Category: 0 Your Shelf Life: What is this blog about?

Destinies by Karleene Morrow – An Indie Gem Featured Book

Dear Readers,

Today I have the very great pleasure of introducing our first Indie Gems author and book. Karleene Morrow and her splendid book Destinies kick off my new feature. The purpose of Indie Gems is to give fine independently produced books the recognition they deserve. Indie Gems has a few rules, to which I will adhere.

Without further ado, my review of Destinies follows. Karleene Morrow will add a note of her own.

Sandy Nathan
Indie Gems of Your Shelf Life


Destinies by Karleene Morrow

Destinies by Karleene Morrow


Brilliant, Astonishing, and Impossible to Forget

I finished Destinies yesterday and feel like I’ve lost an old friend. I’m in that floating period that comes after finishing a good book: I’m mulling over its scenes, characters, and settings. I’m also wondering what on earth I’ll do until I find another book that carries me away so completely.

Destinies is an epic of sweeping scope that reminds me of famous works about Russia, Dr. Zhivago, for instance. Destinies presents a very original twist on life in Mother Russia and is remarkable in its originality.

It’s the story of a group of German peasants who leave the Rhineland at the invitation of Tzarina Katherine (the Great). Life is rough in the Rhineland. They’re tenants, not landowners, and at the mercy of pretty near everyone in their German life. The village decides to take advantage of Katherine’s gracious offer to bear the expenses of their traveling to Russia, and to set them up with their own farms and all that would be needed to run them: houses, horses, farm implements and seed. Sounds like a good deal, especially when compared to being exploited unmercifully by their landlords and local nobles in the old country.

The tzarina’s plan is to modernize Russia. She intends to settle her new citizens on eastern lands beneath the Ural Mountains, an area undeveloped, sparsely populated and invaded by marauding robber bands and wild tribes. Thousands of individuals—families and whole villages—heed the call. Morrow wisely focuses on one Rhineland village, giving the reader a close-up view of village life and introducing characters that I will never forget.

This book is intricately plotted, but isn’t confusing. It moves like a freight train; the pace being fast and exciting. Right from the beginning things begin to go wrong. I think this work could also be put in the suspense genre. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading into the night.

The plot alternates between the trials and tribulations of the German immigrants and the court life of the tzarina. I wanted to slap that woman. While communicating with Voltaire and the literati of France, and thinking of herself as an enlightened monarch, big (and growing bigger by the day) Tzarina Kate squeezes her own serfs almost to death, which incites a revolt she doesn’t understand.

The book bears the stamp of many hours spent researching everything about her characters, sites and the world around her work. The author presents detailed descriptions of the colonists’ difficult journey to Russia and what happens afterward. For instance, the way that Morrow describes the experience and sounds of the deep Volga ice breaking up during the spring makes you feel as though you’re right there. I can hardly wait to read more by Karleene Morrow.

Sandy Nathan, Indie Gems

ANOTHER BOOK BY KARLEENE MORROW: Karleene has written another book, FICTION WRITING: How to Write Your First Novel. (The paperback book is linked here.) The book has only one purpose – to guide the new writer toward producing a first class novel. Experienced authors have found this little gem so valuable that they keep it next to their computers. Its size is perfect for tucking into a laptop carrying case. It is a no-nonsense, easy to read book packed with the nitty-gritty of creative writing; a cut-to-the-chase work that will become your fiction writing bible.

FICTION WRITING: How to Write Your First Novel:
Paperback edition on Amazon
Kindle edition on Amazon
Smashwords eBook Edition Note: FICTION WRITING is on sale for $1.99 through January 1. Use the Coupon NX73H when you check out to receive the discount.

Soon on Amazon, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and other online stores

Karleene Morrow

Karleene Morrow

A Note from Karleene Morrow:  You asked where I got the inspiration for Destinies.  My grandparents were Germans who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia. They spoke very rarely of ‘the old country’ so I knew little after they were gone. When I started into genealogy, researching my family, I found myself wishing, like every genealogist, that I’d asked my grandparents a hundred questions. The more I researched though the more ideas percolated in my head. When I bumped into Catherine the Great then, of course I had to research her, too. I started all this before genealogy on the internet was much of anything, Cindy’s List was about it and even that was new and extremely limited. was constantly pressing researchers for information. Now they sell that information to new genealogists.

Destinies ended up being loosely based on the family history I was able to find, particularly an ancestor who was a founder of the village of Krasnoyar.  Of course that was in the 1700s and Russia is not very cooperative with her information, being the secretive country she is, so the novel is fiction – but fiction based on fact.  There is an organization in Nebraska called the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.  I was able to learn a great deal about the Europeans who answered Catherine’s call and made the incredible trek to Russia. One of the things I did was to read 20 years of their professional journals and “Clues” magazine and researched books in their library. I can’t begin to say how I felt when I finished that epic novel of drama and history and held it in my hands as an actual book. It was an emotional moment, misty eyes and the overwhelming feeling that the labor pains were worth it.

Sandy, I want to thank you for the marvelous review of Destinies and of course for loving it. And special thanks for inviting Destinies and me to your Indie Gems feature.  Destinies is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes (Apple), Kobo, Smashwords and as a paperback at Amazon, Create Space, Barnes & Noble, and from my website, discounted and autographed.

Karleene’s Website

The Last Newspaper Man by Mark Di Ionno – A Your Shelf Life Review

The Last Newspaperman

5 Stars! The Last Newspaper Man Left Me Breathless

This novel is about finding and maintaining personal integrity in a culture aimed at destroying it. Paradoxically, that culture can be a crucible that permits authenticity to grow. This book is exactly up my alley. I did a great deal of coursework in philosophy as an undergraduate and hold an MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling. The personal journeys that form the story are profound, and yet they’re rendered with spareness and clarity that are stunning.

The Last Newspaper Man tells the story of a young newspaperman out to make a mark at the extremely mediocre paper where he works. He wants to grab an atmospheric, witness-to-history story featuring some oldster and boost his professional standing. He goes to the Oceanview, a local retirement facility. He quickly finds the subject he wants: ninety-something Fred Haines, a retired journalist.

The two begin a passage that changes both of them. The story’s form is simple: The young journalist visits the old man. They talk. It turns out that Fred was a very prominent journalist in his day, one of the first “yellow journalists.” As Fred Haines tells his story, he presents a draft of a book that chronicles his life, covering horrific events that fly in the face of human decency. As the manuscript is revealed, both men are changed.

I heartily recommend this book. I found it’s content mesmerizing and extremely relevant in today’s world. DiIonno’s writing is exquisite. He sets up a deep and complex existential dilemma with simple words between two men. The book’s structure and execution are brilliant. Give me more, Mr. DiIonno!

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Sandy Nathan, Your Shelf Life Reviews

Mark Di Ionno

Mark Di Ionno


Mark Di Ionno is a news columnist at The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper. He has won the New Jersey Press Association’s award for best columns several times, and helped edit the paper’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the resignation of Gov. James McGreevey. He teaches Urban Journalism. Prior to the Star-Ledger, Di Ionno was a sports columnist at the New York Post. He is the author of three books about New Jersey culture and history. He is on the faculty of Rutgers University, Newark College of Arts & Sciences, University College, Newark, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media.


More about Sandy Nathan:

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan’s writing has won twenty-two national awards. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for  information about each book.
All the links below go to Kindle/Amazon sale pages.)

The Tales from Earth’s End Saga ––A Legend for a New World (I recommend that you read the books in order to fully understand the action.)

  1. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Kindle version, paperback version here)  Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 1
  2. Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (Kindle version, paperback version here) Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 2
  3. Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (Kindle version, paperback version here) Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 3

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money (Kindle version, hardback version here) Bloodsong Series 1
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could (Kindle version, paperback version here)


Your Shelf Life Book Review Policy

I’ve gotten so many requests from authors to review their books that I need to explain Your Shelf Life’s review policy. Despite the fact that reviews do appear here, this is not a review site. Please do not contact me asking me to review your book.

The reviews you see on Your Shelf Life are reviews of books I’ve found myself. I am a writer, not a reviewer. Every book I read and every review I post takes away from my writing time. I do reviews for my own pleasure and as a break from writing.

I’m sorry to have to refuse your request, but other options exist.  A search of the Internet will reveal many reputable sites that do take books for review for free. Some may even specialize in your genre.

Here’s a great article from top-author/marketer Joanna Penn’s blog about getting reviews on Amazon.

The Midwest Book Review is a highly reputable reviewer that specializes in reviewing indie-produced books. Since they do charge for books that are not fully finished (i.e., eBooks, manuscripts, drafts), Amazon will not allow you to post their review on your book’s sale page, but you can post the review on the Editorial Review portion of the page. Midwest Book review does not charge for reviews of finished print versions of books.

Since you will see reviews on this blog, I’m going to set out my policies for the books I do review.

  • First, I don’t do reviews on request and I do not solicit books to review.
  • Second, if you see my reviews here or elsewhere, you’ll notice that they’re pretty much all five-star reviews. Does that mean I’m a soft touch? No. I ONLY WRITE REVIEWS FOR BOOKS I REALLY LIKE. That means that I didn’t review the bazillion other books I’ve read.
  • Third, I do not charge for the reviews I write, other than occasionally accepting a complimentary review copy of the book. This is standard industry practice.

My very best wishes in your writing adventure.

Sandy Nathan & Vilasa, a Peruvian Paso mare bred by Sandy and her husband at Rancho Vilasa, their home

Sandy Nathan is a #1 Amazon Bestselling Author in Metaphysical Fantasy and the winner of thirty national awards.
Sandy’s  books can be found on her Amazon Author’s Page.
Here’s her Facebook Author Page. 


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