Saturday, 16 February 2019

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (Book Review)

This is truly a Hallmark Channel drama. To be honest, it was a bit different than I expected too; I thought there'd be at least some paranormal stuff going on. But no, it's just a straight, run-of-the-mill mystery drama).

Not that that's a bad thing. I mean, I enjoyed it. It was a good story. There were only a couple of things that gave me pause.

In the first place, the title didn't really make sense to me (other than the fact that every time I picked up the book to read, the song started playing in my head). There's only one reference to the song in the whole book, and it's very much an aside. I thought it could've been emphasised a bit more.

Secondly, the ending. About two-thirds of the way in, I thought I had it figured out. I hoped I was wrong, though, because I thought if I was right, it would be pretty weak. Unfortunately, I was right, and it just didn't make sense. I just didn't buy the culprit being who they turned out to be, based on what I'd learnt about them and their character for the rest of the book. Unless they're schizophrenic or something. But the book gave no indication that they were.

There were other plot twists, though, which I didn't see coming, and which I really enjoyed.

If you like an old-fashioned mystery-drama, with a feel-good emphasis on the nuclear family, I still think this would be a good book for you.

About the Book

An addictive novel of psychological suspense from the award-winning author of Night Night, Sleep Tight, about three generations of women haunted by a little girl’s disappearance, and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to the truth . . .

Seven-year-old Lissie Woodham and her four-year-old sister Janey were playing with their porcelain dolls in the front yard when an adorable puppy scampered by. Eager to pet the pretty dog, Lissie chased after the pup as it ran down the street. When she returned to the yard, Janey’s precious doll was gone . . . and so was Janey.

Forty years after Janey went missing, Lis—now a mother with a college-age daughter of her own—still blames herself for what happened. Every year on the anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places a classified ad in the local paper with a picture of the toy Janey had with her that day—a one-of-a-kind porcelain doll—offering a generous cash reward for its return. For years, there’s been no response. But this year, the doll came home.

It is the first clue in a decades-old mystery that is about to turn into something far more sinister—endangering Lis and the lives of her mother and daughter as well. Someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and is desperate to keep it hidden.

Click the cover to find out where you can get a copy.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Want a Free Romance for Valentine's Week?

So, since it is the month of LUURVE, and Thursday is the day of LUURVE, how about a free copy of my (somewhat) romantic story, Heritage of Deceit?

Here's the deal: the first 10 people to follow the instructions below and use the coupon code get a free copy.

Ain't I nice? :-)

You'd better hurry, though. Those ten copies will probably go fast!

Oh, and ff you've already read it, why not use this offer to gift it to a friend, so they can enjoy it, too? :-)

Here's How to Get Your Copy

  1. Click the image above to visit the book's page at Smashwords.
  2. Click Buy Now or Give as a Gift, as appropriate.
  3. If you don't have an account, you'll be prompted to create one (it's free).
  4. When asked for the coupon code, enter AR89Y, and click Apply Coupon. The price will be reduced from $0.99 to $0.00.
  5. If this is a gift, enter the e-mail address and name of the person you're gifting it to.
  6. Click Checkout. You will not be asked for payment information unless you've also added other books to your basket.

You're welcome, and enjoy the book!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited

Many readers swear by Kindle Unlimited, and on the surface, it's a great deal, if you can get it.

For those who don't know, you pay Amazon a monthly fee (of $9.99, at the time of this writing), and you get to read as many books as you want from their selection.

But the service isn't without its pitfalls and disadvantages. Did you know, for example, that the service isn't available in many countries around the world? And the list of countries where it is available is quite limited: unless you happen to be in the United States, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, or Australia, you're out of luck. That's a significant portion of the planet left out in the cold.

Secondly, not all books available on Amazon are available to read on Kindle Unlimited. That's because, in order to make a book available to the program, Amazon requires authors to sign an agreement promising to not sell their books anywhere else. No Kobo, no Smashwords, no Google Play Books... not even their own website! As you can imagine, many authors simply aren't prepared to cut out all those non-Amazon shoppers. Not to mention libraries (which are also not allowed); if you live in a country where Amazon's not available, or you can't afford to buy your books, sorry. That's the price we pay, to make our books available in Kindle Unlimited.

And Kindle Unlimited isn't the cheapest service offering unlimited reading, either. 

See below for three other great subscription reading services, cheaper and with a wider selection. 

Remember, because of the exclusivity clause, you're not going to find any books on these platforms, which are also available on Kindle Unlimited. So if you'd very much like to not be a part of locking a significant portion of the world's population out of great books, you might want to consider going with one of these services instead.


This is my favourite out of the three. They launched their unlimited reading service way back in October 2013, so their offering actually predates Kindle Unlimited by almost a year (the latter having only launched in July 2014).

The service costs $8.99, and they offer a 1-month free trial. But if you use this affiliate link to sign up, they'll give you two months free instead.

You also might be interested to note that all of my books are available there, so once you've signed up, search for Graham Downs and start reading! :-)



I've only recently been exposed to 24Symbols, and don't know that much about them, to be honest. They also cost $8.99 per month, but I'm unsure whether they offer a free trial. They claim to have over 1 million books in their catalogue, though, and you can browse and search their entire library without signing in.

At the time of this writing, the only one of my books available on 24Symbols is Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, but I'm working on getting my entire backlist up, so check back in a few weeks.



This is the most confusing offering I've found, and I know very little about them. They seem to be a bit of a "new kid" (although I stand to be corrected), and offer various plans for not just books, but movies and TV shows too. Their unlimited ebooks plan is only $1.50 per month, though, which is by far the cheapest of the four offerings!

They may be worth a look, though. Similar to 24Symbols, only Memoirs of a Guardian Angel's available right now, but the rest will be coming online soon.


So what about you? Do you already subscribe to one of these services, or maybe one I haven't mentioned here?

Or are you a Kindle Unlimited subscriber who's now considering switching? Or maybe, after reading this, you've decided to sign up for Kindle Unlimited?

I'd love to engage with you. Please pop me a comment in the box below, and let's get this conversation started.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Sabbath Wine by Barbara Krasnoff (Book Review)

This is a pretty good story. In the beginning, I remember thinking that it's decent, but nowhere near good enough to justify its position as a Nebula Award finalist. At one point, a character is reading a newspaper, and a bit further down, someone interrupts him, and the narrative says he doesn't take his eyes off his book. That's a simple error, easily caught by a proofread.

But like all good short stories, there's a twist at the end. And, while I think a lot of the book up to that point had been somewhat predictable, that twist made all the difference for me. Wow, what an ending!

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

“My name’s Malka Hirsch,” the girl said. “I’m nine.”
“I’m David Richards,” the boy said. “I’m almost thirteen.... and I am dead.”

You can read this book online for free. Click the cover.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Do You Prefer Plain Text E-mail?

I used to really love Plain Text e-mail. I'm not just talking about e-mails without any formatting; I'm talking literally about e-mails which are sent in Plain Text format, without any HTML code in them.

In recent years, I've gotten over it, as HTML becomes the standard, and it actually becomes more and more difficult to read e-mails in Plain Text. My day-job, for example, forces me to use a signature at the bottom of every e-mail I send, and that signature contains images and hyperlinks behind buttons, etc. Many other companies do the same... sometimes without you, the employee, even knowing it, so even if you did send an e-mail in Plain Text, by the time your recipient receives it, it's been converted to HTML so that your corporate mail server can attach the signature.

Plus, many e-mail clients use HTML as the default way to display and send e-mails, and it can be very difficult, if not downright impossible, to configure it for Plain Text.

In recent weeks, though, it has occurred to me that I haven't given any thought to the Plain Text format of the e-mails I send to my mailing list. I did think about them years ago, when I first started, but back then I was using MailChimp; I had no idea what MailerLite did.

I went back to some of my old campaigns and tried to view the Plain Text version of the e-mail. The first thing I noticed was that there's no way to do that. None. MailerLite quite simply does not let you view the Plain Text version of a previously sent e-mail. So I created a new, dummy campaign, and then told MailerLite to show me the plain text e-mail that was about to be sent. This is what I saw:


You have received a newsletter from Graham Downs.

However, your email software can't display HTML emails. You can view the newsletter by clicking here:


You're receiving this newsletter because you have shown interest in Graham Downs.
Not interested anymore? Click here to unsubscribe:

Well, that's not ideal.

Still, it's probably not a big deal, because nobody's ever complained before, and I highly doubt any of my current subscribers are actually interested in the Plain Text versions of my newsletters. And at least MailerLite actually does provide you with a way to edit that version. I added it to my to-do list, and moved on.

Until the other day, when I saw someone subscribing to my list. I happen to know the guy, and I know that he definitely prefers to read all his e-mails in plain text.

I immediately went and carefully crafted Plain Text versions of all my automation mails, and from now on, will make sure all my campaigns have readable, usable Plain Text versions.

Even if I did it just for this guy, it's enough. But I'd like to hear from you - how do you feel about Plain Text e-mail? Do you still send and read e-mails in Plain Text? Is it your preferred format?

Hit me up in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Green Mile by Stephen King (Book Review)

A few friends have recommended that I read this book over the years. I'm glad I finally did.

It's a flawlessly told story of life inside the Death Row block of a penitentiary. There's ostensibly a mystery that's slowly revealed as the story progresses. But even though I've never read this book before, and never seen the movie in its entirety (just snippets here and there), the sheer weight of this story's success means you know who done what from the start.

There's still plenty of suspense, though, and loads of twists and turns. I absolutely loved it.

I was pretty sure I was going to give this book four stars, because of the formatting issues in my Kindle edition. I got the impression it was scanned in from a print version, and then someone was tasked with reading through it and fixing all the OCR software's mistakes. Only they missed quite a bit. It's the typical OCR stuff: mostly n, h, and b being confused, so you'd see the word "hoss" instead of "boss" for example.

Being tech-savvy, I immediately saw what probably happened... but sometimes, both possibilities are actually words, making the situation worse.

The last couple of chapters though... wow, those last few chapters are intense. Gut-wrenching. Incredibly emotional. With an ending like that, I'd be nothing more than a petty lugoon if I docked a star for some silly software issues!

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

The Green Mile: those who walk it do not return, because at the end of that walk is the room in which sits Cold Mountain Penitentiary's electric chair.

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

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Is one of your resolutions to read more books in 2019?

It's the time of year again when people start thinking about sticking to their New Year's resolutions. And more than a few people have confided in me that they really need to read more books this year. But more than a few people have also told me that they struggle to find time to read.

I was inspired to write this post after reading an article on BookRiot, How to Read More in 6 Easy Tips. If you're serious about increasing your reading volume, you should definitely take a look.

Personally, I can't do Audiobooks (my mind wanders too damn much), but I want to emphasise and elaborate on one of their tips in particular.


I know that loads of you are die-hard print book fans, but hear me out here. E-books changed my life. 

When I was younger, I used to read voraciously. Every spare moment, my nose was buried in a book. As I got older, and particularly as I left school and started working, I just didn't have the time. Not only that, but I couldn't see myself as one of those people who carried books around wherever they went. No, I was far too self-conscious for that.

And then, about nine years ago now, something amazing happened: my boss at the time bought me an iPad. I'd heard about this Kindle thing before, but didn't think it was for me. Well, now I had an excuse to try. After playing around and getting comfortable with my new toy, I installed the iOS Kindle app.

I didn't think I'd buy anything, you understand. Just looking. The thing is, I didn't need to buy anything, what with the proliferation of free books at the time. It was fantastic.

Fast forward to present day, and while I'm not the fastest reader out there, and plenty of people get through plenty more books than I do in a month, I'm reading more now than I ever did before.

Now, every spare moment I get, be it waiting for things to happen, while sitting on the toilet, lying in bed, or whatever, I whip out my phone and read a couple of screens of my latest book. Then, when I have a good long stretch of time to play with, I switch to my tablet (no longer an iPad; I graduated to Android a long time ago now) and pick up where I left off.

It's incredibly liberating, and it feels... productive. Way more productive, anyway, than aimlessly surfing Facebook for those few minutes, which you might be doing now.

Amazon's not the only show in town, either. Nowadays, we have 
If you literally have zero budget, fear not. Libraries have moved on to e-books, too. Here's a blog post I wrote a couple months ago with a list of South African provincial and municipal libraries that allow you to borrow and read e-books, free of charge, all from the comfort of your own home!

I hope what I've said here has made some sense to you, and if you don't read nearly as much as you should, I hope it will spark the beginning of your journey. Right now, there's no reason anybody should deprive themselves of the joy of reading (yes, even if you have to read audiobooks. Just because they're not for me doesn't mean they won't be just perfect for you).

So what's holding you back from reading more this year? Feel free to hit me up in the comments, and let's start a conversation; I'd love to hear from you!