Thursday, May 18, 2017

#BookReview - My Little Angel @SherrillCannon

My Little Angel

By: Sherrill S. Cannon
Illustrated by: Kalpart
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1681819471
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 2017

Award-winning author Sherrill S. Cannon is at it again with her newest book, My Little Angel, telling a delightful story about a little girl and her guardian angel.
The star of our adventure, a sweet little girl (we never learn her name), tells the reader about her very special friend, Angela, who just happens to be her guardian angel. Angela sits on the girl's shoulder and is dressed is a light blue dress with matching shoes, a halo, and white, almost translucent, wings. Angela always wears a big smile, and sparkling light seems to follow her wherever she goes.

The little girl talks about all the wonderful things her guardian angel does. For example,

She helps keep me safe as I'm walking to school,
Reminding me always to follow the rules.
She makes me look both ways when crossing the street,
And she makes sure I'm carful where I put my feet.

The author takes the reader through a full day of events, at home, at school, even getting ready for bed, with the guardian angel constantly at the girl's side. Angela reminds the girl of many important things too, from brushing her teeth in the morning, saying "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "Please," to helping her say her prayers at night. If she's afraid, Angela is there to console her, and remind her to "Think of others, be helpful and kind."

As soon as you read the first line of My Little Angel, you'll know you've opened a good book:

Angela sits on my shoulder and glows -
Whatever I do or think, Angela knows...

The story, written in a nice-flowing rhyme, tells a sweet story that also helps impart life lessons (manners, caring for others) to young readers. Like the other books by Sherrill Cannon, this one is illustrated by Kalpart, a company that has a reputation for creating delightful images for books. Again, Kalpart does not disappoint as the drawings are vibrant and fun and are a perfect compliment to the story. At the back of the book the author has included "Special Notes" that ask children to a) hunt and find images of different book covers in the story; b) answer questions about their own safety habits; and c) answer questions about the story. Finally, if you purchase the author's books from the website, 50% of the sales will be donated to help find a cure for Juvenile Myositis - a win-win for everybody!

Quill says: My Little Angel is a wonderful story for little ones who will love reading about Angela, a guardian angel, and dreaming up what their own guardian angel might look like and do to help them.

For more information on My Little Angel, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Light & Laughter Coloring Book

Light & Laughter Coloring Book

By: Suzy Toronto
Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-1497201569
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: May 15, 2017

Light & Laughter by Suzy Toronto is a coloring book with a positive message, “Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting!” and encourages colorists to seize the day, color outside the lines and “...embrace the wonderful, wacky women we truly are, and live a life worth coloring.”

This softcover book contains thirty-two pages of coloring fun depicting various sizes of both large and intricate designs, bold, whimsical characters, lots of flowers and women with wild, wacky hair. Each image also contains a playful, inspirational quote such as “Life is short. Go for the cupcakes!” and “Some of us were just born with glitter in our veins.” The Light & Laughter book is approximately 8”x10” in size, printed on archival and eco-friendly paper that contains images printed on a single side, and is perforated for easy removal. The back of each coloring page includes a fun quote like “Don’t be afraid to be a fruit loop in a world full of bran,” that provides even more laughter and encouragement to colorists while they brighten their pages.

The coloring book has several sample pages colored by the author herself in her favorite medium, watercolors, as well as pages completed by other women using colored pencils, markers and gel pens. Suzy Toronto also includes other extra sections in this coloring book discussing her own personal coloring style and provides a bit of creative coloring encouragement. Finally, technical information for serious colorists who want to learn about the proper use of colors by providing a color wheel with discussion about primary, secondary and tertiary colors, completes the extra added pages in this coloring book.

Light & Laughter has also received DO Magazine’s “Fair Trade Seal of Approval.” Having this seal of approval ensures that coloring consumers can buy Light & Laughter and know that the artwork is of quality, and the author was properly compensated for her creations.

Suzy Toronto’s coloring book is packed full of fun, silly images that will be best enjoyed using colored pencils, sharpened crayons, gel pens and thin markers since the images can be a bit small and intricate at times. The paper has a smooth texture allowing color to lay down and blend easily and is of medium thickness, therefore, using a wet medium such as large markers (copics, sharpies, etc.,) or watercolors may bleed through, so it is best to remove the image from the book or test a small area before proceeding with coloring an entire page. There are numerous quotes and images that will speak to you personally regardless of your age, some will make you laugh and others will inspire you to spend hours filling your book with color. While this book does include a small amount of other fun to color images such as cupcakes and boots, the overall theme contains pages with a plethora of ribbons, doodles, flowers and ladies with crazy hair. This may be an issue for some colorists who crave a wide variety of images to challenge their coloring skills. However, this book can be an excellent “pick me up” when you're feeling down or having a bad day and just want to laugh and feel uplifted by Suzy Toronto’s images of women with zany hair and equally silly quotes.

Quill says: Light & Laughter will brighten your spirits and fill your creative time with hours of coloring fun.

#BookReview - Route 66 Adventure Handbook

Route 66 Adventure Handbook

By: Drew Knowles
Publisher: Santa Monica Press
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1595800916
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 15, 2017

"Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was a popular song from the 40's, sung by Nat King Cole, that helped bring that long stretch of road - Route 66 - to fame. Now you can get your own kicks on Route 66 if you bring along the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, as it will lead you to many of the hidden, and not-so-hidden, gems along this road.

Route 66 was one of the first highways in the United States, with completion coming in 1926. It runs from Chicago to California, and travels through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on its way to Santa Monica, California. In the 1950s, following President Eisenhower's signing of a bill which saw the creation of the "Interstate Highway system" and numerous major, "super highways" being built, many people assumed the famous road was all but dead. But while these new highways challenged the reign of Route 66 and as the author of the Route 66 Adventure Handbook notes, it seemed for a while that the famous road was fading into oblivion, thankfully, travelers eventually recognized the unique qualities of this famous route, and now it is enjoying a resurgence.

Now in its fifth edition, the Route 66 Adventure Handbook is divided into chapters by state, running southwest from Illinois to California. Each chapter includes multitudes of attractions, far more than I've seen in other travel books. And many of these attractions are spots that are missed by other books, places that are about as unique as Cadillac Ranch where car "art" shows real Cadillacs partially buried, "...which are said to be positioned at the same angle as the sides of the Great Pyramids of Egypt." (pg. 290) In addition, each chapter also includes a "Further Afield" section where attractions, just a short distance away from the famous route, can be found.

The Route 66 Adventure Handbook is written in an easy-to-read/follow style and the layout is easy on the eyes which makes this book perfect for picking up and referring to over and over. There is so much to choose from for your road-trip visits within its pages that you'll want to start searching through the book long before your trip begins. My top pick from the plethora of attractions in this book has to be "Big Brutus" - a giant, and I mean GIANT! ("the second-largest ever built") - power shovel in West Mineral, KS. A photograph of Brutus shows a car parked next to it which gives you a good idea of just how large Brutus is. And I must mention all the photographs because this book is chock full of them - almost every attraction mentioned is accompanied by a good, clear photo. To make it even easier to find, below each photo is the GPS location of the attraction. If you're planning a trip to explore Route 66, whether a quick escape along a portion of the road, or an adventure enjoying the full, 2,000-plus mile route, be sure to take the Route 66 Adventure Handbook with you so you won't miss a single attraction on this famous road.

Quill says: John Steinbeck called Route 66 "The Mother Road" in The Grapes of Wrath, and for good reason. Now, with the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, you can explore this fantastic stretch of asphalt and enjoy all the unique jewels it has to offer, jewels that others without the handbook may miss. Get the book, hop in your car, and start driving!

#BookReview - The Half Wives

The Half Wives

By: Stacia Pelletier
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-547-49116-5
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: May 2017

Henry Plageman finds himself waking up in a prison cell for disorderly conduct on one of the most important days of his entire year. A day that runs on schedules and routines, on never stopping and always fighting. This year would have been the sixteenth birthday of Henry and Marilyn’s son, Jack, who tragically died at the age of two. After being pushed away by his wife for two years after their loss and losing his job as a reverend - the only reason he and Marilyn moved to San Francisco - he met Lucy. Each Wednesday, Henry would work late, telling Marilyn he was taking care of the accounting when he was really seeing Lucy. In Lucy, he found comfort, love and an escape, and soon after, a daughter named Blue. The longer the affair goes on, the more painstaking it becomes to maintain their relationship. Hiding it from Marilyn isn’t too difficult, but keeping Lucy and Blue happy is near impossible. Blue is struggling to process the broken relationship between her father and mother, and Lucy is craving a relationship that doesn’t need to be held in secret. This year, there will be no more hiding.

Each year on this day, Henry’s plan is to spend the morning planting flowers at his son’s grave, with help from Lucy, while his wife is volunteering. And each year, the plan is for Henry to meet Marilyn at 2 o’clock to take her to see her son. By 2 o’clock, Lucy will be gone, gone long before anyone can find out about her, or about his daughter. This year, things will be drastically different. There will be no Lucy at the grave to help him, there will be no familiar routine, there will be no more secrets. On the day of Jack’s birth and death, the truth will be unearthed, and along with the truth, so might their son.

At first, The Half Wives is slow to start and difficult to keep up with. This is mostly because it takes some time for the characters and the story to be developed. Once the characters are all introduced and the story begins to get clearer, it becomes easier to understand and put yourself in their place. Blue is the most likeable character, as her childlike innocence and confusion about her life is easily understandable to the reader. The dysfunctional love triangle between Henry, Marilyn and Lucy, while it affects them all, affects Blue the most and it is easy to see this through her actions and behavior. It is easy to empathize with all of the characters because each of them has been affected in a different way. Henry, pushed away by his wife, strays to another woman who loves him madly and deeply. Lucy, desperate in her love for him stays around, though she needs more than he can give her. And Marilyn, hurt deeply by the loss of her son and the circumstances, blames her husband. The reader can't help but understand everyone's point of view and what led them to the path they are on, but it will also lead them to wonder just when enough is enough.

Quill says: Although The Half Wives is slow to start, it's more than worth sticking with. The stories of Henry, Marilyn, Lucy and Blue are real, relatable and expertly tied together.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#BookReview - Bittersweet Memories @LynnOst

Bittersweet Memories

By: Lynn Osterkamp
Publisher: PMI Books
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1933826516
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: May 5, 2017

Author Lynn Osterkamp’s newest book, Bittersweet Memories, gives a glimpse into one woman’s experiences with a memory apparatus.

Having lived in Helena, Montana most of her life, the new reality of seventy-three-year-old Anne Weller Barnes is to attend her friends’ funerals. The hardest loss occurs with the death of her best friend Martha. But the day after Martha’s funeral, the retired septuagenarian judge receives a call about the death of her estranged brother Ned. Even though she hasn’t seen Ned for forty-five years, Anne learns that she is the recipient of his life’s work: the Memory Enhancer (ME)—a device that reliably recovers memories. In his letter to her, Ned asks that she try it out and, if it meets with her approval, fulfill his dying wish to share it with the world so that it “may improve the lives of others.”

Skeptical but oh so curious, Anne decides to test out the ME beginning with pleasant events from her past with her husband Jerry, who had Alzheimer’s. Once Anne has gone through a serious of ME experiences, she refers to other letters Ned left with the device. One letter, in particular, challenges her to “learn from her past.” Of course, what Ned is referring to is the horrific situation that tore the Weller family apart. While keeping Ned’s device a secret from her family, Anne becomes obsessed with the ME. Unfortunately, she loses track of Jerry (he leaves the house donning only his underwear) and she also misses an important meeting. As her children and siblings grow concerned about her actions, Anne has to decide if she should fulfill Ned’s dying wish.

Lynn Osterkamp spins a fascinating and unusual family-focused story in her most recent novel. Inspired by her “own family experiences” and her longing to revisit her family’s past, Osterkamp’s tale may appear to be all about memories. The truth is that the memories point to the dynamic and dysfunctional qualities within family life. Certainly, which family is exempt from carrying grudges and regrets from past events and relationships? Many readers will be able to attest to that. In Anne’s case, clashes exist both with her siblings and her children.

Osterkamp provides clarity to the latter statement by formatting her plot into first and third person viewpoints. Anne, being the principle character, is set to first person POV, while the remaining cast is in third. Following this design, Osterkamp can freely alternate between her well-defined cast members, enabling her audience to observe each character’s thought processes as the story unfolds and Anne struggles to find a way to “heal the cracks” her whole family has lived with for so long.
Amid Anne’s family dynamics, Osterkamp punctuates her narrative with science. For example, Ned, who was a neuroscientist, developed his device by utilizing the controversial transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which in modern medical practice “appears to have some potential for treating depression. However, there is no good evidence that it is useful for cognitive enhancement in healthy people, memory deficits in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, non-neuropathic pain, nor improving upper limb function after stroke.” [Wikipedia]. Regardless of its flaws, incorporating this unique scientific aspect makes for an enriching story.

Quill says: A well-written work, Bittersweet Memories will keep readers captivated till the very end.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Interview with Author Pamela Hartley @PamelaMHartley1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anit Lock is talking with Pamela Hartley, author of The Seasons of a Giant

FQ: Your previous works, Dough For It and The Dirty Thirty: 30 Science Experiments to Try in the Tub, are educationally based books. What made you suddenly shift to fantasy?

HARTLEY: I wrote my science related books when I was in the classroom. After retiring, I had more time to read wonderful fantasies like Harry Potter and The Hobbit! I loved escaping into those rich layered worlds with such colorful characters. You can experience a freedom where everything is possible in a fantasy!

FQ: What would you say is the inspiration for writing The Seasons of a Giant?

HARTLEY: The idea for Seasons came to me in a dream which started the creative juices flowing! I would take long walks and think about how Izzy’s story would unfold. I could hear my characters talking and picture the dark twists and turns. I’d type in my ideas on my phone, and then write them down in a notebook once I arrived home.

Author Pamela Hartley

FQ: Boone is not your typical giant. Unlike many storybook giants, Boone is actually interested in the very creatures that are supposed to be his enemies. What did you hope to accomplish by creating such a caring character?

HARTLEY: I needed Boone to be different from the other giants to create a sharp and interesting contrast. Izzy, his little sidekick, can be snarky, impulsive, and insecure at times. Boone provides a calm to Izzy’s storm.

FQ: Let’s talk about one of the story’s archenemies: Colonel Fletcher. Where did you get the inspiration to create a character such as him?

HARTLEY: There’s always one character in every story that just has to ruin your day, right? He popped in to send the story careening off the path and into a deep ditch. He’s all sorts of evil, isn’t he? Colonel Fletcher proves that even the Groundlings can be bad, not just the Giants.

FQ: One very important aspect of The Seasons of a Giant is your incorporation of themes. Without giving away any spoilers, name one theme and give an example of how it is used in the story?

HARTLEY: The simplicity of one: one person, one belief, and in Izzy’s case, one arrow, can change the tide and make a difference. Be that one!

FQ: What do you hope readers will retain by the end of the story?

HARTLEY: I’m hoping that every reader will find their own warrior within. The very belief in yourself is a powerful thing. Go forth and be unstoppable!

Author Pamela Hartley

FQ: The ending in The Seasons of a Giant could be interpreted in a couple different ways. Do you plan to write a sequel?

HARTLEY: I love this question! I thought how fun would it be to have a second book with the giant(s) invading the Groundling regions! Imagine Boone in your backyard, hiding from your neighbors and wreaking havoc in your town.

FQ: You mentioned in your bio that you’ve been writing stories since you were five years of age. What sparked your interest 30+ years later to revisit your childhood love for storytelling?

HARTLEY: I’ve always had the writing bug! I’m constantly thinking of new stories that need to be told. My father liked to write, so maybe I inherited his joy for the written word. My sister, Stephanie, became a talented illustrator! I’m hoping someday to work on a project together.

FQ: As a longtime educator, have you ever considered creating a math or science-based fantasy book that could be used as an educational tool in classrooms?

HARTLEY: Wow! Wouldn’t that be fun? Actually the giants in Seasons are based on scientific fact. Their physical descriptions, names, and the settings reflect the biomes they’re from. I do believe there are sprinkles of valuable teaching moments in my book.

FQ: If a sequel is not in the works, what future literary projects do you have in mind?

HARTLEY: I have a picture book I’ve been writing and rewriting for awhile now. I also have a horror series saved on my computer—a Goosebumps for the MG/YA readers.

To learn more about The Seasons of a Giant please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - The Seasons of a Giant @PamelaMHartley1

The Seasons of a Giant

By: Pamela Hartley
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1542385831
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: May 3, 2017

A thirteen-year-old girl learns the truth about giants in Pamela Hartley’s coming-of-age middle-grade fantasy.

Thirteen-year-old Isabel (Izzy) LaDuke may be known to all of the other Groundlings from the Rabbit Foot Region as "top rate" in target practice, but the truth is that she hasn’t killed anything scarier than a spider. Regardless, Izzy determines to find the culprit stealing her family’s cows whenever there is a full moon. She is certain that she’s seen the shadow of a Behemorph, a shape-shifting giant, around her family’s farm. Izzy ponders why a beast would be on Groundling Land since Behemorphs have been forbidden from there ever since the War of Separation.

Unbeknownst to her parents, Izzy decides to follow a beast that is holding the family’s prized two-ton Angus in its massive grubby hand. What happens next is unexpected. Izzy gets transported via one of two siloports to the land that hovers “above the clouds,” and more specifically to the home of Boone, a Behemorph and the Gatekeeper of the Great Temperate Forest. Fearful now that she can’t return home until the next full moon, Izzy is shocked when Boone offers to help get her back to her family. But it’s not as easy as Izzy thinks when she discovers that someone is trying to destroy the siloports.
Rising author Pamela Hartley takes a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-like tale to a whole new level in her attractive read. Although there are comical references to the beloved fairytale and Hartley’s framework certainly reflects the people of the land versus the giants living beyond the clouds, there are no magic beans and a beanstalk. For readers who may be disappointed by this fact, you are in for a pleasant surprise since what Hartley presents is far better than one could imagine.

Carefully woven into Hartley’s entertaining plot are thought-provoking themes. Beginning with her principle character Izzy, Hartley has created what appears to be a typical teenager who doesn’t like chores and homework. Not much is mentioned about Izzy’s social life regarding girlfriends and especially boyfriends since it’s the boys who pick on her a bunch because of her wild head of hair. The school situations give a glimpse into Izzy’s low self-esteem and self-doubt. She is also riddled with fears—much of which is directly connected to her lack of confidence. Hartley places Izzy in situations where her choices will either help or hurt her.

Another one of Hartley’s profound themes doesn’t have anything to do with Izzy directly as much as it is a reflection of society and society’s ills. Izzy has been taught that the Behemorphs are evil. The history of the Groundlings even reinforces that belief. But when she comes face to face with Boone, everything that she has learned gets thrown out the window. Without using the term, Hartley addresses race issues that transcend beyond a fictional tale.

Great character development, engaging and often hilarious dialogue and scenes, and plenty of unexpected everything, Hartley’s narrative embodies the heart of a true storyteller.

Quill says: Kudos to Pamela Hartley for producing a fun-filled fantastical work that is certain to be a middle-grade favorite.