Tuesday 24 April 2018

Do You Prefer Series or Standalone Books?

I mentioned in one of the reading groups I belong to a few weeks ago that I was trying an experiment: I was going to resist adding any books to my Goodreads TBR shelf if they were part of a series.

I had no idea how difficult that goal would be.

The thing is, I very seldom read series. Your series-starter has to be very good indeed to convince me to add the next one to my TBR. And, because I have so many books on that TBR already, it may be over a year before I read that next one... and if it's not good enough to make me immediately remember what happened in the previous one, you can bet I won't be adding the one after that.

I've spoken before about how I pick books to read: unless I'm specifically looking forward to a particular book, I generate a random number from one to the total number of books on my TBR (which currently stands at a little over 700). Then, I scroll to the book at that number and decide then and there. If I still want to read it, I'll buy it and start. If not--because my tastes might have changed since adding it--I'll delete it.

The thing is, with so many books on that list, and the fact that it's growing every day, I can't really justify committing to a series.

With a few exceptions (like A Song of Ice and Fire), when I crack open a new book, I want to be sucked into a whole new world, with new characters I've never met before.

I guess a nice compromise would be a collection of loosely connected standalone books, which happen to feature the same characters or setting, but which can be read in any order. And, where it doesn't matter if it's been weeks or years since I read the last one.

Over to you, dear reader. Do you have a particular preference? Can you get absorbed into a good series, or is it standalones for you? Do you actively hate one or the other?

I'd love to read your comments!

Tuesday 17 April 2018

How Many Brands of Milk? (A Free Flash Fiction Story by Graham Downs)

So here I stand, staring at the shelf. Why are there so many different brands of milk?

I promised my wife I’d pick up a bottle. I can’t let her down. It’s my first time shopping alone, and I want to prove that I can do it.

Let’s see. I know the milk we use as a yellow label. Well, that narrows it down to about five bottles. What picture does it have on it? My mind’s gone blank.

Maybe I should give her a call.

No, I tell myself. You can do this.

Surely a WhatsApp couldn’t hurt?

Snap out of it, Joe! This really isn’t that difficult.

I reach out my hand and curl my fingers around a bottle that I think could be the right one. And then pull away just as quickly.

Somebody screams.

I pull myself out of my reverie and look around. A man with a balaclava rushes towards me, brandishing a rifle.

“On the ground! Everybody on the ground, now!” he insists, as he bounds closer to me. Along his path, people are collapsing, their foreheads pressed into the floor. Some are weeping, some are snivelling. Still others are stoically silent.

I fall to my knees, but keep my head held high. I want to see what he does.

When he reaches me, the butt of his rifle slams into my face. I hear a crunch, and sharp pain rushes into my sinus cavity. A red haze engulfs my vision, and I taste blood rushing into my mouth.

The man screams down at me. “What part of ‘On the ground’ do you not understand? Moron!”

“Okay, man. Take it easy. I don’t want any trouble.” I manage to slur the words out, but my nose is throbbing now. He kicks me in the ribs as I lie prone on the floor, and I flatten my stomach.

“Much better,” says the man.

A few moments of silence pass. I’m afraid to look, in case the man is still there. After some time, a plastic bottle of milk crashes down next to my face, popping the cap off and causing the contents to explode all over me.

“Damn!” says the man. “How many different brands of milk are there, anyway?”

Monday 16 April 2018

The Smuggler's Promise by Rufus Hylton (Book Review)

This is a proper rags-to-riches story about working your way up the ladder in organised crime. I love those kinds of stories, and I always feel a little sad when they eventually get bust and everything falls apart.

That does happen in this story, but in a completely unexpected way. Without giving away any spoilers, I was blown away, but absolutely satisfied, The Smuggler's Promise neared its conclusion.

What I loved the most about this book were the short chapters--no more than five pages each, and most a lot shorter. My reading sessions tend to be quite short (less than ten minutes each), and It's nice to be able to read a couple of chapters in each.

The language is also really simple and easy to follow, and although there are a lot of characters, I hardly had to scratch my head once, trying to remember who was who.

On the editing front, I will say that it needs a bit of work. Not in terms of typos--there are precious few of those--but in the style. It's simple, yes, but it's a double-edged sword. Perhaps it's a little TOO simple at times. In one sentence, for example, the author mentions the same character's name three or four times. The same goes for objects like "the boat", where those things could have been mentioned once and "it/he/she" used subsequently in those sentences.

Still, it's a fantastic read, which you won't be able to put down. I can highly recommend it if you're interested in true crime.

My Review: 4 / 5 stars

About the Book

Stumbling into the dangerous and lucrative world of drug lords and the smuggling scene of the 1970’s was the last thing Ryan O’Dair pictured for himself when starting a new life in the Florida Keys. But like the lure of love and adventure in a tropical paradise—it pulls Ryan in—planting him in the crosshairs of Scott Jones, a rogue DEA Agent who will stop at nothing short of sabotage, heists, and murder to take down Ryan and the crime syndicate as it networks across Florida, the Caribbean and South America. And as the pursuit becomes a high stakes game of survival, Ryan has to decide if the wrong side of the law is the right place to be.

Click here to find out where you can get yourself a copy.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel is in the Gauteng E-Library

The most amazing thing happened to me on Friday. It was launch day for my new book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, so I took the day off work to promote it.

One of the first things I did, once I saw it was live on OverDrive, was to go and recommend it to the Gauteng E-Library. I've done the same thing with all my books, but so far, the library hasn't bought any.

I recommended it at just after 09:00 my time, and by 12:15, I received an e-mail from them to say that they'd bought it!

I'm over the moon! :)

Maybe it was because Memoirs is the first of my books that actually has a South African ISBN number. Or maybe it's the first of my books that they actually felt was worthy. I don't know.

Either way, it was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

If you happen to live in Guateng, and you have a library card, click here to visit the book's page at the library, and borrow it. If you're not in Gauteng, do some research and find out if your local library has an e-lending facility, and recommend it there.

If you don't have a library card, don't stress. Click here to see all the other places it's available.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Reviewing Books Before They're Released

On 9 February 2018, I sent out an e-mail to everyone who had expressed interest in my upcoming book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel. In that e-mail was a link to download the book, and a request to read it and write a review. The intention was for them not to post the review anywhere yet, but keep it safe on their computer, and post it on Goodreads and at least one retailer on release day, 6 April 2018.

The pre-order went live two weeks later, on 23 February, and the book was available on Kobo, Amazon, and Google Play Books. Meanwhile, one of my ARC readers, Milan Watson, had finished her copy already and, deciding she couldn't wait, posted a 5-star review on Goodreads!

Well, I wasn't exactly going to ask her take it down, now, was I? So I sent an e-mail to my ARC list, letting them know of the pre-order, and including links to Goodreads and those three retailers. I said that, while there was no rush, they could post their reviews so long if they had them.

Three more people posted reviews on Goodreads. One lady posted hers on Google Play as well, and another e-mailed me to let me know that she wanted to post it on Amazon but couldn't because it wasn't released yet.

So Amazon doesn't allow you to post reviews for pre-release books.

Okay, I guess that's not a huge shocker. It makes sense. Goodreads does, but that also kind of makes sense, since their primary purpose is for people to write reviews, and they understand the concept of Advanced Review Copies.

Google Play Books also does, though, and they're a retailer in direct competition with Amazon.

So what do you think? Do you think it's a good idea for retailers to allow people to review books before they're released? Why or why not?