My review of Mary Barton: a Tale of Manchester Life

Mary Barton

‘Mary Barton’ is reminiscent of Gaskell’s novel ‘North and South’, following the theme of the lives and loves of the characters who lived during the industrial revolution in the North West of England, but whereas ‘North and South’ was set in the fictional town of Milton, based on Manchester, ‘Mary Barton’ is actually set in Manchester itself, where Gaskell lived for a time. Like ‘North and South’, it is a difficult, slow read, with a lot of characters it is difficult to keep track of and some you find it hard to sympathise with; like ‘North and South’, the author keeps faith with working-class local dialects and colloquialisms of the time, and these are also difficult to read.

The main protagonist of the book title, Mary Barton herself, comes across as a colourless character, shunning the attentions of a young man of her own class because she believes herself to be in love with the rich son of her father’s mill boss, until something happens which makes her suddenly – and I found this a bit startling – realise she loves the former after all.

Not her best work by any means.

This review is available on Goodreads and Amazon.co.uk.

Did physical books ever really go away?

Apparently, the physical book is back, but it did ever really go away? In 2016 sales of children’s books rose, as did non-fiction, in hardback and paperback. Readers have given their reasons that they love the smell and feel of a physical book and that eBooks don’t give the same pleasure.

Everyone knows their pros and cons of eBooks and physical books and here are mine:

Physical book pros:

  • Picture books with beautiful illustrations that engage a young reader and allow them to read along with Mum or Dad. They can feel the pages and point to the pictures and this helps them to appreciate a good book
  • Technical illustrations or diagrams easier to follow for non-fiction readers
  • Using a lovely bookmark!
  • Cover design (like an album cover; when LPs gave way to CDs and iPod downloads the world bemoaned the loss of the album cover, an art form in itself, so it’s great LPs have come back!)
  • Books keep libraries and bookshops in business!
  • When you’ve finished with your book you can pass it to a friend, donate it to a second hand book sale or leave it in a hotel library for another guest to enjoy
  • They look good on a shelf!

Physical book cons:

  • How many books do you take on holiday and will they weigh down your case?
  • When the spines come apart, your pages come loose and you end up having to wrap an elastic band around to keep all the pages together! (happened to me loads of times!)
  • They can collect a lot of dust
  • They are more expensive than eBooks because they cost more to produce
  • Costs of self-publishing

eBook pros:

  • You can take a whole library of eBooks on holiday with you without stuffing your case full of trashy reads and being told at the airport that you’ve gone over your 20 kg case limit
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to operate
  • eBooks give self-published authors the opportunity to publish their own books at no cost (after paying for editing and proofreading)
  • Books are instantly downloadable, you don’t have to drive to a shop or pay for shipping
  • Generally cheaper to buy than physical books
  • Gives the reader a choice: physical or eBook?

eBook cons:

  • You might not have to weigh your case down with paperbacks, but if you forget to pack your charger…!
  • eReaders are generally still in boring black and white with no colour, unless you use a tablet, so they’re not really much use for picture books or non-fiction where you want to see colourful pictures
  • There’s nothing attractive about an eReader with a cracked screen
  • Drop it in water and it suffers the same fate as your mobile phone if you drop that in water
  • You can’t borrow an eBook from a library or buy from a book shop
  • One eReader on a shelf looks pretty lonely!
  • Doesn’t have the feel or smell of a physical book
  • You can’t share an eBook with a friend (not legally, anyway!)
  • You can’t gift a Kindle book in the UK!

Nah, I don’t think physical books ever really went away. Read the news report here.

The curious case of the man who corrects grammar mistakes in the night: the Apostrophiser!

Here’s a tale that will warm the hearts of writers everywhere, and it’s a true story!

In Bristol in the UK, there’s a man who goes round at night correcting the dreaded apostrophe mistakes made on shop signs in the city. He has made a tool for this purpose, called the ‘apostrophiser’, a very large pole that either places an apostrophe after the ‘s’ where it should be and can take out the ‘s’ where it shouldn’t be.

This guy has been dubbed the ‘Banksy of Punctuation’ and has been doing this incognito for thirteen years! Only his family knows who he is. Does he have too much time on his hands? Maybe, but I know it drives me mad to see apostrophes in the wrong place, nor would I stay in a hotel or B&B where I see ‘accommodation’ with one ‘m’ on the door, so good on him, I say! 👍

What’s the irony of this story? There’s no such word as ‘apostrophiser’! 😂

Full story in The Guardian.

Amazon Dis-Advantage!

In October 2016 I wrote Why I joined Amazon Advantage. To recap, I did so because I found out that Amazon wasn’t taking the feeds from Nielsen Bookdata and showing my books in their correct subject categories (Amazon call these browse nodes).  They were just showing up on the Amazon catalogues dumped in Children’s Books or Teen Fiction General. That was no good; who would find them there? When I asked Amazon, they replied the only way to sort this was to join Amazon Advantage and input the subjects myself.

Oh, and by the way you have to do it for each individual Amazon by country so naturally I began with Amazon.co.uk.

And the trouble I’ve had!

You have to add your items and input your prices and subjects, but one thing I noticed was the subjects the books should have had listed were already there. So why weren’t they on the catalogues? Anyway, I set about inputting them again. I had to wait 7-10 days for the changes, but…

  1. None of the new prices I input were ever saved despite my asking numerous times. Oddly enough pricing was one thing they did take from the Neilsen feed, so I’ve had to go back to Lulu and change them there so that they will feed that info to Neilsen (and that’s another story!) That’s probably going to be a problem with Amazon.com. I added the titles onto that Advantage programme before I wrote this post and I sorted out the prices. I wanted the prices to be cheaper and more consistent, all ending in .99.
  2. For some reason I had problems with the subjects for Goalden Girl and Goalden Sky. Amazon didn’t seem to like putting Football with Sports & Outdoors, even though this was available to choose on the Advantage subjects. Anyway they’ve managed to salvage something after loads of nagging by me, but I don’t relish having to do this all over again with Amazon.com!
  3. Goalden Sky continually drops off my active items list. God only knows why!
  4. When stock runs out, I have to send copies of my books myself to Amazon (including overseas). What happens if I snuff it??? No one will ever remember me and my books will be continually out of print! 😭
  5. Once you’re in the Advantage programme, can you opt out of it, and if so do you lose all the changes you made?

I’m beginning to regret ever joining Advantage. I think it sucks personally…🙄

My Review of Little Town on the Prairie

 

Laura is fast approaching womanhood and her family is settled in the town of De Smet in South Dakota. She’s back at school with her friends, but her sister Mary has gone to college to learn to cope with her blindness and Laura is lonely without her. Although she’s not keen on becoming a teacher, her goal is to get her teaching certificate so she can earn enough to help keep Mary at college. She is studying hard, but there are distractions: as well as socialising, there’s the reappearance of an old adversary, Nellie Oleson, and the new teacher has taken a dislike to her. Also, she’s attracted the attention of Almanzo Wilder, even though she’s only 15.

Overall I enjoyed this book. The reappearance of the repellent Nellie Oleson is reminiscent of Laura’s encounters with her in the TV series Little House on the Prairie, but I would have liked a bit more nastiness from Nellie! There are major flaws, however, not least the minstrel show performed at one of the ‘Literaries’ and the racist language around that, and Almanzo Wilder’s sister is the new teacher who dislikes Laura, but it doesn’t come up as a topic of conversation between her and Almanzo and Laura seemingly forgets the connection. Finally, the way in which Laura gains her teaching certificate comes across as unrealistic.

Review available on Amazon.co.uk and Goodreads.

 

My Review of The Marlows and The Traitor

The Marlows and the Traitor is the second in the series of Marlow books and the first I’ve read about twins Nicola and Lawrie away from their boarding school. It’s the Easter holidays and the twins are staying in St-Anne’s-Byfleet with their mother, sister Ginty and brother Peter. The traitor in question is one of Peter’s teachers at Dartmouth Naval College, Lewis Foley. Foley snubs Peter when they unexpectedly meet. When the children come across a deserted house called Mariners (which turns out to belong to Foley’s family), this sets off a frightening chain of events involving a lighthouse, secret papers, spies and a German U-boat. Set following World War II, the U-boat is a bit of a surprise, but perhaps indicates that for the Germans at least the war isn’t over.

Overall it is an enjoyable read, although I found some of the scenes with the character Robert Anquetil somewhat confusing. He and Nicola appear to be friends, but the author doesn’t say how this has come about, and the fact that Mrs Marlow decides to go and see her husband, leaving the children to their own devices, is also a bit weird.

I read the Girls Gone By edition, beautifully produced, although quite pricey at around £12.00.

 

Read my review on Amazon.co.uk and Goodreads

Ten of the Best Free Press Release Sites

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a proud indie author about to publish a masterpiece must be in want of getting the word out there. Publicity is necessary, or where would you find your readers?

As you write, you can bore your potential audience rigid by talking about your book on social media or by blogging about it (as I do, but one word of warning: if you market through Twitter don’t do it when there’s a football match on or you’ll be tweeting to yourself!). Then, when your book is finished, edited, published and ready to sell, you can think about publishing your press release – or even better, getting the press release out before you publish. A press release is not only necessary, it’s mandatory! An online press release on a site gives you free publicity and you never know where it could lead.

Most authors, musicians and other artists want to find free press release sites. Why pay for it when you can get it for free? The problem is, I’ve noticed over the years that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find mainly free sites, especially in the UK; however, there are a few I’ve used that remain free for basic news items, but which do charge for premium ads that can be distributed in the media more widely, so these are also worth considering if you can afford it. Releases are often subject to approval before publication and some sites limit word count and the number of days they will keep a release. The down side for authors is that most of their releases can be lost in the Arts and Entertainment sections; not many have dedicated Book categories, but on the plus side many sites are now tweeting releases and sharing on Facebook, offer global media distribution and your release will almost always show up on the front page for a time.

So here are my ten of the best free press release sites:

Briefingwire – searchable with immediate publication

eNewsWire UK – starts with a note of advice about submitting a press release already submitted through other channels. Searchable via a monthly archive

Free Press Release Center – Covers a comprehensive list of topics

FreePRNow – simply laid out; account required, but completely free

NewsSides – US and Canada distribution only

OnlinePRNews – free and paid; releases are live for 90 days

Press Release Place – looks great on the face of it, but for authors and other artists there are no specific sections and there doesn’t appear to be a way to search for a release

Pressbox – simply laid out; this site doesn’t require an account to submit a release, but once submitted you can’t edit

PR Fire – a searchable free press release service covering a wide range of topics; prfire.com is the paid service

PRLog – nicely designed site with a search engine optimised web page

Read my press release for Big Brother published on Free Press Release Center.

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