Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Author Interview – Darlene Foster

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Welcome to the Book Reading at the cafe and today my guest is children’s author Darlene Foster whose books about Amanda have literally taken us around the world. Before we take a look at her books here is a little bit about Darlene.

Darlene Foster is a writer, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor for children, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her 13-year-old grandson called her “super-mega-woman-supreme”.

She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She currently divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca in Spain, with her husband Paul.

“Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask” was her first published novel. Once bitten by the travel bug, Amanda travels to other interesting places, sticking her nose in other people’s problems and getting herself in trouble. Read “Amanda in Spain – The Girl in the Painting”, “Amanda in England – The Missing Novel”, “Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone”, and “Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music” to find out the adventures Amanda has as she travels the world.

Darlene’s book reading at the end of the post is from her latest book Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music.

About Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music

Twelve-year-old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Nuremburg, another boy immediately tries to take it from her. Amanda tries to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy, and along the way, she meets a mysterious monk, a Santa Claus look-alike, and the same nasty boy.

Follow Amanda down the Danube as she enjoys the enchanting sounds of music everywhere she goes, but remains on the lookout, wondering just who she can trust.

Goodreads Reviews can be found here:

Patricia Tilton rated it Five Stars

Darlene Foster has written a lively adventure story for young readers who enjoy traveling and solving a good mystery. Fans of the Amanda Travels series won’t be disappointed with this fast-paced book which will keep them engaged and quickly turning pages to discover what happens next. Amanda is an upbeat, inquisitive, caring and memorable character that teens will want to befriend — especially since she has keen radar and is ready to solve a good mystery. Leah spends a lot time texting her friends at home, which annoys Amanda. Readers will also learn a little history, geography and a few German expressions as they cruise along the beautiful Blue Danube River and visit Nuremberg, Regensburg, Melk, Vienna and Budapest. Amanda and Leah explore castles, cathedrals, graveyards, and museums. They learn about Mozart, sample local cuisine and shop for teddy bears at the Steiff store.

Read the reviews on Amazon and buy the book:

Also by Darlene Foster

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

Now it is time to ask Darlene some questions about her live and work and she is eager to answer your questions if you would please put them into the comments section of the post.

Welcome to rainy Ireland Darlene and perhaps we could start by looking at some of your favourite books..

If you could be a character in any book you have read.. Who would it be and why?

I would choose to be Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie had a great relationship with her father, like I did. She was strong willed, stuck to her guns, spoke her mind and refused to be bullied. She was happy with who she was and was not willing to compromise to make others happy. Like refusing to marry Mr. Collins and giving Lady Catherine de Bourgh a piece of her mind. And she ended up with Mr. Darcy and got to live in Pemberley!!

Which author would you have to dinner, why and what questions would you ask them?

I would love to have Jane Austen come to dinner. I would like to tell her how much I love her books and thank her for the hours of pleasure she has given me over the years. Hers are the only books I have read over and over and never tire of. I would ask her where she got the ideas for her amazing characters, what kept her going and what was it like to be a female writer in her time. I would hope she would be as witty in person as she is in her writing. It would be an enjoyable meal, I believe. Now what to serve?

Do you have a favourite quote? What does it means to you as an individual?

I have always loved this quote by Maya Angelou, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” I think it is important to be happy with who you are and happy with what you do in life. So many people, including me at times, do things to impress others. I think it is more important to impress yourself. I firmly believe if you are happy with what you do and how you do it, you will be successful.

Can you tell us a little bit about growing up on the ranch in South Alberta?

As a child I found it boring and couldn´t wait to move to the city. Looking back it was the perfect place for me as I used my imagination to make up stories in my head to stop from being bored and lonely. We all worked hard on the ranch, which made me a disciplined person, great training for a writer. The wide open spaces, the limitless sunshine and the hard working, salt of the earth folks around made me who I am today. It was a great place to grow up.

What did you find the most interesting cultural change when you moved from Canada to Spain?

For me, the history is the most interesting cultural change. I love that there is history everywhere you look in Spain and how it meshes nicely with modern everyday life. History is respected and celebrated by all ages in Spain. Attending the religious festivals and the various fiestas has been such a learning experience. I never tire of visiting the many castles, churches and historic sites. I feel like I am living in a story book most of the time. I have so many story ideas, I will not live long enough to get them all down on paper.

We know there will be other ‘Amanda’ books. Do you have a wish list of places to take her to? What tops the list and why?

Yes, I do have a wish list of places to take Amanda. The list includes, but is not limited to, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. Russia may top the list because that is where my great grandparents immigrated to Canada from 100 years ago. It would be so cool to create an adventure for Amanda there. So many places, so little time.

Darlene has chosen to read an extract from Amanda on the Danube

The girls continued to look around the market, stopping to pull the strings on jumping jacks and stroking teddy bears dressed in lederhosen, just like the dancers wore the night before.


Amanda looked around but couldn’t see anyone.

Amanda swung around and saw a finger motioning to her from between two stalls. Leah was busy looking at jewellery. Amanda slipped into the tiny space. There crouched in the corner, sat the young boy who played his violin by the Gingerbread House earlier.

“Please, Miss. I need your help.”

Amanda noticed blood seeping out of the dirty bandage on his thumb. “What happened to your thumb?”

“Oh, that. It is nothing.” The young man reached for his violin case. “You are on the boat, yes? The Sound of Music boat?”

“Yes, I am. Why?” She looked at the bloody finger. “You should have that cleaned up. You could get an infection.”

“Please, could you take this with you on the boat?” His large blue eyes pleaded with her as he held out the case.

“Why can’t you take it to the boat?” asked Amanda.

“I do not have a ticket. But my violin must get on the boat. It is of much importance.”

“Well -” Amanda took a deep breath. “I guess I could take it, but then what will I do with it once I’m on the boat.”

“Perhaps you could keep it in your room until you get to Vienna. I will meet you there.”

“H – How…”

“Amanda! Where have you gone?” She could hear Leah shouting.

“OK. I have to go.” Amanda snatched the violin case.

“Danke, fraulein. Don’t tell anyone you saw me, bitte. I mean, please.”

Amanda emerged from the small space between the two stalls just before Leah spotted her.

“I found a rad choker necklace.” Leah held up a clear bag and shook it. “What do you have in your hand?”

“I found a vintage violin case,” answered Amanda. “I think I’ll surprise my dad with it later.”

Leah looked at her watch. “We had better get to the boat before it leaves.”

The girls walked down the street toward the bus. A boy dashed past them knocking Amanda down.

“Hey, you! Watch where you’re going.” Amanda stood up. She held on to the violin case as she steadied herself.

“Are you all right?” Leah asked. “That boy looked very much like the one the crew members chased through the market. What is his problem?”

“I’m fine. I think he tried to grab the violin case.”

“Where did you say you got it?”

“I bought it from an old guy at the market while you were looking at jewellery.”

Amanda spotted a huge nutcracker soldier in a doorway. “Look at that!” She stood beside the wooden figure towering over her. “Take my picture, Leah. I feel like Clara and her gallant Nutcracker Prince from the ballet Aunt Mary took me to last Christmas. ”

Leah snapped a couple of pictures of a beaming Amanda. She noticed something move

and shouted, “There´s that boy. He’s hiding behind the nutcracker.”
Amanda turned around. The blond, curly-topped boy stood, grinning. He grabbed on to the violin case and pulled hard. Amanda held on tight. Leah came over and held on as well.

The smaller boy lost his grip and fell over backward, landing in a pile of spinning tops.

A burly shopkeeper ran over to them. “Get out of my store you trouble makers! Aus, kinder schlecht!”

Amanda and Leah dashed down the street just as the bus pulled away.

“Oh no! Now we’re going to be late and miss the boat.” Leah’s face fell. “My dad will kill me.”

©Darlene Foster

Thank you Darlene and certainly lots to look forward to for all your fans.

Connect to Darlene via her website and social media.


Well certainly looking forward to meeting Darlene in person when she comes to Ireland with Amanda. And I am sure that you have your own questions that you would like to ask this charming children’s author and please leave them in the comments section of the post.

Thank you as always for dropping in and your feedback is very welcome and if you could share that would be great. Sally.


The Sunday Living History Interview – A Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women by Darlene Foster

Living HistoryAuthor Darlene Foster shares the story of two great-grandmothers who despite the hardships they faced, worked tirelessly to give their families a home and provide them with the tools needed to survive and thrive.

darleneA Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke

I was fortunate to know both of my maternal great-grandmothers. They passed away when I was in my early teens but I remember them well. They were formidable elderly women with hearts of gold. One thing was for sure, you didn´t mess with either of them.

Both women were born into German immigrant farmer families living in South Russia and came to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century to help populate and develop the Prairie Provinces. They certainly did their part in populating the area as they had twenty-four children between the two of them!

orighoffmanfamThe original Hoffman family.

My grandmother´s mother, Katharina (Herrmann) Hoffman, arrived in Canada in 1909 from South Russia with her husband, three small children and another on the way. Being German, they could no longer safely stay in a country on the verge of a revolution. The Canadian government needed robust, hardy folks to settle the prairies. The steppes of Russia were very similar to the Canadian prairies, the price was right at one dollar and they needed a place to live.

The brave family took the onerous three-week journey across the Atlantic on a cattle ship to Halifax, then on a train to their homestead in southern Alberta. A stop had to be made in Winnipeg so Katharina could give birth to her fourth child, my grandmother. They eventually arrived at their destination; a desolate piece of land with no house, trees, water or neighbours. A temporary house, built from sod blocks carved out of the earth made do until a wooden house was eventually built. The sod was plastered with mud and cow dung inside and out and then whitewashed.

hoffman-familyThe Hoffman Family.

Great-grandmother decorated the walls with designs from a cut out potato dipped in beet juice. Katharina had seven more children once settled in Canada. A great cook, I recall her delicious German baking vividly. She grew a large vegetable garden, her home was kept spotless at all times and she made clothes for her children from flour sacks. She was a plucky, hardworking and resourceful woman who loved her family above all else. I am so lucky to have her blood running through my veins.

andreas-mehrer-family1The Mehrer family

My grandfather´s mother´s story is similar. Also named Katharina (Stoller) Mehrer, she arrived in Canada from South Russia in 1911 with her husband and four children under four, the youngest only six weeks old. With these small children, they travelled through Europe by train, crossed the Atlantic by boat and then across the United States by train before arriving at their homestead in South East Saskatchewan.

This young woman left behind a life of comfort and had to deal with homesickness, extreme climate, a new language and the death of an infant. Not only did she go on to have another nine children, she acted as a midwife to other members of the community, attending over fifty births. She also helped her husband in the fields. There was no time for self-pity. No matter the hardships, she just got on with it. I recall she was a tiny woman full of energy and determination.

I love this story my great aunt shared about an experience her mother, Katharina Mehrer, had in April of 1912, the first year they were in Canada.

Her husband was out turning sod when he had some trouble with the horses. He called to Katharina, who came across the road, leaving the little ones in the house, thinking she would only be a few minutes. It took a long time before she returned – to an empty house. Panic-stricken she rushed out, calling for the little ones but all that greeted her was silence. After searching the yard she returned to the house wondering what she could say to their father.

In the Kitchen, on one of the walls, there were six large hooks on which to hang heavy garments. On one of these hooks hung the long, black wool coat that her husband had brought from Europe. A long bench sat underneath. As she entered the kitchen she noticed a slight movement of the coat. She pulled it to one side and there sat four little people, sleeping and perspiring. Five-year-old John holding the baby and a little sister on each side of him. He explained to his mother that she was gone so long that he decided to keep them safe in case someone came to take them away.

The little boy, John, was my grandfather who passed those nurturing habits on to my mother and me.

Family was everything to my great-grandmothers who handed this value on down the line. These women believed in education and encouraged their children to get a good education and do well in life. Consequently, there are many successful people in our family. Both ideal role models, the Katharinas provided the attributes of determination, steadfastness and tenacity to the subsequent generations.

Whenever I think of these two remarkable women, I appreciate the trail they blazed for the rest of us and am eternally grateful. I am who I am because of them. When I set a goal, I will do everything to achieve it. I am not afraid of hard work and my bosses have often commented on how much work I could accomplish and not break a sweat. I even made the trip back across the Atlantic to live in another country. Mind you, I did it without small children in tow and on an airplane, not a three-week boat journey. Most important, I had a choice. A freedom I also owe to the two Katharinas.

When things seem to go wrong for me and I have a bad day, I remind myself of what my great-grandmothers went through and carry on. I believe the strength of our ancestors does sustain us.

About Darlene Foster.

Darlene Foster is a published children’s author, travel writer, English Language Tutor, retired employment coach/facilitator, wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her grandson calls her “super-mega-as woman-supreme”. She was brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting new people. These days she calls the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca of Spain, home.

Books by Darlene Foster

9781926760360 978192676055151pisqlz-zl-_sx309_bo1204203200_22548483

Who Is Amanda?

Amanda Ross is a 12 year old Canadian girl who decides that the only way out of her boring existence is to travel outside the country. She makes a wish on her twelfth birthday for a chance to travel and gets an airline ticket to the United Arab Emirates to visit her Aunt the next day. She doesn’t even know where that is and has to look it up on the internet. Once there she meets Leah, an English girl, and before she knows it they are in the middle of an adventure that involves a runaway princess, bounty hunters, camels and a sand storm. She often finds herself wishing she were back home in her boring but safe life once again.

Amanda joins Leah in Spain where they help a young girl who looks like a girl in a famous painting escape the clutches of a mean horse thief. She also visits Leah in England where they get lost in a maze, hide in an underground tunnel and ride the London Eye in search of a missing vintage novel. When Leah visits Amanda in Alberta, they take in all the sights while trying to decipher the mysterious writing on a stone and keep it from getting into the wrong hands. No matter where Amanda travels, she can’t seem to stay away from danger.

Amanda’s latest Adventure available on October 1st 2016.

amandadanubefinalTwelve year old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Germany, a mean boy immediately attempts to take it from her.

Back on their cruise, Amanda struggles to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy. Along the way, she encounters a mysterious monk, a Santa Claus look-alike, and the same nasty boy.

Follow Amanda down the Danube, through Germany, Austria and Hungary, as she enjoys the enchanting sounds of music everywhere she goes. She remains on the lookout though, wondering just who she can trust.

Also by Darlene Foster the bilingual Cerdito a Juicio


Read the reviews and buy the books through Darlene’s Amazon Author Page:

Connect to Darlene on her blog and social media.

Thank you very much for joining us today and we would love to have your feedback. thanks Sally