Weekly Ramble #103

The stats are the greatest they have ever been for this blog. This month for the first time we broke the 2000 view barrier. Driven by consistent creative content and a loyal readership (you) this Hall of Information is reaching greater and greater heights by the day. Its almost like things are aligning all of a sudden although it has taken a long time to reach this point.

Any worthwhile venture takes time and this blog’s eventual success has proven that. From the initial launch all the way back in 2014 to the many different steps its taken. All of this has been governed by innovation and by that I mean the sheer will to find new ideas that work in reaching readers. Offering book reviews turned a corner although that took at least a year to establish any level of notoriety – only recently have I had to close submissions. And now the next step is upon us.

You can expect even more diverse content as a new era unfolds for this Hall of Information because more and more guest writers are submitting excerpts and articles. We are at a point now where the next two weeks of guest spots are fully booked which tells me we are doing something right. The best way a blog can grow is to produce more content and content that is diverse. I am now outsourcing some of it because only one man can write so much. In the next few weeks you’ll be seeing posts that will hopefully elevate the creators and keep you entertained. My aspiration for the future is to create a network of blogging where more and more writers contribute while also benefiting from the exposure of this blog’s following which is constantly growing. This has been further galvanised by an engaged and responsive Twitter following and I hoping to bring that here.

At the very forefront of this blog is book reviews and author support. That will continue because it is the centre pillar of everything to me only now it will be accompanied by a lot more content that hopes to help others further and inspire readers. We are always looking for new ways to entertain and inform the awesome supporters of this blog and so that next step beckons!

Submissions are still open for guest posts which has now been extended to sharing excerpts of books. Got an awesome first page or a memorable scene? We are happy to feature it here in front of an awesome growing audience. Head on over to the submissions page for more information.

Weekly Writing Inspiration #31

We’re back after what feels like an absence from the memes and inspiration. It’s March somehow also. Let’s dive in…

Yep, my thoughts exactly…

Anyone else?

Just as well cats can’t review their owners on Goodreads otherwise that’ll be 1 stars all around…

Palpitation City – population me…

All the time…

A pioneer

Happy Gilmore will forever be my favourite Sandler film…

The wait has been unbearable…

Actual Author Inspiration Moment of the Week

Thank you to fellow author T.R. Hamby for leaving this wonderful review of Open Evening. It has been quite a while since that book saw any love.

And that wraps things up. Peace out, thanks for stopping by…

Guest Book Reviews and Articles wanted!

The Hall of Information blog is officially opening it’s doors for guest book reviews and articles from fellow wordsmiths. Are you an author looking to showcase a review of a book but don’t have a platform to share it on? Have you written an article about your writing journey and want to publish it in front of an audience? This blog has over 700 followers and is always looking for new things to read!

This blog is built upon supporting others and if you have a review of a fellow author’s book or an article we will happily promote it and you on here.

A new section has been added to the menu bar and it’s dedicated to anyone who want’s to submit something as a guest. You’ll find specific submission guidelines and a contact form. Specifically we are looking for indie book reviews and reviews of books published by smaller presses.

After pitching this idea via Twitter it was relatively well recieved and so here I am. If you have an indie book review or article, we want to hear from you! Do reach out via the Submit a Book Review/Article Section.

‘Blachart’ by Christina Engela – Review

Enjoyable action-packed original space sci-fi

Christina Engela delivers with this action packed tale that introduces the Galaxii series; an expansive world of Imperial space fleets, distant planets, space pirates and beyond. Utilizing her unique, fun and strong narration style we meet ‘Mykl d’Angelo’ who serves firstly as a mystery man seemingly marooned alone in space until the authorities take him in and learn he is trustworthy. His brutal back story becomes apparent and as a reader you naturally side with him. Whether it be for his quick witted one liner’s or ability to deal with most situations and seemingly get out of them; the Imperial space fleet soon employ d’Angelo. He even reconnects with an old flame in the form of ‘Ripley Jones’ who vouches for him.

The real threat in Engela’s deep space Galaxii universe and much like many of her other books are the Corsairs – a mystery group of pirate types who appear to ravage any civilisation they can. Soon enough d’Angelo’s rescuing ship comes across another vessel manned by them and so the action, drama and deception begins. In order to fully intercept the Corsair world, they must align with an unexpected ally.

While this tale is wholly original there are some fun references throughout from old school weaponry, pirate slang terms and even a hilarious fast food reference. From shootouts to car chases this book has everything fans of sci fi action could want. It’s imaginative, highly readable and fun much like many of Christina Engela’s works which I highly recommend!

5 Stars – A cracking read. Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon. Thank you to the author for providing a copy to review.

Spooky Season Book Recommendations 2

What’s better than one post dedicated to spooky season book recommendations? Two posts dedicated to to spooky season book recommendations, so come with me on another journey showcasing some reads that are perfect for Halloween…

“Something happened tonight, I don’t know what. Something that ripped the veil between the Chicago of the living and the Chicago of the dead…” 

Undertown: A Novella by [K. Noel Moore]

You should know by now that here at the Hall of Information we love a good novella and this one fuses history with some serious ghostly spookiness. The prohibition era meets the supernatural as K.Noel Moore tells a story that’s readable in just a few sittings and will make for one of those perfect reads for Halloween.

A slow burning tale that twists into the deep shadowy darkness of the unexpected…’

Blood of the Sixth by [K. R. Rowe]

There’s a lot going on under the surface of a story which sits within the realms of gritty urban horror, mystery and witchcraft. While it is a complex story it’s also very well executed by K.R. Rowe. The whole layout of the book from short sharp chapter length, to characters all the way to general story has been well thought out and makes for some perfect spooktober reading. Be warned this one’s a little brutal – I’m kind of numbed to that sort of thing…

Be careful with dreams, they may come true….

Most of us can relate to the struggle of fitting in at school and Kristina Gallo has used that as inspiration to tell this story with a supernatural edge that guarantees to satisfy. It’s a shorter read but still manages to entertain. This one I recommend for Halloween but the other works of Kristina I highly recommend also! You can check out a recent Hall of Information interview with her here.

Page turning space sci-fi full of chills and fun from beginning to end…

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy space science fiction quite a lot and my go-to author of that genre is Christina Engela who once again provides another awesome series but this one contains some chilling but fun spills that begins with ‘Dust’. The ‘Panic! Horror in Space’ series is well worth a look for some awesome Halloween spooky goodness.

Did you expect any less than a little shameless self promotion? Let’s face it, you’re gonna get that on here but with good reason because my 5th book ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ is FREE on Halloween! This memoir style account relays the story of one lonely soul who connects with another not of this mortality. It’s short, powerful and most probably an important moment for me as the milestone 5th book mark was crossed with it – apparently after releasing that number of books things start to happen and well something good has been happening since on here… What if the greatest love story was also a ghost story?

A twisting unpredictable creature feature set in a small town with a big secret…

A small town, an ancient monster and some history to boot – let’s face it that concept is right up my alley and ‘Rites of Passage’ makes for some decent wintery/Halloween reading. An ensemble of characters band together to fight evil on several fronts with some action and a few twists along the way. I first reviewed this one over on Reedsy Discovery

A modern vampire story that takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns…

Nocturnal blood

Good and original vampire stories are hard to find but Villimey Mist is leading the charge with her gory but always enjoyable ‘Nocturnal’ series that begins with Nocturnal Blood. We see a young lady thrown into the world of vampires while also suffering from debilitating anxiety and OCD. She must endure a journey into what is just the tip of the ice cap as there is more to come from this series which will get the third book next year.

And so that wraps up part 2. Wishing you all a spooky Halloween and see ya’ll in the next one!

Weekly Writing Inspiration #14

It’s Friday again and so with that in mind let us celebrate with some moderate to light humour in the form of partially inspirational but always fun memes…

The nap is and always will be an institution for me…

I feel as if only certain generations will get this one…

YouTube are really grinding my gears at the moment with the double advertising and then being torpedoed with built in sponsors….

Isn’t that all of us? And if you didn’t get the memo, wear a mask!

2020 has been a pretty awesome voyage of discovery in both reading and getting to know some of you. Long may this continue…

Inspirational writing moment of the week comes from this wonderful review posted by awesome blogger and big time supporter of my stuff Nicole from Mullen Crafts – a blog that you totally should follow and support, go now….

I reckon the trick is to not have a day off. I don’t think there has been a day where I haven’t been doing something bloggy or writer for a long time…

Okay I went there, but it’s true, damn true…

Well I don’t think it gets better than a duck in a hat so that is where I shall hang my hat and finish this here post. Thanks for tuning in, see you in the next one!

Recent Reedsy Discovery Reads Issue 1…

It’s been 4 months since I joined book review platform Reedsy Discovery and my experience so far has been mostly good. Not only have I read some pretty cool books but I’ve also connected with some awesome authors. Let’s take a look at what I’ve read recently…

American Blasphemer by John Gillen is a potential read of the year for me and what a way to arrive on a new book reviewing platform. This contemporary/literary fiction story reads like an autobiography and its a dysfunctional one at that. If you’re okay with profanity, swearing and sexual stuff that’s turned all the way up to the extreme you’ll probably enjoy this one although it’s about way more than that trust me. It’s a series of encounters that make up an anti bible of sorts told through the eyes of someone trying to make their way through life in modern America. Like my review said it’s “a masterful labour of modern honesty, told through the lens of a lonesome soul trying to figure out this world and life… 

Rites of Passage by Chad Lehrmann is “a twisting unpredictable creature feature set in a small town with a big secret… and it’s my second Reedsy Discovery Review. Although I am a sucker for small town horror this one did have quite a few tropes usually seen in the genre along with it being the typical ‘chosen one’ story. Saying that this book did enough to hold my attention, it’s well paced and the pages fly by. Full review here.

Senescence by Denver Scott is another potential read of the year and was also my first 5 star Reedsy Review because it’s an incredible deep dive into our potential future. Science fiction and non fiction merge in what is a plethora of all things cosmos and wider science that looks at the many aspects of humankind. Just what will our future look like? Find out with this highly readable and accessible book that boldly goes where not a lot of books have been before – seriously check it out. My full review is here….

The Dreamophile’s Diary by Shazrina is both unique and surreal which is exactly what dreams can be like – the very essence of that weirdness is captured quite well in this series of short stories all based on, you guessed it, dreams. “Life is strange indeed, sometimes what you most desire becomes futile for you the very next moment…” You can read my full review here….

Noxious by Bruce Knapp is a book for those who love their horror with variety. From witchcraft to possessions and everything else that could possibly be enveloped by the shadows of the macabre this one is a page turner. Of course Bruce Knapp is no stranger to the Hall of Information as last year we reviewed the short stories that make up his Night Audit series and now he’s back with another series all based around the town of Blackwater. Watch this shadowy and dark space! Full review here….

And so that wraps up Issue 1 of what I hope will be a quarterly exploration of Reedsy Discovery Reads. If you’re on the platform come and say hi. Until next time, peace out!

Hall of Information Investigation: Being paid to leave 5 Star Book Reviews on Amazon

This post is designed to inform and help those in the online world of authoring and reading. It is an investigative exploration more than anything. While the subject matter might be subjective, this isn’t the place to be throwing differing opinions around, it is here to be spotlighted.

For the purpose of this investigation, no parties other than myself will be directly named. Let us explore the concept of being paid to leave 5 stars review on Amazon…

Introduction

The world of Amazon reviews is huge business these days. For authors; probably the greatest struggle to get in all of publishing. Nobody has ever complained of having too many reviews and every author I know has faced this at some point as their greatest lament in writing. Don’t get me started on the lower star reviews either…

Authors are always looking for more ways to get those reviews – many seem to think this is the only way to sell books and there are several high end book promo sites that only showcase books with a higher amount of reviews. Authors sometimes shout to the high hills about how important reviews are, especially indie authors and most of the time it goes unheard so there’s a general feel of frustration around the subject. It’s a huge never going away need that can unfortunately be exploited. Exploiting the desperation of a person isn’t a new tactic, it’s basically what sales can be defined by.

Here we have a product, and our marketing team are going to tell you how you need it. You will then feel you can’t live without it and then you’ll buy it…’ – Businesses everywhere, all the time.

Getting book reviews is a constant itch that can only be temporarily scratched. There are several thousands of folks out there who see this as an opportunity to make a fast buck. There are even those who will use readers to carry out the hard work and siphon huge amounts of money in the process all the while working around Amazon who take this very seriously. This is probably why I have written this post, not to controversy grab for reads, not to name and shame but to inform and hopefully get the message across that authors are being exploited for reviews (which aren’t the be all and end all), but what exactly am I trying to inform you about?

Being approached to write 5 star reviews…

I’d never been approached as a reader to leave 5 star reviews on Amazon until the other day an ‘account’ slid straight into my DM’s . For the sake of this post let us call this account ‘Reputable Readers’ and what exactly did ‘RR‘ say in said DM?

(Paraphrased and wording changed)

‘Hey, wanna review books for (undisclosed amount of money)?’

(Three/four paragraphs of waffle about what services they provide for authors and books)

‘There’s a certain expectation that you should leave a 5 star review. We’ll pay you (undisclosed amount of money) per 5 star review’

‘We’ll also pay to buy the books you review just so they are verified purchases via a well known online payment thing. You stay classy!

‘Representative from Reputable Readers’

What’s the big deal about this?

From the paraphrased message and trust me, this is everything relevant they said, you can see they wanted me to just leave 5 star reviews for books they recommend. It’s what they haven’t mentioned that serves as red flag numero uno. There is no mention of leaving an honest review or even reading the work that I would have to buy. They are pretty up front about it but in a clever way and clever is probably what this whole deal seems on the surface.

This whole ‘service’ looks to be instigated via Twitter messages and under the radar. ‘RR’ will approach an author desperate for reviews > author likes the concept and agrees, then pays undisclosed amount of money (probably a lot) > ‘RR’ approaches a willing reviewer offering part of that undisclosed amount of money > Reviewer does all the work, leaves review, verified purchase.

‘RR’ have no real interaction on Amazon and they basically serve as an expensive middle man that rakes in the cash and gives a little to the reviewer who has left the review on their own account. All which operates undetected. A cash incentive will always persuade someone to say yes while they also persuade the author with 5 stars. This whole deed is seemingly invisible to Amazon who are huge on fake reviews but through this process it’s very difficult to prove.

If I were to try and report ‘RR’ I couldn’t due to lack of real proof, they are just a middle man and that probably only leaves me with one choice, to report the author who really isn’t the bad guy here. They just want their work to be liked and in this ever growing world of the internet it’s tempting to google ‘buy 5 star reviews’ because there are so many who are offering this service.

This whole concept is clever and perhaps an immorally genius attempt at making money and that’s why I wrote this post to serve as a warning to authors and readers. I’m not a fan of anyone being exploited and on this world wide web, it’s everywhere and authors are being exploited here. They could also get themselves in trouble if Amazon found out.

Authors paying for 5 star reviews is wrong, being paid to give 5 stars without reading a book is wrong and more importantly Amazon don’t like it, they will shut your shit down if they find out, trust me!

Disrepute

There are several different types of review services that pop up online all the time many of which provide readers with books and authors with honest reviews – it’s all about execution.

I’m a reviewer for Reedsy Discovery who are a growing social platform for readers and writers and I have even been tipped by an author after leaving an honest review for their work . I suppose that’s what this whole deal is about. Paying for 5 star reviews puts other readers who spent time reading into disrepute, it also preys on the desperation of some authors who just want reviews: this is especially prone in beginner authors who no doubt ‘RR’ will target. It’s also lying and misleading potential future readers. You could argue, this is just business, and I want folks to read my stuff, they don’t need to know what goes on in the kitchen. You could argue that, but not here, shove that opinion.

Methods of honesty

Straight up, reviews don’t actually matter that much. And yeah that’s coming from an author who checks to see if he has any new ones multiple times a day. They literally serve as a gate keeping method for some promo sites and not much else. Of course they mean a bunch more to the small time creator but eventually that small time creator won’t need just reviews to sell books because readers would have invested in them as the person first. If I were you, I wouldn’t focus on trying to get reviews but to get people reading your stuff through promotion. Check out the resources section for that…

Concluding thoughts…

The best we can do about subjects like this post is to talk about them and spread awareness, especially to those who are vulnerable to a scam – let’s face it, we all are. Writers and bloggers as a collective are stronger together.

I’ve kept the ‘service provider’ nameless in this post to firstly avoid any retaliation – trust me this happens a lot with these posts and because ‘RR’ will be here today and probably gone tomorrow for another one to pop up. How they change tactics is up to us to find out and report to the community which I care for.

Thanks for reading and of course your thoughts are welcome in the comments – keep the opinions light…

‘The Silent Betrayal’ by Momus Najmi – Review

Original, eloquently written and thrilling. A tale of deception that reads like a spy thriller but carries a much deeper meaning… 

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Momus Najmi has written a thrilling story with an original and eloquent narration style where main character ‘Johann Blakemore’ candidly confides in the reader on a journey to lift the lid on his rich father’s sinister past. This high society world is introduced with a stylish combination of pessimism and humour through the eyes of a character that knows something isn’t right. Just how did his father earn such a wealth? 

Even being in line to the throne of big business and lots of money doesn’t particularity interest ‘Johann’ and especially if the source of it may have a sinister origin, neither does the prospect of being arranged to marry, even if he’s indifferent about it – a conflict he must face time and time again throughout the journey of twists and discovery. Just who is on ‘Johann’s’ side? That is something even he will have to think twice about in a book that reads like a spy thriller and then eventually becomes a spy thriller and it’s a fun thought provoking one at that.

The author has put in much effort to explore so many moral subjects throughout but in light doses. From politics, business, charity, freedom of choice, greed, wealth to even our wider purpose in life there are some thought provoking moments while the story gradually builds towards a satisfying finish. We see unexpected twists, turns and eventually answers in the form of surprising revelations for our main character. 

From this beginning I could tell this book was unique gem of a read and not once did it feel like a chore to turn the pages, quickly I might add. This is definitely a read I would recommend for anyone looking to take on something original, thrilling and thought provoking. 

5 Stars –  A cracking read that kept me interested all the way through. Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon. 

Review: The Teleporter by Lee Hall — S.D. McKinley – thoughts from an indie author

Shout out to fellow author S.D McKinley for this awesome review of the Teleporter. Make sure you visit his blog and give it a follow!

Summary: ( Extracted from Amazon ) What if there was a power like no other? What if one drunken slouch happened to stumble where nobody has stumbled before and discovered the ability to teleport!Just when you thought there were enough super hero stories in this world, we made another one…Kurt Wiseman is your average mid-twenties […]

via Review: The Teleporter by Lee Hall — S.D. McKinley – thoughts from an indie author