It's no secret that I'm not a book finisher. There are too many books in the TBR pile to waste time reading a book I'm not enjoying. I do try very hard to give books a chance, though, so I've got a 100 Page rule. If I'm even mildly interested in it, I'll give a book 100 pages before I put it aside. There are ways to get cast aside early...
For this book (that shall remain titleless), it should be noted that it had a lot going for it at the get go:
Cover - thumbs up (this being the most important attribute of any book:)
Historical fiction - thumbs up
Set in under-represented region (in the US publishing world anyway) - thumbs up
And, before I knew how fast and loose the author (who shall remain nameless) played with adverbs and adjectives, I thought this was a pretty evocative choice: "mules and horses exuberantly defecating."
Anyone with a hoofed pet can appreciate just how much poo they create. But this was quickly followed by: "Rachel's eyes popped at the size of the turds, longer than her arm..." Whooops! Couldn't find a horse or a mule to observe? And, as I mentioned above, this is historical fiction. Author can actually observe one of these animals now to see that their turds are not the size of a 5yo's arm so how much faith can I have in the historical part of the fiction. I know this seems a small detail but really, it's so easy. And, ok, it annoyed me so I nitpicked the next part, "...and she giggled when the trolley's wheels squished them underneath." If you've got a trolley pulled by mules/donkeys/horses you probably have at least two animals and they will definitely have shafts attached to the outer portion of the harness. Wheeled vehicles being what they are, the wheels of the trolley will also be towards the outer sidewalls of the vehicle. When the animals poo, their approximately golfball sized turds will fall in a line because the animals are walking. Their butts will be between the shafts and wheels and so these not arm-length turds will be left for the next vehicle to squish.
But, whatever, it seems a stupid mistake to me but Author has much more important things to research so I'll pass this one by (on pg. 2) and continue reading.
Pertinent to the rest: It very much appears that an older teenager or adult is remembering her life when she was ~5yo.
-Up next we've got overly idyllic descriptions of home life complete with descriptions of activities a person would never bother to describe (great fault in historical fiction just to include more details). Historical fiction writers have a lot in common with spec fic writers: you are building a world. Make it real by making it natural. An artificial creation detracts from the story rather than impressing me with all the mundane details of diet you happen to know.
-Awkward and inconsistent dialogue which I think is a result of attempting to re-create a "local" dialect.
-Disturbing hints of single female protag getting most of her support and sense of community from men rather than women or at least a mix of both. News flash authors: women like each other and are friends with each other and support each other. In fact, it'd be much easier for me to name five women I can call on in a pinch than five men. (This trend in stories bothers me only because it is a trend: I've nothing against stories about women who are in a community of men but it's not every woman all the time. Where are all the women?)
-Using 5 words when 2 would do.
-A tendency to go through the story with this type of construction: this happened, and then this happened, and then this other thing happened, and so on.
-Last and most detrimental for my reading eyes: nothing for me to do. Lemme 'splain. "Rachel sat, as she often did at such gatherings, on the lap of her tall, rangy Uncle..." There's not much wrong with this on its own but "as she often did" or its ilk was peppered throughout almost every paragraph. I never had to figure anything out. I didn't need to observe what anyone was doing, infer how they were feeling, or try to figure out why they did what they did because every damn detail was laid out for me over and over again. In the technical sense of craft I don't like this much, but I dislike it even more as a reader who wants something to do while reading a story. If you don't give me anything to do I may as well be watching a movie. Movies are nice, I watch them a lot - and even enjoy them from time to time - but when I'm reading I expect a different experience.
What gets you to put a book down?