(Note: I am in two challenges this month, so this is running a little earlier than I normally would publish a post. My 30 minus 2 Challenge post will be published early in the afternoon.)
In 2011, I did a series of stories about people who had hiked the Appalachian Trail. It truly is amazing to hear people speak about their experiences.
One of the people I wrote about was Emily Harper, a Pennsylvania teenager hiking more than 2,100 miles on her own. It’s pretty amazing to hear about something like this. Late in 2012, she e-mailed me and let me know she wrote a book about her experiences and was curious if I wanted to read and review it.
She sent me two copies — one for me to read and review and the other to give away. So if you’re interested in winning this autographed book, see the bottom of this post for the details.
With all that in mind, this is an honest review of the book, which takes you along the Appalachian Trail through her eyes. Her details are quite strong, he writing is conversational and, the one thing I truly loved, she didn’t hold anything back. It’s a colorful tale of her time along the trail, off the trail, her experiences and the people she met and hiked with.
It’s not perfect by any means. It’s a self-published book and it has some errors throughout. I’ll touch more on those later. While it’s true that I probably gave a little leeway here because of what she accomplished at her age, I’m still a writer and reader first — and I had to put myself in each of those shoes throughout. The price seems a little on the high side at $15.50 for paperback (on Amazon) and $5.99 for the Kindle version (on Amazon). If you are an Amazon Prime member, you an borrow the Kindle version for free, which is a good thing.
Still, as somebody who claims he will eventually write a book or three, I know the dedication and time needed and understand what she went through. But there are a lot of basic things in the book that made me cringe a little, which sometimes makes it hard to continue, no matter how good the stories are.
In the end, I’m glad I got the chance to read it, especially knowing I had written about her before. This is probably a good read for younger women thinking about tackling this hike by themselves as Harper is really straight forward with things and shows you what it’s like for a woman on the trail. Now, I’ll get a little more in-depth on my likes and dislikes.
There’s something to be said about not holding back any punches. Harper definitely doesn’t and that’s refreshing.
She’s candid about people she hiked with and met. She offers up her attitude on different things. She flaunts that hiking as a female can often be way better than being a guy. And she also shows a softer side in situations.
I liked that.
Many hiking books I’ve read don’t show that. They show you the eyes of the hike, introduce you to some people and make it sound pretty good. There’s no doubt that Harper’s hike wasn’t perfect. In fact, if you read the book, there might be times where you’ll say something out loud, wondering what she was thinking. Or that you didn’t like how she acted. I know I did. But I liked that. Because she didn’t paint herself as an angel. She also didn’t paint anyone else as being perfect.
Harper had some interesting hiking partners. From the ones she started off with and eventually was left behind by, to the ones she truly seemed to care about and wonder about what happened with them. She paints a picture in the reader’s mind of these people. She lets you develop your own thoughts. I like that.
The other thing I did like is this book is more like a journal. And, as somebody who read her online trail journal during her hike, it was nice to see that style in her book.
It’s personal, but can be impersonal at times. It’s written in a style that isn’t literary. Many people may not like this style. I don’t mind it with this book. It has to have a certain flavor for me to enjoy a style like this and I can dig it here. It’s almost like she handed me an old leather-bound book, handwritten for her long journey.
That, however, tends to lead into something that isn’t liked by most…
If one is to expect people to spend money on a book, the author needs to do everything in his or her power to make sure the book is clean in regard to spelling and grammar. I respect the self-publishing route. I’m not snobby like some who think self-publishing is a bad thing. In the modern day, some people need to go that route to get books published. And I’ve found many, many books I’ve truly enjoyed through authors who took that route.
That doesn’t, however, excuse one from doing everything in his or her power to make sure things are right.
There were a lot of mistakes in this book. I had started writing them down and finally stopped after a while. It was frustrating at times. Though I got through the book relatively quickly, there were moments I had to put the book down because I couldn’t accept the issues. I always went back, though, as the story was good.
The major errors includes punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
A few examples including misspelling of things such as Willy Wonka, which was spelled Wanka. Or not capitalizing “Subway.” There were places where words needed hyphens, or needed to follow the right tense — one spot said “… but made my arms ached.” There was a chapter, too, where she spoke about some hiking friends and spelled the name of one person two ways.
Some people might be able to overlook issues like this, but I couldn’t. It was hard at times. A few things like this is one thing, but having it littered throughout makes one wonder if it was ever proofed or edited. If not, it could use a good edit and then maybe put out “a second edition” to update things a bit. Having two or three people — ones who aren’t afraid to tell the truth — edit a book before hitting the publish button can be worth their weight in gold.
I also would have liked a little more explanation at times, such as telling the reader what “root ball” is, besides it being a game some hikers played during their time on the trail.
Taking everything into account, I’m not going to lie that this was an extremely hard book to rate. There were so many good things, but then the issues with grammar and spelling really took the wind out of my sails.
I just didn’t know.
The reality is, I’d probably split this one down the middle. In other words, I’d give it a 2.5 or so. But that’s not based on the content. So, with that in mind, I’d bump it to a 3 out of 5 and would be more than willing to go a bit higher if a second edition came out with a bunch of edits. The 3 is worth is on content and style alone. But I couldn’t go more with knowing the issues with common things, some of which probably could have been avoided with a slow spell/grammar check in Word.
Artwork (For The Artful Readers Club)
This book is also one I’m reading for The Artful Readers Club. In this club, we read one book per month and also have to so some sort of a piece of art to go with it. For the second straight month, I went with an advertisement. I wanted to use a hiking shelter, but I couldn’t find any in my archived. I thought I had some. Instead, I just went with a trail photo.
I have a signed edition of this book that I’ll be giving away. So for the next two weeks, I’ll accept entries. Just drop a comment down below and you’re automatically entered in the drawing. Note that the book will be shipped via media mail to the winner.
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