wasn’t going to continue on with the six book series. If I wasn’t going to read the other five books, why spend the time to finish the first?
What did I do with the book? Gifted it to someone who was really looking forward to it. 

 Into the Dim (Into the Dim #1)
Author: Janet B. Taylor
Format I was reading: ARC from HMH
Started reading: 2/4/16
Date marked as DNF: 2/8/16
Marked DNF at: 100+ pages
Reason for marking DNF: (Mini-review from Goodreads) With less and less time for me to read as of late and a recent conversation with several other bloggers/readers who share quite similar reading tastes, I’ve decided to put down INTO THE DIM.
My main issue with the book is that it’s another one that was marketing improperly, attempting to appeal to a mainstream audience (obviously Outlander here) and the book was really nothing like it. Time travel + Scotland does not equal Outlander. Confession: I actually haven’t even read the books or watched the show but my huge issue here is that I make reading comparisons and recommendations largely based on a feel and/or mood along with large topics. Scotland is a setting that can make two books feel similar but can also be incredibly different based on content. Time travel is a pretty big concept and even though it’s a favorite topic of mine, I am very sensitive with how it’s handled. I think the sum of the parts just didn’t quite come together in INTO THE DIM and with that in mind plus the original cover release, I was expecting something much more serious and deep.
INTO THE DIM felt rather cheesy to me. Explanations were simple, the sort of “alternate history” that made this time travel possible really didn’t feel genuine, and it felt like a lot of telling instead of showing. I had kind of a hard time with the writing because it did feel so simplistic and I felt like the reading level was rather low. This is great for the lower end of the YA spectrum if parents/teachers/librarians, etc want to recommend this book to younger teens who have a higher reading level but it really lost me there as an adult reading a YA novel. I also don’t feel like writing has to be taken down a level for any reader but I’m also no expect on these things. (I really don’t think this was done intentionally? But that’s what the reading experience felt like.)
I really did not like how the time travel concept was explained and it felt super silly. Time travel can largely be explained by either a scientific concept or a total paranormal/fantastical phenomenon and it seemed like this book tried to combine both which wasn’t quite working for me. It seemed a bit glossed over to explain and then Hope was shocked but almost immediately accepting. I really wished there would have been more time spent on exactly why and how this time travel worked instead of simply telling Hope/the readers that this is what it is and immediately jumping into time travel, especially since the beginning felt like a rather long set-up.
I also really didn’t care for the characters either. Hope was not an enjoyable character for me. I don’t think I had as strong of an issue as some readers did but she just felt boring and flat. I didn’t really see many layers to her and there was no strong personality to really latch onto. I feel like Hope was played off to be tedious except for her photographic memory (which is SO hard to write into a book, I feel, because you can’t ever have the character forget something without readers calling that out) and it really made me not like her much. The secondary characters also felt a bit flat to me and just really seemed like a basic character that I’ve read before. (I was actually somehow reminded of the Cullens in Twilight? No idea why I made that connection but there it was.)
The (developing) romance was also a bit rough and seemed like it was leading into a triangle? I’m not against love triangles but this seemed like an unnecessary set-up. It could have easily been one or the other and not this weird pull towards both. The attraction to both guys also seemed to happen quickly which again, is totally fine BUT the chemistry wasn’t there for me. Without that natural pull towards someone, it ends up feeling like a high school crush or instalove with no real depth to it. (Okay, I know she IS in high school but you know what I mean.)
This wasn’t a BAD book but I still had about 300 pages to go and I really wasn’t a huge fan of what had been happening so far. I wasn’t super engaged and with this being a series, I doubted that I would pick up the second book when I finished. With limited reading time, I decided to trust my peers and ended up putting this one down. There’s a chance I may come back to it someday but I think those chances are slim.
I mostly decided to put it down because as I ask myself with all DNFs, “Do I care what really happens in the end?” Obviously I don’t know the end to the series but I’m betting she saves her mother and falls in love with a guy. It seems a bit predictable and that the twists and loops that may happen along the way aren’t quite large enough to make me question or suspect or keep flipping those pages.
What did I do with the ARC? Swapped with a friend who wanted the original ARC cover!

Those are my latest DNFs! I totally forgot about one from 2015 (oops) but better late than never. I always love sharing my feelings because some of the things I didn’t get along with could be what others are looking for. Sometimes I know a book is just not for me and that’s okay. Others have really enjoyed all of these but they just didn’t work for me.

Hi, I'm Brittany!
Hi, I'm Brittany!

I'm an avid reader, candle-maker, and audiobook lover! Here you'll find book reviews, fun blog posts, and my other loves of photography & craft beer!

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9 thoughts on “DNF Digest [4] – Stranded, Falling Kingdoms, Into the Dim

  1. Olivia Roach

    Oh no! Such a shame that you didn’t enjoy Into the Dim because that is one I am actually looking forward to reading :/ I wish that you could have enjoyed it. But yeah, wrong marketing kind of bothers me as well!

  2. Kay @ It's a Book Life

    I am going to be honest, it makes me very happy to see that I am not the only person on the planet that wasn’t a fan of Falling Kingdoms! I did finish it and liked it okay, but I was no where near loving it and all the other bloggers it seems really loved it! I am a big fantasy fan and I was really disappointed.

  3. Laura@125Pages

    I enjoyed Into the Dim, but can see why some did not. The beginning was slow and the “magic” of the time travel was lacking. But as Cynthia said, once you got to the past it really picked up and had some interesting character development. It was such a fast read for me as well, that I didn’t have time to really think about the inconsistencies, so they didn’t bother me as much as I have seen in some reviews. But everyone has their own opinions and that is why I love reading reviews as they make me see a book from a different perspective.

  4. Morgan @ Gone with the Words

    I haven’t heard of Stranded but it seems like I didn’t miss much! And I’ve heard mixed-to-negative things about Into the Dim but I still want to give it a try (also bc my OTSPSecretSis that I sent to in round 3 sent it as a thank you. I feel like I have to at least try it!) OMG ok I am actually really glad you DNFed Falling Kingdoms (even though I’m sorry you didn’t like it) because it seems that people love that series AND I DON’T KNOW WHY. I read the whole first book but it was torturous. So much infodumping, not enough plot, cardboard idiot characters, and I just have this memory of the author repeating the word secret or having a secret 6 times on one page. It drove me insane. I wanted to like it because yay long fantasy series but it was not for me. Hopefully you’ll pick up some good books that you love this month!

  5. Amanda

    I saw your Into the Dim DNF as I was struggling with it and came so close to stopping. I finished the book, but I won’t say it really improved. I feel badly because you can tell how much research went into the history and it just didn’t pay off in plot/characters. There does seem to be a huge love triangle looming as well.

  6. Cynthia @ Bingeing On Books

    I am so sorry you DNF’d Into the Dim! I read it and kind of loved it. Now it did start out super slow. But once they got to twelfth century London, it really picked up. I can see why you stopped reading it though.

  7. Kristin

    I really disliked Into the Dim too. If I hadn’t felt like I *had* to review it I definitely would’ve DNF’ed it as well. My fiance could tell how miserable I was the whole time I was reading it!

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