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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pondering what makes me like a book, and ending up with way too long a list

Did you see the article about my reviews from Martin Shepherd, of the Permanent Press?

I have to confess, I've really enjoyed all the books I've received from them. And today I have two more Permanent Press reviews today to start my list. But Marty's article had me wondering, just what is it that defines a book I'll really like. I tried to make a list:

  • The writing should pull me into the story, rather than encouraging my mind to wander elsewhere (perhaps this is why I struggle with audio books, as my eyes are easily distracted)...
  • but inviting my mind to wander is a good thing too; I'd just rather the story keep its hold on me...
  • and surprising, even distracting me is good, as long as I can't help being pulled back again.
  • The characters need to be believable, or at least self-consistent...
  • but unbelievable characters are great if they make me believe in them while I read their story...
  • and characters that change in surprising ways are great too, as long as the story makes me believe in and care about the change.
  • Histories and backgrounds help me know characters, but I'd rather they didn't distract me into checking details on google.
  • Real history and real backgrounds just might send me checking up details anyway, because the story made me care. It helps if the author's right about their facts, dialect, dialog, scientific inventions, etc.
  • Events should flow from the story's set-up, rather than suddenly intruding...
  • unless, of course, the intrusion is part of the fun.
  • Patterns and themes are part of the puzzle that makes me love reading, writing, and math as well; so they definitely help.
  • Making me think and care will always attract my attention...
  • but misusing statistics and science to make me care is seriously frustrating...
  • misusing faith and history likewise...
  • and hammering me over the head with an author's point of view instead of a character's just might drive me crazy.
  • Plus lots, lots more I'm sure.
So now I'm wondering, what rating would I give my own novels if they were written by someone else? Would they keep me reading? I hope they would.

Anyway, here are some more book reviews with ratings for the type of coffee I'd recommend you drink while reading.

Hard Latitudes, by Baron R. Birtcher, is a novel from the Permanent Press that really grabbed my attention. It blends Hawaiian sailing with LA police procedural, fast-action threats with smooth deception, sharp dialog with gorgeous description, past with present and future, and dreams with hope and reality. Can you tell I loved it? Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense 5-star coffee.

Another from the Permanent Press is Locus Amoenus, by Victoria N. Alexander. Imagine the Elegance of the Hedgehog set in post 9/11 America, or Hamlet rewritten in the trials of a city boy who's father died that day. Complex and darkly amusing, it moves from the sometimes cruel humor of a child to the soul-searching mystery of rumor and plot, while sheep go astray. Enjoy this one with another bold, dark, intense 5-star coffee. It has a powerful sting in its tale.

Murder at the art and craft fair, by Steve Demaree, is a more traditional mystery, but again it's character driven with lots of dialog. Almost ex-cops of an almost-retirement age and weight enjoy an easy-going relationship with lots of quips and disasters on their way to solving a small-town mystery. Enjoy with some bright lively two-star coffee.

Then there's Dark Prelude, by Andrea Parnell, heading back into history and mystery with a young woman fleeing from England to America, and battling brothers pursuing her. It's a short tale with some nice excerpts from longer books tacked on. And it's a pleasing introduction to the author's writing. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee, but keep some five-star dark intense brews close by.

And finally a wonderful collection of mysterious and scary short stories (and novellas) from Seventh Star Press: A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court, edited by Scott M. Sandridge. I'd been looking forward to reading these for a while, though I'm not entirely sure why I gravitated first toward Unseelie rather than Seelie. Still, it was a happy, dark, and delightful gravitation. The stories gripped me from start to end, are full of surprises and intriguing twists and turns, and make for a really great read. Enjoy with some bold dark intense five-star coffee, and don't close the curtains.

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