Real Life or Fiction?

If you've followed my book reviews, you probably know I have a preference for fiction. I like the order of beginnings middles and endings. I like to know there'll be a purpose revealed between the lines, and that those unknown lives won't hurt, though they'll haunt from the turning of the page. Real life has an awkward habit of being really messy. And I meet real people every day--why should I want to meet a stranger in a book?

I was asked to review a memoir recently--not my favorite genre. But this wasn't just an ordinary memoir of ordinary everyday life; this particular memoir was written from jail.

I couldn't decide if that would make me like it more or less. After all, this was hardly going to be a character I'd really want to meet. Would I want to spend all the pages of a book in his company. And his world? Wouldn't it be full of complaints and railing against the system? But it did have a cool title.

So here are my reviews of some seriously good books that blend real life and fiction. And yes, one of them is a memoir--a seriously good memoir with purpose, beginning, middle and end, and a character who haunts from the turning of the page.

Concrete Carnival by Danner Darcleight is prison memoir, written from prison, telling about prison and prisons, so very different from how I'd imagined. There's a backstory that makes the author human, despite his crime, and a story goes forward that teaches how to be human--perhaps a lesson we all should heed. Drink some dark 5-star coffee for a dark, sad story. But know it's going somewhere and it's good.

By contrast, A Taste Of Blood And Ashes by Jaden Terrell is focussed on fictional crime (including murder) and the man who tries to solve the case. Protagonist Jared McKean has been introduced in earlier books, and one of the strengths of this series is seeing how the character grows and changes. That said, each book works perfectly as a standalone novel, and this one's no exception. Revolving around the world of horse training, pitting those in the know against those with the skill to learn, and balancing care for others against caring to win, it's a cool, well-plotted, and complex tale, deserving a smoothly complex 4-star coffee.

The Dog Who Dared To Dream by Sun-Mi Huang is very different short novel, very stylized and beautifully told. But it too hides a mystery waiting to amaze the reader. Told from a blend of omniscient narrator and dog and cat, it follows the life of a dog who maybe doesn't fit in, but somehow steals his master's heart. The writing is spare. The action is mostly off-stage. And the story arc is simply beautiful. Enjoy this blend of simple and complex with another complex 4-star coffee.


Jean Harkin said…
Hi Sheila-- In light of your favorable review of the memoir written from prison, I recommend a couple books: "The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore; and "Visiting Life" by Bridget Kinsella. Wes Moore's book is both a memoir (of himself) and a bio (of the other Wes Moore). They share the same name, grew up in similar conditions in Baltimore neighborhoods, but their lives vastly different, the "other" Wes Moore serving life in prison.

In Bridget Kinsella's memoir, she sets out to help a talented writer who happens to be a prison inmate, but against all resolve, falls in love with him. She then sets out to research other women whose husbands are in prison. The ending might surprise you.

You'll find my reviews of both books on Goodreads; I recommend them both.
Sheila Deeth said…
Yes, I've certainly been intending to read the other Wes More for a while, though finding time will be a problem. Bridget Kinsella's book sounds intriguing too. Thank you.

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