Amazon and the ‘Big Five’ publishers are accused of ebook price-fixing

Amazon and five of the major publishing houses are being sued for the alleged price fixing of ebooks.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon and what have been termed the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have recently been accused of colluding with one another in order to fix ebook prices. This accusation comes in a class action suit filed by a law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York District Court on behalf of consumers in several states. It names the retail giant as the sole defendant but has called the publishers “co-conspirators.” The suit alleges that Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” to keep ebook prices artificially high, and therefore force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased through retail platforms that are not Amazon.

The lawsuit alleges that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are done so on Amazon. The lawyers also say that ebook prices dropped in 2013 after Apple and the publishers were successfully sued for the same charge, but that they rose again when Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015.

“In violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Defendant and the Big Five Co-conspirators agreed to various anti-competitive MFNs and anti-competitive provisions that functioned the same as MFNs,” the complaint states. “Amazon’s agreement with its Co-conspirators is an unreasonable restraint of trade that prevents competitive pricing and causes Plaintiffs and other consumers to overpay when they purchase ebooks from the Big Five through an ebook retailer that competes with Amazon. That harm persists and will not abate unless Amazon and the Big Five are stopped.”

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The suit is seeking compensation for consumers who purchased ebooks through competitor websites and aims to force Amazon and the publishers to “stop enforcing anti-competitive price restraints.”

This lawsuit came a day after the state of Connecticut announced it was launching an investigation into Amazon for possible anti-competitive behaviour in its sale of ebooks.

Amazon has thus far not released a statement in response to the New York lawsuit.

L.A. teen gives thousands of books to young readers

A teenager from LA. has made it her mission to get books into the hands of young children.

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Alana Weisberg has always been an avid reader, she enjoys nothing more than escaping into a good book. So when the pandemic hit and her school was forced to close, she found a lot more free time on her hands, free time she was happy to fill with her insatiable appetite for reading.

But this also got her thinking about other children, children who were not quite as fortunate as herself. With libraries closed many children would not have access to the books Alana herself could enjoy, that did not sit well with the 16-year-old sophomore from Los Angeles.

Thus she founded Bookworm Global, a brilliant charity that Weisberg started to last spring and has so far collected and distributed over 22,000 new or used books to children in need.

Alana Weisberg and a garage floor full of books

Bookworm Global began small but has grown rapidly over the last year. Now the organisation even trains Girl and Boy Scout troops on holding their own book drives in their local communities. Any books collected are sent on to Weisberg or organises getting them into local schools or non-profits around her area. Bookworm Global has even branched out of California and donated to an orphanage in Mexico.

Yet the focus is still on her local community. Weisberg says her goal is still to get books into the hands of L.A. children with little means.

“I wanted to get books to kids living below the poverty line,” she said. “The children that are getting these books have never owned a book before.”

Los Angeles has a homeless problem, particularly amongst youths. The city has a lot of students and English learners who are struggling to read at the states average standard, that is according to state data, this is not acceptable to Weisberg.

ICEF Inglewood Elementary Charter Academy has received around 5,000 books from Bookworm Global, something that will help many of its students according to the community relations coordinator Jhonathon Gonzalez. According to Gonzalez these books will be the only physical ones many of his students will have access to.

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The school does not have its own library and has been forced to photocopy pages from numerous books just so their pupils can have access to the written word. Almost ninety percent of the schools pupils live below the poverty line, though Gonzalez says that number is now likely higher thanks to people losing their jobs during the pandemic.

“Getting books into the hands of students is critical so that children can momentarily step away from the harsh realities of their COVID-19 living conditions and travel to new worlds through reading,” Gonzalez said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to escape what they’re currently going through and go to a magical land,” he said. “A lot of our students don’t have that opportunity. It’s up to us to provide them a different world through the lens of a reader.”

Bookworm Global has also placed an emphasis on books whose protagonists are people of colour, in an attempt to appeal to as broad a range of readers as possible.

Weisberg hopes that this philanthropic organisation can help many new children develop as deep a passion for reading as she has.

“Reading is really important to me because it’s my escape. When I’m bored, I go and read,” she said. “I want kids to be able to engage in a book and really enjoy it and foster a love of reading.”

Publisher cancels book by senator Josh Hawley following Capitol Hill riots

Josh Hawley’s rhetoric has cost him his book deal.

The Tyranny of Big Tech cover

An upcoming book by US senator Josh Hawley has been cancelled by its publisher after the senator backed baseless claims that the US election was stolen. Hawley helped enflame an already tense situation which ultimately led to the insurrection and attempted coup at the US Capitol last week. The Missouri Republican has called the publishers decision “Orwellian” and has vowed to fight them in court.

The books publishers, Simon & Schuster, released a statement on Thursday: “After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, DC, Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Big Tech.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” the publisher added. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

Hawley is considered a rising star within the Republican party and is seen by some as a future presidential candidate. His book, which was originally scheduled for June, would have focused on one of his favourite themes, the undue power of the tech giants.

Shortly after the news broke that his book deal had been cancelled Hawley took to Twitter: “I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition.”

“This could not be more Orwellian… Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment… I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.”

Simon & Schuster were quick to hit back with another statement which said that they were “confident that we are acting fully within our contractual rights.”

This is not the first time Simon & Schuster has clashed with right wing supporters of Donald Trump. It called off a deal with right wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos while publishing a number of best-selling anti-Trump tomes, including his niece Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, and The Room Where It Happened by former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Indie bookshop numbers rose again in 2020

Despite a challenging year the number of independent bookshops increases.

The Booksellers Association

According to the Booksellers Association for the fourth consecutive year the number of independent bookstores in the UK and Ireland has grown.

The number of independent bookstores with membership to the BA has increased from 890 shops in 2019 to 967 by the end of 2020. There have of course been some independent bookstores that have had to sadly close over the previous year thanks to hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but overall it appears to have been a good year for indie stores.

Meryl Halls from the BA, said; “It has been an incredibly difficult year for booksellers, and the high street as a whole, so it is fantastic to see the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland increase for a fourth consecutive year.

“Covid-19, national lockdowns and shifting tier systems have had a huge impact on bookshops across the country, with footfall significantly reduced, the supply chain affected, and competition from tech giants more unfair than ever. Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating.”

Yet despite the overall good number Halls did warn about future hardships that many stores will have to face, adding; “2021 is likely to be another challenging year for booksellers, as the full impact of the pandemic on the high street becomes apparent. However, this year has proven the resilience, resourcefulness and dedication of booksellers, and we will do everything we can to support them as they look ahead and plan for a post-pandemic future.”

Harry Potter helps fuel UK online reselling boom

Harry Potter is one of the major contributing factors that has helped fuel a boom in online sales of second-hand books.

Sales at online “resellers” like MusicMagpie have jumped more than 22% in the UK last year, taking their earnings to over £120min. The sale of second-hand books alone has increased by 75% over the last year.

In the run up to Christmas, and with the UK subjected to its second lockdown of the year, second-hand book sales were booming and they were dominated by one series, Harry Potter.

MusicMagpie and other such companies have benefited massively from the closure of charity shops across the country. Combine that with more people needing money thanks to the nationwide lockdown and you have the perfect environment for second-hand resellers.

“Consumer attitudes towards buying refurbished products are changing, and there’s also an ongoing move towards ethical spending and tackling the growing problem of e-waste,” said Steve Oliver, the chief executive of MusicMagpie.

With the sale of second-hand books rising exponentially it also shows a clear trend back towards reading for so many people over this uncertain time.

Top-selling books in Nov-Dec 2020

  • This is Going to Hurt – by Adam Kay
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – by JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – by JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – by JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – by JK Rowling

Eric Jerome Dickey: The best-selling author dies at 59

Jerome Dickey

The author Jerome Dickey, who was a common feature on the best-sellers list for more than 20 years, has sadly passed away at the age of 59.

The US writer created 30 novels about thrilling daring adventures and heart pounding romances that revolved around young African American characters.

He also wrote a series of Marvel comics about a love story between X-Men’s Storm and the Black Panther.

“His work has become a cultural touchstone over the course of his multi-decade writing career, earning him millions of dedicated readers around the world,” his publicist Becky Odell told USA Today.

Dickey was born in Memphis, Tennessee and began his working life as a software developer for an aerospace industry. When he was laid off from that job though Dickey found his true calling and took him writing.

He first gained prominence in the 1990’s during a book for African-American literature. His debut novel ‘Sister, Sister’ explored the lives and relationships of three siblings. It was a powerful and moving portrayal of African-American life and was recently named one of the 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years by Essence magazine.

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He was often praised for his ability to write “believable and powerful” female characters. Indeed his female characters were so engaging he quickly gained a huge female readership, leading to the New York Times calling him the “chick lit king.”

Calvin Reid, an editor at trade magazine Publishers Weekly, said: “He captures black language and black middle-class characters with more depth than you often see in commercial fiction.”

He soon branched out into stories of crime and suspense, though he never left the steamy tangled relationships he had become known for.

Dickey had four daughters but avoided basing his plots on his own life. “I avoid my life,” he once said. “It bores me. Trust me. A book about me would be a snoozefest.”

His final novel, The Son of Mr Suleman, will be published in April.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope Review

Who’d have thought that Star Wars and Shakespeare go hand to hand perfectly?

Well it turns out that author Ian Doescher did and he hits it out the park with ‘Verily, A New Hope’ the first entry in his Star Wars/Shakespeare saga.

As it turns out, the story of Star Wars, with all of its drama, tragedy, romance, humour, and amazing characters fits brilliantly into Shakespeare literary world.

As a big Star Wars fan, and somewhat of a Shakespeare admirer I jumped at the chance to check this book out, and boy am I glad I did.

I love A New Hope, I know the story inside and out, but this was like experiencing it all over again for the first time. As soon as I opened the book and read a Shakespearian version of the famous opening scroll I knew I was in for one hell of an enjoyable experience.

For the most part the script here follows the events of A New Hope beat for beat. Every now and then though the author is able to take advantage of creative license and grants a character an aside or a soliloquy to convey their feelings to the audience, it’s very Shakespearian, and it’s very fun.

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What is strange reading this book though is seeing how the art of storytelling has evolved over time.

Today writers are told to show don’t tell, they have to show a characters thoughts and motivations, simply telling the reader about them is too easy, too simple for a modern audience. Yet Shakespeare is filled with character soliloquies where we are told in no uncertain terms about their emotions, thoughts, and desires.

Even though the story being told here is only 40ish years old it felt like reading something from hundreds of years ago, it felt utterly foreign.

I loved it though, no matter how strange it felt to read. Where it would really shine though is on the stage, as all of the great Bard’s works do. This is made for the theatre and boy would that be a treat.

11.22.63 by Stephen King Review

If you could go back in time and change the course of human history would you do it? Even if it meant sacrificing so much of your own life in the process?

Well that’s the premise of Stephen Kings 54th fiction book, 11.22.63.

King gives us a new protagonist in the form of Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls Maine, because of course he is. It doesn’t take long for King to uproot our heroes life and sent him hurting back through time to the world of 1958 small town America.

Gone are the cell phones and tablet computers, now Jake finds himself in a world filled with Elvis, Plymouth cars, a beautiful librarian called Sadie Dunhill, and of course a troubled loner called Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who slowly comes to dominate Jake’s life.

11.22.63 is Stephen King at something resembling his best. His prowess with weaving together political, social and popular culture into this version of baby-boom America is exquisite. The suspense is palpable across most of its many pages, not to mention its many trips through time.

King is best known for his out and out horror novels, and while this certainly isn’t a horror book it does have enough existential and psychological dread to keep the heart pounding and the mind racing.

The complexities and ethical dilemmas of time travel are well explored in 11.22.63, what will altering the past do to the future? What will it mean for Jake personally? Will he really be creating a better world or is that some naïve hope he must cling to to see his mission fulfilled?

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You see no matter how long Jake spends in the past when he returns to his own time only two minutes will have elapsed, this allows him the chance to go back in time over and over again to the same point and keep trying to change the past and the future. If something doesn’t work out to his liking, and quite often it doesn’t, he can try again, but something, perhaps the past itself, really doesn’t like being changed. The closer Jake gets to his goal the more something out their in the universe wants him to fail.

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While this was a good read, with many interesting questions to ponder, it does get bogged down a little during the middle section. Across many of the middle chapters the suspense and tension we had come to love waned slightly, never disappearing but certainly lessening its grip upon you. During this part King focuses on the romance between Jake and Sadie, which while interesting was certainly a good deal longer than it needed to be, about two hundred pages longer if I’m honest.

Once we get into the final third of the book though the action picks up once again and King does a good job at answering most of the questions he posed at the beginning. It’s a mostly satisfying conclusion which wasn’t quite worth the lengthy wait but rounded out the story nicely enough.

All in all this was a good read that I’d recommend for fans of King or time travel stories in general. Just be warned it is a long slog and the ending isn’t quite worth the time invested. King is great at creating his characters, and Jake is no exception, he’s a down on his luck teacher striving to find purpose in the mess that his life has become, he’s no larger than life hero, he’s simply a man doing what he believes is right. But not amount of interesting characters will improve the poor pacing on offer here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

11.22.63 is available from Amazon.

Young Boy who read 50 books in lockdown writes own book

Covid Christmas Parade Cover

An eight-year-old boy who was completed a marathon reading challenge during the UK’s lockdown has now gone on to write and publish a book of his own.

Milan Kumar, eight, from Bolton, has self-published his book titled, Covid Christmas Parade. The story revolves around a young boy trying to spread festive cheer during the pandemic.

Any proceeds from the book will be donated to the National Literacy Trust and his fundraising efforts have seen him praised by not only the Duchess of Cornwall but also by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Milan said it had been “a great honour”.

He also said that the book was inspired after he had completed the year long 50 book reading challenge in just three months during the UK’s first lockdown.

The Duchess of Cornwall wrote to Milan to congratulate him on his “absolutely wonderful” achievement. The Prime Minister likewise recognised the young boys efforts and has awarded him a Points of Light award which is given to “outstanding” volunteers “making a change in their community”.

Milan, who has already raised over £3,000, said: “I feel proud knowing I have made a difference to the lives of other children affected by Covid-19 because reading promotes health and wellbeing.

“I love reading and learning about the world through books and I want to help as many children as possible discover the magic of reading and all the great benefits it comes with.”

Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmbury Review

Spellbreaker is the first book book in a brand new two book series written by bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg. This series will be set in an alternate Victorian-era England where magic is common, and where those who can wield it are the powerful and wealthy elite.

The books heroine, Elsie Camden, is a lowly orphan who also happens to be an unregistered spellbreaker and member of the clandestine group, The Cowls, who undertake missions to protect the common people from the abuse of the magical elite.

During one of these, for lack of a better word, goodwill assignments, her spellbreaking abilities are discovered by another wizard, Bacchus Kelsey, and she must make a deal with him if she wants to escape prison.

As Elsie struggles under her various allegiances she becomes enraged and her true loyalties are tested like never before.

This is not your typical fantasy novel. It takes place in a small area of the overarching world and has a small cast of characters. This is a book about relationships more than anything else. There’s no high stakes end of the world stuff here, this is good old fashioned character development at the front and centre.

There’s not much to be found here though for fantasy readers who love a darker and gritter look at the magical worlds. There’s little challenging or unpredictable here, its quite simple and straightforward if truth be told.

Yet there are likeable characters that are well written and fleshed out to the point that I can recall their mannerisms and quirks long after I finished reading.

Elsie for instance is a charming and loveable heroine who takes on the Robin Hood mantle for this novel. She strikes back at the haughty elite in defence of the downtrodden.

She is overly naïve at points, and we as a reader are way ahead her for most of the story, which is frustrating to read, and we spend more time shouting at her to hurry up to her inevitable realisation, than we do enjoying the story.

The plot is convenient and simple, it never surprises or astounds you. Elsie is a simple but charming character who never does anything out of the ordinary, she is also predictable and boring. She is however, loveable, and willing to sacrifice everything for those around her, making her one of the most likeable protagonists I’ve met for a while.

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But Elsie is not the only protagonist of this novel. Bacchus is a secondary hero who has his own point-of-view chapters. These chapters are great at launching his character and fleshing out his desires and objectives.

Bacchus is a wizard on the verge of attaining his mastery but he has sympathise for Elsie and her motives thanks to his own backstories. Bacchus struggles to fit into the English magical elite thanks to his lowdown status, giving him an innate connection with Elsie.

The romance between Elsie and Bacchus feels quite forced if I’m honest, its nice and the payoff is good but it doesn’t feel at all natural. There’s no chemistry between the two and the beginning of their relationship is filled with blackmail, distrust and resentment. There is little in the way of authentic evolution here to ever see them as genuine lovers.

Their relationship may feel satisfying on the face of it but when you think about it it’s a little shallow and disappointing.

The plot of the novel is simple and straightforward but it’s still satisfying to read and enjoy. The villain is easy to determine but the journey of our heroes to their realisation is satisfying regardless.

There are a number of plot threads left hanging for us to keep us intrigued for the next book, a book I myself will be looking out for, but one I don’t expect much from.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Spellbreaker is available from Amazon.

Barry Lopez, the award-winning Arctic Dreams author, has died aged 75

The award winning American writer Barry Lopez, whose work focused on creating bonds between people and places has sadly passed away at the age of 75.

Lopes died in Oregon on Friday after a long battle with prostate cancer, his family said.

Kim Stafford, a former Oregon poet laureate and longtime friend said that Lopez’s books; “are landmarks that define a region, a time, a cause. He also exemplifies a life of devotion to craft and learning, to being humble in the face of wisdom of all kinds.”

In his lifetime Lopez wrote nearly 20 books on natural history studies, along with a number of essays and short story compilations. In 1986 he won the Nation Book Award for Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. This book was the culmination of almost five years travelling across the Arctic.

The final book he released was an autobiography entitled Horizon which detailed a lifetime of travelling across more than 70 countries.

In a statement released on Saturday his family have encouraged financial support for the McKenzie River Trust, a charity that Lopez had worked closely with to aid their conservation efforts.

We’re giving away copies of the brilliant Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith

To celebrate the re-birth of Booklytical we have decided to give five lucky readers a copy of the very brilliant crime thriller Nevada Noir.

If you missed our review of this short trilogy you can find that here. I’d recommend giving it a read.

The copies of Nevada Noir will be bought through Amazon and will be in kindle format.

To enter this giveaway all you need to do is leave a comment on this post and on the 5th of January winner will then be selected at random and emailed.

We look forward to hearing from you all.

The lawsuit over ‘warmer’ Sherlock depicted in Enola Holmes dismissed

The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has reached an agreement with Netflix that will see a lawsuit brought by the author’s estate dismissed. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year against the streaming company and alleged that the film Enola Holmes infringed upon copyrighted work by depicting a warmer and more emotional version of Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle died in 1930 and while most of his works are now in the public domain 10 of his famous detective novels are still under copyright in the US.

The lawsuit was brought not only against Netflix but also against the film’s producers Legendary Pictures and the Enola Holmes author Nancy Springer. It argued that Conan Doyle had created “significant new character traits for Holmes and Watson” within the 10 stories that are still under copyright in the US.

The Doyle estate argued that Holmes had previously been depicted by Conan Doyle as “aloof and unemotional,” but when the author sadly lost his son and brother during the first world war, “it was no longer enough that the Holmes character was the most brilliant rational and analytical mind. Holmes needed to be human. The character needed to develop human connection and empathy … He became capable of friendship. He could express emotion. He began to respect women.”

According to the lawsuit the novels by Springer, in which she created a younger sister for Holmes, made “extensive use” of the copyrighted books and that this “constitutes wilful, deliberate, and ongoing infringement of the Conan Doyle Estate’s copyrights”.

In response to these accusations the defendants had argued that feelings, personalities and emotions were not protectable. “Even if the Emotion Trait and Respect Trait were original to copyright protected works, which they are not, they are unprotectable ideas,” they said. “Copyright law does not allow the ownership of generic concepts like warmth, kindness, empathy, or respect, even as expressed by a public domain character – which, of course, belongs to the public, not plaintiff.”

The lawsuit however has now been dismissed with prejudice by stipulation of all parties. “That means the case was probably settled, although we don’t know for sure,” wrote Aaron Moss at Copyright Lately. “Sherlock Holmes might be able to figure it out, unless he’s too busy deciding where to go on vacation once the last of his stories enters the public domain [in the US] in two years.”

This is good news for a number of authors who in recent years have worked on their own Holmes centric stories. The author James Lovegrove has written seven Sherlock Holmes novels and had this to say on the suit, “Holmes has always shown emotions, though not necessarily desirable ones. I think what they were trying to suggest was, because he was sensitive to his sister and had respect for her, even though he normally in the canonical stories doesn’t have a great deal of time for women, they felt that that was something that they could go with. But why? He didn’t have a sister in the canonical stories at all.”

Richard Osman becomes first debut author to be Christmas No 1

Richard Osman’s mystery novel about a group of elderly wannabe detectives, The Thursday Murder Club, has just become the first ever debut novel to become the Christmas number 1 after selling a staggering 134,514 copies in just one week.

The Pointless presenter has beat out the likes of Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land and JK Rowling’s The Ickabog to the coverted number 1 spot.

Osman’s novel has been flying out of bookstores all over the UK since it was first published in September and has sold more than twice the number of copies of Obama’s memoirs in the past week.

A Promised Land managed to sell 66,531 copies in the week to 19 December, which isn’t quite enough for the former US president to match the feat of his wife Michelle when she took the number 1 spot two years ago.

Osman also managed to beat David Walliams whose popular children books have been number 1 for three of the last four years. His latest offering, Code Name Bananas, managed to sell 55,129 copies bringing it firmly into 3rd place.

“Congratulations to Richard Osman on scoring the Christmas No 1 crown,” said Hazel Kenyon, Nielsen Book Research director. “I very much look forward to seeing him now appear as an answer on Pointless to a question on Christmas No 1 bestsellers.”

The top list has been released as bookshops in tier 4 areas have been forced to close just days before Christmas. The Bookseller magazine said that the last week of Christmas shopping is typically worth between £60-90m in sales and that this year we could have reached £100m had shops not been forced to close.

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UK Top 10 bestsellers, week ending 19 December 2020

1. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman 134,514
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama 66,531
3. Code Name Bananas by David Walliams 55,129
4. Pinch of Nom: Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson 52,955
5. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy 52,099
6. Guinness World Records 2021 35,229
7. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart 31,218
8. The Ickabog by JK Rowling 31,159
9. A Del of a Life by David Jason 23,973
10. A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough 23,686

Eyes of Sleeping Children by D.A. Butcher Review

D.A. Butcher comes out swinging hard with this stunning debut novel. Eyes of Sleeping Children is a psychological thriller set in the 1930’s and takes place in a depression hit Kansas that is about to bare the brunt of a giant dust storm.

The focus of this story falls squarely upon the Lockhart family, and specifically upon the father Louis. As the storm begins to attack their small family farm the Lockhart’s seek shelter in their cellar.

Eyes of Sleeping Children Cover

Yet the storm is but the beginning of this families tragedies, after awakening from a troubled night of sleep Louis finds that his son, Jesse, is missing, yet there is neither a sign of forced entry or that the young boy has left the house.

Who, or possibly what, is to blame? While Louis looks for an answer within the reality he understands, his wife begins to break down and lay the blame squarely upon a figure from the realm of nightmares, The Sandman.

Louis must work quickly if he has any hope of ever seeing his son again, he sets out on a journey that will delve into the past, and into secrets long since lost to time.

But that’s enough about the book’s plot, I really would not want to ruin this one for you.

This is a daring, but well executed, debut novel that takes a number of different genres and themes and makes them all coalesce brilliantly as the story comes to its climax.

At times this feels like a locked room thriller, while at other times it delves wonderfully into some psychological twisted world that sends shivers racing up and down your spine. And yet through all of that it somehow manages to blend and balance it very nicely with a depression era set family and their day to day struggles and drama.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Louis Lockhart, and for the most part he is an engaging and interesting character that we as outside readers can easily empathise with. And while there are a supporting cast of mostly interesting characters it is with Louis that we are firmly embedded, both narratively and emotionally.

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As Louis frantically begins his hunt to find his missing son the book ratchets up a notch and becomes a zealous race to unravel the mysteries and discover the truth lurking in the shadows. Over time though it is Louis himself who begins to unravel and whose mind deteriorates, while this gives for some excellent character focus and really brings Louis alive and fleshes out his characterisations, it also slows down the pace of the book at points to little more than a crawl. While this is not a major issue it does make the book feel imbalanced.

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Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing

Author Spotlight is our series that aims to give writers a platform to talk about the artform we all love, writing. This time around D. A. Butcher joins us to talk about his life, his struggles, and his passion for writing. Check out this excellent article. I grew up in London. My mother is Italian … Continue reading “Author Spotlight: D. A. Butcher discusses his life, his struggles, and his love for writing”

However, as the story enters its final acts it rekindles the fire that had burned so brightly at its opening. In fact by the final pages this book had burnt not only itself out but me as well, there are some disturbing scenes throughout this novel that have stayed with me long after the final word has fluttered its way through my mind.

The twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale are mind bindingly well conceived and that climax, boy was that a treat to behold. Throughout most of the novel I thought I knew the truth, I thought I was an all knowing reader, but I was very much mistaken, Butcher had more than a few tricks up his sleeve to leave me feeling the fool.

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Indeed so much of this book has stayed so vividly with me that while writing this review I feel like I have only just put it down when in reality I finished this book week ago, and have read many others since then.

Not only is the story well conceived it is also very well written, Butcher has the skills and talents of a much more seasoned writer.

There are a couple of negative points though, as with any book. I think there are a few pacing errors that make the book feel unbalanced, it almost feels like there are two books wearing the trench coat of one sometimes. The dialogue can at times feel a little stilted, and I would say there are a few too many metaphors and similes used which can slow down the pace of the book somewhat, but this is me being overly pedantic and attempting to find something to balance this review.

Overall this is easily one of the best debut novels I have ever read, indeed it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read period, and I will no doubt be diving back into again soon, and I sincerely implore all of you to do the same.

Rating

Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Eyes of Sleeping Children for yourself, and I highly recommend you do, you can find it over on Amazon.

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