Judge by Free Sample?

You may have heard the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover”.  This is true – good artwork chosen by the publisher doesn’t make the author a wordsmith!

If you’re anything like me, you may have taken advantage of Amazon’s free sample service.  You can gauge the feel of a book before you pay anything towards the cost – and if you don’t like the free sample, there’s no obligation to buy.  You don’t even need a Kindle to do this – you can just use a Kindle app, which is available on all devices!

In fact, the only time I don’t take advantage of the free sample option is when the book is already on offer for 99p or £1.

Sometimes the first chapter or so of a book is a really good indicator of what a book will be like – think the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, or anything by Dan Brown.  Other times a free sample is not enough to go by – think the ever-popular Harry Potter series, or 50 Shades of Grey.

I also once read a book advertised as having the most gripping first chapter you’ve ever read.  The book did indeed live up to the statement but unfortunately was anti-climatic – Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler.

If in any doubt, download a free sample, but if the book doesn’t hit you straight away, then persevere if the book already has a good reputation.

I Heart My Kindle.

I was into e-books before Kindle was a thing, and the ultimate reason for buying my first tablet was for use as an e-book reader.  I loved that the Kindle app was free and that I could buy e-books at a fraction of the price I would pay for a paperback.

The thing was, whenever I read on my traditional tablet, either in daylight or in artificial light, I would be met with screen glare/reflection, and I’d often struggle to make out words.  I often gave up on trying, making my 1-hour commute on the train something of a drag.

That was until I invested in a Kindle – its light enough to carry anywhere, and I can enjoy clear reading whatever the lighting!  I always have a good book on me, for whatever genre takes my fancy or matches my mood.

The Kindle has loads of great features, which make it a lot more than a mere reading app.  It shows you recommendations based on what books you’ve purchased previously, which is particularly good if you want to expand your knowledge in a narrow field; or if you’re interested in a particular genre.

With my Kindle Paperwhite I can make minute adjustments to the brightness of the screen, adjust the typeface, and see how long I have left in a chapter.  Also, the battery for a Kindle lasts way longer than a traditional tablet.

If you’re considering switching to e-books I don’t blame you!  And you could do a lot worse than investing in a Kindle – highly recommended!

Book App/Site of the Fortnight – Blind Date with a Book.

Do you want your next read to be a complete surprise?  Blind Date with a Book has got it covered!  You receive a completely wrapped-up book, tagged with intriguing clues alluding to the book inside.  It makes for a great gift!  The books are hand selected great reads and are chosen from all genres including classics, thrillers, mysteries, romances, science fiction, adventure, and literary fiction.  They pick books that readers may have missed by great authors or other great books that perhaps did not receive the publicity that they deserved. I’ve taken a peek at their range of genres and clues and it looks superb!

The books come in at slightly under the usual price of paperback, and postage is circa £3.  You simply pop to their website https://blinddatewithabook.com, and select a book based on the clues provided.

If you’re after a new surprise book every month you can subscribe to their exclusive book club – details on their website.

My View on Mental Illness in Modern Literature

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In the past few months, I’ve read one trending fictional YA novel centred on a character’s suicide, and 2 real life memoirs where the authors attempted to take their lives and were institutionalised.

The former was called 13 Reasons Why, where the central character listens to audio tapes where Hannah explains what lead to her suicide. Some of the “reasons” (but not all) were simply Hannah’s overreactions to normal teenage life.  Other reasons where more pressing, but nothing she could not have lived through and come out the other side of.  I didn’t like how the book portrayed depression at all.  Although depression has its triggers, it is not unequivocally caused by events or a series of events.  It is an illness as natural as the common cold and can happen to anyone – regardless of their circumstances.

I also read Girl Interrupted, a memoir from which the film of the same name was made.  The author clearly had a madness to her, there is no question of that, yet she depicts her gradual slide in and out of madness as something that wasn’t really so mad at all.  She had lost a lot of interest in what her life had to offer and started questioning whether she was truly motivated to stay alive.  Then one day she overdosed on pills, seemingly just to end the dreary obsession.  It was then that she was admitted to a mental health hospital.  It is clear that she was more sane than any of her fellow patients, however, and that some patients were merely acting up just because they could.

In contrast was the memoir-like classic, The Bell Jar.  Here the same madness was depicted entirely differently.  Stark, bold, unworldly, horrific and deadly.  The author had been living a young lady’s dream life, but things began slipping away from her and on a whim she got herself into a deliberate skiing accident.  She too was institutionalised, but when an acquaintance was also admitted the author failed to recognise that other people really could go through the same thing.

In both memoirs, both authors were eventually found to be sane enough to leave the institutions.

All 3 books were very readable, but words in The Bell Jar had a poetry to them, and it was far more striking and effective.

So I guess the points I want to make are these:

  • Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of circumstances
  • Bad event/s don’t have to lead to suicide
  • Recovery is possible and is even common
  • Memoirs have a truth to them, whereas novels are purely for entertainment

Classics I’d Read Again

There are some books that really stand the test of time!  Once I know the plot of a book, it’s very rare that I’d be interested in reading the book again – but there are some exceptions.

In “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, the tension between the characters is palpable, with intense passion and seething revenge.

Then there’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.  I’ve never read wittier dialogue anywhere!  Just as funny now as when it was written over 100 years ago.

Then there’s “Great Expectation” by Charles Dickens – the master of plot.  I originally read an abridged version but would love to read the full version one day.

Are there any books you would read again?  Leave a comment if any spring to mind.

Project Gutenburg

Did you know you could access over 56,000 books for free online?  Project Gutenburg hosts a huge collection of digitised e-books, available for free.  As well as streams of literature, it also holds reference books and cookbooks.

Project Gutenburg is a volunteer effort to digitally archive books after copyright clearance, which effectively means it includes all the timeless classics.  Most books in the collection are distributed as public domain under U.S. copyright law.  Its goal is “to provide as many e-books in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible”.  Luckily, most releases are in English.  New books are added every week.

The books are available in Plain text, HTML, EPUB, PDF, and MOBI (Kindle).  In addition to downloading straight to your PC or device, there is also the option to download straight to Dropbox, Google Drive, or One Drive. Here’s the link: http://www.gutenberg.org/

Happy reading all!