Book review · Fantasy · Sci-fi

Reviews: Recent DNFs + Sawkill Girls Excerpt Review

37854049The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a historical fantasy novel following a Jewish Ukrainian family. The two main characters are Liba and her younger sister Laya, and this is a story of self-discovery that almost reads like a dark fairytale, partly inspired by Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and by many Russian and Ukrainian folktales.

Sadly, I couldn’t get into this book at all. Half of it, Laya’s PoV, is written in verse. I usually don’t agree with those who say that modern poetry is just prose randomly broken up, but… this totally felt like prose randomly broken up. I don’t understand why it was even told that way – there was nothing poetic about it, it just felt stilted.
Not that the writing in Liba’s PoV was much better. All the dialogue felt really forced to me, and I can’t figure out if the way the writing always kept me at arm’s length from the characters was intentional or not.

If it hadn’t been for the writing, I’m sure I would have liked this, maybe even loved it. The dark, mysterious atmosphere was there, there were a lot of food mentions and descriptions (worldbuilding done through food is my favorite kind of worldbuilding), and this blend of fairytales, coming-of-age themes and history could have been a very good adult/YA crossover.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t finish it.

My rating: ★★

38362809Rosewater is a science fiction novel set in Rosewater, Nigeria, a city that grew around a mysterious dome of alien origins. Once a year, this dome opens and many people get healed, but it never lets anyone enter. Kaaro, the main character, is the only exception.
Kaaro is a sensitive, which means he can listen to people’s thoughts, and find things whose location he isn’t supposed to know.

I liked this setup, but I almost arrived to the 30% mark not understanding what was going on. I have no idea where this is going, and I still don’t get how the flashbacks – the many flashbacks that show Kaaro and his criminal past – are supposed to fit in the story. I don’t get it, and I have no motivation to continue, as the writing isn’t working for me and the main character isn’t my favorite.

I didn’t like reading in Kaaro’s PoV. As I said, I still have no idea what the plot is supposed to be, but I have already read two sex scenes (with two different women, one of them an alien who appeared just to have sex with Kaaro) and I know more about various female characters’ breasts that I do about the book. I know Kaaro is supposed to be a flawed, unlikely hero, but to me he only read as annoying.

There are some aspects of this book I found really intriguing – mostly, the fact that every supernatural-looking thing is happening because of alien fungus (that is an awesome concept) and also how criminal sensitives use their abilities to scam people – but they weren’t enough for me to continue.

My rating: ★★

Now nitpicking, because I care about this sort of thing: I doubt an alien fungus would get Ascomycetes xenosphericus as a scientific name. “Ascomycetes” is already a (somewhat obsolete) name of the division Ascomycota, and in the classification of Fungi the -cetes suffix signifies a class, not a genus. This would add so much confusion.

39296999I don’t want to rate this because it’s a DNF at 5% and rating a book after reading so little is unfair, but I can’t do this. Only the Ocean is an interesting experiment of how it would feel to read a perfectly normal book if you took 90% of the commas out.
As it turns out, it’s unreadable – long run-on sentences just don’t flow well – and also pretty confusing at times.
I know I read an ARC and ARCs aren’t always edited, but I think the lack of commas was intentional (a stylistic choice, maybe, but one I don’t really understand the purpose of) because I can’t believe so many of them would just… not be there.
I decided to DNF when I got to the first dialogues, because I understood the writing wasn’t going to get any better and because this book also does another thing I do not like – it writes the accents in the dialogue.
The idea of a LGBTQ book set in a water-logged world whose protagonist is a girl with a heart defect sounded really interesting, but I’m not continuing this.

38139409I like to keep my TBR under 200 books. My favorite way to decide whether or not a book is worth keeping is reading the preview. But I don’t always have access to one – especially if the novel hasn’t been published yet. I’ve been on the fence about Sawkill Girls for a while, and then I realized I could read an excerpt on netgalley.

Sawkill Girls is a YA horror book set on the island of Sawkill Rock, a mysterious place where girls seem to disappear often. From this preview, I already see that this will be an atmospheric, creepy book in which the setting is really important, which is something I usually really like – some aspects of this reminded me of The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, a paranormal book I read (and liked) earlier this year.

This book is told in three PoVs, and this preview was three chapters long, one from every girl. The first main character we meet is Marion, a girl who has recently moved to the island after her father’s death. Then we see Zoey, a black girl who has recently lost a friend, Thora, in a mysterious way. The third is Val, a popular girl who has a secret – this beginning was already full of secrets, and I really want to know what is going on. Also, apparently there’s asexual and bisexual representation here.

I haven’t read any book by Claire Legrand yet, but now I definitely want to get to this novel and her Empirium trilogy. As I prefer not to rate previews, I won’t give a rating to this one, but I can say that if I had read this in a Try a Chapter Tag, I would have for sure kept this book on my TBR.

3 thoughts on “Reviews: Recent DNFs + Sawkill Girls Excerpt Review

  1. I love your strategy for deciding whether to keep books on your tbr! Sometimes I read previews before buying a book but I think I’m going to start doing that more often so my tbr is more manageable. Sawkill Girls looks really interesting and I’ve seen/heard positive things about it so it’s on my tbr. It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy The Sisters of the Winter Wood. Your review piqued my interest so I think I’ll check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you end up liking The Sisters of the Winter Wood if you try it! My only problem with it was the fact that I really couldn’t get into the writing, I think that if you do get into it the story and characters have a lot of potential.

      Liked by 1 person

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