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Thursday, January 21, 2016

What makes a real read?

Did you get any books for Christmas? Print books? Ebooks? Real books? Or are all books real?

I've just been offered the chance to review the next book in a series  I love. The author asked if I wanted print or kindle, and I just knew I'd love to have a print copy. But that wouldn't be fair would it? I write enough to know it's free, or almost free, to share a kindle copy. But print and postage involve the payment of cash. So is that what makes writing real - the hard cash behind it? Or perhaps the payment in blood sweat and tears over the keyboard.

The author told me she too prefers print. "Print novels stay in the mind longer," said she, which got me wondering the whys behind that too. Is it that tactile memory thing, like knowing where the keypad buttons are for a phone number, without knowing the digits? Is it the look of the cover, so easily ignored when reading an e-book? Or is it something to do with the fact that a book would never be in print unless its words were worth printing?

This book, when I receive it, will be real and would still be real, were it print or e. I shall look forward to reading and reviewing it. Meanwhile, looking at the reviews I'm about to post, I'm guessing real might have something to do with characters real enough to make the reader care, and situations real enough to demand a resolution: Strangers who come to life, stay in the mind, and want to be revisited - stories that want to be re-read - dreams that demand to be listened to again...

I'd love to hear your opinion of real writing - says she, remembering the day I was given a pen at elementary school and told I could "do real writing" now, which meant "joined-up" and not too many errors to be crossed out.

While you're thinking about it, grab a real cup of coffee and enjoy some reviews of real books, print and otherwise, all received (or remembered) around Christmas and read as soon as I could get to them afterward.

First is Nakamura Reality by Alex Austin, an amazing novel that's so beautifully complex and simple both at once, like a puzzle where every piece is perfectly cut, or a diamond I guess. Sometimes the art of a literary novel might overwhelm the tale, but this novel's got the balance just right, with wheels within wheels, stories within stories, characters that are larger and smaller than their parts, and a story that enthralls, compels and entrances. I love it; can you tell? Enjoy with some wonderfully rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee.

NW by Zadie Smith is artful too, with different fonts and styles for its characters, and a curiously experimental feel - which perhaps makes sense as outsiders experiment with trying to fit into London's NW. One section worked particularly well for me. Others might work better for other readers. It's a complicated read, driven by character and art, best enjoyed with an artful, intense five-star coffee.

Do Not Find me by Kathleen Novak is smoothly constructed, artful and interesting. The author interweaves her stories as a young woman prepares to dispose of her father's estate, while her father's past comes to life Secrets, love, and betrayal bring the stories full circle as each learn the payment required for following the lure. Enjoy with some more complex elegant coffee, four-starred for flavor.

For young adult readers, Pyre by R B Kannon, is another beautifully constructed tale, with well-designed myth and history, beautifully evocative and hauntingly thought-provoking. A child, trapped in a temple, finds release and imprisonment in the voice of its power. But now she must strive to find her own self while the other seeks to guide her. A lovely blend of myth and storytelling, this is one to enjoy with some seriously elegant four-star coffee.

For slightly younger adults, Krim Du Shaw by Talia Haven offers a myth of its own, in telling of the last unicorn. Dark like the old traditional fairytales, it's an ebook, imperfectly edited, yet seriously "real." Pour some more rich four-star coffee as you settle to read.

1 comment:

Jean said...

I prefer books in print. It's something about the feel of the book, probably the cover, ease of sharing. And if I really like a book it's like an old friend, or at least a pleasant memory. I'll keep a book I like on my bookshelf, possibly never read it again, but I'll see the book and remember what I liked about it. Maybe I'll offer to share it with a friend or family member. Books I haven't cared for as much can easily be given away to anyone-- whether or not they have an e-book--as long as they can READ!