Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review - Gollywood, Here I Come!


Gollywood, Here I Come!

By: Terry John Barto
Illustrated by: Mattia Cerato
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1496935090
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: August 2015

Anamazie Marie LaBelle is a turkey! No, not that kind of turkey – she’s a real, live, clucking turkey and she also happens to be one of the best, if not THE best majorettes that has ever performed in her small town of Gobbleville. Anamazie loves the spotlight and she hopes that one day it will lead her right to Gollywood, home of famous celebrities and the movies they make. Will her dream come true?

Anamazie’s talent as a majorette has propelled her all the way to the finals of "Gobbleville’s Got Talent" (an homage, no doubt, to "America’s Got Talent"). Arriving with her mom Henrietta Pearl to cheer her on, Anamazie has her makeup done and then struts on stage. She performs a medley of patriotic songs as she dances around. The audience loves her but when the winner is announced Anamazie is heartbroken to hear another turkey’s name called. With tears in her eyes, she heads backstage to get some hugs from her mother.

While it might seem that Anamazie’s dreams are dashed, things take a drastic turn for the better when a man, er...turkey, from the audience approaches. It seems Mr. Albright is a talent scout and he thinks Anamazie just might be the perfect girl for his boss’s next movie. Will Anamazie’s dream of stardom come true?

This is the second book by author Terry John Barto that I’ve reviewed (see Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon) and it's just as enjoyable as Nickerbacher. While Gollywood, Here I Come! is Barto's first book, it has the same upbeat, fun, 'go for your dream!' message as Nickerbacher. In that story, a lovable dragon takes center stage and in this tale, I have to say that Anamazie’s mother, Henrietta, had me laughing throughout. She keeps a watchful eye out for her daughter and also manages to keep the reader smiling by doing such things as fainting at good news and falling out of a tree when hearing more good news. Beyond that, however, this tale of working hard for your dream and having it come true will resonate with many. It also teaches children that they too, should always go for their dreams. In addition, the illustrator, Mattia Cerato, is to be commended because his bright, colorful and lively drawings really bring this tale to life. Gollywood, Here I Come! is a 5-Star winner that your kids will love.

Quill says: A star is born and her name is Anamazie Marie LaBelle – don’t miss her debut!

For more information on Gollywood, Here I Come!, please visit the book's website at: gollywoodhereicome.com






Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review - The Children of Darkness


The Children of Darkness (The Seekers, Book One)

By: David Litwack
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62253-434-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 31, 2015

As all readers know, the “dystopian” era of literature has become a booming business. From top sellers that have reached the screen quite quickly (aka: The Maze Runner), these tales have taken over the minds and hearts of everyone from YA lovers to adults who literally crave a new kind of suspense/thriller. So it is always a pleasure to review a brand new series that delves into the dystopian world and delivers an A+ storyline.

This, Book One of “The Seekers” series, introduces Orah and Nathaniel to the world; two pals who have been friends since childhood and share many traits that include awesome skill sets, as well as a penchant to want to overthrow the limitations put upon them by the powers that be. Yet, for now, they keep silent and go with the flow.

You see, it’s been a thousand years since the “Darkness” came upon everyone. This was the time that ushered in social upheaval and the collapse of the norm. Pain, violence, all bad things came along with the Darkness, and for ten centuries, religious ones (the vicars) who make up the Temple of Light have been doing their best to stop the craziness and try to bring some kind of order and peace to the people. Of course, the Temple isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; after all, they have to set rules and deliver punishment for those who do not follow said rules by using their ‘temple magic.’

Orah is beckoned to the Temple to endure what one would see as a ritual in a child’s life where they leave childhood far behind and hook themselves to the Light for all time. Nathaniel, being her pal and agreeing that the Temple is not as ‘light’ as it should be, tries to rescue Orah so she doesn’t have to become one of them for the rest of time. Adventure springs eternal when they both find themselves wandering Temple City and discovering secrets that are supposed to stay buried. Because if these secrets are known and a mysterious location is found, then Orah, Nathaniel and the rest of the people may be able to find a path that will allow them to rise up against the ‘Light’ machine, so to speak, and get their lives back.

The author has done an excellent job bringing this world to life. From the dark prisons to the awesome magic and awe-inspiring belief that Orah and Nathaniel have in each other – the plot unfolds easily, swiftly, and never lets the readers’ attention wane.

Quill says: After reading this one, it will be a real hardship to have to wait to see what happens next.
For further information on The Children of Darkness (The Seekers, Book One), please visit the author's website at: davidlitwack.com







Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Books In For Review

Here's the latest batch of books to come in for review. Check them out!!!


Give Me Your Answer True by Suanne Laqueur Suanne Laqueur's award-winning debut novel The Man I Love thrilled readers with its memorable characters and depth of emotion. Erik Fiskare's journey of love, recovery and forgiveness captivated hearts but also left questions unanswered. Now Daisy Bianco has a chance to tell her story. It's been three years since a single lapse of judgment cost Daisy the love of her life. Erik was a conduit to her soul but now he's chosen a path of total disconnection, refusing to speak to her or acknowledge her betrayal. Alone and shattered, Daisy attempts to take responsibility for her actions while building her career as a professional dancer in New York City. But Erik's unforgiving estrangement proves too much for her strength. Plagued by flashbacks to the Lancaster shootings, she falls into a dangerous spiral of self-harm, cutting into her own skin as a means to atone. Only the timely appearance of an old friend, John "Opie" Quillis, saves her from self-destruction and gives her a chance to love again. Laqueur skillfully weaves flashbacks to the college years with Daisy's present life. Supported by John's patient affection, she works to separate her evolution as an adult from the unresolved guilt and grief of her youth. As her professional accomplishments lift her out of depression, Daisy learns to hold onto her accountability without letting it become her identity. Years pass and she builds a beautiful life filled with dance and friends. Lovers come and eventually go, leaving her on her own with the old thought: Come back to me. In this parallel narrative, Laqueur peels open the beloved characters from The Man I Love to reveal new and complex layers of vulnerability. The scars from the shooting are deep and pervasive within this circle of friends. Like Daisy, they are trying to evolve without being fully resolved. But when questions from the past go unheeded, you alone must find and give your answers true.

Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel by Kate Hewitt When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet. Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.  

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff Young Adelia Montforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home. Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.  

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery by Eileen Brady Dr. Kate Turner is happy with her new life in Oak Falls, upstate New York. Working as a relief veterinarian at a small house-call practice, she truly enjoys helping her patients. All that changes when client Claire Birnham is found dead, an apparent suicide. A talented artist, Claire had everything to live for: new job, Manhattan apartment, her Cairn terrier Toto. As feisty as the Wizard of Oz Toto, he and Claire were devoted. Kate can’t imagine Claire simply abandoning her pet. Was her death murder? Questions end in the police arresting young kennel helper Eugene. The fragile friendship between Kate and police officer Luke Gianetti frays as she ignores his advice and keeps asking questions. House calls provide gossip and clues, some helpful, some not so much, as she treats her animal patients. Did Claire’s recent insurance windfall prove too tempting for her hard working and hard drinking mother? What does trouble in the art gallery where Claire worked signal? How huge a grudge did heavy metal rocker A.J. hold against high-school sweetheart Claire after she dumped him? Was Claire a threat to AJ’s rich new girl? Dr. Kate mixes real medicine with murder as she risks her life over Claire’s death, aided by insights from a former fire investigator, aka her Gramps.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review - Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon


Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon

By: Terry John Barto
Illustrated by: Kim Sponaugie
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-1496954541
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 2015

A dragon? Oh, no! Run for your lives! Oh, wait, Nickerbacher isn’t a mean, scary dragon, he’s a funny dragon who wants to be a stand-up comedian. Maybe we should laugh instead of run...

Nickerbacher is a very obedient young dragon. He spends his time guarding Princess Gwendolyn because his father told him to. Nickerbacher keeps the princess safe but he isn’t happy – he knows he was meant for the comedy stage. The young dragon passes his time by telling the princess jokes and loves it when she laughs. Gwendolyn is a smart princess and tells her dragon friend, “...you need to do what makes you happy.” But then Papa Dragon comes along and reminds Nickerbacher of his duty. “You’re not supposed to make people laugh…you’re supposed to scare them,” he growls. Will Nickerbacher ever be happy?

One day a prince arrives to do battle with Nickerbacher. The prince wants to fight the deadly dragon and rescue the princess but he doesn’t know this dragon. Nickerbacher has other ideas. Instead of being a fierce and frightful dragon, he jokes with the prince. Frustrated, the prince tries and tries to fight Nickerbacher but eventually realizes that this dragon is different; he’s not a fire-breathing monster. When the prince reveals that he too, has a dream, the two become friends and talk about their dreams. Will the encouragement of the prince and princess be enough to encourage Nickerbacher to ‘go for it’ and reach for his dream?

Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is probably the most unique rendition on the ‘reach for your dreams’ story I’ve read. I love how the author took a creature normally portrayed as fierce and dangerous and turned him into a lovable friend (to both the princess and the reader) who wanted nothing more than to be happy. Young readers will get to see what happens when Nickerbacher reaches for the stars (and his dream) and will be encouraged to reach for their dreams too. Overall, a very enjoyable story that teaches an important lesson.

Quill says: Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is a unique twist on the theme of staying true to your dreams.

For more information on Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon,please visit the book's website at: nickerbacher.com






Book Review - The Ship Captain's Tale


The Ship Captain’s Tale: A Counting Adventure

By: V.A. Boeholt
Illustrated by: Jeff Yesh
Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1589852129
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 29, 2015

Ahoy, Mateys! There’s a new counting book and if you love ‘everything ocean,’ then you need to check it out! It’s a whole lotta fun for the wannabe ship’s captain.
As our story opens, we meet an old ship captain. He’s on a beach, telling a story to some young friends. It’s the story of a wonderful ship, The Queen of the Sea. One day, while the sun is shining and the passengers are enjoying themselves, the Captain of the mighty ship decides to take a nap. He has a terrible headache and needs to rest. However, things don’t always go as planned when the captain of a big ship takes a break.

Right at noon, the ship’s whistle bellowed out the noon whistle. But...but...the whistle didn’t stop. It was loud and piercing and bothered everybody:

One activity director ended the games.
Two passengers stood still.
Three guitarists quit strumming...


...and so on all the way up to twelve birds that scattered overhead.

The crew didn’t know what to do. People tried, but nobody could get the whistle to stop. Finally, one of the ship’s mates decided he had to wake up the Captain. Would the Captain be able to make the whistle stop?

The Ship Captain’s Tale is a fun twist on the traditional counting story. Most counting books I read are all counting and very little story. This one has a lot of story to go with the counting. I also liked how the book counted to twelve rather than ten, introduced ordinal numbers, and also counted backwards from twelve to one. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and mesh perfectly with the story. At the back of the book is a resource guide, a chart of counting to six in nine different languages (as well as English so they can compare), as well as a glossary of ship related words that young readers may not know.

Quill says: The Ship Captain’s Tale is bound to be a hit with youngsters who have a yearning to travel the high seas.








Book Review - Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method


Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method: More than 100 Hands-On Science Experiments for Children

By: Sally Kneidel
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-1938486326
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: July 27, 2015

Did you ever think that having some Madagascar hissing roaches would be hiss-terically good pets to have? Probably not and undoubtedly most parents would give a definite thumbs down if you requested them as pets. If you read all about them, you just might want to learn more about them and actually snag yourself a terrarium and observe their behaviors. Of course that terrarium would have to have a very secure top. There are some ultra-interesting facts to be learned about Madagascar hissing roaches, including the fact that the females "provide maternal care for their young." Go figure, motherly bugs!

Now if you saw creepy crawlies like those Madagascar hissing roaches in your classroom, you probably wouldn't be at all surprised. There are a ton of things you can learn about bugs and critters of all sorts. Many kids have heard about black swallowtail butterflies and may have even read a book about raising them, but how about bessbugs? No, not bedbugs, bessbugs. They really are beautiful and are "sometimes called patent-leather beetles because they're shiny jet-black like patent leather."
Collecting critters is one thing, but there are so many things that can be learned from them and about them. Chances are you don't live in an area where you can forage for Madagascar hissing roaches, but you might be able to find some bessbugs under a rock or rotting log. Of course if you're a city-dweller, there's always the option of ordering many of the creepy crawlies discussed in this book. Before you even begin, you'll learn all about the scientific method in order to prepare yourself for your journey as a junior scientist.

Once you've got the scientific method down pat and understand the difference between it and a simple activity, you're good to go. You'll learn proper eco-friendly ways to attract and collect your critter of choice. In this book you'll not only learn about experiments, but also many facts about those creepy crawlies that co-exist with us. You can select from millipedes, butterflies, aphids, spiders, beetles, and yes, those Madagascar hissing roaches. Do you think a bessbug can learn to travel through a maze? You'll just have to run an experiment using the scientific method to find out!

This is an amazing hands-on book of science experiments children will love. I've read several books that have included some science experiments, but none quite as thorough and fun as this one. Sally Kneidel certainly knows from her work in a classroom and in the field what helps students learn. The introductory chapters introduce students to the scientific method and ways to attract and maintain them at home or in the classroom. Subsequent chapters are prefaced by an introduction, how to obtain the creepy crawlies of choice, material and housing needs, background information, behaviors, and other pertinent scientific facts followed by experiments. The book has numerous black and white photographs, line drawings,and reproducible charts and graphs. In the back of the book is an index and very comprehensible bibliography. This is an excellent resource for use in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: This is one of the best, most comprehensive books out there for learning about those creepy crawlies around us!






Book Review - Weightless


Weightless

By: Sarah Bannan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05092-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 27, 2015

Sarah Bannan writes a disturbingly real account of the damage and wreckage that is left in the wake of bullying in her debut novel, Weightless.

It’s a hot and steamy August afternoon on the athletic field of Adams High School in small town, Adamsville, Alabama. Summer is nearly over and it’s the perfect time for a pep rally to prepare students for the imminent return to the school year ahead. It doesn’t matter that the temperature is oppressively sticky and hot. Of course, you’d never know it by watching star cheerleader Taylor Lyon as she shakes her stuff and does her thang to the envy of all the lower class wannabees. Taylor is perfect with her nearly red, but mostly auburn, hair. Ever since kindergarten, she was picked first for everything. Enter Gemma Davies; another example of flawlessness and envy with her beautiful blonde hair and ‘best personality’ title. It didn’t matter that she was only going to be a junior; her boyfriend Andrew Wright was a rising senior which definitely was a status boost. She is the daughter of the town’s preacher man and Gemma can do no wrong. The trifecta and without question, the one calling all the shots, however, is Brooke Moore. She is the epitome of perfection and the constant envy of her peers with her trendy bob haircut and flawless skin. Rumor had it she never had a zit. Her eyes were a perfect shade of brown and no girl would deny spending hours in front of the mirror fitfully attempting to master their eyeliner application to that of Brooke’s Neutrogena look. Her greatness, however, is solidified by her boyfriend, Shane. He is the captain of the football team. Sadly, all this ‘it girl’ utopia is about to be compromised when newcomer Carolyn Lessing arrives on the scene.

Summer’s last hurrah is upon the quiet little community of Adamsville. Hot air balloons took to the sky early Saturday morning for the Sky Sprint. It was the beginning of the Annual 3M Adamsville Balloon Festival at Harper’s Memorial Field. The festival organizers were prepared to deal with intermittent rowdiness and shenanigans and overall, this year’s event would deliver a successful outcome once again...mostly. Nobody was prepared for the final curtain of the day’s events when star footballer Shane (and boyfriend of Brooke Moore) sits down next to best friend Andrew and places his arm around new girl Carolyn Lessing...
Sarah Bannan delivers a compelling and extremel
y real account of the egregious irrefutable damage bullying imposes on the innocence of adolescence. This is a situation that lurks among many young groups and perhaps it is part of a child’s ‘rite of passage,’ but oh-so wrong. Her character development is spot on. Bannan has precision focus on the development of mean girl Brooke’s persona. She is diabolical and formidable and will stop at nothing and constantly keeps her eye on the prize of revenge, no matter the cost. The victim, Carolyn Lessing, dared to be different. Her ‘new girl’ tag is brazenly obvious and superbly applied by Bannan. As a parent of two girls—one still in the vortex of navigating through her journey of high school acceptance, the book had me applauding Bannan often for painting an incredibly accurate (and disturbing) picture of reality with her words. Weightless is a solid reminder that while this may be a work of ‘fiction,’ the sublime elements of reality rise to the surface often throughout this read. Great job Ms. Bannan! I look forward to your next book.

Quill says: Weightless is a must read for any parent who has faced the three-headed dragon with a child who has been bullied or is the bully!