Read a Lot. Write a Lot.

stephen_king

“[R]ead a lot. Write a lot.” –Stephen King

*This is the Monday post you’re looking for*

Without further ado (who am I kidding? I love ado!) this Tuesday’s Monday’s post!

Continuing on a claim I made in my last post—that I’ve read 150 books so far this year—let me say that I had a reason for reading so much. Since last year I’ve been writing in the new-to-me romance genre, and I wanted to get a feel for it.

But reading so many books is expensive. Erasmus might be able to spend his money on books first, but I like to wear clothes and eat decent meals too. Over the years, I’ve come up with some ways to read a lot on a budget.

(1) The library, duh.

You might not have heard of a library, but it’s a wonderful place where you’re allowed to borrow books for free! It’s book paradise.

But seriously. I know many people who love to read and don’t ever go to their local library because the library never seems to have the books they want. If you have a little know-how and patience, you could read virtually whatever you wanted using only your library. All copies checked out? Place a hold. The title you want isn’t carried by the library? Put in a purchase request. That’s right. Depending on the library, they might go ahead and buy the book for you. (Your mileage may vary).

(2) The online library.

This option is for those who perhaps don’t have the ability or wont to go to the physical library. Increasingly, libraries offer digital media, and as with all technology, the interfaces are becoming slicker by the year. Many libraries’ online catalogs let you download audiobooks and ebooks. For example, the Provo City Library uses One Click Digital and Overdrive. I’ve used both.

Even more exciting, more and more library catalogs have “one-click” downloads that allow you to check out and download the book directly from the catalog without navigating to an external site. But even if the library catalog redirects you to an external site, the process for downloading your books to your computer is extremely easy for even the non tech-savvy.

Companies (like Overdrive, the one I’m most familiar with) are also developing mobile apps that are continually improving. Once you have an account set up (based on your library card information) you can check out and download books straight to your phone or tablet.
All for free!

(3) Online retailers.

Amazon? But this is an article about saving money!

True. I will admit that sometimes I have a hard time finding the titles I want to read at my local library (and sometimes I don’t have the patience to wait for a hold). Perhaps it’s because libraries often carry the most popular books, and I’m to the point where I’m reading in niches and subgenres that don’t make sense for the library to carry. Libraries are the best, but I’m also not averse to buying books if it supports the author. The key for me is balance. I check some out from my library, I buy some from Barnes and Noble or Amazon or wherever.

But here’s a cool idea. Go to your local library’s website and see if they have a program called Buy It Now. This is a fairly new program that some libraries have that allows you to enter Amazon’s website through the library’s Buy It Now portal. For anything you buy, including items other than books, a percentage of the proceeds is given back to your library!

Here’s an example, again from the Provo City Library.

buy it now

Full disclosure: I work for the company that developed the Buy It Now program, but they’re not asking me to pimp it. I just think it’s really, really awesome.

(4) Free ninety-nine.

Try a self-published book or a book from a small digital press.
They often cost much less than a book from the Big Six. I often buy books for as little as $0.99–if you’re braver than me, you can go for the free books.

I’d recommend taking the time to find a blogger or two you like who review indie-pubbed books in addition to books from big publishers. You’re more likely to avoid the low-quality offerings and go straight for the good stuff. In the romance genre, sites like Dear Author and Smart Bitches Trashy Books review indie-pubbed books, and through experience I’ve learned I trust their reviewers’ opinions. Some of the best books I read last year were indie-pubbed and I learned about them because of these two review sites.

For YA and Fantasy, my favorite bloggers are called The Book Smugglers. They will also occasionally review indie-pubbed books. Let me know if you can think of any others.

(5) The book round-up.

The two sites I mention above do a daily deals feature, and they nearly always include books deals for all the major online retailers and from all major and minor publishers. Even if Amazon isn’t your cup of tea, Barnes and Noble and Kobo deals are also featured. Here’s a little secret for the people in love with Amazon’s low prices—Barnes and Noble more often than not price match Amazon. If Amazon is running a great deal on a book, B&N probably is too.

(6) A final note.

For print-only readers I have fewer suggestions, and unfortunately they’re all pretty obvious. Use the library. Borrow books from friends. Swap or trade books at a used book store.

Any way you slice it, writers need to read. We need to know what is happening in our field. All writing is a conversation, and we need to know what’s already been said in that conversation so our contributions can build on the whole and add something unique.

Megan Reviews Books She Read While Procrastinating Writing Her WIP

Or, in other words, the story of my life. Since I got a full-time job, I don’t really come home after staring at a computer for eight hours and feel like staring at a computer screen for two more while I try to make a daily word count. Instead I read. Copiously. Insanely. As of August 15th, I’d read 150 books this year. While I love that I’ve read so much, both my word count on my WIP and my wallet have suffered.

Something good ought to come out my procrastination, so I’d like to do occasional book reviews/recommendations. I’ll mostly focus on the positive and only do reviews for books I loved. Plus, I imagine that I’ll tell you far more about my personal life and psyche than anyone really wants to know. What a treat! (No really. I’m super good at making fun of myself).

Without further ado:

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Beautiful cover, no? (Image via Goodreads)

 

The last of the trilogy, I&HEA is a gem of a novel that follows Isla and Josh (previously introduced in the first book, Anna and the French Kiss) as they go through their senior year at an American school in Paris.

Rather than summarize the plot (you can easily find that on Goodreads), I want to give an aspiring writer’s perspective. When I read the first novel of the trilogy (all featuring a different hero and heroine), Perkins’s debut, I was…swept away. Honestly. I’ve always loved romances, and I love YA, but this book went beyond genre for me. Perkins so effortlessly put me back into high school–but not the sucky parts of being a teenager (at least, not only those), but the best parts. The magic of new places, the hope you find in your dreams of the future, the elation and heartbreak of crushes and cute boys  and their amazing hair and even more amazing accents. As a reader, I was practically salivating at the story. But as a writer? As a writer I wondered how on earth Perkins managed to do that to me. I won’t say the story was unoriginal, because I think originality is kind of a red herring in discussions of quality. But at the same time, it’s a young adult romance novel. Certain elements are expected. And they were present. So what exactly did Perkins do to take this beyond cute and satisfying to OH MY GOSH WHERE IS THE NEXT BOOK to picking up the book a week after finishing it the first time and diving in for a second read?

It’s something that I think about a lot. Beyond the craft of writing there is the art of writing, and hopefully at the art of writing you’ll find the heart of writing. I read books that are technically proficient; mature sounding voice, excellent pacing, great plot, rounded characters, and I’ll walk away from it pleased–but then it’s easily forgotten once I read a few more books. But books that have a bit of the writer’s heart and soul in them, those stick with me. Stephanie Perkins’s books are like that.

I’d recommend reading the first books in the trilogy before you get to this title. They’re wonderful, but Perkins strays beyond the normal unfolding of a romance plot (they meet, conflict, first date, conflict, first kiss, conflict, etc.) and develops the love between the hero and heroine rather quickly. What follows is a conflict that turns this from sweet love story to relatable coming of age story. Yes, the others in the trilogy were also coming of age stories. What YA book isn’t? But Isla’s identity crisis feels both authentic and moving and brave. After Perkins’s blog post about moving I&HEA’s pub date back due to mental health reasons, I can’t help but read a little of the author into Isla’s fear of the future and fear of not being good at anything. Whether that’s true or not, I find it both inspiring and brave and it makes me see myself in Isla as I read. I wanted to reach into the pages and pluck that girl up right into a tight hug because I’VE BEEN THERE. I’VE FELT THAT. You can’t judge Isla for pushing away Josh when you know exactly what made her do it–because you’ve done it too. The emotional heft of this book has left me in a state of funk for a week, just thinking about it.

I know that this kind of relatable angst isn’t for some people, but a book can’t please everyone. I’d so rather see books that wear their hearts on their sleeves than books that feel like they’re simply going through the motions.

I’d recommend this book to…everyone. Okay, probably not. I’d recommend this book to anyone that likes contemporary YA or a good romance. I’d recommend this book to fans of graphic memoirs (Josh is working on his own graphic memoir) or to girls who think about the future and feel a little lost. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has loved someone with high-functioning autism (like Isla’s best friend, Kurt) or to people whose parents expect more of them than they can/want to give.

Like I said, this novel has heart.

9/10 stars.