Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story


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How Many Pages is too Much for a Book?

I am currently reading A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Each book in his epic fantasy series is long. Goodreads tells me A Storm of Swords has 1,177 pages (I’m reading on my kindle and it didn’t give me page numbers for this book). That’s a ginormous book. I’ve been reading the book for over a week and I’m only halfway through the book.

As I read this book as an author, I keep thinking about the length of the book. How many pages is too much for a book?

I know the “Song of Ice and Fire” books are long. Even though I enjoy the series, I find it challenging for me to start the next in the series because of its length. Therefore, I usually start reading when I have an excess of free time–maybe I’m on vacation at the beach or the time off between Christmas and New Year’s. I didn’t do that with A Storm of Swords.

I am on a pretty regular schedule, maybe even a bit busier than normal with finishing up edits for my novel, picking up more hours at work, and setting up workshops. I don’t expect to finish A Storm of Swords until the end of April. Since I enjoy the series, I suppose it’s fine, albeit a bit disheartening to slowly watch the percentage read tick by on my kindle. In a way that bums me out, I like being able to read many books in a month, and I’m not sure if that makes me an odd or normal reader.

Because I read a good amount of young adult literature, most books I read are between 250-350 pages. I can bust through a book that size in 3-5 days. The page count jumps to 400 or 500 pages if I pick up adult genre fiction–crime, historical fiction, or literary fiction. I don’t mind a 500 page book if I am engaged in the book.

When the page count hits 700, I start to grow weary. A few months ago, I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Once again, I read this book on my kindle and it didn’t have number of pages. (I can’t tell you why some kindle books do and don’t). When I picked it up, I had no idea it was 700 pages long. I think the book took a week and a half for me to read. I didn’t like the book either and I felt it could have been trimmed to a more reasonable page count. (Maybe 500 pages). When I finished, I was disappointed with the time invested in the book. In retrospect, I would rather have read two great YA books instead of one long book I didn’t enjoy.

For me, I think 700 pages is my magic number. When a book hits that size, the book better be worth the time invested. I’m less willing to take chances on a new author or series with a book length that size.

How many pages is too many for you?  What are some great books over 700 pages in length?

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Kindle Paperwhite 2nd Generation Review

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I have had my eye on the Kindle Paperwhite since they announced the first version a year or so ago. I bought a second generation kindle a few years ago- one with a keyboard, no touch screen or backlight. I read on it quite a bit, but I switched to reading on my iPad so I could read in bed while the hubby is sleeping. A few months ago, I sold my iPad because I wanted less gadgets in my life and I was back to the kindle for reading. I found I missed the touch screen greatly when I wanted to highlight a passage in a book. And of course, I missed the backlit screen at night. Knowing I read everyday, I decided my next gadget purchase would be a Paperwhite. I was fortunate enough to receive some Amazon gift cards this Christmas and I didn’t hesitate. I ordered the Paperwhite, along with a case.

After a few weeks of reading, I love the Paperwhite. It’s not a perfect device, but for a big reader like me, it’s great. I love the touch screen. It is responsive and quick. I can highlight passages with ease and look back through them at the end of the book. I also find it simple to navigate and use. It’s easy to turn the backlight on and off and adjust the font size, spacing, etc. I can also organize my books with ease into collections (which I need to do). The best part is I don’t have to find room on a bookshelf to store all these books I read!

The ability to adjust the brightness of the screen is also a positive. I usually read with the screen at a darker setting. I like reading on the darker setting. It’s not as harsh on the eyes. But even on the brightest setting, the paperwhite is much better for reading than any tablet screen (at least right now). I do have to say the paperwhite screen didn’t meet all of my expectations. It’s not perfect yet, Amazon and the e-ink technology still has room to improve to mimic a paperback book.

The battery life is also superb. I charged it when I got it on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t charged it yet and the battery gauge is half full. I love a device I don’t have to charge every night!

Finally, I did get the version with ads. They don’t really bug me and I can always fork over another $20 at any time to stop them. But at the moment I see no need.

Overall, if you are an avid reader, the Kindle Paperwhite is worth the $120.

Side note, I picked up a Finite Folio Case. It’s great and only costs $15 as opposed to the Amazon case which is $40. The case wakes or puts the Kindle to sleep and gives plenty of protection.

Do you have a kindle or e-reader? Why or why not?

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I love reading. You should too.

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One day I was reading in bed next to my husband. He was watching tv and surfing the internet. He pulled up a list called “How to know if someone is a reading addict” (or something along those lines) and started reading it aloud to me. I laughed and said he could stop. I know I am a reading addict. I love reading – I will take it over television, movies, and video games on most days. I love the ability to escape my life into a great story.

As a writer, I want you to love reading as much as I do. I know there are more of you out there, but if you aren’t a reader, I’ve compiled a few reasons why reading is great.

Reading makes you smarter.

The brain operates like a muscle. A muscle needs training or a workout to stay in shape and to grow. Reading is one way the brain stays in shape because reading is an active brain activity. During reading, the brain is working by processing words to make sense of the information.

Reading improves vocabulary.

Books force people to discover the meaning of unfamiliar words in order to understand the story. Reading literary fiction is a great study method for one of the admission tests- the SAT, GRE, LSAT, etc, especially compared to the boring study method of flash cards. Or if you need to do any writing or speaking for your career, a sound vocabulary is important. Reading will build your vocabulary.

Readers are better writers.

Successful writers often give the following advice to amateur writers- “Read great books to improve your writing.” The brain learns about proper sentence structure, grammar, and flow through well-written books.

Reading improves your memory.

While reading, the brain works to remember characters, themes, and settings throughout the book. Remembering these details stretches the brain’s memory muscles and causes growth.

Reading improves concentration and focus.

Screens, devices, and short attention spans rule our society. People rarely sit down, concentrate, and focus on one activity for an extended period of time. However, reading is an activity where concentration and focus are essential. Otherwise, key moments are missed in the book. 

Reading Improves Imagination and Creativity

Reading also stimulates the creative and imaginative parts of the brain. Unlike watching television or playing a video game, the reader takes the details of a story and creates the image associated with the story. The reader fills in the blanks while reading- an aspect of reading which I love.

Reading Reduces Stress

Reading a book transports the reader into another world. During reading, your mind shifts gears from the stress of life to the story. For me, this is especially helpful before bed. If I’m having a hard time falling asleep, usually reading a chapter of a good fiction book will calm my brain away from the swirling stressful thoughts.

Reading is Cheap

Reading is inexpensive compared to the other entertainment options. I rarely spend over 10 dollars a month on books, despite reading roughly five books each month. I use the library to read free books on loan. Even if one buys a book, the price is reasonable. Ebooks are typically under $10 and paperback print books are around $12. A 400 page novel takes an average person about 10 hours to read. In comparison, a video games costs $50 for ten hours of play, a movie theater ticket is $10 for two hours, or a two hour movie rental is $4. Books are the best entertainment deal when examining the cost verse time spent.

Besides all the side benefits above, I love reading because I love escaping my world into a story. I love learning about human nature and the world through stories. I love laughing and crying from a good book.

Why do you love reading? Or why don’t you like to read?


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The Fiction Genres & Recommendations to Get Started Reading

Today’s post is a little bit different than normal. I am always looking for new book and author recommendations. So I decided to start a list of book recommendations here on my blog.

Below are the most popular fiction genres and a few book recommendations in each category. I’ve read most of the books recommended, but those I haven’t come highly recommended. I hope this section helps you find a new book to read outside your normal reading interests!

Also, please send me suggestions to add to the list. If there is a novel you absolutely love, tell me and I’ll add it to the appropriate genre. Happy Reading!

Contemporary / Mainstream

Contemporary or mainstream novels are set in the present with realistic settings and characters. This is a broad category and often, contemporary or mainstream fiction novels fit into at least one other genre.

Recommendations:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is “serious” fiction and and holds literary merit. They are complex, multilayered novels which wrestle with universal issues. Literary fiction books stand the test of time and win awards for their depth and insight.

New & Old Literary Classics:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Historical Fiction

Like the name suggests, historical fiction are novels set in the past, usually during a significant historical time period. The novel may contain well known historical figures and/or fictional characters. Great historical fiction authors do diligent research to recreate the setting and characters accurately.

Recommendations:

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Thriller

Novels classified as thrillers are fast paced, intense, and filled with life threatening situations. Usually, the protagonist is in a race against time against powerful villains. Thrillers are filled with cliffhangers and suspense. Sometimes, there is an element mystery in thrillers, but in a thriller, the hero is focused on stopping the villains, not solving the mystery. Also, thrillers are based in action sequences and have larger stakes than mystery novels.

Popular Thriller Series & Authors:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Mystery

Mystery novels are focused on solving a puzzle of some sorts, usually a crime. During the course of the novel, the protagonist investigates and searches for clues to find the “one who did it.”

Mystery Authors & Series:

Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole Series – starts with The Redbreast
In the Woods by Tana French
Sherlock Holmes

Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a genre which incorporates current science and technology or future science and technology into the story. Science Fiction operates under the assumption that the science in the novel is based in reality or real science concepts. Often science fiction stretches want we know about science now to create a fictional world based in the future.

Book Recommendations:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Passage by Justin Cronin

Fantasy

Fantasy novels involve supernatural forces, magic, and mystical creatures with an imaginary setting. Common fantasy themes include quests for precious objects, rescuing damsels in distress, and battles between good and evil.

Book Recommendations:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Horror

The goal of a horror story is to frighten its readers. Horror novels will use blood and guts, violence, supernatural forces or even psychological suspense to accomplish this goal.

Books to Frighten:

The Shining by Stephen King (or many others by King)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Romance

Romance novels revolve around the love story of two people in an exotic setting. Romance novels are dramatic, but always end happy. (The guy gets the girl).

Love Stories:

Anything by Nicholas Sparks
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Twilight

Chick Lit

Chick lit novels are fun, light-hearted books centered on the modern woman. Sometimes, chick lit includes romantic elements, or it may center on a woman’s relationship with her family, friends or her career. Chick lit novels are great beach reads.

Recommendations:

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Young Adult

Young adult is a genre written for a specific audience, those in adolescence, around the ages of 12-22. The protagonist is always an adolescent. Young adult books deal with themes associated with this age group such as growing up, life transitions, and love. Young adult books also fit into many of other genres. Some of the most popular series in the past decade are young adult books and many adult readers love the young adult genre.

This List could go on and on for me:
Harry Potter – My favorite is the 4th in the series.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Graphic Novel

A graphic novel conveys a story to the reader using sequential art. Graphic Novels can be non-fiction, fictional or a series of short stories. I am not an expert in this genre, but here’s some recommendations from those more educated than me in this department.

Recommendations:

The Walking Dead:  Compendium One
Building Stories by Chris Ware
The Hive by Charles Burns
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
Blankets by Craig Thompson

 

That’s it! What did I miss? Let me know below!


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Why I Love Goodreads

I’ve mentioned Goodreads several times in passing on my blog, but I have never given an in-depth explanation. I am a big fan of Goodreads. Goodreads is a fantastic tool for readers no matter if you read a book once a day or once every few months.

Goodreads is an online database and community devoted to readers. First and foremost, Goodreads is a database of millions of books, including self-published books. The book listings include a short book description, author biography, reader reviews and average review rating for the book (out of 5 stars). The database is great, but it isn’t much different than searching for a book on Amazon.

Goodreads excels when you setup a free account. From there, you can organize books you have read and want to read onto shelves. I recommend adding a few of your favorite books on the read shelf with 4 or 5 star ratings so Goodreads can give you recommendations. Goodreads gives personalized recommendations for new books to read based on the books you read and rated. I’ve discovered great books through this tool and I think it’s a much better algorithm than Amazon’s recommendations.

In addition, Goodreads has a huge social component. You can follow your friends and what they are reading. You can join forums to discuss books or get more book recommendations. They also have a fun book trivia section and conduct author interviews. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Goodreads is the giveaways. Authors and publishers can set up a giveaway through Goodreads to promote their books. Anyone can enter and there are hundreds of book giveaways on a daily basis to win free paperback books- no strings attached!

Currently, the best way to use Goodreads is through your internet browser. They also offer apps for ios and android, but they don’t have the complete functionality of the website at this time. The app experienced has improved over the past year and I’m sure will continue to improve.

If you haven’t checked out Goodreads yet, go do it. It’s worth it!

This post is part of a small writing project called The Fiction Readers’ Handbook. This project will be available to newsletter subscribers in a few weeks for free!