22nd annual self-published book awards

Judge’s feedback from the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards:

Christy Esmahan’s BUENO is set in an American private school in Spain, and she’s clearly set herself up with a rather great idea for a series, as a school, obviously, changes as its students age and graduate. I’d know from the content of the novel alone and not the author’s bio on the back of the book that Esmahan spent time in Spain, for she captures the place perfectly. (I spent time there a few years back, and can attest to her accuracy.) In Harvey Jones, Esmahan has created a winning character, someone to root for and follow. There is extremely solid prose throughout the book (though there are instances where I would perhaps like a bit more sentence variety), nicely rendered dialogue, and, again, excellent use of setting. There are times when I find the challenges facing Harvey to be a bit numerous and piled-on, but then again, as an academic myself, I should remind myself of the maxim that “politics in academia are so vicious because the stakes are so low.” Kidding aside, BUENO is quite a strong book, and I suspect that Esmahan will have much success with it and the future books in the series.

Reviews of Bueno:

Lauren Sapala, writer, writing coach and blogger, gave it 5 out of 5 stars:

This book is definitely a hidden-gem-kind-of-book. I came to it expecting light and breezy contemporary romantic fiction and I was (very pleasantly) surprised that it went much deeper.

I have a sweet spot for excellently drawn characters to the point where I would say that I prefer good characters over good plot. Fortunately, Bueno had both. I ended up falling in love with the main character, an American named Harvey Jones who travels to Spain to take up the headmaster position at a private school. Harvey is wrestling with personal demons—which I won’t say much more about because I don’t want to include spoilers—and him ending up in Spain is far from accidental.

When he takes up his position at the school he finds that all is definitely not as it seems. As he starts to unravel the conspiracy he also starts to face the demons I mentioned above. By the end I was really rooting for Harvey. He’s one of those main characters that you can’t help but like and get attached to.

I also feel like I got a complete education in the differences between American and Spanish culture on the side. My favorite books are the ones that educate me about some aspect of something (usually historical or sociological) through a good story, so Bueno gets bonus points for that.

Overall, this is a great book. The pace is fast and steady and it’s a good read for anyone interested in an American expatriate point of view.

Paul H., 5 out of 5 stars

Bueno is an easy and enjoyable read. Dealing with multiple issues such as bereavement, responses to diversity and team building across cultural and language barriers it remains engaging and hard to put down whilst addressing those challenging issues in a sensitive and believable manner. I finished the book over the course of 3 days and that on days when I had 8 hours of meetings on each of those days. I look forward to the second in the series and encourage anyone who has not yet to read the first to catch up and join me in reading the second in this intriguing series.

Kathryn Watson, author ofHelp! My Parents Are Aging!  5 out of 5 stars

This book was an easy read and one I did not want to put down for long. The characters are amazingly real. I think everyone can relate to working with a few “brujas” no matter what profession you are in. This is a book where you will find yourself talking to the characters as if they were right next to you. I cannot wait for the next in the series to see what happens.

Ann Crowley, 5 out of 5 stars

On so many levels, Bueno hits the spot. As a teacher, oh my goodness every school has a Pilar lurking in the office. The personalities and foibles of the teachers ring so true. As a traveler, seeing and appreciating cultural differences is always intriguing. Esmahan has a gift for description one could see the young boy waiting day after day for his tuition to be paid, not to mention the scene with the farmer, the pig and the kindergarteners.
I can’t wait for the second book in the series; I want to know what happens to these characters.

K. Gilliam, 5 out of 5 stars:

I bought Bueno by Christy Esmahan weeks ago, and immediately loaned it to my mother, who is a voracious reader. She devoured it and loaned it to her sister, who, a former teacher, loved the book. My aunt loaned it to her friend, who loved it and loaned it to another, and I finally bought the kindle version for myself because I couldn’t wait any longer! I thoroughly enjoyed Bueno. It’s a quick read with engaging characters and a very interesting glimpse of life in another country and culture that is quite different than ours. Harvey is a lovable character and I found myself completely immersed in his struggle with the brujas and his burgeoning relationship with Carmen. Brava Ms. Esmahan! I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the Cantabria American School series. This time, I’ll buy the kindle version first. 😀

Theresa Kleintank, 5 out of 5 stars:

Very entertaining and well-written. All of us have worked jobs where we’ve encountered people whose only purpose seems to be to make our lives hell. Welcome to “Cantabria American School. Loved it!

Maria Lucas, 5 out of 5 stars:

It was compelling and well written book, that I couldn’t put down. She portrayed the characters very well, and can’t wait to continue following them in the next book

Christina Garrett, 5 out of 5 stars:

I really enjoyed reading Christy Esmahan’s novel Bueno. Having spent a good deal of my career teaching in a private school I really enjoyed the realistic portrayal of the school personnel as well as their daily battles. (traffic, tuition, duties) I really enjoyed the passion Harvey had for the school and region considering it was all new to him. Well done and I am looking forward to the next installment.

Robbie Raker, 4 out of 5 stars:

I laughed out loud at Harvey, the green-behind-the-ears new Headmaster at the Cantabria American School, as he tries to bring order to the chaotic drop off/pick up of students in his first few days on the job! Anyone who has ever ferried their children to and from school knows what a potential mess that can be! The ‘power’ of the orange traffic cone, doesn’t work as well as he had hoped! In addition, Harvey finds himself up against a formidable group of teachers (the brujas!) who are not at all keen on the much needed changes their new Headmaster is charged with implementing if he wants to keep his job. When Harvey meets the lovely Carmen, he has all the more reason to stay on at CAS and remain in Spain.

I’m looking forward to the next book! Can’t wait to see how Harvey deals with the brujas AND pursues his new love!

Vicki Atkins, 4 out of 5 stars:

Not only is the book set in an intriguing location, but really, how many books address the international school life? Anything and everything that could happen, does happen, in a school. The possibilities are endless and Ms. Esmahan has hit on an unending and open-ended story line. I laughed out loud when reading about Harvey’s expectations for acceptance of his proposed changes and the sometimes malicious resistance to change on any account. My own experience confirms poor innocent Harvey’s plight. And Harvey’s sheer lack of understanding of the female mindset will keep your pulse racing. Of course, he is also sweet and hoping for a romance. Looking forward to the next installment.

Ruth Heeder, 4 out of 5 stars

I really entered into the head of this new head master as he tried to bring American improvements to this small private school while being thwarted by a small group of Teachers who wanted to maintain the status quo. I think that the book appeals especially to anyone who has ever encountered ungrounded resistance to new ideas and change, or to those who have been in anyway involved with the functioning of a private school . I look forward to the next book to see how the head master makes out in both this sticky professional situation and in his romantic pursuit of Carmen.

Emily Deakins, 4 out of 5 stars:

A delightful read. My attention was captured on page one and I couldn’t put it down, wanting to find out what happened with these characters. I felt Harvey’s frustration as well as his growing appreciation of Spanish culture. I want to know more. So glad there is a second book out now. Congratulations to Christy – well done!!

Claudia Brunal, 4 out of 5 stars:

I had a lot of fun reading Bueno, the first book in the series written by Christy Esmahan. As a teacher who has worked in two countries with completely different educational systems, I completely identified with this book and the various reactions that the teachers experienced toward the changes that the new headmaster was trying to make. There are also many funny scenes which reminded me of experiences I had had in schools where I’d taught.
Bueno is an easy and enjoyable read. I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

Margaret Pereira, 4 out of 5 stars:

Bueno engages with its depiction of ordinary life set in a picturesque foreign land. In the first several chapters, the chaotic parking lot scenes at the school in Northern Spain reminded me of the driving shenanigans at the elementary school parking lot in my own neighborhood. And who hasn’t found themselves at one time or another working in a situation where personalities appear to rule over common sense? Ultimately, I found myself rooting for Harvey, the inexperienced headmaster who works in a situation where he must communicate and succeed in an unfamiliar language and according to unwritten cultural norms.

Book One of the Cantabria American School series is a quick, enjoyable read. I look forward to reading Book Two when it comes out in May 2014.

Ana Karen, 4 out of 5 stars:

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

WOW, it was definitely SOMETHING!
I mean, I enjoyed this book. SO. Very. Much! It was just different, optimistic and felt real.

The personalities of the characters were realistic and well developed, it was an awesome job the author managed to accomplish here.

What I love the most in a book is being able to learn from other cultures and/or places and at the same time loosing myself in the story, and this book has that and MORE.
It was a difficult task for me to stop reading it, I just couldn’t put it down!

This story felt SO REAL, and I found myself laughing out loud sometimes; or getting frustrated when our main character Harvey, had to face some obstacles the “brujas” planned to get him fired; Super nostalgic when he remembered his brother; and so happy when he fell in love, he deserved it!

I will be looking for the rest of the series because this has a lot of potential; by the way, it was hilarious when I read that the next book is called SINCO! -If you’ve read this, you’ll know what I mean!

Araceli Enriquez, 4 out of 5 stars:

I loved the clarity in Christy’s writing. Being a bilingual teacher in a foreign country, I immediately related to Harvey’s experiences in Santander. Bueno’s characters and its surprising events brought the story to life. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Terri Turilli, 4 out of 5 stars:

Most of us can relate to, at some point in our lives, being the new kid on the block and the challenges that brings. It’s not always easy to fit in! So we can sympathize with and root for the main character, Harvey, as he struggles in his new job as interim headmaster at Cantabria American School. Harvey is faced with adapting to his new work responsibilities as well as life in a foreign country with the accompanying language difficulties and perplexing cultural differences. In addition, his success is sabotaged by a band of “brujas” who will do anything to ensure that he fails in his new position. Pobre Harvey!

Felicidades to Christy Esmahan on her book “Bueno”! I enjoyed reading Harvey’s adventures and look forward to the next book in the Cantabria American School series to see how things continue to develop!


Reviews of Sinco

Interesting, Intelligent, and Enjoyable 5 out of 5 stars

By Lauren M. Sapala on November 26, 2014

This is the second book I’ve read in this series and I’m just as impressed as I was with the first one. I read Bueno (the first in the series) over a year ago so I was a little worried that I would need to catch up before I started reading Sinco but I found that was not the case at all. In fact, I think each novel could be read on a standalone basis or together as a series and be equally enjoyable.

I really loved this second book because it dived even deeper into what it’s like to be an American Expatriate living and working in Spain. I learned so many little tidbits of knowledge from Sinco about the differences between American and Spanish culture and the contemporary atmosphere of Spain in general. For anyone who likes travel writing or loves to travel, this is a great book to get you in the mood to visit Spain.

However, Sinco also works with serious themes and that was what I really loved. Each character is complex, very real, and driven by multifaceted emotions and ambitions. The plot is full of suspense and tension, but it’s turmoil that any one of us could go through. I learned a significant amount about the current-day conflicts facing Spain and the people who get caught up in them.

Overall, a fantastic book for anyone who loves contemporary lit, literary fiction, travel, or anyone who wants to broaden their horizons.

5 out of 5 stars
By K. Gilliam on July 7, 2014
Bueno, book one in the Cantabria American School series, was tricky for me to get my hands on after I made the mistake of loaning it first to my mother. She proceeded to loan it to her sister who loaned it to her friend, and on it went. With Sinco, I had learned my lesson! I read it first, before sharing it. Actually, I devoured it. The descriptions of Spanish culture, vacation spots, and cuisine made me feel as though I had taken a mini vacation to Spain. The intricacies of the relationships between the characters made them come to life for me. I’m completely invested in their stories. I can’t wait to read the final book in the series this fall, although I’m afraid i’ll be sad for it to end!

Theresa Kleintank, 5 out of 5 stars:

I liked the previous book in the series (Bueno) so well that I bought 6 copies of Sinco to give to friends. I was not disappointed! Harvey’s contract as headmaster has been extended at the international school in Spain. The plot thickens at the beginning of the new school year, bringing new teachers more friendly to Harvey on board, but Pilar and Elena muster their group to thwart his efforts, even meddling in his personal life. I loved it! Where’s number three?


Ana Karen, 4 out of 5 stars:

I’m impressed at how engaging and intriguing this story continues to be.
The characters are built very solidly and realistic, I sometimes find myself thinking of them as actual persons.
The plot is stunningly enriching and I just love it when books teach me about history, facts and traditions of foreign places.
I was surprised (in a good way) to find even more characters and their own personal-life’s stories incorporated on ‘Sinco’ and I really love how the author managed to create for each one of them a solid story with real-life problems.
And once again, the optimistic Harvey (‘Sinco’ for the ‘Brujas’) managed to win my admiration even more!!

It’s definitely a book I enjoyed very much as well as the first one, and I can’t even begin to imagine what the next book will be like! – Just from the title “BRUJAS” I’m getting really excited and anxious to read it!!!

This story is worth reading all the way to the end – So count me in for “Brujas”!!!


Ruth Heeder, 4 out of 5 stars:

Almost anyone can identify with the main character, especially if you have ever felt less than at the top of your game. He loves a woman, but is not a real adept pursuer. He tries hard at work but is thwarted constantly by a group of teachers who want to maintain the status quo. I cheered him on when things went well with Carmen (his woman) and felt his total frustration at work. Harvey is a likable character and throughout the story I hoped he would prevail in his struggles. The author is great at descriptions. The story’s settings are picture clear–making it easy to see the places in northern Spain where Harvey and his colleagues live, work and visit.

 Reviews of Brujas

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this novel, September 25, 2014
By Theresa Kleintank 
This review is from: Brujas (Cantabria American School Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
Spoiler Alert! I loved this novel. It was delightful to be back in Northern Spain with Harvey and his sabotaging subordinates. It seemed hopeless at first – I couldn’t see a way out, the system was so against him. But, in an almost comical chain of events, the adversaries fell one by one and Harvey’s future brightened with his love, Carmen. I felt Cindy’s agony with her parents deeply – Ms. Esmahan strikes a chord when she discloses her faulty thinking. Then there is despair that Cindy couldn’t culminate her relationship with Tom. So sad, and so true to real life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brujas is by far the best of the series!, October 12, 2014
By K. Gilliam 
This review is from: Brujas (Cantabria American School Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
Brujas, the third and final installment in the Cantabria American School Series, is by far the best of the series. I was so involved in the characters and the plot twists that I didn’t want the story to end. I doled out each chapter to myself as a reward for accomplishing other tasks until finally I couldn’t put it down and finished in a flurry. The ending is surprising and there are many touching moments along the way. I highly recommend this book and this series. I’m anxiously awaiting the next Christy Esmahan!
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, deception and intrigue make for a great read!, October 4, 2014
By Ruth heeder 
This review is from: Brujas (Cantabria American School Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
The author has certainly hit her stride in this final book of the trilogy. I became so involved in the goings-on in this school community that it was hard to put the book down. Who could imagine that so much could be happening within the walls of one school? Besides being a voyeur of interpersonal relationships, I also learned a lot about the culture and geography of northern Spain.
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read!, December 2, 2014
By Robert G. 
This review is from: Brujas (The Cantabria American School series) (Volume 3) (Paperback)
Each book gets better! The characters are interesting and I love immersing myself in Spain. I can easily relate to the characters and their situations. Cultures may change, but people do not. It is fun to spend time in a different culture with people I know.
Thank you, Christy, for writing this book!
5.0 out of 5 stars A great ending to a great series!, January 9, 2015
By Ana Karen Celaya
This review is from: Brujas (Cantabria American School Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
I can’t believe the CAS series have already come to an end!!!I have to say I was drawn into the story right from the first book, Bueno, so it’s really sad to know there won’t be anything else about Harvey and the Brujas, but I’m sure I won’t forget those characters: they were very well built and I became familiar with each one of them. I especially enjoyed Harvey’s evolution in each one of the three books: that subtle but notorious change he made was exactly what this series needed to be perfect, among other things Christy Esmahan successfully accomplished.

This last book, Brujas, got me hooked ever since I started reading it. I couldn’t put it down!
The new characters were really entertaining and I loved all the twists and romance this book had.
And of course, culturally speaking, it didn’t disappointed me. Just the opposite! It was amazing, really.

It totally deserves 5 full stars!

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