Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book review: Naked News for Indie Authors: How to Get on TV, by Gisela Hausmann.

I am not, and have never been, remotely desirous of appearing on the television. Nevertheless, I read this book thinking that some of the techniques described might be adaptable to pitching for other things, and so, in fact, it turned out to be.

Hausmann is down to earth and there is never any waffle in her books, which is so refreshing compared to the usual offering of this kind of work, which is generally known for having a huge amount of puffery before you get to the actual content. So although this book is very short, the entire thing is payload.

Useful techniques presented with a minimum of packaging - a worthwhile addition to the toolbox, and probably invaluable for anyone who actually does want to be on the television. 

How to Get on TV is available from AMAZON  in both ebook and paperback editions.  

Friday, 30 October 2015

Book review: NOW and the Weltanschauung of Government Men, by Gary J Davies

Mr Davies seems more on his home ground with this non-fiction work than with his novels, and the writing is smoother and more competent. No doubt we all work best with our familiar materials. It's still in dire need of proofreading though. Davies acknowledges his devil-may-care attitude to the quality of his work in the work itself, but to acknowledge a problem is not to alleviate it. Really, not even a little bit. It only serves to infuriate the reader.

There were some fascinating concepts raised in the scientific portion of the book, and although I, with my non-scientist brain, could not follow it all, it seemed to be well argued. Nevertheless, I found the whole project an ill-conceived one for several reasons.

First, although covered by the loose statement of intent to define his Weltanschauung, the combination of discussion of physical theories of the universe with blather about fruit pies and socks was less than enticing. Anyone who liked one part is bound to loathe the other. A third group will loathe both.

Second, although by its very nature the book had to be aimed at the lay person, the earlier portion of it, dealing with quantum mechanics et alia, is above the touch of most lay people.

Third, it is almost impossibly pointless to write learned tomes based on a very second-rate novel that few people have read, or will read. The time would have been better spent editing Government Men into a decent book.

Davies has a fertile imagination, and when he's not being egregiously annoying, an engaging presence. We have already seen in his short fiction that he is capable of writing well. In the instant work, he was playing well below his standard.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Book review - Just Another Number, by Maggie Young

It takes an enormous amount of courage to disclose one's life to the extent that Young has done in this frank, and sometimes confrontational, memoir. Such courage must be respected even when the means of expressing it do not altogether please.

Young's writing is in general articulate and fluent, and the book was an easy read from that point of view, although use of language was at times careless and the work would have benefited from tighter editing.

I did find parts of the book distasteful. There was, I felt, far more explicit description of sexual activity than was necessary to tell the story, and one could not but gain the impression that this was done deliberately to shock or confront the reader. I found this distasteful, for both reasons. However, the accounts of Navy life in particular were fascinating, and overall I did like the book, although I didn't love it.

Just Another Number is available from AMAZON in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Book review: Do As I Say, by David Sterling

This book has a terrific plot, and would make a great movie. Sadly, however, the book itself is an abject failure. It is just too badly written to be at all enjoyable.

All of the usual suspects that, sadly, mar so many independently published novels, are present: misplaced apostrophes, homophone errors and 'lay' used intransitively, but this is not what really kills the book. The thing that made 'Do As I Say' such a completely missable experience was the weird flatness of the prose; the writer seems not to be able to distinguish between the importance of, say, a major break in his criminal investigation and the fact that someone turns on the taps before stepping into the shower. The monotone effect produced is oddly disconcerting, like the lifeless tones of a severe schizophrenic's voice.

The other major problem with the book was that it reads like a case report. I am not, in general, a fan of these 'golden rules' that abound nowadays - never use adverbs, and so on. But the overworked maxim 'show, don't tell' is in this case something this writer could well take on board; in fact, I should like to see him have it tattoed across his forehead.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Book review: Secrets of Goth Mountain, by Gary J Davies

The book opens strongly, with one of the geek characters that Davies does so well. Sadly, however, it soon degenerates into a long fantasy tale of unicorns, werewolves, ancient evil stirring, blah blah blah. Even the strong opening character is allowed to devolve into a cardboard cut-out hero. This author is capable of so much better work, as can be seen from his collected short fiction, There Goes The Neighbourhood.

The writing is sloppy and the whole book cries out for stern editing. Better character development and a tightening of the plot, which would reduce the rambling length of the book, and even a good dose of proofreading would result in a far, far better product. The book teems with cringe-worthy homophone errors and intransitive 'lay', which are annoying enough when the writer is semi-literate, but inexcusable in a writer who is capable of good work.

Secrets of Goth Mountain is available from SMASHWORDS, and is free at the time of writing.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

book review - Kitchen Decluttering, by Charity Grant

This book does exactly what it says in the title. It delivers a simple, structured, foolproof plan for decluttering your kitchen. There are no weird philosophies, no demands that you become a true believer - it's logical, straightforward and beautifully organised. Each day's task is quite manageable, there are no requirements to sign up for expensive services or buy fancy equipment or products - most tasks require nothing but the rubbish bin, some soapy water and a cloth or sponge.

I have read many organisational books and in my opinion, this one is one of the best. I particularly liked that it didn't make any extravagant claims. Grant doesn't promise to change your life, find you True Love or any of that. She tells you how to declutter your kitchen, period.

As far as the actual execution goes, it's well and clearly written and beautifully structured and organised. The presentation is extremely professional and all round, if it's fixing up the kitchen that's needed I cannot think of a better resource to have. This book is going into my permanent resources shelf.

Kitchen Decluttering is available from AMAZON.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Book review - Astro's Indian Odyssey, by Susan Day

I absolutely loved this book. It completely lives up to the high standard set by earlier books in the series. A particular treat this time was the Indian Princess, Emily, who epitomised the spoilt, luxury-loving princess.

Great for children and young-minded adults alike, the Astro's Adventures books are fun, light-hearted and portray dogs as they really are; they aren't pseudo humans in dog suits but have the personality traits of real dogs. 

Astro's Indian Odyssey, along with the rest of the Astro's Adventures series, is available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Book review - There Goes The Neighborhood, by Gary J Davies

Every one of these stories knocked me for six. I'd read several things by this author before, and frankly wasn't expecting much - but OMG, he kept all the good stuff for this collection, which seems to be the earliest of his published work.

The breadth and scope of imagination in these stories harks back to the good old days when Science Fiction was in its heyday and the writers of it were not tracking a beaten path but boldly going where no man had gone before.

Given the fine, fine quality of these stories, I thought it a pity the author had not troubled to present them more professionally; a little proofreading would have gone a long way, and then I could have given the book the five stars it would have deserved were it not for such gems as 'protege' instead of 'prodigy', and 'lay' used intransitively. From his biographical material one collects the author is tertiary educated, so there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of nonsense. A great shame to see such truly fine work so poorly presented.

There Goes the Neighborhood is available from SMASHWORDS, and is free at the time of writing.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book review - Government Men, by Gary J Davies

As I started reading Government Men, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. The opening was that good. Davies portrayed the geeky scientist so beautifully, with such empathy and wry humour, that one knew he was writing from extensive personal experience. For those first few chapters, I dared to hope that I had discovered another Leaky Establishment.

Sadly, however, the book did not live up to its initial promise, degenerating into a chaotic and unstructured saga of hostile aliens, unicorns, Quetzalcoatl and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, which failed to engage me, partly because it was much too long, partly because it was unstructured, and partly because it just isn't that good.

I was so very sad at this. Davies clearly has enormous talent, and if he would just play to his strengths and write about the things he knows well, I really believe he could be another David Langford.

Government Men is available from SMASHWORDS, and as at 15 October, is free.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Book review - April's Busman Holiday, by Kerry Frith

This book is truly awful. It reads as if it had been written by a primary school child, perhaps one in about the fourth grade. In almost every sentence we see an almost total lack of competence in the English language: intransitive 'lay', homophone errors, inverted commas used for emphasis, missing punctuation, it's all there. The writer appears to be almost completely illiterate. The story is told with a naivete that also felt very childish to me.

And yet... there are flashes of something. Just as I'd be almost at the point of chucking it out, there'd be a flash of something that would hint at possibilities as yet unexplored. I think Frith may have talent, and if she ever gains an adult's fluency in the language, just may make a writer. But April's Busman Holiday (even the TITLE has a grammatical error!) was nowhere near ready for publication.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book review - Unglued, by Zig Davidson

Unglued is one of the  most original mysteries I have ever read. Smooth narrative sets off a weirdly fractured world, in which one isn't even sure which of the possible crimes have been committed, let alone which of the possible perpetrators is guilty.

I cannot say too much about the story, lest I spoil for other readers what was an experience of such wonder and delight for me, but I will say that this is a truly brilliant debut novel from a tremendously gifted new writer.

The book is impeccably presented and the writing beautifully polished although not overly ornate, giving the reader a transparency that allows full immersion in the wonderful story. It is a very, very rare thing for me to say, but I'd be proud to have written this book myself.

Unglued is available from AMAZON.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Book review - Mindfulness, by Tabitha Zalot

This short, practical guide to basic meditation will, we are told, assist with stress management, insomnia, anger management, pain management and depression. This sounds like a very tall order, but the claims made are reasonable and plausible and the techniques described are simple, clear and easy to implement. There's no mysticism or mumbo-jumbo; the meditation techniques are physical and rational and aimed at controlling the excesses of the mind by calming the body.

It's certainly worth a try and I believe anyone who does is bound to experience some benefit. A most useful addition to any family's health toolbox.

Mindfulness is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Book review - Infestation: A Small Town Nightmare, by Tanya Taylor

Sloppy grammar, wooden dialogue and lecturing by the author made this book a missable experience.

It isn't a complete book, but stops abruptly with an invitation to purchase the next volume; normally I'd find that a grave fault, but in this case it was a happy release.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Book review - Children of Fire, by Daniel Ferguson

I just didn't like this book much. It isn't really that it's very badly written; it's more that the way it was structured didn't really work for me. It seemed like a never-ending series of fights, the outcome of which is at no time in real doubt. Basically, the work lacks dramatic tension, and the lack of development of characters gave it a flat, comic-book feeling that I didn't enjoy.

A lot of this criticism is of course a matter of personal taste, and I feel sure this book will appeal to many people, especially those who like manga and RPGs. But for me, it just wasn't a good read.

Children of Fire is available from AMAZON.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Book review - Naked News for Indie Authors: How NOT to Invest Your Marketing $$$$

The title of this book is a little misleading, since, although it truthfully promises to show you how not to waste your money on ineffective marketing strategies, it doesn't say anything about the fact the book is stuffed full of sound, practical advice on how to construct effective marketing strategies to drive your book sales without spending any money at all. So it really turned out to be far more useful than the title indicated to me. I'd actually had this book for five months without reading it because of this, and I am so glad I finally did.

The word 'Naked' in this line of books refers to the fact that the books are straight talking, without any fluff or padding, and I must admit I find Hausmann's approach so very refreshing in this regard. There is none of the usual puffery one finds in these do-it-yourself books; she gets straight down to brass tacks in the first chapter.

This book isn't an exhaustive text, of course, but it is a very useful guide to getting oneself started on book marketing, and to avoiding the snares cast by unscrupulous companies. A valuable addition to every new independent author's toolbox.

Available from AMAZON in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Book review - The Black Swans, by N. W. Moors

This modern adaptation of the Children of Lir story was a delight from start to finish. All too often this kind of fantasy book is weak in the characters, but there was nothing cardboard about Moors' people - they live, they breathe, they are real. Even the minor characters have been carefully constructed - there are no stock figures here.

I do think that it is the character development above all that makes the difference between the ordinary and the special in this genre. It seems to be a strength of this writer's, although this is the first of her books I have read. I look forward very much to further offerings.


The one criticism I had was that I felt there was insufficient drama around the initial discovery of Taisie's pregnancy. Finding oneself pregnant for the first time, especially when unmarried and most especially when one's future with the child's father is very much in doubt, is a massively world-shaking experience, and I felt much more should have been made of it - of her own discovery of it. This was, however, a small part of the book.

The Black Swans is available from AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

book review - The Roses Underneath, by C. F. Yetmen

This is an utterly brilliant debut novel. I see it has won many awards and this doesn't surprise me at all. It's a fine piece of work that catches the reader on the first page and doesn't allow him to flag until the very last page. A great start to a promising career for this emerging writer.

In historical writing about this place and time we don't often see a focus on the complex issues faced by the German survivors, and this was beautifully and sensitively handled. The slow emergence of the mystery was beautifully done, and the author has managed to avoid any trace of facile sentiment while invoking a deep sympathy for the trauma and shame of the conquered German people as they deal with the aftermath of the Reich.

The one criticism I really have was that there were several instances in narrative of 'lay' used intransitively. Jutting out from such beautifully competent writing, these stuck out, if I may use a popular expression, like dogs' balls. I was very sorry to see this, and thought long and hard about awarding the fifth star, but in the end I could not withhold it from a work as talented as this.

The Roses Underneath is available from AMAZON in kindle, paperback and audio formats.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Book review - The Molecular Slaves, by Biju Vasudevan


With all the independent books that I review, a book of philosophy is indeed a rare pleasure.

Eschewing the dry, Germanic approach of today's metaphysicians, The Molecular Slaves, with its playfully lyrical style, harks joyfully back to the approach of philosophers of yore. Although taken as a work of metaphysics, the work lacks the rigour we expect, taken as an introduction to metaphysical thought it is a pure delight.

Starting with a startlingly idiosyncratic presentation of the world of phenomena, we are led, skipping and dancing, along a star-sprinkled path into mysticism. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed ever step along the way.

Vasudevan has a pleasant, light, engaging style that captivates the reader from the first page. There are some small infelicities of language that a rigorous edit could have smoothed out, but this does not interfere with the reader's enjoyment.

A delightful read!

The Molecular Slaves is available from AMAZON in both Kindle and paperback editions.