Book Reviews

20 Books of Summer Readathon 2021 #Bookreviews #Books

I found this readathon last year and decided to do it when it’s actually summer where I live. My TBR is completely out of control and this is my way to try and make it more manageable. I’ve decided to stick to my non-fiction shelf. This post does not include books I read for other readathons during the last three months, except the #NonFictionNovember readathon which worked perfectly with what I chose to read. For every book I DNFed, I had to find a replacement. DNF books are included in this post.

About the Book

‘A handbook for these troubled times’ Psychologies Magazine

‘Engaging and informative … highlights our common humanity’ Kofi Annan

‘A passionately written polemic’ You Magazine

The truth is, INCLUSION is better for EVERYONE. In this empowering call to arms, June Sarpong MBE proves why. Putting the spotlight on groups who are often marginalised in our society, including women, ethnic minorities, those living with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community, Diversify uncovers the hidden cost of exclusion and shows how a new approach to how we learn, live and do business can solve some of the most stubborn challenges we face. With unshakeable case studies, brand-new research from Oxford University, and six revolutionary steps to help you overcome unconscious bias, this book will help you become part of a better society.

The old way isn’t working. This is a case for change. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This was neither a fast nor an easy read. As all the data and talking points are focused on the US and UK, I had to think about how it translated to where I live (South Africa). I only added my views about chapter 1 in case anyone was interested.

Reading chapter 1, I couldn’t help but see the plight of the white man in South Africa – as he is the “other” in my country. Not allowed to speak up at work for fear of losing the entry level job they had struggled to get in the first place despite their qualifications, always having to appear non-threatening, working twice as hard as those of the “norm” who get away with doing almost no work, having to make themselves small as to not rock the boat. This is what the average white millennial man has to deal with in South Africa. I know, because I watch and listen. The question at the end of the chapter: “Should positive discrimination be employed to ensure ethnic minorities are represented proportionally…?” Looking at BBBEE [Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment; which purpose is to bridge the gap between formal and substantive equality to ensure that all people in South Africa fully enjoy the right to equality] implemented disproportionately: no. Just as with any rule or law, there are those who abuse it to discriminate based on whatever marginalisation they want. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t happen. In a perfect world, the rule wouldn’t be necessary.

The other chapters about men were interesting and enlightening. I like how she doesn’t dismiss what causes radicalisation and how she looks at possibilities of reconciliation.

I enjoyed the section about women and how she named self-doubt (and other voices that hinder growth) Agyness. I can totally see when Agyness has been in charge of my own life.

The sections on class, ableism, LGBTQ, ageism, and then religion and politics, were all well-researched and written. I liked how she showed how differences can be overcome if we only tried. I do think that the LGBTQ section was a little thin compared to the other sections.

I liked the FAQ and other resources given to help the reader implement the lessons in this book in real life.

A good examination of why people see those outside of their circle as “other” and how to overcome it. A must-read for anyone who has a dream of equality, fairness and freedom for all.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Do you want to be a more relaxed author?

There are plenty of books and tips on writing faster, learning more marketing tactics and strategies, trying to maximize your ranking, hitting the top of the charts, juicing the algorithms, and hacking different ad platforms. While these are all important things — which the authors themselves regularly write and talk about — it’s also important to recognize that your author journey is a marathon, and not a sprint.

Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre have been in the business long enough to see authors burning out and leaving the writing life because they turned what they love into a hamster wheel of ever more production and marketing tasks they hate. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This book is a collection of tips on how to be a more relaxed author — and return to the love that brought you to writing in the first place. You will discover:

  • Why the ‘relaxed’ author?
  • You are not alone. Why authors are not relaxed.

Part 1: Relaxed Writing

  • Write what you love
  • Write at your own pace
  • Write in a series (if you want to)
  • Schedule time to fill the creative well and for rest and relaxation
  • Improve your writing process — but only if it fits with your lifestyle

Part 2: Relaxed Publishing

  • Make empowered publishing choices
  • Understand persistence, patience, and partnership
  • Value your work. You create intellectual property assets.
  • Publish at your own pace
  • Publish wide (or don’t)
  • Sell direct to your audience
  • Don’t let piracy and plagiarism derail you
  • Deal with cancel culture, bad reviews, and haters
  • Find a community who support your publishing choices

Part 3: Relaxed Marketing

  • Focus on the basics first
  • Simplify your author brand and website
  • Simplify and automate your email
  • Find one form of marketing you enjoy and can sustain for the long term
  • Put book 1 in a series free or permafree
  • Choose social media that suits you — or don’t use it at all
  • Advertise in campaigns
  • Outsource when you can
  • Embrace who you are. Double down on being human.
  • Think global, digital, long-term marketing

Part 4: Relaxed Business

  • Do you really want to run an author business?
  • Create multiple streams of income
  • Eliminate tasks. Say ‘no’ more.
  • Organize and improve your processes
  • Use tools
  • Find voices you trust and tune out the rest
  • Learn about money
  • Look after your physical and mental health
  • Keep a long-term mindset

If you want to be a more relaxed author, sample or buy today.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This timely book helped me to realise that the write-publish-repeat-hamster-wheel-of-death indie authors are taught to run on isn’t the be-all and end-all of an indie author career.

It sounds silly, but until reading that it’s okay not to do stuff everyone says is the key to success (e.g. running ads), I was having a serious bout of FOMO – especially since I was already overwhelmed with all the things I had to do in a day even without adding all the extras I was told to do.

And reading that it’s okay to declutter your inbox and unsubscribe from newsletters that no longer bring you value felt awesome. I started doing that in 2021, wrote a blog post about it, and got some angry emails from people who’ve read it and found it unsporting of me to unsubscribe from newsletters – especially since I had my own.

I think the big take-away from this book is to do what you enjoy, how you enjoy doing it.

A must-read for all authors who feel anxiety at the thought of staying on the production hamster wheel.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have made clear to everyone the vicious reality of racism that persists today.

Many of those privileged enough to be distanced from racism are now having to come to terms with the fact that they continue to prosper at the detriment of others. Having spent the last four years researching, writing, and speaking about the benefits of diversity for society, June Sarpong is no stranger to educating and challenging those that have been enjoying the benefits of a system steeped in systemic racism without realising its true cost.

In The Power of Privilege, June will empower those fortunate enough not to be ‘otherised’ by mainstream Western society to become effective allies against racism, both by understanding the roots of their privilege and the systemic societal inequities that perpetuates it. The Power of Privilege offers practical steps and action-driven solutions so that those who have been afforded privilege can begin undoing the limiting beliefs held by society, and help build a fairer future for all.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“The underrepresentation of black people in elite professions and their absence from wealth listings is contrasted with an overrepresentation in the lower socioeconomic stratas of society.” Maybe in the US and UK, but not in South Africa. When one makes such a broad statement, one should probably look at the rest of the world, too.

I’ve decided to read this book on racism as I’ve already read “Caste” and “Why I Don’t Talk to White People About Race” as I’ve found both lacking in the sense that they only addressed the US and UK respectively. But once again, it’s a book that sees racism only directed at black people (from white people). In my country, racism is owned by all and directed to anyone deemed “other” (even if objectively all parties are black).

So much of the book was copied from “Diversify” (another book by the author that I’ve already read) that I started to skim and then decided to DNF. I learned much more about this issue (in the US) in Shonda Rhimes’ “Station 19”.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Vampires, werewolves, and zombies, oh my! Writing a paranormal novel takes more than casting an alluring vampire or arming your hero with a magic wand. It takes an original idea, believable characters, a compelling plot, and surprising twists, not to mention great writing.

This helpful guide gives you everything you need to successfully introduce supernatural elements into any story without shattering the believability of your fictional world or falling victim to common cliches.

You’ll learn how to:

Choose supernatural elements and decide what impact the supernatural will have on your fictional world
Create engaging and relatable characters from supernatural protagonists and antagonists to supporting players (both human and non-human)
Develop strong plots and complementary subplots
Write believable fight scenes and flashbacks
Create realistic dialogue
And much more
Complete with tips for researching your novel and strategies for getting published, Writing the Paranormal Novel gives you everything you need to craft a novel where even the most unusual twist is not only possible-it’s believable.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great primer on what has to go into a paranormal novel, no matter the other genres involved (e.g. romance) and how to write it. Though mostly focusing on certain supernatural creatures, it is something that can be applied as easily to a werehyena as to a werewolf.

A must-have in the library of anyone writing in the paranormal spectrum.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The journey to become a successful writer is long, fraught with peril, and filled with difficult questions: How do I write dialogue? How do I build suspense? What should I know about query letters? How do I start?

The best way to answer these questions is to ditch your uncertainty and transform yourself into a KICK-ASS writer. This new book from award-winning author Chuck Wendig combines the best of his eye-opening writing instruction–previously available in e-book form only–with all-new insights into writing and publishing. It’s an explosive broadside of gritty advice that will destroy your fears, clear the path, and help you find your voice, your story, and your audience.

You’ll explore the fundamentals of writing, learn how to obtain publication, and master the skills you need to build an army of dedicated fans. No task is too large or small for the kick-ass writer. With his trademark acerbic wit and gut-punch humor, Wendig will explain:

   • How to build suspense, craft characters, and defeat writer’s block.
   • How to write a scene, an ending–even a sentence.
   • Blogging techniques, social media skills, and crowdfunding.
   • How to write a query letter, talk to agents, and deal with failure–and success!


Whether you’re just starting out or you need one more push to get you over the top, two things are for certain–a kick-ass writer never quits, and Chuck Wendig won’t let you down in this high-octane guide to becoming the writer you were born to be.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Look, I knew going in that the author has a serious case of pottymouth – anyone who has read his blog knows it. But he also doles out good advice.

I only got 50% through. References to sex (constantly and without context) and his irreverent attitude to everything got old, fast.

In a lot of places, instead of explaining something he brought up as a viable technique, he just sends you to Google it. And a lot of the advice contradicts itself and none of it feels like it will work for me. At 50 % through that tells me all I need to know.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter is an updated version of the multi award-winning first edition. It has been expanded to include simple ways to promote books using newer technology–always considering promotion and marketing techniques that are easy on the pocketbook and frugal of time. It also includes a multitude of ways for authors and publishers to promote the so-called hard-to-promote genres. The award-winning author of poetry and fiction draws on a lifetime of experience in journalism, public relations, retailing, marketing, and the marketing of her own books to give authors the basics they need for do-it-yourself promotion and fun, effective approaches that haven’t been stirred and warmed over, techniques that will help rocket their books to bestselling lists. You’ll also learn to write media releases, query letters and a knock ’em dead media kit–all tools that help an author find a publisher and sell their book once it’s in print.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I’ve had this book for ages, skimmed and used some of the ideas, but I’ve finally worked through it.

“What is important is that you find a path for promoting that fits your interests, skills, pocketbook, and your book’s title. I expect you to pick and choose.”

This is a great approach to using this book and has helped me tremendously from project-to-project.

Personally, I only focus on branding, blogging, my website, writing reviews, keeping my media kit up to date, getting reviews for my books, my newsletter, writing for anthologies, and blog tours when my books are ready for them. This book covers a lot of other things (I’ve tried media interviews, videos, live launches, etc.), but I stick to the above as it works best for me.

A good guide, even if some things (like hiring a PR person) seems a bit overboard.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

“Harvey offers surprising insights into the male mentality and gives women strategies for taming that unruly beast.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Women should listen to Steve Harvey when it comes to what a good man is about. Steve Harvey dispenses a lot of fabulous information about men.”
—Aretha Franklin

The #1 New York Times bestseller from the new guru of relationship advice, Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is an invaluable self-help book that can empower women everywhere to take control of their relationships. The host of a top-rated radio show listened to by millions daily—and of cable TV’s The Steve Harvey Project—Harvey knows what men really think about love, intimacy, and commitment. In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the author, media personality, and stand-up comedian gets serious, sharing his wealth of knowledge, insight, and no-nonsense advice for every good woman who wants to find a good man or make her current love last.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I first encountered this book on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but it took a couple of decades to get around to reading it.

So part one was pretty straight-forward and I understood what he was getting at – even if I don’t agree (e.g. men don’t just do stuff do get into your pants as the author says).

As I started part two, I got more annoyed by the second. Sure, there are men who just talk to women to get into their pants, but not all men do that. And, despite what this comedian thinks, not all humans approach every situation with sex on the brain.

I’ve learned more about how real men think and act by observing the men in my life – who are quite awesome and not as simple or simple-minded as this book makes out all men to be.

DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Want to write a book that readers won’t be able to put down?

Editor Elizabeth Bailey and bestselling author Mark Dawson bring you the qualities necessary to turn your book into an addictive reading experience that your fans will love. From keeping your story simple to staying in the character’s head, Elizabeth and Mark will take you through the essential steps to creating propulsive and entertaining fiction.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“Cut to the chase, stay in the character’s head, leave out the waffle, keep it simple, trust your reader.” Love it!

An excellent guide to writing well.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Handing your writing over to an editor can be a terrifying experience.

But it doesn’t have to be.

In this book for authors, Jenny McIntyre and Mark Dawson set out the critical benefits of a good editor. With her vast experience editing books from writers at all levels of experience, McIntyre will guide you through the process. Crucially, you will learn how to be a good client for an editor and how you can get the very best out of the experience.

The book is full of practical tips and lessons and includes sample contracts that you can use. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

A great primer for anyone who hasn’t worked with editors before. And a great introduction to the different types of editing a manuscript needs – and deserves.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

It’s a paradox – how can you get sales without reviews, when you can’t get reviews if you’re not making any sales? Lucky for you, we have the answer.

This short guide from bestselling author Mark Dawson will demonstrate ten different ways you can generate reviews – effectively, ethically and (best of all) with the minimum of effort. Download it and get started today.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Great tips. Nothing new, though (I learned all this in a webinar hosted by SPF). A good reminder of all the things you can do to get more reviews (and all the dodgy things you absolutely shouldn’t do).

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

The complete guide for authors on how to make the most of this fast growing social media platform. Instagram is the go-to social media for a wide range of readers and every author should be using the service to engage with fans and build bigger audiences.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

If you know nothing of the platform, the first couple of chapters shows you step-by-step how to set up your account and how to use the app.

Something that had been bothering me, though I hadn’t yet Googled it, was not seeing all the new posts of people I follow in my home feed. Apparently Instagram has a silly 5% exposure rate and only shows you stuff other people had engaged with (which means not everyone is seeing your posts unless it has a high engagement rate). Frustrating! Useful to know, though.

I liked the tip of using different hashtags for posts even if they are similar as Instagram for penalise you for doing so and your reach will diminish. The way one should use hashtags is quite inventive and something that I will definitely apply in my next post!

As for all the techy stuff that can get confusing on Instagram, this book goes into all of it!

A great manual for using Instagram as an author.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

There’s world of opportunity out there for authors on Pinterest if you know how to use it.


Many authors have a limited or zero marketing budget – which is why it’s a great time to learn about Pinterest and how you can use it to increase exposure and sales. Best of all, every author can use Pinterest for free. There’s no need to pay for advertising to get results using Pinterest.

In this instructional guide Mark Dawson (bestselling thriller author) and Pinterest guru Pip Reid set out the straight forward steps necessary to turn Pinterest into a revenue generating platform for you.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I learned about restrictions on the number of boards and Pins one can create (I’m nowhere near that and I’ve been using Pinterest for years now), but it’s good to know. Some of the info is outdated (like how to create a Pin) but that’s due to advances in technology. Most of the stuff in this book I learned years ago in an article on Jane Friedman’s blog about how to set up and use Pinterest – without the added pressures in this book’s final chapter about pinning daily.

Personally, what I like about Pinterest is that it’s an unsocial social media. Yes, it’s excellent for sending traffic to your website (as stated in the book), but it’s not all about having thousands of followers (I only have about 200): it’s about how many people actually see your pins (I have over 100k impressions monthly and it shows in traffic to my website and in sales).

So: valuable tips, but outdated.

3 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Techniques of the Selling Writer provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop characters, how to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product.

No one can teach talent, but the practical skills of the professional writer’s craft can certainly be taught. The correct and imaginative use of these kills can shorten any beginner’s apprenticeship by years.

This is the book for writers who want to turn rejection slips into cashable checks.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This book has been recommended to me (and others) by numerous authors. It’s been on my TBR for ages. And when I finally got around to reading it, I saw the date of publication and felt instant trepidation. What could a book this old teach me? But already owning the masterpiece that is the Elements of Style which is much older, I forged ahead. And I’m glad I did.

The book states that there are 8 traps would-be writers fall into:

  1. They take an unrealistic view.
  2. They hunt for magic secrets.
  3. They try to learn the hard way.
  4. They refuse to follow feeling.
  5. They attempt to write by rules.
  6. They don’t want to be wrong.
  7. They bow down to the objective.
  8. They fail to master technique.

These traps are as common today as they were decades ago when the author listed them.

“Writing a story, any story, is a very personal, very individual business. No-one else can fight the battle for you. You must win or lose all by yourself, alone in the solitude of your psyche, working out of the depth and breadth of your own feeling.”

I skimmed most of the chapters as I already know how to write (arguably, quite well), but it’s an absolute gem! I absolutely understand why this book is still highly recommended, even with the dated examples.

The way the author talks about talent, feeling, just knowing how to write without being taught, and the absolute need to write, made me feel like a special little snowflake.

A must-read for beginning writers.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

“A superb tutorial for anyone wanting to learn from pros how to polish fiction writing with panache.”– Library Journal

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“There was a time when your characters were convincingly worldly and streetwise if they swore a lot. But profanity has been so overused in past years that nowadays it’s more a sign of a small vocabulary.” Love this!

The book teaches about nuance, voice and taking out unnecessary words (among other things). An excellent guide to sharpen your writing and a book I think all authors should read, no matter where they are on the writer’s journey.

A must-have in every author’s library.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

“The first page of a book sells that book. The last page sells your next book.” –– Mickey Spillane

What are the secrets for writing a great ending for your novel? How do you leave readers so satisfied that they’ll want another book by you—right now? What tools and techniques can shape your last fifty pages into a powerful, unforgettable experience?

In this book, International Thriller Writers Award winner and #1 bestselling writing teacher James Scott Bell reveals:

• The five types of endings.

• What needs to happen in Act 3.

• How to use the Ah and Uh-Oh emotional wallops.

• A simple technique for crafting twist endings.

• The most important secret of all—resonance.

• The Stew, Brew, Accrue, Do brainstorming method.

• The best way to tie up loose ends.

• The most common ending mistakes, and how to avoid them.

And more. Read this book and you will come away with a thorough knowledge of why great endings work and how to create them for every novel you write.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I was looking forward to this one. But the author’s flippant tone about religion (did he really have to talk about Noah and the Old Testament?) and then about different approaches to writing irritated me to no end. DNF 25% in.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

THE FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE MONTH

Over the past quarter century, Seth Godin has taught and inspired millions of entrepreneurs, marketers, leaders, and fans from all walks of life, via his blog, online courses, lectures, and bestselling books. He is the inventor of countless ideas and phrases that have made their way into mainstream business language, from Permission Marketing to Purple Cow to Tribes to The Dip.

Now, for the first time, Godin offers the core of his marketing wisdom in one accessible, timeless package. At the heart of his approach is a big idea: Great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. They don’t just make noise; they make the world better. Truly powerful marketing is grounded in empathy, generosity, and emotional labour.

This book teaches you how to identify your smallest viable audience; draw on the right signals and signs to position your offering; build trust and permission with your target market; speak to the narratives your audience tells themselves about status, affiliation, and dominance; spot opportunities to create and release tension; and give people the tools to achieve their goals.

It’s time for marketers to stop lying, spamming, and feeling guilty about their work. It’s time to stop confusing social media metrics with true connections. It’s time to stop wasting money on stolen attention that won’t pay off in the long run. This is Marketing offers a better approach that will still apply for decades to come, no matter how the tactics of marketing continue to evolve.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Some ideas from “All Marketers Are Liars” are reused in this book, but in a good way. Such as the Purple Cow.

I learned a lot from this book, could apply it to what others were doing, could see the con men (Seth’s hilarious while explaining what marketers fail to see and what con men capitalise on), understood the flaws of advertising, and learned the different ways direct marketing and permission marketing work.

An excellent guide.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Learn the secret of how to write the heart of your story! This writing skills book, full of fiction writing technique, is like no other.

Some novelists write with the goal of becoming a best seller, hoping for wealth and fame. Some just want to write novels that earn them a steady income so they can feed their families and pay their bills. Some write to express their creativity and don’t care if anyone ever reads their books.

Then there are the other writers. They want to write an unforgettable novel—the kind of book that gets called a classic, that endures the ravages of time, that stays long in readers’ hearts and changes their lives.

These writers want to know the secret of how to reach the heart of their readers.

If you are one of those writers, Writing the Heart of Your Story is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Inside, you’ll learn:

  • what the most important key elements are that must be in the very first scene of your novel—and some in the first paragraph.
  • how to tap into the heart of your story, characters, setting, plot, and themes by employing specific writing exercises.
  • ways to brainstorm ideas for plot, themes, motifs, setting, and rich characters through asking a series of questions that will take you deeper below the surface of your story.
  • what the most important question is that must be asked in the opening scene in order to write an unforgettable novel.
  • what three things each character must be asked for them to become truly believable and compelling.
  • the secrets to structuring powerful scenes by focusing on the “high moment.”

Don’t just write a good novel. Write a great one—by mining the heart of your story!

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

The author asserts that every art form – except novel writing – can produce masterpieces without planning. This is the type of opinion that stifles the creativity of many. Personally, I like the skeleton draft method – writing the first draft of my novel with only a whisper of who the characters are and where they are, creating a proper plot afterwards and then fleshing out the story. I know many successful authors who do it this way.

As exercises, the author wants you to use an actual highlighter in your favourite print books to highlight stuff relevant to what’s being taught. I nearly popped a vein. What’s wrong with just using a notebook and some short hand?

The author goes on-and-on about how you should keep rewriting that opening scene and know how the book should end, throwing in everything from Lord of the Rings to their own books as examples. The first scene checklist is useful. But I started skimming as they continued to rehash the same information – instead of getting to the heart of the story (which is the point of this book, right?).

After skimming so much – I’ve read other craft books that deal in-depth with setting, hook, character, etc. – I decided to just stop. Clearly this book and I aren’t compatible.

DNF.

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Writing Fight Scenes for Female Characters
Women are not men with mammaries. They don’t approach, handle, or react to violence in the same way.
Aiki Flinthart is a long-time martial artist, archer, knife-thrower, assault-survivor, and author of 11+ novels – all with kick-ass heroines and heroes.
In Fight Like a Girl, she brings her own experience, plus the results of extensive research and interviews, to the table for fellow authors.
You should come away with an excellent understanding of the differences between males and females, how they fight, react, and think. What weapons and techniques work well for smaller physiques. How it feels to be involved in a fight.

You’ll also get a deep understanding of how to apply that knowledge to an actual fight scene. A step by step guide to how to write and pace your fight scene, word choices, foreshadowing, character arcs, and how to pack an emotional punch.

Make sure your readers devour your fight scenes. Pick up a copy of Fight Like a Girl.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Brilliant!

I’ve read a lot of fiction with unbelievable fight scenes that when I heard about this book on a podcast I just knew I had to read it.

I like how the author describes everything a woman would go through during different types of fights, what different types of women would do, how trained vs non-trained would react, professional vs “normal”, etc. would go. There’s so much to think about that, if you’ve never been in a real-life fight, wold escape you when you write it.

Reading the fight scenes and then how she fixed them was so much fun. I could see where what she had taught earlier in the book came into practice.

My only issue is a formatting one: the Epub didn’t have a proper table of contents and sections to easily navigate to sections from anywhere in the book. also, not all text shows up in nightmode (especially headings).

A must-have for any author who wants to have any type of fight-scene in their books.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Are you struggling with email? Newsletter numbers getting you down? Fewer people opening your messages? No real reaction when you launch a book?

There’s another way—better way.

Imagine having a large list of happy readers who devoured every email you sent. Or launching a book and activating an army of fans who did the selling for you. You could be that person, with the help of Newsletter Ninja.

Newsletter Ninja is a comprehensive resource designed to teach you how to build and maintain a strongly engaged email list—one full of actual fans willing to pay for the books you write, rather than free-seekers who will forget your name and never open your emails.

• Learn new ways to think about your email list
• Re-energize your existing subscribers
• Embrace not just the basics, but next level methods
• Improve engagement and watch those open/click rates soar
• Build a happy list of passionate readers
• Launch your books into the charts

You’ll get a handle on open rates, click rates, and engagement—while also learning about yourself, your readers, and what you’re really selling when you send an email. (Spoiler: it’s not your books.)

Whether you’re building a mailing list, want to grow an existing one, or simply want to raise your email game, Newsletter Ninja has solutions that will work for you.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

This book has been recommended to me by various authors and I only got around to reading it now. If I had read it earlier, I could’ve saved time by not doing a lot of courses that only focused on segments of this book! But I’ve read it now, optimised everything that wasn’t perfect yet, made some adjustments – and now sending emails is much more enjoyable!

A must-read for all authors who have a newsletter (and if you don’t have one, read this anyway!).

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Writing for young adult (YA) and middle grade (MG) audiences isn’t just “kid’s stuff” anymore–it’s kidlit! The YA and MG book markets are healthier and more robust than ever, and that means the competition is fiercer, too. In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, literary agent Mary Kole shares her expertise on writing novels for young adult and middle grade readers and teaches you how to:

Recognize the differences between middle grade and young adult audiences and how it impacts your writing.
Tailor your manuscript’s tone, length, and content to your readership.
Avoid common mistakes and cliches that are prevalent in YA and MG fiction, in respect to characters, story ideas, plot structure and more.
Develop themes and ideas in your novel that will strike emotional chords.
Mary Kole’s candid commentary and insightful observations, as well as a collection of book excerpts and personal insights from bestselling authors and editors who specialize in the children’s book market, are invaluable tools for your kidlit career.

If you want the skills, techniques, and know-how you need to craft memorable stories for teens and tweens, Writing Irresistible Kidlit can give them to you.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

An excellent craft book, whether you write MG and YA or not. I did like the emphasis on MG and YA books, especially the examples of how to get it right. There are so many things I liked about this book that it’s just simples to say: go and read it.

My only issue with this book, and perhaps that’s just me, is that she advises against writing series as it’s the publisher’s choice and not the author’s. there’s huge focus on traditional publishing in this book that doesn’t work for indie authors.

A must-have in the fiction writer’s library.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!

When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer’s Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:

• Writer’s block
• Depression
• Writer’s burnout
• What a writer doesn’t need to succeed
• Finding creativity boosts

With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love – writing.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

When the book came out, I dismissed it as something I didn’t need. And when I needed it, I was grateful to be able to buy it on Smashwords and immediately load it onto my tablet to start reading (instead of waiting three weeks for the paperback to arrive as I did with her great writing advice book).

Burnout is an awful thing, but with the various tips shared in this book, I know where I stand, what I need to do to get through it, and that I can.

I’ve been using lavender (fresh plants and essential oil) for my chickens and horses (for pests and to calm them) for a while, but never thought to use it for personal relaxation. Thanks to Chrys, I’m going to try out more relaxation techniques and add to my tea selection.

There’s so much to learn, so many personal stories, and a lot of encouragement in this book. Exactly what I needed to hear while feeling like I’m feeling right now.

A must-have in every author’s library – whether they think they need it or not. As this author learned: eventually burnout gets to all of us.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Take your fiction to the next level!

Maybe you’re a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you’ve already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You’ll learn to:

– establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place
– weave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing story
– create larger-than-life characters that step right off the page
– explore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readers
– sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish
– develop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition

Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors – including novelist Anne Perry – Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You’ll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

“In reality there is one reason, and one reason only, that readers get excited about a novel: great storytelling.” And that is what this book teaches.

I snickered about “the e-revolution may or may not save us; indeed, it may not happen”. Twenty-two years after this book was published, the e-revolution has changed publishing forever.

I like the idea of “gut emotional appeal” for a premise.

A really good book that every author should read – it may get their books off DNF lists!

Though some of the information is outdated (publishing stuff, mostly), the writing advice is solid.

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and pioneering journalist, an expansive look at how history has been shaped by humanity’s appetite for food, farmland, and the money behind it all—and how a better future is within reach.

The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and stock markets. But behind it all, there is an even more fundamental driver: Food.

In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, trusted food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip.

Sweeping, impassioned, and ultimately full of hope, Animal, Vegetable, Junk reveals not only how food has shaped our past, but also how we can transform it to reclaim our future.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

I rather enjoyed the overview of agriculture from its conception to becoming a business to turning into capitalist, political Big Food.

The way the author described farming – what it should be and what it is – made me want to smack some sense into the myopic powers in charge of agriculture. Didn’t they learn in school, as I did, about erosion, soil strata and healthy soil? And they obviously didn’t do sing-alongs with The Lion King and learned that we’re all part of the circle of life – not just parts on an assembly line.

I liked how agriculture in America was dissected – and that the theft of land from Indigenous people, their enslavement and murder wasn’t glossed over or ignored entirely as in many books dealing with racism, land grabs, the patriarchy, oppression, and large scale murder consistently do.

I found the section on how Big Food changed the way we think about and consume food enlightening. Sugar in baby formula, sugar in baby food, sugar in breakfast cereal targeted at children: advertising and sugar to capture mind and body before children learn to read and write. Terrifying! And it explains why so many people struggle to cook food from scratch – and enjoy eating it.

The section on the Green Revolution just made me sad. People who do the right thing (crop rotations, natural farming, fallowing) are told they’re backwards by the capitalist agriculture machine that is the USDA and that they should adopt monoculture (cultivating crops that won’t feed them or their neighbours), hybrid seeds (that they’ll have to keep buying as the seeds the plants make won’t actually grow as expected), fertilizer (the monoculture machine depletes nutrients faster than they can replace naturally as fallowing, cover crops and crop rotation is no longer allowed), and pesticides (which poisons the environment but without the hybrid plants cannot thrive). This led to economic destabilization, urbanization, and starvation. Not to mention the damage done to the environment. All in the name of making the rich richer.

An informative book that I enjoyed reading. I wish, though, that the author had added in the section about sugar how high GI and GL foods flood the body with glucose just like plain sugar does and that a high blood glucose level is not only linked to metabolic syndrome but also to degenerative brain diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) instead of having the sugar debate all over the place. I would also have liked to know how the agriculture of former European colonies fared during the rise of the agriculture machine in America.

4 unicorn star rating

About the Book

In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder and Catch, reveals how saying YES changed her life – and how it can change yours too. With three hit shows on television and three children at home, Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when invitations arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No. And to an introvert like Shonda, who describes herself as ‘hugging the walls’ at social events and experiencing panic attacks before press interviews, there was a particular benefit to saying no: nothing new to fear. Then came Thanksgiving 2013, when Shonda’s sister Delorse muttered six little words at her: You never say yes to anything. Profound, impassioned and laugh-out-loud funny, in Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes reveals how saying YES changed – and saved – her life. And inspires readers everywhere to change their own lives with one little word: Yes. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

How to review this book? It’s an honest conversation between two friends (Shonda and myself) while drinking wine. She talks about how she’d have to choose between buying wine and buying toilet paper, and choosing the wine, asking me not to judge her. I’m not. I get it. She talks about always having a creative way to not say yes to anything scary – including going to award ceremonies – and I tell her it’s a perfectly good way to live. Only, as she embarks on this year of yes, she realises that it wasn’t okay and it wasn’t living, and I start to see what she means.

We both love Wonder Woman, we both think Meryl Streep is the heroine in The Devil Wears Prada – obviously a story about how hard it is to find a good assistant – and we both have Cristina Yang as a best friend.

That’s how good this memoir is. Or maybe that’s just how much it resonated with me, personally.

If you’re a creative, if you’re a woman, if you find yourself always doing what is easy instead of what is right for you, then you HAVE to read this memoir. If Shonda can figure out that her perfect life doesn’t look like what we have been told to want just by learning how to say yes, then you can learn something from this memoir. Even if Cristina Yang isn’t your best friend…

5 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Get to Know Your Character’s Sinister Side


A truly memorable antagonist is not a one-dimensional super villain bent on world domination for no particular reason. Realistic, credible bad guys create essential story complications, personalize conflict, add immediacy to a story line, and force the protagonist to evolve.


From mischief-makers to villains to arch nemeses, “Bullies, Bastards & Bitches” shows you how to create nuanced bad guys who are indispensable to the stories in which they appear. Through detailed instruction and examples from contemporary bestsellers and classic page-turners, author Jessica Page Morrell also shows you how to:


Understand the subtle but key differences between unlikeable protagonists, anti-heroes, dark heroes, and bad boys
Supply even your darkest sociopath with a sympathetic attribute that will engage readers
Set the stage for an unforgettable standoff between your hero and your villain
Choose the right type of female villain femme fatale, mommy dearest, avenger, etc. for your story


“Bullies, Bastards & Bitches” is your all-encompassing bad-guy compendium to tapping into any character’s dark side.

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Not keen on the title, but the book was recommended. Too bad most felt like regurgitated knowledge about fear, plot, character and being original. After skimming page-after-page, I decided it wasn’t a match. (Would probably help newbie writers, though.) DNF

1 unicorn star rating

About the Book

Why has the academy struggled to link advocacy for animals to advocacy for various human groups? Within cultural studies, in which advocacy can take the form of a theoretical intervention, scholars have resisted arguments that add “species” to race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and other human-identity categories as a site for critical analysis.

Species Matters considers whether cultural studies should pay more attention to animal advocacy and whether, in turn, animal studies should pay more attention to questions raised by cultural theory. The contributors to this volume explore these issues particularly in relation to the “humane” treatment of animals and various human groups and the implications, both theoretical and practical, of blurring the distinction between “the human” and “the animal.” They address important questions raised by the history of representing humans as the only animal capable of acting humanely and provide a framework for reconsidering the nature of humane discourse, whether in theory, literary and cultural texts, or current advocacy movements outside of the academy. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

My Review

Perhaps a bit highbrow, the academic papers go into why nonhuman animals aren’t treated properly, what it means to treat them properly, and why in a Western patriarchal society with capitalism at the core will never allow animals to lead better lives (they still see down on women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community – animals rank, for the most part, lower).

Each author approaches the subject from a different angle, yet the depressing truth is that all extremist groups distance themselves from nonhuman animals to be more like their oppressor; leaving animals to be oppressed and exploited.

An interesting read that reminds us all that for evil to triumph it only takes good people to do nothing.

4 unicorn star rating

Have you read any of these book? What does your TBR look like? What are your thoughts about readathons?

*FYI, my reviews are my honest opinion and if something bothers me, I tell it straight. How else will anything change? My opinions are based on being a voracious reader and book buyer, not an attack on the author.*

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