Thursday, May 28, 2015

6 Ways Reading Brings Joy To Our Lives

A Good Book Can Transport Us To Other Worlds, Or Reveal More About This One, Author Says
The options for latching onto a great book – whether a classic by Victor Hugo or the latest bestseller by John Grisham – appear limitless these days.
Printed books remain popular, but e-readers provide additional choices. We can still visit bookstores and libraries, but a seemingly infinite selection of titles is available for ordering online.
And, despite periodic worries about the reading habits of the young, a Pew Research Center study released last year showed that young adults, ages 18-29, were the group most likely to have read a book in the previous 12 months.
It’s not surprising people are still eager to lose themselves in a richly plotted novel, a well-researched biography or any title on a favorite topic, says Darlene Quinn, an author whose latest novel, “Conflicting Webs” ( is the fifth in her standalone Webs Series, which features stories steeped in family issues in today's rapidly paced world.
“Reading is beneficial for everyone, whether we do it for entertainment, to pass the time or to learn,” Quinn says. “We can grow and change from the first page to the last page, and anywhere in between. A love for reading can open a lot of doors.”
Quinn, a lifelong lover of books, suggests six ways reading brings joy to our lives:
•  Relaxation factor. After a busy day, down time with a book can be a rewarding way to segue into bedtime. “Putting up your feet with a cup of tea and a timeless story can make the stress melt away,” Quinn says. “What better way to unwind?” The beauty of ending the day with a good book is that you can still have mental stimulation even as you seek a distraction from personal issues, work concerns and the unexpected complications of life.
•  Universal appeal, personal experience. People can read the same book, yet come away with an experience that is distinct for them, Quinn says. That puts her in agreement with Edmund Wilson, the American literary and social critic, who observed that “no two persons ever read the same book.”  Quinn says we often alter what is written – or at least our interpretations of it – to reflect our situations, personalities and opinions.
•  Tech savvy welcome, but not required. E-readers are popular these days and it’s not hard to understand why, Quinn says. They bring numerous benefits to the reading experience, such as the ability to instantly download new books or change the type size on the screen. But tried-and-true print versions of books remain strong and it’s nice to be able to grab a book without charging its battery or bringing along a power cord, Quinn says. “And as far as I’m concerned, you just can’t beat the intoxicating aroma of fresh book pages,” she says.
•  To infinity and beyond. Trains, planes and automobiles all have limits on where they can take us. Books don’t. A science fiction novel can whisk us away to an alternate universe. A historical novel can plunk us down in the middle of the Salem witch trials. In the movie “Toy Story,” Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase was “to infinity and beyond.” That aptly describes the reach of books and the power they have to transport us. “Right in our hands we have the passageway to a new world, a new language or a new understanding,” Quinn says. “We can be anywhere and we can be there at any time.”
•  Lessons within the pages. The opportunity to expand our creativity and knowledge is what reading is all about, Quinn says. Name a topic and a book exists that can help you learn more about it. The options are numerous – music, history, art, geography, exploration, science, nature, religion and more. “My goal has always been to be a lifelong learner and books are a fantastic asset for achieving that,” Quinn says.
John Green, author of such works as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” has said, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” Quinn says that might be the best reason of all to read.
“The feeling that someone else knows our struggles and relates to our lives can give us a sense of completeness, and help us realize we aren’t the only ones who feel or think the way we do,” she says.
“Reading can make us happy when we are sad. It can make us laugh when we are depressed. And it can excite us when we are disheartened. Those are great accomplishments for such a simple activity.”
About Darlene Quinn
Darlene Quinn ( is an author and journalist from Long Beach, Calif., whose novels about deceit, intrigue and glamour in the retail fashion industry were inspired by her years working in management with Bullocks Wilshire Specialty department stores. Quinn’s novels are steeped in family issues in today’s rapidly paced world. Her latest is “Conflicting Webs,” the fifth book in her epic Web series. Previous titles in the standalone series have been “Webs of Fate,” “Webs of Power,” “Twisted Webs” and “Unpredictable Webs.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review - Primate School

Primate School

By: Jennifer Keats Curtis
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-1628555646
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 2015

Franco, an Allen's swamp monkey, slipped his little hand through the bars of his cage. He had something that needed to be done, but so did Kwan, a silverback gorilla. Each primate had learned that in order to receive special grooming they had to pay attention to signals they learned in class. Franco needed to have his fingernails clipped and Kwan (ahhhhh-open-wide!) needed his teeth checked out. Of course there was a little treat in store for each one of them.

Primates that "live in zoos don't perform tricks," but do need to learn how to cooperate with their keepers. Just like their human counterparts, they need to learn lessons. Franco, Kwan, and other zoo animals study their lessons in "training classes where they learn behaviors that keep them happy and healthy." There are many different species of primates, but one thing they do have in common is that they are smart. Of course there are many other traits they have in common. You'll learn exactly what a primate is and will be able to see just how cool they really are.

Did you know that some of these primates can learn some of their lessons from an iPad? They can! Perhaps they aren't capable of playing games like Words for Friends, but Christopher, an orangutan, can work through a memory game. Primates who aren't in zoos "learn from members of their group" by "exploring, observing and playing." If you want a behind the scenes look at how primates learn in a zoo setting you need only turn the pages of this book and you'll be able to receive a few lessons yourself!

This is a fun and fascinating look at zoo school learning that will wow young students. No, not all training that takes place in a zoo setting involves circus-like tricks, but rather something quite unexpected. Young readers will get a glimpse of primates as they hold out their arms for a blood pressure check to those working their magic on a touch screen. The pages are filled with full color photographs and fascinating facts that will draw in even the most reluctant readers. In the back of the book there are four pages of activities as well as free complementary activities on the publisher's website.

Accelerated Reader: 3.9
Flesch-Kinncaid: 4.4
Lexile: 670L
Fountas and Pinnell: O

Quill says: This is a fun and fascinating look at zoo school learning that will wow young students!

Book Review - Animal Mouths

Animal Mouths

By: Mary Holland
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62855-5615
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 28, 2015

Is there such a thing as a critter that doesn't have a mouth? Almost everyone would think that's not a possibility, but it is. The adult luna moth has such a short lifespan it doesn't need one. They "only live for about a week" so snacking on leaves is not necessary. Naturally the majority of animals do have mouths, but some have teeth while others such as the common snapping turtle "use the sharp edges of their jaws to eat both plants and animals."

Birds of course don't have teeth, but rather use their beaks to access their food supplies. A grosbeak uses his beak to eat seeds, but red-shouldered hawks "have strong, curved beaks to tear the flesh of the animals they eat." If you've taken a close look at photographs of birds in this and other books, you've probably noticed each one is different. They have adapted to the type of food they eat. Why would an egret need such a long pointed beak? Perhaps that's something to think about as you study animal adaptation.

Obviously birds don't have teeth, but what about a frog? Yes, they "have a row of very small teeth along the edge of their upper jaws and on the roof of their mouths." Unlike the common snapping turtle, a frog needs those teeth to hold onto their prey before swallowing them. In this book you'll get to check out many different types of animals and learn how they eat their food as well as get a close look at their teeth, if they have any. What kind of teeth do you have to eat your food? You'll find out when you check out this book!

There are a lot of interesting facts and photographs that will keep even the most reluctant reader interested in the animal kingdom. Mary Holland's award-winning photographs make the book a standout one in her nature series of books for children. The pages are filled with full color photographs, including insets of animal skulls, and fascinating facts that will be of high interest to young animal lovers. In the back of the book there are four pages of activities as well as free complementary activities on the publisher's website.

Accelerated Reader: 4.5
Flesch-Kinncaid: 4.9
Lexile: 920L
Fountas and Pinnell: N

Quill says: This is a fascinating look at animals and how they are able to eat their foods, a perfect book for students in a homeschool or classroom setting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review - Undercover Bride

Undercover Bride: Undercover Ladies series

By: Margaret Brownley
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62836-627-3
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 27, 2015

Maggie Cartwright is a woman who takes her job very seriously. Indeed, she’s not just a Pinkerton operative working in the male-dominated 1870’s, but one who is willing to go undercover as a mail-order bride to prove a suspect guilty. And her willingness to do just that may mean she’ll be getting married to protect her cover...Will Pinkerton catch their man and will Maggie close the case before wedding bells ring?

As the story opens, we meet Maggie, who has just arrived in the Arizona Territory to meet her betrothed, Garrett Thomas. Or at least that’s what Garrett thinks. He also thinks he is meeting Maggie Taylor, his mail-order bride. Garrett is suspected of being one of the bandits who took part in the ‘Whistle-Stop Robbery,’ in which one man was killed. Garrett matches the description of one of the bandits given by an eyewitness and it’s Maggie’s job to prove his guilt.

Gaining Garrett’s trust by masquerading as a potential bride, and being able to move about his house without suspicion was a brilliant move on the part of the Pinkerton agency, but for Maggie…not so much. You see, Garrett is handsome, smart, and gentle, and has two adorable children who manage to wiggle their way into Maggie’s heart. Before long, she realizes that she is falling for this man and is determined to prove his innocence.

I have not read the first book in the Undercover Ladies series, Petticoat Detective, but had no problem jumping right into this tale. Each book is a stand-alone cozy, so no need to hesitate on buying this book if you haven’t read the first. The characters are well-developed for a cozy mystery, with my favorites the indomitable Aunt Hetty and a fellow Pinkerton detective who helps Maggie solve the case. Disguises flourish, plots to expose the guilty are planned (including a few that real Pinkerton detectives were known to use) and you may just learn a little history along the way. Throw in a light dose of Christian themes, and you have the perfect ‘gentle’ cozy. Undercover Bride is a delightful change from so many of the hard-core crime mysteries on the market today.

Quill says: A fun, easy-reading, quick moving Christian cozy that will keep the pages turning and the reader guessing until almost the last page.

Book Review - In Shadows

In Shadows

By: D.R. Willis
Publisher: iUniverse LLC
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4917-3115-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 26, 2015

In his prequel to Lonely Deceptions, D.R. Willis casts intrigue and a bounty of twists and turns that beckons his audience to pay attention and enjoy the thrilling ride in his current murder/mystery, In Shadows.

Roth Braun navigates the dense Thailand forest with a vengeance. His mission is to retrieve the mysterious package left to him by his diabolical father. The year is 1946 and Braun’s motivation to succeed is to rid himself of a father who continues to dictate his life...a hold he has on his son even from the grave.

Meanwhile, in the confines of a formidable New Jersey winter, Nelson Davis has returned home from war. As he buries both his parents, his mother’s dying wish haunts him: '...take care of your older brother Christopher...' The commitment to honor his mother’s wish is one that was much easier made than achieved. Christopher has visions fueled by a complete lack of common sense and a whole lot of trouble. Nelson believes he can convince Christopher to join him in his venture of opening a chocolate store with the future of happily ever after. Sadly, when Christopher heads to Savannah, Georgia, with the hope of his own vision of success, Nelson has no choice but to follow. Rose Blake is a Savannah Times reporter and the one person unbeknownst to the Davis brothers, the key to connecting them to the dark and mysterious Roth Braun. The unfortunate connection will lead to the demise of one of the Davis brothers, but not before a series of unfortunate events unfold.

D.R. Willis portrays a distinct confidence when it comes to spinning up a great murder mystery. This book may be slightly more than 120 pages, but the action and adventure that is peppered with ample twists and turns is instantaneous. There is a sublime nuance of ‘pay attention’ across each page with less than a handful of characters. Willis anchors each and every one of his or her purpose in the story by assigning their worth through powerful word placement. In my opinion, the winning formula in writing a solid murder mystery is the inherent need to deliver the audience a body and do so within the first few pages. Check that box clearly Mr. Willis as you did so and did it superbly! The ending has a fantastic twist to it that one will not see coming—even a reader (like me) who insists on reading the last page of the book first! Well done Mr. Willis! After reading In Shadows, it’s a no brainer for me to seek out Lonely Deceptions and devour it as well.

Quill says: In Shadows is a murder mystery with the perfect balance of intrigue and suspense that will draw its audience in immediately and hold onto the reader to the very end.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review - Essie's Roses

Essie’s Roses

By: Michelle Muriel
Publisher: Little Cabin Books
Publication Date: March 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9909383-0-9
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: May 24, 2015

I have finished my reading of Essie’s Roses and all I can say is – wow, what an amazing read. What a well-written, completely believable and insightful book. Essie’s Roses is a ‘fictional’ novel, yet it encompasses the same importance of message, and will certainly remind readers of their intrinsic knowledge of right versus wrong with the same quiet strength of conviction that Harriet Beecher Stowe provided to her readers when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Additionally though, this book is much more than just that. Essie’s Roses is the beautifully poignant tale of two girls; one white, the other colored – who grow up together (but still separate) during the mid-1800s. This is the story of their heartfelt and true love for one another. An accounting showing how they are each able to overcome the odds of the lives they have been born into. For even though slavery (the subjugation of an entire race due only to the ‘infraction’ of being born a different color) was commonly accepted as ‘right’ during our country’s younger years; this book will force the reader to look even further beyond that misconception – in order to acknowledge that there are many additional forms of slavery; and that they each stem from cruelty, coupled with a complete and utter disregard for the pricelessness of another human’s soul.

In Essie’s Roses, the reader will begin his, or her, literary journey with a very poignant show of love – as a young colored girl named Essie Mae seeks to save the life of her (white) best-friend, Evie Winthrop. Essie Mae also understands that to be caught would result in the loss of her own life, but she cannot – more importantly will not; leave her best friend to suffer alone.

From here, the story continues – providing the reader with a brief glimpse into the lives of the mothers who birthed these two girls, before the story again moves forward and focuses on each one of the two very different, yet very similar, lives of Essie Mae and Evie.

While I could provide the potential reader with additional information about this amazing and riveting novel – I choose not to. The power of the words and the story found within Essie’s Roses needs to be discovered by the reader for her or himself.

Quill says: Michelle Muriel has penned a wonderfully moving work of fiction – and one that will leave no reader with a dry eye. I fully expect to see Essie’s Roses on the silver screen someday, but until then I will simply look forward to reading future works by this author. Five Stars (and then add some more)!

For more information on Essie's Roses, please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Books In For Review

Here's the latest batch of books to arrive for review.  Check them out!

As All My Fathers Were by James A. Misko Ranchers, Richard and Seth Barrett, are devoted to running the family ranch on Nebraska's Platte River. It is their intent to keep doing so the rest of their lives; however, the terms of their mother's will requires them to travel by horse and canoe along the Platte River, to understand why their maternal grandfather homesteaded the ranch three generations earlier. From the grave, she commands them to observe industrial farming's harm to the land, air, and water. A 90-old bachelor farmer, with a game plan of his own, butts in and threatens to disrupt and delay the will's mandatory expedition. Using a gullible hometown sheriff and a corrupt local politician, a conniving, wealthy neighbor, seeking to seize the property, thwarts their struggle to keep their ranch and meet the will's terms. The Platte River, A mile wide and an inch deep, becomes its own character in this turbulent novel and lives up to its legend as being too thick to drink and too thin to plow.  

Sweet Cast Iron Creations: Dutch Oven Desserts by Doug Martin Master the art of Dutch oven sweets! Award-winning chef Doug Martin uses easy-to-follow instructions and irresistible recipes to take you beyond basic cobblers and into the realm of gourmet delicacies like his famous Chocolate Ganache Cake and the award-winning Tropical Dream Cake! With all the delicious Dutch oven flavor you love, these sweet treats will have your friends and family scraping the black pot clean.

Backyard Dutch Oven Cooking by Bruce Tracy Make your favorite Dutch oven foods in your own backyard! Whether you're making a hearty, no-fuss breakfast in the woods or a fancy Sunday dinner to serve at your dining table, there's nothing better than Dutch oven cooking. With over 100 recipes encompassing all skill levels and lots of expert advice, you'll be a black pot master in no time.  

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.  

It's You by Jane Porter In the wake of a tragedy that tore her life down to the foundations, Dr. Alison McAdams has lost her way. So when she’s summoned to Napa to care for her ailing father, she’s not sure she has anything to offer him—or anyone else. What Ali finds in Northern California wine country is a gift—an opportunity to rest, and distance from her painful memories. Most unexpectedly, she finds people who aren’t afraid of her grief or desperate for her to hurry up and move on. As Ali becomes part of her father’s community, makes new friends of her own, and hears the stories of a generation who survived the Second World War, she begins to find hope again. In a quest to discover the truth about another woman’s lost love, she sets off on a journey across oceans and deep into history. And in making sense of that long-ago tragedy, Ali is able to put together the broken pieces of her heart and make new choices that are right for her.  

Hope In Every Raindrop by Wesley Banks "Small towns have big stories." That was a lesson Katie’s father taught her years ago. A lesson she’s taken to heart. And right now, Katie is desperate for a big story. Reeling from the recent loss of her father and with her agent breathing down her neck for the next book, the twenty-one-year-old writer picks a spot on the map and finds herself bound for a middle-of-nowhere town called Bishopville, South Carolina. Taking a chance on the words of a local grocer, Katie stumbles upon a rare breed of dogs raised by the town doctor and his nephew Kyle. The only problem? Kyle isn’t interested in telling stories—especially not to a big-city girl who can’t seem to sit still. In an attempt to win him over as the clock winds down, Katie finds herself immersed in Kyle’s world, doing everything but writing. When inspiration finally strikes, Katie is faced with an unforeseen catastrophe and a truth she can no longer ignore. While she has come to love the dogs, the real story may be about Kyle Walker.  

The Tulip Resistance by Lynne Leatham Allen Pulled into a war she doesn't understand, Marieka Cordoven is just a Dutch girl who wouldn't dare resist the Germans. But helping a wounded German soldier- a defector- changes her mind about everything. This tense historical drama delves into the intricacies of the Dutch resistance, its grit to defy orders, and its plan to do what is right.  

The Way You Wear Your Hat by Patricia Underwood The ultimate celebration of the hat. Renowned milliner Patricia Underwood presents a visually stunning and informative look at the transformative value of the hat. Featuring cloches, top hats, visors, wide-brimmed hats, berets, fedoras, turbans, trilbies, sun hats, and more, this spirited volume luxuriates in the multifariousness of one of the most diverse accessories. Underwood shares her inspirations—from art, cinema, historical periods, and nature—as well as sharing her favorite hats. She also offers her readers guidelines on how to choose a hat. The book’s lavish illustrations showcase Underwood’s many years of collaborations with such top-notch designers as Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi, and a host of others. Images are drawn from the designer’s own archive, as well as editorial work from some of the world’s greatest fashion photographers, including Richard Avedon, Norman Parkinson, and Bruce Weber.

Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite by Annie Oliverio Whether you want salty, sweet, spicy, comforting, crunchy, or chocolaty-indulge all your cravings and give your body the nutrition it needs. With these tantalizing plant-based, vegan recipes, like Creamy Thai Carrot Coconut Soup and Chocolate-coated Key Lime Coconut Creme Pie, popular blogger and food photographer Annie Oliverio teaches you how to train your body to want healthy options, while feeding your appetite, and satisfying your cravings-all at the same time.  

Ally's Kitchen: A Passport for Adventurous Palates by Alice Phillips Wander the world without leaving your kitchen! Popular blogger, chef, and TV darling Ally Phillips shares her favorite recipes from around the globe in this truly unique cookbook. Full of cultural background, delicious recipes, and Ally Phillips's signature "food branching" ideas, this cookbook is guaranteed to turn your ordinary meals into memorable masterpieces.  

The Cheese Lover's Cookbook by Emily Chambers From gruyere to gouda, you can add a little cheese to any meal! This tasty collection of recipes features all your favorite cheeses from around the world. Try the Mozzarella Caprese Salad or the dreamy Rocky Road Cheesecake, and don't forget the Ultimate Grilled Cheese! Simple and delicious, these recipes will make all your meals easy cheesy!

 Eat, Drink, and Be Green: Easy and Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle by Michele Nielson Give your menu a green make-over with tasty, healthy meals you can prepare in half an hour or less! Using easy-to-find ingredients and some simple preparation, you can green up your diet with silky green smoothies, savory salads and so much more. With recipes from around the world, detailed instructions and multiple FAQ lists, this cookbook makes it easy to love eating right. Try the: Orange Creamie Greenie Smoothie; Butter Lettuce and Tomato Salad; Zucchini Spaghetti; The Best Hummus; Huevos Rancheros; Speculoos Bake-me-nots and many more -- more than eighty recipes, many with recipe conversions for small and large batches. Mouth-watering photos make it easy to know what you want to make and almost all the recipes have gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan versions so you can keep everyone happy!