Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Daughter's Walk

A walk to remember?  Hmm...oh wait, that is another book altogether (one I haven't read - missed out on the Sparks phenomenon).  No, this is a whole other genre: historical fiction. 

It may surprise many people who know although I love history (it was my major in college),  I do not like historical fiction.  I would rather spend my time reading a biography or book on events in history than reading someone's imaginings of a certain historical period or person.  Oh, and it may surprise others that although I am a Christian (did I mention my major in college was actually church history?), I don't like Christian fiction - again the same thing applies.  So, when I signed up to get The Daughter's Walk as an ARC, I really don't know what I was thinking. 

The Daughter's Walk is the story (based on actual people) of a mother-daughter team who decide to walk across the United States, sponsored by a group of investors to promote dresses (that ladies can walk in) and save the family farm at the turn of the 20th century (an actual time).  I think this is where actual history and fictional history part ways and the author takes over in the storytelling department.  The story becomes a basic prodigal story without the squandering of inherited fortune and without the loving father taking back the wayward daughter. 

So, what is missing? interest.  I did not really enjoy this book.  I got through it but I found it tedious and mundane.  Each of the story elements seemed to be attempts to be historical fiction.  Yes, I do know that should be an accomplishment, given it's intended genre.  But what I mean is the author seemed to be working to make it historical in nature.  She has entire paragraphs where she attempts to show the passing of time by almost listing the things she found out about the period when she was conducting research.  It is not woven into the story, it is an obvious "this is the time we are talking about" device. 

Which brings me to the question: What would it take for historical fiction to capture my interest? 

I think it should be the type of work where the reader feels like they are actually reading a work of history.  Where the author has done the research so well and so intertwined it with the story that it could feel as though it was written during the historical period or by the best historian EVER!  Have you ever watched the Ken Burns series for PBS on the American civil war?  The historians in there never met, nor walked this earth during the civil war (I know because I have done the math and they would have to be over 150 years old); yet they speak about the men and women of the day as though they grew up with them - they breathe life into the dead.  That doesn't mean they are right all the time.  There is no way they could know the emotional lives of these people; but they use inference and a little bit of imagination to bring the viewer right on the scene, experiencing the war right along with them. 

So, until authors can approach their subjects this way (or someone can recommend an author who does), I'll take my actual history the way it was intended to be digested - in fascinating non-fiction. 

Which brings me to the question: What would make you enjoy Christian fiction? 

This I have less of a grip on.  As it goes right now, I am on a case-by-case basis for Christian fiction.  I absolutely loved The Great Divorce and Redeeming Love.  But other Christian fiction has not captured my heart the way these two did.  So, I am not scanning the shelves of the Christian fiction section of the local Barnes and Noble very often; but I have not closed my mind on the genre the way I have for historical fiction.  All that to say, I will take your recommendations for Christian fiction, just don't make it Christian historical fiction - I don't think I could take it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah through their Blogging for Books program.  If you enjoyed or hated this review, you have recourse: rate my review.  You just may get a free copy of this book. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Age of Misrule

Here's a hearty welcome back to the blogging scene! We've sort of caught folks up on what's been happening with our personal lives, and now we can get back to writing about what's been happening in our reading lives. Having a child has been exciting, and her weird sleep schedule (although that's pretty much normalized now) had led to some decent reading time in the wee hours. With that said, let's get back to it!

This first book since our hiatus was the first book sent out by Pyr after asking if they had any review copies. It took me a little longer than it should have to get to reviewing their books, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do so. Picked up a book by Mark Chadbourn by the name of World's End. It's the first book in his Age of Misrule trilogy. You start the story with a couple of English folk..... then it really gets weird! Something quite strange is happening in the natural world that appears to be connected to old mythology. After a short introductory period, you're taken on a whirlwind of destruction and oddities. 

World's End wasn't a bad book, but it's definitely a tedious book. Mark Chadbourn, the author, has quite the vocabulary and he isn't afraid to use it. I'm not one to shy away from a long word every now and then, but the usage is quite prolific(ding!) in this first novel. It's very proper and, perhaps, that's the way our English brethren prefer it. It was also a little difficult for me to get into just after delving into mythology with American Gods by Neil Gaiman (another English author). American Gods was a dichotomy of great storytelling and graphic situations. It was good, but dirty. World's End is exhausting in it's definition and sometimes feels lost when coming up to story progression. It makes you wonder upon finishing the book if it was really worth it.

All in all, if you are looking for perfect punctuation, grammar, and to expand your vocabulary then you will want to pick up this book. If you are looking for a book that touches on a bit of the ol' mythology you are more than welcome to pick this up, but I would recommend American Gods - especially the 10 year anniversary edition that can be found here.

Rating: 4 of 10 CBs