One of the books I read on vacation was titled How Not To Write A Novel. I'm glad to say I've avoided many of the errors it depicts. But there was certainly a lot of food for thought, and some great, enjoyably exaggerated examples of what not to do. If you want to write a novel, and enjoy a good laugh at your own expense, this is the book for you. So I'll send off my edits for Tails of Mystery, prepare the ground for Peter's Promise, write some more of Subtraction, and do my best to follow/not follow the authors' wise advice. How Not To Write A Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmar is highly recommended, best enjoyed with a range of different coffees for its range of different mistakes, and perfect for writers.
Luckily, many good novelists really do write novels, and I love to read them. So here are some reviews, with coffee ratings, for other volumes recently read.
My sister-in-law loaned me her copy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, and I'm just sorry I had to give it back - I must buy my own copy sometime. Rather like the Book Thief, it depicts the horrors of man's cruelty to man through the eyes and innocence of a detached narrator, in this case a young boy whose natural self-absorption keeps him from seeing the truth behind the wire. A dark, haunting tale, enjoy it with a dark intense 5-star cup of coffee.
Similarly haunting, but aimed at an older, more cynical audience,A World Without Music, by Conrad Guest, will be a book to look out for. It's not been released yet, but it's a wonderful trip through music, baseball, philosophy, romance and more, all perfectly blended together with great characters, captivating narration, and a curiously absorbing storyline. Enjoy with some rich, elegant, complex 4-star coffee when you finally find it.
Propinquity, By John Macgregor, has a similarly philosophical bent, but a heavier hand. A young man, seeking purpose and finding the quest for money ultimately unsatisfying (and unsuccessful), travels to Oxford, studies medicine, and by a twist of serendipity ends up being the perfect person, among the perfect group of friends, to change the world. But is change supposed to come to institutions, or to individuals? Only a resurrected mystery can tell. Enjoy this complex, serious tale with a dark, intense five-star coffee.
For younger readers, Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight, #2), by Michael J. Bowler, offers mystery, adventure, and plenty of philosophical musing on the plight of abused children, concluding that kids who are treated as adults by the system should have the rights of adults. Add King Arthur to save a group of street kids in LA, turning them into knights, and the stage is certainly set for (slow) change. There are some pretty dark, intense scenes in this, so go for a dark intense 5-star coffee as you read.
The God of Sno Cone Blue, by Marcia Coffey Turnquist, is a beautiful young adult novel where child abuse again plays its part. But the protagonist lives in an almost perfect family, until her mother dies. The mother's letters, written before death and delivered after, provide twin mysteries of who is delivering the missives and what did the mother do before marrying a pastor. Haunting, told in a pitch-perfect voice, and oddly beautiful; this is a richly blended tale best enjoyed with a rich, elegant 4-star coffee.
For adults seeking mystery and fun, with great humor and characters, and prehaps a very English feel (not surprisingly, 'cause it's an English novel) you might try Blood Lines, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The humor and voices of these English cops are convincingly rendered, the characters are fun, the conversations are absorbing, and the mystery's pretty cool too. I really enjoyed this and must look out for more. Enjoy with a rich, complex 4-star coffee.
And finally, another book that I had to give back after reading was Drawn Into The Mystery On Jesus Through The Gospel Of John, By Jean Vanier, which belongs to my mother. Following the Gospel of John, and told in beautifully lyrical, almost poetic language, it combines deep research with genuine reverence, and invites readers to a feast of contemplation. You probably shouldn't drink coffee while praying, but if you insist, try a nice rich, elegant, 4-star brew.