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.
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 Audible.com or promotional prices offered to members.
No 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amber Drake, an avid reader of everything including cereal boxes, reviews for BSC Reviews and tries to keep track of her life and thoughts on her blog, http://www.dragonashes.com/ (Dragon Ashes), provided this review:
The Paths of Shadow by Frank Tuttle: You need to read this book. Why, you ask? Because I give it five stars for doing a bang-up job of keeping me entertained throughout. This is a wizard fantasy but with a cozy mystery-like atmosphere and has magic, ghosts, talking plants, feuding wizards, mysterious towers and just a touch of mayhem. In addition, there are no cliffhangers or unnecessary and/or inappropriate scenes. It is chock full of good reading.
Book description: As the newly appointed mage to the Crown of Tirlin, Meralda Ovis has no choice but to undertake King Yvin’s ill-conceived task. Tirlin’s first female mage, and the youngest person to ever don the robes of office, Meralda is determined to prove once and for all that she deserves the title. The Tower, though, holds ancient secrets all its own. Secrets that will soon spell destruction for all of Tirlin—unless Meralda can unravel a monstrous curse laid by a legendary villain seven centuries before she was born.
An ancient curse. A haunted tower. A clamorous gathering of nobles, mages, and kings from the Five Realms come together in Tirlin for the fifth-year Accords. Meralda finds herself facing far darker foes than any mere shadow of the tower. You can buy this fantasy today for the reduced price of $3.99.
Click here to purchase All The Paths of Shadow
In The Messenger, Siri Mitchell explores the Revolutionary War and brings to life an exciting element of history.
As a Quaker, Hannah Sunderland feels caught between sides. Her father insists the family remain completely neutral, even as British soldiers occupy the city and take over the family’s home. Hannah’s twin brother Robert signs up with the rebels and is taken prisoner. Though her father forbids visiting him, Hannah wants to do something to ease the starvation and deprivation the prisoner are facing.
She encounters Jeremiah Jones, the local tavern owner. Jeremiah lost an arm while serving as in the British Army. Revenge compels him to send covert messages on what he overhears from soldiers visiting his tavern. When he needs to sneak a message into the prison, he develops a plan to secure a pass for Hannah if she delivers the message.
The characters are very well-developed. Hannah was especially intriguing as she tried to come to terms with her faith, her father’s instructions, Jeremiah’s pressure and the questions in her heart. Jeremiah was an unlikely but engaging hero. His injury, and his frustration with it, figured prominently in the story. I was surprised, however, that the story did not move more quickly. For a spy novel, more suspense and danger would have been expected.
Mitchell brings extensive research and a well-written story together to create a compelling read. Currently, this book is selling for
$9.68 freein the Kindle Store, as of May 14.
Click here to purchase The Messenger
I received this book free as part of Bethany House’s review program. It was not required that I give a positive review, but solely to express my own thoughts and opinions of this book,