Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’ Flips Girl Power on its Head (Book Review)

The Power book cover

The Power makes a strong societal and political statement meant for girls and women. The ending will chill you into your bone marrow and even make you question a woman’s role in ancient human life.

Book: The Power

Author: Naomi Alderman

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Published: Oct. 10, 2017

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Naomi-Alderman/dp/0316547603

Stars: 4/5

Rarely do I find a new, recently published book that poses such a deep philosophical question, that I find myself pondering it two weeks after finishing.

I won’t lie: about halfway through Naomi Alderman’s The Power, I started wondering about the hype surrounding it. The book was good, and I was enjoying the story, but did it really deserve to be listed as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and one of former President Obama’s favorite reads?

And then, I got to the end—the final part. And OH. MY. GOD. Yes it does!

The Power turns girl power on its head and really makes us #bossbabes ask ourselves: what would we do if we suddenly became more powerful than men? What if we really could run the world?

Are we as innocent as we believe?

The Story

The plotline is simple, so I’m taking this straight from the back cover of the book.

“All over the world, women and girls are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers, they can inflict terrible pain and even death. And with this small twist of nature, everything changes drastically … The Power takes us on a journey to an alternate reality and exposes our own world in bold and surprising ways.”

My Take

Here’s the thing about The Power: its strength is not in character development or even astonishing plot twists (though, there are some of those). In fact, I sometimes felt detached from the characters, which is the main reason I scored this book with four stars, rather than five.

Instead, The Power makes a strong societal and political statement meant for girls and women. The ending will chill you into your bone marrow and even make you question a woman’s role in ancient human life.

More than anything, the book strikes me as a near-metaphor for #MeToo, with young women igniting “the power” in older women. However, although the story begins with messages of empowerment, it soon turns darker and poses deeper questions about human nature. At times, it’s hard to read.

Margaret Atwood called The Power “electrifying.” I’d have to say, I agree with her.

***

Hey, guess what? I got two advanced reviewer copies of some hot new books coming out in July 2019! One is a contemporary dystopia, the other a science fiction. Don’t miss them! Follow my blog, or …

 

 

Nico Walker’s ‘Cherry’ Will Take You on a Journey of Scumbaggery (Book Review)

cherry book cover

Book: Cherry

Author: Nico Walker

Publisher: Knopf

Published: Aug. 14, 2018

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-novel-Nico-Walker/dp/0525520139

Stars: 3/5

Nico Walker has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high.

You will find no heroes in this story about service members deployed to Iraq, drug addicts and bank robbers.

In fact, the protagonist in Nico Walker’s debut novel, Cherry, is so detestable, you might find yourself hoping he fails. Because he deserves whatever comes to him, and here’s the thing: he’d agree with you.

Cherry published in 2018 and received much buzz because it was written by a man who is currently serving time in prison for robbing banks. He also happened to be an Army medic in the Iraq War and a heroin addict.

And perhaps that might have been one of my greatest qualms with the book; I didn’t feel like I was reading a novel. The story felt like a memoir, with its raw, choppy narration told in first-person from an anonymous narrator—who is obviously the anti-hero of the story.

The Story

Boy meets girl. Boy gets high with girl. Boy and girl break up. Boy and girl get back together. Girl goes to college. Boy joins Army. Boy marries girl. Boy goes to war. Girl cheats on boy. Boy returns from war. Boy and girl divorce. Boy and girl get back together. Boy and girl get high.

Welcome to the first modern-day story about the modern-day opioid epidemic.

So Here’s the Deal

Not everyone is going to love this book. There’s a lot of cussing (I mean, A LOT). There’s a lot of sex. There are even some scenes that depict animal cruelty, to show the complete soulessness of certain characters.

I don’t mind the cussing and the sex. That’s life. The animal cruelty did bother me, but I understand why Mr. Walker included those scenes.

My Take

My issue with the book is the complete scumbaggery of the nameless protagonist and narrator. He has no redeeming qualities to help us root for him despite his flaws, except that maybe he loves dogs.

And then there’s the writing. At first, I thought Mr. Walker was using a highly stylized approach so his character would appear disconnected from reality (like a drug addict). But after reading the acknowledgements section, I realized this was the best Mr. Walker could write.

The crude coarseness of Mr. Walker’s writing did have its advantages though. His story has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high. I appreciated this perspective.

I didn’t hate the book necessarily, but I suppose I wanted more from Mr. Walker—some higher epiphany or realization by the end. But the story just felt … hollow. Shallow. And a little bit sad.

But maybe that’s the point of Cherry. If so, Mr. Walker definitely accomplished his goal.

Do you like my book reviews? Then follow me on Goodreads! Just click the picture below. 

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How ‘American War’ by Omar El Akkad Will Change Your Worldviews (Book Review)

american war book cover
Sharis Pick image

*This book was a Shari’s Pick for January 2018!

‘American War’ drags us through the heartbreaking toll that war causes everyday people and it makes us see.

Book: American War

Author: Omar El Akkad

Publisher: Knopf

Published: April 4, 2017

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/American-War-Omar-El-Akkad-ebook/dp/B01LXK1HBB

Stars: 4/5

“This isn’t a story about war. It’s about ruin.” – American War

After I finished reading war journalist’s Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, one quote came to mind from Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Mr. El Akkad bled all the way through this haunting, moving, and conscience-punching book that begs the question: What if the United States turned its most ruthless foreign policies against its own people in a second American Civil War over fossil fuels?

But while Mr. El Akkad draws obvious parallels to modern-day controversies—such as drones, torture, refugee camps, and the weaponizing of desperation for terrorism—his story is not a political one. Instead, American War drags us through the heartbreaking toll that war causes everyday people and it makes us see.

The Story

Part dystopia, part family saga, American War follows the story of one family ravaged by the new Civil War, the Chestnuts. Specifically, curious and adventurous Sarat Chestnut, who is only 6 years old when the book begins.

Taking place several decades in the future, Sarat’s world in the South is different than the one we know today. The coastal cities have been overtaken by the ocean, Florida is now the Florida Sea, and the Free Southern State is fighting for its right to continue using fossil fuels, which have been outlawed by the North. The rivers are dead, and food is nearly impossible to grow.

When the war drives the Chestnuts from their simple home by the river, we follow Sarat’s story through refugee camps, radicalization, massacres, and immeasurable loss. This is the story of how one innocent girl becomes the victim of so much greed, eventually turning her into a weapon that will devastate the country.

Pros Versus Cons

American War enticed me from the start, with its haunting opening from a mysterious narrator. However, the book began to slow toward the middle and dragged for several chapters. I believe this is because Mr. Akkad wrote with too much description and narration, but not enough dialogue to shape the characters and scenarios.

However, as I began to approach the final two parts of the book, the story’s pace escalated quickly. I finally found myself connecting with Sarat and her plight with the emotion and empathy I was hoping for earlier in the book.

I’m glad I kept reading, because in the final two parts, Mr. Akkad illustrated his immense capacity for writing effective, hard-hitting, and powerful dialogue. He seemed more connected to his writing; I’m not sure why, but the words and emotion felt rawer. Perhaps less edited to perfection?

Either way, the ending was powerful and left me dumbfounded. I finally understood why Mr. El Akkad had to write the way he did in the middle of the book. As a reader, I would not have understood the end with such potency otherwise.

The Final Note

As a journalist who’s covered the war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, the Egyptian Revolution during the Arab Spring, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Mr. Akkad obviously poured his heart into this story. He has written a strong, weighty, and influential book that will force you to re-think your worldviews. It forced me to re-think mine.

The morning after finishing American War, I was scanning through my Instagram feed and came to a post from National Geographic about a Syrian father with his 2-month-old baby in a refugee camp north of Greece. I’ve always felt empathy for the plight of refugees, but this time, something else struck me—a deeper understanding, as if I knew.

If American War opened my eyes in this way, perhaps it’s an antidote for the lack of compassion across the world today, and therefore a necessary read for everyone.

Did you like this book review? Then follow me on Goodreads for more like it!

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An Awesome Tool for Authors to Build Email Lists, Readers to Get Free Books!

voracious readers only screen grab

Happy Saturday fellow readers and indie authors! I recently found an awesome new (affordable) tool  to help build my email list as an author. It’s also fantastic for readers who want to get free books from new authors in exchange for reviews.

And no — it’s not NetGalley.

The name of the tool is Voracious Readers Only, and it’s a start-up based out of the U.S. The company found me after I listed my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, in Publishers Weekly last year, and offered me a free trial. After receiving around 20 new email subscribers within two days, I decided to sign up for a few months and was thrilled with the results.

Here’s How Voracious Readers Only Works:

As an author:

  • You pay around $20 per month and choose the book you want to give away for free.
  • Voracious Readers Only finds target readers for you and shows them your book.
  • The readers who are interested sign up for your email list in exchange for a free reviewer copy.
  • Voracious Readers Only follows up with the readers to gently remind them to leave reviews. Then, the company notifies you after the reviews have been posted.

As an indie author and debut novelist, building a readership has been imperative, but I don’t have tons of money to invest in ads. I decided to invest about $60 over three months in Voracious Readers Only.

The result? I went from about 30 email subscribers to about 220 subscribers within those three months.

And guys — I didn’t have to do anything. I don’t know about you, but those $60 were well worth it. My new email subscribers regularly open, read, and engage with my e-newsletter, The Readers Club. They will most likely become future buyers of future books.

As a reader:

  • You sign up for Voracious Readers Only FOR FREE.
  • The company will send you book recommendations based on your likes and interests.
  • You choose which books you want to read.
  • Sign up for the author’s email list and download his or her book for free!

Just remember to try and review the book on Amazon and Goodreads, or even your blog. Indie authors give away their books to help build buzz, which will eventually lead to sales. And we LOVE you guys for helping us get there!

So There You Have It

If you’re an indie author, I highly recommend you check out Voracious Readers Only. I think they still have the free trials going on, so you can test it before investing your money.

And by the way, the company doesn’t know I wrote this blog post. THIS IS ALL ME. When I find a great tool that benefits both readers and indie authors, I believe in sharing the good fortune! And I wanted to help Voracious Readers Only find some new clients too, because they were so good to me.

Best of luck, and Happy Reading!

Will ‘An Anonymous Girl’ Stalk You into 2019 Thrills? (Book Review)

An Anonymous Girl book cover

A story of obsession and control, An Anonymous Girl will chill you to your bone and leave you pondering its intricate and dark characters.

Book: An Anonymous Girl

Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publishing: Jan. 8, 2019

Pre-Order Link: https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/anonymous-girl

Stars: 4/5

If you’re into screwed up marriages, twisted sociopaths and brilliant stalkers, then you’d better grab a copy of An Anonymous Girl when it publishes on Jan. 8, 2019. Because this psychological thriller from bestselling authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen will give any lovers of Gone Girl, The Widow, or Girl on the Train their fix.

The Storyline

An Anonymous Girl begins by following Jessica (friends call her “Jess”)—your typical poor, young makeup artist living in New York City. Like many struggling artists in The Big Apple, Jess has secrets from her past she doesn’t want to face, which makes finding a relationship a tad difficult.

When the opportunity for some easy cash practically falls onto her lap during a makeup session one day, Jess signs up for a mysterious study on morality from the esteemed Dr. Shields. But as Jess becomes Subject 52, she begins to learn this study isn’t what it seems and now she’s in so deep, she’s not sure she can make it out alive.

What I Loved

The story’s pace is so fast—with its short chapters and cliffhangers—I found it hard to put down (even when I was exhausted from a long day at work). An Anonymous Girl switches point-of-view between Jess and Dr. Shields, which adds a layer of psychological depth to their newly forming, toxic relationship.

I don’t go for cheap thrills, instead preferring story arcs that allow me to understand a character’s motivations. I want to know the why and An Anonymous Girl delivers, developing a complex, fascinating and terrifying villain in Dr. Shields. In the end, you might find yourself empathizing with this cold, calculating doctor.

What Needed Work

I wanted more punch from the end. The story’s intensity developed so well, but the end wasn’t as strong as the buildup. It wasn’t ­bad, per say; in fact, the final note still completed the story nicely and gave me a sense of satisfaction. It just wasn’t enough.

The Final Note

A story of obsession and control, An Anonymous Girl will chill you to your bone and leave you pondering its intricate and dark characters. This is a strong book, a quick read—and I promise, it will be worth your time.

Did you like this review? Then follow me on Goodreads for more like it!

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Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Review ‘The Apollo Illusion’ on Amazon for Your Chance

Amazon Giveaway visual

Have you read my book, The Apollo Illusion, and posted about it on Goodreads, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere? Have you told friends or family about it?

Why not turn your review into a shot at winning a $25 Amazon gift card?

How to Enter

  1. By next week on Dec. 8, 2018, post your HONEST review of The Apollo Illusion to Amazon by clicking here.
  2. Email me with a link to your Amazon review at shari.lopatin@gmail.com.

That’s it! After the giveaway ends in two weeks on Dec. 8, I’ll randomly draw one lucky winner to receive the $25 Amazon gift card and notify him/her by email.

Why Amazon?

As an indie author, Amazon reviews are VITAL for me. Amazon’s algorithm works like this: the more reviews that are posted about my book, the more Amazon shows it to new readers. This means more people could potentially buy it.

So hurry (you only have one week left) and enter for your chance to win that $25 Amazon gift card (more books, anyone?). Post your review now!

Prices for ‘The Apollo Illusion’ Increasing by December!

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Due to wider distribution, prices for my debut novel, The Apollo Illusionwill soon be going up. If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, now’s the time while the e-book is only $2.99 and the paperback is $10.99.

These changes may happen as early as December, so if you’re curious to read it, hurry and buy it now!

About The Apollo Illusion

Nothing is ever what it seems in this riveting science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology.

The year is 2150, and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden.

When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world.

MORE INFORMATION:

  • Audience: ages 15+ (older teens and young adults)
  • Genres: dystopian suspense, science fiction, young adult (YA), speculative fiction

Editorial Reviews

“This is a story that’s well-written and the mysteries contained within the plot draw you in and keep you hooked from one page to the next. The Apollo Illusion should occupy a spot on the to-read list of any true dystopian sci-fi fan.” — John Coon, author of Pandora Reborn

“Pacey, exciting storytelling with great characters, loads of action and a super cute romance. What’s not to love?” — Lucinda Winters, book reviewer and blogger

“The timely release of The Apollo Illusion comes in the wake of ‘alternative facts’ and attacks on the ‘fake news’ media from President Trump and his administration … It’s a dark look at a future more closely in alignment with the present than Lopatin anticipated when she completed the first draft four years ago.” — Arizona Daily Sun

Guys, the e-book price is crazy affordable: only $2.99. So if the storyline piques your interest (even just a little bit), I really encourage you to buy The Apollo Illusion now!

Hilary Dartt Gives Life a Second Chance with ‘The Composition of Order’ (Book Review)

 

The Composition of Order by Hilary Dartt

A wonderful, delightful story that had me crying at the end, with characters so real, I felt like they were my neighbors.

Book: The Composition of Order (The Seedling Homestead Series Book 1)

Author: Hilary Dartt

Publisher: Darttboard Creative Writing, LLC

Published: Sept. 19, 2018

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Composition-Order-Seedling-Homestead-Book-ebook/dp/B07HBCKZ4P

Stars: 5/5

[DISCLAIMER: For the sake of full disclosure, Hilary Dartt was the structural editor for my novel, The Apollo Illusion. However, I bought my own copy of The Composition of Order and was not offered any compensation or benefit for reviewing it.]

Sometimes, becoming a mother makes you a horrible wife. Sometimes, planning life too much can have devastating consequences. And sometimes, those we love most are not who we thought.

Welcome to The Composition of Order by Hilary Dartt, a wonderful, delightful story that had me crying at the end (and I don’t always cry at the end of books).

The Story

The story focuses on Sarah Ward, who as a young (and adopted) child, always preferred order to chaos. Now as an adult, she’s stunned when Donny—her high school sweetheart and husband of 20 years—announces he wants a divorce.

As the couple prepares to see their only child off to college, they take one final, family road trip back home to the farm where Sarah grew up (and they met). There, Sarah finds a mysterious journal at a flea market. Oddly drawn to it, the personal story within prompts Sarah to try and win Donny back. But what Sarah discovers about herself and her family will change her future, and her outlook, forever.

My Take

For most of the story, I believed The Composition of Order to be a solid four stars. However, the story earned a fifth star in my book because of its powerful ending, which impacted me for days after I finished reading. Books often make me tear up, or feel sad, or smile at their closings. But Ms. Dartt managed to make me weep!

With characters so real, they could be neighbors or sisters, The Composition of Order will leave you feeling fuzzy inside, satisfied, and possibly examining your own life. Best of all, it will make you believe in the powerful love of a mother and have hope that second chances do happen—even if they look different than your typical storybook endings.

A must-read for every wife, mother, or woman who understands the complexities of family life, but loves with all her heart anyway.

Did you like this review? Then follow me on Goodreads for more like it!

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READ A SNEAK PEEK! Apollo Illusion Offshoot to be Launching Soon, ‘Stone from HELL’

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If you read my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, then you know all about Stone and HELL. But how did Stone become the person he was in The Apollo Illusion?

Stone from HELL: An Apollo Illusion Short Story” is the backstory of how Stone came to be, and the birth of the infamous organization, HELL. And yes, one other main character from The Apollo Illusion is also in this short story. 😉

[Read the first two chapters now!]

In essence, “Stone from HELL” is to The Apollo Illusion what “Rogue One” is to Star Wars. It’s an offshoot, an extension, a further explanation. And if you loved the world of The Apollo Illusion and were dying to know more about it, you’ll get your fill in “Stone from HELL.”

Read a Sneak Peek!

Because you follow my blog, I’m excited to offer YOU a sneak peek of this brand new short story!

DOWNLOAD YOUR SNEAK PEEK HERE.

And stay tuned. I still have the cover reveal coming, and “Stone from HELL” will be available on Amazon. My Readers Club subscribers will be the first to know when the rest of the story becomes available, so don’t miss out! Sign up now!

Yes, You Have to Price Your Books Low if You Want People to Buy Them

Buy my book meme

You dedicated two years to working on your first novel (here’s mine!). Spent several hundred dollars (or even a couple thousand) on editors and designers.

And now that you’re ready to publish, you’re being told to price your book LOW?

Screw that, right?

I’m Here to Tell You that Low Prices = Higher Readership

I do not advocate giving your book away for free, unless for reviews or giveaway contests. However, if you’re an indie author and you’re publishing your debut novel, you might have to sell your book for less than what it’s worth.

AT FIRST.

If you’re launching your indie career, I doubt this will be the last book you write. So the goal of publishing your first book should be about building readership. An engaged and dedicated readership, who will then buy book #2, and #3, and so forth …

What’s the best way to get readers to take a chance on an indie author they’ve never heard of before? Remove the risk; price your book low.

Increase Prices as Readership Grows

As you begin to build a readership, and people recognize your value as an author, they’ll be more willing to pay a couple of extra dollars for your next book.

Also, as your reviews and sales accumulate on Amazon, at bookstores, and at libraries, you’ll build enough “social validation” to increase prices of your published works.

In essence, think of your indie career as a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t Forget to Reward Your Most Dedicated Fans!

When the time comes to begin increasing your prices, don’t forget about the readers who launched you to this place of success! Make sure to offer them discounts and benefits for remaining loyal fans.

  • Coupon codes
  • Pre-order deals with special pricing
  • Giveaways just for them

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you agree that indie authors should price their books lower to begin building a readership? Comment below!