Book Review & Free Book Offer: A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories by Clare Flynn

A Fine Pair of Shoes and other storiesMy thoughts:

Award Winning Author Clare Flynn writes a collection of nine short-stories. She shares with her readers’ tales of the past to the modern day. It is not often I review short-stories, so I was delighted to agree to this project. I enjoy how Clare cleverly weaves these intriguing short tales. I’d have to say the first two stories and the story about two people’s trip to The Great Exhibition of 1851 are my favorite and I would love for her to expand of the character’s lives with a possible novel or maybe further short stories. One can only hope. What brings even more value to two of the stories in this collection is Flynn’s family history-or based on I should say. You get a glimpse into her family and find charming, heart-felt and extraordinary people.

In the last two chapters, Flynn shares with us the first two chapters of her upcoming novel, The Chalky Sea. My review for that powerful story will come soon.

Overall I have rated this collection of art four stars while giving a few of them a three-star rating. The overall presentation of the book was superbly done starting with the book cover and title. I hope to see more short-stories like this from the author and look forward to reading The Chalky Sea!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

You can download A Fine Pair of Shoes by Clare Flynn HERE now through June 30th.

About Author:

Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with a strong sense of time and place and compelling characters. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced – forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.

Born in Liverpool she is the eldest of five children. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea.

When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.

Author links

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

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Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Books

Award Winning Book: A Song for Bellafortuna by Vincent B. LoCoco

me-iiAs you all are aware of this summer I am selecting award winning books from the indieBRAG Library read add to my reading pile and to feature on Layered Pages. Today I have selected A Song for Bellafortuna. As an avid historical fiction reader and a love for history this story looks right up my alley! It you would like to purchase this story, click on the title and it will take you 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!

A Song for Bellafortuna IIIA Song for Bellafortuna by Vincent LoCoco

A SWEEPING EPIC TALE OF LOVE, DRAMA, SACRIFICE, AND REDEMPTION, SET AMONG THE BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE OF SICILY.

The beautiful, yet secluded, hilltop village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, is a great producer of wine and olive oil. The entire village prospers. However, after the arrival of the Vasaio family, production dwindles and the villagers soon find themselves in crushing debt to the Vasaios. Only the Sanguinetti family remains outside the control of the Vasaios, but the reason haunts Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life, and he offers financial and emotional support to his fellow villagers. When Antonio’s only son, Giuseppe, discovers his family’s past, he becomes determined to take on the Vasaios and remove them from power. Led by the young Giuseppe, a plan is hatched that could result in either complete freedom for the villagers, or if it fails, forever solidify the Vasaios’ control.

Find out what happens in A Song for Bellafortuna.

About Vincent LoCoco

Vincent

Award winning and bestselling author, Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco, lives in New Orleans. His first novel, Tempesta’s Dream – A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera, became an Amazon bestselling novel and was awarded the 2014 Pinnacle Achievement Award in Historical Fiction. Amazon also has named his book as a Top Rated Novel in Italian Historical Fiction.

His most recent novel, A Song for Bellafortuna, was shortlisted in the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Competition and was named a Best Reads for 2015. He is an estate planning attorney in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Author Website

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indiebrag read for free banner

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.

Become a reader HERE

Enjoy your week and happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Golden HillGolden Hill

A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

Scribner

General Fiction (Adult)

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a counting house door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when I picked up this book to read and review. It seemed to have everything I have been looking for in a story. Male protagonist, an early New York setting, intrigue, and a mystery of a man no one knows and everyone is talking about him. When people meet him he is intelligent and speaks eloquently but gives very little of himself away. Meanwhile, as he waits for his “thousand pounds” to be legitimized-if you will-he meets many interesting people and gets himself into some trouble.

The major points in the story for me was the beautiful prose, brilliantly drawn characters and time and place of the story. However, I will have to say as I got further into the book the prose was getting to be too much and it seemed to take away from the plot and my eyes started to gaze over somewhat.  To me there are too many unnecessary prose in the book that did not enhance the story-line however “literary” people might find Golden Hill.

Overall the plot needed to have more substance and to be fleshed out more. Having said all this, I am rating this book three stars and five stars for the cover.

I obtained a review copy of Golden Hill through NetGalley from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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The Importance Of Subsidiary Characters In The Novel With Darius Stransky

As writers and readers you are all aware of the main character (MC) in the books you read.

The MC is the one who gets all the best lines. The shining star in the firmament of the book; the one who takes centre stage and hogs the limelight; the one who gets the bouquet at the end of the performance; the one everybody talks about. But consider this; a novel is not a one-man show is it?

Most writers have a framework to work to. A plot that employs many devious stratagems to keep their readers enthralled. Within the confines of a novel (most novels) are many subsidiary characters and woe-betide the writer who fails to listen to the voices of their supporting cast. Let me give you an example …

The King's Jew Book OneIn the first book of “The King’s Jew” on the evening of Wednesday, September 9th in the year 1238 (there’s a clue to the setting of the novel) we meet a minor character called Mathew. He’s a fifteen-year old soldier in the service of an influential lord.

Mathew enters stage left (to use a theatrical term) in Chapter Three; page 9 of the paperback version. His opening lines (as written by the Director – me) are as follows … “He’s killed the lord’s pig, Robert. He’ll have our guts for this. I said the rope wasn’t strong enough!”

Now, dear reader, I won’t bore you with the gory details of this unassuming opening remark but, suffice to say, I envisaged Mathew as a walk on / walk off character. Sort of a trainee actor, a youngster who fulfilled his part, read his lines, got paid and went back to wherever he came from. Simple eh?

Imagine my surprise when in the timescale of the novel, fourteen years later in Chapter Twenty-two on Tuesday, April 9th 1252 on page 101 Mathew returns. WTF! Who invited him? He certainly wasn’t in my mind!

Let me explain – this part of the story required a letter to be delivered to our then thirteen-year old MC urging him to undertake a journey. A group of men had been sent to fetch him and the leader of this gang of roughnecks turned out to be the now twenty-nine year old Mathew! He appeared unbidden in my train of thought and there was no way I could refuse him this second chance of fame. It was as if he was taking part in an impromptu audition.

During Mathew’s journey with my then young MC I learned a lot about Mathew. In a world where the Christian religion is fundamental to everyone’s life and the reality of Hell was as real to thirteenth century man as the fact that birds fly and ducks swim, Mathew stood apart.

He mocks the Cistercians at Beaulieu Abbey (I didn’t know that until he refused to take his gloves off when offered a bowl of water to ‘purify’ him before entering the Abbey) He admonishes the brother by saying; “You stay here, little brother and pray for our immortal souls, for mine is in sore need of intercession. Pray loudly now for Heaven is far away for one such as me.”

The thing is, although I wrote those words it was Mathew who spoke them. He spoke them to me, the writer. Unbidden, this subsidiary character was carving out a roll for himself. Indeed, Mathew was writing his own unique script and there was nothing I could do to stop him!

Believe me I tried to limit Mathew’s effect on my MC. Sounds as if I’m looking for a get-out clause doesn’t it? Really, I tried but an interesting subsidiary character sometimes will never be silenced and as my novel continued I realised the effect he was having on my MC.

The King's Jew Book TwoTalking of MC’s – My main character is a thirteenth-century person named Cristian Gilleson. “The King’s Jew quartet revolves around him and his ‘friend’ the future King of England, Edward the First. Other main characters are real people; the Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare; Edward’s father King Henry III, Simon de Montfort the rebel leader of the Second Baron’s War and many more. So how did a rough tough, gruff, violent, blasphemous man such as Mathew elbow his way into the script?

We next meet Mathew in Bordeaux in Chapter forty-one, page 235, on Tuesday, June 22nd, 1255 (notice Mathew disappeared for three years yet here he is again!) I recall when writing that particular chapter that I was shocked when he turned up again but Mathew was by now a man with a mission – a mission to take care of and serve our MC, Cristian Gilleson. Is there no stopping this rebellious character I thought?

And sure enough there was no way to rein this character in. By his actions he cemented the bond between himself and our then sixteen-year old Cristian and, by his actions and examples began to shape our hero’s life and attitude.

There is an old saying that goes as follows “Many are called but few are chosen.”

Bloody hell! I just checked the source of those words and it seems that Mathew is looking over my shoulder and manipulating this humble novelist as we speak! The above ‘saying’ is taken from the Bible, Mathew 22:14. My subsidiary character now has me quoting his namesake!

But let’s return to the phrase “Many are called but few are chosen”. In the context of this article I urge you writers out there to take heed of it. In essence just think of the person doing the ‘calling’ as one of your minor characters. He or she is calling out to you and begging you to bring them deeper into your novel. Such vociferous subsidiary characters need to be listened to; need to be ‘chosen’. I urge you to listen to their plaintive calls and allow them into your work for it will be all the better for it.

So what happened to Mathew I hear you ask? Did he take centre stage for a while and then disappear back to the chorus line? The answer is simple and can be found in books two, three and four of “The King’s Jew” series.

I will however tell you that Mathew has a greater role to play in the subsequent books. By his actions in book one he cajoled me, conned me, and threatened me in no uncertain manner to let him stay in the novel. Mathew is not the sort of man you’d like for an enemy yet he is loyal to those who match up to his uncertain moral standards. I like Mathew, he is my friend and I would drink with him in a crowded bar in the full and certain knowledge that it would be a night to remember.

In summation I beg you writers out there to listen to the voices in your head when writing, keep your options open and an eye out for new up and coming players.

As for you readers out there you may never know the extent of the effect that a subsidiary character has had on the MC. It takes two to tango and it is the sum total of ALL the players that lead to a successful production.

PS – Mathew was born in 1233 and died in ….? That is one aspect of the books that I have not yet finalised. I have been dreading writing Mathew out of the series for such a long time which I think may be the reason that I’m delaying publishing the final book in the series. Don’t ask me to kill off my friend, let him live a while longer in my mind. I can tell you this though … it will be a death the likes that few have ever seen and will echo down the ages for time evermore.

Mathew wrote those last 21 words! He’s at it again, bless him!

 ENDS

 BIO of Darius Stransky

Darius Stransky

Darius Stransky spends far too much time in the thirteenth century. Prior to that he has been a weekly columnist, broadcaster, journalist, teacher, un-civil servant and many things in-between. Part English Gypsy, part Irish he remains mixed up and loves every minute of his life. He lives in Cheshire, England. The main thing about Darius is that he has lots of time for readers and writers. If you need any help just give him a SHOUT. Oh and he likes real beer and real people – well most people. Cats, yeah he likes cats because they are quiet and solitary. Bit like Darius really!

Email Address

Website

Amazon

Link to The King’s Jew Book One

Link to The King’s Jew Book Two

You can find him on Facebook as Darius Stransky

 

Cover Crush: Solitaire: A Captivating Novel of Intrigue and Survival in Wartime Paris (Clara Vine #5) by Jane Thynne

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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Solitaire A Captivating Novel of Intrigue and Survival in Wartime ParisJune 1940: the first summer of the war. Berlin is being bombed and nightly blackouts suffocate the city. Then France falls and a shadow descends.

A shadow has fallen over Clara Vine’s own life, too. She is an English citizen in a country that hates her. Virulent anti-British propaganda is everywhere.

Then she is summoned to meet the Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who has decided that Clara should adopt a new role – as his spy – and that she must go to Paris on a mission.

Much as she dislikes the idea, Clara realises this might be the chance to find an escape route to England. But Goebbels has other ideas and soon Clara is drawn into a web that threatens to destroy her. As everything she holds dear is taken as ransom, she must fight to protect her family – and to survive…

My Thoughts:

This whole layout is appealing to the eye. It caught my attention straight away. I love the ladies bright red dress against the softer tones in the background. The Eiffel Tower is a nice touch! I love the title and the premise sounds promising!

I will say this, I have read an historical fiction book that involves the Propaganda Ministry and the story was a total wash. I hope this one one won’t be the same! Alas, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

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

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Bookish Happenings: Summer Reading

me-iiMy reading is going a bit slow this week so far. I am still reading books from last week and I did not post a review last week like I said I would. However, I will get through the books I started two weeks ago and get to the ones below next. I am determined to knock out my summer reading list. These three books below I just acquired on NetGalley to read and review for the publishers and I am looking forward to reading them very soon.

Tomorrow I have a cover crush-which I am looking forward to sharing with you all. On Friday I have a guest author visiting Layered Pages and on Saturday I should have a review ready to post and I have an article I have been working on that will be posted as well. Very busy as you can see. I hope you add these books below to your reading pile! Enjoy!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by LISA WINGATE

Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

Pub Date 06 Jun 2017

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aitken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

The Property of Lies (A 1930s_ historical mystery) by Marjorie EcclesThe Property of Lies (A 1930s’ historical mystery) by Marjorie Eccles

Severn House

Pub Date 01 Sep 2017

DI Herbert Reardon is drawn into a world of secrets and lies when a body is discovered at a girls’ boarding school. 

1930. When a body is discovered on the premises of the newly-established Maxstead Court School for Girls, Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon is called in to investigate. His wife Ellen having just accepted a job as French teacher, Reardon is alarmed to find the school a hotbed of scandalous secrets, suppressed passions, petty jealousies and wanton schoolgirl cruelty. As he pursues his enquiries, it becomes clear that the dead woman was not who – or what – she claimed to be. Who was she really – and why is Reardon convinced that more than one member of staff is not telling him the whole truth?

Then a pupil goes missing – and the case takes a disturbing new twist …

The Vengeance of MothersThe Vengeance of Mothers by Jim Fergus

St. Martin’s Press

Pub Date 12 Sep 2017

9 March 1876

My name is Meggie Kelly and I take up this pencil with my twin sister, Susie. We have nothing left, less than nothing. The village of our People has been destroyed. Empty of human feeling, half-dead ourselves, all that remains of us intact are hearts turned to stone. We curse the U.S. government, we curse the Army, we curse the savagery of mankind, white and Indian alike. We curse God in his heaven. Do not underestimate the power of a mother’s vengeance…

So begins the journal of Margaret Kelly, a woman who participated in the government’s “Brides for Indians” program in 1873, a program whose conceit was that the way to peace between the United States and the Cheyenne Nation was for One Thousand White Women to be given as brides in exchange for three hundred horses. Mostly fallen women, the brides themselves thought it was simply a chance at freedom. But many fell in love with the Cheyennes spouses and had children with them…and became Cheyenne themselves.

THE VENGEANCE OF MOTHERS explores what happens to the bonds between wives and husbands, children and mothers, when society sees them as “unspeakable.” Jim Fergus brings to light a time and place and fills it with unforgettable characters who live and breathe with a passion we can relate to even today.

Award Winning Thomas Berrington Series by David Penny

me-iiAs you all are aware of, this summer I am selecting award winning books from the indieBRAG Library read add to my reading pile and to feature on Layered Pages. Today I have selected three books. B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree David Penny continuously has high praise for his Thomas Berrington stories. As an avid historical fiction reader and a love for history I have been wanting to start on these books for some time now. It you would like to purchase these stories, click on the title and it will take you 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!

The Red Hill BRAGThe Red Hill by David Penny

A killer who can’t be stopped. A request that can’t be refused.

In 1482 the Englishman Thomas Berrington is living in the last remnants of Moorish Spain. A physician, he is an unwilling friend to the most powerful man in the kingdom. When bodies start to turn up, each showing the marks of a savage attack, Thomas is asked to investigate.

When one of the Sultan’s wives is brutally murdered, what begins as a reluctant task turns into a fight for survival. Together with the eunuch Jorge, Thomas attempts to hunt down the killer before they become his next victims. Except nothing is as it seems—friends turn into enemies and enemies into friends.

Thomas’s investigation lays bare the secrets of the Red Hill and the people who inhabit it. His discoveries culminate in a battle not only for his own life, but for the lives of those he loves.

Breaker of BonesBreaker of Bones by David Penny

Torn between duty and survival.

Moorish Spain, 1483. As the country prepares for more war, surgeon Thomas Berrington makes a reluctant journey to Qurtuba at his master’s request. What he thinks will be a simple operation and a return home to al-Andalus becomes something much more sinister.

A warped killer is murdering young women and creating twisted creatures from their bodies. When Queen Isabel tasks Thomas to hunt down the culprit, he has no choice but to plunge deep into an unfamiliar world of religious mania. Meanwhile, the eunuch Jorge tracks down the family he hasn’t seen in decades, only to learn his newfound niece has been chosen as the killer’s next victim.

As Thomas and Jorge pursue a monster known only as The Bonebreaker, they must face their most dangerous challenge yet. Failure to catch the killer in time could rid Jorge of the only family he’s ever known.

Breaker of Bones is the second book in the Thomas Berrington collection of historical thrillers. If you like believable characters, rich settings, and edge-of-your-seat suspense, then you’ll love David Penny’s breakneck thriller set in tumultuous fifteenth century Moorish Spain.

The Sin Eater BRAGThe Sin Eater by David Penny

Moorish Spain, 1484, and no-one is innocent.

Thomas Berrington, emigre Englishman who has made the doomed city of Garnatah his home, is once again attempting to solve a series of mysterious deaths. Accompanied by his companion, the palace eunuch Jorge, Thomas struggles to discover the truth while those in power seek to distract him. As his investigation continues, his personal life splinters into chaos and he finds the Spanish once more demanding his presence.

As Thomas and Jorge draw closer to their quarry, the killer’s attention turns on them and those they love. The pair must race to unmask the sin eater before the lives of those close to them become forfeit.

The Sin Eater is the follow up to The Red Hill and Breaker of Bones, stunning historical mysteries set in a time and place coloured by intrigue and battle.

About Author:

David Penny

David Penny was first published at the age of 24, with four novels and several short stories appearing during the 1970’s. Near-starvation led him down the slippery slope of work, which distracted him from his true calling. He has now returned to writing and the first three books in his Moorish mystery series, The Red Hill, Breaker of Bones and The Sin Eater are currently available.

Website

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indiebrag read for free banner

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.

Become a reader HERE

Enjoy your week and happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins