Book Review: Golden Mane by S.J.B. Gilmour

Golden Mane by S.J.B. Gilmour

It's a very rare situation for me to pick up a book I don't finish. I was born stubborn and persistent, and I hate quitting. I especially hate quitting something as precious as a book.

But, there comes a time where I have to make that decision, and it isn't one I make lightly. Golden Mane by S.J.B. Gilmour was simply a book I couldn't finish. When I look at the reviews and ratings this book receives, I feel guilty that this book didn't meet up to my expectations. Part of me feels that there is something wrong with me because this book fell short in so many ways.

I'm not going to say there aren't things I liked about this book — or, liked about what I read of this book. There are.

That, in part, is why I'm writing this review.

As a reviewer, I have to take a step back and look at the book in a different way. When I went to start this book, all I wanted was a fun, easy read. A quirky little fantasy ride along with a middle grade or young adult protagonist — something to let me play pretend and believe, at least for a few minutes, that I was a child again myself.

I've always viewed books as a way to take back what was gone or to take claim of something that just can't be in the real world.

Before I talk about what went right, I want to talk about what went wrong.

Formatting

One thing I've always liked about kindle's format is that it consistently works across all kindle devices or PCs. They got it right. I have yet to encounter a kindle file that showed up differently on my pc than it does on my actual kindles. My kindles also share the same formatting styles. My paperwhite does allow me to fiddle more with it, which I like, but I know that when I send a mobi around, the default format will look the same across my devices.

Golden Mane started with a whimper rather than a bang. Before I read the first word, my eye searched for the indent marking the second paragraph. Depending on who did the formatting, the first word in the leading paragraph of a chapter may not be indented — I don't have a problem with this. Some folks use a pair of hard returns between paragraphs to mark paragraphs. I don't like this, but I've come to accept it, albeit grudgingly.

No indent. No hard return between paragraphs. Baffled, I started to read, making the (false) assumption it was a long starting paragraph. I read, deciding I'm a big girl and I can cope with long paragraphs.

I turn the page.

No indents.

I back up to the first page and squint at my kindle a bit. That was when I realized that there was an indent. It was one space. I suck in a breath, sigh, and go back to the beginning, this time reading while knowing I have to pay very close attention to the spacing on the lead word of a line.

After a few pages, the text decides to leap halfway across the screen as though a spider had crawled up the left-side margin. This completely derailed me. I'm a reader who really needs consistency in formatting. It's such a little thing that makes my reading experience so much more enjoyable.

I don't weep onto my kindle, but only because it is new and I didn't want to damage it. I brace myself and try reading again. I make it a few more pages before it happens again. It went down hill from there.

I acquired this book on my own dime because it fit what I was looking for at the given time. With a $5.00 price tag, I went in with a higher expectation of quality.

The Writing

For all that format bothers me, good writing can often salvage my reading experience. If I'm swept away to a whole new world, if the characters grab my by the throat, and if the style reaches out and touches me in one way or another.

I went in expecting middle grade. I'm not really sure what I got, but it wasn't middle grade. At first, I was reminded of a style reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. But, there was something about the writing that didn't pull me in. Perhaps I just couldn't feel anything for the leading lady from the start. Perhaps there was just something about the style and the choice of words that didn't evoke middle grade for me.

Either way, I don't feel like this was a middle grade book, but rather a book for adults disguised as a middle grade book.

This is where I'm going to mention something I did like, and really liked about this book: S.J.B. Gilmour was not afraid to touch on the very difficult and real subject of bullying. I'm not a fan of how the situation was resolved, and how the character escaped the problem and how the adults around her behaved, but I am very happy that the subject was added and the discussion was brought to the table.

I just wish that the writing had been cleaner, had been more streamlined, and that Sarah was just a little more active, a little more something to make me want to root for her.

When I stopped reading sometime during chapter two or three, I just didn't feel anything for her. She'd been smothered by those who were standing up for her rather than letting her stand up truly on her own.

The Characters

Like with writing, characters can really salvage a book for me. Like the writing, I just didn't feel any connection with Sarah, despite the fact she'd been in a situation that should have evoked instant sympathy. I kept finding myself asking questions about the adults in Sarah's life rather than caring about Sarah.

There were interesting characters.

Unfortunately, of the characters that did intrigue, none of them were Sarah.

Why did I quit?

This book just didn't appeal to me on a variety of different levels. The characters and writing fell short for me; neither grabbed me and forced me to the next page. The formatting was the factor that turned a book I may have grown to like if I stuck with it to a novel I couldn't finish.

Maybe if this book was reformatted, I'd try it again. But, until then, I'm going to walk away and wonder what might have been — and wonder just what is wrong with me that I just can't see why this book was being rated so well when I can't help but wonder if this was a second or third draft instead of a finished product.

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