SPFBO: The First Round of DNFs by Jen (Bunnyreads)

The pokey person in the group is finally getting around to her first round of mini-reviews for my DNF’s! Please note, that this is only my opinion and my ratings, and these books still can end up as semi-finalists if one of my fellow judges deem them worthy. Once we have a couple of books all of us thinks won’t make it, Timy will write up announcement posts. Until then, you can follow our progress on our SPFBO page! Learn more about our team and fellow judges!A little over a month into SPFBO5 and I have read and/or sampled ten books. It turns out I’m pretty bad at slushing and decided if I like it or there is something that sparks my interest I’d continue on until I don’t like it or I am finished, whichever comes first. (Finished books will get a full review). I tried to be clear about why I dropped a book and hopefully was not too mean-sounding. In some cases it may be just not clicking and in others, issues with the writing that I didn’t like and I’ll try and be more detailed about it. In either case – these are just my opinions.

Dragon Destiny (Dragshi Chronicles#1) by Helen B Henderson

Dragon DestinyFor a human, a dragon form comes with more than just the freedom of the sky. Branin is the last dragon shifter born in over three hundred years. As a dragshi, he can take the form of his dragon soul twin, Llewlyn and knows the freedom of flight, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates. The raider, Lady Broch of Ky’port is more than willing to fulfill that position — with or without Branin’s willing cooperation. When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared. Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, Branin searches the world for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia.
Series: Dragshi Chronicles #1Rating: 3/10
Read: 33%Genre: fantasy/romance
Number of pages: 264Available: Amazon
Shifter Dragons, Romance Fantasy.This seemed like a pretty interesting world and spin on the shifter dragons. The race of dragons called the Dragshi share their souls with their human counterparts. Essentially, they’re two – the dragon and the human sharing a conscious and can shift between the two forms, though the dragon rarely comes forward unless needed. It’s a pretty cool idea and I liked the visual of how they shift from dragon to human.Branin one of the last Dragshi born, has no mate. In three hundred years there has been no one since him. When he briefly connects to another in his mind, he is understandably excited and hopeful that he has found another Dragshi and possibly his mate.Enter Anastasia of the clan Miller the possible mate. By 30% our two leads had just met and made plans to spend the following winter at the Eyrie (the Dragshi home).I decided to drop the story here for a few reasons; all to do with personal taste. I have spent a good twenty-years devouring romance, I feel like I’ve read every trope out there, which means I do have some preferences.There is instant connection between the leads, not quite insta-love but darn close, since they spend a lot of time thinking about each other after a brief mental greeting. I can understand him more than her because he’s lonely and desperate for a mate. It’s not a deal-breaker for me but it’s not a favourite trope either.Broch – She is the villain of the piece and is one of those characters that is just cruel, catty and vicious. She proclaims she’s going to have Branin and the power (since the Dragshi are highly admired and respected) almost as soon as we meet her and we get a lot of stuff proving how horrible she is (this is something that might round out and we gain sympathy for her later, I am only speaking about the first third) but I prefer my romance story villains, a little more subtle in their nastiness.The one thing I did like with her character, was the totally surprising stuff to do with Hicca (trying to keep this spoiler-free) it was a nice little bend to what looked like a certainty in path.The timeline – I wasn’t sure if a day had passed, a week, or an entire winter.I did like in the little bit of time I saw of Branin, through conversations with others that he seemed to be considerate of Anastasia – her age and choices she wanted to make. Not the big alpha-male attitude (at least from the bit I read and generally that’s established quite quickly with those sorts of males in romance). I also liked the support cast that surrounded him.If you like dragon shifters and romance this did have some neat ideas with the two souls sharing a form and might be just the right fit for you.

The Thorning Ceremony by Andrew Einspruch 

The Thorning CeremonyA slightly OCD princess. Her ambitious twin sister. And the worst rite of passage in the history of all the realms.  Princess Eloise Hydra Gumball III is on track to become the Future Ruler and Heir to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters. That is, if she can survive the grueling training of the demanding Thorning Master, stave off her sister’s desires to take on the role, and get through the horrific Thorning Ceremony. The Thorning Ceremony is a humorous story set in a unique fantasy world that features weak magic, equality between species, way töö mänÿ ümläüts. It’s a funny and witty prequel novel to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters series.
Series: The Western Lands and All That Really Matters #.075Rating: 2/10
Read: 44%Genre: Fantasy/YA
Number of pages: 189Available: Amazon
Twins Eloise and Johanna soon to be fourteen, must take part in a Thorning Ceremony to be on track to become a future ruler. The ceremony is a mystery to the girls and as much as they search, they can’t find clues as to what they will have to do to take part.


The girls are cute enough; a bit spoiled and can probably be quite the handful. They have their own sign language – which is good since they are not allowed to say a word once their training begins. I liked that they seemed to have a close relationship. (At least up to the point I read.)I love fairy-tale type stories and am a bit of a sucker for fun princess stories, so I really thought this one was going to be right up my alley. But I found as I was getting close to midway that I wasn’t interested enough to continue. I’m not sure why. It was just a bit dull or maybe just young feeling up to that point and I wasn’t connecting to either girl.I did think this could be a fun young reader story. Especially as some of the population are animals. I don’t remember what or if, the girls were animals but there were Aardvark maids, Hippo laundry/washer and a Chipmunk best friend whose father is the court seer. The tone is upbeat.I liked that cheery feel to the story but I found some of the humor wasn’t to my liking and most missed its mark with me. Humor is such a subjective thing, and mine is usually nowhere in keeping with anyone else’s so I wouldn’t put too much stress on that point.I assumed we were going to see the end result of the ceremony being them getting a life-lesson in respecting and being mindful of the people and world around them. But after a certain scene I think maybe it’s likely that it was not going that way after all, and headed towards a ‘believe in your own abilities’ lesson instead (or maybe it ends up being both).I found some of the paragraphs in the first few chapters a little dense at times – full of too long names, quippy thoughts, and that speech pattern I associate with Victorian romances. But other than that, I think this one boiled down to it just didn’t click with me. Hopefully it will find an audience with one of the others in our group.

The Eldritch Heart by Matthew S. Cox

The Eldritch HeartPrincess Oona Talomir enjoys the little things that come with her station: a handmaiden, her lavish bedchamber, and scores of fancy dresses―the duty to win a decades’ long war, not so much.  Oh, did I mention assassins?  Seers foretold the conflict would end by her hand. From the moment she drew her first breath, the neighboring kingdom has been trying to kill her so she could not grow powerful enough to destroy them. Fearing for his daughter’s life, the king has kept her confined to the castle grounds for most of her sixteen years. With the tide of war turning against them, the burden of her crown becomes too much to bear, yet one thing lifts her spirits amid the gloom.  Her servant girl, Kitlyn.  Alas, in a kingdom obsessed with the god of purity, she is terrified to confess her forbidden love. When her father makes a demand she cannot abide―marry a prince to forge a military alliance―Oona panics. He is handsome and honorable, but he’s not Kitlyn. Unable to admit why she cannot obey, Oona does the only thing she can think of, and runs away.  Alone and unprepared in the wilderness, she prays the gods will let Kitlyn find her—before the assassins do.
Series: Eldritch Heart #1Rating: 3/10
Read: 30%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 392Available: Amazon
Princess Oona has lived a sheltered and protected life. Her father keeps her to the castle and the surrounding grounds, in his fear of losing her to assassins. A prophecy foretold she would cause the death of tens of thousands and end the war between the kingdoms putting a target on her back.Oona’s only real friend is her maid Kitlyn. Whom she is deeply in love with and too afraid to confess lest she lose their friendship for good.I have mentioned in several reviews lately how much I have been wanting a soul-sister buddy story. You know the girls equivalent of a bromance buddy adventure. And while I have come across a few, they’re still not quite what I have been looking for. This somewhat has that sense that I am looking for just with a little extra feeling on top the soul-sister vibe but isn’t quite buddy adventure either.I really liked that the girls’ friendship and love felt quite natural. And that we get to see them spending time together and hanging out, with a good base for their attraction. I liked the actual seeing them spend time chatting and goofing around (like at the stream) more than the “do you remember when we did that?” which we got a bit of too.This was a hard one for me because the writing was decent enough and I had no major complaints – other than it taking a while to get on its feet and get the plot going. I had a few other minor things that fall into personal dislikes column- the servants speech was a bit distracting at times, and that everybody was mean to, or bullied poor Kitlyn (other than one young serving girl) which gets in that tropey-feeling area real fast for me.There were hints and undercurrents of things that interested me. I liked the magic. There was obviously something to do with Kitlyn and where she’s from (possibly long-lost princess of the other kingdom?) Also, there were some hints that the girls’ relationship might not be as taboo as it seems – if the king approves and other things here and there that I was curious about.  But I kept finding my attention wandering and losing interest and it could be if I read a bit further it would kick-in and I would be hooked but I wasn’t feeling it enough to keep going at this time. This is one, I may come back to at a later date, when I can pick away at it. But for SPFBO purposes I will have to say goodbye for now.

A Separation of Worlds by Rainbow Maccabre

A Separation of WorldsThey stole Brittany away from everyone she loved, and invited her to join a war. Studying to control her magic, at the Demon College of Yore, she gained a mentor in Nigel. He once lived in her original world, too. She came to blows, a clash of words with the centaur, Feyneyrey. Danger struck a match to kindle their friendship. The two young women, under Nigel’s guidance, journeyed on a quest to destroy a deity.
Series: n/aRating: 2/10
Read: 25%Genre: Fantasy
Number of pages: 401Available: Amazon
A Great War separated the world, placing the magic users (called Demons) in one, and the non-magic users in the other.Brittany finds, after surviving a bus crash that takes the lives of all but a handful of her classmates (the five she managed to save when an odd white light comes from her body) that she is a demon. She belongs in the magic using world and now has to leave everyone and everything behind to go there and learn to use her abilities.This briskly moves us through the beginning without a lot explaining or exploring the aftermath of finding out you’re being carted off to another world and leaving your friends and family behind or being a magic wielding demon. Making it a little rough in its execution in the start but things settle in a bit once Brittany arrives in the Separate World. Here, we get down to the business of introducing us to this new and fantastical place and its inhabitants, as it propels us through from one event to the next showing us all the cool stuff, without really exploring any of its ideas.You can tell the author enjoyed creating this world and exploring it with the characters and it is kind of fun and imaginative.The magic is “I think I can do it’ based, sort of like Dorothy and “There’s no place like home” it can be thought or wished into reality by envisioning or “willing it” to happen.  It can also be bad and there is a dark magic that can sometimes corrupt the animal or person, that is attacked by it, causing them to go rabid and become pure evil.There were some hints of a deeper plot, that when the Great War happened not all was told, and there might be a secret behind what really happened and why the magic users had to separate, which could be an interesting turn.Of the quarter I read, I think the roughest part of the story for me, was everything up until she goes into the Separate World. The introduction to Brittany, her power, parents, and her subsequent leaving, all happens so fast, and it is very clunky feeling.  After that, it felt more natural, though it does tend to gloss-over a lot, giving this a younger audience feel to the story. Unfortunately, if I had read that first part as a kindle sample, I probably wouldn’t have stuck around for the more interesting and fun stuff that happens after.On the plus-side, the quick pace gets you to the fun stuff without wasting time on our world and there’s some really interesting ideas, and the world is neat. But, the plus-side was also my down-side, as I would have liked a little exploration into the difficulties in adjusting in general to everything and leaving family and friends. Answers to some of the questions I was having – like how the Separate World knew Brittany was a demon – was it the bus accident or did they always know? And just more rounding out in general. (It is possible this was explored more in-depth later in the story too).This was another in our group where the format had to be converted to .mobi which did not go well. It made it very messy and hard to read, with sentences broken into paragraphs, and numbers randomly inserted.

Strathen by Grey Melmoth

StrathenFor Kara the fortress of Strathen is a prison. Whatever life she had implodes when her father is taken prisoner. Fearing he will wind up another of the keep's many human sacrifices she begs her twin sister, Leto, to help rescue him. Their plan ends in failure and Kara is left alone in the desolate halls. 

This is made worse when a blizzard crashes upon the keep, trapping Kara. However, she grew up among the stones of Strathen, as a servant she learned to move quickly and quietly—and when to disappear. Survival has become a way of life as she discovers the keep's terrible secret, the sacrifices are done for a purpose. 

Kara's journey will pit her against the return of archaic magic, forcing her to challenge the very laws of her world. It will take more than will to change the fate of Strathen. In this new world Kara vows not only to survive, but to thrive. 

Strathen is a tale of revenge and magic by Grey Melmoth. It is dark, tense and with a female hero you cannot stop reading about. This is no flowery tale, but a fresh take-no-prisoners dark fantasy.

Series: not sureRating: 2/10
Read: 40%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 456Available: Amazon
The summary for Strathen sounded so intriguing! This was also one of my choices for the cover contest. Very nice presentation over-all.At forty percent we were just finished placing our characters on their respective paths. This is a fairly large book (GoodReads tells me 456 pages) so more set-up time was expected.What I liked – It was an interesting start – Kara and Leto, whose father is imprisoned at Strathen and they’re trying to break him out. Things go badly. I was curious about why he was imprisoned and how these events would change Kara who seemed to have a good heart despite the circumstances.Young Marus (I have confusion about his age) is introduced, he is at a monastery and is sent with the Minstrel Jaavis to Strathen, which works well for Marus because he thinks he has found clues to a treasure below the keep. (I was pretty excited about this – you can always get me with a treasure hunt).We meet Ambrose and the Dot as he has been imprisoned at Strathen and is totally losing it. Ambrose’s imprisonment and the reasons why intrigued me (until Marus’s potential treasure seeking came along) but the slipping into insanity part is also a thread I would probably tire of pretty quickly, so I was glad that it was in smaller doses.And Marek, who is searching for Ambrose, finds information that he is imprisoned at Strathen. He hires a guide to help him get there.Do all roads lead to Strathen Keep in the Yrael mountains?  At this point it sure looked that way and I was curious how outside of the Keep’s characters would intersect with the others. Would they meet at all, would this turn into an ensemble team or enemies? And I especially wondered if Marek would find Ambrose.Where this lost me – it’s very wordy- I’m of the say it with less club (I know, it’s so hard to tell from my reviews). Multiple descriptions in the same paragraph of a scene that basically say the same thing. This starts to come across feeling like trying to prove that it’s a dark and terrible place, instead of being dark and terrible.Those conversations with the eyes and knowing what each other is thinking by body language or without context – it’s not a favourite device for me, even with characters that know each other well. Stilted conversations and antagonistic attitude/behavior. Sometimes to create tension between characters but most the time it left me wondering why are they so angry at one another? Particularly in one case where it was a mutually benefiting venture, making me think it was supposed to be sexual tension.Jumping back and forth on the timeline and the use of it as a device to keep every little minute thing a mystery (a huge pet peeve with me) and so much of its use in this was unnecessary – places where the chapter break or a switch to one of the other characters serve the same purpose with less confusion.Editing – needs an extra pass for those missing words and odd sentences.Even though I was quite interested by the potential of this one, the accumulation of these things led me to drop this story.