I hate not finishing a book. Not because I feel compelled to see a story through to the end, but because I feel I’ve invested so much time to the plot and characters, only to have it all disappoint me. In the end, my wasted time upsets me more than not reaching that final page (I’m a horrible person, I know).
In a way it seems fitting that shortly after posting about DNFs I wind up posting some reviews for books I didn’t finish.
Something Red by Douglas Nicholas, September 2012.
During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.
Something Red was one of my most anticipated releases of 2012! When I received an e-ARC of it I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to start it and the reason why I didn’t finish had nothing to do with the story. Unfortunately, it came down to the formatting and how the pages appeared on my nook.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE artwork in novels, especially when entire pages have stylistic lettering. Love it. Sadly this was its downfall. The pages were so busy that my nook simply couldn’t load them, resulting in entirely blank pages. After seeking out some advice I discovered I wasn’t the only one with this problem and that the publisher was aware and were working on a solution.
I’ve read e-ARCs in the past where I put up with a few formatting problems and got through the story just fine. With Something Red, however, so many pages had issues that I was completely lost during the chapters I read. After reading numerous negative reviews (regarding the book itself) I decided it wasn’t worth the headache.
The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams, August 2012
July 1840: The young Queen Victoria has just entered her third year on the throne when a major recession brings London’s desperate and destitute into its sweltering streets. While the city crackles with tension, orphaned Catherine Sorgeiul stays locked away in her uncle’s home, a peculiar place where death masks adorn the walls and certain rooms are strictly forbidden. Nineteen years old and haunted by a dark past, Catherine becomes obsessed with a series of terrible murders of young girls sweeping the city. Details of the crimes are especially gruesome–the victims’ hair has been newly plaited and thrust into their mouths, and their limbs are grotesquely folded behind them, like wounded birds–and the serial killer is soon nicknamed the Man of Crows.
Catherine begins writing stories about the victims–women on their own and vulnerable in the big city–and gradually the story of the murderer as well. But she soon realizes that she has involved herself in a web of betrayal, deceit, and terror that threatens her and all those around her
Does that sound awesome or what?! I’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were killed & displayed was completely unlike anything I’ve read before.
The Pleasures of Men is a classic case of a great plot but a terrible execution (aka Matthew Pearl syndrome). I recently discovered Kate Williams has written multiple non-fiction books and I’m open to trying those. The writing in The Pleasures of Men is definitely not suitable for fiction; it really shouldn’t have surprised me that Williams is a notable historian.
I gave up with this one early on after a few attempts at starting it. Even though I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, it just didn’t work for me. I was thoroughly confused at times. The story is told through Catherine’s eyes, yet there were many times where I wasn’t sure who the narrator was or just what was going on.
Despite my best efforts, The Pleasures of Men & I just weren’t meant to be.