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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

January 27, 2017

Review: HonestFew - a New Site For Getting Free eBooks

by Donna Huber

Reading can be an expensive form of entertainment, especially if you are an avid reader who consumes several books a month.

The library has always been a great resource for avid readers and growing up that is where most of my reading material came from. But then life started getting in the way and I found I couldn't always get through a book during the 2 week lending period or more often that I couldn't get to the library during their hours to browse for books.

Since ebooks hit the digital shelves, there has been a plethora of ebooks offered for free. If you have a Kindle, then you always have a large selection of free ebook options. However, I use a Nook and there aren't quite as many free ebooks at B&N. I started book blogging in part to receive free books, but writing reviews takes time - time that not everyone has. So what is a regular avid reader to do?

I was recently asked to review a new site that offers free ebooks in exchange for a social media share. HonestFew launched a new book discovery engine in December wherein a reader is provided with a single line to entice them. It gives new importance to the "book hook". (If you rather judge a book by its cover, you can scroll down and see the covers of available ebooks).

When you find a one-liner that intrigues you, you are directed to the author's page on the site. On this page you get information about the author and why he/she thinks you will like their book. There are also two options for obtaining the book:
  1. Purchase Now - Takes you to Amazon where you purchase the book
  2. Get it free - for either a tweet, Facebook share or Facebook like you get a link to the ebook files (both epub and mobi versions are available)
That's about it to using the site. I liked that it was easy to use (once I figured out what to do) and the clean look made it visually appealing (particularly if you are using your phone). There aren't ads and other flashy clutter that you find on so many other book sites.

The minimalist look, though, had some drawbacks. I couldn't easily find instructions or what exactly I was responsible for. There are mentions of writing reviews, the drop down menu has a "verify review" option, but I couldn't easily tell if it was a condition of obtaining a free ebook. I found the whole drop down menu confusing as you have to look under "services" to get to the book discovery page.

Honestly, the lack of basic website components that I feel are standard for reputable companies had me questioning the legitimatize of the site. What company doesn't offer a Frequently Asked Questions type page that explains how things work? Contact information and About Us is also missing.

I still don't understand what the "what product did you order" and "product order number" on my profile are for.

I'm also not sure how much the author benefits from the site. The text above the social share buttons make it sound like the share will promote the author or book:
You can get the book free if you simply spread the word about this book! Help an author out and get a great book.
The tweet that is generated is simply an advertisement for HonestFew, though it does link to the author page with the book.

You can change the tweet to anything you want, but I would have liked for the generated tweet to be more about supporting the book. The Facebook share and Facebook like similarly seem more about the HonestFew site than the author/book.

As for the ebooks offered: I don't think I had heard of any of them, but there is a wide variety including non-fiction and children's books. The book that caught my eye first was Girl On Fire by Sue Wyshynki. I looked it up on Amazon where it had more than 100 reviews, but it was also free (it is permafree since I also found it on Barnes and Noble). I wondered if all the books were available free at the stores. So I checked a few others and they aren't all available for free. One ebook costs $5.99 at Amazon. Some were older titles, but I did see at least one that was published late last year. 

I liked that I could get the epub files since I use a Nook. But make sure you are on the computer that you use for Adobe Editions or have a cloud based service that you can save the files to since you can only access the link at that time. Of course, you can always social share again to get the link. By the way, the link is for a folder on Google Drive.

For the reader, HonestFew can be a fun way to discover new books. I would like for there to be more information about using the site as a reader. I also felt like the site was more about selling HonestFew's services than actually discovering books. So more separation of the two would be more appealing to me as a reader. Maybe make "Reader" a top menu item instead of being in the drop down menu under services.

Overall, I wasn't particularly impressed with it. If you aren't sure what to read next or want to find a new to you author, then you might really like the site.  I like the idea of offering a social share as currency for an ebook. 

Have you tried the site? If so, what do you think? 

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January 26, 2017

Review: Witch's Sacrifice by Crissy Moss

by MK French

April 2015; 9781511724074; ebook and
print (220 pages); young adult, fantasy
a free book was provided for this review
In this waterlogged world, magic performed by witches is dangerous and has to be eradicated by sacrifice to the kraken. Anyone a little bit different is often labeled a witch and taken by acolytes to be sacrificed. Marizza thought she was an ordinary girl until anger at being harassed revealed magical power she didn't know she had. The Little Mother rescued her and taught her how to use her gift while keeping her safe, but she falls in love with a merman despite the dangers.

The worldbuilding in Witch's Sacrifice is lovely. There's a complex society for the characters to live in, a real sense of danger when magic is revealed, and tension involving the Little Mother's rescues. The studies that Marizza does are glossed over, at some points and vividly described at others. The relationship does develop over time, but the passage of time isn't well delineated. As a result, it feels very rushed and superficial. The fact that each person has separate needs and can still love each other is a great sentiment to add to a YA novel. That it also results in disaster because of lack of communication is almost a given because of the genre. Overall, it feels very short and formulaic. As the first book in a trilogy, the plot threads left hanging at the end will likely be addressed then.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 25, 2017

OD'ing on Gabaldon: "The Scottish Prisoner"

by Kathleen Barker

When you get hooked on a book series, feverishly reading each and every one, it can seem like a good friend has died when you finish (okay, after you finish re-reading the entire series three times).  That's how I felt when I finished Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series.  I was thrilled when I found the television series based on the novels and watched the first two seasons multiple times.  At that point, I discovered Winston Graham's "Poldark" books.  Read all of them.  Watched the PBS series.  Now what?

Gabaldon gave in to her legions of tormented fans and took up the task of writing yet another "Outlander" book, but it takes time.  I looked to see if she had written anything else, and discovered that she has taken one of the more popular men from the series, Lord John Grey, and written several books where he is the central character.  Although any "Outlander" devotee wants the focus on Scotsman James Fraser and his wife, Claire, I was willing to give it a go.  Gabaldon's mastery of the historical novel is impressive, and The Scottish Prisoner fills in gaps of time that exist for Fraser while it shows how Fraser and Grey's deep and richly complicated friendship developed.

While the crackling romance between Jamie and Claire isn't in this book, she is there is spirit as he sadly yearns for her.  No man spends twenty plus years doing nothing but pine for his lost (he believes) wife, and this book paints a fuller picture of the Scotsman's efforts to find reasons to continue to live.  It also helps me wait for both the next "Outlander" novel as well as season three of the television series.

Kathleen Barker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Blessed Sacrament, the Institute of Notre Dame and Towson University, she spent twenty years as the much-traveled wife of a Navy pilot and has three children. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles for their magazine and received the Field Reporter of the Year award. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on "The Charm City Chronicles". All four volumes, "Ednor Scardens", "The Body War", "The Hurting Year", and "On Gabriel's Wings" are available in Amazon's Kindle store.

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January 24, 2017

Russell Nohelty: How I Got Over my Grandfather Being a Jerk

It started with a bang and a whimper.
Well it wasn’t really a bang.
It was more like a slap. Well, exactly like a slap.
Actually, it wasn’t really a slap either. It was – what’s the sound a fist makes when it connects with a woman’s jaw? Like a woomp, or a thud, or a thwonk.

When I was a child, I loved my grandfather. I thought he walked on water. It wasn’t until years later that I found out how horrible he was to my mother and sister. He was mean, surly, and, frankly, abusive, at least emotionally, to everybody but me.

For years, I wrestled with the idea of how I could see a man so differently than the rest of the world. After all, to me Pop, as I called him, was the nicest guy ever. He took me to the dump to search for buried treasure. He took me on walks to his favorite diners. He was always doing nice things for me.

How could he be so nice to me and so mean to everybody else that I knew and loved? How could they see a completely different man than I did?

All of these feelings bubbled over after I finished my second novel, My Father Didn’t Kill Himself. My grandfather was very sick at the time, and my mother was taking the train from Virginia all the way up to New Jersey every couple of months to see him, even though he was miserable to her for years.

It was too much to process. I had to write about it, which is where Spaceship Broken, Needs Repairs comes from; that desire to understand my life.

My Father Didn’t Kill Himself was about a girl’s complicated relationship with her father, and it only made sense to make my next book about a boy’s complicated relationship with his grandfather. While My Father Didn’t Kill Himself wasn’t autobiographical in any way, a lot of Spaceship Broken, Needs Repairs would tonally represent my relationship with my grandfather, even though it was all still 100% fictional.

Because of that, I wanted to add a lot of fantastical elements so it didn’t feel too much like a depressing coming of age story. I infused a homeless alien into the plot and made the crux of the story about helping her rebuild her ship and get off the planet, but in reality what I was trying to explore was the complicated relationship between my Pop and me.

I never really understand anything until I finish the book about it, but once this book was done I was finally able to put those nagging thoughts to bed and reconcile my relationship with my Pop. I only wish it happened before he died.

If you want to read more about Spaceship Broken: Needs Repairs at Amazon.

About the Author

Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and speaker. He runs Wannabe Press, which publishes weird books for weird people, and hosts The Business of Art podcast, which helps creatives build better businesses.
Russell is the author of Gumshoes: The Case of Madison’s Father and My Father Didn’t Kill Himself, along with the creator of the Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, Gherkin Boy, and Katrina Hates the Dead graphic novels. He makes books that are as entertaining and weird as they are thought provoking.

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January 23, 2017

Susan's (@SueDonaroad) 2017 Personal Reading Challenge #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

A new year has started and it's time to think about my reading plans for 2017.  Before I do that, I thought that I should look back at my stats for my 2016 reading.

  • My goal was 100 books and I read 170 books.  Yes, I'm retired but I'm a very busy retiree.  The main reason that I had my best reading year ever is because I spent a lot of time out of state with my mom who is in a nursing home.  I go back to the hotel when she goes to dinner and have the entire evening with no meals to cook or cleaning to do so I read every evening.
  • Of those books 45 were 5-star books, 95 were 4-star books, 22 were 3-star books and 8 were not completed.
  • I read 13 non-fiction books and my favorite was When Breath Becomes Air.  The rest were fiction with my favorites being Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White and Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey. 
  • My fiction books were mostly women's fiction, Southern fiction, and WWII fiction.
  • One other interesting thing about my 2016 reading is that over 80% of it was written by female authors.

So now it's time to think about my 2017 goals.  I don't like my goals to be too complicated, I want to read for enjoyment and not just to meet a goal.  That said, I would like to read some different things this year to broaden my reading life.  So here's my plan:

Read 140 books, in this total:
  • 12 need to be non-fiction
  • 6 need to be classics (3 re-reads of books I read in college and 3 new to me classics)
  • 3 need to be poetry (I always enjoyed poetry but haven't read it in years)
Also, I would like to read more debut authors. I read a lot last year and would like to continue this trend.

That's my reading plans for 2017.  How about you - do you make reading plans for the year?  Do you use Goodreads or another platform?  Have you made your plans for 2017??

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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