Robert’s Roundup of Ebooks #4 (Dec 2018 — Week 3/4)

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 roundup (Special Smashwords-holiday edition).   


Avalanche! I’ve been telling people that on average I pick up about 5 cool ebooks a day. In the last 2 days I’ve picked up about 10 high quality ebooks for free! Listing my recent acquisitions is a constant game of catchup. I had to skip last week for various reasons, so I have to make up for lost time.

This will be my last Amazon post for the month, but after posting today I will continue adding 99 cent deals until Dec 31. Also, it looks like Dec 28 Amazon will do some sitewide promotion so maybe I’ll add an appendix. Stay tuned.

This may be an obvious point, but if I spend so much time researching/acquiring low cost ebooks, doesn’t it prevent me from actually reading them? Let’s just say that I have a significant number of ebooks I can’t wait to get to. Some will disappoint, but frankly, I am easily pleased by semi-competent ebooks as long as the story is interesting. I confess that I grow bored with thrillers/sci fi/chicklit/etc, but once I start reading them, I can enjoy them for what they were.

I need to set reasonable limits — to permit more time for reading and reviewing books. Future roundups will be a lot more superficial than this one.

Around Thanksgiving I took advantage of a 3 month trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents. That hasn’t changed my buying or reading habits at all; I’ve been using it mainly to have access to the full ebook so I can more thoroughly review it before deciding whether to buy. I did notice something very significant though: when you subscribe, apparently all titles with KU will hide their prices! I guess it makes sense; it conveys the sense that you don’t need to buy any of these ebooks; but you are paying for these ebooks — normally about $10 per month!

The biggest disappointment since my last Robert’s Roundup (non-Smashwords edition) is missing the opportunity to buy Steven Novella’s Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. I adore books about cognitive psychology and how to improve your thinking skills. (I am currently reading a fantastic one called Mindware by Richard E. Nisbett, which will never be discounted). Novella’s title is “hot” and I knew the price drop would be short-lived. Luckily, my library’s overdrive has one copy, with a 6 week waiting period. I am keeping finger’s crossed that it will go on sale again.

Blue Moon Deals

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich. 2.99 This was my consolation prize for missing out the Nisbett’s book. Alexievich writes these beautiful mosaics containing hundreds of ordinary Russians. I checked this out 4 times without reading. Now I don’t need to worry!

What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. 2.99. Amazingly this prize seems to have stuck for several weeks. Although it’s a swell book by the acclaimed creator of Xkcd, after looking at it, I decided that the book is not as essential a book as I thought (though it was a lot of fun). The Strogatz title below is better.

Joy of X by Steven Strogatz. 2.99 (still on sale!) Popular math book (a genre I love). I almost missed this one, and I’ll probably try to take his other books when they go on sale. (One reason not to is that all of Strogatz’s books are easily available at the library).

Lord of the Rings (one volume) by Tolkien. $2.99 (expired, but it lasted several days). Don’t worry. This deal will be back. The only thing that might give reason to pause is that 1)the file size is somewhat big, and the maps are not high resolution. But the rest of the book is great! (Plus, there are good introductions!)

Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz. 1.99. I did NOT buy this title despite my friend and critic Michael Barrett raving about it. He said on Facebook:

Eve Babitz is so good I want to puke, but let’s think of something better to say. Although their territory and style are completely unlike, she reminds me of the equally brilliant Lucia Berlin in that they’re not really writing fiction, hardly, just jotting notes on how they’ve lived, so that it feels like you’re not reading, hardly, but just having this experience injected through the retina, which is proof of how they write everyone into the ground. Moving on from last year’s reading of SLOW DAYS FAST COMPANY: THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND L.A., we have: Her “novel” SEX AND RAGE is her bildungsroman and, with the refreshingly air-dappled, dew-spangled and alcohol-spritzed elan that is her seemingly invisible style of self-conciousness, her anti-Daisy Miller. Jacaranda is a California girl who surfs, has minor boyfriends and incidental fame and luck and talent as a writer that hijacks her unawares, and hangs herself out to dry for years over the one she can never have. The alcoholism and cure are direct and unfussy, the frivolities serious and delightful, the sense of women’s friendships real and invigorating. She gives a sly cameo to herself: the nude woman playing chess with Duchamp in a photograph, found hanging on a wall. (RJN: That really happened!)

Despite the low cost and high interest (and the easy availability through my library), this purchase will have to wait.

Under the Radar

Wow, today (Friday) almost all the works of Jonathan Finch are free on Amazon US. I raved before about Love and Other Afflictions. See also: Great Tits I’ve Known and After Dawn and Poems People Liked.

Various 99 cent ebooks by James Hanna: A Second, Less Capable, Head and other rogue storiesCall Me Pomeroy: A Novel of Satire and Political Dissent and the Siege. I’ve read one story from Second Less Capable Head and enjoyed it a lot. These books stay cheap all the time.

Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing?: a memoir in essays by Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Treblinka Survivor: Life and Death of Hershl Sperling. 99 cents. I follow history books about the Holocaust, and I knew that there were a handful of survivors from Treblinka — one of whom wrote a memoir (which I read). Imagine my amazement to learn that another survivor had written an unpublished memoir about his survivor guilt (the man later committed suicide, and journalist Mark S. Smith, edited it and wrote about Sperling’s problems adapting to modern life.

Gail L. Winfree is a Tennessee-born nonfiction author who lived most of his adult life in Germany. Today all 3 of his ebooks are free. They all sound interesting — especially Reality of Being Lovers.

Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law by Michelle Granas. Granas titles pop up on various deal newsletters with the same low price of 99 cents. Every time I see it, I resolve to buy her titles, but then put it off because I know I will definitely buy and read her titles someday. Well, even though all her titles are now on KU, I decided to buy one anyway — just for the hell of it. Character-driven continental fiction; I’m guessing like Mavis Gallant. Should be a winner!

Last Klick by Robert Flynn. 99 cents. Flynn is a terrific Texas author who also happens to be my college prof. I’ve reviewed a lot of his books and haven’t read this one, but I heard him read a chapter at a bookstore. Former vet Flynn tells a Vietnam story here; the main character is a Texas journalist who is war correspondent who is appalled by the war and its lies. Robert Flynn has written about small town life in Texas, but also some westerns. (I recommend the Jade: Outlaw series). Probably the most interesting thing about Flynn is that after he retired from teaching, I finally realized what a liberal peacenik he really is (when I attended Trinity and even a few years afterwards, I had no clue).

Speaking of college profs, one of my fave college profs John Stoessinger (now deceased) taught international politics and also is a great writer! His Holocaust to Harvard book should be fantastic and has been discounted on occasion to $2.99 (not now). Stoessinger personally saw Hitler, witnessed the rise of Nazism, escaped through USSR to live in China 2 years before the Chinese Revolution, then emigrated to USA where he was Kissinger’s roommate at Harvard and did all sorts of international politics stuff afterwards. His textbooks were great popular history. Here’s one of his lectures which will knock your socks off. (it starts at the 10 minute mark, and don’t watch the Q&A) Don’t worry, this sale will come again.

Face the winter naked: A depression novel by Bonnie Turner. 99 cents. This is a very well-regarded novel about a man who leaves his wife during the Great Depression and leaves her. Turner writes mainly for kids and YA, but this novel seems to have adult and historical themes.

Edward C. Patterson has written 30+ novels on historical themes. Because he’s gay and has a background in Chinese history, these things appear in his novels. Because he has a lot of books, there usually is at least one book on sale at any given moment. (Here’s an interview he did recently). Oops, I realize I already blurbed about him last time.. Sorry!

Speaking of prolific, I learned about Ben Stephens a super-prolific author of Japanese detective stories. Apparently he publishes a ton of story collections (called the Ennin Mysteries) . He publishes some stories individually, and then sometimes he publishes omnibuses (i.e., Collected Stories 36-45). I guess these are more like Ellery Queen stories than Sherlock Holmes, but I’m determined to read a few to see what they’re about. A certain portion of his stories are always free, and everything is at KU, but if you buy, be careful to buy the omnibus editions rather than individual stories.

FUN FACT: Last Roundup I mentioned Panayotis Cacoyannis who has published some fine literary stories. After I signed up for his mailing list, I had a brief correspondence with him. Turns out he is related to the legendary Greek director Michael Cacoyannis (who directed Zorba the Greek, Iphigenia, Electra, etc). Another reason to check him out. (He assured me that his books are going to be discounted again, and they were, and I forgot to mention it. Well, I’m mentioning it now! (Here’s his Amazon author page). 

Blink-and-it’s-gone Sales

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was 1.99 for a week. Now it’s back at 12.99, though the publisher will probably bring it back again.

Seed to Harvest: Complete Patternist Series by Octavia Butler. 3.24 I bought one Butler series last month (that’s my second Butler series bought at bargain prices!); Don’t worry, this omnibus editions will come again soon.

Tales from a Greek Island by Roger Jinkinson. Come and gone.

One of my outstanding finds this go around were by Bruce Hartman. Philosophical Detective is a Borgesian detective story (literally, the protagonist is Borges’ driver). Also, I am not a robot! and Rules of Dreaming (which amazingly enough I obtained in 2013). The sales ended, but they will come back, and at that time, be sure to grab them.

More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. 2.99 Open Road Media is discounting Sturgeon books one at a time. This is supposed to be his best work. Really, a lot of sci fi authors rave about this guy!

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin. vol 1 of a 3 volume series. I heard a really entertaining lecture by this biographer on commonwealth club podcast.

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.

  • Unravelling Anne by Laurel Saville. US Writer tells the protracted struggles of her mother who was murdered.
  • Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan is a prize-winning Russian postmodern fantasy novel. It was free during Amazon’s Read the World week but still worth reading for 99 cents.
  • Mother of Invention by Caeli Wolfson Widger. Well-regarded novel about the journey to motherhood.
  • Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice. Strange historical account of a showman who brought a group of “headhunting, dog eating tribespeople from the Phillipines to Coney Island, where they performed dances and rituals before the Coney Island crowd.
  • Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahdevan. Modern retelling of a Mahabharata story in novel form.
  • Calculated Life by Anne Charnock. British sci fi writer (also journalist).
  • Seasons of the Moon by Julien Aranda. First novel by French author about boyhood during WW2
  • Paris Still Life by Rosalind Brackenbury. Mysterious novel about a woman who sees visions of her deceased art dealer father on the streets of Paris. Brackenbury writes a lot of novels with literary/historical themes. So far, I have passed, but I’m going to look for her titles in the future.
  • Interrogating Ellie by Julian Gray. Fascinating premise of a clueless English woman who falls in love with a German man before WW2 and emigrates to Germany with him before the war begins. Great premise and historical milieu; it remains to be seen if the book will amount to more than the premise.
  • Emotion in Life & Music: A New Science by M. Zachary Johnson. Book on aesthetics, art and music (PS, might not last until the end of the month).
  • Burnt House by Lowell Mick White. Gothic tale of W. Virginia told by a Texas author (who teaches at Texas A&M).
  • (More to be added over the next week).

Creative Commons/Public Domain Titles

I’m getting excited about the public domain finally opening in the USA again. 11 years ago I made a list of literary titles from 1923 which will go into the public domain next year. Lots of good stuff!

Smashwords Titles

Stay tuned for the big SW sale next week– I’ll have a post on Dec 27.

I just want to mention that my indie press is giving away a FREE title, Interview with the Sphinx by Jack Matthews for the rest of the month.

Non-Amazon & Non-Smashwords titles

None this time. 

Interesting Reviews Elsewhere

This is the season of besticles: Here’s the 2019 PEN long list, a BBC List, Laura Miller’s besticle, and some marketing advice to authors wishing to pen the next bestseller.

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

To my dismay I purchased the wrong used book for someone. In a previous post I was raving about the Paris Review interviews with playwrights (perfect gift for an acting friend); apparently I had bought the wrong title and just got one volume of the PR interviews. The author list is not bad (and I’ll probably read it cover to cover), but now I have one less present to give for Christmas!

I bought 2 wonderful books at my branch library: Obasan by Joy Kowaga (award-winning Canadian novel about Japanese man who emigrated to Canada after WW2 — not available in ebook form unfortunately). Also: German Boy: A Child in War (Memoir) by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel. Steve Ambrose and NYTBR rave about this memoir of a German boy’s experience during WW2 (He later emigrated to USA and wrote the book in English). Available as kindle but expensive.

Checked out some wonderful things: Michelle Huneven’s Off Course (about a doctoral candidate who lives in her parents’ cabin in the country to write her dissertation). Also: Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, a well-regarded Turkish NYROB from the 20th century. Both are ebooks and too expensive for consideration here.

Review Copies Received

To be added later.

Closing Thoughts 

As I mentioned, I’ll be adding to this list for the rest of the month because next week’s column (on December 27) will be specific to Smashwords.







One response to “Robert’s Roundup of Ebooks #4 (Dec 2018 — Week 3/4)”

  1. I. W. Ferguson Avatar

    99 cents from 12/28 till 2019, back to 4.99 by 1/4 (KU countdown deal). Belief’s Horizon: Book One of the Lightfeeder Menace Series by I W. Ferguson (Coming-of-age Fantasy Novel, 99k words). Treachery at home. Otherwordly visitors. What else lies beyond belief’s horizon?

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