SPFBO: The Second Round of DNFs by Jen and Timy

For a change, Jen and me doing a post together, as some of the books below are already cut (check out the First Reaping here), and as I’m being slow with reading and don’t have enough material for a post on my own, I decided to chime in.


Please note, that this is only personal opinion and rating, these books still can end up as semi-finalists if one of our fellow judges deem them worthy. Once we have a couple of books all of us thinks won’t make it, we’ll write up announcement posts. Until then, you can follow our progress on my SPFBO page! Learn more about our team and fellow judges!

Jen’s DNFs

I’m back with my second round of DNFs. I’m not much further ahead than I was at my last DNF post but I think this puts me close to the halfway mark on my thirty. Thank you to the authors this round – this has been tough and I am sure even worse to be on your end. My grand plan was to read as many of our group that caught my attention as I could stuff in before round two. But we all know how plans go, and I am finding life is interfering. Sadly, I did have to remind myself that this is a competition so even though there have been a few that had solid writing or interesting ideas, I needed to start narrowing the field and I tell you it broke my heart not to continue on with a few of these.Here we go…

The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope

The Procurement of SoulsMagnus Drinkwater is close. Close to harnessing enough power to fuel his modified pocket-watch and stop time. But the answer continues to lie out of reach and when his daughter discovers a young woman no longer in possession of her soul, it quickly becomes clear that his own frustrations are the least of his worries. Someone with altogether darker machinations is busy working to their own design. Dr Weimer is manoeuvring in the shadows, harvesting the souls from small-time criminals and turning their empty bodies into his mind-dead minions. But he too needs more power. Greater soul potency to reach his vision. And he’ll do whatever it takes. No matter the cost. As the body count rises and Magnus follows a bloody and violent path through decaying city slums and dockyards; city ministerial buildings; and St Villicus’ monastery with its subterranean catacombs, he unearths more questions than answers. What is the link to the violent death of his wife two years before? What secrets are his colleagues hiding? Is there anyone he can truly trust? He must forge alliances he never thought possible and ultimately decide: just how far is he willing to push his own principles of science to power his device and keep the city safe? Two scientists. Two ambitions. One bloody adventure…
Series: stand aloneRating: 4/10
Read: 30%Genre: steampunk, mystery
Number of pages: 301Available: Amazon
Magnus Drinkwater is fixated on his research to stop time. His daughter Clementine, is fixated on helping find the women that have gone missing. And Dr. Weimer just wants to control the world’s population by creating an army of underlings with his soul-stealing machine.I started this once before and ended up dropping it and coming back to it again. It wasn’t catching with me the first go around and I wasn’t sure why because it seemed like it would be right up my alley. This was quite different and a clever idea with the connection from the gathered souls to the doctor and his being able to control them. I can’t say I’ve read anything else where the removal of the souls caused people to become the equivalent of Golems. It’s steampunk, a setting that I thought went well with the mad scientist feel of the story. It’s pretty dark in places too – my gag reflex kicked in just imagining that opening scene with the soul stealing doo-hickey down that guys throat. Aagh! The author definitely has a way with the words and knows how to set a scene to its maximum squickiness!Clementine could be petulant and head strong at times; she is a teen/young adult but that sulkiness and attitude made it hard to want to spend a lot of time with her. I was the most curious about Marina than anyone else in the story. She has a bad temper and no niceness at all but there just something about her that was appealing. Magnus is somewhere past grieving widow into obsessed with finding out the truth behind his wife’s death and if it has any connection to the current missing women. He seemed like he was one lightning strike away from mad scientist, and I actually even wondered for awhile if he and Weimer were the same person like Jekyll/Hyde, or if this might end up perhaps turning in to a future Drinkwater=Weimer, kind of a time loop on itself because of his obsession with his work.Though I loved the soul-stealing golem premise, the rest- the characters and their search to uncover the truth behind the missing ladies etc. just wasn’t holding my attention. I find in crime stories, I am the most interested in the ones where I don’t know who the villain is. So I think this one came down to not enough interest in the characters, for me to see how they get from point A to point B in their investigation. I may come back to this one at a later time but I had to make a decision to move on from it for SPFBO purposes. I liked the addendum links in the body of the story. Very handy, I wish more ebooks took advantage of being able to use this feature. Though, I can see it might only work in special in-world cases like this one.

Jess, Rising by D.M. Guay

Jess, RisingOne town’s secret. One girl’s transformation. One love’s fatal burn. A supernatural love story with deadly consequences, for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Twilight.  Seventeen-year-old Jess Flowers sees the killer in visions. He slaughters the helpless with fire and lightning. And she’s next on the kill list. Billy Combs is the gorgeous outcast with the electrifying secret. He’s stolen Jess’ heart, but his own past may be darker than he’s let on.  As the body count ticks higher, a growing pile of evidence links Billy to the crimes. Jess’ heart says no. But she’s the new kid in isolated Salt Creek, Ohio, a town with a life-changing secret, a town where people aren’t what they seem, a town where it’s hard to know who to trust. A town that’s transformed her.  Can she tame the mysterious powers surging within her and identify the real killer before it’s her turn to die? Winner, 2016 Romance Writers of America Joyce Henderson contest for young adult romance (under its original title, Girl with the Sun on her Heart).
Series: Guardians of Salt Creek #1Rating: 2.5/10
Read: 25%Genre: YA, paranormal romance
Number of pages: 218Available: Amazon
After the death of her dad, her mom moves the family back to their hometown in Salt Creek, Ohio. Once there Jesse starts having vivid dreams that feel like premonitions or visions. She also finds her body is healing abnormally fast. If that’s not weird enough for you, it turns out she’s not the only one.Fast-paced YA, looks to be fun. There’s a collection of high school kids that feel like high school kids hanging out, and I liked that Jesse reconnected with her best friend skipping the whole outsider misunderstood cliché that we usually get from these teen stories (at least up to the quarter I read).So even though this had lots to enjoy with the friends and the superhero feel to their gifts, it also felt very barebones in places with lots of telling and very little showing. I wished for more fleshing-out of some of the events. For instance, we are told Jess was close to her dad but we don’t see it or feel it in the aftermath. Also, with the body that Jess found – I had actually started to wonder if it was a dream because of the time jump into the next scene before it is casually mentioned again. I had that feeling a few times with events that were somewhat glossed over, wondering if they were dreams and a bit lost by the jump. Especially with the fact that she’d been having vivid dreams since her arrival. Where I left off Jess was just discovering her gifts, it could be that the story gets more involved exploring those gifts and the why of them as it goes, but up to that point, it was quite an easy no thinking read because everything is told to you, leaving me to think that it isn’t going to change a lot on that front. The presentation of this one between the cover, summary, and editing (at 25%) are nicely done.

Over A God’s Dead Body by Joel Spriggs

Over a God's Dead BodyLoki hates being bound to Seth, the most micromanaging of all the Egyptian Gods. But when their quest to regain Seth’s crown leads to a boring midwest town where nothing happens, Loki discovers a family he never wanted to admit may exist. Esmy is singularly frustrated by the lack of pockets in women’s clothing and being stuck in a rut with fixing the same crappy WiFi issues day in and day out. But when it turns out her great-grandfather is Loki, that ignites her life like a powder-keg. Leading her to discover her own college campus’s mysterious depths, involving voodoo priestesses, sasquatches, vampires, Canadians who hate girl scout cookies and the magical ability to have a pocket bigger than a closet. In a high-stakes game of maneuvering, Loki’s freedom and Esmy’s survival come down to a fight over a God’s dead body.
Series: not sureRating: 2/10
Read: 25%Genre: humour/fantasy
Number of pages: 312Available: Amazon
Esmy has started noticing things around campus but only catching them from the corner of her eyes, things she’s never noticed before – doors that weren’t there, stairways that go where there is only a wall etc. After asking around, it turns out there is a preternatural department at the college and they offer classes. She’s interested.This was a hard one because this is definitely not my type of humour which was a little too bawdy for my likes – I tend to lean towards dry, sarcastic, and maybe even a bit morbid. It didn’t help that the story felt to be worked around the best way to showcase that humour either. I admit to being pretty hard to please in that department and couple that with a school/possibly instructional type setting – it really had to impress me to keep me interested.So, a few thoughts on the bit I read. A plethora of characters are introduced in the first 25%, so many that I was not even sure where this was going story-wise or which characters were going to be the main ones, without checking the summary. We get a sasquatch, Esmy and her brother, professors, a Canadian, a cop, a voodoo priestess and Loa’s (this one I was excited about Loa’s are not commonly seen in fantasy), Egyptian Gods (again excited), Loki, a meeting of the entire head (or what felt like it) of the preternatural department of the college, and these are just the ones I can remember. It was a little overwhelming. Some of these scenes/characters felt unnecessary and like I mentioned before, only there to set-up the joke and nothing else, though I may be wrong, I am drawing conclusions at 25% read. I will say that the characters had enough differences that I, the queen of not being to remember a name, was able to keep a good half of them straight – though only by their oddities. But that’s a kind of a big deal with me, so points for that. Some editing is needed to catch the wrong/misspelled words – lay for ley lines and that sort of thing, and to clear up any confusing or unnecessary scenes. I am sure there is an audience that would appreciate this book and its humour but for me, I’m going to have to say goodbye.

Raven’s Edge: A Raven’s Tale Adventure by Alan Ratcliffe

Raven's EdgeThe road is hard. Travel too long upon it and you in turn become hardened. A dark shadow has fallen over the northern city of Strathearn. The duke’s son and heir lays dying, the victim of a terrible witch’s curse. The promised reward for her capture remains unclaimed, while tensions rise in a land where the wounds of civil war are not yet healed. One day a lone wanderer, a raven-haired girl, arrives at the castle and claims she can break the curse. But is all as it seems? Raven’s Edge is a standalone prequel to The Raven’s Tale epic fantasy trilogy, and can be enjoyed both separately or as part of that series.
Series: Stand AloneRating: 4/10
Read: 30%Genre: fantasy
Number of pages: 202Available: Amazon
This is a stand-alone mystery story, that ties in to a bigger series with the character Raven, who has a knack for problem solving. Raven is searching for the Witch that is responsible for cursing the Duke’s son – there’s also a sizeable reward involved. Raven seems like she genuinely wants to help, which is a nice change from the normal characters like this, that are only in it for the money. This was a hard one for me because the writing is nice and clean, and very smooth, and I liked the idea of the curse/mystery and even enjoyed the addition of Connall, to Raven’s party as she searches for the witch. (He’s the third son to the duke and brother to the cursed prince, he also happens to have a bit of a crush on his brothers’ wife.)There are hints to a deeper involvement behind the curse of the prince. The duke who seems to live frugally for a man of his station and believes in hard work and has passed that down to his boys may not be as magnanimous as he appears. And Bronwyn, the young woman that Raven, and Connall, aid after a run-in with the duke’s men, also seems a bit off. That gets me to the 30% mark where I decided to leave off. I had no complaints about the writing really, and as curious as I am why the witch cursed the prince and how they fix it, I wasn’t overly invested in it either. I’m not sure if it’s the tone or if it felt too much like an entry to a series I haven’t read yet but I found my attention wandering often. I may come back to this at another time but for SPFBO purposes, I am letting it go.

Timy’s DNFs

As I’m the slow reader in the team, I decided to round up Jen’s DNFs and add a few of mine. Three, to be precise (you can check out my previous DNF post here), so forgive us that this post had become such a monster…

Over A God’s Dead Body by Joel Spriggs

Over a God's Dead BodyLoki hates being bound to Seth, the most micromanaging of all the Egyptian Gods. But when their quest to regain Seth’s crown leads to a boring midwest town where nothing happens, Loki discovers a family he never wanted to admit may exist. Esmy is singularly frustrated by the lack of pockets in women’s clothing and being stuck in a rut with fixing the same crappy WiFi issues day in and day out. But when it turns out her great-grandfather is Loki, that ignites her life like a powder-keg. Leading her to discover her own college campus’s mysterious depths, involving voodoo priestesses, sasquatches, vampires, Canadians who hate girl scout cookies and the magical ability to have a pocket bigger than a closet. In a high-stakes game of maneuvering, Loki’s freedom and Esmy’s survival come down to a fight over a God’s dead body.
Series: not sureRating: 2/10
Read: 22%Genre: humour/fantasy
Number of pages: 312Available: Amazon
Where to start. I had a number of issues with this book. What put me off the most is the way the book operated with humor. We all now that humour/comedy can be a hit or miss as sense of humor is pretty subjective. I’ve never found this kind of humor funny personally. At times it felt too forced, and some chapters merely existed to show off the crudeness, but otherwise didn’t seem to serve the plotline much. My eyeballs seriously got sore by the time I reached 22% because of all the eyerolling I did rather than laughing. The sad thing is, this book could have been interesting, if the author didn’t try so hard to be hilarious, edgy and cool. And if there was some editing involved. By 22% we got to know a shitload of characters, a few of which absolutely made no sense in terms of plot, like the voodoo priestess or the college kid with his van depicting a wizard and a unicorn having fun. We hardly learned anything about the supposed main characters Loki and Esmy, and I absolutely had no idea where the story was heading. Overall, this one really wasn’t for me, but hey, this kind of thing probably has an audience anyway…

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: 4.5/10
Read: 24%Genre: epic fantasy
Number of pages: 392Available: Amazon
I found this book a bit tropey with having a Chosen One and the Foretelling. It also falls into the YA cathegory for me which is not entirely my cup of tea. Although I could look over this if I could connect with either Oona or Kitlyn, but I couldn’t. I also found the writing a bit repetitive, especially at the beginning where we constantly get told how Oona is the one to stop the war because of a Foretelling and how sad she is because can’t spend enough time with Kitlyn. Personally I think it would have worked much better with another POV character from the enemy country instead of Kitlyn or Oona. Which would have set a nice contrast, and that would make us understand why is there such a hate between the countries to the point of spreading propaganda. And how actually people of Evermoor think about Lucernia and Oona.I think the biggest issue was that there wasn’t a single likeable character who would keep me interested. Although, Kitlyn can have a few surprises up her sleeve with her mysterious past and the fact that she wields magic. There is also a romance brewing between the characters, which – for me – was annoying, but mostly because I’m not really a fan of romance plots in books. This one was a slow burn one at least and I think it will appeal to people who like their epic fantasy a bit spiced, especially since we are talking about a female-female romance. Sadly, this book wasn’t up my alley, and I said goodbye to it.

King of Ash and Bone by Melissa Wright

ashboneWhen flying monsters break through the veil into her world, Mackenzie Scott has nothing left to lose. Her brother has been taken, her future has vanished, and all that remains is a desperate need for revenge. After discovering the breach the creatures used as a gateway, Mackenzie devises a plan to stop them, whatever the cost. When she finds an injured stranger in the street, he just might be the key she needs to succeed. What Mackenzie doesn’t know is that this stranger isn’t the helpless boy he appears to be. He’s one of the monsters. And he’s got plans of his own. Thrown into a dying city in another realm, Mackenzie is powerless to get back. With the gateway closing, time is not on her side. But the stranger is, and if they can escape execution, this girl and her monster might be able to save both their worlds.
Series: Shattered Realms #1Rating: 3/10
Read: 24%Genre: urban fantasy, apocalyptic
Number of pages: 216Available: Amazon
Honestly, I’ve be struggling with this one. Partly because apocalyptic urban fantasy settings aren’t something I usually enjoy reading about. This one also had a YA feel to it – which is not a bad thing in itself, don’t get me wrong. This is a short book, and a fast paced one, which would have benefited if there was more worldbuilding – there would have been plenty of space for it – and the characters were more fleshed out. We drop right in the middle of the events and there is hardly any stopping to get our bearings, to actually get to connect with the characters or understand what’s going on. Overall, this book didn’t appeal to me and decided to move on from it.

As mentioned above, some of these books were already cut, but we still decided to write down our thoughts in a bit longer form. You can follow our progress on my SPFBO page! Or take a look at the First Reaping here!