100 More Books For Just $3.99 or Less!

America’s getting ready to enjoy a relaxing three-day weekend — and I’ve saved up a few announcements about some special ebooks to keep everyone entertained! You probably remember that every month, Amazon offers 100 ebooks for just $3.99 or less. You can browse them all at tinyurl.com/399books — and the selections for the month of May look unusually good!

All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Heriot

“Veterinarian James Herriot recalls life in England during World War II,” reads the book’s description on Amazon, “when the great forces of the modern world came even to his sleepy Yorkshire hamlet.” This heart-warming classic about the people in his village — and the animals that they love — normally costs $14.99, but for the month of May Amazon’s reduced the price to just $3.99. (It’s quite a deal, since the print edition was nearly 500 pages long!)

The Year the Music Changed by Diane Thomas

I’ve always been fascinated by the life of Elvis Presley, but it’s also inspired some very imaginative novels!. The Year the Music changed invents a new story, told with imaginary letters between a 14-year-old fan and the 20-year-old singer who was about to change the world forever. A review from Publisher’s Weekly reports that author Diane Thomas “delved into Presley biographies, communed with his fans on the Internet and produced a warm, lively and immensely readable novel that will especially touch fans of ‘the King. ‘” One Georgia newspaper even wrote that the novel “may engrave itself into the memories of more readers than “To Kill a Mockingbird.” . . . [It’s] the most satisfying novel I’ve read in many years.”

Drawn with the Sword : Reflections on the American Civil War by James M. McPherson

I was surprised to learn that the author of this book had already won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book about the Civil War — and, according to Wikipedia, that he’s even on the editorial board for Encyclopedia Britannica. James McPherson is considered a real authority, and when this book was first released in 1996, Publisher’s Weekly applauded its four themes — how the war started, why it ended the way it did, Abraham Lincoln’s role, and how it ultimately affected America. Plus, it ends with a rousing and thought-provoking essay about what wrong with modern historians!

What Color is My World by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This March saw the release of a unique new book by a famous basketball player. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still holds the all-time record for points scored during his 20-year career in the NBA — 38,387 points!) But at the age of 65, he turned his attention to a book for children about overlooked African-American inventors, both past and present. “I was surprised at how many inventors that affected our everyday life had been left out of what we learned in school…” he revealed in an exclusive interview that appears on the book’s page at Amazon.com. “I’ve said many times that if I hadn’t become a professional basketball player, I would have become a history teacher. There’s so much to learn from history.”

There’s also several cookbooks that Amazon’s offering at a big discount, including Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking and The Pharsoh’s Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Egypt’s Enduring Food Traditions. Maybe Amazon is celebrating the arrival of spring, since they’ve also discounted an ebook called Fast, Fresh and Green, and there’s even an advice book about vegetable gardens. But of course, the book I was most intrigued by was Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations.

Maybe I should buy a copy of that for my girlfriend, since for my birthday this year, she’s promised to bake me a tasty cake!

Elvis Presley Meets the Kindle

Elvis Presley sings

I did a funny experiment in mid-January. On Elvis Presley’s birthday, I’d searched for his name in the Kindle Store — and found nearly 140 ebooks about him! Though he’d died in 1977 at the age of 42, even 35 years later, people are still talking about “the king of rock and roll!” And now self-publishing’s making it possible to share even more fond memories – by anyone with their own story to tell.

I’ve always been fascinated by the life of Elvis Presley, so here’s my list of what look like some of the most interesting Elvis-related e-books that have turned up in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Elvis: My Best Man

It seems like everyone who ever knew Elvis has published a book, but this one was written by one of his personal friends. “George was with Elvis from the beginning,” Dick Clark notes in a blurb for the book, adding the book’s author “personally knows the story.” Elvis and George Klein met when they were both in the same 8th grade class, and both men later went on to have long careers in the music industry — Klein as a Memphis radio host. (The book’s subtitle is “Radio Days, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nights, and My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley.”) Yes, Elvis also served as the best man at Klein’s wedding, but more importantly, he was an authentic fixture in the Memphis music scene. When Booklist reviewed this book, they ultimately concluded that “Klein’s paean is awfully sincere but, in its folksy naivete, oddly fetching. Maybe it’s the bio the King would have most wanted.”

Flowers for Elvis

This 248-page novel is actually available for free in the Kindle Store, and it’s described on Amazon as “quirky Southern fiction with a literary edge, surprising humor and an uplifting spirit.” One of the characters is a fanactical Elvis fan, and I have to wonder if the author was inspired by the real-life story of Dolores Hart, the Hollywood starlet who at the age of 22 had already done two movies with Elvis (and also starred as a spunky teenager in Where the Boys Are). In 1963, “after completing a promotional tour for Come Fly with Me…she had her limousine drop her off at The Abbey of Regina Laudis. And she became a nun.” (And 48 years later, she still is!)

So in this novel, a girl named Olivia is born in 1956 “to a nun in an old auto parts store turned convent in rural Mississippi…” — and that’s just the beginning of this strange American phantasmagoria. Olivia is ultimately raised by the nun’s sister — the Elvis fan — who’s “a renegade Southern belle, bent on self-indulgence and desperate to safeguard her multitude of sins…” According to the book’s description on Amazon, Olivia’s life story “takes the reader on a flower strewn tour of misguided love and maternal betrayal which culminates at Elvis’ funeral, where they finally discover the truth of their parentage and unravel the generations of secrets that shadowed their lives.”

The King and Dr. Nick: What Really Happened to Elvis and Me

Elvis’s death was ultimately ruled a heart attack. (When the local coroner was teased about the official cause of death, he’d reply “You can say what you want, but I still think that Elvis is dead.”) Some angry fans have raised questions about the role of Dr. George Nichopoulos, the personal physician to the high-living rock star, who also his source for some prescription drugs. (There’s a rumor that he was even the inspiration for the quack physician on The Simpson’s.) For the other side of the story, you can read Dr. Nick’s own biography, and at least one reviewer on Amazon writes “I was really quite stunned by many of the revelations in this book.” It’s an odd perspective on the death of a rock star, offering real-world stories about the medical and legal debates that followed. “Was an innocent man crucified by the press in order to get the scoop…” the reviewer asks, “or was he really guilty as charged?”

Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

I read this biography when it first came out in 1998, and I loved its personal glimpses into the highs and lows of Elvis’s rocky life. (Each chapter begins with a fascinating and revealing photograph, offering a kind of visual counter-commentary.) After Elvis’s strange tour of duty in the army in Germany, he resumed his singing career (and starred in dozens of cheap movies), and this book follows him all the way to his 1977 drug overdose. Biographer Peter Guralnick spent several years interviewing nearly every significant person in Elvis’s life, and some of the stories are really touching. (Like the way Elvis sang Christmas carols with his fellow soldiers while he was stationed in Germany, and even donated money to a local orphanage).

Now it’s finally available as a Kindle ebook – and I recommend it!

Four Free Christmas eBooks

Four free Kindle Christmas ebooks

Are you feeling the holiday spirit? Every year I like to stuff my Kindle full of Christmas mp3s and Christmas ebooks. It’s become my own personal holiday tradition, a great way to enjoy the special season in an entirely new way. And this year I’ve discovered some fun new Christmas ebooks have also found their way into Amazon’s “free ebook” section!

O Little Town by Don Reid

Even I’ve heard of the Statler Brothers, the country band that Kurt Vonnegut once called “America’s poets.” But now at the age of 66, their lead singer has launched a second career as a writer of sentimental stories about life in a small town. It’s Christmas time in his story, and three different families are experiencing both happy and bittersweet moments of friendship and faith. “I live in Staunton, the hometown of the Statler Brothers, and know Don Reid and his wife, Debbie..,” reads one review on Amazon. “The last chapters, in which all the main characters attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service where the Pastor delivers a sermon about forgiveness, spoke to my heart… Thank you, Don, for a beautiful Christmas story.”

A Dixie Christmas by Sandra Hill

Elvis Presley never meant much to Clayton Jessup the III. But in this book, he’s inherited a Memphis hotel called “the Blue Suede Suites,” and discovers it’s the home to a tribe of Elvis impersonators who’ve used it to create a living Nativity scene! It’s one of two Christmas stories here by romance-writer Sandra Hill that both take place in the South. The other one describes a former NASCAR star trying to win back his ex-wife who somehow ends up in a wild Cajun variety show. They sound like fun stories, and it’s currently the #1 free ebook in the entire Kindle Store.

The Mouse and the Christmas Cake (Author Unknown)

“This poem about a mouse that builds a house in a decoration castle on top of a Christmas cake was first published in New York in 1858…” explains one review on Amazon. This ebook even includes five original pictures from the 1858 edition, and another reviewer described it as a “Cute, easy-to-read-aloud poem with old-fashioned illustrations [that] brought a smile.” It’s a children’s poem with just a few pages of text, but I really enjoyed it…

“A pretty story I will tell, of Nib a little Mouse
Who took delight, when none were near, to skip about the house.”

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen

A Charlie Brown Christmas was partly inspired by this fairy tale. Lee Mendelson, who was asked to help write a script for the TV show, remembered the previous Christmas when he’d read this story to his children. It’s the story of Christmas from the tree’s perspective — a little fir tree that “was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like its companions.”

“Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, ‘Is it not a pretty little tree?'”

It’s fun to peek in on a Christmas in 1844 — even as the tree anticipates a long journey from the woods into a celebrating home. Like many fairy tales, there’s a bittersweet ending — but it’s a story you’ll never forget!