Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review - Meet the Morgans

Meet the Morgans: The Stars of the Morgan Horse series

By: Ellen F. Feld
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9831138-4-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

As a huge fan of horses since birth, “The Morgan Horse” series written by author Ellen F. Feld is one of my most prized possessions. By that, I mean one of my bookshelves is dedicated to the series, because every once in a while - young or mature - the mind and imagination needs to spend time sitting atop the most beautiful ‘family’ ever created - whether that be Blackjack, Frosty or, my personal favorite, Rusty - and feel what it’s like to have an adventure with your absolute best friend.

One of the most amazing things about this series of books is the fact that all of the horses presented are very much alive. The reader can feel the passion that the writer has for these creatures, which is the power that makes this series of books so amazing. And it seems that fans, for a good, long time, have been asking Ms. Feld to introduce them to the real McCoy.

When an author is able to put that much life and beauty into a character it means their hearts are full and they have that inner knowledge. In this case, Ms. Feld has these beautiful horses with her at all times on her property. And with this new book - offering beautiful pictures and bios - the world now gets to see Blackjack and his friends in the flesh.

Blackjack, of course, is the star of the show (and Ms. Feld’s best friend). And the pictures of this stunning animal are breathtaking. You can tell by the twinkle in his eye and the way he holds his head high as if being the ‘master of all he surveys’ that there is also a spot of humor in Blackjack that makes him stand out from the crowd.

Frosty, the rare gray Morgan who captured readers’ hearts, can move like the wind if she likes, even if just trotting on by. As fans stare at Frosty against the snow white background of her home, they will be mesmerized.

Rusty, (again, my personal fav), came to readers as The High-Flying Morgan Horse and his coloring is as stunning as a New England autumn. Whether pulling a sleigh or rolling over and over on the ground as if enjoying every minute of his life, Rusty’s pictures are absolutely adorable. (Makes me personally want to head to Ms. Feld’s home and kidnap him in the middle of the night. LOL).

Robin is the loveable Morgan who will trot for hours and investigate her surroundings. And to see the picture of this majestic beauty in all her glory is breathtaking.

Fans will also get a peek at Annie and Rimfire - the two Morgans who are the best of friends. Annie likes to carry on conversations with everyone, and was presented as The Mysterious Morgan Horse in the series; whereas Rimfire was the barrel-racer who was actually won in a national essay contest by the author’s young son, Nicholas.

Add in pictures of the Morgan’s sidekicks ranging from Rerun (SO cute!) to Spot, Shadow, Willow and Champ - and you have a seriously fun, entertaining and gorgeous book! Fans even get a ‘look’ at the future stars that will find a home soon in “The Morgan Horse” series!

Quill Says: Absolutely incredible and truly unique! Ms. Feld’s avid fans have now gotten exactly what they wanted…and more!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review - Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals: A Grace Street Mystery

By: Jane Tesh
Publisher: Poisened Pen Press
Publishing Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0061-8
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: September 27, 2012

David Randall, Private Detective extraordinaire, is looking forward to Christmas in the small town of Parkland, North Carolina. David’s friend Camden owns the house David lives in and is a psychic that has helped the local authorities many times to solve their cases. As I said, David is looking forward to Christmas as his widowed mother is coming for a visit and even though David knows that his mom will want to talk about David’s daughter, who was killed in a car accident, he loves his mom and wants to see her.

Getting back to the story, David and his psychic friend Camden have come upon a dead body. The victim is Jared Hunter, a friend of Camden’s. Since Camden has helped the authorities in the past through his psychic powers, he and David are trying to help out in this case much to the dismay of the Chief of Police. Unfortunately, Camden is having horrible flashbacks about the scene of the crime but can’t seem to see anything helpful for the police. On the hunt for clues, David finds that Jared, the victim, had served jail time for breaking into the Museum of History in Parkland and that Bert Galvin, son of the editor of the local newspaper, was also involved.

Also, in this little town, there is a Superhero, the Parkland Avenger, who is running around town at night in a costume to fight crime. There are a group of people in town calling themselves The Super Hero Society who also want to fight crime but they deny knowing the Avenger. Are they somehow connected?

On the way to solving this murder, the author takes us on a roller coaster ride through the town and all these fascinating characters. This is really a fun read as there are so many different characters to learn about. You will really have to keep your eyes open to see them all.

Quill says: I really loved Mixed Signals and am looking forward to the next adventure featuring David Randall and his gang.

Book Review - The Student's Anatomy of Exercise Manual

The Student's Anatomy of Exercise Manual: 50 Essential Exercises Including Weights, Stretches, and Cardio

By Ken Ashwell
Publisher: Barron's
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1438001135
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 2012

Many times people head to places like Plant Fitness in hopes that they will lose weight and become fit in the process. It takes a little more than throwing yourself in the car and spending an hour in a gym a few times a week in hopes of targeting problem areas that you’d like to “fix.” For example, many people would love to have flat abs and are under the misconception that doing a series of crunches on a regular basis will do the trick. Crunches won’t burn fat but rather are a “strength and endurance exercise for the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, psoas, and iliacus.” Whew, does that sound complicated?

It really isn’t but your exercise regimen can get complicated and frustrating if you don’t know what you are doing or which muscles or muscle groups you’ll need to target in order to get the results you need. Crunches are an overall part of a good fitness package, but it is nice to know what you are accomplishing when you do them. I do have a set of the Barron’s Anatomy Flash Cards and the illustrations are similar, but in this book we get a full-body overview of the body as it works through an exercise.

The beginning of the book gives a highly detailed, crash course on our anatomy with an overview of the muscular, skeletal, nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems, as well as anterior and lateral views of how our bodies move. Unlike the cards, the textbook-sized pages are easy to work with and things such as an at-a-glance anterior, posterior, and lateral views of the skeletal system on a two-page spread are excellent for comparative study. This is not only a book that can be used by those who wish to exercise, but also an excellent one for those who are in beginning anatomy or biology classes, work in sports medicine, or are in related health care fields.

CONTENTS (partial, relative to the exercises):

Anatomy Overview
Chest Exercises
* Dumbbell Chest Press
* Dumbbell Fly
* Bench Press
* Dip
* Cable Crossover
* Pullover
* Push-up
Back Exercises
* Lat Pulldown
* Chin-Up
* Bent-over Row
* Seated Row
* Reverse Fly
* Single-arm Row
Arm and Shoulder Exercises
* Biceps Curl
* Concentration Cural
* Cable Curl
* Triceps Pushdown
* Triceps Extension
* Triceps Kickback
* Shoulder Press
* Front Raise
* Lateral Raise
* Upright Row
* Shrug
* Wrist Curl
Leg and Buttock Exercise
* Dumbbell Squat
* Barbell Squat
* Barbell Lunge
* Deadlift
* Romanian Deadlift
* Step-up
* Standing Calf Raise
* Seated Calf Raise
* Leg Extension
* Seated Leg Curl
* Lying Leg Curl
* Leg Press
* Nordic Hamstrings
* Hip Adduction
* Hip Abduction
Trunk Exercises
* Plank
* Crunch
* Cross-body Crunch
* Bicycle
* Superman
* Bridge
* Back Extension
* Lift
* Chop
* Walkout
Coloring Workbook

Whether you are an athlete, taking an anatomy course, a sports science one, or are an allied health worker you’ll love this manual. The large number of full-color, detailed illustrations are particularly impressive. At first glance, I didn’t think much of the “coloring workbook” until I took a closer look. This workbook has an overview of several body systems, including the muscular, skeletal, and nervous ones. The pages have blanks where the student can fill in the names of muscles, bones, and nerves, something that will facilitate one’s knowledge of the body.

The fifty exercises that are gone over in depth have one sidebar that explains the “how to,” its variations, and active muscles. Another sidebar gives cautionary notes or tells one how to perform the exercise correctly. Step-by-step labeled visuals accompany the illustrations. In the back is an index and a thorough glossary. This is an impressive and interesting addition to the Barron’s anatomy series, one that anyone interested in any facet of exercise or sports medicine should add to their list.

Quill says: Whether you are a student or simply a person who wants to know more about your body, this superb exercise manual will help you understand just how your body works!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review - Yesterday


By: C.K. Kelly Martin
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86650-0
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

For fans of The Maze Runner series - the ultimate adventure and outstanding world created by author, James Dashner - this is a brand new tale that will knock your socks off!

Freya Kallas is our lead. This teenager is living in 2063 and is scared beyond belief. She and her mom are facing evacuation because of an ecoterrorist threat. In fact, the United North America are abandoning the Coasts as a robot ‘working class’ called the Secros appear to take over the city. A Toxo has infected many and a cure cannot be found. Even Freya’s own brother, Latham, is infected and Freya is petrified he won’t make it. She has no love for her father, believing that he is a massive bad guy in this scenario, and as she and her mom struggle to survive…the world goes black.

It is 1985; the time of heavy metal hair, Lennon being shot, Ronald Reagan - you name it, that information is definitely inside Freya Kallas’s head. She also recalls the images of her father dying which is why she, her mom, and her sister, Olivia moved to Canada and why Freya is starting a new high school. She knows that they had been living in New Zealand before the tragedy and everyone - everyone - seems to be staring at her, calling her absolutely flawless…which she finds extremely odd. Even Mr. Popular, Seth Hardy, is after Freya and she has no idea what’s going on.

Her memories are crisp and clean, like a brand new movie, but the headaches and the foggy images stored somewhere inside her head are just screaming to get out, and Freya soon understands that the truth is she doesn’t belong. Something is most assuredly wrong and she has to find a way to fix it.

When she stumbles across a boy by the name of Garren, she finds the first real thing she has felt in a long time. They are connected; this stranger is a part of her past, and only by each other’s side can they figure out what on earth happened.

The author has done a stunning job of mixing The Matrix with George Orwell’s way of thinking and produced a tale of intrigue, mystery, science fiction, fantasy and something that honestly will not be forgotten!

Quill Says: Very COOL!

Book Review - Scarlett Dedd

Scarlett Dedd

By: Cathy Brett
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74175-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

There are good YA’s - there are great YA’s - some just so-so - but very rarely does one come along where not only is the plot fantastic and hysterical all at the same time, but the illustrations are phenomenal. This is Scarlett Dedd.

Even before the death of the entire Dedd family, Scarlett Dedd had to constantly deal with the dead jokes from other kids. Not only was the last name a source of teasing, but Scarlett was also the eldest child of the oddest family on the street. They were poor, the house already looked like a broken-down, haunted chalet, and her father - a writer by the name of Wolfgang - had a garden where he grew some of the most disgusting food so that they could ‘eat healthy’ and save money on groceries. On top of all that, Scarlett was extremely pasty and her best friend’s name is Psycho.

Along comes a seven-day trip with the school where she’ll have to go and explore the WWI trenches while staying in a youth hostel that makes her sick. Besides all that, Psycho isn’t going, so Scarlett wants to stay home, too. What better way to allow herself an out? Make herself sick.

Well…she decides to make risotto using the wild mushroom that’s found in Dad’s garden. Now the mushroom is supposed to make you sick, unfortunately…it also made her and the rest of the family who decided to eat the risotto leftovers dead as doornails!

Around the neighborhood people see bikes going along the street with no rider, they hear doors slamming inside the Dedd’s now haunted house - even the windows fog up as if someone is breathing on the glass from the inside. When Scarlett learns that she’s nothing but a ghost, she feels more than a little lonely and decides that to not be alone (and have to be stuck with just her annoying family for the rest of eternity), she will cause accidents that will take her group of friends out one by one. And hilarity ensues!

As I stated, this is one of those unique books that offers humor, characters you won’t forget, and illustrations that are to die for! (No pun intended).

Quill Says: The best gift you can get for Halloween….or any other time, for that matter!

Book Review - Touched


By: Cyn Balog
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74032-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Nick Cross is a truly amazing character. He, not unlike many, has a voice in his head, but his voice actually tells him the future - every step that will occur that takes someone else’s life. However, if Nick plays hero, listens to the voice, yet decides to veer off course to save someone different, then he dooms another.

Example: Nick Cross is working as a lifeguard at the Jersey Shore. On his way to work one day, the voice tells him all about a young woman who will be killed. As he heads to work, he sees a truck about to back into a girl and kill her. Veering off the ‘path’ the voice laid out for him, by the time Nick gets to his lifeguard’s chair, a little girl by the name of Emma, who he was supposed to save, has drowned.

In essence, when Nick hears the voice he can either save or ignore the voice completely. However, once he lives the future and makes his decision, his brain basically shuffles the cards and a new future is dealt for Nick Cross. He’s not the only one who has this gift that’s basically a nightmare for him. His mother is also cursed with it and it has made her into a recluse, never going outside, barely coming downstairs, and issuing moans constantly. Nick doesn’t want to end up like that and because of his ‘save,’ perhaps he won’t have to.

Even though he is devastated by the young child drowning, the girl Nick does save is named Taryn and most definitely has a place in his future. You see, Taryn’s grandmother has a book of some truly crazy spells. A bibliomancer by trade, it was in the past when Taryn’s grandmother brought this curse down upon Nick’s head and only he and Taryn together - going through a seriously odd and exciting adventure - can perhaps change the past and hopefully stop Nick from heading down his new path which the voice in his head claims is his absolute death.

This author has written such a spectacular tale that you will be wishing Nick Cross is a name that appears in the world of fiction yet again.

Quill Says: You will not put this one down!

Book Review - The Stone Girl

The Stone Girl

By: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-87080-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

This is a remarkable story that focuses on a very unfortunate real-life matter.
Sara (referred to as Sethie) is a senior in a co-ed private school. She’s more than a bit OCD - nervous, always hurrying, and constantly aware of her calorie intake. In fact, she barely eats at all. Now, she isn’t the only one. In this school being skinny is an absolute obsession for most of the girls.

She and her mom live in a building that has a vacant apartment across the hall that’s never locked, and some of the kids come after school to sit in this empty apartment and get stoned.

Shaw is the boy of Sethie’s dreams. Very laid back, Shaw basically doesn’t much worry about anything in life, even Sethie. And he makes it a point to gather friends at the corner and lead them straight into this apartment where Sethie, if found out, could get in serious trouble and get her and her mother kicked out on the street.

But Shaw is a charmer and even more of an obsession for Sethie than being skinny. Although she does mention that when the floor is hard beneath her body in the vacant apartment, she’s happy because that means she’s skinny that day. In contrast, Jane, who is a new friend, actually uses the old sticking the finger down the throat method to keep her physique.

As our tale rolls on, readers begin to identify with Sethie. They want nothing more than to see this young girl fight her way back from the edge, because her boyfriend is basically a useless loser who doesn’t deserve the time of day.

What the author has done is written a heartfelt, very emotional story where readers watch a young, mixed-up girl find the confident woman who is just waiting inside her to be free.

Quill Says: A gripping tale that readers will not soon forget.

Book Review - Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy & Prediction

Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy & Prediction

Edited By: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74129-3
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Carrie Ryan has brought together some of the best writers out there to create amazing stories that introduce everything from witches to oracles to fortune tellers and gypsies; to stories handed down from adult to child as they find a way to ‘see’ their future…and, in some cases, wish they hadn’t.

Usually personal favorites aren’t found in the number one slot, but Laini Taylor’s story titled, “Gentlemen Send Phantoms,” was truly extraordinary (and should be a novel all on its own). With this tale three witches are celebrating St. Faith’s Day by utilizing a spell that will allow them to see who they will marry. Each wishes their future man to be Matthew Blackgrace - the handsomest boy in town. And each girl wants him for their own reasons, whether it be having a good father for their future kids, or having a nice person so they won’t be lonely - but only one will actually ‘see’ Matthew. The one who does and the way she does is truly an unforgettable romance.

Heading through the stories, more and more voices join the party with tales of prophecy that are seriously fun and eerie to read. Readers come across tales that deal with the prophecy of death on Judgment Day; a boy called evil who’s released from a foster home; a King who needs a son, yet the prophecy is for a girl who will be the downfall of his reign; an ancient classroom with a maniacal teacher; fear in a town called Misery; a fortune cookie at a sweet sixteen party; a life on the road with a carny who has to deal with a horrible monster; a Russian homecoming; and, even a look at Nostradamus being wrong in 1999 (interesting, now that the Mayans have many fearful that the end will come this December).

The stories are extremely cool, the writers are outstanding, and this is the perfect gift for Halloween. Romance, fear, thrills, chills and some truly exciting tales are all together in one amazing place!

Quill Says: Your prophecy: Read this book and you will be…thrilled!

Book Review - Intentions


By: Deborah Heiligman
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86861-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Ah…the world of role models for young adults. (LOL)
In this tale our main character, Rachel, has had just about enough of her parents constantly fighting. Not only is that bugging her, but her best friend, Alexis, seems to have transformed from the normal, fun-loving girl that Rachel always cared about to a mopey Goth who talks about sex, drugs, etc., ever since her parents divorced.

One day, after overhearing yet another household battle, Rachel runs into the sanctuary. This is the peace where she can be calm, talk to her ‘creator,’ and basically chill out. In fact, she believes that now is the time to talk to Rabbi Cohn about her issues. After all, he should be able to help her out with all the problems that are going on in her life. Of course, the last thing she expects to hear inside her sanctuary is the rabbi having more than a little ‘fun’ with a woman who came to the town to marry one of the locals. It’s amazing to Rachel that the rabbi preaches about ‘intentions’ when he certainly has some of his own that don’t exactly fit in with his station.

Rachel runs out of the sanctuary, no longer believing that it can possibly be the place where one seeks solace, and tries to figure out what to do next. Do you tell someone?

Shaking her head, laughing in class, and grinning and bearing it - readers follow Rachel as she longs for her ‘almost’ boyfriend, Jake, and has to deal with Alexis and the rabbi’s handsome son, Adam, who not only dislikes his father but also has the flirty ability his father has in spades.

Rachel finds herself in one mess after another with the one bright spot being a young kid named Randy who she reads to and who has a far worse home than she does. What’s worse is the fact that one day she watches her own mother flirt with the rabbi who has already proven himself to be a lover of female attention. What is this story about? Growing up!

The author has done a good job of intermingling humor with fear, aggression, depression, obsession - a whole punch of ‘ions’ - and written a novel that will truly add color and spark to the YA world.

Quill Says: This one is a keeper.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review - Beyond: A Ghost Story

Beyond: A Ghost Story

By: Graham McNamee
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-73775-3
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

'Ghost Story' is an understatement for this fantastically creepy tale ‘gifted’ to readers by an Edgar award-winning author. In fact, this is one ghost story you will never forget!

Instead of the brilliant lights and the voices of the angels singing, a young girl named Jane finds only a fate worse than death when she’s brought back to life by some well-meaning doctors. She was saved! However…she brought back something with her; a shadow that has the ability to stop being a shadow, break away and draw Jane into hideously scary situations - such as making her walk in front of a train.

Jane tries to be a normal teen. Her best friend is Lexi, who is much like what people would assume the Grim Reaper’s hot little sister is, because of the way she looks and dresses. She is also someone who loves the camera, making the coolest videos that most of their classmates think are beyond odd. In the small town they live in on the west coast of Canada where Jane’s dad works as a constable, everyone refers to Lexi and Jane as “The Creep Sisters.”

Jane is definitely a ‘creep’ because she’s had more than her share of bad luck. Not only did her mother almost die when she was born, but she was also born with no pulse. Then through various accidents, she has had to go through electrocution to poisoning to most recently, a nail being stuck in her head. Jane has certainly been the receiver of a whole lot of bad luck (or good, considering she survived it all). She now sleepwalks a great deal and her only ‘normal’ thing in life seems to be when she drools over the ‘hot’ delivery guy who brings things to her mother’s flower shop.

As the story proceeds and the real culprit of Jane’s accidents is unveiled, she finds herself battling a soul who has an accident in his own past that sent him to a place between Heaven and Earth. Now…he wants Jane for his own purposes. But how do you defeat a ghost?

To say this is a good story is lame, to say it’s a great one is not enough. For readers who love the bone-chilling, bump in the night rides, THIS is perfection!

Quill Says: This YA gives a whole new meaning to ‘being scared of your own shadow.’

Book Review - Hanging by a Thread

Hanging by a Thread

By: Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74104-0
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Clare Knight and her Mom have moved back home to their small town. You would think Winston, California would be a quiet, peaceful place…but this year the only thing that’s going on is a whole lot of praying. Soon July 4th will be upon them, and for the last two years this is the day where someone simply vanished.

Clare doesn’t like to think about that stuff. When she moved back home she hooked up with her old best friend, Rachel, who is doing her best to get Clare in with the ‘in-crowd.‘ Now Clare is very cool…in a way. She’s coming from San Francisco and is truly into fashion. She makes her own designs by using clothes she’s found at flea markets, vintage shops, etc. and redesigning them to be the hippest fashions around.

Moving back into the house that the townsfolk refer to as “The Haunted Dress Shop” because of a past filled with oddities, is just one thing Clare has to deal with. The other is the fact that one of these oddities is the fact that Clare has been handed down a family ‘gift’ from her Nana; she can touch old clothing and get visions from them. Unfortunately, there is one piece of clothing she’s purchased that gives her a vision of a truly violent crime that has something to do with the July 4th disappearances. If she does nothing about the visions they fade, but Clare has always had a hard time doing that. She wants nothing more than to help and solve the things she’s ‘seen’ happen.

Trying to simply fit in and sell her “NewToYou” designs to make some cash, Clare’s life soon turns into a serious mystery. Add in the fact that she stumbles across a young man by the name of Jack who is the picture of the ultimate ‘bad boy’ and was also the boyfriend of the girl who disappeared, and Clare finds herself on the hunt to stay alive, fall in love and find the truth that a town has been hiding…
This author has done a great job of combining a YA with all levels of romance, friendship, and the harshness of returning to a small town when you’ve tried so hard to leave it behind - with the ultimate chilling mystery that readers will never guess.

Quill Says: Outstanding on all levels!

Book Review - Island of Doom

Island of Doom: The Hunchback Assignments #4

By: Arthur Slade
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-73787-6
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

For those who have not followed this incredible series, Modo is a young man who was born with a deformity, and has the power to change his face and body in order to become a different person at will - which definitely comes in handy in his work as an agent for ‘The Permanent Association’ - which is a group whose job is to protect Britannia.

Through three previous adventures, Modo has found himself in many situations - from the mean streets of London to the Atlantic Ocean to the rain forest in Australia, but this time he is about to receive his ‘final’ assignment.

Recently, Modo was suspended from duty for disobeying Mr. Socrates, the man who raised him. But when a French agent named Colette returns and gets in touch with Mr. Socrates to let him know that the evil Clockwork Guild is gearing up for another fight, Modo and his fellow spy, Octavia, are pulled back in.

They must defeat the Guild who want to destroy the British Empire by bringing dead bodies back to life - an army that will fight the Association’s armor-clad soldiers.

Along with this epic war comes the fact that Modo believes he has finally found his birth parents, who abandoned him as a baby at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Add to that the fact that Octavia and Collette are both trying to ‘capture’ his attention, and you have a very emotional conclusion to a truly fascinating series.

From the very beginning, this author has given YA readers a captivating character with Modo. Although his face was covered with a mask to hide his deformity, his heart was always full of magic that made readers want to stand by his side and see him win!

Quill Says: This series is so special start with #1 and enjoy the captivating ride!

Book Review - Shadowfell


By: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86954-9
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

This is a stunning story that will thrill lovers of the Tolkien world.
Readers begin by meeting a young girl named Neryn as she and her father try to find some kind of shelter from the elements with only a small amount of money in their pockets. Neryn’s father soon spies a boat in the harbor that is basically a floating gambling den. Because he and his daughter need money in order to survive, and he is an avid gambler, he decides that this is the way to a small fortune. So away he goes to find money that will see them on their way. Of course, what actually does happen is startling. Dad loses and he, more or less, sells his daughter in a card game and she ends up being taken away by a man named Flint.

Soon the King’s Enforcers come into town and kill just about everyone in it…along with Neryn’s father. Now Neryn has not only been sold but she’s also an orphan - all alone in the world except for Flint. Although her new owner says he wants to help her, Neryn is out of trust and full of fear, choosing to run away.

Neryn soon shows that she is no ordinary young girl. In fact, she has a magical gift that was handed down to her from her grandmother, and the King’s Enforcers are looking for her so that she can help the King keep his power. How can she do that?

Apparently her gift is that she can see and talk to the ‘little’ people in the land and Neryn is on her way to Shadowfell - a place that is home to a band of rebels who are training to overthrow the King and bring the land back to the people. On her journey, Neryn runs up against some very unusual people, not to mention fearing everything from the harsh, cold weather to the fact that perhaps everyone was wrong and Shadowfell doesn’t even exist.

From the ‘Good Folk’ who help her out when she gets into some pretty sticky situations; to Flint, who is actually an extremely kind individual, this is a fascinating adventure. Being the first in this series, readers can look forward to even more secrecy, romance and mind-boggling survival!

Quill Says: A unique and enchanting read!

Book Review - Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy, Book One

By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-87041-5
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 25, 2012

Not since ‘Potter’ has a book this good come on the market! This is one of those series that is fresh and new that speaks to readers on all levels, and then makes them seriously angry because…they want Book II right now!

Our leading lady, Kami Glass, loves the guy who lives in her head. Ever since she was eight she’s spoken with Jared, an imaginary friend who makes life more interesting. And, gosh knows, she needs interesting.

Kami lives in Sorry-in-the-Vales, England. She’s a teenage reporter who wants her dream of being the best journalist in the world to come true. But when you live in this town, you have to really scrape for a story considering how boring it is. For a town built in the 1400’s - all they seem to have is sheep and no secrets. Soon, however, the ritzy family who built this town and were once the ‘lord and masters’ of all they surveyed, return. They are the Lynburn’s, and after seventeen years away the Lynburn daughter’s have returned with their families and Kami wants to get an interview. She knows there’s something up with these guys and she’s going to find out what their secrets really are.

Angela - who is a truly hysterical character - is Kami’s best friend. She signs on when the school year begins to help Kami with her newspaper. The school gives them a wee little office to work in and Angela basically joins the team so she can nap on the couch that’s provided. As Kami begins running around like ‘1,000 monkeys on crack,’ to get things going, a Lynburn walks in with a camera around his neck and asks for a job - this is Ash - and he is absolutely stunning.

Although Kami has stars in her eyes for this guy, a cousin of his soon arrives at school who is a way darker version with more than one secret hanging over his head. The cousin’s name is Jared, and he is…the voice inside Kami’s head.

Yup - the imaginary friend is absolutely real. So how does that happen? Readers will be blown away by the plot this author has come up with. Chills from the past, ancient legends come to life, Jared and Ash and a family that has secrets that could ruin the town and create lots of dead bodies - everything is in this one!

Quill Says: Bravo to the author! And hurry up with Book Two!

Book Review - Tape It & Make It

Tape It & Make It: 101 Duct Tape Activities

By: Richela Fabian Morgan
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 1438001355
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 25, 2012

One of the most ingenious and fun craft products I’d seen in some time was a duct tape wallet. James was quite excited, as was his proud grandmother, when he showed me his wallet. He’d worked long and hard on it and, amazingly, it was a functional craft that he was actually using. Duct tape activities and art have become quite popular with the middle school set, who are becoming bored with the run-of-the-mill types of crafts such as Popsicle stick pencil holders or snowmen made out of paper plates. They want fun and functional. Forget the old-fashioned stuff.

Duct tape no longer comes in that simple gray any more, but is now coming on the market in numerous, vibrant colors and designs. It simply begs to be purchased and used in crafts for people of all ages. The author’s very own daring handbag “is a red, white and black duct tape confection finessed into a faux Burberry plaid.” Instructions are given for a cell phone case and a bi-fold wallet, something that she may have tucked inside that handbag. Many people were wowed by her creation as I was by James’s wallet.

In the introductory section there are brief overviews of tools needed for the projects, colors and patterns, creating duct tape fabrics, and one on dealing with your workspace. There is a little method to the madness of working with duct tape and in order to prevent frustration, I’d recommend carefully reading this section. The tools are simple and can be obtained at a local craft or big box store. Each craft has a sidebar listing the needed materials and tools, has step-by-step instructions, and photographic visuals. And so what kind of projects are in this book? I’ll give you a sneak peek and list them all!

Chapter 1: Accessories
1. Feather
2. Headband
3. Two-finger Ring
4. Two-Tone Bracelet
5. Fingerless Gloves
6. Belt
7. Flower Barrette
8. Striped Apron
9. Vest
10. Bucket Hat
11. Striped Necktie

Chapter 2: Housewares
12. Loose Coin Holder
13. Picture Frame
14. Decorative Letters
15. Plastic Bad Dispenser
16. Table Runner
17. Fork and Knife Placemat
18. Vase
19. Duct Tape “Painting”
20. Beverage Cozy
21. Beverage Coaster
Chapter 3: Cushions, Pads, Mats, and Pillows
22. Seat Cushion
23. Back Pillow
24. Square Pillow Cover
25. Red Heart Pillow
26. Meditation Mat
27. Penguin Pillow
28. Travel Diaper Changing Mat
30. Duck Pillow
31. Candy Wrapper Style Pillow
32. Mouse Pad
Chapter 4: Decorative Stickers
33. Butterfly
34. Crow
35. Red Apple
36. Sports Car
37. Peace Sign
38. Sun
39. Surfing Wave
40. Jolly roger
41. Planet Earth
42. Trestle Bridge
Chapter 5: Bags, Holders, and Wallets
43. Laptop Case
44. Black and White Clutch
45. Small Tote Bag
46. Beach Bag
47. Lunch Bag
48. ID Holder
49. Cell Phone Case
50. Bi-Fold Wallet
51. Tri-Fold Wallet
52. Pencil Case
53. Eyeglass Case
54. Activity Bag
55. Messenger T-Bag
Chapter 6: Flowers
56. Calla Lily
57. Red Rose
58. Sunflower
59. Cherry Blossom
60. White Peony
61.. Hot Pink Hibiscus
62. Orchid
63. Iris
64. Yellow Tulip
Chapter 7: Toys for Kids
65. Chess/Checker Board
66. Blue Boy Doll
67. Pink Girl Doll
Chapter 8: Masks
68. Elephant Mask
69. Leopard Mask
70. Zebra Mask
71. Cat Mask
72. Dog Mask
73. Jump Rope
74. Backgammon Board
75. Boat
Chapter 8: Costumes, Disguises, and Props
76. Glossy Beard
77. Superhero Cape
78. Pirate Hat
79. Knight’s Sword
80. Knight’s Shield
81. Robot
82. Ace Card
83. Grass Skirt
Chapter 9: Seasonal
84. Hanging Tree Ornament
85. Candy Cane Ornament
86. Decorative Red Bow
87. Mini Wreath
88. Stocking
89. Mistletoe
90. Spring Banner
91. Easter Basket
Chapter 10: Miscellaneous Projects
92. Repairing a Book Cover
93. Guitar Strap
94. Fixing the Hem on a Pant Leg or Skirt
95. Luggage Tag
96. Wild Headphone Cord
97. Bookmark
98. Book Cover
99. Patch for Ripped Denim Jeans
100. Fish Key Chain
101. Reupholstering a Bar Stool

As anyone can easily see there are projects galore to keep youngsters busy for quite some time. Many of these projects are quite unique, unlike some of the old standards. Things like the wallets and the duck pillow are my favorites, but there is enough variety to please a passel of kids and not just on a rainy day. This is a marvelous book that is sure to please crafters who want a little something different to work with and that something is duct tape!

Quill says: If you want your youngsters to experience something new in the craft department, duct tape art is "in!"

Book Review - Foul Play at the Fair

Foul Play at the Fair: Celebration Bay Mystery

By: Shelley Freydont
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251553
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 25, 2012

Liv Montgomery was more than happy to leave behind Manhattan’s pushy, overbearing, bridezillas for quaint upstate New York’s Celebration Bay. She’d taken over Janine Tudor’s job as event planner and, in return, almost got run over by her nasty attitude and cream-colored Caddie. Not to worry because at least it wasn’t a Yellow Cab and businesses with names like Apple of my Eye Bakery and the Buttercup Coffee Exchange promised her a much less melodramatic life than she’d been leading ... or so she thought. Liv and her partner, Ted Driscoll, were up to their ears in planning The Harvest by the Bay Festival, but soon events would take a turn for the worse and Liv would unexpectedly find herself being churned up and spit out in Celebration Bay’s gossip mill.

The five Romanian Zoldosky brothers, a bunch of sleazy ex-carnies weren’t high on Liv’s list of favorites. When she told them to cut out the panhandling they didn’t take kindly to her, nor her to them. Their attempt to intimidate her was a bit unsettling, but on the other hand vendors like Joss Waterbury, who sold “fresh cider and cider donuts” would be a joy to work with. One man who wasn’t quite an ode to joy was Chaz Bristow, the owner of the town paper, “The Celebration Clarion.” Ads for the festival were important, but Chaz had as much panache as Gorilla Monsoon. Such an oaf. Liv Montgomery was going to need a few swigs of hard cider before the day was done.

Cold cider quickly turned into hot murder when a clown was stuffed into one of Joss’s antique cider presses. It appeared that “Mr. Zoldosky had juggled his last scarf,” but upon closer examination, the corpse turned out to be none other than Pete Waterbury, Joss’s long-lost, useless brother. Celebration Bay was a town of long-buried secrets and their Smokey and the Bandit scanners sent them running to the scene to rediscover one of them. Sheriff Bill Gunnison would check out the “incident,” but the cogs of the gossip mill began to make Liv’s head spin. A Peeping Tom had been reported, a check was missing from her registry, the long-ago murder of a boy named Victor came to light, and suddenly she was seen as an intrusive outsider. Liv had to solve the murder or the town would cancel the festivals, but it didn’t seem likely when “something was yanked over her head” and she was dragged into the darkness ...

This striking new series in Celebration Bay, a town of dark secrets, is simply captivating. Liv Montgomery, who never intended to exchange her job of planning festival motifs for a murder investigation, proved to be a fascinating sleuth. She was a no-nonsense professional who took her investigation just as seriously as her work. Her character was the polar opposite of fluff, something that one might expect from someone who would be paid for planning an event like “Haunted October.” I totally enjoyed the well-crafted journey back through time as Liv unwittingly found out the town’s Stand by Me-like secrets and lies. A little nostalgia, a secretive town, and a hot new sleuth made this mystery a winner!

Quill says: If you like your cozy mysteries sweeter than cotton candy, but just as exciting as the Screamin' Swing, you'll love this new series!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review - Chester the Brave

Chester the Brave: The Kissing Hand Series

By: Audrey Penn
Illustrated by: Barbara L. Gibson
Publisher: Tanglewood Books
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-933718-79-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Chester Raccoon has been around before to help children feel better and teach them valuable lessons about growing up. Chester is one of those characters, actually, that are as entertaining and valuable as Curious George or the big, red Marmaduke used to be for this (once) young mind.

In this newest Chester tale, we have a lesson about bravery, courage, and having the strength to stand up and do something even when your heart may be very afraid to do it - which is a lesson that not only children need to learn but, at times, parents as well.

Chester has a lesson that he needs to speak about in front of his class and, boy, is that scary. Think about it. Remember when all eyes were on you; your fingers began to shake and you palms began to sweat, your face got so red you felt like you were in an oven, and your knees felt like they were going to give out underneath you. You spoke as fast as you could - a little too fast - in order to say what you had to say and then sit down as fast as possible. There was nothing scarier than that!

Well, Chester’s Mom tells him a tale about a small robin who had to fly from his nest. Everybody else was taking their turn but the little robin was petrified. I mean…jumping out of a tree and simply gliding on the breeze? That’s some scary stuff. So what did the little robin do? He listened to a tale told by his father who said flying had nothing to do with bravery - you just had to be ‘not bothered’ by flying…just like the little robin wasn’t bothered by eating worms or singing. (Of course, Chester thinks worms are gross so a big ‘ick’ came from that one.) But the robin, even though he was afraid, gave it his all - and that’s what Chester has to do.

“Think - Tell - Do” is a powerful lesson for kids and for Chester. If you think you can’t, tell yourself you can and then do it! Of course, Chester has an extra little good luck charm that no one but he and his mom know about. He has a loving kiss held in the palm of his hand that’s all about comfort, and with that charm and that lesson, Chester has the chance to get through what needs to be done.

Yet again, from the creators of Chester, comes a truly lovely story that will help children in all aspects of their lives. And the illustrations of Chester and his friends are unforgettable!

Quill Says: A lovely book and a great character that children will bond with!

Book Review - Night of the White Deer

Night of the White Deer

By: Jack Bushnell
Illustrated by: Miguel Co
Publisher: Tanglewood Books
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-933718-80-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

Children’s books are an art form, in this writer/reviewer’s mind. When it comes to adult titles, suspense, romance, mystery, adventure - these categories shine. But with a children’s book, you are talking about telling a stunning, unforgettable story in a very small amount of space with illustrations that take the breath away. And this is one children’s book that does that beautifully and…absolutely shines!

The white deer is a beautiful, mysterious creature that is only seen once in a while by the people who have so much imagination, heart and hope that they see him as he walks through the cornfields; they are the ones who wish to see the most amazing things possible and become a part of them.

Now there are many stories about the white deer. Some say it was a star that fell from the sky and turned into the first thing it saw on earth. Others say the white deer is so powerful it chased tornadoes away. But when the boy brings up the subject of this creature, his brother laughs at him and basically tells him he’s nuts, while his father simply looks at him a bit oddly and either asks for more information, or tells him to go and play.

But one night the white deer comes to the boy, stands outside his window and takes him on the most beautiful adventure of his whole life. With the creature, the boy can fly; he can run with mighty red gazelles and watch black elks as they play, bashing their antlers together so that bright white sparks light up the sky. It is a fantasy adventure like none other, and when the boy returns home there’s a secret in the house that his father has kept for a long time which will make all readers - young and mature alike - go to their windows every night to find that deer. Whether rain or shine, moonlight or darkness, readers will search for the deer that’s as bright as snow so they can have their own incredible adventure.

This author has created enchantment. Not since The Polar Express has there been a story this moving, and the illustrations will be locked inside the mind for eternity.

Quill Says: This is the children’s book that should be kept on the shelf, taken down every night, and read by one and all. A masterpiece!

Book Review - Leaves


By: Michael Baron
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9841-9054-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 21, 2012

Mr. Baron’s other novels remind one very much of Sparks, with the amount of emotion and compelling looks into real people’s lives. Leaves is - yet again - one of those truly great novels.

Now, for a born and bred Connecticut girl, after the first three lines of this story I was basically home. In fact, my hometown, the Inn that always stood and probably still does on Main Street, along with the leaf-peepers who came every year from ‘the city’ to see the fall colors - are offered here in full-color sweetness and hilarity.

Joseph and Bethany Gold have been a huge part of their small town for a good, long time. A very loving couple raising five children, they ran the Sugar Maple Inn in the town of Oldham, located in the Connecticut River Valley. However, times have changed and now the Gold parents have passed away, leaving the siblings to deal with the Inn and its issues.

The one thing that the Inn has always been known for is their famous Halloween party, and once the kids decide that they are going to sell the Inn to a large chain so that none of them have to deal with the problems that come along with running it, this year becomes the last time that Oldham and ‘The Gold’s Halloween Party’ go hand-in-hand.

It is almost as if they’re laying their parents to rest once again, because the Inn was a highlight of the town for years - but this party will be the last big gasp before the family breaks up and goes their separate ways.

All the children; Tyler, Corrina, Deborah, Maxwell and Maria - and their spouses, children and significant others - are looking forward to this big change and what it will mean to their lives. Some are filled with glee, while others are upset to see this tradition and their home disappear. It is the end of an era, and this last party is a challenge for the siblings as they struggle to let the past go and head into an unknown future.

To say this is a fascinating and, at times, really hysterical read, is not enough. Every page, in fact, shows the very real world of small town New England, and the author, thankfully, plans to make a series of novels about this family.

Quill Says: Whether a native or a leaf-peeping visitor, a good time is had by all when this author releases yet another great title.

Book Review - Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall

Phoebe & the Ghost of Chagall

By: Jill Koenigsdorf
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Publishing Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59692-383-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

A book that readers will see as a true ‘gift;’ this is one tale that once picked up is impossible to put down.

Our heroine is Phoebe, a woman who is just eking out a living by designing labels for a winery in Sonoma, CA. Pushing forty, poor, divorced and trying desperately to make a living - like many others, the bank is about to foreclose on her and she’s being harassed night and day by creditors.

Our other character? The amazing artist, Marc Chagall. It seems that Phoebe’s father found a painting by Marc Chagall many years ago in an alley in Paris - a painting that was supposed to be delivered to her and her mother, but somehow never arrived.

This was during the liberation of Paris in 1944 when WWII was slowly creeping to a close, and thieves were going around the back streets and stealing art that had been left behind.

Now…Chagall comes back from the dead to help Phoebe locate this painting so that she can get out of debt. Because she is the only one who can see and talk with Chagall, they are quite an odd couple as they set out to find the missing treasure. As Phoebe and Chagall track the painting, they are offered help from some very nefarious folks which includes a Parisian cafe owner who’s a little on the sleazy side; two sisters who are witches; crooked art thieves; art fences; an innkeeper; and many other assorted heroes and immoral characters.

This debut novel is a superb tale! Apparently, the author is a big fan of the artist and read that many of his earlier works came up missing during WWII. The story was so well written that readers will see that the author did a tremendous amount of research on Chagall’s paintings, as well as his early family life and the massive Nazi art thefts that occurred during the war. I was enthralled by this book and look forward to the next.

Quill Says: A great imagination, this author will have all readers begging to meet Chagall.

New Cozy Mysteries In For Review

We've just received another batch of new cozy mysteries for review.  Check them out, see if your favorite cozy series is included, then stop by again soon to read the reviews.

Death in Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette The annual Key West Loves Literature seminar is drawing the biggest names in food writing from all over the country, and Haley Snow is there to catch a few fresh morsels of insider gossip. Superstar restaurant critic Jonah Barrows has already ruffled a few foodie feathers with his recent tell-all memoir, and as keynote speaker, he promises more of the same jaw-dropping honesty. But when Hayley discovers Jonah's body in a nearby dipping pool, the cocktail hour buzz takes a sour turn, and Hayley finds herself at the center of attention--especially with the police. Now it's up to her to catch the killer before she comes to her own bitter finish.  

Last Wool and Testament: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery by Molly MacRaeM Kath Rutledge is about to learn the true meaning of TGIF—Thank Goodness It’s Fiber. That’s the name of the spunky group of fiber and needlework artists founded by Ivy McClellan, Kath’s beloved grandmother. Though Ivy has recently passed on, the members still meet regularly at her fiber and fabric shop, The Weaver’s Cat, which Kath has now inherited. But that’s only the first in a series of surprises when Kath returns to the small town of Blue Plum, Tennessee, to settle her grandmother’s affairs. There’s been a murder, and it turns out her grandmother was the prime suspect. Before she can begin to clear Ivy’s name, Kath encounters a looming presence in the form of a gloomy ghost. It turns out the specter has just as much interest in solving the murder as Kath. So, with a little help from the members of TGIF—and a stubborn spirit from beyond—she sets out to unravel the clues and hook the real killer...  

Murder of the Cat's Meow: A Scumble River Mystery by Denise Swanson When ex–Vegas showgirl and local business owner Bunny Reid starts an online dating service called Cupid’s Cat’s Meow, out-of-town visitors flock to her bowling alley for the speed dating and cat show events that she hosts to bring in extra cash. Bunny’s scheme sounds harmless enough, but school psychologist Skye Denison knows all too well that an influx of strangers in Scumble River always spells trouble… Meanwhile, Skye is convinced that her house is haunted and is afraid her fiancĂ©, police chief Wally Boyd, won’t move in until the ghost moves out. But ghost-hunting takes a back seat when Skye is called to the bowling alley, where a riled up contestant is choking a cat show judge for insulting his feline. Skye breaks up the scuffle, but the next morning the judge’s dead body is found, strangled with a cat toy. Now Skye must solve this purrplexing mystery—and show a devious killer that her sleuthing skills are the cat’s meow.  

Supernatural Born Killers: A Pepper Martin Mystery by Casey Daniels Former cemetery tour guide and reluctant medium Pepper Martin is thrilled when she gets her job back—with a promotion. But her new position is turning out to be more than she can handle, especially with the dead clamoring for her attention…As Garden View Cemetery’s new community relations manager, Pepper is feeling overwhelmed with planning the annual party to attract new sponsors. Luckily, some of the cemetery’s permanent residents have volunteered to give Pepper a ghostly hand, and she’s not about to turn away the help. But when a murdered ghost starts leaving puddles everywhere, Pepper quickly finds her newly acquired free time occupied. The dead man is her ex-boyfriend Quinn’s former partner Jack Haggarty—and he isn’t going away until Pepper figures out the real reason behind his murder. And while Quinn recently had a brush with the afterlife, he still isn’t ready to accept Pepper’s abilities—or offer his skills as a detective. Now, Pepper has to convince Quinn she’s the real deal and investigate Jack’s death—before someone else meets their end in a watery grave...  

Died With a Bow: An Accessories Mystery by Grace Carroll April in San Francisco may be all about layers, but it also marks one year since the stylish Rita Jewell began working at Dolce’s, an upscale boutique catering to the city’s trendy socialites. And while it may seem like a glamorous world, someone’s about to get ugly…Things have been less than pretty for Rita lately. There’s her lackluster love life. Then Dolce hires a new salesgirl. Fast-talking fashionista Vienna Fairchild is young, confident, and horribly entitled. She’s rearranged the store and relegates Rita to answering her phone—and the men are ringing for Vienna as though it were going out of style. Lucky for Rita, Dolce has tickets to a charity bachelor auction—but what to wear? While Rita opts for something simple, Vienna stuns the crowd in a breathtaking black dress with a pink bow on the back. Rita is even more stunned when she sees Vienna in that same dress the following day—dead on the sales floor of Dolce’s. With Rita’s fingerprints all over the scene and a believable motive, she’s going to need to find some clues and throw together the perfect outfit that says: “I’m innocent.”  

Wall-to-Wall Dead: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery by Jennie Bentley Avery Baker never thought she’d leave Manhattan, until she inherited her aunt’s old Maine cottage and found her true calling—home renovation. But when Avery goes to work restoring a condominium, she discovers it’s another condo owner who’s been condemned... Avery and her partner, Derek, are fixing up a cute little condo in homey Waterfield, Maine, hoping for a quick turnaround and some extra money. It seems like a simple project—and Avery is looking forward to using her big-city experience with small spaces. But they didn’t expect to have their every move watched by the resident busybody in the condo, Hilda Shaw, who loves snooping on everyone’s comings and goings. When the busybody becomes a dead body, Avery suspects foul play. Soon she’s doing some snooping of her own—and it seems everyone in the complex has a secret. Could one of them be worth killing for? Avery needs to work fast, before someone decides to fix her...for good.

How to Tail a Cat: Cats and Curios Mystery by Rebecca M. Hale When is a white alligator a red herring? Okay, granted, an albino alligator on the loose in San Francisco is pretty darn exciting. But my two cats, Rupert and Isabella, and I have better things to do than tail a reptile from Nob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. We’re investigating the mysterious Steinhart brothers, the 1900s-era benefactors who provided the original funding for Clive the alligator’s aquarium. Follow the money, as my uncle Oscar used to say… In the media circus surrounding Clive, one clown gets a little too close to the renegade gator—our very own aspiring mayor, Montgomery Carmichael. We’d hate to see Monty meet an undignified end, but we’re on a hunt of our own—for Uncle Oscar’s latest treasure. Of course, that’s assuming the whole thing isn’t a crock…  

Murder Unmentionable: Sweet Nothings by Meg London Sweet Nothings has it all: silk ribbon, Venetian lace, the best bra fitter in town… and two unsolved murders. Emma Taylor thought she knew what to expect when she abandoned life as a big-city fashionista to help her aunt, Arabella, breathe new style into Sweet Nothings, her waning lingerie boutique. As Emma settles back in to Paris, Tennessee—a world where pie is served with a parable and a pitcher of sweet tea is the cure for most of life’s ills—her escape seems smooth as silk. But when the town acquires a touch of unneeded je ne sais quoi with the arrival of Emma’s philandering ex, an unseemly murder turns her world inside out. As the police’s top suspect, Emma is going to need more than fishnets to snare the real killer. And when she and Arabella refuse to let death threats wrapped in knifed nighties stall Sweet Nothings’ vintage lingerie fashion show, it becomes increasingly clear that any garter may hide a gun and that bullet bras might have to live up to their name…  

Treacherous Toys: Renaissance Faire Mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene Jessie Morton is getting just what she wished for this holiday season at the Renaissance Faire Village—working as an apprentice to the new toy maker. But when Chris Christmas is discovered dead just hours after her arrival, Jessie’s holiday plans start to melt away. Jessie can’t imagine who would want to silence the toy maker, but apparently the red-cheeked Chris Christmas liked toying with the ladies. Although it may be her shortest apprenticeship ever, she wants to unwrap the truth before word gets out in the village that it’s not safe to be Santa—or one of his helpers…

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review - The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur: The Way Back for the U.S. Economy

By: Robert Ringer
Publisher: Threshold Editions, a Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-2910-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 19, 2012

Robert Ringer begins The Entrepreneur by laying the foundation of defining the intrinsic differences between a retrogressive and an entrepreneur. A retrogressive is someone who has a deep-rooted belief that government is their central power and therefore it has the absolute entitlement to interfere with both the economy and an individual’s life. Further, the retrogressive believes it is the government’s moral obligation to do so. In a warped and false sense of security, the retrogressive believes the greater the imposition and involvement in private life by the government, the better off we, the people are. Ringer vehemently argues, however, that nowhere in the Constitution is there an “…enumerated power to that effect…” The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is someone who does not require nor crave the meddling of the government. Rather, he or she is someone unleashed and unabashed to innovate and create products and services, which in turn, creates new jobs. There is a domino effect of exponential growth from new jobs to expanding business to economic growth—at the hands and behest of the entrepreneur if they are left alone by the almighty government to do so. Ringer labels the entrepreneur early on as the ‘unsung hero.’ He emphatically supports the entrepreneur and backs his premise up often throughout his book; beginning with bold statements such as: “…The time has come for Americans to tell politicians they don’t want any more quick fixes. What we need is for government to get out of the way and allow the entrepreneur to move our country forward…”

This is not a work of flowery prose and Ringer masterfully launches his inherent beliefs toward the necessity of entrepreneurs in our free America by using succinct and direct dialect. He implores the reader to sit up and take notice of the cataclysmic brink of disaster we are headed toward if we, the people, do not wake up and wrestle the stronghold government has imposed on each and every one of us. Ringer has done his homework and done it well. He outlines the interferences and impositions put upon our country by government; a practice he explains through his research, that has continued to evolve from a time dating back to Woodrow Wilson’s regime. Barely twenty pages into the book Ringer spells out his book’s message in clear and simple language: “…The central focus of this book is twofold: (1) to explain what it takes for an entrepreneur to succeed and (2) to demonstrate how government meddling in the economy gets in the way of his creating products and services that people want—at the lowest possible prices…”

This is a compelling wake up call of informed (and validated) research from a man who clearly has passion toward the greatness this country can recapture. He is diligent in stressing the inherent responsibility of every American to sit up and take notice of what retrogression is doing to our society. He explains that by quashing the freedoms and liberties of entrepreneurship, the American dream dies along with it. He points out how illogical the constant rhetoric of the rich having to give to the poor and less fortunate is the antithesis of what our founding fathers set out to accomplish in our great nation. He does not pummel the current administration; however, he does not candy-coat his words to drive his point of discourse.

The sheer poignancy and eloquence Mr. Ringer has put down on the pages is something that should be required reading in all of our educational institutions. Compassion resonates through his words on every page. His brash commitment to take his First Amendment Rights and portray the truth as he sees it (and has so eloquently done in this book), makes it a must read for any American interested in believing our country can thrive once more. He insists while the most egregious display of the final march toward socialism is upon us, it is lending way to an eventual communistic society. Essentially, he implores the reader to stand up, take notice and take action. Bravo, Mr. Ringer. This is truly a magnificent book.

Quill Says: There is nothing preachy about this book. Mr. Ringer is passionate toward his views on government meddling and has captured the essence in terms that makes this a thought-provoking and eye-opening read.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review - Last Wool and Testament

Last Wool and Testament: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery

By: Molly MacRae
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 045123782X
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 19, 2012

Deputy Cole Dunbar didn’t cotton to people rip tearing through the streets of Blue Plum, Tennessee and Kath Rutledge didn’t cotton to wisecracking cops. Dunbar was going on and on about her grandmother’s death and even thought “it was mighty convenient for her that she did.” Huh? That clod was talking about her Granny’s passing and to top it all off, he called her “Crazy Ivy.” That did it. That man was denser than a pecan pie and nuttier than one too. Kath, a professional textile preservationist, had come home to oversee her Granny’s affairs, in particular to figure out what to do with her business, the Weaver’s Cat.

The Weaver’s Cat was “Granny’s pet” and was home to every fiber fanatic in Blue Plum. Unexpectedly, Kath got an earful from Granny’s cousins, the Spivey twins, Mercy and Shirley. It was a mercy Maude moment when she learned that the locks had been changed at Granny’s Lavender Street house and it now belonged to a Max Cobb. It was a not to worry moment because it just happened that there was a caretaker’s position open at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm and Granny’s dear friend, Ruth Wood, offered her the position. It certainly did seem opportune until Kath found out one little fact ... Emmett Cobb had been murdered there.

A corpse in the cottage wasn’t Kath’s idea of a good time, but on top of Em’s untimely demise, other strange things began to happen. Kath found a strange, ghostly, ghastly specter of a woman sobbing uncontrollably at her table, asking Em, “Why did I kill you?” Oh, no, Kath didn’t believe in all that New Age stuff, but she sure did believe it when someone broke into her pantry. Odd things started disappearing from Granny’s little Lavender Street house and it looked like blackmail was a mainstay in Blue Plum. What next? Kath didn’t have to wait long for her answer when Mercy Spivey, spouted out, “He was pushed. He’s the murdered kind of dead.” Where was Granny when she needed her most?

This surprisingly sparkling first book in this paranormal series will keep its readers asking for more. The ghost, Genevieve, was a very interesting character, one who actually assisted Kath as she tried to unravel the mystery. Kath was a rather reluctant paranormal sleuth, but once she garnered the assistance of a Blue Plum posse she became a confident one. I really enjoyed this cozy mystery as it had just the right elements that kept me (pardon the clichĂ©) turning the pages. Molly MacRae’s way with words could make me laugh out loud, especially when Kath let loose and hit ... well, I won’t spoil the fun. If you like a little bit of ghostly paranormal and a lot of good time, amusing characters, you’re going to love becoming acquainted with Kath Rutledge!

Quill says: Anyone who loves fabric, fantasy, and a good dollop of fun will adore Last Wool and Testament!

Book Review - One Little Christmas Tree

One Little Christmas Tree

By: The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer
Publisher: Good Times At Home LLC
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0984033812
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 2012

Alfred is a cute little Christmas tree living at Carl’s Christmas Tree Farm. He is quite happy because he has lots of sun to enjoy, water and food to help him grow big and strong, and a good friend, Mr. Phipps, a tall, beautiful Christmas tree who lives right next to him. Alfred thinks all he has to do is grow big and tall, but Mr. Phipps explains to him that there is more to being a Christmas tree than simply trying to be the biggest, tallest tree on the farm. Alfred’s job is to make a family happy at Christmas.

As Christmas approaches, Farmer Carl decorates his farm with lights to entice customers to stop and see his trees. Every day people come and buy trees, but they all want tall trees, not a little tree like Alfred. One day a family comes and buys Mr. Phipps; now Alfred is all alone. He is sad to see his friend go and spends that first Christmas all alone.

Christmas time comes and goes, year after year, and no family ever stops to admire Alfred. But as time went by, something amazing was happening…Alfred was growing tall and majestic! Would he finally go home with a special family and more importantly, would Alfred finally understand what Mr. Phipps had told him so many years earlier; that being a Christmas tree is truly about making a family happy?

This is a sweet story about one little tree who wants nothing more than to be loved by a special family. The ending is predictable but that’s exactly what we want in a story about Christmas – a happy ending that gives the reader a warm and fuzzy feeling. The illustrations are bright and lively and work well with the story. Alfred the Christmas tree is adorable and youngsters will be eager to learn whether he finally gets picked by a special family.

Quill says: The perfect book to read to your youngster as you cuddle in bed, waiting for Santa’s arrival.

Book Review - Cat and Crow

Cat and Crow: An Amazing Friendship

By: Lisa Fleming
Illustrated by: Anne Marie Dominik-Harris
Publisher: Collage Books
Publication Date: September 2011
ISBN: 9780938728238
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 19, 2012

One day, a little kitten, lost and alone, with no mother to protect her, wandered into Ann and Wally Collito’s yard. Ann put food out for the kitten, hopeful that the kitten would eat and grow strong. The tiny animal was so small that when a gust of wind came roaring through the property, the poor little animal was blown around. But then the most amazing thing happened; a wild crow, seeing the kitten in distress, flew down from his perch, wrapped his wings around the animal, and protected her. From that day on, Cassie the cat and Moses the crow were the best of friends.

Cassie and Moses spent every day playing, running through the Collito’s vegetable garden, tossing toys back and forth, and sharing their daily meals. In the winter, the cat went indoors with the Collitos, but still came outside to play each and every day. Perhaps the most amazing of all was the way these two friends protected each other; Moses urged Cassie out of the road and away from an oncoming car, while Cassie hissed and snarled and chased away not one, but two natural enemies of the crow - a big tomcat and a trouble-making dog.

Cat and Crow is based on an amazing true story of friendship between two natural enemies. The author had heard of this unusual relationship and knew that their story had to be told. Meeting with the Collitos, she was introduced to Cassie, the cat in the story (by this time the crow, after four years, had disappeared), and soon put to words the animals’ beautiful story. The illustrations are lovely and add much to the tale, making this a delightful children’s book. At the back of the book is an update on what happened to Cassie and Moses, pictures of the pair at play, a two-page spread with newspaper clippings on the remarkable friendship, two pages of facts about crows, followed by two pages of cat facts. Finally, be sure to check out the youtube videos of Cassie and Moses (just search on ‘cat and crow’) so you can see for yourself what makes this bond so special.

Quill says: An amazing, wonderful true story, told with love and understanding about the remarkable bond two unusual friends shared. Don’t miss this book!

Book Review - The Further Adventures of Blackjack

The Further Adventures of Blackjack: The Champion Morgan Horse

By: Ellen F. Feld
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing
Publishing Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9831138-5-0
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 18, 2012

For anyone who is not yet familiar with this award-winning and absolutely lovely series, Blackjack is the Morgan horse that young readers everywhere have fallen in love with. Ever since the series began with Blackjack: Dreaming of a Morgan Horse, there have been six in total that have introduced readers to Frosty, Rusty, Robin, Annie and Rimfire. And this new title offers even more adventure for Blackjack and his lovely owner, Heather Richardson.

When our story begins, Heather is competing in the World Championship and Blackjack was just announced the winner!

Okay…well…that’s actually just a dream. When Heather does wake up to get her day started, she and Blackjack find themselves stuck in a serious New England heat wave. And for anyone who has ever lived in this area, you know how horrible that is. Heather is taking care of her cast of friends, and Rerun – the little gray and white Miniature – is still a huge favorite of mine.

As show season nears an end, Heather is concentrating on getting Blackjack ready to travel to Oklahoma where he will compete in the “Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show,” in October. Unfortunately, when a poor decision by Heather causes a slight harm to Blackjack, he may not be able to compete. Not to mention that to even get enough money to go to the show, Heather will have to make yet another decision on whether or not to sell one of her very favorite friends.

The journey to Oklahoma is fraught with danger. Not only does a truly grand horse escape, causing Heather to track him down before he hurts himself; but she also finds herself in the middle of a tornado all alone.

As always her best friends join with Heather in order to make things better. However, will Blackjack come home as the winner of the ultimate prize? You have to read to find out.

This series is so pleasant to read that you instantly – no matter what your age – become truly engrossed with the Morgan who is friend, hero and the coolest sidekick a girl could ever have. I have to say one of the biggest delights for me was when Heather explained that she loved the ‘smell of the horses.’ To me, that is when the author’s own spirit came forth and ‘nailed’ the real reason why Blackjack and these stories are so special. Just like the smell of the ice is for hockey players, or the smell of a brand new book is for writers, you know instantly that this author has the same intense love for horses. This ‘ideal’ and the beauty of this sentiment are shown perfectly in these books, and is exactly why readers will keep coming back for more.

Quill Says: Another hit for the Morgan Horse series and I, for one, hope Blackjack’s adventures keep on coming!

To learn more about The Further Adventures of Blackjack: The Champion Morgan Horse, please visit the publisher's website at:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review - Red Heart Tattoo

Red Heart Tattoo

By: Lurlene McDaniel
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-73462-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2012

This is one of those rare fiction books that speak wholeheartedly and truthfully about some very serious issues that are occurring in our day and age. From terrorism by young adults to bullying, teen pregnancy, and the age old theory of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ - where a guy from one side of the tracks finds himself madly in love with a ‘perfect’ girl from the other side - this tale has it all.

As we begin, the school kids are all assembled in the courtyard excited about the fact that Thanksgiving Break is upon them and they finally get some time off from school to enjoy a holiday and each other. At 7:35 AM…a bomb is detonated, silencing their dreams…

As the author brings us back to September, we are introduced to a girl by the name of Morgan Frierson. Morgan is Student Council President dating one of the jocks who’s mainly a soccer star, but in this season he’s also the field goal kicker for the football team - she is one girl who seemingly has it all.

Also in school, when he feels like going, is Stuart Rothman (AKA: Roth). He’s liked Morgan since sixth grade - before he became the bad boy of the town. He lives with his Uncle, who has just taken a wife, and spends most of his time at his Uncle’s business - the Ink Spot tattoo parlor. His Uncle is a military guy with a big heart. Roth was orphaned at seven after his parents were killed in an explosion of their meth lad and became a ward of the state before being taken in by his Uncle, who makes sure that Roth knows that he MUST graduate high school no matter what, and drop this whole ‘wicked’ side.

Kelli, one of Morgan’s best friends, is a cheerleader whose parented by a mom who wants nothing more than to relive her glory days through her child; although Kelli has an issue that will not only erase the cheerleading career but will also cause her to face a break-up.

Roth’s best friend is a girl named Liza who wants far more than friendship. Add into all this a duo called ‘The Watchers’ who hate the popular students and want to make sure everyone knows it - and you have an unforgettable tale with a wealth of emotion.

This author has done a fantastic job of overlapping fiction with fact. So much so, that the reader will be heartbroken when they think about the very real troubles in today’s schools.

Quill Says: A lovely romance locked inside a tale of heartache, determination and a look at having to grow up way too fast!