Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Books In For Review

Check out the latest books to arrive for review!

The Wild West of Louis L'Amour: An Illustrated Companion to the Frontier Fiction of an American Icon by Tim Champlin At the time of his death in 1988, all of Louis L'Amour's 100 novels and short-story collections remained in print, a testament to the popularity of a prolific writer best known for his fast-paced tales of the American West. The Wild West of Louis L'Amour is a richly illustrated, sumptuous book commemorating one of America's most beloved and successful authors and the landscapes, characters, and violent times he portrayed. Author Tim Champlin (himself a writer of Western historical fiction) uncovers all of the secrets of L'Amour's themes and characters - geography of the West, lone heroes, gunfighters, mining and ranching, women, Native Americans, food, and transportation. The frontier regions, towns, and events that featured in L'Amour's writing, as well as the real folks on whom his characters were based, come to life through thoroughly researched illustrations. The collection of more than 200 images includes maps, period photos and daguerreotypes, period illustrations, paintings of the regions discussed, modern photography of towns and countryside, and cover art from L'Amour's books and the pulp magazines in which he was published before he became a best-selling author.

Succession by Livi Michael Margaret of Anjou, French, beautiful, unpopular; her marriage in 1444 to a young Henry VI causes national uproar. As English rule in France collapses, Henry goes insane, civil war erupts, and families are pitted against each other. With Henry VI incapacitated, Margaret Anjou is left to fight alone for her son's position as rightful heir. Meanwhile Margaret Beaufort, nobly born but far more distant from the throne, becomes a great heiress while only an infant. Her childhood is lived in echoing remote castles and she is lonely and vulnerable: everyone at Henry's court competes to be her guardian and to engineer an advantageous alliance through marriage to her. By the age of thirteen, she has married twice and given birth to her only son - the future King of England. But then she is separated from him . . . and her fight really begins.

Dragonbane (Dark-Hunter series) by Sherrilyn Kenyon Out of all the mysterious boarders who call Sanctuary home, no one is more antisocial or withdrawn than Maxis Drago. But then, it's hard to blend in with the modern world when you have a fifty foot wingspan. Centuries ago, he was cursed by an enemy who swore to see him fall. An enemy who took everything from him and left him forever secluded. But Fate is a bitch, with a wicked sense of humor. And when she throws old enemies together and threatens the wife he thought had died centuries ago, he comes back with a vengeance. Modern day New Orleans has become a battleground for the oldest of evils. And two dragons will hold the line, or go down in flames.

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati The year is 1883, and in New York City, it’s a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they’ve strived for in jeopardy. Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life. For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor—and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.  

The Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis Pragmatic, independent Lily St. Claire has never been a beachgoer. But when her late father leaves her a small house on Hideaway Key—one neither her mother nor she knew he owned—she’s determined to visit the sleepy spit of land along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Expecting a quaint cottage, Lily instead finds a bungalow with peeling shutters and mountains of memorabilia. She also catches a glimpse of the architect who lives down the beach. But it’s the carton of old journals in the front room that she finds most intriguing. The journals were written by her mother’s sister, an infamous beauty whose name has long been banned from the St. Claire home. The journals tell a family tale Lily has never heard, of her mother and her aunt as young girls in Tennessee and the secrets that followed them into adulthood. As she reads, Lily gains a new understanding: about her family and about herself. And she begins to open her heart—to this place, these people, and the man next door. But can she ever truly learn to trust, to believe that love is not a trap but a harbor? And is it true that hearts, even broken ones, can be forged anew? The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides. But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer. She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart. With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

Book Review - Unleashed

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery

By: Eileen Brady
Illustrated By: Mike Hagelberg
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 9781464203947
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 27, 2015

Dr. Kate Turner has settled into her routine in the small town of Oak Falls, New York working as a relief vet for old Doc Anderson who is jet setting around the world. Each morning starts with a cup of coffee, a quick review of the day’s appointments and then she is off to make house calls. Of course the routine cannot stay normal for long...

In this newest offering in the Kate Turner, DVM mystery series, it seems that after the last murder Kate accidently solved, she finds herself in the midst of another crime when a client of hers named Claire Birnham is found dead in her car. The police are claiming it was a suicide but just a couple days before, Claire’s dog Toto had gotten sick and was taken to the clinic where Kate worked and the morning of the apparent suicide was the day Claire was supposed to pick Toto up. Kate knows this thought is a long shot but she can’t help but think that Claire would never leave Toto without someone to take care of him, as she loved that dog with all her heart. Claire also had exciting new plans starting in her life, a new job in Manhattan, and a new apartment, so why would she commit suicide when everything seemed to be going her way? Kate can’t shake the feeling that this was not a suicide but a murder.

Against the wishes of her Gramps and local police officer friend Luke Gianetti, Kate decides to start asking questions as of course in a small town gossip runs rampant so she is bound to come across some piece of useful information. It turns out Kate gets much more information than she bargained for, unfortunately, however, she finds no real concrete clues to help her solve this mystery. She does discover Claire’s former rock singer boyfriend held quite a grudge when they broke up and that this singer’s current girlfriend was jealous of the fondness he still held for Claire. Then there is Claire’s alcoholic mother and dead-beat boyfriend Buzz whom Claire never got along with and apparently Claire had quite a life insurance policy that these two might have been trying to get their hands on. Now, suddenly Kate has a whole slew of possible suspects who could have a motive for murder but the police only want hard evidence not just speculation so in reality Kate really has nothing to go on. However, when young Eugene, an employee of Kate’s, becomes a suspect in Claire’s murder Kate knows that she must do everything in her power to clear his name for she can’t let someone innocent go to jail for this crime.

After absolutely loving the first book by Eileen Brady, Muzzled, I was excited to see that she had written another one and I was not disappointed. Working as a veterinary technician I enjoy all of the veterinary aspects that are included in these books and laugh at all the humorous and unexpected things that can happen in a clinic. Brady does an amazing job of combining a page turning mystery and the humor involved in working with animals and always has me guessing until the climatic end.

Quill says: Brady delivers again with another wonderfully humorous and intriguing mystery.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review - A Curious Beginning

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

By: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN #: 978-0-451-47601-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 25, 2015

Bestselling author Deanna Raybourn introduces Veronica Speedwell, a woman extraordinaire, in the first of a new series: A Curious Beginning.

Veronica Speedwell is a woman of substance well before her time. She travels the world in her quest of scientific inquiry. Her specific interest? Butterflies. After burying her spinster aunt, Nell Harbottle, Veronica is now an orphan. She is free to reignite her lust for travel to parts unknown in search of the discovery of unique and coveted butterflies. Of course, the necessity of adding a bit of romantic dalliance along the way is a must. However, she is unprepared for the danger that lurks on her horizon—a danger that targets her and her true identity. Upon returning from her aunt’s funeral to Wren Cottage, Veronica is unprepared for the disarray she happens upon once entering the cottage. Furniture is turned on its side and cupboards are toppled inside out. Unfortunate for her, the interloper is still close by. It would seem, she is the last item he intends to collect before departing...

Perhaps not by coincidence, German baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach arrives on the scene at the ready to her rescue. With no time to waste and little to flee into the night, Veronica finds herself at the mercy of the Baron and on their way to London. Upon arriving in London, Veronica is deposited for safe-keeping with an old (and quite eclectic) compadre of the Baron’s: Stoker. With little explanation and a fair amount of resistance, Miss Speedwell acquiesces for the time being to stay with this character Stoker of whom the Baron assures her is a trustworthy sort. Sadly, the best laid plans of the Baron are foiled when his anticipated return to collect her is thwarted. It would seem he has been murdered and as time will tell, Stoker will be the prime suspect...

Deanna Raybourn has a great touch of her pen in knowing how to spin a mystery. The period is 1887 London and the characters are well suited and properly defined to match the era. The dialect is the King’s English and Raybourn owns her nuance as she develops main character Veronica Speedwell. The author also accurately portrays women back in the day who were equally matched to their male counterparts. The pace is vibrant and the twists and turns happen consistently throughout this read. Ms. Raybourn accomplishes what every great mystery writer must do: she delivers the body and does so early on. Raybourn’s intended audience is taken on a fantastic journey across this 337 page read. The reader is easily coaxed to interact and participate with the plot as he or she seeks the answer of: ‘Who Done It’? Set up to dialogue provides a sense of familiarity for the reader to feel as it prepares that same reader to hear the conversation. Coming off of her Lady Julia Grey mysteries and launching into the adventures of Veronica Speedwell is a win/win. I look forward to reading the next installment of this new series. Well done Ms. Raybourn.

Quill says: Veronica Speedwell is a proper English lady who is unafraid to soil her hands if that’s what it takes to be a heroine as well.

Book Review - Main Squeeze

Main Squeeze: Juicing Recipes for Your Healthiest Self

By: Iris McCarthy
Publisher: Front Table Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4621-1560-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 25, 2015

Iris McCarthy shares her theory with her audience that by using the right combination of fruits and vegetables one can achieve the end result of a healthier lifestyle in her book on ‘juicing’ titled Main Squeeze.

Ms. McCarthy sets the record straight at the onset. She is not a nutritional expert, but she sure knows her way around a juicer and how to concoct tasty juice recipes for a healthy end result. The book is broken down into extremely simple recipes to follow—recipes that do not warrant traveling the globe to procure the ingredients. As with any book of instruction, it is helpful to devote the opening to an introduction of not only what inspired the author to write the book, but the answers to frequently asked questions before diving into the preparation. Ms. McCarthy accomplishes this quite well.

There are five distinct sections titled: ‘Detox and Wellness,’ ‘Energy Boosters,’ ‘Soothers,’ ‘Skin Refreshers,’ and ‘Mocktails’—the latter a play on the word ‘cocktails’ sans the alcohol. Ms. McCarthy has compiled a series of recipes that are extremely easy to follow and prepare. The fear factor is removed early on in that the reader does not have to run out to their local store and plunk down hundreds of dollars in order to secure the quintessential juicing machine to get started. Rather, McCarthy takes the time to explain the basics in her chapter titled: ‘Juicing 101: The Basics’ and defines the differences between a ‘juicer’ to that of a ‘blender.’ She further explains the value in utilizing both in certain recipes given the components used (i.e., it is a messy experience at best to ‘juice’ a banana).

For quite some time, our society has had a propensity toward healthier eating. Again, Ms. McCarthy does not profess to be a nutrition expert, but she walks the walk and talks the talk toward seeking healthier alternatives to living a more robust and satisfying life. In order for me to endorse the value of this book, I thought it imperative to personally sample some recipes. I may not be the poster child of perfect fitness, but I do consistently seek healthy choices through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Some of my personal favorites are: ‘Get Up and Go-Go.’ It is the perfect answer to Monday Mornings! The ingredients are basic and the end result is not only delicious, but the feeling: exhilarant! There is a nice balance on the palate between citrus and sweet and once ingested, the after effects are a feeling of pep in one’s step to face the day. I’m also a big supporter of the importance of properly fueling the muscles that work so very hard for our being. 'The Elvis Parsley' is a winner in flushing ‘sludge.’ Again, through a handful of ingredients and a nominal amount of prep time, the end result will have one saying: ‘Bring on those burpees!’ This book is not cluttered with type too small to read or endless pontification of too many steps to follow. Rather, it is basic and extremely user friendly for the novice juicer as much as the ‘juice bar’ entrepreneur.

Quill says: Main Squeeze is a great starter kit for the person looking to blend juicing into his or her healthy eating lifestyle.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review - Eye-Popping Oddities

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Eye-Popping Oddities (ANNUAL)

By: Editors/Ripley's Believe It Or Not!
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN: 978-1609911362
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 21, 2015

It’s that time of the year again – time for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! to release their annual compendium of odd, weird, creepy, funny and downright bizarre people, places, and things from around the world.

This newest edition has ten chapters that include World, Body, Animals, Pop Culture, Feats, Art and Beyond Belief. The animal section is always one of my favorites and upon checking it, I read about a goldfish that had brain surgery and then my first ‘eye-popping yuck’ moment when I saw the picture of a five foot long earthworm. Noteworthy items from other chapters include 'cheek holes,' an amazing photo of an ice cave in eastern Russia that is 0.6 miles long, and a very cool tree illusion. Honestly, there are so many remarkable photos and topics in this book that I can’t begin to cover them all.

Eye-Popping Oddities also offers a lot of photos of fascinating things that readers of the series submitted in the hopes of making it into the next edition. It was nice to read about these folks and their submissions and I appreciate the fact that the editors pointed them out to us. They also point out the likely medical condition(s) behind so many of the unusual photos of people around the world such as the boy with a ‘tail’ who is worshipped in Punjab, India because they believe he is a reincarnated Hindu Monkey god. What is the condition? You’ll have to read the book to find out...

This is the 12th book in Ripley’s annual ‘Believe It Or Not!’ series of books and the sixth one that I have reviewed. While I don’t tend to review that many books in any series, I so enjoy these books that I keep accepting them for review. While reading through this book on my lunch break, I actually let out a few ‘ewww’ murmurs that were heard at the next table. I kept reading beyond my allotted time and was late returning to work because I wanted to see what was on the next page, and the next and the next...f you have a reluctant reader in your household, Eye-Popping Oddities is a great way for him/her to experience the joy of being sucked into a book. Or, if you’re simply curious yourself, this book is definitely good for both teens and adults as there is plenty here for all to enjoy.

Quill says: Another annual from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! that delivers what it promises – a great time reading all about, well, all about all sorts of things that will make you say ‘wow!’

Book Review - Troika


By: Adam Pelzman
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-0425275368
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: August 21, 2015

I’ve recently finished reading Troika, by Adam Pelzman and I found it to be a fast-paced and interesting read. Troika was certainly not your conventional, fictional, romance novel; instead the tale was filled with power and intrigue – while parts of it read like a dark and gritty Cinderella based love story with a third person thrown into the mix for dramatic effect.

Right off the bat, readers will meet Perla – one of the book’s three main protagonists. She’s twenty-three, attractive, Cuban, and she supports herself by dancing at night in a rather sleazy southern Florida strip club. She’s also desirous to make her life more meaningful – although she’s still struggling to figure out how to do so. There has to be more to life than dancing, right? Besides, it can be a dangerous profession, and what’s a girl to do when her looks eventually fade?

Next, enter Julian – the Russian orphan who was shipped over to the States; the determined boy grew up to become something other than just a statistic. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps and has made something extraordinary out of his life. He clearly doesn’t belong in the establishment he’s just wandered into, and yet for some reason he’s decided to stick around. Maybe it was his chance meeting with Perla this night – maybe she intrigued him more than she (or he) realized.

From here, Pelzman will take his readers on a literary journey through each character’s distant past, the near past, as well as the present. Pelzman seamlessly weaves his words from past to present and then back again; creating a kaleidoscope of experiences for each; etching out the footprints of who each has become, and the why behind it.

The reader will confront the characters’ childhood horrors and, like a fly on the proverbial wall, the reader will watch as each one learns how to overcome his, or her, past in order to learn the strength they will each need to deal with the challenges of their present, and future, lives. These three players come from completely different worlds, and yet, at the end of the day, it is their sheer strength of will that will ultimately bind them to one another.

Of course there is that mystery third character, but I will leave that one alone because the reader needs to discover that life, its hardships, and its journey for him/herself.

Quill says: Troika was an intriguing read. It offers a brutally honest look at a fictional world, and yet, how fictional is it really? A seamless read and one that is difficult to set down. Kudos to Pelzman for crafting such a riveting read to be his debut novel.

Book Review - Just You Wait

Just You Wait: A Grace Street Mystery

By: Jane Tesh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0367-1
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: August 21, 2015

Just You Wait is the fourth book in the Grace Street Mystery series, and – it was yet another fun read by mystery writer Jane Tesh.

In this episode, Randall (one of the series’ main protagonists) still resides at 302 Grace Street, as does the complete cast of the previous Grace Street Mystery books. With regard to Randall, being a private investigator means that life is never boring, however there are times when it can be considered ‘slow.’ This barely active period is where the reader, upon starting Just You Wait, will locate Randall.

However, due to the fact that private investigator work is generally feast or famine, Randall isn't idle for very long... A well-known and much-loved actress with the local theater has been missing for several days; there have been a slew of oddly strange, shoplifted items at the neighborhood drug store, and last, but not least, BeautiQueen Cosmetics business owner, Mrs. Folly Harper’s business partner, George Mark McMillan, has run off with a sizeable chunk of money. Mrs. Harper desperately needs Randall to locate him for her.

Camden, the Grace Street house owner (and one of Randall's housemates) is also having significant troubles... His psychic abilities are on the fritz; he has now added telekinesis to his repertoire of unusual talents; and he's trying to stay true to his personal values while still attempting to marry his fiancé.

And, like always, much is not what it seems to be in the small town of Parkland... Viola, the missing actress, has at last been located, but, sadly for her, she was found dead and buried in her home's basement. The mysterious drug store thief has unfortunately, or fortunately, disappeared without so much as a trace, and George McMillan (Mrs. Harper’s business partner), for reasons unbeknownst, has apparently run away to Florida.

With that said, I’m not going to ruin the plot of an intriguing mystery, or three, but I will tell you that Tesh has once again penned a wonderful and riveting suspense which will assuredly keep the reader guessing until the very end.

Quill says: Anyone who loves a good mystery will enjoy Just You Wait and, due to Tesh's tasteful writing style, Just You Wait can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. In summary, another great read by a mystery writer who is certainly qualified to rub shoulders with Agatha Christie.