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.