March/April Starred BlueInk Reviews of Self-published Books

In Book Review by Edward Nawotka

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 reviews, 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.”

Please note that our first title, The Beach at Herculaneum, has just been awarded the BlueInk Best Book Award. This is our highest honor and only the second time we have bestowed the award. Our first BlueInk Best Book, Carlos the Impossible, was subsequently acquired by McSweeney’s for inclusion in a prestigious anthology.


The Beach at Herculaneum by Susan G. Muth: Winner of a BlueInk Best Book Award, this story centers on Anne McCarthy, who is struggling with terrible grief after the death of her husband and son. She is haunted by nightmares that seem set in another time and language. Meanwhile, centuries earlier, beautiful Daphne searches desperately for her husband and son in the final moments before Mount Vesuvius erupts, destroying the Roman city of Herculaneum, where she lives. As the two women inexplicably find each other through time, their healing begins.

Notes from our critic: “The Beach at Herculaneum is a true page-turner, and readers will feel as if they are racing against time to save the lives of these courageous heroines.” Read review, and find more information about the award.

Flight Into Reality by Greta Manville: This imaginative whodunit features an unlikely pair of sleuths: two elderly mystery authors who may or may not be suffering from dementia. When the two meet on a secluded Caribbean island at the posh resort-cum-asylum their children have committed them to, to live out their golden years, they witness an apparent killing on resort grounds. Undaunted by skeptical authorities, they pursue their own investigation as the body count grows. Manville’s characters are a delight, making for a page-turner readers will savor from beginning to end. Read review.

Lamb to the Slaughter by Pete Delohery: In his novel, Delohery creates moving portraits of three men, each damaged by the brutal world of boxing: Mike McGann, a 32-year-old boxer who has promised his wife one too many times that he’s had his last bout, only to schedule a new fight; his opponent, Rufus Hilliard, who suspects he’s being set up to lose that fight; and Hilliard’s cornerman Charlie O’Conell, who is, indeed, being leaned on by a loathsome gangster to help throw the fight. This hard-bitten yet generous-spirited novel makes a powerful emotional impact. Read review.

Messages from Estillyen: A Novel of Redemption and Human Worth by William E. Jefferson: In this story of spiritual revelation, a young couple travels to the metaphorical island of Estillyen, where monks stage dramatic readings of biblical stories, for refreshment and inspiration. During the trip, they meet a recluse, eventually bringing him out of his years of bitterness, and discover unexpected answers to their own dilemmas. The writing is skilled and poetic, the themes deep. Christian readers will be especially delighted by the creative way the author brings the Bible to life. Read review.

So Long, Tangier by Carlos Sanz: This fine, tightly written novel revolves around Henry Haskins, an Englishman born, bred and living in Tangier who is fading along with the European Imperialism that once surrounded him. As Sanz portrays the change in his character’s environment and the inevitable losses of old age, he delivers a stylish, flavorful taste of a unique city and a powerful story that transcends time and place. target=”_blank”Read review.

 The Runaway Horses by Joyce Kotze: A fine family saga about how war can devastate a family, this story revolves around cousins who find themselves on different sides of the Boer War in South Africa. The plot offers valor on both sides, love, deaths, sexual encounters, court martials and more as the cousins struggle, with mixed success, to maintain their ties across battle lines. Kotze handles all these intricacies with aplomb and flair, delivering a sharp portrait of a time overshadowed by larger events. Read review.

Tacit Agreements by Timothy M. Zuverink: This fascinating novel tells the story of Glenn Ruisdael, heir to a successful, family-run paper manufacturing company who reunites with his brother, Martin, when his grandmother dies. As they come together, they learn about the family, and Glenn begins to reconcile with Martin over his guilt for not taking him in after their parents’ deaths, as well as his belief that Martin disapproves of Glenn being gay. Throughout, Zuverink wonderfully explores the complexity of family ties. Read review.


A Right to Bear Arms?: What Were the Founders Thinking? by Gerald Petersen: In light of recent mass killings in the U.S., Petersen’s book couldn’t be more timely. The author painstakingly deconstructs the Second Amendment, examining the various Supreme Court cases that have interpreted and reinterpreted its meaning. With disciplined fact-finding, thoughtful logic and a deft touch, Petersen makes a convincing case that the Founding Fathers did not intend nor foresee that modern-day, loosely-regulated private gun ownership would become – as some see it – a threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Read review.

Brass Tacks Christianity and Beyond! by Roger L. Bradley: Bradley breaks down the essentials of true Christianity in his no-nonsense compilation of essays that biblically answer some of the basic questions and needs we all face in life. Topics include: God’s perspective on anxiety, unity, loneliness and more. Whether you are a curious non-believer or a new or seasoned Christian, this book is sure to enlighten. Read review.

But One Husband: The Truth About Mormon History by a Woman Who Lived It by Luella Pool Saxby: Drawn from the author’s grandmother’s diaries, this mesmerizing historical autobiography describes Sarah Ann Thirkell Pool’s gripping family journey from England to America during the mid-19th century and the family’s travails as they begin a new life as Mormons. After finally reaching Salt Lake City, the family copes with shock when they find that the rumors of polygamy are true, as well as near-starvation, diphtheria, and the tragic deaths of many children. Honest, heart-breaking and true, the book features dramatic scenes, well-written dialogue and colorful writing. Read review.

Christianity and the Culture of Relativism in the Anthropologies of Joseph Ratzinger and Stanley Hauerwas by Charles Ssennyondo: Written for a specialized audience, this book is a fruitful, heady, astute and expertly executed discussion for scholars and academics, examining the work of two of the 21st century’s most relevant and outstanding theologians: one, resigning Pope Benedict XVI, the other, an outspoken Christian pacifist and fierce critic of liberal and fundamentalist Christianity. Those interested in high theology and anthropology will find Ssennyondo a persuasive writer with a keen intellect. Read review.

Dancing to the Beat of the Drum by Pamela Nomvete: This autobiography is an honest and powerful account of South African soap opera star Pamela Nomvete’s life, delineating her descent into an abusive relationship that eventually led to her homelessness. Living in her Mercedes, she begged strangers to buy the car so she could have money for food. Simply written, yet gripping from the start, the autobiography ends on an uplifting note as the author finds redemption through the kindness of ordinary South Africans. Read review.

Wake Up, Lazarus! On Catholic Renewal by Pierre Hagy: Author of previous books on religion and culture and a committed Catholic, Hegy discusses the decline in religious affiliation through the West, and the specific problems  facing the Catholic Church. He evaluates various renewal programs to determine which have the best chance of strengthening the faith. A heartfelt and well-argued call to action. Read review.

BlueInk Reviews is founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. We offer serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Our reviews are penned by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses.

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About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.