Category: Book Reviews
Top 4 Reads in 2015 – Inspirational fiction by Tam, another sister 0 comments

The two ladies who bring you this website have many family members who are also avid readers. Several of us send e-mails telling family members of great books we have read. Our sister Tam is a very busy lady with her family, career with a large university medical school and continuing her education. She took time to tell us her top four inspirational reads in 2015.
I chose Beyond All Dreams ($9.99) by Elizabeth Camden because of the cover graphic of the Capital in the background and I knew it would involve politics. A young politician is passionate about representing his state. This lands in him trouble with elder politicians and he meets the young woman who is the keeper of the maps at the Capital Library as a result of his insubordination to the elder politicians.
They are worlds apart in their socio-economic states. She is solid in her faith, he is looking for his. This is a great story about two people who are on different journeys, are passionate about their values, and stick to their values when the heat is on, even at great personal cost. It is historical and reminds of us the journey females have been on over the last 150 years.
After a Fashion ($9.99) by Jen Turano is about a girl who is working in a millinery, barely surviving. She delivers dresses that her boss had made to an unpleasant client. While there she meets a guy in his early thirties who is an entrepreneur. The story is about their attraction to each other.
She sticks to her values of honesty, integrity and loyalty and challenges the young entrepreneur on his values such as his belief that he deserves to be rich and has no responsibility to help the underprivileged.
This is a light read, has some funny parts involving his dog and others involving her roommates. If you want a book to read on your lunch or while you wait at the dentist’s office, this is it.
I picked With Every Breath ($9.99) by Elizbeth Camden because I liked the portrait of the women on the front. This turned out to be a really good read. The book had a story line that was believable and included situations in it we could identify with like studies in school and family that worked to make ends meet.
But more than that there were real life ethical situations from that time era that both of the main characters faced and Ms. Camden does a good job of analyzing these through the characters. It is a book about persistence and working toward a greater good for the man and the woman has to make a decision about letting a tragedy from her early adult life define the rest of her life or not.
Once again, I chose a book because I liked the dress the lady on the cover was wearing. The Colonel’s Lady ($9.99) by Laura Frantz is an historical romance and the author does a good job with her imagery to depict what it may have been like to live through this time period in this region.
The main characters are well developed and faced many ethical situations where they often refer to scripture to guide them. Both of the main characters have life experiences that they draw on and these impact their decisions. Ms. Frantz’ depicted the supporting characters well, showing their ethics and lack of choices they had.
I was surprised with several books I read this year. I picked them superficially and received more than I thought I would.
All books were purchased when they were priced at $4.99 or less.

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Top 4 Reads in 2015 – General fiction picks by Paula 2 comments

I love a great story and set lofty reading goals last year. My 2015 aim was 250 books and I came ever so close – reading or listening to 249 books of length greater than 200 pages. I also read 60 short stories (less than 100 pages) and 77 novellas (approximately 100-199 pages).
In addition to the four favorites below, I enjoyed Tallgrass ($9.99) historical fiction by Sandra Dallas, Zero Day ($9.99) by David Baldacci, A Man Called Ove ($11.99 Audibook $3.99) by Fredrik Backman and more that I will include in future posts.
These are my top 4 general fiction reads in 2015:
In the last few years I have read more than a dozen WWII memoirs and novels. All the Light We Cannot See ($13.99 Audiobook $12.99), a novel by Anthony Doerr, is one of the best. The novel highlights two innocent children who are drawn into the war, separated from those they love. Profoundly moving, the characters become real through Doerr’s prose.
Many know the stories of the important players during this period of the war. This fictional account brings attention to perhaps the thousands of stories of the ordinary people, fighting for survival during a tumultuous time.
My usual fare in the historical fiction genre is more current history. I widened my library with The Hangman’s Daughter ($4.99 Audiobook $1.99), the first book in a series set in 1660 Germany. Gripping and fast moving, Oliver Pötzsch has written a book with intrigue, suspense, romance and more. I’ve purchase the next three books in the series and will buy the fifth book as soon as Amazon cuts the price.
Robert Crais has become a favorite author and the novels I’ve read so far have included police corruption. In The Two Minute Rule ($2.99 Audiobook $3.99) a felon just released from prison wants to have a relationship with his police-officer son, only to learn he has been murdered. Desperate to learn why and how, the felon begins his own investigation to find who is responsible. Ultimately, the truth brings redemption. Highly recommend both the book and audiobook.
Greg Kincaid has written several heartwarming books about the McCray family in rural Kansas and the role that dogs play in their family. A Christmas Home ($9.99) is a sequel to A Dog Named Christmas ($9.99) but could be read as a stand-alone novel. If you enjoy a family-oriented holiday read, I recommend these two.
I purchased all of these books when they were priced at $4.99 or less. Audiobooks were purchased through credits as a member of or promotional prices offered to members.

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Housekeeping: No one should be surprised; Paula’s Top 4 non-fiction reads and Cheap Reads 12 comments

broom.panNo one should be surprised
The publishers demanded that they set e-book prices. Amazon tried to convince them that lower prices sell more books. The contracts were signed and the publishers won the pricing contest.
Now at least three of the mainstream publishing houses, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, reported declining e-book sales last fall. Surprise!
Industry researcher Codex Group LLC. CEO Peter Hildick-Smith said:

Since book buyers expect the price of a Kindle e-book to be well under $9, once you get to over $10 consumers start to say, ‘Let me think about that.’

My thoughts on publisher pricing:
Many readers will not pay more than $7.99, let alone $9.99, $14.99 or more for a Kindle book. Current best-selling books are well above my price point:
Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham: $12.99
Cross Justice by James Patterson: $14.99
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: $13.99
For the last few months, each week major publishers have cut the prices on a dozen or so books to between 99 cents and $2.99, keeping the prices down for 7-10 days. Out of the dozen books, 2-3 usually have low reader reviews (3 stars or less). Another 3-4 will have a low number of reviews. Half of those marked down will be written by middle tier authors. If it is a good week, one book will be a great book by a well-known author at a great price.
Naturally customers will buy more books when the price is lower. They will also read more books. One of the greatest features of the Kindle is that I always have a dozen or more great books with me. I can finish one and start another one within a minute or two.
My recommendation to publishers: Price your best-selling, just-released titles by great authors at a high price. Those who want those books strongly enough will pay your price. For those of us who won’t pay that much for any book, choose a couple of well-written novels that were popular within the last 2-3 years, price them at $2.99 or less for a couple of weeks. We’ll buy enough of those books to put them back on Amazon’s best-selling list.
No one is offended by a 99 cent or $1.99 bargain of a great book either. Reward us for our loyalty once in a while.
Paula’s Top 4 Non-fiction reads from 2015
I’m not naturally drawn to non-fiction books, but I try to read one each month. In 2015, I enjoyed Tim Conway’s very entertaining memoir What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life ($11.99). I appreciated Ben Carson’s life story and perspective of the possibilities of this country in his book America the Beautiful ($8.99). Once again I marveled at the determination and courage of Louis Zamperini in his book Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In ($10.99).
In addition to those great books, the four below are my top non-fiction reads in 2015.
Who doesn’t love when an underdog beats overwhleming odds to win it all? In The Eighty-Dollar Champion ($11.99) by Elizabeth Letts, Snowball becomes a champion jumper when rescued from the slaughterhouse by Harry de Leyer, a Dutch immigrant who farmed on Long Island. In the 1950s, the duo won the first prize in competition in Madison Square Garden. The book chronicles their bumpy road to success.
If you’ve read Bob Greene as a columnist or book author, you know he writes in vignette style with a journalist’s eye for who, what, when and how. His book Duty ($9.99) is a rare look into the later lives of the men who flew the Enola Gay plane over Hiroshima, Japan, to bring about the end to WWII in the Pacific Theater. The story is intertwined with Green’s personal struggle with the waning days of his father’s life.
Admittedly, I read this book over a six-month period, but Secret Heroes: Everyday Americans Who Shaped Our World ($11.14) by Paul Martin was worth the time. The book is chockfull of back stories to many well-known events, places, or people in history. Anyone who loves history or wants to be the Cliff Claven of little known stories will enjoy these 30 chapters.
I listened to the audiobook version of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) ($9.99) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. What an insightful book! The blurb states that “unconsciously, we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.” Through many examples, the authors show how lying and/or being led to lie are a part of our culture. Well-written, the book is fast-paced and you may recognize the behavior of others and perhaps yourself in its pages.
The books in this posts were purchased when priced at $4.99 or less.
Cheap Reads
Enjoy these three non-fiction reads for only $1.99 today. Maybe one will be your favorite read of 2016.
To Explain the World ($1.99 Audiobook $3.99) A masterful commentary on the history of science from the Greeks to modern times, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg—a thought-provoking and important book by one of the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals of our time.
The Language of Baklava ($1.99) Diana Abu-Jaber’s vibrant, humorous memoir weaves together stories of being raised by a food-obsessed Jordanian father with tales of Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts and goat stew feasts under Bedouin tents in the desert.
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself ($1.99 Audiobook $3.99) In her debut memoir, actress and comedian Jen Kirkman delves into her off-camera life with the same snarky sensitivity and oddball humor she brings to her sold-out standup shows and the Chelsea Latelyroundtable, where she is a writer and regular performer.

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2015 Top Four – Susan’s picks in Christian Fiction 0 comments

As an avid reader of Christian fiction, I (Susan) discovered some wonderful reads in 2015.
My top pick for the year was Burning Sky ($9.99). This novel is set in the New York frontier following the Revolutionary War – an unusual setting for a fresh story. Willa had been abducted and raised by Indians. After the war, she returns to her parents’ abandoned farm and has to forge a new life when she feels like fits in neither world.
I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Camden’s portrayals of working women in history and With Every Breath ($9.99) is one of her best. The heroine is a statistician who works for a doctor researching tuberculosis. The history is fascinating and the romance is delightful.
A modern day princess story that is purely charming! Princess Ever After ($5.99) is the story of a Florida car mechanic who learns she is the long-awaited princess of a tiny European duchy. It’s somehow makes sense in this heartwarming romance.
And now for something completely different, The Opposite of Art. I had been watching this book for over a year and snatched it this summer when the price fell. (Sorry – it’s back up to $15.99.) A famous artist, presumed dead, goes on a spiritual quest around the world. It’s a different type of story, but one that makes you think.
We will be watching these books for when the publishers offer them again at great prices. We’ll feature them on the site.

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Book Review: Hanover Falls series by Deborah Raney – Inspirational romantic suspense 0 comments

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.

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Book Review: The Martian by Andy Wier – $5.99 2 comments

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.

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A Kingdom of Dreams – Westmoreland Saga #1 by Judith McNaught – $3.99 0 comments

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

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Top Four in 2014 – Inspirational fiction 0 comments

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.

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Top 4: Christian Non-Fiction Reads for 2014 0 comments

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.

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Housekeeping: Reading goals, Meeting goals and Cheap reads 4 comments

broom.panReading Challenge
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 Sensibility99 cents
A popular author’s first book – John Grisham’s A Time to Kill$2.99

And Goal!
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.

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