Friday, January 8, 2021

New illustrated childrens series Follow Me by Amy Laundrie launches


Follow Me Into the Woods
Amy Laundrie
Released January 8, 2021
Pen It! Publications
36 pp
$13.99 paperback
$21.99 hardcover
ISBN paperback: 978-1-954004-14-6
ISBN hardcover: 978-1-954004-19-1
Buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble
About the Book:
Follow Oliver and Paris into the woods. Paris, afraid of mysterious noises and shadows, is reassured once a friendly chickadee joins their hike. She, Oliver, and the chickadee enjoy a picnic at a heron rookery. With twilight approaching, Paris spots a flying Luna moth. Now it's Paris who leads the hike to discover more secrets in the woods.

Follow Me Into the Woods will inspire a love of nature. It's a must-have for budding naturalists, best friends, and all those who love adventure.

Watch for other books in this series:
Follow Me Into the Night
Follow Me Onto the Bog

About the Author:
A retired fourth grade teacher, Amy Laundrie began writing because of a desire to share stories and connect with others. Her publishing credits include one adult memoir and eight children's books. She and her husband and her dog Josie enjoy hiking in the woods. Visit her at

Monday, December 14, 2020

Jim Landwehr memoir Cretin Boy

Note: This post originally appeared at Wisconsin Writers Association on December 14, 2020


Cretin Boy by Jim Landwehr
Memoir, 185 pages
2020, Burning Bulb Publishing

Reviewer: Greg Peck
$14.99 Print
$3.69 Ebook
Buy on Amazon

About the Book:
Cretin High School, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota was a Catholic, all-male, military academy that brought unique twists to the already difficult high school experience. Cretin Boys, as they were called, were subject to the oppression of both church and state as they navigated the diverse teaching styles of Christian Brothers, military instructors, and lay teachers. Cretin Boy looks at those menial first jobs, takes you dancing with a girl at that first high school formal, and peels down the street in a Corvette-on-loan with a teen at the wheel. It is a coming-of-age story with a military dress code, a coming-to-faith story while smoking in the boy’s room.

Greg's Review:
Jim Landwehr has written two previous memoirs and five poetry collections, but he hits his storytelling stride with a coming-of-age memoir Cretin Boy.

Cretin stands Cretin High School, the Catholic military academy Landwehr attended in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the late 1970s. Webster’s also defines cretin as “a very stupid or foolish person.”

Landwehr and his buddies sometimes live up to that definition.

Narrow escapes from cops while drinking? Check.

Death-defying traffic stunts? Check.

Dimwittedly doling out cash for first-car clunkers? Check.

Still, having grown up among six kids with a single mother after his father died young, Landwehr portrays himself as awkward and introverted, the “good son” and lacking self-esteem.

Using self-deprecating humor, Landwehr details incompetence at shooting guns, driving cars and approaching the opposite sex.

It doesn’t help the latter issue that Cretin is only for boys. Or that Cretin instructors include military officers and many Catholic Brothers, men committed to Christianity who live on campus. Landwehr explains the oddities in describing Brother Gerard.

“He was a frail, senior Brother who was tasked with teaching us Biblical truth while at the same time discussing human sexual anatomy and addressing embarrassing subjects like masturbation, intercourse and birth control. It seemed strange to mix the message of ‘don’t do this’ with ‘but if you do this other thing, then do this.’ It was even weirder because it was coming from someone apparently older than my grandparents, from a man who had pledged himself to a life of celibacy…”

Landwehr uses decades of life experience to put perspective on adolescent escapades. “We were pushing the envelope in our struggle for independence and on our road to adulthood,” he writes.

If there’s one concern, it’s that this book, like many produced by small companies or self-published, needed better proofreading.

Rather than write a chronology, Landwehr organizes stories into chapters such as Marching, Jobs, and Girls. The longest are Vices and Cars.

Maybe the strict combination of church and state discipline drove these boys to mischief beyond their school halls, but readers, regardless of which decade they grew up, will identify with many of these stories and find themselves reminiscing about their own high school days.

Author Jim Landwehr was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He loves outdoor sports, including
biking, kayaking, canoeing, camping and fishing. It was his love of camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota that led him to write Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir. The book features humorous accounts of trips he took to the area with his brothers, friends and children over the past twenty five years.

Jim is married to Donna and has two children. He lives and works in Waukesha, Wisconsin as a Land Information Systems Supervisor for Waukesha County. He was the 2018/2019 poet laureate for the Village of Wales, Wisconsin.

Reviewer Greg Peck of Janesville worked for newspapers in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin Rapids and Janesville and won many journalism awards before retiring in 2016. Peck is author of Death Beyond the Willows and the new Memories of Marshall, Ups and Downs of Growing Up in a Small Town. He’s a former board member of the Wisconsin Writers Association and won the WWA’s Jade Ring in nonfiction.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Gregory L Renz and Beneath the Flames


Beneath the Flames

Gregory Lee Renz

Thriller Fiction, 350 pages

Published June 1, 2019

Three Towers Press

Buy on Amazon 

Barnes and Noble 



About the Book:

BENEATH THE FLAMES is an intimate combination of love, race, and life as an urban firefighter.

A fire in a neighboring farmhouse has young farmer and volunteer firefighter, Mitch Garner, blaming himself for the tragic outcome. He loses all hope of forgiving himself. His only hope for redemption is to leave Jennie, the girl he’s loved since high school, and journey from Wisconsin’s lush farmland to the decaying inner city of Milwaukee to prove himself as a professional firefighter.

Mitch is assigned to the busiest firehouse in the heart of one of the most blighted areas of Milwaukee, the Core, where he’s viciously hazed by senior firefighters. He struggles to hold it together at horrific scenes of violence and can’t do anything right at fires. Within weeks, he’s ready to give up and quit. His salvation comes in the form of a brash adolescent girl, Jasmine Richardson. Mitch is assigned to tutor her little sister through a department mentoring program. Despite Jasmine’s contempt toward Mitch, her courage and devotion to her little sister inspire Mitch to stay and dedicate himself to helping her and the neighboring children overcome the hopelessness of growing up in crushing poverty.

Trouble on the farm has Mitch torn between returning home to Jennie and staying in Milwaukee where he’ll be forced to risk his life to protect Jasmine from the leader of the One-Niner street gang.

My review:

Renz has created a wonderful story of finding and following the heart. Mitch is a young man of great passion who has difficulty deciding how and where to spend that passion. His girlfriend Jennie is a home girl and devastated when Mitch simply can’t stop blaming himself for a terrible accident. Mitch’s need to heal takes him away from home for the first time in order to grow and learn and experience a different way of living than his small-town and in some ways, small-minded, rural upbringing. He finds all of that in fire-fighting training in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, still the most segregated community in the States. When his brother and father need him, though, he has many choices to make; ultimately, about who needs him, and who he needs, the most. Saving the world often starts in one’s own backyard.

Told from several perspectives, but mostly Mitch’s, Renz uses his career in firefighting to tell an honest and real story of what it’s like to be a professional firefighter in contemporary urban settings.

About the Author:

Fire Captain Gregory Lee Renz was involved in a dramatic rescue of two little boys from their burning basement bedroom. He received a series of awards for this rescue including induction into the Wisconsin Fire and Police Hall of Fame in 2006. When he was asked to share the dramatic rescue at several awards banquets, he was moved by the emotional responses he received and was struck by the power of his storytelling. After serving the citizens of Milwaukee for twenty-eight years as a firefighter, Gregory Lee Renz retired to Lake Mills, Wisconsin with his wife, Paula. After numerous creative writing courses through the University of Wisconsin and countless workshops, conferences, and revisions, he finally typed The End to Beneath the Flames.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Wisconsin Underground by Doris Green


Note: this review originally appeared on Wisconsin Writers Association.

Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels In and Around the Badger State, by Doris Green

Guidebook, informative,193 pages

Published by Henschel HAUS Publishing, Inc., 2018 (2nd edition)

Reviewed by Gloria Bartel,

Doris Green’s Wisconsin Underground is and eye-opening anthology of historical and current information regarding caves, mines, man-made tunnels, museums, and natural areas all over the state of Wisconsin, northern Iowa, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Through the exploration of these underground areas, the author paints a picture of the subterranean landscape of the state of Wisconsin and the immediate surrounding areas. Doris Green engages her deep knowledge and passion for the man-made and natural history of the world she lives in with this well-written, entertaining guidebook.

This guidebook’s section on caves is very novice-friendly, yet it still points out many areas of interest for seasoned cavers. Ms. Green covers all the known show caves in Wisconsin as well as many lesser-known caves. This book is particularly informative as the author describes each location very specifically, adding notes of what kind of clothing and equipment to bring and the difficulty level of each particular cave or tour. She also discusses the difficulty level for the mines and natural areas so that a tourist can come prepared for any occasion.

One particularly interesting quality of Wisconsin Underground is the way Doris Green’s introduction includes an entire section dedicated to bats and how the white nose syndrome has affected their populations. Throughout this book, she points out different caves and even a mine or two that have been closed to protect the species that hibernate year-round in Wisconsin. Since the caves and mines are an important part of Wisconsin’s natural history, Green also talks about the lengths people and governments have gone to protect these natural and historical landmarks from vandalism that has already damaged many caves, mines, and natural areas.

This guidebook is packed with information, descriptions, photos, and histories of the natural and man-made geological landscape of Wisconsin. Whether you are an experienced spelunker, interested in Wisconsin’s natural history, or just scouting for some new scenic views to share with your loved ones, Wisconsin Underground is a great place to start!

Reviewer Gloria Bartel lives in southern Wisconsin and is an aspiring writer. She loves to read books of all kinds. She has been writing novels since high school. She enjoys talking to authors about their publishing journeys as one day she hopes to publish some of her vast collection of novels. 

Print: $19.95

Ebook: $9.99

Buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Monday, November 23, 2020

Harvest Moon by Jenny Knipfer


Historical Fiction/Christian Inspirational

281 pp

Self-Published, November 23, 2020

Reviewed by Gloria Bartel,

Jenny Knipfer creates yet another masterpiece with her fourth book in the By the Light of the Moon Series, Harvest Moon. Told from the perspectives of Maang-ikwe and her son, Niin-mawin, this story of forgiveness and grace intertwines the lives of these characters, their loved ones, and their wrongdoers in a most intricate and passionately descriptive way.

 The book is divided into two sections, the first of which focuses largely on Maang-ikwe as she blooms into womanhood and finds her calling as an Ojibwe medicine woman while overcoming personal obstacles and growing stronger in her faith in Jesus Christ. The second section focuses on Niin-mawin, Maang-ikwe’s son, who finds himself in a turbulent time of Native history, straddling two worlds—that of his people, the Anishinaabe, and that of his forced upbringing in the white man’s school. Through both perspectives, the story unravels of love and loss and finding a way that leads to love again.

As in her other novels, Knipfer plays with the timelines of her characters, jumping back and forth between perspectives as she goes. While this can occasionally be confusing, Knipfer always gives the reader time and place cues to ground them. The author has put a marvelous amount of research into this book, and while at first incorporating the Ojibwe language into the story seemed awkward, it quickly became natural-feeling and added authenticity to Maang-ikwe and Niin-mawin’s story.

The language of the book has an almost poetic feel to it sometimes in the descriptions of the physical world and the events the characters are taking part in. Knipfer transports us to 1869 on the Lake Nipigon Reservation as Niin-mawin learns how to beat the ceremonial drum and pray to Gitchi-manidoo to guide his path. We readers walk the shore along Lake Superior, looking across its vastness and wonder, is there another side to the great sea before us?

 In the same way, Knipfer creates her characters with so much emotion and physical presence that they become almost real in the imagination. Few of the many characters in Harvest Moon remain static, so the reader gains a better sense of the bonds among the characters across all the timelines presented.

 While you do not need to read the other books in this series to understand the characters or the story, doing so can help create a better grounding in the world Jenny Knipfer builds for her reader and may help clarify the epilogue of this story. Overall, Harvest Moon is a captivating and evocative novel of the importance of family, faith, and forgiveness and how, together, those things help heal a broken heart.

Reviewer Gloria Bartel lives in southern Wisconsin and is an aspiring writer. She loves to read books of all kinds. She has been writing novels since high school. She enjoys talking to authors about their publishing journeys as one day she hopes to publish some of her vast collection of novels.

 Buy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Dragoneer Young Adult from Amber Boudreau

 Note: This review originally appeared her:

The Dragoneer by Amber Boudreau

Young Adult Fantasy, 268 pages

Dragon Street Press, June 2, 2020

Reviewed by: Michelle Caffrey

Buy on Amazon

Ebook $4.99

Print $14.99

About the Book

High school is hard enough without a dragon breathing down your neck. When 15-year-old Moira Noble stumbles across a cave and a dragon in need of her help, she unwittingly forms a link to it and becomes a Dragoneer. Now the growing Zephyr needs a new place to stay and a steady supply of spicy potato chips.

Moira’s homework now includes learning how to use magic and fight with a sword, so that she can keep Zephyr safe from an escalating troll threat. In the meantime she must keep up appearances at school and at home—because if she fails to help Zephyr find a way home, it won’t just be the life of her dragon on the line…but hers as well.

Michelle's Review: Dragon as Metaphor - Five Stars

This was a fun read, with a great blend of reality and fantasy. The characters are three-dimensional, with orphaned Moira facing teen issues like dating, friendship, curfew, and homework. Complicating her life is her unexpected encounter with a dragon. Unwillingly, she must save the monster from his troll enemies. In the process, she learns not only sword and archery skills, but also courage and trust.

When Moira becomes a “dragoneer” she must also overcome her anxiety and panic attacks from the recent loss of her father—the “monster in the room.”  The book, however, is far from preachy, and sprinkled with humor. Who knew a dragon would enjoy a diet of fire rocks and spicy potato chips?

This is an excellent book for the young reader in your life or for anyone who enjoys a rollicking fantasy tale told well.

About the Author

Amber Boudreau has a background in Geology. In between household projects and parenting, she writes youth and adult fantasy. A native of northwest Indiana, she currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and two children. The Dragoneer is her debut novel. An unapologetic reader of fantasy and romance, or anything really, she would love to connect with other avid readers on Twitter @anamberauthor or at

Reviewer Michelle Caffrey is the author of her travel memoir, Just Imagine: A New Life on an Old Boat, and two nonfiction books about a friend’s dog lost in Yellowstone for 44 days: Bring Jade Home and picture book Jade – Lost in Yellowstone. The latter book recently won Creative Child’s 2020 Book of the Year Award. She lives in her happy place, Lake Geneva Wisconsin, with her husband Paul. She enjoys reading, knitting, and being anywhere near water.



Monday, November 9, 2020

Judy DuCharme's Blood Moon Redemption


Blood Moon Redemption

Judy DuCharme

Paperback, 288 pages

Published October 31st 2018 by Ambassador International

ISBN: 9781620208229

$4.99 Ebook

$15.99 paperback

Buy on Amazon 

Buy on Barnes and Noble 

About the Book:

An ancient relic, a puzzling prophesy, a young woman . . . tied together through the ages . . .

Throughout history, blood moons have always been surrounded by persecution and provision, great trials and triumphs. The first blood moons in 1493-1494 provided a new world for the Jewish people. The second in 1949-1950 gave them Israel, and the third in 1967-1969 presented the Jewish people with Jerusalem. Now a fourth set of blood moons is on the horizon, and Tassie’s mother is certain they will bring about great change.

Tassie, a young Jewish lawyer named for a lost religious relic, has her sights set on her career and love, and she doesn’t have time for silly children’s stories. Dismissing the blood moons as circumstance, her unbelief threatens to keep her from her destiny. When Tassie finds herself in the center of worldwide turmoil and a terrorist plot, can she accept her family history and fulfill her place in the future of Israel? Or will the country of her heritage finally fall to its many enemies?

Blood Moon Redemption is an end-times thriller that will keep you riveted until the very last moonrise. 


My Review:

I love Judy DuCharme's story-telling chops. Her research is impeccable, and characters full and rich. This story reaches from the past, the Spanish pogroms of the 15th century into the future, a story of Jewish racism from the past into the promises measured out to God's chosen in the future. Blood Moon Redemption follows great moments in history and the present, a wondrous artifact that travels to the New World and to Israel, a special messenger, and a young woman with the fate of the world in her hands.

A welcome aspect of the story is the message of how far God will go to claim us. I think we'll all be surprised at the presences and absences in the Kingdom.

Surprises, twists, action, romance all abound in this book.


About the Author:

I was a teacher for 22 years, retiring in June of 2012. Coming from a family of teachers, it seemed a natural fit for me after my children were in school. I grew up in the small lakeside town of Harrisville in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, the youngest of four children. Following college, Michigan State University, I worked as an announcer at a Christian Radio Station near Lansing. Lee and I married in 1975 and lived in the Detroit suburbs of Berkley and Royal Oak until moving to Wisconsin's beautiful Door Peninsula in early 1984 with Bethany, age 5, and Christopher, age 3. It was a year or two later that I went back to school to obtain my teaching degree. I taught 5th grade my whole teaching career and loved it.