The Hanover Falls series by Deborah Raney is a wonderful trilogy that I enjoyed getting lost in for several days. It deftly combines suspense, romance and faith in a realistic small town setting and interconnected relationships.
The first book, Almost Forever, starts with a fire at a homeless shelter in which several fire fighters lose their lives. At first I thought the possible romance between a man and woman who both lost spouses in the fire was unrealistic, but the characters are so well developed I began to feel along with them.
The second book in the series following a young firefighter who was injured and lost his father in the blaze was my favorite. (Interesting that it is also priced cheaper than the others.) The final book has some surprising twists that finally solve the mystery of the fire.
Each of these stories can be read alone, but I highly recommend reading them as a series, especially at this price. To remember the order, notice that the last word of the previous title is the first word in the next: Almost Forever, Forever After and After All.
Almost Forever ($3.99 Audiobook $3.99) Unearthing a lost memory may cause her to lose everything she holds dear… but could it also set her free?
Forever After ($2.99 Audiobook $3.99) A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?
After All ($3.99 Audiobook $3.99) Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband, David, and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal. But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave.
Taking one giant leap outside my comfort zone, I just finished The Martian ($5.99 Audiobook $2.99) by Andy Wier.
Unlucky Mark Watney: His crew left him for dead on Mars when forced to leave during a dust storm.
Lucky Mark Watney: He wasn’t dead.
Unlucky Mark Watney: He has no way to communicate with Earth and too few supplies to survive until the next crew arrives.
Lucky Mark Watney: He’s a resourceful guy.
Unlucky Mark Watney: Mars is an unforgiving planet.
Lucky Mark Watney: His dogged determination is up to the job of overcoming the adversity.
Entertaining and surprisingly light-hearted, Weir has made a sci-fi novel everyone can enjoy. At times the techy explanations were boring, but I pretended it was 7th-grade science class and tuned it out until it was over.
One negative was occasional strong curse words. Apparently being stranded on Mars is frustrating and these words happen.
I recommend The Martian for teen and adults, especially if you want to step outside your usual picks.
Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as “The Wolf,” his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance.
Boldly she challenges his will…until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. And suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering web…a seductive, dangerous trap of pride, passion, loyalty, and overwhelming love.
In this beloved classic by Judith McNaught, two defiant hearts clash in a furious battle of wills — in a glorious age of chivalry. Buy this romance today for $3.99.
Click here to purchase A Kingdom of Dreams
Fisher of Men ($9.99) and Casting the Net ($9.99) Published by Lion Fiction of England, these first two books in the Dunbridge Chronicles by Pam Rhodes are the continuing story of Neil Fisher, a seminary graduate beginning his ministry in the church at Dunbridge. Far from heavenly sunshine and showers of blessings, the novels portray the humanness of serving God in a diverse congregation while becoming a part of the community.
When the price drops on the third book in the series, If You Follow Me ($9.99), I’ll buy it.
Lisa Wingate has penned a wonderful starting-over tale in Larkspur Cove ($4.99). Told in two voices, the novel features crises of faith, heart-pounding suspense and a budding romance. It’s my favorite book in the Moses Lake series. The audiobook is a great listen, too.
Set in West Virginia in the 1950’s, Miracle in a Dry Season ($9.99) by Sarah Loudin Thomas follows the town of Wise during a drought. God works miracles by providing for the community and through His works of forgiveness. It’s a rocky road along the way for all the characters. Ms. Thomas debut novel is a great read.
A novelization of the popular movie, October Baby ($7.99) by Eric Wilson is a compelling story of a young woman seeking answers when her world is turned wrong-side-out by the news that she is an abortion survivor. An excellent read for teens and adults.
All books were purchased by me when priced less than $5 each.
Losers Like Us ($6.15) My favorite non-fiction book of the year – fresh, honest and funny. Daniel Hochhalter shares openly about his own life, in particular the moment when he failed at his life-long pursuit for a PhD. That humiliation drove him to the scriptures. In Losers Like Us, Hochhalter takes a chapter-by-chapter look at each of the 12 disciples. With entertaining writing rich with both detail and humor, he examines each man’s particular traits and how we can relate to them.
I enjoyed this book first of all for how I was able to learn about the 12 disciples as individuals and identify with them as never before. Most of all, I appreciated Hochhalter’s transparency and found inspiration.
The Insanity of God ($2.99) An incredibly powerful look at how God is at work around the world, told through a very personal lens of a missionary who has walked through the darkest parts of the earth. Nik Ripken (not his real name) shares about trying to serve in Somalia, then the second half of the book covers persecuted Christians. This book changed the way I listen to the news and perceive my own struggles. It’s just $2.99.
Victim of Grace ($7.99) Perspective changes everything. Popular author Robin Jones Gunn shares insights from the Bible and her own testimony in this light, uplifting book that shows circumstances are not always what they seem.
Believing God ($11.99) I’ve completed several Beth Moore Bible studies, but had never read one of her books straight through until this one. Believing God examines the life of Joshua and with Moore’s wit and thorough research is a practical, inspiring book.
Personally, reading is usually more of a pleasure than a challenge, but it seems there are some people who only enjoy something if they can make it work. And some of these people have created a reading challenge for 2015.
This list challenges readers to tackle 50 different types of books this year.
Some of the challenges are a little strange – such as “a book with antonyms in the title.” Other suggestions are a fun way to add a little variety to your reading diet – a book written by someone under 30, a book of short stories.
Here are some other challenges and some cheap reads to help you meet them:
Book originally written in a foreign language: Don Quixote – $1.99
A book more than 100 years old – Sense and Sensibility – 99 cents
A popular author’s first book – John Grisham’s A Time to Kill – $2.99
Speaking of meeting a challenge, I (Susan) achieved my Goodreads goal for 2014 by finishing 65 books. Technicallly, I was an overachiever because I read 66. I also counted a collection of three novellas as three separate books. Is that legal? I’m never quite sure how to do that.
One of the books I really enjoyed while in the crunch was My Heart Remembers, selling now for $3.99.
Description: Orphaned in a tenement fire, three Irish-immigrant children are sent to Missouri to be adopted. Despite eight-year-old Maelle’s desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. Yet Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for her brother and sister…and that they will be together one day in the future.
Seventeen years later, Maelle is still searching. But the years have washed away her hope… and her memories. What are Mattie and Molly doing now? Where has life taken them? Will she ever see her brother and sister again? Inspirational fiction.
Cheap Reads – Contemporary women’s fiction for only 99 cents each
NOTE: HarperCollins lowered prices yesterday and raised most back overnight. These prices may not hold for long.
Bed Rest (99 cents) The story of a busy career woman who finds her pregnancy a breeze — until she’s ordered off her feet for complete and total bed rest.
This Is How It Happened (99 cents) He lied, he cheated. He destroyed her life. How difficult could killing him be?
Alphabet Weekends (99 cents) Natalie and Tom have been best friends forever, but Tom wants them to be much more.
Susan’s Non-Fiction Picks of 2014
This year, I set a new goal: To read one non-fiction book every month. So far, I’ve completed 15 non-fiction titles, so I’m calling it a success, even though technically I didn’t finish a non-fiction book in June. For the other months of this year, it has been a worthwhile experiment with some great finds along the way.
Here are my top non-fiction picks from this year.
The Secret Life of Pronouns ($9.99) Fascinating! A social psychologist and language expert shows how analysis has found that the most important words we use are the smallest ones. It’s interesting material, told in an entertaining way that changed the way I (the most common word in the English language, BTW) look at and listen to words.
Lincoln’s Battle With God ($9.48) A thoroughly researched look at Abraham Lincoln’s journey from growing up in a strict religious household, to rejecting all religion as a young intellectual, then coming to grips with tragic loss and seeking God’s direction for the nation. Fresh, honest insight on a subject that never seems to get old.
In Broad Daylight This true crime classic tells about a small Missouri town being terrorized by a bully, the townspeople desperate action and the silence that has persisted for now 30 years. It’s just $3.99.
Lost in Shangri-La ($8.76) This non-fiction tale of a World War II rescue fell into my path because I thought it was a novel when I started out. Truth, as usual, turned out to be much more interesting than fiction. I was on the edge of my seat through this well-told story. Truly amazing.
No Easy Day ($7.99) I’m a little late to the party with this 2012 first-hand account of the Navy Seals capture of Bin Laden. Time has made the story no less intense and it is a gripping story.
Reading Goal Poll
Setting goals of what books or genre to read in the year is a fun way to expand your reading experience, maybe even try a category you don’t normally read. Susan set a goal of one non-fiction book a month. I set a goal of listening to six classics on audiobook. Take the goal poll below about your reading goal for 2014:
Cheap Reads – A bundle of romantic suspense novels for $2.99
Get all three romantic suspense novels in Lena Diaz’s Deadly Games Thrillers series in one e-book, including: He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, Simon Says Die, and Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead. This bundle is selling for $2.99 today.
He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not—Four years ago, Amanda Stockton was forced to play a serial killer’s twisted game of chance. Since then, she has retreated from the world. But when another woman is found dead, clutching a long-stemmed red rose, Amanda knows she can hide no longer.
Simon Says Die—Madison McKinley knows someone is stalking her. The police tell her she’s imagining things, and they’re too busy trying to find the “Simon Says” killer to investigate. Not even the return of FBI Special Agent Pierce Buchanan into her life can calm her fears.
Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead—One by one the letters arrive at the FBI office in Savannah, Georgia. Inside, each bears a name—a victim of a twisted crime—and the singsong phrase Ashes, ashes, they all fall dead. Special Agent Tessa James becomes obsessed with finding the killer whose victims are crying out to her for justice.
Click here to purchase Deadly Games Thrillers
If you’re looking for a devotional for Advent season, The Experience of Christmas is an excellent choice.
The devotions are based on Scripture and interspersed with accounts from history and contemporary stories to give fresh perspective. I especially like how it explains how the traditions of Christmas point to Christ. Children need this lesson for the first time and I certainly need some refreshers in this busy season.
The readings for each day are easy enough for kids to understand, while also giving Christmas carols to sing, discussion questions they can comprehend, and activities that relate to each message.
It is available for $4.99 on Kindle.
Click here to purchase The Experience of Christmas
The Life List is a charming novel recommended to me by a friend.
With a little bit of chick lit tone, but sincere and lovable characters, it broke out of the mold with a fresh story.
Brett appears to be the young career woman who has it all. The book opens with her grieving her mother’s death. She expects to be named CEO of her mother’s cosmetic corporation. But the will has an unusual
stipulation. Brett’s mother had saved her seventh grade list of dreams – the life list – and instructs Brett to complete all the unfinished tasks.
The adolescent dreams – like owning a horse – seem ridiculous to Brett. And others, like having a good relationship with her late father, seem impossible. As she achieves each one, her mom’s lawyer reads a note that her mother had written before her death. In the process, Brett discovers not only that her mom knew her better than she knew herself, but that her seventh-grade self also had some wonderful dreams.
The Life List had terrific character development and the plot unfolded nice and slowly, but with enough unpredictable developments to keep me guessing.
The book was on sale this summer and is now back up to full price at $9.02. Audiobook: $3.99.
Click here to purchase The Life List
Kindle Touch Security Hole
If you have a Kindle Touch, you need to read this article.
Lynn alerted us to a news item on Tuesday regarding a security issue which could mean trouble for Kindle Touch owners. A German company heise (sic) Security found that there is a NPAPI plug-in that can execute administrative privileges on your Touch if you access certain webpages.
What’s that mean to the average Touch user? If you go to one of these webpages via your Kindle, a hacker could erase everything on your Kindle or access your Amazon account information.
Not wanting to waste the security hole, a browser-based hacking program has become available that will allow you to install unauthorized software. So if there is a rogue Sudoku game you have to have on your Touch. . . .you can now do it.
Until the announcement this week very few people knew about the security issue so widespread hacking does not appear to be a problem. Amazon has been working on a solution known as a patch, but don’t hold your breath. Amazon has known about problem for three months.
Check your firmware version on your Touch. If you have version 5.1.0 you might want to refrain from web browsing just to be safe. There’s no solution for you to download to fix this problem. If you just purchased a Touch, your device may have version 5.1.1 which does not have the security flaw.
Short and Sassy Reviews
Over the last few months I have read many short pieces and will be sharing short and sassy reviews in the weeks to come. Hope you can find a few short reads to enjoy this summer.
Upstaged by Republicans (99 cents) by Bob Olson: In this very short story set in 1938, the author’s parents hosted the local Republican party members for an Independence Day picnic. The author and his friends created a play for the evening’s entertainment. Before the curtain rises, the young acting troupe is upstaged by the Republicans. An amusing, very short story to read this election year.
You Again ($1.99) by Carolyn Scott: A dynamite young woman from a notorious crime family and a by-the-book cop are reunited when the young woman breaks into a house and the cop comes calling following the crime. Lily is trying to make up for the sins of her father; Luke wants to make up for pushing Lily out of his life two years earlier.
This novella is well-written, moves at a good pace and is on the spicy side. Set in Melbourne, Australia, this contemporary romance is worth the money. There was one small typo – a critical word was left out of the next to the last paragraph. OOPS! Download includes an excerpt from Surrender ($2.99) by C.J. Archer.
The Peach Pies (free) by Erik Martin: An amusing story that may or may not have its genesis in an actual event or person. If you have ever baked late into the night to make the perfect item for the bake sale, you will identify with the mother in this story. She was determined to bake perfect peach pies to upstage the woman who always contributes the “must buy” item. The story is a bit predictable, but the woman has a genius solution to her dilemma. I would have stopped the story right there, but the bake sale was at a parochial school so confession was probably necessary.
If you have ever been the mother who longs to be the perfect baker, you must read this story. You will find the perfect solution when you have a peach pie-type dilemma.