Sunday, May 31, 2020

DNF&Y [29]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom! Summer Set by Aimee Agresti

Synopsis (find the book on Goodreads): With a setting inspired by the real-life Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires where stars like Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, and Chris Pine have performed, THE SUMMER SET (Graydon House Books; May 12; $17.99) is a salacious rom-com, beach read perfect for Broadway nerds and Hollywood gossips alike.

Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood's hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she's pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career—and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.

It's not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie's old rival, Hollywood's current “It Girl,” is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she's been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

DNF at 23%

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I'm going to chalk this one up to it being a review copy, and just hope that the finished product is a little more polished. My main issue with The Summer Set was its formatting. The POV would change in the middle of a chapter, and it was making me crazy! I never knew who was speaking, and it would take me several sentences to figure it out. The story bounced between Charlie, Nick, Ethan, and Sierra, but there were a lot of other characters connected to their individual perspectives (with some interesting and unexpected overlap).

In addition to the formatting, there are time skips that added to my confusion. Characters would reference something that had happened, only we weren't there and didn't experience it with them. For example, Sierra mentions understanding Ethan's family drama, but we weren't privy to whatever those two shared concerning his parents. "Sierra had already witnessed Ethan's frustration with his family and understood how hard he tried to bottle it up."

What did she witness? When? Was this their brief conversation about why he had a job? If so, that was not indicative of bottled up emotions. And then a random character named Tripp pointed out the shirt he was wearing and said something about Ethan designing them for his family's business (apparently they can be bought from Urban Outfitters), which led to Ethan sharing a few words about setting up something profitable for his family, but that's the extent of the information we receive regarding his personal drama (the gist: he made money for his family, yet they're unsupportive). Sierra and Ethan have also developed quite the friendship in a very short amount of time, and we don't really get to see that take shape. One minute they're strangers, and the next they're best buds.

That's not the only gap that I stumbled over, but it was the most recent. At a bonfire, Nick brings Charlie a stick (for s'mores) and the group Sierra and Nick are a part of feel the need to comment on their interaction. Someone claims it's an olive branch because Nick got upset when Charlie kissed Chase during rehearsals, even though the two are playing Romeo and Juliet. It wasn't a stolen kiss in a dark corner somewhere, but one that was planned in the script. Are you confused yet? I am! Why? Because whatever they're talking about wasn't something that was witnessed by readers. After the group dissects a conversation they can't hear and are not involved in, someone else divulges Nick and Charlie's shared past, although no one knows why the two split when they did. It's a mystery

Additionally, the characters in this book, at least where Charlie and Nick are concerned, are in their 40's! They're acting like angsty teenagers, and it's all because of something that happened YEARS and YEARS ago that we're𑁋again𑁋not privy to. I'm sure those details would have been shared eventually, but I don't have that kind of patience. Here's an idea... TALK TO EACH OTHER. If they had simply had an open and honest conversation, a lot of the conflict could have been resolved. Instead, they dance around each other, neither of them wanting to address the bees in their bonnets.

The story itself wasn't bad, and I didn't hate the characters, but I disliked how disorganized the book felt. Every time the perspective changed, I would have to readjust and find my flow again. It didn't help that after discerning who was speaking, I then had to figure out how much time had passed, and what I didn't know I'd missed. I wouldn't cross this one off your list completely, but definitely see if the published version has been cleaned up a bit before diving in. (★★☆☆☆) View the original post here.
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

Synopsis (via Goodreads): When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

DNF at 18%

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I really wanted to like this one! The concept was interesting, the cover was stellar, and the fact that men were knitting definitely piqued my curiosity. It's just not something you see every day. Unfortunately, Real Men Knit fell flat for me, and I wasn't able to finish reading it.

The conversations between characters were long and convoluted, a lot of the information was repetitive, and the writing itself was choppy and felt forced. The brothers were jerks (to each other and Kerry), and fought nonstop from the start. Jesse didn't do himself any favors by staying in his boxers even when Kerry told him to put clothes on. I don't care how long he's know her, it was inappropriate and rude. It only gets worse when he goes to comfort her (because of Mama Joy's death), and then starts thinking about how good she feels. Really? That's where your mind goes? 

She made his abs "twitch" just by looking at them, and he apparently had morning wood that he did nothing to conceal. Her eyes "roamed" all over his body, but they're both trying to keep themselves from crying??? The juxtaposition was headache-inducing, and caused me to roll my eyes hard enough to hurt. None of their exchange felt realistic, and the simple conversation lasted way longer than it needed to. Saying hello should not be followed by pages of dialogue before the other person responds with their own greeting.

Basically, there was a lot of talking that wasn't beneficial to the story, the characters were unlikable (although varied based on the numerous comments about appearances and backgrounds), and the writing was hard to follow. Obviously, I didn't get very far into this one, but I struggled to get from one page to the next. (★★☆☆☆)
This Eternity of Masks and Shadows by Karsten Knight
Expected publication: June 2nd 2020

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In a city of gods and mortals, secrets never die.

The gods walk among us. Some lurk in the shadows, masquerading as mortals; others embrace their celebrity status, launching careers from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.

One of them just murdered Cairn Delacroix's mother.

As Cairn sifts through the rubble, she uncovers a conspiracy two decades in the making: a cursed island, the fellowship of gods who journeyed there, and the unspeakable act that intertwined their fates. One by one, the members of that voyage are dying, and Cairn's investigations land her in the crosshairs of the rogue goddess responsible.

With the help of Nanook, a polar bear god turned detective, Cairn descends into Boston's underworld of supernatural crime and political aspiration. To avenge her mother and unmask her assassin, she’ll first have to reckon with a gut-wrenching secret that will rewrite the life she thought she knew.

DNF at 30%

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I think This Eternity of Masks and Shadows could have benefited from a few more rounds of editing. One example would be when the characters were exploring an uncharted island, but then "crash-landed in front of Sulfur Gulch," which made it seem like someone had been there previously to name that part of the island. Small inconsistencies like this one kept jumping out at me, which was distracting and disrupted the flow of the story.

I also disliked the main character, so that's always a huge negative for me. She wasn't understandably unlikable, despite losing her mother, so I had a hard time excusing her behavior. Additionally, she made inappropriate comments all the time. A guy dies after falling from 35 stories (at least, I think it was 35), and lands in a truck. Do you know what our lovely MC says? "That's a hell of a way to hitchhike." Really, Cairn? Her own mother just died by apparent suicide, and she's going to crack totally inappropriate jokes at another dead person's expense? Someone her mother was friends with?

Oh, and this gem: "...when she saw a bloody corpse that had been torn to shreds by a wild animal. She pursed her lips disapprovingly. 'Why is it always the sexiest ones who have the longest rap sheets?'" REALLY, CAIRN? That's where you're mind goes? She also had a bad habit of going from calm to RAGING in the blink of an eye. Other times she would be crying, but then stop suddenly when something else happened. It was hard to keep up with her emotionally. 

I also thought the story was overwhelming with its information. There were sooo many gods and deities being tossed into various conversations, that it was hard to keep track of them all. I did like that the author shared some of their individual myths and backstories, but I'm unsure of the accuracy (I'm unfamiliar with Inuit folklore). The gods themselves don't remember their past lives, so the stories they've collected are from what they've picked up during their current lifetimes. 

This Eternity of Masks and Shadows had an interesting premise, but in the end it failed to deliver. The story progressed a little too quickly (giving readers very little time to process new information), and the characters were either uninteresting or unlikable. However, I did like the dual POVs (Cairn in the present, her mother (Sedna) in the past). It just wasn't enough to keep me invested in the story or its outcome. Normally, I'm all over a book with mythology, but I think the author may have tried to tackle too much within one story, or the world-building needed some serious work. (★★☆☆☆)

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  1. I am not a fan of POV changes in a chapter! I can overlook a lot but that is not one of my favorite things!

    "She made his abs "twitch" just by looking at them" haha. That sounds... yeah. lol.

    Sorry these didn't work out but the DNF notes/ reasons are fun to read. :)

    1. Same! I love books that have alternating POVs, but only when they're separated by chapters. It's easier to keep up with which character is talking! When they happen in the middle of the chapter, it really throws me. Yeah, I don't know about ab twitching. Is that really a thing?

  2. "She made his abs "twitch" just by looking at them, and he apparently had morning wood that he did nothing to conceal. Her eyes "roamed" all over his body, but they're both trying to keep themselves from crying???"
    πŸ™„ πŸ˜‚

    "There were sooo many gods and deities being tossed into various conversations, that it was hard to keep track of them all."
    It sounds worse than the book that we buddy-read...

    What's with all these books where the pacing's all wrong? Is it a new trend? Because I see you mentioning structure problems so many times these days...

    1. I didn't realize it until you said it, but I have been struggling with pacing lately!

  3. Sounds like they just weren't the right books for you.

  4. That's a bummer about Real Men Knit! I've been seeing a lot of not-so-great reviews for that.

    1. I really liked the concept! I love to crochet while I listen to audiobooks, and I thought a story about knitting and family would be perfect for me. Unfortunately, the story left a lot to be desired.

  5. How do your abs twitch just by someone looking at them? I...I don't understand. It is always extra disappointing when books with beautiful covers contain such crappy stories. Hopefully the final versions are better!

    1. I have never felt my abs twitch in response to someone, nor have I heard of it happening before. Maybe I need to be in better shape?? ;) I really wanted to like Real Men Knit, so I was disappointed when it fell flat.

  6. The ab twitch seems to have us all scratching our heads!!! I can understand why these books were DNFed!

    1. It seems no one has experienced the phenomenon before. ;)


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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless