Archive for August, 2012

Molly’s Millions

Victoria Connelly

Hard-up florist Molly Bailey has just won a fortune in the National Lottery. And she wants to get rid of it… fast!
Tom Mackenzie is on the verge of losing his job. He needs one hell of a story if he hopes to secure his future in journalism. And his luck may have just come in…
With a strong belief that sharing her good fortune is the only way forward, Molly unwittingly becomes the most sought-after person in the country as she distributes her wealth to the masses. With only her terrier pup, Fizz, and her trusty Beetle for company, Molly embarks on the journey of her life. But with Tom hot on her heels, will she succeed before her family and the media catch up with her? And, with Tom leading the pack, would that really be such a bad thing…?

I picked this up needing a little light relief after reading a more weighty tome and this was the perfect antidote!This story is chick lit at its best; a funny, romantic, well-paced ride through the English countryside with a bit of substance as well.
Molly Bailey is a lovely girl who has managed to stay lovely despite the un-loveliness of her family. She owns her own florist shop and has escaped the family home and all the scrimping, saving, penny pinching men who live there. Her brother Marty,(married to her friend Carolyn) is a chip off the old block however. Molly’s mother, Cynthia, left when Molly was still a child and Molly still has many unanswered questions about what happened.

On a whim one day Molly buys a lottery ticket and Bingo(!) hits the jackpot coming away with £4.2 million. Despite Lottery advice to do nothing too quickly Molly knows that once the Bailey men discover the news about her win there will be no stopping them dividing it up and packing it off to the bank, never to be seen again. Molly wants none of this so she decides she is going to give it away, the only problem…to who?

So Molly begins her journey in her brilliant, bright yellow VW bug. She shuts up shop and leaves discovering good causes as she drives through England. She begins anonymously leaving donations with a calling card; a yellow sunshine daisy and having a wonderful time. She gets into some hilarious situations and meets fantastic people. But the fun really starts when those Bailey men find out what’s happening and come after her. Molly is desperate to stay one step ahead and the ensuing chase around the country is fabulous.

In addition to all this Molly is also being chased by Tom, a journalist, and his 10 year old daughter Flora who is along for the ride. He is the reason her family discover she has the money and causes a fair bit of friction until Molly figures out how to use him to her advantage. He also provides the will they/won’t they part of the story.

During all this there is depth too, Marty and Carolyn’s rocky marriage is really put to the test, Marty learns some valuable life lessons about money (its too late for the older members of the family!!) and Molly does get to find out more about her mother and what happened long ago.

Verdict:The ending is great, literally the high point of the book. This is definitely a story I will re-read, it would be a brilliant cheering read if you were a bit down too. Very funny and I loved it.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Allison and Busby
Publication Date: March 2011
Format: Kindle
Pages: 352/454KB
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Kirsty McKay

Out of sight, out of their minds: It’s a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.
The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.
Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.
But they’ve changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they’re zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin’ fast, because that’s the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates’ next meal. It’s kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.
Combining the chill of THE SHINING, the thrill ride of SPEED, the humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and the angst of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Kirsty McKay’s UNDEAD is a bloody mad mash-up, a school-trip splatter-fest, a funny, gory, frighteningly good debut

Culturally confused Bobby has survived the week from hell; A ski trip to Scotland with her new classmates, amounting to little more than constant ribbing for her transatlantic expressions. All she wants to do now is keep her head down and get home without attracting any further attention from her British tormentors.

Opting to stay out of their way, Bobby remains on the coach while all but one of her cohorts pile, through thick snow, in to the secluded services. Irritated that her quiet solitude, not to mention her plans for a private pee, have been interrupted, Bobby does her best to ignore leather clad “rebel without a pause”, Smitty.

Outside the snow picks up, wrapping the bus in a white coat and cutting the passengers off from the outside world, until a single, hand slaps against the windscreen and swipes at the cold covering…

The new girl, the popular girl who touches up her lip gloss mid apocalypse, the rebel with a not so hidden heart and the nerdy, asthmatic conspiracy theorist- a group of people who would have avoided eating lunch together before the intervention of lumbering, reanimated corpses, but who now depend on each other for their very survival.

I know what you are thinking, a group of mismatched teens, thrown together for survival- been there seen/read that! Mckay embraces this and other familiar elements from horror stories and teen movies, infusing them with an energy and freshness that prevents it from feeling trite or clichéd.

The fantastically snarky banter and surprisingly tender heart-warming moments provide relief to the background of gore and mounting tension. The laugh out loud humor has prompted some comparisons with the fabulously funny “Shaun of the Dead” film. While Undead doesn’t contain the visual comedy and slapstick elements (although what Smitty can’t do with a snowboard isn’t worth knowing), I think that fans of the film will enjoy the black humor both mediums share.

While Undead has all of the necessary carnage, gore and violence you would expect from a story featuring teens battling flesh eating zombies, you can rest assured that you are unlikely to lose your lunch. McKay provides enough description to transport you in to frozen rural Scotland, but avoids the overly graphic details, which make some horror books hard to stomach.

As the tension built I was loathe to put the book down (and not least because I was reluctant to leave my safe warm, zombie free home to take my puppy out in the pitch black for her nightly constitutional), and I had to stay up in to the small hours to see how they would escape one perilous situation after another.

Verdict: Fun and likeable characters populate this eerie and atmospheric page-turner. I will definitely be picking up a copy of the sequel, Unfed when It is released next month.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: eARC
Pages: 294
Genre: Horror, Humour
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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The One And Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao (illustrator)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

here was something about the very simple yet whimsical cover that drew me to this book. When I then read that the story is narrated to us by a gorilla I was sold!

Ivan (the gorilla if you hadn’t guessed/read the premise!) explains very early on that most animals only speak as necessary and to the point, mocking people who tend to waffle, are overly emotive and constantly chatter. The narration therefore reflects this viewpoint and describes the events that unfold in a brief and to the point manner. Literally on some pages there are just a couple of sentences to read. With Ivan as a narrator, ‘less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’ is very apt as these few sentences at times, are very powerful indeed.

Ivan and his circus friends are resigned to their dreary, institutionalised life at a static circus. As the years have passed and their popularity has dwindled, so has their spirit and memories of a life in the wild prior to captivity is rapidly fading.

The sadness of their mundane lives really hits home when the animals ask Stella, a mature and injured elephant who still performs circus tricks whether she is excited at the news that a baby elephant will be arriving soon. Stella can think of nothing worse than the thought of this young, vibrant life suffering the same fate as her own and asks Ivan to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Ivan is a thoughtful gorilla, in his domain with limited stimulation and people to observe he has a lot of time to ponder and wonder about his lot. His pondering and discussions with Stella and Bob, a stray dog who has attached himself to Ivan are thought provoking and gives insight as to how they view their micro world. He agrees to honour Stella’s wish although this is such a monumental task for a caged gorilla to do.

The issues the book raises are cleverly handled. The animals experience neglect, emotional and physical abuse and, even though this story has a happy ending for some of the animals, it still makes it clear that any enclosure, no matter how vast, still doesn’t replace the freedom of the wild.

I really enjoyed this book and it even provoked me to get teary without being too animal rights militant at the same time. I do wonder if younger or less empathetic readers may miss the point, so may appreciate some discussion to ensure that they understand the hidden meaning behind Ivan’s deceptively simple words.

Verdict: A beautiful read with a unique narrative style. One of my favourite reads of the year so far!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 301
Genre: Animals
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None

Thanks to those lovely people at Harper Collins Children’s Books we have three copies of The One and Only Ivan to giveaway. To enter simply comment below. Three winners will be selected at random to win one of these fabulous middle grade books. UK postal addresses only.
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Novel Nibbles: Amma’s Coca Cola Cake

There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Set in the south, The Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, contains so many saliva inducing food references; Fried chicken, Grits, Biscuits and Buttermilk Pie *stomach rumbles*. It certainly wouldn’t be a hardship to dedicate a whole series of Novel Nibbles posts to the culinary offerings of Amma, the Wate family’s no-nonsense, housekeeper.

Of all of the recipes featured in the Beautiful Creatures books, the one that inspired me the most is Coca Cola Cake. I know, I KNOW, more baking! In my defence, I am pretty sure I warned you that these posts would be an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth!

A quick search online uncovered author Kami Garcia’s recipe for Coca Cola Cake. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, have literally been baking Amma’s cake!

The original recipe can be found here at Beautiful Creatures fan site, Caster Girls &Boys

As before this American recipe has been “translated” for our european readers.

The Ingredients
The Cake

240g of Plain Flour
400g of Caster/Granulated Sugar (yep you read that right!)
1 sp Bicarbonate of Soda
250mls Coca Cola
230g of Unsalted Butter
3 TBS Coco Powder
125mls of Butter Milk ( or 125mls of milk soured with 2TBS of lemon juice or white wine vinegar)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract ( use to good stuff people)
2 eggs
75g ( two large handfuls) of Mini Marshmallows

The Icing
120g Unsalted Butter
3 TBS of Coco Powder
6 TBS of Coca cola
1tsp Vanilla Extract
450g Icing Sugar
A Large handful of chopped Pecans (excluded in our recipe due to Pruedence’s allergy)

Pre heat the oven to a rather cool 160C.

The original recipe suggests you cook the cake for 30 mins however in practice we found that the cake actually needed 50mins!

I would usually provide you with a step by step photo storyboard of the cooking process. However there is no way that I could demonstrate this recipe better than Kami Garcia herself.

Here is mine and, my able assistant, Prudence’s attempt!

The final tray bake was very large, rich and sweet and only a small serving was required to sate my sweet tooth.
The texture was heavier than a sponge cake, somewhere between a devils food cake and a pudding.
I think that it would make a great dessert, served warm out of the oven with ice-cream. Due to it’s size and the novelty of using coca cola, it would also make an interesting addition to a bake sale.

Post by Caroline

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Goodbye For Now

Laurie FrankelLove, loss and the extraordinary potential of social networking media come together to create a powerful, moving, unforgettable novel that will make readers laugh, cry and resolve to find their own true love.
Imagine a world in which you never have to say goodbye.
A world in which you can talk to your loved ones after they’ve gone.
About the trivial things you used to share.
About the things you wish you’d said while you still had the chance.
About how hard it is to adjust to life without them.
When Sam Elling invents a computer programme that enables his girlfriend Meredith to do just this, nothing can prepare them for the success and the complications that follow. For every person who wants to say goodbye, there is someone else who can’t let go. And when tragedy strikes, they have to find out whether goodbye has to be for ever. Or whether love can take on a life of its own.

This is one of those books that I have really been wondering where to start when I come to review it. I have chatted to couple of people about it whilst reading it and the thing is, there is so much to say! When we were offered the book to read, the blurb caught my attention but it has definitely exceeded my expectations.

So I’ll start with the plot, Sam is a computer whizz. He writes an algorithm to find your soul mate and it works! As a consequence he meets Meredith, the love of his life, but he also gets the sack from his job at a computer dating agency. They aren’t making enough money now and want to hush up Sam’s invention. This leaves Sam with a lot of time on his hands and when Meredith’s Grandmother, Livvie, dies and Meredith is devastated, he come up with an ingenious and unusual way to help. He uses all the technological data amassed between the two women to allow them to still communicate electronically with each other. At first Meredith is horrified at the idea of video chatting with her dead Grandmother but soon loves the whole thing and feeling so in touch with Livvie.

Following this, Dash, Meredith’s cousin, suggests they begin to offer dead mail to the masses and RePose is born. They become involved in the lives of many people and discover people have more reasons than they ever thought possible to want to communicate with their DLO’s (dead loved one). Then tragedy occurs and Sam has to find out for himself whether RePose really does any good.

Sam and Meredith are strong, well written and believable characters. Their relationship is lovely and the story also shows the ups and downs of family life in all it’s many facets. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on bereavement and grief. It was really interesting to see the huge variety of ways people have been effected and the wide spectrum of ways in which people try to cope and help each other through difficult times.

This is more than an innovative story, it introduces lots of thought provoking ideas and examines the ethics involved in the use of technology for such a purpose as this. This was the part of the book that I found most enthralling. Laurie cleverly weaves many questions into the narrative through the comments of others, the press, the church, other interested spiritual parties and through the families themselves. In addition Sam has his own internal dialogue through the whole process about its rights and wrongs.

This was a fascinating read. It was plausibly written and I could well believe in the ability of Sam to produce the technology (although in real life I hope we are some way off opening this can of worms!). Laurie gets the most out of her story, both the ethical side and the journey of her characters. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying I liked the open nature of the ending. I usually don’t like this being a lover of a cut and dried happy ending but it was really appropriate to leave the characters at this point in their journey.

Verdict: If you like to read with your brain in this is a fabulous thinking read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Sci Fi, Bereavement
Age: Adult book review
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Received from publisher
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Heath Gibson

William Tucker loves being a volunteer firefighter (maybe it’s no coincidence that a pastor’s son would enjoy saving people). And after he rescues his crush, Mandy Pearman, she undergoes a profound transformation for the better. In fact, it seems like a lot of good comes from the embers of tragedy in his small Alabama town. William may not be able to meet his father’s expectations, force his mother to ditch the gin, or protect his gay brother, but for those who need a second chance at life, William isn’t afraid to light the match–and become the hero the town needs.

While perusing Netgalley for tantalizing reads my eye was immediately caught by this simple but stunning artwork. Of course I know that you should never judge a book by its’ cover. But how could you not be inspired to pick a book who’s cover hinted at an atmospheric, dark and disturbing read. The synopsis only confirmed these assumptions; a pastor’s son gripped by pyromania- well you can’t get much more disturbing than that in a YA contemporary. Unfortunately Burn didn’t quite live up to its dark promise.

William “Wee Wee” Tucker believes that the unconditional love and support of his community in the aftermath of devastation, combined with the life affirming nature of a near death experience, does nothing but improve the quality of life for a victim of fire. This leads to Wee Wee taking it upon himself to “save” the inhabitants of his small town, one act of arson at a time.

While I applaud the author for daring to write a multidimensional and flawed character, I feel that the predominant aim was to create conflict in the reader as they attempt to consolidate a likeable and kind character with someone who does unforgivably horrible things. This technique, which tied me up in knots while reading Tabitha Suzuma’s controversial romance, Forbidden (read review here), just didn’t work for me in Burn.

Despite being written in first person present tense, I found it very difficult to relate to Wee Wee as a character and to trust him as a narrator. I couldn’t decide whether Wee Wee was unhinged and couldn’t see any of the negative consequence of his actions, whether he was a dishonest narrator and chose to ignore anything that would show him in a bad light or if the author was trying too hard to make Wee Wee likeable.

Throughout the book, Wee Wee only allows us to witness those events and outcomes, which help to reinforce his warped worldview, leading to my distrust of him as a narrator. As a reader I feel as though I would have found the book more satisfying had I been exposed to an opposing perspective.

The only person in the story who is severely harmed by fire is DJ, the victim of a freak accident rather than by Wee Wee’s hand. Following the incident, Wee Wee visits a heavily sedated/unconscious DJ in the calming environment of the hospital with his, previously questionable, mother keeping vigil besides his bed. The next few occasions when we meet DJ he is well on his way to recovery. Wee Wee, doesn’t witness, or doesn’t allow us to experience, the hours of gruelling treatments and agonizingly painful recovery.

Later when we are exposed to the horrifying aftermath of a person’s home razed to the ground, it is the protagonist’s selfish concerns about detection that are the focus of the scene and not concern or remorse for what the victim has lost. We do not witness the heartbreak of shifting through the ashes, looking for some unscathed memento of a lifetime of memories or the hard work of rebuilding a home.

I have to admit that this is a well paced and otherwise well written book. It certainly kept me turning the pages, as it races through the events leading up to the goose bump-inducing climax. It was only after I put the book down to gather my thoughts that I realized that although I got caught up in the story it ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied and unsympathetic towards the protagonist. Even the impressive ending, which created such a clear image in my minds eye was muddied by a red herring of a prologue.

Verdict: A pacey read which ultimately left me a feeling unsympathetic, unsatisfied and a tad baffled.
Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 264/356KB
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: YA book review
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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Tim the Tiny Horse at Large

Harry Hill
In this new book of adventures, Tim has to deal with some big things such as: Birth, love, life and death! Tim faces up to fame, to his best friend Fly getting married and the responsibility of looking after his pet Greenfly…George

Tim the tiny horse at large is such a cool book. I really like how it is laid out and how some pages are full colour, which makes them really eye catching. It uses a mixture of real photo’s plus Harry’s extraordinary illustrations. It is great fun for people who like a good laugh. But is DEFINATELY for the older reader, even though it is laid out simply and easily and looks very childish, in Chapter 5 which is called Mr and Mrs Fly get a new addition we hear about Mrs Fly’s pregnancy only a day and a half after getting married!

Chapters 7 and 10 are my favourites because I really like the story about George the Greenfly and Chapter 10 should make you feel sad (won’t tell you why because it will give it away) but you can’t help but giggle.

Even though this is the second book about Tiny Tim, I’m really hoping on my next trip to the library, that I can find the first one in the series, as this book was so good (I’m actually hoping it’s a trilogy)

Verdict:This book is slightly crazy and a bit nonsense, but is still one of the best books I’ve read. I thought it looked it a bit babyish at first, but after having a sneak preview of the pictures in the library I changed my mind and decided to borrow it and I’m UTTERLY glad I did.

Publisher: Faber and Faber Ltd
Publication Date: October 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Genre: Humour
Age: Middle Grade book review
Reviewer: Izzy (9)
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Self Published Sunday: So Now Everybody Is An Author?

At 24, Ben Galley is a young author from sunny England, and a writer of fantasy and tall tales. Author of the epic and dark Emaneska Series, he has two books to his name, and there is soon to be a third. He’s passionate about sharing his knowledge and know-how with other hopeful authors, and is keen to help them turn their passion into their profession. Ben regularly tours the country signing books, pestering bookshops, and searching for dragons. He is a regular speaker, and blogger on everything fantasy and Self-Publishing, and has just launched a Self-Publishing, Writing, and Marketing site called SHELF HElP.
We’re living in an amazing time. A time of explosive change and great leaps of technology. A time where anybody can publish anything within minutes, and sell it to the world at the click of a button. A time of self-publishing. A time of opportunity.

But is that true? That anybody can self-publish a book in minutes and make it available to the world? Yes indeed. 100%. Absolutely. Without a doubt. All you need is a book, a little know-how, and the drive to push yourself.

Self-publishing may not be a new concept – after all Mark Twain was self-published, and so was Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Alexander Dumas, Benjamin Franklin, and Rudyard Kipling… the list goes on. But until now, we haven’t had the infrastructure and the technology to facilitate the affordable, simple, quality, and fast self-publishing that we have today, and it’s turned the industry on its head.

In 2009 alone, 76% of all books were self-published. That’s an incredible statistic. Lulu, one of the big three POD companies, report that they publish something like 20,000 new titles a month. Never before in history has there been so many books and so many authors writing them. I think it’s safe to say that we authors have joined the fray en masse!

But because of this, we self-published authors are now experiencing a new challenge. The problem is this: with self-publishing being so easy, the market has now been flooded with authors, bringing both good and bad books with them. Everybody seems to be an author these days. The new challenge is not the publishing of our books, but rather making them, and us along with them, stand out from the others. We still live in an amazing time, it’s just a rather noisy one.

There are several things that I believe you can do to make sure you stand out of the crowd, and to set yourself above this flood:

Aim for quality:
The main complaint from the industry at the moment is the average quality of self-published books. Due to the ease and speed of the process, many authors feel like they don’t need to make the effort, and often publish without having edited, proofread, or even sourced a decent cover. The sheer number of these poor books can make life hard for us, but what we can do is stand out by aiming high. We need to make sure our books are of the highest quality, and comparable with the books of the traditional houses. This means getting a professional cover made, and making sure your book is error-free and edited to its utmost! Easiness is not an excuse for laziness.

Get physical:
Some people confuse self-publishing with simple e-publishing, ie: simply publishing ebooks and them alone. Well, you don’t have to stop there. Thanks once again to the wonder of technology, we now have the ability to print quality books and distribute them all over the world with a bit of formatting and the click of a mouse. Having this extra string to your bow not only helps you stand apart from the e-publishing horde, but also provides another revenue stream too!

Build a friend base:
Those of you who are already on Twitter and Facebook might have seen them. The authors and writers who incessantly tweet links to their books and nothing else? Yes, them. Personally, I find it irritating and boring, and marketing deserves a little more though than just clogging up Twitter feeds with links to books. I’m keen to push the idea of the friendbase; like a fanbase, but more personal, engaging, and interesting. People are more responsive if you speak to them on a personal level, as you would if you met them at a book fair, or in the street. Be interested in them first, and they will in turn by curious about you, and therefore more likely to invest their time, money, and pass the message on. Good rule of thumb here is to speak to ten new people a day on Twitter of Facebook, be it a retweet, a like, or a reply, simply get engaging.

Get sharing:
Despite the relative ease of self-publishing, it can be somewhat tough going it alone. One of the best things about self-publishing, however, is that we’re all very eager to share and to grow. By forging links with other, similar authors you can grow together by sharing eachother’s blogs and books to your respective friendbases. That way, both parties win and your fans will also be richer for it. As the old saying goes – united we stand, divided we fall.

Be creative:
This new self-publishing boom is nothing if not open to change. With the sudden influx of new authors and new technology, the industry is still trying to find its new feet. What this means for us new authors is the chance to find marketing niches that others may not have found yet. This could be anything from new technology, new companies, new mediums, anything. It’s the gift of such an amazing time. Find these niches, and exploit them! Above all, standing out takes a bit of hard work and some determination. It’s a noisy world out there. All you have to do is shout louder and longer.

Good luck.
Post by Ben Galley
You can find Ben lurking on several social media sites. It’s wise not to encourage him.
Twitter: @BenGalley
Facebook: Ben Galley Author
Websites: and Shelf Help

Emaneska is crying out for a saviour
The only question is: Can they kill a child to save a world?
Emaneska’s Long Winter remains as bitter as a blade between the ribs. War is fast approaching. Gods and daemons are hovering on the horizon. Long-lost revelations arrive to haunt the lives of three men.
The Pale Kings are rising.
While Farden busies himself digging up his past in the strange deserts of Paraia, the storm-clouds begin to gather for Durnus, Elessi, Cheska, and Modren.
Together with Farfallen and his Sirens, they must fight to survive against the Long Winter, the vicious machinations of the new Arkmage, and the arrival of something much deadlier than both combined. War, deception, and murder are quickly becoming the only paths to salvation…

The first two books in Ben’s Emenska Series The Written and Pale Kings are available to buy from amazon.

Read our interview with Ben here!

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Confessions Of A Bad Mother

Stephanie Calman

In the aisle by the chill cabinets no one can hear you scream…
Funny, acutely observed, frighteningly honest and drawing on her own and hundreds of other mum’s real experiences, Stephanie Calman serves up the perfect antidote to all those books that tell you that your children must be perfect, and to all those Stepford mums and kids out there who look as if they just might be: perfectly groomed, perfectly behaved and perfectly brilliant. The reality, as we all know, encompasses sleepless nights, no sex for years, baby sick on your best cashmere cardy, the terrible twos and then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the sitting room, terrible teenagers whose only means of communication is the slamming door or the grunt.

It was the above byline that grabbed my attention. I was feeling particularly annoyed with my own children and huffing and puffing to myself as I went in to the charity shop, started browsing the books. I saw this book, read the byline, said ‘aha’ loudly and maniacally and marched off to the til to pay my 50 pence!

I like Stephanie Calman’s writing. I’ve not come across her before but she writes regularly in a couple of national newspapers as well as books. She also has a website; Bad Mothers Club .

This book is in fact her own story of how she came to get married and have children and the experience of trying to parent two toddlers and never feeling she gets it quite right. I’d picked it up thinking it was fiction, but after an initial slight disappointment that it wasn’t I got stuck in and and quickly started to enjoy Stephanie’s witty writing and sheer honesty about the pitfalls and stresses of trying to raise children without losing your sanity entirely!

There are many funny stories, moments that have made me groan in recognition and others that have had me giggling nonstop.

This is an older book but it’s made me want to look out for other books that she’s written and I may even stumble on to the ‘bad mothers’ website to add a story or two of my own!

Verdict: A witty and entertaining read.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: February 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 324
Genre: Non Fiction, Parenting
Age: Adult book review
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass is in love with someone she’s never met – a boy the rest of the world is convinced is imaginary. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she doesn’t complain. She runs the school newspaper and keeps to herself for the most part – until disturbing events begin to happen.
There has been screaming in the woods and the dark, abandoned manor on the hill overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. As Kami starts to investigate for the paper, she finds out that the town she has loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets- and a murderer- and the key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy who everyone thought was imaginary may be real…and he may be dangerous.
Kami talks to Jared in her head, it doesn’t seem strange to her as it’s always been that way. Others think she is a little strange she tries to hide her conversations with the boy she assumes is her imaginary friend. Then the Lynburn family return, the family that ruled the town in the past, the family that the town does not seem happy to see again, a family with a past full of secrets and mysteries. Suddenly the boy in Kami’s head, Jared, is in front of her and on face value seems to be the most dangerous Lynburn of them all.

Unspoken is a brilliant atmospheric, gothic piece, but at no point does it take itself seriously.The dialogue, especially that of Kami, can be wonderfully witty and sarcastic whilst staying on just the right side of feeling forced.There are some group scenes and misunderstandings that had me laughing out loud, not something that happens all that often to me when I read.

Sarah Rees Brennan has managed to find a perfect balance between creepy and comedy. The comedy halts any idea of the pretentiousness trap that gothic literature can sometimes fall in to.The humorous sections also break up the tension, but in a good way, I often don’t cope well with books that ratchet up the tension, the needing to know can often make me give up, but that was not the case here. I needed to know but could wait to find out.

Unspoken is mainly told from the point of view of Kami, though occasionally we see what is happening through Jared’s eyes.Though this isn’t made obvious the writing style changes enough that it is easy to recognise most of the times it happens. Kami and Jared are very definitely the main characters but that hasn’t stopped the author building up a set of very believable characters who are all very different. Even characters that aren’t seen often have definite individual characteristics. The ending didn’t leave me hanging to the extent that others books have, but I will be watching out for the time that the second book in the trilogy comes out.

Verdict: Creepy and atmospheric but at the same time laugh out loud funny. Believable characters and a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Supernatural, Gothic Mystery
Age: YA book review
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Netgallay
Challenge: None
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