Robert’s Roundup of Ebooks #2 (Nov 2018 — Week 5)

View the post series | Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

See previous Robert’s Roundup.   and the next Robert’s Roundup (Smashwords edition)


First, I noticed that Amazon offered me a 3 month trial to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents (After that, it’s 9.99 a month).  I totally don’t want to pay 10 dollars a month for this, but it’s a great way to do try-before-you-buy for many indie titles. 

Second,  though I typically avoid sci fi fiction, this seems to be the month where I stock up on the genre.  

Third, my monthly Smashwords roundup is running late  (It should appear in the next 2 days).  Smashwords will be offering a sitewide sale on titles during the last week of December. My plan is to report on the great buys ASAP — (probably Dec 27), so be sure to save some funds for that  post-Christmas splurge. 

Blue Moon Deals 

Collected Stories by Frank O’Connor. $2.50 . 750 pages. Wow, what a deal! (Let’s see how long it lasts!– Update: One day!)

Lilith’s Brood (Xenogenesis Trilogy) by Octavia Butler  3.99. About two months ago I was bowled over by the  Bloodchild Story collection (a sort of fantastic tale about the interactions between humans and another superior alien race). As luck would have it, Google’s algorithms gave me a $3 store credit, so I bought this trilogy for only a dollar! Significantly, I never saw this sale price on Amazon….

Three Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 1) by Cixin Liu. 2.99  This very famous prize-winning sci fi novel has gone on sale once or twice a  year for a day or so — only to return to the regular expensive price.  I have checked this book out several times without making much progress on it yet! 

Collected Stories of William Humphrey. 1.99 This collection contains stories from two early volumes. (Humphrey wrote mainly novels, but he did write a well-reviewed September Song in his later years). He is a Texan author best known for writing about family life in small towns. (He is best known for Home from the Hill — which I read too quickly — I confess I wasn’t ready for it…

Under the Radar

Joseph MacKinnon is a Toronto-based author who writes sci fi thrillers with a political edge. His Guy Faux Books press publishes his titles — including two acclaimed cyberpunk titles (Cypulchre, and Archetypal).  Newsreal,  (FREE!  on AMZN during Thanksgiving), cowritten by Carlo Schefter, is a “dark comedy, which explores today’s political carnival and tackles the soft divisions in American society concretized by and after the 2016 presidential election.”

Evil Men: Short Stories by Erik Wennermark (Free on Thanksgiving weekend) is, according to Michael Martone, “an ambitious collection completely realized and expertly crafted. [Wennermark] renders in this Poe-ian, shaped-charged fiction a startling catalogue of very visceral and deeply disturbing tales. He is very perceptive to this world of his characters and also to the world around them and how they and their environment interact with the reality of our own reality. He is especially sensitive to the variety and complexity of the human psyche.” PS, Martone is one of my fave authors. This title was free a weeks ago, and then again this weekend.  Here is Wennermark’s personal website. 

Wrestling with Angels: New and Collected  Stories by John J. Clayton (author page). 1.99 This low-cost edition contains stories from 3 previously published books. (Note: the price has been 1.99 for almost the entire year, so the price probably won’t go up anytime soon). Clayton has won multiple story awards and writes about urban living from the perspective of a New England Jew. Several of his books haven’t been digitalized, but I notice that a more recent story collection (Minyan) and a novel (Kuperman’s Fire) are available. 

Siege of Walter Parks by Colin Robertson (99 cents)  is a nice Office Space type satire  that takes place during a financial recession. He has written a series about hackers or zombies or something like that. 

Panayotis Cacoyannis. Over the last year or so I’ve noticed several titles being promoted by this Greek/Cyprus  author living in UK. (Here’s his Amazon author page).  Reviews of his books usually mention the satirical element, the psychological complexity, the insights into love and human relationships.  

Gary Reilly. Last month I mentioned Reilly’s prodigious output after his death. Very rarely have his titles gone free, but today his Volume 7 of his Asphalt Warrior series is  free. 

Them Bones by Howard Waldrop. (STILL 99 CENTS). 1980s  time-travel novel about a 21st century man who travels through a time portal to prevent WW3 and lands in the wrong time period. Austin-based author. 

Poetry Collections: Magic with Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren (FREE!)

Squish the Fish: A Tale of Dating and Debauchery by Dave Lundy, Mariah Sinclair, Ro O’Connor. Hedonistic novel revolving around  a football game. (The book is divided into corresponding quarters of the game). Eye-grabbing cover too. 

Various historical fiction  titles by Edward C. Patterson.  (author website) Patterson is a prolific author with an interesting background in Chinese history. IIRC, some of his titles have slight gay themes and storylines, but more often historical themes (and not just about Asia). So far I’ve captured a few  free titles, but he’s the perfect kind of author to do an author alert on ereaderiq.  Aha, I see that Patterson used to be on Smashwords, but then moved all his titles to exclusivity deals with Amazon. I’ll be writing about this Hobson’s choice later. 

Nigel Bird is a prolific Scottish author and poet whose biggest venture seems to be in crime fiction (author website). I’ve grabbed his Dirty Old Town (short stories, 100 pages) which is at the affordable 99 cents.  He has about 1/4 of his stuff on Smashwords (try here and here), and I’ll be monitoring those prices. 

33 Days in the Hole: Chicago Experiment by Rob Kern. (FREE!)  Longish essay (not really book-length) about a rock critic who forces himself to listen to nothing but Chicago music group for 33 days. 

Blink-and-it’s-gone Sales

God, so many of the EarlyBirdBooks have come and gone. I already binged on EBB titles last Spring, so most of the authors and titles are already familiar to me. (Indeed, all of the EBB names were big in literary circles at one point).  I didn’t buy much this time, but the EBB spot sales reappear frequently. As an aside, EBB and Bookbub have basically gotten consumers used to paying 2-4$ in ebooks. I don’t think there’s any turning back. (thank god!)

Deals on ebooks published by Amazon 

(These 99 cent books expire at the end of November — sorry for waiting so long to decide!) I should explain that I make my purchase decisions usually by reading only the first chapter and skimming the book description. Still all these sound like winners at 99 cents (and Amazon gave me a $3 ebook credit for buying so many of these monthly deals).  I think a few deals carry over into future months, so stay tuned. When the December 99 cent deals come rolling around, I’ll try to tackle them and report on them more quickly!

  • Too Good to be True: A Memoir by Benjamin Anastas. Daily struggles of a younger middle-aged author who has become a father. 
  • Stage Four: A Novel by Sander Kollaard. Very well-received angst-ridden tale of a European couple who take a trip after the wife receives a diagnosis of cancer.  Enjoy the references to Lagerlof  and Soderberg, which I guess is not unusual for a Danish author. 
  • Gods who walk among us by Max Eastern. Nice humorous first person tale of a NYC paparazzi who gets mixed up in the lives of people he photographs.  Really enjoy this character so far. 
  • A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion. Nice domestic dramedy about a woman’s life in a Wisconsin suburb. Feels like Anne Tyler.  
  • Evelyn, After: A Novel by Victoria Helen Stone. The first chapter details a woman’s attempt to investigate details of the life of the woman who slept with her husband. Book description implies that the book will soon veer into a different direction, but I’m liking what I’m reading so far! 
  • Damocles by S.G. Redling. Sci fi novel about explorers trying to find a habitable planet for humans to live in. A really well-written first chapter, and Redling has written novels about a variety of subjects (not just sci fi). 
  • Kelpie Dreams by Steve Vernon.  Comic fantasy romp about — well, I’m not sure based on the first chapter, but I think a fantasy creature is involved. Never expected to get into this one, but it had a great first chapter. 
  • Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann. Story about secret pasts — with some connection to a violin from a faraway land. Bomann is a German author of historical novels. 
  • Second First Time by Elisa Lorello.  Quirky relationship story happening after the death of one person’s father. 
  • Picks from Previous Roundup: Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin, Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (Icons) by Michael Wood, The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts by Nicholas Delbanco, and Five Night Stand: A Novel by Richard J. Alley.

Creative Commons/Public Domain titles

You may already know that after 20 years of no titles falling into the public domain, 2019 will resume the normal release of titles from 1923. Apparently Project Gutenberg will start digitalizing 1923 works next year, and I nominated these titles for digitalization:  

  • Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley, First published in 1923, Weeds is set amid the tobacco tenant farms of rural Kentucky. This pioneering naturalist novel tells the story of a hard-working, spirited young woman who finds herself in a soul-destroying battle with the imprisoning duties of motherhood and of managing an impoverished household. The novel is particularly noteworthy for its heartbreaking depiction of a woman who suffers not from a lack of love, but from an unrequited longing for self-expression and freedom.
  • If you can stand reading PDFs, I highly recommend: New Plato : or, Socrates redivivus by Thomas Lansing Masson, Thomas Lansing (published in 1908). Socrates steps out of the pages of Plato into Mr. Masson’s humorous colloquies as easily as he quits the steerage of the Lusitania and takes up his headquarters at the Mills hotel. He acquaints himself with New Yorkers, visits their homes, and discusses with true modern insight such subjects as The married life, The gambler, The bridge player, Socialism, Learning, Surgeons, Philosophy, The missionary, and The nature of happiness.

I occasionally do volunteer editing for Distributed Proofreaders (the group who produce all the Gutenberg titles). Through this work I have learned about the wonderful  Book Review Digest  (a series which started to be published in 1904 on a yearly basis).  So far, only 2 volumes are on Gutenberg,  but I think every volume between 1905 and 1922 is being worked on, and in a year or two you will be able to flip through them at your leisure. I particularly recommend the 1917 volume . Two things are clear after flipping through this volume: 1)the state of book reviewing was very advanced in the early part of 20th century and 2)despite the sense that Project Gutenberg has so many titles available, only a fraction of titles mentioned in the Book Review Digests have ever been digitalized. (Sure, some are on or google, but these are just cumbersome facsimiles).  

Smashwords Titles 

I’m about to publish my Smashwords roundup, but I just wanted to say that White Mythology: Two Novellas for 99 cents is a great deal (I read the book too). 

Non-Amazon & Non-Smashwords Titles

None this time..

Miscellaneous (Used books, library titles, book-related articles, etc)

  • Solitary Twin by Harry Matthews
  • Why I read: Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser (Lesser’s essays all are a joy to read, and they are starting to appear in the Early Bird Books deal newsletters). 
  • Click Here to Kill Everybody by Bruce Schnier
  • Podcast: Montaigne and the Art of Conversation. Timothy Hampton is a Berkley comp lit prof who gives a great talk about Montaigne. Here’s his blog, some of his Montaguish thoughts and even a nice commencement address.  Oddly  a few months ago I had stumbled upon some of his writings while perusing the Cornell U press catalog. 

Review Copies Received 

(I have a backlog of review copies to write about.  Here are some recent review copies I snagged:)

Closing Thoughts 

First, if anyone outside the USA is reading this, I’d like to hear what kind of freebie ebook options that non-US readers have access to. I confess to being totally in the dark about which stores are offering (non-infringing) freebies to readers in Canada, UK, Australia, India, etc. Or are shoppers at the US Amazon store just lucky? (I should note that Smashwords offers a lot of freebies to readers around the globe — and without DRM too). 

Let’s not write  pissy reviews! I’m all in favor of free speech, but I can’t tell you how often I come across superficial 2 sentence pissy and incoherent reviews on Amazon book pages.  (I wrote a response to one recently).  Once in a while a remark is pithy and damning, but for the most part  these types of comments are substance free and call attention to the commenter’s lack of effort to say anything meaningful. Ok, we get it, the book didn’t grab you, but shouldn’t you be open to the idea that people have different literary tastes? 

Wow, a month after I signed up to be listed on the IndieView’s list of book reviewers willing to review indie titles, they unceremoniously de-listed my name without bothering to tell me why.  This both irks and amuses me. Do they actually think that the number of people  willing to review indie titles is so great that they have to set ultra-strict criteria to filter them out?  Though I have specific criteria for what books I’d be willing to review, I’ve really made it a point to avoid the usual places to pick up Advance Review Copies (ARCs) like Netgalley, Amazon Vine, etc.  IndieView is still an excellent source of information for both readers and indie authors. But this action perplexes me. 

While visiting another book-loving friend, we exchanged titles of books we’d discovered — though we hadn’t actually read most of them   Our tastes are similar enough though my friend  grabs mainly print titles while I do the digital thing. We were marveling at all the great NYROB titles — that acronym stands obviously for New York Review of Books — which republish many outstanding titles from Europe and elsewhere. NYROB titles are great and handsome books as well, but I am flabbergasted at the high prices of the digital editions. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse has an $11 ebook, $11 print book and used copies sell on Amazon for $2. Similarly, another book I have been salivating over has been Elizabeth Hardwick’s Collected Essays (ebook $16, paperback $14, used $9). I’ve ended up checking out both print and ebook editions of both titles from the libraries — multiple times without having finished either one. I guess I can’t complain too much because I have easy access to both titles — and frankly these books aren’t checked out often.  But I can’t help noting that the  NYROB acronym includes the word “ROB” in it, and indeed, I feel I could never afford to buy any NYROB titles without sticking up a Barnes and Noble. I certainly see value in NYROB titles and recognize that the hefty Hardwick essay collection deserves some kind of premium pricing. But these prices are outrageous, especially when we see what Early Bird Books is discounting these days.  I find it hard to believe that it makes business sense to price something which only institutions can afford. 







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