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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

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A Festival of Cherries, by Mandy Baldwin

Festival of Cherries - Mandy Baldwin


DNF, no stars.


At least I didn't choke on a pit.



Disclaimer:  I downloaded only the free Kindle sample of this book.  I do not know the author nor have I had any personal communication with her about this book or any other subject, though I have read some of her posts on GoodReads.  I am an author of historical romances.


And now I do have to revise the disclaimer to add that author Mandy Baldwin has engaged me in conversation, if you will, on GoodReads.  I shall only say it was, ah, not entirely amicable.  https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1784371-fake-reviewers-etc   And now back to the review, as it was written prior to that . . . conversation.



The Kindle edition appears to be a digitized version of the Lulu paperback.  There was no front matter (copyright, publishing history if any, etc.) and proper pagination seemed missing also.  (There could have been at least a double space between the one-line dedication and the start of the story.)


Block paragraphs made the reading experience choppy, without an easy flow.  Formatting matters. 


The story, if there is one, begins with a fable-like narrative about a four-year-old girl and her very very old great-grandmother, all told from the point of view of an omniscient and distant third-person narrator.  What appears to be the first "chapter" contains no dialogue at all, no immediacy, no action, just all this telling of the nameless little girl's relationship with the old woman and a whole lot of background information that may or may not be relevant to the ensuing story.  (aka "info dump")


What appears to be the second "chapter" begins with no page break, not even a single blank line separating the chapter's title from the preceding text.  Again, formatting matters.


Although there's been a passage of time from the end of chapter one to the start of chapter two, the amount of time passed isn't defined, leaving me as a reader not quite certain what's going on.  There is little description, so I'm not able to visualize the scene, or even the character.  The omniscient, detached narration continues, and it isn't until well into this second chapter that there is any dialogue at all.  Even then it is sparse.  It feels stilted and out of place, awkward, as if even the characters aren't comfortable speaking after such a long silence.  It's almost as though they aren't sure they're allowed to speak, and then they quickly lapse into silence and the narrator takes over again.


There's nothing inherently wrong with an all tell, no show literary style.  Though it generally tends not to engage the reader as intimately with the story and characters, it's not wrong in the way bad grammar is wrong or inaccurate research is wrong.  The omniscient narrator can leave the reader feeling frustrated in the sense that it's obvious the disembodied storyteller knows everything -- everyone's thoughts, everyone's feelings, everything that's gone on before -- but is deliberately manipulating how much is revealed to the reader.  By contrast, a multiple character point of view limits how much the reader is shown because none of the characters knows everything about all the others.  This generally makes for a more interesting reading experience.


In the end, though I'd read the first chapter reasonably closely, I couldn't do the same with the subsequent chapter.  I wasn't engaged, couldn't get any feeling for the characters or the setting, and correctly anticipated how that chapter was going to end.  The emotionless paragraphs no longer held my attention; I realized I was going back to reread them several times because my mind had simply drifted away from them.


If the book had been properly formatted, if I felt the author had taken the time either to do the job herself to make her original document look like a book (per Amazon's own guidelines and numerous other sources) or had someone else do it for her, I might not have got the impression that this was just uploaded to KDP with a "let's see if this works!" attitude.


There were some punctuation errors, nothing that a decent proofreader couldn't fix, but they weren't what kept me from wanting to read any further.  Formatting matters.  It's a sign of the care an author gives to the work for which she is writer, editor, and publisher.  I might have been persuaded to continue reading, even though I didn't particularly like the style of the book, if I thought the author had taken the time to properly publish her work.  But the initial impression of careless uploading never left me, and so I remained disengaged.  The narrative style never erased that feeling of distance.


I didn't rate the book.  I didn't actively dislike it enough to give it a half star for an insult, though I guess no stars is even worse.  Regardless, I just didn't care either way.