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
DragonKin ($2.99) , the sequel to Dragons of Wendal ($2.99) by Maria E. Schneider, a light fantasy with some romantic elements. Think, cozy mystery with dragons and you’ll be closer to the mark. This is the story of Drissa who happens to be in hiding and has the bad luck to stumble upon some nefarious goings-on while she is trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
So, Drissa is on the run and hiding but finds someone who needs her help to help someone else…and against her will she gets snared into someone else’s struggle and, well, I can’t give you more or I’ll spoil it. Just know that the story keeps on moving and is full of fun and interesting characters (many of which I’d definitely like to read more about-hint, hint) and has a fast-moving plot that keeps you turning those pages until it the very end.
If you liked Dragons of Wendal you will definitely like this. If you haven’t tried the first book, what the heck are you waiting for? This one is on my five star reads list for 2014.
April is an avid reader. In an alternate reality she is a young dragon just learning to fly. You can find her on Goodreads here.
It has to be a dog. No offense to cat lovers, but if a pet is going to tell Denny Swift’s story, only a dog could do it. The Art of Racing in the Rain ($5.99 Audiobook $6.99) by Garth Stein is a novel told in the dog’s voice.
Enzo starts the story with “Gestures are all I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature.” Throughout the book I visualized his expressions and actions as he tells us about the interloper Eve, Baby Zoe, watching television, the Evil Twins and the ride of his life in the Aston Martin DB5.
Enzo became my personal friend with all the latest on the Swift family. He told their story, not as a gossip, but with his own unique insight. He loved them for who they were, not for what they should have been.
At the beginning Enzo explains that he is old and ready to go on. Much of the story was predictable. I knew what was going to happen to Eve and the situation with Annika was telegraphed from the get-go. But that didn’t diminish the book for me as I wanted to know how Enzo would tell it.
Mr. Stien’s style drew me into the story, almost making me feel as a member of the extended family. I knew enough to form attachments and to dislike the evil people. It was well-paced but there were parts I didn’t understand, such as the zebra incident. Enzo’s explanation late in the story was helpful, but it was still odd.
If you have a dog who is considered a member of the family, this book may scare you if you give much thought to the story your dog could write. My husband and I are pet-free and feel safe – unless the walls start talking.
What are your overall thoughts about the book? Did the dog telling the story work for you? Was the book depressing? Did you like the car racing theme running throughout the book?
In a week or two, we’ll spend time discussing Enzo’s philosophies of life.
I’m not smarter than fifth-grader August Pullman. I certainly have not experienced Auggie’s pain and rejection.
R.J. Palacio’s touching novel Wonder is Auggie’s story, a fifth-grader born with a “facial difference.” As Auggie says:
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
Wanting their son to move toward a more normal life, his parents make the difficult decision to move him from home-schooling to a private school when he begins the fifth grade.
The book is Auggie’s story of the school year – his hurts, disappointments and even a few good experiences. His young voice acutely shares his fears and pain as he tries hard to be normal when he looks abnormal.
Via, Auggie’s older sister, tells her story too. Having lived in the shadow of Auggie’s needs for many years she is spreading her wings and wants to be known as for herself and not just Auggie’s sister.
Told through six voices, this amazing novel vividly portrays tender emotions, the insensitivity of children and adults and the angst of parents who must make tough decisions out of love. I purchased and listened to the well-presented audiobook version. I highly recommend this book and audiobook for all ages.
Bring out the tissues and learn from a fifth-grader when you read this book selling for $7.99. The audiobook is $3.99.
Ms. Palachio has written a short story that is a follow-up to Wonder, The Julian Chapter ($1.99) The boy who bullied Auggie tells his story for treating Auggie like he had the plague. This is a must-read for anyone who has read Wonder.
So many secrets and so much whispering! Odette doesn’t understand why her father had to leave nor why her mother brings strangers into their apartment late at night.
In Odette’s Secrets war has come to France and her family must hide their Jewish faith. Odette must keep secret many things about her family. Her mother insists that Odette tell no one. Conflicted by the new identity that she must take on to protect her life, Odette is saddened by the way her life has changed.
Maryann MacDonald has written a moving historical novel from Odette Meyers’ true childhood in war-torn France. Written in lyrical, free verse, the story reads quickly and clearly tells how war changed the lives of innocent children.
Readers ages 10 and older will learn the tragedies of World War II when they read this historical novel, selling today for only $1.99.
Click here to purchase Odette’s Secrets
The public loves a scandal and when members of Congress are involved, the appeal increases. Compromising Positions takes us to the halls of the Capitol for romance and the age-old struggle for power.
Author Mary Whitney brings together two freshman members of the House of Representatives with opposing political ideologies. Jessica Clark from Arizona, an outspoken liberal with moxie, and Michael Grath, a rising star from a political dynasty in Chicago, are attracted to one another.
It’s a battle of wills as their political views, the sins of the past and even well-meaning chiefs of staff play out in their budding relationship.
The story is told in alternating voices and develops the characters more fully. Occurring over the course of a year, contemporary oft-debated topics are integral to the plot. The press even has a part in the story, giving the book a real Washington feel.
It’s spicy in few places, but anyone who loves a political scandal or a good romance will want to buy Compromising Positions while it is only 99 cents! Highly recommended.
I downloaded this book for free, but that did not influence my evaluation of this book.
I think I have a new favorite humorous mystery series! I thoroughly enjoyed Louisiana Longshot (Free) by Jana DeLeon, the first book in the series. I laughed more than once and was quite intrigued by a heroine who is involved in undercover work and who views her high heels as a weapon.
The second in the series, Lethal Bayou Beauty , is a six dollar book so I hesitated before buying it. But I can tell you, it is worth it! I enjoyed it even more than the first in the series.
Yes, these are silly cozy fun, but they are exactly the type of cozy I like: All the great characters are back, including the Geritol Mafia. They take center stage, but we also get to know a bit more about Walter and his nephew, the possible romantic interest. Fun, witty and dare I admit that I laughed out loud in more than one spot? There’s this scene with a fish where I had to put the book down, laugh and then read the entire section all over again! I think the mystery was a bit stronger in the second installment, but they were both just wonderful. I love it when a series gets better as they go. Zany, crazy fun. Buy Lethal Bayou Beauty for $5.99 today.
I have gone out and purchased book three already, Swamp Sniper ($5.99). These are like chocolate cake.
Maria Schneider is an avid reader, gardener and the author of Soul of the Desert ($4.99), a story about an adopted kid on the run.
Nanna, nanna, nanna!
When Scrabble Kindle Table Edition was offered for only 99 cents last week (now $4.99) I downloaded it in anticipation of a bit of friendly competition between my husband and me.
Tiger was a champion speller in his younger days and he has only gotten better as an adult. On second thought, I probably understated the atmosphere when I said “friendly competition.”
I chose the Pass ‘N’ Play option for the game where 2 – 4 players use the same device, passing it among the participants.
We spelled, strategized and scored the choice squares on the Scrabble board. We bemoaned the letters we were given and still posted words during every turn.
Tiger won three out of the four games. He would have gone undefeated expect for my lucky game with the words TUX, WIZ, and QUARTS – all on triple words scores.
In addition to Pass ‘n’ Play, options include playing with friends via social media, playing a random opponent or playing the computer (I call that Scrabble suicide). You can activate the Teacher – an annoying screen that tells you what word you could have played from your tiles to have scored more points. I disabled it. Who needs that kind of helpful advice?
I strongly recommend that you download the game today and have great fun with a classic.
BTW – NANNA is an acceptable word and used three of the four Ns in my tile pile.