Thursday, January 31, 2013

Books in for Review

Here's a sample of the books that have come in over the last few days. Check them out and then stop by our site again soon to read the reviews. Enjoy.

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic. Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna. Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she’d ever imagined. She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain. As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies...

Ring Around the Rosy by Jackie Fullerton Law student and amateur sleuth Anne Marshall and her attorney fiance Jason Perry leave their Midwestern town for a Florida vacation at the home of Jason’s parents. When they land in Florida, they find that Jason’s father has discovered the murdered body of his wife’s best friend, Maude. The only clue left behind is a note pinned to her that is the second verse of the nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosy. Unable to pass up the opportunity to investigate a juicy murder, Anne soon discovers that Maude’s brother was killed in a hit-and run accident several months before. The first verse of Ring Around the Rosy was pinned to his chest. Anne thinks the perp is a serial killer who will strike again. When Maude’s son, Ron, is brutally attacked and left for dead, Anne knows his work is just beginning. Racing against the clock, Anne soon finds herself in a serial killer’s crosshairs while battling an untimely attraction to homicide detective Don Reynolds. Ring Around the Rosy takes you on an adventure from present to past and back again as Anne and her crime-solving partners shift in to high gear to stop a killer before he strikes again!

Holy Smoke by Frederick Ramsay The year is 29 C. E. and Jerusalem chafes under the Roman Empire's continued presence and oppressive rule. But in spite of that unpleasant fact of life, life goes on—but not for everyone. People die, some because it is their time, others by misadventure. One death in particular brings the City's daily routine to a halt. A badly scorched body is found behind the veil of The Holy of Holies—the Temple's inner sanctum, the most sacred space on earth for the Jews. No one except the High Priest may enter this place and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is no casual violation and the authorities are in an uproar.Gamaliel, the Rabban of the Sanhedrin, the ranking rabbi in all of Judea, finds himself drawn into solving this delicate mystery while dark agents with unholy interests, plot to seize control of much of the trade in certain highly profitable imports from the east and west.Loukas, the physician, plays “Watson” to Gamaliel's “Sherlock” as the tangled web of intrigue and murder is slowly unraveled, but not before more bodies, both literal and figurative pop up. All the while Yeshua, the radical rabbi from the Galilee, continues to annoy the High Priest and smoke, Holy Smoke, from the sacrifices rise from the Temple.

Too Small for my Big Bed: Sleep Tight in your own bed tonight! by Amber Stewart Piper is a very active little tiger cub who loves jumping and climbing all day long. Every day, with Mommy tiger there to encourage him, Piper learns to do something new--and do it all by himself. But when bedtime arrives, Piper dislikes the dark night, and he especially dislikes sleeping all alone in his bed. He wakes up in the middle of each night, and feeling all alone, he goes to Mommy so he can sleep cuddled up in her bed. How can Mommy tiger help him overcome his fear so that he can sleep alone the whole night through? Both parents and toddlers will recognize an all too familiar situation--and how to solve it--as Mom or Dad reads this story aloud to their little boy or girl.

Psalm 23 In this follow-up to his bestselling children's book, The Lord's Prayer, illustrator Richard Jesse Watson brings to life the beloved Psalm 23. Watson's use of vibrant color and detailed imagery beautifully captures the essence of the comforting words of David, bringing the King James Version of Psalm 23 alive for readers young and old.

Complete Knitting Skills by Debbie Tomkies Absolute beginners can learn to knit, and experienced knitters can expand their repertories when they take advantage of this absolutely unique approach to knitting. Complete Knitting Skills is an illustrated manual, augmented with an innovative series of accompanying online tutorials. Knitters can learn techniques from the book's photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions--or they can access the closely related online tutorials, using their smartphone with QR codes printed in the book. They can also access tutorials on their laptop via the internet. Most often, knitters will want to use both book and tutorial in tandem, taking advantage of the best that both have to offer. The tutorials present the advantage of start-and-stop instruction, so that knitters can practice new techniques at their own pace. This truly exceptional combination book-and-video knitting course presents-- A wide range of knitting techniques, including lace, cables, textured patterns, beaded knitting, and more A trouble-shooting SOS section that shows how to spot mistakes and avoid them Advanced techniques for experienced knitters to give their knitted items that professional touch Here is a combination package that gives beginners the confidence to tackle more advanced projects, while also delighting experienced knitters with a wealth of new techniques. The book features approximately 800 color illustrations.

Through Irish Eyes: A Visual Companion to Angela McCourt's Ireland by Malachy McCourt A private tour through the world of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review - Targets of Revenge

Targets of Revenge

By: Jeffrey S. Stephens
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: February 2013
ISBN: 968-78145168872-6
Reviewed By: Mary Lignor
Review Date: January 29, 2013

Very smooth….I hung on every word. This is a one-day read because you will be unable to put it down.

There have been two books published by this author featuring Jordan Sandor, an agent of the CIA (Targets of Deception and Targets of Opportunity). Jordan is definitely his own man. He seems to do what he wants when he wants and is always in trouble, but you just keep reading because the plot is so busy. Trouble seems to follow Jordan and his cohorts and his many reprimands from the powers that be are always listened to and he then forgets them and goes his own way. In this new installment, he is looking for revenge. Jordan is on the hunt for “Adina,” a terrorist who enjoys killing and has killed Jordan’s close friend. So, Jordan gathers his team of agents and goes in search of Adina who is hiding out in the jungles of Venezuela.

Jordan crashes a glider in the aforementioned jungle and sets off to assassinate Adina in his lair. He is carrying not much more than a knife and gun when he finds himself faced with Adina’s camp and his many guards. The guards are nothing to this guy who dispatches them one after another and tries to find Adina. On his way to find the terrorist, he comes upon a lab that is packing up tons of cocaine that will be smuggled across the border into the United States. Along with this, he also finds a deadly substance that will be put in with the drug that could cost many lives in the US. So, he puts off the killing of Adina and escapes the jungle and the guards that he hasn’t already taken care of to take this new information to the authorities.

Jordan and his CIA buddies develop intelligence that sends him off to Egypt and then to Moscow as he tries to prevent this disaster from happening. Unfortunately, he ends up on Interpol’s list of international fugitives and that kind of puts a crimp into his plan. Of course, it takes more than that to stop Jordan so it's not long before he discovers that someone on his own side is feeding information to the bad guys. Jordan and his team have uncovered a plan to carry out a terrorist attack on a major US city and now have to stop it from happening.

There is constant action in this third installment in the series that makes you think that Jordan Sandor is at least a Superman in that he does get hurt but always manages to come out on top. I highly recommend this book to all suspense/thriller readers.

Quill Says: I always loved Jessica Fletcher and James Bond, but never wanted to be too close to them as wherever they landed the bodies started piling up. Jordan Sandor is like that. I love to read about him but wouldn’t want to be his buddy. I really loved this book and can’t wait for the next.

Book Review - The Next Time You See Me

The Next Time You See Me

By: Holly Goddard Jones
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4516-8336-3
Publishing Date: February 2013
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: January 2013

This book is a well written novel that takes in many different personalities that are extremely different but come together before the ending. These folks are living in a small town, Roma, Kentucky. Most people know that in a small town, where everybody knows your name (like Cheer’s in Boston) no one ever gets away with anything as eyes are always on you. This book contains outsiders who make up things that the insiders truly believe, middle-school kids who are just beginning to believe what life is all about, and middle-aged adults who seem to have forgotten everything that they were told when they were in middle-school. In other words,the lost souls and the souls that found themselves and everyone in between. The consequences that the people in this book have to live with are worthy of Desperate Housewives.

The story begins with Emily Houchens, a 13-year-old who doesn’t fit in with her classmates and is not very popular. Emily likes to go into the woods near her home and play make-believe games that have nothing at all to do with the kids in her class. One difficult day, she goes on a little jaunt in the woods and discovers a dead body. She decides not to tell anyone about her secret and then has to live with her decision. Another character, Susanna Mitchell, who is one of Emily’s teachers, is a nice woman with a husband and daughter and is very responsible. Susanna also doesn’t like her life but will not say anything about how she feels. She is married to Dale, who is also a teacher and, in my humble opinion, kind of a chauvinistic jerk, who really doesn’t appreciate his wife and daughter. This leads Susanna to get a little hit of wine every now and then. Ronnie, who is Susanna’s sister, is the exact opposite, a very unpredictable, party loving woman who lives her life the way she wants to and doesn’t care what other people think. Susanna is worried about Ronnie as she has been missing for a while and no one knows where she has gone. Being the free spirit that she is, Ronnie is not missed by anyone as they think she has just gone off by herself and will come back when she is ready.

Along with these people there is a detective, Tony, who was once an up and coming baseball player and Wyatt, a man working in a factory who has something in his past that is bothering him. Getting all these people together and connecting their lives brings this book into its sad ending. It also brings to light the secrets kept by the cast of characters in this book. Kudos to the author for managing this difficult task.

Quill Says: This books surely takes into account all the tensions in small town living and shows each personality with all their problems.

Book Review - Four Secrets

Four Secrets

By: Margaret Willey
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761385356
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 30, 2013

One day they were leading life on their own terms and the next they found themselves at Ferndale Juvenile Detention center with social worker, Greta Shield, breathing down their necks. Honestly, who wanted to journal about the experience. Lenora Dobson, who was livid and wouldn’t talk about her son, Chase, said to Mrs. Shield, “They are social misfits from dysfunctional families.” Chase was the athletic darling of North Holmes, but also the biggest bully to walk through the doors of any school. Katie Havenga didn’t fancy being in juvie, but they had to find “a way to stop Chase Dobson from hurting Renata.” No one was going to help them now because they weren’t the “important kids.”

Granted, no one would never think that kidnapping Chase and holding him hostage was even remotely kosher, but something had to be done. They kept him at Renata Le Cortez’s house on the ground floor and her mother didn’t even notice. It wasn’t her style. From the day Katie and Nate Wilson met her, she’d become Katie’s “perfect and beautiful friend.” The three of them had created their own perfect little family and had made a pact never to tell what had gone on. Before anything happened, Renata proudly told them that “We’re going to prove something once and for all to all the Chase Dobsons of the world.” She needed their help and would get it. “Are you going to torture me? Like with cigarettes?” Chase Dobson III had asked them that night.

Greta Shield read an “overview of the kidnapping charges and the subsequent arrests” from the police report. There were “riddles and ciphers” in the journals and nothing was adding up. Despite the fact that the three had been separated, they held steadfast to their pact to keep silent. Katie’s journal was little more than a juvie weather report and Renata’s a drawing portfolio. Nate, or Nathaniel as he preferred to be called, had shifted into a "budding fantasy writer." Greta found his entries practically indecipherable. “The Master will destroy me if I do not keep my promises and he will destroy my sisters if they do not also keep their promises.” Something was not adding up, but perhaps Martin Collier, a coach at the school, could help her. Greta couldn’t quite believe they’d kidnapped Chase, but just why were they acting so strangely and what kind of secrets were they harboring? She was running short of time and was breaking boundaries by trying to help them, but could she do it before he Dobsons got their revenge?

This phenomenal take on the secret lives and the lies of four young people was mesmerizing. Initially, the story was somewhat disjointed, something I later felt was a deliberate literary tool to indicate their chaotic lives and situation. There didn’t appear to be any cohesion between the characters when they were first dumped in juvie. Once they recovered from the initial shock, even though separated by walls and time, their characters and purpose grew continually stronger as they merged. They had created a pact “because there is a secret story and it is inside of another secret story.” The kidnapping was not all it appeared to be and, because of the circumstances behind the pact, I discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) that loyalty grows deep among young people. This tale of harbored secrets is a powerful one that young readers can definitely relate to and enjoy.

Quill says: If you want a tale of youthful internal intrigue and a mysterious pact, this is one tale you'll never forget!

Book Review - The Glee Cast

The Glee Cast: Inspiring Gleek Mania (USA Today Lifeline Biographies)

By: Felicity Britton
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761386391
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2103

William McKinley High School’s glee club was loaded with a bunch of outcasts. Where else would you find an overweight diva, a “super-talented nerd,” a gay loner, a wheelchair-bound boy, and a jock? Throw in a smattering of other losers and what do you come up with? Glee of course. If you’ve ever watched the series, you surely have your favorites among the cast and undoubtedly look forward to seeing them in the next episode. Perhaps all of us can relate to one or another of them as we travel through high school or recall our days there. Co-creator and executive producer, Ryan Murphy, claims that he “wanted to give voices to people who don’t have voices.”

If you’ve wowed over the glee club’s renditions of songs such as Joanne Osborne’s “One of Us” or “The Only Exception” by Paramore, you’ll definitely want to know about the people behind the voices. In this book you’ll become intimately acquainted with the cast of Glee, Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Dianna Agron, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz, Harry Shum Jr., Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Naya Rivera, Jane Lynch, and Matthew Morrison. You’ll learn when and how they started out in show business, what motivates them, how they developed their characters, what hopes they have for the future, and more.

The writers attempted to portray the group as young people with “strength, vulnerability, grace, awkwardness, anger, humor, hope, and talent--traits much like those of the real-life actors who play them.” Dianna Agron felt the sting of rejection early on in spite of the fact that she was a talented dancer. Amber Riley came from a family “working in creative fields,” but she had a good case of nerves when it came to auditioning. Lea Michele was absolutely, totally insecure about her looks when she was a teen and admired those beautiful blonde beauties even though she was working on Broadway.

Chris Colfer was one of those kids who “was overweight, with braces, freckles, and his distinctive high-pitched voice.” He figured if he dieted, which he did, things would change for him. No such thing. Instead he simply felt “like a skinny loser instead of a fat loser.” Get the picture? Each cast member portrayed in this book has their own personal story to offer up and at times it just wasn’t a pretty picture. Dreams do come true and when auditions for Glee began Ryan Murphy “found” something perfect about them for the characters they would portray. Even Jane Lynch, whose character wanted to destroy the glee club, has a very interesting story of her own!

This is a fascinating look at the story behind the making of the series of Glee and the cast members. Even young people who aren’t familiar with the show will be interested in checking out the series after reading about the Glee cast. These mini-biographies could be from anywhere U.S.A. except for the fact that the cast ended up becoming stars. Of course the message they all appear to want to impart to their fans and readers of this book is that in spite of everything they never gave up on their dreams. Talent and perseverance has kept them on the radar, a place where they’ll be for some time to come. There are photographs galore scattered throughout these pages along with period USA today stories that touch on Glee. There are numerous informative sidebars that add to the reader’s teen experience. In the back of the book is an index, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you're wild about Glee, you're sure to enjoy meeting the cast and listening to their stories!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Interview with Ron Fritsch - Author of Promised Valley Conspiracy

Today we're talking with Ron Fritsch, author of Promised Valley Conspiracy

FQ: Coming in on the third novel of this series, I found it extremely helpful to see the spoiler in the back of the book. Did you have reservations in providing this to your readership? If so, what were they?

RF: No. After I published the first book in the series, Promised Valley Rebellion, I realized I needed to provide a character list for two reasons. First, I have an abundant number of characters populating a four-book prehistoric epic. Second, they share the names, as our ancestors did, of natural objects—such as Rose Leaf, Morning Sun, Blue Sky, Gentle Brook, Spring Rain, Green Field, and Wandering Star—or attributes—such as Fair Judge, Many Numbers, Long Arm, Lightning Spear, Dancing Song, War Cloud, and True Hunter. I understand why a reader might find it difficult to keep track of such a cast. So I've included character lists at the end of each novel, clearly (I hope) explaining that reading the lists in the second, third, and fourth books will give away what happened in the previous novels. I believe in accommodating the reader. If someone wishes to read the upcoming and last fourth novel, perhaps only in order to decide whether to read the first three, I should make it easy for the reader to do that.

FQ: It’s no secret that fiction authors aspire to achieve reality. When I first read men would ‘go with’ men and women with women I was surprised to see how natural the premise flowed within the story line. What compelled you to write this into prehistoric beginnings?

RF: From what I've read concerning prehistory and sexuality, I can't help but imagine some peoples in the past recognized same-sex relationships were equal in value to those of the opposite-sex variety—to both the individuals and their people. I chose to imagine at some time and place in prehistory discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was off the table. And then I could include gay and lesbian characters in societies that put them to good use. Not having children of their own to raise, they had the time to listen to, remember, and retell their people's stories. (Prehistoric peoples by definition had no written languages.) The gay and lesbian characters also had the time to hear their people’s quarrels and decide them, by telling the disputants how their quarrel should be resolved, in place of the king. These "tellers" are what we’d call "priests" or "judges." They also fought in the front lines in their wars in place of those who did have children to support.

FQ: If you were approached today and asked to re-write history, what would be the one event in your Promised Valley series you would like to see as reality today?

RF: While I'd certainly like to see the existence of LGBTQ persons and their place among their peoples treated as a fact and not as a highly contentious issue, I'd like to see one thing even more. It's the final word of the title of my fourth book in the series: Promised Valley Peace. When, as Blue Sky hopes, peoples "pay no further heed to meaningless distinctions between themselves and their neighbors, even those concerning their gods, but will live in respectful peace together."

FQ: If you had lived in Promised Valley times, what peoples would be your preference; the hill or valley and why?

RF: I couldn't choose between them. I admire the valley people (the farmers) for their willingness to embrace knowledge of the natural world and make full use of it, as in domesticating animals and plants. But I also have a place in my heart for the hill people (the hunters and gatherers) who take comfort in tradition and resent the need to bow down to the new.

FQ: It seems conflict, corruption, and brutality have been a mainstay and part of life; even in the beginnings of time. To quote a section: “The conspirators working for a new kingdom well knew they’d need to fight on two fronts, the first against Lightning Spear’s corruption, the second against Thunder Hunter’s—and now War Cloud’s—brutality.” Who is your favorite villain and why?

RF: Lightning Spear. His self-serving corruption, cynicism, and contempt for the people, his own included, are appalling. And yet his greatest joy is to sit in his tent, with his cup of the farmers' illegal wine in hand, and speak with the four leading conspirators, including his daughter and son, who wish nothing more than the end of his reign. That his four special guests very often disagree with him, in the privacy of his tent, about what he should do for the people doesn’t bother him. He sometimes even changes his mind after hearing what they have to say.

FQ: Do you ever plan to develop Promised Valley for the ‘big screen’?

RF: Yes. I intend to write screenplays for all four novels. I confess I wrote the books with as many cinematic scenes as I could fit into them. They include the battles, of course, but also the numerous crowd scenes, with thousands of people in view. The valley with its carpets of wheat and barley, the river running through them, the pastures where the horses frolic, the steep gorges, and the forested mountainsides should give the films the epic quality they deserve.

FQ: I have to say, I’ve become a fan and intend to go back and read your first two in the series. Given there is only one Promised Valley book remaining in the series, have you begun to cultivate what lays beyond the hill and valley peoples? If so, any possibility of sharing?

RF: My next novel might be a stand-alone courtroom drama. What appears to be a double homicide takes place in the 1950’s. A woman is on trial in the 1970’s for committing the crime. Notice which decade falls in between.

Many thanks, Feathered Quill, for asking me such interesting questions.

To learn more about Promised Valley Conspiracy please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Books for Review

Here's a sample of the books that have recently come in for review. Check them out and then stop by our site soon to read the reviews. Enjoy!

Through Irish Eyes: A Visual Companion to Angela McCourt's Ireland A private tour through the world of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir.

Psalm 23 by Richard Jesse Watson In this follow-up to his bestselling children's book, The Lord's Prayer, illustrator Richard Jesse Watson brings to life the beloved Psalm 23. Watson's use of vibrant color and detailed imagery beautifully captures the essence of the comforting words of David, bringing the King James Version of Psalm 23 alive for readers young and old.

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried. Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime, and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels, snagged on the agendas of a colorful cast of strangers. A jilted woman searches for her lost fiancé, a fringe dweller runs from a past that’s quickly gaining on him, and a couple of earnest local detectives piece clues together with the help of a volunteer police dog—all in the shadow of a dead man who had it coming. As the action unfolds, each character discovers that knowing more than one side of the story doesn't necessarily rule out a deadly margin of error.

Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal, Revised and Updated: The Best and Worst Choices to Treat your Ailments Naturally The first edition of Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal changed the way we view food and its impact on our bodies. More than 7 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide since then, and interest in food as medicine has only grown as researchers have continued to discover the crucial connections between diet and chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious illnesses, as well as the impact of food on stress, insomnia, and other common complaints. In this completely revised, updated, and redesigned edition, you'll find: More than 90 health condition entries from arthritis to insomnia to heart disease Almost 150 food entries from apples to zucchini, including fast food, additives, and more Simple ways to eat, cook, and store each food Food-medicine interactions to be aware of Sidebars on everything from the new USDA Food Plate to the many benefits of vitamin D, probiotics and super foods like goji berries and acai.

Steampunk: H.G. Wells No classic work lends itself better to Steampunk illustrations than The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and "The Country of the Blind," written by H.G. Wells, who many consider to be the father of Steampunk itself. Wells’s tales of time travel and scientific romance is the perfect collection to the Steampunk series. Fans old and new will be delighted by Basic and Sumberac’s four-color illustrations spiked with Steampunk machinery, gadgets, and fashion.

A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower The people of Appleseed Creek in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country are under attack. Soon after the dust has settled on a buggy accident that turned out to be murder, an unknown assailant begins cutting off the long hair of Amish women and the beards of Amish men. New to the area, computer specialist Chloe Humphrey may not share their customs, but she is certainly alarmed over these crimes against the Amish and worries how such events will impact her growing number of friends who are more connected to that way of life. In this small community, when Chloe discovers the body of an Amish businessman who was stabbed in the back and whose beard was cut off, she knows that finding the murderer and restoring peace to Appleseed Creek is as much her responsibility as anyone else’s.

The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution by Donna Thorland They are lovers on opposite sides of a brutal war, with everything at stake and no possibility of retreat. They can trust no one—especially not each other.Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love. Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.

Book Review - Heart of Ice

Heart of Ice

By: P.J. Parrish
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: February 2013
ISBN: 978-143918937-5
Reviewed by Mary Lignor
Review Date: January 28, 2013

In this new mystery novel by P.J. Parrish, Louis Kincade, Private Investigator, goes back to his roots in the state of Michigan, taking his newly found daughter, Lily on a short vacation. He has just found out recently that he has a daughter and wants nothing more than to make up for the time they’ve missed.

Louis takes Lily to Mackinac Island off the coast of Michigan for some ‘alone time.’ They are taking a bicycle ride around the island when Lily comes upon an old, abandoned hunting cabin. While looking around the old house, Lily falls through a rotted out floor and lands on a pile of human bones. Louis calls the island’s police chief, who is not terribly good at solving crimes, and is talked into helping out on this extremely cold case. Louis is between jobs at the moment and accepts the police chief’s offer to help out. During the investigation, Louis and the local police have to work with an investigator, Norm Rafsky, who once worked with Louis’ girlfriend many years previously; a girlfriend who comes to help and ignites tempers between the various police presences.

This is one terrific story. So many stories come to light that go back at least twenty years. A missing skull turns out to be a ‘key’ factor in the investigation that brings about mysteries galore. There are many interesting characters waiting in the wings to also mess up the investigation, including: an old flame of the supposed victim; a slightly disturbed young man with an affinity for bones; police who do not like each other at all and are in a race to see who is the smartest; Louis, who is trying to mend fences; and Rafsky, who hates everyone including himself. Readers will have to pay attention as the characters move around very quickly and you could get confused. I read the book in one afternoon as I wanted desperately to find out who did it.

This amazing series is written by two sisters who have a wonderful imagination and do very good research. One of them lives in Florida, where Louis dwells at present and the other in Michigan, where the book takes place. The plotting and characters are first rate and I’m looking forward to the next ‘chapter’ in Louis’ life!

Quill Says: Never close your eyes – never turn the pages too quickly – you do NOT want to miss a thing!

Book Review - The Girl Who Chased the Moon

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

By: Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: February 2011
ISBN: 978-0553385595
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 28, 2012

The Girl Who Chased the Moon is a fairy tale set in the modern world, with just a touch of magic, enough to make it fun and yet, almost believable.

After the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Emily Benedict moves from Boston to Mullaby, a sleepy little town in North Carolina to live with her grandfather Vance, a man she’s never met. Life in Mullaby, however, isn’t really so quiet as everybody knows their neighbor’s business, and things are, well, just a little bit magical.

After getting a lukewarm reception from both her grandfather and the inhabitants of Mullaby, Emily learns that her mother Dulcie was not well-liked in the small town. She was a spoiled brat, who, after the death of her mother, was given everything she wanted. Vance, a shy, awkward giant of a man (8 feet tall!), simply didn’t know how to handle his daughter and just threw money at her in the hopes she’d be happy. What she became was the queen bee (or is that “bee-atch”?) of the local high school, with a group of sycophants to support her, who were cruel to many less popular kids. Dulcie also hurt her boyfriend, embarrassing him in front of the whole town. He committed suicide, Dulcie left town, and now that Emily has moved to Mullaby, many inhabitants treat her as though the whole mess was her fault.

Julia Winterson, Emily’s new next door neighbor, and a past victim of Dulcie’s cruel nature, befriends the young girl and does her best to help. But she has secrets of her own that she must work out. While Julia tries to save up enough money to leave Mullaby once and for all, she must also, once and for all, deal with her old love Sawyer. Emily, meanwhile, is falling for Win Coffey, the nephew of Dulcie’s old boyfriend, the one who killed himself. Emily’s grandfather, as well as Win’s family, do their best to keep the pair apart, but to no avail. Secrets abound, secrets that nobody wants to share with Emily, but which the determined teen will do her best to learn.

In a town where mystical lights dance in the woods, the wallpaper in Emily’s bedroom changes depending on her mood, and the smell of a delectable cake baking can draw an old beau, secrets from the past still hold tight. The author has done a great job of drawing the reader in, writing interesting and sympathetic characters, and inserting just a tad of magic so the story is almost believable. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is a quick and very enjoyable read.

Quill says: A sweet story that blends several different relationships with a touch of magic, to form a perfectly enjoyable story that is best read under a full moon, where you just might see those ‘Mullaby Lights.’

Book Review - Communication Smarts

Communication Smarts: How to Express Yourself Best in Conversations, Texts, E-mails, and More

By: Sandy Donovan
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761370246
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

Prehistoric communication was quite a bit different than Twitter, texting, and talking on the phone. Drums and smoke signals would make communicating with your friends a tad difficult, if not impossible. It wasn’t until the advent of the alphabet and “a way of creating words, sentences, and long, boring books” that we were able to communicate more quickly and effectively. With the advent of cell phones, Facebook, blogs, and other forms of social communication teens talk to one another in a much different and unusual way than generations before them.

A century ago television had not yet been invented but today ”it seems as if our communication options are endless.” It can be overwhelming, but there are the old standards such as letter writing and simple conversation. There are different kinds of conversations, but each type has similar “ingredients.” You’ll learn about the spoken word, volume, tone, inflection, the importance of minding your manners, and the give and take needed to sustain a conversation.

Text, text, text. Some teens do a lot of it and in fact “a 2011 study found that kids ages twelve to seventeen sent an average of 3,364 texts per month.” Yes, there are a few things to think about when you text, including when not to text. E-mail and social media also are forms of communication that have intrinsic rules that everyone needs to consider. For example, if you aren’t careful on Facebook, “some posts can actually put you in danger.”

Another way to communicate is the art of letter writing. Ever try it? Thank-you notes and cover letters can get you a long way in life. So just how can you use your wide array of communication skills to your advantage? Can the way you use them be detrimental? You’ll also learn about the problem of mixed signals, how you can settle differences, learn how to “become a confident public speaker,” and you’ll learn many other ways you can learn to communicate effectively and use your “communication smarts.”

This is an excellent book to introduce young people to the art of communicating wisely and effectively. Teens, unlike their grandparents and even their parents, are communicating in ways much, much different than generations before them. This book gives an excellent overview of how teens can use the means they have to communicate in a wise, efficient, and courteous manner. There are now new rules of etiquette, ones that didn’t exist previously, that teens need to be aware of. For example, they need to know “when it’s appropriate to text.” Interspersed throughout the book are period USA Today articles that discuss an assortment of communications methods. The book has full-color photographs and numerous informative sidebars. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This USA Today "Teen Wise Guides: Lifestyle Choices Series" is an excellent series for teens to learn how to make lifestyle changes and choices.

Book Review - The Normal Kid

The Normal Kid

By: Elizabeth Holmes
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761380856
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

Sylvan was going to be in the fifth grade at Henderson Elementary and because of his mom Lila’s activism he had a new nickname. Everyone had seen that corny picture of him in the newspaper with that “dumb grin and a couple of old hippies” behind him. Seemed like every time there was a cause she made him hold a sign. “Tree boy” considered himself perfectly normal, but there were a couple of kids who were ... well, just kind of weird. There was Charity Jensen who “spent almost her whole life in Africa” and then there was Brian Laidlaw, the “Trampoline kid,” who bounced his way through life. Weird. Just plain old weird and not normal.

Mr. Inayatullah, who asked to be called Mr. In, was their teacher. Weird Charity shook his hand when she came into the classroom and stood when called on. She wanted to make friends, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Charity was “homesick for Shibuye,” her school, and her best friend, Grace Mbaya. Her parents had been missionaries, but things changed forever when her dad decided he just had to have a spire on their church. Mr. Kafuna was dead and “if it weren’t for [her] father, he would still be alive.” Charity was way too far away from Kenya in a strange place where they didn’t even pray at school. Heck, her dad wouldn’t even say grace at meals anymore.

Everyone would be working on an “Explore the World” project with another student. As luck would have it, Mr. In paired Sylvan with Brian, who was always “awkward and nervous” and Charity was stuck with Adam, who wouldn’t do a lick of work. Brian was playing math games on the library computer. Such an idiot. Adam was doing nothing. Another idiot. All of a sudden the classroom got lots of attention as the principal and other observers began to come in. Charity overhead them on the playground saying different things like he was “not fully prepared,” he had “limitations,” and it was a “poor environment.” They had to really come together and make sure that even Brian Laidlaw did a good job on the project. Could they do it or was Mr. In going to be fired?

This is a heartwarming story of how Mr. In’s fifth-grade classroom learns that differences are not so bad after all. Sylvan, who has a few quirks of his own, has his own definition of who is normal and who is not. He flat out states that “I really am a normal, average everyday kid,” but thinks that other kids are weird if they aren’t just like him. Many children have difficulty understanding those who are different, including children like Brian Laidlaw who is developmentally disabled and Charity who grew up in another culture. The tale, told from both Sylvan and Charity’s points of view, slowly merges as they begin to understand “differences.” The charming twist at the end is a perfect conclusion to a tale young readers will relate to and enjoy!

Quill says: This amazing, well-written tale is an excellent one that will let kids know that weirdos really aren't that bad after all ... if you get to know them!

Book Review - Their Skeletons Speak

Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World

By: Sally M. Walker
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761374572
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2103

Columbia River’s McNary Dam would not flow freely on July 28, 1996. The Tri-City Water Follies spelled excitement as thousands gathered along its banks for the Columbia Cup Race, including Will Thomas and Dave Deacy. They were searching for a good spot along the banks of the river, but unexpectedly found something that would ultimately change our view of history as we know it. The skull Thomas pulled from the sand was not one of a murder victim, nor one of someone who had died a century ago, it was a Paleoamerican. It is now known to the scientific community as the Kennewick Man, a man who predated our civilization by thousands of years.

It wasn’t long before James Chatters, “local paleontologist and archaeologist,” arrived on the site to examine the skull and later return to search for other bones. The skull was quite distinctive and did not look like that of an ancient Native American nor that of any European settler. Searching through the mud and muck barefooted, Chatters recovered an amazing number of bones. It was critical to find the femur as “potentially a femur can offer a great deal of information to whom it belonged, including height, weight, and whether the person was active or not.” Once recovery was complete, intense scrutiny of the remains began.

Chatters quickly ascertained that there were calcium carbonate concentrations on the bone, but he soon spotted something most unusual embedded in the ilium. He knew immediately that this “object was a stone spearpoint,” something that could conceivably tell him many things about the Kennewick Man, including how old he was and possibly where he came from. The spearpoint closely resembled a Cascade point, one prehistoric hunters used “five thousand to nine thousand years ago.” The mystery of the Kennewick Man would only deepen with time the more the facets of bones were examined. Just how much would they tell scientists and how could they speak to them?

Other Paleoamericans had surfaced and through them we have learned about the history of a civilization long gone. There was the mummy in Spirit Cave, the Spirit Cave Man. Instrumentation such as an accelerator mass spectrometer would later be used to date such remains. There was the Arlington Springs Woman who lived between “12,950 and 12,698 years ago.” Captain Thurston Shawn’s ship, “Cinmar,” was fishing for scallops when they reeled in “a massive skull, complete with tusks and teeth.” It was a mastodon. And then there was the Arch Lake Woman. You’ll read about the circumstances behind these types of Paleoamerican discoveries and just what their skeletons tell us and more!

This is an exciting and extremely fascinating examination of the Kennewick man and other Paleoamerican discoveries. This is the type of book that will not only appeal to a younger audience, but also an older one. The thrill of discovery emanating from the pages is almost palpable. There are numerous full-color photographs, drawings, and comparative charts that allow the reader to almost participate and draw their own conclusions or hypothesis about the discoveries. For example, when discussing the unusual crest of the Horn Shelter Man’s forearms, we see the bones with the crests delineated by red squares. Was he a drummer, a toolmaker, or a shaman? The book focuses on the Kennewick man, but several other mysteries are covered, an aspect that makes the book even more interesting. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a listing of study teams, a map of Paleoamerican discoveries, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is a stunning overview of the Kennewick Man and other Paleoamerican discoveries that is definitely one that you should add to your wish list!

Book Review - The Planet of Music

The Planet of Music: The Little Prince

By: Guillaume Dorison
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761387534
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

Euphony’s magical voice echoed throughout the Utian’s Citadel of Music. Her fans were awed by the sound of her beautiful voice and clasped their hands to their chests as she sang. After the concert they rushed toward her to ask for her autograph, but she was too exhausted to comply. She spotted a rose on the floor and knelt down to pick it up. “Hey, you! Wait!” The hooded man who had dropped the rose raced down the hallway with not so much as a glance backward. Many months later the Little Prince and the Fox would arrive at their planet, but the Snake had gotten there before them.

A sonic blast of music erupted soon after their arrival. It was a wave that hurt their ears and came in like a tsunami. The Little Prince quickly donned his uniform, held his sword to his chest, and quickly stopped the blast as his magic dust swirled around him. Mr. Otto and his trumpet had been caught up in the blast, but he left it behind in anger. A beautiful young woman told the Little Prince where to find him. “Everything on this planet,” he told Fox as they walked, “Is linked to music. If the Snake put their instruments out of tune, all the inhabitants will be lost.”

The instruments were not the only things out of tune. Euphony’s beautiful voice was failing her and she seemed so strange. Semitone claimed that it was “her fault that the factory is off-kilter and is producing these wicked instruments of chaos.” Euphony had somehow fallen in love with Prince Ivory, a member of the Pistilaries, the Flower Growers. Surely there had to be trickery and the Snake would once again try to destroy a planet. War would be imminent if the Little Prince would be unable to convince the Utians and their sworn enemies that love was better than war. Would he be able to once again defeat the Snake or was the planet doomed?

This is the exciting tale of the Little Prince who tries to prevent Snake from pitting the Utians against the Flower Growers. The characters in this new series are based on those in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. This fast-paced, exciting graphic novel will appeal to young readers, including reluctant ones. The Little Prince and Fox left Rose back on Asteroid B612 in search of the evil Snake who is trying to create more havoc in the universe. The contrast between the gentle nature of the Little Prince, who is determined to save everyone, is in stark contrast to the evil, hissing snake. The artwork is stunning and the fantasy panels will have definite appeal to the young reader. In the back of the book is a brief biographical sketch of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and a four-page bonus story, The Little Prince, as imagined by Convard & Griffo.

Quill says: The Planet of Music is the third in a new series about the Little Prince, a graphic novel that is sure to excite young fantasy readers!

Book Review - Battle of the Dinosaur Bones

Battle of the Dinosaur Bones: Othniel Charles Marsh Vs Edward Drinker Cope

By: Rebecca L. Johnson
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761354888
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh met in Berlin in 1863. One would think that because they were both “rising stars in the new scientific field of paleontology” that they would somehow be destined to become close friends. On the contrary, in time they became contentious rivals and enemies. Initially Marsh had little interest in anything when he was young, including an education. An inheritance made him rethink his life and at the age of twenty, he resolved to improve his lot in life and return to school. On a rock-hunting trip he found “two fossil fish vertebrae” that would alter his life. The money continued to flow as did his career.

Cope, on the other hand, was a child prodigy who loved to walk the halls of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He was so impressed by what he saw “he started his own collection of rocks and fossils.” Despite his father’s insistence that he become a gentleman farmer, Cope pressed on, eventually becoming a student of Joseph Leidy, “the foremost U.S. anatomist and vertebrate paleontologist.” By the time he met Marsh in Berlin he was already well established in the field and was “an expert in vertebrates, both living and extinct.” What should have been a superb collaborative team quickly escalated into what became known as the “Bone Wars.”

The competition began when Marsh found an unusual bone, a bone that turned out “to be one of the most exciting discoveries” anyone had ever made in the field. It was from a pterodactyl, but not to be outdone, Cope headed for Kansas and “found a pterodactyl bigger than Marsh’s.” On and on they went. Cope however, was a more prodigious writer than Marsh, but Marsh had better funding for his expeditions. Many of their discoveries supported Darwin’s theories and filled in those missing pieces needed to support his theory of evolution. Just how far would these two men go with their battle. Would the Bone Wars help much needed work in the field of paleontology or hinder its progress?

This is an amazing look into the history of the scandalous rivalry between Marsh and Cope and their “Bone Wars.” Not many young people are aware than these two men even existed, let alone the importance of their discoveries. The reader will be fascinated with the blow-by-blow account of their intense rivalry. Marsh and Cope gave us a valuable look into the past, but they also made “mistakes that other paleontologist took years to correct.” The history of the field of paleontology in this book will be of high interest to anyone interested in the field, especially those interested in dinosaur fossils. The book has numerous black and white photographs and informative sidebars. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline (1831 to 1899), source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is one is a series, Scientific Rivalries and Scandals, that will be of high interest to young people interested in unusual scientific stories!

Book Review - Safari Survivor 21: Twisted Journeys

Safari Survivor 21: Twisted Journeys

By: Owen & Anne Smith
Pubisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-1575059433
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

It’s way too hot, but that’s to be expected when you’re in Tanzania in March. No problem with your teacher because there’s a lot to learn when you’re going to go on an “African safari with your family.” How cool can it get? It’s not like going to a zoo because you’re protected from those critters. In Tanzania there won’t be “anything between you and the animals.” Endesha warned you not to go all that far from camp because one of those wild cats could make you into a really tasty snack. Yum, yum! Your parents want you to head to a spa for a little mud bath and massage, but no way you’ll want to go there if you have other options.

Endesha explained that you could either go to the Ngorongoro Conservation area or the Serengeti National Park. Just maybe Ngorongo doesn’t sound as exciting as a place “where there will be many young animals, and you can see great herds of wildebeest, zebra, and antelopes,” and other wild animals. You head to your tent to pack your gear and are up and running early in the morning. Endesha asks you to remember a greeting reserved for older people. “Shikamoo!” It should be an awesome adventure ... unless you run into danger or one of those predators you’ve been warned about. It’s going to be one twisted journey, the journey of a lifetime!

This is yet another Twisted Journey that will mesmerize the young reader who journeys into the Serengeti. Of course each journey depends on which way the reader chooses to go. Seemingly innocent moves can be disastrous, while others are totally awesome. If you “make the wrong choice you might end up as breakfast for a hungry lion” in this Twisted Journey. It was fun rescuing a turaco, but looking into the “slavering jaws of the dog” right in front of me was quite another story. Youngsters can create their own story, no two seemingly alike. The colorful artwork, a blend between the graphic novel and individual page illustrations, made this work exciting, alive and very dramatic. If you’ve got a youngster who craves adventure, this series is one you might want to add to your list!

Quill says: The Twisted Journey series is one of those choose your own ending stories that youngsters, including reluctant readers, love to read!

Book Review - Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

By: Na Liu
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761365877
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 24, 2013

Na’s eyes widened as she pored over a book about Chinese mythology. The book was upside down, but no matter, she loved to “read” and the characters came alive for her and swirled though her mind. Na was four-years-old and lived in Wuhan, China next to the great Yangtze river. There was a bit of unexpected discord in the house and her parents started to quarrel. Her father wanted them to go visit his mother, Na’s nai nai. “We don’t owe her anything!” her mother argued. “She insisted we have another child. When it turned out to be another girl, she refused to help us.” Na would be going with baba alone to visit her.

It wasn’t something that Na wanted to do, but it was just going to be a day trip so she relented. Jia jia, her mother’s mother, had bought her a beautifully soft green coat with a “little velvet duck” sewn onto the front. Mama didn’t want her to take it to the village, but because it was her favorite she insisted and began to pout. “Aaall right! All right. Go ahead and take it.” Baba and Na began their train journey through the mountains to Longquan. Baba’s brothers welcomed him, but nai nai was frightening and mean. She went outside to see her cousins, but found they were very different. What was wrong with them and why were they interested in the little white duck?

This is an enchanting series of tales about Na Liu’s childhood in post-Maoist China. The tales are vignettes of Na, or Da Qin’s life, an ordinary life as she saw it. The pages, however, are filled with a history that is a bridge from a totalitarian-ruled country to the ever-evolving one we know today. In the short tales we get a glimpse at Chinese history that had been once hidden from the rest of the world, a history that was a part of her family. The artwork, rendered by Na’s spouse, Andrés Vera Martínez, is a stunning tribute to the extraordinary ordinary lives of children raised during that time. The panels are alive with emotion and are reflective of a multigenerational history. This book would be an excellent stepping stone for students to research several aspects of Chinese history. In the back of the book is a glossary of Mandarin Chinese words, words used in the text, a timeline (551 BCE to 1976), a brief two-page biography, translations of Chinese characters in the text, and a map of the People’s Republic of China and Hubei Province.

Quill says: This is a beautiful graphic novel that anyone interested in Chinese history will learn a great deal from!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review - Six Little Chicks

Six Little Chicks

By: Jez Alborough
Publisher: Barron’s
Publication Date: February 2013
ISBN: 978-1438001814
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 25, 2012

It’s a beautiful day on the farm and five little chicks are playing in the farmyard. One likes to “cheep cheep cheep,” one enjoys flapping about, and one even kicks a small stick. Meanwhile, Hen is inside the chicken coop, laying on one last, lone egg. When will it hatch?

While the chicks are enjoying the sunshine, poor Hen is a bit frantic. She needs to stay inside to keep her egg protected, but how can she do that and watch her babies outside? When Owl comes to warn her about the fox, Hen knows her chicks are in danger:
Then came Owl with a SWOOP SWOOP SWOOP as he flapped around the back of the chicken coop. “To-wit To-woo, watch out!” cried Owl. “The big bad fox is on the prowl.”
In a panic, Hen runs out to find her chicks. What she sees are five little chicks, still happily playing, and no fox in sight. Goose is the next to warn Hen, but still no fox. When a strange voice warns that the fox is nearby, it’s just too much for Hen! She sends her chicks inside the coop while she goes to investigate. And that’s when the sneaky fox strikes! Will he be successful or will five clever little chicks outwit him?

Six Little Chicks is an absolutely adorable, fun, lively tale about five very witty little chicks and one over-confident fox. While some rhythmic stories come across as forced, this one flows perfectly and children are sure to want to read it aloud. The illustrations, done by the author, match the story completely (some of Hen’s expressions are priceless). There’s a reason Alborough’s children’s books have sold in the millions – check out Six Little Chicks and you’ll understand why.

Quill says: A delightful, read-aloud tale, perfect for the classroom or as a bedtime story. Don’t miss it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review - Promised Valley Conspiracy

Promised Valley Conspiracy

By: Ron Fritsch
Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds
Publication Date: December 2012
ISBN: 978-0615739250
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: January 24, 2013

The epic legacy of the hill and valley people continues to unfold in Promised Valley Conspiracy; the third novel in a series of four by Ron Fritsch.

In the beginning of book three, the reader is reminded of two key characters, Blue Sky, for the valley people and Long Arm for the hill people. At the end of the most recent and unnecessary war they are living their respective lives in exile among their peoples. Rose Leaf, princess of the hill people and Morning Sun, prince of the valley people were abducted by the hill people in the last battle between the two nations. Blue Sky is on a mission to seek out his childhood comrades in hopes of bringing them back to their rightful valley home. Even though the war is supposedly over, tensions continue to run high between the peoples. Perhaps war is not completely over as Green Field sets out for sunset pass with his son, Blue Sky, at his side. Their mission is to rescue Rose Leaf and Morning Sun. With another campaign underway, while more bloodshed may lie ahead, the hope of victory will be their guiding light.

Thankfully, there is a spoiler alert in the back of this novel. I have not had the luxury to read the first two books as yet and found this to be of great assistance. It helped me get up to speed with the story line quickly. With the multitude of characters in this series, it could be confusing for a reader to come into this third book without some assistance in understanding the complexities of the characters and their peoples—the valley and hill people.

The Promised Valley series is a captivating and interesting concept of what modern day life would be like had the beginnings of time happened differently. Mr. Fritsch has remained true to his vivid imagination in the delivery of book three. He does not falter from the foundation that was laid in the first two books; yet continues to pay the story forward through his perceptions of how the beginning of man and time could have evolved. His sensitivities toward the perils of war and conflict and what the outcome would mean in the journey forward would shape the ongoing construction of an empire; yet it is not written in a placating manner. He challenges the reader often with situations and circumstances and provides the reader ample opportunity to formulate possibilities toward the next step in the creation of time in a manner that is credible. Fritsch’s oft element of surprise entices the reader to continue turning the pages.

There are several subplots, twists and turns in the early pages of Promised Valley Conspiracy and my encouragement to the reader would be to hang in there and pay attention. I liken it to a speedboat starting out and once the desired speed has been met, the boat does plane out and glide smoothly forward thereafter. After I finished reading Promised Valley Conspiracy, there is no question Mr. Fritsch accomplished what he set out to do. With little effort, he coaxed me to go back and pick up books one and two so I am amply prepared as I wait in anticipation for book number four. Meanwhile, if anyone has ever wondered what the world would be like had the beginnings of time been re-written, I highly recommend the Promised Valley series. Disappointment is nowhere to be found in book three, which I am sure has been the case in the first two books in this series.

Quill says: A thought-provoking tale of intrigue and “what ifs” had life played out in Promised Valley fashion.

For more information on Promised Valley Conspiracy, please visit the series' website:

Read the reviews for the other books in the Promised Valley series. Promised Valley Rebellion and Promised Valley War

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review - Shadow of Doubt: Robyn Hunter Mysteries

Shadow of Doubt: Robyn Hunter Mysteries

By: Norah McClintock
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761383154
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 23, 2012

Ms. Denholm was subbing for Ms. March and would not only teach English, but also direct the school play. Tryouts would be coming up soon, but there would be plenty of other things to get involved in so Robyn Hunter decided to sign up for “Props and Set Dressing.” Her two best friends, Morgan and Billy, decided to sign up as well. During a lull in her day, Ms. Nettleworth asked Robyn to deliver some flowers that had arrived for Ms. Denholm, who asked her to open them. It was really pretty freaky because there was no card and the tissue paper was black. Yeah, there were a dozen roses, but also a headless baby doll that was “spattered with what looked like blood.” It had to be some sort of prank, or was it?

Romance was in the air, but a gift like Ms. Denholm’s she could live without. Robyn, on one level, was still pining for Nick, the “neighborhood bad boy,” as her dad viewed him. Ben Logan was the type of guy who was from the right side of the tracks. “Ben has it all,” Morgan flat out stated, but even so he was moving a bit too fast for her. Frankly, he was much more serious about her than she was comfortable with, especially when he said he loved her. Besides, even though Nick had disappeared without a trace ... well, there was just something about him. Ms. Denholm had made her the assistant director of the play, but even that couldn’t keep her mind off him ... or that freaky doll.

The doll wouldn’t be the first freakish problem for her new teacher, nor the last. Apparently Ms. Denholm had an ex-boyfriend who appeared to be stalking her and was getting closer all the time. Had he sent those flowers? Robyn’s father, Mac Hunter, claimed that Melissa Denholm had “a history of unpredictable behavior,” but things weren’t adding up. She really looked and acted scared when something happened. When she panicked and cried out “Stop calling me! Stop calling me!,” was that some sort of act? Even Ms. Rachlis, a good friend of Ms. Denholm’s, had been a witness to several incidents. Would Robyn be able to figure out what was happening before it was too late? It was only when Robyn felt the “point of a knife pierce the skin” of her neck she knew that doll wasn’t a prank!

Robyn Hunter is once again on the hunt for a potential killer, one who just could be watching her. Each time I real a “Robyn Hunter Mystery,” I marvel at the uniqueness of the plots. These mysteries definitely aren’t of the cookie cutter variety and young readers will look forward to each installment. This mystery starts with Robyn being questioned and videotaped by cop Charlie Hart. The reader has to work his or her way back through an intricate mystery to find out just how and why she’s sitting in a police station. Sharp mystery buffs will be able to ascertain a few clues, but won’t know for sure what transpired until the last few pages are turned and Robyn feels blood running down her neck.
Quill says: The Robyn Hunter mysteries will definitely appeal to young readers who like a good solid mystery!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Books For Review

Here's what has come in over the last few days for review.  A nice selection of books including some really neat looking children's books.  Check them out and then stop by soon to read the reviews!

Balloon Trees by Danna Smith Ever wonder how a balloon is made? Follow the journey of a balloon from its beginnings as gooey sap in a tree to its completion at a rubber factory. You ll be surprised to discover what a balloon started out as and how it becomes the bright, air-filled decoration that you enjoy today.

Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries by Jennifer Keats Curtis Just as tiny kittens and puppies grow into bigger cats and dogs, wild animal babies grow into adults too. These full-grown animals may no longer be cute and cuddly. Their wild instincts may kick in. They can become very large, even dangerous. What happens to these exotic pets when owners realize they can no longer care for them but they can t be returned to the wild? And what about big predators that get hurt or sick? This photographic journal takes readers behind the scenes at five nonprofit sanctuaries and rescue zoos, and one care farm, that have opened their doors and their hearts to desperate animals in need.

Deductive Detective by Brian Rock Someone stole a cake from the cake contest who could it be? Twelve animal bakers are potential suspects but Detective Duck uses his deductive reasoning skills to quack the case. After all, the thief left hairs behind so the thief wasn t a bird. Follow along as he subtracts each suspect one at a time to reveal just who the culprit was. This clever story will have children of all ages giggling at the puns and the play on words.

Six Little Chicks by Jez Alborough Mother Hen has five little chicks to take care of--and she's also concerned about one more egg that hasn't yet hatched. Meanwhile, the big bad fox is on the prowl. Can Mother Hen keep all her chicks--and that sixth egg--out of danger? The illustrations on every page are big and colorful, and the story is told in clever rhyme. Younger children will love the catchy, rhythmic text, and will delight in hearing Mom or Dad read the story out loud.  

Ferdinand Fox's First Summer by Mary Holland Follow this photographic journal of a red fox as he explores the world around him during the first few months of his life. He s about a month old when he first comes out of the den. Watch as he learns to hunt through play and by using his senses. See the changes as he grows from a young kit to a young fox. After all, by the next summer, he'll have kits of his own! Naturalist photographer and environmental educator Mary Holland has captured Ferdinand Fox's First Summer in a way that is sure to grab children's hearts.

Nature Recycles by Michelle Lord From sea urchins in the Atlantic Ocean to bandicoots on the Australian savanna, animals recycle all over the world. Explore how different animals in different habitats use recycled material to build homes, protect themselves, and get food. This fascinating collection of animal facts will teach readers about the importance of recycling and inspire them to take part in protecting and conserving the environment by recycling in their own way.

On the Move by Scotti Cohn Imagine seeing hundreds of the same type of animal gathered at the same place at the same time! Right here in North America, many animals gather in huge numbers at predictable times and locations. Not all migrations are tied to seasonal food changes some are tied to life cycles. Certain birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and even insects migrate during spring, summer, fall, or winter. Travel along with them as you learn about what puts these animals On the Move.

Shark Baby by Ann Downer Who am I? wonders Shark Baby. When his mermaid's purse egg case is torn loose in a storm, he finds himself on a journey through different ocean habitats: kelp forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows. He learns what kind of shark he isn't, but not what kind he is. He needs to find the mermaid to learn where he belongs, but the ocean is big and full of dangers. Will he find out who he is-and what he can do-in time?

The Next Time You See Me by Holly Jones In The Next Time You See Me, the disappearance of one woman, the hard-drinking and unpredictable Ronnie Eastman, reveals the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents. There’s Ronnie’s sister Susanna, a dutiful but dissatisfied schoolteacher, mother, and wife; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective; Emily, a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with a dark secret; and Wyatt, a factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Connected in ways they cannot begin to imagine, their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.

Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss Coming of age in the patrician neighborhood of Pasadena, California during the 1960s, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers' narrow expectations. Their struggle to define themselves against the backdrop of an American cultural revolution unites them early on, until one sweltering evening the summer before their last year of college, when a single act of betrayal changes everything. Decades later, Rebecca’s haunting meditation on the past reveals the truth about that night, the years that followed, and the friendship that shaped her.  

The Start of Everything by Emily Winslow Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, the detectives follow scant clues toward the identity of the dead girl. Eventually, their search leads them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor where, over the course of one Christmas holiday, three families, two nannies, and one young writer were snowed in together. Chloe Frohmann begins to unravel a tangled web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and freshly committed horrors. But in order to reveal the truth—about misaddressed letters, a devastating affair, and a murdered teenager—she may have to betray her partner.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review - Decoding Our DNA: Craig Venter Vs the Human Genome Project

Decoding Our DNA: Craig Venter Vs the Human Genome Project

By: Karen Gunnison Ballen
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
PUblication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761354895
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

Gregor Mendel’s observations of seemingly simple breeding experiments in the mid-1800s would have far reaching implications on how we view our genetic inheritance. When he observed the “different traits, such as round versus wrinkled peas,” this led to the discovery of dominant and recessive units or genes. Later in the century microscopes further enhanced his research as microscopes enabled scientists to view chromosomes, “long coiled strands of DNA” inside biological materials. Little did they know what they were looking at, but soon other scientists would discover the implications of these discoveries.

Thomas Hunt Morgan’s work with fruit flies and their genetic inheritance or genetic linkage fascinated one of his students, Alfred Sturtevant. Sturtevant subsequently “created the first genetic map,” a discovery that Morgan dubbed “one of the most amazing developments in the whole history of biology.” Work on genetics quietly progressed as scientists began to link and build on the work of their predecessors. Scientists in the early 1950s “knew the basic components of DNA,” but it wasn’t until Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist, captured an “X-ray diffraction photo of a DNA molecule” that they knew the structure was a double helix.

Franklin was neither acknowledged nor thanked for her work when three scientists won the Nobel prize for confirming the structure of DNA. Work once again progressed into the 1970s when genome sequencing began. Little could anyone know that debate and outright war would lie ahead for those striving to sequence the human genome. Patents and profits entered into the formula. You’ll read and learn about the sequencing, the Human Genome Project (HGP), the genome shotgun technique, the Bermuda Accord, the “war” between biologist Craig Venter and geneticist Francis Collins, and you’ll learn many other fascinating things about the rivalries and scandals surrounding the decoding of our DNA.

This is an amazing overview of the science and the scientists behind the sequencing of the human genome. Many young people are familiar with Gregor Mendel and his study of the traits of different pea plants. The history of genetics leading to the sequencing of the human genome is not as well known. The book starts out with the conflict surrounding “the crown jewel of twentieth century biology” and the scientists and debate surrounding its ownership, so to speak. This exciting introduction then goes back to Mendel and builds back up to the “genome war.” The book was well-researched and will be a high interest book for those students interested in science. In the back of the book is an index, a timeline (1866 to 2012), a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book, and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is one is a series, Scientific Rivalries and Scandals, that will be of high interest to young people interested in unusual scientific stories!

Book Review - The Little Prince: The Planet of Wind Book 1

The Little Prince: The Planet of Wind Book 1

By: Guillaume Dorison
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761387510
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2013

The winds howled and swirled around the flying machine. Eolus wanted to go back, but his father continued to play the organ. “No! We’re almost there!” exclaimed his father. “We can reach the Great Wind of Legend! We just need more music!” The notes flew out into the wind, but the flying machine wasn’t powerful enough to continue on. They were going to crash onto the ice. Eolus would have to journey alone at some point in the future because the swirling winds claimed his father and their flying machine.

It was a mere fifty years later the Little Prince and Fox headed for a planet as he picked “up the path of the Snake.” They landed on what appeared to be an ice planet, but they were “actually on a planet of winds.” A monocopter passed overhead and crashed into a tree. They ran to assist Mr. Foehen, who warned them to leave before they were “trapped by the ice.” The Governor of the Winds had sent him to find the Wind Pirates who were stealing “the winds with their music.” Young Eolus was no longer young ... he was the grandmaster of a very unusual city.

There was turmoil in the city and Eolus did not want to bother with the Little Prince and his tale of being “on the trail of the snake,” who was an “evil being who destroys planets.” Zephyr, Eolus’s son, had been banished to his chambers before they took a tour of the palace and the city. “WARNING! WARNING!” A pirate was flying overhead and the Little Prince took out his magical sword, a sword that was powered by stardust. Soon Fox, Forhen, and the Little Prince were aloft in their own bird-like flying machine. There was only one way to save the planet and that was to find the Great Wind of Legend. Was the Wind Pirate under the influence of the Snake? Would the Little Prince be able to save the planet or forever be plunged into darkness?

This is the exciting tale of the Little Prince who tries to prevent Snake from destroying the Eolians’ planet. The characters in this new series are based on those in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. This fast-paced, exciting graphic novel will appeal to young readers, including reluctant ones. The Little Prince and Fox left Rose back on Asteroid B612 in search of the evil Snake who is trying to snuff out yet another planet. The contrast between the gentle nature of the Little Prince, who is determined to save everyone, is in stark contrast to the eerie evil that is lurking on the planet. The artwork is stunning and the fantasy panels will have definite appeal to the young reader. In the back of the book is a brief biographical sketch of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and a two-page bonus story by Moebius.

Quill says: The Planet of Wind is the first in a new series about the Little Prince, a graphic novel that is sure to excite young fantasy readers!