Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review - Blind Spots

Blind Spots

By: Patrick Garry
Publisher: Kenric Books
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9833703-4-5
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: October 6, 2015

Blind Spots, by Patrick Garry, was another well-written and intriguing read by the author of the award-winning Finding Flipper Frank.

In this most recent book, Garry takes the reader on an edge-of-your seat journey through the convoluted workings of inner city protections and politics, a somewhat skewed judicial system and then into the mind of an 'honorable' man doing what he believes to be the right thing. Yet, what exactly is the 'right' thing when the country has just been presented with the death of a mother and her three young children; shot to death in their own home.

The community is in an uproar and the police are making arrests by the drove. Detective Gunther Mulvaney has just arrested Milo Krantz – hated rent collector for an inner city slumlord. After questioning Miles extensively, Detective Cuther Mulvaney doesn't believe he’s the murderer. There's just a single hole in Mulvaney’s hypothesis though – at some point during Miles' night in jail he decided to confess to the murders; and then refused to defend himself. Things that make you go hmmm, right? Especially during shady proceedings where it seems the Police Department is more intent on locating a quick scapegoat to pin the murders on versus searching for truth so as to mete out justice.

I don’t want to give any additional story plots or action away, but suffice it to say that Blind Spots was almost impossible to set down. While it did have a slower start, due to necessary character introductions and additional plot twists, Garry more than made up for it as the tale progressed. Interesting, believable and well-written, Blind Spots was a masterfully woven web of psychological drama with more players, and twists, than the reader might expect.

Quill says: A page-turner of a crime thriller with some surprising twists and turns...
For more information on Blind Spots, please visit the author's website at www.patrickgarry.com/books/blind-spots

Book Review - A Spirit In Motion

A Spirit In Motion

By: Aaron J. Schieding
Publisher: Phenomena Books
Publication Date: October 2015
Reviewed by Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2015

With age comes the loss of innocence, yet the childlike curiosity of what lies beyond in the afterlife never wanes. For me, reading this book made me more aware of the subtle allusions to our souls and what happens to them when we die. We all talk about death, but somehow I was blissfully unaware of the conflicting feelings of those around me. As I read, I began to learn to listen, to learn about how people truly felt. Regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof, we all want those around us to know how we feel. Aaron J. Schieding feels his work will "help you get to a better understanding of what lies within and what may lie ahead after your physical time is up." Just what does happen?

As I 'listened,' I began to think about what Schieding was trying to impart to the reader. At times it felt as if he was writing from a stream of consciousness point of view and perhaps he was. He began by throwing everything but the kitchen sink, including ghosts, into the mix in an attempt to showcase major belief systems. Schieding was simply beginning to weave a tapestry which later drew belief systems together, a preface to his research. He later noted that "Hindus think all religions of the world are true and think all living things have a soul." From the Mesoamerican civilization to the Chinese and the Egyptians, I began to learn about different opinions about the afterlife…and just how similar some of them are.

Schieding's research led him to believe that "there are seven major types of entities or spirits that exist in the entirety of the afterlife." In the three dimensions of existence, Heaven the middle dimension, and Hell, we find doppelgängers, ghosts, so-called "shadow people," animal spirits, demons, Angels, and God. It's a tall order to integrate and explain belief systems and spiritual beings, but Schieding did so in a manner that was quite impressive. Out of body experiences (OBE) and near death experiences (NDE) were also briefly explored and discussed relative to such bodies of work such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The interviews followed, the choices fueled by Schieding's search for the afterlife he himself was convinced existed. He didn't limit himself to self-proclaimed experts in theology and academia, but rather went in search of those whose work intrigued him. Schieding went far afield to the Netherlands in search of Prof. Dr. M.J.H.M. Marcel Poorthuis's thoughts about the Christian viewpoint on the afterlife. Closer to home, and perhaps closer to his heart, he interviews Grand Master Jong Soo Lee and his wife, Master Linda Lee from New Hampshire. The interviews are free-flowing and I found myself fascinated more by the similarities of Eastern and Western views as opposed to their dissimilar ones.

Schieding easily tosses out the fact that there are the "believers, the ones who don't care or are unsure, and then there are the skeptics." I didn't feel he was trying to sway the reader in any direction, but rather attempts to impart to them the benefit of his research. The interviews were not in question and answer form, but nicely condensed, all connecting to the soul, linking it to the existence in the afterlife. This is a book that is highly readable, intensely thought-provoking, and one the reader will probably use as a reference and stepping stone into the world beyond. In the back of the book is an index and comprehensive bibliography to reference.

Quill says: This is a marvelous look at our souls and their links to unseen dimensions around us through the eyes of eminent scholars and religious leaders!

For more information on A Spirit In Motion, please visit the publisher's website at: phenomenabooks.org/books/

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review - Missing: A Frank Renzi Novel

Missing: A Frank Renzi Novel

By: Susan Fleet
Publisher: Music & Mayhem Press
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9847235-8-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2015

For readers who are not already knee-deep into this amazing crime series—one of the very few out there with action that never stops, and a detective who is literally, STILL, the “coolest detective in literature at the moment”—you have to get on board right now...because you have no idea what you’ve been missing. This is Book 6 starring Detective Frank Renzi and, if it’s at all possible, this is one author who seems to be getting better and better with each unforgettable mystery she allows Frank Renzi to solve.

This time around, there is a couple who will remind you right off the bat of the ultimate super-power-couple. Think: Melinda and Bill Gates or Barack and Michelle Obama or, heck, even Jay-Z and Beyoncé. We are talking about a marriage that has money, power and celebrity status. Their names are Hunter and Donna Gates. He is all politics down in New Orleans, and she has discovered her popularity on television as an anchorwoman. These guys are all “wine and roses.” However, as we all know, the higher you get, the more people want to knock you back down. And this is exactly the kind of treatment the Gates’s receive.

Donna goes missing, along with the couple’s two children. When Hunter arrives home one night, his whole family has simply disappeared. However, this isn’t a case of a woman simply saying: “Forget it. I’m done. I want something more.” Or is it? Enter...Detective Frank Renzi.

This couple, not unlike the ones you find in reality, have more secrets hidden in their closets than you can possibly imagine. In fact, it gets to the point where Renzi finds himself walking in what feels like a very confusing maze. Just when one path looks correct, just when one clue comes up that seems to solve the case, something else arises that changes the path completely. From ransom demands that seem truly odd, to the belief that Donna is already dead because of some revenge the kidnappers wanted to serve up to the politician husband, the lies versus the truth of what’s really going on soon makes Hunter and Donna look like the worst people in the world. Then, when a murder does occur, Renzi feels the clock speeding up. How he ends up walking this maze and uncovering the truth is a story that you will not be able to put down.

Author Susan Fleet has, once again, proven that she can write crime fiction with the best of them. The suspense is palpable. The detective never becomes stale or clichéd. And, best of all, you will not figure out the end until the author decides it is time to unveil the crime.

Quill says: Not to be too pushy, but after reading this one, all readers will want to do is bang on Susan Fleet’s door and scream: “Hurry Up! We want Number 7!”

For more information on Missing: A Frank Renzi Novel, please visit the author's/book's website at: susanfleet.com/missing

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review - Making It Home

Making It Home

By: Suzanne Roche
Publisher: Oak Lei Press
Publication Date: October 2015
ISBN: 978-0996148467
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: September 29, 2015

Author Suzanne Roche's first book in a new series for middle-grade readers takes a look at immigration near the turn of the 20th century where a strange connection with an antique encyclopedia catapults siblings to an eye-opening adventure on Ellis Island and New York City.

Life drastically changes for Peri Gaspar and brothers Henry and Max Hawkins when Peri's father marries the boys' mom. Used to being the oldest, twelve-year-old Henry is now sandwiched between Peri and his nine-year-old brother Max. On the flip side, Peri would rather snuggle up with a good book on the fainting sofa at her grandfather's antique store. Instead, her relaxation is interrupted with having to make sure her new stepbrothers focus on their homework. Checking up on the boys, Peri discovers that Max has found a collection of old keys sitting atop her grandfather's prized antique encyclopedia, which she had negligently left out. But just as she grabs the book, Max places his hand on the keys and the trio is instantly transported onto a ship headed for Ellis Island.

A bit of a history aficionado, Peri immediately spots Annie Moore - the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island - and realizes that she and her stepbrothers have traveled back to 1892. As they find keys, the trio advances a few years each time. Eventually, Peri, Henry, and Max make it to the tenements and are shocked by the immigrants' deplorable environs. But with the support of journalist Jacob Riis, they reach out to the neighborhood. Peri and Henry begin to realize that the personal issues they have between them pale in comparison to the trials and tribulations the immigrants face. Whether or not the two are willing to admit and address their fears is another story. But to complicate matters, the siblings have no idea how they're going to get back home.

Rising author Suzanne Roche introduces history to youth by weaving in past and present realities in the first book of her new "Time to Time" series. Opening with a brief overview of the time period, Roche quickly delves into common youth issues prevalent in blended families via Peri, Henry, and Max, her principle characters. From the get go, Roche's narrative is sated with an incessant tension between the oldest siblings. Yet amid the rivalry, Roche throws their lives into a tizzy when they not only have to confront a foreign environment, but also have no choice except to interact with people who are suddenly thrust into poverty.

Roche's third person narrative is a mix of storytelling and engaging dialogue that is separated into five different aspects of the time period. Aptly laced with history, Roche punctuates her plot with a combination of primary sources and illustrations. In addition, Roche keeps her narrative moving with a consistent flow of cliffhangers to the very end. To round out Roche's historical setting, she closes with an appendix that includes a wonderful array of games, projects (recipes and toy making), and educational quizzes.

Roche's approach to capture the attention of youth is nothing less than refreshing. Stay tuned for her next installment of another Peri, Henry, and Max tale, Stumbling On A Tale, earmarked for fall of 2015.

Quill says: Making It Home is certain to be a winning addition to both home and school environs!
For more information on Making It Home, please visit the website: www.timetotimekids.com

Book Review - The Last Midwife

The Last Midwife

By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-07446-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 26, 2015

In her latest novel, The Last Midwife, Sandra Dallas steps the reader through a heart-felt journey of the life and times of larger than life character Gracy Brookens.

Set in the splendor of the Rocky Mountain Tenmile Range, Gracy Brookens is introduced to her audience. She is a midwife in 1880’s Colorado and the mountain folk trust her with the job of delivering their next generation into the world. It is a time when burly men spend months in the wilderness on a mission to strike the motherlode vein while their women and children remain behind at the homestead to fend for the day-to-day life of survival. Gracy loves her life. She loves women and the babies she brings into the world. She relishes the solitude of her buggy ride as she guides her horse Buddy across the terrain; seizing yet another opportunity to drink in the nature that surrounds her. “...the glory of the sky told Gracy there was a Holy Spirit in that land of greed and struggle, particularly on a morning when she had just birthed a baby in Mayflower Gulch. Not that she needed convincing. The birth of a baby was proof enough. Every baby, she believed, was a miracle...”

Gracy had her share of sorrows to counterbalance the joys. She thinks about her sweet baby girl and how she passed far too young. She and her husband Daniel embraced the joy years later when their son Jeff entered their lives. They watched him grow into a fine young man and felt the heaviness in their hearts the day he decided to leave. Jeff had things to sort out and his journey would take him far away from his home and parents. Gracy had faith he would return some day.

Gracy was respected by both women and men—most of the community, that is to say. When she returns home from the recent birthing, Gracy is horrified to learn Jonas Halleck, the town’s wealthiest and most diabolical citizen, accuses her of murdering his newborn son. For the first time in her life, Gracy is faced with the notion that perhaps the good Lord had another destiny in mind for her.
I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to read and review a body of work when it is abundantly clear from the onset it is a diamond in the rough. Such is the case with Sandra Dallas and her latest novel, The Last Midwife. It is a solid example of a writer who knows how to guide her pen and deliver a story to near perfection. I lived in the glorious mountains of Colorado for many years—not too far from the majestic Tenmile Range where the story is set. I drove that canyon stretch of I-70 many a’ time and have to say every time I did so, I too believed I was traveling through one of God’s greatest creations. Ms. Dallas captures the essence of its beauty through eloquent prose and distinct imagery to such an extent, it resurrected fond memories and managed to take me back to that time. She opens the story with: ‘Dawn broke across the Tenmile Range in fiery slashes of red—flaming streaks the color of blood. Sunrise was always violent in the high country...” Superb! Dallas’ descriptive scenery is beautifully balanced with believable dialogue exchanges that are relevant to the period of time. Her precise creation of main character, Gracy Brookens, is well thought out—a woman full of salt, conviction and purpose through the words she speaks. Dallas purposefully shows the reader the hardships a woman endured in a time when their purpose wasn’t much more than to bear children. Her fluid style portrays she has a clear vision of her audience throughout. The cadence is a satisfying journey of ebb and flow which is the epitome of what a book, in my opinion, must do. Ms. Dallas deserves praise for accomplishing a beautiful journey that is set in, unquestionably, one of the most captivating areas of our country. Well done Ms. Dallas, I look forward to your next writing endeavor.

Quill says: The Last Midwife is a heart-felt story of a woman of monumental strength in a time when it truly was a ‘man’s world.’

Book Review - Dragonbane @kenyonsherrilyn

Dragonbane (Dark-Hunter Novels)

By: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-02994-2
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: September 25, 2015

After a lifetime of hardship and betrayal, Maxis Drago has finally found a place of sanctuary in the city of New Orleans, something he never thought he would find. However, he was lucky to locate a group of people who understood his particular species as Maxis was no ordinary being, he was a dragon. In fact Maxis was not just any dragon but held the title of "Dragonbane," meaning he who protects some of the world’s most powerful objects. This mark, however, has also made him the target of many enemies who seek to take his life. The one thing Maxis values over his own life are the lives of his family, especially his brothers who have been through as many hard times as he has.

As if constantly fighting for his life was not enough, Maxis is suddenly confronted by his long lost wife, Seraphina, who he had thought he would never see again. She had betrayed his devotion one too many times in the past and he had written her off forever, never wishing to be in her presence again. Low and behold here she is storming back into his life and then giving the news that his family does not include just his brothers but that he has fathered a son and daughter as well. After the initial shock of this news wears off, Maxis is told that his children are in terrible danger as they have been captured by a menacing demon that wants to get his hands on a particular object that Maxis is in charge of protecting.

Now, the only thing on Maxis' mind is to find a way to save his children as his family always comes before everything else, but Maxis is still unsure if he can trust his wife who has held the truth from him in the past. However, if he is going to be able to save his son and daughter he may have to forget his past feelings and work together in order for them all to be safe.

There were so many elements that I found myself enjoying in the first couple of chapters of this book. One of the most prevalent elements being that the main character of Maxis is presented as a perfect steadfast, honest, and loyal hero who I could not help but fall in love with from the first page. For a story to really come alive I think it is imperative that the reader make a connection with the main character and feels as if they have someone to cheer on, to follow, and to succeed with. Author Sherrilyn Kenyon definitely did that with Maxis and in doing so I felt as if I was taking a journey with this character step-by-step with him and that made for a wonderful and exciting reading experience that had me wanting to read more at the end of every chapter.

Quill says: An absolutely wonderfully crafted fantasy that has me hoping for a sequel in the near future.

Have You Ever Wanted To Get Paid To Speak?

Have You Ever Wanted To Get
Paid To Speak?

Here Are The First 3 Things You’ll Need To Do

TED talks, YouTube rants and Mr. Peanut, the mascot for Planters Peanuts, are all signs of just how highly valued the art of oratory is today.

“Yep, even Mr. Peanut can be seen in Planters ads giving TED-style presentations; people are spending top dollar to attend a well-presented speech with useful information from an inspired perspective, and the best speakers may be regarded fairly as today’s rock stars,” says expert speaker coach Jane Atkinson, author of “The Wealthy Speaker 2.0” (speakerlauncher.com). 

“The ability to command a fee is a sign that you’ve made it as a speaker. However, as with rock stars, it’s a long way to the top if you’re just starting. But if you have something to offer then you can reach that fee status, and there’s a reliable path to follow.”

Atkinson outlines the three phases to becoming a paid speaker.   

Jane Atkinson
 Ready. “Picking a lane” in your topic is the first step to becoming not only a paid speaker, but a wealthy one, too. Ask yourself the questions, “What topic do I want to be known for five years from now?” and “Will someone pay me for that information?” When looking to hire a speaker to deliver a keynote speech for a conference, who will be picked from a pool of experts – a jack of all trades or someone who hits the center of the bull’s-eye on a topic? When picking a lane, consider delving into topics including leadership, engagement, corporate culture or communication. This is the phase in which you’ll want to really develop your bona fides, including your material and establishing the goal of how you’d like to help your audience.
• Aim. Here is the marketing phase that cannot be underappreciated. It includes aspects like your website and what you do to drive traffic there, which may include a well-written blog with relevant content, and media exposure. However, the most important way to market yourself is to do a truly excellent job with your actual speech. A good speech for a speaker is like a great pastry for a baker – a quality product speaks volumes itself. There is no better form of marketing than a great speech. Therefore, if you think your speech could use help, take care of it right away. No amount of marketing dollars, no fancy Facebook page and no ultra-cool website can overcome a mediocre presentation. However, when you market yourself, you’ll want to include a number of materials, including your brand, promise statement, photos, a bio illustrating credibility, testimonials and more.
• Fire. Now, you need to identify your target market and determine the best method to reach them. You need to roll out your product and continue to build momentum. Be ready to fire your message to your target market via a public relations campaign strategy. There are multiple ways of effectively getting good attention from the media, but don’t believe all attention is good attention. Carefully consider your press releases. Atkinson says the mistake most speakers make is sending out a press release that does not answer the question: “So what?” They don’t tie it to anything relevant into which the press can sink their teeth. Another way to “fire” is to identify your ideal customer, also called the The Attraction Method, as detailed in the book, “Attracting Perfect Customers: The Power of Strategic Synchronicity” by Stacy Hall and Jan Brogniez.
“If you feel as though you have something to offer audiences via oral presentations, then you probably do,” Atkinson says. “These days, so much content can be had for free online, but that doesn’t take the place of a live experiential presentation. A presentation that is ‘epic’ will remain in your memory for years. The ability to present your content live, and make the presentation worthwhile and relevant, means you can earn a reliable stream of revenue based on what you’re good at.”

About Jane Atkinson

Jane Atkinson has been helping speakers catapult their businesses for over 20 years. As a former speaker’s agent, she has represented business speakers, celebrities and best selling authors. Today, Atkinson coaches some of the industries hottest stars, some earning over $1M per year. Atkinson is the author of “The Wealthy Speaker 2.0” and “The Epic Keynote” (www.speakerlauncher.com).