Tag Archives: review

Book Review – Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors

COTCEChronicle of the Chinese Emperors: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China

by Ann Paludan

This is an excellent history book.  It is well organized and a useful reference work for projects and information purposes.  It is also well enough written to be an enjoyable read. It does not pretend to be a general/complete history of Imperial China; instead it covers the emperors (and occasional Empresses) themselves, giving a coherent unbiased picture that is sometimes difficult to get from most traditional histories.  It gives an account of each emperor from Qin Shinuangdi to Puyi.

This book provides a history that acknowledges the reports of historians from all areas (including enemies of China); these are critically analysed for their biases to attempt to give a balanced account.  The author does not blindly accept what either group has to say about emperors who they either demonize or deify. This is a very worthwhile practice, and so overall the book is a very helpful primer for a novice on the subject.

Especially interesting was the family information as well as the timelines, maps and illustrations. This book is concise and complete for its size and also manages to include text sketches of other prominent people of the day as well as each emperor’s most famous construction projects, laws or other interesting tid bits.

The smaller details of imperial titles, etc., are pulled out into handy sidebars where they can be ignored if desired or enjoyed by those who like that sort of thing.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of “official” portrait paintings and sketches of most of the emperors as well as the monuments they built. There are also many drawings and plans showing reconstructions of their palaces and monuments.  It is very easy to read and Chinese language concepts are easily explained.  This is an excellent book for author research or school projects.

-HMC

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: 3 books every writer should own (and READ!)

I have read a LOT of books over the last few years about writing and marketing for authors. And no matter if you are self published or traditionally published, as an author, you need to know about both.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what books every writer should have on their bookshelves (and have READ them), if they want to make a career out of their writing. So I am about to give you my three recommendations.

onwriting1) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

This was published in 2000 and has since become one of the most recommended ‘must reads’ to every writer. And for good reason.

The book is basically a small memoir focusing on King’s ‘writing/career’ experiences and a mini guide book for those who want to be writers. The career memoir is fascinating and the tips he gives in his writing guide are basically what you will hear or read anywhere else. But he tells you what works for him and ways you can make it ‘work for you’.

— Get “On Writing” or read more reviews of it here.

He does give you the ‘rules’ – follow the Chicago Manual of Style, grammar rules and cut back on passive voice – but then gives you leave to break them if it will help push the story along. King’s main message in this book is that the Story is King and that the writer should never put themselves above writing the story the way it wants to be written.

If the plot draws the reader along by being unconventional and breaking every writing rule in the book, then go with it. If the plot wants to be fast paced and action driven, then go with it. If the plot becomes mired in pages of description and then collapses in a prose stumbling heap, then cut it out and go back and redo it.

If you are willing to put in the work by reading a lot and creating routines to write a lot, then you are on your way to being a consistent and successful writer.

And that leads us onto my next book.

cover-write-publish-repeat-final2) Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self Publishing Success by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant with David Wright.

This is the book for writers to read if they want to make a living off of their writing. The authors host a Podcast called the Self Publishing Podcast where they and other indie authors talk about their experiences with writing, publishing and the marketing strategies that need to make it all run. This book is an offshoot of this show.

The title itself tells you the basics of what you need to be able to get on the road to making a career of writing.

The steps you need are:

1) Write the work,

2) Publish it,

3) Go to Step 1

— Get “Write. Publish. Repeat” or read more reviews of it here.

There is a lot more to the book than just this. They go in depth into how this works for them and other successful writers and how you can get this working for yourself. They go into marketing strategies, writing routines and creating product funnels. They talk about websites, blogs, email lists, and at all points in the book they give constant warning that this will take a lot of hard work and persistence.

And now onto my final suggestion.

1st 1000 copies3) Your First 1000 Copies – The Step by Step Guide to Marketing your Book by Tim Grahl

This is the book you need to read if you want to build up your author brand, your author platform and your fan base. Not only does Tim detail what needs to be on your author website, he tells you about delivering value, content and how to create that all important email list.

— Get “Your First 1000 Copies” or read more reviews of it here.

His motto is to be ‘Relentlessly Helpful’ and Tim Grahl does that himself in spades. Tim Grahl is a professional book marketer and has helped many successful authors build and keep their fan base (Dan Pink, Hugh Howey, Michael Bunker etc). And the email list is key to making this happen. He gives you a system to build your platform and create content, get outreach and then gain permission by having people want to be on your email list. And remember that your email list is your number one marketing tool. Every writer should be focusing on building one. Anyone who has followed Tim Grahl for a while will know that is his number one recommendation to any budding career builders. And email list is a direct link to your fans and you should never give that up.

So there are the three books that I would recommend to any budding, career minded writers. Those are the three that I have gotten the most out of and have enjoyed reading. If you disagree with my choice or want to recommend any other books, please tell me in the comments below.

NB: This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

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A Big Thank You – And I need your Help

classic-library-book-free-desktop-wallpaper-3840x2400

Thank you for reading!

I am very glad that you have enjoyed my books.  (I have to tell you that my favourite is still The Kalarthri. ) Many readers have been asking me three things.

  • When is Season Two coming out for The Way to Freedom?
  • Will there be any stories of Kalena growing up as a Hatar Kalar?
  • When is part three to Winter’s Magic coming out?

And here I will answer these J

  • Season Two for The Way to Freedom, is now planned to start being released this September (That’s the plan anyway.)
  • Yes, there will be more stories of Kalena and Adhamh’s adventures growing up at Darkon.
  • Act three of Winter’s Magic will be released in the next month or so.

As an author, I love feedback.  And since most of my mail has been about The Way to Freedom Series, I will be focusing more on writing more stories based in this world and with these characters.   Please feel free to tell me what you liked, what you loved, even what you hated.  I’d love to hear from you.  It is this feedback that tells me what to focus my time on.  Leave me a message here.

Finally, I need to ask a favour.  If you’re so inclined, I’d love it if you would leave a review for any of my books on Amazon.  Love them, or hate them – I’d just enjoy your feedback.

As you may have realised, real reviews can be tough to come by these days.  You, the reader have the power to make or break a book.  If you have time, here is a link to my author page on Amazon.  You can find and leave a review for all of my books here.

I just want to thank you all so much for reading my work and for sharing your time with me.

Peace, love and cheesecake

H.M. Clarke

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Book Review: Black Hawk Day Rewind

Black Hawk Day Rewind

by Dominick Fencer and Baibin Nighthawk

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The Cast

Mark Savannah, aka Barnett Cooper.  And Turner Cooper (dead father but still a strong influence on our star.)

The Vague Description (trying not to give plot spoilers)

Barnett, who did not have a good family life growing up (his father was killed in action when he was thirteen) grew up wanting to make his mark in the medical sciences.  Except his past (and his father’s), comes back to stop him when he is trying to finish his PHD in London.

He is co-opted into MI6 and through various missions Barnett begins to uncover more of his father’s past and death, as well as uncovering a deadly programme using mind control experiments on transplant patients through the facade of a company called BioSketch Technologies.

This is a fast paced book, though I did not really care for Barnett Cooper, I did begin to warm to him when he became Mark Savannah.  This is an action driven plot laced with global conspiracies where you will be rooting for this unlikable underdog to win!

Takeaway

Never take anything in your life at face value.  Make it your business to find out more!

End Thought

I want to learn to fly, be it a plane or helicopter, it doesn’t matter. Though, unlike Barnett, I AM scared of gravity.

This is a perfect read for a long weekend where you will not be rushed or continually on the go.  This is a book where you will bite the head off anyone who interrupts you while reading it.

-HMC

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Book Review – Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens

MayaChronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya

by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube

This book is chock full of site plans and photos, artifacts and loads of maps.

This is a highly informative work considering that most of Maya history comes from the Glyphs/writing left on buildings and monuments.

This book is a very good quick reference guide for those who do not want to wade through huge blocks of history text to get to the information you need. The volume is divided into sections separating the Maya into their city states and showing their impact on the world around them (as well as the impact on them from outsiders).

The Maya are a precise and warlike people who, it seems, overstretched their natural resources which then lead to their city states to eventual ruin and abandonment.

And now the Maya people today (who have a strong oral tradition) are being taught to read the writing of their ancestors by the Archaeologists who study the ancient Maya.

Writing and language are so much a part of a person’s cultural identity, that when you lose your connection with it, you lose a part of yourself.

-Hayley

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Book Review – Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur

Circle of FireThe Cast

Maddie is a reclusive rose grower with secrets.  John,  a shapeshifting Private Investigator who wants to be left alone.

The Vague Description

The Circle of Fire is a romantic paranormal mystery with not much of a ‘who dun it’ aspect.  The characters are likable enough, though Maddie annoyed me sometimes with her running internal monologues of put downs and variations of ‘what a bad person I am’.

The romance also felt a little forced but was still entertaining.  And I did feel a little robbed with the ending, but overall the story lines and the case was still nicely wrapped up.  I did not like this as much as the Nikki and Michael and Riley Jensen novels.  But I would read this again for a light, easy read.

Takeaway

Don’t give in to your fears.  Take control of your own life and never live ‘down’ to the expectation of others.

End Thought

I wish I could start fires with just a single thought.  It would make BBQ’s and campfires soooo much easier.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick, light, entertaining romance with a little ‘flight of fancy’ 🙂

-HMC

Get Circle of Fire Here

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Book Review – The Dreaming by Gina Briganti

The DreamingThe Cast

Dana is a celebrity cook book author.  Joe is a horse breeder and Rancher.  Both are searching for the missing element in their lives.  Will they find out that it is each other they are looking for?

The vague description (Trying not to give plot spoilers)

The Dreaming’ is a Romance with so many different layers

The Romance itself,

The romance of Independence,

The romance of Self Confidence,

The romance of life outdoors,

The romance of Celebrity,

The romance of life in general.

This book is a paranormal romance story about the celebration of life in all its intricate details, and that the good parts of life always come at you from unexpected angles.  (Such as with Dana meeting Joe and their experiences together within ‘The Dreaming’.)

The Dreaming is a place that coexists alongside our own reality, and which only ‘certain’ people can access through their dreams.

It is fun exploring ‘The Dreaming’ through Dana’s experiences and you find yourself happy that she has finally found a ‘soulmate’ that she can share her life and family with.  Especially after the soulless existence she had with her first husband.

Takeaway

You only have one life – never settle for something you are not happy with, otherwise you may wake up one morning and wonder ‘what was the point of the last eighty years….’

End thought

My one thought on finishing this book though is …. I wish I could cook like Dana…  🙂

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants a nice uplifting story to read on a long summers afternoon with a cold drink beside you on the back porch….where maybe you might drift into sleep and experience a ‘Dreaming’ of your own.

-HMC

Get The Dreaming here

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Book Review – Forgotten Roots

Forgotten RootsForgotten Roots – by Roger Whitten Barnes

Forgotten Roots  is a ‘sort of’ murder mystery told through different timelines set in both the modern-day Canadian Province of Ontario and the area of Ohio and Ontario of the 1800’s.  I liked the idea behind this story, but had issues following the three different storylines.  For the first two thirds of the book, the storylines did not really mesh with each other and the time devoted to each was not evenly distributed.  But for the last third of the story, they merged and flowed seamlessly with each other.

The book is basically about a woman finding out the history of her early colonial family when an old barn is demolished on her family property on St Joseph Island.  That is one of the storylines.  The other two are based two hundred years in the past and follow the lives of two people until they converge at one point on St Joseph Island.

I loved the descriptions of the Canadian wilderness and the historical backgrounds behind cities and settlements in Ohio – especially in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.  (I would never have thought that river piracy was a common crime along the Ohio River).

There are a few aspects of the modern storyline that I would have liked to have seen developed more.  And in the early part of the novel I had a hard time reading through some of the storylines.  There was too much time devoted to certain stories and that gave me a disconnect to what was happening in the others.

Overall, this was still a good novel and an entertaining way of learning a little about the early history of Ohio and Ontario.

-HMC

Get the book from Amazon here

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Book Review: Your First 1000 Copies

1st 1000 copies

Your First 1000 Copies – By Tim Grahl

In “Your First 1,000 Copies,” Tim Grahl describes a system that he has used in his own business for the promotion of authors and their book launches. He believes in the importance of an email list that was created with the permission of each email subscriber. He explains how these meaningful connections will work for you in the long run. He also gives his opinion on how social media is just one of many considerations when you become an author – but is not as important as most people think.

This book is filled with advice you can use with the knowledge that it has been tried and tested and only needs patience and a little hard work to accomplish. It will get most people out of their comfort zones and on track to book selling success.

After reading this book you will know how to effectively use your blog content to attract attention (without sounding like a pushy salesperson) and know who is an influencer and who you should contact about your book. You may even find yourself approaching bloggers and asking them if you can do a guest blog post or maybe even to review your work if you can come to an arrangement that can benefit both parties.

The one big takeaway that I got from this book is Tim’s underlying principle to be ‘relentlessly helpful’ to people.  This is a principle that I agree with.  You give out good karma and good karma will return to you.

And being ‘relentlessly helpful’ is a goal that Tim has met in this book.  I would recommend it to all Authors or in fact anyone who is trying to get their product or message out in front of people.  After all, if people don’t know you exist, they don’t know about your book!

-HMC

Get it on Kindle here

Get it in Paperback here

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The Hardest part of Writing…is Writing

What-a-writer-is-picture

I absolutely hate writing the last page and paragraph of a manuscript. For me, ending a story is the hardest thing to do.

For others just sitting down to write is the hardest.  Either from not having the time or from fear of what others will think of their efforts.

Now I will admit that I did suffer from the second reason.  But through age and sheer Australian ‘pig headedness’, I am now no longer scared about bad opinions of my work.  If it is constructive criticism, I can use it to improve my writing.  And if it is just meanness for meanness sake?   I just put it aside and let the bad karma fairy sort them out.

The main thing is, if you want to write, then write.  It doesn’t matter if it is a recipe, biography, journaling your repressed feelings about the kid who picked on you at school, or writing the epic story that has been sitting inside you for years.  The thing that matters most is that you are WRITING.  Every time you put anything down on paper (or on a keyboard) is taking you that one step closer to completing whatever writing goal you had set out to do.

Also, making a point to write something every day will help to form the ‘habit’ of writing.  Just like making yourself jog everyday gets you into the ‘habit’ of exercising.

Even if you can only snatch ten minutes in a day to write, that will get you ten minutes closer to finishing than you would have been the day before.

After all of this writing, you get to the ‘Tale End’ of the story.  The Finishing!  I hate this part of writing for the following reason.  You’ve just finished writing the epic scene where all your important story threads for the book get tied up nicely in a neat packaged, exciting finale…  Then you have to write the section where you see how this dramatic scene has affected your characters in a neat and tidy wrap up.  Every time I write one it feels like a bit of a let down.  But it is needed to give your readers a chance to come down from your exciting finale and to see what ‘settled’ life is like for your characters.

So, all of my above ramblings beg the question.

Writers, what part of writing is the hardest for you?  

And readers, what do you prefer in an ending – finishing at the height of excitement? Or spending a little relaxing time with the characters before taking your leave?

Share your thoughts with me in the Comments.  I would like to know what people think 🙂

-HMC