Holy Kindle, Batman!

I will never have to leave the house again…

My best friend gave me her Kindle a year ago or so when she upgraded, and I read one book on the thing and denounced it as inferior to my hand-held, book-smell “real” books and shelved it for months. The only action it saw was from my husband, who used it to play poker.

She’s been telling me to try it out again, however, and since I just published my first eBook I decided that I owed it to the industry—and my readers—to try the experience again. Holy cow, is it cool!

Not only can I borrow books from the library’s digital collection, I can also get free books—I am talking hundreds of them—every. Single. Day. Don’t believe me? Click here and check it out every day to get brand new, full-length free books!

Now, I am sure many of the dozens I’ve downloaded will be crap—I read a crap one yesterday and didn’t even finish it—but I did find a couple of authors that I’ve read before and liked. What a bargain! And now that I get how to use the darn thing after reading part of the manual, well, it’s a much more enjoyable experience.

And if you don’t have a Kindle, you can always sign up for Amazon’s free computer version, Cloud Kindle, if you don’t mind reading on your PC.

Books Every Child Should Read: The Little House on the Prairie Series

As we continue to lose touch with our origins and the people in our society distance themselves from one another, we are forgetting our roots and what it was like to be in touch with the land, and with each other.  When I was growing up, one of the most inspirational series I read was the Little House on the Prairie series.

I loved to get carried away in the stories that unfolded in those books, and my fascination with a simpler time has stayed with me into adulthood.  Kids can learn so many good qualities from those books, from having responsibility for their own food and animals to how to handle the very real struggles of poverty and loss.

The Little House on the Prairie books may be about a time none of us saw, but their lessons will never be dated.  Caring for one another, sticking together in tough times, and everyone sharing the burden to sustain a household will always be things our kids should know and apply to their own lives.

My son told me the other day that he wants the pig from the store, even though I told him about raising our own pigs for meat.  He insists that there is a difference, and that disconnect is not unique to my children, I am certain.  We need to teach our kids about the cycle of life and the symbiosis between species.  We can’t afford for them to forget their roots.

The Little House on the Prairie series is a must-read for any child, and the lessons it imparts are lessons for a lifetime.

The Outlander

I stumbled across The Outlander on the free Kindle book list a couple of years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite book series of all time.  Starting out in 1945, the book is about a young heroine, Claire Randall, who inadvertently steps through a time portal in the Scottish highlands and is transported to 1743.

As she struggles to find a way back to her own time, she encounters a group of Scottish rebels, one of which is James Fraser, a feisty Scot who was injured in a fight.  She tends to his wounds, and eventually falls in love with him.  While their love story is the main focus of the book, and a fantastic one at that, The Outlander takes us through a historical account of a time few of us can imagine.

Claire and Jamie face hardships that only work to bring them closer together, leaving us readers biting our nails in suspense and laughing and crying along with the characters of the story.

After I read The Outlander, I sat right down and read through all six remaining books of the series.  I could hardly put them down, and as soon as I finished one, I immediately signed on to Amazon to get the next.  Never has a series captivated me so completely, and I anxiously await the next book.

I am not a big romance fan, and I probably wouldn’t have given this series a second glance if the first one hadn’t been free, but once I started reading, I really couldn’t stop.  This series is a must-have for almost any fiction reader’s library.

Fireflies in December

Fireflies in December is a book about the lines drawn between black and white and the idea that no good deed goes unpunished.  Set in 1932, when 13-year old Jessilyn Lassiter’s parents take in her best friend Gemma, a black girl whose parents worked for hers, it ignites a chain of events that eventually involves nearly everyone in the small Virginia town.

Poignant and sweet, this book delves into the inner workings of racism in the early 20th century, in a world that few of us can imagine.  This book is part coming of age novel and part historical fiction, and I really enjoyed the eloquent combination of the two.

The author, Jennifer Erin Valent, skillfully weaves this tale, bringing history to life in a way that really touches on the issues we are lucky to have bypassed in recent generations.

Winner of the 2010 Christy Award, Fireflies in December received rave reviews on Amazon, scoring a nice 4.5 star rating with more than 200 reviews.  Reviewers say it is a “finely crafted novel,” “Incredible First Novel,” and that they could not put it down. 

Valent went on to write two other books in the series, Cottonwood Whispers and Catching Moondrops, both of which are also available on Kindle.

Though it has a religious slant, the main focus of the story is the division between races and the struggle for equality in a small southern town.  I think it makes an easy read for teenagers through adults, and is well worth the $10 price tag.

The Clan of the Cave Bear series

I first read The Clan of the Cave Bear when I was a young girl and swiped it from my mother’s bookcase.  I was captivated, and rightly so, for Jean Auel is a talented creator of a world that has captivated girls young and old for many years.  The Clan of the Cave Bear was even made into a movie, and Daryl Hannah was great as Ayla, but the book was better at capturing my imagination.

The Clan of the Cave Bear grew into a large series called Earth’s Children, which now boasts six lengthy books depicting a world we will never see but can only continue to imagine.  What makes these books so special is the amazing amount of research Jean Auel put into the details, telling us the history of a people that long ago ceased to walk the earth. 

She takes great care to fully flesh out the world of her story, and sometimes the details get a bit much, with a single location description spanning multiple pages, but none can dispute the beauty of the history and the compelling story of the people within.

The Earth’s Children series is a bit much for a child, even a teenager, but for adults it is a story that will captivate and delight.  If you are interested in history, and a story that spans a continent in a world we can only imagine, start out with The Clan of the Cave Bear and discover a whole new world, thanks to the storytelling prowess of Jean Auel.

Books That Inspire

Anyone who reads has probably found inspiration within the pages of a book.  Books are such an integral part of our lives, teaching us about almost anything we want to know and inspiring us to reach farther, work harder, love more and do great things. 

For me, although it didn’t inspire me to do great things, there is a book that has been in my thoughts regularly since I was a preteen.  It helped to shape the way I look at nature and the world around me, and has guided me to live a more natural life, leaving less of an impact on the world.

The Mists of Avalon, though centered around the reign of King Arthur and the women who put him on the throne, also tells a fantastical tale of druids living in harmony with their surroundings.  It was that harmony that has stayed with me, inspiring me to do my best to leave no mark on the earth.  How wonderful would it be to live within our means and eat by the sweat of our brow?  Some day, I hope to achieve that completely, but for now it is good enough to hold that dream near.

Books are so important, and the love of books should be passed down through the generations.  No matter what format they take – paper or electronic – they have the power to move us in a way that no other medium can.

What books have inspired you?  Is there a childhood book that has stayed with you through the years?

Blue Boy

"The book starts out with a boy of indeterminate age sneaking off to his mother’s room to put on makeup. "

Okay, let me start this review by saying that I don’t think Blue Boy is a bad book, necessarily, but it was most definitely not my type of book.  I see a lot of reviews on the free Kindle books on Amazon where the reviewers are complaining because they don’t like whatever genre that particular book was.  People, if you don’t read the descriptions, it’s hardly fair to give a book a bad rating simply because it’s not to your taste!

So, while I don’t read descriptions usually when getting free books, I won’t knock this book simply because I don’t like reading that style, which was, I guess, a sort of coming of age drama novel.  I didn’t actually finish reading the book because it couldn’t hold my interest, but I think it deserves a good rating nonetheless.

The book starts out with a boy of indeterminate age sneaking off to his mother’s room to put on makeup.  The descriptions, along with the act, are quite flamboyant and I found myself very able to visualize just what was going on.

It continues as a story about a boy and his struggles with being different.  I don’t know if he turns out to be gay, but that seems to be how the book was heading.  He is definitely effeminate, and suffers greatly at school and his religion because of it.

The author is very talented, and I enjoyed the writing, just not the story so much, but if you are looking for a character to relate with or an underdog to root for, Blue Boy will probably suit you just fine.

The Subverter

"Perhaps because Down a Lost Road set such a high standard, I found myself a little disappointed with this book. "

The Subverter is the sequel to Down a Lost Road, and continues the story with Merelin, the heroine, being beside herself with longing to return to the world she knew only briefly.  Her brother has moved on and made a place for himself back on Earth, but Merelin cannot adjust to being home and instead loses herself in thoughts of the love she lost and the world she left behind.

Once she finds herself back in Arah Byen, the adventure continues with many plot twists and turns and some really suspenseful moments.  It is easy to re-immerse yourself back into the story with The Subverter, although it isn’t quite as captivating as the first book in the series.

Throughout the story, it is impossible to know if the ending will be a happy one, and I found myself anxiously turning the pages to see if everything turned out the way I was hoping it would.

Perhaps because Down a Lost Road set such a high standard, I found myself a little disappointed with this book.  It wasn’t bad at all, and is still leaps and bounds ahead of similar free Kindle books I have read, but it just didn’t captivate me quite as much as the first book.

All in all, I would rate this book at four stars, and I would definitely recommend it as an easy read for anyone interested in fantasy novels.  Despite its slightly weaker finish, I would look forward to reading a third installment, which could be an option based on how this one ended.

Down A Lost Road

I was pleasantly surprised by Down A Lost Road.  It was reminiscent of Twilight (is every supernatural love story going to forever remind us of that saga?), in that the girl goes to a new place and falls in love with a mysterious supernatural superhero, but the comparison stops there. 

I hadn’t really expected to like this book, but it caught my attention from the beginning and kept me interested.  I liked it enough to go right back to Amazon to buy the sequel, The Subverter.

Though I am not big on romance stories, the love that sparks between the two main characters is very low key and only a side note in the greater storyline of an epic battle between good and evil in a world that is not our own.

I really enjoyed the insights into the main character, Merelin, and her quest to do the right thing while struggling with the insecurities and confusion of being thrown into another world without any warning and with no knowledge of how to survive the harsh differences of her new reality.

The author really caught my attention with her descriptive writing.  I felt like she did a great job of painting the scene without being too verbose.  Her writing style was really appealing and helped to solidify the characters and plot.

If you are into supernatural suspense novels, Down A Lost Road is a great read.  I greedily rushed through both this book and its sequel, and can’t wait for the release of the next in the series.

Almost Heaven

Without intending it, the book I read this week was also a religious book – maybe they tend to start with lower numbers on the alphabet, because my Kindle library was sorted alphabetically and I came across this one right after After the Leaves Fall.

Almost Heaven is a captivating book that details the story of a man as he grows from a boy, and the major struggles he endured.  I think most of us can relate to at least one of the bad things that happened to this man, yet throughout the story he remains focused on God and spreading His Word. 

Almost Heaven has two points of view – from the man, Billy’s, and also from his guardian angel.  Honestly, I didn’t see the benefit of having the angel’s point of view, and it kind of made the book harder to follow.  The writer seemed to be uncomfortable writing that POV as well, because it didn’t seem to flow as naturally as the story from Billy’s side.

I really related to this book and the struggles in finding God and a reason for all the bad things that happen in life.  It kept me interested right to the end.  The buildup in the beginning was a little too much, because I found myself slightly disappointed at how the story played out, but overall I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it as a casual read for someone interested in religious fiction.  The publisher, Tyndale, frequently offers free books for Kindle and that is where I picked this one up.