Book Review – Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See

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Undersized, snowy-haired German orphan Werner, is a genius with radios. He and his feisty little sister Jutta are wards in Frau Elena’s children’s home. At night they listen to radio receiver that Werner found and restored and, sometimes, the enchanting feathery voice of a French man talking about light makes them dream that anything is possible.

Blind French girl Marie-Laure is growing up in Paris, where her father, who guards the keys in the Museum of Natural History, has made a model of Paris to help her feel her way around the streets.

The war is pressing down on them both. It will provide Werner with the unexpected opportunity to attend an elite but brutal school from where he is dragged, too young and too small, into the confict. Marie-Laure will find herself under the roof of her reclusive damaged uncle in an ancient walled city of Saint-Malo.

The story…

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Amazon reviews: how they affect sales


I came across an article on Hello…Chick Lit which got me thinking about  Amazon reviews. I vaguely knew reviewing an author’s works on Amazon had more value than reviewing them on my blog or on Goodreads, but hey, how many hours are in the day? Many authors won’t ask directly for an Amazon review because of the Amazon Review Police who stalk the highways and byways of the digital world, but here are some reasons to help each other out!

I’ve recently self-published on Amazon Kindle Select for the first time with my novella, Under the Tuscan Moon, and am not setting myself up as an expert on Amazon reviews or anything at all regarding publishing or promoting. I’m just sharing a small part of what I’ve learnt in hopes that it will help both authors and readers.

Have you ever sent bloggers and/or other friends a free copy of your book and asked them to read it then leave a review on Amazon? I have. I was secretly hoping they’d love it and would post a review. They told me they loved it, but the loving didn’t extend to an Amazon review (yet) for most. I understand this. Authors often send me PDFs of their books and because my TBR list is ginormous, I’ve not even gotten around to reading them all, let alone reviewing. That’s a pity. Since learning how important Amazon reviews can be, I’ve been upping my Kindle reading of bloggers’ books and posting more Amazon reviews. (If you’ve sent me a copy of your book, send me an email and remind me that you’re still waiting for that review and I’ll send you to the top of the list!) 

Blog Tours

Most of us gladly participate when someone has a new book coming out and asks us to help spread the word. It introduces people to the book and the author. The ‘To buy’ link might even lead to a sale or two if the planets align. Really, anything that gets eyes on a book is good.

I review my reads on Goodreads because every year I participate in their reading challenge. (I read/reviewed 120+ books in 2015). You need over 10 reviews on Goodreads to be able to add your book/s to certain groups which gives you more exposure. I went off reviewing on Amazon when they took down some of my reviews of blogger friends’ books. But we can’t let that stop us. Amazon reviews can impact sales rankings, so is the most useful thing we can do for our blogger/author friends if their book is available to buy on Amazon. (And fingers crossed they won’t take it down).

Unless you’re in the upper echelons, chances are you spent more on getting your book out there than you will ever recoup, especially if you self-publish. That’s a crying shame. There are LOADS of amazing books out there with way too few sales because people don’t know how good they are. Who is going to scroll to Page 500 to find a book? Some amazing books could be discovered if readers could take 10 minutes to write something—it doesn’t have to be long—that would be so helpful to the author’s rankings and ‘discoverability’. 

So if you follow a blog tour, do that author a favour–buy their book (usually cheaper than a cup of joe), find some time to read it (sure, this is the hardest part), then, for that author’s sake, REVIEW IT!! Even if you don’t like it THAT much, you can still review it. You don’t have to give it 5 stars!!! I’m loath to say this, but apparently even a bad review is better than no review! It still ticks the algorithm boxes!


Why are Amazon reviews important?

Well, duh! More sales = higher rankings.  If your book is selling, it goes higher on the list. And reviews help sell books.

Verified Purchase reviews will count MORE towards the rankings of Amazon sales. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t leave a review for a book you didn’t buy through Amazon.

Reviews with ‘likes’ count more towards rankings and *algorithms.(If you like the techie details, read the section at the end).

So if you read a review that you like – hit the ‘like’ button!  Not only does it help the reviewer’s Amazon review stats but it helps the author with a ‘higher ranking review’.

Amazon supposedly recommends books different ways based on the number of reviews.

20-25 reviews: Amazon will include your book in the ‘Others also bought’ section and the ‘You might like’ section.

50-70 reviews: Amazon may highlight the book in spotlight ads and possibly include your book in newsletters.

100+ reviews: Amazing promo results for authors (it is said).

Is it just reviews that help? Who really knows? But anything that helps an author up their rankings is a good thing. And we can all help this happen.

  • Getting your book out there into the eyes of readers will help sell books.
  • Building your author platform and engaging with readers and bloggers will sell books.
  • Great writing with great content will sell books.

And Amazon reviews matter.  They take 5 – 10 minutes to write. An author would prefer a quick review to no review. Do something amazing for your blogger/author friends.

  • How many reviews does your book have on Amazon?
  • How did you get those reviews?
  • What is the most successful part of your Author Platform?
  • Share with us!

And if you’re up for another Valentine’s writing challenge, WEP’s Valentine’s challenge goes live from Feb 17-19…flash fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photos, art…we’re open to all! Please join us!


 * If you’re really into this, read on…with thanks to Aimee at Hello…Chick Lit.

Amazon uses algorithms to place products rankings – their system is called A9.

What is algorithm?  

Algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

What helps the Amazon algorithm? (this is according to research through Amazon… like I said, they change the rules daily so… take this as you will)

There are more factors in the Amazon algorithm than I could even explain or know but these are the ones they make public.

More sales = higher rankings.  If your book is selling, it’s higher on the list.

Verified Purchase reviewers reviews will count MORE towards the rankings of Amazon sales. 

You can review anything on amazon even if you didn’t purchase it (unless you have NEVER purchased anything on Amazon I’ve learned).

Reviews with ‘likes’ count more towards rankings and algorithms.  

So if you read a review that you like – hit the ‘like’ button!  Not only does it help the reviewers Amazon review stats but it helps the author with a ‘higher ranking review’.

Certain numbers of reviews can do different things within the Amazon algorithm. (Supposedly – Amazon changes the rules daily so everything is iffy)

Amazon (supposedly) recommends books different ways based on number of reviews.

20-25 reviews Amazon will include your book in the ‘Others also bought’ section and the ‘You might like’ section.

50-70 reviews Amazon may highlight the book in spotlight ads and possibly include your book in newsletters.

My conclusion:

Amazon reviews can matter.

Authors working on their platform can matter just as much – this takes time and consistency.

I’ve heard authors who say their promo of their book with 25 reviews did just OK… but their promo of their book with 100+ reviews did amazing.

Was it the reviews that helped?

Who knows.  It could be anything.  But reviews, good and bad can help with your sales.

Is my 100 reviews guaranteed to help my book sell mass amounts, you may ask?

No.  Maybe more people will buy your book because 100 people said how great it was but reviews alone can not sell books.

Amazon reviews will help Amazon slot you in different places with their algorithm.

It will help place you in different rankings.

Amazon reviews can help make your book more visible to potential buyers, which is why they are so important.  

But it won’t happen over night.

It’s a journey, not a race; you have to fit all the pieces of the puzzle to succeed.

Don’t forget to check your Amazon keywords and categories… those can make a load of difference in who can find your book.

If it’s miscategorized, the wrong readers will be finding it resulting in less sales.

If you read a book, do the author a favor and also go put up a review on Amazon (US, UK, CA…). Good or bad, they all help.


Vive la France! #BooktagsBlogHop. My book this week: Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe

Okay, I’ve been right off writing ever since I heard about those #ParisAttacks on Friday 13th. Like many others, it took my breath away, leaving me no motivation to do what seemed frivolous things, like write for #NaNoWriMo or prepare a blog post. Then blogger friend Toi Thomas reminded me that today is the day I write about a book I’ve read recently. At first I thought I can’t do this, then I thought, yes, I can. So everybody, and Toi, I’m sorry if this is going to be a little outside the square, but I’m presenting my reading my way.


Lobe tells us in a dedication at the beginning of the book that: “…mother taught me to believe in the words of Henry David Thoreau: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.'”

Well, we saw on Friday 13th, that not everybody accepts the dreams we follow, seeing watching a game at a football stadium, eating at restaurants, walking down the beautiful Parisian streets, watching a rock concert where an American band was performing, are things to die for. Those ‘soldiers’ mowing down innocents with Kalashnikovs then blowing themselves and others away with suicide bombs obviously thought that dream of living and loving in Paris was anathema.

My favourite author, Ernest Hemingway, has a few lines in The Sun Also Rises, where he says, ‘Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working…You hang around cafes.’

That might sound like Hem would be on the side of the suicide bombers on Friday, but no, no one liked hanging around cafes quite as much as he did, so don’t take it out of context. I deliberately included it as I think that it is a radical opinion of how Westerners enjoy themselves. Didn’t we all think that hanging around cafes was not an action punishable by death? Until Friday, that is.

Which brings me back to Paris Hangover, the book I’m supposed to be talking about today. Okay, not exactly ISIS-preferred reading!

Definitely women’s fiction, or chick lit, Lobe writes very autobiographically, so even though this is a work of fiction, it is obviously a pretty true account of her life. The premise (and what she did in her real life), was to ditch her super-glam life and apartment in New York City and relocate to a tiny walk-up Parisian apartment in Saint Germain. Fleeing her Big Shot boyfriend, the main character, Klein, starts over in Paris, plunging into the mysterious world of Gallic Men. She lives a life full of Moet and Gauloises, dating Frenchmen and waking up with a hangover most mornings.

Klein/Lobe describes her life in her chosen city: ‘Living in Paris is an experience like no other. It’s like being on a ride at an amusement park: wildly exciting, a bit scary, a little overpriced.’ 

As she settles into her new apartment she considers her dream:

“This dream has the perfect soundtrack. To awaken each morning to the sound of doves cooing and church bells ringing. C’mon, it doesn’t get any more beautiful than that…The first sounds I hear as I come into consciousness are usually the tender voices of mothers and their children, up early and out on their morning outing to the boulangerie down the street to buy brioche and croissants. The gentle, ‘Maman…’ followed by, ‘Comment, ma cherie?’ is like music.’

On re-reading this passage, I couldn’t help wonder how Parisian mothers spoke to their children on Friday 14th. ‘The President has asked us to stay indoors today, cherie. Something bad has happened.’

But back to Klein. This American in Paris never had it so good–vin blanc at Cafe de Flore, painting in a garret, afternoons in the Jardins du Luxembourg–or so bad. But Klein’s passion for France and its men allows her to press on through some dastardly experiences.

There’s something for everyone in this book. It’s first and foremost a love story to Paris and its literary giants. Lobe peppers her story with quotes from French philosophers, French poets, and French writers. One of my favourites is her quote from Marcel Proust:

‘We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.’ 

Sadly, Friday’s attackers’ wisdom must be questioned. Have they discovered wisdom for themselves, where they see executing innocent civilians as somehow more holy than attending a rock concert or hanging around cafes, or have they been brainwashed into a point of view?

My feelings for Paris/France are not a well-kept secret. Tonight I will stand in solidarity with them at a special event in front of our City Hall, which once again will be bathed in the tricolour.

Books set in Paris are always so full of life and love, which is why I read so many, and am working on writing one myself. Thank you Kirsten Lobe for this quirky little love story to Paris. I hope you are safe in your chosen city!

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