Just a Couple of Things…

This isn’t one of the infamous rambling blog posts, but more of a quick note reminding you of a few things you may (or may not) be aware of…if you would like to write to me, my email address is michael at fkbt dot com: I type it out that way in a small effort to try and thwart the professional spammers!

 

Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway

The blog’s latest giveaway for one of the new Kindle Paperwhites ends today: have you entered?  It’s free to enter, and I will tell you I really like mine: I think it is the best value for your money Kindle reader out there, and I am now using it 100% to read my list of books.  You can enter if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/72015 into your web browser – but don’t be late as the giveaway will end tonight!

Here’s one note about the signup page – if you’re using one of the older Kindle Fires or an older phone to browse to the website you may have difficulty signing up due to outdated software.  If that is the case for you and you want a chance to enter, I hate to say this but please try to find a computer to type in the http://smarturl.it/72015 link on your computer!

While you’re thinking about it, please pass on the Paperwhite giveaway’s information to your family, friends, coworkers – even your enemies – as I am 100% certain they would like an opportunity to win, also.

 

Prime Day

Talk about a media blitz – if you haven’t been watching TV, listening to the radio or stopping by the Amazon website lately you may not know but in honor of Amazon’s 20th anniversary today is Amazon Prime Day.  Amazon has promised today will be filled with more deals and savings than any previous Black Friday sale they have offered and it is only available to members of Amazon’s Prime program.

Not a member of Amazon’s Prime program?  That’s okay, as you can sign up for a free 30 day trial –if you like it you can keep it but if you don’t just cancel it on Day 29 and you won’t be charged a thing.  You can sign up for the free trial if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/prime into your web browser.  You can also click one of those links to check out the today-only deals.

Here are some of the deals today Amazon had in their press release – I imagine there will be quite a few folks clicking refresh on their browsers during the workday today – notice the Kindle and Fires will be significantly discounted:

  • Fire TV Stick, fastest selling Amazon device of all time, $15 off
  • Kindle, $30 off
  • Fire HD 7, $60 off
  • Fire HD 7 Kids Edition, $60 off
  • 32-inch LED TV, $75
  • 40-inch 1080p LED TV, $115
  • Brand-name 32-inch Smart HDTV, under $200
  • 50-inch 4K TV bundle, under $1000
  • Bose headphones at the lowest price ever on Amazon
  • Chromebook laptop, only $199
  • Over 50% off two Nikon COOLPIX cameras
  • Highly rated binoculars, under $120
  • Two security camera-kits, $279.99
  • K’NEX 2-in-1 Ferris Wheel Building Set (Amazon Exclusive), $35.99
  • K’NEX Crossfire Chaos Roller Coaster Building Set (Amazon Exclusive), $23.99
  • Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots Optimus Prime Figure (Amazon Exclusive), $9.99
  • iRobot Roomba Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robot, under $300
  • Husqvarna mower, under $300
  • 40 lightning deals on DVDs up to 75% off
  • Up to 50% off any of the Harry Potter books
  • Save more than 70% on the Divergent Series Complete Box Set of books
  • Save up to 70% on select kitchen products from top brands like Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Foodsaver and Thermos
  • Save up to 50% on select tools for the DIY auto enthusiast
  • Connected Car and Scan Tool products starting at 60% off
  • Road-trip-ready automotive products starting at 50% off
  • Save more than 50% on Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain
  • 30% off select clothing, shoes, jewelry, watches & more
  • 60% off Amazon Elements Baby Wipes with code ELEMENTS60
  • Free luxury beauty sample box with $50 purchase of luxury beauty products, with promo code LUXSAMPLES
  • Buy an Amazon.com Gift Card multipack, get $10 in Amazon.com promotional credit
  • Get 25% bonus Amazon Coins when you buy 5,000 or 10,000 Amazon Coins

 

Author Interviews

Many of you have emailed me to say you are enjoying the author interviews I’ve been posting over the last couple of weeks.  I did this a few years ago, and if you would like to see all of them you can click here to check out all of the interviews on the blog’s website.  Take a moment if you can and read a few (or all) of them – I think it’s interesting to hear about how these independent authors were able to quit their day jobs and write full time, what motivates them, and how they came up with some of the bestselling novels they have written.  Who knows, you may find a new favorite author!

 

That’s all I had for this quick post – don’t forget to enter the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway!

Michael

 

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A Rambling Blog Post

It’s time for a short rambling blog post – I haven’t done that in a long time – where I have no set agenda before I start banging away on the keyboard…

 

Kindle in a Bathtub Follow-Up

On Saturday, I had a post about using your Kindle while in the bathtub – you can click here or type in http://wp.me/p2b82w-72a into your web browser to read it again or in case you missed it – that generated a few email responses (you can always write to me by sending an email to michael at fkbt dot com – I type it out that way in a small effort to thwart the professional spammers).

Most of the comments seemed to question my judgment / sanity, as they believe there is not enough electricity / juice in the Kindle to electrocute you in the event the Kindle does fall into the tub while you are in it; I even had one person email to say you were safe to lick the power terminals of the Kindle with your tongue and you would be ok (side note – I actually had that specific type of reply.  Nothing has ever made me want to stop what I was doing in my day to say “this seems like a great afternoon to go lick the electrical points on my Kindle.  Anyone want to come over and join me?”)

I will preface my next comment with the disclaimer I am not an electrician.  For all of you who said and emailed me it was perfectly ok to be in the tub while a powered-on Kindle was submerged with you, to each their own – but do you really want to test that theory with your life?  I’ve read stories on how it only takes one volt to kill you…

On another note, does anyone have any experience with any of the waterproof covers on the Amazon website?  Click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kindlewater to see a selection, and shoot me a note or use the blog messaging interface to tell me the pros and cons – I could see a use for something like this around a swimming pool or a visit to the beach.

 

Giveaway Update

The giveaway that ended last night was a lot of fun, and over 7,000 people entered for a chance to win – wow!  I’ll give you an update on the winners as soon as they contact me to claim their prizes, and I will post their names as the winners on that particular giveaway’s page as soon as I hear back from them.  I feel certain there will be another giveaway soon….

 

New Kindle Paperwhite

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon rather quietly announced the latest generation of the Paperwhite was ready to go – of course, I ordered one and I will admit I forgot about it until yesterday because of a busy work and family schedule.  Why yesterday?  Amazon sent me a shipping notice and it should arrive today!  Clear the deck, it’s a new gadget to play with – I will post my review soon and let you know my honest opinion of the likes and dislikes.  You can check out the new Paperwhite if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/paperwhite into your web browser.

 

Author Interviews

After a couple of years’ hiatus, I started up the guest blog posts / author interviews, which gives you an opportunity to learn more about the people who writ some of the books I tell you about here.  While I have conversed with them over the years via email, sad to say I’ve never really “met” any of them face-to-face nor talked with them on the phone.  While we have developed friendships despite never meeting, I find out I learn so much more about them by reading these guest interviews as well as what inspires them to write the titles they do.

Today’s guest blog post is by Dianne Harman, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.  You can check out all of the author interview posts if you click here; if you reach the bottom of that page, be sure to click the “Next Page” icon as there are quite a few more to read.  Who knows – you may find a new favorite author along the way!

 

Baseball

Some of you may be asking “what does baseball have to do with my Kindle?”  The short answer is “absolutely nothing!”

As many of you know, I love the game of baseball and have talked about it before over the years here on the blog.  I’m extremely disappointed to say I have yet to watch a complete game this year – I have no excuse!  Except for chasing kids and going to their activities, the day job (no, I don’t make a living doing the blog thing), fixing stuff that always seems to break, yard work, you name it.   Someone at work was talking about who they thought would be a good candidate for Rookie of the Year this year for the NL, and I had no idea who they were talking about: that’s really embarrassing!

 

Anyway, enough for now – yes, there is a “real” person behind each day’s blog posts!

Have a great rest of your week-

Michael

 

 

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Kindle Unlimited Explained

In July of last year, Amazon introduced a feature called Kindle Unlimited; about two months ago, I started putting a line next to each book title in the blog’s posts to let you know if a book was part of the Kindle Unlimited program or not.

However, I’ve received quite a few emails over these past few months from people asking me what I was taking about – so, what is it?

Basically, Kindle Unlimited is a program where for just $9.99 per month, you can read as much as you want from over 700,000 Kindle books as well as listen to thousands of Audible audiobooks – as many or as few titles as you want for the $9.99 per month fee. You also get a free three month membership to Audible.  For those books on the blog that say “Yes” in red as being part of the program, if you are a Kindle Unlimited member you can read that book for free.

I wouldn’t categorize these offerings as a bunch of books you’ve never heard of, as there are a lot of bestsellers on the list. Some independent authors love it as it has allowed more people to check out their work (and buy their other titles), some independent authors absolutely hate it as it cuts into their royalty (i.e., salary), and there are other independent authors who refuse to enroll their books in the program. I could argue the merits and cons of each position, but I digress as that’s not the purpose of this post.

While the rest of the text below is from an Amazon press release, I’d say check it out – you get a free 30 day window to try it for free and you can cancel it before they charge you anything. You can check it out yourself if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kindleunlimited into your web browser.

 

Kindle Unlimited features include:

  • Unlimited reading: Access over 600,000 books including best sellers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Water for Elephants, Oh Myyy! – There Goes The Internet, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, All the King’s Men, Wonder Boys, Ask for It, The Princess Bride, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, The Atlantis Gene, Kitchen Confidential, The Sisterhood, Crazy Little Thing, The Blind Side, and The Giver,plus thousands of classics such as Animal Farm, To the Lighthouse, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cat’s Cradle,and The Good Earth,as well as books featuring beloved children’s characters from Sesame Street, and useful reference titles including books from the For Dummies series and Lonely Planet travel guides.
  • Unlimited listening: Keep the story going with unlimited access to more than 2,000 audiobooks from Audible with Whispersync for Voice, and switch seamlessly between reading and listening to customer favorites like the Hunger Games trilogy, Life of Pi, The Handmaid’s Tale, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, The Great Santini, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Winter’s Tale, Boardwalk Empire, El Narco, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, The Finisher, Johnny Carson, The Stranger I Married,and Life Code.
  • Kindle exclusives: Choose from hundreds of thousands of books only found on Kindle, including Brilliance by Marcus Sakey, The Hangman’s Daughter series by Oliver Pötzsch, War Brides by Helen Bryan,Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct and Matthew Hope books, When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath, Chasing Shadows by CJ Lyons, and Sick by Brett Battles.
  • Short Reads: For a quick escape, select from thousands of books that are 100 pages or less, including Kindle Singles from Stephen King, Andy Borowitz, and Nelson DeMille, and short fiction from Amazon Publishing’s StoryFront imprint.
  • Free three-month Audible membership: In addition to the thousands of professionally narrated audiobooks from Audible included in Kindle Unlimited, subscribers get a complimentary three-month Audible membership, with access to more than 150,000 titles.
  • Popular Kindle features: Enjoy all the great Kindle features customers love such as Whispersync, Popular Highlights, X-Ray, customer reviews, and Goodreads integration.
  • Read and listen everywhere: Access across Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps for iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, PC, Mac and Windows 8–so you always have your library with you and never lose your place.

For more details on Kindle Unlimited, visit http://smarturl.it/kindleunlimited

 

Have fun!

Michael

 

Are you receiving the blog’s posts by email? You can if you click here or type in http://www.fkbt.com/subscribe into your web browser – just fill in your email address, smack the “Subscribe” button, and make sure you reply to the confirmation email!

 

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A Quick Reminder

Here’s a quick reminder – if I or anyone else tells you about a book being offered for free on the Amazon Kindle website and you are interested, please jump on it immediately.  Don’t wait a few days or even a couple of hours, or you may see the book being offered for sale vs. what you thought was free!

For example, over the last two weeks I can think of four books off of the top of my head that were listed as free – the authors confirmed to me they were being free – yet shortly after publication to the blog they went back to paid status.  I received quite a few emails about it from the subscribers!

Why did that happened?

One of the authors ‘fessed up and let me she forgot about the promotion and switched it back to paid status, two of the others had scheduled their books for free but told me Amazon’s server didn’t make the change on the date they requested, and the fourth one has gone silent on me – maybe they hit their internal quota for freebies of the particular title, or maybe there was a switcheroo going on – I don’t know the answer but if you give me enough time I might be able to come up with a creative answer.

Bottom line here is don’t wait – log on to the website frequently (www.fkbt.com) or check your email shortly after 2:00 p.m. Central time for the daily digest.  Grab them now as once the book is yours, no matter if you paid nothing or $100 for a book, it is yours forever!

Have a great weekend-

Michael

 

 

It’s a Rambling Blog Post…

It has been a little over a month since I sat down to bang away at the keyboard with another rambling blog post…I haven’t done that too many times in 2014: I don’t know about you, but this past year has been rather busy with family and work, but it sure did go by fast.  It’s hard to believe 2015 will be here in less than two weeks!  I hope each of you have a great (and safe) Christmas, New Year, and holiday!

I really have no set agenda for this post: sure, there are a few things I want to pass on, but as I start you never really know what might pass my self-(un)regulated censor and make it to the keyboard…however, looking over the finished product it is a little longer than usual so you may need to strap yourself in first!

 

Website Redesign

For those of you who regularly read the blog’s posts on the website, most of the following is not new to you.  Last month, I launched a re-do / new skin to the blog’s website because the old one ad become a little stale and needed a refresh.  The idea with the new redesign was to keep it simple, fresh, and appear “lighter” on the screen vs. the darker colors of the previous site; I also wanted a new logo.

Yesterday, the last step in the process was launched – the old domain name has been retired and the blog’s website can now be found at www.fkbt.com: it’s a lot easier to type out, communicate with to people, and most people referred to the blog as “fkbt” anyway.  With this last change, I hope more people will find it and those who tried to type out the long previous domain name and gave up because they typed it in wrong will now be “found.”

If you had previously bookmarked some of the Kindle tips or links to sites offering free Kindle books don’t worry – the old links will automatically redirect to the fkbt.com extension.

If you didn’t take a look at the redesigned website after I announced it last month, I encourage you to do so and maybe tell a friend or two: you can take a look if you click here or type in www.fkbt.com into your web browser.

Looking at the home page, the Featured Book of the Day is more prominent and we also shortened the amount of text on the home page.  On the previous design, it was a typical WordPress layout (that’s the name of the blog’s software) with row after row of text which included every word of the last 5 posts; now, you have the title of the post and an option to click and read more vs. having to slog through everything.  If you do click the “Read full post” option, the look and feel is brighter and easier to read (at least it is to my tired eyes).

There’s also more emphasis on the site for people to sign up for the free once-a-day email delivery option, download the free blog reader app, an improved section for people to leave comments if they so desire, and the social media sharing buttons aren’t as large and obnoxious as they were on the previous design.  I also had the Google banner ads removed as they were taking away from the user experience, made the pages load slow, and I really didn’t like seeing them nor not being in control of what was displayed.

There were also several things done on the back end to make the pages load faster and put less stress on the server, and I’m certain things will continue to be tweaked as we review what seems to work and what could be improved.

Please let me know what you think – you can shoot me an email to Michael at fkbt dot com (I type I tout that way in a small effort to thwart the professional spammers).

 

Kindle Unlimited Offers

Over the last couple of days, I’ve added a line indicating if a particular book participates in the Kindle Unlimited program with a simple “yes” or “no.”  Unless you are already a member of the program, I’ve found out from your emails many of you really aren’t aware of what it is.

You can find out all of the details on the Amazon website if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kuprogram into your web browser, but let me try to outline the main benefits – for $9.99 per month, and the first month is a free trial, you can:

Borrow Kindle books for free, similar to a library, and read away to your heart’s content.  Right now, there are over 700,000 titles participating in the program.  There are limits on the number of books you can have checked out at one time, but voracious readers are having a field day – and saving a lot of money – by borrowing the books vs. paying for them.

Listen to several hundred thousand audible books for free from Audible, similar to the borrowing arrangement mentioned above for Kindle books.

You don’t need a Kindle or Fire to participate in the program.  You can read and / or listen to the books on your other devices with the free Kindle app or on your computer.

I’m sure there is something I missed, so if you are interested in trying it out for free please click on the link above and I’ll bet most of your questions will be answered.  If you do participate in the program, please look for the “Yes” or “No” indication on the book offers – that might sway your decision in trying out a new author as the cost will be free vs. paying for it.

 

Kindle Daily Deal and Free App of the Day

It has been a while since I’ve posted about the Kindle Daily Deal as well as the free App of the Day that can be used on your Fire or any Android-enabled device.  Why?  A couple of reasons –

The Kindle Daily Deal hasn’t been the deal it used to be when it all started out a few years ago.  For the first year or so of the Kindle Daily Deal, the books were generally all marked down to 99 cents for one day only.  Now, it’s kind of hit or miss – mainly miss, in my opinion, as the ones I always see are priced much higher and they generally aren’t things I’ve been too interested in.  I grab one every now and then, but it has been a while.  They are having a big push right now with lots of books in the deal, so maybe there’s something you would like.  You can check those out at any time if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/dailydeal into your web browser; you may want to bookmark this link so you can check out future deals.

I’ve been fairly disappointed in the free app of the day.  Upon launch of Amazon’s app store, there would be many really neat, useful, and expensive apps offered for free; now, it seems to be a lot of cheaply-made games I’m not interested in trying out let alone download.  I know that sounds like an entitlement-bound whiner, as free is always good, but to me it’s not worth the excitement it used to be, plus I’m seeing a lot of repeats of apps.  Despite my comments on the free app of the day, it’s worth popping in every once in a while just to make sure you’re not missing anything.  You can evaluate them for yourself if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/appstore into your web browser; you may want to bookmark this link, also, so you can check out future free apps.

 

Supporting the Blog

While the Kindle Unlimited discussion is fresh on my mind, I also want to make sure you’re supporting the independent author!  Sure, download the free Kindle book offers but I’d also appreciate it (as would the authors) if you continue to buy a book every now and then – I don’t think 99 cents will break you!

Here’s how the math works for books priced at 99 cents: Amazon takes 69 cents and the author gets 30 cents.  That’s not much in the grand scheme of things for something that can give you a couple of hours of entertainment.  The blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, but they also have restrictions in place for websites like this one that limit how many free Kindle books can be downloaded for any month.  Every little bit helps!

Also, if you’re going to shop on Amazon I’d really appreciate it if you would help the blog out by clicking here or typing in http://smarturl.it/fkbtblog, and bookmarking that link before you go shopping in the future as it will help pay for the blog’s server costs!  Before I forget, Amazon sent me a note this morning (and probably to most of you, also) saying if you place your order by Monday the 22nd, they can ensure two-day delivery by Christmas Eve.

 

Looking Ahead

What will 2015 have in store for the blog?  Before we get out of 2014, please note there’s going to be an extra emphasis on the free Kindle book offers starting Monday through the rest of the year!  I imagine 2015 will have its opportunities and challenges, and we’ll all have a little bit of fun on the way.  Here’s to a prosperous New Year!

I appreciate each of you and your support of the blog and my family over the years!

Best regards,

Michael Gallagher

 

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Just a Quick Update

Howdy!

This is just a quick note to pass on a few things – welcome to the first day of December!  Here in the USA, the Thanksgiving holiday just didn’t seem to last long enough: I don’t know about you, but 2014 seemed to roll on by rather quickly…

Amazon Cyber Monday Deals

I’ll be upfront and admit I did go to one store on Friday of last week, but I certainly didn’t camp out nor did I set the alarm early to attempt to snag an alleged deal.  I also did some shopping on the Amazon website and grabbed a couple of items I had been wanting that were more than 50% off of the regular price and also received free shipping: that is a heck of a lot better than standing in line somewhere and getting mad at line cutters and pushy people!

What will Cyber Monday bring?  I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet Amazon is going to pull out all the stops this month, especially since their last two quarters’ earnings calls were disappointing to the analysts (and their stock price was pounded as a result).  I’m planning on looking at the Cyber Monday deals on Amazon throughout the day, and hitting the refresh button on my web browser.

You can check out the deals today, also, and maybe you will grab something you’ve been wanting for yourself or for someone for Christmas.  You can check them out today if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/amazonmonday into your web browser – be sure to keep hitting the refresh button!

And don’t just think the Cyber Monday deal is for electronics, toys, clothes, and such as it’s also the biggest Kindle book deal of the year: over 2,000 titles are over 80% off of the regular price.  I’m not talking about titles from authors you’ve never heard of as I see a few titles from people like Pat Conroy.  You can check out the Kindle book deals if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/dailydeal into your web browser.

Kindle Voyage Giveaway

I’ve been using my Voyage for a couple of months now and I have been enjoying it.  If you are unfamiliar with the Voyage, it’s a lot like the Paperwhite and really should have been labeled as such: you can read the review I wrote for it if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/14voyage into your web browser; if you think the review was helpful, I would appreciate a “Yes” vote just underneath the review on the Amazon website.

Today is the last day to enter to win the giveaway for the new Kindle Voyage e-Reader: have you signed up for a chance to win yet?  You can if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/1214kv into your web browser.  Don’t procrastinate – click the link right now before you forget!

If you’re looking for an extra chance to win, here’s a hint: in addition to the email address you may (or may not) have used to sign up, if you have a second email address there is nothing to stop you from using that one as well.  Unlike the other giveaways, signing up for the email option is not mandatory, as you can also enter via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Also, I’m certain your friends, family, and co-workers would like a chance to win, also, so why not pass this information / link on to them?

 

That’s all I had for this post – I hope each of you has a great rest of 2014!

Michael

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Friday is officially tomorrow here in the USA – someone forgot to tell the retailers, or the majority of them colluded to start the deals today on Thanksgiving (although I am sure they will have a heck of a lot of them tomorrow).

That also includes Amazon, as they have really started rolling out the deals.  Get your Christmas shopping done from the comfort of home, and avoid the long lines at the stores in your area.  You can check out the Amazon deals if you click here or type http://smarturl.it/amazonbfriday into your web browser.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for and I appreciate each of you – I hope all of you have a great day today, don’t eat so much that you get uncomfortable, and hopefully you get to spend it with your friends and family!  As for me, I’m with my family smelling the turkey cooking away…

Michael

 

 

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A Rambling Blog Post

It’s been a while since I’ve just sat down and started banging away on the keyboard: it’s been a little busy here at the Gallagher household between work, chasing kids from one activity to the next, and life in general – that sounds about “normal” for most people’s lives these days!  There are a couple of things I wanted to pass on to you…

 

Website Redesign

If you haven’t stopped by the blog lately, we launched a new design of the website last week.  You can see it for yourself if you click here or go to www.fkbooksandtips.com

So, what changed?

The previous look and feel had become a little stale and needed a refresh.  The idea with the new redesign was to keep it simple, fresh, and appear “lighter” on the screen vs. the darker colors of the previous site; I also wanted a new logo.  Hopefully, that goal was accomplished!

If you look at the home page, the Featured Book of the Day is more prominent and we also shortened the amount of text on the home page.  On the previous design, it was a typical WordPress layout (that’s the name of the blog’s software) with row after row of text which included every word of the last 5 posts; now, you have the title of the post and an option to click and read more vs. having to slog through everything.  If you do click the “Read full post” option, the look and feel is brighter and easier to read (at least it is to my tired eyes).

We’re also putting more emphasis on the site for people to sign up for the free once-a-day email delivery option, download the free blog reader app, an improved section for people to leave comments if they so desire, and the social media sharing buttons aren’t as large and obnoxious as they were on the previous design.  I also had the Google banner ads removed as they were taking away from the user experience, made the pages load slow, and I really didn’t like seeing them nor not being in control of what was displayed.

There were also several things done on the back end to make the pages load faster and put less stress on the server, and I’m certain things will continue to be tweaked as we review what seems to work and what could be improved.  I also have a few more enhancements on the drawing board that will be implemented over the next few weeks.  I’m interested to know what you think, so please shoot me an email with your thoughts and comments.

 

Upcoming Giveaways

In order to promote the changes to the website and to get more user participation, I’ll be starting a series of giveaways soon – make sure you are watching the blog’s posts and feel free to tell your friends about them in addition to your signing up for them, also!

 

Black Friday Deals

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving here in the USA, but someone forgot to tell Amazon: I was looking around their website this morning and stumbled across a “Pre” Black Friday deal on some tools, which then led me to the main Black Friday page: there’s a lot of neat stuff in a variety of categories on sale (electronics, tools, books, you name it) and I had to practice great restraint.  You can check out the deals if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/amazonbfriday into your web browser.

 

Baseball

At the start of and conclusion of the World Series, many of you wrote to me to rub it in and ask what happened to the Rangers after my thoughts and comments over the years?  Well, hmm…at least they will be high in the draft pick process, and look out if people can recover from injuries and if they get some pitching, better hitters and fielders, good weather, and the Grace of God…..it may be a long decade!

That’s all I had for now – I hope each of you have a great weekend!

Michael

 

 

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Book Reviews – Why I Write Them

As A Blog Publisher, Why Do You Write Book Reviews?

That’s actually a nicer way of summarizing some of the emails I’ve received over the last few years!

Yes, I do write reviews for the books I read, and starting in 2011 I started to make a point to write a review for most things I read.

Why do I write reviews? Well, I do read what others write for reviews, and those reviews do influence my decision to (a) first try out the free Kindle sample, which a lot of the time leads me to (b) purchasing a book.  I appreciate the time and effort complete strangers took to write a review to tell me the good and the bad, and common courtesy tells me I should do the same.  If I liked it, I’ll tell you – if I didn’t like it, well, let’s just say I’ve been told my professional career has been limited a time or two for being too honest (i.e., blunt).

If you’re like me, you look at the customer reviews in order to see if you want to investigate a book further – while my general cutoff is a book needs to be at least a 4 out of 5 stars, I also read the text of the review: things that may make a reviewer dislike a book might be favorable to me and, things a reviewer absolutely loved (and mentioned in the review) could be a complete turnoff to this grey-haired guy.

I also look to see if a review on the Amazon website is from an “Amazon Verified Purchase,” which tells me the person writing the review actually purchased the item from Amazon; if the reviewer purchased the item from the Amazon website, and didn’t “uncheck” the box to label it as an Amazon Verified Purchase, you will see that notification just below the title of the review and right above the main text of the review.

Why do I look for an Amazon Verified Purchase?  I’ve been burned too many times by friends and family of the author, or shill, reviews – ones that immediately rate things a five star, only have about one sentence of commentary, and are generally marked by it being the one and only review a person has ever written on the Amazon website; these are typically reviews done in order to inflate a book’s overall rating.  Another good indicator is a book will have a flurry of reviews around the same day, are short and all five stars, and the reviewers are from the same general location in the USA.

If you’ve read as many reviews on the Amazon website like I have over the years while looking for books to promote on the blog, you learn to spot the friends and family reviews pretty quick.

The “star” rating on Amazon can be broken down like this:

5 stars – I love it
4 stars – I like it
3 stars – it’s ok
2 stars – I don’t like it
1 star – I hate it

As far as the reviews I write, I try to write an honest assessment if I liked something or not without providing a spoiler: why write a spoiler and ruin the ending for everyone?.  I also think your and my taste regarding the likes and dislikes of a particular book are more honest than a paid book reviewer a major publishing house contracts with to have in a book’s advertising materials. My motto is to keep it short and sweet on your likes and dislikes without providing a Cliff’s Notes version of the book.

There are also very few things I “love” in terms of reading as well as very few things I “hate” as both, to me, are very extreme ends of the spectrum.  Not to sound too hokey, but love and hate are permanent things and very few things qualify for either emotion.

Some people think I shouldn’t be writing reviews because I have this blog, and due to the blog’s popularity it could influence people’s behavior, especially if I “give” it a bad rating – every once in a while I will have a rather interesting dialogue with a few folks regarding the same; remind me to tell you over a beer sometime about how bestselling author Joseph Finder had a public forum / social media temper tantrum on a short story I thought was pretty bad. My response to those type of comments is my – and anyone else’s – review of a book reflects my opinion only and I don’t “give” out anything: your opinion on a book or item may vary, and we probably won’t agree on everything. For example, something I really liked you may absolutely detest and puke all over it.

The same could be true for something you thought was outstanding and I may question why it was published in the first place. When I read reviews I don’t put that much weight into the “star” rating, but I look at the comments, mainly to see if they are substantive to back up the rating as well as to see what the reviewer’s pluses and minuses are with the book.  If you look at those written comments, sometimes they match up to the “star” rating and sometime they do not.

I also discount reviewers who rate everything a 5 star, and I imagine most others do, too.

If you would like to read the reviews I have written, you can click here or type in http://smarturl.it/mgreviews into your web browser.  As I type this post, I have 19 books I need to review but you will see just about everything I’ve read over the last four years – you’ll see I do read a lot of the free book offers, and you’ll also see I have been on a science fiction and thriller kick for a while.

You can vote on the individual reviews on the Amazon website if you think they were helpful or not with a simple “Yes” or “No” vote – you can click on those voting options immediately below the text of each review.  The more “Yes” votes you get in proportion to the overall votes – as well as some super-secret factors Amazon won’t divulge – you will move up in the review ranking scale (yes, Amazon ranks the reviewers).  Right now, the #1 Amazon reviewer is Ali Julia: she has held that position for quite some time now and has written 2,620 reviews (about 1,000 of them over the past year), has received 20,272 “Yes” votes for the reviews’ helpfulness, and has 27 people following her reviews.

So, yes, I will continue writing reviews and I hope you will do the same!  After all, if you can’t share your opinion on a blog what else can you do?

Anyway, that’s all I can type about for now. Have a great rest of your week!

Michael

 

 

 

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Amazon Announces New Kindles!

In case you missed it, Amazon had a lot of press releases today announcing the new version of e-Ink Kindles and Kindle Fires.  Most of them look pretty good (more on that a little bit later) and, rather than try to explain all of the new whistles and bells to you I’m going to give you a link so you can check them out for yourself – besides, there’s a heck of a lot of new information for each one of them out there, and I would probably miss some of the more relevant details!

Yes, I’ve ordered a couple of them to play with and I will be posting a review of my experiences once they arrive.

If you’ve been thinking about ordering a Kindle or Kindle Fire for Christmas for yourself or someone, I would recommend ordering them now as the past couple of years they went out of stock prior to Christmas!

 

Kindle Fire HD

Amazon is coming out with two new versions of the “regular” Kindle Fire – a 7” version (which is the same as the old) and a new 6” version.  The impressive thing is they have reduced the price for the base models to just $99 for the 6” version and $139 for the new 7” version.  Each of these has all sorts of new whistles and bells such as faster processors, front and rear facing cameras.  Also, rather than just the standard black model you can make it a little more personal with magenta, white, citron, and cobalt: for those color challenged like me, it looks like black, pink, white, yellow, and blue!

You can check out the 7” version if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/7fire2014 into your web browser.

You can check out the 6” version of you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/6fire2014 into your web browser.

 

Kindle Fire HDX – 8.9” Version

With this one, Amazon has made many comparisons to the iPad Air – with more “this” and “that” such as 30% more pixels (makes the display more crisp), 20% lighter than an iPad Air, faster processor, and Dolby Atmos for a unique sound experience.  These are pretty pricey, starting at $379 for a basic Wi-Fi version to a couple of hundred dollars more if you want both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular connectivity.

You can check out the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” version if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/89firehdx2014 into your web browser.

 

Kindle Voyage

The Kindle Voyage is a new e-Ink reader which (to me) looks like a much thinner version of the Paperwhite with an almost 50% improvement in the number of pixels per inch (that means the letters on the screen are more crisp), and he ability to turn the page without touching the screen with “Reimagined page turns.”  The starting price on these is $199 for the Wi-Fi version, and $269 for one with both Wi-Fi and free 3G cellular.

Interestingly, and it seems rather chicken of Amazon, a power adaptor has to be purchased separately for $15 if you purchase it at the same time as you purchase the Voyager (or $20 if you purchase it later), so if you already have a micro-USB charger handy I wouldn’t order one of the chargers.

You can check out the new Kindle Voyage if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kindlevoyage into your web browser.

 

Kindle

The plain-Jane, stripped down e-Ink reader has been retooled for 2014 – I’m not real sure what changed from last year’s model except for the claim of faster page turns with a new processor; it is also a touch screen and is Wi-Fi only.  Similar to the Voyager above, Amazon is not shipping these with a power adaptor.

You can check out the new Kindle if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/thekindle into your web browser.

 

Fire HD Kids Edition

This one is fairly interesting – it is built a little tougher and looks kind of like a toy and is geared directly for kids – yet it also has front and rear facing cameras.  Parents, if you’ve been considering a tablet for one of your children I would check this one out: Amazon is offering a no questions asked two year replacement warranty with the claim “…if they break it, we’ll replace it for free.”  I think that’s huge as both of our kids broke their Fires and it was a good thing we had the extended warranty.

It also has a lot of parental controls you can set as well as a kid-proof case.  A 6” version costs $149 and a 7” version costs $189.

You can check out the Fire HD Kids Edition tablet if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kidsfire into your web browser.

 

That’s all I had for tonight, and you should stay fairly busy if you check out the links above – have fun!

Regards,

Michael

 

 

 

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