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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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The Halloween Plan by Claire Saguy

It used to be that publishing a book was a feat only achieved by the select few, and it was restricted to major publishing houses.

Ebooks have completely shifted the way we think of publishing. Anyone who can write and has some technology knowledge can publish via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Now, we can take it even further, and open up the publishing process to children.  A child’s dream to be a writer can be a reality.

The Halloween Plan is a short story written by 10-year-old Claire Saguy, an avid Kindle reader and aspiring writer who is raising money for her school in Los Angeles.  Schools are facing funding cuts all over the country.  What a neat way to give back to her school and community.

The plot is a dilemma we all know well.  Sarah, a 5th grader, has to go to her younger sister’s Halloween show, but would much rather go to her friend’s birthday party instead.  Sarah and her friends team up to come up with a plan that will allow Sarah to come to the party without her mom knowing.  The plan takes some twists and turns that could go either way.

The Halloween Plan teaches a lesson on the importance of honesty and good communication.  It is a quick read, and the writing is quite good.

A great short story for all ages, and just in time for Halloween.  Hopefully Claire’s example will help encourage other kids hoping to become writers to publish their own ebooks as well.  The lure of technology could be a great boost for literacy.

This generation of children are pretty tech savvy. There are a number of children’s books on the Kindle, some with interactive content sure to make the story more fun and engaging.

 

 

 

Hunger Games Trilogy Named Best Selling Series of All Time on Amazon

Hunger Games Book 1Suzanne Collins’s mega bestselling series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, is now the bestselling series of all time on Amazon.  This series has even beaten Harry Potter.  All three books are available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library to to check out for free.  For those who aren’t Prime members, all of the books run about $5 each.

The trilogy takes place in post-war United States.  The new country is called Panem, and is composed of 12 districts that each provide different goods for the Capitol.  District 13 was supposedly destroyed when the Capitol took control.  The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen and her family live in District 12, the smallest and poorest district.

The Hunger Games is a lot like the Olympics, except that it is a group of teenagers who are put in an arena.  The 24 young tributes fight to the death until there is one remaining victor.

The Hunger Games

The first book in the dystopian series introduces the reader to the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, her best friend Gale, and fellow tribute, Peeta, along with many other interesting characters.  Katniss and Peeta represent District 12 in the Hunger Games.

Catching Fire

Katniss and Peeta are in for another fight for their lives.  The whole country of Panem is stirred up, and on the brink of rebellion.  Surprisingly, this book sucked me in a lot more than the other two.

Mockingjay

The final book in the trilogy covers the full on rebellion in Panem, with Katniss as the Mockingjay.  The Mockingjay gives them hope for a better future.  Will the Districts succeed in taking the Capitol?  It is yet to be seen.

I’m keeping the summaries short to avoid risk of spoiling anything for those who have not read the series yet.  The obstacles that Katniss, Peeta and others face are just downright bizarre.  But, there is a very human aspect to the books as well.  That’s what drew me into Harry Potter, and has done the same with the Hunger Games Trilogy.

The writing style and Katniss’s point of view also makes this trilogy so easy to relate to despite the brutal circumstances.  The reader gets a glimpse of her thoughts, emotions, reactions to various situations, and her feelings for the people around her.  I also love the sense of humor.  The characters find humor despite the dire circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova is a fictional account of a 50 year old Harvard psychology professor with early onset Alzheimer’s.  It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.  This book has won numerous awards and had a long run on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I discovered this book while searching through Goodreads recommendations.  Goodreads has introduced me to a lot of different authors and genres I would never have heard of otherwise.

It is simple, yet poignant.  The book is written from the perspective of the Alzheimer’s patient as opposed to the more common caretaker viewpoint.  So, the reader gets a first hand glimpse into the daily tasks and emotions from the patient herself.

Most people think of Alzheimer’s as affecting only the elderly.  In a majority of cases those people are beyond retirement age.  Before Alzheimer’s struck, Alice held a jam packed schedule full of lectures, research, and teaching.  The aggressive disease took all of that away from her.  It not only takes a toll on her life, but on her family and friends as well.

The writing itself is really direct, with no frills.  Sometimes there is a bit of disorganization in the flow of the plot, but in a sense, it represents Alice’s train of thoughts.

Still Alice has glowing reviews.  Many of the reviewers suggest that everyone affected by Alzheimer’s in some way should read it.  I also saw multiple reviews saying how accurate Genova’s depiction of the disease is. The fictional account has a loose connection to the author because she is a Harvard educated neuroscientist herself.

Vicki Evans

“Wow! This book is so realistic and, for me, a real tear-jerking read. I teach high school and I have always told my students that if a book can draw you in, make you live vicariously through a character, and somehow help you with life experiences, then it’s a good book. This book did that for me and so much more.”

Genova has another bestselling novel: Left Neglected out, and will release Love Anthony on September 25th.

Personal Finance for Dummies

I just finished a book called Personal Finance in Your 20′s for Dummies on my Kindle.  I recommend this getting started guide for anyone setting out in the working world, or those who are looking for learn more about financial matters.

This book covers everything from health insurance to investing.  It is geared for high school or college graduates more so than someone in their late 20′s like myself, however, many of the tips ere very relevant since recent graduates are having a harder time finding jobs.  That in turn puts them getting into the workforce later.  The work force also looks a lot different now than it did even 10 years ago.

The book also gives suggestions for different companies or organizations that are good options to use in each category.  It includes a variety of choices, so there’s something for everyone.

There is another one called Personal Finance for Dummies, as well as Investing for Dummies.  Those go more in detail on the the topic than the 20′s one does.

Seems like there’s a Dummies book for everything.  The language used is written in a way that explains whatever the topic is, really well.  It takes good writing for me to stay engaged, and these do.

You can about all of these on the Kindle for less than $10.  I’ve been switching between my Kindle and iPhone Kindle app a lot.  Quite handy since I use these books as a reference for both personal and professional reasons.

Aimee Elizabeth


“This book covers a wide variety of general personal finances. It’s a great starter book for anyone just getting out of school, just entering the workforce or better yet while still in school, before any financial mistakes have been made! And also a great book for anyone to read BEFORE they get their first credit card or any other type of debt. Highly recommended!”

 

 

Tis the Season for Beach Reads

When I have a lot going on, I tend to go for lighter reading.  Several books I’ve read lately make great beach reads.  If you’re looking for some mostly inexpensive books to take to the beach, I recommend books by Karen McQuestion.  Other bestselling authors to note of are Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen.

Karen McQuestion, the author of the bestselling Kindle e-book, A Scattered Life, has a new book out called The Long Way Home.  Four women of varying ages embark on a road trip to Las Vegas.  Along the way, they face past fears and tragedies, form close bonds, and of course have the adventure of a lifetime.

A good author puts you into the circumstances and gives you a full idea of their character’s personalities.  McQuestion does a good job of this in The Long Way Home.  There is even a supernatural element to the story.

Sarah Pekkanen writes classic chick lit, but I enjoyed These Girls more than most chick lit books I’ve read because the characters had real personalities.  It also boasts great reviews.  They dealt with real issues and showed compassion for each other.  There wasn’t a snooty tone to this book like there usually is in a book about working at a magazine.  That’s not to say that These Girls doesn’t give insight to the cutthroat nature of the competition for higher jobs within a magazine.

Jennifer Weiner is the bestselling author of In Her Shoes.  It was developed into a hit movie a few years ago.  I think my favorite part about Jennifer Weiner’s books is the humor.  Usually she writes from the point of view of a “second best” who give their funny take on another popular, “have it all” type, that doesn’t really have it all.  Her latest, Then Came You deals with fertility issues from different perspectives.

All of these books are $9.99 or less in the Kindle Store.  Karen McQuestion’s book is available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.  Happy reading!

Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin

Charles Martin is one of my favorite authors.  I hate that he only comes out with a new book once every two years, but you can tell that he puts a lot of thought into each book he writes.

Thunder and Rain is his latest, and I’d say, one of his best.  This is the first of his books that I’ve read on my Kindle.  I heard him speak a few years ago and took all of my books to be signed.  Makes me wonder what will happen to book signings once e-readers become the norm?

Thunder and Rain is set in Texas.  Martin’s books have been set in different parts of the country, which I find very refreshing.  The narrator is Ty Steele, a third generation retired Texas Ranger.  This book takes the reader through all of the emotions from sorrow to joy, and touches on many controversial issues.

Ty Steele is highly respected in his community, and cares deeply for his family, friends, and random people he meets on the side of the road.  He goes out of his way to help out those who are down on their luck.  His selflessness and service to others shapes the direction of the book as a whole.  Chivalry is not dead!

Now, I will admit that Martin can get a bit sappy at times, but the depth of the story and the easy going nature of his writing help make it more real.  I always feel like I’m right there with the characters because his writing is so conversational.

Charles Martin’s most recent book prior to Thunder and Rain, The Mountain Between Us, didn’t capture my attention as much as some of his other books, but it was still a good book.  It is currently in the process of being made into a movie.

Reviews of Thunder and Rain are overwhelmingly positive.  Many reviewers are with me on the writing style observation.  So, if you’re looking for books to stock your Kindle with for the summer, I recommend adding this one to the pile.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin is best known for her book, Something Borrowed.  It was made into a movie and is now out on DVD.  I saw it recently.  I wasn’t overly impressed.  However, I’ve read three of the books so far, and have enjoyed them.  You can find them on the Kindle for reasonable prices.

Something Borrowed is the first in a series that is follwed by Something Blue, then Heart of the Matter fits in there somewhere in the line up.  All include the same characters, but each is narrated by a different character.

Heart of the Matter has two narrators: Tessa, the wife of a plastic surgeon, and Valerie, the mother of the surgeon’s patient.  Valerie is also “the other woman” so to speak.

Cheating is a common theme in Giffin’s books.  I get kind of tired of seeing it addressed over and over.  But, she presents both sides of the issue.  She also portrays the stay at home mom vs working mom culture.

I think what keeps me reading is her writing style.  It is very conversational and you can see how each of the characters’ personalities mesh together.

The summer is coming up.  Heart of the Matter would be a good book to load on your Kindle for some lazy beach or pool side reading.

The reviews are pretty good overall.  I think many echo my thoughts regarding the point of view and beach read writing style.

Kenlah0406

“Just when you think you have a clear cut view of what life is all about or about what you will or won’t do, you find that it is very rare for any person to be all good or all bad. There are more areas of gray in this life than just black or white. This book speaks to what it means to human, which mean to be imperfect. It speaks to the choices we make and the reasons for those choices and how they shape our lives, as well as the people’s lives around us. ”

 

 

Harry Potter FInally Arrives on the Kindle

J.K. Rowling’s hit Harry Potter series finally became available on the Kindle on March 27th.  I admit, this announcement does sound a  bit anticlimactic since all of the books and movies have been released already.

For those who are not familiar with the actual plot, it features a boy wizard named Harry who must defeat the Dark Lord, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort.  The seven books in the series take readers through many adventures that result in both sad and happy endings.

I’m not usually one to read fantasy, but this series sucked me in along with most of the rest of the world.  I think the endearing characteristic of these books was that despite the supernatural element to the story, the characters were very human.  The issues that Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione faced were not all that much different than our own.  Relationships, doing well in school, death, rejection, and more were very evident throughout the series.

The movies overall did a good job at capturing the magic of the books.  I think the final one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was my favorite book and movie.  Well, part 2 of the movie that is.  It is heartbreaking, but it ties everything up nicely.

Future Harry Potter readers will have it easy because the Kindle weighs next to nothing compared to the print editions.  I remember when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out.  It is the thickest book in the series, and the ones to follower were not all that much thinner.  Especially considering that most Harry Potter fans will sit and read the book for hours on end.  It always was such a let down when the book ended.

I didn’t get on the Harry Potter bandwagon until after the fourth book was published, but I fondly remember eagerly waiting for the new ones to arrive.  Now Rowling has finally joined the growing digital book world, and her beloved Harry Potter will be enjoyed by readers of all ages for many years to come.

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

All three of the books in the Hunger Games Trilogy have been on top of the Kindle Bestseller list longer than any other books I’ve seen.  Suzanne Collins is one of the few authors who have managed to reach one million Kindle books sold.

The movie based on the first Hunger Games book will be released this weekend.  The excitement is comparable to the Harry Potter movie releases.  I hope that this movie will do the book justice.  I am particularly excited about this because North Carolina is the primary setting for the movie, and several scenes were shot in my hometown.

For a brief overview of the trilogy, see the post I wrote about it a couple years ago: Hunger Games Trilogy: Kindle Edition.

The setting is a futuristic world.  The country is a post war United States, and is divided into 12 districts.  The Hunger Games are sort of like the Olympics, except that it involves teenagers, and only one survives.  Each districts sends a male and female to the Games.  It sounds pretty brutal, and it is, but it shocks me sometimes how much science fiction or futuristic writing can address issues that we deal with today.

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can check out all three books in the trilogy for free through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, Unfortunately, it limits you to one each month,   Otherwise, each book is about five bucks.  Considering how addicting the reviewers say the books are, I can’t imagine wanting to wait a whole month for each one.

Mia

“The author has a way to do what so many writers cant. She brings you in, keeps you there and then rocks your entire world. I am really good at predicting where a story is going to go, however, just when I was thinking it would go one way the book went in a completely different direction. Fantastic series, if I could give more stars I would. If the movie is a tenth as good as this trilogy I think it may become my favorite!! ”

 

How the Digital Revolution has Changed the Nature of Reading

I’ve been reading a lot of good books lately.  Some kept my attention better than others though.  I just finished Tina Fey’s hit autobiography, Bossypants.  It has been awhile since I’ve laughed out loud so much while reading a book.  I highly recommend this one.

After reading an article about how distractions from social media and YouTube have changed the nature of reading, it made me realize how true that is just from observing my own recent reading habits.  The whole social media is distracting concept is not new, but sometimes we just have to be reminded how much of a time suck it really is.

I have always been a voracious reader.  I used to could lie on a couch immersed in a book, or in more recent years, my Kindle, for hours on end.  I have always liked how the e-ink Kindle has managed to continue to create a quality, relatively distraction free reading experience. Enter the iPhone, and later the iPad and those days were mostly gone.

Books don’t grab my attention like they used to.  I’m finding that it is harder and harder for me to focus on one book for a length of time.  Even with one as good as Bossypants, I was still mindlessly checking my email or Facebook every so often.

So what will instant access to other forms of media do to reading?  It has and will continue to become more fragmented.  Twitter has introduced the idea of saying what you need to say in just 140 characters.  We go in to get what we want, and move on.  The good thing about this is that more people than ever before have access to information.  Most people are reading something, even if it is just blog articles.  So, this is a big step in the right direction for literacy efforts.

With that said, I do hope that good books hold their charm for years to come.  There are times when our overstimulated brains just need a break from the mindless social media checking.  I sometimes like to leave everything behind and go sit in a park on a nice day and just read.  Hide your phone, or revoke your Kindle Fire’s wi-fi access, and escape into another reality for awhile.

The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier

The Illumination was definitely a break from my usual reading material.  It was one of the Amazon Best Books of the Month last year, and is quite unique to say the least.  It is available on the Kindle.  I even saw a reviewer mention that it was available at their library through Kindle Library Lending.

The Illumination is a term referring to the sudden wave of light that shines through the injuries and painful spots on people all over the world.  The book itself is more like a series of five short stories all connected by a journal of love notes written from a man to his wife who later fell victim to a horrific car accident.

The Illumination follows people from all walks of life.  The book opens with a  woman in her 30′s who accidentally cuts her thumb trying to open a package from her ex husband.  Then it goes on to speak from the point of view of a young boy who has what appears to be a form of autism.  It later chronicles the life of a man devoted to carrying out his late sister’s mission work.  These characters, as well as the ones that follow, are all facing major life traumas, but they learn how to overcome adversity.

Yes, the book is dark and depressing, but it also brings out a sense of compassion and in some cases, hope.  I especially enjoyed the journal connection.  The Illumination displays the internal injuries that we otherwise wouldn’t know about, or in some cases choose to ignore.  The interesting part is, everyone just accepts the phenomenon.  It just becomes a part of every day life.

We would definitely think of pain differently if we could see it right in front of our faces.

laurenpie

“Definitely different! I truly liked this novel, mostly for it’s poignant aura, which Brockmeier did an excellent job of maintaining throughout. True, it’s not so much a novel as a collection of five short stories, and perhaps they are fairly disjunct, but each explores a different type of pain or painlessness, and each is connected by the beautifully-written journal around which the novel is built.”

Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

I just finished a book that I really liked called Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt.  The plot surrounds a major tragedy involving two women fleeing their marriages who collide on a foggy night.  You can find this book on the Kindle or in print for a pretty inexpensive price.

When I first read the book description, I thought it was going to be really depressing and sappy.  I was proved wrong.  It does cover a lot of the emotions that follow death, but also shows how the survivors find their way back to some sense of normal again.  They also explore new life directions that are very rewarding in the long run.

Leavitt does a really good job in making the characters real.  You can truly feel the characters’ joy and grief.  One woman in the collision does not survive.  She leaves behind a husband and son.  The son is severely asthmatic.  You really get a true picture of how much he suffered from his illness, and how he handles his mother’s death.

Now on to happier times.  The son finds his niche with photography.  The woman who survives the accident begins to heal.  It has been awhile since I’ve been sucked into a good book that has this much depth.

So if you like stories about triumph over adversity, this one would be a good one to try.  Pictures of You has received highly favorable reviews from both critics and general reviewers.

Susan Henderson

“This is a deeply satisfying read that shows the many facets of love. Examining the survivors of a fatal car crash, Leavitt explores grief, guilt, secrets, and disappointments in a cast of sympathetic characters who become so entangled, it’s not clear to anyone what decisions are the right ones to make. I highly recommend this book, which feels like an easy read and yet works profoundly on the soul. “

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was a little “out there” for me, but I’ve heard good things about it from other readers.  I like to try to shake things up by reviewing different the genres to provide a something for everyone.  The Kindle edition is the best option price wise.  I also prefer it because the hardcover has such small print.

State of Wonder is for the most part set in the Amazon.  Patchett does an excellent job of capturing the sinister nature of the inhabitants of the jungle, both animal and human.  Marina Singh, a doctor turned pharmacologist, goes down to Brazil to find out what happened to her late colleague.  She also has a past that continues to haunt her, and it was the main reason for the change in career direction.

The interesting part of the story is the development of a fertility drug that could enable women of advanced ages to have children.  The big question is, should older women bear children?  You will find that question raised by Marina’s former professor and colleague, Dr. Swenson.  Dr. Swenson is a major player in the research process surrounding this new drug.

As you will see with the mixed reviews of the book, it is really an individual preference.  I thought it was good, but it didn’t draw me in like some other books that I’ve read have.  State of Wonder was the Amazon Best Book of the Month last June, so it is definitely worth reading.

Lisa

“t raises issues such as “how do you separate the art from the artist?” Picasso DID put out cigarettes on the arms of his girlfriends, yet we revere him. Also, “how do you handle your heroes?” As an adult, when do you stop idolizing your mentors, and accepting yourself as their equal? Also, “am I my brother’s keeper?” And, when push comes to shove, how much do we really and truly accept “foreigners” as our “brothers?” But still, Ann Patchett knows when to linger on description, and when to roll the plot along full speed ahead… “

Charles Dickens Bicentennial Celebration

This week, there are celebrations around the world to commemorate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, one of the most notable authors in literary history.  Most, if not all of Dickens’ novels are available on the Kindle for free.

A Christmas Carol is probably the most well known Dickens masterpiece because it is often read at Christmas and is a popular play.  It has also been adapted for film multiple times over the past 50 years.  All of his other works have also have been adapted for theatre productions.

I had to read Hard Times and Great Expectations in high school and college, but I never really got to know the background behind the writing.  If I ever do decide to tackle them again, I want to explore the inspiration that contributed to the development of the characters.  When you are in high school, reading classics always seems like such a chore.

Dickens faced a lot of adversity in his younger years.  His father spent time in prison because of debt.  Dickens had to quit school and work in a shoe factory.  The hardships that Dickens experienced were manifested in his writing.  Many of his characters are children who face some sort of obstacle.

Think of Oliver Twist, who begged for more food and got reprimanded for asking.  Food that was barely more than slop at that.  There are so many important lessons woven through each story.  Hard Times reveals a world based only on facts.  Also notice the irony of the names in the book.  The characters’ names are often the opposite of their personalities.  Anything outside linear thinking is unaccepted.  Ebenezer Scrooge gets visits from the supernatural who remind him the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of giving.

Charles Dickens made a profound effect on the literary world during his short life.  He died of a stroke at the age of 58.  Even if you hated his novels during school, you might find that you get a lot more out of them as an adult.  Charles Dickens’ books, as well as many other classics, are all free on the Kindle and Kindle supported devices.

Meanwhile, I need to go tackle A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield.  Surprisingly enough, I never had to read them in school.  It is always good to at least have some knowledge of the major classics because it is rare for literature to stand the test of time like his novels have.

 

 

In One Person by John Irving

Good news for John Irving fans.  He is coming out with a new book on May 8 called In One Person.  His novels: The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany have been adapted into award winning movies.  The movie adaptation for A Prayer for Owen Meany is called Simon Birch, and it is one of my favorite movies.  In One Person is currently available for pre order on the Kindle.  The only other Irving novel available for download on the Kindle is Last Night in Twisted River.  More to come soon.

Irving touches on major issues like abortion, love, AIDS, death, gender, sexuality, and disability with a great deal of candor.  In One Person is no exception.  It is set in the 80′s when AIDS was rampant.  So, it is sure to deal with the emotions and heartbreak that came along with dealing with that disease  during that era.

I have read three of Irving’s novels.  A Prayer for Owen Meany has stuck with me the longest.  It is about a dwarf named Owen, but the story is told from the point of view of his best friend.  Owen Meany has a lot to show the world, and has some psychic powers that shape the way he lives his life.

The World According to Garp is a very gender and sexuality focused book.  This book is best for the mature audience.  All of Irving’s books include issues that only adults can fully grasp, but I stress that fact for this one in particular.

The Last Night in Twisted River is Irving’s latest book currently available.  It features father-son protagonists who start off as cooks in a logging town.  An unexpected turn of events forces them to skip town.  The son later becomes a novelist, but fate catches up to both of them in the long run.  It took me a really long time to get through this book.  It moved too slowly for me.  Out of the three books I’ve read by Irving, this one is my least favorite.  It does have good reviews though, and others give high marks, so it is just a matter of preference.

Irving’s novels work your brain.  If you want a book that has depth, includes a well defined and complex plot, and steamrolls through controversial issues, this if your type of book.  On top of that, Irving has been a highly successful author for many, many years.  So, I am eager to read what he has to say in his newest novel when it comes out in May.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is a must read.  It has depth that only a select set of authors can truly capture.  The novel has been translated in multiple languages and is an international bestseller.

The paperback version is kind of heavy and has really small print.  So for a more comfortable reading experience, I recommend getting the Kindle edition.  The prices for each are about the same.

Abraham Verghese is a doctor and professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine.  He also has a degree in creative writing and has written two other nonfiction books.  You can see his expertise reflected in the medical descriptions in Cutting for Stone.

Cutting for Stone follows twins Marion and Shiva, born to a nun and skilled surgeon in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The delivery is a difficult one to say the least, and changes the lives of Missing Hospital’s staff forever.  The story is told in the past and a much older, present day Marion is the narrator.  Throughout the book, the reader will find various themes such as love, family, medicine and politics all woven together to form an intricate storyline.  Despite the rifts and hardships that each character faces, it all works out in the end.

I have to warn you.  Cutting for Stone is very detailed.  It can really suck you in, but it can also wear you out keeping up with the story’s progression.  So, take breaks!  I love the writing style and the characters’ personalities.  Even though the majority of the book was set in another country 50 years ago, I could still relate to the characters as if they lived in America today.

Kris

“Cutting for Stone is a coming of age novel which emphasizes the way in which we are shaped by the forces and intricacies of our past. Verghese pays particular attention to themes around loss. He writes about the desperation to fill voids and the struggle of letting go. Verghese also writes about freedom, both psychological and physical. He writes about love as a terror and as a savior. He writes about sacrifice and passion. He writes of the importance of perspective in order to foster empathy. The themes are plentiful, profound, and woven together throughout each of the characters’ stories.”

 

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

If you have hiked, or considered hiking the Appalachian Trail, or just want to know more about the experience, then I highly recommend reading David Miller’s AWOL on the Appalachian Trail.  It is free from Amazon Prime members via the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

Technology is so ingrained in our daily lives, that we have to physically escape from it.  Hiking the Appalachian Trail provides a chance to get away, face an unknown adventure, and to get to know other hikers and their experiences.

The AT can be hiked by section, or it can be hiked all the way through.  Hikers who make it all the way from Georgia to Maine are called “thru hikers.”  Some thru hikers go the purist route and hike the trail all the way through, and others skip sections and come back later.  To me, I’d just barrel through it and get it over with.  The sense of accomplishment at the end is much sweeter when you don’t have to worry about going back to other parts.

I love Miller’s easy, familiar writing style.  All of the hikers have trail names.  Miller encounters the same ones throughout his journey, and mentions their names like they’re old friends.  I chuckled a time or two at the more colorful characters.

Miller also gives advice on what to bring and things not to do.  Carry the lightest load possible.  there are stops along the way.  I was surprised to read that that there were so many shelters along the trail.

In short, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail isn’t the greatest book ever written, but I think it is worth a read.  There are some good books in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library collection.

Robert Merivel

“Strong writing and accounting from all of the parts of the trail make it a great book for those armchair AT Hikers like myself. It is a nice mix of everyday life and what it takes on the trail, trail relationships (some good, some bad), and various observations on life and the trail. What makes it all that more surprising is it is a Self-Published book. It is definitely worthy of a more tangible publishing house.”

Wayne A. Robinson

“Just happened upon this book in the Kindle store on my new Kindle Fire and decided to give it a try. Really glad I did. I’m not particularly interested in hiking, but the author is a fine writer and the level of detail about his day-to-day journey made it feel more like a diary rather than a retrospective on his experience. Most adults with a family and a desk job can also identify with his motivation for doing the hike. I finished this quickly. Really liked Miller’s honesty and self-deprecating style too. I recommend! “

Kindle Direct Publishing Helps Indie Authors Achieve Great Success

Two of the bestselling Kindle Books of 2011 were independent authors who used Amazon’s popular Kindle Direct Publishing service.  Publishing an e-book has never been easier.  This opportunity gives everyone a chance to express their voice and unique writing style.  The money isn’t too shabby either.

Darcie Chan, an attorney who lives with her husband and son in New York, released her first novel, The Mill River Recluse last year.  It is a huge hit among its readers, and definitely worth adding to your list of Kindle books to read.

Mary McAllister, the victim of an abusive late husband, spends sixty years of her life in a marble mansion overlooking the tiny Vermont town of Mill River.  This is one of those feel good books that provide a good story, but it doesn’t work the brain too hard.  It has great reviews, and Chan achieves what most authors strive to do: draw the reader into the story and make them forget that the characters are fictional.

Chris Culver was another extremely successful independent author that hit the bestseller list with his book, The Abbey.  The Abbey is a fast paced murder mystery that features a Muslim detective.  The fact that Ash is Muslim is an added twist, but it isn’t his religion isn’t the focus of the book.  He gets wrapped up in a case involving the possible murder of his niece, and well, see how the story unfolds from there.

There are many other independent authors who have hit bestseller lists, and have enjoyed great successes through KDP.  It is still important to carefully edit the book and format it so that it can be published to the Kindle.

Since I got my first Kindle two years ago, I have read a number of books by independent and lesser known authors.  It has given me the opportunity to explore new genres and writing styles.  Publishing a book is no longer this tangible thing restricted to an exclusive group of top notch writers.  Not to mention, many of these books are either free or very cheap.

The downsides to allowing such free reign on publishing e-books are the quality of books and spam.  Amazon has had to deal with some major issues with spammers flooding the market with fake e-books.

So, it will be interesting to see how the publishing industry evolves as e-books and e-readers become increasingly popular.  There has to be a balance that retains the quality of books written by established authors, and a way to give new authors the chance to shine.

 

 

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Yale law professor Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has stirred up a lot of controversy to put it mildly.  It has been all over the media, particularly in a recent Wall Street Journal article that included an excerpt from the book.  I downloaded it from my library’s Kindle e-book selection because I was curious about the book itself. Despite disagreeing with the way Chua raised her girls on a personal level, I really enjoyed reading it.

In the Afterward section of the book, Chua wrote that Battle Hymn was meant to be a parody of herself.  Her writing style and humorous take on the way she interacted with her daughters was what really sucked me in.

The term “tiger mother” refers to the extremely strict way of raising kids.  In general children of tiger mothers, or tiger dads for that matter, are not allowed to do anything social that would interfere with their educational pursuits.

Anything below an “A” or anything less than first place in a competition is not tolerated.  Chua’s daughters bore the brunt of her extreme parenting through their music.  Her oldest plays the piano, and her youngest played the violin.  Each daughter reacts in completely different ways.  In fact, Chua’s youngest daughter was very instrumental in getting Chua to take a fresh look at the way she handled things.  She may be stubborn, but her daughter is very much her equal.

The only major aspect of the book that I didn’t like was the constant black and white comparisons between Chinese and Western styles of parenting.  However, Chua did mention that her references to these were meant to be “loose” ones.  They were a bit one sided, and every parenting style is unique.  Both strict and lenient styles have their own pluses and minuses.

As expected the reviews are all across the board.  Whether you love it or hate it, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is great for a debate or discussion.

Homer Merino

“Much criticism is out in the media about how this book focuses on a type of parenting that should definitely not be used for today’s children, and that is exactly not what the book is trying to convey. The book is about a mother understanding her own demanding values for her daughters and of them trying to find themselves throughout to where it works out in the end. I do believe that for those that criticize the book are the ones that have not read it entirely or seem to read incomplete excerpts. ”

 

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

France was a member of the Allied troops during World War II, but they were under heavy influence from Germany.  Sarah’s Key  sheds some light on little known hostility that the country showed towards Jews in 1942.

Sarah’s Key has been on top of the Kindle bestseller list over the past year or so, and has been a fixture in many book clubs across the country.  It is a poignant and emotional book that provides a unique perspective of the Holocaust and the horrors that Jews faced during the war.

The novel is set in 1942, and in 2002 during the 60 year anniversary of the deportation to the Velodrome d’Hiver.  Ordered by German authorities to round up Jews, French policemen captured them and sent them to the former winter sports area.  It is very fitting that winter is part of the name of this place considering that it was used for such a bleak act.  From there, Jews were shipped to other concentration camps including Auschwitz.  The narrator for the 1942 portion is 10 year old Sarah, born to Jewish parents and ordered to deport.

Believing that this whole ordeal would pass, Sarah locks her brother into a secret cabinet and promises to return, giving the book its title, Sarah’s Key.

Julia is an American born journalist who is married to a Frenchman.  She discovers shocking information that connects her husband’s family to the deportations in 1942.  So, you will see how the young girl of the past, and the other woman of the present are deeply connected.

I love books with plots that switch time periods because they keep me engaged in the story.  It takes a talented author to weave the two storylines together.  In general de Rosnay does a good job in Sarah’s Key with the exception of a few parts.

Sarah’s Key gets high marks among reviewers overall.

High Spirits USA

“This story touches the heart with its characters. If you like seeking truths and puzzles this story brings time and place together with the significance of family ties and value in new found relationships, trust and intuition. “

Wife By Wednesday. by Catherine Bybee

Wife by Wednesday is not your average romance novel.  The added twist is that it put a contemporary spin on what is usually a historical idea.  It is currently in the top 10 books on the Kindle Bestseller List, and is pretty cheap at $.99.

The general plot stars Blake, a member of the royal family who must have a wife by Wednesday, or he loses his inheritance.  Blake seeks out Sam Elliot’s matchmaking firm, Alliance, for help.  Surprised to find out that Sam Elliot is actually Samantha Elliot, he offers her a ton of money to marry her for a year.

As they say,  usually the best romances come along when you aren’t looking.  For Samantha, this is certainly true.  What starts out simply as a business contract, morphs into much much more.

Wife by Wednesday makes for an entertaining read, and keeps you interested with the biting dialogue.  It is short, and engaging without too much intensity.

There seems to be a trend going on with contemporary adaptations of historical novels like Pride and Prejudice and others. It would be interesting to hear what the well known historical authors would have to say about today’s society.

The timing of Wife by Wednesday is also fitting considering the excitement surrounding the recent royal wedding.

The reviews overall are excellent, with very few under 4 stars.  Catherine Bybee is the bestselling author of a number of romance novels that are worth checking out.

Amyrph

“While somewhat predictable, the story was entirely focused on its main characters and there really weren’t any extra (read: unnecessary) storylines. It was a fun, fast read with plenty of “love” scenes. I will definitely be seeing what else Catherine Bybee has to offer! Her style was detailed, not rushed, and I particularly liked that I didn’t have to waste chapters to find out what each character was doing.”

The Litigators by John Grisham

John Grisham’s books usually start out pretty boring, but as you keep reading, the plot picks up speed, and has you holding your breath until the last page.  He is well known for courtroom thrillers, but has also deviated from that genre with A Painted HouseSkipping Christmas, and a few others.

Many people say that his first novel, A Time to Kill was his best, and I agree that his earlier ones were the ones to beat.  He kind of lost his edge in the past few years, but regained his momentum with The Associate, and most recently, The Litigators.

The Litigators has been on top of the Kindle Bestseller list for months.  It is your typical Grisham courtroom thriller.  Finley & Figg is a seedy, run of the mill law firm in Chicago that handles small cases.  The firm is constantly searching for the fastest ways to make money without actually doing much work.  Finley & Figg hits jackpot, or at least they think they do, with a case involving a company under fire for its weight loss drug.

What seems too good to be true usually is, and the “easy money” often has big strings attached.

Here’s what the reviewers are saying:

Jim

“Spot on with caricatures of mas s tort bar and big firm defense. Nice pace and crescendo of anticipation. Fantastic intro to trial procedure and strategy for non-lawyers with plenty of substance to keep lawyers interested. ”

This is what I’m always thinking when I read a Grisham book…

Talutsa

“A usual John Grisham book. It is always interesting to find out how his characters get out of the predicaments in which they find themselves. There is a side story to this that turns out to be more important to the lead character than the one that starts the book. “

Biography of Steve Jobs

I am currently reading Steve Jobs, a biography of the late CEO of Apple by Walter Isaacson.  It hit the bestseller’s list pretty quickly after Jobs’ death earlier this fall.  The hardcover edition is really heavy, so if you can get the Kindle edition, your arms will probably thank you.  On another note, you also wouldn’t have to worry about being startled by the creepy book cover on the Kindle version either.

This book really gets into the nitty gritty of daily life with Jobs, his life, and Apple.  Jobs started Apple with his engineer friend Steve Wozniak.  Wozniak was the one that put the products together, while Jobs was the one who handled the marketing and sales aspect.

Jobs’ most talked about quality in this book was how focused and driven he was.  He did not stop anywhere short of perfection, and that is putting it mildly.  That is certainly reflected in the quality of Apple’s products like the Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc.

The biography definitely points out the quirky aspects of Jobs’ personality, like his obsession with dieting and other extremes.  He practiced Zen, and was interested in the Buddhist philosophy.  It all goes back to how driven he was about things he wanted.  If you’re familiar with Apple at all, you’ll know that as a culture, it is very private, and Jobs himself is a very private man. This biography is the chance to get a glimpse into what really went on behind that mask of privacy.

Isaacson did over 40 interviews with Jobs over a course of two years, and also interviewed over 100 of his family, friends and peers.  So, that demonstrates how much thought and detail went into writing this biography.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.   – Amazon

I am in awe at how much has changed as far as technology goes.  But, if you look at the Apple II versus all Apple products now, they still remain products of Jobs’ vision of perfection.  They also are very user focused.  Apple has opened up technology to so many people who otherwise would not be able to use it.

Steve Jobs will keep me occupied for awhile, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it.  I think it also helps having some technical knowledge. But even for those who aren’t technical, they can still appreciate reading about one of the most influential men in the technology world.

Kindle Books on Sale During Cyber Monday Deals Week

During the week after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday kicks off an online only sale on a variety of items including electronics, books, and more.

There is a huge sale going on this week on Kindle books in all genres.  First, there are the editor’s picks.  The one Kindle book that stood out to me in that list is The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Garth Stein writes this compelling novel from the point of view of a dog named Enzo.  Enzo sticks by his human companion, Denny, as he faces trials and triumphs in his racing career, marriage, and in other aspects of his life.

I’ve heard good things about this book, and have it downloaded and ready to read on my Kindle.  I was excited to see it as part of the sale this week.

In addition to The Art of Racing in the Rain, there is another book in the Editor’s picks called Undrunk.  It is a first hand account of what goes on behind the closed doors of an AA meeting, and the steps alcoholics have to take to remain sober.  A.J. Adams gives an honest take on his experiences and uses this book as an opportunity to explain the process to readers who have not attended AA meetings, and to dispel ugly stereotypes of Alcoholics Anonymous.  There’s also a bit of humor mixed in.  Humor is always a good thing.

Other genres include Fiction, Romance, Biography, Mystery and Thrillers, Young Adult, Health and Wellness, and Children’s books.  So, there is something for everyone.  I noticed a lot of books that put a unique spin on classics like Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.  There are also some good cookbooks and self help books that are worth checking out.

In the Young Adult books sections there is a book called Julie of the Wolves that I remember reading back in elementary school.  It was a good book, and includes some good wolf lore.  It also deals with issues that all kids face at the adolescent stage.

In time for the holiday season, The Legend of the Candy Cane is a fun book for little kids to enjoy. It makes a great bedtime story for parents and their children.

The books I mentioned are just a small sample of the vast collection of Kindle books available. With the holidays coming up and time off from work and school, this is a great time to load up on some reading material.  All books are $3.99 or less.  The deals run until December 3rd.

 

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills

When I took a young adult literature class during library school, I remember thinking how young adult literature is full of vampires, awkward moments, and other outlandish fantasy type books.  That isn’t a bad thing.

However, it was a relief to read a young adult book that seemed more real, and included characters I could relate to.  That book is The Rites an Wrongs of Janice Wills, by Joanna Pearson.  It was just released on the Kindle at the beginning of October.  This is Pearson’s first book, but she has written a number of essays and articles that are definitely worth checking out.

Despite the fact that The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is a young adult book, I could still relate to it for two reasons.  The first is that the author is from my hometown, and this book was loosely modeled on this town.  In the book it goes by Melva, North Carolina, also known as the Livermush Capital of the World.

The second reason is that it took me back to my high school days.  Like Janice, I was also on the outskirts of things.  Unlike Janice, I wasn’t that great of an observer.  I just had my nose buried in a book.

Janice Wills is a budding anthropologist, who aspires to get her anthropology notes published in Current Anthropology.  She makes detailed notes about the various social crowds at Melva High School: popular, theatre, jock, etc.  You have your usual high school cafeteria set up with each group at separate tables.

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is hilarious and has a biting sense of humor.  Janice gets a lot of joy out of making fun of the popular crowd.  It makes me wonder where she comes up with stuff she says about them.  But, in the end, there are lessons to be learned and the journey towards discovering who your real friends are.

Mela K

“It seems that most young adult fiction nowadays is full of the dark, the macabre, and the fantastic. While much of it does have merit, I’ve been feeling a certain nostalgia for stories about the joys and pains of growing up… without werewolves and/or abusive relationships. ”

Brooke B.

“I wasn’t sure if this would be that book about the nerdy, ugly girl who somehow got the hottest guy in school. It kind of was that book, but it was a lot more than that. I literally LOLed during the whole time. The way Pearson ties together teen angst, awkwardness, and humor is unlike any other.”