The Lighter Side of Large by Becky Siame

The Lighter Side of Large

What a whopper and I’m NOT talking about the size of the main character; Bella.  Having always been a tad on the large side myself, this book was an obvious choice to dip into.  It starts off with one of those why am I here and look what has happened flashback moments, which actually works as you get the account of the previuous last nine months in Bella’s  life.  You’re quickly led into her world as a single,  apparently betrayed Mum and her crowd of zany friends.  You can cringe with her as she details the problems of living with being large. Likewise, you can so sympathise with her as it all starts from her point of view as a victim, then you grow along side her as she changes and grows (well not physically). Is the almost too good to be true Jae real or fake? I think any reader will suss the situation before Bella and just be egging her on to the end, where in true character growing style, Bella comes to terms with all the changes around her and finally becomes herself.

There is so much in this book besides – a little look into New Zealand, Samoan culture, baddies who can be goodies and vice versa, love, internet dating, deeper issues of the heart, family conflicts.  This book, I can only describe in one word, rich!

There’s a really great website that goes with it, do have a look;


The Archivist of Dunstibourne Hall by L.P.Fergusson

The Archivist (Duntisbourne Hall)

This is a great study not only in self deception but also of human nature.  Believable, flawed characters and a great ending where nothing is tied up  but is concluded, if you see my difference.  The Archivist himself is at first the stereotype you would expect for an old man working in a stately home, but his character becomes both artful, evil and sad. You get impressions of him viewed through the other characters, but the whole dialogue is so well balanced, that, dear reader, you have to make up your own mind is he a loveable old git or a villain.

It’s also a good suspense story, will the artifacts be found, just what happened to them?  The narrator also slips in little cameos of the country side and words I’ve no idea what they mean, making that voice both an academic and yet poetic one. Its well paced and well written, enjoy!

………my only problem is that I was a fan of the comedy series, called Tittybang bang  where the stewards at a national trust house are all either trying to kill each other just off scene or seeking attention.Catch phrase ,’don’t look at me I’m shy ‘- this book just had echoes of this -great!

Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting Writers

Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting


My first attempt at re-blogging, important for anyone writing today!

David Gaughran  •  Jul 20, 2012

Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, has announced the purchase of Author Solutions for $116m – news which has shocked writers, especially given Author Solutions’ long history of providing questionable services at staggering prices.

Author Solutions are the dominant player in the self-publishing services market – via their subsidiaries Author House, Xlibris, Trafford, and iUniverse – and had been looking for a buyer for several months. According to the press release, Author Solutions will be folded into Penguin, but will continue to operate as a separate company. Penguin’s CEO John Makinson stated:

“This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”

What does Author Solutions bring to the table? Well, for starters, around $100m in annual revenue. Roughly two-thirds of that money comes from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third from the royalties generated by the sale of their books.

Pause for a moment and consider that statistic. Penguin isn’t purchasing a company which provides real value to writers. They are purchasing an operation skilled at milking writers.

This is not a new accusation against Author Solutions. Industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received a litany of complaints about Author Solutions and their subsidiaries over the last few years: misleading marketing, hard-selling of over-priced services, questionable value of products provided, awful customer service, and, after all that, problems with writers being paid.

For example, Author House will provide you with a “web-optimized press releasefor the bargain price of $1,199. In case it isn’t obvious, you would likely receive greater promotional value from setting fire to that money on YouTube.

How do writers fall into the trap of such an awful company? In short, disingenuous marketing. According to Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware, “marketing efforts include maintaining sites like, which purport to be utilities to help writers choose a publishing company.” That site, of course, will only give you the false “choice” of various Author Solutions subsidiaries – all of which have similarly awful services.

After falling for this marketing guff, writers don’t tend to make the same mistake twice. According to the above-mentioned press release from their new owners Penguin, 150,000 writers have used the services of Author Solutions, but they have only published a combined total of 190,000 books.

Before they leave the clutches of Author Solutions, however, writers are subjected to never-ending phone calls hawking a string of overpriced, useless services, including the press releases described above. As such, the average customer spends around $5,000 over their “lifetime” with the company, but only sells 150 books.

The performance of Author Solutions is so poor that the press release announcing the purchase by Penguin can’t even tout their own customers’ success, and instead lists self-publishing stars such as “Lisa Genova, John Locke, Darcie Chan, Amanda Hocking, Bronnie Ware and E.L. James” – none of whom used Author Solutions to publish their work.

This kind of disingenuity is standard for Author Solutions. Tireless blogger Emily Seuss has been watching the company, and has provided a handy catalogue of recent complaints. I should note that this is just the beginning where Author Solutions is concerned.

The last time I blogged about the Author Solutions subsidiary iUniverse (scroll down), I highlighted a typical marketing move. Just before Christmas last year, iUniverse mailed their existing customers with a very special “deal” where they offered to turn their print books into e-books and upload them to the various retailers for free.

The catch was that customers would then have to fork over 50% of their royalties from every single sale to iUniverse. Needless to say, formatting and uploading is a trivial task. For those unable to do it themselves, that service can be purchased for a nominal up-front fee, leaving a writer’s royalties intact.

After I blogged about this severe over-charging, two iUniverse customers complained in the comments that after they didn’t respond to that offer, iUniverse published their e-books anyway – without their permission. One of those writers is still trying to get her unauthorized edition removed, several months later.

As I mentioned already, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Following all the links above, and reading the comments to those pieces, will reveal hundreds of such complaints regarding Author Solutions and their subsidiaries.

None of this should come as any surprise to Penguin. I think it’s safe to presume that basic due diligence was undertaken before purchasing a company for $116m.

Defenders may point out that none of the above occurred on Penguin’s watch, and that they should be given an opportunity to turn the company around. But let’s not forget that Penguin have a little history here. Last year, Penguin unveiled their own self-publishing service, Book Country, which over-charges for basic services, and then puts its hand in the writers’ wallet a second time by taking an indefensible portion of their royalties.

In any event, no inference is needed regarding Penguin’s opinion of Author Solutions’ business practices. We only need to look at Penguin’s own press release to read CEO John Makinson’s thoughts:

“No-one has captured this [self-publishing] opportunity as successfully as Author Solutions, which has rapidly built a position of world leadership on a platform of outstanding customer support and tailor-made publishing services.”

Welcome to Penguin’s new business model. Exploiting writers

Elizabeth Goudge; The Bird in the Tree

Damerosehay; courtesy of the late Sylvia Gower

When I was finishing my degree with the  Open University, I really wanted to go on and take my Doctorate, specialising in women writers of the 30s and 40s, majoring in Elizabeth Goudge among others.  However, there was no one able to supervise me as no one else was yet looking at this area.  So I gave up.  I dare say there’s loads of folks doing this area now.  I did work with the late Sylvia Gower on her book about Elizabeth’s life, but we were coming from different directions, she was more on the actual, me the literary!

 I recently picked up again the Elliot trilogy, starting with the  Bird in the Tree. I was transported to a time and place magical.  I lived in the area where the book is set, so for me it doubly brings her work alive. Back again to her poetry like writing, (which I’m going to have to get permission to quote), and her sometimes poor sentence structure!  Back to a time of higher standards and morals, what this book suggests is an anathema to today’s society. 

Result, I’m going to over the next few months do character studies, literary analysis and share my love of this author.  Most of which aren’t ebooks, I’ll have to change the blog!  Oh, I wish I’d kept more of my Open University books!

Hemingway Point by Nora Carroll

Hemingway Point

This is a well written novel, with believable characters and a plot which interweaves the dark hidden history of a family, with a really good twist to the end.  I did sort of guess it though.

It was a book I would have liked to have enjoyed more, but once again, sloppy presentation ruined it for me. The dialogue punctuation is at first hit and miss and the disappears all together. It had me reaching to the end page as I wanted to find out the conclusion but couldn’t be bothered to try and sort the conversation out in my head.  Reading the end spoiled it for me as I still didn’t see how they got there, so went back and tried again but ended up speed reading to get the plot.

 Such a shame.  Come on writers, you bother to write the book, now bother to check thoroughly your printed version. I know the corrections will drive you nuts, but what if a publisher gives up just due to your presentation?

Charlotte Figg takes over Paradise by Joyce Magnin

Holiday time, and not so much time to read -seems ironic!  Sorry another repeat, but I  did enjoy it!

This book was a real pleasure for me and also quite a culture shock.  I know that I don’t go for thrillers and who dunnits and like my books at a reasonable pace, but not predictable.  I caught this while it was on free and thought I really ought to read some mainstream American Christian Fiction as I seem to spend so much time on at present.

At first reading I thought oh no, not another dead person as Charlotte Figg’s husband croaks in the first few pages.  On impulse she buys a trailer or what we Brits would call a mobile home, which turns out to be a wreck.  In her new life she meets some incredible people, a tattooed lady, a midget and a guy with one arm.  Now I know  from popular culture than Trailer park people are looked down upon, but are these guys representative?  Certainly there are plenty of ignorant red-necked husbands about, but there mix is really amusing, but fortunately doesn’t detract from the story.

However, what I liked about this book was its unapologetic Christianity.  It’s in the culture if the characters and the book part of life, and not overstated, though one character can always be relied upon to be praying. Its how life should be, not part of culture like here in Lungau where its more tradition than meaning, or England where every Christian is fair game. 

The tale has great drama, sadness and humour and I loved it.  Within its gentle frame it deals with real issues and real people. Should I also admit in the past I’ve read the Miss Read stories from England and this is a cultural contrast that  I loved? I certainly couldn’t see any of the Vicars or characters in  her books being so upfront about their belief.

Most of all though, what made it for me was Lucky, he rescues people, knows just whats going on in people’s head, and almost speaks – yes of course, he’s the dog!

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July’s Book of the Month; The Tower of Babel by G.T. Anders

The Tower of Babel (Vaulan Cycle)

Exciting, new, fresh, a complete surprise!

Having been asked to review this book, I was looking forward to a dip into Science Fiction  being a child of the Asimov generation, but not having read much SciFi for years.

A dying world, where a new Tower of Babel is being built.  A hero who is an artist and a sort of  mystic and a  call to go back to complete a mission.  What’s going on?  I’m not going to tell. Suffice to say, this is a book with a plot that is fulfilled in all the literary ways.  It has drama and great suspense, and it’s unique.  The words of the hero Austin are often more poetic than prose. G.T Anders has experimented with new ideas with prose, and they work, they aren’t intrusive, they build this fantastic, sad world. There are monsters and mysteries and bad baddies and a narrative that spoon feeds you nothing. No long-winded explanations, you have to work at it like the characters but you are carried along.   The ending is beautiful in it’s technique and the final divine love that comes through.

Amazing.  This book needs to be picked up by a Publisher.  Now.

Below is the blurb from Amazon

Two letters making two demands. Two seeds: one growing, the other
dormant. Two allegiances—one high-profile, the other subversive. Oh, and one reluctant goal: the cleansing of the planet.This is the story of how Austin Feckidee and his three friends tried to change the world. It’s the story of L’Hermitage, the abandoned church that was the base of their earth-shattering work; and it’s the story of the Tower of Babel, the arrogant statement of human self-sufficiency that they sought to destroy.It’s 1967 somewhere in North America. Babylon is the greatest city in the nation (maybe even on earth), and to prove it, they’re building a veritable tower to heaven that would make even the denizens of biblical Shinar a little jealous. But far from the city, in the abandoned suburbs, Austin and the secret society are talking about the Tower again. Talking about how it must come down. How
the planet must be cleansed. And how divinity has chosen them to make it happen.

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