5 Great Things about Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg Discussion

Introduction

Project Gutenberg is the Holy Grail of web sites for readers looking for free ebooks. There are thousands of books on a wide variety of topics, simply waiting to be browsed and downloaded. So the next time you’re in the market for something to read, or the next time you want to read on a budget, check it out!

*You should, however, note this tidbit from their Terms of Use:

Our eBooks may be freely used in the United States because most are not protected by U.S. copyright law, usually because their copyrights have expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright terms of their countries before downloading or redistributing our eBooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.

Project Gutenberg Screenshot

1. Large Selection

As you can see from the screenshot of Project Gutenberg’s homepage, they boast over 54,000 free books.  That’s enough variety to offer something for everyone.  Many readers associate Project Gutenberg with out of copyright classics, but you can also find poetry, plays, children’s books, and nonfiction titles on just about any topic you’re interested in, from music to law to history to animals.

2. Multiple Formats

Project Gutenberg offers users multiple ways to access books, from Kindle formats to epub to HTML versions you can read right in your browser.  You can even choose whether to view the text with or without images if you want to save on space or downloading time. There’s also a whole category for audiobooks, and you can pick between computer generated or human read.

Here’s an example of some the options you get when you go to download a book:

Project Gutenberg Download Page

3. Many Ways to Browse

If there’s a certain book you’re looking for, you can easily search the title or author.  However, Project Gutenberg offers other ways to browse that can seem as serendipitous as walking into your local bookstore and just taking a walk around.  For instance, you can browse “Bookshelves” and then find curated lists on topics like Christmas, Detective Fiction, English Civil War, Godey’s Lady Book, etc. These can lead to sub-lists where you can pick among fiction, nonfiction, plays, music, and more.

The site also offers opportunities to browse by language, author, title, or recently posted.

4. Access in Other Languages

If your’e not looking to read in English, Project Gutenberg still has something for you. They highlight books in German, French, Italian, and Portuguese, but their offerings are actually more extensive than that.  On their “Browse by Category” page, they list languages they have more than 50 books in, as well as large number of languages that they currently have fewer than 50 books in:

Project Gutenberg Categories

5. Opportunities to Volunteer

Finally, if you love books and want to be a part of this project (or even just want something bookish to beef up your resume), you can volunteer. For instance, you can become a proofreader for the project here. Other volunteer opportunities are explained here. (You can also just donate money, if you’re into that.)

Do you use Project Gutenberg? What books have you read so far?

Briana

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Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein

Information

Goodreads: Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Sept. 2017

Summary

When Mr. Lemocello’s reputation is threatened by a woman who claims he stole her intellectual property, it’s up to Kyle and his friends to find the truth.  They’ll go on a fact-finding mission throughout the U.S. to check their sources and do the research no one else seems to care about.

Review

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race is a book that seems to be written for librarians and teachers.  With its focus on doing research, double-checking facts, and not believing everything you read online or see on the news, it is a timely addition to the conversation surrounding “fake news.”  Whether kids care about this message remains to be seen.  Luckily, the book provides all the ridiculous fun that made the first installment a bestseller.

I admit myself slightly disappointed in this book because it has a flaw that I am seeing increasingly more of in both MG and YA: a premise that makes zero sense.  I am not saying that I was simply unable to suspend my disbelief.  My favorite genre is fantasy and I can accept a lot of strange things–provided they adhere to some sort of logic.  In this book, however, as with the second installment in the series, logic is out the door.

The crisis comes when Mr. Lemoncello’s reputation is threatened by a woman who claims he stole a board game idea from her.  Immediately, the mayor of the city tosses everyone out of Mr. Lemoncello’s library and briefly closes it.  He then installs Lemoncello’s rival gamemakers as the heads of the library. Unstated is that the library is not funded by tax dollars but by Mr. Lemoncello himself.  So the mayor cannot close down the library just because of some unproven allegations (“innocent until proven guilty” in the U.S., remember!), nor can he install someone else as the owners of the property.  In fact, people who live out of state typically are not installed as directors of local libraries.  But does the law or logic matter in this story.  Of course not!  Why let little things like that get in the way?

My firm belief is that a really masterful writer does not have to hand wave away logic in order to write a good story.  Instead, they overcome the obstacles to write a story that makes sense.  To me, the increasing disregard for logic makes this series a bit of a disappointment, even if the puzzles are fun and even if Mr. Lemoncello is no doubt amusing to middle-school audiences.  However, I pretty sure I am alone in this opinion–it sells well and, as I said, teachers and librarians tend to eat it up.  So don’t let my ridiculous love for logic stop you from picking it up.

3 Stars

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild

Information

Goodreads: Hild
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: November 12, 2013

Official Summary

‘Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin LavransdatterHild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.

Review

I have had this book on my TBR list for a very long time. It’s about a fascinating historical figure, Hild of Whitby, and it’s about the Anglo-Saxon period, which I think is an under-featured era in British history in today’s fiction. (The only other book I’ve read that occurs generally in this time period is The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.)  It was with great disappointment, then, that I realized Hild may be one of the slowest books I have ever read.

Interestingly, the blurbs on the back cover disagree with me, and I seriously wonder how the publisher managed to solicit such verbs because they are absolutely glowing.  I have never seen blurbs offer such high praise.  One goes so far as to suggest that Hild could have been the source material/inspiration for great works like Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings.  (Seriously, they suggest that the greatest poem of the Anglo-Saxon period could take lessons from this novel.)  Another blurber specifically praises the pacing of the novel, insisting it’s not slow at all.  I’m very confused.

The book, you see, is not action-packed at all.  It’s sort of about political intrigue and how Hild’s uncle King Edwin expands his kingdom and maintains his power, and how Hild’s family schemes and plots to stay in favor with him.  However, a lot of it is just Hild’s character development.  Historically, Hild was renowned for her wisdom, and powerful people sought her advice.  So Griffiths starts the book when Hild is a toddler and basically spends hundreds of pages showing Hild growing up, sitting around pondering birds and trees and people and barely speaking to anyone ever so she can hone her observation sills.  I have to say, this gets boring quickly.

I was not particularly impressed even when Hild finally start coming into her wisdom/prophetic powers.  Basically the whole thing is a sham.  Because Hild sits around observing people and being weird, she is apparently smarter than everyone around her, even when she’s ten years old.  Her “mystical advice” and “prophecies” for the king, then, are just statements she has made from logic.  (Ex. King So and So will attack us soon because I realized he hates us, and the weather will be good for moving armies in a couple weeks.)  She dresses it all up as magical omens from the gods to be taken more seriously, but she’s just lying. And since her uncle the king converts to Christianity later in the book, she just switches things around to claim she’s getting visions from the Christian God instead of Woden. I’d probably be okay with this if the book were just fiction and not historical fiction.  However, I found it weird that Griffith would take a historical figure who was a saint and a nun and write a version of her where Hild thinks religion is a joke but manipulates it for her own gain.  I’d have liked to see a version of St. Hilda who, you know, actually believed in God.

There are elements of the book that are sound.  The intrigue is occassionally interesting (though there are lots names to remember and alliances to follow), and the research seems sound enough (though sometimes I do thin Griffith inserts her own modern sensibilities about things).  If there book were about 200 pages shorter, I think I could recommend it.  As it is, it’s slow and tedious and frequently unconvincing with the characters.  I wanted to like, but I just can’t.

Briana

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

Dark Breaks the Dawn

Information

Goodreads: Dark Breaks the Dawn
Series: Untitled #1
Source: City Book Review
Published: May 30, 2017

Summary

The forces of Dark and Light must remain in balance on the island of Lachalonia, or the consequences could be dire. Dark King Bain has no qualms, however, and is bent on extinguishing the royal family who bears the power of the Light.  When he succeeds in killing Princess Evelayn’s mother, she becomes responsible for the fate of her people much sooner than she had planned, and she will have to take great risks to keep her kingdom safe.

Review

My feelings about Dark Breaks the Dawn are complicated.  Reading it now, as an adult, I find parts of it cliché and almost absurd—yet I can’t help thinking that if had read this book in middle school, I would have thought those “absurd” parts fabulous.   But, then again, I would have found them fabulous partly because they’re things I might have written about myself in middle school…but I think that I’ve learned better by now.  I guess my main conclusion can only be that I personally thought Dark Breaks the Dawn fairly flawed, but there’s probably a younger audience out there just waiting to gobble it up.

Some of these clichés include people with rainbow colored hair, people who have jewels literally embedded in their bodies that give them magic, and a royal family that is all-powerful simply because they are royal (divine right of kings or something, I guess).  None of these things are inherently bad; they just lack some of the subtlety or nuance that I think can be found in a lot of today’s YA fantasy.  And, as I said, in seventh grade I probably would have thought a character with purple hair and a magic jewel in her chest was the coolest thing ever, so maybe it’s all a matter of perspective.

I think the more objective flaw is the book’s pacing.  There’s instalove, to start, which makes it difficult for readers to feel invested in the romance.  Protagonist Evelayn also solves many of her problems with extraordinary ease.  This mean that things that are hyped up as big, dangerous, impossible events by the characters do not come across that way to the reader.  Instead of feeling that Evelyan was performing epic feats, doing things that no one had ever dared to do before, I got the impression that was she accomplished was hardly difficult at all.  I wish scenes had been more drawn out and built more suspense.

Otherwise, however, Dark Breaks the Dawn is pretty solid fantasy.  There’s a clear battle of good vs. evil, plus a badass princess, and a decent amount of plotting and intrigue.  There’s supposed to be some Swan Princess influence, but that only comes in at the end of the novel and looks as though it will be more of a focus on the sequel.   The book isn’t really for me, but I could imagine other people liking it.

3 Stars Briana

Pawns by Willo Davis Roberts

Information

Goodreads: Pawns
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 1998 (reissued 2017)

Summary

Fourteen-year-old Teddi moved in with her neighbor Mamie a few months ago, after her parents died.  Life is almost starting to seem normal again when Dora shows up on the doorstep.  Dora claims she’s the wife of Mamie’s son Ricky, who died in a plane crash.  But why didn’t Ricky tell his family that he was married or that his wife was expecting a baby?  Is Dora really who she says she is?

Review

I’d never heard of Willo Davis Roberts before picking up this book at the library, though some searching suggests to me that she was, in the 1990s, a well-respected and award-winning author of young adult mysteries.  Still, Simon Pulse’s decision to reissue Pawns surprises me.  Everything about it screams that it was written in the 90s.  I am not convinced that YA readers today will still find it enthralling.

At 154 pages, Pawns is a short book that gets straight to the point–thrilling or mysterious it is not, especially by the standards of today’s YA.  Readers know from the summary on the book jacket that Dora is obviously not any relation to Mamie.  Her strange behavior throughout the book indicates the same.  It is truly surprising that Teddi takes as long as she does to get really suspicious or to take action.  To make up for this lack of suspense, one might think there would be a sense of danger.  But there is not.  Readers accustomed to fare such as The Hunger Games or Three Dark Crowns will find this domestic drama incredibly tame.

Also dating the book are the age of the protagonist–a mere 14 when most YA characters today seem to start at 16 and maybe age to 18 over the course of a series–and the lack of romance.  Aside from an innocent crush on the boy next door, Teddi reveals a novel lack of interest in the opposite sex (again, according to today’s standards).  A YA book that lacks even a kiss, much less the steamier scenes that seem to be cropping up?  This seems to go against everything that YA is.  Shouldn’t there be love triangles and experimentation?  Isn’t that what sells?

In short, Pawns seems to be precisely the type of book that one wouldn’t be able to convince a publisher to sell these days.  At the same time, I am interested to see how readers will respond.  Its length makes it easy to read.  The age of the protagonist and the innocence of her love life make it suitable for younger readers who like YA.  Maybe this is a YA book that really is written for teens, and not for the adults who are currently driving the market.

3 Stars

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente

Information

Goodreads: The Glass Town Game
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Sept. 2017

Summary

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have spent countless hours imagining stories in the room at the top of the stairs.  Now, however, Charlotte and Emily must go off to school–where their two older sisters died from fever.  But just as it seems separation is inevitable, they find themselves in a magical world where the Duke of Wellington still fights Bonaparte.  Even stranger, the world seems to be the one they themselves have created and it is populated with their toys.  At first they imagine they can stay there forever.  But when Branwell and Anne are kidnapped, the siblings realize that this world may be out of their control.

Review

Catherynne Valente is one of my favorite authors.  She possesses a talent for creating whimsical worlds and for writing breath-taking prose.  For her to write a fantasy based on the juvenilia of the Brontë siblings is thus a dream come true.  And The Glass Town Game does not disappoint.  It takes readers to a magical land where toy soldiers come to life, words are surprisingly literal, and romance and danger intermingle.  Any fan of fantasy will be sure to enjoy it, but fans of the Brontës may also be surprised at how engrossing Glass Town can be.

A caveat before we begin: hardcore fans of the Brontës who feel that any imaginative work based on their lives and writings is a desecration will probably not be amused. The playfulness of a land where Brown Betsys are actual women, “Old Boney” is made of bones, and the Duke of Wellington rides a lion made of water may be lost on these individuals.  I delighted in the creativity and the oddity of it all–but if you’re looking for madwomen in the attic or a brooding Rochester, you may be disappointed.  This is first and foremost a fantasy–one with nods to the writings of the Brontës and one based on their lives–but still a fantasy.

But, oh, what a fantasy!  I wish I could return to Glass Town already!  It may be full of danger and death and deception, but it also has the handsome Duke of Wellington and the alluring Lord Byron.  Jane Austen, Marie Antoinette, and a host of other historical characters intermingle with women made of flowers and of metal, luggage that can come to life, and a potion that raises people from the dead.  The “real” and the fantastic coexist in the chummiest way.  It makes you believe in magic all over again.

And the Brontës are excellent guides through this new land.  You just have to fall in love with them, from the moment you learn about the stories they create and the way they wish they could bring back their dead sisters and avoid potentially sharing the same fate.  Glass Town is bizarre, but so, so much better than those terrible boarding schools!  But the Brontës do not really feel sorry for themselves.  Not for long.  They are brave and bold and daring–and maybe just dishonest enough to get themselves out of Glass Town alive.  Even Branwell, who typically comes off as annoying loser in these types of tales, is sympathetic.  He wants to be bold and bright.  He wants to be admired.  He just…isn’t.  He’s too self-absorbed to really be the type of man anyone could depend upon.

If you have already read Valente, you will not need my recommendation to read her again.  If you have not, you are missing out.  She is one of the best fantasy writers out there today, one whose prose is as magical as her worlds.  So whether you enjoy fantasy or Valente or the Brontës–pick up this book.

5 stars

Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2018)

Tolkien Reading Event 2018

During March 2018, Pages Unbound will be running our fifth Tolkien Reading Event.  Every year on March 25, the Tolkien Society celebrates Tolkien Reading Day, and we like to expand on the event by hosting several days’ worth of Tolkien-related content.  We have had some wonderful guest posts in the past and would like to invite you to submit a guest post this year.

Theme: [We will update this spot with the 2018 theme once it is announced by the Tolkien Society.]

Post Options

The Tolkien Reading Event is open to a wide variety of posts.  In previous events, we have featured everything from book reviews to quizzes to serious literary criticism.   Pitch us an idea for any type of post you would like!  You can also review books and movies that have been featured before; we love new perspectives! See a full list of past posts here.

If you need ideas, we are particularly open to posts about:

  • the official theme
  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the art of Middle-Earth
  • a tour of your Tolkien collection (books or merchandise)
  • Tolkien’s villains
  • your personal journey reading Tolkien
  • reviews of books about (not by) Tolkien
  • reflections on Tolkien’s “minor” works (Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major, Roverandom)

Details

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the Google form below.  We will begin the event on Sunday, March 25, and so would like to receive guest posts by March 17.  We will contact everyone with final details around that time (such as what day your guest post will be scheduled).  Please feel free to spread the word to fellow Tolkien fans!

Title: Please tell us what you would like the title of the post to be when you send us the draft! Otherwise you will be subject to our whims. 😉

Post Length: There is no required post length; however long you feel you need to address the topic is fine.

Photos/Graphics: Feel free to include photos or graphics if you would like, but only include images you own the rights to post.  (Basically, no copyright infringement, please!)

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN GUEST POSTING, PLEASE FILL OUT THE GOOGLE FORM BELOW.

*LOTR clip art by Nesca at CuteGraphicSupply.