KC and the Sunshine Chats (4): DNF Reviews and DNFing Books

Posted May 13, 2013 by Kara in Kara, KC and the Sunshine Chats / 37 Comments

Hey, everybody! Welcome to another edition of KC and the Sunshine Chats. Today we are going to be talking about DNFing books, and DNF reviews. For those of you that don’t blog, DNF stands for did not finish. This is a hot-button issue that has been discussed a few times in the blogosphere, but I don’t believe I have ever put MY opinion out there and it’s probably time I do that. I know that this is an important topic to many bloggers and it has caused a few arguments, so it’s a good one to talk about.

So, my first question for Christina is this: What do you think about rating books you don’t finish, and do you do it?

CF: No, I do not rate books that I don’t finish. Actually, I didn’t used to do anything with DNF reviews until I figured out how to add a shelf for DNFs on Goodreads, so that they wouldn’t be on my to-read shelf still. Learning about exclusive shelves was a gamechanger. Now, I do post a brief explanation for why I wasn’t feeling the book for the short amount of it I read, and shelve it as DNF. I don’t rate it, because, personally, I just don’t feel comfortable rating a book I haven’t read in its entirety. This might be why I don’t like anthologies/collections. I have to suffer through all of the crappy stories to feel like I can rate/review.

KM: So you don’t include them anywhere on the blog then? Just Goodreads? That’s usually what I do. I used to post my DNF reviews up on the blog, but then I ran out of space and that was like the least important thing I was doing, so it had to go. I still post them on Goodreads though. As far as rating, I actually DO rate books I haven’t finished, but it’s a really rare occasion when I do this because I save it for the utterly horrendous. Like Alice In Zombieland. I didn’t finish it and I still rated it. That book was ridiculous and unreadable. Ha. So I felt like I almost had to. But again, this is something I don’t do often. I rarely read short stories either. Just not my thing, I guess. So, have you ever gotten shit from other users over writing DNF reviews?

CF: Well, I did do a roundup of my DNFs during the first few months of 2013. I’d not really done that before, just because it didn’t really occur to me, but I’d had some people ask about what I DNFed in 2012, and I had no clue, because I wasn’t recording it at that point. I didn’t link the DNFs in my Review Archive, but they’re there if you look. Bleh, I did finish Alice in Zombieland, and just…no. I can’t. Oh, and speaking of getting shit over DNF reviews: I got my second troll on my blog ever (that I remember anyway) when I posted that roundup of reviews. So yeah. I’m sort of on the fence about doing that again, but then the trolls win.

KM: I haven’t gotten any on the blog, but that’s because I only did it a couple of times, and it was pretty much before anyone knew about our blog. I did get one on Goodreads though one time. I DNFed and rated a book that I had won from a Goodreads giveaway, and I was told by staff that I had to do that or it would mess up my winning algorithm. It’s effed up anyway, but I did what they said, and this woman flipped her shit because I one-starred a book she loved apparently. It was just one comment but it pissed me off. Anyway, I don’t particularly care about trolls anymore, but those were the early days, so yeah. So how do you structure your DNF reviews? And have you gotten positive feedback from other readers about their helpfulness?

CF: Oh, yeah, GR decides if you can win more by if you’ve reviewed the ones you already won. Thus why I don’t enter any at the moment, since I have two reviews outstanding. Oops. I don’t have the stones to not be freaked out by the trolls. This comment was sort of funny, though, because the troll was like “why would you waste your time reading books you don’t like?” on a post about how I didn’t do that. *tilts head*

KM: Weird. I don’t have ANY reviews outstanding and I haven’t won a book from them in over a year now. I guess they don’t like me. LOL!! I remember that comment and it made me cackle like a madwoman. Could they have been anymore obtuse?

CF: The fact that people get so up in arms about them does make me glad that, back before I knew anything about the community when I started my blog, I didn’t include them. It just never occurred to me to do so. However, I do enjoy reading other people’s DNF reviews. Doesn’t mean I will take their word as gold, but if they’ve read half or more that’s enough to make a real judgment, and I can see reviewing it, even if I don’t. Even if it’s just of twenty pages, go right ahead. I do like for DNF reviews to be clearly marked, and even better to say how much the reviewer read (something I’ll add to my next DNF roundup.

Oh, Kara just kicked me behind the scenes because I missed that question about formatting DNF reviews and positive feedback. *rubs shins* Okay, there’s no specific format to them. Usually, it’s just one brief paragraph about what wasn’t working for me (lack of characterization, something rage-inducing early on, bored to tears, confusing). Though I did go all out with my Period 8 DNF review and outline the first 25 pages and how awful they were. Pretty proud of that one honestly. Oh, and, yes, most people respond positively, even when they say “I still want to read it,” which is totally fine by me. Best of luck to you!

KM: I love reading DNF reviews, actually. I find them extremely helpful, especially when they are coming from bloggers I trust. At this point, I pretty much know what I like and don’t like, so seeing something in a DNF review that rubs me the wrong way is usually a pretty big indicator that I shouldn’t be reading it. Last year, I wrote a lot of snarky reviews. I still like to do that, but this year, I am not reading as many books I like, and I am DNFing a lot more often than I have in the past. And you are right. Including how much the reviewer has read is important because if they only read twenty pages, that’s not going to mean as much to me as someone who had read one hundred.

I format mine pretty much the same way you do. I used to take a lot of notes when reviewing, but I stopped doing that because it felt like work. I am thinking I might start it up again in the future though because I feel that my reviews have been lacking in detail lately. Sorry for the off topic. LOL.  I loved your Period 8 review. I thought it was wonderful, and that’s part of the reason I want to start taking notes again. So…how do you feel about DNFing in general? How often do you do it? Is it easy for you to DNF a book, and what makes you do so?

CF: I do love reading them too, because they tend to be really hilarious. Plus, they can save me from a book I would hate, if I have similar taste. Obviously, the better I know someone, the more impact their DNF review will have on me. I know that I often agree with you or Giselle or Jenni or April, so if you guys don’t like something, then I’m going to be more likely to pass. In the end, that DNF review is saving the author from additional bad reviews because we can avoid the book which would have made us mad the same way. I’m DNFing more too! A whole 6 books in 2013 already. *pats self on back*

Speaking of only reading twenty pages, I generally DNF by page 50. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve committed so much time to the book that I might as well finish. I thank my lucky stars I haven’t been trolled much since I often finish books I didn’t like from the beginning, because I kept hoping they would get better, and, by the time I was sure that it wouldn’t I was too far in to stop. So, if I’m not feeling a book very early on, generally either because I am incredibly bored or already enraged, I will go look up reviews for the book, both negative and positive and see if I think there are any chances of it improving for me. If I seriously doubt it, I DNF with a swiftness. How about you?

KM: I agree. And I decided not to read How My Summer Went Up in Flames based on one of your reviews. I know you didn’t DNF it, but I have a feeling I would have. I think sending a message to HarperCollins saying I know this book would upset me instead of reviewing and ranting over it is going to be better for me in the long run. I don’t like to be angry when I read, and I am sure the author would appreciate the lack of that review, even though I don’t write my reviews for authors. I just don’t like to read books I hate anymore. At least not lately.

I have DNFed (goes to look) 7 books this year so far. Almost the same as you. I actually thought there were more than that. I usually give a book one hundred pages unless it makes me rage early on. But this changes based on the book so I am sure some of them are 50 like you. Last year, I finished a lot of books I probably shouldn’t have. This year, I am not doing that. Even IF they are review books. If the publisher doesn’t understand (they will), oh well, because I am not torturing myself.

CF: How My Summer Went Up in Flames ended up being a 3 star for me. The main character would piss you off enough that I don’t think it would have been for you. I was able to enjoy that the characters were at least well-developed, even if Rosie is a hypocritical bitch. *coughs* Umm, but yeah, general things.

One hundred pages is too many pages. If it’s really long, I might give it more. It’s sort of a ten percent rule, I guess. If it’s not grabbed me in ten percent, and the reviews praise things I don’t care about or complain about things I hate, then we’re done. Usually though, I’m not that unhappy in such a short period of time, or I’m convinced things will improve against all reason. I never used to DNF review books, because I was afraid the publisher would hate me, but now I will. I accepted some crazy stuff early days and had to write negative reviews that were like “Well, this totally wasn’t for me and I knew that, but, uhhh, it was free?” AWKWARD.

KM: I like your ten percent rule. I generally go about twenty, I think though. If a book is 350 pages, I’ll read 70 before quitting. Unless it makes me rage quit. I know you would hate that though. 70 is a LOT. Hahaha!

And so did I. When I first started blogging, I would take everything that was offered to me. I just wanted stuff to read. I think everyone does that. Now I don’t even answer most of the email requests I get. I just don’t have the time. Totally awkward. I reviewed a lot of self-published books and I am lucky that I didn’t get trolled early on because most of the drama comes from that area of the publishing industry. Not all, mind you, but yeah. And it was torture, trying to finish those books that I hated. And then reviewing them? I didn’t DNF at all in the beginning and I should have. I didn’t want anyone to feel bad and I didn’t want to hurt any feelings. Let’s just say that I’ve changed a LOT. So, anything else to add on this topic, Christina? Or are we ready to wrap it up and ask for comments?

CF: I could say more, but it would be on a tangent. Maybe we need to tackle the early days of review copies in a later chat?

KM: Sure! That sounds like a great idea. I love talking about my early days of blogging because everyone’s experiences were different.

CF: Next time on KC and the Sunshine Chats, find out all the things Christina did wrong when she started book blogging. Are you excited? Yeah, you are!

KM: I can’t wait for this topic! Muahahaha.

Bloggers, what are your policies for DNFs? Readers, do you like DNF reviews? How long do you stick it out in a book you’re not liking before you DNF?

Links for post:

How My Summer Went Up in Flames: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/412820178

37 responses to “KC and the Sunshine Chats (4): DNF Reviews and DNFing Books

  1. Great post girls, I have yet to DNF a review book although Icons may be my first one if it doesn’t pick up! A lot of people get really shitty over DNF’s but I always refer to my experience as a reader for a literary agent. I’m always told read until you aren’t enjoying it anymore and I write a report on it which is pretty much the same as what a blogger is doing with a review copy so if you can DNF an unpubbed book I see no reason why we can’t do the same with a pubbed book!

    • Interesting to get an industry perspective! I don’t see why a DNF review, so long as it doesn’t pretend to be a review of the full book, would be more damning than finishing a book you hate and reviewing the whole of it. People can get so up in arms about it, though, and I don’t get why.

    • That really makes a lot of sense and thank you for letting us know about this. I’d rather not DNF anything, but sometimes I just have to. And being sent something for review from a publisher isn’t really a whole lot different than what you’ve just described there. Only difference being one is not actually published yet. Good to know.

  2. Lovely post, ladies. I personally don’t DNF (a few exceptions, but I’ll explain that below), but I always respect those who take the time to post DNF reviews and I read them quite often. They really help me to make an evaluation on whether I should pick up a book or not. I’ve actually saved quite a bit of time this year reading several DNF reviews on books that I would’ve probably hated (most recent of which was Suzanne Young’s “The Program”. I know there were people who liked it, but after some of the DNF reviews and a few comments about it, I probably would’ve ended up being offended greatly.)

    Mainly the reason why I don’t DNF is because of my own completionist habits, and that’s a personal thing – somewhat compulsive, somewhat curiosity. It’s something I can’t turn off, no matter what I do – and while that’s good for me getting things done, when I’m reading a bad book – it can be unpleasant, ha!

    I wrote my first DNF review on Goodreads earlier this year, a Christian Fic book called “Chocolate Covered Baloney”. I thought the book was okay with some heavily considered flaws, but gah, I couldn’t even read the thing because it was so graphic heavy in ADE and kept crashing the application, and the Kindle version didn’t come out right from NetGalley, so I dropped it at about 50%. I rated it because I felt like I’d read enough of it to count for the review and its respective content (so I guess that would make me more in Kara’s boat, but I respect Christina’s choice as well). I don’t know if I’ll pick it up again, unless I find it at a library, but that’s one of the first instances I’ve DNFed a review.

    • WHAT IS THAT TITLE? I don’t even.

      For me, it’s a completionist thing, too, which is why, if I DNF, I do it so early on that rating the book seems unfair. If I were able to make it to fifty percent or more and quit, then I might rate and write official reviews.

    • I think I will probably not read the program either. It sounds pretty offensive to me and on a topic that is a pretty important one to me.

      I used to be like you and read through everything and never DNF, but my brain won’t let me do it anymore. I get very restless and angry, and yeah.

      That is a pretty bizarre title. And yeah, I’m like you Rose. I’ll rate it if I feel I’ve read enough to warrant that. Don’t really care if other bloggers don’t approve. It’s my blog, my space, my rules. 😀

  3. I also don’t rate my DNF books… I will also post a brief explanation (unless there’s A LOT I want to say but my DNF books don’t often involve a full review) on Goodreads but I don’t post it on my blog. I don’t usually have a page number/percentage in mind to reach before I give up.. if it’s not working for me by page 2 then I have no issue giving it up. Life is far too short to read shit. lol Great post ladies!

    • I agree. I used to be very uncomfortable about DNFing books, especially those I was given for review. But now…I’m not anymore. DNF reviews are just as valuable in my opinion. Thanks, Bonnie~

  4. Sam

    I find DNF reviews pretty helpful most of the time too, but I rarely write them myself. Normally that’s because I DNF after a handful of pages, but I agree with Christina.. having read half or more of the book is plenty enough to make a valid judgement. Personally, I don’t add a rating on Goodreads (though I did for 50 Shades, hah) but it doesn’t bother me if others do. What does annoy me is when people rate without having even given the book try. But that’s a whole other conversation… Great post, you two!

    • That bothers me too Sam. I’m pretty against rating if you haven’t read the book. But…there have been instances where author behavior has gotten so bad where I have decided to rate it anyway. Though that’s only happened twice, I believe.

  5. KM

    Good topic! I used to post about the books I DNF on my blog on a series called “Book Breakups,” which Lori over at Pure Imagination started. But I don’t DNF many books anymore because I’ve gotten a lot better about choosing what to read. (Before, I used to read just about anything if it was for review. Now, I’m way more selective.)

    I also like reading DNF reviews, usually because they’re honest. It’s the same reason I like to read negative, one- and two-star reviews: because I want to know what they didn’t like. If it’s something I know would bother me as well, I don’t pick up the book; but sometimes, what bugged them won’t bug me, so I read it anyway. (I always like to read Christina’s negative reviews since she and I are basically polar opposites, and if she didn’t like it, there’s a good chance I will. lol)

    I didn’t know that about the GR winning books thing. I’ve never won a book from them anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter for me. *shrugs*

    • I wish I could never DNF. I do try to be more selective, but even so, I’ve DNFed 7 books already this year. Some of them were for review but I am very picky about which ones of those I choose to read as well.

      Same. There have been a few negative reviews that made me buy the book so negative reviews aren’t as damaging as some authors think. That’s so funny about you and Christina!

  6. Amy

    Great post! I have actually DNF’d quite a few books this year unfortunately, and skipped a few after a lot of negative reviews. I have never written a DNF review I don’t think. I mean on GR I think I have left a little reason why I did, but I don’t think I have on my blog. I have like 2 outstanding reviews on GR, one was a DNF so I should probably just do that one. The other I just didn’t have time to get to the book and still haven’t. That was like a year ago.

  7. The blog that I do guest reviews for doesn’t post DNF reviews, but I’ll post them myself under my account on GR and such. Personally, I like DNF reviews – gives me a heads up on problems ahead of time. Sometimes I’ll agree, sometimes I won’t.. but I look at DNFs the way I do reviews – everyone will have a different take. Now I *WILL* rate a DNF book if I thought the book was so horrible that I wanted to throw it against the wall – and I say why. But if I’m bored or it’s not moving me, I generally don’t rate it. I don’t have a problem with people rating DNF books when they take the time to tell me why they’re doing so. I’ve gotten more comments *cough cough* on a couple of DNF reviews than I ever have on any full reviews that I’ve posted on GR.

    Hah, I won a book through GR and it’s pretty terrible. I was flirting with doing a DNF and I just feel pretty guilty cus – hey, free book. So I forced myself to finish. The rating and subsequent review will reflect my, ahem, reluctance. I felt somewhat hornswoggled by the book’s description and what I actually read.

    • I love DNF reviews as well. Because they help me to decide whether the things that made the reader DNF are things that would make me DNF. Or sometimes, the things that made them quit are things that would make me want to pick it up for myself and read.

      And I agree. DNF reviews are super popular. For trolls, of course, but also just for GR users to comment on.

      And I hear you. The last book I won from GR I hated. I wasn’t going to force myself to finish but I did rate and review it. Still haven’t won anything from them though in a long time. Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have enough books.

  8. I think DNF reviews are as relevant as any other review, as long as the reason for the DNF and an estimate of how much of the book the DNF is based on is provided.

    I don’t really understand why anyone would be against DNF reviews as long as the reasons are clear. As a reader I don’t like to DNF books…it feels like a waste of money since I’ve already made the purchase. But on the other hand, time is valuable, and the time I have to spend reading is my time to enjoy myself. If the book just isn’t working for me, I’m moving on. Why suffer? Why finish it? To me that’s the same as throwing good money after bad.

    I don’t expect bloggers to be any different than the rest of us…who says they should be expected to “take one for the team” and suffer through something just so the rest of us can have a “complete” review? As long as a review is honest, I’m fine with it – DNF or otherwise.

    • Exactly, Jurisha. I think as long as you post when you quit and why, it’s perfectly valid to rate it. And I think most people wouldn’t rate a book they have only read 10 pages of. But if they did? SO what? Why is rating books such a big deal? Most buyers don’t even check Goodreads before making a purchase.

      I understand your reasons for not DNFing as I was the same way as you once. But then I started to get ADD and now I get angry and can’t focus if I am engaged and I actually HAVE to DNF.

      And I also agree with your third point.

  9. Very cool post, ladies! I struggle SO much with DNF’ing. I have this…NEED to finish a book. But so far this year I’ve DNF’ed two and that’s big for me. There’s so much to read and only so much time, and I REALLY wasn’t feeling the most recent one. I don’t think I want to make a big habit of it, but it is something I may start doing from time to time if I’m forcing myself to read a book.

    Re: putting DNF reviews on the blog. With the most recent one, I am going to, but with the mention that it’s chock-full of spoilers and it’s mainly just me listing reasons why I couldn’t finish the book. I just happened to have room for it, or usually I’ll just stick to posting a DNF review on GoodReads.

    Love this series!

    • Great job on the two you DNFed! You are just more patient than I am, that’s all! I haven’t written a really negative review in a while because I DNF so much. People are going to start questioning and losing their trust in me. 🙁

      Same with me. I just don’t have room on the blog. If I ever do, I might post again. Or maybe Lyn and I can do a roundup post together.

  10. I agree with Molli. This is a very cool post. The reader in me is all, “Yeah, totally, I’ve done the same thing.” But the writer in me is shaking in my shoes, ladies 🙂 Great job!

  11. I struggle with DNF. It’s the MUST READ ALL THE BOOKS side of me. That being said, I’m learning to DNF because there a lot of books out there lately that I realized are just not worth my time. (Which I’ve also learned about with friendships. But of course THATS ANOTHER STORY). While I rarely DNF, my coblogger does all the time and we do blog about DNF because if we couldn’t finish it we hope someone else did, too.

    I wish goodreads could have a “DNF star” but I also wish they had a half star and a working search engine.

  12. Doing an occasional DNF roundup is a good idea. I am with Kara – the reason why I did not finish the book determines if I rate it or not. For example, I rated Delirium because it bottomed out early on in the book, and The Almost Moon was such an offensive storyline with a horrible MC that I felt that it deserved a poor rating. I did not rate The Iron Thorn or Raw Blue because I felt that I disliked the book just on personal taste.

  13. It’s always so interesting to hear everyone’s systems for DNF reviews. I’m trying to be better about DNFing books because there just isn’t enough time to waste on ones I’m not enjoying.

    My general rule of thumb is that if I’ve read at least 100 pages and have a good grasp of the plot/style/etc and have also skimmed the ending, I’m comfortable with rating it on GoodReads and briefly explaining why, though I rarely post to the blog. It has to be a really horrific book of epic proportions for me to read beyond that and that I’d want to say something about, hah.

    If I’ve read less than 50 pages, I don’t rate it. But everyone’s system is clearly different.

    Great discussion post, ladies!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • I totally agree with your policy, Wendy. I rate if I feel I have read enough. Usually 100 pages is about right. Sometimes less depending on length and how bad it it. Agreed about horrific books. If it was super bad, I think I would post it to the blog like I did with Alice in Zombieland. 😀

  14. Another great discussion ladies! I do DNF when needed, but not all that much. Mainly because I think compared to you guys & Giselle & Jenni I don’t get nearly as many review books…and so I still read a lot of books I know I’ll be loving (most likely) going in. But it certainly has happened more than a few times, in which case I usually write up a quick paragraph or two about why it’s a DNF: whether it really pissed me off early on or the writing style or whatever else! I’d say my DNF limit is around 20% depending on the size of the book. I have gone on longer too, only to curse myself for plowing through the torture. And proceed to chuck the book across the room >.< bahahaha

    I honestly enjoy reading DNF reviews too even it’s for books I know I’ll loved or have loved that trusted blogger friends just couldn’t get into. We’re not all the same and reading should be about reading what YOU want, right?! And sometimes reading those DNF’s can be hilarious 😀 Other times, it just makes you think about stuff you didn’t notice before.

  15. Awesome post! I don’t actually DNF much, but I also haven’t been blogging as long as you guys. And I’m still in that early period where DNFing review books sounds absolutely TERRIFYING (which is probably why I managed to finish September Girls, aside from the fact that I wanted very much to tear it apart in a review). But I am a completionist, so I think I am less likely to DNF in general. I tend to be really optimistic about such things and think that some books just need a longer start up time? Hahaha. I expect I’ll probably get more used to the idea later.

    As far as ratings and reviews… I have posted a DNF review early early on about A Million Suns and rated it because RAGE. I think if I DNF something it definitely means it’s bad enough to warrant a rating. I always mention how much I read though and why I stopped reading, so people know to take my rating with a grain of salt. I just think honesty is the most important thing. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with trolls yet, since I guess I’m still too unknown for that.

    DNF reviews are definitely helpful to read as well, so I don’t see any problem with it at all.

    • I didn’t DNF a lot at the beginning either. I pushed through and then eventually I realized how unpleasant that was and how unhappy it was making me. Depending on the book and how far I am in, I still might finish, but I have no qualms about DNFing now if it’s necessary. Heck, I just DNFed The End Games.

      I haven’t read A Million Suns but I will at some point. I hope it doesn’t make me rage!

      I hope you never have problems with trolls.

  16. I need to DNF more often than I do. I review if I have strong feelings about the book, or do a quick “this is why I stopped” thing on goodreads if it’s more me than the book.

    I usually try to hit 25-33% of the book because if it’s not good by then it’s usually not good.

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