Monthly Updates: February’19

And finally, I’m doing the monthly Updates post after a long, long time. I loved doing these posts before and I’m really excited to do it now. To be honest, these update posts help me in knowing exactly where I stand in terms of my writing and helps me plan ahead serving as the much-needed motivation.

February was a good month for me, not only as compared to January’19 but also as compared to all the months in the last year. I did have some good writing days last year, especially in the second half where I edited a lot and wrote a considerable number of words, but my muse only came in bursts of 5-7 days at a time and then faded away for good. But this February, I not only wrote consistently but was also able to work on posts for my blogs. This makes me feel like I’ve finally reached the headspace I wanted to be in order to complete the projects I’ve been working on for a while now.

Health-wise, it was a good month for me. I even started visiting with my dietician again and slowly getting back into my morning walk routine. Though Eva, my 1.5-year-old cat, got a liver infection probably because of the cat tree we got in January (it happened due to some chemical and we cannot think of anything else as the source.) She had to undergo a very extensive IV therapy which lasted more than a week. 4-5 days into the treatment and the poor girl started running away and hiding from Vishal and me whenever we tried to get close to her in the evenings thinking we might put her in the crate and take her to the vet. She continued doing this even after her treatment was over for around 1 full week. It was disheartening and I’m just glad that now we all are back to our merry old selves.

Anyhow, moving on here’s what I was able to do this month:

Writing Updates:

  • Wrote around 10K words, not counting the scenes I wrote while plotting my projects
  • Plotted and planned the contemporary fiction novel I started working on last year. I call it the Unnamed Project (UP.)
  • Got a new story idea, a really good one! It’s more on the lines of slasher fiction – pure, mind-numbing gory fest. I have already written 8 chapters for it, which is big for me because it has been a long time since I wrote with such fierceness.
  • Learned new ways of plotting and story structures and will try and implement these in March for the projects listed above.
  • I didn’t work on Sinister Town this month as I was trying to distance myself from it in order to figure out an issue I’ facing with one of the characters and it seems like I’ve figured out what the issue is so distancing myself from it paid off. I’m planning to work on Sinister Town in March.

Reading Updates:

  • Read 2 very disappointing reads: Stillwater Girls by Minka Kent and The Nightmare by Lars Kepler. I had big expectations from both these books: Stillwater Girls had a great blurb (because of which I requested it off NetGalley) and The Nightmare is the sequel to Hypnotist, a book I fell in love with. But both turned out to be very dissatisfying reads and I had to mark them as DNF reads, much to my dismay.
  • Read 4 decent reads by the authors I know: The Afterlives Of Doctor Gachet by Sam Meekings, Treading The Uneven Road by L.M. Brown, The Memory Tree by John A. Heldt and The Curse Of Time by M.J. Mallon. I’ve reviewed all these books on my book blog, The Reading Bud, so do check out my reviews there.
  • Apart from these, I read a book that completely changed the definition of Classics and Cosy Mysteries for me – The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Greene. My very good friend and co-moderator of RMFAO, Dagny, introduced me to this author and after reading her book and biography, I’m totally blown away by the fact that I never heard of her before and that she is so underappreciated. I’m presently reading another one of her books, That Affair Next Door, and it even better than the one I read for Feb.
  • Overall, I read 7 books this month. Out of these, 3 were for RMFAO 2019 Genre Challenge‘s Mystery-Thriller month.

Movies & Series:

  • 8 episodes of the 6th season of Orange Is The New Black. It was good as usual.
  • Cargo on Netflix. Not good at all. They totally ruined a potentially good concept.
  • Tidying Up with Mari Kondo on Netflix. It was kind of a life-changing event and I will be doing a blog post soon on how I’ve adapted the Kon Mari method in my life and home.
  • In new releases, watched Gully Boy and Uri – two of the best movies till date in Bollywood.

Apart from this, I hosted a lot of guests (well, the same guests over and over a couple of times) and was busy in taking care of Eva. So the month went by in a flash. I’m just glad that I was able to get some writing done.

Hope February treated you all well. I’d love to know how you spent your month and what progress you made in your writing, reading and other aspects of life. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ciao ❤

Book Review: Sister Sister by Sue Fortin

33411823Author: Sue Fortin
Release Date: 6th January 2017
Series: –
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Edition: Ebook
Pages: 364
Publisher: Harper Impulse

Rating: ★★★★

Blurb:

 

From the bestselling author of The Girl Who Lied

Alice: Beautiful, kind, manipulative, liar.

Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.

Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life.
Alice thinks Clare is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family.

One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac.
Two sisters. One truth

Review

Sister Sister by Sue Fortin is a gripping page-turner of a novel that’ll leave you craving for more.

I picked up this book impulsively and having nothing better to read in the first week of the year, I decided to go for it. I was hoping to fill up my entire lazy week with this book as I was on a vacation on a beautiful hill-station, but when I started reading this book, all hell broke lose and I was up in the night at 4 o clock trying to read the book and finish it as soon as I could.

The best part about this book is the pacing. The book was proceeding with a blinding speed and I started to feel really anxious whenever the lead character was faced with a dicey situation.

The characterization is beautifully real. I could totally relate to the main character, though at some places she behaved rash considering that she was a lawyer by profession, but I still understood as behaving with a calm mind in every situation is almost always next to impossible for impatient people. I loved how beautifully the relationship between the lead couple was shown and how over the period of time it was shown getting weak by the chapter due to the situations and “incidents.”

The beginning was good and I was pulled into the story from the starting page itself. The ending was perfect and even though it was predictable, the pacing and the tension buildup totally made up for it.

The writing style of the author is brilliant and it made this fun a really memorable experience. I still can’t get the story out of my mind. This was my first book by author Sue Fortin, but I’m sure I’ll be buying her other books soon as I absolutely loved her writing style.

I’d recommend this book not only to all the mystery and thriller lovers but also to anyone who wants to read a nice book with strong characters and a powerful story.


Goodreads, NetGalley and Amazon

Featured Reviewer At NetGalley (NetGalley Blogger Spotlight: The Reading Bud)

I’m the featured reviewer at NetGalley for my book blog, The Reading Bud, for their monthly series, Blogger Spotlight, for Mystery & Thriller edition.

I was really excited when I received a mail from NetGalley inviting me for this spotlight. I really enjoyed answering each and every question for this interview and consider myself lucky to be interviewed by and featured at NetGalley’s blog!

You can read my interview here.

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A snapshot of my interview at NetGalley’s blog

If you’re wondering what NetGalley is or if you want to know how to get accepted for the books by some of the biggest publishers in the world, then you can read my article: Are You A “Professional Reader” At NetGalley.

If you’re already a NetGalley member then do check out this month’s Mystery & Thriller reads as there are some amazing books this month. The best one being Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz. And did you know that NetGalley has introduced the Horror genre category as well!? How amazing is that!

Hope you guys are having a great week.

Reading ‘ascm’ files on MacBook

how-to-open-acsm-filesI wouldn’t have come across this horrific file type had I not been a NetGalley addict. I requested a dozen Graphic Novels and when I was approved, I found out that their format was “.ascm” which doesn’t open in Kindle and most of the e-readers.

I did ferocious Google searches every time I had free time but was mostly mislead. Now that I know the procedure, it seems only too easy, but when I did”t it seemed like the hardest task I faced in the entire year!

jimcarreytypinggif I’m sure a lot of you already know how to read these files and I’m really glad that you do, but there are some (like me) who find it difficult, especially because the links of the concerned software were wrong in all the articles.

Finally I found the correct link for downloading this software and was able to read these seemingly horrendous files with ease.

One of the problems with this ascm  files/books is that the book expires. Yea, it just stops functioning after the date set by the author. Hence, you need to be prepared beforehand with the software and time to read these files if you don’t want to end up loosing them.

I’ve wasted months and lost a lot of books in searching the right article that addressed my problem, so now I’ve decided to write one in hopes that atleast one of my readers will get benefitted by this.

The software that opens ascm files/books is: ADOBE DIGITAL EDITIONS and the link to download the authentic FREE software is here.

As I use MacBook Air, I’ve jotted down the procedure for Mac users only. Though, I’m sure it’ll be somewhat same for Windows users as well.

Steps to read .ascm files on your Mac:

Graphic Novel Review: Copperhead #2

23388348-2

Author: Jay Faerber
Illustrator: Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley
Release Date: 1st April, 2015
Series: Copperhead
Genre: Science-Fiction | Western | Mystery | Suspense | Action | Comics 
Edition: ascm file
Pages: 77
Publisher: Diamond Book Distributors (Image Comics)
Source: NetGalley 
Preceded By: Copperhead #1 (A New Sheriff In Town)
Followed By: Copperhead #3

Graphic Novel Review: Copperhead: A New Sheriff In Town (Vol. #1)

23901106

Author: Jay Faerber
Illustrator: Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley
Release Date: 11th March, 2015
Series: Copperhead
Genre: Science-Fiction | Western | Mystery | Suspense | Action | Comics 
Edition: ascm file
Pages: 128
Publisher: Image Comics
Source: NetGalley

Are you a “Professional Reader” at NetGalley?

Print

“Do you love to discover new books? Do you review and recommend books online, in print, for your bookstore, library patrons, blog readers, or classroom? Then you are what we call a “professional reader,” and NetGalley is for you. Registration is free, and allows you to request or be invited to read titles, often advance reading copies, on your favorite device.”

-NetGalley

First of all, let’s be clear what NetGalley really means. In the publishing world, a galley is the uncorrected or, in some cases, the corrected copies of the books that are not yet printed. And when these galleys are provided on the internet as e-books, you have what we call as NetGalley.

NetGalley offers a wide range of books for reviewers, journalists, librarians, professors, booksellers, and bloggers.

At NetGalley, publishers provide galley proofs to readers in order to get what they call as “feedbacks” and what we call as “reviews.” There are a lot of publishers, including some really big ones like Harlequin Enterprises, Penguin Books, Hachette, Harper Collins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Pan MacMillan and many others in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.

As a voracious reader and a reviewer (with a book blog, The Reading Bud), I’m a “Professional Reader” at NetGalley. Initially, I was so mesmerised by the whole process and the simplicity with which a reviewer can get books, that I went on a crazy spree of requesting books. I requested pretty much all the books that caught me attention at that time and then I used to happily prance like this:

giphy

Then after a while, I started getting rejected by almost everyone for reasons unknown to me. My inbox started flooding with emails saying your request has been denied and for a very long time I was like:

Love-and-Other-Drugs

Then finally, I decided to get off my ass and learn the proper way of being a “professional reader.” I google-searched like crazy, totally high on my new-found enthusiasm but it took a while before I understood my mistake. My first mistake was that I dove head first into the endless sea of galleys and apparently was hit by a very sharp rock (so to say.)

It took me almost a year of horrible experiences to finally understand how to have a peaceful reading experience on NetGalley. Today, I have around 300 books on my NetGalley shelf and a good enough ratio of around 50% (that I always try to maintain, no matter what.) I have received more than a dozen invitations from publishers for reviewing specific titles and I’m auto-approved by more than 6 publishers so far (out of these 6 a couple publishers limit their books to some countries or continents only, still I made it to their lists.) Slowly but steadily I’ve learned to be very particular about requesting titles and maintaining a minimum ratio of 55% (give or take.). And honestly, now I’m having a lot more fun.

Here’s a screenshot of how my NetGalley profile looks like: (updated 14/07/16)

 

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If you are wondering how to improve your ratio or how to increase your chances of getting approved then read on, I’m sure this article will help clear your doubts.

How to make an impressive profile?

Your profile is the only deciding factor for publishers when it comes to NetGalley. So maintaining a great profile is the key to getting approval.

  • Always mention your email address. “Many publishers will only approve requests if they can view your email address, for future follow-ups,” says NetGalley.
  • Provide all the possible links where your reviews get posted or shared. Following order is considered good: Your blog, Tumbler, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit.
  • Make your Bio look professional, like a resume.
  • Add a good profile photo and not a Facebook photo of yourself eating ice-cream.
  • Don’t hesitate to brag about how many followers and subscribers you have for your blog.
  • Mention that you receive a lot of traffic through search engines.
  • Drop a line about how you are bold and honest about your reviews.
  • Maintain a high ratio (at least 50%)
  • If you are a member of any Professional Associations then don’t forget to mention it.
  • Make sure all the links you provide are working.
  • Make sure not to add a fake link, it may seriously affect your image as a reviewer.

What is it with the RATIO?

As far as I know, Ratio the most important thing to keep in mind for a reviewer. NetGalley Ratio is the Feedback to Approval ratio. The recommended ratio is 80%. So if you want to get approved for the books you really want, get ready to give a feedback for each and every book your read.

This poses a problem for reviewers like me, who take their own sweet time (sometimes even months) to post the review of a  particular book, either because they are lazy or as in my case, have a lot of books to review already (as I schedule review requests from authors and publishers first.) Here are some pointers for improving ratio:

  • Decide a limit for requesting books for each month and STICK TO IT.
  • Get to reading the approved books ASAP.
  • If you take time for reviewing then just write out a mini-review for the time being and submit it. Later on, you can edit it and write a proper one.
  • If you think the book deserves 1-2 stars then don’t waste your time writing a full-fledged review for it on your blog. Just write a short review for the feedback and copy-paste it on your Goodreads and then FORGET about it and move on to the next book. (Don’t do it for the publishers you really like as your blog review link is important if you want to read their books in future.)

Why were you rejected?

  • Territorial reasons- If below the request button some names are specified, like US, UK, etc, and youimages are not from these places, then there’s 90% chance that you’ll be rejected. But, if your profile is solid, there’s always a chance for you to get approved (however small it may be.)
  • Mentioning only Goodreads in your “sites” won’t get you accepted by most publishers unless you have more than a thousand friends on Goodreads.
  • Wrong links, incomplete profile and poor ratio are a recipe for complete disaster.
  • Don’t take the books on NetGalley for a given, they are someone’s hard work and unless you are planning on reviewing it, don’t request it just because you can request it by the press of a button (which almost every newbie does!)

The reasons publishers mention while declining:

  • They may have hit their maximum allowance for that title.
  • No company association.
  • Follower counts and website hit counts are important metrics. They prefer reviewers who have established, regularly updated blogs. They look specifically for blogs that have three months of recent, continuous posting of reviews. If your blog is primarily updated with giveaways, cover reveals, and other promotional posts, they will likely decline your request.
  • They do not issue ARCs to reviewers who primarily review on Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, and other social media websites.

 How to get approvedapproved

  • Your profile should be really impressive.
  • Maintain a high ratio and your chances for getting approved simply doubles.
  • In spite of the territorial reasons, in my experience, if your profile is strong enough you still have a 5-10% chance of getting accepted. So apply for off-territory books only if you really, really want the book.

To wrap this up here are a few pros and cons of NetGalley:

Pros:

  • Huge range of books per say.
  • You can contact any big publisher and if your profile is good enough you’ll get approved.
  • Serious money saving on some fabulous books.
  • Direct download on your devices (Kindle, Nook, etc.), so no issues of transferring books (check out NetGalley’s device guide here.)
  • You get a cool badge that says “I’m a professional reader” (like the one in my sidebar.)

Cons:

  • Publishers mostly prefer reviewers who have book-blogs with the heavy following.
  • Reviews are a necessity if you want an endless flow of books.
  • Have to maintain the book-blog nicely.
  • Have to maintain the RATIO.
  • You might have troubles figuring out how to read “.ascm” files.

In spite of all the negative things about NetGalley, I really love it 🙂