Friday 23 August 2019

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To DNF or Not to DNF?

To DNF or Not to DNF?

To DNF or Not to DNF?

This post contains affiliate links.

Titles marked with an asterisk (*) were gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Today I want to discuss deciding whether or not to stop reading a book you don't enjoy - or DNF (did not finish) as it's known in the book community (which isn't grammatically correct, as to DNF is "to did not finish," but we use it anyway). It's something I never used to do, but something I've been doing more often.

As a teenager, when I would borrow my dad's high fantasy novels by David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, and Robin Hobb, among others, my dad hammered a rule into me: if you start a book, you must finish it. He says now that he said if you get past 100 pages, then you must finish it, but you can give up before then, but he didn't! Either way, that was the rule I grew up with. "How do you know you don't like a book if you haven't read the whole thing?" my dad would ask. So I would force myself to read all the way through books I found boring or just wasn't enjoying.

It's difficult to unlearn things you've been taught, especially when it's in regards to doing something you've been told is wrong - or sacrilegious in this case. When it comes to problematic books, I have no problem giving up on them, but if I'm simply not enjoying them, I have, for a long time, found it difficult to put a book down until I finish it. Even if it takes me far longer to read than it normally would, because I have no interest in picking it up. Over the years I've done it more and more often, but always with guilt. However, I recently read a thread on Twitter (that I unfortunately cannot find right now to link to, because I stupidly didn't bookmark it) specifically about DNFing books, and it made me feel so much better about it. Life is just far too short to be reading books I'm not enjoying.

Don't get me wrong; I do give books a fair chance, reading several chapters, and hoping as the story progresses, it will improve. But there are several books I have DNF'd over the past several months.

The Furies by Katie Lowe The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons In the Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons Daughter of a Burning City by Amanda Foody

  • The Furies by Katie Lowe* - DNF’d at 6%. Although it sounds similar to The Craft, and right up my street, I just couldn’t get on with the writing. The narrator is a woman looking back on when she was a teen, and it just felt detached, like there was too much distance. I also think it might be literary? And literary just doesn’t gel well with me. Felt pretentious, but maybe that’s just me. Not for me, either way, sadly.
  • The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons* - DNF’d at 16%. It's quite slow, and while there's two time lines for the same character - one spanning the events of the year he's 15, the other the events from when he's 16 to present day - there's little info about where either are leading to, and so with the story jumping back and forth between time lines, without any real understanding of what's happening or why, I just lost interest. I may come back to it, though, because a lot of people have raved about it, but it might take some time before I do.
  • In the Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons - DNF'd at 50%. While I really wanted to love this retelling, I actually found it quite boring. Medusa spends so much time just thinking about Hermes and how he makes her feel and react, and while I don't mind romance, it was just too much, too often. Just over and over. Plus, I was expecting more to the story, for the conflict to be bigger and more of a main focus, but it just takes so long for anything to really happen. I also didn't like how it kept going over the rape she experienced in detail - it didn't need to be described so much, how Hermes "helped" her, a rape survivor, by going behind her back and doing something she didn't want or consent to, how Poseidon still wanted her, that constant threat, and Athena still blamed her and sex-shamed her. It just didn't feel very sympathetic to rape survivors.
  • Daughter of a Burning City by Amanda Foody* - DNF'd at 58%. I found this to be quite slow, and then started going off in a direction I wasn't interested in. The story changed, switching from a high fantasy murder mystery, to something a more epic high fantasy with political intrigue. While I don't normally mind this, the change in sub-genre wasn't what I was expecting or wanted. And so I started losing interest, and found I didn't particularly care about the characters.

And I feel ok with this. I'm not reading books I have no interest in. And I'm going to put don books I'm not in the right mood for, if the book isn't exactly of book I expected, which I've done a fair bit recently. I want to enjoy reading, and I'm not going to waste time on books that just aren't working for me. And when it comes to review copies, I'm just going to let the publicist know there will be no review, and why. This doesn't mean there won't be any negative reviews on my blog, because I'm likely to be disappointed by how a book ends occasionally, but no more reading books because I feel I should.

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Over to you graphic

What are your thoughts on DNF'ing books? Do you DNF books? Do you have to finish a book, or do you give up if a book isn't doing it for you? What about review copies? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I'm learning to feel OK with deciding to DNF but it's a difficult journey! It feels to me like an insult to the book and the writer. Occasionally I can see from the start that a book is simply not for me, but more often I manage to convince myself that it will get better "after the next few pages". I'm plodding through one right now that is really dreary but I'm past halfway so it's downhill all the way from here - isn't it?

  2. I DNFed two books this week, and I have no regrets, except that I cannot get the hours I spend reading those books back. They sounded promising, and I have enjoyed previous work by the authors, but I just was not feeling those books. A lot of the time, it's me. I have to be in the right headspace to tolerate certain things. I won't rate the books though, because I don't know if the story got better (or worse), and I cannot really give an informed view on a partial work.