Friday, July 5, 2019

#BookReview - Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

By: Ellen Feld
Photographed by: John Cebula
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing
Publication Date: June 2019
ISBN: 978-1733767408
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 1, 2019

Donkey-Donk is at it again! This time she's going to a horse show and she'd like you to come along.

We first met Donkey-Donk (she insists you call her "Donk") in What Can I Do? A Donkey-Donk Story.In that adventure, Donk moved to a new farm, and try as she might, she just couldn't do any of the jobs that the other horses and ponies did. The story had a happy ending and was chock-full of delightful photographs of Donk as she tried her best. To capitalize on the popularity of that book, author Ellen Feld and photographer John Cebula captured another delightful adventure of Donk's as she prepares to go to a horse show. 
Hopeful that she might win a blue ribbon, Donk is very excited about the upcoming horse show. But she quickly realizes, when she tries to go over a jump, and can't, that she better practice before the show. The reader "rides" along as Donk tries several obstacles and realizing each time that she is unable to perform the needed task, she decides, "I better practice..." She then returns after practicing and, each time, successfully completes the obstacle. Once at the horse show, Donk is met by a group of very big horses. Will she be able to perform all the obstacles at the show and maybe, perhaps, win a blue ribbon?
Like the first book in this series, Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Storyis told through simple text and fantastic photographs of the adorable Donkey-Donk doing what she does best - entertain. And the cuteness quota in these photos is high. The author uses simple words to convey her message and readers will learn several action words too. For example, Donk tells her readers that she is going in a trail class where "...I will have to go over, under, or through different obstacles." This text is accompanied by three photos - one each of Donk going "over," "under," or "through," and with the appropriate word underneath each photo. Like the first book in the series, this story conveys an important message (if you have trouble, practice, practice, practice) and has a happy ending. Overall, a great story combined with wonderful photographs make Donk's second book a winner.
Quill says: A joyful gigglefest that also teaches a valuable lesson.  Young readers will love Donkey-Donk’s adventure.
For more information on Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk story,please visit the publisher's website at: www.willowbendpublishing.com

Sunday, June 30, 2019

#BookReview - My Garden of Flowers

My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

By: Manjeet Kaur, M.D.
Publisher: Inspirante Publishing LCC
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1-7326462-0-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 28, 2019

Dr. Manjeet Kaur delivers a beautiful book that showcases the miracle babies who took their first breath of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Women & Babies Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 
(Dr.) Manjeet Kaur was born in Delhi, India. While her credentials speak for themselves, it is the person behind such credentials that makes this book a bittersweet journey that is laced with unwavering commitment and a ferocious tenacity of a person who never gave up. In 1984, Dr. Kaur traveled to Lancaster, PA, where she established roots and set to the task of singlehandedly setting up the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In the early years of taking on such a feat, there were many days when Dr. Kaur worked twenty-four-hour shifts (and sometimes more) to stabilize a sick and quite premature infant. Simply put, there was no one else who had the knowledge or ability to do what she did. 
Through her commitment and leadership, Dr. Kaur established a care unit that was not only gaining recognition beyond Lancaster, but a place that was renowned for its level of quality care thanks to her vision and determination. Despite her unconscionable workload, Dr. Kaur never took on a case without applying her personal touch of love and compassion. This book is truly a testament to her legacy. Specifically, in 2002, the hospital recognized Dr. Kaur’s unfaltering achievements and awarded her a prestigious honor by naming the neonatal division at the Women and Babies Hospital the ‘Manjeet Kaur MD Division of Neonatology.’
When I was first approached to read and review Dr. Kaur’s book, my thought was: I have to do this. My mother has passed, but I have fond memories of the years when she would share her stories and experiences while working as a nurse in the NICU of Plantation General Hospital. Dr. Kaur has done an epic job of chronicling the first breaths taken by premature babies whose birth, by all accounts, defied survival. Not only did these little miracles survive, many grew up to become quite accomplished adults. Dr. Kaur’s voice resonates throughout this book and through her words, she has painted a beautiful ‘garden of flowers’—the ‘flowers’ depicting the premature babies she treated. There is a vast array of articles, photographs, and personal stories of the surviving babies and their families and tender moments of reunions year after year with Dr. Kaur—a gift the good doctor was graced with each time she saw her miracle babies who fought tremendous odds and won. While I was blessed years ago with two full-term and thriving ‘baby girls,’ this book is a must for all the women out there whose little bundle of joy simply couldn’t wait for full gestation. Well done Dr. Kaur. This is an outstanding book.
Quill says: My Garden of Flowersis an exceptional read. It offers a bounty of beautiful accounts of the miracle of birth that are anchored with faith and the will to live.
For more information on My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,please visit the book's website at: mygardenofflowers.wordpress.com

#BookReview - Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties

By: Stephen King and Owen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1501163401
Reviewed By: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 26, 2019
A world where all the women have fallen asleep, wrapped securely in cocoons, while the men fight it out in a somewhat barbaric fashion takes center stage in a novel co-written by the father-and-son team of Stephen and Owen King. 
 Sleeping Beautiesopens in the small town of Dooling, somewhere in Appalachia (surprise - not Maine!), where the local sheriff, Lila Norcross, keeps tabs on the petty crimes common in rural America. Her husband, Clint Norcross, is the senior psychiatric officer at the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women. They have a son, Jared, and are relatively happily married. After several chapters where the authors introduce the various players in this novel (and there are a lot of them!), the action starts. It seems there has been an accident at a local meth spot, that is quickly re-dubbed a multiple murder site. As Lila is rushing to the scene, she almost hits a woman on a side road. Stopping to help the woman, Lila soon handcuffs the strange woman when it becomes apparent that this unusual person is on some type of PCP...or something and is in need of help.
Evie, as the strange woman is dubbed, is taken to the women's prison for evaluation. At the same time, a strange affliction has taken over women on the other side of the world...and is quickly making its way to the United States. When women, and only women, fall asleep, they are enveloped by an odd white cocoon of a weird, sticky substance. They continue to breathe, and appear unharmed, but if disturbed, and the cocoon is ripped open, these women become extremely violent and kill everyone near them. As the virus, plague, or whatever it is, advances toward Dooling, Lila and the other women struggle to stay awake.
One by one the women in Dooling fall asleep, as the town erupts in chaos. Like the others, Lila eventually succumbs, and with that, Part One of this novel comes to an end. The second part deals with the men as they break up into two camps - one at the prison that is willing to risk all to protect Evie, who they are convinced is at the center of the outbreak, now called "The Aurora." The other group of men, led by a somewhat violent man determined to save his little girl and free her from her cocoon, is convinced that Evie needs to be captured, and sent to the CDC, or maybe killed or...? As the battle at the prison heats up, the reader learns that the women who have been "cocooned" are not dead, but instead have been transported to a parallel universe or perhaps a time in the future (it's not really clear and left up to the reader to figure out). They establish a civilization and seem to be living in an almost perfect place. But as often happens, things do go wrong.
The premise of Sleeping Beautiesis definitely unique and makes for a fun read. Now in development for a limited television series, it's no surprise as the typical "creep factor" so common to King's novels is present. Some readers may not like the fact that we never learn what, or who, Evie is, but rather are left to speculate on some possibilities suggested by the authors. Readers familiar with Stephen King's writing will likely notice a slight difference between the storytelling here as his son Owen takes on much of the tale (it was Owen who came up with the original idea). The novel is long, at slightly over 700 pages, and there are sections that seem to drag a bit, such as the battle at the prison. That's common in many of King's novels, and something most of his fans are willing to overlook. As previously mentioned, there are a lot of characters in this book and perhaps because of that, the character development is a bit lacking. But overall, it is a fun, unique novel that follows the format that King is so well-known for that will satisfy his readers.
Quill says: While not the "best of the best" of Stephen King's novels, Sleeping Beautiesis definitely a satisfying read for fans of the "King," and of the genre.

#BookReview - Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Written by: Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion
Illustrated by: Andrew Ceolin
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110069
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 20, 2019 
Tip and Tucker are two little hamsters who live in a pet shop. Tucker is a fearless little guy who loves to explore while Tip is leery of new adventures. When they are purchased by a teacher for his classroom, Tucker is quite excited while Tip is afraid. Will their new adventure turn out well for the adorable hamsters? 
Two little hamsters, living in a pet shop, are going about their day when a new customer enters the store. The customer, Mr. Lopez, is a teacher who is looking for the perfect pets for his classroom. While bold little Tucker pops up to the top of his cage to see what's going on, fearful Tip dashes to his hamster igloo to hide. Mr. Lopez decides that the hamsters will make the perfect addition to his classroom and purchases them, along with a new cage and some food. When Mr. Lopez tells the store clerk that the hamsters' new home will be noisy but fun, all Tip hears is "noisy." Tucker, meanwhile, isn't worried about any noise in his new home, but instead focuses on the "fun." As Mr. Lopez carries the cage with the hamsters out of the pet shop and into his car, Tip again hides in his igloo while Tucker does his best to convince his friend that their new home will be wonderful. Will Tip get over his fear and finally have some fun?
Tip and Tucker: Road Trip is the first book in an emerging reader "I Am A Reader" series. Best suited for the K-1 audience, the language is simple and brief and the adorable drawings tell much of the story. The story doesn't progress very far - just up to the hamsters being placed in the classroom after the students have gone home for the day. Tip is nervous about the possible noise and activity that he may encounter the next day, but readers will have to move on to book 2 in the series, Tip and Tucker: Hide and Squeak to see how the little hamster settles into his new home. The story is a good jumping-off point to start a conversation with youngsters who may be afraid of school and the new adventures that await.
Quill says: A good story for emerging readers who may be apprehensive about attending school.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

#BookReview - To Hell with Johnny Manic

To Hell with Johnny Manic

By: Andrew Diamond
Publisher: Stolen Time Press
Publication Date: August 2019
ISBN: 978-0996350778
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 11, 2019
More haunted than hunted, a man on the run meets a beautiful, dangerous woman who shares his need to be somebody else. But does being somebody else mean killing anyone who threatens your disguise?
Early in this gritty first-person narrative, Tom Gantry admits that his current moniker - Johnny Manis – is not his; he has assumed the guise of a man who gained and then rejected fame. When we first see him, the man known as Manis is coming off a massive gambling binge. Then he gets a chance to do easy but well paid work as a computer fixer for wealthy clientele in a pleasant rural town. He jumps on it, having more than one reason to want to start a new life. But on his first day in town, he falls under the spell of a woman who will lead him into a maze of deception that exceeds anything even he could have schemed up. Wife of a well-known corporate magnate, Marilyn easily seduces him, dubbing him Johnny Manic. She slowly drags him into her evil web with tales of her faltering marriage and suspicions of her husband’s plot to get her out of the way so he can live with his new mistress. 
Looking on is a smart, doggedly persistent town cop named Lou, who has his own suspicions. He begins tracking Manic, making him feel hemmed in on all sides. Added to Manic’s trouble with the police is the mysterious alter ego – the real Manis - that is grabbing increasing control of his mind. In love now, Manic is bullied by his shadow self and seized by fears from his past. He feels he must help Marilyn, not aware of the true deviousness of her intentions.
Award-winning author Andrew Diamond has created a tough, twisted tale of distorted dreams and evil plans going wrong in every direction. Anti-hero Gantry is likeable enough, trying in his blundering way to do the right thing while falling deeper into a hole of his own digging. The cinematic plot is thoroughly engrossing, with tortuous turns and all the wrong characters showing up at all the wrong times. Manic’s work assignments with a varied cast of colorful customers provide a few breaks in the unnerving, rapidly escalating scenario of deception piled on deception. The cleverly conceived aspect of dual personality - Manis slowly gaining sway over Manic - adds a fascinating layer. Diamond manages all these threads deftly, with subtle humor and a wealth of forensic and personal detail. 
Quill says: With rapidly changing action in every chapter and psychological undertones, To Hell with Johnny Manic is very likely to garner new fans and further recognition for mystery writer Andrew Diamond. 
For more information on To Hell with Johnny Manic, please visit the author's website at: adiamond.me

#BookReview - One Red Sock

One Red Sock

Written and Illustrated by: Jennifer Sattler
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110267
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 11, 2019 
We've all been there - searching for the missing mate for one of our socks. For one little hippo, finding the match to her red sock turns into an delightful story about learning that it's okay to be less than perfect.
A little purple hippo is in her room, getting dressed so she can go out and about her day. Sitting in a big pink chair in her room, with walls that are covered in polka dots, the adorable hippo has one red sock on one foot. Unfortunately, her other foot is sock-less because she can't find the matching red sock.
"It looks funny this way.
This just will not do."
So she put on another sock.
This one was...blue!
And so it goes, as the hippo tries on sock after sock. Will she ever find her missing red sock? And if she can't find it, what will she do? Surely she can't go outside with mismatched socks - or can she?
One Red Sock is a fun story about an adorable hippo who tries her best, with a smile on her face throughout the story. It has a happy ending, one in which the little hippo realizes that not everything has to be absolutely perfect. The author, who is also the illustrator of this charming story, has created a lovable character in her purple hippo, with perfect facial expressions that help tell the story. The text is short, just a few sentences of rhyme per two-page, alternating with a two-page spread with one word - the color of the next sock the hippo finds. Not just a good story to learn some colors, the story also, and primarily, tells of how worrying about being perfect may not be the best solution to a missing sock.
Quill says: Simply adorable. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Simon Plaster



FQ: As a master storyteller who has some strong points, to say the least, talk about politics of 2019. Readers and fans want to hear what you have to say about the “world of Trump” and the “path” the U.S. is on as we speak.
PLASTER: Readers and fans ought to buy my latest books if they want to know what...Excuse me, Amy, could we just skip ahead to that question you mentioned about the publishing business. I have to get on a Greyhound Bus in a matter of minutes.
FQ: Your views on today’s authors: Who is doing it right, and what would be the one thing you would change if possible when it comes to the world of publishing?
PLASTER: What I would change is my own dang publisher, from Mossik Press to someone who is a heck of a lot better at marketing; that’s what I would do. The Mossik bossman out there in California, Marty Lowry; he talks a good game on the phone, but...Well, here I am, in Del Rio, Texas, for a book signing event that the sumbitch set up. I had to pay my own way to get here before finding out that the Mercado Poco convenience store only had two books in stock; neither one of them mine and both in Spanish. I went ahead and signed them, but won’t make a penny off the deal.
On the other hand, I guess I should be thankful not to be stuck in a kibbutz over there in Israel, where Marty also wanted me to go, on my own dime. He says Plasterworks sell like hot knishes in the Holy Land, but shekels coming my way have been sparse.
I know, I know; I should have checked into Marty Lowry’s background before I got in bed with the sumbitch, but...Only long after the fact — I had already sent nine or ten typed-up tales out there — did I find out that the word “mossik” is Yiddish, and means “prankster.” So I guess the joke’s on me.
FQ: What’s up next? Are you working on Henrietta’s next tale? Or is there a different book in the works? 
PLASTER: My latest tale is already in Marty Lowry’s hands, and — dang it — I only typed up that one copy. Henrietta rides again, alright. I can’t tell you the title, ‘cause I forgot to make up one, but I can tell you this: The tale replays a big event that took place almost a hundred years ago — one of the most important events in American history that led directly to the election of Donald Trump — though not ten out of a hundred people now living have ever heard of it; nine of which have a misunderstanding based on a motion picture account. Henrietta snouts out a couple of villains patterned after sumbitches thought of by most to have been heroes. I have not yet heard back from Marty Lowry on the matter, so can’t say if or when...Sorry, Amy, I’ve got to get on that bus and head up the road to Odessa for a book signing at an Arturo’s convenience store. Hasta la vista, my dear.
FQ: Thank you once again for bringing Henrietta and her wit into my world. Have a great day!