Thursday, 3 December 2015

Sam's Story - Book One

Author: Amy D Crusan-Kramer
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: 1st book in the Skylar series
Type: e-book
Source: Directly from author
Publisher: BookBaby
First Published: January 15, 2013
First Line: "The FBI report accurately covers the events of the first fourteen years of my life."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn this captivating saga, Samantha Skylar experiences undying passion and endures one horrific act of brutality that sweeps her into the arms of the second most powerful man in the country. Samantha’s journey takes her from the poverty and close-minded attitudes of a tiny, coal-mining town in West Virginia, to the estate of one of Atlanta’s oldest and wealthiest families. This epic trilogy follows Samantha from the age of 14 to 40.

Book One opens in 1978. Sam is fourteen and living in Boone County, West Virginia, a place that isn't accepting of Roe v. Wade or the Equal Rights Amendment. Sam is different; she knows it and her doting grandmother knows it. Neither of them is content with the idea of her ending up the way her sisters did: married to a coal miner and raising another generation of miners and downtrodden women. As the beneficiary of her grandma's love, Sam absorbed her progressive outlook and beliefs, which caused her to question the status quo.

Of course, being different isn't a good thing in a small conservative town, both Sam and her grandmother discover that in the cruelest way possible. Tragedy strikes and we're given a glimpse of the strength that lies within Samantha and how she deals with adversity. The first book follows Sam to Atlanta and chronicles her first four turbulent months in her new city.

My Review: I was eager to pick up this book because I love sweeping sagas and with this book being the beginning of a trilogy I thought it fit the bill.  I do so love a good saga that pulls you in!  This book series begins by following the life of 14 year old Samantha Skylar who lives in a small West Virginia town in the late 1970's and includes all the trials and tribulations that come with living in a tiny, gossip-laden town as well as her move to a much bigger city.

Unfortunately, I really struggled to stay interested in the characters and plot for the first three quarters or so of the book.  It actually took me several weeks to get to that point.  I'd read a chapter and put it down because it just didn't keep my interest.  Sadly, for a book of this size not a lot happened plot-wise and I felt frustrated about a few things.  

First, the writing wasn't strong and felt too detailed in that every thought and feeling that Sam had was put down in writing.  It sometimes felt like the same conversations were happening over and over.  There were also excessive bouts of 'telling instead of showing' which really bogged down the pace of the book and made the book feel overly long.

Secondly, the first third of the book focuses on a teenage relationship but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was more of an After School TV Special about sex.  Too many issues were spelled out for the reader giving the writing a very 'teachy' tone. Steamy sex scenes abound in the first part of the book and I think that was meant to show the connection between Sam and her boyfriend.  I get that they have deep feelings for each other but the book seemed to focus so much more on their connection between the sheets than outside of the bedroom.  I'm no prude but reading about all this sex this 14 year old is having and the fact that much older men are constantly drawn to her gave me more of an icky feeling than the romantic feel that I think the author was going for.

Sam herself was a sweet girl but very naive and I can see how other readers easily got behind her.  You want to root for her because she has so many people and issues against her.  She's nothing if not resilient and even though you question many of her choices you know that in her corner she has a deep support system, especially with her grandmother.  Their relationship was very deep and sweet with their mutual love of the Atlanta Braves and how her grandmother supported her no matter what happened.  A cast of secondary characters, including the generous and loving people who take in Sam, were believable and rounded out the cast.

The book takes an interesting turn around three quarters of the way through (the 70% mark) and it's at that point that I started to get more involved in the story line and Sam's life.  The writing and flow was better and the book from that point on honestly had a different feel to it which I enjoyed.

Overall, I am very much in the minority with my review but this just wasn't the book for me.  It wasn't as captivating of a read as I was expecting for a book that deals with such serious issues. I applaud the author for bringing teen issues to the forefront including teen pregnancy, contraception, small town issues and yet never having a preachy feel to her writing.  Unfortunately, I do not plan to read more from this series.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Amy Crusan-Kramer for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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