Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interview with Author Stacy Harshman @stacyharshman

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Stacy Harshman, author of Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise

FQ: It is remarkable with your various insecurities at the time and therapy sessions getting nowhere that in a moment of desperation a long flowing red wig catapults your life in a different direction. What type of budget did you keep to pay for your experiment expenses and hired helper considering that you were not working back then?

HARSHMAN: Well, luckily, I had generous dividends from stock in companies my family had founded. My Dad helped me manage my money, but I remember thinking, “I’m not going to ask, he’ll say no and this project is too important for me.” So, I just went and used my credit card. Bonnie and I fretted, occasionally, about how much we were spending. But we said, “well, it’s in the name of social science and it’s cheaper than a mental ward!” ... and hoped it would all be ok. Luckily it was. My parents realized how important having this structure and project was for me, no matter how weird it was.

FQ: You share about your 1999/2000 psychotic break, eventual hospitalization, and hellish Chicago experience as you gained seventy pounds—a result of side effects from prescribed medication. What did you do to lose the accumulated weight gain and return to your normal size?

Author Stacy Harshen

HARSHMAN: I exercised, exercised and exercised! I also moved from Chicago and went to a language immersion program in Quebec City for the summer. I knew I had to make a radical change and be around people. There, I played soccer, went on kayak trips, jogged, and lived with a host family. The man was an amazing chef, so I ate well and healthy. It took me about three months after I left Chicago to feel somewhat attractive and healthy again. It took me about a year to lose the weight.

FQ: Just prior to your wig investments, you share your frustration with the ineffectiveness of your therapeutic sessions, even though your therapist rightly stated, "You're doing this because you need to learn something about yourself." What words of wisdom do you have for your audience, particularly those suffering from mental illness in one form or other and who are frustrated with their therapy?

HARSHMAN: I think therapy is important. I think it is very important to find someone who gets you and has a modality/way of working that is effective and safe for you. But it’s also hard to find someone or even get yourself organized enough to go to a session when you are depressed or in the middle of a manic episode.

I actually found my first therapist in New York City because the name of her therapy practice was very similar to my last name. I was manic and saw that as a “sign” and that she would save me. I can’t say that’s the best way to pick a therapist, but it gave me a place to start.

I’ve tried different therapists and different types of therapy. It can be extremely frustrating. I believe some of the therapy I’ve received actually worsened my condition. For example, my Jungian therapist invited all the voices I was hearing to come into the session with me and give them a platform. There could be a lot of value in that, but it wasn’t wise for me at the time.

Now, I’m with a therapist who specializes in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is very skills based, focuses on keeping you in the moment, and gives you tools to deal compassionately with your mind and emotions.

I would also suggest to bring in a trusted friend or family member to help make the therapist decision with you.

FQ: As you came to love and accept yourself, what became of your depression, hallucinations, and panic attacks?

HARSHMAN: After I completed the experiment, I started to write the book with my assistant, Bonnie, who was my spy during the entire experiment. I had gotten so close with her during the experiment so by the time it was over I didn’t want to loose our bond and her company. She was an experienced writer and agreed to help me write the book. We worked together for many years. She was my coach, friend, and cheerleader… or as she put it, “occasional crazysitter.”

Writing the book together was kind of like another experiment. We worked every weekday together, writing at different coffee shops and any other interesting place we could find in the city where we could write. Our friendship and adventures grew.

Her friendship and the work we did together really steadied me. Having her company, help and friendship and creating/producing my writing was a base which allowed me to maintain and grow my other relationships, including the one with myself. I was so much happier and had so much more confidence. I dated but I didn’t have a boyfriend, instead I had a close group of friends that meant the world to me.

I didn’t cycle back into depression/mania, hallucinate or have panic attacks (anxiety, sure, but not crippling) during all of those years – I’d say six or seven in a row. I did have some blips on the map after that. One day, my mind just opened up, back into a psychotic place, very similar to one I had been writing about from my past. I became manic and had a mini psychotic episode. Then the anxiety/panic and depression came back full force. I had to wrestle with that, but Bonnie and I kept going through it all. She stuck by me and so did my friends and family. And I got back on track.

FQ: After the experiment did you continue with therapy and medication, or were you able to find other ways to create balance for yourself, such as through diet, exercise, the creative arts, and working with people?

HARSHMAN: I still have a therapist. I find having one necessary and helpful for me. Team-Stacy needs a support crew!

I have tried to go without medication and find my health and well-being through the creative arts, shamanism, meditation, yoga, Tantra, reiki, massage, past life therapy, and so many other modalities, including working with exorcists and energies from other planets and life-forms, but I always end up in trouble – very manic, very psychotic or very depressed. I don’t like labels and I wish I didn’t have to take medication, but I’ve learned my lesson, many times. I’ve accepted it.

I also want to help with the stigma, that I perceive, especially in spiritual circles, that if you are taking medication means that somehow you are not whole or spiritual enough or you are not meditating enough or yoga-ing enough or whatever enough. It’s just not true. I don’t think most of the spiritual or new age leaders that insist that one must be “happy” and chemically “pure” to be spiritual or enlightened know anything firsthand about depression or psychosis. I think those messages can be aggressive and hurtful and don’t reflect the true human experience that includes the full range of emotions.

FQ: At what point did your creative life begin to unfold—being an artist and launching Andarina Designs?

HARSHMAN: When Bonnie and I were trying to find an agent for the book, I bought an antique rug, on Ebay, of course. It didn’t work for my house, but it was really beautiful, so I re-sold it on Craigslist for more than I paid. That started my antique tribal rug business. It was so much fun for me. My customers loved it, and so did I. Having all that history and handmade beauty in my house made me happy. I felt like I was a rug match-maker.

One day, when I was in antique stores looking for rugs, I saw some vintage glass swizzle sticks, the kind you use in cocktails. The light was shining through them, and I thought, I want to make lighting out of these! And my lighting company was born. I tinkered around myself, coming up with all kinds of lighting ideas, learned how to work with glass and then brought in some professionals to help make my creations safe and workable! Bonnie worked with me on this project as well.

I called the company, “Andarina Designs” which means “little walker” in Spanish. I like the idea of honoring the child-like spirit that walks within me and sees beauty, gets excited and sparks all these ideas.

The book was kind of simmering in the background while we kept sending out queires to agents.

FQ: On your website,, you state, "Stacy is inspired by women all over the world, working in community partnerships to produce beautiful and sustainable work." Give examples of your community partnerships with women.

The author's featured collage painting from her
 "Hope. Power. Play." art show

HARSHMAN: I started interning with a female Shaman who worked with women (and men) around sex, sensuality and healing. I was introduced to and helped with women’s healing circles, sensual shamanic immersions and initiations. All of your senses are enlisted in this work and creativity is manifest everywhere. I began to open more to other women and their friendship and became more at home in my body and sexuality. My home was at the center of many of these gatherings.
This work inspired me to create a monthly Art Salon series at my home which provided a safe, fun and supportive space for women and men to share their creativity. The Salons have been running for over five years. Many collaborations and creations have come from them.

Another example, which was a very powerful experience for me was working with art, handi-crafts, hand made papers, jewelry and other products made by women all over the world in sustainable collectives. These collectives have the mission to give women meaningful work, employing their skills and artistry, generating income and thus empowering the women to be more independent.

I worked with an Eco - Sustainable goods store in my neighborhood and bought these beautiful, artisanal items. I took them home and made collages with them. What happened surprised me. Each piece of art, whether it be a ring or a paper elephant, spoke to me. I could feel the energy of the collective in the material, the textures and the colors. I began to have a conversation with the materials. The women became alive and “we” created the pieces together. It was an on-going dialogue, actual voices alive in my head, telling me stories and where they thought each piece belonged in the whole. When I was debating if a piece was done or not, one voice would always say, “Well, does it speak? If it does, it is done. If it doesn’t, it is not done.”

Then, once I had a collection of these “community collages,” I displayed them at the Eco Store. My first show was titled, “Hope. Power. Play.” I explained my unusual collective process as well. The collages were beautiful, they inspired people and found new homes.

FQ: Do you foresee yourself starting any new writing projects, and if so what are you envisioning?

HARSHMAN: I feel the writing urge coming back to me, which feels amazing. I’ve been focusing on painting, which I love, but writing is deeply satisfying, as well. It also soothes my brain. What inspires me right now is connection...finding unusual ways that we can connect with and help each other. For example, I’m thinking about doing an essay on my experience posting an ad on Craigslist for a Friends With Benefits. Of course, there were the standard disgusting replies, but there was also something deeper and sweeter in the desire for connection that came through. There’s a certain tenderness and vulnerability in there that I can’t find words for, yet, but I feel it.

I’m also thinking about making a creativity journal to go along with my book Crowning Glory!

To learn more about Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Books in for Review

Check them out!  The latest books to arrive for review!

Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery by Sherban Young Warren Kingsley has retired from bodyguarding. (Or maybe he hasn't.) Leaving his violent past behind--or not--he enters the dog-eat-dog world of politics. (Or perhaps he doesn't.) One thing we can say for certain: the Warren we know and love is back and ready for anything. (Or as ready as he'll ever be.)

The Last Treasure by Erika Marks As students with a shared passion for shipwrecks, Liv, Sam, and Whit formed a close bond searching for the mysterious Patriot, a schooner that disappeared off the Carolina Coast in 1812 with Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia aboard. But as the elusive ship drew them together, love would bring them even closer—and ultimately tear them apart. It’s been nine years since Liv left Sam to be with Whit, and the once close-knit triowent their separate ways. Liv has given up her obsession with Theodosia Burr to focus on her career as a salvage diver and her passionate but troubled marriage to the reckless and hedonistic Whit. But when a diary of Theodosia’s is discovered in a collector’s estate, she is pulled back to the world of the Patriot, this time with startling new clues to what might have really happened. Diving back into the lost history of the Patriot could be just what Liv needs to find closure to a mystery that still haunts her. But when she and Whit reunite with Sam for one last salvage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, buried romantic tensions begin to resurface, and once again Liv must choose between two men with very different hearts.

The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder...No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself. Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior...or the worst of all the sinners?

Write to Die by Charles Rosenberg Hollywood’s latest blockbuster is all set to premiere—until a faded superstar claims the script was stolen from her. To defend the studio, in steps the Harold Firm, one of Los Angeles’s top entertainment litigation firms and as much a part of the glamorous scene as the studios themselves. As a newly minted partner, it’s Rory Calburton’s case, and his career, to win or lose. But the seemingly tame civil trial turns lethal when Rory stumbles upon the strangled body of his client’s general counsel. And the ties that bind in Hollywood constrict even tighter when the founder of the Harold Firm is implicated in the murder. Rory is certain the plagiarism and murder cases are somehow connected, and with the help of new associate Sarah Gold—who’s just finished clerking for the chief justice—he’s determined to get answers. Will finding out who really wrote the script lead them to the mastermind of the real-life murder?

Ripley's Believe It or Not: Unlock the Weird Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® Unlock the Weird! 2017 is bursting with 100% ALL NEW facts, features, and photos from around the world—all verified to be 100% TRUE! From weird feats to bizarre food, strange animals, and more, this brand-new collection of Ripley’s stories and photos includes exclusive features not found anywhere else. Filled with thousands of unbelievably strange oddities to discover, children and adults alike will find a new favorite on every page.All true, 100% ALL NEW, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® Unlock the Weird! 2017 will amaze and astound readers from the first to the last page. Hair-raising photographs, incredible stories, and the mind-blowing facts Ripley’s is famous for promise hours of entertainment for every Ripley fan! With thousands of stories—including submissions from readers around the world—you’ll discover something new each time you read it!

Shut Up and Do the Work by Stephanie Sinclair Shut Up and Do the Work is the ultimate guide for experienced entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs and those with dreams and ambitions of entrepreneurship, who know without a doubt that they were born to do more, be more and have more, yet they can't seem to grab it. In this book, entrepreneur, business coach and speaker, Stephanie Synclair shares: • The secret formula that she, her clients and other self made millionaires have used to create massive success. • The steps to getting "unstuck" • The reasons why the "hustle" mentality alone does not work and what it should be combined with to see the results you desire. • Why regardless of how you were raised, your environment or current circumstances, you too, can create wealth And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you will learn inside of Shut up and do the work. It is a transformational gift that will leave you transformed.

Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word by Matthew Battles Why does writing exist? What does it mean to those who write? Born from the interplay of natural and cultural history, the seemingly magical act of writing has continually expanded our consciousness. Portrayed in mythology as either a gift from heroes or a curse from the gods, it has been used as both an instrument of power and a channel of the divine; a means of social bonding and of individual self-definition. Now, as the revolution once wrought by the printed word gives way to the digital age, many fear that the art of writing, and the nuanced thinking nurtured by writing, are under threat. But writing itself, despite striving for permanence, is always in the midst of growth and transfiguration. Celebrating the impulse to record, invent, and make one's mark, Matthew Battles reenchants the written word for all those susceptible to the power and beauty of writing in all of its forms.

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path. Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.

Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

#BookReview - A Black Sail @rzahradnik

A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery

By: Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-1603812115
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 15, 2016

The year is 1976 and Coleridge Taylor is bored...and seasick. Used to covering exciting, and dangerous, crime stories for his beloved, and sadly defunct, Messenger-Telegram newspaper, he's now stuck covering an utterly dull story. Taylor is reporting on Operation Sail, a Bicentennial celebration taking place in the New York Harbor. Taylor can't wait to get back on solid land, write up his story and move on to something more interesting. How could he know that something far more interesting was about to float his way?

As a police reporter, Taylor has connections within the police force and is riding in an NYPD boat to view the celebration. When the call comes in for a "possible drop" (someone dumped something in the water), Mott, an NYPD scuba diver, goes in the water to see if he can find anything. Expecting to find drugs, he, and the whole crew, are quite surprised to find a body. And not just any body but the body of a woman with several bags of heroin wrapped around her waist. Must be a drug war related murder, they all guess. Perhaps a new gang moving in and someone is sending them a message to get out. Could it be that simple? Taylor was going to find out.

Now working for the City News Bureau (a news wire service), Taylor reports on the body in the harbor to his boss and gets the okay to dig around - but not before he finishes that story on the majestic ships. Taylor's first clue that the dead woman may not be associated with two rival drug gangs that are known to the police is that mobsters never involve wives and children in their killings. Perhaps it's an Asian gang...

When the body is finally ID'd as Bridget Collucci, Taylor heads out to Dobbs Ferry to interview the woman's husband. Carl Collucci is willing to talk to Taylor because he is desperate to find out who killed his wife. The local police have been no help and Carl doesn't know where to turn. Carl assures Taylor that he has disassociated himself from his father's mob dealings and is on the straight and narrow. But then, during their conversation, Carl's "public relations consultant" walks in the room, and the guy just oozes mobster. To add to the weird situation, Collucci's father-in-law arrives, along with the man's son, and it looks like war is about to break out in the room. Someone knows something but they're certainly not going to tell Taylor.

This is the third book in the Coleridge Taylor series and the second one that I've read and I have to say I enjoyed it as much as the first one I read (Drop Dead Punk). Taylor is a very likeable protagonist, with all his faults and hang-ups, and I was happy to see that Samantha Callahan (who we met in Drop Dead Punk) as well as Mason the dog, were back to soften up Taylor's gruff exterior. Because the stories take place in the 1970s, the author obviously did a fair amount of research to bring the era to life from the Bicentennial celebration to cars of the time (remember the Pacer?). Solving the murder of Bridget Collucci required a fair amount of sleuthing on Taylor's part and will keep readers guessing until almost the last page. If you love a good murder mystery, check out this series - I promise you'll be hooked in no time flat.

Quill says: Another winner in the Coleridge Taylor mystery series. When is the next one coming out???!!!

For more information on A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Echo Ranch

Echo Ranch

By: Diane Lunsford
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68270-391-5
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 18, 2016

A daughter out of control, and a mother who desperately wants to help, sets the stage for a heartwarming novel by debut author Diane Lunsford.

Louisa and Jake Croft have a good life. They are happily married, have a nice life in Virginia and have two beautiful daughters. Kylie, their oldest, is a well-adjusted college student. Unfortunately, their other daughter, Dani, is a high school student who has fallen in with the wrong group of kids. She is rebellious, her grades have fallen, and since she's always on her cell phone, calling or texting a friend, she has pretty much forgotten how to have a real conversation, particularly with her patents. Oh yes, and the troubled girl also blames her parents for many of her problems. In desperation, Louisa, or Lou to her friends, decides that she and Dani will spend the summer at Echo Ranch, a spectacular working ranch in the gorgeous Colorado countryside.

Years ago, when Lou was a young woman trying to find her place in the world, she discovered Echo Ranch. The owners, Zack and Tessa Calhoun, welcomed Lou to their farm, provided she carry her weight and worked hard. Along the way, with the careful guidance of Zack and Tessa, Lou learned so many important life lessons. Now, twenty years later, Lou hopes that Dani too, will discover her true self at Echo Ranch. Deciding that it would be best for Lou to travel alone with Dani, Jake and Kylie stay in Virginia. Soon, Mom and a very angry daughter leave their home and embark on a long car ride, headed for the mountains of Colorado.

The car ride is indeed long, and most of it is spent in silence. Dani simply doesn't want to know. When they arrive at Echo Ranch, Dani is still an angry and confused young woman, but with Zack's wisdom, Tessa's support, and the love of a special horse who shares some of Dani's "issues," the girl's walls slowly dissolve. Fresh air, open spaces and the time spent away from texting and phoning friends is helpful, but it doesn't solve all problems. It isn't until Dani meets a young man who is attending a summer camp at Echo Ranch, that Dani starts to discover who she truly is. As the summer draws into fall, mother and daughter learn many important lessons that help to bring them closer.
It only took me a few pages to become thoroughly entranced with the story of Lou and Dani. With daughters of her own, the author writes about what she knows. In even the most loving of relationships, conflicts arise and resolutions aren't always easy to find. Making it more realistic, Lou learns that she too, has some issues to deal with, issues that have helped build those walls between her and Dani. The dialogue was crisp and believable and the descriptions so perfect that I could see the beauty of the ranch myself, and smell that clean, fresh air. Truly a wonderful debut novel, I can't wait to read the next offering from this author!

Quill says: An uplifting story about a mother and daughter who find themselves, and along the way find each other too.

For more information on Echo Ranch, please visit the author's site at:

#BookReview - Wedding Girl

Wedding Girl

By: Stacey Ballis
Publisher: Penquin Random House
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-0-425-27661-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 15, 2016

Stacey Ballis gets the party started immediately in her latest novel, Wedding Girl.

Sophie Bernstein is a beyond talented pastry chef. She is getting married to an equally talented guy, sommelier Dexter Kelley IV—DK to his friends (and Dex to Sophie). This will be the wedding of the century. The bride-to-be and her groom personified work at Chicago’s two Michelin-starred restaurant: Sale et Sucre. The reception will be at one of Chicago’s iconic turn-of-the-century mansions. There will be a smoking room for the cigar crowd and anterooms for intimate conversation. The attention to detail continues when the entourage is escorted back to the first floor library for breakfast and the all-night snacks buffet. Sophie is an image of rapture and beauty in her stunning, custom-crafted Vera Wang gown. There’s only one problem, where is Dex? On the day when Sophie plans to cross her line from maiden to happily ever after bride, imagine her horror when she learns Dex won’t be coming. Rather, he has fled to the islands with another woman—the woman who he really intended to marry and the rest to put it quite bluntly, is history.

The aftermath of the debacle sinks in for Sophie. She is in debt beyond her eyeballs, her once coveted job sucks and the once happy-go-lucky, overflowing cup of positive now holds the remnants of a jaded and cynical view of her being. She is forced to give up her condo before foreclosure makes the decision for her. She opts to move in with her beloved grandmother, Bubbles, and begins her journey back to where it is she is destined to go in life. She has lost her job and is the subject of pity in many eyes of her beholders. Sophie realizes it’s time to rally and start over. She finds a job in a local neighborhood bakery, Langer’s Bakery, making it clear to its owner, Herman Langer, that she is not committing to anything long-term. She just needs something to keep the creditors at bay until she figures out her next step. When bride-to-be Amelia happens into the bakery in a quandary of what to do for her wedding cake, she leaves ecstatic after not only receiving the perfect cake recommendation, but solid advice of do’s and don’ts for her upcoming wedding. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Amelia has a brilliant idea to set up a website for Sophie. She may not realize it quite yet, but Sophie has a knack for dishing out terrific advice when it comes to planning the perfect wedding...even if the outcome of her wedding was a colossal train wreck.

Stacey Ballis has hit it out of the park with Wedding Girl. Her tenacious and colorful persona through the development of main character Sophie Bernstein is fantastic. She fires on all pistons when it comes to credibility. The whimsy of Sophie and her tightknit community of a Jewish family unit is delightful and lovable and it brings the reader to a place where family is the centerpiece of molding a balanced and wonderful life. She steps the reader through chapter upon chapter whose titles are named after some of the constant and iconic black and white movies in time. There is a sublime notion of romantic melancholy that builds to a terrific crescendo at story’s end without selling the plot down the river before the reader arrives at the proverbial end. This is a great romantic comedy and it will entice anyone who is in search of ‘...and they lived happily ever after...’ Thoroughly enjoyable read and Ms. Ballis’ writing ability makes the outcome seem effortless!

Quill says: Wedding Girl is wholesome and laugh out loud funny that provides great entertainment for Ballis' intended audience.

Book Review - Sunshine Beach

Sunshine Beach: A Ten Beach Road Novel

By: Wendy Wax
Publisher: Berkley Books NY
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0425274484
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 15, 2016

Inspired by childhood memories, Wendy Wax spins a great work of fiction in her latest beach read, Sunshine Beach.

Maddie, Avery and Nikki are picking up the pieces and starting over. Victims of a Ponzi scheme, it’s time to build something greater and better in their respective lives. Madeline (Maddie) Singer has a new love interest. He’s not just some run-of-the mill rebound. He is William Hightower and his comeback may be bigger than his original career. How this middle-aged momma wound up with him is a situation that never lingers too far from the forefront of her consciousness. Avery Lawford in many respects is the glue that continues to stick—even after the death of her iconic designer mother, Deirdre Morgan. Avery inherited her mother’s genetics; take her vision and sketch it into magic. Nicole (Nikki) Grant is having trouble accepting the fact that her rival, The Millionaire Matchmaker, is succeeding. At one time, Heart Inc. (her company) was the quintessential matchmaking mecca. Not anymore...Plus, it was time for her to let go and put her low-life, scheming brother, Malcolm Dyer, in her rear-view mirror—a hard pill to swallow since he was the reason for all of their demise.

Maybe better times were closer than the women knew. Do Over was a (sort-of) successful cable do-it-yourself makeover show that could be their ultimate resurrection to get back on their respective feet. It is on one particular morning jog when Maddie’s daughter, Kyra, stumbles upon the hidden property of the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club that inspires her to pitch her vision. At one time, the property must have been the destination ‘It Place.’ Sadly, years of neglect and more than an overgrowth of Florida foliage has left the property in ruins and disrepair. As the concept of relaunching the club into its new life takes form, none of the women could have fathomed the challenges and roadblocks that stood between them and the new and improved structure they were determined to create.

I applaud Wendy Wax for her confident writing style when it comes to delivering a solid beach read. Sunshine Beach is a fine example of that ‘must have’ read to take along on a weekend getaway. The plot is rich, the characters credible and the twists and turns are sufficient in willing the reader to keep turning pages. The premise of a gaggle of women who have had the rug pulled out from underneath only to resurge bigger and better is a winning formula. The scene is anchored early on and captures the beauty and simplicity of the captivating Florida Gulf Coast. Having grown up in South Florida, I spent many weekends growing up and enjoying weekend getaways at this very coast with my family. The tempo and pace of this book holds the interest of its audience and creates an instant connection with the story. Ms. Wax is truly in control of the outcome of the story and does not disappoint in that she delivers a story that is neither predictable or cheeky. Well done! I look forward to your next book.
Quill says: Sunshine Beach is a feel-good story that deserves a place in your bag of good reads for the perfect weekend getaway.

#BookReview - Abomination


By: Gary Whitta
Illustrated By: Jason Gurley
Publisher: Inkshares
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-941758-33-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: July 15, 2016

In the midst of a gruesome war between the people of England and the brutal Norse from across the sea, King Alfred on the English throne knows that loyal soldiers are essential for victory. One soldier in particular stands out above all others and after coming to the King’s defense and ultimately saving his life, this man named Wulfric becomes one of Alfred’s most trusted friends. Now, many years after the war is over, Alfred is in need of Wulfric’s expert fighting skills once again to fight an extremely different type of enemy.

Being a soldier was something Wulfric never thought of doing. Surprisingly, however, when he joined King Alfred’s army to fight the Norse he found that he was not only good at fighting but had an impeccable instinct for it. It took no time at all for Wulfric’s fighting skills to be known throughout the ranks of the army and his reputation became well known by all. However, still to this day Wulfric saw nothing good or honorable that came out of killing, so since the wars’ end he had been content to work his farm with his young wife who was expecting their first child. The last thing he wanted to see were the king’s guards riding up to his house to request that he come immediately to the palace. Of course Alfred was more than Wulfric’s king, he was his dear friend so with a heavy heart he leaves his wife and farm behind for what he hopes will be a short, uneventful trip.

Of course Alfred did not summon Wulfric for something as simple as a quick visit to just catch up; he explains that their country is under attack from a threat never seen on this Earth. Throughout the castle these beasts have come to be called 'Abominations' and are the result of the darkest, most evil magic that either of these men had ever seen. The magic that brought these abominations to life was discovered by the Archbishop Aethelred who was convinced that this was the key to defeating all of England’s enemies. However, the Archbishop’s thirst for power became more and more apparent and without the King’s awareness he created an army of abominations that are now pillaging through every village they encounter. With the sheer desperation of the situation, Wulfric knows that he cannot deny help to Alfred, but he has to wonder what this war will cost him when he had hoped to never pick up a sword again.

There are not enough positive compliments I can give this book for I absolutely was hooked on every single word from the first page. There were so many amazing, suspenseful moments that I found myself holding my breath, and then gasping when the plot was revealed. It was a book that had me so entranced in the story that I found myself encouraging the characters, feeling sad when they were heartbroken, and smiling when they felt happy and content. It is an amazing experience when a book completely takes you into the world pouring out from those words on the page and author Gary Whitta does an incredible job of accomplishing that.

Quill says: This is a book that reminded me of why I love to read!