Adult · Book review · middle grade · Young adult

Short Reviews: Short Books that Needed to be Shorter and Recent DNFs

37825422The House With Chicken Legs is a middle grade fantasy book following Marinka, a girl whose house has chicken legs and never settles down, making it impossible for her to have real, living, human friends. But Marinka has an important role: she is Baba Yaga’s nephew, and she must learn to help the dead pass the Gate in her chicken-legged house.

I picked up this book because it offers a really interesting twist on Baba Yaga’s fairytale, and I wasn’t disappointed by that aspect. Baba Yaga is not a terrifying witch, she’s a misunderstood grandmother, and the house is a character itself – probably my favorite character in the book.
I love seeing books inspired by Russian folklore, especially when Baba Yaga and her house are involved, so I really liked the premise of the story and its (moving) setting. I mean, who doesn’t want to read about a house with chicken legs surrounded by a fence of bones?

The House With Chicken Legs is a heartwarming story about grief and growing up. It had an interesting plot with some twists I didn’t anticipate, and I liked its themes and message, but I was a bit disappointed by the pacing – this book got somewhat repetitive in the middle and Marinka wasn’t that interesting as a character. I feel like I would have loved this book if I had read it in middle school, however, so I still recommend it to its target audience.
(I have to say that I could have done without the North African Mean Girls Scene, though).

My rating: ★★★¼

35565988Chord is a romance set in college between two girls who are roommates. The main characters don’t know they’re both attracted to girls at the beginning, but I wouldn’t say this is a coming out novel, because the focus is on the romance and little attention is given to the coming out scenes – which I appreciated, in a way, but this book really had no plot.

The first book in this series, Style, managed to be a balanced low-conflict, fluffy novel that had little plot aside from the romance but wasn’t boring anyway. But Chord isn’t low-conflict, there’s no conflict at all, and since the two girls realize they like each other and get together before halfway through, the second half ended up being really boring. I ended up skimming parts of it.

I really liked the beginning of this book. Chase and Cordelia were really cute as a couple, but what I liked the most about Chord was the way it showed how girls can be so oblivious when they fall in love or are attracted to another girl because they just don’t think about that. Also, the two main characters haven’t decided which labels fit them by the end of this book, and I liked that – there’s very little representation of main characters who are definitely queer but don’t know if there’s a specific label right for them. One of the two main characters wants to find one and the other doesn’t care, which I loved (no, not every unlabeled queer girl is bisexual and in denial, really, can we stop with that stereotype).

There are two other things I really appreciated about this book: it’s f/f with explicit sex scenes (I love how sex-positive Cameron’s book always are) and basically every character who isn’t one of the girls’ parents is queer. Also, Stella and Kyle are relevant characters here! I just wish the writing had been better – the PoV are really similar and I often confused them, there are many typos, and the dialogue feels often forced and repetitive – and I think I would have liked this a lot more if it had been as long as the novellas in Cameron’s Violet Hill series.

My rating: ★★½

Recent DNF #1

32714258Barbary Station has one of the best premises ever:
🛰️ Pirates! Even better, two pirates in space who are women and also engineers (women in science!)
🛰️ and love each other (established f/f couple!). One of them is black and butch, the other is chubby
🛰️ they became pirates because of student loans.
🛰️ and they have to fight an evil AI!

And yet, I couldn’t finish this book. The writing is dry and I struggled to focus on it. I found myself rereading paragraphs many times because I just couldn’t care about the details of the political stuff or the side characters.
Since I’ve mentioned the side characters: once Adda and Iridian got on Barbary Station, we’re introduced to more than ten side characters, and I started confusing them almost immediately. Was I supposed to care about the ones who died? How could I, if I knew nothing about them but their name?
Adda and Iridian themselves weren’t that interesting as characters. It’s not that they were terribly written – they were just a bit flat – it’s that the writing was so dry and dull that they sounded exactly alike, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a book told in first person PoV + dual perspective.

Some of the pirates hate each other because of a war between different places in the Solar System that ended a few years before the events of this book. Or so we’re told through graceless infodumps I skimmed. I think I was supposed to care about that too, but there are no stakes. The war has already ended and seems to have nothing to do with the actual enemy – the AI – so…?

There were two things I actually liked about this book apart from the premise:
🛰️ Adda and Iridian as a couple – women who love each other and support each other with no miscommunication involved are some of my favorite things to read about. Yes, the relationship having no conflict also meant it had no tension, but that wasn’t what made this book boring.
🛰️ The hacking scenes, if they can be called that. There’s a lot of interesting technology in this book, and it’s sad that I hated the writing so much, because hallucinatory hacking involving insects is a very cool idea and I wanted more.

I don’t like writing negative reviews of f/f books, especially if they’re genre fiction and not standalones, but I just couldn’t get into this.

My rating: ★★½

Other Recent DNFs

33503519The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin: More “on hold” than DNF, because I want to try this again, as there wasn’t anything wrong with it – all I’ve read was actually really good. I’m just not in the right place to read this right now, and I don’t know when I will be – sad books about people suffering because of systemic oppression are something I find difficult to read.

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer: Not only this was boring, I [a 18-year-old] also found it disturbing, and I don’t know if I was meant to feel that way about the main relationship.
I really don’t have any interest in debating what’s problematic or immoral in a f/f Dorian Gray retelling, but I also have no interest in reading about people younger than me dating people in their thirties.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir: I read the first book in 2015 and really liked it, but never continued the series. After three years and the first three chapters of the second book, I can just say that this series doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon: reading diversely for me also means trying diverse books from genres and age ranges I don’t reach for often – like middle grade, or, in this case, adult romance – and that’s something I’ve been trying to do more often. However, this just wasn’t my kind of thing – I don’t really know how to explain why, I just found the gender roles in this book [it’s m/f romance with a plus-sized black heroine]… exhausting? I don’t know, it was just really not my kind of romance.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: this read like fanfiction, and not in a good way. I wanted to see ownvoices anxiety and autism representation but the writing was too awkward.

Do you DNF books often? What is the last book you chose not to finish? Have you read any of these?

8 thoughts on “Short Reviews: Short Books that Needed to be Shorter and Recent DNFs

    1. It really is a shame when that happens. I guess I should have listened to all the mediocre reviews Barbary Station got, but this seemed such a great idea that I had to give it a chance.


  1. Too bad Barbary Station was a disappointment. I liked it but I listened it as audiobook so I guess the dry writing doesn’t bother so my (at least me).
    I don’t usually DNF. The last one was Rimrunners by C. J. Cherryh. Cherryh has a very dense writing style which I tend to either enjoy or at least not be too bothered by. However, that was just too baffling and depressing: I couldn’t figure out why the characters did what they did and ended up not caring about them and so abandoned it about half-way through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad Barbary Station worked for you, at least! I really wanted to like it because of the premise, but I just couldn’t get into it. And I had never heard of Rimrunners before, but I can’t do that kind of books either – dark is fine, depressing isn’t.
      I DNF often, because if a book isn’t working for me, it will take me weeks to complete when I could be reading something I like instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw Barbary Station at the library the other week and was like, “oh right, *this* book–I should totally try it!” But now I might give it a pass. Ugh the premise sounded so good! And I’ve been curious about Creatures of Will and Temper (I mean, that cover!). But people in their mid-teens dating people in their thirties is uh…iffy.

    I DNF Nicky Drayden’s Temper in August but will definitely try it again this month. I think it was the same situation as The Fifth Season for you–I just wasn’t really in the right mindset for it. And I also recently gave up on Empire of Silence, which was the the most purplish purple thing I’ve read in a while. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cover of Creatures of Will and Temper is so beautiful I still can’t believe how much I did not like the inside. It took me a hundred pages to DNF it – even though the relationship I was really uncomfortable with was hinted at from the first chapter – because I was in denial. I don’t know, I’m ok with characters of all ages dating old magical creatures (if it’s not written in a creepy way) because magic and suspension of disbelief, but actual, relatively-not-magical humans… I don’t want that.

      I hope you like Temper if you pick it up again! I loved it even more than Drayden’s debut. And I had never heard of Empire of Silence before, but that’s probably a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed The House with Chicken Legs, cause I’m really excited to read that one. Middle grade novels usually don’t become favorites of mine, but they’re still fun and cozy reads. It’s a shame Barbary Station wasn’t very well written, cause it has such a cool premise! I’ve had no luck finding a pirate novel I really like, but I thought for sure that space pirates would be amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t found a pirate story I love either. The worst thing is, all books that were recommended to me as “books about gay pirates” this year turned out to be either not gay, not good or not about pirates – which is one of the reasons Barbary Station was really disappointing.
      I hope you like The House With Chicken Legs!


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