Book Reviews

Meet Amy Shannon—Writer, Blogger, Book Reviewer

I am pleased to interview writer, blogger and book reviewer Amy Shannon. She is a prolific author who is dedicated to providing book reviews for indie authors on her website, Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews. On her second website, Amy Shannon: The window to my soul, starts with a blank page, she promotes her own work as well as provides promotion services for other authors, When I sent her my new novel, The Book of Revelations https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088F1P1SY, Amy promptly read it and posted her review. She also included my book review among a group of her other reviews in a special section of the e-magazine, Uncaged Reviews (www.uncagedbooks.com). As you will read in this interview, Amy’s work in the writing world is extensive and has recently expanded to podcasts.

1.) Q. Amy, please tell me about yourself and your writing career.

     A. I have been writing since I was a young girl but telling stories long before that. My mother used to call me her little storyteller because I was always making up stories or giving my own version of stories I have read. For a long time (and still do sometimes) I wrote poetry and short stories. In 2004, I started writing what I thought was a short story but ended up being a full-length novel. I published my first book Unwritten Lifein 2005 (since then it’s had several printings and updates). After that, stories were so much easier to write and they came to me so easily, but I kept going back to the characters in my first book, Unwritten Life. To date there are 67 volumes plus nine bonus books (it’s called the MOD Life Epic Saga).

 2.) Q. Tell me about your blog.

      A. I have two blogs. The first one I call my author blog, which is where I promote my own work and I also offer services to promote other authors’ works, especially indie authors. My second blog is Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews and that was started in 2014. To date, I have served over 1200 authors (and read and reviewed over 1800 books since then).

 3.) Q. What made you decide to become a book reviewer as well?

      A. At the beginning of the year 2014, I met an author online through LinkedIn. We were thinking about doing some book reviews together. At first, we were going to read each other’s work and write honest and unbiased reviews. Renee wrote children’s books that focused on children having cancer. I read all of hers but she was only able to read a few of mine. Her books were something very close to her heart. She herself had cancer and lost her battle that September. We were going to open our own blog together doing reviews but then she was gone, so I continued to do what we were going to do. The original blog was very raw and eventually, I found a new home with a better blog, which is what I have today. 

 4.) Q. Which writers are your role models and why?

      A. I am a big fan of classic work such as Walt Whitman’s poetry and stories, as well as William Shakespeare’s tragedies, but I really love his sonnets the best. I still read Edgar Allan Poe’s work, but I also read current authors such as James Patterson and Stephen King. I also think of all the authors that I read as role models and their writing as learning experiences because I can see a variety of writing styles. It’s not only shows me what I could challenge myself to write like but also a way that I would not want to write.

 5.) Q. What genres are your favorites? Do you turn down certain kinds of books?

     A. If I had to say I had a preference for specific genres, I would say crime genres and crime procedurals, as I like James Patterson’s Alex Cross series and his Women’s Murder Club series. I’ve also started reading Kathy Reich’s books and her Temperance Brennan series. I also like to read biographies about presidents and first ladies, interesting persons, whether it be someone famous or just an ordinary person’s memoir.

 The only books that I’ve ever turned away were books that were not in a published-ready state. Some authors in the past have sent me their rough drafts to read and I had to turn them away, but I’ve given them the option to resubmit for a review after the book has been edited thoroughly. I read genres of all kinds from any author. I’ve read everything from erotica to self-help to religion and politics, plus all types of fiction and all types of nonfiction. I’ve even reviewed books that I personally didn’t agree with the content, so I wrote the review based on the writer’s ability to write. I can pretty much deal with any subject matter, so it’s more about how it’s written than what is written.

 6.) Q. Being a writer, a blogger, and a book reviewer, have you noticed any latest trends in the publishing industry? 

     A. I know that trends come and go, but I think one of the biggest trends is being an indie author. In some cases, there is still a stigma to being an indie author. I hope with my reviews that I can show that most indie authors deserve to be read because their stories are great. Sometimes I find a gem that I wouldn’t have normally sought out.  I think the digital version of books is a trend that won’t go away and will get better with the different types of technology, but I think that paperback or print books will always have a place on someone’s shelf. I do see an increase in audiobooks and if I have read a paperback or a digital version and they want me to also review their audiobook, I will get the audiobook and listen to it, so I can also review on the narration and tone of the story. 

 7.) Q. You have accomplished quite a bit, including providing a valuable service for authors. What are your career goals for the next few years?

     A. I try to do what I can for any author. Sometimes I have to charge small fees for editing, proofreading, or other promotional services. I do take part in blog tours on my author blogs. Unfortunately, this past year I have been diagnosed with a tremor disorder which affects my ability to hand write and type. Actually, I’m filling out this interview using voice recognition and dictation. I hope in some way to be able to still tell my stories and I’m getting used to dictation software. Though I have thought about disbanding my book review blog, I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I would love to write again, even if it is short stories or poetry because writing is my passion and telling stories is in my soul.

I also co-host a podcast with author McKensie Stewart and it’s called The After Show. It runs on most Fridays except holidays and breaks between seasons. We are always looking for more guests and ways to increase our audience because it’s an outlet to help authors, especially indie authors, tell their story.

 8.) Q. How has the pandemic affected your business? I know the publishing industry has been hard hit. As someone who published a book this year, I am finding it difficult to promote. I must add that unlike you, many reviewers are not reviewing books now.

      A. I don’t think the pandemic has affected my business. However, I’m not getting as many requests for doing promotions, but I’m getting requests for reviews from authors who have written more than one book during the pandemic. 

 9.) Q. Before the pandemic, were you attending writing groups on a regular basis? Do you attend writer conventions? How do you network with other authors?

      A. Actually, I don’t really attend writing groups or conventions. I’ve network with other authors and make connections through email and social media. Usually we meet because I’ve read their books. I also connect with editors, publicists, publishing companies, and other author representatives. Usually once they send me one author, they send me more authors. 

 10.) Q. How many books have you written? Tell me about your books and what inspired your writing.

       A. In total and under three pen names I have written 114 books. Last year I retired two of the pen names and this year released as their final release a collection of all my books for one purchase. Under my name, Amy Shannon, I have written over 96 books and that is including poetry and my large epic saga. I have probably written my last full-length novel, but I have enough books written that I can continue to just publish those books until the year 2034 or more, depending on my releases. I have actually scheduled all my releases up to that year.

 As for inspiration, everything inspires me: my surroundings, other authors, and my observations of people. 

 11.) Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?

A. I am a big supporter of the indie author community. And basically, my goal for my life is to be an inspiration for someone else. I am a lifelong learner and I like to share what I’ve learned with others.

I would like to thank Amy for participating in this interview. I must also add that she works quickly. How do I know this? I gave her my interview questions in the late afternoon one day, thinking I would hear back from her in at least a few days, but she sent me back all her answers early the next morning!

 To learn more about Amy, including her contact information, the following are her links:

Author Blog: http://writeramyshannon.wixsite.com/amyshannonblog

Website: https://writeramyshannon.wixsite.com/stories

Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews: http://writeramyshannon.wixsite.com/bookshelfreviews

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amyshannonnovelist/ and https://www.facebook.com/bookshelfreviews/

Twitter: @amyshan_author

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy and The Book of Revelations. She is a freelance writer, copyeditor, and proofreader.

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Book Review: The Friendship List — The Power of Good Friends

During this highly unusual time of COVID-19, I believe it is beneficial to read books with a happy ending because all of us need to feel hopeful when we are under stress. The news is filled with people catching the virus, losing their jobs, and feeling depressed because they cannot socialize. We are all hoping for an end of this novel virus, but in the meantime, why not read an engaging novel with a happy ending?

Therefore, I wrote my book review about such a book. The Friendship List by Susan Mallery takes us back into the world before COVID-19. People can get together, go to other people’s houses without fear, eat in restaurants, etc. Two lifelong friends find they are in a rut and need to try new things and actually live. One of the women is 34-year-old Ellen Fox, who accidentally became pregnant at 17 and was abandoned by her boyfriend before the baby’s birth. She has been raising her son and supporting him while never venturing into the dating world. Her friend, Unity Leandre, also 34, married her husband at 18 and became a widow at 31. She keeps her late husband in her heart and has never dated since. These ladies make a pact: Each writes a list of things she wants to do and whoever actually accomplishes the most on her list will pay for the two of them to go to a luxury spa for a weekend. A few of their goals include having a serious relationship with a man, getting a tattoo, and skydiving.

Both women have issues that are holding them back, but I am not going to give the whole plot away. Although I winced when people hugged and kissed because I am now conditioned to not do those things during COVID-19, I eventually got into the rhythm of the story and forgot about our bizarre times. By the time I finished The Friendship List, I found the ending so heartening that I had to write a book review. We cannot hug and kiss our friends or have get-togethers now but it is still a joy to have them in our lives.

As for Ellen and Unity’s boyfriends, there was hugging and kissing in greater detail than I am normally comfortable with reading. Personally, when I write, I think these things are better kept to the reader’s imagination. Of course, for those who do not share my opinion, I shall say there is no lack of bed scenes in this story.

The Friendship List is about overcoming challenges and the highs and lows of taking chances in the quest to live a full, satisfying life. It is also about the power of a great friendship that gives us not only love and support but also many happy times. Susan Mallery is an extremely gifted writer, and reading her book was such a delight that I had to write a book review on my blog to recommend it to others battling the COVID-19 blues.

Idelle Kursman is the author of two novels, True Mercy and The Book of Revelations. Both can be found on Amazon.

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Two Reviews for The Book of Revelations

I am proud to receive two reviews for my new novel!

One is from Amy Shannon, a noted book reviewer who runs the website Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews. I highly recommend her site for reviews on a wide variety of books. Amy wrote the following:

“Kursman pens a magnificent story in The Book of Revelations. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were intense and very intriguing. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. It’s a powerful read, and so intense, with both heart break and heart fulfillment. This definitely kept this reader turning the pages. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. I have fast become a big fan of (this author). I look forward to reading more by this author. This book is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.”

The second is from Diane Donovan, an editor who runs Donovan’s Literary Services. Diane also writes reviews for Midwest Book Review, a highly regarded as well as affordable book review site. Diane herself offers an array of services for writers seeking help to improve their writing. She wrote the following about The Book of Revelations:

“In The Book of Revelations, Christine Goldberg has struggled for a large part of her life to get to the successful point she enjoys today, with a family, a good job, and security. All this is threatened by the emergence of an ex-boyfriend who is in search of the apex role in his acting career, the only thing that thus far has remained elusive to him. 

Ryan Monti is fixated on his goal, shallow, self-centered, and a part of her past that Christine didn’t want exposed. He’s also successful. His success hasn’t led to contentment, but to an obsession which has led him to being considered one of Hollywood’s shining stars. 

When blackmail enters the picture to complicate Ryan’s life, his uncertain relationship with girlfriend Megan, and his reconnection with Christine, it throws them both together despite their feelings about the past, and everything begins to change. 

Idelle Kursman builds a fine story where the past intersects with the present in two very different lives and personas. She paints a fine portrait of Christine, who faces life with the professional demeanor of a businesswoman with more savvy and independence than her younger self; and Ryan, whose personality hasn’t veered much from his obsessions and uncertainties even as he’s cultivated uncommon success in his life. 

Ryan’s feelings about reporters mirrors his casual use-them-and-drop-them attitude about everything in his life, from his girlfriends to his colleagues: ‘Ryan had no real relationships with other journalists or anyone else in the media. He considered them a nuisance and always tried to avoid them by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and nondescript clothing in public.‘ 

At first, it’s hard to see the connections between these two disparate individuals aside from their early encounter. The surprise lies in their evolution and shared revelation over a closely-held secret that holds the power to change Ryan’s life like nothing else. Ryan grows and changes throughout the story, finally developing into the man he should have been all along. 

The Book of Revelations explores different kinds of revelations, confrontations, and changes. It considers how one door opens as another is still closing, and explores changed concepts of family connections, trust, and truth. 

Readers interested in a chronicle of lies, truths, and revised lives will find The Book of Revelations an emotional ride into the choices and consequences of two disparate individuals who find their lives coming full circle in unexpected ways. It’s highly recommended reading for those who like to see their characters evolve later in life, and for readers who know that no story is set in stone until the end of life.”  

I would like to thank Amy Shannon and Diane Donovan for their wonderful reviews and support! Readers, don’t forget to check out Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews and writers, please consider using Donovan’s Literary Services. I highly recommend both of their work!

The Book of Revelations is available on Amazon in print and ebook.

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New Review of True Mercy

I am very excited to post Amy Shannon’s recent review of my first novel, True Mercy:

Kursman pens a magnificent story in True Mercy. I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed this story. The characters were intense and very real. The author’s writing style is perfect for this story. Reader, enter the despicable world of the sex-slave trade. It’s an intense story about survival and caring, and the addition of an autistic character, makes this story both poignant, and interesting. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. I look forward to reading more by this author. This book is definitely highly recommended by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews. A very powerful, raw and gritty read, with high emotions and aptly placed humor and reality.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. ~Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Thank you, Amy!

http://writeramyshannon.wixsite.com/bookshelfreviews/top10

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Book Review: The Authenticity Project

The Authenticity Project is the perfect book to read when you are forced to stay at home and need some cheering up. Needless to say, the coronavirus has put a serious damper on all of our lives.

Appearances can be deceiving. You never know what other people are going through. In this story, a random set of strangers find out about each other when they leave behind a book titled The Authenticity Project. As each person finds the book, they connect with those who had previously written about their most agonizing personal issues and add a section about their own. A pervading theme is loneliness. When the characters find each other, their relationships involve helping one another by performing incredible acts of kindness. This story could have fallen into syrupy sweet sentimentality but doesn’t for a moment.  

It begins with an elderly artist who previously had a prominent career but has now been living as a recluse for the last fifteen years. When he leaves the book behind in a cafe, the café owner finds it. The single cafe owner is in her mid-30’s and is desperate to get married and have children. She meets the artist, encouraging him to go out. He even agrees to teach art lessons in her establishment. People attend and not only learn to draw, but end up bonding with one another. The cafe owner then misplaces the book, only to be found by an alcoholic and cocaine-addict seeking to clean up and lead a better life. The book continues traveling with other characters finding it and joining the others. The events and humor keep moving the story forward.

Although I guessed the ending, The Authenticity Project gives one a renewed faith in humanity and brings the reader happy feelings at a time when we don’t have many reasons to feel joyful.

A note: When I read the brief biography about the author, Clare Pooley, I learned she is married with three kids. She worked in the advertising world for twenty years. Just when I thought she had it all, she confessed at the end of the book that she is a recovering alcoholic. It goes to show you. Appearances can be deceiving. You never know what other people are going through.

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