Saturday Book Review: “Gramma Darling”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of The Fairview Review:

Gramma Darling by Lissa Schroeder

Gramma Darling

by Lissa Schroeder

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478757900


It is truly extraordinary, the difference one woman can make in the life of a child. Beautifully written and stunningly illustrated, this delightful book for children, parents, and grandparents paints a nostalgic picture of unhurried summer days at a dear grandmother’s house. Seen and felt through the eyes of a child, every discovery is full of innocence and wonder; from an attic brimming with treasures to running through the fields at twilight catching fireflies. You will laugh and remember your own childhood and feel as though you are there sharing in all the small adventures of her little world; the baby birds, the gardening, the stormy days, and bedtime baths. And through it all, in the background, is Gramma Darling and her laughter. You sense the atmosphere of nurturing, protection, and worth that she provides; and far more importantly, you get a glimpse into the wisdom of a woman whose genuine genius for simply loving, inspires wholehearted lifetime devotion. It will leave you uplifted and looking for ways to spend quality time with the little ones in your own life.


Schroeder’s reminiscences of childhood days spent at her grandmother’s house make a wonderful picture book. Whether it is the memory of playing in the enclosed front porch during a rain storm while Gramma works at her sewing machine, or Gramma tucking kids in at the end of another long summer day, the memories are full of love and warmth. Anyone lucky enough to have a grandmother like Gramma Darling will feel an instant kinship with the remembrance of delicious desserts made with lots of love or the safety of performing a song or skit knowing that she is always there to applaud. The circular nature of the story is a reflection of the “circle of life,” with the book opening on the scene of a grandchild just learning to walk across the rug and into Gramma’s arms, and closing with a similar scene -but this time with a great-grandchild toddling into those arms.

Doron Ben-Ami’s illustrations are so clear and crisp readers may double-check to make sure that they are not really looking at photographs. The happiness on the children’s faces as they explore in Gramma’s yard, the pleasure on her face as she watches them eat her homemade pie, and the love beaming from her smile as she waits for those hesitant steps to carry her grandchild across the room and into her arms are all captured perfectly. This is a book that will become a family tradition among readers. And what’s better than snuggling in a grandmother’s lap for a read-aloud? (Although offering the recipe for Gramma Darling’s Chocolaty Cherry Cake is also very nice.)

reviewed by Suzanne Costner at The Fairview Review ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:

Remember Grandma and how she was a second Momma to you at times. I remember spending so much time with Grandma especially on the weekends. She lived down the street from us. She had such an influence on me and my sister. This book by Ms Schroeder is simply a loving book that will bring back so many good memories of your own Grandma. The story is based on actual memories. It is the author’s way of honoring a wondering, inspiring and influential person in her life. I remember going to Grandma’s on Saturday. First it was the day you went to town and the grocery store. What a thrill it was when Grandma would take you to Kresgee’s Five and Dime Store and you would get a lemonade at the soda fountain. Then after shopping you would go home and the afternoon was for baking. What wonderful pastries, cookies and treats. This book will take you through the author’s wonderful memories of a childhood spent with Grandma. the reader, will relate so much to this wonderful story of times past, but times fondly remembered. You’ll remember how much Grandma loved you and you definitely will feel it as you turn these pages. Along with the story are some lovely illustrations, simply lovely. At the end of the book is the recipe for Gramma Darling’s Chocolaty Cherry Cake. I tried it and it is yummy. This is a wonderful book to add to a child’s bookshelf and a must for adults also.

– Amazon Reviewer gayle pace

Author Lissa Schroeder has written a beautiful book about her beloved grandmother entitled Gramma Darling. She takes us back to the time when she was young and enjoyed many happy visits with her gramma at her house in a little town in Minnesota. The story is lovingly told and will take you back to your youth if you have ever played in trees, caught fireflies, helped your grandma bake pies or snuggled under a warm quilt in your grandma’s old house with a creaky step! If all children in the world could enjoy the kind of visits this author had with her grandma, there is no doubt the world would be a much better place. And while the story is good and will sweep you and your children away to Schroeder’s life as a child, what set this book apart are the illustrations. They are quite simply some of the best I have even seen and they breathe life into the book on every page. If it were up to me this book would be nominated for both the Newberry and Caldecott book awards it’s that impressive. Gramma Darling is a wonderful journey you can take with your children, grandchildren or the kids in your classroom. Not only is it an engaging story but a visual feast for the senses. I can whole heartedly recommend this book for children roughly ages ten and under. Five Stars.

– Amazon Reviewer terrylynn

Book Trailer:

* = courtesy of the book’s Amazon book page.

saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor


Saturday Book Review: “Checkmate Run”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of BlueInk Review:

allan alexander checkmate run

Checkmate Run

by Allan Alexander

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478765929


The KGB agents are vicious, and they are closing in… His odds of escaping are bleak… Will he prevail although everything is muddled in a treacherous love triangle? Whom can he trust? The inevitable checkmate could bring him freedom … or death. Checkmate Run is an adrenaline rush of a story about a precocious young man’s deadly struggle to survive the brutal Soviet regime. Alex Loevsky is a medical student and an inspiringly rebellious poet. He becomes enmeshed in a breakneck battle against the rampant cruelty of the totalitarian state, where just the desire to think freely is nearly a crime on par with treason, and being born Jewish is more than a mere hindrance.

Alex aspires to be a physician. Despite his top academic standing, he has to overcome unspoken rule that aim to restrict the number of Jews entering medical school. Before sitting his admission exams, he is unable to locate his name on the list of alphabetically grouped applicants. He soon discovers that a special group has been created and that everyone in it, including him, has Jewish-sounding surnames. Finding this odd, he goes to his friend and confidante–his aunt Anna. They formulate a daring scheme to shift his name to the regular group.

Alex gets the highest score in the admission exams, but to his chagrin, he discovers that everyone in the special group has been flunked. Shortly thereafter, with the help of his literary mentor, Andrey Simyavsky, Alex’s poetry gains recognition, and New Word, a coveted avant-garde literary magazine, starts to publish his work regularly. All of a sudden, Andrey is arrested, convicted in a closed trial, and sentenced to seven years of hard labor after his banned novel, Lyubimov, was covertly published abroad. While searching for the secret transcripts of the trial, the KGB murders Andrey’s wife.

Alex, who is suspected of hiding the transcripts, is hounded, severely beaten, and left to die. He manages to escape and runs into Lara, a fellow medical student, who saves his life. Aunt Anna enlists the help of her friend, who now holds the rank of general in the Interior Ministry Force. They devise a plan to shield Alex from the KGB by keeping him in solitary confinement inside the Internal Ministry prison. Six months later, the general arranges for Alex’s release, but with one caveat–Alex is forever barred from creative writing. While incarcerated, Alex is expelled from medical school. The general applies pressure on the corrupt dean, and, with Lara’s help, Alex is reinstated.

A few years pass, Alex witnesses the murder of a dissident who seeks to expose to the Western world the torturous reality of life in the Soviet Union. The murder leads Alex to the core of the dissident’s underground movement. His life becomes a death-dealing game of chess; he needs to remain one step ahead of his ruthless opponent–the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate–and must win the game in order to survive. Unexpectedly, the KGB attempts to recruit Alex as an informant. Being entrapped, he experiences betrayal at the hands of the woman with whom he has had a long and passionate love affair. As Alex and Lara grow closer, their friendship turns into love. They get married, and a year later, they have a son. Concern for their son’s future fires up their desire to escape the country that turned on them. Having nothing to lose, Alex and Lara navigate through the imminent danger of terrifying twists and turns in their bid to cross the Iron Curtain.



Allan Alexander’s compelling autobiographical novel follows an increasingly disillusioned and rebellious young man through a decade in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.

Alex Loevsky is an aspiring doctor, but his heart belongs to poetry. With the encouragement of his intellectual Aunt Anna, Alex begins contributing to the avant-garde journal New Word and mingling in literary circles. But his and his friends’ nonconformist work angers the authorities. In order to continue his studies, Alex must renounce his literary career.

This is only the beginning of the injustices Alex experiences and witnesses. His Jewish heritage, in particular, singles him out for abuse. But institutional anti-Semitism also brings Alex close to Lara Katz, a fellow medical student. Still emotionally tied to a former lover, however, he initially thinks of Lara as only a friend.

Although he has officially given up poetry, Alex continues to mingle in contrarian circles. He helps smuggle the transcript of a dissident writer’s show trial out of the country and carries on a dead man’s crusade to expose the abuse of political prisoners in mental hospitals. Through these adventures, he grows closer to Lara and begins to reconsider his feelings for her. Eventually, Alex and Lara decide to attempt their most dangerous mission: escaping the Soviet Union for a better life.

Checkmate Run occupies a rather uneasy place between the literary fiction and thriller genres. The novel covers so many incidents and experiences that it occasionally feels unfocused. A slightly slower pace and more descriptive passages would allow readers of literary fiction to feel more involved with the characters. On the other hand, although frequently gripping, the narrative lacks the kind of slick, streamlined plot that would appeal to genre thriller readers.

Nonetheless, Alexander’s work offers a fascinating insider’s portrait of Soviet life post-Stalin but pre-glasnost. It’s probably best appreciated by readers especially interested in that time and place, rather than casual fiction readers. That core audience should find Checkmate Run quite rewarding.

reviewed by BlueInk Review ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:

I grew up during the early “duck and cover” days of the Cold War. There was plenty of red scare propaganda back then, but (obviously), we couldn’t read about someone’s first hand experience in the “USSR,” as it was known at that time. Dr Allan Alexander’s book changed all that for me – what an incredible story…of love, of family, of survival, and of perseverance!

Checkmate Run is well written and the prose is tight. Dr Alexander’s precise word choices for describing people and situations make this book a delight for the reader. The author doesn’t waste your time with any unnecessary drivel; everything is well thought out, fast paced and deeply absorbing. I couldn’t put this book down!

I have recommended this book to many people since reading it. I would especially recommend it to those that grew up in the shadows of the Cold War on this side of the Iron Curtain. If this book doesn’t fill you with gratitude for the freedoms we so often take for granted, then perhaps you missed the Preface and didn’t realize that the author LIVED this story!

If I had to identify one thing that I wanted to find in the book, it would be a complete copy of the poem, “The Salvaged Hope.” Since there are multiple references to it, I found myself wanting to read it. Since Dr Allan Alexander wasn’t able to carry any copies of the magazine bearing the publication of his poems out of his motherland, it is possible they are forever lost to us. This is one of the sad tragedies of censorship – history is forever incomplete.

– Amazon Reviewer Judith

Checkmate Run by Allan Alexander is an intriguing story of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. It is a story about one man’s struggle against powers which tried to quash personal expression and ideas that were different than the status quo. The events take place between 1965-1975 as a young man named Alex learns the harsh and life threatening reality that he faces every day.

The story opens with a prisoner getting ready for trial. A trial that is heavily swung in the government’s favor. He is found guilty and sentenced for hard labor. We then meet Alex, a young man who has recently published a poem in a national magazine. A poem which openly criticizes the government. Alex is of Jewish descent and he must use trickery and subversion in order to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor as the government is discriminatory toward the Jewish citizens. With the help of his aunt and her powerful friends, he is able to get into medical school. When a friend and fellow author, Andrey Simyavsky, has been arrested for treason, a series of events occur that will change Alex’s life forever. He vows to fight in any way he can. He soon becomes on the radar of the KGB, the Russian spy and state-security branch, and he must fight quietly and undermine the growing reaches of the government. Will the KGB finally be able to stop Alex? Will he be able to escape?

I enjoyed this book very much. It’s hard to give a description of the book without giving too much away. Every event in the book is a piece of the puzzle, a calculated chess move in which Alex tries to outsmart the KGB and they are trying to catch Alex in “illegal” activities. I always knew about the harshness of life behind the Iron Curtain but to read about it in such detail, it’s heartbreaking. I have a deeper appreciation for the freedoms we have here in the US. We may not like what people say or do, but we can do the simple things like openly criticize the government without fear of losing our freedom or our lives. I was also intrigued of how the book Doctor Zhivago played at role in the story. I must confess I’ve never read the book or seen the movie but now I will. The last few chapters move at a furious pace as the danger greatly increases for Alex. I highly recommendCheckmate Run.

– Reviewer Jennifer Lara of Observations From a Simple Life

Book Trailer:

saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor


Saturday Book Review: “More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of CharlesAshbacherReviews:


More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special

by Dr. Jo Anne White

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478765479


A Top 10 Amazon Best-Seller in 3 Categories! Autism – Special Needs – Children’s Health

Based on a true story, More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special about six children with autism and special needs and their teacher who gives them a chance at learning and life. Despite challenges and a lack of support, Miss Tina Randolph’s commitment to reach, teach, and inspire these children is unwavering.

By accepting their uniqueness and participating in their private fantasy world, while at the same time engaging them in the real world, she eventually succeeds. Tina, her teacher’s aide, Kaye, and the children mount a tireless, daily battle to shift the tide toward the acceptance of people who are different.

The experiment, begun in chaotic, uncharted waters, bridges the gap of understanding and paves the way for the inclusionary practices of education and society’s acceptance of children and adults with special needs. This is a road that continues to need paving, making the messages in More Heaven: Because Every Child Is Special equally relevant today.

The book evolved from an experiment in the Philadelphia school system in the late 1970’s in response to the 1975 Education for the Handicapped Act, ruling that public schools in the US educate all children with disabilities, despite their severity.

Previously, many of these special needs children were kept at home-isolated and denied access to the mainstream. More Heaven is a powerful story of compassion, determination, disappointment, triumph, and love.

More Heaven reaches in from the heart outward to all children; they will be heard!


Five out of five stars

This is a work of fiction based on actual events and it is clear to the reader that it is far more actual than fiction. It is the story of a special needs teacher and her adventures and struggles in educating six children that have a lot of needs.

Given that thirteen years of daily education (K-12) is necessary to prepare the modern child to function in society, progress is almost always measured in small increments. That is even more the case with these children, in general they are in this class because nothing else has worked and their education level is much lower than their chronological age. Furthermore, they are not mentally challenged, underneath their behavior problems there is a great deal of intelligence and capability.

It is a story of struggle, frustration and very slow triumph as these children are gradually coaxed out of their self-imposed (and often defensive) bubbles. As you read this account it is clear how expensive the education of these children is and how important it is that it be attempted. For if they are not drawn out of their shells at a young age, it seems clear that they will never emerge. Leaving long-term institutionalization as the only alternative, which would be far more expensive.

reviewed by Charles Ashbacher ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:


“MORE HEAVEN: Because Every Child is Special” by Dr. Jo Anne White is a powerful book that is well written and heartfelt. Based on a pioneer teacher’s experience of working with children with autism and special needs, it offers rare insight into the minds and hearts of these children. It gives us an opportunity to enter into their inner world, experiencing their challenges and accomplishments. One caring teacher makes a difference in the lives of her students by never giving up and offering them more than education. Her unwavering hope, acceptance and love remain constant and through this constancy, their world enlarges and they expand into learning and trust.”

– Amazon Reviewer Dr. Joe Rubino

A heart-opening look at breakthrough work with autistic children. In these vivid stories drawn from the author’s journals, we step into the room with Dr. White: “When I look again, Eva’s outstretched on the floor, blankly staring out of a glazed smile. What magical incantations do I recite to break the spell?” And later: “Something big is taking place here—real play, non-verbal communication, one-on-one contact, and I marvel at all of it while reminding myself this is a beginning.”

Through the writer’s keen observing eye, we see so much of what is unique about each of six children—their agonies, their victories. “There are no promises though; we live in the moment here.” We come to share the author’s loving wish to nurture the children, and that is a very great thing.

– Amazon Reviewer Fran Shaw, Ph.D.

Book Trailer:

saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor


Saturday Book Review: “The Reluctant Soldier”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of Books, Reviews, etc:

The Reluctant Soldier by Marnie Mellblom

The Reluctant Soldier

by Marnie Mellblom

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478757405


The Reluctant Soldier spotlights the “forgotten war” – Korea, in hundreds of letters written by Neil Mellblom, an Army combat reporter with the Pacific Stars & Stripes and the Third Division’s Public Information Office, the United Nations sanctioned police action comes to life. Neil received the Bronze Star for “aggressive reporting” which made the division one of the best known of the Korean war. It may be the definitive book on a soldier’s life in wartime. Funny, yet deeply moving, it records Neil’s growth from a cocky Montanan to a seasoned adult.


If you are intrigued by historical books that this one will interest you. A soldier, Neil Mellblom, is a combat reporter for the Pacific Stars and Stripes. A collection of over one  hundred letters written by Neil Mellblom of the wartime experience. This is a non-fiction book mainly about his letters to his  Marnie. Will romance bloom during this time of fear? War at some time or another, is inevitable.  There will always be a group of people who can’t or won’t get along with another group. The war in this book, World War II, has forever remained in the hearts and minds of those left behind.  Whether you were part of the war, part of a family in the war or born later, World War II will never be forgotten.  War brings fear, and that fear is from, what is going to happen to me, to us?  War is a loss on all sides, loved ones are lost and souls are scarred for life.  Neil received the Bronze Star for “aggressive reporting”. He wrote of a soldier’s life, the funny, the sad and the transformation of a  cocky Montanan into a mature adult. Any man or woman who goes into the military field, whether it be war or not, should be treated with respect. Some lay down their lives for those at home, those who are friends, family and those who are unknown. The book is well written and has a pace that keeps your attention and yet, doesn’t bore you. Grab a copy of  THE RELUCTANT SOLDIER and journey through the world, seeing it through the eyes of Neil.

reviewed by Gayle Pace of Books, Reviews, Etc  ]

Here’s what another reviewer is saying:

The Reluctant Soldier by Marnie Mellblom is an interesting compilation of letters that her husband, Neil Mellblom, wrote her almost every day between September 1, 1950 as he was waiting to be shipped to Japan, and September 3, 1951, when he is home in Havre, Montana.

Marnie was an Army brat and her father was stationed at Carlisle Barracks. Neil had apparently joined the Army to become a journalist, had been trained as a reporter, working for six months on the Jackson, MI, Clarion-Ledger. Assigned to Carlisle, he met 20-year-old Marnie and they became close. When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Army shipped Neil to Japan where he first worked on the Pacific Stars and Stripes, an independent newspaper within the Army that covers military news. The paper sent him to Korea where he was ultimately assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s Public Information Office.

He assures Marnie repeatedly that he is staying out of danger. “Combat reporter” does not mean being shot at. In fact, it is not clear from the book exactly what he was doing as a reporter. Other than interviewing a Turkish general and having one of his stories picked up by UPI (without credit), he says very little about the stories he was writing.

Instead, his virtually daily letters to Marnie describe—more or less—his daily life first as a PFC then as a corporal during the war. “I got a shower today . . . a real accomplishment . . . they don’t have a fancy shower here—a tin-and-canvas-enclosed area a lard bucket with holes overhead—and a little Korean boy-san pours hot water in it as long as you stay under the bucket. . . . ”

“We adopted a boy today. No kidding, the three of us here found a little guy on the streets and moved him in with us. We checked on him, found his mother is dead, his father is sick, and one ten-year-old brother is roaming the streets somewhere . . . We washed him up, got his hair cut, and outfitted him with clothes. . . ” Six months later, the kid is the group’s houseboy and working as an interpreter.

“We’ve been writing stories on combat awards and decorations. I picked up a file on a lieutenant and a corporal who had been together on the same mission. Except for their names, the citations were identical to the word—they stayed under fire and evacuated about forty casualties. There was only one difference. The lieutenant was awarded the Silver Star and the corporal got the lesser Bronze Star . . .”

Now a personal note: Because I was in Korea for sixteen months, I was particularly interested in reading Mellblom’s book. The Army assigned me to the 7th Infantry Division just south of the DMZ in August 1955. What struck me was how closely my experiences two years after the cease-fire resembled his. He comments on the dust, the cold, the stink of the rice paddies, the Army SNAFUs, the drinking, the heat, the rainy season (Marnie’s letters to Neil were destroyed when his tent flooded), the importance of mail, the food (we said the combat rations we got in the field were better than the powdered eggs, dehydrated potatoes, and reconstituted milk the mess hall served).

Although The Reluctant Soldier contains pictures of Neil in Korea and some shots of Marnie’s family, the average reader would have been helped with a sketch map of Korea showing where, exactly, Neil was writing from. Also, a little more context would help. Neil either does not know what is going on with the war as a whole or he assumes Marnie knows by reading a newspaper and doesn’t bother. But few readers will know about the Pusan perimeter, the Inchon landing, the race to the Yalu, Chosin Reservoir (Neil participated in the evacuation from Hungnam Harbor), and the stalemate after January 1951—all of which would help Neil’s story.

The book contains an epilogue that adds immeasurably to the story. And for me, the book stirred up hundreds of memories. An interesting picture of the kind of war that most GIs experience.

– Amazon Reviewer Wally Wood

Book Trailer:

From the Archives: “Should You Pay for a Book Review?”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: April 15th, 2011 ]

As an author in the self-publishing industry, reviews for your book are very important.  A book published by an unknown author has little chance of gaining attention, while the same book (and the same “unknown” author) with a number of positive reviews can begin to gain momentum.  Those positive reviews can help persuade potential new readers to buy the book and the word-of-mouth continues.

You may have already received reviews from some of your friends or colleagues, so what next?  There are some free review services where you can send a copy of your book.  These services are a great resource; however, because they are free, the reviewers get inundated with books and can’t review every book they receive.  Their services can also take several months and the reviews are not guaranteed to be good.

In addition to free review services, there are some services available where you can pay to be guaranteed a review.  That said, the review is still not guaranteed to be good, but if you are confident in your book (which you should be, after all you wrote and published it!), you shouldn’t need to worry about that.

Here are three pay-for-review services you can start with:


Standard Review is $395 for the review to be completed in 7-9 weeks.

Fast Track Review is $495 for the review to be completed in 4-5 weeks.

BlueInk considers for review any book that has been published (self-published and indie published).  They review e-books, on-demand books, printed books in any format, English translations and English-language submissions from outside the United States, as well as galleys. They do not review manuscripts pre-publication.


The cost is $305 $499* and turnaround time is 6-8 4-6* weeks.

Open to all books and publishers, Clarion promises an objective 400 – 500 word review/critique with a quick six to eight week turnaround. The review will be posted on the ForeWord website (if the publisher desires), licensed to the three top wholesale databases, and made available to the book’s publisher. This service is ideal for books that haven’t received review attention elsewhere.



Standard review is completed in 7-9 weeks for $425.

Express review is completed in 3-4 weeks for $575.

The Kirkus Indie program gives independent authors a chance to obtain an unbiased, professional review of their work, written in the same format as a traditional Kirkus review. A book review can be an essential and powerful tool for promoting your book to literary agents, traditional publishing houses, booksellers, and, most importantly, potential readers.

by Kelly Schuknecht

When it comes to reviews, there’s so much to say that it’s almost inevitable that I would have to update and expand upon what I wrote back in 2011–after all, the world doesn’t hold still for anyone, and that’s certainly true of both the internet and the publishing industry, as well!  You will note that I have already made note of several changes in regards to pricing and timing for the ForeWords Clarion review options (marked with an * each time), but what about the larger picture?  Can we still mount a defense for paid reviews in a world where Amazon and Goodreads are king, where product pages provide ream after ream of short, easy-to-digest reviews from laypeople like you and me–and FREE reviews at that?

national review book reviews

If you suspected I might have a simple and short answer for you, I’m sorry to let you down.  Saying “yes” casts aside all of my many thoughts about the value of those unpaid product reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and saying “no” discounts the ongoing benefits that longform paid reviews still offer.

Let’s start with Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve written in detail about the virtues of garnering lots of good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads before, specifically in my series on Self-Publishing and Merchandising from May of 2015, where I broke down the distinctions between these kinds of reviews and blog-based reviews.  And the statistics speak with resounding and repeated certainty that readers use the metrics provided by Amazon and Goodreads as one of their first and most important decision-making tools.  If readers search for a title they’re fairly certain they’re going to like, only to find that it has lots of poor reviews on Goodreads or a low star rating on Amazon, they’re not likely to follow through and buy it, no matter what else they’ve read that’s positive.  And if readers stumble across a title by accident that they weren’t actually looking for, but it ends up having fabulous reviews, they’re actually fairly likely to pay money to purchase it!  Search engines like Google have tweaked their algorithms to push books that are rated highly on Goodreads and Amazon to the top of their index, so you should never, never discount the importance of asking friends, family members, and other members of the public to post a positive review to these sites.

And what about paid reviews?

While longform essay book reviews have largely become the province of periodicals with paid subscription models like the London Review of Books or the New York Review of Books, they are far from dying out in terms of popularity–they’ve merely found their niche readership, and a powerful one at that.  It’s hard to estimate the exact impact of one positive longform review, but collectively, consider: the discerning reader needs an evaluation of content, of structure, of tone, and of many other aspects of a book’s nature than what can be provided in a brief burst of opinion on Amazon.  The discerning reader wants to know: what do the experts think?  Not everyone is looking for the lowest common denominator of shared public opinion (or so one of my college professors once opined) … sometimes they want to hear from one learnéd voice, in detail, the full warp and weft of a book.  This is why paid reviews are still worth their money–they reach the discerning reader.  And guess what?  Discerning readers are very likely to be a go-to resource to their friends and families, access points for dozens upon dozens of other new readers.  Discerning readers are amplifiers, advocates, and arbiters of your book’s larger footprint.  So yes, we shouldn’t forget about the paid review.  It has a place in the larger scheme of things, the larger framework of reviews and marketing.

They do not determine or reflect the actual value of your book, but good reviews–both paid and unpaid–do determine who is likely to buy it next.


If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Saturday Book Review: “I Love Grass”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of the Midwest Book Review:

I Love Grass by Maria Boston

I Love Grass

by Maria Boston

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781478725688


Do you love grass?

There are so many things to love about grass. We can love the way it looks, the way it smells – even the way it changes its green from season to season! Read on to add to your experiences with grass.

Maria Boston has always written children’s stories. She pulls on her rich experiences from her own and her daughters’ childhoods. “I Love Grass” is her first published book. She lives in Virginia with her two daughters and their dog.


I Love Grass is a textured, craft-filled, illustrated essay on grass for children age 6 and up. Carefully photographed works of textured needlecraft and carpet samples present colored illustrations of a gentle narrative description of grass, progressing through the seasons, exploring the rich colors, different flowers and plants that grow in grass, and living inhabitants of the grass such as bugs, insects, or even humans. I Love Grass is a multimedia celebration of grass, presented in fastidious portraits of creative craft and yarn needlework, incorporating joyous observations of each vision of all the different shades and kinds of grass.

reviewed on the Easy Reader Shelf at MBR ]

Here’s what some other reviewers are saying:

I just received this book and had to review it right away. I absolutely loved it. I review a lot of children books, so I think I know when I see a good one, and I have to say, this is a good one.

First, I have to say I really love the art work in this book. All the pictures are out of yarn. The houses, bench, grass, sky, ground, flowers, etc. It really adds to the creativity of I Love Grass. Each time the “grass” changes, you get to see from the different colors of yarn. I believe this will really hold a child’s attention when they see it. There is also a little grass design on all the pages with words. It is just a beautiful book.

Second, the story. It is just as cute as the book. You can really tell how passionately the author feels about grass and how much she really wants one to love it just the same. Her words are simple, so a younger reader can read it to themselves. One can also learn from it as the author explains the different changes and seasons and shows it along with the pictures in the book. The book isn’t very long so young children’s attention won’t be lost.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I think everyone should get I Love Grass for their kids. They will love it and want to read it over and over again.

– Amazon Reviewer Allergykidmom

I don’t have young children but saw this book on a friend’s coffee table and after reading it, I wanted a copy for myself. What caught my attention was the amazing imagery. It is absolutely beautiful!!! The author created all the images out of yarn. How creative! I couldn’t put it down.

So I read it to my cousin, who is more than 40 years younger than me (see how I didn’t give my age away?) She loved it! She asked me to read it a few more times that night so I’m thinking children really like this children’s book as much as I do.

If you are a fan of table books and or have young children, I don’t think you can go wrong with this book. As an adult, it inspired me to get my creativity on! (I hide it when my young cousins visit though. Don’t want icky, sticky children’s fingerprints all over it!)

– Amazon Reviewer Miss G

There are so many things to love about grass. We can love the way it looks, the way it smells – even the way it changes its green from season to season! Read on to add to your experiences with grass.  I Love Grass is a refreshing return to life’s simple pleasures. The book brings out the nature-lover in every child by calling their attention to this, and other, wonders of Earth.

I Love Grass returns young readers to a simpler time of wonderment over the marvels of the natural world. The newly released book by children’s author Maria Boston is published by Outskirts Press.

The first in a new series of children’s books, I Love Grass offers an alternative focus to today’s juvenile reader. The book draws their attention from the mind-numbing stimuli of electronics and computer-generated graphics back to organic things of beauty. It’s the story of one child’s excitement over something so simply ethereal – an oft-unnoticed and unappreciated patch of grass. Through this overlooked foliage, the young girl learns to appreciate the beauty of Earth’s abundance, and revels in the quiet presence of nature.

Parents will appreciate the lessons in I Love Grass, a book that inspires quiet introspection and helps lay the foundation necessary to build future generations of environmentally conscious adults.

– Blogger Apple Blossom of The Blended Blog

Book Trailer:

saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor


Saturday Book Review: “Pluto the Starfish: An Undersea Tale for Children 1 to 101”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of the Midwest Book Review:

pluto the starfish

Pluto The Starfish: An Undersea Tale for Children 1 to 101

by Bonnie M. Anderson
Illustrated by Malinda Raines

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781478730408


It’s a beautiful day in the crystal blue waters surrounding Buck Island. This magical undersea world, with its glittering rainbow of colors and fine, sparkling sand, is home to Pluto the Starfish…but Pluto is feeling sad and confused. Many of his friends can swim gracefully and swiftly. Some can even breathe air and move about on land, and others are large and fierce-looking. But Pluto can’t even swim! It took him all day to move two feet in the sand near the coral reef. He believes he’s not even good enough to be considered dinner! Pluto wonders why he is so different.

Why can’t he do more things like most of the other underwater creatures? What is his purpose?

Luckily, Pluto has good friends-like Lewis the Lobster, Lolita the Latina Leatherback Turtle and Nancy the Nurse Shark-who teach him that everyone is important and wonderfully different. Pluto the Starfish is a charming, delightfully illustrated book that not only helps children discuss their feelings and fears but it also teaches respect and care for the spectacular and varied inhabitants of our waters. A must-read for children of all ages.


Pluto the Starfish: An Undersea Tale for Children 1 to 101 is a delightful children’s ocean allegory that stars special marine creatures in a search for life’s purpose and meaning. Pluto the Starfish is sad because he has no idea of his purpose in life. He is comforted by many different marine characters, including Lewis the Lobster, Nancy the Nurse Shark, Lolita the Latina Leatherback Turtle, Harriet the Humpback Whale, Konky the Conch, and even a human diver. Answering Pluto’s fear and sadness, Lewis the Lobster tells him: “You are the star of the ocean…You don’t have to swim… or be fast… or be furious…. or even be big. You are our star and you are humble, beautiful and kind. You are a good friend, too. That is your role and we respect and love you.” Pluto the Starfish is an entertaining and imaginative marine fantasy that encourages outside the box thinking while educating about many fascinating facts of marine biology. The expressive illustrations provide living, vivid background to every page of white text.

reviewed on the Fantasy/SciFi Shelf of MBR ]

Here’s what some other reviewers are saying:

Like all truly universal tales, chances are anyone who reads “Pluto the Starfish” will see aspects of themselves in the little guy who feels he doesn’t quite measure up to his underwater friends. But thanks to their kindness and wisdom, Pluto learns that everyone has something to contribute and that “we’re all here for a purpose.”
Apart from teaching little ones about our neighbors who live under the sea, Pluto also imparts lessons about why we must all look out for one another through charming characters, a touching story and illustrations so vivid they jump off the page.

– Amazon Reviewer Gail O’Neill

This is a great tale to encourage children and to show that while everyone has unique qualities and talents, everybody is important and of value. Personally, I found this story oozing with morale, but then this is my personal impression from the POV of an adult which is not the target group and therefore shouldn’t affect the rating of this book too much.

My son really loves the story of little Pluto and his friends, which shows that its simplicity combined with the beautiful pictures meet a child’s perception perfectly. He had a lot of questions regarding the different sea animals and their characteristics as well as each animal’s talent and worth. We had to interrupt reading several times to discuss the story’s details and the book kept us thinking for a long time. His detailed and lasting interest in this charming adventure show that Pluto the Starfish is a fascinating book sure to attract and inspire children.

– Goodreads Reviewer Elke

Book Trailer:

saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor