Self-Published Saturday: Book Review of Amanda in France and Q&A with Darlene Foster

Self-Published Saturday is my effort to help Self-Published and Indie authors promote their books. Today I’m reviewing Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral by Darlene Foster. This is an indie book published by Central Avenue Publishing, an independent publisher. Darlene also agreed to do a Q&A, and her delightful answers are below.


Amanda explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, while being drawn into the mystery surrounding the destructive fire at Notre Dame cathedral.

Amanda is in love! With Paris – the city of love. She’s in awe of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. While there, she gets to work as a volunteer and stay in a famous book store, along with her bestie, Leah, and Leah’s eccentric Aunt Jenny. A dream come true for a book lover like Amanda.

Except, while she’s at the Paris Opera House there is a bomb threat. Then the lights go out during their visit to the Louvre. Worst of all, a devastating fire blazes in Notre Dame. Why does a mysterious man, who claims to be a busker, writer and artist, show up every time something bad happens?

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles, and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, all the time looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic cathedral.

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets and sites around Paris, all the while looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic place.


This is another exciting travel adventure/mystery in the Amanda Travels series. It can be read as a standalone. This time, Amanda travels to one of my favorite countries to visit–France! As always, we are transported to this country and we experience it through Amanda’s eyes. With Amanda, we gaze at the city of Paris from the Eiffel Tower and stay in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. We visit The Palace of Versailles. And we watch with devastation as Notre Dame Cathedral begins to burn.

This book takes on tough topics as Amanda searches for clues as to what caused the fire at Notre Dame, and explores these topics with wisdom and tact. There are so many interesting facts about each place in France that Amanda visits, and they are presented in an engaging way that will fascinate readers, young and old alike. The mystery is compelling and engaging. Amanda is easy to connect with. Kids will see her as a friend. Adults will view her as a child, grandchild, or niece, and the bookish of all ages will recognize Amanda as a member of their community.

The descriptions of the famous sites of France paint vivid word pictures. This scene where Amanda approaches the Palace of Versailles entrance definitely transports you there…”In front stood a majestic statue of the Sun King, Louis XIV, on a horse. The huge entrance gate, covered in gold and topped with a golden crown on top of a large smiling sun, opened into an immense cobblestone courtyard. “I can see why they called him the Sun King,” remarked Amanda as she looked up at the grey slate roof covered in gold filigree and more smiling gold suns. Even the balconies and window frames were trimmed in gold.” This book is filled with more “gold” in the form of interesting nuggets of French history throughout.

There is a set of discussion questions at the end of this book which will start great conversations between kids and adults and encourage reading comprehension. Readers of all ages who long to travel to France should take a trip with Amanda. It’s an enjoyable, fact-filled excursion, with a mystery to boot.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamed of writing, traveling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers from seven to seventy plus enjoy traveling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. A world traveller herself, Darlene spends her time in Vancouver, Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

See my Q&A with Darlene Foster below. Thanks again, Darlene!

Bonnie: Let’s go beyond the bio.  Tell us something about yourself that might not be in your bio. 

Darlene: It’s no secret that I love to travel. But did you know I’ve traveled by car, truck, airplane, helicopter, kayak, boat, cruise ship, camel, hot air balloon and motorcycle? Even though I was brought up on a farm which later became a ranch, I never enjoyed horseback riding and never learned how to milk a cow.

Bonnie: Your Amanda Travels series follows young Amanda as she visits different countries and solves mysteries while she is there.  In Book 9, Amanda goes to France.  How do you choose which country Amanda will go to next?

Darlene: I usually choose someplace that I’ve visited and enjoyed. My husband, my dog Dot, and I were invited to visit friends who live on the outskirts of Paris four years ago. While there I kept thinking, that Amanda would love it here. Ideas were starting to form for a story. My friend took me to places she thought would work well in a story. Of course, I was at that time in the middle of writing a book so I took notes and pictures and parked the idea for a couple of years. I’m usually working on one story when another idea pops up. So many ideas, so little time.

Bonnie: What was your inspiration for starting the Amanda series?

Darlene:  I visited a friend in the United Arab Emirates and was completely blown away. When I came home I felt the need to write about my amazing experience. I started to write a story, but it was boring. I recalled my friend saying I was as excited as a twelve-year-old while I was there. So I began writing a story based in the UAE from the point of view of a twelve-year-old. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bonnie: How do you research each book? Do you physically travel to each place you write about?

Darlene:  Amanda doesn’t get to go anywhere I haven’t been. I am always doing research while visiting an interesting location, taking notes and many pictures. For the past ten years, all my vacations have been working holidays. (Writers seldom take time off to be honest, we are always thinking about our next project.) Hubby is used to it. Later, once I start writing the story, I do more research via the internet and talking to people. For instance for my book, Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action, I contacted a cousin whose father was born in Holland and was a young boy during WWII. She provided some useful information. Blogs and YouTube videos are great resources as well.

Bonnie:  Amanda stays at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, an English language bookstore in Paris, which sounds absolutely fascinating. Visitors who stay there actually work in the bookshop as payment.  Did you visit the bookstore, and what were your impressions? Would you stay there and work in the bookstore if you had the chance?

Darlene:  Visiting Shakespeare and Company was high on my must-see list. It’s an amazing store with wonderful staff (and a bookstore cat). I bought a copy of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises while there. I learned about the Tumbleweed program and thought it would be so much fun to do at some time. I’m not sure if I will get a chance to do this, but at least Amanda got to experience it.

Bonnie: Amanda talks about terrorism. Was it difficult to tackle such a tough subject in a kid’s book?

Darlene: It was, and I hesitated to include it at first. But I listened to interviews with other authors like Lawrence Hill, author of Beatrice and Croc Harry, who said that as authors, we should not shy away from including serious and difficult topics when writing children’s stories as they can handle them. Eric Walters, a prolific middle-grade author who tackles tough topics in his books, mentioned that it’s okay for kids to feel sad or bad when reading a story but there needs to be a certain sense of hope. It’s important for tweens to be aware of tough issues in order to develop understanding and empathy.

Bonnie: Notre Dame was my absolute favorite place to visit when I spent a weekend in Paris, many years before the fire.  What was your favorite place to visit in Paris?

Darlene: That’s hard to say because I loved everything, but I was very impressed with the Musée d’Orsay. The building itself, an old railway station, and the collection of art were amazing. Seeing the originals of paintings I have loved all my life was incredible.

Bonnie: Amanda was in the U.S. in one of the books in this series when she traveled to New Mexico.  Will she have anymore adventures in the U.S.?

Darlene: Of all the states I have visited, New Mexico is my favorite. But there are many other amazing places in the US, so there is always a chance she will visit other states. Alaska would be a great location for an adventure, don’t you think? Each state has its own unique personality, geography and history. The possibilities are endless.

Bonnie: Of all the places Amanda has been, which is your favorite?

Darlene: That is so hard to say.  It’s almost like asking which is your favorite child? I must say the United Arab Emirates was probably the most unique and fascinating place I have ever been to. It was so completely different from anywhere else. And because of my visit there, I have a series of nine books written and published!

Bonnie: As an Indie author published by a small, independent publishing company, you have to do a lot of your own marketing.  Can you share any marketing tips with Self-published/Indie authors?

Darlene:  Connecting with readers is key. If people don’t know about your book, they won’t buy it. People talk about their work all the time, so why are authors uncomfortable talking about their books?

Having a social media presence is very important. I know it’s time-consuming and eats into your writing time, but it is worth it. Of all the social media sites, my blog has been the best way of getting the word out. The blogging community is so supportive and happy to share each others’ writing news. It is almost like the old-fashioned party line or phone trees. You tell one person and they tell two, who tell four etc. etc. It works. Writing articles for magazines and newspapers as well as guest blog posts is also a good way to market your books. Talking about your books in person is still the best if at all possible.

Organizing readings and talks at schools, libraries, book stores and other locations is fun as well. It’s amazing the people you meet.  I’ve even sold books on airplanes to the person sitting next to me! Yes, always carry a couple of books with you!

Bonnie:  Thanks so much, Darlene, for your great answers and for agreeing to this interview.

Darlene:  Thank you for having me and Amanda as guests on your wonderful blog. You are amazing at supporting Indie authors!


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65 thoughts on “Self-Published Saturday: Book Review of Amanda in France and Q&A with Darlene Foster”

  1. Reblogged this on Darlene Foster's Blog and commented:
    I am delighted with this review of Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral over at Bonnie Reads and Writes. Included is an interview with me where you just might learn something new about me. We also talk about including tough topics in books for young people. Check it out!


    1. Thanks, Priscilla. I wrote this book during the pandemic, which was a tough time for writers to concentrate. But I’m so glad I persevered. In hindsight, I believe it helped get me through it all.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s great to see Darlene here with Bonnie’s review and interview. I did learn so much more about you, Darlene. I’m impressed that you traveled by car, truck, airplane, helicopter, kayak, boat, cruise ship, camel, hot air balloon, and motorcycle. Thank you for this interview, Bonnie!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent interview of Darlene. I commend her for tackling the tricky topic of terrorism. I know it would be easier just to avoid serious topics, but I like when authors aren’t afraid to address serious issues with younger readers in a sensitive way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Pete. Glad you enjoyed the interview. We can’t ignore the fact that there are serious issues and I know kids worry about them. It’s important that these things are addressed, if only subtly.


  4. I may not be twelve (at least on the outside :)) but I love reading Amanda’s adventure stories. She lives a much more exciting life than me! lol
    Congrats on your upcoming release, Darlene, it’s sure to be a hit.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Bonnie, what a wonderful review and great interview with Darlene. I enjoyed learning more about her. I haven’t read her Amanda series, but for now since you said her book can be read as a standalone, I pre-ordered it! The series sounds delightful. Congrats to Darlene.

    Liked by 2 people

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