#BookReview: Aeon Rising by Matthew Mather

This week we’re looking at an action packed series starter from a thrilling scifi author. This week we’re looking at Aeon Rising by Matthew Mather.

Action Packed Series Starter. This is one hell of an action packed series starter for Mather, and one that despite a few similar general ideas (such as crippled communications due to space activity) with his CyberStorm series never gets quite as dark as that one can. Indeed, the darkest thing here is unfortunately all too common, but to reveal it specifically would be a spoiler (though even here, Mather manages to put a scifi twist to it in furtherance of his ultimate series objectives). The different types of action here are reminiscent of everything from nearly-every-Amazon-based-action-movie-you’ve-ever-seen such as Predator or Anaconda, just to name a couple, to more urban based ala Daniel Pyne’s Sentro Security or a Mission Impossible / Jason Bourne type. Throw in some elements similar to Deep Impact, as well as a few other elements of a few other popular tales that would be a touch spoilery to add here, and you’ve truly got a promising start to a potentially long series. This book is mostly set-up without ever truly *feeling* like it is mostly set-up – the action is tightly paced, as is the exposition, there is just *so much here* that by the end it is quite clear that this series is intended as a trilogy at minimum. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Fatal Conflict by Matt Hilton

Reacher Fans, Meet Tess, Po, and Pinky. This is a somewhat standard mystery-with-badass-heroes where there is a baddy (in this case, a team of them) who does bad things (we find out, and it is pretty dang terrible – though fortunately the worst of it is off screen and in the past, relative to our current story), and the hero of the series (heroes, in this case) meet up with the baddy through some circumstance… which the baddy winds up not appreciating in the end. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Within this scope, this is Hilton’s particular blend of charm, wit, charisma, and caring. As with the entire series, you find yourself wanting to see what happens to Tess, Po, and Pinky next – which is the hallmark of any solid procedural. The *singular* reason for the single star deduction is that COVID (and masking) are mentioned heavily throughout the book, and *I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID*. I am on a one-man war to eliminate this topic from fiction, but the only weapon I really have is this single star deduction – and so I use it on every book I read that mentions COVID, and I mention why in every review. Still, for readers who aren’t as adamant about this position as I am or even those who may disagree, there really was nothing too objectionable about this entry in this long running series, and quite a bit of fun escapism (minus the COVID aspects). Very much recommended.

This review of Fatal Conflict by Matt Hilton was originally written on June 6, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana

For this blog tour we’re looking at a fun and flirty foodie romance that packs a bit of bite when it wants to. For this blog tour we’re looking at A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun, Flirty Flight With Serious Undertones. This is one of those books where you take two cultures known for their passions – in this case, the Irish and the Puerto Rican -, mix in a lifetime of not only knowing each other, but having both families remarkably intertwined (platonically) and add a heaping of tragic backstory… and watch everything come together beautifully. The mix of romance tropes works well here, our primary couple is particularly well fleshed out while giving most all of the side characters at least some time to shine, and we even get a clear sense that a series is brewing to boot. This book really does fire on all burners, and when the gut punches of the tragic backstories hit, they land like haymakers. Ultimately a fun book even with the haymakers, this is very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana”

On Why Paying More For A Book Is Illogical For Readers And Why Reviews Are So Crucial For Authors

If you’ve been on social media much in the last couple of weeks (and in various reading circles therein) in particular, you’ve probably seen the meme at the top of this post floating around.

Me being me, I decided to take a look at both of its claims – one, that a reader paying more for a book does anything overly beneficial for the author of that book and two, that the author will significantly benefit from a singular sale of a book.

The reason I wanted to look at these claims is because they directly speak to a couple of issues I’ve wanted to look at some hard numbers on almost since the beginning of this blog, and am only now actually sitting down to do, based on some Facebook comments I made about this very meme. Specifically, how the volume of books a reader reads directly impacts the price point they can reasonably afford per book (inversely) and just how critical word of mouth and reviews are for independent authors in particular in reaching any kind of livable income as an author.

First, let’s look at the total cost of acquiring new books based on how many books a reader is reading in a given period.

I’ll link the full Excel file at the end of this post, but here you can enlarge the image (full image is roughly 6000 x 2000 pixels) to see both the chart and the data it is based on. Basically, if you are a reader that only reads a couple of books per month, you can afford to pay up to $19.99 per book and spend less than $500 per year for your books. And looking out through the general population, there are in fact a LOT of people that fall into this 24-or-less-books-per-year category. According to at least some research, the average American is doing good to read even a single book per month, or just 12 books per year, a volume which can afford to pay up to $39.99 per book and stay under the (admittedly arbitrary) $500 mark. HOWEVER, followers of this blog will note that for the past couple of years, I’ve managed to top 250 books each year – and I’m currently on track to end 2022 somewhere near that number yet again. At this volume, paying even $1.99 per book crosses the $500/ year threshold – the same threshold that allowed someone reading 10% of my volume of books to spend 10x more money per book. Admittedly, during the time I’ve been at this volume of throughput I have also been *heavily* involved in reading Advanced Review Copies – ARCs – where I read the book in advance of public publication with the understanding that I will write a public review and spread it where possible. (Note that for various legal reasons, authors/ publishers cannot *require* this… but they also don’t have to offer the book to anyone or any particular person in ARC form either. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Even then, I buy quite a few new books per year – either the books I’ve already read as ARCs (often, but not always) or books that just look interesting to me. Many of these wind up on my literally 5,000+ book and growing TBR list on my Kindle… but that is the subject of another post some day. ๐Ÿ˜€

The ultimate point here is that no matter your financial situation, the more you read, the more practical it is to find ways to lower your cost per book – *ethically*.

Let me be perfectly clear here: DO NOT STEAL BOOKS! DO NOT ACCEPT AN ARC AND THEN NOT REVIEW IT! DO NOT BUY A BOOK, READ IT, AND RETURN IT! Both of these are *STEALING* and directly impact an author’s ability to make a living as a writer – which we’ll get to in a moment.

If writing reviews is something you’re willing to do, perhaps look to sites like NetGalley or Edelweiss as a way to get into ARC work as a way to lower your cost per book. (There are also various Facebook groups for this that are recruiting at various times. Easiest way to find them is follow your favorite authors and watch for them to possibly mention recruiting for such a group – that is actually how I got involved with *everything*. :D) There are public libraries all across the US that allow you to borrow print or digital copies of books for free – many have even eliminated fines for returning books late, and there are at least some that will allow anyone who registers, no matter their geographic location (possibly just within the US?) to borrow digital books. There is Kindle Unlimited, which while not free allows for a bit of control of overall price per book if utilized heavily. There are sites such as BookBub that show you which books are on sale where and can even alert you when particular books or books from particular authors are on sale. There may be other ethically reasonable ways to reduce your overall price per book – if anyone has any suggestions I haven’t named here, please let me know either in the comment section here on the blog or on whatever social media platform you find this post!

Now, for authors… the obvious thing is that you want to make as much money as possible for your work – same as any of us in any other job. I totally get that, and I know phenomenal authors who have had to go back to working outside of writing in order to support their families due to lack of sales. I also know others who support not only their own families, but also sometimes a few entire families due to large backlists and presumably strong sales.

To get even a rough approximation of how many books an author needs to sell in a given period to make a range of wages, I made a few assumptions when building the chart here:
1) The author is independent, uses Kindle Direct Publishing, and chooses its 70% royalty option (which requires Amazon exclusivity and IIRC has price point minimums and maximums).
2) The author creates four books per year, is entirely responsible for all creation efforts (ie, doesn’t pay editors/ cover designers / etc), and does all production efforts from initial idea through publication in 13 weeks per book.

I know these aren’t completely realistic, as many authors pay not only editors and cover designers, but also personal assitants, perhaps blog tour / ARC organizers (placing a book on NetGalley on your own is *not* cheap!), and otherwise have other production-related expenses I either am not aware of or am not considering here. Obviously, all of these added expenses add to the number of books needed to be sold.

A final note before we see the chart: Note that this is *gross* income, as in, pre-tax. But here, I think that is fair as this is generally the way wages are discussed.

Here’s the chart:

Again, you’ll likely need to open it outside of seeing it in this post, as the overall image is again roughly 5000 x 3000 pixels, but does contain the graph-and-data structure from the reader chart.

Looking at this chart, let’s pay particular attention to the left 4 columns – $15/ hr through $60/ hr. $15/ hr is the “living wage” many are currently seeking as the Minimum Wage throughout the US. Over four books at this wage per hour, an author is looking at a total income for the year – again, pre-tax – of just $31,000. Which can be doable, if they live with someone who is earning at least as much and can share expenses. $60/ hr is fairly comfortably upper middle class, and assuming this can actually be achieved noting the realities above re: other expenses I haven’t accounted for in this basic analysis, could allow the author themselves to be the primary breadwinner in their family.

But now let’s look at the range of books one needs to sell in order to be within this wage range. At minimum, an author could sell just 223 books at $49.99 per book and hit the $15/ hr mark. Except that most books at that price point are highly technical and are essentially textbooks on some subject… which means there are likely a lot of added time and costs that are not reflected in my analysis here. At maximum, an author would need to sell just over 45,000 copies – of each of four books! – at a price point of $0.99 in order to make that $60/ hr wage.

And now we already see why reviews and word of mouth are just so critical to authors, and why paying more than you can afford just to seem “virtuous” or “helpful” is illogical.

Even if you spent $50 on that book and *loved* it – the author still needs to sell over 220 more copies of that book (again, plus three other books!) *just to make minimum wage*. If you are a more voracious and reasonably cost-conscious reader, that author needs to sell over 11,250 more copies of that book – plus the same number of three other books! – just to make minimum wage, assuming you paid $0.99 for your copy.

Ultimately, as many authors have said many times in many ways across all of social media and direct communication both personally and through groups / email lists/ etc, the singular best thing you can do to help an author whose work you enjoy isn’t to sacrifice your money – it is to sacrifice even a small segment of your own time. Write the review. Post it to at least Amazon (US is preferable, but even your own country’s Amazon variant is better than nothing at all), Goodreads, and Bookbub. (Also wherever you bought the book, assuming they have a place on their website to leave reviews.) It doesn’t have to be fancy or eloquent, it just has to be what you thought of the book – and about 24 words or so (to fulfill minimum word requirements on some websites). For reference, that last sentence was 25 words even before the parenthesis. Whatever social media platforms you use, mention the books and authors there too. If you’re in a conversation where it seems applicable – maybe they asked what you’ve been up to, or maybe the subject of the book id directly applicable to the conversation at hand – mention the book there too, no matter the environment. Ultimately, the goal is to put this author in front of as many potential buyers as you can. *That* is how you help them the most in reaching even that additional 11,250 readers beyond just yourself – even when your own circles aren’t anywhere near that big.

So go forth and review that book! ๐Ÿ˜€

Click Here To Download The Excel File Discussed In This Post

#BookReview: Holding Together by John Shattuck, Sushma Raman, and Matthias Risse

Regurgitation Of Left-Of-Center Talking Points. I’ll sum this book up quickly: For any given problem it notes, it basically rehashes solidly leftist (though not extreme leftist) talking points before its policy recommendations come down to more National government spending and/ or action. Which perhaps is to be expected from a book dedicated to the memory of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The problem is that it routinely ignores critical details – such as when it claims that recent election reforms in Georgia “left seven Counties with only a single polling place open on Election Day”. Georgia has 159 Counties, ranging in size from Clarke County (128K people) (home of the University of Georgia) at 121 sq miles to Ware County (36K people) (largely home of the Okefenokee Swamp) at 903 sq miles and ranging in population from Talaiferro County (population 1,558, area 195 sq miles) to Fulton County (the City of Atlanta, basically) (population 1.065 million, area 529 sq miles). In making a claim such as the one these authors made, population, County size, and where the population clusters are within the County relative to where the singular polling place is are all crucial factors – that the authors blatantly ignore and don’t even seem to account for at all in their analysis. Similar issues can be seen on every topic they discuss, from the need for Civics education (where they support the 1619 project despite its blatant racism) to the environment and gun control and every other issue covered here.

Now, I will admit that this text is fairly well documented at roughly 30% – but this just shows just how much cherrypicking of data and sources these authors did to be so well documented yet skip over so many critical facts.

Overall, this is one where if you agree with the leftist slant of the authors you’ll likely enjoy much of what you find here, and if you disagree with it, you won’t find as much here. Still, there are a few interesting points here and there, it is simply overall truly lacking in adding anything to the cultural conversations – which is sad, because based on its title and written description, it had much more promise than it ultimately contained. Not recommended.

This review of Holding Together by John Shattuck, Sushma Raman, and Matthias Risse was originally written on June 3, 2022.

#BookReview: Contagion by Michael McBride

LOTS Of Moving Parts. This is one of those longer books at 634 pages with a LOT of moving parts that can be difficult to track at times – but which it is hard to say that McBride could have separated into two books at any given point. MAYBE by separating out some of the individual threads into two separate yet concurrent 300 ish page books? Yet I struggle to think that the tale would be so compelling without seeing all that is happening at once.

Essentially this is the tale of the beginning of the Apocalypse, and McBride makes it clear in his author’s note that a major inspiration was The Stand (which believe it or not, I’ve never read). Another somewhat similar story that I drew several parallels with from one of McBride’s contemporaries is the Project Eden series by Brett Battles, which I’ve noted for years was the best full series I’ve yet read.

Here, McBride begins to make his case to take that title, and despite the length here and just how many individual threads are all going on… he absolutely makes a strong opening statement. By the end of this book, it is quite clear that this particular tale setting up the Apocalypse and showing how it began is complete… and yet it is also quite clear that several threads will be left for subsequent books and at least a few of them are likely to not be resolved until the final book of this series, whenever that may be. Very much recommended.

This review of Contagion by Michael McBride was originally written on June 2, 2022.

#BlogTour: Sweet Home Alaska by Jennifer Snow

For this blog tour we’re looking at an excellent “book one” for a new series after having had a couple of teases in prior works by the author. For this blog tour we’re looking at Sweet Home Alaska by Jennifer Snow.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Excellent Multi-Layered “Series Starter”. After having had a back-door pilot in Alaska Dreams, where the couple traveled down to Port Serenity (our town in this book) to work with the Coast Guard (one of our main groups here, and one who has a direct connection in a secondary character in our unit here) to shoot a movie (which is then watched in one scene in this book) and a lead-in novella in Love On The Coast that explicitly introduces our town and some of its residents and history (and whose couple – and story – is summarized in this book)… we finally get into a proper Book 1 for this new spin-off series from Snow’s semi-long running (6 books or so at this time) Wild Alaska series.

And it absolutely fires on all cylinders. You’ve got a couple of tense Coast Guard rescues in the cold Alaskan waters where our new heroine learns to trust herself. You’ve got the tragic backstory of high school sweethearts who split due to several misunderstandings/ secrets. For the “sweet” / “clean” crowd… eh, you’ve got some pretty dang intense sex scenes, both penetrative and not – and not a dang one of them “fade to black” / “behind closed doors”. There’s enough drama in the book to elevate it above “bubble gum pop” level romance, without it being *too* burdening – and thus it is still a solid escape (and a longer-ish one at near 400 pages) for those who may need to escape the “real” world for a bit. It also happens to be a solid introduction to the author’s overall storytelling style for those who may be new to her. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Sweet Home Alaska by Jennifer Snow”

#BookReview: Relativity by Ben Adams

If Douglas Adams Wrote “Men’s Fiction”. Take the hilarity and wit that *Douglas* Adams was known for in his scifi and apply it instead to a tale of three middle aged men each having distinct mid-life crises that all get wrapped up in each other… and you basically have this book. More of a “men’s fiction” tale that explores similar themes as the better known “women’s fiction” genre, but focusing on the guys rather than the gals, this is a wild romp with heart – and a relatively short read at under 250 pages to boot. Adams manages to pack quite a tale within that lower page count though, and the laughs are on nearly every page. Truly a more lighthearted and off-the-wall book that many may need in trying times. Very much recommended.

This review of Relativity by Ben Adams was originally written on May 26, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Crazy To Leave You by Marilyn Simon Rothstein

This week we’re looking at a strong book about (re)discovering yourself in mid-life. This week we’re looking at Crazy To Leave You by Marilyn Simon Rothstein.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Tale Of Discovering Yourself In Mid-Life. There is an overarching theme through many of the lower-starred reviews (at least as I read Goodreads early on release day, just after finishing the book myself) that they “didn’t know where this tale was going”. To me… *this is the very point of the book*. Our main character suddenly finds herself directionless after what she thought she had in the bag collapses around her, and we get to watch as she picks up the shattered pieces and rediscovers herself – and discovers her voice for possibly the very first time – in the aftermath. In this, Rothstein does a truly tremendous job of having a solid combination of support and antagonism – often in the same supporting characters. Thus showing that *everyone* is flawed to some degree, but also that *everyone* is good to some degree as well. The banter is great, the emphasis on her time at summer camp as a teen is excellent nostalgia reminiscent of Wet Hot American Summer, the slow burn romance is well executed, and even the very serious issues discussed – workforce discrimination (though never truly fleshed out there), diet “culture”, overbearing but well intentioned parents, etc – are done well, with just enough weight to give substance without becoming truly overbearing. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr

Could Be An Entertaining – And Equally Informative – History or Discovery Documentary Series. I went into this book expecting something more along the lines of Nathan Gorenstein’s The Guns Of John Moses Browning or Jeff Guin’s War On The Border… and got a touch of an amalgamation of the two. Like the Gorenstein book, this book is focused on the lives of a select group of men that became icons of gun manufacturing in the US… and how they got there and what their legacies became. Like the Guin book, this book also tells the surrounding history and places these men’s live solidly within their historical context, mostly between the Mexican-American war in the front half of the 19 century and the US Civil War and Reconstruction in the back half of the same century. Unlike the Gorenstein text, you’re not going to find a lot of technical discussion of the exact details and features of the guns in question here – though you *will* find quite a bit about the various lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that helped some of these men and hindered others of them. Overall, a solid look at the men and the early days of their empires whose names last even into the new Millennium. Very much recommended.

This review of Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr was originally written on May 23, 2022.