Robert’s Roundup #10 (May 2019) of Ebooks

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Ok, apparently there’s another Kindle Unlimited 2 month trial offer. From now on Kindle titles won’t receive hyperlinks, but I’ll include links to author website. But “KU” will indicate Kindle Unlimited ebook.

Sorry to whine, but one reason this column is so late (among many!) is that I have this crappy mouse which keeps double clicking instead of single clicking, deleting random things and closing browser tabs. Just my luck to be saddled with a defective mouse!

A reminder: after being kicked out of Amazon’s affiliate program, I decided it would be better NOT to link to Amazon and instead link to author websites.

Deals published by Amazon imprints

Here are things 99 cents for the month of May. I may add titles to my list over the month.

  • Two scifi/ cyber works by Anne Charnock: A Calculated Life and Dreams Before the Start of Time. (the latter of which won the Arthur C. Clarke award ). (Author website).
  • Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens (Author) (I recommended this in a previous month, but its price fell again).
  • Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Lluganas. Lluganas writes meandering tales of traveling on the cheap around the country. He has several volumes, with this one specifically about homeless people who live in vans. (His website looks engaging as well).
  • Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirsten Chen (author website). Great blurbs, plus great writing (the first chapter at least).
  • Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. (Author website). Lots of impressive blurbs
  • Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold (what a name!). Another one about WW2 Soldiers, but with a somewhat interesting take. Civilized soldiers away from the atrocities fleeing Germany after WW2.
  • (There’s a few titles I’m still previewing — haven’t decided whether to mention here)

Here are some titles from Amazon imprints which reverted from 99 cents to regular price, but still worth catching:

Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia

All the Lasting Things by David Hopson.

Practice House by Laura McNeal. No longer on sale, but an amiable tale about 2 Scottish girls who fall in love with 2 Mormon missionaries in 1929 and –what the heck! they might as well move back to the USA with them! Not something I’d normally want to read, the sample chapters were great. I’ll be keeping an eye on this author now. (author website)

Under the Radar

Process: Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola. KU. ON sale for 1.99. Well-written literary profile of several well-known authors and how they work. I got it on KU, read a chapter, then decided, I want to have the whole thing!

Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent by Peter Friedrich (Author site). (Free! Warning: big file!). History of the Sikh people. Book might have an agenda though — unsure, but looks like a legit scholar.

Portal by Alan Zendell. (free!) World in decline sees salvation in space travel. Zendell is a retired engineer who writes well-regarded hard science fiction (author website).

Little Prince Returns by Yoram Selbst. Alleged sequel to the Little Prince with similar kinds of illustrations.

Mania: Story of the Outraged and Outrageous Lives that Launched a Cultural Revolution by Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover. (99 cents). 2 law professors write a cultural history book about the beat poets. I read the first 2 chapters and loved it!

Reckless Beginnings by Tina Hogan Grant (author website). 99 cents on Amazon. (Great first 2 chapters about 3 daughters of a divorced couple and one who disappears).

Call me Pomeroy: A novel of satire and political dissent by James Hanna (author website). KU. FREE! Humorous tale about a musician who tries to make it big.

Chips of Red Paint by K. Martin Beckner.

Going Home in Chains. By Glenville Obrian Lovell. (author website). Free! for a second.

Strategic Argumentation in Parliamentary Debate by Eric Robertson, FREE! KU. I love all argumentation/debate books. This one cost only 99 cents!

Panayotis Cacoyannis, Finger of an Angel (99 cents) is an earlier work by this Cypus author. His other works have been lauded and remain moderately priced. (author website).

Man who Counted Infinity and other short stories from Science, History and Philosophy by Saso Dolenc. (temporarily free) (website). KU Dolenc has several similar ebooks. (I just scooped another another freebie! I really like all his popular science books — it makes learning science very fun!

Practice House by Laura McNeal. Light-hearted tale of two Scottish sisters who marry some Mormon missionaries in 1929. I missed the sale price, but it’s on KU and I would pay for this when the price falls again.

Incomplete Works: A Novel by Noah Goats. Satirical story about a snobbish boy sent to a vocational college. BERTHOLD GAMBREL reviews it, writing that it has “all sorts of humorous episodes and memorably over-the-top characters, most of which feel distinctly Wodehousian, from a zealously vegan love interest to a drunken ride on a mechanical bull. One dream sequence in the novel-within-a-novel, wherein Larry attempts to sell his soul to a demonic car salesman, felt like something from a Russian satire.”

Broken Shells by Deena Bouknight

Duck and Cover: 11 Stories by Rich Elliott. (FREE today, KU). tales of growing up in the 60s. Says Kirkus, “sometimes-luminous, sometimes-mordant collection that undercuts its nostalgia with complex ironies.”  (Author website).

Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic: One Man’s Trip Through This Crazy Thing Called Life by Mike Reuther

Drinking until Morning by Justin Grimbol. Also, Children of Arnhem’s Kaleidoscope and Just Visiting.

Sorrows of Young Mike by John Zelazny. A tragic tale of one young man’s journey to find meaning in his life and come to terms with his loves, himself and his libido.

Her Majesty’s Will: A Will & Kit Adventure by David Blixt. (author website). A light-hearted literary biography of Shakespeare, with certain embellishments about incident and enough wit and historical knowledge to keep us interested. The price went up again, but I’m going to look for other titles of historical fiction by this fellow.

Rehab For One-Hit Wonders by George Traikovich. YA tale of guitarist

Man in the Moon Has Something Important to Say by Jaymes Shore. Quirky post-apocalyptic Twilight Zone like stories.

Blink and it’s Gone sales

Collected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon. $1.20 (all stores).

Girl with the Faraway Dress (Stories). by Michelle Raymond. This award-winning story collection is free this May 4-5 weekend, possibly longer.

Man who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirannk. $2 for only a day, but I enjoyed the description of it as a “runaway Estonian bestseller.” My critic friend Michael Barrett read it and enjoyed it

How Not to be Wrong by Jordan Elllenberg. 2.99. I love popular books on math and science, and this one finally went on sale.

Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella et al. Extremely perceptive book about logical fallacies and critical thinking. 2.99, get it while you can! No longer on sale, but well worth waiting for (My fave read from 2018).

Essential Chomsky. 1.99 500 pages. A nice collection, with emphasis upon his later essays about politics and society.

David Foster Wallace Reader. 2.99 discounted only for a day. 900 pages! Admittedly Wallace is hard to do an anthology for.

(No longer here!) Amazon has Read the World week for their Amazon Crossing Books. Free ebooks for a week. As it happens, I had already bought two books which are excellent: The Passion According to Carmela by Marcos Aguinis (Cuban) and This Life or the Next by Demian Vitanza (Syrian). Speaking of Aguinas, I read and loved Against the Inquisition (not on sale at the moment, but gets discounted often).

†Titles from Smashwords and other places

I bought a lot of terrific stuff from Unsolicited Press earlier this month, so I may be taking a little break from them. Later, all the UP titles on Amazon were also 99 cents. Note: I found some formatting issues on the poetry titles at Smashwords even though they looked perfectly fine on Amazon.

Lance Manion (author website) writes a lot of short tales with off-color humor. A lot of these things were written for his blog. In an interview, he mentions being influenced by Heller, Robbins and Adams. I see that the titles on Smashwords are free while they cost in the 1-4$ range on Amazon.

1001 Lightyears Entertainment by David Loeff (author website) is a “1001 Arabian Nights in Outer Space.” FREE! with Public coupon. Description: While the worlds of the Commonwealth have access to superior technology, its literature has become formulaic and tame. Much of the folklore told on the known barbarian worlds, and by the starfarers who travel between them, has roots in an ancient Earth literature, once known as the Arabian Nights Entertainments. A sampling of the coarse and unsophisticated, yet less predictable and bland, literature and folklore of the barbarian worlds is presented here.

Creative Commons – Academic -Public Domain

At times I will be linking to fadedpages (Canada’s Project Gutenberg) especially for Canadian works and works not easily available in USA (digital or otherwise). One important difference between the two organizations (aside from different copyright laws) is that the Canadian downloads don’t have helpful file names — you should rename everything when saving. Check out its helpful list of prize winners for the Governor General’s Literary Award.

Bad Child Book’s of Beasts by Hilaire Belloc

A.G. MacDonell, England, Their England, How to Like an Angel and Autobiography of a Cad. Free droll English humor from the 1930s. (FREE!)

Doomington Wanderer by Louis Golding. Short Stories. Left-wing English author.

George Deeping, Short Stories and Old Wine and New. Prolific English novelist who wrote about soldiers after WW1 after among things.

Master-Girl by Ashton Hilliers. From Book Review Digest 1910: A story of prehistoric times with a young savage for a hero who fares forth to appropriate a wife from a neighboring tribe and is generously blessed by the gods of his Sun-*men race. The master girl his wife, “stands a primitive human document,” a heroic specimen of cave woman thru whose elemental passions gleams something of the fine unselfishness and loyalty of her later generations. The author draws vivid pictures of the fight these people made for existence against the ravages of beasts, enemies and cold.

Fanny Fern is an influential 19th century American writer known for Ruth Hall but also for her caustic/satirical newspaper columns about social issues and woman’s issues. Ruth Hall is a roman a clef about struggle for financial independence. Wow, Ruth Hall has a gigantic wiki page and apparently is very well known in feminist circles. That’s a name I’ll be sure to drop in order to prove my feminist bona fides. Nat Hawthorne was quoted on wiki saying this:

In my last, I recollect, I bestowed some vituperation on female authors. I have since been reading “Ruth Hall”; and I must say I enjoyed it a good deal. The woman writes as if the Devil was in her; and that is the only condition under which a woman ever writes anything worth reading. Generally women write like emasculated men, and are only distinguished from male authors by a greater feebleness and folly; but when they throw off the restraints of decency, and come before the public stark naked, as it were—then their books are sure to possess character and value. Can you tell me anything about this Fanny Fern? If you meet her, I wish you would let her know how much I admire her. (Letters to Ticknor, 1:78)

Speaking of impressing feminists, a decade ago I impressed a feminist scholar by my knowledge of Violet Hunt’s literary works. Hunt hung around the preRaphaelites, John Ruskin, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, probably Arnold Bennett. She coedited a literary journal with FM Ford and even co-wrote a book with him. — fyi, even though all of her workers were written prior to 1923, her most acclaimed books, Tales of the Uneasy and White Rose of Weary Leaf, still aren’t on Gutenberg.

William John Hopkins is the author of several novellas about life in a New England seaport town. About Old Harbor, NYT (via 1910 Book Review Digest) says, This is a story of a seaport town whose quiet gentlefolk revel in the atmosphere of lavender and old lace with now and then a mild remonstrance against such customs, for instance, as that of keeping the grandmother’s china well behind doors of glass. The characters include “Colonel Catherwood, making a weak pretense of attending to business in his hereditary office, with the clerk, Heywood, who has grown old and deaf, down there by the water side; Eben Joyce, come home, almost a wreck, from a long troublous experience of life; Dr. Olcott, a racy type of the old-time physician; Jack Catherwood, the hero of a pretty love story, and several others who are by no means lay figures.” (note, this novel hasn’t yet been digitalized, but you can read PDFs on and read a few story collections on the link above).

Imaginary Interviews by William Dean Howells (another discovery from proofreading the 1910 issue of Book Review Digest). ” It is a wide range of subjects upon which Mr. Howells philosophizes in this volume, but the reader will enjoy it because it is his philosophy whether the veteran author discusses vaudeville, women, New York, the luxuries of travel, dressing for a hotel dinner, a day at Bronx Park or any of the delightful assortment of things to which he treats us in these thirty-five varied chapters…”The papers are all in Mr. Howells’s inimitable style, even the substance is somewhat attenuated.” (independent).

ALSO: A vein of irony, never profound but always whimsical, coupled with a tender fancy and mellow philosophizing, ensures a wide reading for the book by those who enjoy a harmless play-acting with life and ideas.” (Nation Magazine).

I rely on for many priceless finds although frankly most of them are still in copyright but out of print.


Flashes & Verses … Becoming Attractions. (Free!) Adrian Ernesto Cepeda (author website).

Wingback Chair by Joan Colby (Poetry). (author website). FREE!

Myth of the Eternal Return by Jerome Brooke. Got this as freebie, but only 1.29 on Amazon.


to be done


Susan Sontag. 1992 KCRW Bookworm Podcast. Talking about Volcano Lover.

Lydia Davis. 2014 KCRW Podcast. Fave writer I discovered in grad school in 1989.

Diane Williams, 2019 KCRW Podcast. I’d never heard about her before, but apparently she writes short bursts of fiction similar to Lydia Davis.

Ron Chernow’s talk at 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Chernow is a famous historian, and this was one of the wittiest and most erudite things I’d heard in a long time.

Literary Trends Spotted


Miscellaneous (Used Books, Library Titles, etc)

to do later

Review Books Received

Ten Seconds by Lucian Lupescu

Closing Thoughts

I know everyone wants to write a “serious” literary novel, but it should still be possible to do so without writing about Nazis or child abuse or a parent dying of Alzheimer’s, or a child who was kidnapped or a character who cheats on his or her spouse or a virtual universe that bears a resemblance to a creepy videogame. Enough with interplanetary migration or time travel anything! (And I’ll say nothing of thrillers, or medical mysteries or love stories between American and Europeans, or Asian immigrants to USA). I mentioned in my book review guidelines that as a rule I never like books where the US president is a character or where someone has amnesia. Another pet peeve is novels where the first chapter is in all italics – and refers to some flashback event where one detail turns out to have some significance.

I guess every plot variation or narrative technique has to potential to turn into a cliche, and sometimes — gosh darnit — you just have to have a Nazi.

I’ve seen several great books that have used one or more of these tropes. But I’ve seen 10x that number that are utterly forgettable. It’s not impossible to write great stories. I just wish that authors would stop confusing “serious literature” with “stories full of social and psychological traumas.” I mean, sure, Shakespeare, Poe, etc.. Literature has to be fun, quirky and occasionally terrifying.

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. [Update: Oh, what the heck, I updated all the prices to be below $1.50 Enjoy!]You can buy these titles at the main ebook stores (Amazon, Kobo, BN, Apple, etc.), but the same titles usually sell on Smashwords for half the price that you see them on Amazon. Pay attention to any 100% coupon codes which I occasionally list below — they can be redeemed only a small number of times, so first come, first serve. Smashwords only sells epub versions of these titles, but you can easily convert them to Amazon’s mobi format by using Kindle Previewer or Calibre.

  • A Worker’s Writebook by Jack Matthews . $1.00 Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
  • Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews.  ($1.10 until 5/18/2019). no coupon code required) Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview  with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too.   I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it (3.99 on cdbabyand itunes), but the script  reads well too.
  • Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. $1.00 Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War.  (FREE coupon — use code: KD45Y.  maximum: 2 uses).   
  • Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. $1.00  (FREE coupon — use code: LQ42XK.  maximum: 2 uses). 
  • Hanger Stout, Awake (50th Anniversary Edition). by Jack Matthews. Coming of age novel. $1.00
  • Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: EpubMobi.







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