Review of The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener: A NovelThe Constant Gardener: A Novel by John le Carré

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Years ago I saw the movie The Constant Gardener, and it has never left me, always floated around in the back of my brain for some reason. Then I decided to read the book (something I’ve never done after seeing the movie first), and I am now left almost speechless due to the overwhelming emotions the author stirred and deepened in me from beginning to end. The author’s writing style and the voices of his many characters are unparalleled. There is much tragedy and intrigue woven from the first page to the last, but at its heart, I view The Constant Gardener as an incredible story of love and loyalty. Actually, one of the best love stories I’ve ever read.

The story takes place over the short period of only a few weeks, but packs a punch with the telling of a love story in reverse. We come to know Tessa Quayle through, not only, Justin’s memories, but those of others, as well. Justin Quayle is a quiet, reserved man who would rather tend to his garden and play by the rules of his British post than to cause disruptions in Nairobi, or anywhere else. His wife, on the other hand, was quite the opposite with her unrepentant and vocal activism in Africa.

After her untimely and brutal death, Justin takes it upon himself to learn his wife’s secrets, by tracing and following the footsteps of her final days, meeting with her betrayers, and reconstructing the fatal information she and a friend, Arnold Bluhm, had gathered prior to their murders. He does this out of love and loyalty to Tessa.  The reader learns that Justin had always stayed out of the activist part of Tessa’s life, and she had always protected him and his diplomatic career from it. They respected each other’s differences, but in the end I feel that Justin viewed this as a tragic loss, and time lost. Not only did he fail in his promise to always protect her, but he failed to really know her, completely. They were both to blame for this. And he sets out to correct that miscalculation during his final few weeks of globetrotting, as a pseudo-spy.

Justin’s journey ultimately ends where Tessa’s ended, and the reader understands this to be his intention all along: to be nearer her, to follow her behind the veil …

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Why I Chose KDP Select

KDP-Select[1] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I love Amazon.  I also love KDP Select.  I’m just coming off of an incredibly successful  Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD) promotion.  I spent a little money on Facebook advertising and pimped my books to over a hundred Facebook sites almost daily (sometimes twice); plus I have a fabulous street team that shared sales announcements, links, and ad copy wherever and whenever they could.

I didn’t stop there.

I promoted on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, and submitted to sites that email KCDs to their members, for free!  I shook every tree I could think of.  I even submitted a book to BookBub hoping they’d promote my KCD to the subscribers on their voluminous romance mailing list.  No such luck; I didn’t get picked.  Just as well, they’re very pricey and who’s to say I would’ve even recouped my ad expenses from the downloads of that book.

As it stands, I ended up way ahead on this one.  My good fortune is a result not only of my efforts and that of my street team, it’s also due to KDP Select.

Amazon makes it easy to run a Kindle Countdown Deal.  They help by adding a countdown clock next to the discounted book, which tends to make people click-happy.  Who doesn’t love a bargain?  Then there’s the dedicated link for readers who want to browse only Kindle Countdown Deals.  This gives them a smaller catalogue and fewer books to sort through to find great reads they might never have discovered otherwise.  All of this is good from my perspective as an author; not to mention that I still receive the same royalty percentage on a deeply discounted KCD book as I do when it’s listed at full price.  These benefits only happen when a book is enrolled in KDP Select.

So, now let me explain why I felt compelled to write this post.

I once again received comments from people during my KCD promotion who wanted to know why they couldn’t get my book at Barnes & Noble.  Mind you, it wasn’t many … two.  But one to two people typically ask me this when I’m actively advertising, whether it’s at full price or a KCD.  I always respond with a link to the free download for the Kindle Reading Apps.

You know why?

Because I tried full exposure on virtually every book site for a year, and I was singularly unimpressed with my results. More than eighty percent of my sales came from Amazon and less than fifteen percent trickled in from Barnes & Noble.  The remaining four or five percent came from Sony, Apple, and KOBO.  Now, I’m smart enough to never say never.  So, I am not suggesting that I will never move all, or some, of my books away from KDP Select.  But right now, at this very moment, and in the foreseeable future, I have no incentive to do so.

Since I run Robyn Roze Enterprise with only three employees:  me, myself, and I, efficient time management is mission critical.  It’s imperative that I run a lean, mean, results-driven machine–my results, not someone else’s.  However, I would never tell another author not to publish on every site available, because I know that we each have our own experiences to learn from and to guide us.  I’ve simply found what works for me–at this time.  I only have to manage one retail site, one sales dashboard, one royalty source, one formatting platform, one author profile, one book description, and a simple marketing approach that utilizes, and is shaped by, many of the perks offered to me as a KDP Select author.

And don’t even get me started on the new-this-year Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, which will probably be a post of its own on my blog in the future. a015111643e7cbda7c69f397dcde13a9[1] Since the implementation of KU earlier this summer, I’ve already had around a hundred downloads from KU subscribers.  I earn a percentage of my royalty based on downloads and the amount in the KDP Select Global Fund.  Amazon just recently added a $2 million bonus to the base of $3 million already in the global fund.  At this time, only KDP Select authors are showcased to KU subscribers.  This is a great tool Amazon uses to highlight a pool of  around 750,000 books out of its vast ocean of over two million.  Just another way Amazon rewards KDP Select authors by making them more accessible, more easily discoverable to new readers, new fans.

These are just some of the reasons, as an author, why I love Amazon.  I’m also a consumer that loves Amazon.  The e-commerce giant has been very good to me on both counts.  And because of that, I don’t see a break up happening anytime soon.


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Fall Break Kindle Countdown Deals!

Want a hot read for Fall Break?  How about 4 for $4 … (ends 10/24)


Giveaway, Kindle Countdown Deal and More!

Fall Break Giveaway!

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How about the $50 Amazon Gift Cards? 

Interested in my upcoming Kindle Countdown Deals?

Kindle Fire HD$50 Amazon GC

My newsletter subscribers just received advanced notice about all of this.  Plus, I gave them an update about my current project, HellKat.

If you’d like more information, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send the current newsletter to you!



Mailing List Sign Up


I have decided to include a mailing list sign up on my website, and I already have some early subscribers!  Emails to mailing list subscribers will focus strictly on my books (past, present, and future), and I will be sending out teasers, excerpts, early alerts for giveaways, and that sort of thing.

As you are a current subscriber to my blog, I’m announcing this new opportunity to you.  Perhaps you’d rather subscribe to the mailing list only.  Or maybe you want to subscribe to the mailing list and the blog.  The decision is entirely yours.  I plan to have very little overlap between these two communication tools.  My blog will remain broad with book reviews, posts on self-publishing, writing, and just life in general.  Whereas my mailing list communications will be much more narrow in focus. 

I promise not to overwhelm your inbox or share or sell your information.  Since you already follow my blog, you know this to be true.  So, think about it. 

Amazon Verified Purchase Review. What Does It Really Mean?


I love Amazon.  I really do.  They have a seemingly infinite supply of products, great prices, efficient distribution, and speedy delivery.  As an author, I also enjoy the benefits of their KDP Select program.  They have made self-publishing easier and more profitable than ever.  And Amazon continues to roll out innovative programs for authors who choose exclusivity with the online Goliath’s KDP Select program.  These marketing programs, such as FREE days, Kindle Countdown Deals, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), and now Kindle Unlimited (KU), all provide authors a variety of avenues for promotion and exposure, while giving readers additional ways to find new authors.  It’s a win-win.

Take the new Kindle Unlimited program.  A member pays $9.99 per month and can download as many books offered under KU as she wants, each and every month from KDP Select authors.  Then there are the Amazon PRIME members who pay $99.99 annually and, as one of their perks, can use the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to download one book per month, free, from scores of authors.  Who, again, participate in the KDP Select program.

I personally love the new Kindle Unlimited initiative.  I have seen a nice spike in downloads of my books, which in turn boosts my sales rankings and makes my books more visible to even more readers.  Thank you, Amazon!  I really mean that.

Do you hear the ‘but’ coming?

If you’ve ever left a review on Amazon, you already know that if you purchased the product from them, you can choose to leave a Verified Purchase review.  This means that Amazon can assure future readers of your review that you did, in fact, purchase the item from them.  I have absolutely no idea what the point-of-sale has to do with the veracity, quality, or relevance of a review.  However, a lot of emphasis is placed on the Verified Purchase review label:

“The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.”

That language is from Amazon.  You can read it for yourself here:  Amazon Verified Purchase Review

Now, I don’t know about you, but that statement makes me think a review without a Verified Purchase label is somehow inferior, lesser in ‘quality and relevance’.  Why?  Why does it matter where a consumer purchased a good?  If they have experience with it, or have read it, they should be able to leave a review that carries the same weight as anyone else.  And I’m sure those Amazon subscribers to PRIME and Kindle Unlimited have the option of clicking Verified Purchase…

BUT they don’t.  Again, these consumers are purchasing a service from Amazon, but apparently their reviews don’t have the same ‘quality and relevance’ when using Amazon’s subscriber-only services.  Why?  And I’d like an answer other than:  Because Amazon says so.  I think if I’m paying $9.99 a month to download and read as many books as I want, I should be able to leave Verified Purchase reviews for those books.  Amazon knows what I’ve downloaded from them to my kindle.  It shouldn’t matter that I didn’t pay a separate amount for it, because I’m already paying Amazon monthly, or annually.

Who cares?  Right?  Well, here’s the problem.  Amazon makes a big deal out of Verified Purchase reviews just by offering it as an option and now by allowing reviews to be filtered using that same label.  And authors know that readers like to see this label on reviews, especially if it’s a new-to-them author.  And even though I’ve seen a spike in downloads for my books since the start of Kindle Unlimited, I will never see the all-important Verified Purchase review label for any of them, which makes those reviews seem suspicious in some way, less ‘quality and relevance’…  Doesn’t it?  And readers could download a great book from a competing vendor and love it so much they want to shout it from rooftops, and leave a review at every book-selling site possible.  But those reviews are suspect, too.  Right?  After all, it’s the point-of-sale that’s relevant when it comes to reviews.  Agreed?  Without the Verified Purchase label, you can never really be sure it’s a legitimate Amazon purchase?  And that’s important, because…? 

Other than the obvious digital purchase trail, what does a Verified Purchase review really mean?  Nothing.  Since I understand how this works from an author’s perspective, I no longer, as a consumer, give any credence to that little label when I’m deciding on a purchase at Amazon.  I get it now.  I’ve seen how the game is played from the inside.  However, as an author, I know that readers feel it’s important.  And because of that, I’m not happy that Amazon doesn’t allow the Verified Purchase review as an option for PRIME (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited members.

In my opinion, Amazon either needs to get rid of the Verified Purchase review option (my preference), or offer it to ALL paying customers.  And that includes their very own PRIME and Kindle Unlimited subscribers. 

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Emotional Writing


I just read a fantastic article about emotional writing and the importance of it to readers.  That statement may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds.  I know I love a story that pulls my emotions into the mix and invests me personally in not only the ultimate conclusion of the story, but also the progression of each scene, the words spoken and unspoken, and even physical reactions.  Those kinds of reads are always the ones that stick with me well after I’ve closed my kindle.  I have a hard time releasing the characters and moving on to the next book, because my emotions are still intertwined with the characters in the world that a great writer builds.  The clinical term for these symptoms is book hangover.   

And let’s be clear, emotional writing doesn’t mean that it must always be angst-driven, although it certainly can be.  There are genres and styles for every mood and taste.  And there are authors who weave into their stories a wide variety of emotions from the spectrum.  There is something for everyone.  I’ve even been fortunate enough to have readers contact me to say that a story I wrote sucked them in to the point that they couldn’t put the book down.  That is a high compliment indeed and always encourages me to keep pushing forward, keep working harder to do even better emotional writing.

I have included Romance University’s guest post from author Cindy Nord discussing this topic.  I think it’s worth your time, and she even includes a well-written, emotional excerpt from one of her books.  You never know, she might just be your next favorite author.

Emotional Writing by Cindy Nord


Chain Gang Street Team


Did you read CHAIN of TITLE? Did you love it?

Do you want to be the first to know when there will be a sequel? Do you want to talk about Sean Parker and put your two cents in about what you’d like to see in a sequel?

Would you be willing to post promos on your wall, in Facebook groups, and anywhere else you can think of to recommend it?

Would you like the opportunity to be selected as a beta reader or receive an ARC of HELLKAT?

If you have five minutes to spare here and there, or more, and would like to become a member, please visit and consider joining the CHAIN GANG Street Team.

The more the merrier and I promise to make it worth your while.

Review of Follow by JA Huss

Follow (Social Media, #1)Follow by J.A. Huss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve never read a JA Huss book, one-click this one right now! I am not even joking!

The pithy description made this an easy one-click for me. It sounded fun. And boy was it ever! The whole infamous filthy tweeter meets the movie-star object of her filthy tweets intrigued me immediately and had me chomping at the bit to read it right away–which I did.  The writing was smooth, fluid, and drew me in from the first page. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I also want to add, my hat is off to JA Huss and her ability to describe a location, situation, and characters without it being information overload. She keeps the characters at the forefront, everything else is secondary. Her descriptions were always just enough and kept me present in the moment, focused on Grace and Asher instead of slowing me up on unnecessary details. There were also many times I laughed out loud at things Grace was thinking, as well as the smart banter between her and Asher. Their dialogue was some of the best I’ve read in this genre. It never felt stilted or contrived to me. I felt as though I was eavesdropping on real conversations, as well as a voyeur to their wacky weekend hook-up.

I thoroughly enjoyed Grace’s internal struggle over what she wants and what Asher wants. I like her spunkiness and the fact that she speaks her mind. Even more, I like that it all puts Vaughn Asher off his game.  The chemistry between these two characters is palpable, gets the blood pumping, and that’s just the dialogue! The steam is OFF THE CHARTS! The ending was FANTASTIC and I have already pre-ordered the second book in this series.

To JA Huss: You nailed it! Thank you for a fun, flirty, fantastic read!

View all my reviews

The Sassy Summer Book Party

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  There’s a great giveaway going on at The Sassy Summer Book Party.  Lots of great prizes from 61 authors.  You can’t win anything if you don’t enter.  So, what do you have to lose!  You can enter from now until August 17th.  Check out the link and select the Prize Packs you’re interested in winning.  Of course, the more you enter, the more chances you have to win.  Good luck!  :)

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