Finding free e-books

I’m still old -fashioned in that I love to read books in their physical form. But living in a crazy city like New York where I’m constantly commuting, I find e-books more convenient at times. So, today, I wanted to share some sources that provide free e-books.

  1. General EBooks – This is the one I use most. They have millions of free e-books as well as e-books you can buy online. You can search directly or browse through their collection, but honestly it’s much more convenient to search directly. There is a brief synopsis of each book as well as user reviews!
  2. ePub Bud – Another great source for easy to download free e-books. Once again, there is a search function. Usually, if I can’t find something on General EBooks, I come here hoping they will have it!
  3. Freebooksy – They upload a free e-book at least once a day. The book is typically free for that day only, but you can sign up for email updates. There is no search function, but you can browse by category.
  4. Smashwords – If you’re anything like me, you like to read through at least the first quarter of a book before you decide you want to invest in it. Well, this site is perfect for such sifting! There are free e-books, but you can also free portions of books for sale so you can get a feel for it before you purchase.

Are there more free e-book sources out there?

Alan Gratz: Prisoner B-3087

image_about_loraxBased on a true story of Jack Gruener, Prisoner B-3087 tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, Yanek Gruener.

He is 10 years old when the Nazi’s gradual extermination of European Jews begins. Yanek’s dad is confident that the West will protect them and that the war will not last long. Yanek takes these words as fact and goes about life as though everything were normal.

However, when Poland is annexed, it’s clear that he cannot resume normalcy; Jewish children were prohibited from attending schools, Jews were banned from working, going to the movies, etc. Worst of all, they were branded with the Star of David. Explicitly marked as despicable Jews. 

By the time Yanek is 12, a solid wall is built around his neighborhood, now officially a Jewish ghetto. Now he had to share his home with 14 other people. Although his dad continue to assure them that everything will end quickly, Yanek is no longer sure. Within a year, Yanek’s entire family and relatives are deported. He remains alone in his old neighborhood until he too is taken away to a labor camp. Thus begins nearly 4 years of being transported from one camp to a worse camp where death, starvation, torture, and endless labor become the new normal.

William Landay: Defending Jacob

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Imagine this: You are first assistant DA and you just found out that there was a murder in your own community. A 14 year old boy, Ben Rifkin, was stabbed on his way to school in the park you jog through every morning.  You decide to head the case and quickly discover that Ben attended the same school as your own son, Jacob. While investigating what appears to be a hopeless case, you find reason to suspect that your son may be guilty. What would you do?

The story begins one year after the murder of Ben Rifkin. Andrew Barber, former assistant DA, has been summoned by prosecutor Neal Logiudice who questions the way Andy handled the murder case. The book goes back and forth between the current trial and the devastation that hit Newton county in 2007.

When Andy first began his investigation, none of the students at Ben’s middle school would talk, there was barely any substantial evidence, and no real suspects either. But Andy gets an anonymous email inviting him to a Facebook group made in honor of Ben. He decides to check it out and reads through the comments until he freezes at one made by his son’s best friends Derek Yoo. Derek basically calls Jacob out, accusing Jacob of possessing a knife and having used it against Ben.

Initially, Andy hesitates to make much of the comment. I mean, what parent would want to believe it were even a possibility right? That is, until, he actually finds a knife in Jacob’s drawer. However, he never once doubts his son, or at least that’s what he tells himself for the duration of Jacob’s trial. Yet, instead of turning the knife in as possible evidence, Andy reprimands his son and gets rid of it. Then, when Derek’s comment is discovered by investigators, Andy is kicked off the case and Logiudice, who relentlessly insists Jacob is guilty, takes over.

Through this book, I was definitely able to get see high-profile cases from a different light. I think when it comes to crimes like murder, we never really think about the impact the case will have on the people involved. Rather, we just want to know, “who dun it?” But as you will read in this book, trials like this can severely damage the life of people involved, both directly and indirectly. Indeed, Jacob’s family may never be the same again after this. Furthermore, we also want to know the “truth!” Yet, as the book point out, the verdict of a trial is not necessarily “the truth,” it’s just closure. Indeed, “not guilty” does not mean “innocent” and “guilty” does not necessarily mean the defendant was actually guilty.

Janet Malcolm: The Journalist and the Murderer

contributor_janetmalcolmphoto_p233_cropHere’s a quick tip: When life gets too busy and you find yourself too short on time to read a great book, grab one that’s short and sweet!

In The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm explores the issue of ethics in journalism as well as the relationship between a journalist/author and his/her subject. It tells the true story of how author Joe McGinniss pursues the story of a convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald. Essentially, McDonald insists that he is innocent and makes a deal with McGinniss, who wants to write a book about the case. However, McDonald was naively believed that McDonald was on his side, that he too believed the conviction was unjust. He naively trusts an author who already had preconceptions about the case, but nonetheless led McGinniss to believe otherwise so that he could gather information for his new book: Fatal Vision. 

Through this book, I was able to get a glimpse of the type of dilemma journalists face, especially investigative journalists. How do you get the “truth” or the bottom of the story without misleading the subject , at least a little? For instance, if you’re writing a piece on a case of molestation, how do you get the perpetrator and even the victim to talk? Also, it raises the issue of subjectivity in everything we read. Indeed, no matter how “objective” writers try to be, they cannot escape bias.

Film: Flying with You 一起飞

Flying with You is not my first Chinese movie (Wong Kar Wai!), but it is the first Chinese movie I’ve watched since learning Chinese. Starring Korean singer/actress Jang Na-ra and Chinese actor Jimmy Lin, this romantic comedy will not have you rolling on the floor laughing. Still, it’s not bad (不錯); watchable I’d say.

Baby comes from a wealthy family and lived in South Korea for a while, so her Chinese is not “native.” When she returns to China,Baby accidentally catches a robber and becomes good friends with the victim, Lin Yuxin. Yuxin arrived on the same day to look for her boyfriend, whom Baby promises to help find. In the meantime, Yuxin is invited to stay with Baby. That same day, Baby is “kidnapped” by a former solider who is now a flier, Xu Yifan. They end up spending a night in the woods together until they are found by the police who Baby’s boyfriend, Xiao Han, has hired.

Overall, it’s a cute movie. However, I’d say the plot is a little dry. I mean, there is drama, but the drama is played out in an intense way. In fact, the drama is glossed over and focuses more on the romance developing between Baby and Yuxin. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good movie for Chinese learners. Although I couldn’t understand everything, the actors didn’t speak in the usual light-speed way Chinese people in N.Y. seem to speak. So, I was actually able to catch a few words and phrases I’ve learned so far.

 

Julie Otsuka: The Buddha in the Attic

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“Most of us on the boat were accomplished, and were sure we would make good wives. We knew how to cook and sew. We knew how to serve tea and arrange flowers and sit quietly on our flat wide feet for hours, saying absolutely nothing of substance at all. A girl must blend into a room: she must be present without appearing to exist.

The Buddha in the Attic is a short novel based on the true experiences of Japanese-American immigrants in the early 1990s. It begins with a group of group of Japanese picture brides journeying to America on a boat to finally meet the husbands they only knew through letters and photos. They compare photos of their spouses and imagine what their new lives will be like in a foreign country where men held doors for women and it’s always “ladies first.”

However, it turns out that even in America, they will lead invisible lives — both as women and as Japanese immigrants. It turns out they were lied to. Their husbands are 20 years older than the photos led them to believe. Their husbands weren’t accomplished business men in American. It turns out they would still be farmers wives or house maids in a foreign land that didn’t welcome them.

As years go on, the women slowly lose their sense of identity. They stop grooming themselves and live routine emotionless lives as though they were machines. Working in the public for their families and working in the home for their husbands. But whatever the Japanese women do, they remain in the background — quiet, cleanly, and reliable, but always invisible.

When war breaks out, the situation worsens for Japanese Americans. Eventually, the suspicion grows and they are removed from their communities. It is only then do the Americans notice the Japanese among them. It is only when they disappear that they become present.

Overall, this book was interesting to me because it was like all of the Japanese picture brides from the both were speaking in one voice and their experiences melted together into one. It was also beautifully written — quiet and gentle, as though a Japanese person was speaking to me.

Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies

988261_682712241754797_999308452_n The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories involving the lives of Indian American immigrants and their children. Some stories document the struggle immigrants go through as they attempt to adjust to a new society. Some characters want to hold on to their own cultural identity, or at least a peace of it. Others find it difficult to immerse themselves into the American way of life and, therefore, feel like an outsider. Sometimes, even the American-born children of immigrants feel like outsiders, unable to truly identify with either culture. In other cases, American-born children are largely disconnected from their heritage. For example, in the title-story, when Mr. and Mrs. Das visit their home country for the first time, they seem more like American tourists than Indians returning home.

Although none of the stories are action-packed, each one does take a small unexpected turn in the end. Also, the theme of love is evident in each story. For instance, in “A Temporary Matter,” Shobar and Shukumar are both aware of their faltering marriage. While both seek a new beginning, Shobar is alone in hoping for a new beginning together. However, love is not always related to romance. For example, in “When Mr. Pirzada came to dine” and “The Third and Final Continent,” love is more about friendship.

In general, although this book was a good way to pass time in the cardio room, it wasn’t a can’t-put-it-down type of book. Maybe the lack of action had something to do with it because it did seem kind of slow. But overall, I would recommend this book to immigrants and children of immigrants for I think they would definitely be able to relate to many of the experiences relayed in the book.