Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Books 29 & 30 of 2015: The Guardian of Athmore by Zachary Gephardt & The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

I got my first Kindle somewhere in the region of about four years ago (give or take a couple of months). I'd completed a course at work which gave me a £100 bonus and Mr Click told me I should use the money for something just for me. I got a Kindle touch which I only replaced a couple of years ago because I was looking for something with more capabilities for getting online.

Ever since I got that first Kindle I've spent time looking through the free Kindle downloads on Amazon and picking up the ones which appeal to me. Usually I'll pick a genre and just work my way through it, shamelessly judging books by their covers or their titles. But I noticed that there are a lot of books sitting on my Kindle that I've never actually gotten around to reading, so starting last year, I began going through some of the books I've had the longest and making an effort to read them.

The Guardian of Athmore by Zachary Gephardt was one of those books. In fact, it was the one which had been on my Kindle Fire the longest without being read, so I decided that since it didn't look too long, and I was in the mood for something a bit fantastical, I'd give it a shot.

It's the story of a girl called Diana Anderson who finds herself spirited away to the world of Athmore on the way to her birthday party. Suddenly it's up to her to save Athmore, which will in turn save Earth, by finding the Soul Gem to help restore order.

This book really appealed to me and I can see why I chose to download it. I love the idea of ordinary people falling into very unordinary worlds. I like to see how people figure out the rules of the world around them and what the people in these places make of them. And I desperately wanted to enjoy this book.

Unfortunately, I didn't.

It was a really hard book to read, mainly because it was really in need of an editor. There were loads of grammatical and spelling errors, bits where the wording was just plain clunky and pages where people's names switched which made it difficult to figure out what was going on. On several pages Rajik randomly become Tyon. I spent half the time I was reading it adding notes to the text as corrections!

I do think that with a little work and polishing it could have been a good story. I couldn't help but think that it read a lot like a computer game. It would actually make a good game because the animation would help add depth to the story which I feel is lacking in the text.

There was an awful lot of 'telling' and not much 'showing' which bothered me as well. I'd have liked to have seen more description of the characters and scenery so I could picture things. I felt like a lot of the time I just didn't have a mental image of what I was reading about, and I find that frustrating.

I followed The Guardian of Athmore up with a book for the Reading Challenge. Week 15 called for a popular author's first book. I knew straight away that I would be hitting up Project Gutenberg for this week's book so I did a little investigating and established that The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens' first published book.

Originally published as a serial, The Pickwick Papers tells the story of a group of men who go out into the world in order to report on their observations to the other members of their club, headed by Mr Pickwick. What follows is a number of neatly packaged scrapes which they find themselves in, mistaken identities, broken hearts, and accidents.

A couple of Christmases ago, I received a box set of the BBC Dickens dramas and The Pickwick Papers was the first one that we watched so I had a fair idea of what to expect from this book, though I wasn't sure how closely the series had followed the book. As it happened, when I read the book I was quite glad of having seen the adaptation because it helped me to follow what was going on. There were a couple of places where I think I might have become a little lost otherwise.

At times it felt a little like the neverending book! I seemed to read loads and loads without getting through it very fast. I suppose part of that is because it was originally serialised so you would be reading it in bitesized bits, rather than all in one go. Plus, there's something to be said for reading a book-book where you can physically see how far through it you are, unlike an ebook where you have to rely on numbers on a screen.

My favourite character was easily Sam Weller, the cockney character who Pickwick takes on as his manservant. He's far more worldly than the naive Mr Pickwick and ends up having to teach his master a thing or two. It did take me a little while to get used to Weller's style of speech, but again, having seen the dramatisation, I was prepared for that.

As this was part of the Reading Challenge, as well as my own personal challenge to read more of the classics, I'm glad that I attempted it. It wasn't a bad book, but I don't think I'll be in any great hurry to go back and read it again!

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