Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The shortlist is out: What's Your Favourite Book of All Time?

It's finally here. What you've all been waiting for with bated breath.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present to you... the shortlist for my first ever "Favourite Books of All Time" survey!

Please scroll through the form below, and select one book from the list. Oh, and even if you previously entered your e-mail address to be notified of the shortlist, please enter it again if you'd like to receive another e-mail when the winner is announced.

And we'll give it another month before we announce the winner, shall we? So let's say we meet back here on this blog on... 19 Feb. Does that work for you?

As always, please share this post with all your friends and reading groups, book clubs, etc.

One more thing, before I forget. A quick note about my books: the list contains two of them, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, and A Petition to Magic. I give you my word, they were not nominated by me (although I'm truly grateful to the people who did), but if you'd like to vote for them, feel free! :-)

Attribution: The image above was created in part using the Book, mockup Vector image by @StarLine, on the site freepik.com. Click here to see the original image.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

How I set my book's price online

Happy New Year, everyone! I trust your January's treating you well. Have you gotten back to the office yet?

I missed the past two blog posts, what with the hectic festive season, and the fact that both Christmas and New Year's Day happened to fall on a Tuesday this time around. But I'm back with a bang.

One of the things I always like to do around this time of year is to revisit my books' categorisations, keywords, and prices at retailers. But I try to be super-scientific about it. For each book at each retailer, I have a look at the categories and keywords. Do they still accurately reflect the subject matter of the book, and what I think readers are looking for?

Then it's on to pricing, and here's where I get really nerdy. Take a look:

For each category the book is in, I go look at the top ten books in that category. I get each one's price, deduct VAT if the retailer charges VAT to South Africans (like Amazon does). Then I divide that by the number of pages the book has, which gives me a price per page.

When I'm all done, I multiply the overall average price per page by the number of pages in my book. Then I round to the nearest 0.09, and voila.

It's a lot of work, but I like this approach because it ensures I stay competitive, and instead of charging what I think my work is worth, I'm charging what I know people are willing to pay for books in that category.

What do you think? Does this pricing strategy make sense to you?

By the way, it's impossible for me to share the 2019 prices for each of my books, in each of their formats, here in this post. However, if you'd like to browse through all my books and see for yourself what they cost at the various retailers, click here.

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Sleepwalkers by B.B. Griffith (Book Review)

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a story this much.

Gordon Pope is a beautifully written, complex protagonist. Although he's an expert in his field, he carries with him some serious emotional baggage which makes him doubt himself and his abilities. When he's forced to confront that baggage head-on, he grows and becomes more confident. A growth which seems natural and logical, not forced to happen just because the plot requires it.

The story also seems to be fairly well researched. In my younger years, I had a passing obsession with the fields of sleep science, the limbic system, and lucid dreaming, and many of the concepts presented seemed familiar to me. It was actually quite nostalgic... although I'm sure a real-life expert in those fields would pick lots of holes in the story; it's always more complicated than fiction tries to present (something I know all too well as a software developer, who gets frustrated reading some descriptions of tech in fiction).

Although this book is the first in a series, and I don't often read series, it's still a complete story. Right at the very end, there's a scene that looks like it's going to lead into the next instalment, but there are no cliffhangers. It actually reminds me a bit of James Bond movies. This also means that I'm pretty sure if you read the second book in the series, without ever reading this one, you won't be missing anything. I hate cliffhangers, so that's something I really appreciate.

If you're into psychology or have an interest in how and why we sleep, I strongly recommend you read this story.

My rating: 5 / 5 stars

(To see where you can get your hands on a copy, click the cover below)

About the book

Is it still a crime if you commit it in your sleep?

Ethan Barret is on trial for violent assault at only twelve years old. The problem is, he doesn't remember doing it. His hands committed the crime, but he was asleep the whole time.

Gordon Pope is down on his luck. He was one of the best child-psychiatrists in the country before his divorce. Now he's broke, bored, and spiraling into depression. He agrees to be an expert witness in Ethan's case because he needs the extra cash for drinking money. What he doesn't know is that he's about to be thrown into a race against time to save the boy, and himself, before it's too late for both of them.

The Sleepwalkers is a dark thriller that will change the way you think about sleep--and dreams--forever.

Click here to find out where you can pick up a copy.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Nemesis by L.J. Martin (Book Review)

When I first saw this book, I was over the moon: Wow, I thought. A western that's not a romance! I honestly didn't think those existed anymore.

I wasn't disappointed. All those spaghetti westerns I watched and adored as a kid, starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and others? Ja, this is exactly like those. A simple plot centred around revenge, barely believable action sequences, dirty rotten cheaters getting shot over the poker table in smokey saloons... I felt like I was in heaven.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the end, skimmed through the other books by this author and publisher, and realised that the genre is alive and well. Where have you been all my reading life?

On the editing side, it's not the most polished bit of writing I've ever read, and I spotted a few typos, missing words, and redundancies throughout the text. But the plot was good and kept me interesting.

Another thing worth mentioning is how easy it was to get back INTO the story after having to put it down for a couple of days. Because, you know, life happens, and sometimes you can't read as much as you'd like. And when that happens, I've read books where it takes five or ten minutes, sometimes, to get back into the story and figure out, "What's happening again?" This isn't one of those books. It's a nice, easy read.

So if you're looking to re-live your cowboys-and-indians loving youth, and you don't care for bodice rippers, I highly recommend you give this one a read.

My rating: 4 / 5 stars

About the Book

The fools killed his family...then made him a lawman. This wild and wooly western, in the Louis L'amore tradition, comes from renowned author L. J. Martin, whose over 20 novels have brought compelling reading to so many. McBain, broken and beaten from the Civil war, is reluctant to return to his family, as a snake dwells in his belly and he can't get the images out of his mind...until he learns his sister and her family have been murdered. Then it's retribution time.

Click here to find out where you can buy the e-book.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

My Favourite Books of 2018

I do this every year: write a blog post, listing out all the books I gave five-star reviews to during the course of the year. These aren't necessarily books that were released in 2018; just books I read during the course of the year.

And if you know anything about me, you know that I can be pretty anal. It's really difficult for any book to earn a five-star review from me.

This year, though, takes the cake. There are only two of them!

The two books I gave five-star reviews to this year are... (drumroll please) Dark Whispers by Jo Macgregor, and The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

I reviewed them both on this blog at the time, so click one of the covers below to visit the original post, read my review, and find out where you can grab a copy of the relevant book.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Year of the Dragon by Stephen Hayes (Book Review)

I honestly believe that this is a book that needs to be read. Set in Apartheid South Africa under the rule of Die Groot Krokodil himself, it tells the story of an old woman's death and the search for the secrets hidden within a Christian ikon of great significance.

Having said that, it isn't really a story about politics. Or, to put it another way, politics isn't the central theme or point of the story. At its heart, it's about supernatural power, and how God can (and does) use everyday people like you and me to further His goals.

The story is beautifully woven, and the pacing is brilliant. Fair warning, though: the first five or six chapters or so are nice and short (twenty to thirty screens of my e-reader, and I read on the largest font size), and you think "Hey, cool! This is going to be a nice quick read." But after those first five or six chapters, the story takes a dramatic turn. Everything gets deeper and darker. The stakes get higher, the characters get more serious, and the chapters double or triple in length. It can be jarring if you're not expecting it, but when you look back, you realise the timing was perfect.

From an editing standpoint, it's very good, although there are missing punctuation marks scattered throughout (most often question marks, which happened so often that I found myself wondering whether I'd missed something intentional), and at one point, some dialogue is attributed to a character who isn't present at the time. None of that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, though!

Also, in the early chapters, the language is a bit... stilted. Overly formal, somehow, or maybe old-fashioned--particularly in dialogue, where I found myself thinking that nobody I know actually talks like that. No, I don't think anyone spoke like that in the '80s, either. But it either got better as the story went on, or I just got used to it.

But I would strongly urge you not to let any of the above stop you from reading this beautiful story. Honestly, I learnt so much reading it, not only about our South African past, and Christian history, but about my own faith, as I was frequently forced to stop and re-evaluate some of my own beliefs.

Don't worry if you're not a Christian, though. This book isn't going to try and convert you; you'll likely just read it as a great fantasy (and that's okay).

I think if you love Christian thrillers, paranormal thrillers, or reading about South Africa's dark and terrible past, this is a book not to be missed.

My Review: 4 / 5 stars

Click the cover below to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

About the Book

The year is 1988. 

For 40 years the world has been in the grip of the Cold War, and South Africa has been in the grip of apartheid. For 71 years Russia has been under Bolshevik tyranny. Though few suspect it, this is about to change for ever. 

On a farm in the picturesque southern Drakensberg of South Africa a woman dies, and a young lawyer, Richard Rutherford, and his friend Denis Walters combine business with a pleasure weekend in the mountains. They will visit the farm to take the first steps in settling the estate. They soon discover that others also have an interest in the estate, or at least some items in it, and that they are prepared to kill for them. 

The contentious items seem to be some old Russian ikons, but how they got to a remote farm and why others are so anxious to get hold of them is a mystery. The search for answers leads them to a strange hermit and an even stranger priest, and a drive of a thousand miles in search of King Lobengula’s legendary treasure.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Short Stories Volume 2 by Thomas Ryan (Book Review)

These stories are great!

I remember mentioning when I reviewed the last book that the editing needed some serious work. Well, that's been greatly improved with this one. It isn't perfect, but the missing words and punctuation are mostly gone. Enough, at least, that I could focus on the stories.

Not all of these stories will be your cup of tea. That's to be expected. But I enjoyed most of them. The first one, Bedridden, is the perfect lead-in because it tells you exactly the kind of stuff you're going to expect. I had about half a dozen theories as I read it, about what the twist could be. Turns out, none of them was right.

Each one of the stories has a twist like that. At least one, but some have more.

In terms of genre, they're a mixed bag, ranging from comedy to thriller, to psychological, to paranormal murder mystery, you're sure to find some that you like.

(My review: 4 / 5 stars)

About the Book

Award winning thriller novelist, Thomas Ryan, is also a prolific writer of short stories and he brings more of his sense of fun and adventure to his new collection, Short Stories Volume 2. From the creepy ‘Gerry’ to the humour of ‘Holmes for Christmas’ and the human drama of ‘The Best of Times’, there is more than enough variety to keep readers captivated. 
Ryan believes all good short stories should have unexpected twists and turns and be entertaining to read. Applying his thriller techniques he manages to achieve this end with the suspenseful ‘Wooden Sword’ and ‘The Chest’ but it is in one of the short story’s ‘John Wayne’ Ryan displays his accomplished storytelling skills as he follows an episode in the famous actor’s life where he almost brought about an end to the Second World War and walked on a beach with Eva Peron. 
Quoting a recent reviewer of Thomas Ryan’s work, ‘these are very intriguing, original stories, all well written and enjoyable. Ryan really gets inside his characters and makes their world our world, whatever its moral code or unwritten rules. His stories are powerful and stay with you once you've finished them.’ Readers will find Ryan’s short story writing gripping and easy to read. Short Stories Volume 2 by Thomas Ryan are a must read. 

Click here to find out where you can grab a copy.