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Courtesy of Mike | Reading Mike | Originally posted 2.11.2021

One Way to Get Book Recommendations from Friends Without Their Knowledge

A while back on they posted a theme idea about recommendations. I'll admit that since I already have such a large to-read list, I generally just nod and smile politely when a book is recommended to me. Occasionally there is an exception, like from my mom or brother. Although truth be told their last few recommendations are still sitting on my bedside table, unread. Or if someone recommends something already on my to-read list, the book may be bumped closer to the front of the list.

The Fiftyfifty post is correct, recommendations aren't for the weak of heart. For book lovers, you run the risk of discovering someone you know has terrible literary taste. Or, perhaps worse for the book snob, someone you know is better read than you are. But it also represents a challenge to broaden your horizons.

The other day, while browsing some friends' lists on Goodreads, I had an idea. I noticed each of these friends, when comparing books we both had rated, were never more than one star off on our ratings. Sure, sometimes my five star book was only a four for them, and the book I thought was a two made it to three in their rating, but we were never that different. It made me wonder what I would think of their favorite, five star books.

What I decided to do, instead of asking for a favorite, was semi-randomly select a five star book from these three friends on Goodreads. I say semi-randomly because, in order to make it a bit of a challenge, I wanted to make sure these were books not already on my to-read list. They needed to be books I probably wouldn't read normally.

So I now have three new books checked out from the library. The first was a five star book from my college friend. We sat through many physics classes together, but I also enjoyed discussing books with her. I recognized several of those books on her list, but I settled on Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson, a survival story of a mountaineer in the Andes. I've heard coworkers discussing this book, and the movie based on it, before, but I was never motivated to pick it up.

The second was from my cousin. Almost everyone in our extended family is a reader, so I knew my cousin would have some good books on her list. I chose The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This book has popped up here and there in reviews and blogs I've read, and while it's looked interesting, I've never considered reading it before. Based on her review, it looks like my cousin really enjoyed this book.

Last was from my brother. This was a bit harder to pick since a lot of his five star books are already on my to-read list, or at least they are books I could see myself picking up on my own. I've noticed our tastes aren't that different, although growing up he leaned more towards the fantasy side of things, where I read more sci fi. Anyway, I picked Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory.

I have read Graham Greene before. The one I remember was The End of the Affair, which was well written, but failed to make me care about the mentioned affair or its end. My brother, a self proclaimed Greene fan, says that one was probably his least favorite, but The Power and the Glory was much better. I said at the time that I would be willing to give Greene another go, but I've never felt the desire to pick up one of his books since then. We will see how this goes.

I'll admit I'm looking forward to reading these books. It should be an interesting twist to the fiftyfifty challenge.

Courtesy of Jennifer Fischetto | | Originally posted 2.29.2012

Book number seven in the FiftyFifty.Me challenge and the Book Chick City challenge is: Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

Book jacket blurb:
High atop Hathorne Hill, just outside of Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves on the premises, and of cold winds felt throughout its underground tunnels. And then there are the treasures found inside, eerie remnants of its former patients: journals, hair combs, bars of soap, even old medical records--all left behind for trespassers to view.

On the eve of the hospital's demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it's an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents' diner. For the others, it's a chance to be on TV, or for a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls and down every dark passageway, these high schoolers will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and of the spirits who still might.

My Impressions:
The blurb sounds amazing, I enjoy Laurie's writing and the book is labeled horror, so I expected a great fright. I got a mediocre one. I think my expectations were off. In a few places where it headed in the direction to scare, it ended up being jokes. There were some eerie instances, and had I actually been in the hospital, I would've crapped in my pants, but they didn't touch me as a reader. Again, I believe it was my expectations. I wanted bone chilling horror, with dramatic events, and what was written was a lot more realistic. Had I gone into this expecting reality, I may have "enjoyed" it more.

As for the rest of it...the writing is great. It's due to Laurie's fantastic writing in a short story in the book I reviewed,
666: The Number of the Beast, that I sought this book out. The six teens were interesting. My favorites being Liza and Mimi, with Derik as a close third. I'd call Derik the protagonist, but the entire book is told in alternating (no sequence), first-person chapters from the various kids. A few of them, like Tony, Chet and Greta only receive a few chapters each, while Liza, Mimi and Derik tell their story in more. Each chapter is labeled by each POV, so there's no confusion. The only drawback is at times, I felt there were too many people in my head.

I found myself enthralled by the life stories of Liza, Mimi and Derik, and I couldn't wait to find out where the book ended for them, their emotional arcs. I also couldn't wait to find out answers for many questions regarding the patients (one in particular) who once lived in the hospital. Although the book ended well with the arcs, I was disappointed with the other and left with unanswered questions. Since they didn't pertain to the main story, the book was not a let down.

All-in-all, it's a good book that I recommend to those who enjoy YA suspense with horror elements. :)

Copyright 2012