News, Thoughts and Opinions

New and more comprehensive ways to make room in the book budget.

No, this post isn’t exactly about books. But, making room in a budget is somewhat crucial to the process for most of us. So, I have been experimenting.

For one thing, I have been using the heck out of my library cards. And being able to get a card for the Houston Public Library (which any Texas resident can get for free) gave me access to a rather large digital catalog. Plus, checking out library books at midnight while wearing no pants has always been a dream of mine.

I’ve also found a way to rack up $5.00 Amazon giftcards pretty quickly with Bing Rewards. Pro-tip: hold off redeeming until you have Gold Status. I’ve made about $30 in the past 5 months, and frankly I am kind of lazy with it.

Another way I’ve managed is by saving or making money on the things I have to do anyway, most notably grocery shopping. There are so many options out there.

Here are the apps I use:

Ibotta

This seems to be the most successful app for people. You unlock offers by performing small tasks, then when you shop at specified stores you scan the items you purchased and then take a picture of your receipt to upload. When they have verified the items they credit your account. When you have reached at least $10.00 in rebates, you can cash out for things like Amazon gift cards. What sets this program apart from the others is the $2.00 referral bonus you can get when someone signs up with your code and redeems their first rebate (full disclosure that link up there puts me as your referrer, but you can just ask a family member or friend for their referral link if you really wanted), and the team activities. Basically your team is made up of everyone who signed up with your referral code, and all your Facebook friends. And each month there are team activity bonuses that make you extra money. The easiest way to do this is to have a lot of friends who are active using Ibotta, and there are a ton of people out there who are thrilled to be Facebook friends with someone else who is active. Check for Ibotta Facebook groups and the like for people to friend request. Pro-tip: If they are only Ibotta friends, make a Facebook list for Ibotta friends, and then add these people to your Ibotta List, Restricted, and then unfollow them. It keeps your Facebook account uncluttered.

Checkout51

Checkout51 is similar to Ibotta, except there are no referral bonuses or teams, and they don’t have as many items, but they do usually have produce and they don’t require specific stores.

Snap

Snap is Groupon’s version of the previous two apps. It has small selections, and the rebates don’t just expire, they can be used up, so you need to be fast. But it frequently duplicates Checkout51’s items, and there is not specific store requirement. There is also a referral bonus, but it is only $1.00. (Full disclosure-that link is for my referral code)

Receiptpal

This app you just scan receipts, basically any receipt though it works better with shorter ones. Earning are much slower to accrue, but it does make a handy space to keep copies of your receipts. And, you can cash out for an Amazon gift card.

Wal-Mart Savings Catcher

This app only works if you shop at Wal-Mart. basically, instead of you bringing in adds for them to price match, you scan your receipt and then they check for you and credit your account. Results are kind of mixed with this, but if you are shopping at Wal-mart, there is absolutely no reason not to do this. Plus the app lets you look at prices for things, so it is handy when you are shopping at other stores.

And the really nice thing, is you can use the same receipt for all of these programs. Of course this only works if you are only using them for things you would have bought anyway, OR if you get them ridiculously cheap, or free, or even make money on them. And this is edging into extreme couponing territory, but there are plenty of places besides the circulars and Sunday newspaper where you can get coupons.

Coupons.com

RedPlum

Common Kindness

Krazy Coupon Lady

And check your local stores, because some of them have coupons to print or other offers. I frequently shop at HEB which has an email you can sign up for that sends you great coupons like for produce and meats, and they have manufacturer’s coupons you can print. HEB also has in store coupons that are frequently amazing, but since it isn’t a national store I didn’t want to spend too much time on it.

So this is just what I do. Anyone else out there doing anything different? Do you have any suggestions?

Standard
3 star review

Review – Ready to Were by Robyn Peterman

Ready to Were

I never planned on going back to Hung Island, Georgia. Ever.

I was a top notch Were agent for the secret paranormal Council and happily living in Chicago where I had everything I needed – a gym membership, season tickets to the Cubs and Dwayne – my gay, Vampyre best friend. Going back now would mean facing the reason I’d left and I’d rather chew my own paw off than deal with Hank.

Hank the Tank Wilson was the six foot three, obnoxious, egotistical, perfect-assed, best-sex-of-my-life, Werewolf who cheated on me and broke my heart. At the time, I did what any rational woman would do. I left in the middle of the night with a suitcase, big plans and enough money for a one-way bus ticket to freedom. I vowed to never return.

But here I am, trying to wrap my head around what has happened to some missing Weres without wrapping my body around Hank. I hope I don’t have to eat my words and my paw.

***This novella originally appeared in the Three Southern Beaches collection released July of 2014. This is an extended version of that story.

I had read and enjoyed the first three in her Hot Damned series, so when this one popped up as a freebie I snapped it up, and it has been languishing on Mt. TBRdoom ever since. It is still free if you are thinking about picking it up.

This is something like a cross between Maryjanice Davidson and Eve Langlais; pure, unbridled, over the top ridiculousness. Essie is vapid and high octane and self absorbed, and when she feels she’s been betrayed by her fiance she sneaks off in the middle of the night to go become become a WTF (Werewolf Treaty Federation) Agent.

So there are a few things that could turn some people off. One is of course the aforementioned ridiculousness (I adored it, but YMMV). The other issues are that this is a fated mates, Big Mis, AND Big Secrets all wrapped up in one over the top package. There is also a bit of time where Essie is a just a twit and overly like a doormat. The rest of the time she relatively kick-ass, so I found it if not forgivable, then at least acceptable.

Which all makes it sound like I didn’t like it, but I did, it was funny. But those were my issues with it. But the characters were hilariously funny caricatures, the mysteries were just too ridiculous for words, and I found myself wanting to read more of their shenanigans. It was simply put, fun.

There is just one description for this story, and that is “over the top”. I had to stop myself from using it even more than I already have. But if you like Maryjanice Davidson and Eve Langlais, and have an hour to read, I definitely recommend this freebie.

Ready to Were (Shift Happens, #1)

Standard
4 star review

Review: Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

Rogue with a Brogue

This was an Orange Public Library new release find.

This past week I did some traveling out-of-town and knew I would have some down time to waste in a book. After hitting up the local library, and stocking up on both audio and printed books, I was ready to hit the road.

The title of this book basically tells it all, unless you wanted to be difficult and use literal definitions of the words.In that case, it would be a fine book about a wild pachyderm who wears the shoes of an Irish peasant. While in some circles that may sound like quite the must read, I’m just not up for elephants at the moment. So, lets just assume that whoever you are, that you are a fellow bibliophile and have read a historical romance or two (or 500, whatever). In that case the title is very obviously about a Scottish bad boy.

Suzanne Enoch is yet another new author for me to explore. What I really enjoyed about this example of her work was that it wasn’t just sex sex sex sexxxxx, with throbbing this and jiggling that’s. There was a very good storyline, with great character development and interactions. I won’t lie and say I have never read a book like this before, because I have, but what made this different was that the attraction and romance between the characters actually took the time to grow as they went against the grain in a  centuries old familial conflict.

The MacLawry and Campbell dispute has a very Romeo and Juliet feel to it. They were raised to basically hate all members of the opposite clan, and this went of for many generations. It was to the point that the current generation had no clue as to why the other family was so despicable. Under normal circumstances the two families never would have had chance to interact. The Campbell’s had moved to England for a better life, while the MacLawry’s worked for growth and improvement in Scotland.When Ranulf MacLawry, the leader of the clan, set out to create a truce with the Campbell’s (and fell in love with a Sasannach) Arran MacLawry, traveled to England to set Ranulf straight. What Arran didn’t expect was that he would fall for one too.

I honestly enjoyed this title, and hope to find more by Enoch. Her style incorporated stylized writing to emphasize the accent of the Scottish characters, and it offered an appreciated sharp contrast to the more proper Englishmen. Another aspect was the usage of Scottish terminology as the characters spoke to one another.

If you have some down time, it wouldn’t hurt to give this one a try.

Standard
2 star review

Review-Doctor-Patient Confidentiality (book 1) by Eme Strife

***ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review***

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality

By Eme Strife

Eme Strife, author of this series, reached out and asked if I would be interested in reading and writing a review for the first installment in her series “Patient Confidentiality”. After reading the prologue, I was hooked. It had just enough steamy romance/sexiness to reel me in.

I should have known it was too good to be true. After the prologue, I was tossed into the mundane ramblings of a college-aged woman who had an affinity for the f-word. A goodly portion of the first…second…maybe even third chapters was dedicated to her trek across campus to get to class. I waited and waited for things to pick up and get sexy but that never came through. The hot and heavy scenes from the prologue were no where to be seen in the book. I was so confused by this I actually downloaded the file again to ensure I had a full copy.

In short (and based on the length of this booklet that’s all I can give), if you are looking for a bait and switch, or something to pass the time in the bathroom, this may be a piece for you. It had 117 pages, and when read on my Kindle; the last 20% was dedicated to advertisements for other books written by Strife. If I had known, prior to reading, that this was essentially a small portion of a larger book, I would have skipped the review. I am not a fan of serial booklets, which could have been presented as a single standard length book.

Standard
Thoughts and Opinions

Making room in my budget for books: Part 2

Reading, especially if you are voracious, can be a remarkably expensive hobby. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I am perfectly willing to find ways to make the cost less onerous, or to squeeze money out of other parts of my budget. So here’s a run down of most of the things I have included in my day to day habits to help finagle my finances.

OpenLibrary is a free online library open to quite literally anyone with an internet connection and the ability to use AdobeDRM. Handy tip: never get the epub, always stick with the PDF. The selection is bizarre, but there are some true out of print gems in there.

I’ve also finally renewed my library card and am using Overdrive. My library’s selection is hit or miss, but a book I don’t have to pay for is a different book I can purchase some other time. And an online library is a library that doesn’t require pants, which is always a bonus.

I also started using apps and online printable coupons. There were quite a few on that last post, but I have added a couple more.

For Texas specific residents who shop at HEB, there is now an app, and there are digital coupons. A few key things to remember, when you buy something that you have a digital coupon for, if you also give them a paper coupon they will ALWAYS default to the paper coupon, even if it is worth less. Also, this means no doubling of store and manufacturer’s coupons. However, and this is key, HEB does some really cool things with their coupons, like $2 off an $8 purchase of produce, or meat, or seafood. There are even coupons for things like bread and milk. So there are coupons for things you almost always buy but almost never get coupons for. Pairing the app/digital coupons with the email newsletter ones has resulted in some pretty incredible shopping deals. I have to eat, but at least now I don’t have to spend quite as much. Plus, it has a grocery list feature and lets you add things to your list from the sale ads. It doesn’t let you add things to your grocery list from the coupons list yet, nor does it take you to the coupons directly (grocery IQ is better for this), but if you add an item that does have a coupon it will highlight it to let you know you can go “clip” that coupon.

The other new app I have added is Shopkick (disclaimer: that will link to my referral code). This is an odd app and I had been resistant to getting it. Basically, you get points for walking into stores that offer “kicks”, for scanning specific items, and for linking your credit card and purchasing from specific stores (this last one I have not done). There is not an amazon giftcard option or a cash option, so you can’t directly buy books with your savings, but it is a relatively painless way to earn giftcards for stores like Macy’s, Starbucks, or a variety of other places.

So this is where I’m at in the budget finagling. Anyone else have any suggestions?

Standard
Thoughts and Opinions

Making room in my budget for books.

No, this post isn’t exactly about books. But, making room in a budget is somewhat crucial to the process for most of us. So, I have been experimenting. One way I’ve managed is by saving or making money on the things I have to do anyway, most notably grocery shopping. There are so many options out there.

Here are the apps I use:

Ibotta

This seems to be the most successful app for people. You unlock offers by performing small tasks, then when you shop at specified stores you scan the items you purchased and then take a picture of your receipt to upload. When they have verified the items they credit your account. When you have reached at least $10.00 in rebates, you can cash out for things like Amazon gift cards. What sets this program apart from the others is the $5.00 referral bonus you can get when someone signs up with your code and redeems their first rebate (full disclosure that link up there puts me as your referrer, but you can just ask a family member or friend for their referral link if you really wanted), and the team activities. Basically your team is made up of everyone who signed up with your referral code, and all your Facebook friends. And each month there are team activity bonuses that make you extra money. The easiest way to do this is to have a lot of friends who are active using Ibotta, and there are a ton of people out there who are thrilled to be Facebook friends with someone else who is active. Check for Ibotta Facebook groups and the like for people to friend request. Pro-tip: If they are only Ibotta friends, make a Facebook list for Ibotta friends, and then add these people to your Ibotta List, Restricted, and then unfollow them. It keeps your Facebook account uncluttered.

Checkout51

Checkout51 is similar to Ibotta, except there are no referral bonuses or teams, and they don’t have as many items, but they do usually have produce and they don’t require specific stores.

Snap

Snap is Groupon’s version of the previous two apps. It has small selections, and the rebates don’t just expire, they can be used up, so you need to be fast. But it frequently duplicates Checkout51’s items, and there is not specific store requirement. There is also a referral bonus, but it is only $1.00. (Full disclosure-that link is for my referral code)

Receiptpal

This app you just scan receipts, basically any receipt though it works better with shorter ones. Earning are much slower to accrue, but it does make a handy space to keep copies of your receipts. And, you can cash out for an Amazon gift card.

Wal-Mart Savings Catcher

This app only works if you shop at Wal-Mart. basically, instead of you bringing in adds for them to price match, you scan your receipt and then they check for you and credit your account. Results are kind of mixed with this, but if you are shopping at Wal-mart, there is absolutely no reason not to do this. Plus the app lets you look at prices for things, so it is handy when you are shopping at other stores.

And the really nice things, is you can use the same receipt for all of these programs. Of course this only works if you are only using them for things you would have bought anyway, OR if you get them ridiculously cheap, or free, or even make money on them. And this is edging into extreme couponing territory, but there are plenty of places besides the circulars and Sunday newspaper where you can get coupons.

Coupons.com

RedPlum

Common Kindness

Krazy Coupon Lady

And check your local stores, because some of them have coupons to print or other offers. I frequently shop at HEB which has an email you can sign up for that sends you great coupons like for produce and meats, and they have manufacturer’s coupons you can print. HEB also has in store coupons that are frequently amazing, but since it isn’t a national store I didn’t want to spend too much time on it.


So this is just what I do. Anyone else out there doing anything different? Do you have any suggestions?

Standard
3.5 star review, 4 star review

Review – Hot Damned Series

I picked up Robyn Peterman’s Fashionably Dead for free on Amazon. It’s still free, so if you like paranormal romance, definitely pick it up to see if the rest of the series interests you. I should probably write my reviews of books individually, but when I binge like this, it is sort of hard for me to separate out my feelings and thoughts on individual books. So I am going to throw these reviews all up at the same time. I can’t guarantee there won’t be spoilers for previous books in subsequent reviews, so be sure to stop reading at appropriate points if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Fashionably Dead
Fashionably Dead.jpg
Astrid is having a miserable week, month, life, etc. Her grandmother who raised her has recently died, her mother who is horrible continues to be horrible, and her best friend is pushing her to quit smoking resulting in an ill-conceived decision to try hypnotism. The hypnotism works just a little too well, because you can’t exactly smoke if you can’t breathe, and Vampyres definitely don’t need to breath. So now Astrid is thrown into an entire paranormal world she had no clue exists, one with Vampyres, guardian angels, fairies, and a too hot bad guy that makes her now still heart race. And oh yeah, and she’s the prophesied one. But at least she can still be a Prada whore, undead doesn’t mean unfashionable after all.

I see a lot of people who are comparing this to Chicagoland Vampires, but since I haven’t read those (and I am not sure I want to) I can’t speak to that comparison. What I can absolutely say it is like, is Maryjanice Davidson’s Undead series.

-snarky, mostly pretends to be vapid heroine? Check
-fashion obsessed? Check
-horrible parent? Check
-prophesied heroine who doesn’t want the power? Check
-bad boy hero? Check
-plethora of family or friends who are more than they appear? Double Check

Don’t get me wrong, this book is a ton of fun, and after some of the shenanigans of the past few Undead/Betsy books it was fascinating and almost too funny and fun to get back into the ground floor on so much delightful craziness. It’s nothing new, but Peterman did it with such joy that you can’t help but enjoy the people and the ride. This book ends with all kinds of twists and a hell of a cliffhanger, but since the next book is already out, that really isn’t a huge problem to me.

4 stars and I couldn’t wait to get into the next book.

Fashionably Dead Down Under
Fashionably Dead Down Under.jpg
Stop here if you don’t want to be spoiled on the previous book. Really, just stop.

So, poor Astrid, who thought things could finally settle down with her hotter than Hades fiancée, the prophesied baby on the way, horrible family members dead, and all the loving family she never had, winds up in Hell. Turns out that very little of what they thought they knew in previous events was actually true (don’t worry, Peterman didn’t ret-con, it absolutely makes sense to the story). Her father, evil as he was, wasn’t actually a ruler, her mother wasn’t at all who she thought she was, and she has plenty more family with all sorts of supernatural connections. Frankly, she’s a one woman melting pot of paranormal goodness. But as much as the family wants to meet her, really they have a job for her to do, and all Hell is about to break loose.

Paranormal zaniness doesn’t just abound, it bitch-slaps you right through the story. I didn’t get the same punch form this story as I did the first, it was just a little too spread out. But I enjoyed seeing Astrid fully realize her powers and enjoyed how Astrid and Ethan’s relationship developed. Some of the other characters were also really fun and I’d love to get their stories in the future.

3.5 stars and totally on board with the next book.

Hell on Heels
Hell on Heels
Again, let me warn you that you will be spoiled on previous books if you continue reading.

Dixie is a demon, and she’s Astrid’s cousin to be precise. Despite the fact that we learned that demons aren’t the sum of all evil in the previous books, they aren’t exactly good or nice either. Except for Dixie, she’s a sweetie. She falls in love, does her stint on earth, saves the world and her family and discovers her destiny. This one had a bit of a different flavor to me, and it was more new adult romance with granted a ton of paranormal craziness, but still it was a new adult. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t my favorite entry into the series, which is sad because Dixie was one of my favorite characters in the last book.

3 stars and a relatively strong closer to the series (updated 12/12/2015-just realized there are more, I’m going to have to catch up.), particularly if new adult romance is your thing.

Overall this is a fun weekend read that you can absolutely gorge on.

Standard
Uncategorized

Eclipse Bay Trilogy – OpenLibrary

Having read Jayne Ann Krentz’s Trust No One, as I said, it reminded me of previous books, which of course inspired me to re-read some of my favorites. The Eclipse Bay Trilogy is set on the west coast and involves basically two families. There is a small amount of non-action packed romantic suspense, and all three tie in to events happening in the small town of Eclipse Bay. This is not one of JAK’s paranormal trilogies, but as JAK is about the queen of Easter eggs in romance novels, there are a few later tie-ins to both her contemporary and her futuristic paranormal series. You don’t need to have read everything to enjoy these books, or vice versa, but it is fun to find them. They were published 2000-2002, but to me they hold up well despite the time that has elapsed.

And all three are available to borrow for free through OpenLibrary. As always, remember to borrow the PDF and not the epub.

Eclipse Bay

Eclipse Bay has grown and flourished on the rugged Oregon coast, where the shore can be rocky and forbidding, full of sharp cliffs and hidden coves. Eclipse Bay by Jayne Ann Krentz, this small town is also filled with secrets as treacherous as the landscape and rivalries as fierce as an ocean storm.

Their grandfathers hated each other.

Their fathers hated each other.

And as the next generation of the Hartes and Madisons, Hannah and Rafe are expected to hate each other too. But Hannah Harte, a successful wedding consultant with a skeptical view of marriage, remembers the long-ago night on the beach that revealed Rafe as much more than just “that disreputable Madison boy.” And Rafe remembers the heroic gesture that proved Hannah’s fierce spirit was stronger than any feud and saved him from near-certain imprisonment.

Now reunited by a surprising inheritance after years of living their separate lives Rafe and Hannah return to Eclipse Bay, and the hostilities that still divide, and bind, their families. And they are discovering something that is at once delightful and deeply disturbing?

They don’t hate each other. Not at all.
Dawn in Eclipse Bay

Nothing was ever simple between a Madison and a Harte. The feud that had divided their families still simmered. Now, only months after their siblings’ wedding, Lilian Harte and Gabe Madison are at each other’s throats.

Successful CEO Gabe had insisted on becoming a client of Lilian’s matchmaking service. And after five disastrous dates, Lilian is at her wit’s end. If she hadn’t already decided to close her business and move home to Eclipse Bay, Gabe would have been the final straw. But when she finds Gabe at her door demanding she fulfill their business contract, the sparks between them suddenly turn personal. Once again, Eclipse Bay will witness a showdown—between a relentless Madison and an irresistible Harte…
Summer in Eclipse Bay

Summer has arrived in Eclipse Bay and things are definitely heating up between the Hartes and the Madisons. It seems that the mysterious new gallery owner, Octavia Brightwell, is thinking about having a scandalous fling with that rogue Nick Harte before she leaves town. As far as Nick is concerned, a short-term affair sounds perfect. But it isn’t going to be easy.

One big obstacle is Mitchell Madison. For reasons of his own, Mitchell has taken it upon himself to play guardian to Octavia. He’s made it clear that if Nick fools around with her, there will be a price to pay. And then there’s Nick’s young son, Carson, who has his own agenda where Octavia is concerned. He doesn’t want his father messing up his plans.

Summer in Eclipse Bay is going to be eventful this year. Some long-buried secrets from the infamous Harte-Madison feud are about to surface. The past and the present are on a collision course. I hope you’ll join me to watch the fireworks.
The second one’s hero, Gabe, is the one that Julius reminded me of. They are cute stories, perfect for curling up on a rainy weekend, which is precisely what I did. They were as good as I remembered them, not spectacular, but definitely cozy.

Standard