Since I’m still not up to writing a well-conceived review for what I’ve been reading recently, I went looking for some older reviews to put up here. There are a few that I have thus far excluded because of their length (or lack thereof), so I thought it might be fun to bundle a few together into one post. I may decide to do this again in the future, in which case I will try to make the grouped reviews somewhat related to each other.
Today I think I will use a few reviews of American frontier historical fiction. Reading about the Oregon Trail and pioneer women gives me a vicarious thrill, and a sense of longing. I am continually seeking out those stories.
Here is a very brief review for the book O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, which some people (myself not included) consider a classic. I do try to avoid giving negative reviews for a book that wasn’t downright awful, but I don’t worry about it so much when the author is no longer living.
This one almost didn’t make it to 3 stars, because it really was just mediocre in my opinion, but some parts of it were enjoyable. Any of the characters who were interesting, though, didn’t get enough development, and everyone else seemed very two- (or even one-) dimensional.
This was a disappointment to me, because I’m always on the lookout for more American frontier/pioneer historical fiction (that isn’t juvenile or young adult, though sometimes I’ll take what I can get), as it’s one of my very favorite genres. There just isn’t enough out there within that genre, so when I find one of those rare books and it’s not a thrilling, adventurous page-turner, I feel cheated.
This next review is a bit rough around the edges, as I wrote it about 4 years ago. I was in my lowercase phase, and the review is quite informal and unpolished. I started the review while reading the book, then continued after finishing, which makes for an odd end result. I considered cleaning it up a bit, but I decided to leave it as is. (Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how far we’ve come.)
The book in question is called These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, by Nancy E. Turner. It remains on my list of favorites in the genre.
i am loving this book so far. the main character is such an incredible person. this is such a great combination of themes of family, adventure, love, and humor. i laughed particularly hard (and i’m not at all sure i was intended to, but these things happen) at one particular thing the main character said:
“I am plum fed up with all the work I have to do and it is all because of a worthless man, and any other man ever comes around me better be carrying a pistol with one more bullet than I’ve got or I’ll have the last word.”
i just adore a strong female character.
…ok, i have finished the book, and found many more things to like about it. sad things did happen, but they did not take away from my enjoyment of the book. this is about a real woman’s life in a very rough time period, so i was prepared for unfortunate events. what an amazing woman, though. i think there might be a sequel to this book, and i’m going to seek it out.
Well, there was indeed a sequel, which I also read and reviewed. This really is a great series, for those interested in the time period, or those who like to read about unconventional, independent, self-sufficient women.
Up next is my review of the second Sarah Agnes Prine book, Sarah’s Quilt. I liked it enough to use capital letters.
This book was just wonderful. It’s so inspirational to read about a character who is just full to overflowing with generosity, kindness, love, and a good strong sense of right and wrong. She never lets anyone walk all over her, and she’s as honest as can be.
I really need to read the third book now. I guess the main character’s life gets just a little bit easier in that one – she sure went through a lot of hardship in the second book, but those were tough times, so it never seemed over the top to me.
There were a few times when the diary format of the book left me a little confused as to exactly when something happened and how many days had passed since an event that occurred somewhere in the middle of the previous diary entry. The only real references to time were the date at the top of the entry, and I usually forgot to pay attention to that. Sometimes I flipped back pages to try and get the timeline straight in my mind, but usually I didn’t bother. The story was too engrossing to worry about it.
When an author can write like this, sucking me right into the story, I’m willing to forgive one or two things.
Naturally, I read the third installment, The Star Garden.
Ms. Turner has done it again. Another thrilling, adventurous, inspirational, tear-jerking novel about the amazing woman who was her great-grandmother. There’s not much more I can say about this other than that it very much lived up to expectations. If she wrote more about Sarah Elliott, I would just eat those books up, too.
[To clarify, the “Sarah Elliott” mentioned is the married name of Sarah Agnes Prine.]
I have not always put as much time and effort into reviewing books as I do now, but it is something I have been doing for a long time (however haphazardly). I like to think that with all my practice, I’ve improved somewhat.
As I mentioned, most of the historical fiction written about the era of westward expansion, pioneers, and the gold rush is targeted at a younger audience. I have read plenty of excellent young adult and juvenile fiction set in this period, books that certainly stand the test of time. A set of reviews in that theme would make a nice follow-up post to this one. I think I will plan on that.