Books I DNFd in 2019

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Quarantining has given me a lot of time to do other stuff. So I decided to look at the blog posts I never finished and lo and behold, here's this one from last year. I thought to myself: "self, why don't you post it anyway?" to which I replied: "Great idea me! You're so smart!" So here's an unpublished blog from last year about all the books I DNF'd.

One of the downsides of expanding my reading horizons has been finding some of the books on my most hated book in 2019 list. A downside of doing a year long reading challenge is sometimes feeling like you don't have a choice in what you read. When both of those things combine I found these books, books I DNFd. Though I didn't "did not finish" these because they're all bad. For some it just wasn't the right time and for others I just couldn't get interested.

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire By J.K. Rowling
Premise: Come on, you know it.

I love me some Harry Potter. I've loved the series since I first picked it up back in 2000 with the release of Goblet of Fire. Back in 2018 I said that 2019 would be the year I reread Harry Potter. Not only that, but I would marathon all of the books, something I haven't done since 2007 when The Deathly Hallows came out. So September rolls around and I still haven't picked up the first book and I felt like I had to. So I forced myself into a series I just wasn't in the mood for and I made it to book 4 before I gave up.

My DNFing of The Goblet of Fire has nothing to do with it's quality. It's still a great book. But I forced myself into a marathon of the Harry Potter books, and that was the wrong move. What should have been a fun and enjoyable reread turned into a boring chore and an old favorite book should never be a chore. So I put this down and will pick it back up later. When I try the reread again, I won't do the first three books as I'm super familiar with them. I'll just start with this one.

Gil's All Fright Diner by A Lee Martinez
Premise: Duke and Earl are just passing through Rockwood county in their pick-up when the stop at Gil's All Night Diner right before a zombie horde attacks. Loretta, the diner's owner, asks Duke and Earl to stay and help. But what she doesn't know is that Duke is a werewolf and Earl is a vampire, so this is right up their ally.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from The Goblet of Fire is this book. Let me start out by saying that I've read two other books by A Lee Martinez and liked them quite a bit. I think he's very funny and a good writer. What's his trick? Maybe he took every bad idea he was ever going to have and put it into one book just to get rid of it. Gil's All Fright Diner has none of the humor or enjoyability that his other books have. The jokes felt forced, the characters are more wooden than Lincoln's cabin, and the pacing is slower than a stoned sloth. The story was contrived and the two main characters were just awful.

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb
Premise: Ben Goldfarb reveals that our modern idea of what a healthy landscape looks like and how it functions is wrong, distorted by the fur trade that once trapped out millions of beavers from North America's lakes and rivers.

I didn't hate this book. I just couldn't focus. This was an audio book I picked up during a sale on Audible and was very interested in the history and current status of the beaver. However I just couldn't concentrate on it. I would have to rewind entire chapters because it would finish and I wouldn't remember what had just happened. I don't think it was the audio book's fault. I think I had too many mental distractions so I had to change to a different book. I want to revisit this next year though. We'll see if 2020 is the year of the beaver.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Premise: Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome or fight the invasion.

I had been in the market for a new sci-fi book and this had been at the top of all the lists. This was a highly rated and highly recommended book so I thought it was a sure-fire win. As I got farther and farther into it, I was getting more and more lost. I thought that maybe I was too used to lighter toned book and that this book was deeper than I was giving it credit for. So I tried to be a more active reader, but that wasn't what the problem was. It was just a meandering and pointless book. I got about halfway through and I still had no idea what it was about. All I knew is that the main character was trying to get into some sort of secret society and one of the keys to that was a virtual reality game called "Thee Body" which was more confusing than D&D to a toddler.  There may be promise in this book. Maybe it gets better after the first half. But I didn't want to stick around to find out. There was even supposed to be an alien invasion but the story was so slow that there wasn't even a hint of it up to halfway through.

The Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
Premise: Violet's husband disappears just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He gives no clue as to why he left or where he's going and the only person who may know is Violet's daughter Ella, but she' not saying a word.  As the war in the Pacific escalates, more and more soldiers come to their small Hawaiian town. As a way to make ends meet, Violet and her friends start to make pies to sell to the soldiers.

If you've read any of my past book blogs you may have noticed that I'm taking part in the 2019 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. I have since completed the challenge but my final prompt was "read a book with sweet, salty, bitter, or spicy in the title." I was having a hard time with it. I stumbled upon this book while enjoying a free trial for Scribd, an app that has ebooks and audio books. I gave this book the "old college try," but just couldn't get into it. I just didn't find it interesting even though it seems like a book right up my alley. A slice of life book set during WWII and involves Japanese people and culture. But I found that I just couldn't wait to put this book down.

Quarterly TBR | April - June 2020

Tuesday 14 April 2020

In true Billiam fashion, I've decided to post my Quarterly TBR partway into the first month. In my defense for my recent lack of posting and delayed Quarterly TBR, life is chaotic right now as I'm still going to work amid Covid-19 and, on a more positive note, I've been playing a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons. As I'm not a huge planner, I plan on reading way  more books that are on this list, but I like to keep my TBR a bit open and only lock a few books into stone. So let's not waste anymore time and jump right into what I plan on reading this quarter.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Premise: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. (From Goodreads).

This is a book that my wife has been trying to get me to read for a while now. I'm not just being stubborn. There was usually some reading challenge I had to complete or library loan (digital) that I had to finish before it went away, but I decided that this quarter will be my last stand. I will finally sit down to read this book that she's been suggesting for a while now. 

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Premise: Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son. (From Goodreads but edited)

I've read a lot of Stephen King. I read the book Stephen King wrote with his son Owen. I've read Joe Hill's comics, but I've never read an actual Joe Hill novel. King's pseudonym loving son has been around a while now and has a few well loved novels. There was even a NOS4A2 show that started last year but I still have never picked up a Joe Hill book. That stops this quarter.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Premise: The evil Emperor Sikander comes to the land of Shalingar and Princess Amrita has offered herself as a bride in order to save her people. But it isn't enough. She flees in the night with an oracle named Thala, who was kept as a slave by Sikander. Amrita wants to warn and help her people, but Thala thinks they should go search for the fabled Library of All Things, where they can find the power to change their fates and stop Sikander.

This book was a random buy.After watching a Book Outlet haul from Books with Emily Fox, I decided to make some Book Outlet purchases myself. The books were so cheap, and shipping was free if you spend over a certain amount, so I bough a lot of books that I had never heard of. This was one of those books. I'm thankful for sites like Book Outlet and Book Depository because it helps me find books that otherwise would have slipped past me.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Premise: Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it. Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

My wife and I have a series of prompts we came up with and each month with pick one out of a bowl. Each prompt has a book that comes with it that we chose for the other. We each get one veto if we're just not in the mood. However this month's prompt was "A book that the other can't veto." This is the book that Anne picked for me, so I have to read this no matter what. I picked To Kill A Mocking Bird for her.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
Premise: In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has emerged as one of the foremost stars of the field—naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork—masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy. Captivating and revelatory, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a book for the ages.

Like most children, I went through a huge dinosaur phase. Like a lot of adults, I still love dinosaurs. I mean, come on! Who doesn't? This book is still daunting to me as it's 349 pages of dense non-fiction. I may be interested, but even an interesting non-fiction book isn't as gripping as a fictional tale. Thanks to this very blog, I learned that my favorite dinosaur isn't a dinosaur after all. Quetzalcoatlus is a Pterosaur, which isn't technically a dinosaur. So I'll have to go with the good old T-Rex for now.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Premise: The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

This wasn't originally on my Quarterly TBR, but Anne and I like to buy books for each other for special occasions and it was recently our 2nd wedding anniversary so we did the book thing and this is what she got me. She knows me so well that I trust her taste for me... that and Books with Emily Fox highly rated it and we both trust Emily.

The Dark Legacy of Shannara: Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks
Premise: Tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. The dwindling Druid order is threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl’s heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones, which once warded the lands and kept evil at bay. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous—as Aphenglow quickly learns when she’s set upon by assassins. Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. Whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come.

Terry Brooks's Shannara series was the first ever high fantasy series I ever read. I dove headfirst into it and quickly caught up to where the series was and then read them each year they came out. That was until this book came out. For some reason I could never finish it. I'd start it, then something else came out that interested me more, or some game came out that took up my time and I lost my place. But for one reason or another, I never finished this book. Now the Shannara series is coming to an end and I find myself woefully behind. Can I catch up before the final book is released? Probably not. But I'll try.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Premise: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money. Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

I'm fairly new to the thriller genre. Like most of my new book ventures, Anne introduced me to it. I've read a Ruth Ware book before and quite enjoyed it and she put this one on my TBR for me, so I decided that this quarter I'll pick it up. The good thing is, since I'm so new to the genre, I'm surprised by everything... unlike Anne who now guesses the ending of most thrillers she reads before the halfway mark. I'm still untainted by experience and time.

Paper Girls volumes 4-6 by Brian K Vaughan
Premise: It's the early morning after Halloween and 4 newspaper delivery girls are out on the job. In the wee hours they find themselves in the middle of a huge and secret war that traverses time and space.

It was hard to write a premise for this one as I can't say much without spoiling what happens in the first three volumes. So I just gave a bare bones explanation. If you've ever read any comics by Brian K Vaughan, you'll know that beneath the surface is a truly unique and wild ride and I'm enjoying this one immensely.

So there's my quarterly TBR. I'll start getting better about monthly wrap ups so I can give recommendations or warnings as applicable. But for now just tell me, what do you plan on reading?

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