Self-Published Saturday: May 29, 2021

Once again, it’s time to feature a great self-published book. I really enjoy this feature because it helps independent authors with the monumental task of promoting their books. If you decide to read this book, please write a review and post it on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites where you talk about books. This helps authors so much. I can’t stress that enough. Your review makes a difference.

Today’s book is the first in a series that captivated me from the beginning, The Hamelin Stoop series by Robert B. Sloan. In fact, I have been known to drop everything and ignore my giant TBR list in order to read the next installment. See the review below.

BOOK REVIEW: THE EAGLE, THE CAVE, AND THE FOOTBRIDGE

Hamelin Stoop is an exciting young adult/middle grade fantasy adventure series in the vein of the Chronicles of Narnia and even Harry Potter.

In The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge, Hamelin’s mother Johnnie is on the run from evil trackers, so she places him, still a little baby, on the stoop of an orphanage in a tomato box. One of the only legible words in the note she left was “Hamelin,” and since he was found on the stoop, he was named Hamelin Stoop by the orphanage staff.

Upset and frustrated, Hamelin runs away from the orphanage when he is 8 years old. That’s when strange things begin happening. He is drawn to a cave by a talking eagle, and then he begins to learn more about his parents and his true purpose. There is a related story about three princesses in another land as Sloan begins to weave this tale together.

This is a “good vs. evil” adventure series which drew me in immediately, and I am always excited to see the next book. This book has everything–talking creatures, evil overlords, distant lands, and lost princesses. So far, there are three books, and I’m anxiously awaiting the fourth. I see definite nods to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, which is always a good thing. I would recommend this to anyone over 10 years old who enjoys fantasy, adventure, and good vs. evil stories.  As C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” And this is a great children’s story that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

I received a free digital copy from Booksirens. My opinions are voluntary and are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is President of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. He is also a former President of Baylor University. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Dr. Sloan’s Website

FASCINATING Article by Dr. Sloan About Why He Wrote The Hamelin Stoop Series

BUY BOOK 1: THE EAGLE, THE CAVE, AND THE FOOTBRIDGE

BUY BOOK 2: THE LOST PRINCESS AND THE JEWEL OF PERILUNA

BUY BOOK 3: THE RING OF TRUTH

*If you are a Kindle Unlimited Subscriber, you can borrow all three books for free.

Book Review: A Distant Shore by Karen Kingsbury

BOOK REVIEW

Lizzie James is just 8 years old when she is told her mother and brother have drowned. She is taken to her father’s “palace” in Belize and her name is changed to Eliza. She soon learns her father is in the sex trade and trafficks young girls. She is always told she is being saved for “something special,” which turns out to be a forced marriage with another drug and sex trafficking family. Then an FBI agent enters her life, someone she has met before, although she does not remember him, and he does not realize she is a child he rescued from drowning the same day his brother died.

I have read many books by Karen Kingsbury, but this one goes to a whole new level as it exposes the horrors of the sex trafficking industry. The characters are well written and the despair of Eliza and the younger girls is palpable and real. Kingsbury shows us the depths of evil in the sex trafficking industry, the laws that sometimes hinder rescued victims from surviving even after escape, and the hearts of the people in and out of law enforcement determined to rescue every single child. She shows us how God is present, even in desperate, cruel, and wicked situations from which there seems no escape. This is a well researched novel that everyone needs to read in order to know the evils that exist in our world.

I received a free copy of this book from Atria Books via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

A Distant Shore will be released on April 27, 2021.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development with Hallmark Films and as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books are being developed into a TV series slated for major network viewing sometime in the next year. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty-nesters, living in Tennessee near five of their adult children.


WEBSITE: https://www.karenkingsbury.com

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Surviving Savannah

Diamond Level Read

Sometimes when I don’t think five stars is enough, I add a diamond on this blog so people will know how special it was. This is one of those books.

In 1838, The Steamship Pulaski set sail from Savannah to Baltimore, loaded with wealthy passengers, their extravagant belongings, and also their enslaved people. Lilly Forsyth, her nursemaid, the enslaved Priscilla, and Lilly’s daughter Madeleine board along with Lilly’s cousins, the wealthy and famous Longstreets. Lilly is also accompanied by her arrogant, cruel, and abusive husband, Adam. Dripping with wealth and carrying all the comforts of home, the Pulaski sets sail for a one-night voyage to Baltimore so the rich can escape the Southern heat. A horrific explosion and fire occur during the night, causing the sinking of the ship and great loss of life. Lilly, Priscilla, and Madeleine begin their desperate attempt to survive in more ways than one.

In present day, Everly has suffered a great personal loss after the death of her best friend Mora. She is approached by Oliver, who was engaged to Mora when she died. Oliver is part of a team which has discovered the remains of the Pulaski after more than 180 years and is beginning the recovery.. He asks Everly to curate the artifacts and help arrange an exhibit. Everly has been living a reclusive life since the death of Mora in a horrible hit-and-run accident that Everly survived. She is going through the motions and is obsessed with finding the hit -and-run driver, who is still unidentified. Can she commit to a project such as the Pulaski?

This captivating and exquisitely written story looks at the many different sides of survival. There is survival of a tragedy, such as the sinking of the Pulaski, there is survival of slavery and horrific abuse, and survival of an accident that turned to murder. Then the author looks at different reactions of the survivors. This takes a fascinating turn, as different characters have very different reactions to the same tragedy. Some embrace life, knowing that it is fleeting, some cower in fear, and others blaze with hate and anger. The characters, especially Lilly, Priscilla, and Everly, are well developed and engaging. The story is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction. Patti Callahan takes a real event, the sinking of the Pulaski, and combines it with both real and fictional characters to create a story that is fascinating and hard to put down. I would recommend it for any fans of historical fiction or maritime fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She writes as both Patti Callahan and Patti Callahan Henry. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE

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The Girl From Berlin

BOOK DESCRIPTION: (My review is further down below)

From her beautiful new home in Berlin, a young woman named Liesel Scholz barely notices the changes to the city around her. Her life is one of privilege and safety thanks to her father’s job working for the new government.

But a chance encounter with Rosa, the daughter of their Jewish housekeeper, confirms Liesel’s fears that something isn’t right. That the Nazi government’s brutal rules are cruel and dangerous, and that others aren’t as safe as she is. When Rosa begs Liesel to help—pressing her grandfather’s gold pocket watch into Liesel’s hand—Liesel recklessly agrees.

She will help hide Rosa and her loved ones—in the dusty, unused rooms at the top of their house—even if it means putting everyone she loves in danger. Even if it means risking her own life.

Frankfurt, 1946: An idealistic American captain, Sam Houghton, arrives in Germany to interrogate prominent Nazis on trial and to help rebuild a battered country. When he hires an enigmatic, damaged interpreter named Anna, he doesn’t expect sparks to fly between them. Perhaps there is a chance of love for both of them. But then the question of what happened to Anna in the war raises its head.

Because Anna has secrets—ones that link her to Berlin, the Nazi party, and the story of one gold pocket watch and two young women who became friends, even when they were told it was impossible…

REVIEW: BONNIE READS AND WRITES


Oh what a beautiful and heart-rending novel! There is so much World War II fiction out right now and this one absolutely stands apart as a must-read. The character development–where should I begin–it’s a master class. The sharp awakening of the sheltered young Liesl is so well done, and you will cheer on her determination to protect the innocent, even from her own father. The relationship between Anna and Sam is touching and bittersweet as Anna fights off demons from her past and Sam tries to help her live again. Ambition and its possible pitfalls is examined in detail through the life of Leisl’s father. The purest bravery and innocence abound in the lovely character of Friedy. A lifelong friendship between Rosa and Leisl is born out of great peril. Kate Hewitt has penned a novel that will capture your heart and keep you thinking, long after you are done. This is highly recommended for all, because it’s a story that will touch every heart.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture. I also purchased a copy of this splendid novel. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Kate Hewitt is the author of many romance and women’s fiction novels. A former New Yorker and now an American ex-pat, she lives in a small town on the Welsh border with her husband, five children, and their overly affectionate Golden Retriever. Whatever the genre, she enjoys telling stories that tackle real issues and touch people’s lives.

https://www.kate-hewitt.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KateHewittAuthor/
https://twitter.com/author_kate

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MY AMAZON REVIEW (HELPFUL VOTES APPRECIATED IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED)

The Kitchen Front

BOOK REVIEW

The Kitchen Front is a wonderful book which feels like a World War II based combination of Downton Abbey and the Great British Baking Show. In Fenley Village, England, 1942, Ambrose Hart is reluctantly looking for a radio cohost. His bosses have decided they want a local woman who can help listeners find the best uses for their food rations. A cooking contest begins, and the winner will be Ambrose’s co-host on The Kitchen Front radio show. The four contestants are Audrey, who is trying to raise three sons and wallowing in a mountain of debt, Nell, a kitchen maid who is tired of her poor treatment, Lady Gwendoline Strickland, the haughty grand lady of the manor, who is both Nell’s boss and Audrey’s sister, and Zelda Dupont, an English girl turned London-based French chef who has been forced to cook in a British factory and is not happy about it. As the show progresses, each woman’s life begins to change forever.

I immediately connected with the characters and the story. The “upstairs/downstairs,” “Downton Abbey” type relationship is demonstrated by Lady Gwendoline, Sir Strickland, and their cooks and other staff. The radio show cooking contest reminds me of a World War II radio version of the Great British Baking Show. For the contest, each contestant has to provide a starter, a main dish, and a dessert, all on different episodes of the show. All of the recipes for the contest, plus others mentioned in the story, are included in the book. We are given a window into each contestant’s life, both before and during the contest. Audrey is a grieving war widow. Gwendoline is a neglected wife of a strict and domineering nobleman. Zelda is pregnant and abandoned by the child’s father, and Nell is a young girl who wants to get out of the bonds of service. Interesting tidbits about food and history are included, such as why British sausages are called “bangers,” and how some villagers would run to “Anderson shelters,” to escape the bombings. We even get a little education on World War II era planes. I enjoyed every minute of this book, read it in one day, and will read it again. 

If you love cooking and cooking shows, World War II fiction, and strong female characters, you will enjoy this book.

The Kitchen Front will be released on February 23, 2021. I highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is the author of National Bestseller THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR, THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE, and THE KITCHEN FRONT. Her writing has featured in Literary Hub, Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, The Daily Mail, The Irish Times, The Express, BBC Online, YOU Magazine, The Simple Things Magazine, and Good Reading Magazine. Previously a book editor with The Economist, DK, and the BBC, she moved from London to Washington, DC after marrying, and she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. Her novels are inspired by her grandmother’s tales of the war in Britain.

JENNIFER RYAN’S WEBSITE

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Telling Sonny

Faby Gauthier lives in a small town in Vermont in the 1920’s. She is bored with small town living and fascinated by Vaudeville and the showbiz life. When she meets Slim White, a dancer in a traveling Vaudeville show, she quickly gets pregnant and caught up in a marriage that happens before she knows it. We follow Faby on the Vaudeville circuit, travel with her on uncomfortable train trips, and stay with her in cheap hotels as we learn about the less glamorous side of showbiz. 

This is a beautifully written novel by Elizabeth Gaffreau that starts in small-town Vermont and takes us all over the Vaudeville circuit in the Eastern United States in the 1920’s. We learn a lot about Vaudeville life, sacrifice, and the loss of innocence. We are shown through Faby’s sister the life she could have had. We are also reminded of the priceless gift of family and the care of those who love us.

Gaffreau has an amazing ability to show us the reality of life behind the facade. For example, her descriptions of 1920’s telephone operators: “…where, inside, pale young women plugged and unplugged the telephone conversations of the village with bony fingers while they waited for someone to marry them.”

I would recommend this well-crafted novel to everyone who enjoys historical novels or anyone who wants to read a moving family story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

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VISIT ELIZABETH GAFFREAU’S WEBSITE

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Village Teacher

Village Teacher by Neihtn, who also writes as Nguyen Trong Hien, is a well-written novel set in Vietnam in the late 19th or early 20th century while Vietnam was under French colonization. Teacher Tâm has traveled to the Imperial City of Hue to take the national examinations, challenging tests that help the country choose its leaders. He meets Giang, the daughter of a powerful Frenchman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman. The teacher becomes the student as Giang begins teaching him to write Vietnamese in Romanized script without using the Chinese characters. Outside forces begin to intervene in Tâm’s life in many ways, and the reader is taken on a journey through Vietnamese history, language, and customs as the Village Teacher and those who love him fight for his life and his rights.

This is such a beautiful historical love story. The author is an expert in Vietnamese history and I learned so much in this book. The struggles of Teacher Tâm are struggles that are being repeated even today as the wealthy and powerful try to hold down those of lesser means, especially the smart and talented. Over and over again we see in this book how some of the rich and powerful will use any means to try and destroy anyone who they believe threatens their total control. The love story is beautiful, and the reader gets a master class in Vietnamese history, language, and culture. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the history of Vietnam or anyone who just wants to read a well-written historical love story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nguyễn Trọng Hiền is originally from Vietnam. In the United States, he is known as Hien Nguyen, or Hien T. Nguyen.  neihtn is his Vietnamese first name (Hien)  and initials, spelled backward. Why backward? One reason is to indicate that he now lives on the opposite side of the world from where he was born and spent over two decades of his life.

Hein wrote Village Teacher at night and on weekends over four years while he worked a full-time job. He is now retired and spends his time writing and taking photographs of birds, wildlife, flowers and landscapes. He posts the photos on his blog, Village Teacher. He also published another novel, The Siege of An Loc, in 2020.

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Buy The Siege of An Loc on Amazon

MY AMAZON REVIEW OF VILLAGE TEACHER

My Review of The Siege of An Loc

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth by Robert B. Sloan is the third book in the Hamelin Stoop Series. This is not a standalone. The books must be read in order or you will be lost when you read Book 3. Book 1 is The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and Book 2 is The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna.

In Book 3, Hamelin has come back to the orphanage in order to return a lost princess back to her land. He has a definite idea of who this princess might be. There are a lot of delays and betrayals, and the people in his life continue to hide information from him, but Hamelin is determined to finish his mission and ultimately find his parents. 

This is a great young adult series with memorable characters that people of all ages will love. There are definite nods to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as the Bible, in this series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of these characters, especially the trio of Hamlin, Lars, and Eraina. Each of our heroes are aided by their special magical objects as they travel the Land of Gloaming on an important mission to stop the evil Chimera and his sons. They continue to receive guidance and help from SueSue and The Talking Eagle. Hamelin’s Earth friends, Bryan and Layla, also figure prominently in this story. 

I gave this five stars because of how much I love the overall series, but this one did move too slowly for about the first 25% of the book. There was too much time at the orphanage before attempting to return to the Land of Gloaming and not much happened during this time. At the orphanage, the core characters’ continual refusal to share information with each other started getting ridiculous. However, the last two thirds of this 580 page book were much more action filled. But again, even in the Land of Gloaming, there was the constant problem of people keeping secrets from each other. I feel this book would have been even better if it had been cut down to about 400 pages.

That being said, I continue to love these characters and look forward to their next adventures. There are six books planned in this series and I cannot wait until the next one.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via BookSirens. My review is voluntary. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Robert B. Sloan’s Website

Buy Book 1: The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge

Buy Book 2: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Buy Book 3: The Ring of Truth

Link to My Amazon Review (Helpful Votes Appreciated)

Link to My Goodreads Review

The Bird That Sang in Color

The Bird that Sang in Color is the saga of a family dealing with death, conflict, grief, alcoholism, and depression. Donna’s father is an alcoholic and she carries that into her married life to Frank, who has a problem with alcohol as well. Donna is devoted to her children and her brother Vince, a talented musician and artist. Donna has long encouraged Vince to get a “real” job, a house, and the other trappings of success, but Vince continues to go his own way. After Vince’s death, Donna finds a picture book in which Vince has drawn different scenes from his life. For Donna, this shows the truth about Vince’s life, and also about hers.

Though the beginning started out a little slowly for me, this is a fascinating story that asks tough questions. What is success really about? Who is really dead and who is really alive? What is real happiness? Do material things make you happy, and are they fitting substitutes for joy and passion? What makes you truly happy? Most importantly, this book asks the reader to look inside themselves to see their own life pictures, assess their lives, and decide what is important and what is not. And for that, it gets five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via R&R Book Tours. My review is voluntary.

Link to Buy The Bird That Sang in Color:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy.  She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie! 

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead:  “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

Grace Mattioli’s Website

Link to My Review on Goodreads

The Milk Wagon

I was hooked when I read this book by Michael Hewes and I find it to be an unsung gem! One of my goals with this blog is to help newer or lesser known authors (and self published authors) promote their work to others who might not otherwise see it. This fantastic book swept me right back into the 1980’s, when I was a teenager, and it was a great ride. See my review below:

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The Milk Wagon is a fantastic thriller set in the 80’s, much of it revolving around a group of high school boys. As an 80’s high schooler myself, this was a wonderful walk down memory lane. This book has the 80’s high school mentality exactly right, and transported me back there as the movies we watched, the cars we drove, and the way we thought were so accurately described. 

This novel was perfectly woven together as both an 80’s book and a crime/murder thriller. There were many twists and turns, and although I am usually pretty good at guessing the “bad guy,” i was totally wrong this time. The fact that this book was not predictable impressed me. 

The characters are so well done, especially the 80s high school kids, that I was sad when it ended. That’s how you tell a great book. You don’t want it to end.

If you love crime thrillers, if you loved the 80s, or if you just love a well written book, check this one out.

I received a free copy of this book from Michael Hewes and BooksGoSocial via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

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Link to my Goodreads review (Like and Follow if you are so inclined):