- File Size: 1270 KB
- Print Length: 401 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1468150065
- Publication Date: March 12, 2012
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007JQ3U5A
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,390 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Milestone Tapes Kindle Edition
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How wrong I was.
I write science fiction with aliens and explosions so that's the kind of thing I'm drawn to when I read. However, while I'm more than happy to explore outside my genre, reading chick-lit is definitely right down the bottom of the list of weekend activities I enjoy... the experience hovering somewhere between being waterboarded and stung to death by millions of tiny scorpions. Further, the Milestone Tapes is also a writer's debut novel and I know from experience that, regrettably, so often a young writer's debut novel just isn't their best work.
So when I saw that Ashley was a new author to the Kindleboards, and she mentioned in a thread that she hadn't had any sales of her debut novel yet... I had my reservations, but against my instinct I decided to help her out. Her cover was beautiful, her book was cheap and she conducted herself professionally in the threads she posted in so I thought, hey, why not... I'll buy a copy, read the first bit of it, say how it wasn't my thing, give the book a short three star review and be done with it. I went into this work feeling like I was just going through the motions; I thought reading this was going to be a chore, feeling only slightly mollified by the knowledge that I only had to force my way through enough of it to write a review and then I could walk away.
All that went out the window when, at about 2:40am on a week night, I suddenly realized what time it was and just how deeply I'd been sucked into the world of the Chamberlands.
First of all, the book is quite long given the premise, and this surprised me. I read a few pages then procrastinated for about a week and a half, casting my eyes longingly towards that scorpion pit in lieu of reading, before deciding I should just get it over with... but when I did I couldn't put it down.
This 'all at once' thing might not work for everyone. The book's not a light read, especially the first part; Ashley pulls no punches emotionally and The Milestone Tapes details clinically, precisely and elegantly the subject matter, and does so with a quiet grace that echoes the events it is portraying... made all the more tragic by the fact you *know* what's coming. I'm a bitter and jaded cynic hardened by years on the Internet, twisted and emotionless to my blackened and empty core, and yet... I found the quiet grace of Jenna's extremely well researched, tragically believable journey towards the untimely end of her life haunting and intensely emotional, especially the end of book one.
The Milestone Tapes is subtle in the way it handles things; there's no fate of the world at stake here... no dramatic hijinks and just-in-the-nick-of-time rescues, just painful and humiliating death slowly creeping up on one woman's life for the first half, then the blossoming life of her daughter in the second. This works to the novel's advantage, giving it a grounding in the real world and sometimes -- just sometimes -- make you wonder if the writer isn't writing this as a therapy novel, working from painful experience. I don't know the answer to that and the fact that the book inspires such thoughts is to its benefit.
I used the highlight function to draw attention to lines I really enjoyed... and there were a lot more of those than I originally thought possible in a work like this. I can't share them directly, but when enough people highlight a section that part will show up at the bottom of the book's page on Amazon... so *eventually* she'll see what I liked.
The prose is elegant, tight and descriptive -- flowery in places, and sometimes slightly melodramatic to my eyes, but in such an emotionally driven piece this really isn't to be unexpected. Some things that stood out:
- The descriptions of the results of the mastectomy were quite chilling.
- Ending to book one. Yeah... that was to be expected. I didn't cry, stop looking at me like that. I didn't!
- Book two, February. I laughed, then smiled.
- The epilogue was great.
That said... there *are* flaws and when you're reviewing you're a critic, and the role of a critic is to be critical. I found a scattering of typos; nothing too distracting, nothing that would be caught by a spellchecker, but I did notice the occasional missing word or missing piece of punctuation (period or space usually), or other mistakes that slipped through the review process (a bowl of 'icy' instead of 'ice', for example). There were also a few awkwardly phrased sentences where I thought an additional proofread would be the last little bit of spit-polish that the story needed. It seems a shame to have crafted this wonderful, engaging tale without ironing out the bugs; in a lesser story I would have just ignored them, but The Milestone Tapes is good so my tolerance for avoidable, simple errors was reduced.
Fortunately the areas needing just a little more polish seemed concentrated in clumps, though, which suggested that the section I was reading was added in when the book was nearly complete so was just missed in the review process. These occurrences were fairly uncommon and almost to be expected in a work of this length, so they didn't distract me from the flow of the narrative... but I did notice them.
I felt the story lingered too long on the first half. The story was, of course, about the titular tapes... but they didn't show up for a while and some of the scenes, such as finding the float on the beach, were cool but unnecessary. I tend to be brutal with my editing, so if I had my way... honestly I would have cut some scenes, or even compressed the first half of the book into the prologue, leaving the entire work about Mia's life, using the tapes as a device to look back at Jenna's experiences through Mia's eyes. As it stood I was dreading the the half-way change in protagonist for a number of reasons but it's handled smoothly (and with manly, manly tears).
I did think Gabe was "too perfect", as was Bryan, Mia's teenage love interest. I know, I know... it's chick-lit. Unrealistically perfect male romantic interests are par for the course, almost a required feature, but still. As a male reader, I found his character to be sometimes hard to relate to. He was obviously wealthy, worked in an interesting field and was very good at what he did, was a perfectly loyal husband, was loving towards Jenna and their child to the bitter end and never did anything wrong the entire book... and was very handsome to boot.
While I'm sure that person exists somewhere, for us mere mortals the strain of watching your beloved wife wither and die as you sacrificed everything you'd spent your life working to achieve would probably drive us to do at least one stupid thing during that time... or at least drink a lot more. I find stories of ordinary, flawed people doing extraordinary things despite it all more engaging than reading about perfect people always doing the right thing, so I would have liked to see the strain of what was happening effect him a little more than it did... to show the effects his grief were having on his life aside from a little tiredness and job changes, but the story is not really about him. It's about Jenna and her daughter.
I thought it was a bit odd that the cost of Jenna's multiple treatments and hospitalizations didn't get mentioned, and in my mind this represents the loss of a potentially engaging story element. The Chamberlands had money, clearly, but they are also both freelancers and self employed; it's assumed they had health insurance, I suppose, but... Jenna's decline seems to be a journey without external stress, where Gabe stoically stand by her, her sister finds time to reconcile with her despite her own troubles, and her child goes largely unaware of what's happening. I hinted to this above, but I feel there needed to be more external stress in this story... and a mountain of crippling hospital bills could very well have been that little extra 'thing'.
Expanding on this slightly, I think this story could have been more tragic if, while the disease destroyed Jenna's body, it also ravaged Gabe's personality; he could have gone from successful, clean cut, perfect husband to a bankrupt and bitter loner buried in debts accrued trying to save someone he loved but ultimately died, and I think that would have shown that when someone suffers as Jenna does, that darkness can begin to creep out of the person and drag others down with them. It's a missed opportunity, but the story works as-is and, again, it's chick-lit, so the way Ashley chose to write this tale is absolutely forgiveable... even for soul-less misanthropes like myself.
I felt the decision to make the protagonist for the first half of the book a writer to be a dangerous choice... but one that ultimately paid off. Writers writing about writing in fiction is a minefield; it can become self-indulgent and whiny, where the "self-inserted-author-avatar" struggles with writer's block and procrastinates by writing reviews instead of working on their own looming deadlines (uhh...), etc etc. Fortunately Ashley navigates this minefield with the same grace seen in the rest of the novel and nothing like this happens at all. Never once did I get the impression that Jenna's profession as a writer was merely a way for her to say "Look! Look! I'm a writer too!" and undue time is not spent on what she writes and why; instead, Jenna's profession added to her character and to the work as a whole so I'm storing that one under 'dodged a bullet there'.
Some tapes were not read "on screen" or even mentioned; three of them in fact, out of ten. I'm stuck between thinking this is sequel bait, or perhaps a deliberate choice on the author's behalf, but I kind of felt that there was an unspoken promise made when the premise of this book was laid down that we, the audience, would get to hear all ten tapes. We were guests in the minds of first Jenna, then Mia, and so it seems a little... unfair... towards the audience to be denied those experiences.
Fortunately, the digital world provides remedy (as it tends to do). Either these tapes were sequel bait, or they and the story behind them would be released as short stories, or something akin to this. In any event, I expected to read all ten tapes and was surprised that nearly half of them were absent entirely... not even mentioned. I would have preferred to have some of the more fluffier scenes edited out and the rest of the tapes put back in, but I suspect Ashley has her reasons for this.
I went into this book expecting -- almost wanting -- to hate it and came out really, genuinely impressed by the quality and strength of Ashley's writing. While there are flaws in The Milestone Tapes, there's nothing here that really made me roll my eyes or mutter, 'Oh jeez, really?', so I think my final result for this book is 4.5 stars... which, on Amazon, I'll choose to round up to 5. Ashley has done mighty fine work here, and the fact that someone who represents possibly her most potentially hostile audience -- someone who, at least initially, was just begging for the flimsiest excuse to switch off the Kindle and call it a day -- managed to not only finish it, then award this story the best possible score Amazon allows, shows the universal appeal of The Milestone Tapes.
At the end of the day, despite some minor niggles, this is a cracking story by a new writer who I know will go far in the self-publishing game.
I look forward to reading more of her work and I'm reluctant to end the review by recommending this story to women who like chick-lit, because I genuinely feel that it should be recommended to *anyone* who enjoys a great story. I write that because, well, that's what The Milestone Tapes is; a cracking read by a young, talented author who has crafted an engaging, realistic, tragic tale with an uplifting ending that really draws you in there and keeps you there.
Gabe and Jenna Chamberland had it all - a dream home, successful careers and a beautiful baby girl. until the day Jenna finds out she has malignant breast cancer. before she loses her battle with the disease, Jenna leaves something behind for her daughter Mia by gifting her with the Milestone Tapes.
author Ashley Mackler-Paternostro's writing shines with a passion that is remarkable for a first novel. her book speaks of the pain of suffering, the tragedy of loss, the triumph of the human spirit, the solace brought by forgiveness and of the enduring bond which exists between mother and child that even death cannot sever.
this was a very emotional read for me. it is difficult to concentrate when your eyes get teary now and then while your fingers tremble a bit and you are hesitant to flip the pages for fear of what would happen next but unable to stop yourself from continuing because the story has drawn you deeper than you intended it to be.
this was especially true during the first part of the story. Jenna's condition reminded me so much of my Mom whom i lost to cancer. i was with her during the last month of her life. i saw her fighting and trying to be strong for all of us. i witnessed her decline and it was so painful to bear, to see your loved one suffering and you can only do so much. i was there until the end when she was brought to the emergency room where after some time she could no longer go on and finally gave up...
these were the memories that kept churning in my mind as i held the book in my hands. the author was able to capture all the range of emotions, the drama and the joys of the Chamberland family and the other characters. i got so involved in their experiences. they were so real and tangible that they became my own.
clearly, The Milestone Tapes is one of the best, most endearing and unforgettable stories i have read so far this year and i highly commend the author for a job well done!
The blurb for this book caught my attention also and I recently lost my mom, in November actually so that also drew me in because it has been hard and I thought reading this might help a little and it did, the only reason I did 4 stars instead of 3. The story was really interesting, emotional and heartfelt but there were some things that made this really, really hard to read and not in a good way.
There were a lot of glaring mistakes in this book sadly. Enough to where I could just not "look over" and go on because I had to keep going back and re read something to try and figure out what the author meant to say. For example "she put on hand on her hid" it took me a few minutes to see that it was supposed to be head. Another one was "Made the Jam yesterday, blackberries to who wouldn't have it in my freezer" Does that make sense to you? It doesn't to me! These are just two of MANY errors, PLEASE have your editor go back over this. I hate to see you get bad reviews for this because this really is a good story.
The other thing that drove me nuts about this book was the over details, I know what a soda pop can looks like when it has been in ice, I know what a cigarette looks like when it is lit and or smoked. The booked felt so bogged down by details sometimes it drove me nuts. Then there was such a lack of detail in other parts! I never really knew what Jenna looked like before she was sick for example, I never could get a good picture of her in my mind.
Overall this got 4 stars because this is a debut novel and it was a good story!
Top international reviews
The only negative I had about the book were the spelling and grammar errors, missing words and such like, but it never took away from the enjoyment of the book on the whole.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy, meaningful and deep read.