Best books I’ve read this year… so far Part 2…

Because one measly blog post isn’t enough to cover the great books I’ve been immersed in during the first part of 2020 – year of the shit storm. And let’s face it, I love a sequel, I can’t help but leave the door open and in this sense it’s for the greater good of books so here we go, let’s dive in to some part 2 of best books….

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

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Westerns have always captivated my imagination. From the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to the modern television epic ‘Westworld’ and even the final part of my all time favourite film trilogy Back to the Future Part 3. I’m a connoisseur of modern country music and have even dabbled in possibly the greatest video game story ever told which also happens to be a western; Red Dead Redemption 2.

With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until the right book came along and The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is just that. Authentic history meets romance that spans over some years during a time in America where the modern world is still emerging. Nina Romano has constructed an epic tale of love that delves into Native American culture complete with the sights and smells. The love between the main protagonists is perceived as destiny and that’s how I saw it anyway. To quote my reviewIt’s both poetic and sometimes poignant while even being brutal in parts, of course the old world was back then and you cannot fault the factual elements that are intertwined with the fiction…’

‘The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb : The Willie Abrams Saga’ by C.J Evans

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Continuing with the historic fiction theme we’re going a few years ahead to a post WW1 world where a pair of american veterans are living out their retirement in Cuba (booze was banned back home). While it seems to be the ideal life, the sun, the sand and the daiquiris, history soon catches up with Willie Abrams. It’s part treasure hunt come rescue mission with a little dusting of Indiana Jones – if he went to middle america on a mission to find an artefact and use it to bargain for an old flames release. And quoting my review; The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb is an easy to read tale of action and adventure guaranteed to keep readers interested all the way to the end! This one will definitely whisk you away for a while!’

‘Scarred’ by Damien Linnane

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We’re going down the crime vigilante rabbit hole now with ‘Scarred’ by Australian author Damien Linnane who has put together a unique and sometimes violent tale that will question your judgement of justice. There’s a conflict in the story that runs throughout – that being whether or not the actions of the MC are right and wrong. To quote my review‘there are so many messages within the story such as revenge not always being the answer and the true morality of justice…’ 

American Blasphemer: A Novel by John Matthew Gillen

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This story captivated me like not many books do and I’m afraid that’s all I can say because ‘American Blashpemer’ is the first book I have read and reviewed for Reedsy Discovery and because it was an ARC, the review will be coming very soon, but trust me you don’t want to miss it!

Life Signs by Christina Engela

PHIS#2 Life Signs by Christina Engela - cover

The sci fi stories of Christina Engela appear quite frequently on my shelves, they are both fun and in good supply. Like the many of her books I have reviewed in the past ‘Life Signs’ deserves a shout out as well as the wider Panic! Horror in Space series. This one is a trio of stories that tie into the wider world of space, horror and even some comedy. To quote my review: ‘From poignant to quirky and fun, these stories pretty much cover everything that Engela is known for with a writing style and depth that will draw you in…’

‘Mr Mercedes’ by Stephen King

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Okay it may not be an indie book but sometimes we all need a break to switch things up. I bet Superman even has cheat days, not that I am comparing myself… plus I had this in paperback on my to read shelf for quite a while. Now I know, it’s Stephen King and if you tune into his twitter, we can probably describe his tweets as ‘interesting’ at best, he’s not quite at the J,K Rowling level yet but he’s on his way, the less said about that, the better….

Mr Mercedes is outside of the usual genre we all know and ‘love’ King for but he still manages to retain the depravity and the places he’s willing to go in order to tell a good crime story. That being retired detective who has let himself go is taunted by the criminal he never caught. It’s very readable, has a few gasp type moments and overall worth a look. You can check out my full review here

And so that wraps up another Best Books blog post. Of course there are still some other books which didn’t get a mention, so look out for them! Peace out, thanks for reading, stay safe… 

 

Best Books I’ve read this year, so far…

Whoa we’re halfway there… but I suppose with all that’s going on, living on a prayer is out the window… but books aren’t and no matter what shit storm is going down out that window, the Hall of information vowed to carry on and carry on is what we have done!

Now that we are halfway through 2020, I am also half way through my TBR list and so here’s a breakdown of some of my best reads so far…

 

‘Dead End’ (Clown Conspiracy Book 1): A Short Thriller’ by Mallory Kelly

 

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Short books don’t get nearly enough credit especially when they do everything a longer book can. This series known as the ‘Clown Conspiracy’ is like a bunch X-files episodes that all carry the same chilling clown type theme but branch out in story with individual arcs in each addition. From this first one I was hooked and went back to the series over the past six months. Give short reads a chance! Here’s my review from January

 

‘Nocturnal Farm’ by Villimey Mist

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Vampire stories are still very relevant today, even more so when they break the usual mould and take a path less travelled like Nocturnal Farm which is the sequel to Nocturnal Blood. Book one was a chase style story that introduced the universe while this one represented more of a rescue effort while uncovering more of the vampire world already introduced. The MC is a sufferer of OCD and anxiety, but it’s not glorified or exploited, it’s highlighted in a brave and original way.  The Nocturnal series is definitely the one to watch right now as more sequels are planned! My full review is here. 

Break Them All!!: A Modern Era Awakening! by DRTao

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The Hall of Information proudly takes on books from all corners of genre. Fiction or non-fiction we’re happy to read them and this unique self help book can best be described as ‘A unique mind opening insight into breaking the shells that govern our existence…’ and that’s taken straight from my review.

Break them all can be picked up by anyone looking for a little more insight into their own mind. It’s written in that accessible way and like I said in my review It’s intelligent but easy to take in and highlights how to see things differently and perhaps not the way we usually see them.’

Nightjar by Paul Jameson

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Every now and then a true literary gem comes along and this one took me by complete surprise. So much so I had to drop mostly everything and just read it cover to cover. Nightjar can best be described as something between folklore and fantasy while being written in a classic literary style. It’s a fresh story with an oldie style and that will take you back and it’s a combination that makes this one a potential read of the year! Trust me, check it out, my review is here…

Swinging Sanity by N.F. Mirza

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And now some poetry because every reader’s list should have some on and mine is no different. ‘Swinging Sanity’ is a deep and sensory collection of poetry, by that I mean it’s  an emotion fuelled account full of feelings that covers a range of subjects. ‘From self harm, depression, anxiety, loneliness, love, individual suffering and pain to everything else that centres around our sanity, you’ll see it represented here without any reservations and with honesty – something the world needs to talk about more…’  Check out my full review here…

The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle by Donald Lee

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The Hall of Information was approached directly by Donald Lee who introduced his work and it didn’t take much to convince me to check it out. This collection of scenarios serve as parables related to the teaching of music that reflects on lessons learned. The subject matter ranges from time management, knowledge, belief, having fun, performing, forgiveness, failure and so much more (50 in total). This is a book that’ll make you think and hopefully motivate you to be better in the same sense. My full review is here…

Memories of Mars: a Novella (Custodian Library Archives Book 1) by Colin Yeoman

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I cannot stress how good short books can be when they are good and Memories of Mars is one that caught me off guard yet again. Part science fiction and part literary ficton, this brand of ‘Fringe fiction’ faces the age old question about our origins and that of the red planet’s. To quote my reviewColin Yeoman has cleverly fused real elements of biological transmission experimentation with the human memory which possibly fills in the gaps of our history in the universe and more specifically Mars which is wholeheartedly original…’

And so that wraps up my ‘best books of 2020 so far’ but there are a stack of great reads I did not mention as I am saving them for the yearly review. Thanks for stopping by!

Joining Reedsy Discovery…

So it seems my book reviewing efforts have been noticed. Last month Reedsy Discovery reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining their platform. After some consideration I’ve taken the plunge in what I hope to be new sights and new heights for the Hall of Information.

Reviewing Independently published books for me carries an abundance of rewards from discovering great stories to connecting with fellow authors who also struggle to get their words seen by the world. Along the way I’ve connected with some wonderful people from all over the world who not only appreciate my reviewing efforts but in return have supported me and stuck around to check out my blogging. Some have even taken strides towards buying my books and so the circle of  life books is complete…

A New Concept in Book Discoverability: Reedsy Discovery Book ...

Reedsy Discovery is a reviewing platform that champions new and indie published books but just at a higher level than I am doing right now. The truth is I am still a small island and can only reach so many wordsmiths who are in need of support. The platform provides a greater reach and provides reviewers with a free copy in exchange for a review within a certain time frame. Looking at the site and how it works is a step up from my usual take my time endeavours and so I consider this a massive move in the world of book reviewing. The good thing is I am still able to support indies who have submitted to the site and so the blogging efforts on here shall continue! Reedsy have a certain submission standard and so you can expect me to be reviewing indie books of a the highest quality.

The reviews I do with Reedsy will first premiere on their platform via my profile and then arrive here and the usual places after. You can check out my profile here  and of course if you are on Reedsy let’s connect!

What does this mean for authors who have reached out to me and their stuff that I have on my tbr? 

I’m still committed to reviewing and reading indie books from all over and not just specifically Reedsy so this blog and it’s efforts won’t be going far. The hope is for it’s reach to increase!

For all those who have helped the Hall of Information get noticed like this, I salute you!

 

The Paris Rescue: The Willie Abrams Saga by C.J. Evans – Review

Action, adventure and history; a combination that makes for a good read and sequel…

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The story of Willie Abrams continues and this time he must face the place that haunts his war time past, peacetime France. We’re taken specifically to the city of Paris on a rescue mission first planted in the previous outing. This time around Abrams is accompanied by long time friend Banesfield and of course old flame Julie who’s father they are looking to save. They carry a dynamic and likeable chemistry that fits well into the the genre which has action, deception and twists.

From the Eiffel tower to the catacombs below this adventure spans the city where the trio team up with someone they first thought were adversaries making for a unique scenario where Julie wants her father returned safe. It becomes a sort of cat and mouse chase that is capped off with an action packed shoot out.

The Paris Rescue is a fun immersive read with a satisfying feel good resolve while also nodding to a potential sequel.

4 Stars 

Weekly Ramble #74

I’m starting to embrace and enjoy the semi lock down lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I miss people, I miss gatherings, I miss the opportunity to have conversations but many of the lifestyle elements right now I am enjoying. 

It’s a case of embracing what is good in a shituation. That’s what this is and for so much bad that has come from this, it’s also been a huge opportunity to take on things that I wouldn’t normally take on. In the beginning I got myself back into booze nearly every night. Drinking for me has always been a vessel to good times and so I leaned on that perception to have a ‘few’ every night and for a while it worked as a coping mechanism. We all know that’s a slippery very short term slope and especially so for the health situation and of course the scales which I quickly became unhappy with.

The lock down was something that began to piss me off, no matter what I did and so my mental health took a hit for a small time but I’m pretty damn good at getting my ass up off the ground. I took one big look at myself and said ‘I can do more with these days’ and I’m lucky enough to have a work that has continued to pay and employ me, just on a different basis. I have to attend work for two shifts every 6 days, day time or night time.

For someone who’s been held down by the excuse of work for pretty much everything I eventually crawled away from that because of all this time I now have. I’m getting up before 9 every day, I’m eating clean, I’m exercising every morning and then leaving my afternoons to write and read. This is the best shape my schedule has been in for a long time. It’s like being semi retired and I’m doing stuff I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe finding the best out of a bad situation is really the best way any of us can cope…

How are you coping right now? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #73

I’m off booze. Abstaining from excessive snacking. Taken away the junk. But still scales you deceive me with your consistent high numbers… Is this lock down fat more stubborn? Is the increased amount of running not enough? What else do I need to do in order to get that number you deceive me with down, you dirty deceiver… 

There ain’t much to get out of bed early for in these times. To go running so I don’t get heat stroke or have to cross the damn street because everyone and their mates dog has taken up walking. I get up for that and for the weigh in with hopes its less than before. Still the results aren’t happening. I’m literally running distances I haven’t since the beginning of my twenties. Injuries throughout the past ten years kept me back but now I am bombarding this campaign with good stuff.

Do I have to take away everything nice I eat and drink in order to drop just one measly pound. Just one less than yesterday please. Must heaven and earth be moved for just a slight decline in numbers?  God I’ve never been so damn hungry…

‘I Will Kill You in My Dream’ by Kristina Gallo – Review

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Be careful with dreams, they may come true….

Everyone who has been through the struggle of fitting in at school can relate to this short story about teens in Croatia during a time of transition for the country. Teachers from the previous political regime don’t help, parents cannot relate and the popular kids don’t help. If you’re not one of them it’s difficult. Even if you attempt to get in on the social scene it involves going to a seedy club where ‘whoever survives could make a story’ which works as a metaphor for the wider environment this story is set.

‘Helena’ like a lot of teens has potential but is otherwise engaged, for this she is berated by the school while also made to feel invisible. She’s not a bad student but perhaps she attracts bad things and then the dreams begin…

‘I will Kill You in My Dream is an engaging and satisfying short story with a supernatural edge about the struggle of being a teen.

4 Stars

Let’s talk about… Bad Reviews

It’s a fantasy to think everyone is going to like your writing and as soon as you become active in the social media arena or have achieved publication, that work no longer belongs to you.

SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP! How to Handle Bad Book Reviews (Hint: Do ...

Dealing with reviews of all types is a letting go exercise trust me and this relates to the coping mechanism I have in place when someone calls bullshit on my work or fixates on something arbitrary that spoiled their reading experience and totally didn’t grasp what I tried to achieve in writing…

I could go on, but you have to accept that firstly be proud of your work but remember it’s up to everyone else to interpret the words, so to cope you must let it go man… 

There isn’t much you can do to stop bad reviews and how exactly does one define ‘bad’?

Again we mustn’t dwell on content of the review but look past it towards coping because this stuff like most publishing ‘success’ is in the eye of the beholder and you’ve gained that review because someone took the time to read your work and perhaps even found it via their own accord.

Criticism is a sign you are a known entity in your field and so let’s look at why someone could have left a scathing review by analyzing the type of review it is… (I may or may not have received some on these…) while also sourcing a solution or at least a way to cope.

The Revenge /Retaliation Review 

This type of review is most probably a direct response to something you’ve possibly reviewed or called out as bad in the past. The person has taken it very personally and so they’ve taken that and converted it into a short but very insulting review. It could even be borderline abusive and compulsive and is highly unlikely that they’ve actually read your work. There’s probably nothing in the review that relates to the story.

Solution: Oh boy, integrity is the word here. That investigative blog post you wrote has backfired a little… or that review for a book you didn’t like has opened a can of worms…

Look at it like this; you have work published which is just a vulnerable outlet for someone to retaliate. Stand strong, take a breath and know the person just left these words to be spiteful. If it is abusive and on Amazon, you can always report it or if you have the tact, maybe take down whatever triggered the review. But as I say, have some integrity, this type of review will stick out like a sore thumb and most likely not be taken into account by readers. Let it be.

 The ‘Fixation Excuse’ review

Every now and then someone will take on your work and deliberately go looking for something they can use to bash it. They will fixate on something that happens in the story and won’t be able to look past it. Maybe you’ve used a slang word or god forbid even a swear word that they just cannot forgive. Did your character do something out of character? How dare they… Even in this world of adults writing books, some reviewers will lower themselves to childish levels just to not like something.

Whatever they’ve fixated their excuse upon means they probably haven’t grasped the story you wrote – they most probably know fuck all about writing either…

Solution: That book bloggstagrammer you gave a free e copy to has backfired big time! But use it to your advantage. Console in your twitter following and watch people come swooping in to put in the save because for every two star review I’ve got and bunch of better reviews came after. These type of reviews make great material to use for marketing trust me…

I even responded to such a review via one of my weekly ramble posts which got a serious amount of views. Of course you want to see that now don’t you? It’s here...

The ‘wannabe columnist/scholar’ review

Who Gets to be Called "Scholar of Islam"? | The Muslim Skeptic

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There’s a special place in reviewer hell for people who want to ultra analyse stories and find every possible flaw while also trying to be a scholar when comparing your work to others. They would have read your work in its entirety but would have also dissected it like it were a final dissertation or essay about the themes of an avocado…

Trust me when I say there are people out there who try to out write and even try to look more intelligent than the writer by being rather overindulgent in their words. They might even use the phrase ‘diablo ex machina’ to describe your debut novel – whatever the fuck that means… other words that frequent are: archetype, participles, and apathetic.

Solution: Sit back and laugh at how much effort they’ve put in to try and appear like a scholarly critic. I will say this once and once only THEY ARE JUST BOOKS!

But seriously you will need to look at the star rating to tell if they liked it. Treat it like a one off…

The ‘Did they like it or not?’ Review

Okay so we’re moving into the realms of comedy now which means these types of review are a lot easier to swallow. This review may appear in many types of form but will include an introductory compliment before a ‘not my cup of tea’ type insult before more compliments along the lines of ‘I didn’t like this one, but I will be sure to check out his other works although he’s a pig…’

You’re left thinking ‘did they like it or not’ and well the solution is this…

Solution: At this point who gives a shit if they liked it or not, they left a review which will contribute to your Goodreads stats. Thank you kind or unkind stranger…

Final Thought and The ‘Dont’s’ of bad reviews

It’s cliche to say but don’t respond to any type of review directly. Good or bad stay away. If you are particularly bothered by it then do blog, tweet and shout about it. Reviews are the pipeline to publicity for your work. Embrace them even the ‘diablo ex machina’ whatever that means ones, even the bad ones and remember like a balloon filled with helium, letting it go means it will disappear. 

You just need to find a way to cope and then all reviews will have a positive outcome,

Thank you for reading. How do you face ‘bad reviews’?

No ‘diablo ex machinas’ were harmed in the making of this blog post… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Mr Mercedes’ by Stephen King – Review

Satisfying and suspenseful crime thriller that’ll keep you reading….

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While Stephen King might be known for stories with a paranormal edge he’s more than capable of delivering one in the realms of a modern crime thriller. Of course he keeps the depravity and absurdity close nit because that’s what he does and I might be questioning my own tastefulness here when I say I kind of enjoy where he goes sometimes; even if its on the fringes sick. This is for all intents and purposes to tell a story and that he does here.

We see the typical loner/mother issues/tech nerd killer who takes his own aspirations to more and more depraved heights while he also taunts the cop who could never catch him, a retired detective. This could have been a police procedural if the main character ‘ Bill Hodges’ hadn’t given back his badge so instead its a cat and mouse private investigator type set up that grows more and more dramatic. While he chooses not to confide in old colleagues about a still to be caught perp, he takes the taunting personally and this sets up the perfect conflict that double backs on the story.

There are secondary characters that bring possibly more dimension than the mains and they become needed by ‘Hodges’ in this world of computers, social media and technology. By the end you’re rooting for them to pull out the win. It’s dark, urban, mystery intertwined and thrilling fun written in the highest quality.

5 Stars – My first paperback read in nearly two years. Back to indie reads now…. 

Let’s talk about… Book Marketing

Do you feel slightly dirty whenever you spam the link to your book on social media? People who see it feel the same too because nothing is worse than seeing an author constantly spamming their own social media platforms with their own stuff…

I thought its best I put together some other methods to get folks to buy and more importantly read your books. Marketing is the most overlooked part of being a writer and the excuses range from ‘I’m an introvert’ to ‘I’m not a salesman’. Well the truth is you need to be neither to get reads and sales. While selling stuff is subjective I can happily admit I’ve sold a few books in most corners of the civilised world so this is my talk about book marketing…

What you need to do above all is to set out a realistic and achievable goal. Before you even start, ask yourself what I do want to get out of this book I have bestowed upon the world?

What do you want and what do you need to do in order to get it?

Sales and money ? – in this age of everyone self publishing (which is good and sometimes very bad…) I wish you all the luck in the world. Unless it’s about a real current thing that’s gone crazily popular or even a masterpiece you’ve written, don’t expect instant bucks, just don’t. Breaking even is a dirty word around here… and so I can’t help with this one…

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People reading and reviewing your work – now this is a very achievable goal and the chances are of it happening will grow as you release more stuff – that is if you intend to write more than one book like a real writer… There are many a different factors that govern whether or not people will see you work, pick it up and then review it. I can’t list them all but here’s a mini breakdown.

  1. Reasonable Price
  2. Decent Blurb
  3. Decent pro cover art
  4. Catchy title that matches genre and cover
  5.  A social media presence of some kind

That’s great and all but HOW can I get people to read my work?

Well if you have the 5 factors above ticked then all you have to do is let the world know about it. And no don’t just go spamming the link every 5 minutes. Do these things instead:

  1. Reach out to book bloggers for a review – offer a free copy in exchange. We don’t bite…
  2. Friends and relatives are a great starting point for reads/reviews. Ask them to help.
  3. Give your E-book away for free and pay for advertising through many book promo sites – check this post out for more info on that 
  4. Read and review other authors works – many writers will repay you because that’s just manners (don’t expect this though).
  5. Write another book and then another – writers with a back catalogue will most likely have returning readers if they liked one of your titles. Immediately after reading my first Crichton novel, I pursued his whole catalogue…
  6. Start a blog like this and talk about the laments of being a writer. Share your woes, book sales results and give back to the community.

Some writers who stubbornly say they wont give their work away for free will not get very far. Unless you are already famous or some kind of popular figure it’s highly likely you are starting this from zero. Sometimes setting the price to zero will attract readers who might buy at full price next time.. this then leads into…

Use social media properly – The word ‘properly’ is just my humble opinion but I cannot stress enough how important it is to be active on social media and to engage with others both respectfully and genuinely.

What is social media? Here are 34 definitions… – Econsultancy

Don’t just share your book link, don’t, I see you’re about to do it, just don’t!

Instead comment on other authors posts, be encouraging, friendly, follow back and retweet stuff. Trust me this will turn more heads than anything else on social media and of course Twitter. Be genuine.

If you want my top tip have a real profile picture. This is a very simple and effective way to be genuine. People who don’t have an actual person as a profile picture have an incomplete stance on social media, plus it’s kinda creepy that you would wish to remain anonymous. Honestly show your pretty face, it can’t be that bad…

Be patient – okay this one might be a cop out, but good things like having sales and reads take time, commitment and books. Write more, dive into the words and don’t dwell on people who haven’t discovered your work.

Many many more things – there are a stack of more things that come into play with book marketing, perhaps for another post sometime. But don’t forget luck, the time of year, what’s happening in the world and many many more things need to be taken into account in book marketing…

The biggest challenge any author faces is not the writing but what comes after. Informing the world you exist is that challenge. Embrace it, go after it and more importantly don’t give up on it. Giving literature to the world is a gift trust me…

And if you enjoyed this post head on over to my Facebook page and give it a like becasue that’s the place where I give away books!