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September 2012

Top 10 Kindle Books of September

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Our editors' picks this month include the real Count of Monte Cristo, new fiction by Junot Diaz and Zadie Smith, a riveting take on data-based forecasting (truly!), and more great choices for every reader as we balance on the cusp of fall.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't by Nate Silver






Mortality by Christopher Hitchens






This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is





The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Black Count





Sutton by J.R. Moehringer






Every Day by David Levithan

Every day





500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald






My Heart Is an Idiot: Essays by Davy Rothbart

My heart





NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith







The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

100 year old man



The Art of Cliffhangers

Guest post by Mark Teppo co-author of The Mongoliad: Book One and The Mongoliad: Book Two.

Mongoliad-book1Cliffhangers are a tough business. On the one hand, you want to leave your audience wanting. It’s an odd sort of semi-antagonistic relationship to have with your fans—this long-term tease where you give them almost everything that they want, but not quite. How much do you give them? How much do you hold back? How long do you make them wait? It’s a fine line between keeping them hooked and annoying them greatly enough that they don’t come back.

The Mongoliad was originally conceived as a weekly serial, meaning that we walked this line every week. When it came time to reframe the narrative as three books, I had to look over our endless supply of cliffhangers and decide where was the best place to leave our audience hanging for six months. Not just seven days, but more like one hundred and eighty days. It was, in many ways, like considering how to end a TV season.

Mongoliad-book2But I also knew that, in six months, it wouldn’t matter. The Mongoliad: Book Two would come out, and any new readers that came along wouldn’t suffer the same crisis. As soon as they finished Book One, they could pick up Book Two and get right back into the story. It was, to stick with the TV show metaphor, about as much a break as it takes to load the next season into the DVD player.

J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of Rings is a single volume, broken into thirds. If you consider the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the book ends rather abruptly. The Fellowship is scattered, Boromir is lost in the woods, Sam and Frodo have bailed for Mordor, and the Gandalf and the rest don’t know where anyone has gone. Remember, if you will, how Peter Jackson addresses this cliffhanger in the film version: he resolves Boromir’s arc (which is a nice climax) and sets the Fellowship on their new course before he ends the film.

Cliffhangers are tough, but how you ease your readers back into the story can be tougher.

The story of The Mongoliad takes place over six months or so of the year 1241. For much of that time, the Shield-Brethren party that is going east to assassinate the Khan of Khans is doing nothing more than riding their horses. Day in and day out. I split Book One and Two at a place where, when we come back to the Shield-Brethren party, time will have passed. Much like these last six months.

The wait between The Mongoliad: Book One and The Mongoliad: Book Two is an artificial thing. We’ll never experience it again, but for those of us who have been waiting, think of it as spending several months riding across the endless steppe. And here we are now, closer to our destination. 

Pre-Order “Arctic Fire” for $2.99 on Kindle

ArcticFireCoverNew York Times best-selling author Stephen Frey is back with an adrenaline pumping tale of one man’s descent into a hellish underworld populated by terrorists, assassins, and viciously bad good guys. Pre-order your copy of Arctic Fire for $2.99 on Kindle and 60% off on paperback for a limited time.

In Arctic Fire, when Jack Jensen’s adventure-seeking brother goes missing off the side of a boat, Jack is suspicious. Against his better judgment, he quits his Wall Street job and heads to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to uncover the truth. As he begins connecting the dots between his brother and the super-secret intelligence organization Red-Cell-Seven (RCS), he discovers RCS will stop at nothing to protect America—even if it has to kill thousands of citizens to do it. The more Jack learns about his brother’s involvement with RCS, the more RCS learns about Jack.

This suspense thriller will leave readers reeling for more. Take advantage of this special offer through October 8, 2012.

Kindle Book Collection Bundles

We know every Kindle reader appreciates a great deal, and, with this in mind, we're excited to offer a collection of six new Kindle book bundles.

These bundles include critically acclaimed literary fiction, top-rated romance novels, best-selling thrillers, young adult favorites, and more by acclaimed authors such as Alice Walker, Eileen Goudge, David Housewright, and Patricia Rilley Giff. Each collection features at least three great reads grouped together at one substantially discounted price (up to 66% off, when comparing the cost of the collections to buying each Kindle book in the collections individually):

The Color Purple Collection by Alice Walker

The Color Purple Collection--The Color Purple, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessing the Secret of JoyBringing together the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Color Purple with The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy, this collection follows a cast of unforgettable characters as they are drawn into confrontations filled with landmark historical events brought to life on a deeply personal level.



The Carson Springs Trilogy by Eileen Goudge

The Carson Springs Trilogy--Stranger in Paradise, Taste of Honey, and Wish Come TrueThis addictive series of romance and suspense centers on a small California town.





The Holland Taylor Trilogy by David Housewright

The Holland Taylor Trilogy--Penance, Dearly Departed, and Practice to DeceiveIn this gripping thriller trilogy, private investigator Holland Taylor deals with murder, abduction, and revenge in the dark corners of Minneapolis, Minnesota.




 The Dr. Robert Cole Trilogy by Noah Gordon

The Cole Trilogy--he Physician, Shaman, and Matters of ChoiceFor fans of historical fiction, this acclaimed series is the perfect read: It spans a thousand years as it follows the lives of one family with an uncommon gift for healing.




 The Polk Street Mysteries by Patricia Reilley Giff

The Polk Street Mysteries, Books 1-4--The Mystery of the Blue Ring, The Riddle of the Red Purse, The Secret at the Polk Street School, and (Polk Street Mystery)The beloved second-grade sleuth, Dawn Bosco, must put her detective skills to the test in these four mysteries unfolding at the Polk Street School. 




 Five Volumes of Spiritual Wisdom by the Philosophical Library

Five Volumes of Spiritual Wisdom --The Wisdom of the Torah, The Wisdom of the Talmud, The Wisdom of the Koran, The Wisdom of MuhammadThis enlightening collection gathers words of ancient wisdom from some of the world’s most seminal texts.





Blake Crouch Calls "Big Maria" the "Amazing Reading Experience"

Guest review by best-selling author Blake Crouch whose new thriller Pines has received more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon. Crouch reviews the new crime humor novel Big Maria by Johnny Shaw now available on Kindle and in paperback

For me, there are several variations on the "amazing reading experience."

  1. When you can't put a book down due to perfect plotting.
  2. When you find yourself caring deeply about its characters.
  3. When those characters are people who in real life you would shudder to have as neighbors and yet you still care.
  4. And this is truly the rarest of all and nothing short of an absolute gift. When every few pages you stumble across a one-liner that makes you smile, laugh, shake your head, and wonder just how long this writer can sustain this lovely train of thought.

BigMariaSuch is the wonder of Big Maria, the second novel (following Dove Season) by Johnny Shaw, which somehow manages to achieve all of the above and more. This book is, at heart, an unlikely buddy movie. It's driven by our three main characters: an old cancerous Indian named Frank, an alcoholic, ex-prison guard named Harry, and a down-on-his-luck family-man named Ricky who's fresh off a tragedy of his own making. Long story short, they all end up together on a quest for gold in some mountains dead-smack in the middle of a U.S. government weaponry range. Take my word for it—it's crazier than it sounds, and in Shaw's masterful hands, this is a great thing.

You can't talk about this book without quoting from it:

  • "You know how when you get high and Nacho Doritos sound better than a lady hole?"
  • "Are you the idiot in charge? The idiot that may have killed my father through your negligence? Or is there a different idiot I should be yelling at?” 
  • "My brother’s dumb as a box of hammers and she ain’t no rocket surgeon."
  • "Everything got a lot more confusing after the burro exploded."
And these quotes don't even begin to capture the brilliant insanity of the scenes that comprise this novel. To be honest, I'm still not quite sure how Johnny Shaw pulled it off, but I know that it's a testament to his skill as a writer. There's comedy here, on every page, but you can taste the tears behind the laughs, and to me, as a writer, that's something I aspire to. That's the mark of something, capital S, Special. There is no tinier tightrope to dance across, and I would even venture to say that it's a hallmark of great fiction on par with Victor Gischler, Scott Phillips, Carl Hiassen, and even John Steinbeck.

And I say Steinbeck, because the characters that populate Shaw's novel are marginalized. They live in the outskirts of society, in places most of us would never go. They've been kicked, scoffed at, ridden over. But the cool, beautiful thing this novel shows us is that we aren't any different. Our dreams and our fears are the same.

Shaw has invented "dust bowl" fiction for the 21st century.

Funny, sad, madcap, compulsively readable, and ultimately, so very, very wise.

I mentioned the great one-liners earlier but the best of the book comes on the last page. I won't write it down here, because you have to read the book for the privilege of reading it. However, you'll know when you've reached it, because you'll have a lump in your throat. It's a perfect line spoken by a deeply flawed character who has changed because of the story we just read—what more can we ask great fiction to be?

Balancing Character Emotion with the Fast Pace of a Thriller

FortuneGuest post by best-selling author Audrey Braun whose new thriller, Fortune’s Deadly Descent released on September 18, 2012.  

If readers don’t know what draws fire inside a protagonist’s heart right from the get-go, they won’t be able to feel the full weight of what’s at stake, and if they don’t feel what’s at stake beyond the obvious life or death ultimatum of a thriller, then the burning urge to turn the page will wane. All the stalking, explosions, and secret reveals will fall short of the intended wallop; in fact those bursts of action meant to propel the story forward could instead become a distraction if the reader doesn’t first care on a visceral level about the protagonist as a living, breathing human being.

Ideally, the writer needs to balance an emotional core inside a breakneck pace. Veering too far off into the heart and mind takes a turn toward literary fiction where most often the transformation going on inside the protagonist takes precedence in the story. This is not to say that a powerful plot doesn’t exist in literary fiction and character driven storylines don’t exist in thrillers. They do. They must. What I’m talking about is what to give the most weight to and why. It isn’t enough to write “her heart pounded” for the reader to experience fear.

When Celia Hagen’s son Benny goes missing in Fortune’s Deadly Descent, she physically reacts to the terror:  “Goosebumps flurry across” her “sweaty skin” and “Panic squeezes” her throat. Hopefully the same goes for the reader. But it is when Celia’s emotional center pops up that I believe the reader becomes most invested in turning the page. A missing child is scary stuff. But a child we feel an emotional connection to through his mother seals the deal.

In Celia’s panic, she cannot recall what Benny was wearing, an important fact in finding him. After struggling to remember, she finally blurts, “chocolate.” Not exactly a spine-tingling word. But the reader already knows Benny’s hands were covered in chocolate when Celia left him alone to find napkins. Chocolate had her joking with him, tousling his hair, had her noticing that the muck on his cheeks made his eyes look bigger and whiter right before she walked away. Chocolate represents the love between Celia and Benny. It is also the very reason she left him alone. Her emotional state, her fear is now tied to chocolate, an odd detail, but also one connected to the senses, which is important. Sensual details on the page trigger the reader’s own senses into play, and ultimately pull him closer to the story. When we can smell, taste, and feel, in this case chocolate, on our own skin, we are bound to the story through yet other layer, making it a little more difficult to stop reading, especially when these familiar senses are linked to the ever-powerful fear. AudreyBraun

Overall, genuinely flawed characters are the ones we love to root for and will follow every crisis they rake us through. Clearly defined vulnerabilities, faults, unmet desires, and regrets, resonate deeply with readers, and when they appear during times of heightened danger, they pull the reader further into the story, shoring up confidence in the writer and the story itself, far more effectively than mere facts of adrenaline rushes, gunshots, and kidnappings ever could. Ultimately characters and moments like these are what I love to create.

Find out for yourself how the characters develop in Fortune's Deadly Descent, now available on Kindle and paperback.

Q&A with actress and director Penny Marshall, author of "My Mother Was Nuts"

Most people know Penny Marshall as the star of Laverne & Shirley and the director of Big and A League of Their Own. What they don’t know is her trailblazing career was a happy accident. Marshall’s hilarious new memoir, My Mother Was Nuts, offers an intimate backstage pass to her extraordinary life.

My-mother-was-nuts2Question: In the book your write a lot about your travels all over the world - from motorcycling across France to exploring the Caribbean. What was your favorite place to visit, and why? Are you a fun person to travel with?

Penny Marshall: Definitely Annecy in France. I went with my daughter and my niece during the motorcycle trip. There was a lake, it was very beautiful. Am I fun to travel with? Sure. I can fix a motorcycle, I found out! Didn’t know that I could do it, but someone had to. But I can pretty fun, when I’m not tired.

Q: You've launched the careers of some of Hollywood's biggest stars including Tom Hanks and Mark Wahlberg. What is the secret to spotting talent?

PM: It’s all instinct. I knew Tom already from acting with him on an episode of Bosom Buddies. Mark I didn’t know at all. I have an instinct for recognizing talent. And it was true for a lot of the girls in A League of their Own, as well. I have an instinct that tells me what’s special: if they have a little underbelly of something to make them more interesting.

Q: You write that you don’t rattle easily: "I’m wonderfully, oddly, almost irrationally calm and together in a crisis. It’s when everything is calm that I get a little nutty." Why do you think that is?

PM: I’m a Libra! I balance things out.

Q: You've surrounded yourself with hilarious people your whole life. Who is the funniest person you've ever worked with?

PM: Robin Williams, definitely. He would entertain Bob [Robert De Niro] and the extras on the set of Awakenings. He was hysterical. We needed that, you know, since we were on the set of a mental institution.

Q: Lastly, how do you feel about the Lakers' chances this year, now that Dwight Howard's on the team?

PM: And we got Stevie Nash! It’ll be a good year. You know, Dwight and I were in a scene together in my brother’s movie Valentine’s Day, but it got cut out.

My Mother Was Nuts is now available on Kindle.

Why Have Kids? The answer is...

Jessica Valenti, called the "poster girl for third-wave feminism" by Salon, is the author of four books: Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, He's a Stud, She's a Slut...and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, The Purity Myth and Why Have Kids?

Why-have-kidsInevitably the first question people ask when they see the title of my book is, "Well, what's the answer? Why have kids?” It's a tough question, because the answer has changed along the way.

When I started to write Why Have Kids?, I was just six months pregnant--glowing but naive. I thought I had it all figured out: the crib we were going to buy, the child care arrangement that would ensure my husband and I equally shared parenting responsibilities, and the midwife-assisted birth I hoped would go smoothly and without medical intervention.

But my best laid plans fell apart when I got critically ill in my 28th week of pregnancy, forcing me to deliver my daughter Layla early in order to save my life.

My parenting dreams fell apart and I spent the first two months of new motherhood watching my baby in an incubator, sitting vigil and hoping each day would be a good one.

My dashed parental expectations are extreme, but they’re hardly unique. Mothers and fathers across the U.S. are finding that the reality rarely stacks up to our idealized vision of parenting.

Maybe it’s that we had trouble breastfeeding, or that our job has no maternity leave policy. Maybe the all-encompassing sense of love and joy you were told you’d feel when a new baby arrives wasn’t quite as intense as you’d expected.  Whatever it is, it hurts.

For me, it was that parenting was supposed to be the happiest thing in my life, but the relationship that was said to bring the most joy mostly felt like anxiety and shame that I wasn’t doing enough. Those feelings faded as Layla grew stronger, but I never quite forgave myself for not feeling that overwhelming new mom joy I had always heard about.

The number one reason American parents give for why they want children is for the "joy” of it. Since having Layla, I've realized that's wrong, we can't have kids for the joy of it. It’s too lofty an expectation, and wanting one little person to fill you with happiness just isn’t fair.

Parenting doesn’t always make us happy, but who ever said it was supposed to? There’s nothing wrong with having complicated feelings about our kids. Parenting is a complicated, nuanced relationship! So it’s not important that we have an answer to, “Why have kids?" The important thing is that we’re talking about it.

--Jessica Valenti

September's Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less

100 Kindle Books for 3.99 or Less banner

For great books at a low price, browse this month's 100 Kindle books for $3.99 or less, a diverse offering available all month. These deals expire on September 30, 2012.

Literature & Fiction 

John Dies at the End by David WongJohn Dies at the End by David Wong, $3.99

A book with a cult following for a reason, David Wong has managed to channel the Lovecraft horror tradition, inject it with humor, and produce a markedly more terrifying result.  



General Nonfiction

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David MillerAWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller, $2.99

In 2003, software engineer David Miller left his job, family, and friends to fulfill a dream and hike thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, the entire 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine.



Kids & Teens 

Touch of Frost by Jennifer EstepTouch of Frost by Jennifer Estep, $2.99

Gwen Frost can know any object's history just by touching it. But after she has a magical meltdown, the 17-year-old girl is sent to Mythos Academy, a school catering to people like her.



Mysteries & Thrillers

Wahoo Rhapsody by Shaun MoreyWahoo Rhapsody by Shaun Morey, $1.99

Captain Winston Weber makes an honest living running fishing charters between Mexico and California. He has no clue his first mate, Weevil Ott, is smuggling marijuana inside the tuna stacked in the boat’s hold, until drug-lord goons come calling.




Touch of a Thief by Mia MarloweTouch of a Thief by Mia Marlowe, $3.99

Lady Viola Preston is London's most talented criminal, but she's careful to wear gloves when she steals jewels: touching a gemstone with her bare skin yields disturbing visions--visions almost as unsettling as the cool-eyed stranger who catches her red handed.



Science Fiction & Fantasy 

I Am Legend by Richard MathesonI Am Legend by Richard Matheson, $2.99

Robert Neville witnessed the end of the world: the entire population obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived, and he must now struggle to make sense of everything and protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. 



Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks VintonPut 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton, $2.51

Preserving is back, and it's better than ever. Flavors are brighter, batch sizes are more flexible, and this handy book will guide you through the modern methods that make preserving safer and easier.


Be sure to browse August's entire selection of 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or Less to discover great fiction and nonfiction titles catering to all tastes.

Note: Deals expire on the last day of each month. Individual books may have additional territory restrictions, and not all deals are available in all territories.

Lee Goldberg Calling

Guest post by Barry Napier, winner of the Write a Dead Man Novella contest. Part horror and part action, the short novels in The Dead Man series follow Matt Cahill, an everyday man, as he battles people infected by a mysterious, violent evil.

Barry-Napier-dead-man-winnerIf I’m being honest, I had only read one and a half Dead Man books before entering the contest. But that first book, Face of Evil, is a great kick-off for the series and gives a clear idea of where the series is headed.  A sucker for a good series (as both a reader and a writer), I drafted up my sample chapter, strung a synopsis together, and entered the Write A Dead Man Novel contest.

The concept of books that have the interconnectivity of a good drama TV show has always appealed to me, so needless to say, when I got a phone call delivering the staggering news that I had won the contest, I was floored.

I was stopped at a red light on a Thursday afternoon at a busy intersection with my family. As a mini-meltdown from my son in the back seat rose to a thundering level, my phone rings.


 “Hi,” comes an unfamiliar voice on the other end. “This is Lee Goldberg and I’m calling to let you know that you’ve won the Write a Dead Man contest!”

I paused for a minute. My son kept screaming. With the look of shock on my face, I think my wife must have thought there was bad news on the other end.

“Oh, hi,” I said rather stupidly.

For the next thirty seconds, Lee went through some details, most of which I only caught fragments of.  Feeling like an idiot, I could hardly speak when he was done. The light turned green. A good thing, too; it’s likely the only thing that unfroze me from the amazing news that I had yet to digest.

Even now, as I tinker with a tentative outline, it hasn’t sunk in yet. There is something that I’m drawn to in the episodic layout of the Dead Man books. They have quick gut punch plot points that promise something much larger in scale while also delivering extensive character development and fresh ideas.

As I plan out this book, I am trying to not only respect and follow the mythology that has already been developed, but to build upon it with my own twists. I am honored to be a part of this great series and look forward to placing Matt Cahill in some uncomfortable situations.

Barry Napier is a humble servant to ambient music, coffee, and the horror genre. His past books include The Bleeding Room, The Masks of Our Fathers, and Everything Theory: Cold Compass. Read the first chapter of Barry Napier's Dead Man novella here.

The Dead Man Series1-5