Friday, November 28, 2014

Save Your Money, Save Your Life / James Conklin


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction/Finance/Self-Help

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Information on this author is skimpy. From the book, he has some kids and a spouse and I believe he lives in Washington state.

Description:

“What would you do with an extra $10, $100, or $200 a month?

We all have different reasons to want to save money. For some it is to pay off debts. For others, it’s a better car, clothes, or new toys. For another group, it is a desire to build up a nest egg to start working for them and break out of the cycle of working to spend.

Whatever your reason to cut expenses and save money, we can all use ideas on where to get started. Save Your Money, Save Your Life offers 110 suggestions on fun and practical ways to reduce your spending and keep more money in your wallet.”

Appraisal:

I’m going to guess that almost everyone wishes they had more money, whether to be able to buy more or save more for the future. The concept of this book is summed up by the old Ben Franklin quote that has reached the point of cliché, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” If you spend less on something (or don’t spend it at all), you’ll have more money for something else.

Another cliché is saying someone “squeezes a penny until Lincoln screams,” and some of these ideas abuse Lincoln worse than a third-world sweatshop. Others, only the most extreme spendthrift won’t have already considered. You’ll find a few that won’t apply to you. (For example, how many people go to movie theaters? There must be some, because the theaters are still open, but personally I don’t remember the last time I did and I’m sure a lot of you are the same.)

Since this review is already cliché ridden, I’ll point out that time is money. Some of the ideas suggested trade time for money (for example, preparing certain food and cleaning staples from scratch, rather than buying them already made at a higher cost). How the tradeoff between time and money works for you will determine which, if any, of some ideas make sense for you. It depends on how much of each you have.

However, for this book to be a worthwhile purchase, you only need to find one idea that makes sense to implement. Many of the ideas take little to no effort on your part, only a minor change in habit. (For example, the choice in light bulbs you use.) Several savings ideas have positive effects in other ways, either on your health or the environment, which might be an additional reason to consider them. At its core, Save Your Money, Save Your Life, aims to get you to take a hard look at some of your spending habits and question them. That’s beneficial to anyone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues


Rating: **** Four Stars

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Suicide City, a Love Story / Julie Frayn


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/YA/Coming of Age

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

The author of three novels and two short story collections, Julie Frayn lives in Calgary, Alberta where she’s a senior manager at a historical theme park. Her novel It isn’t Cheating if He’s Dead was the top vote getter in the Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction category of the 2014 BigAl’s Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Awards.

For more, visit Frayn’s website.

Description:

“Sixteen-year-old August Bailey yearns for more than pig slop and cow shit. She fantasizes about an apartment in the city, not a tiny house on an Iowa farm. She dreams of new clothes and falling in love with a worthy boy. Not hand-me-downs from the second hand store in Hubble Falls, population two-and-a-half, or having her jock boyfriend grope her and push her for sex. During another fight about makeup and boys, August’s controlling mother slaps her. And August hops the next bus out of town.

She arrives in Charlesworth to discover that reality and fantasy don’t mix. After a night of gunfire and propositions from old, disgusting men, she is determined to find the ‘real city,’ the ‘real people’ of her dreams. To prove to her mother, and herself, that she is the adult she claims to be.

When her money runs out, she is ‘saved’ by seventeen-year-old Reese, a kind boy with electric eyes and a gentleman’s heart. Reese lives on the streets. Though clean for months, he battles heroin addiction and the compulsion to cut himself. Each day is a struggle to make the right choice.
August falls in love with Reese, and knows her love can save him. She breaks down his emotional walls and he tells her his secrets – of abuse and the truth about his mother’s death.

As Reese’s feelings for August grow, so does the realization that keeping her could ruin her life too.

Suicide City is an edgy young adult novel. Told from the points of view of August, Reese, and August’s mother, the story takes an honest and sometimes explicit look at some hard realities including teen homelessness, drug use, child abuse and prostitution. But at its heart, it is the story of first love – and the consequences of every choice made.”

Appraisal:

I’ve read and loved Julie Frayn’s other novels. Suicide City keeps the streak going. This book has a lot in common with the others, yet in many ways felt much different. I’ll try exploring those feelings, but first the commonalities.

As with all of Frayn’s novels, I found it easy to relate to the main characters and quickly cared about them. Each looks at someone experiencing difficulties that while not universal (as in not everyone experiences them), they are also not uncommon. Each story explores some of the dark corners of society and the human experience, but avoids doing so in a way that is too bleak and, in the end, feels uplifting and enlightening rather than being a downer.

Now for the differences. The biggest one is in the other books the situation the characters found themselves in was through no fault of their own. Here, August is at least partially responsible. However, I didn’t find this to make her any less sympathetic, nor did I have any trouble understanding why she chose to run away from home, as wrongheaded as it was. August is also younger than the protagonist in Frayn’s other novels and, as the author’s description says, this book is at least partially aimed at the young adult audience, calling it “edgy young adult.” And that’s the rub. Those in that cohort who might benefit the most in considering how this story turns out are the same kids whose overprotective parents would object to their child reading it, primarily because of adult language and mild sexual situations. That’s a shame. It’s a great story, suitable (at least in my opinion) for older teens and adults.

FYI:

Minor adult content. Adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: ***** Five Stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 11/27/2014

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


The Memory Man by Helen Smith








The Way to Everywhere by Kristen Bloomberg Feldman




A Chance for Charity by S.L. Baum



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sand Castle / Ayami Tyndall


Reviewed by: Sooz

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 20,000-25,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Ayami Tyndall is a California native who is an avid reader. He’s authored several books many of which look at how technology has changed our lives. You can learn more about Ayami and his works at his website.

Description:

Dylan Quale receives a series of texts and phone calls predicting the immediate future. It turns out that probabilities are changing, and narrowing to one certain outcome, and Dylan is the one to fix it.

Appraisal:

Sometime coincidences can turn out to be something a little bigger – that’s what Dylan Quale realizes when he has received a series of strange, yet prophetic phone calls. Something is wrong in the world and options for people are narrowing, meaning their choices will lead to one conclusion, and it’s usually not a good one.

Dylan is apparently the only who could fix them although he is a bit reluctant to try. The short story is captivating to start. Everything the mysterious text messages and phone calls to Dylan have turned true, so it quickly lent to immediate questions: Who is sending these? Why is this happening? How could Dylan save them?

However, in the middle the book became a bit confusing and just a little absurd. The narrowed choices led to apocalyptic-type of events: a plane falling on a house; missing family members returning; everyone seeming to be related.

The idea of Sand Castle still intrigues me. I think this book falls into a case of actually being too short. I would have liked to have more pages explaining some of peculiarities and ensuring I understood what was going on because I stopped “getting it.”

Instead, I finished with confusion and doubt.

Format/Typo Issues:

No major issues


Rating: ***Three stars

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blue Creek Bachelor/ Joanne Hill


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Sweet Romance/ Contemporary Romance

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Joanne Hill is an author of contemporary novels with strong romantic elements. She lives in New Zealand. For more, visit Hill's website.

Description:

“Jilly O’Connor is one determined woman. Determined to keep her only child Joel safe from the man she knows killed her husband, the man who is after her son - the only witness.

Jilly has found a new life in the small rural town of Blue Creek, Wyoming and when she starts a job on Clay Matheson’s ranch, it finally begins to feel as if things are coming together. She just hadn’t counted on finding the family-she-never-had at the ranch, and neither did she count on her growing attraction to Blue Creek’s most eligible bachelor.

Clay Matheson - rancher, vet, confirmed bachelor - loathes secrets and his new assistant is loaded with them. He's prepared to overlook that fact as she sets about fitting into ranch life and his staff begin to take her and her young son into their hearts.

But when he starts to have feelings for Jilly, suddenly, it all looks different.

How can he trust a woman who is keeping her past to herself?

And how can Jilly give away her heart to Clay knowing each day her decisions have led her to where she is today - living on the run.”

Appraisal:

Jilly O’Conner has been on the run for a year now. Trying to protect her young son, Joel, from the man she believes caused the car accident that killed her husband a year ago. Joel was in the car with his father when it was forced off the road but has no memory of the accident. He now sleep walks and suffers night terrors, which the doctors believe are his memories trying to resurface. Jilly moved from the east coast to the small rural town of Blue Creek, Wyoming hoping she had covered her tracks well enough. When an office manager’s job with Clay Matheson, a local veterinarian/rancher, becomes available she applies for the job. Employment includes a small cabin on the ranch not far from the main house.

The characters are well developed, realistic, and likable. Flo, the housekeeper, was entertaining and a bit eccentric. You couldn’t help but like her, she was a no nonsense type of character and very outspoken. The hired ranch hands John and Mitch live in the bunkhouse, so they are always close by. John Floyd was friendly and good natured. Mitch Callaghan was always cranky and not pleased that the boss had hired a city slicker and with a kid to boot.

The plot moved at a good pace as we learned more about Clay’s past and why he shielded his heart. He knows Jilly is hiding something about her past and feels betrayed and lied to when she won’t confide in him. The sexual tension is palatable and I wanted more. I like my romances a little spicy. Tension rises when Joel goes missing and the whole town gets in on the search to locate him. The situation is realistic and I felt invested in the outcome.

This is a quick easy read you are sure to enjoy.

FYI:

Ms. Hill, being from New Zealand, uses UK/NZ/Australian spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number of proofing issues. One of which was a wrong character name. Poor Stacey was called Tracey. 


Rating: **** Four stars

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two and a Half Weeks / Tim W. Jackson


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor/Short Story

Approximate word count: 4-5,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

A former photojournalist, Tim W. Jackson now splits his time between captaining a boat, teaching people how to scuba dive, and (obviously) writing. He has one novel, Mangrove Underground. Jackson also has multiple short stories available, all set on the tropical Blacktip Island, also the setting for his upcoming second novel.

For more, visit Jackson’s blog.

Description:

“Caribbean dive guide Gage Hoase woos and wins a beautiful dive guest then sends her packing. All is good until Gabi returns, with happily-ever-after on her mind. Now Gage has to figure a way to let her down gently before she offs him in his sleep.”

Appraisal:

The setup is simple, with lots of possibility. Gage thinks he’s got the perfect situation as he puts his twist on the old cliché. He loves ’em, but they do the leaving. Then one of his conquests decides to come back with plans to stay. As you might expect, the situation is full of humor as Gage attempts to extricate himself. This is a well written, short, yet fun read.

FYI:

Mild adult situations

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hoodoo Money / Sharon Cupp Pennington


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Romantic Suspense/ Mystery/ Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Sharon Cupp Pennington’s “short stories have appeared in numerous online and print venues, with anthology contributions to The Rocking Chair Reader in the Coming Home edition (2004) and Family Gatherings (2005), A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New (2007), and Good Old Days Magazine (March, 2007).” Hoodoo Money is her debut novel. To learn more, visit her website.

Description:

“After her almost-wedding to a bigamist, successful children's author Braeden McKay has given up on love. She's content to live vicariously through her imaginary heroine, Platypus Pearl, and a gaggle of adventurous, web-footed cohorts - until a working vacation in New Orleans shakes up her quiet, structured world. Had she known that souvenir nickel stolen from the grave of a hoodoo woman would catapult her into a nightmare of betrayal and murder, she would have insisted her friend put it back. Cursed nickel or unfortunate happenstance? Sanderson Montgomery isn't one to discount the supernatural beliefs of others. This is the Big Easy, after all, Mecca to the spiritual and the superstitious. As a veteran detective, neither does he ignore cold, hard fact. And the fact is, someone or something is bent on harming Braeden McKay, and it's up to him to protect her while keeping his heart out of the mix. Can love, the very thing Braeden wants no part of, be the one force greater than any adversary - even a hoodoo curse?”

Appraisal:

What a twisted web of intrigue Ms. Pennington weaves in this story told through different points of view. Most of the story centers on Braeden McKay, an idealistic children’s author, who had researched a local murder story several years earlier. She stored all of her pictures and interviews away for safe keeping because something didn’t feel right about it.

While accompanying her childhood friend, super model Angeline St. Cyr, on a shoot in New Orleans, Braeden gets mugged. Sanderson Montgomery is not the officer working her case but recognizes who she is and is inadvertently drawn to her. He is a smart detective, as he learns more about Braeden and her history he starts making connections that may be relevant to the murder case she researched years ago. In the meantime Cooper, Angeline’s hired driver for the week, decides to take her out of town for a little R&R, and to avoid reporters swarming the hotel since Braeden’s mugging. Angeline finds Cooper quite charming and despite their diverse backgrounds they are both attracted to each other However, he has a colorful history of his own, which the author has woven quite skillfully. It is a tangled web of deceit, murder, and disaster deluxe.

When tragedy strikes Braeden blames herself for not insisting that Angeline return the nickel souvenir she lifted off the gravestone of a Hoodoo woman after a photo shoot in the New Orleans graveyard. Grief stricken Braeden returns home to Texas. As murders start piling up in connection to Braeden’s mugging, Sanderson fears for her safety and finds an excuse to follow her to Galveston. More mysterious happenings around Braeden’s home cause Sanderson to start working with the local police. Most of the main characters are well written and believable. The plot was suspenseful and well-paced as elements from Cooper’s past become germane to Braeden’s cases in both New Orleans and Galveston. I had a small problem stretching my believability with one character and how things played out in the end. Then after the climactic scene the next chapter starts eight months later? ~sigh~ I have to say I was disappointed about this lapse of time. I felt like I didn’t get to savor the outcome before moving on. 

FYI:

This is book 1 of The Stolen Nickel Series, book 2 is also available and titled Mangroves and Monsters.

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across a few small proofing issues.

Rating: **** Four stars