Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#BookReview - Envoy of Jerusalem @HelenaPSchrader

Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62787-194-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 23, 2016

A historical trilogy needs a great deal of substance. When it comes to this writer and her work, this particular reviewer once stated that for a trilogy comprised of very large books, a writer needs to pick a subject that will entrance, excite and lure readers so deeply, so emotionally, that they never want to stop reading. Helena P. Schrader has done just that throughout this entire ride. And now...the grand finale. Beginning in Knight of Jerusalem and continuing in Defender of Jerusalem, this is one of the best historical series ever written.

Readers of these books have walked through the confusing, romantic and amazing time of the Crusades, meeting both valiant characters and others whose souls were as dark as night. Everybody had a plan back then, and would do anything to achieve it. In the last book, readers watched Jerusalem under siege by the Kurdish leader, the sultan of Egypt and Damascus, Salah ad-Din Yusuf. He wormed his way through life and combined two forces, Shiite Egypt and Sunnite Syria, into one major force that went against the Christians. King Baldwin IV was fighting leprosy all his life, yet had to find his strength and prepare for battle. And main character, Balian d’Ibelin, was still the lone source of loyalty to the king.

Now, in Envoy of Jerusalem, the Christian city of Jerusalem is solidly in the hands of Salah ad-Din. With his takeover, the people who are poor and cannot pay a ransom for their freedom are being sold into slavery. In Tyre, in October of 1187, Balian and his wife, Maria, are among the sufferers. It does seem as if the Holy Land is gone, but Balian’s heroic belief and strength has him taking it upon himself to try and negotiate the freedom of the Christians still left in the city.

There is hope. Of course, with hope comes more battles. Beloved man and warrior of many, Richard the Lionheart, now graces the scene with his army and takes his leap into legendary status. He takes center stage, leading the fight to reclaim the Holy Land. All through the battles Balian becomes the ultimate mediator, seeing the hope yet also dealing with the horrors that come as the French and English people, as well as the Christian and Muslim ideas clash.

A very detailed drama full of historical truths intertwined with a fantastically written tale, Balian solidifies himself as a marvelous character; one that was able to challenge all the supposed heroes and villains of his time as he married a dowager queen and brought about an astounding dynasty.
Begin at the beginning, however. Not because this is ‘too’ confusing to be a standalone, but because every page of this series will inspire a reader to move through the battles, lay eyes on these crusader kingdoms, and cheer for a man whose name could not compete with those in high places, yet one who owned the strongest will you can possibly imagine.

Quill says: The zest this author has for her subject is dramatic, intense and something that will never be forgotten!

For more information on Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, please visit the series' website at:

#BookReview - Close Encounters of the Furred Kind

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind: New Adventures with My Sad Cat & Other Feline Friends

By: Tom Cox
Illustrated By: Ceara Elliot
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-07732-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 24, 2016

There is an endless amount of stories, adventures, and laughs that come from living a life with cats and no one brings to life that fact better than author Tom Cox. His four amazingly funny cats Shipley, Roscoe, Ralph, and The Bear are a constant source of hilarious antics, interesting conversations, and lovable moments. In this sequel to his first book, The Good, The Bad, and The Furry, Cox continues writing about his life with these four unique and charming cats.

For several years Tom and his four cats have lived in a wonderful house that he had nicknamed the upside down house. With its modern unique charm, an outside area the cats immensely enjoyed, and room for everyone to have their own space, it had become a perfect place for all of them to live comfortably. However, now the time has come for Tom and his cats to move to an old country cottage, outside of a town called Devon. After discussing the move with his girlfriend Gemma for quite some time they both decided that it was the ideal time to bring their lives together.

Of course this move would be much simpler if it was just Tom uplifting his roots, but relocating four cats including The Bear who was now eighteen years old would be a difficult task. One of the biggest concerns was if The Bear would even be able to make it through the move with his age, but amazingly he seemed to have found his second wind and is now enjoying life. Each of the other cats also seem to be following The Bear’s lead and are exploring the area around their new home, relishing in new adventures, and meeting new friends, all the while showing their fun and unique personalities.

Within the first couple of pages of Close Encounters of the Furred Kind, I was laughing out loud at these hilarious stories that Tom Cox puts together about his life with cats. Anyone who shares their life with animals knows that each has their own antics and personalities and it’s so much fun to see how Cox brings those personalities to life though his words on the page. I found myself thinking about the cats and dogs I have known over my life and how each one left a unique imprint on my heart as each of these cats in this book are doing as well. The stories are so full of vivid details that the reader cannot help but fall in love with these cats as you’re able to share in their world.

Quill says: Another charming and irresistible book from a master cat lover.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Books In For Review

Here they are - the newest books for review.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin by Helena P. Schrader Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was "like a king." He served a leper, but defied Richard the Lionheart. He fought Saladin to a stand-still, yet retained his respect. Rather than dally with a princess, he married a dowager queen -- and founded a dynasty. He was a warrior and a diplomat both. This is Book I of a three-part biographical novel. In this book Balian, the landless son of a local baron, goes to Jerusalem to seek his fortune, but finds himself serving a leper boy instead. Only that boy is soon King of Jerusalem and facing the combined forces of Syria and Egypt as Saladin declares jihad against the Christian kingdom.

Perfect in Memory: A Son's Tribute to His Mother (Fanfare for a Hometown) by Rick D. Niece Perfect in Memory: A Son’s Tribute to His Mother is the third and final volume in Rick D. Niece’s award-winning Fanfare for a Hometown series. Shared from the perspective of an adult son looking back with loving nostalgia on how his spirited, nurturing mother shaped his life, Niece’s heartfelt stories are celebrations of family and the timeless endurance of a mother’s love. As Dodie Niece’s life comes to a bittersweet end, Niece and his family gather at her bedside and share tender memories of their experiences in idyllic DeGraff, Ohio. Written as a tribute to a remarkable woman, Perfect in Memory focuses with tender reflection on the richness of simple gestures that make life so beautiful.

Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial by Ron Frisch In this LGBTQ courtroom thriller set in the late 1970s, a politically ambitious state’s attorney charges Elizabeth Daleiden with the murders of her father and two neighbors in the 1950s. Her trial threatens to blow the lid off her Illinois farming community’s darkest secrets.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson Lena Woodward, elegant and poised, has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried. Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past. Has the real story been hidden these many years? And if so, why? Two girls, coming of age in a dangerous time, bearers of secrets that only they could share.

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian. As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam's childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915. Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love. Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam's story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York. Miracles, it seems, can happen―for those trapped by the past, and for Katerina herself.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Feathered Quill #BookAwards

#BookReview - Write to Die

Write to Die

By: Charles Rosenberg
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 9781503937611
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 15, 2016

Charles Rosenberg captivates his audience in an adventurous Hollywood who-done-it in his latest legal thriller: Write to Die.

Extorted is destined to be the latest Hollywood hit. That is to say until the spaghetti ball of controversy around who exactly wrote the screenplay came into question. Was it the once iconic movie star, Mary Broom (or her former lover Alex Toltec), who wrote the smash hit? Maybe it was a combination of both or maybe not. Attorney Rory Calburton from the prestigious law firm The Harold Firm is assigned to the case and intends to set the record straight. His mission is to take down washed up Mary Broom and her false claims against his studio client, The Sun/The Moon/The Stars.

Meanwhile, there’s other trouble brewing for The Harold Firm. It would seem The Sun/The Moon/The Stars lead counsel, Joe Stanton, has turned up dead and all fingers point to the man at the top of The Harold Firm, Hal Harold. One of The Harold Firm’s newest partners, Rory, has more to prove than his ability as an attorney. The firm has increased its staff and recently hired new associate Sarah Gold. Her credentials are more than impressive and the decision to pair Sarah and Rory together is one the higher-ups believe to be a winning formula. What Rory soon learns is his adept co-worker has a propensity to not only distort the truth, but take matters into her own hands when the mood strikes. Oh and as for informing Rory, well, that’s (in her opinion) on a need to know basis.

Charles Rosenberg clearly knows his way around an investigation and does a superb job of delivering his knowledge through vibrant scenes that set up his court room actions. The characters are richly developed and quite credible in that they speak in everyday language (versus legalese ad nauseum). The pace of this story is terrific with a flawless transition from one page to the next. There is an anecdotal tempo to the tone of voice that lends ample opportunity for many chuckles throughout. As I’ve often said when reading a murder mystery, it is vitally important for the author to deliver the body and deliver it soon. Rosenberg can check this box proudly as he hooks his audience within the first handful of pages with the proverbial dead body. Bravo Mr. Rosenberg. This is a great and thrilling ride of a read and I look forward to the next adventure.

Quill Says: Hollywood scandal and intrigue behind the curtain of murder is the winning formula in this fast-paced, entertaining read.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Interview with Author Sherban Young @mysterycaper

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Sherban Young, author of Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery

FQ: You have such memorable characters in all your books, especially among the cast of the Warren Kingsley series and Enescu Fleet series. Can you tell readers if you have a personal favorite? Is there one character, perhaps, that speaks to you more than the others that you would like to write about constantly?

YOUNG: I definitely put the most effort into my Enescu Fleet series, which has five books compared with Warren Kingsley’s three. You might even call Fleet my “flagship” series (it’s funny because fleets have ships in them). With that said, I feel like Warren speaks to me more than any other single character—especially how he has developed in the most recent book, Double Talk. Warren and I understand each other. I’d love to say it’s because we are both incredibly handsome, but it’s actually Warren’s foibles and his inability to completely “click” with those around him that I enjoy. He can never quite fit in. He’s selfish but in such an abstract way that you can almost overlook it. He’s never malicious. He just sees the world differently. He’s askew. It’s almost as if he’s in another dimension from everyone else. I can relate to that sometimes.

FQ: Is the mystery genre the prime selection for the future of your writing or the only selection? Such as, is there a part of you that would like to dive into another genre at some point?

YOUNG: Mystery is my genre—but so is humor. Mystery just has a more recognizable category. Also, humor is more of a tag than a genre unto itself. I truly believe that everything, from action/adventure to romance to stark drama, needs humor in it. I can’t abide humorless storytelling or people. I could see moving outside the genre of mystery someday. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at soft sci-fi—Groundhog Day, Twilight Zone type of stuff. I think I could incorporate my style into that genre.

Stars of the series - Warren and Mahrute

FQ: You keep your political affiliations to yourself. (Bravo, I say!) But, as a type of media, I must ask for your fans: Can you give your opinion on the current speeches you are hearing on the news? Are you finding humor in this current election year?

YOUNG: It would be hard to conceive of an election season more chock-full of the ludicrous. Politicians have always been generous about providing fodder for satirists—sometimes I think that’s what politicians are there for—but this year they have kicked it up several notches. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing turned out to be an elaborate Saturday Night Live sketch.

FQ: Many authors have a list of “musts” when they write. Whereas some need music playing in the background, others must have the family dog sitting next to their desk in order to write. What is the “perfect setup” for Sherban Young to start writing a new book?

YOUNG: I am a creature of habit and do like things a certain way. Mostly, it’s the routine. I tend to write in the mornings: breakfast, light reading, then work. I like mornings because my head is clear, and the outside world hasn’t crept in on my consciousness. Music is very important. When I’m brainstorming, I listen to rock from the 60s and 70s (sometimes something more modern, as long as it sounds like it came from the 60s or 70s). When I write, it’s only classical. I suppose it would be apropos if I listened to George Enescu while I wrote the Enescu Fleet series, and Alexander Borodin for the Warren Kingsley/Borodin Mahrute books. Actually, I prefer Haydn and Bach, but I couldn’t bring myself to call my detectives Franz Joseph or Johann Sebastian.

FQ: Would there happen to be an author you are particularly fond of that causes you to rush to the bookstore when his/her new title hits the market?

YOUNG: I wish I had a better answer for this. The fact is I really don’t read any modern authors. I’m sort of an irritating snob that way. I like the approach and discipline of long-past writers, especially British writers. I just don’t click with modern authors (especially those snobbish kinds who can’t appreciate their contemporaries). I suppose the last author, sort of modern, was George MacDonald Fraser, best known for the “mock-memoir” Flashman adventure novels. Those were exciting because you were always wondering what famous historical event he would throw his character into next. Sadly, Fraser died almost a decade ago, so I guess that doesn’t answer your question.

FQ: There are many writers who need advice when it comes to a point where they simply can’t find the next path to walk down in their own books. Have you ever reached a point during a story when writer’s block occurs? And if so, how do you get through it in order to gain back that momentum to write?

Author Sherban Young
YOUNG: I don’t tend to get stuck once I’ve started. If anything, my characters have a habit of pulling me in too many directions, not too few. That’s when I have to put my foot down and show them who’s boss. Of course, that never works, and I end up with fifteen things happening at once. It all seems to work out in the end, though. I think the only time I have gotten stuck is when I’ve become overly rigid about the plot—when I have some point I’m trying to make. I’ve learned that I have to go about it more organically than that. I quit having a point a long time ago.

FQ: In your background, did you have a specific teacher or person that brought about the will and excitement to write? When did you first begin?

YOUNG: I started writing when I was seven years old and started getting encouragement from teachers very soon after that, when I was in college—a short twelve years later. I would always approach papers from a standpoint of “how can I make this entertaining?” That usually included writing nothing at all on the topic I was assigned, but somehow, amazingly, most of the professors liked my style so much that they didn’t care.

Outside of school, I’ve been fortunate to have very supportive parents, who have never let me give up on myself.

FQ: I end with a question reader’s love to hear the answer to: If you could have lunch with one writer, alive or dead (they would be alive for lunch, of course), who would it be and why?

YOUNG: I love this question—and I’m glad they would be alive for the lunch; otherwise, it might be awkward. I’ve actually thought about this a lot. It would be a toss-up between P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie. In my opinion, Wodehouse’s writing skill was second to no one. Christie, on the other hand, had magnificent mysteries and an insight into the mind of her characters that rivaled any genre. My concern with Wodehouse would be that he would be too withdrawn. Like myself, he put everything he had to say into his work. I think Christie enjoyed talking about the craft. She seemed like a good adviser. And I bet she’d pick up the bill. Having sold several trillion books, she could certainly afford it.

FQ: As a fan, I want to thank you for your time and the hysterical, smart books you continue to write! I am extremely grateful for them.

Best Regards,
Amy Lignor

YOUNG: Thank you so much! It’s been such a pleasure doing this interview.

To learn more about Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Bay of Sighs

Bay of Sighs (Guardians Trilogy)

By: Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-0-425-28011-9
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 9, 2016

Years and years ago three powerful goddesses created three stars to celebrate the birth of a new queen - the fire star, the water star, and the ice star. However, another goddess who is possessed by evil, Nerezza, plots to steal these powerful stars and when they fall from the heavens she knows that this is her chance to possess them. The only hope to defeat the evil goddess is six unique individuals who have to learn to work as one to find each star before they land in the hands of Nerezza.

After finding the fire star in Corfu, six individuals who used to be strangers are now battling side by side to find the three stars that fell from the heavens. With the first one, the fire star, hidden in a secure place, their search for the water star brings them to the island of Capri. Using Sasha’s visions of the future, Bran’s magic, Annika’s knowledge of the water, Sawyer’s time traveling, Riley’s contacts and research, and finally Doyle’s strength and battle strategies, they have learned to make an unbreakable team that contributes equally in their own unique way. They all know that Nerezza will not stay away for long, as they beat her back once but that means the next time they meet she will come back even stronger. However, for now all they are sure of is that the water star is hidden somewhere in the waters around Capri and they must search out every possible location until they find it.

Being so close to the sea, Annika especially feels right at home, for as a mermaid she is of the sea and always will be. So, she is happy to see that she can be of some help when the group dives in specific caves around the island looking for the water star. A feeling that has continued to grow and now is hard for her to push away is her attraction to Sawyer. There is no denying that there is something special between them but unfortunately Annika knows that she can only be on land for a limited amount of time and when this quest is over she must return to the sea and leave the people on land behind.

After hurting Nerezza and finding the first star, Sawyer knows that he is in good company with the five people he now sees as his greatest friends. There is no doubt in his mind though that Annika is occupying his thoughts more and more. Of course how could they not for he would have to be blind to not see how beautiful, graceful, and kind she is but he knows that she has a limited time on the land and he doesn’t want to make it harder on her to return to the sea. Now, his only focus should be the mission, to find the stars together as a group, any other thought could be detrimental to the quest and the safety of the world.

It was pure excitement when I received this book and was able to finally read this second installment of The Guardians Trilogy for I wanted to start it as soon as I finished the first one several months ago. Author Nora Roberts did not disappoint at all as I was swept up into this amazing world filled with unforgettable characters. The dynamic characters that Roberts created for this series are so outstanding and work so amazingly well together that I can’t help but be transported to another world when reading this book. It was also wonderful to see the story from another character’s eyes as that added another great element to an already fantastic book.

Quill says: There are not enough good things to say about this book - this kind of novel reminds me why I absolutely love reading!