Not Miraculous, but an OK Read

After the heart-heavy drama of “The Cloud Seeders,” I was ready for a little levity in my next book. So I selected one of my Kindle freebies that seemed to be a light-hearted romance, “Stardust Miracle,” by Edie Ramer.

I found this book to be an amusing diversion from my usual reading, but I found the fast pace left me wanting for a little more substance.

I had a hard time connecting with the main character, Becky, who seemingly goes from minister’s wife to promiscuous dating dynamo in the turn of a page. I found myself connecting more with the tragic sub-plot in the middle of the story rather than with Becky, when I was really looking for a fun and humorous read. And in the end, although it appears Becky will get the miracle she has hoped for, I felt as though I had been left a little high-and-dry in the romance department.

Ramer is a talented writer and has the ability to create life-like characters that draw the reader in. However, I felt that not all of her characters were so skillfully drawn, and, unfortunately, sometimes even the main character ended up feeling two-dimensional in a world of other delightful people that you’d love to get to know better.

Once again, this is a book that I feel that had I spent money on, I would have been sorely disappointed, but enjoyed as a free read. And, with multiple other free offerings, I’m likely to give Ramer’s books a second chance.

“Stardust Miracle” appears to be a somewhat permanent free offering, as an introduction to Ramer’s “A Miracle Interrupted” series (although it is the second book in the series). Some of Ramer’s other books, including “Hearts in Motion” (Book 1 of the “Rescued Hearts” series), “Dead People in Love” (a short story and Book 2 of the “Haunted Hearts” series) and “The Fat Cat” (a short story in the “Cattitude” series), are also available free to purchase for the Kindle. Her work is featured in multiple anthologies, including the free titles “Heart 2 Heart” (“Stardust Miracle” and “Hearts in Motion”) and “Light and Dark” (“Hearts in Motion” and Dale Mayer’s “Tuesday’s Child”).

Ramer’s book took me to a place I enjoyed visiting and wouldn’t mind going back to, even if it wasn’t someplace that I’m longing to return to soon. And, in a way, it’s nice to have a little light reading without a sense of commitment that you’re just dying to read the next in the series.

Relationship Issues and Our Kindle

Apologies are due for the lapse in my blogging – life in our household has been especially hectic of late. Additionally, it seems my husband has finally discovered the joys of the Kindle (it was a joint Christmas gift to the both of us), and has been somewhat monopolizing it to play “Clash of Lords 2.” I’ve never played this game, but personally, I recommend avoiding it. Based on what I’ve heard about it, it seems that when you’re not actively playing the game, unless you’ve put up “shields” which will keep you from playing the game until they expire, you’re open to attack and losing everything you’ve worked for. This seems terribly frustrating to me (and frustrating to the hubby – we’ve had a few incidents where I “stole” the Kindle as he wasn’t directly playing, but he was trying to keep his game logged in during those times to avoid these attacks, and my time on the Kindle was enough to log him out, ergo, he lost what he was working toward). The games I play provide “bonuses” for the time you’re logged out (such as allowing other players to borrow your character and offering “pal points” to both the player who is using another character and the player whose character is used), so I find it quite petty for a game that offers only “threats” during the time a player is logged out.

But enough about games. This blog is about books.

I have actually read a few (or at least a couple), and we’re now working toward a more amenable schedule so that I can once again get a little screen time without fear of inspiring the hubby’s wrath.

One recent read, inspired by the relationship between my husband, myself and our Kindle, was “Men Fake Foreplay … And Other Lies That Are True” by Mike Dugan. I picked this book up as a free promotion a while back, it’s regularly priced at $3.99.

Dugan points out straight-away that the intention of his book isn’t to bash men (a sentiment that I found a slight bit disappointing as I started my reading, as I was in a particularly pessimistic mood regarding “mankind” at the moment). But he launched into his subject matter with such wit and humor that I soon found my mood lightening regardless, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book without even realizing that there was some pretty serious and thoughtful relationship advice.

Not to say that this isn’t an enjoyable read after the first half, but there’s a definite change of tone in the second half, and I found myself missing the zany zingers peppered with almost subliminal relationship advice as I moved into the more serious subject matter toward the end.

At $3.99, I feel that this is a great book for those who might be seeking a little light-hearted relationship advice which might help others have a little better understanding of their other half. Those seeking only a light-humorous read (the comedic antics that have earned Dugan an Emmy for his writing for television) may wish to wait for another book.

Either way, if you happen to stumble across this book as a free promotion, as I did, I’d definitely recommend adding it to your Kindle library.

Seize the Day Sunday (Some Rousing Demon-Hunting Adventures)

What topic could be more appropriate for a leisurely Sunday afternoon blog than a little demon slaying? Well, it just so happens that I recently finished two free reads on just that topic, “Carpe Demon” and the short “The Demon You Know,” both by Julie Kenner, so in terms of perfect fodder for my blog, I’m in luck!

“Carpe Demon” is the introductory book in the “Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom” series. At the beginning of the novel, our heroine, Kate Connor, is a “retired” demon-hunter who is also the mother to both a teenager and a toddler. When she suddenly finds herself under attack by the forces of evil, Kate must make adjustments that leave her juggling her “perfect” life as wife and mother along with returning to her devil-demolishing ways.

Although enjoying the fast-paced readability and humor of this book, about halfway through the book, I found myself groaning at the predictability as I assumed that I’d guessed a major point in the plot that would be part of the “big reveal” at the end. Then, I groaned even louder when I was three-quarters of the way through the book before the heroine, predictably, began to suspect the same. And then, as I neared the end of the book, I fell in love with Kenner’s style when I realized that she’d thrown the reader a curveball – the plot that was so predictable was entirely a diversionary tactic and the book ended with a fast-paced, surprising ending.

I love the characters in this novel, and as the mother of a toddler and an infant found her to be highly relatable. I suspect mothers of teenagers would find her just as relatable as well, so I think the age gap between Kate’s children really spreads out the audience of these books. Not to say that if you’re not a “soccer mom” yourself you won’t enjoy these books, but if you are, I think you’ll find yourself really immersed in the fictional world Kenner has created.

This is a series I could definitely see myself returning to at some point in the future.

“The Demon You Know” is a short story in the same series. As another glimpse into the life of Kate Connor and her family, it was an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t really have enough “meat on the bones” to really bring readers into the series, I feel. You’ll need to already know and love the characters in this short to enjoy it. But if you’re reading the “Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom” and have somehow managed to miss this short, you should definitely get it right now.

At the time of this blog post, both “Carpe Demon” and “The Demon You Know” are still available for free on Kindle, as is the first book of another series by Kenner, “Aphrodite’s Kiss” of the Protectors Superhero Series.

Kenner is a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller.

As I have previously mentioned in my blog, although a lot of the free books available to “purchase” on Amazon are independent writers (and this is a great way to find new talent), there are also a number of opportunities to pick up books by bestselling authors, so those who prefer tried and true authors aren’t completely out of luck in looking for free reads.

“Twirty-Something”

I’m currently struggling through a longer, rougher selection in my reading list (which I do intend to finish, for reasons I’ll reveal in the review, so I won’t mention the title here). So I’ve been lightening the mood with some other, lighter reading in between.

One gem I have found in the interim is “Twirty-Something: A Young Woman’s Guide to Giant Underwear” by Ingrid Rienke.

I readily identified with every one of these essays, and loved the humor and wit with which they were presented. This is exactly the advice I would give my younger self if I could go back in time, but to which I probably would not have listened.

From reading, it’s hard to tell if the target audience truly is younger women, or whether it really is us “twirty-something” women who have already been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirts. Because I know, as a younger woman, I never would have thought there would be a day when these words rang so true for me. But it’s a great book for those of us who’ve already had the experience – reading Reinke’s book is like having a best friend there to commisserate on all the ways our lives have changed since our younger days. And at the very least, it’s amusing to contemplate the thought of someone explaining these changes in great detail to a younger generation, or to wonder how our lives might have been changed had someone explained all of this to us before we had to learn it on our own.

I’d recommend this short collection of essays to women of all ages – to the younger women who might still benefit from the wisdom of slightly older women, to those of us “Twirty-Somethings” who can readily identify with the very real plights of life expressed in these pages, and even to women who have moved past that point in their lives, who might be able to wistfully look back to the days when these were their struggles. And who knows, some of those older women might even be encouraged to share their wit and wisdom with those of us “Twirty-Somethings,” and perhaps we have grown up enough now to listen. Otherwise, perhaps we’ll have to wait for Reinke to share with us the issues of menopause, graying hair, hair dye, and the numerous other issues we’ll face in the future, hopefully still with the same delightful humor.

After the laughs and groans of “Twirty-Something,” I was excited to find that Reinke also has a debut novel, “Dead End Job,” part of her Louisa Hallstrom series, also currently available free for the Kindle. I look forward to reading it soon.

 

High-larious High-jinks

Through my Twitter base, I recently discovered another free reading experience by author David A. Roberts. Roberts is working on an interactive writing project, “Mile High.” This was also my first experience with getting a free book from Smashwords, rather than directly from Amazon, as I’m usually very selective about my downloads (those who follow me on Twitter may have seen a recent conversation with an author regarding free reading vs. piracy). I’m not equating Smashwords with piracy, but I had previously limited my experience directly to Amazon downloads as this was my first experience with legitimately free books. Free books are awesome, stolen books are not, by the way! #piracyisnotfree

But I digress. The topic of this blog is “Mile High,” by David A. Roberts. The only fitting review of this book is that I am addicted! The protagonist of the series, David Allen, is a high-end (pun intended) pot dealer in Colorado whose livelihood is impacted by the legalization of cannabis. In the first volume, you meet David and his closest friends and colleagues, learn a bit about his process, and meet the first of what are certain to be a series of antagonists – a PI hired by a larger supplier to contact David regarding his special variety of weed.

My only complaint so far is that this volume is far too short! In the interest, I’m certain, of following through with the social aspect and allowing readers to make suggestions on where the storyline should go, this first volume ends on a cliff-hanger with David eluding contact with the PI, at least for the moment, after an intense chase.

As a work in progress, the work is a tad rough, but not enough to truly detract from the storyline. Not to stereotype or anything, but any fan of stoner humor isn’t even likely to notice.

I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of stoner humor. And any general humor fan, or anyone who is interested in finding out what an interactive novel is about, who wouldn’t be offended by drug references and some light cursing.

As for me, I’ll be “highly” anticipating the next installment.

Previewing a new release

I’ve enjoyed Adam Carolla’s quirky sense of humor as far back as my high school days, when he appeared on “Loveline” with Dr. Drew. So when I saw a free preview for an upcoming book, “President Me” I was pretty excited, although I’d never read anything by Carolla in the past.

I was not disappointed. Whether this book is the actual written work of Carolla or ghost-written with his oversight, the sample chapters contain the same quick wit that I’ve enjoyed watching Carolla on TV. Other fans of Carolla will no doubt find this book delightful, as will fans of political satire.

I found Carolla’s point of view on the common man as president to be humorous and insightful. I loved the concept that Carolla puts out there that, “I want a president that thinks like me, but I don’t want them to be like me.” I’d never really thought of the idea of a “common man” president in these terms, but it makes a lot of sense!

The full version of “President Me” was released today on the Kindle. Although the free preview version that I got is no longer available, you can still sample a portion of the book for free before buying.

As much as I like Adam Carolla, I’m not likely to buy this book at full price. I’m adding it to my watch list for price drops, though. And Carolla’s other books, “In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks” and “Not Taco Bell Material” are both available for $7.99. Also available for $5.99 is “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

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.