Monday, November 9, 2009

What Should I Read Next?

One of the most exciting, but frustrating, challenges in readership is finding new books. Sometimes browsing your local library, bookstore, or friend's bookshelf is enough, but sometimes this just doesn't cut it. So how to find something to read that you will really love?

There are several ways to find that "perfect" book. First, think about a book you liked. What did you like about it? Let's assume it's a fantasy. What kind of fantasy? Does it take place in an urban setting? If so, look for books by Charles DeLint, Jim Butcher, and other authors who tend to set their fantasies in our modern world. Was it a classic "swords and sorcerer's" work, like "The Lord of the Rings"? You might be a fan of "high fantasy," and can look for other books in this sub-genre. Did you identify with the protagonist? Look for other books with a similar hero/heroine/antihero. Was it set in a specific time period? Plenty of fantasies are based in a specific time/place. But this only helps you pin down what you like in a book- how to actually find it?

Your local librarian is a very rich source of reading recommendations. Even if he or she doesn't know the exact title to suggest, they know how to find it for you using tools such as NoveList (while you're at it, ask them to show you how to use this database yourself!). Another useful searching method is to look up your favorite book on Amazon to see what books the site, and other readers, recommend. Another option is to use online sites like "What Should I Read Next?" At this easy to use website, you simply enter the title and/or author of a book you liked and it provides a variety of suggestions.

There are also several book communities online. These are helpful not just in finding a recommendation, but also for obtaining titles without going to a bookstore. LibraryThing allows its users to catalog their books online, keeping track of their own books, receiving recommendations based on their collections- users can even buy, sell or trade books via the site. PaperBackSwap allows users to swap used books as well. On this site, the user creates a wishlist of books they would like to receive, and posts the books they themselves would be willing to trade. If someone wants one of your books, you mail it to them and receive a credit. When you want someone else's book, you give that credit to them- in return, they will mail you their book.

My favorite way of obtaining new books is to use my local library's inter-library loan system. Depending on the procedures of your own library, this service allows you to borrow books from other libraries, enabling you to read that new recommendation for free!

Whatever route you choose, the important thing is to keep reading. No matter what your tastes are, there *are* books that seem as though they were written just for you, and they are definitely worth the effort to find.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crown Duel

This week, I finished re-reading the YA fantasy novel "Crown Duel" by Sherwood Smith. I had read this book back in middle school as the two separate novels "Crown Duel" and Court Duel." Apparently it has been re-released as one novel with two parts, and when I chanced upon it in Borders I snapped it up.

The novel follows the adventures of the Countess Meliara, a strong-willed, down-to-earth member of the nobility. She and her brother promise their dying father that they will wage war against the tyrant king who is abusing their beloved country. The first part of the novel chronicles Mel's physical battle with enemy troops and even the king himself. The second half of the novel follows her more intimidating struggle- her battle to survive the cutthroat world of court society and politics. All along, she feuds with Vidanric Shevraeth, a proud noble who is not exactly what he seems.

While there is nothing wildly innovative in Smith's novel, it is a solid piece of YA fantasy fiction. It is a good read with enough creative detail, appealing characters, political intrigue, derring do and romance to satisfy nearly any fan of medieval literature. Meliara is a strong, if occasionally overly stubborn and narrow-minded, protagonist. Readers who enjoyed Tamora Pierce's "Song of the Lionness," Allison Croggon's "The Naming" or any other similar pieces should definitely give this little-known work a try.

Cover photo borrowed from Wikipedia.