Sunday, November 23, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's this week's look at some of the books that have come in for review.  Check them out!

Double Cover: A Warren Kingsley Mystery by Sherban Young Corporate tycoon Thomas Redding is dead, murdered by way of antique golf club during his firm's company retreat. His bodyguard, Warren Kingsley, is certain the killer is gunning for him now. With a list of suspects as long as a corporate tax return, and a small town sheriff well over his head in the investigation, Warren knows he has only one option to keep from ending up like his late client: hire his own bodyguard. Together the pair will sift through the evidence - dodging femme fatales, murderous impostors and motivational speakers - eventually uncovering a devious killer; not to mention stumbling on the recipe for the perfect bowl of chowder.  

Love, Regret and Accidental Nudity: My True Stories, Unusual Circumstances, Unpredictable Outcomes by Mariana Williams Why do I suppose my life is fascinating enough to write about? Love? Hmm, between my mom, dad and myself, we’ve racked up thirteen marriages—if not romantic, certainly optimistic. Regret? Well, if embarrassing, eye-squinting, throat closing, breathless, cringing describes it…I’ve got a few tales to tell, like budget plastic surgery and herding roaches at a party. Accidental nudity? My nudity is about as spontaneous as a space shuttle launch—even so, there’s still the unexpected.

Christmas Desserts 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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review - Herald of the Flame

Herald of the Flame: Book Two of the Rising Flame Series 

By: Sylvia Engdahl
Publisher: Ad Stellae Books
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-0692293768
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 2014

“I’m not some sort of superman...I’m merely a star pilot who happens to have some uncommon mind skills…” explains Terry Steward to some new friends mid-way through Herald of the Flame. As the reader will have already learned, however, Terry is selling himself short - he just might be the savior of the human race.

As the story opens, we meet Terry Radnor who is using the name Terry Steward to protect himself from his many enemies. The reader is given the backstory on Terry, once a respected Fleet officer, who was gifted with extraordinary psi skills and had been trained on the planet of Maclairn, where a secret colony of people existed who encouraged psi skills. He was imprisoned on Ciencia for encouraging people to hope, hope for ending the repressive government rule that they lived under, to change the censorship laws, to live freely and develop their own psi skills. He had been arrested, jailed, escaped and while on his way back to Maclairn, had discovered that his passengers were terrorists bent on destroying that secret colony. With no real options, he crashed his ship, killing all the passengers and almost perishing himself. The Elders, aliens unknown to all but Terry, had saved his life and now he was free to travel in his spaceship Estel.
Now, before Terry makes his permanent escape from the dreary, always overcast planet of Ciencia, he seeks out Alison Willard, the woman he loves. Together with Jon Darrow, a top-notch pilot, and Gwen Morrell, a maintenance engineer, they take flight to spread hope to other planets. The problem is, some people, particularly those in power, will do whatever they can to stop Terry. It doesn’t help that Terry broadcasts a message throughout Ciencia as they fly away to encourage dissent against the tyrannical government.

Faking an accident in the hopes that their pursuers will think they all died, the small crew destroys the Bonanza, their temporary ship, board the Estel, and head into deep space. Using smuggling as their cover, Terry and the others visit various worlds to bring the future he foresaw to all humankind. That future? A time where the powers of the human mind are accepted by all, where once those abilities are fully developed by everybody, the oppressors will no longer be able to maintain their control.

Herald of the Flame follows Terry as he travels to various planets, smuggling some interesting cargo, while he and the others hack the ‘net’ on these worlds to bring their message to the people. Messages soon go viral which is, of course, what they want, but it also brings out the government agents who will do anything to maintain power. Danger is in abundance, with many close escapes as well as tragedy for the crew.
Having not read the first book in this series, Defender of the Flame, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get caught up in the story. Actually, the prologue had me intrigued and I was hooked within a few pages. There was a bit of a lull in the action while Terry explained to Alison and Jon (and by default, the reader) what had happened to him prior to their meeting (book 1) but once that’s done, the book takes off and gives the reader a very satisfying ride. There were some very clever (or more accurate - cool!) events such as Terry getting caught via a force field that allows people to enter but not exit, the colony world of New Afrika which was settled by emigrants from Africa, and how Terry could use his psi to help ease a person’s pain level, all of which kept me intrigued and wanting to find out what else was in store.

Although the ‘cool’ concepts were fun, the real draw of this novel were the parallels it drew to today’s society. The whole idea of an oppressive government taking control seems all too real. At one point, Terry noted, “People sometimes vote away their own freedom...and I see nothing wrong in attempts to make them aware of that...people being harassed, even killed, because they believe unorthodox ideas…” (pg. 185) We also meet an ‘evolved’ Ku Klux Klan that has brought hate to a whole new level. What has happened through people’s complacency, and how Terry and his friends fight to right it, will have you turning pages quickly.

Quill says: A futuristic ride that has many parallels in today’s society. This is a ‘thinking man’s’ science fiction book – the type we need more of today!

Book Review - A Love Letter From God

A Love Letter from God 

By: P.K. Hallinan
Illustrated by: Laura Watson
Publisher: Ideals Childrens Books
Publication Date: December 2014
ISBN: 978-0824956622
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 21, 2014

What would God tell you if He wrote you a love letter? Would He speak of games, or bright sunny days? I bet God would tell you of his undying love. In this fabulous new book, best-selling author P.K. Hallinan imagines what God would tell a child in a love letter.

I love you, My Child!
What more can I say?
To Me, you are Perfect in every way!

So begins this wonderful children’s book. Told in simple rhyme, the ‘letter’ tells of God’s undying, unconditional love. With songbirds, flowers, and rainbows, through a picnic at the beach and an evening watching the stars through a telescope, God assures the reader that his love is everywhere. He tells how He will send the sunrise to brighten the morning hours and will hold the stars up in the sky to show the might of His love. While struggles may come, God assures the reader that He will always be there to make YOU strong!

Perfectly told, and beautifully illustrated, A Love Letter from God is a treasure. Young readers will easily understand the text and the message of God’s undying love comes through loud and clear. The pages are of a nice thick stock which will make it hard for little hands to bend on the first reading. An added bonus is that each page has ‘die-cut’ shapes that give a peek of what is on the next page.

Quill says: Another fantastic book from P.K. Hallinan that beautifully shares the love God has for all his children.

Book Review - What the Lady Wants

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age 

By: Renee Rosen
Publisher: New American Library
Publish Date: November 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-46671-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 19, 2014

Retail legend Marshall ('Marsh') Field is Renee Rosen's anchor character in her wonderfully engaging epic saga and latest novel, What the Lady Wants.
Nineteenth century Chicago is well underway in its transformation of becoming the proving grounds of some of the most notable success stories in America's 'Gateway to Empire.' It is 1871 and the night before the infamous Chicago fires--an inferno that would level the world of society's famous and certainly most fortunate. Delia Spencer's and Marshall Field's worlds are about to collide. Something as simple as her search for silver hair combs to complete her languish outfit for a party the following evening would be the beginning of their lives together in a truly unconventional way for decades to come.

Chicago's elite are enjoying the finer things in life. In the distance, the land is ablaze with the approaching fires. Earlier in the evening the Spencer sisters had nothing more to worry about than preening and primping for the event of the season. Palmer house was hosting a party. Abby Spencer was all but betrothed to Augustus which left Delia ('Dell'), the last of the Spencer sisters to marry off. An explosion rocks the festivities and the sight of the blaze is rapidly approaching their safe haven. Chicago is ablaze and the formidable fire is proving it isn't selective toward the intended destruction it plans to leave behind in its wake. As pandemonium escalates and the guests trample one upon the other to escape the rapidly approaching flames, Dell is separated from her family. Earlier in the evening, she had met the infamous Marshall Field. He has hold of her hand now and is guiding her to safety in one moment only for the two to be separated in the next. When Dell is finally reunited with her family, she has a fleeting recollection of that moment in time when she and Marshall Field met. Somewhere in the depths of her soul, she knew this was not happenstance. Sadly, life had another plan for her. The journey of Delia Spencer and Marshall Field coming together was a road filled with obstacles of desperation, heartache and insurmountable tests and their ultimate reality would be the fact there are no guarantees in life in the end.

Renee Rosen has written a wonderfully historical account of an epic period of time in retail history. She plays out the behind-the-scenes life and times of the front-facing retail magnate Marshall Field--a man who refused to give up and embrace the challenge of constant do-over's bigger and better each time in his complex life. Ms. Rosen strategically plants the seed of forbidden love between Marsh Field and Dell Spencer in "Scarlet Letter" fashion that deliciously treats her audience to the shock and awe of watching the plot grow. There is a lot to be said when the formula of wealth and taboo come together and Rosen is a master at spinning the twists and turns. The writing has a solid pace and Ms. Rosen knows how to breath credible life into characters that blend perfectly with the times. I am always pleased to read a body of work that is injected with renowned historical account. Ms. Rosen has done her homework and done it well. She has used her detailed research and penned an intriguing story about the life and times of the man responsible for the retail empire: Marshall Field's. This is a fantastically written book and without question, an engaging read. Well done Ms. Rosen.

Quill says: Renee Rosen definitely gives the reader what he/she wants in her latest novel, What the Lady Wants.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review - Of Bone and Thunder

Of Bone and Thunder

By: Chris Evans
Illustrated By: Lisa Litwack
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7931-1
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: November 18, 2014

In the midst of a devastating war set in a thick jungle, with suffocating humidity, and mist covered mountains, an unseen evil is taking shape that threatens to disable an entire army. Author Chris Evans weaves together the lives of many people who find themselves in this war fighting to stay alive. There are some who see the war as a chance to achieve glory and honor - they long to be like the war heroes they hear about in stories. One such individual is Thaum Jawn Ratium. However, as the harsh realities of war hit him square in the face Jawn begins to realize that the most important thing is not to achieve glory but to find what you can do to keep the people you care about safe. On the other end of the spectrum, right there on the front lines is a soldier named Carny who, even though he knows his role in this war, continually questions the reason for the fighting.

Then battling from the air on the back of a rag, the giant winged beasts that resemble dragons, a man named Vorly Astol leads a group of riders through the perilous fighting in the sky. For years it had just been Vorly and his rag Carduus but now he finds himself forced to make a relationship with a recent graduate from the Royal Academy of Thaumology named Breeze. It has become clear that Thaumatics is here to stay and even though Vorly does not like the change he can see the advantage of being able to communicate with every other rider as they are flying over the battlefield. Each of these individuals posses different skills and different reasons for being there, but they all will realize that the reason to fight is not glory but rather the person standing next to them.

The twists and turns and interweaving of the characters in this story was truly amazing and I applaud Chris Evans for bringing such a story to life in such an appealing way. It is fantastic when a book continues to reveal the small details that connect different characters and how that transforms the story from one chapter to the other. That is exactly what Chris Evans did and as soon as I got started on this book it was extremely difficult to put it down until I reached the end. As the relationships were built in this story it was fun as a reader to see the characters who at one time seemed to have such a hard shell show a softer side as they slowly revealed how they felt about the people they had around them and the importance of their safety and well being. One of the best relationships in the book for me was the one between Vorly and his rag Carduus. Vorly did not see Carduus as just a beast but as his partner, a partner he respected. From beginning to end I enjoyed every chapter of this book as it took me on a wonderful roller coaster ride that can only come from a great adventure-fantasy book.

Quill says: An unbelievable book that brings to life an absolutely thrilling fantasy story.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's a look at some of the books that have just arrived for review.  Check them out!

Little Miss Muffitt: Guardian of My Heart: A Tribute to All Those Special Dogs Who Capture Our Hearts and Stay Forever by Rose Miller "Lets move to a farm and raise horses." Those words uttered by four-year-old Rose forewarned her parents who were happy city dwellers that she was an "animal person." But by the time she was eight, the family did move to a Pennsylvania farm where a multitude of animals wandered through her life, but no dogs. When she married, the family began their adventure with canines of many breeds, some purebred puppies, some fostered, some adopted and the loyal hard working K9s who were partners with Rose's daughter and sonin-law on the local police department. Loving dogs means losing them as they "just do not live long enough" but these stories of devoted, and some not so devoted, canines will warm your heart and give chuckles as well as some tears. Several Dobermans were family favorites. Lady Blue, a Giant Schnauzer, was a challenge. Muffitt, the Miniature Schnauzer, who was the love of Rose's life lived with the family for nearly seventeen years, a satisfactory time in dog-life, but losing a devoted companion who was with one that long was extremely traumatic. Grief stricken for months, one day she finds herself in local pet store that allows foster animal meetings with potential adopters. There she discovers an older Miniature Schnauzer, Maggie, and feeling sure that Muffitt guided her there, adopts the rescued puppy-mill mother. This story is a tribute to Little Miss Muffitt and all the other dogs in people's lives that fill that very special need and place in their hearts.  

Natalie's Art: A Frank Renzi Novel (Volume 5) by Susan Fleet In 1990 two robbers stole paintings worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Twenty years later, a ruthless man plans to steal several more. He forces Natalie to help him, but after the heist he intends to kill her. Not only that, NOPD Detective Frank Renzi is hot on her trail. Will Natalie escape? Don't miss the explosive showdown between Frank and Natalie.  

The Reluctant Psychic by Suzan Saxman We all, as children, had our imaginary friends and monsters in the closet. But for Suzan Saxman, those friends and monsters didn’t go away—and they weren’t imaginary. From an early age, Suzan knew instinctively that she had to hide her true self. She couldn’t talk about the specters who haunted her, waking and dreaming. In bed with a childhood fever, winged beings guarded her; bullied and friendless at school, she ate lunch silently under the steps of St. Theresa’s with the ghost of a nun; paralyzed with fear, she woke each night to see a man with no eyes, watching her; and she kept watch at the window, every day, while her real father was at work and Steve, her other father, was with her mother. It was the 1960s in suburban Staten Island and she tried to hide it all—to silence the spirits, ghosts and her own developing abilities to tap into people’s futures. She tried to be a daughter her mother could love. Now, with Perdita Finn, Suzan tells the story of her journey in The Reluctant Psychic, and tries to make sense of her mother’s own personal buried secrets that were never acknowledged. She tells of the joy and terror in seeing things others couldn’t and understanding what no one else expected—and the loneliness and sadness of possessing a tremendous gift. Through powerful readings of others’ destinies interwoven with compelling narrative, a reluctant psychic emerges into the light.  

Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King Hazel Rose never dreamed that the murder mystery book group she and her friend Carlene started would stage a real murder. Nevertheless, the normally composed Carlene is unusually angry and rattled one night during a book group discussion and dies after drinking cyanide-spiked tea. Despite a suicide note, Hazel is skeptical; Carlene never seemed suicidal—she was busy making plans for her future. Incidentally, Carlene was married to Hazel’s ex-husband, and Hazel has always suspected there might be something more to her past than she let on. How much does anyone really know about Carlene Arness? And did she die by her own hand or someone else’s? Hazel begins a search for the truth that produces no shortage of motives, as she unearths the past that Carlene took great pains to hide. And most of those motives belong to the members of her very own book group... Featuring memorable characters and a wicked sense of humor, Murder at the Book Group shows the darker side of a book club where reading isn’t about pleasure—it’s about payback.  

The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey History has all but forgotten...In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...  

Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner Three people, each crying out for help. There’s Karen, about to lose her father; Abby, whose son has autism and needs constant care, and Michael, a family man on the verge of bankruptcy. As each sinks under the strain, they’re brought together at Moreland’s Clinic. Here, behind closed doors, they reveal their deepest secrets, confront and console one another, and share plenty of laughs. But how will they cope when a new crisis strikes? From the international bestselling author, Sarah Rayner, Another Night, Another Day is the emotional story of a group of strangers who come together to heal, creating lifelong friendships along the way.  

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall Melvin It's 1972 and fourteen-year-old New Yorker Elizabeth Landers is sent to the sleepy town of Ahoskie, North Carolina to spend the summer with relatives. Her expectation of boredom is quickly dispelled when police sirens and flashing lights draw her to a horrible scene at the Danbury Bridge. Mr. Samuel, owner of Samuel's Lumber Yard, has driven his car off the bridge and into the river, drowning himself and his daughter. The medical examiner thinks it's an accident, but the Sheriff finds fresh bullet holes on the bridge right where the skid marks are. Curiously, Mr. Samuel died clutching a unique 1909 wheat penny --a penny that is then stolen from the Sheriff's office. Lizbeth witnesses Miss Violet's grief upon learning that her husband and child are dead, and decides she will help by finding the penny. Her search involves Lizbeth in the lives of many Ahoskie residents. Like the owner of the grocery store, mean old Mr. Jake, who --as all the kids in Ahoskie know --hates black folks. Plenty of pennies in his till. Then there is Ms. Melanie Neely, otherwise known as “Ms. McMeanie,” who thinks the lumber yard should belong to her. And Mr. Samuel’s handsome brother Ben, who struggles to keep the business afloat after his more clever brother’s death. Lizbeth searches through the collection plates at church and in the coin jars of crazy old Aunt Ode, a strange old woman missing one eye and most of her teeth, who keeps a flask in her apron pocket and a secret in her soul.  

Latke the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer Rescued from an animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah, Latke the puppy joins the family just in time for the celebrations. Although he has trouble learning the house rules, he is one Lucky Dog!  

Stork's Landing by Tami Lehman-Wilzig When a migrating stork gets tangled in a net in the fish ponds on Maya's kibbutz, Maya wonders what to do. Can she and her father find a way to nurse it back to health and send it back into the wild? Set in Israel, one of the bird capitals of the world with the highest number of migrating birds anywhere, this story brings the beauty of nature in Israel to life and highlights an unusual part of Israeli life the kibbutz.  

Sammy spider's First Mitzvah by Sylvia Rouss Sammy Spider is back in his fifteenth adventure story, learning about Jewish holidays and values with his buddy Josh Shapiro. In this story, when Josh gets a cold, his friend Moti delivers some chicken soup to him, and Sammy Spider learns about the mitzvah of visiting the sick. You’ll also learn the Hebrew word for “Gesundheit!”