Archives for: February 2012
Housekeeping: Three years with my Kindle 36 comments

Three years ago this month my Kindle was delivered to our door. I had learned of the innovative e-book reader from a co-worker whose brother had a beta version at Sprint, the wireless provider for the first two generations of Kindle.
I’m a risk-averse, prudent person, usually the last to adapt to technology. Yet I was drawn to this device. As the cost was $359 plus a cover and a reading light, I discussed the purchase with my husband Tiger. He encouraged me to place the pre-order. No doubt he was thinking of the ever-growing inventory of books taking over the guest room.
When the Kindle arrived I quickly learned the basics and purchased a couple of books. I bookmarked the Kindle Store on my laptop. The label on the bookmark stated there are over 230,000 books. Today a bookmark label indicates more than one million books.
In the early months I alternated between reading a Kindle book and a paperback, probably out of guilt over those unread books I already owned. I’ve gotten over that guilt.
  
Then the worst happened.
My Kindle didn’t break. I did.
I shattered my wrist into pieces so small they could not be pinned. From fingertips to shoulder, my arm was immobilized to allow the bones to begin knitting together. My Kindle became my new best friend. For six weeks I sat on the loveseat, hugged my battered wing close and read book after book with a click of the button with my good hand.
In my painkiller-induced haze, I paid $9.99 for a book that was downright awful. I vowed I would never spend $9.99 again for a bad book. That was the seed that became DailyCheapReads.
  
I began to realize the potential of the Kindle as mine went everywhere with me. My orthopedic surgeon was glad to find a gift for his wife; my occupational therapist was interested for his patients who had diminished use of an arm; and a physical therapist asked questions as his wife had vision limitations.
When Tiger was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, I perused the Kindle Store for information. I shopped in privacy, crying with abandon. Within 10 minutes of logging in, I had the books on my Kindle and, most importantly, learned that we could beat the illness.
Games for the Kindle were introduced and the novelty continued. As with almost all electronic devices, the price came down and more people became Kindlers. I purchased a Kindle DX for Tiger and we work crossword puzzles together on its larger screen. I have the original version of Every Word on my Kindle and I’m not going to update it.
  
The Kindle has become a part of everyday life. I follow two blogs by downloading the content each evening. Tiger reads non-fiction more and watches television less. My brother who doesn’t adapt to anything electronic reads from his Kindle every night. A cousin with Parkinson’s places her Kindle on a stand, activates text-to-speech with the volume low and the Kindle turn the pages as she reads.
A sister who was a loyal library user hasn’t been there in months as she is reading from my extensive archive. Another sister no longer waits until she visits to get a fresh box of books that I’m ready to pass along. She opens the archive on her Kindle and chooses a book. A niece just recently graduated from college has the small 6” Kindle and is glad to be back reading for pleasure. My father reads from his Kindle when his eyes tire from reading print books.
With the Kindle Fire we watch movies through our Prime membership; compete against each other in word games; and I browse through the book covers on the carousel.
  
Three years ago I had no idea we would integrate the amazing Kindle so completely into our lives. I foolishly underestimated the electronic gizmo that arrived that cold February day. Shame on me.
By the way, to this day I haven’t finished the first book I downloaded. But with more than a million books available to read, why bother?
 
What’s your Kindle story? We welcome you to tell us by commenting on this post. Let’s take a poll to see how long we have been Kindling.

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Book Review by Maria Schneider – Silenced by the Yams – A cozy mystery – 99 cents 0 comments

If you’ve ever read The Spellman Files you know how zany things can get when a dysfunctional family intrudes in a murder investigation. Well, the Spellmans have nothing on Barbara Marr. She’s a one-lady adventure (read: disaster waiting to happen) all by herself.
In this third Barbara Marr book, Barb is out to save an old friend from the slammer. There’s been a murder and Frankie, the ex-mafia man, is the assumed killer. This is a cozy read, with a full cast of endearing characters: Colt, Howard, the three girls, and Barbara’s mom. Add in Howard’s mom, a bird, a dog and enough criminal characters to provide mad confusion and your head will spin as you follow the improbable trail of clues to the end. The pace is quick and funny and as with the best cozies, it’s a chance to spend time with characters you’ve been waiting to see again.
Silenced by the Yams is selling for only 99 cents through the month of February. Take the Monkeys and Run (99 cents) and Citizen Insane ($2.99) are the first two books in the series. You can buy all three books for a total of $4.97.
 
Maria Schneider is the author of Catch an Honest Thief (99 cents for very limited time). She hunts high and low for good books to read and leaves no page unturned.

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Housekeeping: Kindle News Round-Up; Cheap Reads from the Jr. Edition 0 comments

Kindle in the News Round-Up
Several news articles have been published recently about the Kindle and Amazon. I will touch on the highlights and link you to the articles if you want to read more.
 
File this under Don’t Make Us Come Over There: Two weeks ago we told you about an article announcing that Barnes & Noble, Borders, and independent book sellers were not going to carry Amazon-published print books in their stores. GigaOM published an article just a few days later about a rumor that Amazon is considering opening a boutique-style retail store in Seattle. If the store is successful and Amazon takes the concept nationwide, B&N, Borders and independents may wish they had a re-do on the idea of not carrying those Amazon-published books.
 
File this under Irony, Just Irony: CNET reports that Amazon is preparing to release a 9-inch Kindle Fire in 2012. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is testing a smaller screen option for the iPad.
 
File this under Survey Says: In a recent survey of Kindle Fire owners by Changewave, the results were predictable. Fire owners liked the price, the color screen, and the ease of use. The improvements that the Fire owners surveyed want are the same ones you want: volume button, camera, better battery life, and 3G/4G connectivity. Admit it: We want a Fire that is just like our smart phones only with a bigger screen and no contract. And keep the price at $199, too, please.
 
File this under Lights, Camera, Action: GigaOM is reporting that Amazon is preparing to release original video programming. Comedies and children’s programming will be produced first. Original and perhaps exclusive content will add to the appeal of buying an Amazon viewing device.
 
Cheap Reads on DCR Jr. Edition
Alana sent a note about a book she found in the Kindle Store that hadn’t been posted on our site. The young adult fantasy by Sherrilyn Kenyon had been posted on our Jr. Edition. We post great, cheap reads every day for children and teens. If you enjoy young adult fiction, subscribe to the e-mail for a daily list of the postings.
Here are just a few of the great cheap reads we recently featured:
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick ($2.99) by Sherrilyn Kenyon: At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.
 
 
Jane ($2.99) by April Lindner: An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.
But there’s a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane’s much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past.
 
The Borrowers ($1.59) by Mary Norton: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty Clock’s huge adventures have been thrilling children young and old for fifty years–and their appeal is as strong as ever in these handsome new paperback packages. While the original beloved interior illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush have been retained, Marla Frazee’s striking cover illustrations capture these little people with a larger-than-life appeal.
 
 
Laramie Conquers the Last Frontier (99 cents) by Deborah Dee Harper: The sixth and final installment in the series following Laramie Wyoming and his friends across the United States and Canada was just released. Wholesome, humorous, and action-paced, these books are written for grades 3 – 5 but will appeal to younger children if parents read to them. Adults also enjoy the fun reads. Click here to see the list of all six books in the series, each selling for 99 cents.

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A Valentine’s Day edition of Housekeeping – Romance is in the air 4 comments

Isn’t it romantic?
On this day of all things romantic, we are sharing a few statistics about romance novel readers. In a 2011 survey commissioned by the Romance Writers of America, research found that 9% of all romance books are purchased by men.
Or, stated another way, women buy 91% of the romance books purchased.
The purchaser’s age is most likely between 30 and 54. Unless the women who took this survey fibbed about their age, then add five years to the top age.
Southerners have the most romance novels, buying 38% of all romances. The Midwest buys 26%; the West buys 19%; and the Northeast buys only 17% of all romances. A 2003 survey found the Northeast buying 16% of all romances so they are improving.
A press release from Amazon last week proved that the South is indeed the home of romantics. From sales data of romance novels, relationship books, and other romantic items, the most romantic city in the United States is Knoxville, Tennessee. Three of the top 20 romantic cities were in Tennessee while five cities were in Florida.
Romance book buyers buy often – 50% buy a new romance book at least once of month. E-book romances are popular choices as more romance novels are purchased as e-books than any other genre. Twenty-nine percent of all e-books sold are romances.
In 2003 the hottest sub-genre category of romance was chick lit. In 2011, the hottest sub-genre is romantic suspense, followed by contemporary romance and historical romance. I think the increase in the number of men buying romance novels is fueling the rise in romantic suspense sales.
 
On a somewhat related note, after last Thursday’s Housekeeping post several have asked for the list of romances that I didn’t finish. I’m compiling the list of both the unfinished and finished and hope to publish the list and my reviews within a couple of weeks.
We didn’t do a survey, but we know that the readers who visit DailyCheapReads are the sweetest readers in all the world. We ♥ you! We also appreciate each one of you and hope that you will be with someone you love today.
 
I haven’t read the three romances below, but other readers have given the books high ratings. Each romance is only 99 cents, a sweet price.
 

Truths and Roses (99 cents) First love. Second chances. Secrets with the power to change lives. When Will Kincaid’s professional football career comes to an abrupt end in a single night, he’s left to figure out what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. He heads home to the small Virginia town where he grew up and crosses paths with Hannah Jacobs, the only girl in high school who had ever rejected him.
Much Ado About Marshals (99 cents) Daisy Gardner wants to be a detective just like dime novel heroine Honey Beaulieu. To her delight, her sister shot a bank robber and he got away, so now she even has a crime to solve. But her parents insist she marry a man whose farm is miles from town. She can’t solve crimes stuck out there. What better solution than to marry the new marshal!
A Proper Companion (99 cents) Robert, Lord Bradleigh, is a rakish earl with a recently arranged betrothal to a lovely young girl he barely knows. Emily Townsend is an impoverished spinster employed as a companion to his grandmother, the formidable dowager countess. Robert agrees to help his grandmother find a husband for the beautiful Emily, but how is he to bear the thought of her in another man’s arms?

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Housekeeping – Review of Books I Don’t Finish and Paula’s Top 4 for 2011 22 comments

Should I write reviews on books I do not finish?
I read many books I would not recommend. A more accurate statement would be that I read portions of many books. Time is too valuable to continue reading a book that isn’t well-written, has no plot or point, lacks vibrant characters, has offensive material that wasn’t made known in the description, or is so full of grammatical errors that reading is a struggle.
Should I write a customer review to let others know my opinion? My first thought is that I’ve already wasted enough time trying to read the book, spending time on a review is just more time wasted. That’s not helping the community of readers, though.
I read many customer reviews of books in the Kindle Store. Amazon was groundbreaking in allowing and encouraging customers to post reviews. Eager readers quickly took to the keyboards to give their thoughts and ratings. The community flourished and readers enjoyed opinions from non-professionals who were down-to-earth in their reviews. Would a professional reviewer say, “It was an okay beach read, but I would never pay more than $5 for it.”?
 
For the customer review process to succeed, the participants must remain honest. With the Kindle and the boom of independent publishing authors found that, if they could game the system, they would sell more books. If 20 of their friends posted 5-star reviews, their book would appear popular and well-written. If someone wanted to blackball an author, 20 friends could pan their book. The review community is poorer by both actions.
Some reviewers do not remain on task. Political books are given 1 star reviews by those who have a negative opinion of the subject or person, but provide no evidence of reading the book. One romance reviewer gave a book a 1 star review because the book contained sexual content and he was reading to find books for a Christian audience. The book did not state that it was written for his audience nor did it claim to be free of sexual content. I don’t believe his review was valid.
 
I read many children’s books for our junior site. Grammar and punctuation errors appear in some independently published books. How will our children learn basic language skills if their reading material is riddled with errors?
If I read a book that creates a strong opinion, positive or negative, I believe a review should be written. The review should be factual and tactful, but clear. If a book has formatting, grammatical, and/or plot inconsistencies, I should let others know. If the book has content that is not mentioned in the description, I should be honest about it. Graphic violence, sex, and language can be offensive to readers.
 
I have much more to say on this subject, but I need to go on-line and post reviews for about 20 romance novels I could not read to the end. The reviews will basically be the same:

I did not finish this book because the characters could only think about sex from the moment their eyes first met; they had no meaningful conversation; the plot was thin as it revolved around their constant lust and acting on that lust; and to label this book a romance is a misuse of the word.

 
Perhaps I could say it more tactfully:

I did not finish this book. The story lacked romantic tension between the hero and heroine. If they were a real couple, the relationship would last six months at most because the only thing holding them together is lust.

I’m making a commitment to read non-fiction this year.
What are your thoughts about reviewing books that didn’t meet your expectations?
 
Paula’s Top 4 for 2011
I did read a few books to the last screen. I purchased all of the Georgette Heyer novels when they were offered for $1.99 each last summer and I hope to read more of her gentle writing in 2012. Read my previously posted reviews of The Unfinished Clue and The Convenient Marriage. Unless otherwise stated, books reviewed on this site are purchased.
 
Between The Lines ($4.99) This well-written historical romantic suspense novel is very different from the typical mail-order bride plot. Kathy Otten has written a charming tale of two people brought together under unusual circumstances and how love blossomed between them in spite of family interference. Meg Grayson is a naive young lady and her over-protective brothers have done everything in their power to keep her that way. Brendan Kelly is a man with a checkered past who would never have won the heart of a woman like Meg. She’s stubborn; he’s smitten; and there’s trouble brewing all around them.
 

Deep in the Valley ($3.59) This first book in Robyn Carr’s Grace Valley Trilogy introduces June Hudson, a single physician returned to her home town in rural northern California to practice medicine with her father. This series was written before Ms. Carr’s well-known Virgin River series and is a bit dated with a lack of technology. The novels are more about rural health care and small town life than romance. Dr. Hudson’s love interest is a minor plot. Just Over the Mountain and Down by the River are available for $4.72 each.
 
World’s Shortest Stories of Love and Death ($5.23) Edited by Steve Moss, this book introduces the 55-word story and I fell in love with the novelty of such a compact but complete story. Written by well-known and unknown authors, the book has stories of humor, mystery, romance, horror, suspense, and history – all in one book. By the way, this is a 55-word review.
 
Last Known Position ($3.99) I wrote a review of this book for our Veterans Day post. I consider this book by W. L. Heath one of the best I read in 2011. The intensity of the situation that these men faced daily was vividly written. The book provided a now-favorite expression to describe someone whom you admire and respect: I’d be safer in his socks than mine.

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Top Four Inspirational Reads for 2011 by Susan 0 comments

This is Susan and I read a bunch of Christian fiction in 2011. Here are four of my favorites from the past year, which I downloaded when offered free or received from publishers.
 
Sixteen Brides, as you can imagine, has quite a cast of characters but they each had such distinct traits, it was easy to keep them straight. This is a humorous story with a bit of romance and a strong sense of sisterhood and surviving on the Nebraska prairie. It was delightful to read and is priced at $8.99. Book Description: Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising “prime homesteads” in a “booming community.” Unbeknownst to them, the speculator’s true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!
 

O Little Town was written by Don Reid, lead singer of the Statler Brothers and is loosely based on their hometown in Virginia. The small-town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone’s business and Christmas is in the air made it feel like visiting home. The book is available for $9.99.
A new teacher arrives at the one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska and you know romance is about to break out. Courting Miss Amsel is just what you’d expect, with a few twists of the unexpected. This book is selling today for $8.99.
Imaginary Jesus is bit of a different story. The author is hanging out at the coffee shop with Jesus, when the Apostle Peter walks in and tells him that’s not the real Jesus. They go on a journey together, confronting counterfeits – like Magic 8 Ball Jesus. It’s an entertaining look at some deep theology. The book is available for $9.39.

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Housekeeping – MYK Page; Digital Book World Conference; Amazon Publishing; and a Cheap Read 12 comments

Where have all the books gone?
I regularly purchase and download more than 10 books a day to my Kindle account. Because I’m an inventory freak, I maintain a spreadsheet of the books. To update the spreadsheet, I visit the Manage Your Kindle page several times a week to copy the book titles and price. Recently though, my MYK page has not ordered the books by most recently purchased.
The first page of books on my account is from today. The second page has books from January 16. The next few pages are in order backwards until January 7. Then books purchased January 23 – 16 appear until going back to books purchased on January 7. All goes well for many pages showing books purchased January 7 – December 15. Then books from February 1 – January 23 appear before going back to books from December 15.
Is this a unique situation for me because I have so many books? Are your books out of order too? If you have the technical answer, please share with all of us.
 
Digital Book World Conference
The Digital Book World conference was held in New York City the last week in January. We weren’t there to hear any of this firsthand, but the participants at the conference had some interesting items to share:

There were more books published this week than there were in all of 1950. –David Houle, author and futurist

74% of book buyers have never bought an eBook, though 14% of these people own either a tablet or an eReader. –Kelly Gallagher, VP, publishing services at R.R. Bowker

Macmillan was so outraged by [a specific piracy] and other examples of piracy that in the last six months the company has issued 12,000 take down orders on 297 titles and has hired a dedicated anti-piracy staff to monitor the Web. –NYU Pub Posts

….about a third of buyers are driving about two thirds of overall [ebook] purchases. These power readers buy at least 4 books a month. –Kelly Gallagher, VP, publishing services at R.R. Bowker

 
Not Surprising News
Tuesday Barnes & Noble announced that they will not carry books released by Amazon Publishing in its bookstores, including books from the new imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New Harvest, that just signed to publish and distribute books released by Amazon’s publishing company.
Independent bookstore owners are not likely to carry the books, either. Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., said “If Amazon wants to publish books, let Amazon sell them.” You can read the complete article here.
 
Cheap Non-Fiction Read
The Power of Your Past: The Art of Recalling, Recasting, and Reclaiming (53 cents) Most of us don’t use our yesterdays very well. With our cultural obsession with living in the moment, we neglect to engage in creative reflection on our personal histories. John Schuster systematically demonstrates that our pasts are the biggest, most accessible, and most under-utilized of resources for anyone wanting to make positive changes. He offers a balanced, practical and accessible approach through an actionable three-phase model: Recalling, Reclaiming, and Recasting. He provides exercises that link past events to achieving sounder interpretations and illustrates the process with inspiring histories of those who have experienced transformative results through embracing their own professional and personal pasts.

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