Monday, April 24, 2017

#BookReview - The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli

By: Alyssa Palombo
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-07150-7
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: April 17, 2017

Beginning in Genoa in April of 1469, we find Simonetta Cattaneo, her mother and maid preparing her for one of the most important moments of her life - or so she is told. Signor Marco Vespucci, a Florentine man and an intimate of the Medici circle, has asked her father if he may court her as he has the intention of marrying her. As a member of Genoese nobility and as an extremely beautiful woman, Simonetta is no stranger to the attention of men, however, she craves to be known for more than simply her beauty. She wants to be known and admired for her mind as well. Upon meeting with Signor Vespucci, Simonetta finds herself bored by his subjects of speaking but intrigued by the light in his eyes as he speaks of what he loves. When he notices a copy of La Divina Commedia by Dante, he mistakenly assumes it is being read by her father, and much to his surprise, Madonna Simonetta is the owner of this book. Unwilling to sit by and let it be assumed she is uneducated, she quotes a passage and is met with the following passage being recited back to her. In this moment, she makes her decision. If asked, she will be married to Signor Vespucci and she will revel in the opportunity to be invited into the educated, artistic and gifted Medici circle.

Upon a proposal from Signor Vespucci and being invited to dine with the Medicis, Simonetta is found to be not only beautiful, but charming and brilliant, “a true child of this renascimento,” according to Lorenzo Medici. In their circle she meets poets, writers and artists. As she is awestruck by art, she finds herself admiring work of a man named Sandro Botticelli and is promptly introduced to him. There is no denying that they are artistically drawn to each other and can easily speak about their artistic opinions. Lorenzo remarks that she would make a wonderful subject for a portrait, clearly reading Sandro’s mind. As the Medici brothers joke that Sandro is “mapping out a canvas for her in his mind,” he gives a slight nod to Simonetta, which she returns. It is then she realizes that she has entered into a secret accord with this great artist. Simonetta finds herself so well-liked by the Medicis that they offer to host their wedding on their own grounds, and soon after, she is married to Signor Vespucci. Simonetta, as swept up as she is in Florence, finds that marriage is not what she thought it would be and that who she married is not who she believed him to be either. As she struggles to find her place in life and navigate the “curse” of beauty that she is given, she finds herself falling for Sandro and his educated mind, and she quickly becomes his muse - not only for her beauty, but for her mind - and becomes forever captured in his painting "The Birth of Venus."

From the very instant I opened this book, I was completely drawn in. The story of Simonetta and her life in Genoa was expertly tied into how her life would be in Florence. We could always see that Simonetta craved more out of life and love than many do - she wanted to be respected and loved for her mind and not simply her beauty, as beauty is fleeting. She had such a strong desire to be a part of something bigger than herself, while in those days many women were just content to be married and had no need to be educated. This is still such a relevant issue today and I love how this book deals with multiple issues that can be applied to life as it is right now. The lessons and thoughts tied into this book will be relevant for years and years to come and I found myself staying up too late to continue reading, in suspense of what would happen next. I have never read a work of Alyssa Palombo’s before, however after reading this and craving more of the same style, I could hardly hold myself back from purchasing The Violinist of Venice. If it is anything like The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, I cannot, and will not, be disappointed.

Quill says: Beautifully written and poetically told, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence will leave you in tears and rushing to get your hands on anything else written by Alyssa Palombo.

#BookReview - The Graves

The Graves: Book 2 in the Abby Endicott series

By: Pamela Wechsler
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1250077882
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: April 17, 2017

Abby Endicott works in the district attorney’s office as chief of the homicide unit in Boston. Although she does well, her parents wish that she was not in that position. They have even gone so far as cutting her off from her “allowance” until she leaves her job and her current boyfriend Ty. Although Ty does have a criminal background, he has moved on and is pursuing a music career.

Currently, Abby is not supposed to be taking cases. She was placed on a leave of absence after her previous case almost got her and Ty killed. When her friend Kevin, a detective, calls with a case that could potentially be linked to a serial killer, she knows she has to take it, no matter the consequences.
When Abby arrives at the scene, Kevin fills her in on what is going on and what they know so far. While she is looking at the scene, she sees a mark on the victim’s hand that is similar to the mark that a local bar uses for its patrons. As Abby is filled in on the crime scene, it is starting to sound similar to another recent unsolved case. When her boss Max shows up at the scene, and finds that she has taken the case, he isn’t too happy about it. Although Max allows her to take the case, he makes it clear that she isn’t supposed to be doing any of the detective work. When Abby announces that she is going home for the night, Kevin offers to take her home. Instead of going home, they head off to the bar that could have been the last place their victim was seen.

When they arrive at the Crazy Fox, they ask the manager if their victim had been there before. Since he cannot give them a definite answer, they ask to see his camera footage. As they are looking through the camera footage they spot their victim. Although she came in the bar alone, she did leave with someone. When they ask the manager if he knows the man the victim left with, he says that it is Tommy Greenough, the oldest son of a senator.

After this latest break in the case, Abby decides to talk to Max about it. While talking with Max, Abby learns that he will be running for Mayor. This leaves the DA position open, which Max thinks she should run for. Although this would be something Abby would like to do, she doesn’t think that her chances will be very high when people find out that their murder suspect is none other than the senator’s son.

As Abby and Kevin continue to investigate, they find themselves not only learning about their victim, and finding another victim along the way, but they also find that members of Boston’s elite are becoming mixed in with the case. Although Abby would love to see her future as the DA, she knows that she must stop at nothing and not let politics get in the way of solving her case.

The Graves is an interesting read. Not only are you taken through the whole process from the crime scene to the investigation to the trial, but there is also a romance story playing out as well. As the book goes on, the mystery and romance come full circle and tie everything together. It will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat and throws in an unexpected twist as well.

Quill says: The Graves shows you all aspects of a criminal case. It is a great mystery with some romance tied in.

#BookReview - The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

By: Marie Lavender
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publication Date: February 2016
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: April 2017

Can one mistake cause someone to find love and change their entire life? Author Marie Lavender writes about that possibility in her new romance The Missing Piece.

The Missing Piece is a short story about good-girl Alyssa Masters. One morning Alyssa wakes up on her college fraternity’s lawn with a massive headache and a spotty memory, and instantly panics. Parties aren’t her scene, she’s a recluse and doesn’t drink. She’s a good student and doesn’t do anything that involves too much risk, until last night, apparently.

As Alyssa struggles to take in her surroundings and figure out what day it is, a young man named Justin helps her to put some of the pieces together. She finds that she did, in fact, attend the frat party and clearly drank, but much of what happened afterward is still a mystery. All she knows is what Justin has told her - that she had spent time with a fraternity member named Brendan and eventually followed him upstairs after doing some jello shots. In an instant frenzy, she thinks of the worst possible outcomes, only to be assured by Justin that Brendan is a good guy. He vows to help her figure out the pieces of her missing memory, but they could very well find that they were each other's missing piece all along.

The Missing Piece was a quick and fun read, and I enjoyed meeting Alyssa and the other characters. Given the constraints of the short story format - this is a 30-page story - it's difficult for the author to "flesh out" the characters and really develop them. I would have loved to see the characters be more deeply developed, and I would have loved to be more involved in this story. I really did want to keep reading more, as the style of writing was easy to follow and intriguing. I am hoping for a sequel to this short story, as I would like to know how the romance between characters develops and if Alyssa comes to change her good-girl ways or finds someone who will accept her for everything she is and always was.

Quill says: The Missing Piece is a mysterious and romantic read that readers will find themselves wanting more of and definitely looking for other stories by this author.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl

FQ: As a person who has actually been in Henryetta, Oklahoma, can you tell our readers if this story is based on Cowboys Quarterback Troy Aikman's hometown, or is this a fictional world only? If fictional, where did this idea first come to you? And, are any or all of the characters based on real people in your life?

PLASTER: The tale, like all my other written ones so far, is in fact set in the small Oklahoma town that was once widely known as HOTA ---- Hometown of Troy Aikman ---- but is now more widely known as HOTAGG ---- Hometown of both Troy Aikman and Gaylord Goodhart ---- since publication of my tale, titled Sumbitch, about Goodhart's football exploits that surpassed Aikman's. The idea for it first came to me in my head, out of a bottle of Merlot, I expect. My impressions of real people are usually that they are characters, so it's hard to say which are based on which.

FQ: This is the 10th satirical book you've written. Do you believe that humor is a "must have" or, at least, a great addition when it comes to writing a mystery?

PLASTER: Well, jokes and mystery stories both tend to be about being surprised that things turn out to be not in sync with what you might normally expect, so...I have no idea if there's a "must have" connection to anything except women.

FQ: Is there a genre you have not yet delved into that you would like to attempt in the future?

PLASTER: I could be wrong, but Attempted Genre sounds like it might be a crime in the State of Oklahoma. So, I don't know if I will ever delve that way or not.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

PLASTER: I don't read much, not at all actually, but would say my own books make set-abouts that are about as good as anybody's that I've seen on a shelf or coffee table.

FQ: How did the writing path first begin for you? Did you have teachers that helped you along, or a mentor that perhaps encouraged you to write?

PLASTER: My writing path started with printing, and yes, I had a high school teacher, Ms. Tuck, who helped me a lot with the letter S. But longhand, in my opinion, is a talent you're either born with, or without. Not only has no one eve encouraged me to write, most have advised me to stop doing it.

FQ: Tell us about a perfect Simon Plaster writing day. Your surroundings? Music has to be playing in the background? CNN running on the TV? What makes it "just right" for writing?

PLASTER: A perfect writing day for me would take a pot of coffee, about three packs of cigarettes, and a good looking gal rubbing my shoulders. But I live in an imperfect world, so have to make do with just coffee and an unlit cigar.

FQ: On a serious note, how do you feel about the tabloid journalism that seems to have taken over the world we live in today? Do you believe anyone tells the truth anymore?

PLASTER: If you're talking about The New York Times, no. Nothing it's put out since Gus was a pup is "News Fit to Print," in my opinion. As for actual tabloid-size papers, I always take cans of food through the supermarket express check-out lane, so I am only familiar with the the headlines and pictures put out by National Enquirer and the like, which usually look pretty dang interesting.

FQ: What is next up for you? Can you give readers a "sneak peek" at what you're working on right now?

PLASTER: Just finished OPRY, A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle, which has a singin', drinkin', cheatin' story line such as you would find in both many if not most country songs and old-time, high-brow, foreign language musical shows from overseas.

FQ: Readers love this question, so I must ask: If you could have dinner with one author, living or dead (but they would be, of course, alive for dinner), who would it be and what would be the one question you would love to ask them?

PLASTER: I have dinner with my own self all the time, and always ask the same question about every subject that comes up: "What the hell were you thinking?"

FQ: Thank you for your time. And thank you for a great book!

To learn more about News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#BookReview - The Wanderer's Last Journey @lee_eiland

The Wanderer's Last Journey: The Orfeo Saga, Book Four

By: Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1519655790
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 2016

Friends venture into unchartered territory to rescue Orfeo in author Murray Lee Eiland’s fourth book of the Orfeo Saga.

Book four of the Orfeo Saga finds Orfeo and his wife Clarice living in the small sovereign city-state of Pylos. Journeying abroad, they become trade representatives of Malta. It’s during their time at Malta that they spy an odd Theran-like ship. This situation is quite unnerving for them since very few of this vicious tribe, which they encountered during the Great Battle, have survived. As the crew prepares to depart, they whisk Orfeo away on their ship. Daryush and his wife Semira get word of Orfeo’s kidnapping, prepare a forty-man team, and meet up with Clarice. Ninety-year-old Zurga the Wanderer, who is in Egypt, learns of Orfeo's disappearance and investigates the mysterious Theran-looking ships. His probing eventually leads to obtaining a ship and a volunteer crew. Although the two groups set off from different locations, their destination is the same—they are sailing “to the ends of the earth” to rescue Orfeo.

Orfeo, in the meantime, has been treated well by his captors even though he is not certain of their intentions. It’s not until a quetzal cock perches itself on Orfeo’s shoulder soon after the ship lands on the island of Ixtlan that he realizes the Ixtlans believe him to be Quetzalcoatl, the living god. The King of Ixtlan and his high priest cousin Asok notice the mesmerizing effect Orfeo has on the people. The two come up with schemes not only to accrue riches but also to trap and overtake their long-time enemies, the Nastases. Concurrently, Zurga meets up with the other group and shares his smart yet highly dangerous strategy to rescue Orfeo.

Eiland’s fascination with ancient history, traditions, and myths provides the groundwork for his six epic-like novels. Each book has a singular focus on people, places, and events of that period. In book four, Eiland centers the bulk of his plot on the Mesoamerican legend of Quetzalcoatl (pronounced KET-zel-QWAH-tel). Orfeo’s notable features and near-white hair make him the perfect model for this “feather serpent” god who has been idolized and worshiped for centuries within Mexican and many Central American cultures.

Although The Wanderer’s Last Journey begins where book three, Zurga’s Fire, leaves off, Eiland has designed each novel as a near stand-alone. While Eiland has quite a penchant for including copious amounts of fictional and factual minutiae, he also has an apt ability to weave his love for these forms of ancient history into the developing lives of his principle cast, which he mentions in each book. Additionally, his use of repetitive situations from previous books offers well-rounded tales and builds cohesion throughout his saga. However, what keeps his readers coming back for more are his infectious cliffhanger endings. That said, book four certainly has a catchy closure.

Quill says: The Wanderer’s Last Journey is another fascinating read, perfect for Orfeo Saga fans as well as history and fantasy aficionados.

For more information on The Wanderer's Last Journey: The Orfeo Saga, Book Four, please visit the series' Facebook page at:

#BookReview - Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

By: Audrey Penn
Illustrated by: Barbara L. Gibson
Publisher: Tanglewood Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1-939100-11-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 2017

For anyone who has missed even one book in this absolutely fantastic series entitled, The Kissing Hand Books, you are missing out on something truly special. Specified for ages 3 to 7, parents will be thrilled to share these books with their kids. All about love and affection, warmth and family – this series focuses on every area of kindness that exists in the world. Thus, it’s not a surprise that the characters in these books teaching this kindness are animals.

In this, the 10th book in this series, Chester is looking at having his first “overday” with his friends across the pond from where he lives. He is headed to Pepper Opossum’s tall white oak home located on the far side of Butterfly Pond. Mrs. Raccoon (beloved Mommy) drops off Chester and leaves him with a kiss in the middle of his palm. Although he’s nervous about being away from her, he is also very excited to be spending the day with his pals. And these are some really cool pals: Pepper, of course, is the hostess. Then we have Stanley Squirrel, Badger, Chester’s own best friend Cassie Raccoon, and the fun and slightly smelly Amber Porcupine. (She’s a great friend. She just has an issue with making “stinky puffs” at certain moments in time.)

The friends have an absolute ball. They run, they hang upside down in trees, they play darts – you name it, they do it. They even have a feast of some really delicious grubs and slugs that Mrs. Opossum serves. But, like all of us, after playing hard and eating well, all we feel like doing is taking a nice, restful nap. But it’s difficult napping away from home. You miss Mommy and your siblings, even though you also love the day of play you’ve had with your friends. So...what will Chester do? have to read and find out. Also, you get to stare at absolutely wonderful artwork that brings these characters to life. I’m not exaggerating; this is one illustrator who is so specific and so brilliant in her work, that you and your children will feel like Chester and his gang are literally real and living right outside your window.

It is not a shock that this series has gone on for so long and been so popular. This reviewer (who is now a Grandma and wants the perfect books to share with her beautiful granddaughter) loves the fact that Chester has gotten to the big “Ten.” This is one series that lets all of us follow along with a great young lad as he grows up and experiences the world, teaching life lessons along the way that every family should celebrate.

Quill says: This is the perfect set for young children to have in their homes. Chester is a whole lot of fun!

#BookReview - Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7

Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History

By: Beckie Elgin
Publisher: Inkwater Press
ISBN: 978-1-62901-400-5
Reviewed by: Janice Ladendorf
Review Date: April 16, 2017

Wolves are predators who normally hunt in packs and compete with humans for prey. Bison and other hoofed ungulates are their natural prey; but when their herds shrink too low, wolves may turn to hunting cattle or sheep. Human societies traditionally feared and hated wolves. Once plentiful in the United States, thousands have been killed by guns, traps, or poison. At times federal and state governments have paid hunters a bounty for every wolf they had killed.

The wolves were almost all gone before scientists discovered they are a keystone species who were needed to maintain the natural balance of any ecosystems they inhabit. This book presents the case for the preservation and protection of wolves through the story of one remarkable animal who was named OR-7. When he was two years old, he was spotted from a helicopter, darted by a tranquilizer gun, and fitted with a collar. This devise enabled biologists to track his movements.

Most wolf cubs stay with their parents and join their park, but OR-7 was an exception to this rule. He left his family and began moving around Oregon and California. Before he found a mate, his journey took three years and covered 4,000 miles. When records of his journey were publicized, he became world famous. Two movies were made about his adventures. When a public contest was held, the winners gave him the name of "Journey."

In the twentieth century scientists began to study wolves and the author of this book drew on their discoveries and her own experiences to write a series of delightful stories about Journey's life. She began with his first adventure when he climbed out of the den to get his first view of the outside world. Her stories show wolves as ambient animals who are gentle and playful with each other. When OR-7 decided to leave his home and family, she described what he saw as he wandered around Oregon and California. When Journey finally found his mate, a detailed description is given of how they found and courted each other.

This book was created for middle-grade readers, but it can be read and enjoyed by older children and adults. The text is arranged in a somewhat complicated format that is packed with detailed information. It is well illustrated with many photographs, maps, and some sketches. Appropriately, it ends by quoting Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Law of the Wolves."

Quill says: A must read for anyone who is interested in wolves or rewilding.