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review 2018-04-21 18:31
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore - average
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan

An intricate story of many people all connected through a bookstore and/or their pasts. Lydia has changed her last name and moved back to the city of her childhood, deciding to start over and having somewhat unrealistic ideas that nobody will uncover her secret (including the man she lives with.) That all starts to unravel when Joey, a patron of the Bright Ideas Bookstore, kills himself among the books. Lydia finds him and subsequently inherits all of his earthly possessions - most of which are books.

 

Through these books Joey enlists Lydia in unraveling the mysteries of his death and life. Meanwhile news from the suicide in the store pulls Lydia's past into her present. Through flashbacks and a lot of foreshadowing we learn along with Lydia about surprising and extremely coincidental connections among a cast of characters that previously seemed unconnected. Meanwhile there's this suicide and a baroque bunch of messages from beyond  the grave to unravel. While figuring out Joey's actions, Lydia is forced to face her own past whether she wants to or not. (She doesn't.)

 

There are some real coincidences in this book, but they didn't bother me enough to make me put it down. It becomes pretty clear early on who the villain is, even if his motives remain unclear. Lydia, the main character, can be quite frustrating but I accepted everyone on their own terms and read on. It's a quick read and the mystery changes through the book. Some of the characters are lovely, sadly these aren't the main characters. It is a decent read with a great title. However, I don't know who I might recommend this to, and in the final examination, I just didn't care enough about any of the characters or find their story very compelling.

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review 2018-04-05 17:13
Invictus
Invictus - Ryan Graudin

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

What I liked:

- The beginning. Of course, you can tell immediately where this is going, and that there’s going to be another proposal to offset the bad news, and you can guess what that proposal will be, but it’s OK because it’s why you’re reading the book. Well, why I was reading it, at any rate.

- Some aspects of the world building, with the idea of trained people going back in time to record events, and having to follow specific rules to avoid creating paradoxes. It makes a lot of sense, since the ‘grandfather paradox’ is definitely not the only risk in such a setting: it’s obvious that you wouldn’t want to kill your own grandfather if you hope to be born someday… but it’s much less obvious that even ‘small’ actions like gambling in a casino can have consequences, for instance by preventing the ‘normal’ winner from winning, in turn preventing them from doing things that should normally have happened, and so on. The most noticeable actions aren’t the only ones that can change the world.

- The crew’s dynamics. I have a soft spot for heist stories carried by a crew (ship, spaceship, band of misfits, whatever), and when the latter works well together, it’s even better. In itself¸ this part wasn’t the most exceptional ever, but I could feel the ties uniting them, and that was good.

- Diversity. Priya is obviously of Indian origin, Gram is dark-skinned, and Far also has inherited a darker complexion from his father. It’s not mentioned more than once or twice, but it’s good to see.

- The book was entertaining, I wanted to know how the story would go (good thing I’ve been on sick leave and with time on my hands to rush through it, huh), and in general the action and tension scenes were gripping.

What I didn’t like so much:

- The romance. I’m not particularly keen on romance in general, for starters— in my experience 90% of such subplots, when they happen in stories whose main genre is not romance, are there because it’s what people (or the market, or publishing houses, I’m never really sure) expect. As a result, the romance feels forced, and that’s the feeling I got here. I didn’t particularly care about Imogen having a crush, all the more since it led to some screen time being used up for conversations about boys and should-I-oh-no-I-don’t-dare. As for the romance between Far and Priya, it was announced very suddenly, its beginnings happened off-scene, and I never felt any real chemistry between these two. In a story revolving around an all-for-one type of crew, friendship all the way would’ve worked better for me.

- The lull mid-book, the part where they go to Las Vegas. Partly because of the romance-related conversations, partly because I wanted to shout ‘Seriously, characters, is partying and getting drunk the best you can do right now?’

- Some other aspects of the world building. Yes, I know I partially liked it. However, some elements were there for… no reason? Example: How can Priya be 17-18 and already a full-fledged medic, with mechanic skills to boot? When did she got time to learn all that? Or why do they eat synthetic food, why is ice cream so expensive? I felt the latter points were here to give a ‘science-fictiony’ sheen, but without explanations about why the world came to be like that, I can never fully buy it. (I’m not asking for a treaty about 24th century economics, but at least a couple of lines about the whys would be nice.)

- Part of the plot when it comes to Eliot’s involvement. First, it’d have been good to see a couple of successful heists before she appeared, so that the disruption she created would be even stronger. Second, the true reason for her presence is somewhat complicated, and may have worked better with a little more development. An example of what I felt rushed with that is how easily an antagonist character convinces other antagonist characters to work with him, towards the end, in order to stop her; it happened very quickly, wasn’t very convincing, and anyway, why didn’t he enlist his own after that, to add a strike force he could fully control?
(Side note: I found the names they used very confusing. I could deal with the endings, like FLT6, but the whole strings of numbers in the middle… I kept trying to imagine the conversation with Eliot speaking these numbers, and I’m surprised she didn’t make a mistake every two sentences when using those.)

- The characters, outside of their role as a group. As a crew, I thought they functioned together well; but as individuals, they felt flatter. They have their quirks, sure (Imogen dying her hair, Gram and his games), but quirks don’t make a full-fledged character. I didn’t really like Far, he had too much of the ‘strong ego/insufferable’ vibe without enough of the ‘dashing captain/charisma’ vibe, so to speak. Also, I would’ve liked to see more of Gram, for some reason I liked him best.

Conclusion: Cool concepts, with good action scenes. The book was an entertaining read, although it failed in other parts.

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review 2018-04-04 10:48
The Sacrifice Box
The Sacrifice Box - Martin Stewart

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

The blurb for this book immediately reminded me of some of the horror books I’d read in the early 90s—mostly Stephen King paperbacks my mother gave me, so this ‘80s + horror + kids’ combination is one I’ve known in quite a while, even though I haven’t read such books in at least a decade or more. I suppose watching Stranger Things also put me back in the mood for those, and so here I was, getting into ‘The Sacrifice Box’.

As far as horror stories go, a lot of the usual ingredients are here. Strange happenings. Kids who find they have to gather to stop something evil from happening (and they can’t tell their parents, because they’d just sound crazy). School life with its teachers, sports kids, and bullies and picking on a couple of the main characters, but all things considered, those pale compared to the real threat. A mysterious item with mysterious rules to follow, rules that get, of course, broken—madness ensues. Dead animals coming back to life to attack people. Noises at night. A tiny town on an isolated island. The Halley comet looming over it all, like a bad omen.

All in all, I liked the setting itself, although at times it ‘tried a little too hard’, so to speak. However, where the book lacked a lot was the characters. The main point of view is Sep’s, interspersed with chapters viewed through the eyes of a couple of minor characters, like Mario, the vet doubling as chippy owner, in whose restaurant Sep works; or Thom and Aileen, two older people who also opened the box and made sacrifices back in 1941 when the war was raging (the story’s set in the UK, by the way—it’s not always very clear, as the atmosphere feels very ‘US-like’). The problem is that, as far as the other four kids are concerned, I didn’t get more than superficial impressions about them. For instance, Lamb is the hockey player, lives on a farm with her father, and lost her mother when she was a kid, yet apart from that and from her anger at whoever broke the rules of the box, I never really ‘saw’ her, who she was, how she really felt, her fears, and so on; and in such a horror-driven story, with such a concept of a box into which a band of children placed items loaded with both good and bad emotions, childhood fears, hopes and feelings would’ve been a necessary element to play on for all the characters, not just one.

I also didn’t see the point to the bully. At first, I expected him to play more of a part—perhaps the kind of character who ends up completely crazy, starts muttering about having to ‘kill the evil’, grabs a rifle, becomes an impediment to the kids’ efforts to restore the order (it’s a bit cliché, but it’d have its place in such a plot). And then… It just petered out. In the same way, I would've appreciated more of a conclusion regarding the events and the box itself: the epilogue doesn't shed light on all the things that should've followed (how did the parents react, what about all the dead people, how were events explained officially, etc.). Here, too, some plot ends were left dangling.

Conclusion: A fast read, and rather entertaining in a superficial way; but the novel kept feeling like an attempt to surf on the “Stranger Things” wave, and didn't live up to the kind of books/stories it tried to be an homage to.

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text 2018-03-26 06:44
Tips that will boost up the sales of your eBooks

In most of the cases, first-time authors find it difficult to find an effective strategy to sell their eBooks. And in case of the accomplished writers, they wonder how to increase the sales of their books. Well, as an author, you would try to strike an effective way to increase the exposure of the books that you have worked hard upon. Online channels have in fact opened up a number of ways, in which you can increase the sales of your electronic books. Here, you will come across some of the most effective strategies that will definitely increase eBook sales.

 

Sell your eBook through multiple stores

It is necessary to place your electronic book in as many stores as possible. This will increase the number of channels, through which you can increase the transaction of your books. While the leading sites like Amazon, Apple and B&N are popular, you should also place the book on smaller sites. People will get to know about your book more when you improve the number of sales channels. A number of new sites are coming up these days, and you can try them out.

 

Invest on the cover page

You need to make a good investment in order to make the cover page visually appealing. An attractive eBook cover design goes a long way, streamlining its sales mechanism. The Internet is overloaded with this, and it is necessary to grab the attention of the readers when you reach out to them. A compelling its cover can lure the readers into its contents. Eventually, it can result in a transaction. Therefore, you should get the necessary illustration or graphic art done by expert cover designers for ebooks offering brilliant ebook cover design services.

 

Provide eBook preview

Providing preview of digital book contents can keep the readers engaged, and they will find your book interesting. This can turn a large section of the readers into your customers. You can create the preview in various ways. You can post screenshots of the relevant pages as images along the content pages and index. You can also place the relevant pages in these areas as HTML. This will complement your SEO efforts as well.

 

Ebook reviews

One of the best ways to increase the sales is to get your ebook reviewed. People willing to buy the digital book would want to know the opinion of the first-hand readers. These reviews will come beneficial in such cases. Well, you should know that electronic books with testimonials and published reviews tend to attract more attention from the readers who explore the eBook stores. Evidently, this can improve the sales of your eBook.

 

Joining affiliate programs

Certain websites like Click Bank provide affiliate programs. Joining these affiliate programs can increase the exposure and sales. Most of the successful authors join affiliate programs as this provides a widespread exposure to your electronic books. Both new authors and established writers should try out these programs in order to generate the sale of their electronic books.

 

Search engine optimization

An optimized sales page can bolster definitely promote your eBook online. When you want to sell your eBook through websites, SEO plays a crucial role in increasing the chances of sales. You need a dedicated page for the eBook, which will draw traffic and increase the sales. You may also share the author’s information on this page. Besides, these pages can also contain relevant information about the book, special offers and other details.

 

Multiple file formats

The electronic books should be made available in multiple file formats. Your readers may want to read these files on their mobile devices, laptops, PCs or other electronic book readers. Therefore, when you come up with multiple file formats, you can get across with your creation to a larger section of the readers. Making the digital document available in various file formats, at least the most common eBook file formats ensures that it will be compatible with multiple e-reading devices.

 

Use social media for a greater exposure

Social media provides tremendous exposure to this. You can go for social media marketing in order to increase the sales. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are effective platforms to promote your digital document. Readers spend a lot of time on these sites, and it is wise to seize the opportunity to get across to them over these channels.

 

Offers and discounts

People are attracted towards goods when they are available at discounted prices.  You can come up with discount and offers for your eBook which will improve the sales. Limited period offers have proven to be effective in increasing the sales of eBooks when it comes to selling books from your website or any third party platforms. There are lots of ebook publishing platform available online. Also, you can find the information about best place to sell your ebook here.

 

Intelligent pricing

The pricing of the eBook has to be intelligently made. Consider the buying capacity of your target customers while deciding the price. Recent trends have proven that keeping the price low can boost up the sales of the eBooks.

 

For new authors, it is difficult to find the market for their eBooks. For accomplished authors, expanding the market is always a challenge. These strategies will strengthen the sales mechanism of your eBooks. Integrate these plans into your marketing process and see the sales skyrocketing.

 

 

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review 2018-02-02 10:42
Nyxia
Nyxia - Scott Reintgen

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

A fast-paced and fun read, although in the end I wasn’t particularly impressed. Perhaps because, while I enjoy the ‘tournament’ trope to an extent, I’m happier when it doesn’t extend over the whole story? I liked reading about the competition at first, but towards the end of the book it left me somewhat cold, as the cool tasks from the beginning became repetitive. I think it’s also because in made little sense once the book reaches it turn after the 65% mark or so, and you realise that pitting them against each other like that from the beginning had a huge potential for backfiring (and, no surprise, it does).

I was also on the fence regarding the nyxia mineral, which seems to be able to do everything, make coffee, just add water. I’m totally OK with a substance you can manipulate through willpower, and that may even be sentient to an extent, but I need some more explanation as to how this suddenly makes a space trip possible in 1 year instead of 27, for instance, or allows to create instant multi-language translators.

As far as the characters go, they worked for me as a disparate group with strengths and weaknesses, and there are a few I liked well enough, like Kaya, probably the one smart enough to understand what’s really going on; yet individually, not many stood out, and I could only get a solid grasp on a couple of them rather than on the whole crew. As for the romance, it sprang up from nowhere, had no chemistry, and is to be filed under that category of insta-romance that is only here so that we can tick the box on the bingo sheet. (Seriously, why must YA books have romance everywhere? Half the time, it just doesn’t work.)

Moreover, I’m not sure the attempt at bringing diversity worked too well, probably because we still end up with several Americans in the lot instead of having a really worldwide cast, and their cultural differences as a means of enriching their relationships and background weren’t really exploited. We see a little of it through Bilal and Azima, but the others? Not so much. They could all have been from the same city, in the end, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. There was much more potential than was actually exploited here, and that’s too bad.

Conclusion: A story whose beginning was better, but that didn’t live up to the expectations it had set for me.

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