Archive for category Free E-Book Recommendations

Review of JET by Russell Blake (2012) (Jet Series)

Bottom line: JET is a free, full length novel introducing the JET series. If you’re a fan of thrillers, give it a try!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Code name: Jet 

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as surprising as the story’s heroine is unconventional.

Review:

I recommend reading this book when you can devote a few hours to it and finish it all in one gulp – otherwise, you’ll still end up finishing it all in one gulp, but there will be babies crying, dogs barking, chores neglected, and food uneaten as you frantically race through the pages. The style reminded me the most of the Bourne trilogy (as suggested in the blurb). We have an extremely competent assassin: a female character far more strongly developed than one would normally expect to see in this genre. We have international shenanigans, scary bad guys, cool weapons, and clandestine government agencies. The writing was very tight, and as I said earlier, I was very impressed with the lifelikeness of the main character. Blake managed to create a ruthless assassin who still feels realistically human and also manages to be a sympathetic character. Descriptions were evocative without being tedious, and there are enough logistics and details (e.g. what kinds of weapons they used, how they get from point A to point B) to give the reader a good flavour of setting but not so much that your eyes start to glaze over. The only thing I know about guns is that they fire bullets, and the only thing I know about cars is that they come in different colours. (Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know that’s a stereotype, but seriously, I look at a car and I can generally tell if it’s an SUV, truck, or car, but that’s it. I’m a mess trying to find my car in parking lots. Do you know how many gray cars there are?!? Anyways…)The only aspect I wasn’t crazy about was how the story jumped around in time and place, but I recognize that these were all important for the plot and/or backstory. My brain is very linear and I just have a hard time coming into and out of the main story line.

So basically, we have an intriguing premise, lots of action, an interesting main character, and last but not least, very good writing. Oh, and it’s free. What’s not to like? I’ll definitely be reading more in the series as time (and budget) allows, and will be checking out some of Blake’s other works.

Side note: This is a violent story, and while the writing certainly conveys that, it never felt overly graphic to me (and I am a total wimp).

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Summer Reading List – travel through time and place

These aren’t time travelling books, though that might make a good reading list in and of itself, but I’ve called this travel through time and place because the books featured were written as far back as 1869. (Please keep in mind the date these books were written as they will reflect the cultural norms of the day when it comes to dealing with other races, religions, cultures, and so on.) Some of the funniest books that I’ve ever read are travel memoirs. I think that is partly because being out of one’s element resonates with me (I spent most of my “growing up” years abroad) and partly because nothing brings out the extremes of life like travel – you see the best, the worst, the most absurd, the most profound , and therefore, the funniest (at least after the fact). I hope you enjoy some of these armchair journeys this summer in addition to (or instead of) your actual trips.

  1. The Innocents Abroad (1869) by Mark Twain. (Free on Kindle!) This is the only book on the list I haven’t read, but it is on my “Read Soon” list. I’ve had several recommendations for this book and look forward to diving into it.
  2. Three Men in a Boat (1889) by Jerome K. Jerome. I believe you can get a free version of this on Kindle, but please do yourself a favor and get the audiobook version narrated by Hugh Laurie. It is excellent. For the most part, you would never guess that this book was written well over a hundred years ago. It is absolutely hilarious, even more so for those of you who, like me are cursed blessed with an extremely energetic terrier (is there any other kind?).
  3. Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946) by Agatha Christie. This reveals a completely different side to Hercule Poirot’s creator. Funny, wry, and self-deprecating (the book starts out with Christie attempting to buy plus-sized summer clothes in 1930’s London in the winter), it shows glimpses of the life she and her husband led while on an archeology dig in Syria. I have lived in a similar part of the world myself, and it was interesting to see her take from sixty-ish years before my impressions were being formed. Cross-cultural communication attempts are always…interesting. Some things that we take for granted as being inherently important are dismissed with a shrug in other cultures, and vice versa.
  4. Tales of a Female Nomad, Living at Large in the World (2001) by Rita Golden Gelman. I wouldn’t classify this books necessarily as “humorous” although there are funny parts in it, but it will make you want to sell off all you possessions and hit the road. At least that was my response. There’s something both freeing and envy-inspiring about realizing that some people have actually left everything behind and just gone.
  5. Anything by Bill Bryson. Bryson is another contemporary writer and one of the funniest across any genre, in my very humble opinion. He’s an American who lived for several years in England. Consequently, I think some of his writing on both the US and the UK is among his best work. Some of my favorites include: Notes from a Small Island (the UK), A Walk In The Woods (his travels on the Appalachian long distance hiking trail, although the first half by far outshines the second), and In a Sunburned Country (Australia). In a Sunburned Country I don’t think is as consistently funny as some of his other works, but it does contain two of the funniest passages I have ever read. The first addresses sleeping in public, and I have never been able to read it aloud without snorting myself into incomprehensible speech and having to hand the book off to someone else, and the second deals with his crazed flight through a suburban park from a pack of dogs that may or may not be anywhere near him.
  6. Bonus: The Rough Guide to First Time Around the World by Doug Lanksy. I’m not sure when this was first published, but I believe they occasionally release updated versions. If you’re the type who has as much fun in the planning as the actual execution of the trip (please tell me that’s not just me), this is a book to satiate, or possibly inflame, your wanderlust. It contains practical information on how to do it as well as region guides and some anecdotes from the author. This was one of my favorite forms of escapism while I toiled away in grad school.

There are lots of great travel books out there. What did I miss?

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Review of No Time To Run by J.D. Trafford (2011) (Legal Thriller Featuring Michael Collins, Book 1)

Bottom line: A fun, fast paced story that is well worth reading, especially if you can get it for free.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Michael Collins burned his suits and ties in a beautiful bonfire before leaving New York and taking up residence at Hut No. 7 in a run-down Mexican resort. He dropped-out, giving up a future of billable hours and big law firm paychecks. But, there are millions of dollars missing from a client’s account and a lot of people who want Michael Collins to come back. When his girlfriend is accused of murder, he knows that there really isn’t much choice.

Review:

This was one of my “go through Amazon’s free bestsellers and dump a bunch onto my Kindle” finds. I’ve recently read a string of very disappointing murder mysteries that I had found the same way, so my expectations were pretty low. To my surprise, I found myself drawn in from the first couple of pages.

This is the same genre and style as a John Grisham novel, and well executed. There were a few typos, but not so many that it distracted me from the story. The plot was interesting and complex (but not overly so), the characters were well drawn, and the action keeps moving. It is definitely escapism reading, and will take you out of your world for a couple of hours. I enjoyed the depictions of both New York and Mexico, I thought he did a good job of portraying the ambience of each location.

Side Note: There is a second book in the series, which I will probably read at some point. I found this book to be more action/plot driven than anything else, and I don’t feel so invested in the characters that I need to rush to find out what happens to them next.

Available: Seems to be only available as an Amazon Kindle Book, but it is free!

More Info: http://jdtrafford.blogspot.com/

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Three Free Kindle E-Book Mysteries

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted anything in a while is because I’ve been busy chugging though several free mysteries that I had dumped on my Kindle, hoping to find a gem. And of course, by the time I found one I liked, a couple of the ones I was going to mention were no longer free. Fear not, none of them were going to get a recommendation! So, instead of a quick review of five free e-books, here is a quick review of three free e-books.

Frame-Up (Michael Knight #2) (2010) by John Dobbyn

Rating: Recommended

This was the first free e-book mystery that I read in this batch that I couldn’t put down. There are some cheesy moments, but for the most part it is a really fun ride. A lawyer gets pulled into international intrigue involving the Mob, Russian criminals, and a priceless painting. After writing that last sentence, I realize just how ridiculous it sounds, but as you’re in the story, the author makes it all make sense, I promise. There are a couple of other books in this series, and I’m going to have to check them out. If they’re as fun as this, it’ll be worth the read.

 Blood on the Vine (Jay Leicester #1) (2000) by JC Simmons

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting, you’re a pilot, or you are a wine person.

I thought this book was ok. I found it a little slow, and felt that the murder solution kind of came out of nowhere. There are a lot of descriptions of food, wine, and the Napa Valley, which was kind of fun, but there are days where you follow the detective around and he does nothing but wake up, shower, talk to a couple of people, drive, eat, almost talk to the beautiful woman around whom much mystery centers, then go back to bed. I would recommend it for an airplane read (something kind of fun, kind of interesting, but won’t keep you reading it all the way through your vacation/meeting when you land) but it does center around a plane crash, so if that makes you squeamish, save it for a car trip.

 A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak #1) (1992) by Dana Stabenow

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It takes place in a tiny town in Alaska, and has a pretty good, if slightly predictable, murder/plot. My main issue was with the main character – she just didn’t ring true to me. There were also a couple of instances where two characters lock eyes and then she knew that he knew and they both understood (or something like that) and the reader is left going “huh?”. I thought it had promise though, and was on the fence about trying the next book in the series, but the first chapter is included and I didn’t like it.  So, bottom line is that it just didn’t do much for me, but it wasn’t bad for a free read. Warning: there are some graphic elements, mostly having to do with a traumatic event in her last job.

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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Review of The Emperor’s Edge Series by Lindsay Buroker

Bottom line: This is one of my favorite ongoing series. These are great stories, extremely well written, with awesome characters. The first book is free, so give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I was going to do a review on each of the books that are out, but then I realized the reviews would be virtually identical for all books, so I’m going to do it in one fell swoop for the books of the series that are currently out, and I’ll update as the other books come out. There are six planned total in the main storyline.

These books are excellent. It was one of those where I read the first one because it was free, not really expecting all that much from it. When I was done, I immediately downloaded the next two books in the series (the only ones that were out at the time), read all through the night, got an hour of sleep, and had to go to work the next day. I then discovered that there were short stories with the same characters, but not in the main storyline/time frame and bought and read those immediately as well.

 

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Five Free Kindle E-book Classic Mysteries Written in the 1800s

I think it’s interesting to read some of the earliest mysteries and science fiction and see what has changed in the genres over the centuries. Some are as enthralling as the day they were published and some….not so much. Here are five free Kindle e-book mysteries from some of the writers who popularized the genre and inspired those who came later.

The Cask of Amontillado (1846) – Edgar Allan Poe  (short story)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started this, but I ended up liking it. It’s a REALLY short story. I think it could have benefitted from explaining what the offence was that had been committed against the narrator, but it’s a creepy (in a good way) short read from the perspective of the perpetrator. More of a thriller than a mystery.

The Woman in White (1859) – Wilkie Collins

Of the five books here, I found this one to be the most of a slog. It’s long, and there is a lot of  “women are to be pretty and helpless”, but if you can get past that it’s a well thought out plot, and the way the amateur detective goes about uncovering the evidence seemed pretty believable. The main perpetrator reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie’s perpetrator in The Man In the Brown Suit, but I don’t know if that was an homage or coincidental on her part.

Crime and Punishment (1866) – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Parts of this book drag a bit, but it was an interesting look at Russian life during that time. The names can get a bit confusing (not because they’re Russian, but because each person has several different names, all used interchangeably depending on the person speaking). It’s different from many mysteries in that we get the point of view of the killer, but there is definitely murder, and detectives, and uncovering of evidence, and then resolution. It was a little uncomfortable to witness the effect the crime has on the killer’s mind, but definitely fascinating. Plus, there’s the advantage of being able to say “oh, you know, just reading a little Dostoyevsky”  to anyone you want to impress. Fair warning: It’s REALLY long.

The Leavenworth Case (1878) – Anna Katharine Green

The first novel of of one of the earliest mystery writers in America (at least according to Wikipedia). It has many elements of what I usually think of as the typical English mystery – a murder of a wealthy person in a locked house, secrets of those who may stand to gain from his death, a side of romance, unexpected twists and turns in the plot, and ending with the detective eliciting a confession from the guilty party. Some of the language feels a bit dated, and there are a few typos, but definitely worth a read.

The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) (1890) – Arthur Conan Doyle

This is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and it’s free! Fantastical elements in a story that stretches back in time and halfway across the world. Holmes and Watson are in fine form, despite the distraction of a fair lady…

Bonus:

Not free, you’ll have to shell out $0.99 for this book, but if you want to read about Holmes from the beginning, there is:

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes Vol.1) (1887) – Arthur Conan Doyle

Have you read any of these books? Still enjoyable despite the 100 – 150 years they’ve been around?

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