Book Review. 4 Stars. Campaign Zen. Author Peter Prasad.

4 star reviewPeter PrasadCampaign ZenGenre: American History, Politics, and Very Clever Writing (is there a category for this?)
“THE ART OF CAMPAIGN ZEN”
Reviewer:
Magdalena VandenBerg

Right. Where to start?

Campaign Zen draws you into the world of the American history and politics in a way you’ve probably never experienced before. I certainly hadn’t.

This isn’t your standard textbook dry as a bone snooze fest of a history lesson. Quite the contrary, reading Prasad’s Campaign Zen is like eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream with dollops of wasabi mustard. Heston Blumenthal, could create something deliciously tasty out of this unusual combination, Prasad would too.

Unusual, and like something you’ve never read before you’ll either love Campaign Zen, or take one bite, and think this isn’t for me. But note, interestingly you do have to eat a least 27 mouthfuls, that’s 27 pages, before you reach the table of contents. I’m not sure why the writer used this strategy, but I digress.

While reading Campaign Zen, I did ponder the question, is this book out of reach, or interest for those not entrenched, or directly affected by the American political system, and all its shenanigans? Or, where will Campaign Zen sit for those of us who have a tepid interest in history dating back to the Romans, Colonials, Brits, Dutch, Irish…the first Americans?

As a New Zealander living a good twelve-hour plane ride from the West Coast of America, I didn’t feel this book was out of my league subject wise. Regardless of my intrigue in the politics of Republicans and Democratic politics, and the vast sums of money it takes to fuel American political campaigns – Prasad’s Campaign Zen is pure gold for anyone interested in American history and politics told in a highly entertaining and creative poetic way.

While reading Campaign Zen a little voice kept growing louder inside my head. What started as a whisper ended as a declaration, this guy is a modern day Shakespeare! Now as wiki states Shakespeare is widely regards “the greatest writer in the English language,” please don’t all gasp at once – it’s Prasad’s brilliant turn of phrase, wit, and a reverence to the bizarre to emphasise a point that left me brimming with admiration, and also slightly muddled because my brain runs at a speed slower and was desperately trying to keep up with the genius of the creative flow.

At times there was too much witty repartee going on, I had to take a break and go and do something completely inane to clear my stuffed and exhausted brain of all the Prasad’isms.

Campaign Zen is that kind of book. A work of art, worthy of respect and admiration not only for its political and historical content, but also for the way Campaign Zen is constructed. Prasad’s unique writing style and use of “doggerel” …”comic verse composed in irregular rhythm” left me whirling at what it must be like to be him when he’s hyped up in that creative moment.

If someone were to test me on the in’s and out’s of Campaign Zen I’d flunk. Only because there is so much information told in a highly descriptive, entertaining, and usual way, I just couldn’t keep up with Prasad’s brilliant mind. I know Stephen Fry could.

So, why didn’t I escalate from 4 to 5 stars? I liked, admired, respected, and was highly amused by Campaign Zen. I also found it slightly irritating, and annoying. And, its not you it’s me…I just didn’t fall in love with it. But that’s art for you. Prasad’s Campaign Zen is political, historical, written in a highly clever style, and its driven by a passion to get people motivated to vote. After reading Campaign Zen you’ll want a drink, and more importantly you’ll never want to waste your right to vote. Prasad tells us why your vote, and every vote is a salute to freedom and democracy.

Ten Things I now know as a Newbie E-Book Writer.

I still consider myself to be a certified newbie.
Before I started writing in earnest, there would always be some sort of drama and dialogue going on inside my head. Now, some might say, I have a problem and need to visit the brainy peeps in white coats. But, really it’s just my imagination at play.
Transforming the scenario’s inside my head into stories, and ultimately publishing them as e-books requires more than the “ten things I now know” written below (hello that’s an unintentional rhyme). They are however, ten steps in the right direction.
Please note – if you are looking for a meaty how-to-e-publish post, I’m afraid this post will disappoint. It’s my intention to blog more on this, and e-book marketing in the near future. 
1.  Commit
Make a commitment to write with the intention of publishing an e-book. Commit to wearing more than a writer’s hat. At some stage, and sometimes all at once, you’ll be wearing a marketing, publishing, and a therapy hat. 
2.  Show Up
If you don’t show up to write, not a single word will get written. All you’ll have is a blank screen, or page. Time, focus, and words strung together into creative sentences, are a few of the necessary ingredients of writing. Make, and schedule time to write.
3.  Go with the Flow
As a runner, for me writing is a lot like pounding the pavement. Not one day is the same. Some days I feel like I can run for miles, while the next…my legs feel like I’m lugging around blocks of of concrete. With writing, one day you’re on a creative roll, the next your river of words has dried up to a mere trickle….Frustrating? Definitely. I’m learning, to go with the flow. If you’ll pardon the pun.
4.  Be a Sponge
Soak up as much information from others about writing, and the world of e-book publishing. Follow related blogs, befriend google and ask questions, join forums and groups – Amazon and Goodreads, a great place to start. Take webinars – online seminars cover a load of subjects from publishing on blogging, Kindle, e-book marketing and PR, success stories…they’re free, and jam-packed with juicy relevant information.
5.  Don’t be Afraid
Whether your brazen, über confident, or super shy, you’re going to need bucket loads of courage. To write, e-publish, read reviews, find your readers, navigate your way around the marketing, and dealing with angst and uncertainty. All require a badge of courage, and a willingness to venture into the soon-to-be-known territory
6.  Establish your name
As a newbie author you probably count your Mum, and a couple of good friends as die-hard loyal readers. I know I do. Expanding your reach beyond that precious three, requires a plan to find readers who, over time will like, love, and trust you enough to buy your books, and share the book love with their friends and family. Establishing your writing name/brand is an essential part of the marketing plan.   
7.  Marketing

Writing with the intention of selling requires at the very least, the backbone of a marketing plan. Step one, know from the onset who you perceive your readers are. Step two, know where to find your readers. A healthy mix of digital, with a little traditional marketing is needed to get your name established, readers, and sales. Without going into too much detail – to build a marketing foundation the must do/have basics are:

  • Blog. Create a blog relevant to establish your identity and what it is you want to be known and recognized for. Whatever you do, have a contact me page.
  • Website. At this risk of sounding like an old fashioned fuddy duddy – in this day and age if you’re not online, well let’s just say you risk extinction. Having a digital presence is crucial if you want to have a ounce of e-publishing success. For the budget conscious, like me, my free wordpress blog site doubles up as my website. And I love it.
  • Social Media. Its social, and its media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr connects you with like minded people who are interested in what you do. It’s a platform to interact.
  • PR. Public Relations interacts with social media, your blog, and or website. In fact, they all interact. But, a good old fashioned press release to announce your book, what it’s about, who the market is, how and where readers can buy it from, the price and why people should buy your book is like a one stop shop of information for media, and potential readers.
  • Elevator Pitch. A long lost friend stops you in the street and asks you, ‘so, what are you doing now?’ What’s your 15, ok maybe stretch it out to 30 seconds summary of what you do? By the time it takes you to ride the elevator from the ground to the penthouse suite, is all the time you need to sell yourself, and your book.
  • Be Consistent. Just like you show up for writing, be regular and consistent with your marketing. The key is consistency with relevant and engaging content. It’s not all about sales, don’t be afraid to mix a little sales with social. People want to get to know, like, love and trust you.

8. Accept Not all Reviews will be 5*****
Develop a thick skin. No matter what, getting and reading a review is a daunting task. One, I’ll never quite get used to. The way I survive reading a review and minimizing the possibility of a bad one completely ruining my day, is to allow myself only a couple of hours to think about it. Tops. Then, I have to let it go.
My policy. Focus on the positive, and respect your reviewer’s opinion. If you don’t like what you read, don’t even think about stepping into the boxing ring and going glove to glove with the reviewer. Sure, it’s tempting, but I believe, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Same applies if you get a great review. If you turn around and laud the reviewer with adulation, and praise, you no longer have an honest review.
Whether the review is good, or just plain ugly and brutal, try taking something positive from it. It’s easier said than done. One reader gave my book a 1* rating, and didn’t back it up with a review. Where’s the positive in that I asked? Well, after digging around, I found out the reader wasn’t in my target age group, and more than likely was never going to enjoy my story.
As hard as it is sometimes, I always appreciate the time and effort it has taken the reviewer to read your book, and write and post a review.
9.  Believe
For many self belief is the biggest hurdle. At times I’m plagued with self doubt, and throughout my day I can be heard muttering sound bites of encouragement. ‘Back Yourself’ has become a personal favorite. As Jack Canfield once said “tell people you’re a writer when you think you are.” I now tell peeps I’m a writer. And yes, I believe it too.
10.  Reality Check and Luck
This is a goodie. How do you measure success? By achieving your own goals? Showing up? Sales? Or….is it the little things you achieve, and learning from and surviving the failures, disappointments, dark days, mistakes, crankiness, writers block…that ultimately point us in the direction of “being successful.”
Writing with the intention of selling your book is a magic combo of content, marketing, luck, and giving people what they want at the right time.
Timing is everything. Whether it’s an overnight runaway #1 best seller, or it takes you a few months, or years. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will your writing career. Either way…believe, believe, believe in you.

Magdalena has recently written a contemporary romance e-book, Love in the Vines. Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.
Her first e-book was an mage to her cat, Minnie Moo….Minnie Moo The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat.
Both e-books are available to buy on Amazon.
Having successfully completed NANOWRIMO writing 50,000 words in 30 days (the month of November), Magdalena is currently working on the sequel to Love in the Vines – Love Entwined.
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I’m Chuffed. Lisa Day Gives Love in the Vines 4 Stars

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E-BOOK REVIEW BY LISA DAY
LOVE IN THE VINES by Magdalena VandenBerg
Magdalena’s story begins with Carla. Carla suffers from what many woman have experienced the what I called the ‘I need to break out of this rut.’ She does a good job making you understand the needs and emotions at play here. I know because years ago I had those same emotional feelings.
‘Love in the vines’ will carry you along the journey. For some readers her openness might be a tad to real. But isn’t that want a good writer should do. To make you understand and still be a little uneasy.
You can see how Matt’s history has brought him to the point where as the grapes ripened on the vine his attention to Carla blossomed.
You might not make the same choices as Carla and Matt, but you’ll see not only how it can happen but why.
If you are a wine drinker Magdalena throws in an interesting array of wine growing and making facts. So whether you drink Pinot Noir, Syah, or wine from a box. Hold your glass up for ‘Love in the Vines.’

For more on Lisa Day, and to read her views, click here

Thank you Lisa!

Food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage. Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food.
LOVE IN THE VINES is Out Now and available to buy US$2.99 on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle device – download Kindle to your PC, Mac or mobile. It’s easy – I did it!

Book Reviews. Scary or Not?

I can tell you straight off the bat, I’m one of those authors who can’t feign nonchalance at receiving book reviews.
First of all I’m immensely appreciative of readers who give their valuable time to read my books. Time is a rare commodity, and considered a luxury for most. Writing a review requires a whole other level of extra time, thought, and effort. And for that, I feel readers and reviewers are all deserving of 5 shining gold stars.
Even those who write and post the dreaded one or two star reviews. Good, or bad the feedback is at times hard to swallow, but it’s always invaluable.
I’ve got to admit getting a review scares the pants off me! My heartbeat races, I don’t breathe while reading it, and if it’s bad, my mood will dive faster than the Dow Jones on a brutal trading day.
In my mind, I can rationalize reviews as a reader’s personal, and informed opinion. I read and write reviews too. I respect that. In my heart however, I’m a sensitive softie who is s still coming to grips with the obvious fact that once the publish button is hit. It’s published. End of.
Ah well, one thing I’m sure of is I’ll never feign nonchalance, I’ll always be grateful to those who read my books. Reviews are like receiving an unexpected bonus. Like getting an extra scoop of ice-cream when you didn’t ask for it.
Here’s my latest LOVE IN THE VINES 4**** Book Review – this one was like getting the ice-cream, and the cherry on top.


“Affairsville” 4**** Amazon Review of LOVE IN THE VINES
Carla is bored with her marriage. Looking for something to do during the day – her husband is at work and her children are at school -she takes a job as a clerk at a local winery.
Mat is the vintner. Divorced, introverted, fascinated by his wine, he seldom pays attention to other people, but, on Carla’s first day at work, attraction is immediate; sparks fly between them.
The reader knows what will happen next! We watch as Carla takes each step, first baby steps, then larger ones, on the road to what she calls “Affairsville.” A novice at adultery, she makes “rookie mistakes,” and her husband begins to suspect that something is amiss.
Love in the Vines chronicles the all too familiar story of a woman who seeks excitement outside of her marriage, the feelings she has, the compromises she makes, the rationalizations she concocts to explain and to justify her behavior.
We wonder how far Carla will go and whether she will actually reach Affairsville. Will Mat continue to pursue Carla; will he tire of the chase; or will he go off-course when he meets her husband? We wonder whether her husband will see through Carla’s stories, and how he will react if he does. Will this a fling, or something more?
The story captures your attention in the beginning, and you won’t want to stop reading. It is a fast-moving, sexy story. You will enjoy reading it, and you’ll be asking for a sequel!

Book Review. The Reunion by David Burnett.

THE REUNION
By David Burnett
Genre: Romance

The Reunion is a complicated love story between Michael and Allison who after years of marriage still love and adore each other. But unresolved issues from their past threaten to destroy their life together.
This Reunion poses the question, is true love enough to conquer personal insecurities, desires, and good and bad choices made?
Once a vivacious, outgoing, popular, and talented artist and runner, Michael chose to follow in his father’s footsteps becoming a successful, yet rather staid and dull Estate Lawyer. Now he works for clients he doesn’t necessarily like, jogs around the neighborhood, and can’t remember the last time he’s picked up his sketchpad.
Married for twenty-seven years to Allison, he has become everything she wants him to be. A partner in well established aw firm. Respected in the community, a good husband and provider to their strong-willed daughter Alicia. Much to Allison’s relief Michael’s art ambition dwindled to nothing.
Alicia thinks her Mom, is so tightly bound by her own rules and insistence at keeping them, she has bestowed her the nickname, St Allison. Control is an issue for Allison, and her teaching vocation demonstrates her need to keep everything under her reign.
Allison’s life operates according to the rules she has written for her and her family. Add to this, her need to conform to what she thinks society expects from her, and her strong Catholic faith. Pursuing passions, or living life to its full potential, are to Allison, just frivolous notions.
A letter arrives inviting them to attend Michael’s high school reunion. Allison is all in favor of going. Michael is reluctant to reconnect with people he hasn’t seen for twenty or so years. Allison’s powers of persuasion work, and they go.
The theme for the reunion is “Turn Back the Clock,” and as Michael’s old school pals, in particular Linda, recount the stories, a picture of a younger Michael emerges. He was fun, mischievous, popular, and a talented artist. A far cry from the self-described dull lawyer he has become.
A few days after the reunion Allison leaves to take her students on their annual week long Literary Tour. On the morning of her departure, Michael drops Allison off at school. While waving the bus off, he bumps into an old college friend, Stephanie. A keen runner, she is still in great shape, vivacious, and now an ambitious lawyer who has not forgotten the man who had years ago broken her heart.
Incidentally, Stephanie is married to Bill, a teacher at Allison’s school.
Inspired by the confidence of his old school friends, Michael decides to “pick up his sketch pad” again and rediscover his artistic talent. Stephanie, once his running arch rival convinces him to lace up his running shoes again.
Allison is aghast as to the changes her husband is making. After all what will the partners at the law firm think?
An opportunity arises for Michael to apply to attend Art School for one month in New York. Much to the horror of Allison, he applies and is accepted. As Michael rekindles his love of art and running, Allison shuns any real interest in supporting her husband.
Deep seeded insecurities drive Allison to the point of hurting those she loves the most. Her own frailties and lack of trust become her own worst enemies.
With her husband busy with his work, the gym or in his art studio. Allison immerses herself in work, and decides to attend a work conference. Held an eight-hour drive away from home, another teacher accompanies her for this life changing road trip.
I enjoyed The Reunion, in particular Michael’s character. He had the courage to rediscover his passion, and to live life. On the other hand, his wife was to a point his “wet blanket” letting her insecurities, high morals, and need to remain in control, almost threaten to destroy everything she holds so dear.
Allison had it all, but never seemed to be happy.
I found Bill and Stephanie to be totally deserving of each other. Bill is only motivated by self-interest, and his actions, in particular his anger outburst are totally reprehensible.
Set in the South, The Reunion reflects the intricacies’ and personality of the region.
The Reunion is more than a complicated love story. Readers will enjoy the journey into the artistic world, and the discovery of some of England’s most magnificent historic landmarks.

 

My Latest Book Review for K.A. Krisko’s STOLEN. A Science Fantasy Unfolds…

Before I go any further I have to be honest. I never venture into the fantasy genre. Well, I’m glad I did.
K.A. Krisko’s STOLEN has opened up a whole new world for me.
The opening paragraph drew me into the world of Lefollah “who in the day resembled the trees of the forest in which they grew.”
From that point I was drawn into Stolen. A civilization built upon a foundation of the tradition of the Council of Sorcerers, and a multi-dimensional array of cleverly crafted Skills. Many of these Skills were accepted by the Council, and had successfully been incorporated to add diverse and practical value into the functioning of everyday life.
It was the forbidden skills that had me the most excited. Their collective powers were masterfully described, and brilliantly crafted. Shape-shifting, mind-bending, viewing, and more. All brilliant.
As a young girl, Rioletta was abducted by the Tree People. Years later while attending a life changing meeting of the Council of Sorcerers, Rioletta learned of her destiny. “Your task.” Mosse said slowly, “is to solve the mystery of your life.” From here, the story of Stolen begins in earnest. Traversing a dynamic, well crafted fantasy world of dramatic landscapes, civilizations, might, power, Skill, and the complexity and frailty of relationships.
Rioletta is placed in numerous threatening situations and is pitted against people who are unknown to her world. It is during these times Rioletta has to make tough decisions. As her chosen course of action will not only affect her, it will also impact her community, and reverberate throughout the rest of civilization as she knows it.
The backbone of the story is skilfully crafted upon the sense of what is right and wrong, the moral strength of the value of community, the importance of caring for the environment, and in turn protecting the legacy of our future. Personal relationships interweave throughout the story adding warmth, empathy, understanding, and an admiration at the tenacity of the human spirit.
Perhaps it is my lack of experience with reading science fantasy, at times I did get lost, and confused with the different locations, character names, and the numerous Skills employed. I felt at times, the pace of the story was too fast, and in my opinion could have benefited from a slower more descriptive pace to concentrate the reader focus on all that was unfolding.
At times I felt I needed more depth to allow me time to grasp everything that was happening in the storyline.
If fantasy is your genre, Stolen is a very worthwhile read. If you are like me, and don’t tend to read fantasy, Stolen is a book worth exploring.

LINKS FOR STOLEN
Goodreads
Amazon
K.A. Krisko Website

Love in the Vines. First Amazon Review.

Nervous? You betcha! (did I just write that?).
As a newbie author, I haven’t mastered the art of not obsessing over when my first book review will be posted. I wouldn’t recommend the waiting, as part of any anti-aging routine.
The anticipation, is just as bad as the wait.
Almost one month to the day after LOVE IN THE VINES hit the virtual bookshelves, a reader has taken the time to post a review on Amazon. I’m absolutely chuffed and grateful. Time is a precious commodity.
Now, as much as I’d love to bleat, being a New Zealander, home to 64 million sheep, I can try to make that unique sound, a 5***** shiner, it’s not.
Rather, it’s a very credible, spot-on, and honest 3*** review.
Sure, the higher numbers make for a better marketing story, and believe you me I’ll be out there spruiking mine one day soon, but today, here’s my first ever sparkly dazzling 3*** review to share.
Ok, for all of you who have moved on from Merlot, I’m thinking Mitchell Pritchard from Modern Family ….I’m going to confess. I love Merlot.
Love in the Vines. E-Book Out Now on Amazon Kindle.
For peeps living in the Southern Hemisphere it’s…”a great read for summer.” For those rugging up for fall, autumn and winter Love in the Vines is a perfect fireside read and a warming accompaniment to any glass of wine.
Love in the Vines is a contemporary romance novel set in the intoxicating world of wine and food. Like wine, love begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

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