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10 All-American Reads for July 4th

by Max Green

Once you finish reading your firework safety manual, take a look at some of these patriotic collections.  A few good reads for your 4th of July weekend that will make you feel like a well read American. 


JFK’s Final Hours in Texas: An Eye Witness Remembers the Tragedy and Its Aftermath

By: Julian Read

A moment in our nations history we will never forget. This personal account follows the untimely death of John F. Kennedy hours after the shooting along with the years of disdain many felt towards Dallas, Texas.  This is a commendable addition to a broad collection following such a troubled time. 


Upstairs at the White House:  My Life with the First Ladies

By: J.B. West

For almost three decades one man has planned parties, weddings and funerals, tended gardens and made extensive renovations from within 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  A new perspective of American history has emerged from behind the Palladian doors.  J.B. West began as an assistant to the chief usher under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and worked his way up to chief usher through the Nixon Era.  He witnessed national crises and triumphs, all the while tending to the children, grandchildren and the first ladies.  I’m not too sure who had a harder job, the president or the chief usher?


12 Years a Slave

By: Solomon Northup

Now a major motion picture, (which, if you haven’t seen yet, I highly recommend it) 12 years a slave is a harrowing tale of Solomon Northrup, a free man from the New York, who is captured and taken back to the south and sold into slavery.  What makes this an incredible American story is Northup’s detailed depictions of slavery and his desire to be free again and with his family.  After publishing his traumatic story, controversy immediately followed, but helped sway public opinion towards abolition:  A major turning point in America’s history. 


Operation Cowboy:  The Secret American Mission to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Hoses in the Last Days of World War II

By: Stephen Talty

Okay, I will admit that this one is far from a great American story and I may be reaching quite a bit, but I have to share this oddity. This is one of the strangest war stories I have ever heard.  American soldiers team up with the Nazis to save the world’s rarest horses (horses that have bloodlines tracing back to Genghis Kahn) from the Russian army.  This is a heart-warming story of American soldiers that just wanted to save something beautiful.  


Long Range Patrol: A Novel of Vietnam

By: Dennis Foley

This is a remarkable story following young army Ranger Lieutenant Jim Hollister.  Eager to prove himself he leads his six-man regime on risky missions throughout Vietnam.  Within this novel you will be immersed into thrilling stories of heroism, brotherhood, and passion to keep the American Dream alive.


Amongst My Enemies: A Cold War Thriller

By: William F. Brown

If you are looking for great fiction book and a political thriller, then look no further. This novel plays host to a fictional American hero in hiding following World War II.  Mike Randal knows a secret and its hiding at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.  When the KGB, Nazi hit men, and the US government are after you, chances are you’re in for a thrilling adventure with twists and turns around every page.  You wont dog ear any pages of this novel (I realize this is dated saying, especially since I am suggesting you buy this for your Kindle, but you know what I mean).


365 Days

By: Ronald J. Glasser, MD

The Vietnam War holds a vital role in the shaping of America’s history. This, however, is a different perspective of the Vietnam War with a different type of American Hero.  Dr. Ronald Glasser gives a voice to the young, wounded service men of the American army.  Rather then telling the heroic stories of those men on the front line, Dr. Glasser elaborates on the wounded and their desire to return home.  I highly recommend this remarkable, firsthand account of the Vietnam War and toll it took on so many young individuals.


The Atomic Times:  My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground

By: Michael Harris

This is by far the most interesting and entertaining memoir I have come across this year.  Michael Harris’ The Atomic Times is not only a true story, but it had to be snuck out of an army base inside another mans luggage. Harris draws back the shades on top-secret military H-Bomb tests during 1956.  He was sent to Einwetok to “observe” nuclear bomb explosions (he was basically a human guinea pig).  Throughout his stay at Einwetok he wrote this memoir of what he saw and experienced, the friends he made and their stories.  Not only did he manage to sneak confidential papers out of a secure military base, but also he was also able to create emotional characters and develop an amazing story, all in secrecy.  You will laugh and you will cry and you will not want to put this one down.


Hal Moore: A Soldier Once…And Always

By: Mike Guardia

For all you history buffs out there, this is the biography for your 4th of July. Hal Moore, now age 90 at the start of this book enlightens Mike Guardia with personal letters, photos, and first hand accounts of war.  Hal Moore retells his own stories from the Korean War in 1950 to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  This is a must read for all history buffs and a fans Hal Moore.  He was truly a great American.


Day of Infamy

By: Walter Lord

This is not the heartwarming story of love and heroism that some may be familiar with thanks to Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale.  On the contrary, Walter Lord has put together a collection of eyewitness accounts from the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This is not a great moment in American history, but it should never be forgoten.  I recommend this book for all of those interested in learning more about the attack on the home front.  This chilling moment in American history sparked shock, fear and then rage into many Americans.  Definitely a must read for the most patriotic holiday of the year.


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6 Awesome Audiobook Deals

by Taylor Coil

I have not been reading much lately. Oof, guys. That is a big confession for a Freebooksy employee to make.

One thing that I HAVE been doing: listening to audiobooks. See, I have a newfound hobby of long distance running. When you spend 2+ hours nonstop running, you're going to get bored. That's just a fact. Audiobooks have been my saving grace recently. The miles fly by (sort of) as I'm listening, and I can take my mind off the fact that OMG EVERYTHING HURTS.

Since I mostly train alone, I have my phone strapped to my arm with this handy little thing in case I get lost or collapse or something. I plug my headphones into my phone, hit play on my Audible app (highly recommended), and just go. 

This is me and my friend Amanda (I'm in the pink and blue shirts) at the past two races we've run together.

This is me and my friend Amanda (I'm in the pink and blue shirts) at the past two races we've run together.

Amazon has this magical little program called Whispersync. If you own the Kindle version AND Audible version of a book, they'll sync up with each other. You can read 50 pages on your Kindle, then open Audible on your phone or computer and it'll start playing where you stopped reading. MAGIC. I love it.

Another great thing about Whispersync? You get major discounts on audiobooks if you own the Kindle version. Often you can buy the Kindle book AND audiobook for less than $10. That's a really good deal.

Look for this doo-dad when you're looking at a Kindle book page:

Since I've done the grunt work of finding these excellent deals, It's only natural that I share. Hey, sharing is caring.

Note: these prices could change. I'm sorry. They're up to date as of May 28, 2014.


This one is high on my wish list. I haven't read it yet, so I can't tell you if it's good or not. I am a general fan of the author and basically everything he does. Buying things made by people I admire typically works out well for me.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.99 // Total Price: $8.98


Chances are you own this on Kindle already. The audiobook is great - it's what I was listening to during my first half marathon! The Hunger Games makes a good re-read (or re-listen), and $3.95 is an amazing price for the audiobook.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.95 // Total Price: $8.94


Sometimes there's nothing better than a romance novel that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Brenda Novak is one of the queens of warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies for $6? Sold.

Kindle: $1.99 // Audiobook: $3.49 // Total Price: $5.48


I haven't read this one, but we featured it on Freebooksy a while back! The Kindle book is free, so you basically get an audiobook for $1.99. Nuts.

Kindle: $0.00 (free!) // Audiobook: $1.99 // Total Price: $1.99


This one is looong. For $9, you get ~ 20 hours of entertainment. Not bad. It's just a really lovely book! Fantasy, romance, and history all thrown in together.

Kindle: $4.99 // Audiobook: $3.99 // Total Price: $8.98


One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

I've written before about my love for the Stephanie Plum (especially Grandma Mazur). I love this series so much. Prepare to laugh like crazy while you're listening to this one. It's a mystery as well with plenty of action - but what you'll remember? The jokes.

Kindle: $7.69 // Audiobook: $2.99 // Total Price: $10.68


I've tried to find several genres. If there's a genre you'd like me to hunt for, tell me in the comments! If there's interest, I'll write a part two with your genre requests :)

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About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading scifi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

Books for Father's Day for Funny Dads

by Max Green

I remember the best part about Father’s day was waking up to the smell of real bacon.  The aroma filled the house as I was awoken to the melodies of 90’s alternative rock and the sound of real bacon sizzling in the pan.  Let me emphasize on the world ‘real’ that precedes bacon.  In the kitchen, we lived under the totalitarian rule of my mother who had banned almost every food group I deemed to be delicious as a child.  This ranged from sugared cereal to potato chips, and even the proper bacon.  On most breakfast occasions she would try to sneak in her tasteless and dull turkey bacon.  How naïve did she think we were?  But on Father’s day she allowed the real deal; the real bacon.  

With his musical selection pouring from the speakers, he would begin to cook a breakfast fit for a king.   Following breakfast however, father’s day was like every other Sunday.  The only difference was that I would give my dad a gift before helping him with all the yard work.  

To this day bacon is still absent in my mother’s kitchen, making the only exceptions on Father’s Day and dad’s birthday.  The only thing that has changed, I don’t mow the lawn anymore.  Which means that my gifts, these days, have to be better than the cliché, tacky tie he will wear once (maybe).  My gifts have to be better than the unoriginal “I love you, coffee” coffee mugs, and even better than the last minute sweatshirt from my alma mater.  

This year I have a few suggestions for those of you in the same position as me. Instead of frantically trying to figure out what size shirt he wears, or what color tie goes best with his new suit, here is a spread of novels and the author my father was very keen on and I’m sure your dad will be too.


Books For the Dad who Loves to Laugh:

This guy is by far the funniest and original whodunit authors of this century. Kinky Friedman is a Texas musician turned author (turned legend).  If dads like Bill Clinton and Willy Nelson have read his books, then this must be an essential option for the old man.  If politically incorrect thrillers are not what you consider your dad’s cup of tea, then may I recommend a few other options.  Here are a few other choices that have caught my attention:

Nick Offerman (a television star) is the epitome of manliness.  He knows everything there is to know about woodcarving, socialism, wooing women, and meats.  Need I say more?

Bryan Bishop's New York Times Bestseller SHRINKAGE is sure to keep dad entertained all the while keeping his spirits high. 

Jim Gaffigan knows what its like to be a dad.  The father is a well renowned stand up comedian best known for his rants about ketchup packets, hot pockets and raising five children.  He knows what its like to feel outnumbered in his own home.  He understands.


The best part about getting dad a book he will appreciate, is knowing that there will be a few moments of his day where he will be relaxing and enjoying himself. 

What types of books do your fathers enjoy? Let me know on the comments!

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About the Author

Max is a freelance writer native to Charlotte, NC.  During his time at Appalachian State he developed a passion for literature and went on the receive a Bachelors Degree in English.  An avid outdoorsman and writer, Max is never far from a captivating whodunit or humorous piece of fiction.  

Recipes and Cookbooks for Memorial Day

by MaryBeth Crissman

Memorial Day has always held a special place in this New Yorker's heart. For everyone else, it is the unofficial start to summer, but, for me, it meant that winter was FINALLY over. No more snow and ice and blowing cold winds. Memorial Day meant that bad weather would finally give way to the blue skies and refreshing warm breezes of summertime. And on Memorial Day, of course, everyone had a picnic. The smell of lighter fluid and charcoal filled the air no matter where you stood, and, if you were quiet enough, you could hear the delicious sizzle of meat on the grill. 

Memorial Day also kicks off a season of fabulous food. The buttery saltiness of salt potatoes. The creamy tang of potato salad. My sister-in-law's cherry cheesecake pudding. My dad's special recipe bar-b-que chicken. Spaghetti salad, coleslaw, dips, chips, pies, and cakes ... Fresh candy-colored fruits that make salads and desserts that are delicious for both the eyes and the taste buds.


Here are some fun recipe books to kick off your Memorial Day weekend as well as your summertime picnic season: 


The pièce de résistance in my family? Mom's carved watermelon basket to hold the delicious fruit salad that is the staple of every summer picnic. 

Mom's watermelon basket was always so impressive. She transformed a huge awkward watermelon into an impressive food display. It still amazes me how much care and effort she put in to carving that daunting fruit into something simply wonderful. I can't wait to do the same some day with my own children. Thankfully, I learned from a master. 


How to Carve a Watermelon Basket

Carving a watermelon is much like carving a Halloween pumpkin. The first thing you need to do is decide which side will be the top and which will be the bottom. With a pumpkin, you have a clear flattened bottom, and a watermelon does too. It's just generally more subtle. Look for a slightly yellowed patch. That's where it has rested on the ground and will likely serve as a stable bottom. 

Image credit

Once you've decided where your bottom is, get a Sharpie out and draw your design. It can be a simple straight-edged basket or one with zig-zags or another pattern.  You'll want to remember to include a handle to make your basket an basket instead of just a bowl.

Once you're happy with your design, start carving. A watermelon rind is a bit tougher than a pumpkin's, so it may take some extra elbow grease. If you're feeling really fancy, you can also carve partially through the flesh and make an even more spectacular display. Try to keep the watermelon on a non-skid surface (a kitchen towel works great) while you're carving. No one wants to end up in the ER when preparing for a summertime picnic!

After you've carved out the large watermelon chunks, start cleaning out the delicious red flesh. My mom always used a melon-baller so that the fruit was ready to be served and didn't need further preparation. You want to get as much of the watermelon out as possible, scraping down the the white of the rind. Don't waste any of the deliciousness! Be careful when scraping clean the basket handle because it can break easily, especially if it's thin. 

Once your basket is ready, fill it with fruit salad - melons, berries, oranges ... - and serve. You'll be the hit of the picnic with your impressive carving skills!


What are your favorite Memorial Day traditions and recipes? Tell us in the comments!

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About the Author

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

What Kind of Reading Mom Are You?

By Chloe Kizer

What kind of reading mom is your mom? Or, if you’re a mother yourself, what kind of reading mom are you?


The Romance Mom: She is always trying to learn about your romantic life and gives you the courage to talk to that cute guy you know. All through highschool she was trying to get you to date the cute boys in your class and now that you’re older, every phone call starts with “And how is it going with so-and-so?” Even if there never was a so-and-so…

The Romance Mom should read MAYBE SOMEDAY, a sweet New Adult romance with strong themes of friendship and betrayal. 

 


The Chick-Lit Mom: She probably bakes great cake and made sure your Birthday parties were the bee's knees. Her favorite room is the kitchen and her favorite meal is brunch. She is also a major fan of eating bon bons and drinking martinis by the pool… whether or not she ever actually gets to do so.

The Chick-lit Mom should read I'VE GOTYOUR NUMBER because, let's face it, Sophie Kinsella is both a goddess and a genius. 

 

 


The Thriller Mom: She is a little intense, but always comes up with the best Halloween costumes. She may also be a massive fan of fireworks, because, let’s face it, it’s the closest you can get to an explosion in real life.

The Thriller Mom should read THE TARGET because David Baldacci is a master at enthralling tales of assassination and intrigue.

 

 


The Mystery Mom: You can never lie to her. Ever. All chores were inspected with the eye of an investigator and don’t even think about trying to sneak out of the house. She always knows where everything is and has saved the day on a couple of occasions with her handy deduction skills.

The Mystery Mom should read UNLUCKY 13 because she secretly wishes that she were a member of The Women's Murder Club.

 

 


The Fantasy Mom: You went to Renaissance festivals as a child and at some point in your life had a glowing statue of a mythical creature. When the Harry Potter Books came out the entire family was required to read them immediately and then wander around the house pretending to use the spells to accomplish household tasks.

The Fantasy mom should read THE BONE SEASON, a gritty urban fantasy with an exciting edge of dystopia and a spunky female protagonist. 

 


Science Fiction Mom: Loves SCIENCE. Most weekends you went to the science museum and she always helped you win the science fair. She enjoys discussions on time travel and whether or not humans will ever colonize space. May enjoy Dr. Who a little too much, if there is such a thing.

The Science Fiction Mom should read THE MARTIAN, a realistic and at times laugh out loud account of a lone astronaut stuck on Mars. 

 

 


Literary Fiction Mom: Waxes lyrical about her new favorite book. In fact, “waxing lyrical” may be one of her favorite phrases. She has a larger vocabulary than most other mothers and always helped you write the best essays. 

The Literary Fiction Mom should read STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, a romantic comedy of manners and poignant look into the human heart.




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About the Author 

Chloe is our Content and Community Manager. She has three hobbies: Reading, writing, and finding new hobbies. Her brain can be best described as an extremely biased encyclopedia of all things nerdy. 

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3 Essential Books for the Expectant Mom

Editor's Note: our CEO gave birth to her second child in April (hooray!). She thinks that expectant moms-to-be deserve just as much love and pampering as moms whose babies have already arrived. In typical Freebooksy fashion, she sat down and gave us her recommendations for the top 3 books that she loved during both of her pregnancies. If you know a mom-to-be who is hunting for mommy resources, these books are a great place to start.


Expecting 411

From our CEO: "Expecting 411 is a refreshing, modern, and non-judgemental version of the classic What to Expect When You're Expecting. Written by an OB and a pediatrician, the advice is medically sound and addresses the many questions that crop up at different stages of pregnancy.  Both authors have a great sense of humor. Many a time I turned to this book when I was worried about something, only to find myself feeling simultaneously relieved and laughing when I found the answer in this book (most things fall under the “this is normal” category).  Moms who appreciate candid, humorous and non-hysterical advice will love this book."


Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

"As many moms discover early on, breastfeeding can be anything but simple in the early weeks of becoming a mom. I recommend that moms read this book while pregnant to get a better understanding of how breastfeeding works and what to expect in the first few months after birth. The book centers on 7 laws of breastfeeding, a simple way to break down the biological mechanics of nursing, as well as a trouble shooting section at the back if things don’t go according to plan."


Eat, Sleep, Poop

"This is a must-have resource for new parents that you will reference again and again during the first six months of your infant’s life. As the title indicates the book is split into 3 main sections that address the 3 things that will consume your life as you welcome your newborn: eating, sleeping and pooping . The book’s author is a pediatrician and dad who draws on his years of experience as a doctor and the more emotional experience of being a dad. The “Daddy vs Doctor” vignettes are priceless. The information is bite-size and easy to understand (important when you are reading this having only gotten 2 hours of sleep in the past 2 days)."


If you've given birth, which books did you find particularly useful during pregnancy?

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3 Literary Mothers To Adore on Mother's Day

by Taylor Coil

When I was a child, my mother used to (lovingly) force me to go outside instead of sitting on the couch reading all day. My answer to this affront was to pack a bag full of books and climb to the top of the magnolia tree in our front yard. I'd sit in the branches for hours and read book after book. It was my own little haven, and the space where characters came to life in my head. That magnolia tree is the place I fell in love with books - and it's all because my mother wouldn't let me read in the living room. That's also the start of my lifelong admiration of fictional people, many of whom are mothers.

In honor of Mother's Day (and as a tip of my hat to my own mother), here are my favorite mothers from literature!


Mrs. Bennet [Pride & Prejudice]

via My Jane Austen Book Club

via My Jane Austen Book Club

Who doesn't love Mrs. Bennet? She's utterly devoted to her family. She gets so worked up about everything that you want to sit her down, give her a drink and just talk about everything and nothing at all. She's strong and funny and kind - and 100% willing to make a fool of herself in order to ensure a better life for one of her daughters.

Favorite Mrs. Bennet Moment:

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way! You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”  -- Mrs. Bennet

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”  -- Mr. Bennet

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Grandma Mazur [Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series]

No character makes me laugh like Grandma Mazur does. Goodness she's hilarious. I've gotten funny looks on the beach, on planes, and in coffee shops because I was crying laughing at something Grandma Mazur said. 

Grandma Mazur feels like an old friend. We've talked about her over the Thanksgiving table. I've laughed about her with friends, lounging by the lake. And I know that mentioning her name will always make my dad chuckle. Here's to you, Grandma.

Favorite Grandma Mazur Moment:

“The dog ran into the kitchen, stuck his nose in Grandma's crotch, and snuffled.
Dang," Grandma said. "Guess my new perfume really works. I'm gonna have to try it out at the seniors meeting.” 

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich


Molly Weasley [Harry Potter]

via wikimedia

via wikimedia

I have a confession to make. When I was about 12, someone asked me who my hero was. I said Mrs Weasley. I was a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a knowitall bossypants when I was that age, and Mrs Weasley made it look so cool to be in charge of 7-10 people at any given time. I loved her. I still do.

She's an adoring mother, an amazing cook, a fiery personality, a no-nonsense lady and an all-around amazing woman. She's a version of the modern feminist - the mother who stays home because she wants to, thank you very much.

Second Favorite Molly Weasley Moment (because my first favorite involves swearing):

Molly Weasley: "I don't believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That's everyone in the family!"
George Weasley: "What are Fred and I, next door neighbors?"

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling


A Google search tells me that Mrs. Bennet in particular is a polarizing choice. I love her. Do you? What do you think about my picks? Who are your favorite fictional mothers?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

May the Fourth be With You!

By Chloe Kizer

Growing up, my family's favorite movies were always the original 3 Star Wars. As I got older and went off to school, the special place that Chewbacca, Ewoks, and especially Han Solo had always held in my heart started shrinking until I all but forgot about Star Wars.

It was not until my senior year of my Undergraduate degree that I rediscovered the glory that is the original Star Wars movies. I was on a competition archery team, working one on one with a very talented woman, when I made a bull’s eye from further away than ever before. I got very excited, and while she did congratulate me, her wise response was “Nice shot kid, don’t get cocky.” Remembering that great scene between Luke and Han I felt compelled to rewatch the movies as an adult and found myself amused by the dialogue, particularly Han’s classic snarkyness.

Do you have any fond Star Wars memories?

Luckily, if you're like me and enjoy nerdy humor, there are a plethora of Star Wars novelty books available that make great conversation pieces and bridge the gap between visual and literary experiences. 

Want to be a Jedi? (Admit it, you totally do) Then grab the handbook!

Then there are the Shakespearean rewrites, quite possibly the best mix of pop culture and classic literature to come out of recent years. 

And lastly the collections of great Children's Books for your little Jedi!

Does Star Wars hold a special place in your heart too? Are you planning a movie marathon for tonight? Let us know in the comments! 

Books are better when they're free. Sign up for our emails and get free books in your inbox!  SIGN UP NOW.


About the Author 

Chloe is our Content and Community Manager. She has three hobbies: Reading, writing, and finding new hobbies. Her brain can be best described as an extremely biased encyclopedia of all things nerdy. 

Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research

by Brenda Novak

When I launched my first online auction for diabetes research in 2005, I had no idea I would still be running the fundraiser ten years later. I started it because I wanted to make a difference to my son, who was diagnosed at five years old, and everyone else suffering from this terrible disease (over 350 million people have diabetes worldwide). But I honestly thought we’d have a cure by now. Ever since we first learned that Thad faced this challenge, I’ve been hearing that a cure is right around the corner—but it hasn’t been found. And when you slug away at something for a long time, and it doesn’t feel as if you’re making enough of an impact, it can be tempting to give up. But in those moments of discouragement, something always happens to keep me going. Many times it’s something positive, like having my son put his arms around my neck and tell me how much he loves me.

Not all of them are quite so positive, however—like last year when the cannula that feeds Thad insulin from his pump got bent, causing his blood sugar to spike. At bedtime, he began to feel very sick. When he tested his blood, we learned why. His glucose levels were over 700 (a normal person’s bg would be around 100). Knowing something terrible would happen if I didn’t get his blood sugar into a safe zone as soon as possible, I was up all night, worrying, watching and working to do just that. I’d give him insulin, test him in two hours, give him more insulin, test him again, etc. Then, because he wasn’t coming down fast enough and I was so afraid he’d go into a coma, I overcorrected and brought him plummeting to 30 (a very dangerous number on the opposite side that left his body bathed in sweat as he started to go into shock).

I eventually stabilized him (as much as a diabetic can be stabilized since blood glucose can change so rapidly) and we haven’t had such a terrible night since. But there have been other close calls. That probably won’t stop until we have a cure. And there are certainly worse stories than mine. Almost everybody’s heard one—diabetes causing blindness, amputation, heart attack, kidney failure, fatty liver, impotence, death. It’s the specter of these things that keeps me fighting. I believe this is a disease we can beat with enough determination and focus, so I’m thrilled that the DRI (the research facility that gets the money I raise) is entering human trials with their new Biohub this year. The Biohub has made the possibility of a cure feel real for me again.

So how does Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research work? Just like E-Bay—only it’s more fun. This year, those who register before the auction closes on May 31st (http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com) will receive a digital copy of one of my books—WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, the first book in my Whiskey Creek series, or THROUGH THE SMOKE, my new historical romantic suspense title (registrant’s choice). And we’ll be giving away other items throughout. You will be entered to win the various giveaways simply by placing a bid on any particular day. When the auction is over, you can pay for what you’ve won with Paypal, credit card (or, with special arrangements, personal check/money order). In most instances, the donor picks up the tab for shipping.

But that’s not all! This year is our big 10-year anniversary, and we are doing all we can to make it special, including offering a boxed set of digital books by fourteen bestselling authors—including a foreword by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber, for only $2.99 (initial starting price). If you are a fan of contemporary romance, A Sweet Life is a “must have.” Besides my own novel, it includes stories from such reader favorites as Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Heather Graham, Julia Kent, Susan Mallery, Carly Phillips, Jennifer Probst, RaeAnne Thayne, Rachel Van Dyken, Susan Wiggs, Lauren Hawkeye, Steena Holmes and Jane Porter! But you have to act quickly. It’ll only be on sale during the month of May.

What else will be available at the auction? Too many things to list! You’ll be able to bid on tickets to meet Celine Dion, Kindle Fires and Kindle Paperwhites, antique and other kinds of jewelry, trips & stays, handmade items, the chance to have lunch with Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, Diana Gabaldon, Steve Berry or another of your favorite authors and a slew of opportunities for both readers and writers. Don’t miss the fun!

Here’s to making a difference!

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About the Author

Brenda Novak is the bestselling author of the Whiskey Creek series. Her novels have made The New York Times, USA Today bestseller lists and won many awards, including three Rita nominations, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Book Seller’s Best and the National Reader’s Choice Award. 

6 Book-Movie Pairings to Share with Mom

by MaryBeth Crissman

Mother's Day in our house always focused on being together. We would usually go to a nice breakfast and then enjoy a relaxing day at home with all of us kids (and eventually the grandkids) hanging out around the house or enjoying an unexpectedly warm May afternoon in Upstate New York. Those warm days were rare, so our activities were primarily indoors. 

My mother and I have always loved reading, and we love movies as well. We especially love movies that were based on books we love. Our favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird. We've read it multiple times and watch it almost every time we're together!

If your mom is a reader like mine, how about treating her to a book and a movie on the one day that honors all she does? Here are some great book and movie pairings that the whole family will enjoy!


The book is a childhood gem, and the movie adaptation is perfect for young and old alike. George Clooney voices Mr. Fox, and there are some rather witty moments. It's a kids' movie that the adults will truly enjoy!


This story is a heartwarming tale that teaches human compassion and acceptance. And the movie version features some big stars that you wouldn't expect ... including Dave Matthews himself as the ex-con pet shop owner!


This pairing is a fun one given that the book has some unique surprises that never made it into the movie. Did you know that Dorothy's shoes are supposed to be silver, but they didn't show up well enough against the Technicolor glory of the yellow brick road? So ruby slippers they became!


Another great duo that tells a story of tragedy and resiliency. The movie is magical and does the original story justice. The book is a controversial one and banned in many places because it deals directly with the death of a young girl, but the poignancy of the tale far outweighs any sensitive content. 


Dreamworks brings a heroic story and the wonderful myth of dragons to life in this adaptation. It's my personal favorite animated movie because it has such a powerful story of determination and acceptance. The kids will love the characters, especially Hiccup and Toothless, and you will love the endearing messages. 


Mary Poppins

Every kid should read and watch Mary Poppins, and what better day to do that but on Mother's Day? It's a classic story of family and fun, and every family should experience it together. And, when you've finished the film, turn on Saving Mr. Banks, the story behind the making of Mary Poppins. 


While moms and dads may have already experienced these classic literary and cinematic gems, it's always wonderful to see them again for the first time through the young eyes of their children. These kinds of shared experiences are part of what make families strong, and Mother's Day is the perfect day to strengthen that family connection.

The best part of these book and movie pairings? Mom doesn't have to do anything but sit back and enjoy the movie. The kids can handle the popcorn. 

What are your favorite movies and books to enjoy with your kids (or mom)? Tell us in the comments!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

5 Great Stories Wherein The Characters Are Horrible People

by Taylor Coil

I've noticed something about myself recently, and it's quite troubling: I love reading books wherein the characters are horrible people.

Truly terrible human beings. Umbridge level horrible. Okay, maybe not Umbridge level horrible, but you get the idea.

THE WORST. (image via fanpop.com)

THE WORST. (image via fanpop.com)

If a character is a terrible human, there's probably a reason for it. Their backstory is likely filled with tragedy, or abuse, or something that makes you say 'oh yeah, I get it.' Let's get that disclaimer out of the way.

I think there are a few core reasons for this fascination with characters I don't respect. Part of it ignites a sense of self-righteousness, which I hardly ever indulge. Judging a fictional character is better than judging a real human, right? I think so.

The bigger portion, however, is that it's a form of escapism. I don't have to like a character to be fascinated with that person. I'm interested in their motivations, their goals, their justifications for their actions. It's instructive for me, in a way. And it keeps me turning the page.

Here are my recent favorite stories featuring some uh... 'flawed' humans (in no particular order):


5. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling [book]

I get why this has such mixed reviews on Amazon: it doesn't read like Harry Potter (obviously), and I don't like any of the characters. Clearly, the latter doesn't bother me. There's real cruelty in this novel. And tons of negativity.

But the characters are REAL. You get to know them. You can really envision them. You understand their cruelty, as much as one can understand such a thing. 

I'm disgusted by Simon. My heart aches for Krystal, but then she does something that annoys me, which makes me re-think the heartache. I'll leave it there, because I don't want to write a long-winded review of the book. Basically: everyone is flawed and it's beautiful.

I'm reading this now. I haven't finished it yet, so don't tell me what happens.


4. True Detective [tv show]

True Detective is an HBO Show - and we all know what that means. If you aren't OK with things like swearing and nudity, this is not the show for you.

True Detective is chock full of horrible deeds: you've got your unforgivables like murder and torture, and then the still-awful-but-not-nauseating adultery and general meanness. The protagonists aren't terrible people, but they are NOT saints. They're flawed. I wouldn't seek out their company. And yet I did - by binge-watching the show with my husband for nights on end.

When True Detective explores the concept of evil, it does so perfectly. I, for one, felt the story in my very bones as I was watching the most horrifying scenes. It's visceral and powerful. It's not a pleasure to watch something that evil, but it's something.


3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [book]

Gone Girl is the reason I thought to write this post in the first place, since the trailer just came out. I love this novel, but it took me a while to pinpoint why it had a special place on my shelf (when my other thrillers are shoved in an armoire out of sight).

[spoilers below]

It's the characters. Nick and Amy Dunne are so cruel to one another. My own marriage is nothing like that, so I found myself reading in fascination on how two people can love with so much hate. How Amy can spend years planning an elaborately cruel trick on her husband, all the while keeping up a chipper facade.

Okay, so maybe it's not love, but it's certainly respect. 

I'm going to be in the minority here and say that I really liked the ending. I found it satisfying and apropos for the character arcs. Nick and Amy deserve each other.


2. Prisoners [movie]

I watched this movie at night against by better judgement. Crime dramas about people kidnapping children or serial killers or rapists etc etc always give me nightmares.

Yep, this one definitely gave me nightmares.

Prisoners made the cut because of Hugh Jackman's character, Keller. He tortures a man - someone the viewer knows doesn't deserve it. I felt no sense of justice, but somehow I understood. And I walked away from the film sympathizing with Keller.

If you like crime thrillers with imperfect characters (to put it lightly), you'll like this one. To me it had the same feel as Silence of the Lambs (which also gave me nightmares, and is free to watch for Amazon Prime members).


1. Game of Thrones [books and tv show]

Of course I was going to include Game of Thrones in this. Game of Thrones has possibly the best example of an imperfect protagonist, a few times over. I hated Tyrion and Jamie at the start of the series, but I find myself rooting for them both as the story progresses. Stanis drives me nuts, but there's something heart-wrenching about his desperation.

Actually, the only character who bores me a bit is Jon Snow (my husband's favorite character). He's a good guy - but he's a brooding good guy. Evil mastermind is far more interesting than brooding hero. I'd much rather watch Cersei's evil schemes or Arya's drive any day.

I haven't read the books, and my husband has. Perhaps Jon Snow is more interesting in the books. Tell me in the comments if that's the case!


I'm now re-thinking my (admittedly hyperbole-ridden) title. Yes, some of the characters are horrible human beings, but 'inherently flawed' is more correct. I don't think Nick Dunne or Jamie Lannister are horrible people. They do cruel things, yes, but does that mean they're cruel people?

At what point do cruel deeds result in a cruel person? What do you think?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

The Gone Girl Trailer is Here!

by Taylor Coil

The long-awaited (by me) trailer for GONE GIRL is here! Watch the embedded video below:

We've heard tell that Gillian Flynn changed the ending for the movie adaptation. If you've read the book, you'll still be in for a surprise at the end.

I, for one, am really excited to see this film. I absolutely loved the book, and will watch anything with Rosamund Pike or Ben Affleck in it. Except Gigli. I refuse to watch that movie.

Haven't read the book yet? Make sure you do before the movie comes out!

Books are better when they're free. Sign up for our emails and get free books in your inbox!  SIGN UP NOW.


About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

10 Books Your Child Should Read Before College (from a teacher)

by MaryBeth Crissman

As a veteran middle-school teacher, the number one question I always get from parents is, "What book recommendations do you have for my child?" The question, despite being asked multiple times per year, always seems to catch me off guard. It seems like an easy enough question, but I tend to over think it and struggle for the one perfect book. So, this year, in preparation for the question that always comes up as the school year starts to ease down it's downhill slope, I've racked my own brain and then surveyed my colleagues about what the ONE BOOK they'd want their students/children to read. And, of course, there isn't just one book. There's never just one book.  


Elementary Grades (K-5)

Books at this age should focus primarily on developing a sense of wonder and imagination while fostering an enjoyment for reading. Many of the best books at this age are focused on magic and myth encapsulated in a beautifully woven story. While children at this age are often too young to read the following books alone, they are ideal read-aloud books for a family, strengthening the sense of family community and creating fond childhood memories and traditions. Children who are read to regularly develop stronger literacy skills as well as a greater appreciation of reading. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis 

I first read this book as an adult, and I wished that I had read it (or it had been read to me) when I was much younger. The magic and wonder and imagination engages young listeners, making them want to read those words, to delve into those stories.  This is what we teachers call a "gateway book." Once kids read these books, they will search out other interesting stories.

Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling 

Much like the previously mentioned title, this title employs magic and wonder to captivate young readers while the characters are working through the very same issues that children are - friendship conflicts, identity struggles, teacher-student clashes - as well as greater world issues of good vs. evil and understanding the way (and the why) the world works.  

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle 

It is one of those books that is spun like a spider’s web, delicate and strong at the same time- timeless. The characters' quest takes them on a mysterious journey that pushes the boundaries  of what children understand to be true about their world, and invites them to ask questions. 


Middle Grades (6-8)

Books for the middle grades should work to develop a child's understanding of their world, however small their world may be, while still engaging their imagination and sense of wonder. These books start to emphasize life lessons and humanity. The elements of magic may be less present or obvious, but myth is still often at play in these ideal books. 

The Lord of the Flies - William Golding 

You may have read this book when you were in school, and many schools are still using it as a classroom text. There's a really good reason why. Aside from being well written and designed, this book speaks to our human condition - power, responsibility, friendship , betrayal, survival, regrets, anger, shame.  Despite the characters' young ages, these are all issues that middle school students either struggle with now or will struggle with in their near futures. Even though the book focuses on male characters, the big ideas and lessons are easily transferred to other genders as well.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 

Some of the biggest lessons in this classic are being compassionate towards others and having the moral courage to stand up for what is right.  Harper Lee's solitary work is truly an American masterpiece and evokes emotion in a way that many other texts fail to. Given the specific and small scope of the story, some contextual background, historic perspective, and reader maturity is necessary to fully understand and appreciate it. The lessons about moral courage, acceptance, and truth are ideal for developing teens. 

Wonder - R. J. Palacio 

This is one of the most unique and profoundly moving novels I have encountered as a middle school teacher. Through multiple narrators and perspectives, this story tells the tale of a young boy with a significant facial deformity who makes the hard decision to begin attending school after a life of homeschooling. As we experience his first year of school along side him, we witness the compassion and cruelty, love and jealousy, acceptance and fear that the protagonist experiences every day. You and your children won't be the same, nor view the world and it's people the same, after reading this. 

Tales from Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan

This outstanding collection of short stories, poems, and sketches explores the imagination of the protagonist. It's like a grown up Shel Silverstein that your child will truly enjoy and cherish. This book can also open the world of graphic novels to more reluctant readers. 


Upper Grades (9-college)

Books for students of this age are generally self-selected based on previously established preferences. Trying to get them to branch out into new genres and topics can often be challenging, but it is worthwhile. The most important thing about reading at this age is that children are both rebelling and conforming, and they need books that will help them navigate that experiences. The more they can experience - either in actuality or vicariously through literature - the better. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez 

This book's epic scope evokes not just a multitude of characters, from multiple generations, but an entire continent. Over a span of 100 years, the characters within the pages experience the full range of human experience, and emphasizes how similar we all are, rather than how different. It’s funny and deeply humane without ever succumbing to sentimentality. 

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Don't be scared off by the thick and heavy classics. This classic novel, aside from being expertly crafted, teaches great lessons about love and human relationships. The characters, all ravaged by war and conflict, must learn to adapt and survive. And who doesn’t love an anti-hero who makes the ultimate self-sacrifice for love?  

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie

This coming-of-age tale has an authentic teenage voice and broaches topics that are often ignored in young adult fiction. Alexie's narrator has a unique perspective that illuminates a life that many students are unaware of and don't understand. It's a more mature story that helps students vicariously work through many of the dilemmas and issues that they and their peers are facing. 


These are definitely not the ONLY books your child should read! The more your child reads, the more they will understand about the world. And the more they understand about the world, the more they will question and develop their own thoughts and opinions. 

Please note: As with any book recommendation, please review each book prior to sharing it with your child to ensure that it is at an appropriate reading level and contains appropriate content for your child. 

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About the Author

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

Q and A a Day: A Journal for Adults [Review]

by Taylor Coil

I found my journal from high school last week. Wow, is it packed with cringe-worthy paragraphs. Pages and pages of Taylor [insert last name of boy here] in loopy cursive and painstakingly-copied AIM messages from crushes I had forgotten about.

Hey, 16-year-old-self: you married none of those boys, and you kept your last name.

Anyway.

There's plenty of blank space left at the end of this uh... masterpiece. So I started writing in it again. I think, however, that it feels fundamentally strange to keep writing in a journal started by a version of yourself that is wholly different from the current version of you. It's like a series that needs to be broken into installments.

So I bought new journal, something I haven't purchased in a very long time. This time I'm not going for soliloquies on the complications of kissing in the backseat of a '68 Firebird without anyone noticing. I'm going for a time capsule that I can read ten years from now and remember who I was in my twenties (with hopefully less disdain than the aforementioned situation).

Enter The Q&A A Day 5 Year Journal.

This pint-sized journal gives you a one-question prompt every day - and you watch how your answers change over five years. I think it's brilliant.

When this arrived on my front door, I dropped the groceries (literally - I broke a couple of eggs) and was all-too eager to jot down answers for every day this week. MAN, it's fun.

I even showed it to my husband. Something that definitely won't happen with my high school journal.

This one gets the Taylor stamp of love. If you're looking for a new journal, this one is quite affordable ($10) and truly enjoyable to use.

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About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

St Patrick's Day Cooking with Freebooksy

by MaryBeth Crissman

My mother always says that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I am the latter. This would explain why my most favorite holidays in the calendar are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, St. Patrick's Day. They are foodie celebrations. Yes, they have significant cultural / religious importance, but the bulk of the actual celebrating is often around a family table with food and drink and laughter flowing freely.  

My favorite part of celebrating St. Patrick's Day is the baking and preparations that lead up to the day. The eating is wonderful of course, but preparing the bread to be broken and the stews to be spooned and the whisky to be poured for loved ones is the true joy in the day. I'm somewhat adventurous in the kitchen, so I often try new things to bring variety to the table, but there are certainly staples that are present every year. Some are indulgent and some are traditional, but all combined make the celebration complete. 

 

My favorite "Irish" recipe isn't Irish at all, but, rather, Irish-inspired. Irish Car Bomb Brownies. Mmmmmmm ... Honestly, the only thing Irish about it is the alcohol that goes into it (Guinness, Baileys, and whisky), but these brownies are so delicious that even the most critical Irish palate will approve. I stumbled upon this recipe a few years back on A Spicy Perspective's blog, and they were an overwhelmingly huge hit! They are definitely ADULT brownies, so you may need to whip up a batch of out-of-the-box brownies to make the kiddos happy as well. But, a word to the wise: Eat in moderation. They pack a sneaky little punch!

Another favorite "Irish" recipe is my momma's shepherd's pie. (The exact heritage of this dish is often debated. Some say English, some say Irish. And, while they are distinctly different cultures, they do share  some characteristics. I'm sticking with Irish since that's what I grew up thinking.) Growing up, we ate this all the time, especially in the winter. It's a meal-in-a-dish, and it's inexpensive. Life in a family of five is often lived on a budget (ours certainly was!), and potatoes, meat, and corn make a pretty inexpensive meal. Now, as a grown woman, I love the flavor memories that this simple meal brings back to me. I've changed the recipe ever-so-slightly, but it still has the same delicious and hearty flavor. 


Recipe: Momma's Shepherd's Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (I've also used ground buffalo, and it was delicious!)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (chopped carrots, corn, peas)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs russet potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

STEPS

  1. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.
  3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). 
  4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add Worcestershire sauce. Optional: Add salt and pepper. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.
  5. Cook frozen vegetables in the microwave or on the stovetop in a separate pan from the meat. Remove from heat when almost done. (You can use fresh veggies here, but the frozen mix is so easy!)
  6. Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.
  7. Place vegetables on the bottom of a baking dish. Add the beef and onions. Do not mix. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
  8. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

My mouth is already watering at the thought of enjoying my St. Patrick's Day dinner … and dessert! 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! (St. Patrick’s Day blessings on you!)

(Want to impress your friends with that Gaelic blessing? Pronounce it this way: Ban-ick-tee na fay-lah pwad-rig or-iv)


Mouth watering? Want to add some Irish dishes to your repertoire? Here are two of our favorite Irish cookbooks:

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About the Author

MaryBeth is a dog-mom, teacher, and amateur archer. When she's not throwing tennis balls for her dogs or sending arrows downrange towards a bullseye, she can be found nestled up with a good biography or historical fiction novel, sipping a cup of a tea. She's exactly what you expect of an English teacher, except for bows and arrows. 

Into the Wild — 5 Mystery Series that Transport You to Remote Locales

By S.W. Hubbard

Is life on your suburban cul-de-sac a little too tame?  Are the walls of your apartment closing in on you?  Time to take a journey into the wild and explore the boundaries where polite civilization meets the extremes of nature.  These remote locales inspire particularly baffling mysteries—bizarre crimes, desperate motivations, and quirky suspects.  And the rugged terrain produces wily detectives—both amateur and professional.


1. Steve Hamilton’s Upper Peninsula Series

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is cut off from the rest of the state, and the rest of civilization.  With so many trees and so few towns, it’s a great place to hide out from enemies, or hide a body.  Alex McKnight, a former Detroit cop, now a private investigator in Paradise, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Superior, tangles with some very bad dudes and always comes out bruised but triumphant.


2. Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic Series

Key West is the southernmost point in the Continental United States. Every hurricane cuts the island off from the mainland.  Wild chickens and six-toed cats patrol the streets. No wonder this little paradise has a reputation for wackiness!  Burdette’s plucky amateur sleuth, Haley Snow, juggles fine dining and astute crime solving with flair.


3. Erin Hart’s Irish Bog Series

Cormac Maguire, an Irish archaeologist, and Nora Gavin, an American pathologist team up to solve crimes that all revolve around Ireland’s lonely, atmospheric peat bogs.  The unique chemistry of a bog perfectly preserves archeological treasures—as well as murdered bodies, old and new.


4. Margaret Coel’s Wind River Reservation, Wyoming Series

Travel to the western frontier with John Aloysius O’Malley, a Jesuit missionary, and Vicky Holden, an Arapaho attorney, as they solve crimes together on the Arapaho reservation. Margaret Coel interweaves authentic Native American culture and history with modern-day suspense.


5. S.W. Hubbard’s Adirondack Mountain Series

Police Chief Frank Bennett, a transplanted Midwesterner, patrols the seemingly idyllic village streets and country roads of Trout Run, NY.  But murder and dark secrets prowl the majestic High Peaks just as surely as bear and moose, and Frank often finds himself in conflict with the rugged Adirondack natives as he ensures justice is done.


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About the Author

S.W. Hubbard’s most recent novel is Another Man’s Treasure. She is also is the author of three mystery novels set in the Adirondack Mountains: Take the Bait, Swallow the Hook, and Blood Knot, and the Frank Bennett short story collection, Dead Drift.  Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and the anthologies Crimes by Moonlight, The Mystery Box, and Adirondack Mysteries. She lives in Morristown, NJ, where she teaches creative writing to enthusiastic teens and adults, and expository writing to reluctant college freshmen.  To read the first chapter of any of her books, visit:  http://www.swhubbard.net

2014 Oscars: Two Movies that Weren't Books (but would make awesome ones)

By Taylor Coil

Perhaps it's because I loved books first. Perhaps it's because so many of my favorite books were turned into movies. Whatever the reason, I tend to assume that great movies are based on books - something that I realize is truly unfair to screenwriters.

I'm sorry, screenwriters. I know I'm biased towards books.

Anyway, my husband and I try to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Oscars happen every year. It makes the Oscars far more fun to watch, especially when you're rooting for your favorites. My husband's the movie buff - I tag along, knowing almost nothing about the films before watching.

So sometimes I'm surprised by what's an original screenplay and what's based on a book. That happened this year, with the following two Oscar-nominated films.


1. Blue Jasmine.

I LOVED this movie. Before Blue Jasmine, I'd never seen a Woody Allen movie in my life. I mostly associated Woody Allen with those glasses and Connor, that one character in a Sophie Kinsella book who is obsessed with his movies. Man, I'm really revealing my Kinsella obsession in this blog.

Anyway. Blue Jasmine isn't a book (it's an original screenplay) - but it 'watches' like one. You know, like how a Vince Flynn book reads like an action movie? Blue Jasmine watches like a literary fiction novel. The characters are beautifully developed, the plot teased out carefully, all to come together in a true work of art.

If Blue Jasmine were a book, I'd read it. And if you haven't seen the movie, it's really worth watching.


2. Her.

Doesn't Her sound like the plot of a dystopian novel? A man who falls in love with an artificially intelligent computer operating system sounds like something that would fit right in with today's SciFi novels.

The thing is, though, it's not really SciFi. This technology isn't extraordinarily far-fetched or inconceivable. It's far more a love story than a high-tech scifi. Watch the trailer, you'll see what I mean.

Regardless, this plot is deep. It makes you think. It's social commentary. It's gives me everything I love about reading, but from a film.


Which were your Oscar favorites this year? Would you read Blue Jasmine / Her, had they been books before they were movies?

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About the Author

Taylor is our Marketing Manager. She loves reading SciFi, mysteries & thrillers and anything by Sophie Kinsella. You probably can't beat her in Harry Potter trivia, but you can try if you enjoy failure.

4 Reasons a Book Vacation is Better Than A Regular Vacation

by Cathy Bryant

Vacation.

Is there any word in the English language that inspires more yearning in our hearts? (Well, except for ice cream.) And is there any vacation where we don't return a week behind at both work and home and with holes in our pocketbooks from overspending? Even worse, we're exhausted. Sheesh, we almost need another week of vacation to recuperate from the first one.

I have the perfect solution, especially in this economy. A book vacation! 

Here's why:


1. You can take a book with you anywhere. 

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Need some sun so you can go back to work with a tan? Take a quilt and your book to the park and read all day. At the very least you'll go back to work with a decent sunburn. If all else fails, use the money you saved by staying home to buy a tanning lamp. Seriously. Who's gonna know?

And if tanning's not your thing, find a place to visit that's close to where you live. Take your book, a picnic lunch, and the closest thing to a cabana boy you can find. Sounds pretty dreamy to me.

Want a relaxing read in an ocean-like setting? Turn on the sound machine, fill the tub with lukewarm water and Epsom salts, and dive in with a good book. See? You really can take a book anywhere.


2. You can go anywhere with a book. 

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Hang with me a sec. I know this sounds suspiciously the same as number one, but it's not. The point here is that books are modes of transportation and time machines. You can travel anywhere you want in any time period you want and meet some stranger-than-fiction people while you're at it--all without jet lag. How awesome is that?

Want to visit France and travel back to the 1800s? Pick up a copy of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. Want to go on a cruise without fifty million narcissistic and noisy people in too-tiny swimsuits? Melville's Moby Dick might do the trick. How about a trip to an exotic land with a free excursion to view really short people? Either Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz will get you there. (I could go on, but surely by now you get the point.


3. Oh, the things you can learn! 

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Rather than go to Italy, why not learn to speak Italian or make sun-dried tomato and basil bruschetta that's to die for? Rather than Disneyworld, why not hang out at your local jungle gym and read a biography of Walt Disney? And maybe this is just me, but I'd much rather digest facts about animals of the Serengeti in the comfort of my recliner than have those same animals digest me on a dry and dusty African safari.


4. More cash and less aspirin. 

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If you opt in favor of this book vacation, you will love these last two benefits. When all is said and done, this excellent choice will leave you with less of a headache than all the planning, rushing, spending, and rushing back that you have with a regular vacation. In addition, your pocketbook will be padded with all the dollars you saved. And with all that extra money hanging around, you can always buy more books!


About the Author

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Cathy Bryant loves to spin tales around the fictional hamlet of Miller's Creek, Texas, where folks are friendly, iced tea is sweet, and Mama Beth's front porch beckons. When she's not writing, you'll find Cathy feeding her reality TV addiction, rummaging through thrift stores, or up to her elbows in yet another home improvement project. The fifth book in the Miller's Creek Novels, A Bridge Unbroken, is scheduled to release Spring 2014. You can find out more about Cathy and her books at http://www.CatBryant.com.

Cathy's Books:

 

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The Night Circus – A Book Made for the Big Screen

A Review by Tracy Falbe


With much anticipation I opened The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern when I received it as a gift from my brother. The premise was unique. Set in the late 19th century, two magicians Celia and Marco compete in the magical arena of the Night Circus. The venue comes and goes from towns without notice. Its black and white tents house impossible wonders that delight visitors. And the circus is only open from dusk until dawn.

Celia and Marco are the protégés of two older rivals, Prospero the Enchanter, Celia’s unpleasant father, and another referred to mysteriously as the man in the grey suit, who trained Marco. These heartless elders duel through Celia and Marco within the circus that has been set up for a death match. The magical underpinnings of the circus rely on this death match. When Celia and Marco fall in love instead of the required hate, the system becomes dangerously askew for all involved.

Morgenstern crafts each vivid performance and exhibit in The Night Circus with graceful and nuanced detail. The mirrors, the ice sculptures, the chiming of a clock, the flicker of a flame, and every visual note of the prose are lovingly massaged into the brain of the reader. Only a few chapters into the novel I thought, “Is this book meant to be a movie?” To imagine The Night Circus is to see it as a movie in your mind.

Not long after reading it I heard that it was going to be a movie. The film rights were optioned by Summit Entertainment and the movie is in development, according to IMDb.

The potential for The Night Circus to make a splendid movie is very high. I believe that it could make a better movie than book because the novel has some shortcomings. The characters failed to summon much feeling in me. I initially had some sympathy for Celia but it faded. She was a sweet, responsible, and talented woman but I never felt more than perfunctory curiosity about her. Marco was tiresome as a male romantic lead. I’ll admit I’m more the swashbuckler type, so I mostly found him dull and lacking in charm.

The story dragged and by the time it reached something important I just kind of shrugged. I experienced the sacrifices and intense moments at the climax as things that I just wanted to get over with.

The reviews at Goodreads cut two ways on The Night Circus. About half gush with praise for the marvelous writing and the fresh concept. The other half reflects my sentiments. The story lacked real spirit and took too long. To me it was all flash and no bang. I’m reminded of gorgeous commercial roses that have very little scent. They look good but just can’t compare to the sun-warmed aroma of a home grown rose, which is what I wanted The Night Circus to be.

I can still hope the movie will be an improvement. Morgenstern has imagined something that could be spectacular. The right director and actors might be able to infuse some soul into the characters and add chemistry to the romantic partners.

Although I was mildly disappointed by The Night Circus I still declare it a good book. Many others have enjoyed it, and I greatly admire the writing skill of the author. Her artistry is admirable. She arranged a complex web of players into a perfect spider web sparkling with dew. She connected strands of nonlinear storytelling with ease. She made me see every detail of the circus like I was in the moment. The novel comes across like a dream, which endows The Night Circus with a good measure of success. 


About the Author

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Tracy Falbe has devoted herself to writing fantasy novels for many years. She has published nine of them and has a tenth on the way. Her first one, Union of Renegades, is a free book and has lured many readers into magical realms of adventure.

Read more about Tracy at Brave Luck Books: http://www.braveluck.com

Tracy's Books:

 

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Ten Awesome Books That You Probably Haven't Read

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By: Chloe Kizer

So we have a love (and minor obsession with) all things Vlogbrothers over here at Freebooksy. John Green’s most recent video was 18 Great Books that You Probably Haven’t Read. Not only do we love his recommendations, but we love the idea of promoting little known books. So, without further adieu here is our list of 10 awesome books that you probably haven’t heard of but should totally read.

Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace:

You may have heard of Big Fish, or seen the movie, but Daniel Wallace is a phenomenal author of literary fiction and you should read his books, especially his newest: Kings and Queens of Roam. It also doesn’t hurt that he is from our home town and a professor at the University that Taylor and I attended. 

Phone Kitten by Marika Christian:

Oh man. We love this book. LOVE IT. If you want to stay up all night turning the pages and howling with laughter,  then this should totally be your next book. 

 Devices and Desires by K. J. Parker:

This is the most engaging fantasy series that I have picked up in a very long time. The main theme is love and the crazy, whacky things that it makes us do. But not in a romance way, more like in a tragic medieval epic kind of way, which makes for a wonderful work of indulgent fiction.

Insignia by S. J. Kincaid: 

All other YA Sci Fi books try  to be this good.... and might come close. The gaming motifs and tech-y universe will suck you in and refuse to let go. 

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Ben Constable:

This book will wrap your mind into knots. Contemporary Magical Realism at some of its best, this novel will take you from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Dark Underground of Paris all while weaving the cryptic and tragic tale of a woman with too much pain to bear.

Hanging Flynn (A Tale of the Fairypocalypse) by  Addison Lane:

Another fantasy, Hanging Flynn is a story that mixes apocalyptic dystopian with myth, legend, and folklore in a way that keeps the reader flipping the pages. I read it in 2 days, talk about a page turner.

Love in the Falls by Rachel Hanna:

This book is totally our guilty pleasure. This sweet love story is kind of like watching The Notebook, you gotta do it every once and a while for the feels. PS: It's the perfect beach read.

Hild by Nicola Griffith:

Avid readers of historical fiction cannot let this phenomenal read pass them by. Tudor England? Been there done that: Hild takes the reader all the way back to the early Middle Ages, to the time when a multitude of individual small kingdoms were fighting, intermarrying, and caught up in dizzying knots of honor and intrigue after the withdrawal of the Romans from the British Isles. 

Marry Me Maddie by Rita Herron 

This book reminds us of There is Something About Mary (without the "hair gel"). It will consume you with side splitting laughter and make you wish that your own proposal had been this hilarious! 

Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice: 

Fans of Project Runway and The Devil Wears Prada will lost in the mystery that is Dead is the New Black. If you've always dreamed of working in the fashion industry and love mystery novels, then this is the book for you. 

Oh, and here is the Vlogbrothers video, because it's a great list of reads from a multitude of genres. 

 
 

About the Author 

Chloe is our content and community manager. She has three hobbies: Reading, writing, and finding new hobbies. Her brain can be best described as an extremely biased encyclopedia of all things nerdy. 

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