Category: Book Chat

Catching Up – May & June’s Reads

Posted June 30, 2016 in Book Chat / 0 Comments

I’m afraid “real life” took over a little bit the last few weeks, and the blog has lapsed somewhat. To get back on track, here are the books I’ve read since my last post …

  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (4/5) – 8/5/16
  • Tenacity by JS Law (3/5) – 8/5/16
  • Dead Men do tell Tales by William R. Maples (5/5) – 13/5/16
  • The Mirror World of Melody Black (5/5) – 14/5/16
  • The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain (4/5) – 17/5/16
  • Fire Damage by Kate Medina (2/5) – 21/5/16
  • It’s All News to Me by Jeremy Vine (4/5) – 24/5/16
  • The People vs. OJ Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin (4/5) – 3/6/16
  • 1421: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies (3/5) – 7/6/16
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (4/5) – 9/6/16
  • The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt (4/5) – 12/6/16
  • The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks (5/5) – 14/6/16
  • Toby’s Room by Pat Barker (2/5) – 16/6/16
  • Thin Air by Ann Cleeves (4/5) – 19/6/16
  • The Loney by Michael Andrew Hurley (2/5) – 20/6/16
  • The Lewis Man by Peter May (4/5) – 21/6/16
  • Thrive by Ariana Huffington (3/5) – 26/6/16
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin (3/5) – 30/6/16

How to Get Free Books – Part 3: Free (or Cheap!) eBooks

Posted April 11, 2016 in Book Chat / 0 Comments

Free ebooksPart one of this mini-series covered how to set up an online presence, such as a blog, for reviewing books. Part two went into detail on how to receive advance review copies (or ARCs) of soon-to-be-published books, usually in exchange for a review for the publisher.

But what if you just enjoy reading books and don’t want to be forced to review them? Well the good news is that there are plenty of ways to get free (or very cheap) eBooks and paper books. This week I cover eBooks, and next week in the final part of this series, I will cover how to get free (or very cheap) paper books.

Once again I should point out at this juncture that I support authors and traditional publishing, and I would never advocate book “piracy” to anyone just to save a few pennies on buying a book. It’s not fair on the people who put a lot of effort into crafting their work – so don’t do it! All the ways I will describe to get free books are legitimate ways of gaining access to such material. I don’t (and never will) advocate stealing books.


Free eBooks

There are plenty of ways to find free eBooks. A simple Google search will throw up lots of options. But here are some of my favourites:

  • Your local library. Most local libraries now offer free eBook lending alongside their more traditional services. Unfortunately library eBooks aren’t usually compatible with Kindle eReaders, but they can be read on other eReaders or on mobile devices (including Kindle Fire tablets) using Overdrive.
  • Project Gutenberg is a long-running program to digitise books which are out of copyright. There are a wide variety of texts available, as well as some audio books.
  • GoodReads has a small collection of eBooks available on its website. Some are full copies of texts, while others are excerpts.
  • Daily Free Books UK is an online checker service that can email you when books for your selected genres first become free. There are a large number of filters available which means you can generally narrow down the search to books that you are interested in.


Free Amazon Books

The Amazon search functionality (or lack of functionality) is one of my big bugbears! They certainly don’t like to make it easy to find certain things. Therefore, once you find the right links – my biggest tip is to BOOKMARK THEM so you can find them again!

There are three Amazon links that I use most often:

If you are a member of Amazon Prime you also get a free Kindle First book every month as part of your membership.


Cheap eBooks

There are also websites you can use to track price drops for eBooks. One of the best is eReaderIQ which can show eBooks with the largest price drops, current freebies, books under £1, plus a lot more. You can also import your Amazon wishlist and track specific authors. It’s a great site.

Another good site for eBook price drops is Luzme. It doesn’t have quite as many options as eReaderIQ, but it’s also a good email alert service to let you know when eBook prices have dropped.

As mentioned above, Amazon’s search functionality isn’t the best – especially if you’re trying to limit your search by price. It just never seems to work! Fortunately there is a way of accurately searching for eBooks at specific price points.

If you click on the “All free Kindle books” link above, the URL you are taken to is:

which is one heck of a URL!

However when you know how to decode it, you can amend the URL to search for eBooks at any price point that you want. The key bit of code is this bit highlighted in red:

The “0-0” part of the URL above is effectively saying to show you all the books between £0.00 and £0.00 – i.e. all free books! But by changing the values of these, you can return books at any price point in your search.

For example, if you wanted to find all books at 49p the URL would be:

Or all books at 99p the URL would be:

The value you specify has to be in pence, but otherwise it’ll work for any amount.

As I say, there are lots of other websites out there which you can use to find free books. Why not let me know some of your favourites in the comments?

How to Get Free Books – Part 2: Books for Review

Posted March 28, 2016 in Book Chat / 0 Comments

How to get Free Books - Part 2Last week I discussed how to set up your online presence so that you can be in a good position to request Advance Reader Copies – or ARCs – of soon-to-be published books.

ARCs (particularly paper ones) cost money to produce and send out, so you need to be able to show publishers that you can provide a return on their investment in you. That “return” is your review which will be shared with your followers of your blog and social media posts. Reviews are very important to authors and publishers – particularly on Amazon – so from their point of view you are worth the investment if you have a good following.

There are, of course, “degrees” of ARCs. eBook copies of soon-to-be-published books by self-published authors and independent publishers are easier to come by than the big blockbuster titles. However that doesn’t mean to say they’re impossible to get. Over the last few months I’ve received ARCs of The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, both longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016; as well as a copy of Little Boy Blue by MJ Arlidge, which is currently in the Amazon Top 10 for crime books.

I choose not to read self-published and independently published books, and instead concentrate on the established publishing houses. But that is my own choice as it’s what I prefer to read. The good thing about ARCs is there is something for everyone, no matter what your preferred genre.

eBook ARCs

eBook ARCs are far and away the easiest type to get hold of, as the costs for the publishing house are much less than producing paper ARCs. Most sites offer ARCs in multiple formats to cover different eReaders, but it’s always worth checking before you request a book to verify that you can read it!

If you don’t have an eReader, you can still access eBooks via your smartphone, tablet or computer. Products such as Google Play, free Kindle reading apps and free Kobo reading apps mean that there are few restrictions on the devices you can use to access eBooks.

There are loads of websites available for requesting ARCs. I have listed some below along with some personal thoughts about each.

  • NetGalley – Far and away my favourite site for ARCs. There’s a good range of genres available from a wide range of publishers. They request feedback and reviews for the titles you receive, so don’t go mad and request a whole lot to begin with as it’ll show up on your stats if you don’t review them. Once you have an established reputation, you will start to be pre-approved for some of the bigger titles, which is great!
  • Edelweiss – This isn’t a site I have used, but it gets good reviews. Personally I find it a little harder to navigate than NetGalley, but it has a wider range of genres, particularly for academic and business books.
  • BookLook Bloggers – This site is run by HarperCollins Christian publishing, so that will give you an idea of the kinds of books you can expect to see. When you request a book you’re committing to writing a 200-word review on your blog as well as leaving a review on a “consumer website”. They also offer paper-based ARCs as well as eBooks for some titles.
  • Bostick Communications – This is a PR site which aims to link authors with book bloggers and reviewers. Once you sign-up you receive emails pitching the book to you. If you like the sound of it you can reply and receive a copy. The emails are infrequent (less than 10 a month) and the books are mainly self- or independently- published books.
  • – This is a relatively new website set up with the aim of bringing all book bloggers under one roof. They offer a number of eBooks for review, although they’re mainly self-published titles. The interface isn’t the easiest to use, but as a new website you can expect more developments to it in the future (it’s also a good site on which to register your book blog).
  • Grey Gecko Press – This is a US-based independent publishing house who offer eARCs of their titles in exchange for an honest review.
  • Library Thing Early Reviewers – Library Thing run a monthly early reviewers’ programme covering a wide range of titles. You can sort by country and book type (eBook, paper or both) which is great for narrowing down the selection. However eBooks are much more common, and there are limited numbers of each.


Paper ARCs

Paper ARCs are much harder to come by – purely due to the costs involved and the relatively low numbers of ARCs that are produced. One site which is worth investigating is Bookbridgr – which is only for UK and ROI bloggers at the moment. They aim to “bridge” between bloggers and traditional publishing houses by facilitating your requests directly to the publishing house. The up-side of this approach is that there are a good number of high quality books on offer. However the down-side is that there are probably loads of people requesting copies, and you may never hear back from the publishing house again!


Other Sources

You can also be proactive in sourcing out your own ARCs.

You can take part in a book tour on your blog. There are lots of bloggers who facilitate book tours. Google and Twitter are your friends for finding book tour hosts.

You can also contact authors and publishers directly. Twitter is a good place to start with this, by interacting with authors and tagging publishers in book reviews for books you’ve really liked. It’s also a good way to keep an eye out for any requests for reviewers for up-coming books. You can also email publishers requesting an ARC of a new release. This is much more hit-and-miss, purely due to the number of ARCs produced (small) and the number of people who are looking to review them (high). In order to be successful you should also include your blog and Twitter statistics – e.g. how many visitors to your blog, how many Twitter followers, how many people subscribed to your newsletter, etc. This will help publishers see what “return” they can get from investing in you. This route is really only for well-established book bloggers, so don’t get disheartened if you don’t receive anything via this route for quite a while.


Next week I’m going to be discussing how to get free (and very cheap!) eBooks without any requirement to review them on your blog!

How to Get Free Books – Part 1: Online Presence

Posted March 21, 2016 in Book Chat / 0 Comments

E-book library concept with laptop computer and books

A lot of people ask how to get free copies of books – either for review, or just for reading. There are many ways to get free books legally and without bending any rules.

I should point out at this juncture that I support authors and traditional publishing, and I would never advocate book “piracy” to anyone just to save a few pennies on buying a book. It’s not fair on the people who put a lot of effort into crafting their work – so don’t do it!

This is a short, 4-part series which I’m going to run from today and over the next 3 Mondays. In this post I will cover the basics of getting an online presence which will help with Part 2 – Getting Free Books for Review. Part 3 will cover How to Get Free (and Very Cheap!) eBooks, and part 4 will cover How to Get Free (and Very Cheap!) Paper Books. All the sites will be accessible to mainland UK, but check for other geographies.

Building an Online Presence

In today’s electronic world, having an online presence through which you can review and recommend books is a must. If you want to start receiving good quality ARCs (advance reader copies) of top authors’ books from publishing houses, you need to be able to show that you can provide something in return. There are a number of ways you can do this, all of which are free or very low cost.

1. Get Blogging!

A blog is a great way to start getting your name “out there”. If you just want to set up a free blog then Blogger and WordPress are two good places to start. However with a free blog you’re limited to using their URLs – e.g. – which can look a little unprofessional. If you want to project a truly polished image then you can buy your own domain name and host the website yourself. This is a little more technical, but not too difficult to achieve.

You need to purchase two things – your domain name (e.g. the address that people will type into their internet browser to find your site), and hosting (i.e. space online) for the website.

If you want a super-cheap domain name, take a look at Namecheap who offer domains starting at 88¢ (or approximately 65p) – as long as you don’t mind your domain ending with “.xyz” or some other random suffix. If you’d like a traditional “” domain they cost around £7 per year with a registrar like TSOhost. As well as your domain you need hosting. In the UK I would always recommend purchasing hosting from TSOhost. Their “lite” package starts at £14.99 per year and their support team, which are all UK based, are amazingly helpful and friendly. They will help even the most novice of novices set up their own website (I’m a web developer by day and I recommend TSOhost to all my clients, as well as using them myself).

The last thing you need to start blogging is blogging software. For this I would recommend downloading WordPress which is free to install on your own website. There are lots of guides to installing WordPress on the WordPress website, YouTube and various other websites, as well as a plethora of resources available for you to use – both free and paid – so with a little effort you can have a fantastic and professional website for £22 a year!

If you’re going to start a blog for book reviews, make sure the majority of your content is book reviews!! You can have a little bit of off topic stuff here and there, but if your books reviews aren’t the main focus, publishers are less likely to ask you to review for them.

2. Get Socialising!

Social Media is the next area to concentrate on. Reposting your reviews and blog posts on Facebook and Twitter is a good way of increasing their social reach. A single tweet can get hundreds or thousands of views within minutes, driving traffic to your blog. It’s also a good way of thanking authors and publishers publicly for any ARCs you may receive. As your mother always said – good manners cost nothing!

Once you get a good bank of reviews built up (and if you’re running your own WordPress website) then have a look at adding a plugin such as Revive Old Post to automatically post your reviews to social media at regular intervals. It’s a good way of keeping up your online presence when you’re away from the computer.

3. Get Reviewing!

Once you’re all set up, then all that’s left is to start writing your reviews. It’s good to have a review policy on your blog setting out the genres you like, the kinds of books you’re accepting for review, your rating scale and how authors and publishers can contact you. This is more likely to generate requests to your contact email address.

When you write a review you should always state if the book has been received as a review copy, but make sure your review is honest. If you didn’t like the book then say so – but be constructive! Authors and publishers know not everyone will love every book, but don’t just say “I hated it” and leave it at that. Always try and include some positives in every review if you can.

Even the most prolific of bloggers will take time to build up a following – so make sure you join recognised review sites such as Amazon and GoodReads to cross-publish your reviews. Always link back to your blog in your review so that people know you have a blog as well. But these are good sites for contributing directly to a new book’s success by reaching out to a large number of people.


Next week I’m going to cover how to get free books for review. If you don’t want to miss the post, then subscribe to my weekly newsletter by filling in the box with your email address. I never share your email with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Sneak peek – “In the Light of What We See” by Sarah Painter

Posted March 10, 2016 in Book Chat / 0 Comments

I was very honoured to be contacted recently by Sarah Painter, debut author of In the Light of What We See, and asked to review an advance copy of her novel which is released on the 1st April.

The book charts the story of two young women – one in 1938, the other in modern day – both of whom have ties to the same hospital in Brighton.

As the story unfolds we learn more about Grace and Mina, and understand how their individual stories link together and unfold separately.

As for what I thought … well I’m afraid reviews are embargoed until the book’s release! But if you’re intrigued and would like to read more then the novel is part of this month’s Kindle First selection which means you can pick it up for 99p – or FREE if you’re an Amazon Prime member. There is also a GoodReads Giveaway running for the book up until the 1st April. Not only that, but I will have an interview with Sarah on the blog next month, so keep an eye out for that too!

If you don’t want to miss my review or the interview (or anything else) you can sign up for emails by completing your details in the box. I never share your information with anyone, and you won’t get any spam! Just one email on a Monday with a summary of the week’s posts.