Cool thing you should know about: OpenTales

by Taylor Coil

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Confession: sometimes I browse Reddit Books on my lunch break. Sometimes it means I find pictures that speak to my soul to add to my "random awesome pictures" folder on my computer. 

And sometimes I find cool stuff like OpenTales. The concept: contribute a paragraph - just a paragraph - and you're joining forces with other literary-minded people to write a book. It's sort of like those round robin stories you used to write in middle school where everyone starts with a sentence and passes the paper around and at the end of 4th period everyone had a funny (they were always funny, it was middle school) story written by the entire class, one sentence at a time. Except instead of passing your paper to the boy you for whom you harbored a secret and all-consuming crush (just me?), you bounce off strangers' ideas.

Image via OpenTales.com

Image via OpenTales.com

Check out OpenTales, and maybe add a paragraph or two. It's such a cool idea.


About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading dystopians, depressing books, and any tome remotely related to food. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

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Emma Watson is playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast and we're really excited about it

by Taylor Coil

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Emma Watson announced Monday that she will be playing the starring role in Disney's new live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. 

 
 

We're really excited - for many reasons. Several of our team members are quintessential '90's kids,' meaning that two relevant things were integral parts of our childhoods:

  1. 90's era disney movies (we may randomly play The Lion King soundtrack at Freebooksy HQ on occasion... that's a normal thing to do in an office, right?)
  2. Harry Potter.

You see where we're going with this, right? The powerhouse woman behind the spitfire hero that is Hermione Granger is bringing another beloved story from our childhood to life.

So, there are pop culture nostalgic reasons for the excitement. Those are surface level. The real reason we're excited? Emma Watson in a Disney movie makes us think that Disney is further delving into feminist story lines.

Emma will likely inject a huge dash of female agency into a role that has massive potential. Belle is brilliant, literary, caring, and an adventure seeker - but there's the potential for her character to be spun as overly submissive to Beast. Emma Watson's casting makes us think that the 'brilliant adventure seeker' part of her character will be explored in earnest. Would the woman who gave one of our favorite speeches in modern history accept a 'damsel in distress' role? 

You can look at Belle as a woman who sacrifices her agency and resigns herself to a life of domestication, or you can view her in this light:

Image Via Feminist disney

Image Via Feminist disney

We prefer the latter.

What do you think about Emma Watson as Belle? Are you as excited as we are? Tell us in the comments!


About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading dystopians, generally depressing books, and any tome remotely related to food. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

We find awesome free books and send them to you. Yes, really. Sign up for our emails and get free books in your inbox!  SIGN UP NOW.

Happy National Readathon Day!

The first-ever National Readathon Day takes place on January 24th from noon to 4 p.m., local time. Mashable, the National Book Foundation, Penguin Random House, and Goodreads are encouraging people to slow down, disconnect, and pick up a book. It all happens at noon, wherever you are in the world.

We think it's always a great idea to slow down and pick up a book. If you'd like to join us for the readathon, here are our 5 picks from Penguin Random House for what to read on your Kindle on the 24th. The best part? They're easy on the wallet - all are priced at $5 or below! 

 


Gillian Flynn's Dark Places

$2.99 for Kindle

From the author of bestselling novel and box-office hit Gone Girl, this riveting crime thriller will have you guessing until the very end. Get it here. 



The Maze Runner

$1.99 for Kindle

Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent, this six-time bestseller is an exciting start to this survival saga series. Get it here


The Neighbor

$0.99 for Kindle

This short story by master storyteller Koontz is the perfect if your goal is to start AND finish a book within the 4-hour read-a-thon window. Get it here


The Billionaire and the Virgin

$3.99 for Kindle

Romance fans will love this erotic contemporary romance from bestselling author Jessica Clare. Get it here. 


Unbroken

$4.99 for Kindle

Memoir and biography fans will love this inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. Get it here

Want more great deals on ebooks? Sign up for our email to find out when books in your favorite genre go on sale.

8 YA Books to Read Before They're Movies in 2015

1. The Last Apprentice (Seventh Son) by Joseph Delaney 

What's It About: After searching for his replacement for years, Old Gregory (the county Spook) has finally found his last hope in Young Thomas. 

Notable Stars: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore

Release Date: February 6

 

2. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger 

What's It About: Despite being an outcast at school, Bianca Piper has a group of beautiful friends to hang with. When the school player, Wesley Rush, informs her she's actually just the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), Bianca puts him straight at the top of her enemy list. 

Notable Stars: Bella Thorne, Allison Janie 

Release Date: February 20 

 

3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth 

What's It About: Fans of the book/movie Divergent have been anxiously anticipating the second installment in the series. Tris continues her fight against Jeanine Mathhews and her horrifying plan to destroy society and kill Divergents. 

Notable Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet

Release Date: March 20 

 

4. Paper Towns by John Green 

What's It About: The day after girl next door Margo Roth Spiegelman convinces Quentin to begin plotting a revenge-filled journey, she goes missing. Margo has left clues for Q, and he and and his friends embark on a road trip to find her- either dead or alive. 

Notable Stars: Cara Delevingne

Release Date: June 19

 

5. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner 

What's It About: In the second book of the Maze Runner series, Thomas and the Gladers begin phase two of their trials. Despite being chased by Cranks and encountering treacherous weather conditions, the boys attempt to complete the mission and earn a cure for the Flare virus. 

Notable Stars: Dylan O'Brien

Release Date: September 18

 

6. Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling 

What's It About: This old classic is being revived! Orphan boy Mowgli has been raised by a pack of wolves. He then befriends a lovable bear, Baloo, and a stealthy black panther named Bagheera. 

Notable Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong'o, Christopher Walken

Release Date: October 9

 

7. Mockingjay (Part 2) by Suzanne Collins 

What's It About: The finale of the Hunger Games series is upon us! In this third book of the series, Katniss completes her rebellion against the Capital and her efforts to take down President Snow. 

Notable Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth 

Release Date: November 20

 

8. The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

What's It About: 9-year-old Louis Drax falls on his birthday, and suffers nearly fatal injuries. The details of the fall are mysterious, his father has disappeared, and his mother is in shock. Although he survives, Louis is in a deep coma and placed in a famed clinic with Dr. Pascal Dannachet. 

Notable Stars: Jamie Dornan

Release Date: Unannounced (2015)

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10 Reasons Why Book Nerds Do It Better

1. Book Nerds are happier with a good book than with diamonds or flowers. 

 
 

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2. Book Nerds believe in true love. 

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3. Book Nerds know how to use their imagination

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4. Book Nerds have voracious appetites. 

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5. Book Nerds like Cosplay AND role play. 

 
 

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6. Book Nerds always hope that the sequel will meet their expectations. 

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7. Book Nerds know that size doesn’t matter unless you’re talking about your book collection.

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8. Book Nerds go all night. 

 
 

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9. Book Nerds are easily excited.

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10. Book Nerds never go to bed alone.

 
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Make Halloween Spooktacular With These Six Reads!

Photo Credit

Ghosts. Goblins. Ballerinas. Cowboys. Monsters. Punk rockers. 

For one day every year, we all get to dress up and become someone or something else. It's a time when we can act out on our dreams and fantasies. Who wouldn't want to be Lady Gaga or Mr. White for a few hours on a crisp autumn evening?  If you have little ones, Halloween is likely a time for carting your costumed children around the neighborhood to collect sacks full of candy or possibly staying at home and hosting a costume party. Whether you're staying in or going out, getting dressed up or staying yourself, we've got some great books to help you make the most of your Halloween!


Hosting a killer Halloween shindig?

Whether you're planning the Halloween bash of the decade or a simple get-together with close friends, this party planner is packed with great ideas to make your festivities extra spooky

 

Planning something devilishly delicious?

And what Halloween party is complete without some ghoulish grub? Theses recipes will make your buffet frightfully festive!

 

 

Getting all dressed up?

If you're like me, your Halloween costume is always last minute and thrown together from whatever you already have in the house. This book is loaded with great costume ideas!

 

Looking for spine-tingling thrills?

My favorite part about Halloween (other than the candy!) is enjoying a good scary story. Here are a few of my favorites for ghosts and ghouls of all ages!

A fun, interactive read for wee-little goblins aged 3-8. 

Perfectly scary for those middle school monsters. 

A best-selling thriller for all those grown-up ghouls. 


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MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

4 Must-Have Cookbooks to Welcome Autumn!

Photo Credit

Hurrah! The oppressively hot days of summer have ended here in North Carolina, and the weather has finally started turning cool. The A/C has been turned off and the windows have been thrown open, letting in the chill and the scent of autumn. The leaves haven't started to turn just yet, but it's only a matter of time. For me, this glorious weather makes me want to put on cozy sweater and start cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The hot summer months make kitchen work too uncomfortable (I have no summer kitchen in my home, but I clearly need one!), and the cooler temperatures of autumn always bring me back into the kitchen. Combine that with all of the delicious flavors of fall -- pumpkin, apples, squash, mushrooms -- and you have a recipe for deliciousness!

I recently stumbled upon this amazingly simple and unbelievable delicious recipe, and it's a must try. It's the heaven-sent child of apple crumble and pumpkin pie. 


Pumpkin Crunch Bars

Ingredients

1 15oz. can pumpkin
1 12oz. can evaporated milk
1 1/2 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 Yellow Cake Mix
1 C. melted butter

Directions 

Combine first 5 ingredients and pour into greased 9×13 pan. 
Sprinkle cake mix on top of pumpkin mixture and pour melted butter over top. 
Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes. 
Top with whipped cream and enjoy! 


A good cookbook always gets me in the mood to try new flavors and dishes, and I hope these get you into the kitchen as well!

101 AUTUMN RECIPES

Pumpkin and cinnamon and hearty delicious soups ... mmmmm ... my mouth is watering already!


THE COOK'S ILLUSTRATED COOKBOOK

2,000 delicious recipes from America's Test Kitchen. What a collection!


NEW ENGLAND SOUP FACTORY COOKBOOK

Because ... soup!


SLOW COOKER RECIPES

There is no better time to bring out the slowcooker than autumn!


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MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

10 All-American Reads for July 4th

by Max Green

Once you finish reading your firework safety manual, take a look at some of these patriotic collections.  A few good reads for your 4th of July weekend that will make you feel like a well read American. 


JFK’s Final Hours in Texas: An Eye Witness Remembers the Tragedy and Its Aftermath

By: Julian Read

A moment in our nations history we will never forget. This personal account follows the untimely death of John F. Kennedy hours after the shooting along with the years of disdain many felt towards Dallas, Texas.  This is a commendable addition to a broad collection following such a troubled time. 


Upstairs at the White House:  My Life with the First Ladies

By: J.B. West

For almost three decades one man has planned parties, weddings and funerals, tended gardens and made extensive renovations from within 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  A new perspective of American history has emerged from behind the Palladian doors.  J.B. West began as an assistant to the chief usher under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and worked his way up to chief usher through the Nixon Era.  He witnessed national crises and triumphs, all the while tending to the children, grandchildren and the first ladies.  I’m not too sure who had a harder job, the president or the chief usher?


12 Years a Slave

By: Solomon Northup

Now a major motion picture, (which, if you haven’t seen yet, I highly recommend it) 12 years a slave is a harrowing tale of Solomon Northrup, a free man from the New York, who is captured and taken back to the south and sold into slavery.  What makes this an incredible American story is Northup’s detailed depictions of slavery and his desire to be free again and with his family.  After publishing his traumatic story, controversy immediately followed, but helped sway public opinion towards abolition:  A major turning point in America’s history. 


Operation Cowboy:  The Secret American Mission to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Hoses in the Last Days of World War II

By: Stephen Talty

Okay, I will admit that this one is far from a great American story and I may be reaching quite a bit, but I have to share this oddity. This is one of the strangest war stories I have ever heard.  American soldiers team up with the Nazis to save the world’s rarest horses (horses that have bloodlines tracing back to Genghis Kahn) from the Russian army.  This is a heart-warming story of American soldiers that just wanted to save something beautiful.  


Long Range Patrol: A Novel of Vietnam

By: Dennis Foley

This is a remarkable story following young army Ranger Lieutenant Jim Hollister.  Eager to prove himself he leads his six-man regime on risky missions throughout Vietnam.  Within this novel you will be immersed into thrilling stories of heroism, brotherhood, and passion to keep the American Dream alive.


Amongst My Enemies: A Cold War Thriller

By: William F. Brown

If you are looking for great fiction book and a political thriller, then look no further. This novel plays host to a fictional American hero in hiding following World War II.  Mike Randal knows a secret and its hiding at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.  When the KGB, Nazi hit men, and the US government are after you, chances are you’re in for a thrilling adventure with twists and turns around every page.  You wont dog ear any pages of this novel (I realize this is dated saying, especially since I am suggesting you buy this for your Kindle, but you know what I mean).


365 Days

By: Ronald J. Glasser, MD

The Vietnam War holds a vital role in the shaping of America’s history. This, however, is a different perspective of the Vietnam War with a different type of American Hero.  Dr. Ronald Glasser gives a voice to the young, wounded service men of the American army.  Rather then telling the heroic stories of those men on the front line, Dr. Glasser elaborates on the wounded and their desire to return home.  I highly recommend this remarkable, firsthand account of the Vietnam War and toll it took on so many young individuals.


The Atomic Times:  My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground

By: Michael Harris

This is by far the most interesting and entertaining memoir I have come across this year.  Michael Harris’ The Atomic Times is not only a true story, but it had to be snuck out of an army base inside another mans luggage. Harris draws back the shades on top-secret military H-Bomb tests during 1956.  He was sent to Einwetok to “observe” nuclear bomb explosions (he was basically a human guinea pig).  Throughout his stay at Einwetok he wrote this memoir of what he saw and experienced, the friends he made and their stories.  Not only did he manage to sneak confidential papers out of a secure military base, but also he was also able to create emotional characters and develop an amazing story, all in secrecy.  You will laugh and you will cry and you will not want to put this one down.


Hal Moore: A Soldier Once…And Always

By: Mike Guardia

For all you history buffs out there, this is the biography for your 4th of July. Hal Moore, now age 90 at the start of this book enlightens Mike Guardia with personal letters, photos, and first hand accounts of war.  Hal Moore retells his own stories from the Korean War in 1950 to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  This is a must read for all history buffs and a fans Hal Moore.  He was truly a great American.


Day of Infamy

By: Walter Lord

This is not the heartwarming story of love and heroism that some may be familiar with thanks to Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale.  On the contrary, Walter Lord has put together a collection of eyewitness accounts from the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This is not a great moment in American history, but it should never be forgoten.  I recommend this book for all of those interested in learning more about the attack on the home front.  This chilling moment in American history sparked shock, fear and then rage into many Americans.  Definitely a must read for the most patriotic holiday of the year.


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6 Awesome Audiobook Deals

by Taylor Coil

I have not been reading much lately. Oof, guys. That is a big confession for a Freebooksy employee to make.

One thing that I HAVE been doing: listening to audiobooks. See, I have a newfound hobby of long distance running. When you spend 2+ hours nonstop running, you're going to get bored. That's just a fact. Audiobooks have been my saving grace recently. The miles fly by (sort of) as I'm listening, and I can take my mind off the fact that OMG EVERYTHING HURTS.

Since I mostly train alone, I have my phone strapped to my arm with this handy little thing in case I get lost or collapse or something. I plug my headphones into my phone, hit play on my Audible app (highly recommended), and just go. 

This is me and my friend Amanda (I'm in the pink and blue shirts) at the past two races we've run together.

This is me and my friend Amanda (I'm in the pink and blue shirts) at the past two races we've run together.

Amazon has this magical little program called Whispersync. If you own the Kindle version AND Audible version of a book, they'll sync up with each other. You can read 50 pages on your Kindle, then open Audible on your phone or computer and it'll start playing where you stopped reading. MAGIC. I love it.

Another great thing about Whispersync? You get major discounts on audiobooks if you own the Kindle version. Often you can buy the Kindle book AND audiobook for less than $10. That's a really good deal.

Look for this doo-dad when you're looking at a Kindle book page:

Since I've done the grunt work of finding these excellent deals, It's only natural that I share. Hey, sharing is caring.

Note: these prices could change. I'm sorry. They're up to date as of May 28, 2014.


This one is high on my wish list. I haven't read it yet, so I can't tell you if it's good or not. I am a general fan of the author and basically everything he does. Buying things made by people I admire typically works out well for me.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.99 // Total Price: $8.98


Chances are you own this on Kindle already. The audiobook is great - it's what I was listening to during my first half marathon! The Hunger Games makes a good re-read (or re-listen), and $3.95 is an amazing price for the audiobook.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.95 // Total Price: $8.94


Sometimes there's nothing better than a romance novel that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Brenda Novak is one of the queens of warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies for $6? Sold.

Kindle: $1.99 // Audiobook: $3.49 // Total Price: $5.48


I haven't read this one, but we featured it on Freebooksy a while back! The Kindle book is free, so you basically get an audiobook for $1.99. Nuts.

Kindle: $0.00 (free!) // Audiobook: $1.99 // Total Price: $1.99


This one is looong. For $9, you get ~ 20 hours of entertainment. Not bad. It's just a really lovely book! Fantasy, romance, and history all thrown in together.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.99 // Total Price: $8.98


One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

I've written before about my love for the Stephanie Plum (especially Grandma Mazur). I love this series so much. Prepare to laugh like crazy while you're listening to this one. It's a mystery as well with plenty of action - but what you'll remember? The jokes.

Kindle: $7.69 // Audiobook: $2.99 // Total Price: $10.68


I've tried to find several genres. If there's a genre you'd like me to hunt for, tell me in the comments! If there's interest, I'll write a part two with your genre requests :)

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About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading dystopians, generally depressing books, and any tome remotely related to food. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

Books for Father's Day for Funny Dads

by Max Green

I remember the best part about Father’s day was waking up to the smell of real bacon.  The aroma filled the house as I was awoken to the melodies of 90’s alternative rock and the sound of real bacon sizzling in the pan.  Let me emphasize on the world ‘real’ that precedes bacon.  In the kitchen, we lived under the totalitarian rule of my mother who had banned almost every food group I deemed to be delicious as a child.  This ranged from sugared cereal to potato chips, and even the proper bacon.  On most breakfast occasions she would try to sneak in her tasteless and dull turkey bacon.  How naïve did she think we were?  But on Father’s day she allowed the real deal; the real bacon.  

With his musical selection pouring from the speakers, he would begin to cook a breakfast fit for a king.   Following breakfast however, father’s day was like every other Sunday.  The only difference was that I would give my dad a gift before helping him with all the yard work.  

To this day bacon is still absent in my mother’s kitchen, making the only exceptions on Father’s Day and dad’s birthday.  The only thing that has changed, I don’t mow the lawn anymore.  Which means that my gifts, these days, have to be better than the cliché, tacky tie he will wear once (maybe).  My gifts have to be better than the unoriginal “I love you, coffee” coffee mugs, and even better than the last minute sweatshirt from my alma mater.  

This year I have a few suggestions for those of you in the same position as me. Instead of frantically trying to figure out what size shirt he wears, or what color tie goes best with his new suit, here is a spread of novels and the author my father was very keen on and I’m sure your dad will be too.


Books For the Dad who Loves to Laugh:

This guy is by far the funniest and original whodunit authors of this century. Kinky Friedman is a Texas musician turned author (turned legend).  If dads like Bill Clinton and Willy Nelson have read his books, then this must be an essential option for the old man.  If politically incorrect thrillers are not what you consider your dad’s cup of tea, then may I recommend a few other options.  Here are a few other choices that have caught my attention:

Nick Offerman (a television star) is the epitome of manliness.  He knows everything there is to know about woodcarving, socialism, wooing women, and meats.  Need I say more?

Bryan Bishop's New York Times Bestseller SHRINKAGE is sure to keep dad entertained all the while keeping his spirits high. 

Jim Gaffigan knows what its like to be a dad.  The father is a well renowned stand up comedian best known for his rants about ketchup packets, hot pockets and raising five children.  He knows what its like to feel outnumbered in his own home.  He understands.


The best part about getting dad a book he will appreciate, is knowing that there will be a few moments of his day where he will be relaxing and enjoying himself. 

What types of books do your fathers enjoy? Let me know on the comments!

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About the Author

Max is a freelance writer native to Charlotte, NC.  During his time at Appalachian State he developed a passion for literature and went on the receive a Bachelors Degree in English.  An avid outdoorsman and writer, Max is never far from a captivating whodunit or humorous piece of fiction.  

Recipes and Cookbooks for Memorial Day

by MaryBeth Crissman

Memorial Day has always held a special place in this New Yorker's heart. For everyone else, it is the unofficial start to summer, but, for me, it meant that winter was FINALLY over. No more snow and ice and blowing cold winds. Memorial Day meant that bad weather would finally give way to the blue skies and refreshing warm breezes of summertime. And on Memorial Day, of course, everyone had a picnic. The smell of lighter fluid and charcoal filled the air no matter where you stood, and, if you were quiet enough, you could hear the delicious sizzle of meat on the grill. 

Memorial Day also kicks off a season of fabulous food. The buttery saltiness of salt potatoes. The creamy tang of potato salad. My sister-in-law's cherry cheesecake pudding. My dad's special recipe bar-b-que chicken. Spaghetti salad, coleslaw, dips, chips, pies, and cakes ... Fresh candy-colored fruits that make salads and desserts that are delicious for both the eyes and the taste buds.


Here are some fun recipe books to kick off your Memorial Day weekend as well as your summertime picnic season: 


The pièce de résistance in my family? Mom's carved watermelon basket to hold the delicious fruit salad that is the staple of every summer picnic. 

Mom's watermelon basket was always so impressive. She transformed a huge awkward watermelon into an impressive food display. It still amazes me how much care and effort she put in to carving that daunting fruit into something simply wonderful. I can't wait to do the same some day with my own children. Thankfully, I learned from a master. 


How to Carve a Watermelon Basket

Carving a watermelon is much like carving a Halloween pumpkin. The first thing you need to do is decide which side will be the top and which will be the bottom. With a pumpkin, you have a clear flattened bottom, and a watermelon does too. It's just generally more subtle. Look for a slightly yellowed patch. That's where it has rested on the ground and will likely serve as a stable bottom. 

Image credit

Once you've decided where your bottom is, get a Sharpie out and draw your design. It can be a simple straight-edged basket or one with zig-zags or another pattern.  You'll want to remember to include a handle to make your basket an basket instead of just a bowl.

Once you're happy with your design, start carving. A watermelon rind is a bit tougher than a pumpkin's, so it may take some extra elbow grease. If you're feeling really fancy, you can also carve partially through the flesh and make an even more spectacular display. Try to keep the watermelon on a non-skid surface (a kitchen towel works great) while you're carving. No one wants to end up in the ER when preparing for a summertime picnic!

After you've carved out the large watermelon chunks, start cleaning out the delicious red flesh. My mom always used a melon-baller so that the fruit was ready to be served and didn't need further preparation. You want to get as much of the watermelon out as possible, scraping down the the white of the rind. Don't waste any of the deliciousness! Be careful when scraping clean the basket handle because it can break easily, especially if it's thin. 

Once your basket is ready, fill it with fruit salad - melons, berries, oranges ... - and serve. You'll be the hit of the picnic with your impressive carving skills!


What are your favorite Memorial Day traditions and recipes? Tell us in the comments!

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About the Author

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

What Kind of Reading Mom Are You?

By Chloe Kizer

What kind of reading mom is your mom? Or, if you’re a mother yourself, what kind of reading mom are you?


The Romance Mom: She is always trying to learn about your romantic life and gives you the courage to talk to that cute guy you know. All through highschool she was trying to get you to date the cute boys in your class and now that you’re older, every phone call starts with “And how is it going with so-and-so?” Even if there never was a so-and-so…

The Romance Mom should read MAYBE SOMEDAY, a sweet New Adult romance with strong themes of friendship and betrayal. 

 


The Chick-Lit Mom: She probably bakes great cake and made sure your Birthday parties were the bee's knees. Her favorite room is the kitchen and her favorite meal is brunch. She is also a major fan of eating bon bons and drinking martinis by the pool… whether or not she ever actually gets to do so.

The Chick-lit Mom should read I'VE GOTYOUR NUMBER because, let's face it, Sophie Kinsella is both a goddess and a genius. 

 

 


The Thriller Mom: She is a little intense, but always comes up with the best Halloween costumes. She may also be a massive fan of fireworks, because, let’s face it, it’s the closest you can get to an explosion in real life.

The Thriller Mom should read THE TARGET because David Baldacci is a master at enthralling tales of assassination and intrigue.

 

 


The Mystery Mom: You can never lie to her. Ever. All chores were inspected with the eye of an investigator and don’t even think about trying to sneak out of the house. She always knows where everything is and has saved the day on a couple of occasions with her handy deduction skills.

The Mystery Mom should read UNLUCKY 13 because she secretly wishes that she were a member of The Women's Murder Club.

 

 


The Fantasy Mom: You went to Renaissance festivals as a child and at some point in your life had a glowing statue of a mythical creature. When the Harry Potter Books came out the entire family was required to read them immediately and then wander around the house pretending to use the spells to accomplish household tasks.

The Fantasy mom should read THE BONE SEASON, a gritty urban fantasy with an exciting edge of dystopia and a spunky female protagonist. 

 


Science Fiction Mom: Loves SCIENCE. Most weekends you went to the science museum and she always helped you win the science fair. She enjoys discussions on time travel and whether or not humans will ever colonize space. May enjoy Dr. Who a little too much, if there is such a thing.

The Science Fiction Mom should read THE MARTIAN, a realistic and at times laugh out loud account of a lone astronaut stuck on Mars. 

 

 


Literary Fiction Mom: Waxes lyrical about her new favorite book. In fact, “waxing lyrical” may be one of her favorite phrases. She has a larger vocabulary than most other mothers and always helped you write the best essays. 

The Literary Fiction Mom should read STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, a romantic comedy of manners and poignant look into the human heart.




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About the Author 

Chloe is our Content and Community Manager. She has three hobbies: Reading, writing, and finding new hobbies. Her brain can be best described as an extremely biased encyclopedia of all things nerdy. 

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3 Essential Books for the Expectant Mom

Editor's Note: our CEO gave birth to her second child in April (hooray!). She thinks that expectant moms-to-be deserve just as much love and pampering as moms whose babies have already arrived. In typical Freebooksy fashion, she sat down and gave us her recommendations for the top 3 books that she loved during both of her pregnancies. If you know a mom-to-be who is hunting for mommy resources, these books are a great place to start.


Expecting 411

From our CEO: "Expecting 411 is a refreshing, modern, and non-judgemental version of the classic What to Expect When You're Expecting. Written by an OB and a pediatrician, the advice is medically sound and addresses the many questions that crop up at different stages of pregnancy.  Both authors have a great sense of humor. Many a time I turned to this book when I was worried about something, only to find myself feeling simultaneously relieved and laughing when I found the answer in this book (most things fall under the “this is normal” category).  Moms who appreciate candid, humorous and non-hysterical advice will love this book."


Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

"As many moms discover early on, breastfeeding can be anything but simple in the early weeks of becoming a mom. I recommend that moms read this book while pregnant to get a better understanding of how breastfeeding works and what to expect in the first few months after birth. The book centers on 7 laws of breastfeeding, a simple way to break down the biological mechanics of nursing, as well as a trouble shooting section at the back if things don’t go according to plan."


Eat, Sleep, Poop

"This is a must-have resource for new parents that you will reference again and again during the first six months of your infant’s life. As the title indicates the book is split into 3 main sections that address the 3 things that will consume your life as you welcome your newborn: eating, sleeping and pooping . The book’s author is a pediatrician and dad who draws on his years of experience as a doctor and the more emotional experience of being a dad. The “Daddy vs Doctor” vignettes are priceless. The information is bite-size and easy to understand (important when you are reading this having only gotten 2 hours of sleep in the past 2 days)."


If you've given birth, which books did you find particularly useful during pregnancy?

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3 Literary Mothers To Adore on Mother's Day

by Taylor Coil

When I was a child, my mother used to (lovingly) force me to go outside instead of sitting on the couch reading all day. My answer to this affront was to pack a bag full of books and climb to the top of the magnolia tree in our front yard. I'd sit in the branches for hours and read book after book. It was my own little haven, and the space where characters came to life in my head. That magnolia tree is the place I fell in love with books - and it's all because my mother wouldn't let me read in the living room. That's also the start of my lifelong admiration of fictional people, many of whom are mothers.

In honor of Mother's Day (and as a tip of my hat to my own mother), here are my favorite mothers from literature!


Mrs. Bennet [Pride & Prejudice]

via My Jane Austen Book Club

via My Jane Austen Book Club

Who doesn't love Mrs. Bennet? She's utterly devoted to her family. She gets so worked up about everything that you want to sit her down, give her a drink and just talk about everything and nothing at all. She's strong and funny and kind - and 100% willing to make a fool of herself in order to ensure a better life for one of her daughters.

Favorite Mrs. Bennet Moment:

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way! You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”  -- Mrs. Bennet

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”  -- Mr. Bennet

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Grandma Mazur [Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series]

No character makes me laugh like Grandma Mazur does. Goodness she's hilarious. I've gotten funny looks on the beach, on planes, and in coffee shops because I was crying laughing at something Grandma Mazur said. 

Grandma Mazur feels like an old friend. We've talked about her over the Thanksgiving table. I've laughed about her with friends, lounging by the lake. And I know that mentioning her name will always make my dad chuckle. Here's to you, Grandma.

Favorite Grandma Mazur Moment:

“The dog ran into the kitchen, stuck his nose in Grandma's crotch, and snuffled.
Dang," Grandma said. "Guess my new perfume really works. I'm gonna have to try it out at the seniors meeting.” 

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich


Molly Weasley [Harry Potter]

via wikimedia

via wikimedia

I have a confession to make. When I was about 12, someone asked me who my hero was. I said Mrs Weasley. I was a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a knowitall bossypants when I was that age, and Mrs Weasley made it look so cool to be in charge of 7-10 people at any given time. I loved her. I still do.

She's an adoring mother, an amazing cook, a fiery personality, a no-nonsense lady and an all-around amazing woman. She's a version of the modern feminist - the mother who stays home because she wants to, thank you very much.

Second Favorite Molly Weasley Moment (because my first favorite involves swearing):

Molly Weasley: "I don't believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That's everyone in the family!"
George Weasley: "What are Fred and I, next door neighbors?"

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling


A Google search tells me that Mrs. Bennet in particular is a polarizing choice. I love her. Do you? What do you think about my picks? Who are your favorite fictional mothers?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading dystopians, generally depressing books, and any tome remotely related to food. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

May the Fourth be With You!

By Chloe Kizer

Growing up, my family's favorite movies were always the original 3 Star Wars. As I got older and went off to school, the special place that Chewbacca, Ewoks, and especially Han Solo had always held in my heart started shrinking until I all but forgot about Star Wars.

It was not until my senior year of my Undergraduate degree that I rediscovered the glory that is the original Star Wars movies. I was on a competition archery team, working one on one with a very talented woman, when I made a bull’s eye from further away than ever before. I got very excited, and while she did congratulate me, her wise response was “Nice shot kid, don’t get cocky.” Remembering that great scene between Luke and Han I felt compelled to rewatch the movies as an adult and found myself amused by the dialogue, particularly Han’s classic snarkyness.

Do you have any fond Star Wars memories?

Luckily, if you're like me and enjoy nerdy humor, there are a plethora of Star Wars novelty books available that make great conversation pieces and bridge the gap between visual and literary experiences. 

Want to be a Jedi? (Admit it, you totally do) Then grab the handbook!

Then there are the Shakespearean rewrites, quite possibly the best mix of pop culture and classic literature to come out of recent years. 

And lastly the collections of great Children's Books for your little Jedi!

Does Star Wars hold a special place in your heart too? Are you planning a movie marathon for tonight? Let us know in the comments! 

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About the Author 

Chloe is our Content and Community Manager. She has three hobbies: Reading, writing, and finding new hobbies. Her brain can be best described as an extremely biased encyclopedia of all things nerdy. 

Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research

by Brenda Novak

When I launched my first online auction for diabetes research in 2005, I had no idea I would still be running the fundraiser ten years later. I started it because I wanted to make a difference to my son, who was diagnosed at five years old, and everyone else suffering from this terrible disease (over 350 million people have diabetes worldwide). But I honestly thought we’d have a cure by now. Ever since we first learned that Thad faced this challenge, I’ve been hearing that a cure is right around the corner—but it hasn’t been found. And when you slug away at something for a long time, and it doesn’t feel as if you’re making enough of an impact, it can be tempting to give up. But in those moments of discouragement, something always happens to keep me going. Many times it’s something positive, like having my son put his arms around my neck and tell me how much he loves me.

Not all of them are quite so positive, however—like last year when the cannula that feeds Thad insulin from his pump got bent, causing his blood sugar to spike. At bedtime, he began to feel very sick. When he tested his blood, we learned why. His glucose levels were over 700 (a normal person’s bg would be around 100). Knowing something terrible would happen if I didn’t get his blood sugar into a safe zone as soon as possible, I was up all night, worrying, watching and working to do just that. I’d give him insulin, test him in two hours, give him more insulin, test him again, etc. Then, because he wasn’t coming down fast enough and I was so afraid he’d go into a coma, I overcorrected and brought him plummeting to 30 (a very dangerous number on the opposite side that left his body bathed in sweat as he started to go into shock).

I eventually stabilized him (as much as a diabetic can be stabilized since blood glucose can change so rapidly) and we haven’t had such a terrible night since. But there have been other close calls. That probably won’t stop until we have a cure. And there are certainly worse stories than mine. Almost everybody’s heard one—diabetes causing blindness, amputation, heart attack, kidney failure, fatty liver, impotence, death. It’s the specter of these things that keeps me fighting. I believe this is a disease we can beat with enough determination and focus, so I’m thrilled that the DRI (the research facility that gets the money I raise) is entering human trials with their new Biohub this year. The Biohub has made the possibility of a cure feel real for me again.

So how does Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research work? Just like E-Bay—only it’s more fun. This year, those who register before the auction closes on May 31st (http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com) will receive a digital copy of one of my books—WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, the first book in my Whiskey Creek series, or THROUGH THE SMOKE, my new historical romantic suspense title (registrant’s choice). And we’ll be giving away other items throughout. You will be entered to win the various giveaways simply by placing a bid on any particular day. When the auction is over, you can pay for what you’ve won with Paypal, credit card (or, with special arrangements, personal check/money order). In most instances, the donor picks up the tab for shipping.

But that’s not all! This year is our big 10-year anniversary, and we are doing all we can to make it special, including offering a boxed set of digital books by fourteen bestselling authors—including a foreword by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber, for only $2.99 (initial starting price). If you are a fan of contemporary romance, A Sweet Life is a “must have.” Besides my own novel, it includes stories from such reader favorites as Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Heather Graham, Julia Kent, Susan Mallery, Carly Phillips, Jennifer Probst, RaeAnne Thayne, Rachel Van Dyken, Susan Wiggs, Lauren Hawkeye, Steena Holmes and Jane Porter! But you have to act quickly. It’ll only be on sale during the month of May.

What else will be available at the auction? Too many things to list! You’ll be able to bid on tickets to meet Celine Dion, Kindle Fires and Kindle Paperwhites, antique and other kinds of jewelry, trips & stays, handmade items, the chance to have lunch with Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, Diana Gabaldon, Steve Berry or another of your favorite authors and a slew of opportunities for both readers and writers. Don’t miss the fun!

Here’s to making a difference!

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About the Author

Brenda Novak is the bestselling author of the Whiskey Creek series. Her novels have made The New York Times, USA Today bestseller lists and won many awards, including three Rita nominations, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Book Seller’s Best and the National Reader’s Choice Award. 

6 Book-Movie Pairings to Share with Mom

by MaryBeth Crissman

Mother's Day in our house always focused on being together. We would usually go to a nice breakfast and then enjoy a relaxing day at home with all of us kids (and eventually the grandkids) hanging out around the house or enjoying an unexpectedly warm May afternoon in Upstate New York. Those warm days were rare, so our activities were primarily indoors. 

My mother and I have always loved reading, and we love movies as well. We especially love movies that were based on books we love. Our favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird. We've read it multiple times and watch it almost every time we're together!

If your mom is a reader like mine, how about treating her to a book and a movie on the one day that honors all she does? Here are some great book and movie pairings that the whole family will enjoy!


The book is a childhood gem, and the movie adaptation is perfect for young and old alike. George Clooney voices Mr. Fox, and there are some rather witty moments. It's a kids' movie that the adults will truly enjoy!


This story is a heartwarming tale that teaches human compassion and acceptance. And the movie version features some big stars that you wouldn't expect ... including Dave Matthews himself as the ex-con pet shop owner!


This pairing is a fun one given that the book has some unique surprises that never made it into the movie. Did you know that Dorothy's shoes are supposed to be silver, but they didn't show up well enough against the Technicolor glory of the yellow brick road? So ruby slippers they became!


Another great duo that tells a story of tragedy and resiliency. The movie is magical and does the original story justice. The book is a controversial one and banned in many places because it deals directly with the death of a young girl, but the poignancy of the tale far outweighs any sensitive content. 


Dreamworks brings a heroic story and the wonderful myth of dragons to life in this adaptation. It's my personal favorite animated movie because it has such a powerful story of determination and acceptance. The kids will love the characters, especially Hiccup and Toothless, and you will love the endearing messages. 


Mary Poppins

Every kid should read and watch Mary Poppins, and what better day to do that but on Mother's Day? It's a classic story of family and fun, and every family should experience it together. And, when you've finished the film, turn on Saving Mr. Banks, the story behind the making of Mary Poppins. 


While moms and dads may have already experienced these classic literary and cinematic gems, it's always wonderful to see them again for the first time through the young eyes of their children. These kinds of shared experiences are part of what make families strong, and Mother's Day is the perfect day to strengthen that family connection.

The best part of these book and movie pairings? Mom doesn't have to do anything but sit back and enjoy the movie. The kids can handle the popcorn. 

What are your favorite movies and books to enjoy with your kids (or mom)? Tell us in the comments!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

5 Great Stories Wherein The Characters Are Horrible People

by Taylor Coil

I've noticed something about myself recently, and it's quite troubling: I love reading books wherein the characters are horrible people.

Truly terrible human beings. Umbridge level horrible. Okay, maybe not Umbridge level horrible, but you get the idea.

THE WORST. (image via fanpop.com)

THE WORST. (image via fanpop.com)

If a character is a terrible human, there's probably a reason for it. Their backstory is likely filled with tragedy, or abuse, or something that makes you say 'oh yeah, I get it.' Let's get that disclaimer out of the way.

I think there are a few core reasons for this fascination with characters I don't respect. Part of it ignites a sense of self-righteousness, which I hardly ever indulge. Judging a fictional character is better than judging a real human, right? I think so.

The bigger portion, however, is that it's a form of escapism. I don't have to like a character to be fascinated with that person. I'm interested in their motivations, their goals, their justifications for their actions. It's instructive for me, in a way. And it keeps me turning the page.

Here are my recent favorite stories featuring some uh... 'flawed' humans (in no particular order):


5. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling [book]

I get why this has such mixed reviews on Amazon: it doesn't read like Harry Potter (obviously), and I don't like any of the characters. Clearly, the latter doesn't bother me. There's real cruelty in this novel. And tons of negativity.

But the characters are REAL. You get to know them. You can really envision them. You understand their cruelty, as much as one can understand such a thing. 

I'm disgusted by Simon. My heart aches for Krystal, but then she does something that annoys me, which makes me re-think the heartache. I'll leave it there, because I don't want to write a long-winded review of the book. Basically: everyone is flawed and it's beautiful.

I'm reading this now. I haven't finished it yet, so don't tell me what happens.


4. True Detective [tv show]

True Detective is an HBO Show - and we all know what that means. If you aren't OK with things like swearing and nudity, this is not the show for you.

True Detective is chock full of horrible deeds: you've got your unforgivables like murder and torture, and then the still-awful-but-not-nauseating adultery and general meanness. The protagonists aren't terrible people, but they are NOT saints. They're flawed. I wouldn't seek out their company. And yet I did - by binge-watching the show with my husband for nights on end.

When True Detective explores the concept of evil, it does so perfectly. I, for one, felt the story in my very bones as I was watching the most horrifying scenes. It's visceral and powerful. It's not a pleasure to watch something that evil, but it's something.


3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [book]

Gone Girl is the reason I thought to write this post in the first place, since the trailer just came out. I love this novel, but it took me a while to pinpoint why it had a special place on my shelf (when my other thrillers are shoved in an armoire out of sight).

[spoilers below]

It's the characters. Nick and Amy Dunne are so cruel to one another. My own marriage is nothing like that, so I found myself reading in fascination on how two people can love with so much hate. How Amy can spend years planning an elaborately cruel trick on her husband, all the while keeping up a chipper facade.

Okay, so maybe it's not love, but it's certainly respect. 

I'm going to be in the minority here and say that I really liked the ending. I found it satisfying and apropos for the character arcs. Nick and Amy deserve each other.


2. Prisoners [movie]

I watched this movie at night against by better judgement. Crime dramas about people kidnapping children or serial killers or rapists etc etc always give me nightmares.

Yep, this one definitely gave me nightmares.

Prisoners made the cut because of Hugh Jackman's character, Keller. He tortures a man - someone the viewer knows doesn't deserve it. I felt no sense of justice, but somehow I understood. And I walked away from the film sympathizing with Keller.

If you like crime thrillers with imperfect characters (to put it lightly), you'll like this one. To me it had the same feel as Silence of the Lambs (which also gave me nightmares, and is free to watch for Amazon Prime members).


1. Game of Thrones [books and tv show]

Of course I was going to include Game of Thrones in this. Game of Thrones has possibly the best example of an imperfect protagonist, a few times over. I hated Tyrion and Jamie at the start of the series, but I find myself rooting for them both as the story progresses. Stanis drives me nuts, but there's something heart-wrenching about his desperation.

Actually, the only character who bores me a bit is Jon Snow (my husband's favorite character). He's a good guy - but he's a brooding good guy. Evil mastermind is far more interesting than brooding hero. I'd much rather watch Cersei's evil schemes or Arya's drive any day.

I haven't read the books, and my husband has. Perhaps Jon Snow is more interesting in the books. Tell me in the comments if that's the case!


I'm now re-thinking my (admittedly hyperbole-ridden) title. Yes, some of the characters are horrible human beings, but 'inherently flawed' is more correct. I don't think Nick Dunne or Jamie Lannister are horrible people. They do cruel things, yes, but does that mean they're cruel people?

At what point do cruel deeds result in a cruel person? What do you think?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

The Gone Girl Trailer is Here!

by Taylor Coil

The long-awaited (by me) trailer for GONE GIRL is here! Watch the embedded video below:

We've heard tell that Gillian Flynn changed the ending for the movie adaptation. If you've read the book, you'll still be in for a surprise at the end.

I, for one, am really excited to see this film. I absolutely loved the book, and will watch anything with Rosamund Pike or Ben Affleck in it. Except Gigli. I refuse to watch that movie.

Haven't read the book yet? Make sure you do before the movie comes out!

Books are better when they're free. Sign up for our emails and get free books in your inbox!  SIGN UP NOW.


About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

10 Books Your Child Should Read Before College (from a teacher)

by MaryBeth Crissman

As a veteran middle-school teacher, the number one question I always get from parents is, "What book recommendations do you have for my child?" The question, despite being asked multiple times per year, always seems to catch me off guard. It seems like an easy enough question, but I tend to over think it and struggle for the one perfect book. So, this year, in preparation for the question that always comes up as the school year starts to ease down it's downhill slope, I've racked my own brain and then surveyed my colleagues about what the ONE BOOK they'd want their students/children to read. And, of course, there isn't just one book. There's never just one book.  


Elementary Grades (K-5)

Books at this age should focus primarily on developing a sense of wonder and imagination while fostering an enjoyment for reading. Many of the best books at this age are focused on magic and myth encapsulated in a beautifully woven story. While children at this age are often too young to read the following books alone, they are ideal read-aloud books for a family, strengthening the sense of family community and creating fond childhood memories and traditions. Children who are read to regularly develop stronger literacy skills as well as a greater appreciation of reading. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis 

I first read this book as an adult, and I wished that I had read it (or it had been read to me) when I was much younger. The magic and wonder and imagination engages young listeners, making them want to read those words, to delve into those stories.  This is what we teachers call a "gateway book." Once kids read these books, they will search out other interesting stories.

Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling 

Much like the previously mentioned title, this title employs magic and wonder to captivate young readers while the characters are working through the very same issues that children are - friendship conflicts, identity struggles, teacher-student clashes - as well as greater world issues of good vs. evil and understanding the way (and the why) the world works.  

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle 

It is one of those books that is spun like a spider’s web, delicate and strong at the same time- timeless. The characters' quest takes them on a mysterious journey that pushes the boundaries  of what children understand to be true about their world, and invites them to ask questions. 


Middle Grades (6-8)

Books for the middle grades should work to develop a child's understanding of their world, however small their world may be, while still engaging their imagination and sense of wonder. These books start to emphasize life lessons and humanity. The elements of magic may be less present or obvious, but myth is still often at play in these ideal books. 

The Lord of the Flies - William Golding 

You may have read this book when you were in school, and many schools are still using it as a classroom text. There's a really good reason why. Aside from being well written and designed, this book speaks to our human condition - power, responsibility, friendship , betrayal, survival, regrets, anger, shame.  Despite the characters' young ages, these are all issues that middle school students either struggle with now or will struggle with in their near futures. Even though the book focuses on male characters, the big ideas and lessons are easily transferred to other genders as well.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 

Some of the biggest lessons in this classic are being compassionate towards others and having the moral courage to stand up for what is right.  Harper Lee's solitary work is truly an American masterpiece and evokes emotion in a way that many other texts fail to. Given the specific and small scope of the story, some contextual background, historic perspective, and reader maturity is necessary to fully understand and appreciate it. The lessons about moral courage, acceptance, and truth are ideal for developing teens. 

Wonder - R. J. Palacio 

This is one of the most unique and profoundly moving novels I have encountered as a middle school teacher. Through multiple narrators and perspectives, this story tells the tale of a young boy with a significant facial deformity who makes the hard decision to begin attending school after a life of homeschooling. As we experience his first year of school along side him, we witness the compassion and cruelty, love and jealousy, acceptance and fear that the protagonist experiences every day. You and your children won't be the same, nor view the world and it's people the same, after reading this. 

Tales from Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan

This outstanding collection of short stories, poems, and sketches explores the imagination of the protagonist. It's like a grown up Shel Silverstein that your child will truly enjoy and cherish. This book can also open the world of graphic novels to more reluctant readers. 


Upper Grades (9-college)

Books for students of this age are generally self-selected based on previously established preferences. Trying to get them to branch out into new genres and topics can often be challenging, but it is worthwhile. The most important thing about reading at this age is that children are both rebelling and conforming, and they need books that will help them navigate that experiences. The more they can experience - either in actuality or vicariously through literature - the better. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez 

This book's epic scope evokes not just a multitude of characters, from multiple generations, but an entire continent. Over a span of 100 years, the characters within the pages experience the full range of human experience, and emphasizes how similar we all are, rather than how different. It’s funny and deeply humane without ever succumbing to sentimentality. 

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Don't be scared off by the thick and heavy classics. This classic novel, aside from being expertly crafted, teaches great lessons about love and human relationships. The characters, all ravaged by war and conflict, must learn to adapt and survive. And who doesn’t love an anti-hero who makes the ultimate self-sacrifice for love?  

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie

This coming-of-age tale has an authentic teenage voice and broaches topics that are often ignored in young adult fiction. Alexie's narrator has a unique perspective that illuminates a life that many students are unaware of and don't understand. It's a more mature story that helps students vicariously work through many of the dilemmas and issues that they and their peers are facing. 


These are definitely not the ONLY books your child should read! The more your child reads, the more they will understand about the world. And the more they understand about the world, the more they will question and develop their own thoughts and opinions. 

Please note: As with any book recommendation, please review each book prior to sharing it with your child to ensure that it is at an appropriate reading level and contains appropriate content for your child. 

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About the Author

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows.