Library Summer Reading

The Cincinnati Public Library has a summer reading program/contest for adults as well as kids and teens. I thought this was pretty cool when I saw the email about it, but at first I wasn’t that interested because I read enough on my own that I don’t need an incentive to read more–but then I saw the prizes for the contest. One prize is Reds tickets–they pretty much had me there, but the person who reads the most books at each library branch will win a Nook Color. I have a regular Nook, but a Nook Color is so much cooler, and it would be awesome to say I won it.

The competition problem: I am far from an idle person, and at best I can probably crank a book out every other day, and since I go to the Wyoming library I feel that I am competing with a lot of fairly rich homemaker types and retirees who have little else to do all day but read (I’m sure this comment could be offending to some of the people I’m referring to, but this is what my imagination has pictured as my opponents). I do not, at least seem to be competing against anyone but adults, because it really wouldn’t be fair to compete against kids who have shorter books and have a whole summer to kill with reading.

The library-created problem: In order to get credit for reading a book I have to log on and fill out an online form about the book I read. When I did this the first time I discovered that the only thing I’m required to fill in is how many books I read. The parts that are optional are a review, the title, and author of the book. That’s it. So what’s stopping some cheater from typing that they read 100 books when they haven’t read any? And what’s stopping some adult from reading 100 picture books and counting them? There is no specification to what type of book to read that will count or any specific number of pages, which is probably good for me, since all I mostly just read YA (I’m not counting the children’s books I read to the kids at school over and over each day), but I feel that YA is on pretty much equal footing to adult books–some are quite long, and some adult books are short, and if I were reading adult books for the contest I’d be picking short ones. I will not be cheating, and I hope that my competition will be just as honorable.

So far I’ve finished six books since the program started June 1, and I’ve won the second level prize. There’s no leader board that I know of, so I don’t know how I compare to all those idle Wyoming people, but I’ll just do my best and see where that gets me!

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Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I’ve really been enjoying Neal Shusterman’s works lately. I started with Everlost and Everwild, the first two books in his trilogy about a ghost world only for kids and young teens. While I wait for Everfound to come out I checked out Unwind, which is one of his most popular books–a distopia.

Website blurb: “In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.”

The concept is very interesting, and it was very much a concept book, as most distopian books seem to be. But the three main characters were still very compelling, and even the most antagonistic of the three was appealing and entertaining to read about.

I’ve always enjoyed reading distopian books, probably because I’m always thinking of alternate futures for the world. They run the risk of being depressing or even formulaic. There are also already, so many classics in this genre that coming up with a fresh look on the subject can be a challenge. I think this book is done well, though the concept seems so outrageous that it’s almost unbelievable, but who knows–I’m sure some of the things we talk about and do today would seem completely outrageous to people who lived before us.

Neal Shusterman continues to impress me, and I look forward to reading more of his work soon!

Ammendment to Kavalier and Clay

Originally I’d given up on reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. The comments to my “Failure” post gave me mixed advice, and yet I agree with all of it. Two people advised me not to waste valuable reading time on a book I just wasn’t interested in, and one person told me he couldn’t put it down after getting into the second half (which I hadn’t made it to yet) so I should give it another try.

Like I said, I agree with everybody. Some books I know I don’t care for and either won’t pick up in the first place or will quit on without feeling too awful (especially if it’s a library book I didn’t spend money on). A while back, I started a supposed mystery a friend had recommended that turned out to be boring and not at all a mystery. I’m not going to publicly diss any book, so I won’t name names, but I had no trouble tossing that one aside, that’s for sure.

Kavalier and Clay, though, was different, which is where I circle back to the comment that encouraged me to try again. I still thought the book sounded interesting, and even though when I’d decided to quit reading it I’d flipped to the last chapter to see where everyone ended up, I still wanted to know things like how Sammy becomes gay and what Joe does with his life–and who the hell Rosa was. Since I was interested, and since my roommate was out of town and all the season finales on TV were over and I’d intended to spend my evenings reading anyway, I dedicated myself to the challenge of finishing the book. The challenge was heightened by the fact that the book was due Saturday (today) and I couldn’t renew it because there were holds on it.

I do well with a deadline, actually, so I started getting through those pages. I read and read and read, and I finally finished it Thursday night. All my questions about the characters were answered. I’d seen how everything turned out.

The big question, though: Was it worth it in the end?

Yes and no.

I enjoyed the book. It was interesting, but not an inspiring or mind blowing experience for sure. Really, the only reason I couldn’t put it down through the end was because I had to get through as many pages as possible in each sitting. I’m glad I finished it, but if I had to start all over I wouldn’t have started it in the first place.

I’d compare this book to one of John Irving’s, and some people would see this as a great compliment. I’ve read several of his books, so obviously I liked his writing, and the books do stick in my mind, but I’d never be able to stand to write like him. His books are so comprehensive and sweeping, covering not simply a critical point in some character’s life but the whole epic of his or her existence. His books are sometimes way too much, and Kavalier and Clay ended up being way too much too.

Other people love those kinds of books, but I guess I’m more for getting to the point and showing me the action. (Why I’ve found I really love YA, I guess).

But I finished the book. Yay! Now I can read the other three books I have waiting for me.