Tag Archives: Sarah Dessen

Book Binging for the Broke

Friends and devoted readers of this blog might know that I have no qualms about playing favorites when it comes to seasons. What’s not to love about summer? Ice cream cones from that drip all over your hand, no matter how old you get; trips to the beach that only cost you a sunburn; constant outdoor parades and picnics and paloozas galore! As much as I enjoy these festivities, however, I have to admit that my favorite summer activity generally causes long hours indoors in a somewhat sloth-like state: book binging.

Me, age three, collapsed on the couch with a pile of books and my cat. Some things never change…

Book binges are primarily a summer indulgence. Even though I usually work over summer and have a few other side projects going, the absence of homework allows me to go through books rapidly, sometimes three or four in a single day. Sadly, as a soon-to-be grad student, I don’t have as much money to spend on books as I would like. Although there was no stealing involved, all of the above books were acquired through copious amounts of begging and borrowing. Whether you’re short on cash or just trying to save a few books, I thought you might appreciate suggestions for feeding one’s ravenous inner bookworm without breaking the bank.

  1. There is no better source for free books than your local library. Aside from their own collections, libraries often have interlibrary loan systems set up so you can request books your own branch might not have. Something that I’ve only recently discovered, though, is my library systems fairly extensive e-book collection. If you have trouble getting to your library for whatever reason, many libraries allow you to borrow e-books and audio books online. It’s great for when I’m looking for something to read late at night.
  2.  Public domain is your friend; if you have any interest in older works, try looking for books whose copyrights have expired. There are many databases, such as Project Gutenburg, that have classics available to read online or download as PDFs or audio files. Louisa May Alcott and L. M. Montgomery are two of my favorite public domain authors. One of my favorite features of my Kindle Touch is that I can e-mail PDFs to my device and have them converted to e-book form; those with tablets, smart phones, or other e-readers might investigate if their devices offer similar services.

    Me, age twenty. Different format, same bookworm tendencies.

  3.  Follow publishers’ social media accounts. Publishing companies frequently offer special deals on e-books, often to promote interest in an upcoming sequel or new release by the same author. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, publishers are a good choice to follow. Libraries, librarians, and authors themselves also often share book deals. WriteWorld, a tumblr dedicated to providing writing advice, has compiled a great directory of writing resources on Tumblr, including those of authors and publishers.
  4. Raid your sister’s bookshelf. Okay, I said there was no stealing involved, so maybe “raid” is not the right word. Nevertheless, some of my favorite books have been discovered amongst my sisters’ books. I started Harry Potter when my older sister, in the midst of Chamber of Secrets, left Sorcerer’s Stone on her bed. I fell in love with Melina Marchetta when I wheedled my little sister into letting me extract Saving Francesca from her stack of library books. In return, I have lent her more books than I can count. Even if you don’t have sisters, consider setting up an exchange with friends or family who have similar tastes.
  5.  Although I’m sure freebies have existed as long as humankind itself, I believe the Internet has ushered us into the Golden Age of Giveaways. Obviously there’s a lot of scams out there, and you want to be careful what information you give out over the Internet. However, for those who might prefer paper books to e-books, book bloggers, authors, and tumblr users often give away free books in order to connect with readers. GoodReads also has a page for giveaways.
  6.  This one may be for the true scrimp-and-pinchers. When I was in high school, I usually didn’t have much money for books. My weekend plans usually included begging my parents to “abandon” me at the nearest Borders (R.I.P.). There I would spend hours reading an entire book. While I haven’t indulged in this practice in quite awhile, it’s a nice way to spend a day.

Don’t get me wrong. For authors I admire, I am usually more than willing to spend my money to purchase their work. And I want more than anything for bookstores, especially local bookstores to stay in business. However, when times are tight, sometimes it’s good to have a few extra ways to read a little more and spend a little less. Besides, if I read a book I love for free, when the author’s next release comes out, I’m usually first in line, ready to buy it at whichever bookstore’s closest.

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Sarah Dessen’s new book, The Moon and More – a summer read if there ever was one.

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Summer Reading

I’m not entirely sure it’s spring yet here in Oswego. Although we’ve had our share of nice days in the past week or two, in mid-April there’s still the possibility of some more snow sneaking in. Yet with graduation only four weeks away, I can’t help jumping ahead to my favorite season: Summer. Although I appreciate autumn for its vibrant oranges and reds and spring for its balmy breezes, they can’t compare to summer’s constant atmosphere of celebration. And whether I’m going on an impromptu trip to Bennett Beach or going to see a free performance of Shakespeare in the Park, I like to have a book along.

A picture from last year's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Delaware Park.

A picture from last year’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Delaware Park. This year they’re doing Hamlet and Measure for Measure.

Finding good summer reading material isn’t a simple task. For me, a beach book needs to be easy to read – hold the dense sentences and experimental structure, please. And I don’t mind if it tackles darker topics as long as it has a mostly happy ending. One young adult author really fits the bill for my summer reading choices – Sarah Dessen. Although Dessen, who’s now published ten young adult novels, has written some books that deal with topics like abusive relationships and sexual assault, most of her novels are a little bit lighter, but still substantive fare. I’ll highlight a few of my favorite books of hers that I think also make great summer reading.

Keeping the Moon: Fifteen-year-old Colie visits beach-town Colby to stay with her Aunt Mira for the summer while her mom, fitness guru Kiki Sparks, tours Europe. Colie expects the worst from her summer with her strange, artsy Aunt Mira. Instead, she finds herself waitressing at the Last Chance Bar & Grill and making friends with her slightly older coworkers; sharp-tongued Isabel, friendly Morgan, and easy-going, artistic Norman. Colie slowly stops judging her Aunt Mira, and appreciates her for who she is – not the town weirdo, but a woman completely sure of who she is. Through her time there, Colie starts to stop expecting the worst from Colby, and the rest of the world, and take both herself and others as they are.

The Truth About Forever: After her father’s sudden death a year ago, Macy has focused on being the perfect daughter. She’s become a stellar student and started dating Jason, a highly-motivated student and considerate guy. She even helps out from time to time with events for her mom’s real estate business. Her summer is carefully planned out, full of SAT preparation and logging hours at the library help desk, filling in for Jason while he spends the summer at a camp for gifted students. But when Macy spontaneously accepts an offer to work at disorganized, chaotic Wish Catering and starts getting to know the crew there, she starts thinking about whether perfect is all it’s cracked up to be.

Along for the Ride: As the child of two intelligent, competitive professors, Auden has been an adult since about the age of five. While her older brother, Hollis, has always been able to get away with most anything, Auden’s met her parents’ expectations, academic and otherwise. Auden continues to excel in school, even though she finds herself unable to fall asleep during and after her parents’ rather nasty divorce. About to leave for college in September, Auden makes the impulsive decision to leave her mother’s and  spend her summer at her father’s new house in Colby – along with his new wife, Heidi, and newborn baby, Thisbe. When Auden gets to know some of the locals, including fellow insomniac, Eli, she starts to wonder if it’s ever really too late to learn to be a kid.

These books are set over the course of the summer, and, yes, there is usually a love interest. But I think it would be a mistake to write off Dessen’s work, even her more beach-appropriate books, as romantic fluff. While romantic relationships are a staple of Dessen’s books, most are just as focused on the characters’ other relationships – with their parents, siblings, friends, and themselves. Aside from enjoying summer’s festive mood, I also usually find summer to be a time of individual growth and healing. In the “Note from the Author” section on her website’s page for Keeping the Moon, Dessen writes, “If you read my novels, you’ll see that I love a book set in the summer: it’s such a good, concise time period, and there’s endless potential for what can happen.” In the summer, anything seems possible. Her books capture the potential for a person to change course completely, fix relationships, form friendships. A lot can change in a summer.

Sarah Dessen also has a new novel coming out on June 4th. This one’s called The Moon and More, and also looks like a Summer Book. Check out this article for a description and the first chapter!

Sarah Dessen’s Website
Sarah Dessen’s Tumblr
GoodReads Pages for Keeping the Moon, The Truth About Forever, and Along for the Ride.

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