Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What to Read? Part 6

As those of you who have read my short bio know, I live in Puerto Rico. For three days, hurricane Irma made it impossible to do anything but read, as wind and rain knocked off most of the island’s electricity. 

I made sure to charge my Kindle way ahead of the storm, and spent most of it reading! If you're wondering, I am fine. The east side of the island got the worst of the storm, and I live in the west side.

For the last month, I’ve been scanning the Top 100 Free list for those rare books that are both really good and free. I found that those books are usually free only for a few days of special promo, and by the time I finish a book, it’s off promo and no longer free. However, a good book, regardless of price, is worth recommending.

During Irma, I read a few books I'd downloaded from the Top 100 Free over the last few weeks. The World Beneath by Rebecca Cantrell is one such book. I read it in one day because I could not put it down! 

It's a mystery that begins in 1949 when a former Nazi scientist working for the U.S. government is bricked-in alive (as in "The Cask of Amontillado") in the subterranean tunnels of New York City and forgotten. Jump to present New York City where a contract-killer tracks his prey to that same brick wall.   

The story is imaginative, fast moving, full of tension and atmosphere, and has great characters that include a brave, lovable dog called Edison. I loved the ending too! The book is now $4.99 on Amazon. It's part of a series called the Joe Tesla series.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

What to Read? Part 5

Honestly, the pickings are slim today on the Top 100 Free. Overwhelmingly sexy romance, even the book in 1st place is a romantic mystery. Compare the top six free to the top free paid.





Top 100 Paid for Aug. 27th 2017





First item to draw my attention is that Beneath a Scarlet Sky, about to be made into a movie, is number 5. For $1.99, that’s almost as good as free.

Next, #1, #5, and #6 have over 16,000 reviews with an average above 4 stars. Sixteen thousand readers cannot lie!

It’s an interesting note that two of the top six are tales of courage and love during the Nazi years (Beneath a Scarlet Sky and From Sand and Ash). Three are Thrillers/Suspense. All are priced below $5.00.

However, if what you want is FREE, then you’d be better off searching the Free offerings under specific categories. 

For example, Top Free in Fantasy or Top Free in Science Fiction. Below is a listing for today of the Top Free in “First Contact,” a subgenre of Science Fiction. Notice that even here, you’ll find the erotic romance (i.e.: Her Alien Trader). However, you’ll find a wider scope of pure sci fi.





Here is the equivalent listing of First Contact paid books in the same category for Aug. 27.




You’ll find the list is primarily solid science fiction with prices ranging from $0.99 to $4.99. As you encounter titles by traditional authors, prices do increase because those are set by the publishers and not the authors.

In conclusion, to find a choice of free books that fall into categories such as mystery, fantasy, short reads, suspense/thrillers, science fiction, etc., you must search out the Top Free list for the specific genres. Otherwise, you get bombarded by the erotic romances that seem to populate the Top Free Kindle list. 

If you want a wide selection of true best-selling books, then you’ll have to browse the paid list for each genre. However, those books are reasonably priced, and you’ll seldom have to pay more than a few dollars. Many are on sale for as little as $0.99 and you’ll get excellent choices.

My choice for today from the Top 100 Free is Skeleton's Key. It has an average of 4.5 stars out of 500 reviews. It's first category is Hard-boiled>Mystery>Thriller>Suspense. 



I also got (from the paid list) Beneath a Scarlet Sky for $1.99, which I think is almost free.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Took or Baggins? Part 4



Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms

  -In the morning, the friends awaken to find the elves have gone.

  -Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave the main road and cut through the

    wilderness  just in time before a Black Rider appears.

   -The group ends up in Farmer Maggot’s house. He tells them that a dark

    stranger on a black horse is searching for Frodo.

   -Farmer Maggot gets them to the ferry crossing in secret.



Wonderful Quote:

Short cuts make long delays.



My thoughts:


There is beautiful imagery and great reading for those readers who actually love the process of reading: the enjoyment of mood, atmosphere, subtle creation of suspense, beautiful and poetic wording. Those looking for action-based, fast reading may be bored.



Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked
   
   -A short history of Buckland is given.

   -A glimpse of a Black Rider happens as they disembark from the ferry.

   -At Crickhollow, Merry and Pippin disclose that they know all about the

     Ring.

   - It's decided that Merry and Pippin will join the quest. They all break into

     song for the third time. 


   _Frodo has a disturbing dream that night.

My thoughts: 

This chapter reminds me much of The Hobbit:  when the friends break into song unexpectedly during the bath and later after they decide to go together on the quest. 

It furthers the characterization of  Hobbits as childlike, innocent, natural creatures who are truly out of their depths in adventures. Only Frodo, in his dark and prophetic dream, seems to have a clearer understanding. It seems that maybe the possession of the ring has already affected him in ways that make him different, less childlike.



Chapter 6: The Old Forest


   -The Hobbits enter the forest and find it a hostile, cunning place.

   - The trees seem to watch the group and paths move or disappear, herding the little group

     away from their destination.

   -They reach the Withywindle, a river edged and surrounded by willows.

   -A spell renders the friends asleep. 

   -Merry and Pippin are swallowed by a crack  in a willow.  Frodo is dumped in the river 
    by the tree he fell asleep on.

   -Enter (singing) the ridiculously cheerful and colorful character  Tom Bombadil, 
     who saves the friends!

   -They arrive as guests at Tom Bombadil's house.




My thoughts: 

Once again, this chapter is also reminiscent of a children’s tale. The dangers and evil encountered are more like those found in the telling of a fairy tale. The forest shows malice, but it does little harm to the friends. Old Man Willow tries to eat Merry and Pippin, but he is easily derailed by Tom Bombadil’s spell singing. It is almost as if the Black Riders and the Ring have been left behind. The appearance of Tom Bombadil itself is rather comic and unexpected.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What to Read? Part 4

When trying to choose a variety of genres from the Top 100 Free list, a problem soon emerges: there is little variety. A careful examination of the list shows that the majority of titles are in the romance genre. On the first page (#1-#20) there are 12 romances out of 20 offerings.





As the reader moves up the list, the proportion of romances to other genres increases. On Aug 8th, 2017,  items 41-60 are as follows. Reminder: this list changes as the day wears on. 

41- Lucky in Love- Romance>Sports
42- A Real cowboy Never Says No- Romance>Westerns
43- Accounting for Love- Romance>Westerns
44- The Red Door Inn- Romance>Inspirational
45- Married This Year 2 -Romance>Contemporary
46- The Chocolate Garden- New Adult>College
47- Damnation- Romance>Paranormal
48- Uncommon- Woman’s>Christian
49- Ella Wood- Romance>Historical
50- Tougher Than The Rest- Romance>Western
51- Haunted by Love- Romance Paranormal
52- Hawaiian Hangover- Cozy Mystery
53- The Yakuza Path-Blood Stained Tea- Crime Fiction> Gay Fiction
54- Escape From Oz- Sci Fi>Space Opera
55- Summer on the Lake- Romance Contemporary
56- In Love With the Alpha- Romance>Paranormal
57- Tank- New Adult>Romance
58- The Sekhmet Bed- Historical>Biographical
59- The Way Back- Romance>Inspirational
60- The Lone Survivor- Paranormal>Urban Fantasy

Of the above titles, only six are not romance. 
#48- Uncommon- is Woman’s Christian Living 
#52- Hawaiian Hangover is a Cozy Mystery 
#58- The Sekhmet Bed is also a woman’s read, telling the story of an Egyptian princess and her arranged marriage. 

Only two books: Escape from Oz and Lone Survivor fall into genres that may appeal across the board. It’s interesting to note that as the list gets past the first forty, the number of covers showing sculpted male chests and low-hanging jeans increases. These reflect the more erotic content of the romance.



MY OPINION, and once again I must emphasize that it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to one, is that if you want to read genres other than spicy romance, your pickings in the Top 100 Free are slim. 

Today, you could have chosen The Game You Played, a suspenseful mystery thriller with 4.4 stars average in 1298 reviews. It sits at #1 and you have to grab it now because it will go off promo quickly. Hard Fall by P.T. Reade sits at #3, and it’s crime fiction with 4.4 stars average from 176 reviews.





The Game You Played at Amazon.

Hard Fall at Amazon.

The Old Man and the Tea at Amazon.


I chose The Old Man and the Tea, described as “Another fun-filled adventure” in the Reverend Elmo Jenkins series. It has an average of 4.4 stars from 385 reviews. The genre is Religious>Inspirational, but I'm always open to new genres. I expect it to be funny, not preachy. Let’s see what happens.


On the aug. 9th early list, the following looks promising if you are a fan of the action/suspense, special ops hero.




King's Ransom at Amazon.  This book has an average of 4.7 stars from 124 reviews. This is #3 in the Xander King series by Bradley Wright. 




A Spirited Tail  at Amazon is listed as a Mystery>Cozy>Animals and sits at #29 in the Top Free on Aug. 9th. It sports 509 reviews (not shabby) and a 4.4 stars average. 
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Do you like Paranormal Romance? Want to try a new genre and a story full of suspense, action, humor, and romance? Try Zeece Lugo's Angel's Guardian series.



Self-exiled from the vampire nation, Maxim spends his days in quiet solitude and his nights prowling the heights of New York City, hunting prey. On a cold November night, he chances upon a gang rape in a desolate back alley. He leaps at the chance to feed on predators of the worst kind, his favorite prey. But the situation takes a turn he never expected, and soon he finds himself wishing he'd made a different choice on that fateful night.

Kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring at the age of fourteen, Angelica escaped only to be relentlessly pursued by her enemies ever since. Tonight, they have found her. As she lies dying on a cold, dark alley, her only fear is for the secret she desperately hid moments before they caught her. A secret she must protect with her life from her enemies and from the monster that destroyed them and now turns red, fiery eyes upon her.

Now available at AMAZON. Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited account.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Took or Baggins? Part 3

Prologue

  Tolkien uses the prologue to give the reader background he feels is necessary. We are told not only about the physical, cultural, and racial traits of the Hobbits, but also quite a bit about their history. He tells that they descended from three different breeds: the Harfoots, the Stoors, and the Fallowhides. He implies that the histories he talks about may have spanned many thousands of years.


Tolkien then goes into an extended narration of the history of Bilbo’s finding of The Ring and ends up touching on the subject of Shire records. It’s clear that Tolkien assumed that the person delving into LOTR may have never read The Hobbit, and he endeavored to provide information that would be useful to such a reader. 


Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party. (Tolkien titled each chapter.)

   -Preparations begin for Bilbo’s 111th birthday and Frodo’s 33rd, as
    they both share the same birthday, September 22nd. A party like no other
    is planned. Rich Bilbo spares no expense.

   -Gandalf arrives with fireworks. He and Bilbo discuss the Hobbit’s plan
    to leave the Shire and bequeath all he owns to his nephew Frodo, including The
    Ring.

   -The party goes off as planned. At the end, Bilbo makes a farewell speech
    and secretly dons the ring. He disappears in a poof, to the consternation of
    all his guests.

   -At the last minute, Bilbo experiences an inner struggle; he yearns to keep The Ring. 
    The Ring clearly owns a piece of his soul and works its evil, but with Gandalf’s help, 
    he is able to walk away from it and leave it to Frodo. 

   -Before leaving, Gandalf warns Frodo that The Ring may be dangerous and not to
    use it.

Wonderful Quote:
    I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.



My Thoughts: 

Chapter 1 serves primarily to paint the image of the Hobbit and the Shire in the eye of the reader. It’s one thing to be told that Hobbits love to eat and have hairy feet. It’s another to see them as a people interacting, gossiping, drinking, blowing smoke rings, living with round doors painted in bright greens and yellows, time marked only by the gentle passing of the seasons. Their idyllic simplicity and lack of concern with the outside world makes them both admirable and vulnerable. I want to both join them and shake them up. But more than anything, I want to protect their world and keep them safe and innocent.



Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past.

   -Frodo becomes his own master. The years pass and he grows more like Bilbo.
    Rumors of evil and darkness seep into the Shire, but no one pays any mind.
    Strangers are seen crossing through the Shire.

   -After a long absence, Gandalf reappears. He tells Frodo all he has learned of The
    Ring, and tests the ring in fire. He tells Frodo of the making and losing of The
    Ring, of how Gollum found it and was changed by it, and how Bilbo truly got
    The Ring. He tells that the Dark Lord seeks it because it is the one master ring
    that rules all the other rings.

   -Gandalf warns Frodo that the enemy finally is aware of the Shire and the name
    Baggins. 

   -Frodo accepts that to save all he loves, he must leave and take The Ring away
    from the Shire. Gandalf tells him he need not go alone. Caught eavesdropping
    on the conversation, Samwise Gangee is chosen to go with him.

My Thoughts:

This chapter is all about The Ring. Most of it is narrative in Gandalf's words. Here we finally get the true picture of The Ring's nature and its ability to influence and possess its bearer. 

Here Frodo struggles with the decision of being the one who has to take The Ring away and his fear of  being insufficient to the task. 

The temptation of Gandalf is quite interesting too. As powerful and central a character as he is, he's always steady and unchanging at his core. He is not  the dynamic character in this tale.

We also get a compelling  image of Smeagol/Gollum. He has always, in my opinion, been the most moving and disturbing character in the series. 

  
Chapter 3: Three is Company.

   -Gandalf presses Frodo to leave soon. Frodo promises to leave on his 50th birthday.

   -Frodo sells Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and buys a small house at
    Crickhollow, Buckleberry. He tells everyone that he is retiring there.

   -Gandalf warns Frodo never to use The Ring and leaves for the southern borders to
    search for news. He promises to be back before Frodo’s departure.

   -On the evening of Frodo’s departure, a stranger shows up at the village asking
    about Frodo. 

   -Gandalf fails to return. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave quietly. Merry left
     earlier in the morning with the moving cart.

   -The traveling party walks, talks, sings, eats, rests. The first encounter with the Dark
    Rider happens. Frodo feels a strong urge to wear the rings.

   -The second appearance of a sniffing, tracking Dark Rider is interrupted by the
    appearance of a band of traveling elves. Upon hearing about the Black Riders,
    their leader, Gildor Inglorion, invites the Hobbits to go along with the elves.
    Sam is delighted with the elves!

   -They reach a grassy clearing surrounded by woods under the starlit night. The elves 
    play the gracious hosts to the Hobbits. Later, Frodo and Gildor hold a long conversation.
    The elf advices Frodo to go quickly toward Rivendell, to take companions, and to
    evade the Black Riders, for they serve the enemy.

Wonderful quotes:
 -The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for
   ever fence it out.
-Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
-…advice is a dangerous gift.

-Courage is found in unlikely places.


My Thoughts:

If Chapter 1 was about Hobbits, this one is about elves! I cannot but share Sam's delight and awe of the beautiful, wise, glowing, merry but mysterious creatures. 


______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ZeecĂ©  Lugo is a blogger and author of the Angel's Guardian Series. 




Angel's Guardian is ZeecĂ© Lugo's  fast-paced, romantic paranormal suspense. 


The vampire Maxim makes his home in New York City. Self-exiled from the vampire nation, he spends his days in quiet solitude and his nights prowling the heights and hunting evil, his prey of choice. On a cold November night, he chances upon a gang rape in a desolate back alley. He leaps at the chance to feed on predators of the worst kind, his favorite prey. But the situation takes a turn he never expected, and soon he finds himself wishing he'd made a different choice on that fateful night.

Angelica has been on the run for years. Kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring at the age of fourteen, she escaped only to be relentlessly pursued by her enemies ever since. Tonight, they found her. As she lies dying on a cold, dark alley, her only fear is for the secret she desperately hid moments before they caught her. A secret she must protect with her life from her enemies and from the monster that destroyed them and now turns red, fiery eyes upon her.


See it at AMAZON


Sunday, July 30, 2017

What to Read? Part 3



Rogue Wave was #3 on the Top 100 Free on July 27th. Today it sits at #15. 





I chose it because it’s not a romance, but a book that anyone, female or male, young or old, might enjoy. It’s by author Christopher Cartwright, book #4 of his Sam Reilly series, which I have never read or even knew existed until I saw the book on the Top Free list. I noted that this is the only free book he offers, but it’s not first in a series. 

The book starts with a prologue. The prologue is quite effective at creating suspense and mystery. Five days before the main story starts, a wealthy, handsome, thirty-eight-year-old engineer Luke Eldridge gets ready to compete in a regatta. He has been threatened by a mysterious conglomerate not to sail until he has made a decision on a billion-dollar offer for a scientific discovery he and colleagues have made. The scientific discovery will change the world, and this evil conglomerate wants it. 

The writing is concise; the short, clear sentences will appeal to those looking for action-clad, to-the-point reading. The writing moves quickly and is mostly dialogue based. The setting is present-day, starting out in Colorado, moving out to a research vessel in the Caribbean Sea. The main character is Sam Reilly, a billionaire oceanographer hired to look into death of an old-school-friend: Luke Eldridge was killed by a strange rogue wave that hit only his racing yacht during the previously mentioned regatta! 

On to the rest of the book! 

Well, I finished reading Rogue Wave in record time. My opinion: this is a fast, shallow read with a great deal of pseudo-science built from a few scientific facts. Every character is either a billionaire, a genius, stunningly beautiful, or all of these. There are no love or sex scenes, no deep characters, and by the end of the book, I still had no idea what the main protagonist looks like. 

Is the book worth reading? IN MY OPINION, if it's free and you’re looking for a quick read to see you through a few hours on a plane or a book that will not tax your emotional state much, you might give this book a go. It’s the equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie without the adorable Indiana Jones. There are tantalizing glimpses of the previous adventures of Sam Reilly such as the finding of Atlantis, proving the existence of “The Master Builders,” and saving the world from a deadly virus. You might be better off trying the first book in the series.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Took or Baggins? Part 2

I am reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which is the first of the LOTR trilogy. (ISBN 0-345-33970-3) At the time I bought it, years ago, it cost $6.99 for the paperback copy. It's the Ballantine edition, containing a foreword by Tolkien himself. 

One thing that drew my attention is that toward the end of the foreword, Tolkien complains about other paperback editions being published without his consent. He states that only the Ballantine edition is the one he approved and encourages readers not to buy any other! And here I was thinking that stealing authors’ work was a recent thing born of the internet. Obviously not. 

While most readers skip the Foreword (I seldom pay a second’s attention to it), this time I have made a special effort to trudge through it. I’m glad I did. First of all, this is Tolkien himself talking about his work. In my mind, silly as it sounds, he’s talking from beyond the grave, as he’s been dead many years. 

Tolkien denies that his books had anything to do with the war (WWII) and points to the fact that his work’s origins go back way before the war. His main motive in writing the works was to “…hold the attention of the readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.” Those are the reasons any true writer writes. 

The writing of the series (LOTR) went on from 1936 through 1949! Today, authors put out a book every three months. Anyone who doesn’t produce in numbers is not considered a true writer. But Tolkien, one of the most beloved and successful authors in the English language, did not write every day! His duties, his interests, and the war got in the way. It took him thirteen years, but he never gave up. 

A final point of observation I have is in the way Tolkien writes, primarily his sentence structure. His sentences are complex, often taking up the space of a small paragraph. He uses plenty of commas and an abundance of semicolons. He also does not skimp on the word "that." 

I don't find his work difficult to read.  I don't see many extremely hard or out-of-date words. Words like “laborious, decrepitude, and allegorical” are few and can be easily Googled by anyone who has never heard them. 

The one thing that may make him difficult for today’s reader is that he requires the reader to hold more than one line of thought within one sentence. Today’s readers want to get there fast. They have little patience for the meandering way. 

Tolkien’s Foreword is not without humor. At one point, he talks about his reviewers: 

   Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, 
   absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions 
   of their works, or of the kinds of writings that they evidently prefer.

Here is a genius writing books that eighty years later are still selling, and he had reviewers who put him down! Some of the indies on Facebook and Goodreads should learn from him.

At the end of his Foreword, he dedicates his book to us across the water. America. He obviously knew that we, across the water, would continue to buy millions of his books for many years to come. Smart marketing move, the dedication!

On to the Prologue, where we are filled in on all kinds of background info on the Hobbits.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Took or Baggins?



This morning, early, I got a text message from my daughter. She is married to a great guy named Alex and living and working in Kendall, Florida. Kendall is a suburb of Miami, closer to Homestead than Miami proper. Miami is home to my children; they grew up there.

Anyway, she texted me the following message: "Alex just called me a Took. He says I'm a Took and he's a Baggins."

The message brought a burst of laughter to my lips. I experienced a sweep of emotion that most of you would be hard-pressed to understand.

First, you'd have to know the frame of reference. What are Tooks and Bagginses? If you ever read The Hobbit  and remembered it, you'd get it.

Years ago, when I first read Tolkien, I also quickly identified myself as a Took.

Tooks love adventures. They take chances. They get restless and shun the accepted and conventional. Tooks make a difference! They are a pain in the ass. We all want to be Tooks, but mostly, we are Bagginses.

But why did her text bring me such pleasure? Because she is carrying on my ways. She is doing something I did and thinking like I did. She is carrying on tradition. She does this also when she listens to Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, artists who were dead long before she was born.

Why is she suddenly reading Tolkien? Most of today's generation are happy to watch the movies and take the plot as true to the books.  However, my children are not your average stock. I did a good job raising them. They seldom shrink from a challenge.

A few days ago, in a telephone conversation about my writing, I said to her that most young people today cannot read the books I grew up reading. They have lost the language. To them, reading Tolkien is like me reading Chaucer or Shakespeare in the original text.

I told her that as indie authors, we are encouraged to write at no higher than a seventh-grade level because that is what the average reader is comfortable with. Classic works that have been the reading bread and butter of generations, are now considered too wordy and "purple" because they contain adjectives, adverbs, and complex sentences.

One of the biggest challenges I face in my editing is cutting down my sentences into palatable pieces that modern readers can digest. Sometimes I feel that my work looks more like a shopping list strung together than a creative endeavor.

Back to my daughter- it seems that she took my words as a challenge. She immediately picked up a copy of The Hobbit, and she loved it. Of course, an immediate discussion followed on the vast differences between the movies and the book.

She started the LOTR  series this morning. I told her that the series is quite different in tone, themes, and reading difficulty. Unlike The Hobbit,  the books that followed were not written for children. Just the foreword can be daunting. I offered to read along with her so that we could discuss as we go along.

That should be fun. For me, anyway. I will post once in a while about our progress.


Friday, July 21, 2017

What to Read? Part 2 (Top 100 Free in Kindle)

I again chose my next book from the "Best Sellers in Kindle eBooks- Top 100 Free."

The title of the book is The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan. It was at number #2 on July 19th. It has 147 reviews and with a 4.3 stars average. It's not the usual type of story I normally read. It starts out with a funeral. A funeral at the start of any book is depressing, to say the least, unless you're looking at the start of a Marvel's Avengers story.

Chapter 2
It caught my attention, and I'm definitely invested in it! The main characters, mother and daughter, are headed for a trip to Ireland. I love Ireland. (A good comeback from the funeral.) The trip is the mother's way of getting on with life after the death of her husband. Annabel, the daughter, appears to be caught up in a relationship she seems to be ambivalent about, but the story is really about her mother and the love of her life, the one that got away.

The book is well-written. The About Author states that Claire Allan is a reporter and columnist, so her writing should be good and it is. It definitely gives a sense of place, especially after they get to Ireland, and it gives hints of a mystery regarding the mother's reason for the trip. Yes, I am hooked. I will read more!

Now, wait a minute! Where has the book gone? It's no longer in the Top Free list. I do a search for the title, and see that it's back on regular price. That brings up the point that the books on the Top Free are not necessarily there by popular demand. One good promo on ENT or BookBub or Amazon's Marketing Ads can put a book at the top of the list, usually for a day or two.

This does not mean that the book is regularly popular. It means that thousands of readers are downloading anything they can get for free from the promo sites. As soon as the promo is over, the book drops off the list.

The Top 100 Free list changes constantly. The book that is #2 today, can be #40 tomorrow or disappear entirely, as this one did. The Top 100 Paid list is far more stable, and there are many $0.99 through $4.99 offerings. However, you're more likely to discover something new  and unexpected in the free list.

Now, to keep reading.

Final report: Oh, my God! I'm crying! Not a sad-ending cry but a happy-ending cry. This book is definitely worth reading, and this words are coming from a woman who does not do sappy romantic well. In my opinion, and once again- I must emphasize that my opinion may not be anything like yours, this book is definitely worth reading.

Normally, I like my reads spiked with the occasional sex scene. This book has not one of those!

I like my books to be fast-paced, full of action reads. This has none of those things.

I like my books full of vampires, tortured heroes, and sexy rogues. There are none of those hunks in this book.

This novel is a sweet, gentle, nostalgic, bittersweet tale that switches back and forth between the years 1959-1960 and 2010. Yes, the two characters whose story we're told in flashbacks are in their seventies! However, the story grabbed me and didn't let me go. I read it in two seatings. And I finished reading with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. If I ever meet the author, I will punch her in the nose for making me cry.

The First Time I Said Goodbye is well-written, definitely above 7th-grade reading level. It gives a good sense of time and place. The characters are interesting and they speak in intelligent dialogue. Finally, I could not let go until I knew what happened! By the way, it's based on a true story according to the author. I loved it!






Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What to Read? Part 1

How do we choose what to read?

It depends on the reader and the reason he or she reads. In this post, I will limit my scope to those of us who read for pleasure, specifically fiction.

As an author, I put great stock by word-of-mouth publicity. I remember vividly how a few years back, my students kept telling me about a series of books they loved and how I needed to try them. I did. That’s how I discovered the Twilight series. I also found out that YA books can be for adults too!

Another way I choose books to read is by how often I see them on display and how attracted I am by their covers. Harry Potter got me that way. After months of seeing stacks of it on display and hearing the hype on TV, I decided to give it a try. It worked for me.

A lot has changed since the early days of Twilight and Harry Potter. How I shop for books has changed dramatically. With the closing of most major bookstores, my book shopping has become primarily online shopping. Amazon has become my primary source for books. 

I still go on my semi-annual pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble each time I fly into Miami to visit my family, but Amazon is at my fingertips no matter where in the world I am and UPS delivers.

In shopping at Amazon, there are problems. There are over one million titles available, but only the ones the Amazon logarithms consider worthy are up front. You might not have a problem with that. You probably think that any book worth reading will be among the top sellers and vice versa.  

I usually head for the top titles in the categories I like. There will be a top-sellers list in each cat. I will click on the ones that catch my eye, and I’ll read the blurb. I’ll gloss over the reviews, paying attention to the average for all. If a book attracts my attention, I always download the sample. It’s free and in the two or three chapters involved, I can always decide if I want to read more. 

Do I rely on book promos that come to my mailbox from sites such as BookBub, ENT, Read Cheaply, and such? Not recently. I get overwhelmed by the promo sites. They send constant lists of FREE and discounted books. Often, these books seem to be carbon copies of the same: bear shifter romances interspersed with the billionaire’s baby romance, and the ever-present YA fantasy or the end-of-the-world newest.

Most of the sites have little appreciation for cross-genre titles. The ones that claim to be more exclusive, base their exclusivity on the number of reviews a book has and its selling rank on Amazon or the name of the author. Which brings me to the question: Is a book worth reading because it’s visible on Amazon?

The obvious answer to that is that “worth reading” is a concept totally determined by the individual reader. I will qualify my criteria for a book I consider worth reading. 

First, it must be grammatically acceptable. It need not be perfect, as many reviewers expect a book to be. J.R. Ward’s books are not perfect, but millions of fans, including me, love them. I can deal with missing commas but not with overwhelmingly bad grammar.

It must have a storyline that grabs me. It can’t be a rehash of the same old theme. If you’re writing YA, and you’re doing fantasy, it must be somehow different and original. The kids with super powers or the quest for the stone have been done to death.

It must have more than just speed, action, and short sentences. There must be good dialogue, compelling characters, and a sense of place and time.

It must hold my attention! That is the most important mark of a book I find worth reading. It pulls me in and makes me want to live in it. Last evening I sat at my favorite restaurant, all alone, twirling Fetuccini Alfredo with one hand while holding Tara Janzen's Loose Ends with the other.  I've read both her Crazy series and her Loose series many times, and they never fail to grab me. I'd rather stop eating before I stop reading.

Now, back to the original idea in my lengthy speech. Is a book worth reading because it makes Amazon’s best-sellers list?  The only way I could determine that is by reading those books. This would be beyond my scope because I can’t afford to buy them all. However, I can try the same experiment on the Top FREE Kindle downloads. 

Free books are suspect because they are free. If an author is eager to give away a book for free, then it must not be a very good book. If it were good, it would be selling like hotcakes and have a placement in the paid best sellers. Doesn’t that make sense? 

This is faulty logic. Many authors today are giving away first books in a series as a way of hooking readers into the series. That being said, some books are being driven to the top of the charts through “Click Farm” scams, as David Gaughran recently reported in his post Scammers Break the Kindle Store. This is true for PAID as well as FREE books, but it’s not a common practice. 

I intend to pick out books from Amazon’s Top Free rankings and let you know if, IN MY OPINION, they're worth reading. Remember: my opinion! Everyone has one, and mine is no more important than yours. Be warned, I'll not trudge through a book that doesn't grab me early on!  

Book for July 18th: Love on a Spring Morning. This book is #2 on today’s Top 100 Free at Amazon. It’s part of a series, but not the first. The author is tagged as a “New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.” The series is described as a “small town military romance.” This means that the setting is a small town, and the main character (male) is a soldier or prior soldier. This is in the major contemporary romance genre.


I also included the screenshot below. Interestingly, both #1 and #2 are non-fiction books. Love on a Spring Morning has 157 Reviews with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. I expect this book to be good!



This is my opinion: for whatever it’s worth.

Just finished Chapter 1. I had a really hard time staying with it. Main character Ryan Howard is having difficulties dealing with being a single parent after the death of his wife. The names of all the different children, the depressing topic, and the slow going are throwing me off. This read will be a good fit for readers who love extended pain. I don’t. I love suspenseful starts and beginnings that just grab me. Still, it does not mean the book is not worth reading.

Just finished chapter 2. This one introduces the female main character, Holly. She’s as tired and depressed as the male one, and she’s a movie star looking for something not Hollywood. I’m in pain, but it’s probably my fault.

Just finished chapter 3. Ryan visits his family and has a long talk with his brother. We find out that Ryan’s marriage was not happy. His wife was addicted to pot, and she was killed. He hasn’t had sex in a long time, and he’s not interested enough to make an effort. 

All right. I'm drowning here. Lack-luster writing, slow pace, uninteresting characters, and after three chapters, not a really clear sense of place. Too much minutiae and tired, unattractive personalities. We can find that in everyday life. Why look for it in books? I have to wonder how one makes it through the next chapter.

Chapter 4. Ryan sees Holly (the actress) in a sports bra and tiny shorts. His reaction? This is a direct quote: “And her breasts. Holy shit, he could see her breasts, and they were like an oasis in the desert.”  (He could see her breasts through the sports bra, of course.)

No more for me. The first four chapters were a struggle to read. It failed the biggest test: it failed to grab me and keep my attention. I am a fan of Debbie Macomber, whose small-town romances have never lost me.  Until the next book, guys!


Reminder: All my own novels, including the latest release, Thicker Than Blood, are on Kindle Unlimited. If you have a KU membership, you can read them for FREE!

If you've read Vampire, Not Monster, would you kindly log into Amazon and leave a review? I'd truly appreciate your effort. If you've not read it, you might give it a go! It's a free download and only about a 45-minute read.