#BookReview: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility #CWAllen #CinnabarMoth #Middlegrade #Fantasy

This wonderful audiobook is Book Two in the Falinnheim Chronicles series by C.W. Allen. Book two begins with Zed and Tuesday adjusting to a new world, but everything changes again when the Resistance base is attacked. Zed and Tuesday are suddenly in hiding, and they take on an even bigger part in the fight for freedom. From secret missions to kidnapping, the action doesn’t stop, and the fight against evil continues.

It took me just a tiny bit longer to get hooked by this book as opposed to the first one, but then it grabbed me and I went on an even greater adventure than before. The author’s depiction of the varying reactions to those under the thumb of an evil dictator is well done and is similar to reactions in real life. The power of manipulation and the effect it can have is shown through the actions of the dictator and his minions. The roles of Zed, Tuesday, and their parents in this fight grow throughout the book until they reach a dramatic conclusion. The fight for freedom can take many forms, and this series does a good job of explaining that.

The narrator Ivy Tara Blair does a great job of portraying the multitude of characters and displaying all their unique personalities.

Middle-grade readers, their parents, and their grandparents will all find characters to identify with in this book. This is a great family read.

My rating is four and a half stars, rounded up to five on sites with no half-star option.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Cinnabar Moth Publishing via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.

C.W. serves on the board of the League of Utah Writers. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing. Her debut novel Relatively Normal Secrets, a middle-grade speculative mystery, was published by Cinnabar Moth Publishing in 2021. Relatively Normal Secrets is the winner of the Gold Quill award, being named the best 2021 children’s book by a Utah author. The Falinnheim Chronicles series continues with The Secret Benefits of Invisibility (2022) and Tales of the Forgotten Founders (2023). Keep up with her latest projects at cwallenbooks.com.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AUDIBLE

Blog Tour and #bookreview Inglestone Manor #childrensmysteries #middlegradehistoricalfiction

BOOK REVIEW

It is 1944, and Lizzy, Charlie, and May ( known affectionately as Munch) have been evacuated from London for their safety. They are sent to Inglestone Manor at the specific request of the eccentric owner, although they have never met her. They soon encounter shady caretakers and hear of a lost treasure. As they begin to search for the treasure, they meet a mysterious boy and fight off an evil man. Does the treasure really exist?

I was immediately reminded of The Chronicles of Narnia, as three children are sent out of London during the blitz, meet an eccentric older person, and have an amazing adventure. But this tale is quite unique and different. It is such a well-written children’s story, revolving around an old mansion. The historical time period, the bombings, and the stress of evacuating for both children and parents are well described. The plot moves along briskly, and it is full of mystery and wonder. The villains are perfectly villainous from the start, and I love that so much. The main characters are likable and engaging. Lizzy is a fierce and protective older sister, and the conversations between Mrs. Inglestone and Munch are delightful. The cover is spookily endearing and will draw the reader in. Although this is a children’s book, adults will also love this treasure-seeking historical adventure.

My only criticism would be that the book blurb currently on Amazon definitely needs an edit and rewrite. It does not match the quality of the writing in the book at all.

My rating is 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on sites with no half-star option.

I received a free copy of this book via Zooloo’s Book Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from Guyana, S. S. Saywack came to London with his family in 1962. Educated in North London, he studied information graphics at a London college and then worked as a graphic designer for many years. He later changed careers and became a teacher at a sixth-form college in East London. Taking early retirement, he turned to a third career and became an author. 

With a love for reading and history in general, he wrote his first novel that became the Mary Finch Series (four books for older children set in the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes and an additional chapter book to make five in total) and that was swiftly followed by Inglestone Manor.

He currently writes both children’s fiction and adult detective fiction.

Follow him at: Facebook | Twitter | Website

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Amazon UK

Indie Weekend #Audiobook review Relatively Normal Secrets by C.W. Allen plus #Q&A

Indie Weekend is my effort to help highlight and promote Indie and self-published books. Indie authors have to do some or all of their own marketing, and if I can help even a little bit with that, I’m happy to do so. Below is my review of a wonderful middle-grade audiobook, Relatively Normal Secrets. I’m also excited to share a Q&A with the author, C.W. Allen.

Tuesday’s last name is Furst, and her middle name is June, making her full name Tuesday, June Furst. She and her brother Zed are starting to realize that their father never talks about his job and their Mother is the only one they know with a guard dog. Then Tuesday and Zed are attacked and whisked off to another world, accompanied by their dog, Nyx. They begin an epic journey, helped with clues along the way. The clues are based on well-known nursery rhymes.

This is such a delightful middle-grade adventure, expertly narrated by Ivy Tara Blair. The main characters are so endearing and the narrator captures their personalities perfectly. The plot is fun and creative, and the reader/listener gets to go along on a fantastic journey. I was highly entertained from start to finish and recommend this book to anyone who wants to go on an exciting and creative adventure in a different land.

Fans of middle-grade fantasy novels should definitely check out this five-star read.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Cinnabar Moth Publishing via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR



C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.

C.W. serves on the board of the League of Utah Writers. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing. Her debut novel Relatively Normal Secrets, a middle-grade speculative mystery, was published by Cinnabar Moth Publishing in 2021. Relatively Normal Secrets is the winner of the Gold Quill award, being named the best 2021 children’s book by a Utah author. The Falinnheim Chronicles series continues with The Secret Benefits of Invisibility (2022) and Tales of the Forgotten Founders (2023). Keep up with her latest projects at cwallenbooks.com.



Keep up with CW’s latest projects at her website.

CW’s Social Media: Instagram | Twitter

Q&A With C.W. Allen

Bonnie:  Let’s go beyond the bio.  Tell us something about yourself that we might not know from reading your bio.

CW: When I need a creative outlet aside from writing, I’m a fairly experimental baker. I love taking an existing recipe and tweaking it to work in unusual flavor combinations or streamline the process. My experiments don’t always come out pretty, but they’re nearly always tasty!

Bonnie:  When I read that the main protagonist’s name was Tuesday June Furst, I was hooked!  Such a clever idea.  How did you come up with the name?

CW:  Thank you! Years ago, my husband and I were trying to decide what to name our first child. We discovered we didn’t have very similar tastes in names, so as we took turns vetoing each other’s picks we ended up suggesting more and more unusual options in search of one we could both agree on. I thought Tuesday was a delightfully quirky name, but sadly (or perhaps my daughter might say thankfully) he didn’t agree. So I decided to use the name on a book character instead. This led to wondering why Tuesday’s parents would choose that name, so I figured—why not make it a pun? Having an unusual name is just one of the many reasons Tuesday suspects her parents are not quite normal. As the story progresses, Tuesday’s life gets even stranger than she could have imagined.

Bonnie:  What was the inspiration for the Falinnheim series?

CW:  I find that with all my stories, they’re not really sparked by one big idea—they’re more like a fruit salad of many small unconnected ideas. I had a large and comically misbehaved dog, so I knew I wanted to incorporate the humor of that experience into the story. As a child, I had a similar experience to Tuesday where I realized I had no idea what my father did for work (although in my case, the answer turned out to be fairly mundane). I loved the idea of visiting a fantasy land like Narnia or Oz, but wished it could blend the historical aesthetic with a few modern (or even futuristic) conveniences. When I was my readers’ age, I was fascinated with mysteries and codebreaking, so I wanted to incorporate clues and puzzles the readers could solve along with the characters as they read. Whenever I start weaving ideas together into a story, I have to really understand the characters first—their personality traits, quirks, flaws, and goals. Once I really get to know them, sometimes they take the story in a new direction I didn’t expect.

Bonnie:  I love the problem-solving aspect of this book as the kids follow clues based on nursery rhymes.  What’s your opinion on the importance of problem-solving and other lessons in middle-grade fiction?

CW:  First and foremost, middle-grade stories should be fun to read. I try to steer away from overly didactic themes, morals, or lessons—kids can smell a lecture a mile away, and there’s nothing fun about lectures. I try to tap into kids’ deepest convictions, reinforcing things they already value, rather than telling my readers what they ought to think or do. For example, Tuesday and Zed are co-protagonists in this story, and any reader who has siblings knows that while brothers and sisters love each other, having to live together isn’t always smooth sailing. Putting up with your sibling’s smelly socks or irritating jokes is an experience a lot of readers can relate to—the idea of raising the stakes, having to work together to solve actual important problems instead of just getting along enough so your parents won’t ground you creates additional challenges that make the story more interesting. So it’s not that I, as an adult, want to lecture kids about the importance of getting along with their siblings; it’s that readers will see themselves in that experience and recognize something they already know to be true: they don’t have to get along all the time in order to care about each other and have each other’s backs.

I don’t want my stories to teach lessons, but rather create fictional experiences that feel familiar, resonant, and true. As for the literal sense of problem-solving, as in working out the answers to clues, that’s just pure fun. It makes the book more interactive to see if you can solve the puzzle before the characters figure it out. I don’t think that all middle-grade books need this interactivity in order to succeed, but I certainly enjoy it.

Bonnie’s Comment:  I enjoy the interactivity as well, and I do think Zed and Tuesday are great and honest examples for kids to follow.

Bonnie:  Tuesday and her brother Zed use teamwork and brains to make their way forward through a strange land.  The superhero aspect comes in the form of their dog with special powers, Nyx.  With all the books out there about kids with special powers, did you make a conscious effort to stress the importance of working together and using critical thinking?

CW:  Zed and Tuesday are very different. Zed likes to organize his thoughts on paper and let them percolate for a while before he comes to a conclusion. Tuesday is very action-oriented and tends to leap to conclusions, but that also means she thinks on her feet and is able to talk her way out of trouble while Zed would take too long puzzling over the perfect thing to say. Tuesday is easily frustrated, while Zed is patient, but sometimes a little too complacent.

Going through their adventures together means sometimes butting heads, but they also have two different sets of strengths and perspectives to help them solve their problems. Each of them gets opportunities to surprise the other by coming up with a solution no one else would have thought of. Having these everyday “superpowers”, rather than being able to fly or turn invisible or something, makes the characters more relatable to the reader than someone who is ludicrously rich, or super strong, or uses a magic wand. Nyx’s powers are fun to read about, but no one’s really going to relate to her as a character. So I definitely wanted my human protagonists to have skills readers could appreciate and identify with.

Bonnie’s comment:  I agree completely.  Magic powers are fun to read about, but bravery, motivation, and problem-solving are something kids can identify with.

Bonnie: Thank you so much, CW, for answering my questions.

CW: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure

BUY LINKS

Available At:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Amazon UK

BEFORE YOU GO

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

Self-Published Saturday: The Key House

Self-published Saturday is my effort to help self-published and indie authors with marketing. Self-published/indie authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to spreading the word about their book. If I can help even a little with marketing, I’m happy to do it.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

After moving into a newly inherited house, the Noland kids discover clues to a supposed treasure hidden by their great-great-grandfather. But when town rumors and some spiteful neighbors suggest foul play was involved, Caleb and David set out on a quest to prove otherwise.

With unexpected dangers looming large and threatening their mission, can the Noland kids discover the mysterious treasure or whatever lies at the end of their treacherous venture, before time runs out and all is lost?

BOOK REVIEW

This is a Christian middle-grade adventure that kids will enjoy. Set in the mid-1990s, we follow the Noland kids as they move into a new house and discover its secrets. Hidden rooms, tunnels, and clues hint at pirates and maybe treasure. The Noland kids’ parents are very involved in the story and their children’s activities, which is a refreshing change from many middle-grade books, where the parents are completely out of the picture. The kids’ experiences and lessons learned are often tied into scripture, which Christian parents will appreciate. The pirate mystery is intriguing.

I have one minor scriptural disagreement: The continued insistence by Mr. Noland that there are no ghosts and that spirits are either in Heaven or Hell conflicts with 1 Samuel 28: 7-20, where a medium who disobeyed the law brought back the spirit of Samuel, and it obviously wasn’t the first spirit she’d ever summoned. Also, while not ghosts, there is definitely a vast spiritual world described in the Bible where angels and demons are at war. I realize this is a kid’s book, however.

Overall, The Key House is a compelling adventure puzzle that kids will enjoy solving.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pastor and author Mike Curtis brings adventure to life in his new Noland Kids Adventure book series. Growing up in a sports-focused family that loved camping, exploring, and all things adventure, Mike dove into teen ministry in his early twenties to bring the Good News to a distracted and struggling generation.

He is married to the popular homeschooling author and speaker Meredith Curtis. They live in Lake Mary, Florida, and have five children and five grandchildren. As a spiritual dad and pastor of Powerline Church, his passion is sharing life-giving principles from God’s Word that impact and transform others.

In his spare time he loves to watch adventure movies like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies with his family and friends, and on occasion has been found sacrificing for those he loves by watching a Hallmark romance. He can also be found indulging in books on apologetics, theology, and leadership, in addition to some aggressive ping pong matches during discipleship time with young men. And next to a good steak, Mike’s favorite dish is beef tongue!

His desire is to use his books to mentor the next generation, sharing Christ and biblical principles of character in relevant and enjoyable adventure stories and practical studies.

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Amazon UK

BEFORE YOU GO

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published/indie authors go a long way!

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.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

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.

BOOK REVIEW


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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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!

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books |Google | Kobo

BEFORE YOU GO

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

Self-Published Saturday: Death at Dusbar College #MiddleGradeFantasy #MagicalStories

Self-Published Saturday is my effort to help Self-Published/Indie authors. These authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to marketing. If I can help even a little bit with the marketing, I’m happy to do it. This week’s feature is Death at Dusbar College, a magical adventure for middle grade readers.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Welcome to the world of Antyfas where invisible monkeys play and dragons fly! Cristiano has just turned eleven, and his aunt has invited him to visit her at the magical Dusbar College. Wondrous acts of magic and fantastical beasts await him, but can he solve the Grand Magician’s riddle?

BOOK REVIEW

This is a story for middle-grade readers about a magical college in the land of Antyfas, a place of fantastic wonders where magical animals abound. Cristiano is excited to visit his aunt at Dusbar College, and while there he gets a chance to solve a riddle for a special prize.

This is not a long book–only 78 pages in the hardcover edition, some of which are illustrations by Lee Thompson. I enjoyed the problem-solving process that Cristiano went through, which I think is a good example for younger readers. I also enjoyed the character of the great magician and the fun take on what it means to have a “frog in your throat.” I would have preferred more development of the characters, but maybe that will occur in subsequent stories.

Overall, this is a fun book for younger readers. There are some similarities to Harry Potter, and fans of that series may enjoy a visit to Dusbar College.

I received a free digital copy of this book. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Inspired by all the ridiculous, frightening, wonderful, and adorable things she has discovered during her time on Earth, Laura DiNovis Berry writes what she hopes will be wonderful things for others to discover. See more about Laura and Antyfas on her website at berrysbooks.com

BUY LINKS

AMAZON|BARNES&NOBLE|APPLE BOOKS

*If you buy the book, please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

Self-Published Saturday: Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures

Self-Published Saturday is my effort to help Self-Published/Indie authors with marketing. These authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to marketing. If I can help even a little bit with marketing, I’m happy to do it. This week’s feature is Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures, the fifth book in Brett Salter’s Talisman Series, a young adult adventure with dragons!

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Looks like our heroes can finally put an end to the nightmare that was Scarabadon, The Juggernaut. And it seems everyone’s favorite Synergist Knight and Master Dragon have fixed their Talisman issue too. Having thwarted every attack The Tyrant King has thrown at them to this point, The Alliance believes that they can endure any challenge as long as they remain together. Now, having the upper hand seems like the perfect opportunity to seek out more allies and even more of the realm’s mystical Talismans. Could this be a “happily ever after” for our ensemble of motley heroes? Or is this peace just a fool’s hope and just as temporary as the changing tides?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

(In his own words): My background in writing stems mostly from the inspiration I found as a kid when I read Fantasy and Sci-Fi books. These include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Xanth Novels, The Time Quintet, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss. In my formative years, I joined several punk rock bands and wrote songs, poetry, and short stories aplenty. As an adult (?) I took on a dare and wrote the first book in my Talisman Series. I loved the feeling it gave me and the idea of inspiring others so much that I kept writing until I had an entire series.

BOOK REVIEW

Rome and Julian are back for another adventure, and this time the enemy is up close and personal. Having discovered their true synergy and unlocked their full powers, Rome and Julian set out to find more allies and talismans.

Overall, I enjoyed this latest installment in the Talisman series. The plot is clever and captivating, and my favorite dragon, Rome, continues to grow and develop as a character and a mythical creature. The author has a great talent for world-building, and he adds more intriguing characters and nuances to this world. The plot is exciting and action-packed. The new character, Mander, is delightfully funny.

However, I do have some constructive criticism: I’m still not happy with the way Julian treats Mr. Jones, especially five books in. Julian’s character development seems to have digressed. I had great hope for him after the last book, but the spoiled brat has returned. Julian also spends a lot of time whining and complaining about another character in this latest installment of the series. I don’t find him to be a great influence on middle-grade readers, especially with his disrespectful attitude.

I downloaded this book via Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can borrow the book for free.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON|AMAZON UK

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

Blog Tour and Book Review: Midas by Alan Meredith

Hearing voices when no one is talking to you is a bad sign right?

When twelve year old Tyler follows the calls of his name into the burnt-out house on the roundabout, and finds a golden lizard called Midas, his luck appears to have changed for the better.

Right?

BOOK REVIEW

Tyler and his mother struggle financially and often supplement their meager income by selling things they find in dumpsters. Although poor, they have a close and loving relationship. All of this changes when Tyler meets Midas, a lizard who eats gold and communicates through his thoughts. Suddenly, Tyler has money, but Midas begins to change, becoming more and more demanding. This clever middle-grade story reminds us that money cannot buy happiness and that things are not always as they seem.

The story is unique and engaging and stresses the importance of relationships with others while downplaying the importance of money and material things. It could be a good lesson for kids, but it is not a typical feel-good story.

I think the cover should be redone as it does not have the potential to attract readers when they are scrolling through millions of titles on Amazon. The cover needs to pop. A professional illustration of Midas the lizard as he is described in the book would make a great cover. This book also needs another edit for typos, grammar, and spacing issues.

I received a free copy of this book via Zooloo’s Book Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan Meredith lives in sleepy West Sussex with his wife and two children.  He relocated there after suffering a psychosis back in 2000. Writing stories was a childhood love that he lost as he mistakenly believed that imagination had no place in the grown up world.

He likes taking reality and weaving fantastical elements into it.  Alan’s writing reflects his belief that life is a journey of highs and lows and the idea that ‘life should be fair’ is an unrealistic expectation to give anyone, especially kids.  If you are looking for the sugar coated ‘Happy Ever After’ you have come to the wrong place.


Follow him at: Facebook |GoodReads|YouTube

BUY LINKS:

Amazon UK|Amazon US

Blog Tour and Book Review: Shimmer by Alan Meredith #Middle Grade #Fantasy #Cats

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Lyla is having the worst year of her life and then her Mum announces they are moving to a strange new town.

The only silver lining is the signs that a cat has made itself home in the new house.

Lyla quickly finds out though that Shimmer is no ordinary cat….

BOOK REVIEW

Shimmer is a middle-grade fantasy adventure starring a special cat and a girl who is having a rough time. After Lyla’s father dies, her mother decides to move and get a fresh start. Lyla is angry and upset at having to move away from familiar surroundings, and she is instantly bullied at school. On top of that, Lyla would like a cat, but her mother has adamantly refused. Then she begins to hear a cat mewling in the house.

This is a sweet and magical fantasy with a surprise twist in the middle. Although this is a short book, it packs a lot of story into 86 pages and it’s perfect for the middle-grade reader. There are some school fights included, so parents may want to be aware. All in all, this is a sometimes sad, but always sweet adventure with a magical and special feline star. Kids will love it, but so will their parents and grandparents.

I received a free copy of this book via Zooloo’s Book Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan Meredith lives in sleepy West Sussex with his wife and two children.  He relocated there after suffering a psychosis back in 2000. Writing stories was a childhood love that he lost as he mistakenly believed that imagination had no place in the grown up world.

He likes taking reality and weaving fantastical elements into it.  Alan’s writing reflects his belief that life is a journey of highs and lows and the idea that ‘life should be fair’ is an unrealistic expectation to give anyone, especially kids.  If you are looking for the sugar coated ‘Happy Ever After’ you have come to the wrong place.


Follow him at: Facebook |GoodReads|YouTube

BUY LINKS:

Amazon UK|Amazon US

Self-Published Saturday, July 31, 2021

This is the newest edition of Self-Published Saturday, where I highlight self-published books and their authors. As you know, self-published authors have to do their own marketing, and I hope with this feature to help spread the word about their books. This week’s feature includes two books, both by Brett Salter. They are books 3 and 4 of his Talisman Series. I reviewed Books 1 and 2 already, and I have provided links below. The Talisman Series is a young adult/middle grade fantasy adventure–with dragons! As always, if you buy the book, please remember to leave a review. This is so important for self-published authors.

Book Review: Windy City Ruins (Book 3)

In Book 3 of the Talisman series, Rome, Julian, and Mrs. Case head to New York to meet with a contact and learn more about the talismans and their mission. Circumstances land them in the “Windy City” of Chicago, and they meet new friends and face new challenges. With targets on their backs and evil drawing ever closer, they continue to search for information on how to defeat the Tyrant King and his armies. I continue to enjoy this series, as Rome and Julian learn even more about talismans and their mission, and they meet fascinating new friends along the way. Rome continues to grow and learn. While I was still frustrated with Julian’s rudeness early in the book, he begins to show some growth as well. The group meets even more players in this game and we are introduced to another type of dragon. There is a shocking surprise that will provide more challenges than ever. I continue to be fascinated by the dragons in this series and the good vs. evil battle as a whole. Brett Salter has given us a fascinating world to explore in the Talisman series.

Book Review: The Battle for Verdana (Book 4)

Rome and Julian’s search for true synergy takes them to the forests of the Pacific Northwest where they search for answers and deal with the ever-pursuing enemy. More surprises and new friends await them in the latest book in the Talisman series.

Wow! Five stars for this one as Rome and Julian continue to grow in strength and humility. There are ups and downs, and a fantastic surprise at the end that will not disappoint. As always, epic battles abound, and I really enjoyed the character growth I saw in this book. This book teaches kids important lessons in integrity, humility, and team building. A team is made up of those with different strengths and talents, and I am glad to see this lesson shown so well in these books. I am looking forward to Book 5 and the adventures that await.

LINK TO MY REVIEW OF BOOK 1: THE SEARCH FOR SYNERGY

LINK TO MY REVIEW OF BOOK 2: RIDERS OF FIRE AND ICE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brett Salter

Brett Salter’s background in writing stems mostly from the inspiration he found as a kid in Fantasy and Sci-Fi books. These include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Xanth Novels, The Time Quintet, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss.  In his formative years, he joined several punk rock bands and wrote songs, poetry, and short stories aplenty.  As an adult he took on a dare and wrote The Talisman Series.  He has published four books in this series so far:  The Search for Synergy, Riders of Fire and Ice, Windy City Ruins, and The Battle for Verdana.

BUY THE TALISMAN SERIES

You will find links buy all four books of the Talisman Series by clicking on the photo above.. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read them for free.

Q&A With Brett Salter

Brett Salter was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and I thank him again for taking the time out to do that. Here is the Q&A below:

What inspired you to write the Talisman Series?  I’ve told this story a bunch of times.  And it’s completely true.  My mother dared me to write a book off a premise we came up with together, and I just went with it.  Before I knew it, I had the first book done and since it ended on a cliffhanger, we were like, “What next?”.  I realized that I liked writing so much that I just kept on going.  Now, I’m sitting on 4 self-published books and 7 more waiting in the wings (get it?)

What is the main message you want readers to take away from this series?  I think the main thing I want to impart on young readers is to always take that first step into adventure.  It could be a situation in real life or cracking open a book and following along with characters.  Preaching creativity is really what I strive for with my life and my kids’ lives.  I want them to be passionate about their interests and always be creative because this world need creativity now more than ever.  

How is Book 5 coming along?  Can you share the title yet, and how many books do you have planned for this series?  I plan on releasing the 5th book of my proposed 12 by winter of this year! It needs an edit or two….or three or four. And it needs some cover art, but it should be out early 2022. Book four ends with a pretty big cliffhanger regarding our heroes and their powers.  Well, that DOES get resolved, but the 5th book opens so much more trouble for our heroes in the form Darkbrand threats. Plus, we get a ton of reveals regarding the “big bad’s” plans, more Talismans, and we maybe, possibly, definitely get to visit a new dragon den???  I have several titles in the mix, but I have not settled on one yet.  This book is going to be a little darker than the previous 4, so I need title reflective of the darker turn in the series.  I’m open to suggestions

In your bio you mention being inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, among others.  Both series feature scenes with dragons, of course, and Eustace from the Chronicles of Narnia even turns into a dragon at one point.  Obviously Eustace was a boy who was turned into a dragon and Rome finds out he is a dragon disguised as a boy.  However, is Eustace an inspiration of sorts for Rome?  That’s an interesting question.  I think the idea of Rome transforming into a dragon may have unintentionally been inspired by Eustace Scrubb or perhaps a similar character from another work of fiction.  But I will say this.  The main difference between Euastace and Rome is that Eustace’s transformation furthers his character development by forcing him to look at his attitude and behavior and change the way he treats people for the better.  Whereas Rome’s transformation is meant to be more in keeping with his destiny.  Confirming he is a dragon DOES change him for the better, but It’s more of realizing his future than trying to make up for past indifferences.  I do see the similarities though.  

What other authors are you reading now?  I read everything E.C. Meyers puts out because most of his books are cannon side projects to my favorite show RWBY.  I’m reading “The Breadwinner” by Deborah Ellis alongside my son for a school assignment.  I just finished “Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut.  And, I intend to start “War for the Oaks” by Emma Bull on a friend’s recommendation.

Do you have any other series planned for the future?  Abso-lutely!  I do have the humblest beginnings of a second series in the works.  I have the plot of the first book and the “Legendarium” already put to paper (or hardrive).  That series will be a work of portal fiction mixed with destiny fiction and entail more adult themes as compared to The Talisman Series.  I came up with the idea in between writing books 8 and 9, and I WILL eventually get around to writing that series.  Maybe after I put out book five of The Talisman Series this winter.

Thanks again to Brett Salter for his great responses to our questions!

Two Reminders before you go:

  1. If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books. This is very important to self-published authors.
  2. Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!