Book Review: The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

The Woman on the Orient Express IIThe Woman on the Orient Express

by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Published September 20th 2016 by Lake Union Publishing

Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.

Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.

Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.

My thoughts:

Agatha Christie is an iconic author of writing mystery and her works still influence many writers and readers today. She is famous for her characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. The story she wrote that has left an impression on me is, Murder on the Orient Express. When I came across The Woman on the Orient Express, I was immediately intrigued and knew that I must read this story soon. Alas, the book has been sitting on my shelf for some time calling out my name in dire neglect!

Here is a book blurb of Murder on the Orient Express:

“The murderer is with us – on the train now…”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…”

Lindsay Jayne Ashford story has Agatha Christie boarding the Orient Express making her way to the middle east. I had no idea that Christie in real life traveled to those places and that really captured my attention even more. I wanted to read what it was like before terrorism exploded in the middle east (Baghdad and Mesopotamia) and being seen through an Engish woman was a nice touch. Christie was an extraordinary woman to say the least and The Woman on the Orient Express shows this.

Her relationships with Katherine Keeling and Nancy Nelson was inspiring to read about. All three of them were unique woman who had secrets about their lives they were afraid to reveal. As they were brought together by the train, they found themselves needing each other more than they would have thought. Another aspect of the story that stuck out to me was the authors description of the middle east and the people that lives there.

This story was beautiful told and the pace of the story was perfect for the era the story takes place in. The author even weaves fiction with fact perfectly and her character development was strong.

I have rated this book four stars and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Book Spotlight: Love in the Rockies by Ciara Knight

I’m really into the history of the American Civil War and I have to admit what first caught my attention about this book is that it mentions the aftermath of General Sherman’s march through Atlanta. I’m curious as to how the author portrays this. I might be giving this story a try in the near future regardless that it’s an historical romance.

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Love in the RockiesSeries: McKinnie Mail Order Brides

Paperback: 212 pages

Publisher: Ciara Knight (July 16, 2017)

Language: English

Josephine McKinnie wants to escape. Escape the aftermath of General Sherman’s march through Atlanta where he burned her land, her home, and her honor. In the hope for a new life far away from her memories and shame, Josephine travels to Colorado to marry a man that will never know the truth of her past. Hope is restored in her life, until she reaches the small town where she faces the disapproving mother-in-law, a man who threatens to reveal her secret, and her marriage bed. Nathaniel Branson needs a wife if he’s to be mayor of Silver Ridge, Colorado, but his mother’s choice will never work. Not if he wants to keep his secret that he’s half a man. With the wounds of war leaving deeper scars than mere physical wounds, he hopes that the sweet woman-his soon to be -will appreciate the finery he can give her, even if he can’t give her the ultimate gift. Children.

Weekend Reading: So many books…

Me III was going to read The Visitors by Catherine Burns this weekend and I started it but couldn’t get into it after the first chapter. I put the book aside and started reading The Woman on the Orient Express and I’m quite enjoying the story. I will probably post a review for it this week sometime. Now, I’m not giving up reading The Visitors. I just think my mood wasn’t right for it at the time and I want to give the book a chance. The premise really intrigues me. -Stephanie M. Hopkins

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The Woman On the Orient Express by Lindsay AshfordBook Description of The Woman on the Orient Express:

Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.

Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.

Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.

The VisitorsBook Description of The Visitors by Catherine Burns/ Pub Date 26 Sep 2017

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….

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Book Spotlight: Jake for Mayor by Lou Aguilar


Me IIWriting stories is an admirable feast of creativity, perseverance, skill, and the deep understanding of the human condition. What makes people tick? I admire writers who go the distance and produce works of art in storytelling. Writers truly give us a destination, an escape from our lives, and the experience to explore different avenues in life we might not have the chance to explore in our own lives. That is truly magical.

There are all sorts of different types of stories. Author Lou Aguilar brings us a unique story of a man name Ken Miller who exploits a dog’s popularity among a group of people and persuades them to elect Jake for Mayor. What a clever and engaging plot-I look forward to reading this story and further sharing my thoughts about this book.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

About the book:

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Ken Miller is having a bad run of luck. After torpedoing his career as a campaign manager, he drives through tiny Erie, Colorado, when a homeless beagle named Jake causes a series of mishaps that lands him in jail. Ken is granted bail on two conditions: that he not leave town before his trial in three weeks and—much to his chagrin—that he not let Jake out of his sight until then. Stuck in Erie as it prepares for a mayoral election, he’s drawn into the local politics by a waitress who vehemently opposes incumbent Charles Dunbar, the only candidate on the ticket.

Unable to resist political adventure, Ken gets a brainstorm. If he can exploit the dog’s popularity among the townspeople and get them to elect Jake as a protest candidate, the publicity will put him back on top. But things don’t go exactly as planned. Ken warms to the dog, falls for the waitress, and employs her teenage son and his gang as campaign aides in a madcap battle with Mayor Dunbar … who has no intention of losing to a dog.

Read what people are saying about Jake for Mayor:

“In the spirit of full disclosure, I own a beagle, and this book is perfect for me, so I may be a bit prejudice (I’ve read “Shiloh” and watched the movies several times). That said, this is not a children’s book about a beagle, but about Ken Miller, a failing campaign manager and lost soul in the political arena (or is that redundant?) yearning for redemption.” -Topdog

“The rule of thumb is, the more absurd and frightening the state of affairs – the more entertaining the satire. Lou Aguilar understands the formula. I will not hesitate to call him a 21st century Thackeray. An indie filmmaker in his other life, he produces a work of fiction that’s cinematic in its delivery. Jake for Mayor will leave you with a profoundly gratifying, wanna-take-a-shower feeling.” -Money In the Mattress

“Jake for Mayor is a quick read full of fun moments, sly commentary and heart. A fish out of water story in the arena of Doc Hollywood, I enjoyed it. A book that can be enjoyed by a people in a vast range of ages.” JWB

“Why not be the campaign manager for a dog? Just think about the dog’s sweet nature and inability to make gaffes or destroy one’s reputation. Then view the dishonest incumbent candidate, Mayor Dunbar, who belittles his constituents who lack power and money. Ken Miller realizes the townspeople love the dog but knows that the Dunbar would rather commit a crime than lose to a dog.” Tess

About the Author:

Lou II

Lou Aguilar was born in Cuba and lived there until age six, when his anti-Castro scholar father flew the family to America one step ahead of a firing squad (for his dad, not Lou). He attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in English, minored in film, and found both to be dependent on great writing. He became a journalist for “The Washington Post” and “USA Today,” then a screenwriter, and finally a novelist. Lou has had three small movies produced, including the cult science-fiction film “Electra” (33rd on Maxim’s list of “The 50 Coolest ‘B’ Films of All Time”). He presently writes only “A” scripts and has a television legal drama and military thriller feature in development. Lou’s last short story, “The Mirror Cracked,” was published in a prestigious horror anthology, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles,” which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Visit Lou’s website

Buy the book at Amazon and  Barnes & Noble.

Read my exclusive interview with Lou Aguilar about Jake for Mayor HERE

A teaser of Lou’s upcoming book: Paper Tigers 

Two ambitious new interns (copyaides) at the Washington Post, a rugged small-town conservative and an Ivy League feminist beauty, match political wits while romantic sparks fly. The question is, can chemistry trump ideology in Trump’s America?

Cover Crush: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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The Septembers of ShirazThe Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappearance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known. As Isaac navigates the terrors of prison, and his wife feverishly searches for him, his children struggle with the realization that their family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.

My thoughts: 

I love everything about this book cover. The title, and the layout. The premise is a profound one and tells of struggles, cruelty and the terror of war and the aftermath. This is a story I’d like to read soon.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Her latest cover crush HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

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Wish-List 5: Alexander Pushkin to the Romanovs

Me IIRecently one of my friends and fellow book blogger shared The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam on Facebook and it recaptured my interest in stories set in Russia during the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th Century. My fascination in those periods lingered for a few years when I was in my late teens and early twenties and then I moved to other periods of history in other countries. Of late I am drawn-again- to Russian history and hope to spare what little free time I have to read these books below.  

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer LaamThe Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam

The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.

At the age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. But while she finds joy in French translations and a history of Russian poetry, her family is more concerned with her marriage prospects. It is only fitting that during the Christmas of 1828 at her first public ball in her hometown of Moscow she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin.

Enchanted at first sight, Natalya is already a devoted reader of Alexander’s serialized novel in verse, Evgeny Onegin. The most recently published chapter ends in a duel, and she is dying to learn what happens next. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya hopes to see him again as soon as possible.

What follows is a courtship and later marriage full of equal parts passion and domestic bliss but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads to Alexander dying from injuries earned defending his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, Natalya finds herself reviled for her alleged role in his death. With beautiful writing and understanding, Jennifer Laam, and her compelling new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, help Natalya tell her side of the story―the story of her greatest love and her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court.

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar A Novel of The Romanovs by Jennifer LaamThe Secret Daughter of the Tsar: A Novel of The Romanovs by Jennifer Laam

A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter―smuggled out of Russia before the revolution―continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica’s passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.

The Tsarina's Legacy A Novel by Jennifer LaamThe Tsarina’s Legacy: A Novel by Jennifer Laam

Then…Grigory “Grisha” Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine’s much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine’s legacy he must save her from Zubov’s dangerous influence and win back her heart.

Now…When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera’s life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha’s descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia’s new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.

In Jennifer Laam’s The Tsarina’s Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.

The Lost Crown by Sarah MillerThe Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

A heart-wrenching, suspenseful look at the downfall of the Russian empire as told through the eyes of the four Romanov sisters.

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand—first headstrong Olga, then Tatiana the tallest, Maria most hopeful for a ring, and Anastasia the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand duchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are young women each on the brink of starting her own life. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together—who link arms and laugh, sisters who share their dreams and worries, and who flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.

But in a gunshot the future changes—for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny—and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood collides with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naïve and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of this great empire. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia.

The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag MontefioreThe Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, with a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin, to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Lenin.

To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six of the last twelve tsars were murdered. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband (who was murdered soon afterward), enjoyed affairs with a series of young male favorites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul I was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who in turn faced Napoleon’s invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever composed by a ruler. The Romanovs climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas II and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution—and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.

Dazzlingly entertaining and beautifully written from start to finish, The Romanovs brings these monarchs—male and female, great and flawed, their families and courts—blazingly to life. Drawing on new archival research, Montefiore delivers an enthralling epic of triumph and tragedy, love and murder, encompassing the seminal years 1812, 1914 and 1917, that is both a universal study of power and a portrait of empire that helps define Russia today.

Be sure to check out my wish-list from last month HERE

Here are the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Stay calm and support book bloggers

 

Award Winning Book: Flank Street by A.J. Sendall

Me IIAs you all are aware of this summer I am selecting award winning books from the indieBRAG Library to add to my reading pile and to feature on Layered Pages. Today I have selected Flank Street. I love a good thriller and this one looks fantastic! If you would like to purchase this story, click on the title and it will take you directly to the indieBRAG, where you will see the buying links.

IndieBRAG’s mission is to discover talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. Their primary focus is fiction across a wide range of genres; however, they selectively consider non-fiction books.

Authors, if you feel your book can meet indieBRAG’s high standards, they encourage you to nominate it, but they cannot make any guarantees that it will pass either the initial screening or the subsequent review by their readers. On average, only 10-15% of the books they consider are awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and are presented on their website and promoted on various social media sites.

Conversely, they do not make public the titles of any books or the names of their authors that have been reviewed but were not selected to receive a B.R.A.G. Medallion.

This award is an honor indeed!

Flank Street

Synopsis

I didn’t set out to write about Micky, or Carol, come to that… but this is how it happened.
The rain was falling steadily, running down the small, below ground-level window, which is the only source of natural light in the boiler-room where I write. For some obscure reason it reminded me of a rain-soaked street in Sydney, Australia; a street I’ve walked down many times, both wet and dry.

As I held that image in the back of my eyelids, a man appeared. Yellow streetlights reflected from the wet tarmac; he walked in the shadow of the plane trees, pulling his hood up against the unrelenting rain. He stopped, leaned against a tree, and waited. Right at that moment, I knew what I had to do.

I didn’t know Micky, but I’ve known guys like him, and so his character was soon defined; a grifter that could never amount to much without living in the shadows.

I hope you enjoy reading Flank Street, I certainly had fun writing it, and missed the daily interactions with Micky and Carol when it was finished. And I hope that one day I can sit and have a drink with them again… one day.

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When Micky DeWitt sails into Sydney, Australia, his only assets are a run-down yacht, his wits, and the skills he’s picked up as a dedicated career criminal.

Shiftless, cynical and dishonest, even with himself, Micky takes a job as a barman in Sydney’s seedy red light district of Kings Cross. He’s a chameleon, seeing himself as both master criminal and chilled-out world sailor. He wants a life on Easy Street, is driven by the desire to ‘get away with it,’ and addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with that life.

Carol Todd is turned on by money and risk-taking. For Carol, there’s no such thing as “enough”. Being an escort to a few wealthy clients is just a means to an end. A couple of underworld connections help, too. But what she needs for her latest con is a fall guy—someone she can use and lose once she’s done with him. And Micky DeWitt looks like the perfect man to fall into her sultry, seductive honey trap.
Playing to Micky’s twisted sense of chivalry, Carol leads him into a hedonistic free-fall. As Micky’s life spins out of control it doesn’t take long to graduate from burglary to arson, then accessory to murder. And no matter which way he moves, someone’s going to get hurt… or die.

“Suspenseful, pithy, unpredictable, and laced with black humour, Flank Street perfectly captures the mood of Sydney’s criminal underworld.”

About A.J. Sendall

A.J. Sendall

I’ve always written, as far back as I can recall anyway. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends, and travelogues to family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head. Since I left England in 1979, I’ve travelled widely, collecting experiences, people, and places as I did so. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I’ve gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first four novels. Others await their future fates.

Although I grew up in Norfolk, UK, I never felt truly at home until I lived in Australia, and that is no doubt the reason my first published novels are set there. All of my books have some element of fact in them. I guess it’s hard for any writer not to include events from their life. Our experiences shape our thoughts, and the words and actions of our characters.
I sometimes wish I’d become a novelist earlier in life, but then if I had, I wouldn’t have the range of characters and events that I do.

After spending much of my adult life travelling, I now live in a remote forest house in Germany with two Mexican dogs, an Icelandic horse, six French hens, and a mermaid who I found at a beach on the north coast of Bequia.

Author Website

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Do you love to read and would like to be part of a reading group who selects B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees?

If you are an avid bookworm, we invite you to become part of the indieBRAG B.R.A.G. Medallion global reader team. In this program, you’ll tell us a bit about yourself and the genres you enjoy reading. We’ll then provide you with digital versions of self-published books (ebooks), using the gifting process at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, and ask for your honest evaluation.

Your evaluation will be combined with those from other readers who read the same book, to help us determine if that author will be awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion, which has become a recognized mark of excellence within the self-published book industry.

To apply you must be eighteen years of age or older, and have at least graduated from high school. You must also have an ebook reader, or be able to download ebooks onto your computer, tablet, or smartphone. If you meet these requirements and would like to apply, please fill out the form below. We will give your application prompt attention and respond to you within two weeks.

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Enjoy your weekend happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins