Archive for the ‘Goodreads’ Tag

Goodreads Giveaway Winners – February 2017

For the month of February, I was running a giveaway on Goodreads – two paperback copies of THE WHISPERING DEATH, open to UK entrants only due to the costs of postage.

The giveaway has now closed, and signed and personalised copies of THE WHISPERING DEATH are winging their way, courtesy of Royal Mail, to the two winners: Isobel King in Derry, Northern Ireland, and Matthew Cobb in Hampshire, England.

If you fancy a free copy of the book then don’t fret – there is still a chance to win! Another Goodreads giveaway will open shortly, giving away another two copies of THE WHISPERING DEATH. If you have a Goodreads account, add THE WHISPERING DEATH to your ‘to read’ shelf and you will be notified when the next giveaway opens.

Congratulations to Isobel and Matthew, and thanks to all who entered.

Best Books of 2014

As always, I have been using Goodreads to keep track of the books I read throughout the year. I set myself a goal to read 65 books in 2014. I actually managed to read 71.

The number of books I have been reading since I started keeping track on Goodreads has been steadily increasing year on year. Just look at the stats:

2011 – 55 books read
2012 – 60 books read
2013 – 63 books read
2014 – 71 books read

I am not sure why this number is increasing. I have started reading books on the journey in to work, whereas I used to read the newspaper, so that’s a difference. I used to take the underground from London Bridge to Holborn every morning, which required changing trains and a great deal of walking to get from one platform to another, which would interrupt my reading time. This year I’ve started taking the bus instead, which is a straight 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading time before I have to get off. So I think that’s made a difference too.

Another noticeable change in reading habits in this past year is the increasing number of books I have read on the Kindle, as opposed to paper books. In fact the only paper books I read were those that I was sent by Shots e-zine to review for them, those that I picked up as freebies from conventions and those that had been given to me as gifts or were already on my shelves (for instance the Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky books). Every new book that I purchased myself, I bought as a Kindle version. The convenience of the Kindle is making a significant impact on my reading habits, and now that I have a plastic waterproof cover for it, I can even read it in the bath (which is another place I like to get some quiet reading time).

I started the year re-reading the Sara Paretsky books, who as I have mentioned many times is and always will be one of my all-time favourite authors. I enjoy all of her books, and many of the five-star rated books of 2014 are hers. I read many excellent books in 2014. However, since there were all of 16 books I gave five stars to, this already makes for a long list of ‘Best books read in 2014’. So although there are many deserving four-star books that should be on the list, the final cut contains only the ones I rated five stars. Some of them I have reviewed on Goodreads, and the link is included. Others I have included a few words about below the title.

Lamentation – CJ Sansom

This is the sixth book in the excellent crime series about Matthew Shardlake, hunchback lawyer in the time of Henry VIII, and it just as good as the previous in the series. The series is not only excellently researched, but each one has featured one of Henry’s six Queens, in chronological order. In this latest book, Henry is dying and his last Queen, Catherine Parr, has written a book called ‘Lamentation of a Sinner’ that has been stolen. Shardlake is hired to find out who stole the book and retrieve it, for if it gets out into the public domain it could prove the Queen guilty of treason.

The religious and political instability of this era is effectively portrayed. My only worry was that with the death of Henry VIII there would be no more Shardlake books. Without giving away too much, however, the end of this book sets the stage for a potential new era of Shardlake adventures.

Before I Go Sleep – SJ Watson

A film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth was released of this book last year. It’s the sort of plot where you either read the book or see the film because once you know the ending, it’s a fairly major spoiler.

The premise of the plot is that Christine Lucas has suffered an accident that affects her long-term memory. Every day she wakes up with no memory of the last twenty years, and the man she wakes up next to, who tells her he is her husband, is a stranger to her. It’s a frightening concept, but as Christine tries to explore her surroundings she discovers she has secrets she has not been telling her husband. Who can she trust?

This book is a very exciting and gripping thriller, and I was hooked from the first chapter.

V is for Vengeance – Sue Grafton
W is for Wasted – Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton is another of my all-time favourite authors, and I love her feminist, kick-ass heroine Kinsey Millhone. The books are all set in the 1980s, when Grafton started the series, and she says she is going to stop at Z. So there will only be three more, which makes me sad. However, this is another series I shall enjoy re-reading, since it’s been some time since I read the early books and I can’t remember much about them.

The Secret Place – Tana French

This is book five of the Dublin Murder Squad series, and I haven’t read the other four, but found this book in my pile of free booty from the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. It involves the murder of a teenage boy on the grounds of an expensive boarding school for girls. The investigating officers whittle the list of suspects down to eight girls – two groups of four, close-knit clusters of friends. But who killed Chris Harper? I really wanted to find out. And this book about adults moving around in the world of adolescent girls made me feel really glad I am long past that stage of life – been there, done that, no wish to go back thank you very much.

Breakdown – Sara Paretsky
Hardball – Sara Paretsky
Blacklist – Sara Paretsky
Hard Time – Sara Paretsky
Tunnel Vision – Sara Paretsky
Guardian Angel – Sara Paretsky
Burn Marks – Sara Paretsky
Body Work – Sara Paretsky

I worship the ground Ms Paretsky walks on. I’ve re-read every VI Warshawski book, and in doing so came across a couple that were new to me (‘Hardball’, which somehow I missed the first time around, and the latest book ‘Breakdown’). I now eagerly await the next book, out later this year. VI Warshawski is now in her fifties, though, and I wonder how much longer she can run around scaling walls and getting shot at.

Stone Bruises – Simon Beckett

Merivel: A Man of His Time – Rose Tremain

The Accident – CL Taylor

Sometimes I browse the Kindle specials store, and end up finding something really good for 99p. This was one of those occasions. The premise involves a teenage girl who ends up in a coma after deliberating stepping in front of a bus. Her mother, desperate to find out why her daughter tried to kill herself, starts to investigate and discovers some murky secrets in her daughter’s life that she knew nothing about. It’s another suspenseful page-turner.

And so this is my review of the best books I read in 2014. I have set myself a goal to read 70 books in 2015. Could be a challenge, but the Kindle is charged and loaded with plenty of unread books, all ready for my return to the day job and the London commute tomorrow. I suppose that’s one good thing about the days the train service is appalling. The longer it takes me get home, the more reading time I have.

Commercial Break

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

As we settle into 2014 I’ve been rather busy with promotional stuff, so I thought it was appropriate for a general update on what I’ve been up to of late.

Firstly, a round-up of guest appearances on the Internet for 2014. At the end of January, I featured on Chris Weigand’s Palace of Twelve Pillars blog, talking about how I was inspired to create my amateur sleuth Shara Summers. Earlier this month I visited Janie Franz’s blog Anasazi Dreams, talking about ambition and discipline being the tools of a writer. And most recently I’ve visited Helena Fairfax’s blog, where we’ve been reminiscing about childhood holidays in Blackpool.

All of this is an endeavour to drum up interest in the Shara Summers series, as the first two books are being released by MuseItUp this year. The first, DEATH SCENE, is a re-release. The previous version is no longer available, but the re-release will be out in the summer. If you haven’t been introduced to Shara yet, this is the one to start with. And if you’ve already read DEATH SCENE, a new publisher means new round of edits, so this version will be slightly different than the first.

If you enjoy meeting Shara in the first book, the second book in the series, DEAD COOL, will be released in Autumn so you won’t have to wait too long to catch up with her again.

Thus far, I don’t have definitive release dates or covers for either book. But you’ll be the first to know when I do, so watch this space.  In the meantime, if you want a sneak peek, there’s a blurb about each on the ‘Coming Soon’ page on my website.

And finally, if your tastes run to darker fiction, I’ve got some back listed horror titles that might be to your liking. SUFFER THE CHILDREN – available on the Kindle (US and UK) – is a supernatural horror novel with its roots based in mythology. And SOUL SCREAMS – available in print and ebook – is a collection of short horror stories about “that inner scream no one can hear but you”. It’s recently received some rather positive reviews on Goodreads, and if creepy stories are your thing, it might be right up your alley.

All this is why I’ve not had much time for the blog recently.  But of course that’s a poor excuse, and I hope that from now on I can improve on this year’s track record.

If you’ve recently discovered this blog, I bid you welcome and I hope you’ll stick around for a while.  If you’ve been following from the beginning, I’d like to say thank you for bearing with me – your support means a lot.  It’s going to be a busy year for me, writing-wise, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Best Books of 2013

As usual, over the past year I have been using Goodreads to log the books I read, and rate them using a scale of one to five stars.  About this time every year I use this to review the books I have read and which ones I have rated highest.

A book has to be pretty exceptional for me to give it five stars, but as it happens there were five books I rated five stars in 2013, so these are the books as I am citing as my best reads of the year.  Three of them are written by the same author:

Killing Orders/Bitter Medicine/Toxic Shock – Sara Paretsky.

This demonstrates why I don’t have a favourite book, I only have favourite authors.  I can never choose just one.

In 2013 I decided to re-read Sara Paretsky’s series about Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski from the beginning.  Some of these early books I have not read in nearly 20 years, but I was reminded why Sara Paretsky remains one of my all-time favourite authors.  It takes her a little while to get into the series.  The three books listed above are numbers 3, 4 and 5 in the series respectively (the first two books I gave four stars to).  But once she does, I can find no fault.  The stories are tightly plotted, the clues are carefully and often subtly placed.  V.I. is a brash, outspoken heroine with left-wing politics and a keen social conscience.  She has no patience with arrogant mysogynistic men – who it must be said she meets a lot of – and she doesn’t care what people think.  And I love her for it.  I love her outspoken-ness, I love the way she refuses to be inimidated, I even love the way she puts people’s backs up.  I especially love that she’s a woman with no particular desire to get married or have kids (V.I.’s back story sets out that she was once a lawyer, briefly married to a man she met in law school, but that ended when he cheated on her and she has no desire to repeat the experience).

I re-read the first five books in 2013 and there are 16 – thus far – in the series.  It’s not going out on a limb too much to predict that Sara Paretsky will also feature in my ‘best books of 2014’ list.

I also realised in re-reading these books how much my own writing style is similar to Sara Paretsky’s.  The conversational style of the narrative, the brief descriptions of day to day activities that fill the character’s time between key plot points and most significantly the technique of leading characters to the bedroom and then closing the door before the sex scenes are all present in my Shara Summers series.

Anyway.  That’s enough of my fan-girl wibbling.  In brief, I am re-reading the series and finding it as wonderful now as I did the first time around.  On to the other two books I rank as best reads of 2013:

Dracula – Bram Stoker
Joyland – Stephen King

‘Dracula’ I re-read to refresh my memory ahead of the panel I was doing on Dracula vs Frankenstein at EasterCon.  What can be said about this book?  It’s a gothic horror classic, and even though it was written over a hundred years ago it still packs a punch.

‘Joyland’ is the only recently written book on my list, by another one of my all-time favourite authors.  And in my view it’s one of his best, though I would categorise it as supernatural crime rather than horror.  I did a review of this book on Goodreads which I won’t repeat – if you’re interested, you can find it here.

Goodreads also allows you to set yourself an annual challenge of the number of books you want to read in a year.  Last year I challenged myself to read 60, and managed 63.  I spend over two hours a day on public transport going to and from work, and that’s where I get most of my reading done.

I’ve decided to push the boat out a bit this year and aim to read 65 books.  That is a bit of a challenge, but I think it’s achievable.  I’m looking forward to reading more great books in 2014.

End of an Era

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Most books aren’t published forever. Print publishers make room for new titles by having limited print runs, and backlisted titles that don’t sell are often not reprinted. Since e-books are technically forever, e-book publishers often deal with this by offering time-limited contracts.

Sadly, this means that my three-year contract with Lyrical Press for SUFFER THE CHILDREN has now come to an end. The e-book in its current format has disappeared from all online retailers. This has been a hard thing to deal with. It’s particularly depressing to discover that it’s gone from the Amazon Kindle list, along with the handful of generally positive reviews it had notched up. Somehow seeing it on Amazon made me feel validated as an author.

However, the good news is that with the end of the contract, the rights have reverted back to me, to do with them as I see fit. And SUFFER THE CHILDREN will return as an e-book, although with a different cover. In fact, I’ve commissioned an artist I know to work on the new cover image. Watch this space for more information.

In the meantime, SUFFER THE CHILDREN is still on Goodreads – at least it is at present. With the recent news about Amazon taking over Goodreads, who knows what’s going to happen. For now, at least, it’s there, along with a few reviews that people have posted there. So if you enjoyed SUFFER THE CHILDREN, why not go post a review there? It might help me boost sales when the rebooted version is released.

If you didn’t get around to buying it, all is not lost, as it will be back in the near future. In the meantime, you could try DEATH SCENE or SOUL SCREAMS while you wait. Both of them are still available from Amazon…

Speed Reading

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’ve been reading books since I first learned how to read. In fact, I’ve been devouring books since then. It’s always been about finishing one and going straight on to the next one. I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t another book to read once the current one was finished.

Some people have told me I’m a fast reader. I never really thought about it in this way. I do get through a lot of books – average count is about one a week. But I spend over two hours a day on public transport, going to and from work, and most of that time is reading time.

I do prefer books that are plot driven, and the vast majority of the books I read fall in the genres of crime and horror. The nature of these genres generally demands a suspenseful plot, and when I am reading I am focused on getting to the end of the page so I can turn over and find out what happens next. So maybe I do read fast. I never thought about the fact that I might read faster than other people, until recently.

Every day I take the train into London Victoria, and then I have two stops on the underground to work. I am on the underground for precisely four minutes. I’ve been doing this journey a long time – trust me, I know how long it takes. Four minutes is generally not long enough to get back into my book, in my view – by the time I’ve jostled with the crowd to gain access to my bag, get out the book or the e-reader and find the right page, it’s time to get off the train. And I’m generally standing on the underground anyway, which makes it even more awkward. So more often than not, as I’m hanging onto a pole being jostled around on the subway train, I’m standing next to someone who is sitting down, reading a book of some sort. Being a nosy sort of person, and as there’s not much else to look at on the underground, I’m reading over their shoulder. I’ve started to notice that in those four minutes I am reading their book over their shoulder, the person doesn’t turn the page. I get off at my stop and they are still on the same page they were when I got on four minutes ago. I’ve read that page four times over in that time.

So I’m starting to think maybe I do read faster than most people. I don’t pick up every detail of plot; I’m wanting to know what happens on the next page, instead of focusing on every detail on this page. I probably don’t savour a book; I devour it.

This has always been the way I read, and I never thought there was anything wrong with it. There are a lot of books in the world to read and we’ve only got so many years to read them, so I don’t want to spend too much time on each one. Most of the books I read I don’t remember much about a year or so later. The books that make a particular impact do stay with me – and they are the ones that are featuring in my ‘My Life in Books’ series. Books that I can still remember, because they made an impact.

I read so many books that sometimes I’ll pick one up and be halfway through it before I remember I read it before – some details seem familiar. But because I don’t remember every detail, I can re-read books and enjoy them again, because I don’t remember much about the first time around. This is another reason why I like Goodreads. I can log all the books I read and the log will job my memory about what I’ve read and what I thought of it. And of course it also lets me keep a list of everything I’ve read, which appeals to my anal nature.

Anyway, got to run. There are still more books out there to read…

Best Books of 2012

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

At this time of year, I like to look back at all the books I’ve devoured over the last 12 months and decide which ones I rate highest.  As I’ve mentioned before, I read a lot of books. For 2012 I set myself a goal of 60 books, and I managed to achieve it. Most of my reading time is during my commute. I spend over 2 hours a day travelling to and from work on public transport, and this is mostly why I get through so many books.

My favourite crime writer Sara Paretsky recently put out a call on her blog asking for people’s favourite reads of 2012, to increase her own TBR pile. I was very flattered that she included my response in her post.

I’ve mentioned before my love of Goodreads. Not only does it allow me to keep track of exactly what I’ve read and when, and list things I want to read, but I also use their guidelines for my star ratings (with one star meaning ‘didn’t like it’ and five stars meaning ‘it was amazing’). I don’t throw five stars around lightly. Most books I will enjoy, but they have to be pretty special to warrant a five star rating.

However, it so happens that in 2012 I gave no less than six books five stars, which makes choosing my best picks a bit easier

Many of them I’ve also reviewed on Goodreads, and in each case there’s a link back to the review, to save me repeating myself here. They are in no particular order, apart from the order I read them in.

BODY WORK – Sara Paretsky: I don’t mean to become a dribbling fan girl whenever the esteemed Ms Paretsky’s name is mentioned, but I can’t help it. This is the fourteenth book in her series about the tough woman detective VI Warshawski, and I have loved every single one of them. VI is older in this one, but still charging in without thought, in her desire to save the world from the bad guys. Ms Paretsky never disappoints, and neither does VI.

THE ASSASSIN’S PRAYER – Ariana Franklin: This fourth book in the series about 12th century doctor Adelia Aguilar, will sadly be the last because Ariana Franklin died in 2011. Adelia is a wonderful character. Not only is she a doctor specialising in forensics, at a time when the medical profession was viewed with suspicion, but she is a woman doctor to boot. A fact she tries to keep hidden, because in primitive England she would be burned as a witch. Instead, Adelia travels in the company of a Moor, who pretends to speak no English, so they can pretend that he is the doctor and she is his nurse and translator.

FLASH & BONES – Kathy Reichs: Another writer who, in my view, never fails to deliver. This fourteenth offering in the adventures of forensic pathologic Temperance Brennan is the best in some time, I think. Set in the exciting world of motor racing, it was tense and thrilling and had me turning the pages.

ODD APOCALYPSE – Dean Koontz: This is the fifth book in the series about a strangely named young man who can see ghosts, and I was introduced to it when I had to review this book for Shotsmag. I enjoyed it so much I immediately bought the first book in the series as soon as I finished this one.

ODD THOMAS – Dean Koontz: Hence why this, the first book in the series, I read after the fifth book in the series. Start with this one and get introduced to Odd properly.

11/22/63 – Stephen King: This time-travelling thriller from the Master of Horror seems to be the Marmite of the literary world – you either love it or hate it. I loved it.

And what of my reading target for 2013? I could have been ambitious and upped the stakes. But since my job hasn’t changed I don’t anticipate any more or fewer hours of reading time, so I’ve set myself the same goal again. I average a book a week. I aim to read 60 books in 2013, which is more than a book a week, but it does depend on the length of the book, and how much time I spend sitting on the beach (for every day I spend doing nothing but lazing around on holiday reading, I can get through one book). So, we shall see if I can reach the same target again.

What are your reading goals for this year?

Best Books of 2011

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

I have talked before about how much I like Goodreads. Not only is it a good platform for writers to promote their books, it’s also a good way of keeping track of all the books you read. This time last year, I set myself a challenge to read 50 books in a year. The challenge only works, of course, if you are diligent about logging every book you read on Goodreads. This is not something I have a problem with – I am quite shameless about broadcasting my reading tastes to the world. Some folks, I suspect, will only log on Goodreads the books they want the world to know they’re reading, but that’s an entirely different story.

In any case, I have no shame and I am somewhat anally retentive about keeping track of my reading habits, so I find Goodreads rather handy. I read 55 books in 2011, so I exceeded my reading goal.

Because you can also rate books on Goodreads, it’s fairly easy to pick out which ones you thought were the best. So I am presenting, in this post, my Top 5 Books of 2011. I will add a qualifier here, and say that these are from the perspective of books I read, not books that were published, in 2011. Some of them I have reviewed on Goodreads. Rather than repeat myself here, if this applies I have included the link in the title.

SISTER – Rosamund Lupton. A beautifully-written book about the grief of an older sister, trying to find the killer of her younger sister. Not exactly a cheerful read, but well worth a look if you’re interested in the dynamics of family relationships.

NOW YOU SEE ME – SJ Bolton. This is a book I had to review for SHOTS, and it had me hooked. A gripping and genuinely spooky crime thriller that offers an interesting slant on the Jack the Ripper legend.

HEARTSTONE – C J Sansom. The quality of the writing in this series of historical crime novels blows everyone else out the water. Sansom’s protagonist, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, investigates murders against the backdrop of Henry VIII’s court. In this book Henry’s wife is Catherine Parr, which possibly means, sadly, there won’t be too many more in the series, unless Sansom plans to carry Shardlake through the aftermath of Henry’s reign.

CHANGES – Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden, the only wizard in Chicago, inhabits a contemporary alternative world in which magic, vampires and faeries exist, with most humans being oblivious to this fact. Harry, a chivalrous and flawed character, can never resist coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress, and it is the voice of his character – brave; wise-cracking; resourceful – that make this such a fabulous series. Poor Harry has a hard time in this novel, and this is only one to read when you’ve already got the sequel in your TBR pile, because it ends on a cliff hanger.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE – Shirley Jackson. I’ve wanted to read this since I saw the film adaptation (the original 1963 version – not the 1990s remake). It’s classic gothic horror at its finest. Four people gather in a haunted house, as part of an experiment to study psychic phenonema. They all bring their own psychological baggage with them, and the way they interact with each other is as much part of the atmosphere as the ghostly goings on.

So there we have my Top 5 reads of 2011, and happily it represents a cross-section of the genres I read in.

With a degree of overconfidence, I have set myself a new target for 2012 – to read 60 books. It remains to be seen if I will succeed, but my TBR pile is big enough to give me plenty to be getting on with in the foreseeable future.

DEATH SCENE is on Goodreads!

I have received the final files for DEATH SCENE and I am all excited. It’s finished and ready to go out into the big wide world. As such, I can start pimping it.

So the first thing I did was to create an entry on Goodreads for it. I was then able to add it to my Goodreads profile. Thus I am no longer a writer with a book out. I am a writer with two books out (well, almost). Somehow that makes a world of difference psychologically, though I really can’t tell you why. Perhaps a similar thing happens to parents when they go from being a couple with a child to a family with two children.

Anyway, now it’s there on Goodreads, out on the public domain and accessible by anyone.

So today’s post is a blatant plug. Here is DEATH SCENE’s entry. If you’ve got a Goodreads profile, maybe you want to take a look. The e-book’s not available yet, but you could put it in your ‘To Be Read’ list just as a reminder…

Many thanks
Sara
(Blatant publicity tart…)

Goodreads Challenge

I’ve been on Goodreads for a little while now. If you’re a writer, or a reader, I would recommend signing up.

If you’re a writer, it’s a really good publicity tool. You can set up a profile for yourself, and add your books. Once your book is there you can monitor who reads it, who reviews it, and if you really want to self-promote, you can also recommend it to others.

If you are a reader, it’s a good way of monitoring all the books you read. With your profile you can create your electronic bookshelves, adding books you’ve read, are reading or want to read, and you can categorise them, rate and review them, and see other people’s reviews. It also keeps track of when you start a book and finish it.

I know some people who have kept a log of every book they’ve ever read. I’ve never really done this, so I don’t know how many books I’ve read in my lifetime, and sometimes I start to read books I think I’ve never read before, only to realise partway through that I have.

Goodreads changes all that, though. I joined in April last year, so the books I’ve read since then I’ve added, and I’m in the process of adding other books I know I’ve read in the past.

Goodreads sent me a message recently informing me that I read 35 books last year, and would I like to set myself a challenge for this year? That 35 books, of course, is the number I’ve read since I joined Goodreads. I think 50 is more accurate for a year – it takes me, on average, about a week to read a book.

So the challenge I set for myself to read 50 books in 2011 probably isn’t that challenging. Still, let’s see how it goes. I can always up the count in 2012.

If you are on Goodreads, feel free to add me to your ‘friends’ list. Here is my profile.