A book review…

Yes, this is a deviation of sorts for me. I read. A LOT. I used to read a lot; now, with my nook, (her name is Trillian) I read A LOT.  I enjoy a somewhat varied interest in subject matter. (Although I don’t particularly care for self-help or other non-fiction, other than auto/biographies.)

I used to find a new author via a simple method. Wander the library or Goodwill and look for the THICKEST books. I am not a fan of short books. I am a fan of series, and of epic tales. I read some fantasy, I read some paranormal, I read some historical, I read some ‘literature’, I read some bodice rippers, I read some time travel, I read some sci-fi, I read some contemporary romance, I read some mystery, I read some humor, I read some suspense, etc.

Now, with the internet, and message boards, and Trillian, I have found so many other authors; so many good, but not popular best sellers, many authors who I can interact with on Facebook and on their blogs, and it has lent a different feeling to reading.

One author, who is a member of a message board I frequent, posted a link to a free ebook. I, of course, ‘bought’ it.

I finally got the chance this month to read her story. And it kept me up late into the night, I dreamt about it when I slept, I woke thinking about her characters, and I read every moment I could until I finished. And then, I came to my computer, and I purchased her entire library!

The author is Shayne Parkinson and the first book is  Sentence of Marriage .The title was intriguing.

Having now finished the series, I wanted to share my thoughts.

First, an ebook issue. This book series is formatted exquisitely. It has no errors in pagination, or odd spelling from whatever system is used to create an e-file from a manuscript. This may mean nothing to you, UNTIL you have suffered through an ebook that insists on odd br eaks and ‘spell-checks’ a character’s name into something ridiculous. Some very popular print books have been made unreadable without frustration by this process, most notably to me, the Earth Children Series by Jean M. Auel.

Next, the length. It was wonderfully long. (The entire series, I discovered, was somewhere in the area of 700,000 words. Heaven to me!)

Thirdly, it was simply about people. Just people. Not famous people, not crazily rich, high society, mover and shaker people, not about murderers, or the person trying to catch them, or time travelers, or about werewolves, witches, magicians or aliens of any sort. No one was royalty, or ‘special’ in any way. And, by the way, all of those kinds of books are my kind of book, too.

It was a simple tale, of a simple girl named Amy, and her extended family living a simple life in Victorian era New Zealand. It expands over the course of almost 30 years of life and death, marriages and births. It was the kind of story that more people need to really read, to remember how much we as people, and as women, take for granted in the first world countries of this planet in the 21st century.

Do children today know, or adults recall how different life is now than it had been for all of time? Look at your walk in closet, and then try to imagine a time where you had one good dress and two work dresses. And that’s it. It was accepted behavior to save and to be wearing your wedding dress a decade later. It was accepted behavior for a man to hit his wife. It was accepted behavior to have your children perform manual labor from the age they could handle it so you would have food on the table. It was accepted behavior to pull children from formal schooling after a few short years, not so they could stay home and play Nintendo, ride bikes or join soccer teams, but so they could rise at dawn with their parents, and milk cows, plant potatoes, build fences, scrub floors, bake bread or take the day up washing clothes.

Yet, this was not simply Little House On the Prairie. Serious, adult issues occur, there is violence against women, some of it somewhat graphic. It brings home the very sad truths that our forbearers lived an incredibly hard and different life, and that this kind of life was one that existed for thousands of years before the past century, which has brought about such momentous change.

The writing was clean, the story flowed well, and I found myself unable to put the story away, even when I wasn’t reading it. Her descriptions of physical characteristics of individuals were a bit lacking; I couldn’t reliably tell you the height, eye color and hair color of most of the family.

The flow of one book to the next worked very well as a group. However, my preference for a series is to be able to start with any book and understand and follow. (Even if you do get ‘spoilers’ that way.) This was probably the biggest failing, because the next book simply took up where the last ended, without enough re-introduction to characters. There can be too much of that. There is a series of books, 17 so far, that wastes FAR too much time re-introducing characters, but the upside is that you could start reading at book 11, go back to book 6 then 2 then 16, and not have too difficult a time of it. But I don’t want to have to be flipping around to a genealogy chart to remind me that John is Amy’s older brother, either.

Similarly, story arcs, and satisfying endings to one book didn’t always occur, they stop short. I think it is possible that the author simply stopped writing one book, deciding that 1000 or so pages was enough, and then started a new book with the next chapter.  This in no way minimizes the impact of the story at all.  It just is not the kind of series where you could read book one, and then wait a few months or till next year to read book two, because too much is not gone over. Of course, being already at 700,000 words, I can certainly understand the need on occasion to edit!

None of these short-comings are of great consequence, and they shouldn’t be any reason for you to put this series of books to the side. I read very fast, but I would think for the average reader, you would find that you have the companionship of the Leith family for a wonderful month and get to know their family as well as your own!

*Note there is no foul language, and sexual interactions are at best, minimal, but required for the story. ETA, well, the foul language is from one character, and is somewhat required for the story. But there is nothing gratuitous about it.

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