Tuesday 29 December 2020

My Favourite Books of 2020

 It's time again for my favourite books of the year. Of all the books I read during the course of 2020, these are the books I gave five star reviews to. Which is quite an achievement, because if you know me and follow my reviews regularly, you'll know that I'm very strict with my ratings. For me to give a book five stars, it has to be perfect. I mean absolutely flawless. It needs a perfect plot and perfect editing, with not a single typo or writing issue.

And this year has been a bumper year, because there are no less than five of them!

So without further ado, here they are, covers and synopsis. Click on the cover to read my review of the book in question on Goodreads, or click the link below each one to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Mute by Christine Bernard


Is it possible to live in the world without speech? How much would you change if you had to live only in your head?

This is exactly what thirty-three-year old Rebecca Marley is about to find out, as she embarks on this self-induced nine-month challenge. Will it be the peaceful reprise that she so desperately seeks? Or will she be forced to face aspects of herself that a noisy world helps hide so well?

[ Buy this Book ]

The Giver by Lois Lowry


In a perfect world, Jonas begins to see the flaws…

THE GIVER is the classic award-winning novel that inspired the dystopian genre and a major motion picture adaptation for 2014 starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything needed is provided. And at twelve years old, each member of the community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders.

Twelve-year old Jonas has never thought there was anything wrong with his world. But from the moment he is selected as the Receiver of Memory, Jonas discovers that their community is not as perfect as it seems.

It is only with the help of the Giver, that Jonas can find what has been lost. And it is only through his personal courage that Jonas finds the strength to do what is right…

The Giver is the award-winning classic of bravery and adventure that has inspired countless dystopian writers as the forerunner of this genre.

[ Buy this Book ]

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson


Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. Enter a stunning world where technology and humanity clash in terrifying and surprising ways.

Some people are implanted with upgrades that make them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities - and rights - of 'amplified' humans.

On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, 29-year-old Owen Gray discovers that his seizure-supressing medical implant is actually a powerful upgrade. Owen joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as 'amps' and is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumoured, a group of the most enhanced amps are about to change the world - or destroy it.

[ Buy this Book ]

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry


The fascinating sequel to THE GIVER which inspired the dystopian genre and is soon to be a major motion picture starring Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

GATHERING BLUE is a return to the mysterious but plausible future world of THE GIVER. It tells the story of Kira, orphaned, physically flawed, and left with an uncertain future until she is summoned by the Council of Guardians…

On her quest for truth that follows, Kira makes discoveries that will change her life and world forever.
Award-winning author Lois Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve and what could be considered valuable in this fascinating follow-up to THE GIVER.

[ Buy this Book ]

Messenger by Lois Lowry


Strange changes are taking place in Village. Once a utopian community that prided itself on its welcome to new strangers, Village will soon be closed to all outsiders. As one of the few people able to travel through the dangerous Forest, Matty must deliver the message of Village's closing and try to convince Seer's daughter to return with him before it's too late. But Forest has become hostile to Matty as well, and he must risk everything to fight his way through it, armed only with an emerging power he cannot yet explain or understand.

[ Buy this Book ]

Do you agree with my picks? Or have I given you any great books to add to your TBR pile?

Of all the books you read in 2020, which ones are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

See you in 2021!

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Here's the shortlist: Your Favourite Book of all Time

 As promised last month, the shortlist is out for your favourite book of all time is out.

See below for the list, and vote for your favourite.

If your favourite book of all time isn't on the shortlist, then I apologise; you'll get another opportunity next year. In the meantime, vote for your favourite out of the following:

Just like last time, I'll keep this voting open for a month or so, and I'll announce the winner on 19 January 2021.

Good luck!

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Blog Stats for 2020

 Even though I didn't do much blogging in 2020, my blog still received a respectable amount of traffic this year. I chalk that up to the fact that I have enough of a "backlist" to keep people interested, and I'm impressed.

Herewith, then, some interesting figures about the people who visited my blog in 2020, what they visited, and where they came from. I ran the report from 1 December 2019 to 30 November 2020, because December isn't over yet; I'll include December 2020 in next year's post.

Top Countries

  1. South Africa
  2. United States
  3. United Kingdom
  4. India
  5. Canada

There were almost twice as many visitors from South Africa as there were from the United States. I'm pleased with this because I am, after all, a South African author. A few years ago, the US dominated; I'm glad we SAffers are getting more Internet-savvy.

Top Browsers

  1. Chrome
  2. Safari
  3. Internet Explorer
  4. Android Webview
  5. Firefox

As a technical person, stats on browsers and operating systems really interest me. It's not much of a surprise to see Chrome still doing so well, with almost twice as many users as Safari. I'm surprised that Internet Explorer still features, though, and that Edge isn't even in the top 10!

Top Operating Systems

  1. Android
  2. Windows
  3. iOS
  4. Macintosh
  5. Linux

It's not that surprising that Android is on top. We've been getting told for many years now that Mobile is King. What is a bit surprising is how close Windows is. And it makes me kind of glad, because personally, I'm a desktop person and do the majority of my web surfing that way. It's nice to know that I'm attracting people who are similar to myself.

I also enjoy Linux, which is yet more evidence of that (iOS and Macintosh are the obligatory anomalies).

Top Search Queries

Now these are interesting! These are the exact queries people typed into Google (and other search engines), which led them to a page on my blog. It really gives you an insight into how people think.

  1. exclusive books ebooks
  2. 24symbols vs kindle unlimited
  3. amazon
  4. best fantasy books available on scribd
  5. can you get a Gauteng library card if you are not in Gauteng

Click on one of those terms to search for it on Google.

Most Viewed Posts

And here's what you've been waiting for! See how these correlate to the top search queries above. Click on one to view the original post.

  1. Overdrive Libraries in South Africa
  2. The Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit... On Scribd
  3. Featured South African Indie Authors
  4. Borrowing Books from the Gauteng E-Library
  5. Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited

Okay, so number three is an anomaly, but that's because I share that particular post every month on my social media, so more people find it that way than through search. All the others match up with one or more search terms, though.

Overall, I'm happy with these results, especially in light of the pandemic and lockdown. I hope you've found them as interesting as I have, and they've shown you a little more about me and my audience.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Do You Review Books on Your Mobile Device?

In case you didn’t know, many ereaders and ereading apps offer you the chance to write a review of the book you’ve just finished, right there on the device.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and she said this was actually one of her favourite features of ebooks.

My response was that I didn’t think anyone actually did that. I always skip that screen so I can get to my full-size desktop PC with a full-size monitor and full-size keyboard, and write a proper review. The idea of writing anything decent on a tiny touch-screen keyboard just makes me groan.

She said that if she had to wait until she got to her PC to write the review, it’d never happen because she prefers to use a computer as little as possible.

This led to a much longer discussion about how I prefer a PC to a mobile device for most things (except reading books, which I prefer to do on a tablet), and I always prefer a full-size keyboard and monitor to a built-in laptop one.

Other friends started chiming in, and it turned out that many actually prefer typing on a phone or tablet to a PC, and when they have to use a PC, they would rather work on a laptop/notebook than an external keyboard and monitor.

I was pretty gob smacked, because I have gigantic hands and poor eyesight, and given the choice, I’d rather use my PC for anything; I even tweet and Facebook from my computer!

Where do you stand, dear reader? Do you make use of these ereading apps that offer you the chance to review books? What about other things?

Do you prefer mobility and convenience over comfort and performance?

For Facebook and Twitter, at least, most of you do, based on the countless studies showing how most people use social networks from their phones. But surely not for serious, long-form writing. Surely?

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Do Kids Still Want Colouring Books?

 When I was a kid, every time we went to our local Pick 'n Pay, I'd insist on walking down the toy aisle. One of the things they always had in the toy aisle was a pile full of colouring books. Some of them were themed to whatever the latest craze was at the time (Masters of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spiderman, Batman, etc), and some were just themed to a particular thing (Animals, Cars, whatever).

Often, I'd nag my parents to buy me one, and then I'd take it home and spend hours on the floor with it and my box of crayons.

The books were really cheap, printed on recycled toilet paper or some such, ugly brown paper with tore if you pressed too hard, and where the colour bled through.

Do kids still do this?

If you have (or know) small children who like colouring in, take a look at these gorgeous colouring books my wife and I put together a few years ago.

Each one's filled with 64 themed colouring pages, printed on premium, high-grade paper (not that recycled toilet paper you get at the grocery shop).

Click on the image above to see all the places where you can buy the books. You can get them literally anywhere in the world, from the United States, to the UK, to South Africa, and others.

Depending on where you are in the world, I can't promise you'll have them by Christmas, but the sooner you order, the better your chances.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Your Favourite Book of All Time (2020 - Open Call)

It's been a while since I blogged about anything. Not since 7 April 2020, in fact. What can I say? Lockdowns have been hard, and it's been tough to get in the mood, much less think of something to write about.

And what better way to re-enter the blogging world, than to announce the (if I'm not mistaken) third annual "Favourite Book of All Time"?

So here we go — I’ll keep the voting open for about a month, until Tuesday, 22 December 2020. Until then, please fill in the following form and write in your favourite book of all time. Don’t forget to share this post with all your friends, and ask them to vote, too.

On 22 December, I’ll publish a new form with all the write-ins collated, and we can pick an ultimate winner from there.

Please only vote for individual books, though. Not the entire series. I won’t accept “Harry Potter”; please tell me which specific book in the series is your favourite. Ditto for “Lord of the Rings” (which is a trilogy, in case you didn’t know).

Sound good? Cool. Well, let’s go!

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Lockdown is hard on some people

In case you didn't know, South Africa (along with most of the world) is currently in lockdown to help flatten the curve and curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At the time of this writing, the lockdown is slated to end on 16 April 2020.

For the most part, I’ve been enjoying lockdown immensely. 

I’ve always been an introverted loner at heart, so the prospect of not being ALLOWED to go out and interact with people, even if I wanted to, has been strangely comforting to me. It’s renewed my soul, recharged my batteries, and is rekindling passions which have dwindled to little more than embers in recent months and years. 

But I’m also acutely aware that I have friends and family members who aren’t like me, and for whom lockdown feels like the worst punishment.

These are friends who thrive on physical human interaction, for whom video just isn’t enough. Friends who maybe even live alone—I can imagine just how terrible that must be. 

Or friends who, unlike me, aren’t lucky enough to live in free-standing houses with private outdoor areas that they can spend time in in seclusion, and still be more than a safe distance from their neighbours. 

Or divorced friends who are used to seeing their kids every second weekend and now aren’t sure when they’ll have physical contact again (bearing in mind that it’s entirely possible they’ll extend our lockdown way past 16 April). 

Or who’ve had loved ones pass away in other provinces or countries, and can’t attend funerals, or even be there to comfort and be comforted by their families. 

Or what about people who have to live with people who drive them crazy? Maybe it’s housemates... but maybe it’s even family; we love our spouses, children, and parents, but sometimes we can only handle them in small doses! 

Or (God forbid) friends who’ve either been diagnosed with the virus, or know people who have, and now find themselves scared and alone, with no idea what to expect. 

To all those friends and family who, for whatever reason, are having a terrible experience under lockdown, I need to tell you that I’m sorry for my selfishness.

And if you have any friends or family like that, please reach out to them. We introverts, we natural hermits, can often forget just how difficult it is for our extroverted friends. Pick up the phone (however much you may hate talking on the phone. I know I do.), give them a call. Find out if they're all right.

I promise you, they'll thank you for it!

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Who's Going to Win the March Ebook Voucher?

In case you missed it, allow me to announce the February winner of my monthly ebook voucher competition: For the second month in a row, the winner is... the wonderful, amazing, beautiful Joni Mielke!

Honestly, what more can I say about Joni that I haven't already said? Her dedication to authors is matchless and unprecedented, and it's not possible to articulate just how important she is to us.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to best her. It can be done, people! It can be done. Why not throw your hat in the ring for March? You never know. ;-)

How Do I Enter?

Every month I give away either a $5 ebook voucher to the store of your choice, or $5 in PayPal credit. Basically, all you have to do is write a review of one of my books.

Okay, so there's a little more to it than that.

First, you need to be a member of my email list, so if you're not already, click here, pick your free book (did I mention you get a free book?), and enter your email address.

Once I've confirmed your subscription, join our secret Facebook group, here. You'll need to enter the email address you used to subscribe to my emails.

If you've entered the right email address, and I can match you to my subscribers live, I'll approve your request. Then, visit the group again and read the "Announcement" at the top.

Follow the instructions you find there, and you might just see your name in this blog next month....

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Loads of books on sale for Smashwords Read an Ebook Week

Around this time every year, indie ebook retailer Smashwords runs a week-long promotion called Read an Ebook Week.

Now in its eleventh year, the 2020 is now on, and runs all the way to Friday 7 March 2020.

This year, I have two books enrolled in the sale, so if you hurry, you'll be able to get either Memoirs of a Guardian Angel or A Petition to Magic (or both) at 50% off. Click below for details.

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel

Do you believe in Guardian Angels?

Have you thanked your Guardian Angel today?

I never did... now I wish I had.

Now I understand the hard work and difficult situations they face every day. That car that veered off course, the knife that slipped or even the close call when you nearly tumbled from a tree.

It wasn't good luck that saved you, it was me.

My name is Adam and I'm a guardian angel.

A Petition to Magic

Queen Celeste rose to the throne of Virdura a month ago, after the sudden death of her mother.

Desperate to prove herself, she agrees to hear the case of a simple farmer who claims a neighbour stole his cow.

To help her in this task, she orders her chief advisor, the royal wizard Solon, to cast a spell and divine the truth for her. Solon, however, is keeping a terrible secret.

Got a Kindle?

If you have a physical Kindle, don't worry: all of my Smashwords titles are 100% compatible with your device.

After you've purchased, when asked which format you'd like to download, make sure you select the mobi (Kindle) option.

Then, take a look at this handy blog post for instructions on how to get the book onto your ereader and start reading.

If you don't have a physical Kindle, feel free to download the epub format instead.

Other Books on Sale

Mine aren't the only books on sale at Smashwords this week. Hundreds of authors have discounted hundreds of thousands of their books to anywhere from 25% to 100% off!

Click the button below to see all the books enrolled in the sale this week, and find a new favourite indie author.

Note: although my books are all available in mobi format, many Smashwords titles may not be. If you have a physical Kindle device, make sure the book you're about to buy is available to download in mobi (Kindle) format before you click that Buy button (if you don't have a physical Kindle, you can just get the epub version).

Tuesday 25 February 2020

And the winner of a $5 ebook voucher is...

Did you miss my announcement earlier this month on social media, about the winner of my monthly $5 ebook voucher giveaway?

If you did (or perhaps you just need a reminder), then allow me to announce that the winner for January was non other than Joni Mielke.

Joni is an absolute star. She's very active in the South African reading community, and is passionate about books and authors... especially South African authors, and especially indie authors. We really need more people like her!

She won with this amazing review of Memoirs of a Guardian Angel on Goodreads. Please help her get more exposure for her reviews, by "Liking" it on Goodreads and sharing it with all your friends.

How Do I Enter?

If you didn't know, every month I give away either a $5 ebook voucher to the store of your choice, or $5 in PayPal credit. Basically, all you have to do is write a review of one of my books.

Okay, so there's a little more to it than that.

First, you need to be a member of my email subscribers list, so if you're not already, click here, pick your free book (did I mention you get a free book?), and enter your email address.

Once I've confirmed your subscription, join our secret Facebook group, here. You'll need to enter the email address you used to subscribe to my emails.

If you've entered the right email address, and I can match you to my subscribers live, I'll approve your request. Then, visit the group again and read the "Announcement" at the top.

Sound like fun? If you love reading, and you love talking about books, it should be. :-)

Good luck!

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Wholistic with a "W"?

I got an email from one of my colleagues in the UK the other day. In it, she used the word "Wholistic", spelt with a "W".

I don't think the word was wrong, per se, but I'd never seen it spelt that way, so I asked Google to define it. Apparently, it's a variant spelling of the word "holistic":

Which didn't surprise me; I thought it was a UK thing.

But I did some further research, and I ran across this article from Merriam-Webster. It turns out that the first usage of the word was without the "W" (which isn't the surprising bit), and that it was first used by a South African!

The article states:
Holistic was coined by South African soldier and statesman Jan Christian Smuts in the 1920s as a philosophical term. Smuts, who—aside from war and politics—was a student of natural science, used the term to describe his complex philosophy regarding the organization of nature. Viewing the universe in terms of "wholes"—that is, organisms and systems instead of molecules and atoms—he derived holism from the Greek word holos, meaning "whole." In his 1926 book Holism and Evolution, he defines holism as "[the] tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution."
The "W" was tacked on shortly afterwards, but the original spelling continues to be the most common.

I love stories like this. Finding a "South Africanism" that's become commonplace all over the world fills me with patrotic pride.

Did you know this about the word "Holistic"? And can you think of any other South African words which non-South Africans from elsewhere in the world use all the time?

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Your Favourite Book of All Time (for 2020) is...

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

By overwhelming majority, the book that you have selected as your favourite book of all time is...

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

by J. R. R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. The text in this 372-page paperback edition is based on that first published in Great Britain by Collins Modern Classics (1998), and includes a note on the text by Douglas A. Anderson (2001). Unforgettable!

I first read The Hobbit in Junior High School (somewhere around Standard 7 / Grade 9), and I remember it affecting me profoundly. I've tried to read The Lord of the Rings many times since then, and only ever got past the first instalment; it just never really grabbed me. But The Hobbit, wow, now that was a story!

Have you ever actually read it? If so, is it your favourite book of all time?

If it isn't, did you vote for your favourite?

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Win monthly ebook vouchers over on my Facebook group

How would you like to win $5 (or equivalent in your currency), every single month?

This year, I'm running a competition over on my private Facebook group, where I'll be giving away ebook vouchers and PayPal credit every month, in exchange for you posting your reviews.

To find out more, join the group and read the announcement on the top.

Note: you must be a subscriber to my email list in order to join the group.

Are you already a subscriber? Click the image above, click Join, and enter the email address you used to sign up.

If not, click below and fill in your email address. Your Welcome email will contain a link to the group.

Good luck!!

Tuesday 21 January 2020

The Real Cost of Kindle Unlmited

Did you know, in order for us Indie authors to make our books available on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited platform, Amazon requires us to sign a very restrictive agreement with them?⠀
This agreement gives Amazon worldwide, exclusive rights to sell our ebooks. Which means:⠀

  • We are not allowed to make them available on ANY other platform, including digital libraries through library aggregators such as OverDrive
  • We're not allowed to use them as "reader magnets" (incentives to sign up to our newsletters) 
  • We're certainly not allowed to give them away, other than by gifting them on Amazon, or running officially sanctioned Amazon giveaways -which means we have to pay full-price for them

Running competitions where we email people mobi, epub, or PDF files, or hosting those books on BookFunnel, Prolific Works, etc, is against the terms of our contract with Amazon.⠀

If an indie author whose books are in Kindle Unlimited is caught doing any of these things, they could be banned from selling their ebooks on Amazon ever again, and might even get sued!

Yet, many authors who are in Kindle Unlimited do just that. They either don't realise that this is, in fact, against the terms of their contract with Amazon, or they underestimate how dangerous it is for their careers.⠀

So, if you see an indie author giving away a book that's in Kindle Unlimited, please say something. The contract they entered into with Amazon is legally binding, and very serious. The last thing you want is for your favourite author to fall foul of the law.

Incidentally, publishers of traditionally published books don't have to sign this exclusivity agreement, and can freely enter and leave Kindle Unlimited at will. Why? Because Amazon knows that these publishers would never stand for it.⠀

So why do so many indies stand for it?⠀

Well, a significant number of us WON'T stand for it. Which is why, for as long as Amazon requires us to sign this draconian exclusivity agreement, denying millions and millions of people access to our ebooks, you will NEVER find my books available in Kindle Unlimited.⠀

You can help by standing by me and other authors like me, and making it clear to Amazon that you won't support Kindle Unlimited as long as they persist in punishing indie authors, and the people who would otherwise discover, read, and potentially fall in love with our books.

For the full copy of the KDP Select agreement, which indie authors have to sign to make their books available in Kindle Unlimited, click here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/select

Tuesday 14 January 2020

The Stingers Second Edition Paperback is Out

The newly edited Second Edition paperback of my High School bullying story is now available, complete with a beautiful, brand new full-wrap cover!

I haven't even approved it for global distribution yet, but you can get it for 30% off from its official Lulu page. Once I've approved it, it'll be available everywhere else, but the 30% discount is only valid for a limited time.

What this means is, if you buy it now, one of two things will happen:

  • If there are errors in it, you have a highly valuable misprint, which will never be available for sale again!
  • If it's perfect, you're one of the first people to hold the new edition in your hands, and you got it for an amazing price.

What's more, if you happen to be in Joburg (Or you can get to Joburg), and you buy a copy, I'll sign it for you with the greatest of pleasure!!

Click the cover below to buy it from Lulu.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Your Favourite Book of All Time (Shortlist)

Well, well well, all through December, you voted for your favourite book of all time. And I can now share with you that the shortlist is out!

Write-in votes are now disabled, but please fill out the form below and pick which one of the following is your favourite.

Once again, I'll leave this running for a month or so, and close it off on Monday, 3 February 2020. I'll announce the winner on this blog on Tuesday 4 February.