Book Review

With a Twist by Deirdre Martin

DNF

Title: With A Twist
Author: Deirdre Martin
Publication Info: Berkley May 2009
ISBN: 0425228037
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Shop Indie Bookstores I’ve been pondering a new segment of book reviews, wherein I explain simply why I didn’t want to finish a book. Normally, if I don’t finish it, I don’t review it. But after some Twitter discussion over the past few weeks, enough people wanted to know the reasoning behind why I didn’t finish a book that I figured I’d try to explain.

I didn’t finish With a Twist by Deirdre Martin because, while the hero was very interesting, smart, complex, and dedicated, the heroine was too irritating for me to tolerate. It wasn’t because she’s French, or that she has that innate Parisian skill of being brusque to the point of rudeness, or that she’s prickly and not at all impressed with the hero. She is all of those things, but that didn’t bug me much. I kinda liked her for that part of her character.

What pissed me off is the numerous mentions of the heroine’s financial irresponsibility. Natalie is a waitress in her sister’s bistro in Brooklyn, and given some of the conversations in early scenes of the book, it seem Le Nat has a shopping problem. She’s cut up her credit cards, she’s got piles of debt, she has a job and an apartment – and yet maintains an attitude that she is entitled to a rich, luxurious life merely because…she showed up. And she wants it so ergo she deserves it.

What sent me over the edge is that Nat is one of those people for whom it seems real consequences don’t apply. She wants to be a manager in a New York restaurant, in Manhattan because Brooklyn isn’t good enough, and she wants to live in Manhattan – though see above re: credit cards, debt, and job as waitress. But wait! A rich, connected older friend of the family will allow her to use his incredibly opulent, gorgeous, full furnished apartment in the UN neighborhood on the east side for…free? But of course. It is Natalie.

Financial irresponsibility is common, and a major problem. And it’s not an unforgivable sin, despite the American attitude toward poverty that if you’re poor, you did something morally to deserve it (omg don’t get me started on that. Rage, I has it like damn). But the blithe sense of entitlement that allowed Natalie to believe that everyone else had the problem, not her, and my increasing irritation that she really needed a good long Extreme Makeover: Attitude Edition, like NOW, coupled with her lack of self-knowledge or acting as if she might know better any time soon prevented me from reading further, despite my enjoyment of Martin’s other books.

I disliked her so much by the end of chapter 5 I didn’t think she could redeem herself. Moreover, I didn’t want the luscious hero to waste his time for her. So I moved on and started something else.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    krsylu says:

    I hate it when I don’t like the heroine. I had that problem with Erin McCarthy’s Big Mouth. I LOVE every book by EMcC that I have read…except for that one. Our heroine was a reporter who willfully and unrepentantly compromised an FBI investigation in a last ditch effort to save her job. The hero was the FBI agent who didn’t arrest her to keep her from making it worse. I was (and still am) full of WTF??

  2. 2
    Stelly says:

    It is really unfortunate when one of the main characters drives me up the wall and it gets to the point that I can’t stomach reading about them anymore.  It’s not so bad when it’s a secondary character, but if the hero or the heroine is a class A pain in the ass, I just have to give up on them.

  3. 3
    Leslee says:

    Thanks so much for posting a DNF review!

  4. 4

    Sarah, with all due respect and great love:

    Imho, if you didn’t finish it, don’t review it. What if the heroine redeemed herself on the next page, thus the “twist” in the title? You bill this as a book review site, not a first-fifty-pages site, and if you don’t finish the book, you haven’t completed your self-described job. (I felt this way about your Twilight review also—how can you give a grade to a book you admit you haven’t finished?)

    Perhaps you could write a separate post listing DNF books and why you didn’t finish them. That is a legitimate topic for discussion, because we all understand the importance of keeping the reader (or agent, or editor) hooked. But don’t call it a book review. It isn’t. There are certain basic things that must be contained in a text in order for it to fit into the genre we call “book review”: (1) a summary of the book, with or without spoilers; (2) the reviewer’s opinion of the book; (3) the underlying assumption that the reviewer has actually read the book.

  5. 5
    Laurije says:

    I like hearing about other people’s DNF experiences. I feel better about my own. (I still feel like a bit of a failure when I have to give up on one, even if finishing it would mean nothing but pain.)

    Say what you will about livejournal and its ilk, when people tell me what is or isn’t a legitimate topic of discussion in MY OWN BLOG, I can filter them the fuck out.

  6. 6

    Say what you will about livejournal and its ilk, when people tell me what is or isn’t a legitimate topic of discussion in MY OWN BLOG, I can filter them the fuck out.

    And Sarah can, but she doesn’t, because she welcomes discussion of this sort.

    Just as she discourages flaming.

  7. 7
    Heather says:

    Personally, I like seeing the DNF reviews. There are sometimes when you can tell this book isn’t getting any better. By the end of the fifth chapter, there’s often some sort of inkling if the person may have a change of heart or has the ability to grow as a person (hint: not going to happen if their love interest is enabling the bad behavior.) 

    I wish I had listened to that gut instinct when reading Twilight instead of going through all four books so I could officially say “Wow, this sucks. How is this so popular???” It would be a bit much to see it as every other review, but every once in awhile is great.

  8. 8

    I love hearing about other people’s reading experiences, too, including the DNF ones. I’m just saying that’s not a book review.

    “This cover is pretty” = not a book review

    “This summary looks awful” = not a book reivew

    “I read the first chapter and liked it” = not a book review

    “I read the first three chapters and decided not to finish it” = not a book review

    “I read the whole book and did or didn’t like it” = book review

  9. 9
    Lori S. says:

    Thanks for posting the DNF, Sarah.  Being the masochist that I am, I’ll almost always finish a book once I begin, no matter how craptastic.  And the heroine in this book reminds me of the heroine in the Shopaholic series (and I REALLY wanted to smack her upside the head), so I’ll be steering clear of this one. 

    If a book blows so badly you can’t finish, I want to know.  And as long as you give the reasons why you couldn’t find the will to press on, then I do believe it qualifies as a “review.”

  10. 10
    tudorpot says:

    nods, if you DNF a book,  I want to know. My $$$ are too precious to waste on cr*p. Some romance sites have reviews that I can’t trust, having used them to decide on books to buy, I found A+ review books unreadable. Carry on.

  11. 11
    Charlene says:

    I agree with Lori S. – if a book annoys a reviewer so much that she can’t finish it, I want to know about it. If nobody reviews these books, how can the reader know whether the book is bad or has just been overlooked?

  12. 12

    If nobody reviews these books, how can the reader know whether the book is bad or has just been overlooked?

    If the reviewer doesn’t finish these books, how can the reader know whether the book is really bad?

    Heather’s point is well taken:

    There are sometimes when you can tell this book isn’t getting any better.

    But you don’t know for sure until you’ve finished. Readers who aren’t posting a review don’t have an obligation to finish. Readers who are posting a review, and whose entire sites are built around reviews, do.

  13. 13
    JoanneL says:

    The debate of whether or not a DNF review is a review or not has been going on a long time. Everyone has their own ideas about what constitutes a ‘review’ but I read review sites to help determine what I’ll be purchasing and a DNF is just as helpful as an A+ in what I may or may not add to my list.

    It’s the author’s job to make the readable/likeable, not the reader’s——and a DNF review is just an opinion like any other review. There’s an honesty about a DNF review that appeals to me and my book buying budget.

  14. 14
    JoanneL says:

    Should read ‘It’s the author’s job to make the book readable/likeable, not the reader’s’ *going for more coffee*

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:

    To make tone clear: I’m not upset. I’m curious what you all think collectively about books I tag as “DNF.” If I’m going to get all het up about slights to the community here, I can’t then slight the community myself. I’m fine with being told why something I’ve written or done rubbed them the wrong way.

    As far as DNF entries, this was a feature that Candy used much more than I did, though she called it “the dump” as in she broke up with the book because she couldn’t get through it.

    In this entry, I was trying to explain why it’s tagged DNF and what it was that stopped me from finishing it. I don’t think it’s a full and proper review, really, though it’s filed in the organizational structure as a review via author name tags, etc.

    But you don’t know for sure until you’ve finished. Readers who aren’t posting a review don’t have an obligation to finish. Readers who are posting a review, and whose entire sites are built around reviews, do.

    I think the disagreement here, if I’m reading correctly, is based on obligation and responsibility.

    If I’ve agreed to read a book and I say nothing on the site, I look like a tool. I said I would read it, and I couldn’t get into it or finish it. Forcing myself to finish book I didn’t enjoy or was mentally resisting makes the grade much harsher because I’m annoyed, and means that I have less hours to read something else that I might enjoy.

    If I say nothing, the person who asked is left wondering wtf is wrong with me. If I agree to read a book, I try to read it, I can’t finish it, and I can articulate why I didn’t want to finish it, then I want to say, “Here’s what didn’t work for me” because in terms of judging the book and it’s location in its subgenre, defining what stops me or someone else cold from reading another page is important. Not being able to finish a book is as much a judgment of the book itself as finishing it and giving it a D or a B or an A+.

    It also helps, I think, to ask other people what their DNF boundaries are. My boundaries are definitely not your boundaries, and knowing what makes me stop reading probably helps your collective gauge of me as a reviewer/reader because you know what pushes my buttons (good/bad) and what doesn’t. Grading rubrics are so very subjective that anything that helps define mine or yours or everyone’s seems to me like a benefit.

    I think that if I have said I would read a book, and I can’t finish it, I’m obligated to at least say why I didn’t finish it, what it was about it that didn’t capture my attention or what stopped me from reading the rest. To be honest, I have so much to read and so little time that I want the ability to say, “I tried, here’s why it didn’t work, and I don’t want to read any more so on to the next book.”

    Not saying a word seems from my perspective to be disingenuous because neither party benefits. The author never hears my reaction which was specifically asked for. (Note: that is not the case with this one. The publisher sent this to me).

    Saying nothing seems far less useful than saying, ‘Ok, here’s why I couldn’t finish this book.’ In this case, it rested entirely on a character’s flaw that in my opinion wouldn’t be redeemable.

    To clarify: I did, though, finish Twilight – the book. I did not read the rest of the series, though. But Twilight itself I did finish. And then kept writing about it, with some big honking long entry about why Edward is so smexxy for so many (still haven’t figured that part out, either).

  16. 16
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Veering slightly off topic for a minute, isn’t that the same damn pair of legs we’ve seen on, like, half a dozen covers now?  Flipped and Photoshopped, sure, but I’m sure I recognize that painful goosestep strut.

    spamword:  stock26
    This stock pic has been used at least 26 times now.

  17. 17
    Trix says:

    Add me to the list of people who think posting up “dump” or “DNF” reviews are just fine. So it’s a review of an incomplete read – this is clearly stated, as are the reasons why. Just as valid as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, IMO.

  18. 18
    mary says:

    THANK YOU!!!

    I’ve had this book on ‘buy on sight’ simply because I have liked many of her books. However the problem you have with the heroine will be one that makes me throw the book at the wall!!! Being irresponsible with finances but still wanting to live ‘high life’ is something that irritates me beyond belief in fiction and real life. Without consequences it is a DNF subject in books. Thanks!

    By sharing this DNF you’ve saved me money, time, and irritation. I hope you do more of these in future!!!

  19. 19
    Jessica says:

    Keep up with the DNF posts.  As long as they are getting a DNF instead of a grade, I think it is a great idea.  I think its really important to talk about why we can’t finish a book, just as much as reviewing and assigning a grade.

  20. 20
    theo says:

    Thank you, Sarah for this post, whether some want to call it a review or not. I have taken I can’t tell you how many books to the used bookstore that look almost new because I couldn’t make it even halfway through them. Think of all the money I’d have saved if I’d had someone tell me why they didn’t finish it before I bought it.

  21. 21
    Debra Date says:

    I love the idea of a DNF review!!!
    We’ve all had those moments when a book has an up close and personal meeting with the wall for whatever reason.
    Once the reasons a particular title doesn’t merit a grade by them are given (which they always are) I want to know about it, instead of being left wondering if it just didn’t cross their path.

    Bitch On !!!

  22. 22
    Erum says:

    I’m with those who feel that a “DNF” review qualifies as a bona fide review. To me, it is a grade worse than an “F” grade. It’s the equivalent of watching a movie and saying, “It was so bad that I walked out. My time is precious and those were two hours of my life I was never going to get back, so I walked out of the theater.” If a friend tells me this about a movie, I’m grateful because that means that I’m not wasting $20 to go watch it.

    It’s the same with a DNF review. If someone writes reviews that I find interesting and match my tastes (which happens a lot, but not all the time, with your site and “Dear Author”) then I want to know if there’s a book that you couldn’t get through and the reason why. Sure, you’re not telling folks what happened in the end. You’re reviewing the portion you read and sharing your thoughts on what made it impossible to finish. And that’s a valid review.

    In this case, I’m so glad you decided to post this DNF review. This seems like it’s even worse than the Shopoholic series and I thought those books were terrible. As a person who works very hard every month to pay off existing loans and sacrifices to not gain more debt, I have zero sympathy for ANY heroine who is irresponsible about credit cards. So, I could never sit through this book, either.

  23. 23
    Tae says:

    I agree about DNF reviews, please post them.  There are so many good books out there that I don’t have time to read, and I’d rather know which books to avoid.  I appreciate that you outlined what bothered you about the book because it would drive me up the wall as well and I’d want the heroine to be run over by a big truck, or at least not have a happy ending. 

    I recently read a short story where the heroine drove me nuts and I was hoping that the hero would get back at her for her shallow behaviour.  Alas, it did not happen and I felt like she never got her comeuppance and therefore, was not satisfied with the read and wished I had not wasted my time.

  24. 24
    ghn says:

    Thanks you for posting the DNF. I suppose that many reviewers might simply force themselves to finish a book they truly hated (with it being an uphill battle all the way. In a swamp. In truly horrendous weather – and with swarms or mosquitoes the size of crows hovering to suck every drop of blood out of her body), and with her mood getting worse with every page she turns. Or simply gives up and enters the conspiracy of silence about truly bad books.

    When you get a reasonable way through a book, you will know wheter it is worth the bother to finish it. If one of the main characters need a complete personality transplant, that is a very bad sign – because no matter _what_ the ending is going to be, it does not make for a good story.
    A possible outcome is seeing a main character whose guts you hate get a completely undeserved happy ending.
    Another possibility is giving the character that complete personality transplant, transforming him/her into a likable character. At the price of setting all the reader’s illogic- and WTF-detectors screaming, and completely catapulting me out of the story.

    There have of coruse also been a couple of instances I have encountered where the author has created a nauseatingly disgusting main character, where the author sees nothing wrong with those disgusting character traits, and instead of writing a story in which said character works toward becoming a decent human being, prefer to _celebrate_ that nauseatingly disgusting creepiness.

    No, I did not finish those books. Nor have I as much as looked at any other books by those authors. (Who would want to?)

  25. 25

    I’ve posted a few “did not finish” items on my blog and called them “non-reviews.” Sort of, “here’s why I didn’t finish it, and hopefully it’ll give you some idea of whether you’d enjoy it anyway or feel the same way.” I think you did a great job of explaining why you didn’t finish the book such that someone could decide for themselves whether it would apply to them, so kudos to you for jumping into that shark pool. :) I think that as long as you make it clear that you didn’t finish the book and thus can’t judge it as a whole you’re on solid ground.

  26. 26
    Bree says:

    I like reading people’s DNF reactions, though I don’t necessarily agree that they are always worse than an F review, especially if the reasons for not finishing are clearly articulated.  One person’s DO NOT WANT button is another person’s secret bullet proof kink. 

    I recently DNFd a book for reasons I fully acknowledge are 100% my own personal neurotic hot-buttons.  I thought the hero was past redemption at page 15.  Fair? Probably not.  He hadn’t eaten any babies or drowned any kittens, but what he did do made me hate him all the same.  While I can’t say anything about the overall quality of the book, I can certainly provide a judgment on why I found the hero’s starting personality abhorrent.

    As long as the reviewer states up front that they are basing their opinion on X number of pages or X chapters, there really is no room for misinterpretation.  Yeah, the book might have redeemed itself on the next page.  And if we, as readers, are that convinced it might have happened, we can buy it and find out for ourselves.

  27. 27
    Suze says:

    Just from an organizational standpoint, I think a DNF review belongs in reviews.  When I go searching through the archives of reviews for books to read, I don’t want to have to search through a separate list of books for DNFs.  A grade indicating that you didn’t finish it is more than fair, and I think MUCH more fair than an F (Incomplete).  If there was a way to sort the Good Shit vs Shit to Avoid such that it were easy to scroll through the books and blurbs, as opposed to reading through zillions of comments and taking notes, that would make me a happy surfer.

    And because tastes vary so wildly, I think it’s fair to post a DNF with the reasons you didn’t finish it.  The very reason you didn’t like a book may appeal to me.

    Me, I find my interest in a book fluctuates with my hormones.  Damn those hormones!  I’ll go through a phase where NOTHING grabs my interest, and then a few weeks later I devour and deeply enjoy what was so lacking initially.

    And I have to say that I’ve finished maybe 2 of Deirdre Martin’s books, and enjoyed one.  It finally dawned on me that she wasn’t writing Romances, but Chick Lit.  And I don’t like Chick Lit.

    Hee!  man49!  Not hardly…

  28. 28
    Jennie says:

    Personally I like seeing other peoples take on books that were DNF for them and hearing the reasons why.  As long as the person is upfront that the book is DNF, and I get a sense of about how far into the book they got (someone who tagged the book DNF after 5 pages may have less credibility than someone else who waded a bit further into the polluted waters), all is good.

    Most books that start out crappy don’t get better, and with so many great books out there I’d rather not waste my time or my money just to throw the book into the wall.

  29. 29
    KarenF says:

    I like DNF notes too… if the reviewers reasoning for DNF matches why I DNF books, then it’s helpful to me.

    Although, generally, I only DNF books if they’re boring.  While I often finish books in one sitting, there are others that go into my book bag for lunch/bus reading, and if I get to a certain point and haven’t gotten interested in finishing it, then I generally won’t finish it.

    In this particular case, I’ve read all of Diedre Martin’s other books in this series (and I remember this heroine from another book), so I don’t know if this review will stop me from buying the book.  What I’m more likely to do is move it from the buy without question pile into the “sit on a comfy chair at B&N and skim the first couple of chapters first” pile.

  30. 30
    charlane says:

    I think as a female, it’s more difficult for me to stomach a female irritant than a male irritant.  Not that one is better (or worse) than the other, it’s just that I feel females have been portrayed too many times over the years as the helpless one, the bitchy one, the slutty one….the whatever.  So when a heroine acts a way in a book that I find offensive to me – I don’t want to finish it.  Maybe she does get redeemed – maybe in some sense we all need redemption and the writer may show us that.  But the trick is keeping my patience long enough for the reveal. 

    It’s the same thing with that movie, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” that a lot of people loved.  This woman almost wrecked her friend’s career and pending marriage for her selfish desires.  Yeah.  Not cool.

    So I appreciate the DNF reasoning – even if it’s not really a review, it’s a presentation of whys they didn’t finish and that’s enough for me.

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