Monday, July 11, 2022

DNF&Y [42]

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!

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
๐ŸŽง Narrated by Caitlin Davies

Synopsis (via Goodreads): New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed Hex Hall and The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (the author uses a pseudonym for this book), so I had high expectations for The Ex Hex. I wanted to see how this author added her humor and wit to a book promising "spine-tingling romance." Unfortunately, the characters were awful, and the story was borderline boring. I gave up after an hour and wish I'd stopped sooner.

The narrator's voice didn't do this book any favors. All of the characters sounded too similar (if there was any change at all), and I really had to pay attention to know who was speaking. This isn't anything against the narrator, but it did detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. 

In addition to boring, the story was super cheesy. I couldn't really get behind Vivi's feelings of animosity nine years later. They were two kids in college that dated for three months, and they had a simple misunderstanding. Accidentally curse him? Sure. Hate him for a decade? Not likely. It just wasn't believable. But that's not all... they've also been secretly pining for each other - unawares - while outwardly cursing the existence of one another. 

Miscommunication is one of my biggest bookish pet peeves, and all Vivi and Rhys needed to do was have a conversation with each other to resolve their issues. The entire thing was blown out of proportion yet fuels their vendetta for the better part of the book (at least what I read and skimmed through). (★★☆☆☆)

This May End Badly by Samantha Markum
๐ŸŽง Narrated by Heather Masters

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.

To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.

As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.

This May End Badly is a story about friendship, falling in love, and crossing pretty much every line presented to you—and how to atone when you do.

I committed six hours to This May End Badly and still ended up DNFing it. I really liked the idea of a school rivalry and thought the author played that up really well, but it should have remained the focal point of the story. There was just too much going on. And what was the deal with the pervy teacher? That subplot seemed REALLY unnecessary. The students kept bringing him up, so I'm sure something would have eventually happened with that, I just didn't stick around long enough to find out. I do think it should have been left out altogether. 

Fake dating is usually a trope that I like, but it didn't work for me in this one. There was no chemistry between Doe and What's His Face. I think there were more sparks between her and her archnemesis than the guy she likely ended up with. 

I think this book would have been better if it had been simplified just a little. A school rivalry, some teenage angst, and boom. Unfortunately, I was having to force myself to listen to this one "hoping" it would get better as it progressed. (Spoiler alert: It didn't.)

I also wasn't thrilled with the narrator. She wasn't bad per se, but I did find her voice to a be a little distracting. 

Additionally, Doe was incredibly unlikeable, and I always struggle with books when I can't relate to - or at least understand - the main character. She was so selfish and never considered how her actions affected others. She wanted to talk about her friends and how close they were, yet she didn't think twice about them before doing whatever she wanted.

Some notes I made while reading:

Missed the mark
Didn't like why they were fake dating
Doomed to fail
No friendship would survive the fallout

It a nutshell, This May End Badly had too much going on and the main character was a selfish brat that didn't actually know what she wanted. She was too absorbed in herself to see what was happening around her, and her fake boyfriend clearly had ulterior motives of his own. Weird teacher subplot. (★★☆☆☆)

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

This started off as a buddy read, but they quickly left me behind while I struggled to find reasons to continue reading this book. It's honestly been so long now that I've forgotten most of what I read (not very much). I do remember being annoyed by the dialogue and wishing for more showing instead of telling. Roanhorse has created a very complex world, but I wanted to feel fully immersed in it and not like a bystander. I also don't want to have to question how something works but want the story to unfold in a way that explains through experiences. I know some dialogue is necessary to explain complex ideas, but I would prefer to see them played out on paper.

Black Sun was soooo hyped, and I just expected more from this fantasy world and its characters. I also really, really didn't like the child mutilation and found that aspect of the book to be hard to stomach. (★★☆☆☆)