In our effort to help facilitate the discovery of new titles that might interest overseas publishers for rights deals, we offer the occasional selection of “starred” reviews from BlueInk Review, a service which reviews self-published books.
These are all books that BlueInk Review feels “merit your attention,” and “are of exceptional quality and particularly worthy of representation.”
NONFICTION – TRUE CRIME
Dream Room: Tales of the Dixie Mafia, by Chet Nicholson: The first of three books by the late Mississippi Gulf Coast lawyer, Nicholson provides a treasure trove for those interested in the mythos of the “Dixie Mafia.” Nicholson had unprecedented access to the late Mike Gillich Jr., the Dixie Mafia kingpin, and his wife Frances, and here he dramatizes the events of their lives, punctuated by what appears to be real interview transcripts detailing their squalid crimes. The author has an excellent sense of character and pacing, and the book’s violent beats are in sync with its portrayal of the ignorant but dangerous thugs at the heart of the criminal enterprise. Fans of true crime or movies like Goodfellas will find this sordid epic hard to put down. Author’s residence: Pass Christian, Mississippi Read review.
NONFICTION – MEMOIR
Auschwitz #34207: The Joe Rubinstein Story, by Nancy Sprowell Geise: This exceptional memoir recaps Rubinstein’s life, from the moment the 21-year-old Polish Jew was whisked away in his pajamas on a 33-degree night by German soldiers, through the three years he spent in Nazi death camps, his ultimate survival and success as a high-end shoe designer. Geise writes in the voice of Rubinstein, offering a vivid and authentic narrative that balances the immediacy of Rubinstein’s ordeal with the values that helped him survive it. In all, the book is an invaluable contribution to the literature of the Holocaust. Author’s residence: Topeka, Kansas Read review.
NONFICTION – SOCIAL ISSUES
The Silenced Child: Secrets and Lies, by Dr. Tanya Robinson: In this powerful and unsettling book, a South African child mental health care expert shares stories of children who have suffered abuse within their own families, including children so scarred they play pretend “rape-rape” games in the schoolyard or have been lured into prostitution, gangs and violence. This vivid, raw and haunting account of children caught in the crosshairs gives voice to the voiceless. It should be read by all as a wake-up call toward prevention. Author’s residence: South Africa Read review.
NONFICTION – HISTORY
The Secret Fire: When the Land of the Elephants Turned Red, by Dr. Laurie Jo Moore: In this profoundly affecting book, Moore recounts the history surrounding the horrific Pathet Lao death camps implemented after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Sharing the stories of 12 survivors, Moore offers accounts that are equally gripping, terrifying, and enlightening as she analyzes how each survived. It is impossible for readers to remain unaffected after reading this call to justice. Author’s residence: Queensland, Australia Read review.
NONFICTION – HEALTH
The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us, by Lynn R. Webster, M.D.: Through a series of vignettes, this book addresses the complicated issues involved in grappling with chronic pain, and discusses the many limitations of current pain treatments. The author, who operated a Salt Lake City-based pain clinic for many years and currently leads pain research programs is not only well-qualified to address this topic, but he does so eloquently. Powerful, engrossing and clear-eyed, this is a critical book for caregivers and those dealing with chronic pain — and an eye-opener for all others. Author’s residence: Salt Lake City, Utah Read review.
My Summers in West Africa: The Account of a Medical Missionary, by Dr. Richard D. Evans: Evans recounts experiences and insights gained while working as a medical missionary in a 110-bed hospital in Nigeria. Eye-opening and illuminating, the trips exposed Evans to the region’s rampant infectious diseases, such as AIDS, TB and polio—illnesses that too often proved “swift, efficient, and merciless.” A living, breathing, vividly written guidebook into the heart of the African continent, this book succeeds in its aim to provide a clear-eyed view of what to expect if embarking on a similar expedition. Author’s residence: Ormond Beach, Florida Read review.
NONFICTION – REFERENCE
Visions of Ghana: Decoding Development, by Professor Kwame Addo: This narrative examines the concept of national development through the lens of the author’s native Ghana. Addo believes Ghana can be a role model for other nations, postulating that if the country can remain democratically open and transparent, it can attract more tourism and wealthier investors. The author examines the country’s development at basic levels, from upgrading slum areas, to paying attention to local politics and modernizing education. With copious illustrations and composed with idealism and practicality, Visions of Ghana is both a textbook and a blueprint for all developing nations. Author’s residence: Ghana Read review.
The following books did not receive Stars but were highly praised by our critics.
FICTION – GENERAL
Walking Home: Via the Appalachian Trail, by Michael Herrick: Herrick’s compelling novel traces two journeys on the Appalachian Trail: one made decades ago, the other in the present; one by a young man facing his future, the other by a disheartened middle-aged man unsure how his life got so far off track. Both hikers seek answers to universal questions about life. A great-escape read, this story examines what it means to be human while looking at the differences and broken pieces in all of us. Author’s residence: Nova Scotia, Canada Read review.
Lily’s Story, by Don Gutteridge: Elegant, richly detailed, and colorful, Lily’s Story is the saga of formidable heroine Lily Fairchild. Orphaned young and bright but unschooled, beautiful Lily is seduced by princes and aristocrats before falling into a small town slum where she finds herself scrubbing sheets for a brothel. In Dickensian fashion, Lily suffers a deeply tragic and fascinating life, losing two children, three husbands, and a house as she strives for any type of hard-won triumph. Likely to please history buffs as well as fiction lovers in general, the story’s precise, colorful, and witty prose is not to be missed. Author’s residence: London, England Read review.
FICTION – HISTORICAL FICTION
To End All War, by Nicholas Lambros: Extensively researched, this WWI historical novel follows three siblings’ separate paths in France as they hope to aid the war effort in the time before the U.S. formally declared war. From air combat missions to a field hospital and skilled cloak and dagger work, the siblings’ tales overlap and intertwine, leaving readers caring deeply about them by tale’s end. This is an epic novel that deserves a large and appreciative audience, ideal for history buffs, fans of grand family tales, or just solid, quality fiction. Author’s residence: Monkton, Maryland Read review.
Tinctures and Tantrums, by Laurie Campbell: This final, compelling volume in Campbell’s All Manor of Yarns trilogy, about a genteel Prussian family in the 1860s, tells the story of Otto von Goff and his invalid wife, Hildegard, who refuses to eat, lashes out at her servants, and believes that there are bandits hiding in the stairwell. Meanwhile, their 10-year-old daughter remains carefree as she fills her time with riding lessons, helping the servants, and planning a surprise party for her father’s upcoming birthday. Hildegard’s illness rules the story as Campbell masterfully delivers excellent dialogue and a wealth of period detail. An enriching reading experience, this should be lapped up by history buffs and fans of Downton Abby alike. Author’s residence: BC, Canada Read review.
FICTION – CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS
On Grandaddy’s Knee, by Lorraine Wilson: Wilson’s picture book offers a kid-friendly entry into the world of poetry. Emotionally and structurally diverse, these 20 poems range from light and fun, to mournful and elegiac. Kenn Yapsangco’s vibrant and colorful illustrations provide an excellent companion to the poetry. This is an admirable collection that skillfully relates to children’s lives while showing them ways to address those experiences in verse. Author’s residence: Victoria, Australia. Read review.
Sally Loves…to Dance! by Jody Mackey: With its simple but lovely illustrations brimming with motion, this picture book is part of a series about the many things that Sally loves to do. In this case, she enjoys everything from ballet to disco, but her favorite style of dance is hula — and to Sally’s great delight, her friend invites her to perform in an upcoming luau. The soft, flowing, whimsical illustrations that accompany the story of Sally’s dedication to her hobby are not to be missed. Author’s residence: Tucson, Arizona Read review.
FICTION – MIDDLE-GRADE
Dogs Don’t Talk, by Nancy May: Sixteen-year-old Benjamin has just finished his sophomore year and is feeling lonely. He dreams of attaining three things: a “reasonably hot” girlfriend, respect from his fellow wrestlers, and more attention from his mother. In an attempt at self-psychoanalysis, he recounts stories from his childhood, including the trials of growing up with his autistic brother Johnny. As readers follow Ben through the summer and into his junior year, they will find a funny, warm-hearted and engaging story, as well as fast-moving dialogue that delivers both laughter and touching moments. Author’s residence: Stafford, Virginia Read review.