Friday, May 15, 2015

True confessions: Do you turn down the corners of pages?

I used to think it was vaguely heretical to turn down corners of pages in books. Still worse was defacing the paper with words of my own. Reading with a pencil in hand? No way! Then my husband bought me a kindle.

E-readers have this nice little feature that lets you turn down corners without damaging pages. They encourage you highlight text, without ever defacing the (non-existent) clean white paper. You can even take notes and don't have to carry a pen.

Reviewing books by kindle became so much easier than reviewing them in print. I could scribble my notes (typing one-fingered on that keyboard of tiny raised lumps--my kindle's kind of old). I could highlight useful information like protagonist's names, where and when the story takes place, favorite phrases, whole paragraphs that illustrate a point. Then I could "view notes and marks" at the end, to compile them into a readable book review. Easy!

All this is especially important to me as I read too fast and forget too easily. But I still enjoy the feel of paper books, so much more satisfying than mechanical. I still read and review lots of paper books (reading too fast and forgetting too easily, again). So...

...so, heresy of heresies, I now turn down corners of pagers with cruel abandon, highlight text with evil pencil marks lurking in the margin, draw bubbles around my favorite passages, and even scribble my own notes along the sides. The scribbling my own notes bit is a bit of a problem though, as I struggle to read my writing and try to remember what on earth I wanted to say.

Anyway, that's how I set about to write a book review. How about you?

And while you think about it, grab a coffee to match your favorite read, and enjoy this introduction to the books I've read recently, with matching coffee recommendations:

First, in print, was Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist (lots of turned down corners). I posted a review of this a few days ago, to help the author celebrate its release. Like a Jane Austen novel set around the Chicago World Fair, it tells of an enterprising young woman in the days when women and unions were just beginning to change the world. There's a pleasing romance, a convincing sense of history, and a wealth of great characters. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Telling a tale of slightly more recent history, The People Under the House, by Dene Hellman, combines the story of a sixties housewife (e-highlight all those details of time and place) with the horrors of Nazi Germany, weaving together two characters who really did fall in love and marry. But there are no fairytale endings in this memoir, just vividly depicted real life. I'd recommend this one just for its first two parts - drink some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee while you read.

Grendel's Game, by Erik Mauritzson, was the next print book in my review pile. Imagine Girl with the Dragon Tattoo crossed with Hannibal Lecter, and give the protagonist an almost perfect home and family, then you'll get the picture. It's an odd blend of noir and light--will the light or dark win? Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee. (Comments written in the margins.)

Betrayer of Kings, by Sam Powers, (e-highlighted paragraphs) fits more closely into its genre, but it's only the beginning of a three-part tale, and might leave some readers frustrated at its conclusion. That said, it's an intricately detailed tale of spies, counter-spies, terrorists, politics and betrayal. I will read volumes 2 and 3 soon-ish. Meanwhile, enjoy part one with some dark intense five-star coffee.

Returning to print, the next book I read was a Christmas present, One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. (Just a few turned down corners this time - my husband might want to read it too!) I read the first Jackson Bodie novel last year, and I'm thoroughly addicted to the TV series (Case Histories - so is my husband). So this book is one I'd looked forward to for ages (a few months at least). Kate Atkinson has an amazing way with chapters, turning and polishing each into a short story in its own right. Meanwhile the lives of her characters twist and intertwine in a complex dance. Enjoy with a richly elegant complex four-star coffee.

Devil's Creek by Aaron Paul Lazar will come out in print soon, I expect, but I had the pleasure of reading a pre-release e-copy (comments in margins again). I really enjoyed it. The storyline is dark and difficult, involving sexual addiction and more; but the writing lifts it beautifully, offering just the right combination of seen and unseen terror in matching tales of a man taking a risk on love and seemingly doomed to lose. Enjoy with some more richly elegant complex four-star coffee.

Back to print, I had to write this review without bending any pages because the book belongs to a friend. But I loved the story and it was really no hardship to read without taking notes. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano appeals to me just for its title. But the story is more than its symbolism, as two young people grow together, grow apart, and never quite fit. Some relationships have different edges than others, and this tale draws the lines between its characters beautifully. A touch of life, a touch of romance, great locations, and gritty reality all combine in an absorbing book best read with well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

And finally, one last ebook, though it always surprises me to find picture e-books for kids (no need for comments or bookmarks when the book's so short). Maybe when I have grandkids I'll buy e-picture-books by the dozen. Willa the Wolf gets New Shoes by Leela Hope is a nice positive tale about not letting the mean kids get you down, written and illustrated for preschool and kindergarten kids. A wise fun bedtime story perhaps, to enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking coffee.

And that's my list. Now back to the television to see if we've recorded any more Case Histories to watch over dinner. But first I'll put the coffee on.


No comments: