Sunday, October 19, 2014

When to Abandon a Book

Now I'm not talking about abandoning a book that you're writing. There's a time for that, sometimes, and that's for another post. I'm talking about when to abandon a book that you're reading.

When you're in school, you're required to read books that you wouldn't normally choose on your own. And that's what school is for. To challenge you, to get you to think critically about things you wouldn't normally think about.

Even after college, I felt that if I started reading a book, I was making a commitment to finish it. No matter how boring, awful, or predictable it was. I sloughed through some real stinkers, just because I felt it was my obligation as a reader to finish it. And maybe, I had some small hope that it would get better.

But you know what? Life is too short for bad books.

That's not to say that sometimes you don't take a chance on a complex book. But when you're reading for pleasure, you should be reading things that you enjoy. Duh.

Yet it took me years -- YEARS! -- to feel comfortable abandoning a book that I had started. Some say you should dump a book after fifty pages if you're not feeling it. I still give books a hundred pages, sometimes two hundred, before I close it for good. But I'm feeling less and less guilty each time I do.

As a writer, as a reader, as a librarian, as a former bookseller, as a former English major ... I want to love a book enough to finish it.  But there are too many books in my TBR pile to waste time on a book that's not grabbing me.

This shift in my reading habits has really freed me. I try more books outside genres I'd normally read. I'm often pleasantly surprised. I have more depth of knowledge on books to recommend. I might not have finished a book, but I know enough about it to share with a patron who may be a better fit for it.

And that's what has been key for me. Realizing that not all books fit all readers. I am not obligated as a reader to finish it. Just as I am not obligated as a writer to write something that will appeal to everyone. Because I can't. Someone out there will hate it, but someone else will love it. (Even if it's just me.)

So I am giving you permission to stop reading books that you don't like. Give it fifty or so pages. Maybe come back to it in a couple of years. But it's okay to stop reading it. Even if it's the bestseller that everyone loves, a prize winner that was adapted into a movie, the latest book by your favorite author. If you're not feeling it, put it down and try the next book.

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dangerous Book Review

Title: Dangerous
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1599901688

416 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I hadn't read any Shannon Hale novels before (although I did enjoy the Austenland movie), but I knew she was a writer who used humor and girl power in her work.

And Dangerous did not disappoint. In fact, I freaking loved Dangerous. The heroine is Maisie Danger Brown (Danger really is her middle name) and she goes to space camp where she meets a cute boy and gets infected with alien technology. It only gets wilder from there (That's a pun; the cute boy's name is Wilder. I crack myself up.).

In fact, four other teens are also infected with alien technology and they're supposed to do save the earth ... from what exactly or how exactly they're not entirely clear on. But things go horribly, horribly wrong as the changes in the teens lead them to make some very bad decisions.

Dangerous is a sci-fi/superhero romp with plenty of action and twisty turns. There's some humor, some romance, some stretches of believability that you either go with or don't. I went with it and I'm glad I did.

There's also some diversity in the characters (yay!) and in addition to being half-Latina, Maisie has a physical disability that doesn't stop her from being totally kick-ass.

I'd recommend Dangerous to readers who enjoyed Wildfire by Karsten Knight or Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Dangerous Book Trailer:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Panic Book Review

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HaperCollins
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0062014559

416 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Panic by Lauren Oliver is a YA contemporary about a group of teens in a high-stakes game of dares. They live in a crappy town and the money that seniors are forced to pony up throughout the school year goes to the winner of Panic. Because, apparently, in this town, no one is smart enough or athletic enough to get a scholarship. Or, you know, a part-time job.

I know that sounds harsh, but if you're willing to buy into the premise, Panic is a fast read. It's told from the POV of Heather, a girl who's trying to protect her sister from their druggie mom, and Dodge, a guy who's out for revenge.

There are secrets among the players, most of them obvious. But there is also action, as the players have to go through contests that test their fearlessness. These are probably the best parts of the book, as I caught myself holding my breath through some of them.

The characters are also another strong part of the book. Heather and Dodge are well-rounded and have clear arcs where they change. Again, if you can get past the premise, then the characters will engage you to read to the end.

I'd recommend Panic to readers who enjoyed Dare You To by Katie McGarry or Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher.

Bonus video: Lauren Oliver discusses the inspiration for Panic

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Before My Eyes Book Review

Title: Before My Eyes
Author: Caroline Bock
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1250045584

304 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Caroline Bock has written a compelling YA contemporary that hits a lot of hot button issues -- gun violence, pill popping, mental illness -- as well as personal issues -- loneliness, loss, identity -- in a way that brings its well-rounded characters together in a believable climax.

She does this by alternating chapters between the three main characters: Claire, an aspiring poet who must take on more family responsibilities after her mom has a stroke; Max, a state senator's son who's forced to play a role he never asked for; Barkley, a loner who believes the voice in his head that tells him he needs to buy a gun if he wants to make the world a better place.

The chapters alternate the POV's, but they also countdown over a Labor Day weekend to the moment Barkley fires that gun. During these chapters we learn about the characters, their hopes and fears, their secrets and their desires. And we understand more what those shots fired mean to each of them.

Before My Eyes is an excellent discussion starter for all the issues raised in the book. The author doesn't talk down the audience by offering easy answers, but rather, asks questions about why people do the things they do.

I recommend Before My Eyes to readers who enjoyed Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick or Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Yes, it's that time of the year where I take some time off from the blog.

ALA Amazing ARC Giveaway books have been mailed to the winners, so if you received an email from me that you were a winner, check your mailboxes soon!

I hope you enjoy the last days of summer.

Happy reading!


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