Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Where to Find Free or Reduced Price Books When You're Stuck at Home

There are many times in every person's life when they have to remain at home for one reason or other (illness, weather), but now a huge portion of the world's population is home, trying to thwart the coronavirus (COVID-19) and keep everyone safe by maintaining a distance from others. That means many hours to fill once we've done our work, our chores, our studying or whatever jobs need to be taken care of.

As a reader and writer, I tend to turn to books first, and I am fortunate to have many books on my shelves and on my ereader that I haven't yet touched. But if you're worried about running out of things to read, here are some sources of free or inexpensive material (these are all ebooks). 

For work that is in the public domain, there is always Project Gutenberg. The site has more than 60,000 books, and you'll be familiar with many of the titles. It sometimes takes a bit to navigate the site, but they're updating, and there's a lot to see there, so I recommend roaming around the site for a few minutes to find your way around. They also have lists of the Top 100 Books of the Month, and if you click through to the new beta website, there are the top 100 books/authors of yesterday, the last seven days, and the last thirty days. A quick glance at yesterday's top 100 included works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jonathan Swift, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, and Mark Twain, among others. 

Along the same line is Standard eBooks, a nonprofit that takes public domain books from places (Project Gutenberg is one), cleans up the typography, improves the technology and adds public domain fine art for the covers. The selection is limited, but it's an easy site to navigate, and the books do look inviting.

If you're looking for something more contemporary, there are actually books whose authors have priced them as free. Often these are promotions, designed to tempt readers to buy the rest of a series or other books by the author. Either way, there's a wealth of material out there. Below are some places you can find those books and how to go about it.

Smashwords - at the top of the main Smashwords page, you can do a general search of all the free books on the site. Just click on Free in the second row (you can also choose the length in the third row). If you'd like to limit to books in the genre you're interested in, choose your genre in the left hand column and then click on Free. The books on Smashwords are in various formats, so you're probably in good shape no matter what kind of reader or computer you're using. You do have to register to use Smashwords, but I've been with them for years, and they've never sent me annoying emails.

Kobo - There are several ways to find free books on Kobo. You can go to the Kobo home page, click on ebooks, click on your category (such as Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Business & Finance...), click through to your subcategory of choice, then follow the left column to the bottom where the price is, check Only Free Items and then check Apply. 

Alternatively, you can go to this page, which lists a few categories with free books along with Today's Top Free eBooks. 

Last of all, you can try this page, which appears to list all of the free books (not broken into categories) available that day. 

Amazon - Amazon has a page titled Cheap Reads for Kindle: Free and Low Priced Reading Options. If you want only free as opposed to low-priced, set the search option to Sort by: Price: Low to High. At first glance, it appears that there are only two ways to break the 400 pages of books into divisions, Kindle Short Reads and Kindle eBooks, but if you click on Kindle Short Reads, you can drill down further based on projected time to read and number of pages. If you click on Kindle eBooks, you'll find genre categories. Unfortunately, I didn't find much of a selection when drilling down that way. That's often a failing of Amazon, I've found. You know that what you're looking for exists, but once you start setting parameters, not everything that fits those parameters is visible.

A better way, I've found is to go to the Kindle eBooks page. From there, scroll down the left side to your category of choice and click through. From there, scroll to the bottom of the page to where the books are listed vertically (as opposed to those nice horizontal categories at the top). Then choose Sort by: Price: Low to High. The free books will show up first. 

If you're looking for book deals (as opposed to free), go to the Kindle Book Deals page.

Other Deals

Bookbub - go here for their daily deals.

eReaderIQ - eReaderIQ is a site I frequent. They list free and discounted books, but what I really like is that once you sign up (just an email address), you can track books or authors and once a book you're tracking (or any books by an author you're tracking) falls below a certain price point you set (or a certain percentage you set), you'll receive an email with a link to the book, so you can purchase it at the discounted price. 

And, of course, if your library subscribes to Hoopla or Overdrive, you can borrow books for free just as you would any print library book. 

I'm sure that some people will find it strange that an author would be promoting free or discounted books, but I feel that books should be available to all of us, I know that not everyone can afford to buy books at full price (especially now), and I trust that most readers who are able will continue to support their favorite authors so that they can pay their bills and continue writing wonderful books.

I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Songs About Librarians

About eight years ago (wow, time has flown!), as part of a post titled "Libraries are Awesome!", I posted this video by the fictional Norwegian boy band, Boyzvoice.

That's just a clip (I think it's from a mockumentary the group made), but if you want to hear the entire song, here's a link. (I love the lyrics where, to show how much he loves his library girl, he reads a thousand books about a girl called Nancy Drew).

Then, recently, I heard a song called "The Librarian" by Honor Finnegan. It was the second time I'd heard it, and given my weakness for books, libraries and love songs, it caught my attention (and reminded me of the "Library Girl" song above).

So, I set out on a search for more songs about libraries and librarians. There are more than I would have imagined. Some are by librarians, singing about the library's services, such as this one that looks a bit like a love song, but...actually isn't (unless you're talking about a love for books and libraries).

Of course, a love of libraries (and books) is a great thing. Who wouldn't love to visit these libraries?
Image by Claudia Schwarz

library - Prague

There were some songs that had library in the title, but didn't seem to be about libraries or librarians (or maybe just one incidental line), and there were a number meant for children. Which is cool, just not what I was looking for.

There were songs by apparent amateurs. One young man (no doubt six years older now) wrong his own love song (he calls it a joke song) called "The Librarian Song." Or "I'm in Love with a Librarian" by Beatnik.

Amazingly enough (to me, anyway), there were a number of songs by name artists. Tom Chapin sang "Library Song." Jimmy Buffett had a song called Love in the Library. "Marian the Librarian" is from the musical The Music Man

And, of course, "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket.

I could go on, but these were some of the most interesting. If you've run across other songs about libraries or librarians, feel free to chime in.

Eight years later, libraries are still amazing, aren't they?


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Keeping Books I (Probably) Have No Use For, Just Because...

I'm not a total book hoarder. I mean, I do cull my shelves now and then. But because I have (occasionally) donated a book and then later regretted it (where are you now, A Field Guide to America Houses?) I tend to think twice (or three times or four times or...) before I remove a book from the shelf.

Book - A Field Guide to American Houses

For that reason, right now I have a whole bunch of books on the French language. Yes, I took four years of French in high school and a semester in college, but I really don't speak the language, I haven't visited France, and during my few trips to Quebec, my high school French proved to be horribly inadequate and I had to revert to English (much to the relief of the people I was speaking to). A need to know French is probably not in my immediate future. And yet...I have those books. (Note: knowing a smattering of French does come in handy when doing crossword puzzles. Thank goodness I devoted four and a half years of my life to delving into the language. Smile). (Also Note: I have no regrets about those four and a half years. It's a beautiful language, I was--weirdly enough, given my present inability to speak it or understand it other than in written form)--good at it, I learned a few things about French history and culture, and I enjoyed it.

French Language Books

And then--getting back to my eclectic bookshelves--there are the books on gardening (I have more than what's pictured below) even though I'm a horrid gardener and always have been (clearly the books aren't paying off).

Gardening Books

Of course, there are other books I have just because I like having them there (lots of history books) and I always hope that maybe someday I'll use them for writing a historical, even though it's been years since I stopped fiddling with writing historical romance and moved to contemporary romance. Speaking of which, why did I give away my copy of Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey? I loved that book!
Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey
In short, I hope that you too have books on your shelf that you love even if you never put them to use in your day-to-day life!

Best Wishes and Happy Reading,


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Want to read at night? Try a fun lamp.

I'll admit that I do most of my reading these days via ebook, so I have built in lights in my ereader, but I still read print books (I usually don't buy books with illustrations or maps in ebook form and sometimes I just want the heft and paper and scent of a print book). When that happens, I have to have a good bedside lamp, because I usually read before I go to bed. I have a small vanilla-ish lamp (and no, vanilla-ish isn't a word as far as I know, but it describes the lamp). Still, sometimes I enjoy looking around to see what else is available.

Here are some of the ones that I found (note: some of these are meant for children, but I'm not a book snob when it comes to age groups and neither am I a lamp snob. If it's interesting, I'm in). 

This group from Etsy intrigue me just because they look like books. Not sure how much light they give out.

Another book-shaped light. This one can be personalized. It comes in different sizes and can be used standing, on its back fanned out, or even opened to a full 360 degrees.

This one looks like a lemon. How fun is that? Available at Amazon, it comes in different colors and also different shapes (a honeybee-type and a sort of rabbit. You'd have to click through to see what I mean by those shapes. A bit of artistic license going on there). 

The Krux lamp from IKEA looks like a puppy (I think).

This flower lamp comes in multiple colors (two at the link below, but elsewhere on the website there's also a green one).

There are numerous lamps similar to this dog table lamp (a person running, for example). They're adjustable.

There are a lot of fun robot lamps of various styles on Etsy and Amazon (do a search on each site to see what I mean). Here's one. This might be fun, especially if you're into steampunk.

You can also get a personalized folding lamp. (Or you can find plain folding lamps.

If that isn't enough to get you started, try going to either Amazon or Etsy (or just Google) and looking for owl lamps, Harry Potter lamps, folding table lamp, flower lamp, LEGO lamps, or whatever your imagination can come up with. There are tons of ideas out there. 

Have fun searching!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Nooks are My New Obsession

I've never been one for knick knacks, primarily because I don't like having to dust them (or store them or give up space for actual books). But while scrolling through some articles today, I came across one about something called book nooks, a sort of upright diorama that fits between the books on a shelf. The first one (apparently) was created by a Japanese artist, but interest has grown so much that there are a number of articles on the trend and a whole community on Reddit dedicated to booknooks.

There are a few which can be purchased, but they're very expensive. I can't really blame the artists/creators, because it seems as if a great deal of work goes into these, with people using 3D printers, cutting and painting wood, buying miniatures, adding lights, and of course, coming up with a concept, the artistry required, and the details to make it happen.

Here's one that's for sale on Etsy.

Here's another:

Here's a DIY Harry Potter book nook.

Here are a couple of very brief (mere seconds) videos with some finished book nooks.

Also, I highly recommend that you read this article from Bored Panda, which shows 33 of the book nooks (sometimes known as bookshelf inserts). It's one of the numerous articles I read which spurred my interest. Also, this one from the BBC talks a bit about the use of 3D printers.

And if you want to see how some of these are made, here are three videos that show one made from cardboard, one made from bricks (LEGO variety, I assume), and one constructed from wood and war gaming terrain kits (I'm not knowledgeable about such, but the creator says that they're from Games Workshop and are available at tabletop board gaming stores). As you can see from this first one, some of them are quite involved and take a lot of time and effort to make.

I'm sure there are many other ways to build these. The possibilities seem endless, and it looks like so much fun!

If you build your own book nook, please share. I'd love to see the finished results.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Never Underestimate the Value of a Toothpick

We all probably have a few (or a few hundred) toothpicks lying around the house. Some are round, some are flat, and we know what they're supposed to be used for. But in a pinch, they can serve other purposes.

In our house we always keep a few handy for those times when a screw gets stripped or simply when the hole for the screw is too large. Just insert one or more flat toothpicks into the hole in question, and the screw can be used again. It bites into the soft wood of the toothpick and securely holds.

Toothpicks are also great little glue applicators when you need to do some precision gluing in small spaces.

Here's a video with some other interesting ideas.

And here's a fun trick you can try with toothpicks. Just for kicks.

Have a great day!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The 2019 Christmas Ads are Here!

It's been awhile since I've been here, but I couldn't resist posting a few of the season's earliest Christmas ads, because while I'll admit that I do get a bit tired of all the holiday stuff before the big day gets here, I'm just as excited as the kids are when the season first comes into view.

So here goes. First up is an annual holiday favorite, the John Lewis ad:



And that's just the beginning. I hope you're having a great lead-up to the holiday season!

Best Wishes!


Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Magic of Food Photography

I find it fascinating that most of that food we see in ads isn't really edible, and yet...I still salivate whenever I see those ads. Everything just looks so good!

And yes, I know that these talented photographers need to know about and be skilled in the art of lighting, negative space, use of props, use of shadow, placement and so much more. But I also know that there is an entire bag of tricks they use to make that food look delicious even after hours of shooting under hot lights. Real unadorned food just wouldn't hold up or look as good, and the idea is to make the presentation as enticing as possible. So what are some of the gimmicks they use to enhance and stabilize the food? This video from Blossom lets viewers in on some insider tricks and tips.

I have to wonder, how many hours (days, years?) of trial and error went into discovering what worked best and how many food failures occurred on the road from just photographing food in its original state to these genius methods that fool our eyes (and make us drool)? So much fun to watch!


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Touching Story of an Intriguing Artist

I'm more than a little behind on my movie watching, but yesterday I saw the movie Maudie about Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis, and I was entranced. Lewis had a difficult life, having rheumatoid arthritis at a very young age, a condition that only worsened with age and poverty. But she apparently had gumption, presenting herself to Everett Lewis when he advertised for a live-in housekeeper. It was a difficult life in more ways than one, but she was a voracious painter of simple things she saw or remembered, and her folk art eventually brought her a small degree of fame (although not much money during her life).

Maud Lewis Art

I'm sure that at least some of the movie was Hollywoodized. Still, it's a wonderful example of a woman (and an artist) overcoming adversity and shining through.

When Maud was alive, she sold her small painted cards for twenty-five cents each. Last year, one of her paintings sold for $22,000 CDN (a little less than $17,000 USD).

Maud and Everett Lewis' House in Marshalltown (NS) -- Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Halifax (NS) September 2017

I was fascinated by the fact that she and her husband lived in a house so tiny (about 12 foot square)  that it was eventually moved inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maud painted right on the house, the windows and even on the stove.

Here's the trailer to the movie. Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke and Maude and her husband are wonderful (aren't the always?), and I highly recommend the movie. I wish I could find a book on her life, but there are a number of articles about her on the internet.

Now I'm off to look for more on Maud Lewis. What an inspiring individual!

Best Wishes,


Friday, July 19, 2019

Make Your Own "Romantic Evening" Box

Today I received an email from this cute little online store I've purchased things from in the past (mainly at Christmas). Being a romance author, my attention was drawn to their Romance Kit, which cost $10 USD. The contents are: two incense sticks and a holder, a tealight candle, a matchbook and 6 silk rose petals.

I think it was the 6 rose petals that got me. I mean...seriously...six? And this is supposed to be romantic? What would a person do with six silk rose petals? I can't even imagine, and I think that as a writer/professional daydreamer, I have at least a halfway decent imagination.

So, despite the fact that I actually like this store and will shop there again, I decided to see what I could come up with by way of a do-it-yourself romance kit (I blurred the store name on the product above, which is why it looks a bit strange--an artist I'm not).

First of all, the box. Although I like the little tin (not sure of its size), I'm sure I could easily dress up a cardboard box or basket or gift bag I already own, the advantage being (other than the cost savings) that I could totally personalize it. What's more romantic than something a person took the time to make with their loved one in mind?

As for the rest, again to keep the cost down, I've concentrated on dollar store buys. Candles of various types (scented, unscented, colorless, colored, tealight, votive...) were available in sets of at least 4 for $1. These (below) are unscented (I get headaches from too much artificial scent). If you really want scent, you can buy the scented candles, buy incense and a holder (also available at the dollar store--40 sticks of incense!) or make your own scent. There are some good ideas at this website.
As for rose petals, I found this package of 300 (also available in red or white) for one dollar at...well, you know where.

With the money you've already saved on the basic ingredients, you can embellish a bit. Add some chocolates. If you like wine, you might include some wine glasses (maybe add some decorative wash-off messages on the glasses)?

Cut out some hearts from colored paper and write notes on them, scattering them in the box/basket/bag. Or make a trail of them through the house, leading to the basket. Include some romantic music you already own in the box (no one said it all had to be new, just romantic). If you're not good at cutting hearts, here are some cute sticky notes with hearts on them (yes, they're from the dollar store). Or make your own, decorating sticky notes you already own.

So no, there's nothing fancy here. You can embellish this as much as you like or as little as you like. But at least you'll have more than six rose petals. 

Have fun with this!