Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her Eyes This may be a somewhat controversial view, but here goes…

★★★
For months before this book’s release I had excitedly followed the hype on Twitter, and I grabbed my copy as soon as it was out in our local Waterstones, chatting with the cashier about how great it was supposed to be. I think that was problem number one. It was too hyped up, and I started reading it with impossibly high expectations.

Of course, all the hype was about the final twist, that Twitter hashtag of #WTFthatending. And that, I think, was problem number two. Rather than immersing myself openly into the book and its characters, I spent the whole time looking for clues, trying to figure it out, to be one step ahead. I kept the whole thing, untrustingly, at arms length, and found myself not caring about the characters at all.

My third problem was that it was written by Sarah Pinborough, one of my favourite authors. I so wanted it to be another The Death House, which had me sobbing at the end, or 13 Minutes, that I read in just a few days. But it wasn’t.

I hate giving this just 3 stars, but it left me unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and, frankly, a little angry that it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. I didn’t like the final twist, and the very ending annoyed me immensely.

But I don’t think it was all the book’s fault. I wanted too much from it. It was over hyped and failed to live up to its marketing.

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Amazon’s Review Policy Changes and What it Means for Authors

AmazonOn October 3rd, Amazon changed their review policy which now states that reviews are no longer allowed in exchange for a free or discounted item. It was originally thought that this wouldn’t apply to books (sending out advance review copies (ARCs) has been an industry standard for many years), but it appears that this is no longer the case.

Prior to October 3rd, Amazon guidelines stated that ARC reviewers should include a disclaimer along the lines of “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review” as part of their review. This policy has now changed.

An email from an Amazon service representative stated this:

I’d make sure none of your reviews contain disclaimers using “I got this in exchange for that.” I would recommend your reviewers use language like, “I volunteered to review a complimentary copy of this book.”

It also appears that, not only will Amazon be removing any new reviews with the previously acceptable, indeed required, disclaimer, but they may well be removing old reviews too. Reviews that, when posted, followed Amazon guidelines to the letter.

To avoid having Amazon reviews being deleted, I suggest that you ask your reviewers to use the newly suggested phrase: “I volunteered to review a complimentary copy of this book.” Also, if you have previous ARC reviews, and you don’t want to see those disappear, it looks like you’ll have to ask your reviewers to log into their account to edit them.

At the end of the day, it’s Amazon’s sandpit, and we have to play by their rules.

Please also check out the links below, and if you have any other useful sources, please feel free to link to them in the comments. Forewarned is forearmed, and the more information we all have, the better.

Further reading:
www.scifiandscary.com/indie-authors-im-sorry
www.creativindie.com/why-amazon-is-deleting-book-reviews-understanding-amazons-new-review-policy-and-getting-back-deleted-reviews

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Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box★★★★★
Another book that I’ve absolutely shot through, another book that’s interrupted sleep, mealtimes, the daily routine of life.

Bird Box contains a few factual mistakes that dragged me out of the story for a moment, but its compelling nature always pulled me back without too much interruption. This book takes the fear of the unknown to a level I’ve never found in another story, and its present tense narrative, despite being full of flashbacks, pulls the reader straight into the heart of its world.

This book is truly terrifying, and the realisation of what the real enemy is, which creature is more fearsome than any other, is not only jarring, but has left me shaken. Malerman has created the scariest antagonist I’ve ever read (and I’ve read Misery). In fact, I’m still shaking while typing this. I’m not sure any book has ever done that to me before.

If you’re looking to read this, you better be ready, you better be sound of mind, because you won’t be able to close your eyes.

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Preview: Defender by G X Todd

Defender SamplerAt Edge-Lit I was given a sampler of a novel called  ‘Defender’; the upcoming debut from author G X Todd.

It’s a post apocalyptic story, and the first in a four-part series following the two main characters Pilgrim and Lacey.

The sampler opens with a letter addressed directly to the reader which cleverly offers some backstory without disengaging or distancing from the world of the story. It’s a smart move.

G X Todd’s writing style is quite wordy, and with all the distractions of family life around me, I often found myself needing to reread several passages. But I quickly settled into it and found myself flying through the rest of the sampler.

It’s a genre I love, and I’m most definitely hooked on the story and characters already. The sampler includes the introductory letter followed by just two chapters: just the agonisingly right amount to hook you and leave you hanging. It’s actually quite cruel.

‘Defender’ is due for release on January 12th, so it’s going to be a painful wait until I can get my hands on the full book.

You can find out more at www.gxtodd.com

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Review: Flash Fear Edited by Jonathan Butcher

Flash FearAt Edge-Lit this month, I was given a copy of this slim anthology in exchange for an honest review. This is how I reviewed it:

★★★★
It is the nature of anthologies to be eclectic, and that means not every story will be your thing. On the flipside, there’s something for everyone. This collection covers the whole range of horror genres, from supernatural and urban, to sci fi and body horror. It’s a great opportunity to try out something new.

Flash Fear is, as the name suggests, pieces of flash fiction horror, from just a couple of paragraphs in length up to a few pages. It’s the perfect book to dip in and out of without too much commitment.

The stories here really are wide ranging and varied, and some of the stand out stories for me were A Mother’s Love by Jonathan Butcher, Wise Monkey by Pauline E Dungate, The Letter by Steve Cotterill, and The Men Who Value Everything in Money by James Everington. Some of the stories just didn’t grab me, some were too predictable, and a couple left me baffled and genuinely confused. But that’s the thing about anthologies.

A neat little collection with a small time commitment that works well as an introduction to some promising authors.

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Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist★★★★★
This book has been on my ‘want to read’ list since its release, and I finally got it, and finally worked it to the top of my TBR pile. It was worth the wait. I’m not sure it’s a sensible idea to write a review while you’re still mourning the loss of a book, but I felt it was a tribute this novel deserved.

The Miniaturist is a thriller. It’s a romance. It’s a coming of age novel. It’s a mystery, a family drama. It’s historical fiction, literary fiction. It’s everything. But it does it all with such a delicate grace, you’ll barely even realise.

It didn’t take long for this to become a book I couldn’t put down. I read it during TV advert breaks, I pushed back bedtimes for one more chapter, I wandered round the house completing chores with it in my hand. I dreamt about it, thought about it constantly. I devoured the middle of this book ravenously.

The plot feels like a sedate Sunday walk, but when you emerge, you realise you’ve ploughed through several chapters in no time at all. It’s so deftly sinister, so cautiously malevolent. I was so wrapped up in the beautiful language, the gentle touches, the social graces of the story, that I didn’t realise what was happening until it was far too late.

But even by putting the book down, by putting off reading the last few chapters as the characters’ situations became more desperate, I couldn’t keep them safe. And I hadn’t even realised I’d fallen in love with them.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but be warned; it’s not for the faint of heart. It squeezes when you least expect it, it offers you sugared walnuts with one hand while the other leaves you emotionally bereft.

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