Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review - Mysteries Have No Borders


Mysteries Have No Borders

By: Nancy Gettelman
Publisher: Nightengale Press
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1935993582
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 25, 2014

March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is, honestly, dreary. Spring hasn’t quite arrived and everything is a bit gray. That’s why Sara Schneider jumps at the chance to attend the International Craft Brewery Convention in Victoria, British Columbia where, promises her husband Robb, the flowers have already begun to appear. Robb will attend the convention while Sara takes in the sights of the area with the wife of one of his friends. In a snap Sara has her bags packed and is ready to go!

When the couple arrives in Victoria, they take a quick sightseeing trip before heading to their hotel. Then it’s time for a nice dinner party with Robb’s friend, and fellow craft brewer, Stephen Albright, his wife Diane, and a few other folks. Sara takes an instant liking to Diane, and the evening goes quickly. The food is great, conversation interesting and lively and everybody seems to be having a good time; everybody except Blanche McDonald who appears as though she’d rather have a root cannel than be at the party. Sara is put off by Blanche’s behavior but with everybody else being so nice, she manages to have an enjoyable evening. Even Jane Hamilton, the Albright’s houseguest, whose husband has gone missing in the Arctic, is friendly and approachable. All but Blanche, who is cold to everybody, including her husband Jerry – what is her problem?

The next day, while Robb heads off to the Convention, Sara is taken on a wonderful trip to Butchart Gardens by Diane, Trish (another dinner guest) and Jane; all the ladies from the night before with the exception of Blanche. Sara asks about the missing woman but is only told that Blanche probably wouldn’t enjoy the trip. The day goes by quickly, with Sara (and the reader) learning all sorts of interesting facts about the gorgeous Butchart Gardens.

The week flies quickly as Sara travels all over the city of Victoria. Between the sightseeing and ‘table talk’ at the various dinner parties she and Robb attend, all sorts of facts about Victoria, and Canada, are presented. From the lives of the Intuits’, to the Canadian Shield and local cultural events, the visitors from Wisconsin learn quite a bit. At the same time, Jane, and the rest of the group of new friends, finally learns what happened to her husband. That, however, is not all that occurs in this relatively short (157 pages) novel; Sara and the others are drawn into not one, but two murders.
Mysteries Have No Borders is a relatively quick read that showcases the love and bond between a husband and wife. By the end of the book, Sara has a new appreciation for all that she lovingly shares with Robb. Sara’s interactions with her new friends, too, are part of the fun of the story as they explore all that Victoria has to offer. At points, the dialogue is a bit stilted, as characters explain historical and other aspects of Canada and the story slows when these discussions take place. In addition, there is a fair amount of emphasis on the land and people of Canada – this is not just a murder mystery, but a tour of the Canadian province of Victoria.

Quill says: A fun murder mystery that offers plenty of background on the great land of Canada.






Book Review - Star Wars Episodes I-VI: The Skywalker Saga Poster-A-Page


Star Wars Episodes I-VI: The Skywalker Saga Poster-A-Page (Star Wars Poster-a-Page)

By: Disney
Publisher: Disney
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1618933645
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 28, 2014

One of the newest offerings in Disney's popular Poster-a-Page books for young readers (ages 6 and up), is on a topic sure to get rave reviews from young Jedi fans - Star Wars!

Over 100 full-color, full-page images from all six movies, plus nine extra large removable posters, grace the pages of this book. From young pilot Anakin's podrace to Luke Skywalker's epic fight with Darth Vader, it's all here. Our heroes, Luke, Leia, Han and of course Yoda, all have plenty of coverage, but what would a Star Wars book be without villains? Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Jabba the Hutt are here too. In addition, lesser known players in the Star Wars saga such as Zam Wesell (shape-shifter assassin), make an appearance.

Each image is accompanied by a few words; lines taken from the movies, or comments about the character, planet, ship, etc. that help bring the fun to life. My favorite has to be a page with a few images of Jar Jar Binks that includes a small picture of Qui-Gon Jinn with a 'bubble' above him noting, "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent." How true!

Quill says: As Yoda would tell young Jedi fans, "Be silly you would, if you not get this book."




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review - Frank!


Frank!

By: Connah Brecon
Publisher: Running Press
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7624-5423-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 23, 2014

‘Better late than never!’ Well...that’s what this amazing book reminds me of, as well as any other person who went to grade school and high school and really didn’t want to get up on time to attend. (Yup, that’s just about everybody.)
Frank is one of those boys who is just a tad bit late for things. He’s not being mean, of course; he’s simply busy. And his imagination is a true barrel of fun. This is not only a boy who gives excuse – this is a boy who makes sure to think up the most amazing stories possible so that everyone knows how hard he works...even if he’s not ‘working’ where he’s supposed to be working at the time.

His teacher rolls her eyes, of course, upset that he’s always late. But, you see, Frank is a hero. This is a young one who loves to help the world. Everyday people who surround him are cranky; they are always worrying or yelling about something. But Frank keeps the smile on his face and always remembers that helping others is far more important than being angry or rude all the time.
When school begins, Frank has a rough first day. Unfortunately, he doesn’t actually show up until everyone else has gone home. But as the story progresses, Frank gets better and better – closer and closer to being on time. You can’t fault him, though. Frank saves kittens, stops bullies...and even faces down a massive, giant zombie lizard king. (Not a lot of kids can say they did THAT!)

Allowing for the light to shine in and let go of the constant worry, nervousness, etc., that everything from jobs to paying the bills brings on, is something everyone can learn from Frank. Life is far too short, and being able to enjoy the good stuff is something we all should take advantage of.
The author of this story is a young boy, himself. He is an illustrator as well as a writer of stories, with one already out there that people absolutely love. And, hopefully, since his stories are absolutely charming, his illustrations are darling, and his humor is most definitely needed in this world – this young writer will continue for a long time to come.

Quill says: Fun with a capital ‘UN.’ Frank most definitely helps everyone understand that imagination is necessary; especially when it’s time to stop and smell the roses!







Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review - The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook


The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook: 200 Everyday Recipes That Take the Guesswork Out of Counting Calories - Plus, the Exercise It Takes to Burn Them Off

By: Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo MS, RDN
Publisher: The Experiment LLC
ISBN: 978-1-61519-104-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 21, 2014

Catherine Jones, Elaine Trujillo and Malden Nesheim have teamed up and created a phenomenal cookbook, The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook. This body of work transcends well beyond its 200 everyday recipes in that it is an exceptional reference point and source of information.

In the first 34 pages of this book, Jones and Trujillo address the importance of understanding what makes our respective ‘temples’ of our bodies tick and more importantly, the necessity of engaging with the overall process of living a healthy lifestyle. Jones opens the book with her chapter titled: A Cookbook for Everyone and breaks down her message with her own testimonial of what inspired her to delve into the importance of who we are, what we eat and why we eat it. Once the tone is set, the message evolves in the next chapter with a logical explanation of Understanding the World of Calories (by Malden Nesheim). There is a wealth of knowledgeable professionals throughout our world today who have done insurmountable studies surrounded with the premise of eat this, not that. However, what makes this particular book stand out is the simplicity and logic behind the intended message. We live in a society rife with ‘diet and weight loss,’ yet, there is a stronger sublime message of ‘do this, not that’ and, generally speaking, the end result is typically failed attempts and on to the next...

The authors have virtually paved the way for the reader to understand the process of what it takes to make healthy food choices (and live a healthy lifestyle). The most valuable information for me personally were the two chapters devoted to determining daily caloric and exercise needs and the tools to get there: healthy recipes and shopping and cooking tips. It was time for me to put what I had learned to the test! This is the perfect time of the year for making soups and this book has some amazing recipes! Two of my personal favorites are Quick Zucchini-Basil Soup and Perfect Pumpkin Bread. Hello? It’s Fall. Who doesn’t want ‘comfort’ food sans the guilt? There is a guide paired with each of the 200 recipes that not only breaks down the nutritional value, but also provides what man or woman must do to work off those calories he or she just ingested. Sheer brilliance.

This book has moved to the front of my pantry reserved for my cookbooks. Not only are the recipes easy to follow, but not once did I find an ingredient that I couldn’t pronounce (or not know what it was). The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook covers snacks, breakfast, desserts, dinner, vegetarian and a wealth of information. The message that resonates throughout this book is all the baker/cook needs to do is engage and the end result I personally believe is the perfect life balance: healthy food choices, exercise and feeling good! Bravo ladies and thank you for such a thorough and easy guide!

Quill says: The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook is the perfect balance of making smart food choices, cooking them and liking what you see in the mirror down the road! 

For more information on The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook, please visit the book's website at: www.caloriesinandcaloriesout.com






Book Review - A Sudden Light


A Sudden Light

By: Garth Stein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4391-8703-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 20, 2014

New York Times Bestselling Author Garth Stein has mastered a winning formula. With one part closeted skeletons and two parts beauty and grandeur of the Pacific Northwest, Stein has blended these delicious ingredients and created a beautifully baked story in his latest novel, A Sudden Light.

Jones Riddell is at a crossroads with his future. The stability of his marriage is questionable at best given the recent decision his wife has made to leave their Connecticut home and return to her native England (without him and their son). The recent turn of events solidifies Jones’ decision to return to his childhood home, the legendary Riddell House mansion located in the gorgeous timberlands of Seattle’s Puget Sound. Jones isn’t traveling alone, however. Alongside him is his fourteen-year-old son Trevor.

It’s not easy returning to a place Jones vowed he would never see again. The memory of his father, Samuel, shipping him off to boarding school after his mother’s passing over twenty years ago, is one that is still quite real. His sister Serena has grown into an eccentric young woman. Perhaps her quirkiness stems from caring for a father who is on the brink of full-blown dementia. Trevor stands before the magnificent mansion at his father’s side. Once the family reunion is behind the weary travelers, it doesn’t take long for young Trevor to discover there is more to Riddle House than age and historical grandeur. It seems he has become the conduit to the bevy of ghosts that have chosen to communicate their messages. Their insistence on making things right once and for all soon becomes Trevor’s burden to share...

Garth Stein is the real deal when it comes to placing words to paper. The life he breathes into his characters is tangible. The main character, Jones Riddle, is a man who carries the burden and complexities of facing the turmoil of a life he could have done differently had the pain of childhood memories and loss of a mother he deeply loved not shadowed his adult years. Stein creates passage upon passage of heartfelt prose that usurps the reader’s emotions and leaves the reader deeply connected with his richly developed fictitious people. His set up of the story is brilliant. He takes the reader back to a time when the complexities of emerging technology and daily doses of scandalous politics were not the governing rule. Rather, he places the reader front and center to listen to (now grown character) Trevor’s retelling of the story of legendary Riddell House. I have not had the pleasure of reading Mr. Stein’s infamous The Art of Racing in the Rain, but after reading A Sudden Light I cannot wait to do so. Stein is the quintessential master of prose and a truly gifted writer. He clearly deserves a vast audience that is undoubtedly awaiting his next great novel. Thank you Mr. Stein for this incredibly beautiful story you have written and titled: A Sudden Light.


Quill says: A Sudden Light shines like a beacon and will undoubtedly; pierce the very depths of emotions in anyone who reads it.





Monday, October 20, 2014

Books In For Review

Another interesting batch of books have just arrived for review.  Check them out and then stop by our site in a few weeks to read the reviews!




Mysteries Have No Borders by Nancy Gettelman Robb Schneider, owner of a successful brew pub in Milwaukee, has accepted an invitation to attend the International Convention of Brew Pub Owners, to be held in March, in Victoria, British Columbia. He urges his wife, Sara, to go. It is still cold in Milwaukee, he points out, and he has been told at other conventions that Spring is much earlier in that western province where the capitol is famous for its many beautiful flowers. As well, they would have an opportunity to meet Canadians from other provinces. Sara agrees and, as the ferry pulls into the harbor, the sights captivate her imagination. Much to her delight, she meets the Victorian who encouraged Robb to bring her along, and who, with his wife, hosts a dinner party to meet their friends. During the day when there are meetings for the men, Sara's new friends take her to various places of interest in the city. Everyone is very friendly to her―with one exception a woman who is wrapped up in herself and disinterested in almost everything else. Later, unexplained tragedies dampen everyone's pleasure, and the search is on for answers.  

Frank by Connah Brecon Try as he might (or might not), Frank is a bear who is always late. And when he starts school, the trouble really begins. Frank has very good reasons, like the time he had to save a cat stuck in a tree and the morning he found himself challenged to a charity dance-off, and even the time he had to rescue a family of bunnies from a huge, smelly ogre. Frank's teacher has heard enough of Frank's excuses, but what happens when a giant zombie lizard king really does attack the school? Sometimes there is truth to the most unusual of circumstances, and being helpful can pay off in the most unexpected ways.  

Star Wars Episodes I-VI: The Skywalker Saga Poster-A-Page (Star Wars Poster-a-Page)by Disney Star Wars is an ever deepening, timeless, mythological tale of good versus evil, set in a galaxy far, far away. Filled with noble Jedi Knights, fearsome creatures, and cruel villains, the epic space fantasy introduced "the Force" into the global vocabulary, along with characters such as evil Darth Vader, wise old Yoda, idealistic Luke Skywalker, and lovable Chewbacca. The epic Star Wars saga continues to grow and expand, captivating new generations with its exotic worlds, iconic themes and unforgettable stories. A new era in the rich history of Star Wars is about to begin with the announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars movies, starting in 2015, and the announcement of a series of Star Wars spin-off movies, over the coming years.  

Story Monster and Friends: Creatures to Color from Five Star Land Paperback by Conrad J. Storad (Author), Jeff Yesh (Illustrator), Michael Hagelberg (Illustrator), Nathaniel Jensen (Illustrator), Nadia Komorova (Illustrator), Alex Lopez (Illustrator) An ingenious hybrid of enlightening factoids about animals and insects living in the delightful, fictional world of Five Star Land, Story Monster and Friends entices little ones to learn more about the world around them. As kids color whimsical illustrations extracted from award-winning children's books and read the words of internationally acclaimed children's nature and science writer, Conrad J. Storad, their young minds are primed for the wonders of literature. The 36-page coloring book's central character is Story Monster, a.k.a. “Little Greenie,” a friendly green being who "devours stories of all kinds" and guides children from cover to cover. Its mission: to turn children into ravenous readers by introducing them to a variety of real-life creatures they will surely want to investigate to further.  

We Are Not Good People by Jeff Somers The ethics in a world of blood are gray—and an underground strata of blood magicians has been engineering disasters for centuries in order to acquire enough fuel for their spells. They are not good people. Some practitioners, however, use the Words and a swipe of the blade to cast simpler spells, such as Charms and Cantrips to gas up $1 bills so they appear to be $20s. Lem Vonnegan and his sidekick Mags fall into this level of mage, hustlers and con men all. Lem tries to be ethical by using only his own blood, by not using Bleeders or “volunteers.” But it makes life hard. Soon they might have to get honest work. When the pair encounters a girl who’s been kidnapped and marked up with magic runes for a ritual spell, it’s clear they’re in over their heads. Turning to Lem’s estranged master for help, they are told that not only is the girl’s life all but forfeit, but that the world’s preeminent mage, Mika Renar, has earth-shattering plans for her—and Lem just got in the way. With the fate of the world on the line, and Lem both spooked and intrigued by the mysterious girl, the other nominates him to become the huckleberry who’ll take down Renar. But even if he, Mags, and the simpletons who follow him prevail, they’re dealing with the kind of power that doesn’t understand defeat, or mercy.  

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more. Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both...