Monthly Archives: August 2010

Great Book Recommendations

When I make a book recommendation to a friend I am always a tad worried. There is always a fear in the back of my mind that although I loved a book, they could hate it. The same is also true when I pick up a book on the recommendation of a friend. How am I supposed to respond if I hated a book they highly praised? While this has yet to happen, I always get a bit nervous when starting a book plugged by a friend.

My experiences with the Harry Potter series helped me find some great friends. The passion we share for the Harry Potter series often translates to a general love of reading. As that feeling is shared with this great series, I often find many of us to have similar tastes in books. When a love of books and shared interest combine, great book recommendations are often the result.

I credit my discovery of the fantastic world of Young Adult (YA) literature to recommendations from friends. In some cases, the book suggestions come inadvertently. After noticing a few friends commenting on a book on twitter, I will look to get more information about it. Often–as was the case with John Green’s novels– I’ll find myself heading to the bookstore to pick up the book. A love of YA books was born.

My friends are not the only people who recommend books to me via Twitter. I mentioned previously that there are a few fantastic authors that I follow on the site. These authors can also be a great source for recommendations. A while back, Maureen Johnson tweeted how she had written a blurb for Heist Society by Ally Carter. This mention put the book on my radar, and I purchased it on my next bookstore run. I enjoyed the story so much I ended up picking up the author’s Gallagher Girls series. Another successful recommendation!

Sometimes I pick up books based on their covers. Other times I pick up a book based on a suggestion by a friend. While the book cover route has had mixed results, a recommendation from a friend has never let me down. Keep those great book reviews coming, guys!

ePiracy

As a blogger, I often spend time seeing what search terms lead people to my blog. This helps me determine if new people are finding my blog, and what is leading them to it. I was pleased to see a lot of searches for Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” (GG) series were leading to my blog. That excitement soured when I noticed a third of those searches were looking for places to read the book online for free. As Carter has never published the whole of the GG books online, these people are looking to read the books illegally. This is very upsetting.

I understand that many of the readers of the Gallagher Girls books are in the “Young Adult” category. In many cases may be to young to get jobs, and therefore can’t afford trips to the bookstore. I imagine this is why they might look for free options for reading the book. I, however, do not think that this justifies downloading free copies of the book.

If not for libraries, perhaps I would be more sympathetic towards those who cannot afford to buy books. Libraries provide books free of charge for all. If your library doesn’t have the book you are looking for, you can request it or look into having it loaned from another library. Unless the book is a new release, it is generally pretty easy to get your hands on a book without having to pay.

Now people may ask, “If you can get a book from the library for free, why can’t I download it for free?” While I’m not going to discuss all the reasons, the main problem I have with it is how many people this practice hurts. In short, downloading books illegally off the internet hurts the author of the book, its publisher, the readers, and the libraries themselves. How? Well, for that I’m going to send you over to GG’s author Ally Carter’s blog post on ePiracy as she does a GREAT job explaining this!

Anyway, I didn’t mean to end up posting a rant. (oops!) As a book fan, this is an issue that upsets me. It was nice to get my thoughts about this issue out there. Thanks for reading!

The “Harry Potter” Effect

I started reading the Harry Potter books in June of 2002. I tore through the four books that had been released at the time in about a week. After finishing, I was left needing more. I had so many questions that I needed answered! Just what was that “gleam of triumph” in Dumbledore’s eye all about? What was going to happen to the wizarding world now that Lord Voldemort had returned? I would have to wait five long years for all of my questions to be answered.

There was both some good and bad that came out of my wait for the release of all seven books. The need for information on the next release was intense. My desire to have my questions answered left me scouring the internet. While this fell into the “bad” category, it resulted in many things in the “good” category. The longing for info on the next book lead me to a great HP news site, The Leaky Cauldron. My need for answers to my questions helped me find some great discussions on the The Leaky Lounge. The friends I met through these sites, and great discussions I had, helped make the wait worth it.

Since finishing the Harry Potter books, I have discovered many great series. In some cases–like with the Uglies Series–all of the books had already been released. This meant I could read all the books at once and not have to wait long for the answers to my many questions. However this need to get answers quickly meant that I missed out on the opportunity to discuss the book and theorize about what came next. Perhaps had I found Uglies earlier, I would have discovered some great Scott Westerfeld fans with whom to share my love of the series.

Other times my first encounter with a series is purely accidental. Only after having finished a book had I realized it was the first in a yet-to-be completed series. This happened with Heist Society by Ally Carter. I now find myself often checking the author’s Twitter page for any updates on the Heist Society 2 manuscript. (Good news: It’s in progress! Bad News: Still only in first draft form.)

The last “series situation” I’ve stumbled upon is hearing about a book that is part of a yet-to-be completed series. I then have to make a decision: Do I start reading the series immediately and then wait with all my questions? Do I wait for all of the books to be released and then read them all? Sometimes I will ignore the dreaded wait and start reading the series right away. This was the case with Insatiable by Meg Cabot. I read the book knowing that only the first book of the series had been released. I was comfortable making this decision because I felt that the plot wasn’t as intricate as some others, and I wouldn’t find myself kept awake at night due to unanswerable questions. For the most case, this is true. While I would enjoy some word on that status of its sequel, I’m not searching the internet for any word about it.

As often as I’ve decided to start reading an unfinished series, I’ve also found myself making the consciousness decision to not read a series until just before the release of the final book. Such is the case with Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I made the decision to wait based on two things. The first of which was the wait. By the time I had heard about this series, the first book had been out for a while and the second was almost released. I knew that it wouldn’t be a long wait until the third and final book was out. The second reason was the suspense factor of the book. Everyone I know who read Hunger Games had many questions after finishing. These questions were not of the “Gee I wonder what happens” variety, but instead “I need to know what happens now!” It seemed these feelings only intensified after the release of Catching Fire. The extreme suspense, and relatively short wait time influenced my decision to wait until all the books had been released to start reading.

Now, was this the right decision to make? I’m sure that I’ve missed out on some great discussion by not reading the books as they were released. It seems that there has been no lack of theorizing about what will happen in the finale of the series. In many cases while my friends have been discussing the books, I’ve had to cover my ears and walk away. If I know a friend is reading the books, I read their status updates with my eyes half open in an attempt to avoid spoilers. While I can’t ever say if I made the right decision, I know that as I start reading the series ASAP in preparation for the August 24th release date of Mockingjay, it will be nice to know I’ll soon find out an answer to all my questions!

Promises to Keep by Jane Green

Another of my Books of Summer has been released, and read. This time I’m reviewing Promises to Keep by Jane Green.

From Goodreads.com

Promised to Keep by Jane Green
Callie Perry is a successful family photographer living in upstate New York. She adores her two daughters, has great friends, and actually doesn’t mind that her workaholic husband gets home at 9 p.m. every night-that is, when he’s not traveling six months out of the year.

Callie’s younger sister, Steff, on the other hand, has never grown up. She’s a free spirit, living in downtown Manhattan and bouncing between jobs and boyfriends. Lately, she’s been working as a vegan chef, even though she can’t cook.

Lila Grossman is Callie’s best friend and has finally met the man of her dreams. Eddie has two wonderful children, but also a drama queen ex-wife who hates Lila. And then there are Callie and Steff’s parents, Walter Cutler and Honor Pitman. Divorced for thirty years, they rarely speak to each other.

The lives of these colorful characters intersect when they each receive a shocking note that summons them together for one extraordinary summer in Maine and changes their lives forever. This novel is about the hard choices we have to face, about having to be your parents’ child long after you’ve grown up, and about the enduring nature of love.

In my “Books of Summer” post I talked about how I loved Green’s books because I can relate to her characters. No matter if she was writing about a single girl, newlywed, or happily married woman, I found bits of the character that I enjoyed. In “Promises to Keep,” the author writes about three women. One a happily unattached girl, one happily committed, and one happily married. I was not able to relate to any one of them.

In this story it felt like Green forgot what made real, interesting women, and instead turned to stereotypes to create her leading ladies. Steffi meets every “single girl” stereotype there is. She’s unable to keep a job for long, dates guys that are horrible for her, and floats along in life. Lila, who has given up on having children [spoiler alert]suddenly finds herself unexpectedly pregnant[/spoiler alert]. Green talks so often about how happy Callie’s perfect relationship is that I start to roll my eyes. I just couldn’t get behind these ladies like I had in Green’s previous stories.

Although it was hard for me to get behind the female characters, I did find the peripheral characters enjoyable. The story of Walter and Honor–Steffi and Callie’s parents–was adorable to watch unfold. The character of Mason–a book publisher and client of Steffi’s restaurant–has an interesting story that kept me guessing throughout the book. Even though these characters played minor roles, I kept reading to find out how their subplots ended.

While I found some of Green’s characters a bit off, the story she told was powerful. Once the plot started going–about halfway through the book–I was unable to put it down. The emotional highs and lows of the characters’ journey grabbed me. I kept a box of tissues next to me and needed to use it frequently. Even though I often found myself unable to connect with the characters, the story was so powerful that I did end up enjoying it a great deal.

Review: I expected this book to be another fantastic Jane Green read, but that was not the case. The disconnect I felt with the main characters meant it took longer for me to get into the story. Once I connected with the plot, I found the book to be an pleasurable read.

Update: My 2010 Reading Challenge

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions for myself. This is mainly due to the fact that I never keep them. However this year I noticed many of my friends making resolutions about reading. I found myself very interested in this concept, as it was a goal I may strive to reach! I always read a lot of books so why not aim for a goal? I decided to aim for reading 78 books in 2010–a book an a half a week–and off I went.

As I have mentioned previously, Goodreads.com is a great way to keep track of what books I’ve read this year. With the ability to make lists, I can group all of my 2010 reads together. This functionality has been key in helping me count the number of books I’ve finished. I would be lost without this site!

Now, a great tracking tool isn’t the only thing I’ve needed as I head towards my goal. Motivation has been a necessary ingredient. In the beginning of the year I simply needed to buy a book, and it would be read within days. While I was in the high single digits for January and February, March through May saw double digit reading counts. I was on a roll!

My big news at the end of May brought my reading motivation to near nonexistent levels. While I was excited to find out I was pregnant, I had zero interest in reading. The pile of great books I had on my nightstand lay untouched. My June reading numbers dropped to a measly two. Time spent not at work was spent sleeping. I started to worry I wouldn’t hit my goal.

In the past week or so things have started to turn around. I found the desire to read appearing more frequently. While I’m not back to double digit numbers, I’m excited about my six books for the month. It’s nice to know that even though my desire to read may leave me for a bit, it will return!

So, how am I doing with my challenge? At just-past the halfway mark of the year, I have read 55 books, and am 70% completed. I was surprised to find that despite my off month, I’m ahead of my target. My fears of not reaching my goal have been put aside for now. It is nice to know that even though I have had some temporary setbacks, my goal is very much within reach.