One Woman’s Island – Fan mail and reviews! (3)

From my main blog, a couple of reviews and some fan mail!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

And definitely not from some flounder!

But this is what I can call a message I really like!

Not all readers like to write reviews and post them online, and I get that! So I will never ask anyone to review my books or post their thoughts if they don’t wish to do so.

However, I do know many readers, especially friends, like to tell me their thoughts and impressions about my books after they’ve read something I’ve written. They quite often write to me privately in an email, or they tell me in person when I meet up with them. So I then ask if I may post their comments to my blog, and will do so anonymously, if that’s what they wish.

Here are comments from two friends who had previously read Island in the Clouds and have now told me what they think of One Woman’s Island

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Uncertain Soldier – a review (2)

Uncertain Soldier
by Karen Bass

Purchase copies here

A conflicted teenaged soldier. A boy caught between two countries. When the world only sees you as German, how can you forge your own identity?

Seventeen-year-old Erich is a prisoner of war working at a northern Alberta logging camp. Twelve-year-old Max goes to school—reluctantly—in the nearby town. The two would be unlikely friends, except that neither has anyone else to turn to. At the height of World War II, nobody wants to befriend a German.

Awards and honours:
2016 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People Winner
2016 IODE Violet Downey Book Award nominee
2016 OLA Forest of Reading Red Maple Award nominee
2015 Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

The review:
When I was young, I saw the 1978 movie version of Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier (1973). Until then, I hadn’t thought about what “our side” did with prisoners of war. It was more obvious with Allied prisoners in the European or Asian theatre: the prisoners were held there, where the battles were being waged. (Hogan’s Heroes, the comic TV series that ran from 1965 to 1971, was also a popular entertainment of my youth.) Less traumatic than the American Summer of My German Soldier, Uncertain Soldier tells the story of Erich Hofmeyer, a German prisoner of war held in Alberta in the winter of 1943-44.

The story begins, though, in the voice of young Max Schmidt, a Canadian lad born of German parents, who is persecuted for his heritage and understandably struggles with his identity as a result. His father is almost violently insistent that Max remain proud of and stand up for himself and his German heritage. What Max is subjected to is impossible to stand against, though: a systematic, targetted bullying that readers will recognize as being a pervasive response to otherness, not just the product of war-time Canadian prejudice. When the bullying becomes life threatening, Max runs away. Max’s flight is the impetus for an act of bravery by Erich on both a physical and an emotional level, a distillation of the uncertainty that has been tearing at Erich throughout the novel.

Read the rest of this review here

Karyn Huenemann

Karen Bass has been previously promoted on Reading Recommendations here and here. Karyn Huenemann reviews children’s and YA Literature for her blog There Will Be Books ….

One Woman’s Island – a review (2)


One Woman’s Island
by Susan M. Toy

Purchase copies here

One Woman’s Island is the second novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series by Susan M. Toy. This is the second book of Susan’s that I have read, and I enjoyed it as much as Island in the Clouds.

About the book
Running away from Canada, Mariana hopes to forget a failed marriage and the death of her husband by embarking on a whole new life. She moves lock, stock, and two cats to the small Caribbean island of Bequia. But the move brings more than she could have imagined. New friends ask her to help solve a recent murder in the expat community. And then there’s the problem of her neighbours, a young woman and her children. Seemingly abandoned by family and friends, Mariana believes they need her help!

By becoming involved, Mariana is carried along from wanting to simply “live with the locals” to being overwhelmed by their culture, one so vastly different to what she had left behind in Canada that she doesn’t know who among her expat friends she can turn to for advice. So she carries on regardless and discovers that Bequia isn’t exactly the tropical paradise it had promised to be. One Woman’s Island is the second novel in the Bequia Perspectives series that picks up again a few months in time after the first novel, Island in the Clouds.

My review for One Woman’s Island
Many of us have reached a crisis point in our lives and run for the hills. We seek somewhere to lick our wounds away from those who know us and also hope that we can break the cycle in new surroundings and with new friends. However, what rarely changes is our basic nature, and in the case of Mariana her warm and caring approach to people is the cause of more challenges in her life. I also know, having lived as an expat in several countries, that appearances can be deceptive and it takes time and understanding of the ‘local’ culture to be accepted.

Mariana wants to be involved in the lives and activities of those she meets whilst still enjoying her hideaway on the island of Bequia. Her attempts are not always successful and speaking her mind does not help the situation. But she is a passionate woman and is not deterred by the resistance that she meets; with very serious consequences. Throw into the mix a crowd of colourful expats with their own cliques and agendas, property land grabbing with violent murders and intrique and you have the recipe for a very good read.

You also get two books for the price of one as Susan Toy separates the chapters of the book with wonderful local Caribbean recipes that she has accumulated.. One of which caught my eye.. Bequia Lime Pie… definitely a recipe to be tried and tested. This gave the book a unique flavour of its own.. and with the grey and wet skies of Ireland outside my window I thoroughly enjoyed my few days on the sun soaked island.

Sally Cronin
(This review has appeared elsewhere, including on Sally’s blog.)

Sally Cronin has been featured on Reading Recommendations and is also included in the lists of All-Star Authors and Reading Recommendations Revisited.

Musiville – a review


by Nicholas C. Rossis, illus. by Dimitris Fousekis

Purchase copies here

Synopsis: A group of animals has evolved into musical instruments. Or is it the other way around? Whichever the case, they have now formed their own little village: Musiville. And bands. Lots and lots of bands. When everyone starts playing their own tune, buildings get torn down by an invader. Can Musiville be saved by the unexpected threat?

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author. This is a funny children’s story with a great message, here is my review:

Welcome to Musiville, a village of animals that has evolved into musical instruments or is that musical instruments that have evolved into animals? Either way, each of the animals of Musiville love to play their own music until one day something terrible happens…

Musiville is a wonderful children’s book with the core message of working together. The story follows Maracerus, a rhinoceros with a maraca for a horn, as he wakes up to a cacophony of sound from the village square. Every animal has been playing their own music for far too long and the animals need to work together to create harmonious music in order to save their village.

This is a very fun read for both kids and adults alike. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw the book but the story had me instantly interested in reading on. It is easy to read although I did find myself occasionally wondering how to pronounce an animal’s name or which instrument it was part made of, perhaps more my lack of knowledge of things such as agogo bells than a problem with the story. However to fix this problem there is an appendix at the back of the book where all the animals are listed along with a brief description and a lovely picture so you may want to keep referring to the appendix if you wonder what the animals look like.

This book has some very fun illustrations throughout the pages. The pictures are all a bit silly and really put a smile on your face as you read through the story. Although they display well digitally, I’d recommend getting a hard copy if you can as you’ll see the double page spreads so much easier.

I really love this children’s book and I’ve read it more than once! The different animals and their pictures are what really makes me come back to this book again and again, particularly the Celliraffe and Flurrow, but with it’s core message of cooperation this really is a great book for anyone of any age to read.

Rating: 5/5

(This review has been posted previously.)

Nicholas C. Rossis has been featured on Reading Recommendations previously. happymeerkatreviews publishes a blog of book reviews and author information.

Fascination – a review


by Kevin Brennan

Purchase copies here

Get ready for a road trip! Fascination is an odyssey around the quasi-wild West, on a mission of “self-realization and vengeance.”

Gorgeous Sally Pavlou, widowed by her husband’s fake suicide, sets out with insouciant PI (and punster) Clive Bridle to track down her errant spouse. From an unnamed Midwestern burg, the two hit the road in Sally’s ’63 Dodge Dart (nicknamed “Dot”). Readers get to ride along — to Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, L.A., San Francisco and various side trips to spots that may or may not appear on any map. Along the way, the pair encounters an astonishing variety of sages, sinners, eccentrics and downright lunatics who offer opportunities for enlightenment.

Sally is an aficionado of an old-fashioned arcade game called Fascination. Every now and then she just has to play, even if it means a considerable detour. Clive is fine with that; stretching out the trip means he gets to spend more time in Sally’s company. His cheerful exterior hides a wounded heart and a capacity for duplicity. Altogether, there are quite a few bumps in the road to self-realization and vengeance.

Kevin Brennan has created a finely-textured novel, with laughs (or at least smiles) on every page. Whether it’s groan-inducing puns or agile prose that creates vivid scenes in the reader’s personal mind-movie, the alert reader will find way more than the captivating plot to reward their decision to read Fascination.

Audrey Driscoll
(This review was previously posted to Audrey Driscoll’s Blog)

Kevin Brennan has previously be featured on Reading Recommendations a number of times. Audrey Driscoll is a writer and gardener who lives on Vancouver Island and reviews books at Audrey Driscoll’s Blog.

Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul – a review


Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul
by Bill Engleson
Publishing by Silver Bow Publishing

Purchase copies here

When I moved permanently to a small Caribbean island, there was a saying within the long-term expat community: Why would we want to change what brought us here in the first place? Unfortunately, those outsiders who arrived during the decades following me didn’t get this same memo. So I approached Bill Engleson’s new collection of essays with complete understanding and empathy.

Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul is writing with a glint in its eye and an upwards curve to the lips. Yes, these are rants about the inevitable changes that come to any small place once it’s discovered, but through these rants Engleson manages to also preserve the memory of that which brought him to Denman Island in the first place. With this collection, we have a unique opportunity to see what life was like before those other gentrifying souls moved into Ruraltania and changed it into something that closer resembled their way of life they left behind back in the big cities.

Peppered with relevant quotes from famous authors, comedians, and other thinkers, these essays (both previously published and new) on island and small-town life, cover subjects as diverse as: libraries, librarians and unusual objects found inside borrowed books; the usefulness (or not) of committees; censorship; tradition; the generation of ideas; local characters and curmudgeons; movies and old episodes of Leave It To Beaver.

So even though you have never lived on an island or in a small place, there’s still a great deal of insight into life in general to be gained from reading Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul. Engleson’s writing is comfortable, and very much like chatting over coffee while sitting in mismatched upholstered chairs in front of a wood fire. In fact, the entire book is like reminiscing with an old friend.

~ Susan M. Toy, author of the Bequia Perspective novels
(This review was previously published in the Island Tides newspaper of Denman Island)

Bill Engleson has been featured on Reading Recommendations, here and here. Susan M. Toy is the brains behind Reading Recommendations and reading recommendations reviewed.

The Gift: Penance – a review


The Gift: Penance
by J.P. McLean
Published by WindStorm Press
Genre: Fiction – Contemporary Fantasy/Thriller

Purchase copies here

The author sent me an ARC of this book (epub format) in exchange for an honest review.

This book reunites the readers with Emelynn Taylor – in need to work undercover to keep the deal with the ICO.

With The Gift: Penance, J. P. McLean has once again created a thrilling combination of mystery, paranormal, urban fantasy, and a touch of romance with steamy situations. It is a compelling read centred on Emelynn, drawing you close to her. J. P. McLean paints a clear picture of the main characters’ mindsets while the story evolves. In this fourth story, I was drawn even closer to Em – again an invisible friend and ally; trying to find the culprits with her. The characters are of sufficient depth, believable with their flaws and virtues. The story is a very nicely woven combination of several genres, has a wonderful flow; it was easy to get hooked. I had a great time reading The Gift: Penance.

This is a book for you if you like mysteries or paranormal romance with a very urban touch and believable characters, some strewn in steamy situations, and some violent events.

The stunning fourth book in The Gift Legacy series!

Highly recommended!

Karen Oberlaen
(For the full review go to My train of thoughts on …)

J.P. McLean has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations. Karen Oberlaen reviews books on her blog, My train of thoughts on …

The Violin Man’s Legacy – a review


The Violin Man’s Legacy – Jack Calder Crime Series #1
by Seumas Gallacher

Purchase copies here

Jack Calder, ex SAS and a man with a troubled childhood history, now works for a security company ISP which is investigating who is behind the ambush of a routine delivery of diamonds from Johannesburg to Utrecht. An injured security guard is certain that the criminals were Chinese. Jack’s boss Julian Townsend asks attractive widow and head of Hong Kong’s branch of ISP, May-Ling, to help him. May-Ling’s informants tell her the diamonds have arrived in Hong Kong and that the two criminal Half Moon brothers, Jonnie and Jimmie, are behind the heist. Jack flies to Hong Kong on the trail of the Half Moon brothers, who for years have evaded arrest, and finds more than he bargains for when he meets May-Ling.

A well researched international thriller, fast paced, and with the author’s obvious knowledge of Hong Kong. I did get a bit lost a couple of times as there are more characters than my brain could handle all at once, but on the whole it was a good entertaining read.

I have given the book four well deserved stars.

Stevie Turner
(This review has been published previously on Stevie’s blog in the post, Go Read Me Campaign’ Review of ‘The Violin Man’s Legacy’.

Both Seumas Gallacher and Stevie Turner have been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

One Woman’s Island – a review


One Woman’s Island
by Susan M. Toy

Purchase copies here

One Woman’s Island, a new novel by Susan M. Toy, like the “Island in the Clouds Cocktail” found within its pages, is a wonderful mixing of two distinctive cultures into a tasty blend of mystery and intrigue.

One Woman’s Island delves into the clash of two cultures that can only be seen from the perspective of someone hoping to be engulfed by life in a seeming Caribbean paradise to escape her first-world problems, only to find all is not as it appears.

Like one of the key ingredients of the cocktail, whipped coconut cream, at first look, it seems like something we know until it is tasted, much like island life.

Throw in a splash of rum, a dash of chocolate, a bit of Canadian sensibility in the form of maple syrup over hot or cold espresso, and you have the essence of One Woman’s Island, a novel that brings together very diverging characters and lifestyles into a wonderful cocktail that entices all of one’s senses in a smooth, but at times bitter sip. A truly enjoyable read that will leave you wanting more, much like an Island In the Clouds cocktail.

D. Erkelens
(This reviewer was the first to review a book, my first novel Island in the Clouds, on this blog.)

And here is the recipe, reprinted from the book, with permission from the author. 😉

Recipe for Island in the Clouds Cocktail

This is a recipe I developed to celebrate my first novel. It combines two of my favourite ingredients – chocolate and coffee. My Caribbean roots are reflected in the use of rum and coconut cream, and my Canadian side by calling for a drizzle of maple syrup.

1-2 shots of amber rum
1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
½ cup espresso, hot or cold
Whipped coconut cream
Maple syrup

May be served either hot or cold.

Mix together rum, chocolate and espresso and add ice if you wish to drink this cold. Top with whipped cream and drizzle with maple syrup.

D. Erkelens and his wife Sharon had all the necessary ingredients on hand, so they decided to try my Island in the Clouds Cocktail and declared it to be delicious! As Sharon said, “How can you go wrong with coconut and chocolate? Tossing in some rum is just a bonus!”

Reorganizing things …

Wow! Did this summer get away from me or what? I can’t believe I’m already packing up the trailer to leave Canada for the winter months as I head back to Bequia in less than two weeks. Where has the time gone?

Salvadore Dali's The Melting Watch

Salvadore Dali’s The Melting Watch

But really, what scares me most about this quicker-than-usual passage of time, is that I didn’t get even half done of what I’d planned to accomplish this summer. I did manage to read a huge number of books, mostly borrowed from the library. But I did not get my novel published (yet) and didn’t do a lot of other things I had hoped to accomplish with my own writing and that of others.

But mainly I fell short on publicizing other authors I’d promised to promote on my blogs, and for that I feel terribly guilty. And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of you, because I won’t be able to get any of this done before I’m settled back on Bequia. I do hope that by the end of Oct. I’ll have managed to get somewhat caught up with those promotions that were promised first earlier in the summer. I’m sorry, but that’s the best I can offer right now. After tomorrow I’ll be travelling to visit friends and don’t know where I will have time or access to internet connections to be able to accomplish much of anything.

So, to those of you who have been patiently waiting to see your promo on Reading Recommendations or this blog, I ask that you be patient a little longer. I’ll get to all of those I have already queued as soon as I can.