Fortunate to find best-selling free reads

While Kindle freebies are a great marketing strategy frequently employed by indie publishers and small publishing houses, occasionally you’ll find works by best-selling authors, as well.

One of the first free books I picked up for the Kindle was “The Fortune Quilt,” by Lani Diane Rich, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

Although the free “purchase” was a limited time deal, it’s available for $2.99 regularly on Amazon and is eligible for the Kindle Lending Library.

The the tagline on the front of the book was part of what caught my attention, “She’ll tell you love is waiting … she just won’t tell you where.” And while this apparently builds interest (or did for me, anyway), this book is so much more than that.

The real crux of the story, rather than romance, is actually that of a young woman rediscovering herself. There’s a touch of family drama thrown in to explain why Carly, the main character of the novel, seems to flounder a bit at life. Throw in a cast of sometimes highly unpredictable characters, add a touch of romance, and you have a really enjoyable read.

Although liked this book, I’m really glad that I didn’t pay anything for it. Not that I would have, because it’s not the type of book I ever would have purchased. But I’m glad that I read it. And I’d definitely check out her other books or e-books from my local library if I find myself at a loss for light reading material. It appears that Rich is a fairly prolific writer in the “chick lit” genre. Since I enjoyed this book outside my usual reading “comfort zone,” I don’t feel it’s surprising that the author would be a favorite among fans of her brand of fiction.

If you haven’t read anything by Rich and chick lit is your thing, I’d definitely recommend Rich and more specifically, “The Fortune Quilt.” And if it’s not your thing, but you happen to stumble across a free copy, you might just want to give it a try, too.

To find limited-time offers on best-selling authors in the genres you prefer, be sure to check out some of the listing services. My top picks are Book Gorilla (which has an app that makes reviewing the free book lists even easier than checking your e-mail) and Book Lending.

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The Universe Doesn’t Care Much about Johnny Truant (But you might)

As promised, I’m delivering a change of pace today. We’ll leap straight from children’s reading and apps to adult language with this one.

I’ve downloaded several free titles by Johnny B. Truant in previous months, but the first one that caught my attention enough to read was a short titled “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You.” Although at first glance, it might appear that anything with such a title would leave the reader feeling hopeless and uninspired, for me, this short work was completely the opposite. I finished the e-book feeling like I should seize life by the balls, since nothing was going to be handed to me.

My Kindle’s suggestions (and my own library of already downloaded titles) showed Truant to be quite a prolific writer, who also offers his own suggestions on independent publishing. I decided that I would check out the multiple other works by Truant. My next read was another short in the same “Epic” series, “You Are Dying, and Your World is a Lie.” Although on the same theme of life lessons, this essay didn’t have the same riveting power of “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You.”

And so, I moved on from essays to Truant’s fiction, beginning with “Fat Vampire.” And I was sucked into his writing again. I found the premise amusing and refreshingly different than other vampire tales – how a fat man gets changed into a vampire. Truant has considered the nuances of why vampires have always been made to an ideal form in the past, and the differences and difficulties that a fat vampire would face. I finished with a definite interest in returning to the series at some point.

I then moved on to “Unicorn Western” (co-written with Sean Platt). Again, I found myself vaguely disappointed at second glance. In the beginning, I felt the book was a bit overly descriptive of the subtle nuances that differentiated the world of this series from the one we live in. Perhaps to readers of the full saga, those details will be useful. Slow in the beginning, this book did pick up pace. It’s a humorous science-fiction fantasy look at the western novel, and might be appealing to readers who are fans of either genre. The few places scattered throughout the novel that I felt were a bit stilted may have been because of the co-authorship.

But, to consider that theory, I decided to give this writing partnership of Truant and Platt one final chance at redemption. And I was glad I did. “Robot Proletariat” was a return to the theme of taking a familiar concept (this time robots and artificial intelligence; the idealism of vampires in “Fat Vampire;” the concept of the Western novel in an alternate world in “Unicorn Western”) and looking at it in a new way. This introduction to the series established the robots as characters that the reader could connect with and set the stage for an apparent upcoming robot revolution. This was another series that I’d be interested in continuing in the future.

Altogether, Truant’s work leaves a lot of options for the reader, and there are ample opportunities to try before you buy. I’d definitely recommend Truant ‘s works to any fans of the science fiction/fantasy genre; and as free reads, it’s a great chance for any reader to give these stories a try.

For those interested in self-publishing, Truant, Platt and David Wright offer tips in “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Based solely on the number of literary options available from Truant and the quality of what I have read, I feel that this could be a useful read for aspiring authors. (I have not purchased or read this book.)

I’ve moved on for a change of pace in my current reading material, but Truant has several more series that I’ll sample in the future. Free titles by Truant and Platt that I’ve downloaded today are:

Greens: Episode 1

Everyone Gets Divorced: Episode 1

The Beam: Episode 1

Vengeance (Namaste)”

Cursed

Also, while researching this topic, I’ve found that there were several books for the Kindle titled “Cursed,” some of them free, even. Look for an upcoming blog on these “Cursed” books as I read them in the next few weeks.

More on Truant is available at his Amazon page here or his personal page here.

Kindle apps for your zoo

One more day on children’s fare on the Kindle, then I promise I’ll be back to more adult options for a while …

I also want to deviate from my normal topic of e-books to mention a few apps.

I’ll start with an app which is basically a children’s picture book (no words), called Petting Zoo. I almost tied this into my previous post, but really, it kind of deserves its own special place.

Imagine the most fantastic pop-up book you remember from your own childhood, then multiply it by 100. And then, imagine what that book might look like on LSD.

While I consider it a phenomenal must-have for anyone with toddlers and a Kindle, it’s pretty darn fun just for the kid in you, too. (And if you do happen to have both a toddler and this app, you can also experience the unique and special visual experience when a young child does something with the pictures you would never have thought to do – or at least never allowed yourself to do – and creates a wondrous animation.)

This “book” was the advertised free app of the day on Kindle when I got it, and according to reviews, it seems to rotate through that category. So, even if you aren’t in a rush to pay a few bucks for this, keep an eye out.

This book is full of simple line drawings of a variety of animals that, as the title suggests, are interactive when touched. And it is magical! Every animal has multiple videos that vary based on how the screen is touched; every tap or swipe of the screen makes the animals come alive. Depending on the settings selected, the “pages” don’t simply turn, but the animals transform from one to another. And a menu provides nice options such as selecting a favorite animal by picture to jump directly to its page or providing “hints” on actions that you can cause each animal to perform.

I am highly likely to buy similar apps from this publisher. And I’m also likely to purchase this app for anyone I know with children and an android device which will run it. Because it is just that awesome!

While I have already deviated to the subject of children’s apps, I’ll also briefly mention the free ones available from Cubic Frog Apps. These apps are the best I have discovered thus far in the area of pre-school children’s play and learning. We have EduKidsRoom, EduKitchen, EduKitty, EduPaint and iMakeGiantGummies. EduKitty is currently the favorite in our household and the one most manageable by our 2-year-old. I have noticed a few glitches in all of the other apps brought about by an over-zealous youngster who may not have quite the fine motor skills expected to use these games, but I’m fairly certain that they will not be issues as she grows into these games a little more. Also, some of the activities require a level of precision that’s a bit beyond the grasp of my 2-year-old, but instead of finding that a problem, I see it as a challenge that helps her develop skills. (She sees it as amusing most of the time, though it sometimes encourages her to repeat wrong answers again and again after she tried for the correct answer and failed. That’s OK too.) It’s possible that I just haven’t set the difficulty levels correctly and that would fix any minor problems I have had with these games.

iMakeGiantGummies is more game than learning experience. Right now, my toddler’s favorite part of this app is to exploit a glitch in which she “loses” the spoon to stir if she can move it completely off the screen. (So she’s learned something, at least. Yay!) From the app descriptions, I believe the full version of all of these games is available for free, the difference being that a purchase removes advertising. Right now, as the Kindle is only in my toddler’s hands with complete supervision, this is not an issue at all. If she still enjoys the apps when I feel she’s old enough to play on the Kindle on her own, I’ll likely purchase one or two of her favorites.

Free reading for children

 

While I’m thinking of my children, let me pause for a moment to say there’s a special place in my heart for those authors who have offered their children’s books (especially the picture books!) for free online.

 

 Favorite picture books in our collection include:

 

(This link is not to the version we have, but it is the same book. Perhaps we have an “older” version that was offered for free briefly before being discontinued.)

 

 

 

 The Funny Bunny” (Which I found as a limited-time free Kindle purchase while researching the books for this article.)

 

 

 

 Overall, I think picture books on the Kindle are wonderful. They allow young children a chance to see what an e-reader is all about as they realize that these books are the same as their paper or board books. And “turning the pages” helps them learn skills to use a tablet and also lets them interact as we’re reading stories (not to mention, the Kindle “pages” don’t run the risk of tearing the way a printed, paper book will.

 

 Because there seem to be a multitude of great children’s books available at least as limited-time free offers, it’s unlikely that I’ll purchase any for our family any time soon. (Because I’m cheap. Are you noticing that as a recurrent theme in this blog, yet?) But I’d definitely consider purchasing our favorites either in print copies or as e-books for friends with young children, to share the love of reading, because books have always been some of my favorite gifts to give, anyway.

 

 Of the favorite books listed, “Tinky’s Magic Cookies” and “The Magical Dragon’s Three Gifts” seem to have both the best stories and the best illustrations. Both tales teach values – “Tinky’s Magic Cookies” is about a dog that supports others and the importance of believing in yourself; and “The Magical Dragon’s Three Gifts” teaches the importance of being helpful and unselfish.

 

 At the time of this blog post, none of these books were still free on Amazon, but they’d make good purchases for someone looking for e-books to introduce to a toddler.

 

 We also have “Terry Treetop and the Lost Egg,” which remains free on Amazon. This book doesn’t capture my daughter’s interest, and it doesn’t “fit” well on the Kindle (the text seems to run on to the next page from the pictures no matter which orientation is used. But all in all, it seems to be an OK book. It is free at the time of this post, and appears that it may remain so as a free introduction to the Terry Treetop series, so I feel it’s worth mentioning (and looking at, if you happen to have young children in addition to your Kindle).

 

 From a young age, my strategy for reading with my daughter has been to use picture story books for daytime reading fare, and longer stories  generally intended for older children for bedtime (fairy tales or a chapter or so from chapter-books). That was because the longer stories, without pictures, were less distracting since my daughter could just listen to my voice and wasn’t staying awake in order to see the pictures. I mention this because this strategy works GREAT on the Kindle. I began trying with just the text stories at first, but before my daughter recognized that the Kindle was for reading, too, she wanted to play with it. By introducing her to picture books on the Kindle so that see grasped the concept that there are books in there, it has allowed me to also read her bedtime stories from the Kindle. And it works excellent for this purpose, because you can read with no effort even in a dimly lit room. Perfect for bedtime!

 

“Helpless” to resist a free e-book offer

As the mother of two young children, the short story “Helpless” recently caught my attention as one of the free books available on Amazon. It’s still free at the time of this post, and seems like this may be one of those long-term marketing offers to sell Rosie Lewis’ other books.

Lewis’ tells a poignant story through well-written prose about fostering a child in the first few weeks of life and the tugging of heart strings that came with relinquishing care of that child to adoptive parents.

Her story was really touching, though I really doubt that I’ll read any of the rest of her works. I really don’t relate, and while it’s a nice idea to know that her profits from the sales of her books will undoubtedly be helping to support the children she fosters, I won’t buy these heart-wrenching tales. That, and as I believe I’ve already mentioned a few times in this blog, I’m cheap.

But I would highly recommend Lewis’ as a writer for any readers who enjoy emotional roller coasters that will leave a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. And I think her books would make great required reading for anyone considering fostering children, and would offer a nice perspective for those considering adoption, too, to give them a glimpse of the type people who may have shared a giant piece of their heart with a little bundle of joy until that child could find the right forever home.

Thank you, Rosie Lewis, for opening your heart and your home to children in need. And thank you for sharing your stories with us, so others can have a brief glimpse of the joys and heartaches of fostering.

Life Among the Lutherans (from a woman’s perspective)

Another series that employs the “first one’s always free” technique of marketing is “The Stories of the Lutheran Ladies Circle” by Kris Knorr. Recently, the first in the series, “Plucking One String” was the subject of my free reading project. (As an added bonus, while researching the author, I found it’s also available free for the Nook here.)

It was the “Lutheran Ladies Circle” which first caught my attention when “purchasing” this free e-book. As a huge fan of Garrison Keillor, both of the Prairie Home Companion radio program and his books, I hoped to find that this series would be similar. I was not disappointed. Knorr relays much of the same sense of humor that Keillor shares in his stories of the Lutherans. And what Knorr lacks in “hot dish” she makes up for with an ample serving of “Jello salad.” (If you don’t have a clue what that reference meant, this might not be the book for you. Or then again, maybe this book will be a whole new experience.) I was absolutely delighted to find a similar author with her own unique voice.

*BTW, you’ll find the recipe for “Heavenly Peachy Salad” at the end of this book.*

More than just humor, this is a poignant tale with well-rounded, relatable characters. Each woman deals with her own trials and tribulations; from rediscovering oneself after the loss of a spouse to moving on after divorce to unplanned pregnancy to growing old with style and panache. Each individual story is told through the lens of a woman’s relationship with the Lutheran church and its “lady’s circle”. By the end of the book, not only will they re-discover that God is “big enough” to help them shoulder all their burdens, but you might, as well.

I first opened this e-book seeking the whimsical tones of Keillor, but what I discovered was so much more. Knorr manages to weave that same brand of humor into a story that also includes threads of chick-lit and understated Christian highlights.

I loved “Plucking One String” and am very likely to continue the series at some point. I can’t imagine never revisiting Vera or Aunt Ula, or any of these lovely Lutheran ladies. Knorr has recently released a third installment in the series, and I look forward to many more to come.

Female fans of Garrison Keillor should get this book right now! And anyone else who enjoys light, humorous reading should be sure to check it out sometime too. There’s nothing to lose.

For a little more light humor and updates on her latest works, you can also find Knorr here on WordPress.