Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review - Calico Spy #bookreview

Calico Spy: Undercover Ladies series

By: Margaret Brownley
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62836-628-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 9, 2016

In her latest detective series release, Calico Spy, Margaret Brownley introduces Katie Madison. She’s a spit-fire, red-headed, sure-footed Pinkerton Detective who pulls out all the stops when it comes to taking down the villain.

Katie Madison isn’t like her sisters. Maybe she could have been had her one sister not up and married the man she loved. With nothing left to lose, Katie signs on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. As far as her daddy was concerned, she made her bed and all that was left to do was lie in it. Katie had a natural flair for surveillance. She could separate a no-do-gooder from a law abiding man any day of the week including Sunday. She was a good girl and practiced her faith always and perhaps in due time, her daddy would understand the path she chose to mend her broken heart. Her latest undercover assignment took her to the far reaches of the Kansas plains and her cover was waitressing. However, she wasn’t your typical run of the mill waitress. Rather, she was a Harvey Girl; the best of the best with perfect posture, a beautiful smile and without question, a Harvey Girl always embraced the notion that the customer is always right. However, Katie Madison may be the Harvey Girl to change the image forever more.

There’s a serial killer lurking in the shadows of the Harvey restaurant and while Katie’s fellow workers have no idea she is the plant in place to (hopefully) solve the crime, Katie needs to own her waitressing role and protect her cover. With the townsfolk on edge and little clues to go on, Katie wastes no time assessing the clientele. She was much better at surveilling than she was at memorizing drink orders. The last thing she needed was another distraction and that’s exactly what she was about to get the day Sherriff Branch Whitman sauntered into the restaurant. While it would seem they had a common interest in catching the killer, Katie wasn’t quite prepared for the extracurricular distraction Branch was about to provide.

Margaret Brownley paints a believable picture of what life must have been like for a woman detective in a man’s world during the early settlement days. Brownley seizes ample opportunities to infuse situations of conflict between Kathie and Sherriff Whitman and uses this to her advantage as she weaves a sublime sub-plot of romance behind the scenes. Once the reader is hooked on such a notion, Brownley gets back down to her brass tacks by redirecting her readers back to the suspense of the overarching plot. The dialogue is credible and the characters are identifiable and likeable. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Brownley’s previous work. However, Brownley has certainly struck a winning formula in Calico Spy. The story flows and it is rich with many occasions for a chuckle here and an aha moment there.

Quill says: Calico Spy is a quick and enjoyable read that will have you rooting for the heroine with the turn of each page.

Book Review - Even the Dead

Even the Dead: A Quirke Novel

By: Benjamin Black
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1627790666
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 8, 2016

Quirke had been working at the Hospital of the Holy Family as the chief pathologist until something went wrong. Absence seizures and mild hallucinations didn’t do him any favors. “Something has happened to me,” he explained to his one-time lover and sister-in-law, Rose, “something has-gone out.” He was living with his adoptive brother, Mal, and Rose of course. Dr. David Sinclair, the chief consulting pathologist, was definitely going to have his job if he didn’t recover quickly. To add insult to injury, Sinclair was dating Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe. It was all so very complicated and unnecessarily cozy, really. There was, however, a body on the mortuary slab that needed a second opinion, one that Quirke needed to take a look at.

Such things as accidents do happen and there was a young man who probably committed suicide in Phoenix Park. Sinclair had the somewhat distasteful job of examining the body, but noticed a slight indentation in the side of his head, a fact that Quirke was concurred with. It looked suspicious, “the result of a deliberate and savage blow.” Before Leon Corless hit that tree, someone dealt that blow, doused everything in petrol, and somehow sent that car down an incline into that tree. No doubt they were looking at a murder, a murder Quirke would set aside his neurological issues to investigate. Detective Inspector Hackett would be more than willing to share a drink or two and work on the case.
Leon was just a twenty-something kid, sans any enemies who wanted him to slam into that tree. On the other hand his father, Sam Corless, was a Trotskyite troublemaker.”Would Corless have enemies,” he asked Quirke, “vengeful enough to kill his son?” Maybe, but then again Leon was working in a rather sensitive government area himself. Something to do with women and babies, but what possible secrets could Leon be harboring? Surely it wouldn’t warrant the death sentence he received. The real twist was when Leon’s girlfriend, Lisa Smith, contacted Phoebe. There was little connection between the two, save a single class, but Lisa was wildly desperate and needed Phoebe’s help.

Sinclair didn’t think that Sam Corless looked “like much of a threat to the institutions of the state,” when he lifted the sheet so he could identify his son. It would soon become apparent that there was more to the case than either Quirke or Hackett could have imagined. Phoebe had squirreled Lisa away in the house in Ballytubber, a safe haven for anyone, or so she thought. Someone was threatened by that murdered corpse, Lisa’s lover, because she vanished without so much as a trace. There was absolutely nothing to indicate anyone had been there at all. Was Lisa Smith some sort of figment of Phoebe’s imagination? A Quirke-like genetic hallucination? There was no one named Lisa on the roster in Phoebe’s class. There was a dangerous enemy out there, but just who was it?

I do love a good ending and Even the Dead had a killer, one that made the read well worth it. This novel can stand alone, but barely. I would have enjoyed it much more had I been privy to the others in the series. The pace of this work was even, nicely building up to the “whys” of the mystery. This is forensic crime fiction, but the clues on the body pointed to an unknown killer who only arrived on the scene in the latter pages of the book. For me, it felt as if Quirke and Hackett stepped out of a noire...into the pages of this book. I could almost tell that this particular novel was / is a turning point in Quirke’s character with the promise of future love, the rekindling of life in a man worn down by everything around him. For me, it will be a time to look back into Quirke’s past by reading the others in the series. For others, I’m sure they’ll be anxiously awaiting the next in the series from Quirke, a man who has discovered things about himself and his past.

Quill says: This is a powerful mystery, one of not only political and church intrigue, but that of an inimitable detective...Quirke.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Interview with Award-Winning Author Susan Count

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Susan Count, author of Selah’s Sweet Dream

FQ: What experiences did you having with horses before writing this book?

COUNT: My Grandmother was a librarian in a quaint library in Falls Village, Connecticut. She had a shelf stocked with the classic horse books and I am convinced they were especially for me. My love for horses was born in that library and nurtured by many horses on the trail. To see a horse is to love them.

FQ: What made you choose to have your main character as a twelve-year-old rather than making her older as many books do?

COUNT: I wrote with no preconceived ideas about the age of the main character. The story chose Selah’s age as it unfolded.

FQ: Have you had or been around someone who personally trained their horse?

COUNT: Yes, I avail myself of every opportunity to study equine training techniques. I can learn from everyone.

FQ: If no, what research did you do to write about the training part of this story?

COUNT: No matter how much one might know about horses, every equestrian discipline has its own practices and vocabulary which can trip a writer up. I make no claims of expertise in any discipline and I hope that research keeps me from annoying those who would know.

FQ: Was Sweet Dream and/or her behavior based on a horse you have known?

COUNT: Sweet Dream is a composite. One model was my thirty-three year old, Missouri Foxtrotter mare. She would fight a dragon if it landed in her pasture, but she loves and humbly submits to little children. The other models were my Rocky Mountain horses. They are smart, willing, and intuitive. They try so hard to figure out what I'm asking of them.

FQ: Who was your intended audience for this book?

COUNT: I wanted to bless young girls with a story to show them a love relationship in a family, with the Lord, and with a horse.

FQ: Were there any particular horse books that were your favorite(s) growing up that stuck with you?

COUNT: It’s so sad to give the most obvious answer, but there it is - The Black Stallion.

FQ: Were there any books about horses or training that helped inspire this story?

COUNT: Not books so much as being a rabid follower of phenomenal trainers. The natural horse training techniques are fascinating. Top drawer is Lorenzo in South France. There is a must see video of his on my facebook page. I adore Stacy Westfall. Look for her freestyle reining ride from 2006 and you will adore her too.

To learn more about Selah’s Sweet Dream please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review - Selah's Sweet Dream

Selah’s Sweet Dream

By: Susan Count
Illustrated By: Melissa Gates
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9970883-0-4
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: February 5, 2015

The two weeks that twelve-year-old Selah gets to spend with her grandfather are always wonderful but the only thing that could make it perfect is having a horse. Unfortunately, her grandpa has decided to never have horses again, for after Selah’s grandmother passed away he vowed to never be around them again. The memories of the happy times with his wife were just too hard to think about and horses brought those thoughts up even more. So, much to Selah’s dismay it looked like the only animal she would be hanging out with was her grandpa’s sweet dog named Skunk.

One day when her Grandpa went into town to run errands, Selah decided to take a hike but soon discovers a group of buzzards circling over something. As she ventures closer she discovers that the buzzards are zoning in on a horse that has been tangled up in wire and could not get herself out. Frightened that trying to free the horse by herself would just cause the horse to become even more entangled, she runs as fast as her legs can carry her and scrambles back to the house to find her grandfather. Thankfully he is back from his trip into town and after hearing his granddaughter’s frantic story he quickly follows her to the trapped horse. With a quiet, gentle approach Selah and her grandfather slowly untangle the frightened animal, carefully slip a halter on her head, and one step at a time they lead her back to the barn.

After a thorough exam from the veterinarian, Selah and her grandfather finally get a minute to get a good look at this mysterious horse. Aside from the cuts and scratches they could see she was a beautiful, well-balanced, and attractive black mare that was clearly owned by someone who cared for her at one point in her life. As Selah’s grandfather continues to look at this horse he remembers a young horse that got loose after a trailer had flipped over about two years ago; the horse was never recovered so everyone assumed it was living wild in the woods. As the search for answers continues, both Selah and her grandfather will be surprised to find that this horse is connected to their family in more ways than one.

This was a wonderfully written story that inspires an age of reader that sometimes is overlooked. At the age of twelve the main character of Selah goes on quite an amazing adventure that had me smiling the whole way through this book. I also enjoyed the real life experiences that were brought alive as Selah works through the training issues that arise as she works with her horse.

Quill says: A wonderful combination of inspiration and engaging horse adventure.

Ally's Kitchen: A Passport for Adventurous Palates

By: Alice Phillips
Publisher: Front Table Books
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1462115464
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 5, 2016

I’ve most certainly been an adventurous person during my lifetime, with a passport to match. In the kitchen, I must admit I’m rather lacking in the “adventure” line when it comes to trying out new recipes. I have more or less colored within the lines so to speak, but Ally’s Kitchen has made me look beyond the rather bland cooking of my youth...way beyond. When I’ve traveled I have enjoyed trying many new dishes, but never experimented with them on my own. When I first began taking a look at this cookbook it was almost as if I were taking a peek into kitchens around the world.

In fact, I enjoyed reading about the foods, their origins, and even how Alice “Ally” Phillips savors them as much as I loved sampling them. Armchair travelers will more than welcome the worldwide adventure as well as the foods. Each section is prefaced by a personal, almost lyrical introduction to the area as well as personal vignettes. What’s really amazing is the awe Ally feels for each recipe, something I could immediately sense as I read those vignettes! Each recipe is prefaced by a story and has a “Style Maker” at the bottom to round it out. For example, the Jerusalem eggs recipe “looks really cool served in wooden bowls” because “Somehow a ‘common’ serving piece makes this once-forbidden treat even more tasty now that we can all enjoy it.”

As I worked my way through the book I peppered it with Post-It Notes marking my favorites or those adventures I wanted to try. One everyday recipe I loved was the “Dead Sea Spiced Granola & Granola Bars.” Not so exotic, but great tasting and fun to make. One can opt to make one or the other, but I decided to go for the granola, which can be set aside to make granola bars at a later time. No chance because it was great to eat a bit at a time, tossed in my oatmeal, as well as a great addition to my yogurt. Many of the ingredients are standard granola fare, but also included are Chinese 5-spice that gives it that flare (maple syrup too!) and cacao nibs. Needless to say, the granola wasn’t exotic, but was delicious.

One other recipe I ended up loving were the unfamiliar “Down Under Anzac Biscuits.” The photograph made it one of those I-just-have-to-try-it recipes for me. Although one can garnish these biscuits, I loved them as they were. Old-fashioned oats, coconut, honey...well, they just had to be made. This particular recipe was in the “Side Trip Escapades” section. There are several main sections that include European, Mediterranean, Middle Easter, African, Asian, Caribbean, and a smattering of other foods. My favorite section was the Asia section as I’m a fan of Asian food, but those Post-Its have marked several other recipes.

Ally’s Kitchen is most certainly a cookbook for the person who loves to experiment with a wide variety of foods. The more I read, browsed, and experimented, the more the book struck me as a food travelogue as well as a cookbook. It reminded me of foodie Anthony was that good. I certainly enjoyed traveling with Ally around the world. The book popped with alluring photographs, those fabulous vignettes, and recipes. If you’re not adventurous in the kitchen, you’ll certainly want to be after you try a couple of recipes and browse the others. Fabulous cookbook for the foodie who loves adventure!

Quill says: If you’re a foodie who loves adventure, Ally’s Kitchen is one cookbook that you’ll just have to put on your kitchen shelf!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Image Ads for Award Winning Books #bookawards

All the books that have won awards in the 2016 Feathered Quill Book Awards program get a free two-week ad on the main page of our site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews.  Here are the first ads to come in/get posted.  Check them out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Award Winners Posted to Pinterest

Just posted all the winning books (if they're available from Amazon - several are not) to our Pinterest page. A good chance to see all the book covers in one place. Check them out!