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Posts Tagged ‘e-books’

moonriseLast night I went in search of Manderley. Or rather, one of my  copies of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca, which is 75 this year. I have both a paperback with a scarlet R emblazoned on the front and an old blue hardcover purchased at a long-ago library sale. It’s a book I come back to again and again, and I’ve promised myself another a reread as soon as I finish writing about some more recent gothic tales.

Cassandra King’s Moonrise (Maiden Lane Press, digital galley) is a fond homage to du Maurier’s tale, with just enough plot parallels to remind readers of Rebecca and enough differences to make it a good stand-alone. The title refers to a mountainside mansion in Highlands, N.C., with a nocturnal garden that glows under the full moon. It’s also the summer home of charismatic newsman Emmet Justice’s first wife, Rosalyn, killed in a highway accident less than a year ago. Her close friends and grown daughter are still mourning her death when Emmet returns to Moonrise with his second wife, Florida divorcee and TV cooking show host Helen Honeycutt.

Some mystery surrounds Rosalyn’s death and some oddities suggest Moonrise may be haunted, but King is more interested in the complexities of long friendships and second marriages tested by jealousy, obsession and betrayal. She ups the tension by rotating the present-tense narrative among three women: Helen, living in Rosalyn’s house in Rosalyn’s shadow; Willa, the local property manager on whom the friends rely; and Tansy, a sharply observant Atlanta socialite who may or may not be on Helen’s side. Overall, Moonrise reminded me less of Rebecca and more of Anne Rivers Siddons’ novel Islands, another good Southern gothic.

eloiseJudy Finnigan’s first novel Eloise (Redhook, digital galley) is set in du Maurier’s atmospheric Cornwall and sounds a bit like Rebecca, at least in the beginning: “Yesterday I almost saw her. . .She wasn’t there, of course. How could she be, when I had seen her lying in her coffin just two weeks ago, two days before she was buried…”

Cathy is grieving her best friend Eloise, whose death from breast cancer has sent her reeling. Because she’s also recovering from a nervous breakdown, Cathy has trouble convincing people, primarily her psychiatrist husband, that Eloise is also haunting her dreams, begging her to protect her twin daughters from their father. OK, Eloise took some secrets to her grave that Cathy begins to uncover, but the many allusions to du Maurier and Wuthering Heights can’t plug the holes in the plot.

tidesHannah Richell’s  The House of Tides (Grand Central Publishing, digital galley) is more Rosamund Pilcher family saga than du Maurier gothic, but it does feature a shabby mansion on the Dorset coast. The Tides family has a love/hate relationship with Clifftops, especially Helen, a classics professor who lets her husband talk her into moving to his family’s ancestral pile. When tragedy strikes, family members fly apart, taking their secrets with them. A decade later, younger sister Dora returns to Clifftops, seeking to reconcile with her mother and with older sister Cassie. Richell’s tale moves back and forth in time, dropping clues as to what really happened that day on the beach.

darkwaterAfter my mom introduced me to Rebecca and du Maurier’s other works when I was about 11 or 12, I became hooked on the romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and Dorothy Eden. I still have all my Stewarts — mostly paperbacks — but the box with all the others disappeared years ago when someone broke into my apartment storage locker. When Sourcebooks started rereleasing Holt in paperback a couple of years ago, I quickly pounced on Mistress of Mellyn and Bride of Pendorric. Now they’re coming out as e-books, and I just reread The Shivering Sands. Similarly, Dorothy Eden’s going digital and so far I’ve picked up old favorites Ravenscroft (Open Road  Media, purchased e-book) and Darkwater (Open Road Media, digital galley) and relished their gothic delights. I also found an Eden I’d missed, Waiting for Willa (Open Road Media, digital galley), which turned out to be a 20th-century mystery set in the trendy crime-book country of Sweden. Lots of chills and even a mysterious mansion. Which reminds me: I’m off to Manderley.

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Cousin Gail called just before noon. She wondered if I could do her a “teeny’’ favor. Remember how Caroline Cousins had a speaking engagement tonight? And since only two-thirds of us – herself and Cousin Meg – were actually going to be there in S.C. , would I, as the missing cousin, just shoot her a quick e-mail about how publishing has changed in the decade since our first book came out.

“And maybe put in something about the future and how it’s changing, too,’’ Gail said. “If you have the time, that is. Please.’’

Caroline Cousins, being a Southerner, is always polite, especially when asking for the moon.

Shoot, Gail, if I had the time and knowledge to write about everything changing in publishing, we might could publish it as a book – an e-book, that is. Furthermore, you and Meg wouldn’t be able to do our usual
dog-and-pony show that we all three know by heart so any one, two or three of us, in any combination, can rattle on about our books and writing experience at a moment’s notice. You’d be talking from now until Sunday, and the audience’s eyes would have glazed over yesterday.

So let me be brief. Or briefish. The Internet has changed every aspect of publishing, and continues to do so. Even if some authors continue to write longhand  (Meg, for example), eventually their words gets put in a computer and technology takes over from there, for better or worse.

Generally, I think better. Or maybe I just hope that because I love books – the real ones — just holding them, smelling them, listening to the sound of pages turning. Crisp new books high on ink. Musty old ones with paper like crumbling graham crackers.  Books printed in DTF – dead tree format.

But now I have not only stacks upon stacks of books like this, I also have a virtual library of books. They’re digital electronic editions – e-books – and you read them on computers – laptops, tablets, smartphones and dedicated e-readers, such as  a nook (mine) or  a Kindle (Meg). (There are differences, so do your research).

At last count, I had 140 books on my nook, which weighs approximately 11 oz. There’s room for at least a thousand, more if I add back-up storage.

And then there’s “the cloud,’’ where my e-books are archived in something like an Internet storage unit, and another cloud, where I check out e-books from my public library.

I’m not enough of a techno-nerd to understand cloud computing. But the future of publishing is up there in the clouds somewhere as writers,  publishers, booksellers, and readers all struggle to adapt to this new “platform,’’   where the wind blows every whichaway.

I don’t think books – the real ones – are going away soon, or for good. But e-books, in some form, are here to stay. They present challenges and opportunities in marketing, distribution and pricing. Piracy, too.  Caroline Cousins may be translated into Chinese for all we know.

What we do know is that we are happy that our books are available as e-books from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and as Google-e-books, which allows independent bookstores to get a piece of the digital pie.

Caroline Cousins loves books. And pie.

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The new normal is the paranormal in much of today’s fiction, both literary and commercial. Here a ghost, there a zombie, everywhere a vampire or a werewolf. But several recent novels enchant with the magic of storytelling even as they trip the light fantastic.

Alice Hoffman, of course, is one of the leading practitioners of American magical realism, known as much for her luminous writing as her tales tinged with whimsy. My favorites include Seventh Heaven, Practical Magic,  The River King and Blackbird House. The latter is comprised of  stories linked by a Cape Cod house built during Colonial times by a fisherman who drowned at sea. A blackbird with wings of white reappears to succeeding generations as they experience fable-like encounters and transformations.

Hoffman’s most recent book, The Red Garden (Crown), is similar in form and style as its stories tell the history of  the small Massachustts town of Blackwell. All stem from town founder Hallie Brady’s determination to keep herself and her fellow settlers from starvation by forging a kinship with the wilderness, especially its black bears. A river full of eels, a mysterious garden, tomatoes that grant wishes, a woman with hair so long she can step on it. Hoffman’s lyrical fables are full of fate and magic and metaphor. And how wonderful that  Johnny Appleseed himself visits Blackwell once upon a time.

“Wonderful” is a good word, too, to describe Jo Walton’s new novel, Among Others (Tor). It’s a coming-of-age, sense-of-wonder tale told through the journal entries of Welsh teen Mori, a stranger in the strange land of a British boarding school. She and her twin sister used to escape from their witch of a mother by playing in the magical outdoors and talking to the fairies. But now Mori, still limping from a terrible accident, keeps to herself, seeking refuge in science fiction and fantasy books. 

“There are some awful things in the world, it’s true, but there are also some great books. When I grow up I would like to write something that someone could read sitting on a bench on a day that isn’t all that warm and they could sit reading it and totally forget where they were or what time it was so that they were more inside the book than inside their own head. I’d like to write like Delany or Heinlein or Le Guin.”

Mori’s world expands, thanks to to inter-library loan, a SF reading group, and the rebellious drop-out Win, “rarer than a unicorn, a beautiful boy in a red-checked shirt who read and thought and talked about books.” But before she can begin the next chapter of her life, Mori must reckon with the spells of the past. 

Among Others reminded me of how many hours I spent as a teen lost in the other worlds of Delany, Heinlein and Le Guin. My to re-read list gets ever longer. I’ve also added Sheri Holman’s The Dress Lodger, although her new novel, Witches on the Road Tonight (Grove/Atlantic) is altogether different, mixing Appalachian mountain myth with the poignant story of a conflicted man’s life. It begins: “Of all the props I saved, only the coffin remains.”

Eddie Alley was once a TV weatherman who gained small-town fame as Captain Casket, host of a late-night horror show. His love of monster movies dates back to his Depression-era boyhood in rural Virginia, where a WPA writer named Tucker Hayes shows Eddie a flickering Frankenstein with a hand-held projector. Eddie is as captivated by this visitor as Tucker is taken with Eddie’s mother Cora, who gathers ginseng (“sang”) and has a reputation as a witch.

Holman shuttles between present-day New York, where aging Eddie leaves a phone message about sang to his TV anchor daughter Wallis; to Panther Gap, where Tucker, a reluctant World War II draftee, stays longer than planned; to the late 1970s, when Wallis is 12 and her father brings home the orphaned Jasper. Holman also artfully shifts perspectives as mystery and magic meet.  The overall arc is a bit uneven because the events at Panther Gap overshadow Wallis’ suburban childhood.

Deborah Harkness’ debut, A Discovery of Witches, is pop paranormal, crowded with witches, vampires and daemons living among us poor unaware humans. Impossibly smart and attractive, Diana Bishop comes from a long line of famous witches, but she prefers to do her historical research without magic. But then she opens a medieval manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library and finds the palimpsest thrumming with magic. Suddenly, many of the undead are on the trail of the book and its secrets, including the impossibly handsome and brilliant vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. 

Once you buy into the premise, the tale proves to be a well-written escapist romp with just enough romance and real history to make its 500-plus pages mostly worth reading. (I admit to skimming through the yoga sessions). Be forewarned: The ending isn’t really the end. This is the first book in the All Souls trilogy.

Open Book: I bought hardcover copies of The Red Garden and A Discovery of Witches and e-book versions of Among Others and Witches on the Road tonight. This is the thing with e-book pricing; sometimes the dead-tree format costs less or pretty much the same with discounts. As many books as I buy, I’d still rather save money than space.

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Shortly after I started writing this blog in January, someone suggested I write about lupus more.  No, I replied, the whole point of the blog was to get away from lupus. Having lupus is boring. I’ve been foggy and lightheaded and achy the last few days. Not surprising since I’d been going full-tilt boogie for a week or so, and this is the way my body responds when I’ve pushed myself too hard and tried to act like a well person.

That being said, I haven’t been reading much, just zoning out to reruns of Law and Order and HGTV. I DVRd the premiere of Treme on HBO because I could feel myself falling asleep. The same with Glee. Happy I did because I really like both of them.

I also thought on things literary that I might like to blog on if I ever have the energy. Like, it’s National Library Week, and all across the country, when people need them most, library branches are closing, and hours and personnel are being cut.  A crying shame. (I get mopey when I don’t feel good).

Also, this year’s the 50th anniversary of the publication of my all-time-favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. My aunt gave me a copy when I was 10, and I’ve been reading and rereading it ever since. Rick Bragg has a good article about author Harper Lee and his memories of the book in the most recent issue of Reader’s Digest. First time I’ve picked up the magazine in years — it was at a friend’s house — although it was a staple of my growing-up. My grandmother gave a subscription to my father for Christmas. In turn, I gave her the large-print version.

Should I get an e-book reader? If so, Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPhone, iPad? Let me know what you think. I’m planning a two-week plane/motorcoach/train trip this summer to the Canadian Rockies this summer, and I really don’t have room to haul a bunch of books. (FYI, this is a low physical activity-rated trip; I’m not hiking. Gone are those days.) Maybe I could read e-books of the five books that won the Pulitzer Prize this week because I haven’t read any of them, which is like the first time ever since I can remember. Not that my memory’s too good right now.  See, I told you lupus was boring… In fact, I’m going to take a nap as soon as I find a suitable image of my brain on lupus to illustrate this post.

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