Bloggers’ Books

Self-published books and books by bloggers that were fun to read. 

 

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Novelist, M.D. and blogger Carrie Rubin’s Eating Bull takes on obesity, bullying, coming of age in a fast-paced thriller. A social worker convinces an overweight teen to sue the fast food industry, bringing both of them to the attention of a killer who has made it his mission to rid the world of obese people. Not for the faint of heart!

Rubin does a great job of bringing to life the ambiguities and complexities of obesity in our culture. Even the villain, whose contempt for overweight people is horrific, may ring familiar bells — ever look with blame and judgment at a heavy person eating a doughnut?

Grisly, educational, intelligent, and a page-turner.

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Dear Opl, Shelley Sackier. Courageous and funny, Dear Opl tackles teen angst, loss of a parent and childhood obesity, in one sweet story.

Opal’s father has died, and things haven’t been the same since. Her mother is distracted and worried. Worse, she’s leaving warning notes for her junk food-addict daughter (“Please don’t eat!”) in cookie packages, posting pictures of skinny models on the fridge, and buying “special” (i.e. diet) food. What’s a thirteen-year-old to do?

Opal drops the “a” in her name, a symbolic slim-down that’s more protest than compliance. Becoming Opl, of course, does nothing to satisfy cravings for pizza, M & M’s, potato chips, candy, cookies and chocolate. She tackles her problems head-on, with a little help from her friend, her G-pa, a homeless guy, a blog, even in the end, her harried Mom.

Looking forward to finding out if pre-teens enjoy this story as much as I did.

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Every person who has ever signed a tax return, mortgage loan papers or any other legal document, without knowing in detail what they are signing, should read this book. Willful avoidance is the legal term for someone who fails to take steps to understand what they agree to. It happens all the time. Buyers who rely on dealers. Families who rely on lawyers. Widows who rely on trustees. Wives who rely on husbands.

The protagonist, Maya, was taken in by a lying, cheating spouse, and ended up liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, and no money. This is the story of her fight with the IRS to prove her innocence. It is gripping. Based on a true story, a cautionary tale for us all.

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Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez

Technically not an indie — this one has a publisher, Word Hermit Press — Andra Watkin’s book Not Without My Father has that essence of indie, a book by a real person, writing how a real person talks, jumping from history to present to philosophy, experimenting with language, as she finds herself as a person and as a writer. This is a wonderful re-telling of how Watkins, to publicize her historical fiction novel about Meriweather Lewis, walks the entire length of the Natchez Trace with her 80-year-old obese and verbose father driving the sag wagon. Laugh and cry as she nurses blisters, stands down wild animals and perverts, struggles to overcome the night noise of the sleep apnea machine, mending wounds both physical and psychological along the way.

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Many bloggers and writers — and patients — know physician Carrie Rubin for her support and sense humor. She’s a dang good thriller writer, too.

Amazon summary: Dr. Sydney McKnight, a young physician caught up in a deadly influenza pandemic, joins forces with a mysterious new research virologist whose arrival coincides with the virus’s advent, and whose presence raises more questions than answers.

As Sydney’s distrust of the man grows, she’s determined to learn the truth. But what she finds will plunge her into danger and change her life forever…

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From the Amazon summary:  Hearing the words “it’s cancer,” threw Sara Phillips’ life into chaos, until an unexpected turn of events and a chance encounter with a stranger changed everything—his name was Ben. Based on real events, Ben and Sara discover that when all else fails, healing can come in the most unexpected ways. Chilling and heart wrenching, His Name Was Ben is a triumph over the devastating circumstances and fear experienced when faced with a terminal illness. In this narrative, the power of love conquers shadows and transforms the very nature and meaning of what it is to be fully alive. From the award winning, best-selling author of, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, comes a story filled with soul and passion that will leave the reader thinking about it for days after the last page is closed.

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E.T. meets Superman — that’s more or less the premise of Fire in the Woods, Jennifer Eaton’s new young adult novel. This is heart-pounding, nonstop action, and a lot of fun. Sassy heroine Jess gets involved with an alien disguised as a gorgeous teen, who is a keystone in a plot to destroy all humankind. Hang on! If you’re a YA fan, maybe even if you’re not, Fire in the Woods is a juicy, quick read, just right for a beach escape or a cold winter night.

Jennifer Eaton was one of the first bloggers I followed, after connecting with her in a social media class for writers (taught by Kristen Lamb). On her blog, Jennifer maps progress on this book, from drafting, to editing and submission, to monitoring her editor’s tweets — right up to the day she got the word the book was accepted for publication. Her “Gold Mine” series of posts shares tips she picked up during this process. For anyone looking to get their YA book out there, I recommend not only Jennifer’s latest book (she has at least six), but her site as well.

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Kalman is an exquisite writer. She takes her time with each character, weaving their lives together in surprising and touching ways.

From the Amazon blurb:

Sculptor Amy Freeman wakes one ordinary morning to find her 14-year-old son Zach gone, the only evidence of him a stray flake floating in the milky water of his cereal bowl. Seven years later, in the same California town, a middle-school science teacher (referred to by everyone except his girlfriend Roxana as “Mr. Candine”) suddenly finds God. His revelation sets him on a collision course with a troubled student looking to exorcise his own demons–and lands Mr. Candine in the middle of a lawsuit.

Bracketed by two cataclysmic events, “Dance of Souls” weaves together the stories of Amy, Zach, Mr. Candine, and Roxana with those of a school principal, a troubled student, and a documentary filmmaker. Amy’s blossoming career leads her to New York; Zach searches for the woman who enticed him to run away from home at 14; Mr. Candine wrestles with God and the law; and Roxana wrestles with Mr. Candine.

Careening between the serious and the lighthearted, the divine and the secular, the novel looks at the longing we all share to find meaning in our lives, the countless ways we search for it, and what happens in the aftermath of those personal cataclysms that either change us forever or barely disturb the surface of our oblivion.

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The Potato Chronicles, Barbara Walker

“Don’t marry a farmer, dear. It’s too hard a life.” This was the advice Barbara Walker received from her mother, who nevertheless proceeded with lessons in making butter, sewing, canning and other skills a proper farm wife needed. The contradiction encapsulates this tender memoir about growing up on a potato farm in Caribou, Maine. Walker deftly carries you through the post-World War II era, a time when America focused inward and babies boomed, to the start of her college years, and the abrupt destruction of the home that had been in her family for three generations. She has a glorious gift for bringing to life the joys and heartaches of rural farming in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and, in her stoic, Northeasterner’s style, of conveying what it was like to be a bright, competitive young woman in a world that was changing quickly. I loved this book. NOTE: for a copy, see my contact info. Barbara self-published under her own Walker Publishing, and is too modest to tackle Amazon. She has gone on to write two children’s books.

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Smell the Blue Sky, Valerie Willman.

The day Valerie Willman discovered she was pregnant with a second child, her husband died in a car accident. In this touching memoir, Valerie carries you through the long, painful journey back to living, from a move cross-country, delivery of her baby, to the catharsis she found in journaling, art, and love. During her spiritual journey, she discovered that falling in love again wasn’t a betrayal, and that grief can be a path to grace.

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Radical Survivor: One Woman’s Path Through Life, Love, and Uncharted Territory, Nancy Saltzman

“I’m sorry. There were no survivors. ” Nancy Saltzman attempted to absorb the caller’s words. Her husband and two sons had perished in a small-plane crash. The caller was wrong, however. There was a survivor–Nancy would have to go on living. How could even the most resilient spirit live through this kind of loss? “Radical Survivor” chronicles Nancy Saltzman’s extraordinary saga: how life readied her for adversity, how love and family deepened her inner strength, how making a difference in the lives of others assisted her recovery. We share her battle as she overcomes hopelessness through a deep sense of intent. And we learn that through time, friendship, and love, the heart can make room for both loved ones lost and new happiness. “Radical Survivor” traverses the full spectrum of human feelings, offering hope for anyone who suffers a stunning loss.

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The Lost Pearl, Lara Zuberi

The writing is a little bumpy and unpolished, the plot sometimes feels stretched, but this is a fine tale, and easy to read.

Amazon Blurb:

Everything changes for nine-year-old Sana Shah when she witnesses the horror of her father’s assassination. She suffers through the pain of losing him, while realizing the worth of lessons learnt from him as pearls of wisdom. The tragedy forces Sana to leave her home in Pakistan and move across the globe to California. As time passes, she remains tormented by her memories as she struggles to rediscover her identity in a foreign land. Keen on pursuing journalism, she attends Stanford, where she meets a law student, Ahmer. They are drawn together by their cultural heritage, as well as their shared experience of having lost and endured. He becomes the source of her happiness as well as the catalyst in mending her strained relationship with her family. As the story unfolds, however, their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways. The obstacles are countless, and may be impossible to overcome. Spanning nearly two decades and set against a backdrop of landmark political events in both Pakistan and America in recent history, The Lost Pearl is an emotional tale about the strength of the human bond and the consequences of a truth left untold.

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Five Days in Skye, Carla Laureano

Not my style of book — Rich, beautiful woman with a dark secret meets rich handsome man with his own secrets, in spite of ups and downs, they end up together.

Nevertheless, I give Laureano credit. This is beautifully written, and the characters stayed with me. If you’re looking for a G-rated Christian romance, this will not disappoint.

Goodreads blurb:

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, Paula Mahurin

Author’s blurb:

A women’s Brokeback Mountain. The year was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; the United States expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in South America; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted the Wilde news. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

All profits go to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, Ventura County, CA. (the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County). For more info contact the author through Facebook. Buy a book; save a life.

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Shrilugh, by Myndi Shafer. A lose-yourself page turner of a YA fantasy novel. Shafer’s book grabs you and doesn’t let go.  The second book in the series, The Darkening is even better.

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Excerpt from Amazon.com blurb for Shrilugh:

Nothing can explain to Aydan Fulbert how she survived the savage attack in the woods. Why her left eye, instead of being blinded by the injuries she’d sustained, had simply turned a shocking shade of silver. And nothing can explain the fact that she can hear the Stranger speaking in her mind – or that she can answer him back without using her mouth.

Nothing can explain it – unless he’s telling the truth.

Nothing can explain why she so easily agreed to go with the Stranger. Why she didn’t find the notion of another world ludicrous and impossible. Why she didn’t cut and run the minute he explained where he wanted to take her.

Aydan knows she’s being intentionally naive. She knows her decision to follow the stranger is at best, reckless. At worst, deadly.

…unless he’s telling the truth.

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Author’s blurb, Wool, by Hugh Howey:

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

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Publisher’s blurb for A.R. Kahler’s Book Immortal Circus:

Murdered contortionists aren’t exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can’t quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded—especially not when she realizes the devilishly attractive ringleader Mab is the Faerie Queen of legend…and that she and the rest of the troupe are locked in an age-old rivalry between the otherworldly Courts. Aided by her friends Kingston—a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart—and his smart-ass assistant Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past—and future—than she bargains for. The show’s just beginning.

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