Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review - As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

By: Cary Elwes
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1476764023
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 19, 2014

With the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride upon us, actor Cary Elwes, who brought the character of Westley to life, has penned a memoir about the making of the family classic that fans of the movie should not miss. Interesting, funny, with lots of insight from various cast members, this book is a delight to read.

As You Wish begins with Cary Elwes recalling a note his agent sent him marked only with the word ‘Important.’ Upon calling her, Elwes learned that he was being considered for a role that would eventually change not just his career, but really, his entire life. Producing partners Rob Reiner and Andy Scheinman were interested in meeting Elwes to see if he was the right man to play one of the leads in their upcoming movie.

From the first meeting with Reiner and Scheinman to being introduced to Robin Wright and the other cast members, dealing with the R.O.U.S. (Rodents Of Unusual Size), and preparing for ‘The Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times,’ it’s all here. The book reads like a group project because there are so many sidebars from all the major players (actors, producers, etc.) that add a real family feel to the story (Elwes mentions several times how the cast and crew became very close and it certainly shows here). There are a lot of personal stories, and insights into various cast members (I particularly enjoyed the stories about AndrĂ© the Giant). Plenty of events from the filming are included too and I plan on re-watching the movie this weekend to see if I can spot that broken toe...

When The Princess Bride hit movie screens, it received good reviews although viewers didn’t flock to it in droves. While not a major hit, as soon as the home video market caught on, so too did The Princess Bride. Today, it is considered a classic, a movie that the whole family can enjoy. So too, is As You Wish - thank you, Mr. Elwes, for bringing the back-story of The Princess Bride to life in a book fans will love.

Quill says: A quick, fun read about a wonderful movie. If you enjoyed The Princess Bride, you’ll love this book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TIME-LIFE Mysteries of the Unknown: Inside the World of the Strange and Unexplained

Publisher: TIME-LIFE
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1618933522
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 17, 2014

Time-Life Books has tackled some interesting topics in the past, and this book is certainly no exception to their quest to bring to light the strange and unusual. From ghosts to secret societies, this book offers a plethora of unexplained phenomena.

There are fifteen chapters in this book, tackling everything from “Psychics and Mediums,” “Curses,” “Vampires and Zombies” to “Witchery.” Did you know that “The father of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, was Dracul. Dracula means son of Dracul, or little devil”? How about the belief that salt is “said to ward off demonic forces”? Ever hear why the dragon was associated with the devil in the Middle Ages? You’ll read about these varied topics in Mysteries of the Unknown as well as so many more.

Along with stories of ghosts, zombies and mythical creatures are accounts of real events and occurrences that you may not know about, or understand the underlying causes of – until now. Did you know that there is actually a “Quiet Zone” of 13,000 square-miles in West Virginia where no cell phone works, there’s no Wi-Fi and very little else. Sound eerie? Actually, the explanation is simple – the Government established this zone to keep the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope free of interference as it searches the cosmos.

The back cover of Mysteries of the Unknown asks, “We are alone in the universe. Or Are we?” and states that with these series of books (which include World War II in 500 Photographs and Everything You Need to Know About the Bible), you will “Discover Something New; Know It Fast; See the Story for Yourself” and yes, this book delivers on all points. Each topic is presented quickly (note that doesn’t mean hastily and lacking information), with typically a two-page spread for each one, and plenty of full-color photographs. The stories are interesting, well-written, without fluff that would add pages but no useful information. In short, this is an easy reading, fun, informational book on all sorts of mysteries.

Quill says: With short, concise presentations on all sorts of “strange and unexplained” phenomena, this book is a great addition to the libraries of those who like to know the inside scoop on all sorts of mysteries.

Book Review - What Would Mary Ann Do?

What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life

By: Dawn Wells
Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1630760281
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 17, 2014

For those of a ‘certain age,’ memories of Gilligan’s Island are filled with fond remembrances of happy times. Among many topics of discussion, boys argued about whether they’d like to date Mary Ann or Ginger, while the girls all discussed if they were more of a Ginger or Mary Ann. Now, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of show, one of only two surviving cast members, Dawn Wells (a.k.a. Mary Ann), has penned a new book with the catchy title, What Would Mary Ann Do?

Part memoir, part Gilligan’s Island trivia, with the bulk of the book filled with tips on everything from manners to men, the book is based on the premise of ‘what would Mary Ann do if she found herself in X situation’ with those situations ranging from how Mary Ann would handle today’s culture to how she’d deal with modern men.

There are over a dozen chapters in this guide, from “Please pass the manners” to “So you want to be in show business.” Many offer sage advice such as the chapter on “If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again” that, contrary to so many advice books today that say YOU are special, Ms. Wells contends that “Deep breath here. This might sting a little. Okay. Nobody is born special. This includes you.” (pg. 43). She goes on to say that “special is earned,” and lays out a plan on “how you become special.” This advice may seem a bit too old fashioned for some, but for many of us, it’s what people need to hear – they need to earn various things in life, milestones are not a given. Wells then uses examples from her own life (and of experiences from Gilligan’s Island) to bring home her point. Perhaps the best advice in the book (in my humble opinion, particularly important for young girls reading the book) came in the chapter, “The allure of being alluring,” where the author shares Mary Ann’s style points and the best advice of all, “Your looks are not worth your health.” Ladies, are you listening?

There are some nice stories here for fans of Gilligan’s Island but for those wanting a book purely of fan lore and stories of the show, this is not that book. Tidbits are shared throughout, with some nice sidebars on the various actors and what they were like, but again, it is not the main focus of the book. If, however, you’re looking for some down-home, honest, useful advice, take a look at this book.

Quill says: Dawn Wells does a lovely job of sharing advice about all aspects of life with a little help from Mary Ann.

Book Review - The Best Part of the Day

The Best Part of the Day

By: Sarah Ban Breathnach
Illustrated by: Wendy Edelson
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62157-252-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 17, 2014

It is so nice—especially in the times we live in now where a computer screen offers up the next new story—to be able to enjoy and get lost in a book composed of beauty, finesse, and the absolute perfect combination of lovely writing and amazing illustrations.

This new children’s book proves itself to be one of those books; the books that are stuck in our memories because they were our favorites to hear and see when we were growing up. This is not an exaggeration, either. This story is all about seeing the world and being thankful for it. From outside the window, looking into the great expanse of the night, all of the cool creatures and stunning wildlife are at rest...settling down with their own families for a good night’s sleep.

From there, the book explores the enchanting moments that happen during each season. It brings children through autumn, seeing the creatures ‘stock up’ for when the winter snow starts to blow. Heading onto the bus for the first day of school, raking leaves – everything the lover of crisp, clean fall days enjoys most. Then, on to winter and the inevitable snowman; the creatures at rest while the warm fireplace burns. When spring comes to town, the wildlife once again peek their heads out to hear the enjoyment of the kids as they race back outside to have fun. Family loves the summertime, as well. Enjoying a picnic or fireworks with friends...every season is represented to a point where you wish it would never end, and staying a child forever could be a choice.

There is new life from a family friend, there is cuddling with sheep and learning, while still young enough to be excited by the world, that life is most definitely something to treasure.

For all readers, this will become a cherished book. This is one tale that, no matter how bad reality has intruded upon your day, will automatically uplift and excite. And when you curl up with the ones you love to read this story every evening, you will remember that the best part of your day is happening right then and there.

Great writing, incredible pictures, and a way to look at the world that we should all try to do at least once a day!

Quill Says: Enchanting.

Books In For Review

Here's a sample of the books that have just arrived for review.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Keeping Fit from A to Z: Mantente en forma de la A a la Z by Stephanie Maze Designed to inspire children to stay active and healthy while introducing them to new vocabulary in two languages, this bilingual English/Spanish alphabet picture book features more than 200 colorful photographs with descriptive text of a variety of physical activities, sports, children's games, and problem-solving classroom exercises, as well as a glossary of health benefits for adults. Whether it's jumping with joy on a trampoline, flying kites on a breezy day, racing with friends in sleeping bags, rafting down rapids with family, or practicing karate kicks in class, exercise is key to one's health and well-being. Children and their parents will learn about the vast array of physical activities in the world today, as well as the importance of being active.

Playing With Fire by David Tienter An older ex-special forces Marine is asked to find a lost hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He discovers evidence of a heinous murder and the hunt is on for the Monster who would commit such a terrible crime. The fast pace action races down the east coast to the Florida Keys and back to the Trail. Exciting and surprising, this is a story that is a must read. A hero for all, especially those over 50.

Doghouse (A Gin & Tonic Mystery) by L. A. KornetskyEven though she’s unlicensed as an investigator, the infamously nosy Ginny Mallard has begun to make a name for herself as an unofficial champion of the tongue-tied. When a mysterious stranger comes to her with landlord trouble, she convinces her bartender friend Teddy Tonica to help her once more. Soon, they realize they might have got themselves tied up in an underground dogfighting ring. With the help of Ginny’s pet shar-pei puppy and Tonica’s tabby cat, they have to figure out what’s going on before someone else gets hurt. Will twelve legs really be better than four?

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner. The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come. Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.

Chuck It by Knut Hansen A dark and humorous anti-hero novel spanning an appromxiate 380 pages, magnifying the mythical otherness across the Atlantic, one way or the other, and exploring juvenile exuberance elongated by past and future dreams of those who've set sails and those who yet haven't.

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread (Jane Austen Takes the South)by Mary Jane Hathaway Lucy Crawford is part of a wealthy, well-respected Southern family with a long local history. But since Lucy’s mother passed away, the family home, a gorgeous antebellum mansion, has fallen into disrepair and the depth of her father’s debts is only starting to be understood. Selling the family home may be the only option—until her Aunt Olympia floats the idea of using Crawford house to hold the local free medical clinic, which has just lost its space. As if turning the plantation home into a clinic isn’t bad enough, Lucy is shocked and dismayed to see that the doctor who will be manning the clinic is none other than Jeremiah Chevy—her first love. Lucy and Jeremiah were high school sweethearts, but Jeremiah was from the wrong side of the tracks. His family was redneck and proud, and Lucy was persuaded to dump him. He eventually left town on a scholarship, and now, ten years later, he’s returned as part of the rural physician program. And suddenly, their paths cross once again. While Lucy’s family still sees Jeremiah as trash, she sees something else in him—as do several of the other eligible ladies in town. Will he be able to forgive the past? Can she be persuaded to give love a chance this time around?

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson Maud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris, she quickly realizes, is no place for a light purse. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling decadence of the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his beautiful young sister, Sylvie. Maud is overjoyed by her good fortune. With a clean room, hot meals, and an umbrella to keep her dry, she is able to hold her head high as she strolls the streets of Montmartre. No longer hostage to poverty and hunger, Maud can at last devote herself to her art. But all is not as it seems. Christian and Sylvie, Maud soon discovers, are not quite the darlings they pretend to be. Sylvie has a secret addiction to opium and Christian has an ominous air of intrigue. As this dark and powerful tale progresses, Maud is drawn further into the Morels' world of elegant deception. Their secrets become hers, and soon she is caught in a scheme of betrayal and revenge that will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.

The Turning Season (A Shifting Circle Novel)by Sharon Shinn For Karadel, being a shape-shifter has always been a reality she couldn’t escape. Even though she’s built a safe life as a rural veterinarian, with a close-knit network of shifter and human friends who would do anything for her—and for each other—she can’t help but wish for a chance at being normal. When she’s not dealing with her shifts or caring for her animal patients, she attempts to develop a drug that will help shifters control their changes—a drug that might even allow them to remain human forever. But her comfortable life is threatened by two events: She meets an ordinary man who touches her heart, and her best friend is forced to shift publicly with deadly consequences. Now Karadel must decide whom to trust: her old friends or her new love.

Christmas Desserts: Sweets of the Season by Laura Powell Sweeten up your holidays with Christmas Desserts! With this delicious collection of 20 seasonal recipes, you'll enjoy treats like Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares, Chewy Popcorn Balls, Eggnog Cookies, and more! Not only does this affordable, full-color pamphlet make the perfect gift for neighbors, coworkers, and friends, but these festively flavored recipes will soon become family favorites.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review - Real-World Analytics

Real-World Analytics: A Business Leader's Concise Inside View of How to Build and Manage Analytical Teams

By: Michael Koukounas
Publisher: Full Court Press
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-938812-31-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 12, 2014

Knowledge that you, the business leader, needs to have is what author Michael Koukounas has most definitely delivered in his new book and...with humor thrown in for good measure. You really don’t need to have a multi-billion dollar company when it comes to understanding the information shared in this book. Yes, you will most likely not come in contact with the larger elements of data analytics if you are a ‘Mom and Pop,’ but to understand the process of data management and accumulation is important.

With the technology used in the 21st century, companies know everything about you, from your naptime to what latte you like best in the morning. A little too ‘Big Brother’? Sure. But there is an upside to our ‘personal data’ being scooped up and used in a company’s computer system. By using the data (correctly, of course), companies can do better for us. They can increase productivity and profit, but they do this by using the data to learn what it is that the consumer really wants and what they’re missing out on. They utilize an analytics ‘team’ to really ‘hear’ what people want, and what they can do to make lives better.

Business analytics helps business and industry make better choices, and the lessons in this book show business leaders' the very core of analytics and how to accumulate and sort through consumer data. Efficiency is needed in all areas of a business: CEO’s must make strategic decisions. Marketing teams use data in order to understand how best to present a product. There are even Risk Managers who need crucial data in order to do their jobs betters; such as, deciding on loans and other financial issues.

Setting forth the ATOM method in this text, business leaders actually see what’s required to create a successful analytics team. Call it a roadmap, if you will. From learning how to Access Data; to how to set up an analytics team by what Talent you should be looking for; to getting that Operational knowledge to better understand and improve your business; to Maintenance, and learning how to rotate, edit, add and increase data so that your company is always ‘fresh,’ this book covers it all.

From the very beginning, this book offers an overview of everything the business leader needs to know. It also proves that analytics teams will not only be something to ‘look into’ in order to increase your business, but they will become an industry of their very own. People need experts in our never-ending data age, so taking the time to invest in a team is essential to growth. In the end, you learn how the data out there can be used for far more important things than just learning about someone’s morning latte experience.

Quill says: A necessary book for businesses that is told by a definite ‘master’ of analytics.
For more information on Real-World Analytics, please view the book's website at:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review - Keepers of the Runes and the Tower of Shadows

Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows (Volume 1)

By: Andrew D. Cratsley
Illustrated By: Tony Foti
Publisher: Andrew D. Cratsley
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1494365530
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: September 11, 2014

After years of training, a young elf named Corinth is finally deemed worthy to be a sage knight by his teacher Tessius and is eager to serve his country of Enzlintine well. However, his first assignment sends him way beyond the forest that he knows and on top of everything else he realizes he will have to work with beings other than elves. For years he had been under the impression that elves were superior to every other race, especially humans who seemed to corrupt anything good with their greedy ways. Feeling discouraged at the prospect of working with humans, Corinth tries to convince Tessius that he can handle any assignment better if he is able to work alone. In the end, however, it is shown that Corinth will not have any choice in the matter. His own opinions will be tested as through the upcoming struggles he realizes that there are times where elves are not the superior beings.

Soon Corinth finds himself in the company of two humans; Aventis who has expansive knowledge of tracking and hunting, and Nadine who claims that she can infiltrate any place in any town. Of course Corinth does not think much of his human partners initially and insists that he would do just fine without either of their help. This causes numerous arguments between these three traveling companions but soon it is proven that they actually need each other more than ever as none will survive if they do not learn to trust one another. For the evil that they will have to face is more powerful than any of them imagined and without someone there to stop it, will sweep across every land leaving only death behind.

As soon as I read that this was a fantasy book I immediately wanted to start reading, as this genre is one I truly love. This book did not disappoint at all as from the very first page I was consumed by the amazing elements and characters that come from a great fantasy story. Author Andrew D. Cratsley took a little different approach to the relationship between elves and humans as he was able to show that growth in the character Corinth throughout the story as the adventures these characters go through bring about a definite respect and friendship. In addition to action, adventure, and suspense, I love when a book also brings to light the relationships that are growing and developing in the midst of the story. For me that is what relates a reader to the words they are reading and takes them to another place. This book did exactly that as I found myself worrying when a character was injured, or fighting when this group met an enemy and that made for a fantastic read.

Quill says: A book that brings together all of the amazing elements of a great fantasy adventure!