Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Publisher: Mountain Girl Press
Publishing Date: November 2010
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 30, 2013
The Man Inside the Mountain is set during the last few months of the Civil War and follows the Bell family, or more specifically, the life of mother Essie Bell. She's a woman alone, determined to keep her family farm and await the return of her son from the war.
The Bell family is one family who shows their strength and courage to the reader that hits on all cylinders when it comes to drama and happiness at the same time. Making their home in West Virginia, Mom (Essie), and Dad (Ezra), receive a letter from the Union Army stating that their son Paddy is missing and presumed dead. A veil of sadness falls but there is one lone spirit who still believes there's no way the tragedy has occurred. Being the faithful and loving mother, Essie refuses to accept the fact that her son is dead, and waits patiently for his return with the faithful family dog, Ruf, at her side.
Essie and Ezra have fashioned a beautiful farm in the hills of West Virginia that serves as a true spiritual salvation for Essie as she waits for good news to be delivered about her son. As if going into her own safe realm, Essie remains intent on growing all sorts of wonderful food, raising the chickens, and baking pies to sell in the nearest town. Sadly, Ezra passes away and Essie's ever-faithful dog grows old and feeble, showing his age as he tries to sit beside his mistress until she finds some sort of happiness.
The townspeople, especially Charlie Atwood, owner of the General Store, come to Essie trying everything they can to make her sell the stunning farm and move to town. As always, Essie remains strong - continuing to believe her son will return as she spends her time with her beloved canine companion. There are worries for Essie, of course, including the fact that soon a long, hard winter will come upon her and she may not have the strength to keep the farm running. But as new people start arriving at Essie's farm, including friends and relatives, she finds out that there is a niche for her in life. She is still a much-needed part of the community and the hope that Paddy is out there somewhere trying to get home remains at the forefront of her mind.
Although The Man Inside the Mountain is set during the Civil War, no battlefields are described in this story; rather, this is a tale of sheer inspiration and enjoyment. Readers will fall in love with the strength and character of Essie, and enjoy the surprises this novel brings. I suspect they will also look forward to more gifts to come from this fantastic author. A beautiful story, great plotting and unforgettable characters are the ingredients that will have readers everywhere rooting for Essie's prayers to come true.
Are you going to BEA? Book Expo America, going on this week in New York City, is THE place to be if you love books! Authors, publishers, publicists and YOU? It's fun, there's so much to see, from new authors, new books, and vendors, vendors, vendors. Publishers giving away galleys, vendors showing off their new wares, and when you've had enough, there's always the host city, NYC. Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Publication Date: April 2013
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 29, 2013
After their parents' death, Thomas and his older brother John were raised by their uncle Gregory. While the man loved his nephews, he was brusque and had no time to love and nurture the boys. Instead, he taught them to fight and by the time they reached adulthood, they were hiring themselves out to fight the battles of noblemen in every realm of twelfth-century England.
In the prologue, we meet Thomas and his uncle Gregory who are fighting together in Gloucestershire while John is fighting for a nobleman in Norfolk. The battles don’t end well for the three men as John is taken captive and then killed by the cruel Simon Mowbray, the High Sheriff of Thetford. Gregory also dies and Thomas is seriously wounded. Thomas manages to escape, learns of his brother’s murder at the hands of the sheriff and begins his quest for revenge.
Thomas soon meets two young women who are being pursued by several of the King’s Royal Guard. The girls lie to Thomas about their true identity, saying they are merely peasants, while the truth, to be learned later in the story, is far more intriguing. Thomas, ever the honorable soldier, makes the decision to protect the fleeing girls. A fight ensues with the advancing soldiers, and Thomas, with his expert training, emerges victor. The frightened girls take a few of the deceased men’s horses and ride off, while Thomas continues his travels. But within a few days while still healing from his wounds, Thomas is attacked by a band of wolves. The brave soldier fights them off as best he can, but his injuries take their toll and he collapses.
When Thomas awakes, he discovers that he has been saved by a band of Travelers. He is nurtured back to health, and soon falls in love with Emalda, the daughter of Cezar, the band’s leader. Still, Thomas must avenge his brother’s death and so, once recovered, he leaves the caravan although both he, and the reader, hope that Emalda and Thomas will meet again.
Thomas continues his quest for revenge and along the way the reader meets many interesting characters. There is romance, with not one but two women, prejudice hiding behind false accusations, deception, plenty of fights, and a handsome hero. There is also a nice blend of historical facts from the training of a knight to the conflicts between noblemen and commoners.
The intrigue of this story is that true to history, the ending was a surprise and it was impossible to predict what end each character would meet. I also particularly enjoyed the touching relationship Thomas, the tough, hard warrior had with “Horse.” While the action started immediately in A Wandering Warrior, it did take a little while to get absorbed into the story because the dialogue was a bit stiff and awkward. It also varied greatly from the commoners’ language (“Ye got a job waitin’ for ye?”) to modern slang (“We gotta surrender…” “Yeah, we kicked their ass”). Overall, however, it was an enjoyable read about a gallant man and his adventures.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 28, 2013
In February, 1932, Phipps Psychiatric Johns Hopkins University Hospital was about to receive a very famous patient. As F. Scott Fitzgerald stays behind in the administrative offices to complete the last of the paperwork necessary to commit his wife Zelda, Nurse Anna Howard gingerly guides Zelda to her room. It was more than a room, it would be Zelda’s home for however long it would take to try and piece the broken parts of Zelda back together again. Gone was the glorious spark in her eyes and exuberant effervescence from her soul. The infamous flapper girl of the 20’s was buried somewhere in the depths between calm and rage as much as she was in battle with the voices in her head. How had this woman become so broken—the woman who managed to usurp the heart and every other facet of the elusive and great F.Scott Fitzgerald?
Nurse Anna Howard has been assigned to the day-to-day care of Zelda. The question arises early on: Is the healing process solely for Zelda or perhaps it is for both women. It seems Anna’s once perfect life was ripped away too soon when her husband Ben went missing in action, never to return from the war. To compound her loss, her daughter Katie died of pneumonia at the tender age of five. Caretaking is not foreign to Anna given it was her credentials of a wartime nurse at Walter Reed Hospital that landed her the permanent position of psychiatric caretaker at Phipps. In a kindred sort of way, the brokenness of Zelda and the heartache of Anna collide and the divinity of healing however great or small begins. In time, Zelda allows the veil of her catatonic disconnection to drop as she allows Anna in. The essence of Zelda’s break is her escalating paranoia and belief that her beloved ‘Goofo’ (Scott) has stolen her stories and made them his own. She convinces Anna that Scott stole her precious diaries early on in their union—diaries that portrayed the philandering, outrageous parties and reckless abandon they willingly embraced during post war depression and prohibition. Perhaps the location of the ephemeral diaries is the key to not only free Zelda from the crazies, but allow Anna to live her life to the full extent it was destined to do so. And just exactly what role did the great F. Scott Fitzgerald play through it all?
Ms. Robuck not only possesses a beautifully romantic style, but her true passion toward her subject matter rises from the pages as well. She draws the curtain back and reveals the life and times of Zelda Fitzgerald. There is melancholia as much as shock and she tempers the tone with superb storytelling ability. Her prolific and poetic way of describing a scene goes far beyond: It was cold. Rather, passages such as "...Though it was the end of February, the day was a lazy sort of cold. The sun slipped through the clouds in bursts, reminding the landscape that it was still there..." are plentiful throughout this read. As admirable as her ability is toward storytelling, Ms. Robuck deserves recognition for her astute research of her subject matter before tackling the writing of the greatness of both Fitzgeralds. However, she never confuses the storyline or falters from her devotion of reserving center stage for Zelda, an intriguing woman of substance. Ms. Robuck has delivered a bittersweet read and leaves the reader with a strong sense of being in the very moment in time from the story’s beginning to its surprising end. Keep writing Ms. Robuck. There are far too many greats whose stories beckon your pen to write.
FQ: You mention that Norman Mailer is your favorite novelist. I was wondering if you could tell readers what exactly it was about his writing you take the most creative inspiration from? Not to mention, is there a favorite book of his you care to mention?
Mailer was a complex character. He was a Harvard graduate who originally was interested in engineering but switched to journalism. He was an alcoholic, he stabbed one of his many wives, he ran for mayor of New York (lost) and made some films. He also won two Pulitzers. But what comes through in his writing is his thinking style which bursts salvifically through every sentence. Plus his great sense of timing. Incidentally he penned Tough Guys Don’t Dance in sixty days. The publisher wrote him a letter saying either send us the manuscript or return the money. I defy anyone who reads that book to say they could have written it, especially in that amount of time. He had a way of alienating people. If you get Dick Cavett’s book Talk Show, the enhanced edition, you can push a button and watch Mailer go head to head with Gore Vidal on Cavett’s show. (He literally did head bump Gore Vidal in the green room). Amazing!
My favorite book of Mailer’s is American Dream. I haven’t read them all but that one does skirt the antipodal boundaries of genre and general fiction.
FQ: The Writer’s Digest Competition successes must have been truly exciting. Were the entries that won the 7th and 8th place novellas, such as HE?
They were genre short stories. I was new to writing and I largely imitated the styles of others. I also drew inspiration from movies such as China Town or more recently The Long Goodbye, a fabulous noir send up of Chandler’s impenitent novel.
I became hooked on novellas when I entered Parrot Moon to the Paris Literary Award. I didn’t win, but I realized the novella is the perfect investment of time for writer and reader. Rather than years you’re only tied up in one project for a matter of months, and often the reader can zip through the work in an hour or two. I’m a fairly slow reader myself and enjoy the sense of completion a novella can give.
FQ: Is crime fiction your favorite to write, or are there other interests you enjoy?
For a long time I stayed away from crime fiction because, after all, genre is the black sheep of the literary enclave. However, it provides a ready thread for a plot to march to conclusion, and allows one many opportunities to skirt the boundaries of genre and the elixir of literary fiction. In the end writing is writing, no matter how you choose to filet it.
FQ: The mixture of obsession with the espionage angle could lead one to believe that there will be sequels. Are you thinking about using the law student in other tales.
Quite perceptive of you. I’m now on the third sequel to HE. The first Trashy Novel: A Love Story takes the character of Eve in HE and reincarnates her as Beatrice. In I one gets into the head of the law student as a first person narrative. I’m currently working on She that follows Beatrice’s woes to a more saturnine conclusion. Apparently I’m hung up on pronouns.
FQ: In relation to your next project Trashy Novel will this also be a novella along the same lines?
As I said, it reincarnates Eve as Beatrice and yes is a novella which I finished a while ago. I’d like to take this opportunity to correct some of the reviewer’s comments which I appreciated, hostile as some of them were. To imply that my work is pornography is nonsense as pornography has no plot. The reviewer made mention of the plot multiple times in her review. To characterize it as erotica might fit, but I view the struggle of the narrator in HE as someone who finds he cannot relate to women on anything but a genital level and is trying to exorcise that demon. In Trashy Novel: A Love Story the relationship with Beatrice, the one woman who he feels might save him from that isolated autocracy is explored. I agree with the reviewer that HE is no James Bond, on the other hand women are clearly interested in him including the ‘madam’ and even the sado-masochistic nanny Misha. At the same time that the reviewer bemoans the trashiness of the novella she criticizes what she calls ‘thousand dollar words’. The vocabularium as I call it is one of the more uplifting aspects of HE and distinguishes it from other so called erotica. I can only conclude that she was somewhat angry about my work and thusly a tad illogical. I suppose the worst review would have been indifference.
In I we get inside the head of the narrator and therefore are able to flush out some of the bones and butt of his inner hegemony. (Excuse the $1000 palaver).
FQ: Being in the mental health profession, does this background and experience allow you a more in-depth view into the human mind? Helping you to delve into the feelings, thoughts and emotions of others?
I certainly hope so. Writing is an art the splatters more of our own personal mishegos into its substratum than any other. Our writing is an ineluctable evisceration of who we are. Much of what we pen may be an attempt to understand ourselves.
FQ: I have to say, for some, the cover art chosen for HE is a bit of a surprise. Is this, like Mailer, more of a risky choice-a challenge to some readers to let go of their learned behavior and give this a chance?
I’ve learned since publication that it was much more of a risk than I had ever imagined. I gave Infinity Publishing the basics of the cover and they created it, nicely I might add. However, not one bookstore in the Twin Cities area would agree to let me give a book talk, and even the NYTimes refused to run the whole cover in an ad. (The same week I found this out they ran a special fashion insert with a woman’s nipple clearly visible through her blouse.) They agreed to run the upper third of the cover in an ad that’s coming out June 2nd. Several other publications have done the same. This truly surprises me. I’m staring at a copy of Updike’s Villages that has about thirty classical nudes on the cover.
There seems to be a double standard in the culture regarding literature. Even though sensuality has been in outstanding writing since the beginning of history (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita, Portnoy’s Complaint, Fear of Flying to name a minuscule few) there seems to be a misguided opprobrium for certain works, indifference to the sexuality in others. Mailer testified in a trial regarding the ‘pornographic’ aspects of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. We can’t seem to reconcile literature/erotica as one egalitarian continuum, libido being a crucible in the human evoke. As such I view sensuality as more than appropriate if not a necessary nexus within the human landscape. The cover simply reflects part of the book (breasts that were ‘freaks of nature’).
I remember an old saying that goes something like, oh, don’t judge a book by its cover.
FQ: In your opinion, considering subject matter, do you feel your writing is more aimed at the female or male target audience? And why?
Probably the male demographic is more predominant in the same way that the female sexualogue Fifty Shades of Grey is woman oriented. I’m sure many men have read that (not I) and therefore would have to say there is enough of interest in HE for anyone to indulge an hour or two of their time. Perfect for a plane flight!
FQ: In this latest literary age of Fifty Shades excitement- do you feel the market is more open to these ideas?
Yes, but I wonder about the gate keepers. In this age of Solomonic enlightenment we see the same forces at work that banned and burned books in Puritan Massachusetts, even set witches aflame in bonfires of intolerance. But in truth I know the readers are there untainted by the oleaginous forces of repression, open to honest literary talent in all its peritoneal eructations.
For more information on HE: A Sexual Odyssey and the author, Stephen Morsk, please visit the website www.morsklitmonthly.com
To learn more about HE: A Sexual Odyssey please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
|Author Jana Bommersbach|
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Publisher: Luminis Books
Publishing Date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 23, 2013
Amy Henderson is one of those young girls who, in 1973, feels all that insecurity and loneliness that comes with being on the outside of the popular girls. More of a loner than anything else, Amy needs something to focus on; she needs something uplifting that can perhaps change the course of her life. As fate would have it, Amy finds just that in a very strange place.
Rescuing an injured seal that she names Pup, Amy finds her purpose. Needing help to keep Pup away from the always angry harbormaster and a parcel of those popular girls who always seem to be in everyone’s way, is a battle for Amy.
Help arrives in the form of a love interest by the name of Craig. This is the boy who many ignore, or simply chalk up to being on ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ without ever giving him a chance. His worn-out Army jacket is his favorite clothing, and Craig has that brave face set firmly in place to hide his real emotions.
Miss Cogshell is the other person who helps Amy in her battle. Although the small town people refer to her as ‘Old Coot,’ she has more intelligence and kindness in her pinky finger than all the townspeople put together. With these two friends and supporters by her side, Amy begins to shine, facing the world with new eyes and doing everything she can to make her voice be heard.
This is a wonderful YA tale for the simple fact that it shows one and all that the power and courage to stand up and be heard in this life comes from within. And that no matter who you are, you have that toughness inside your soul. Craig has a lovely heart that hides behind that sarcasm he aims at the world, and he will remind every small town girl about that quiet boy she fell in love with long ago. ‘Old Coot’ brings the fun and humor along with her, and Pup is the sweetest creature in the world.
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: February 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 22, 2013
Thirteen-year-old Jack was one of those kids who cried himself to sleep so it looked like he needed to be looked after kind of like Vig. “You got like a gajillion fingers,” Shreve blurted out when he saw Jack’s hands. It was really kind of a freaky thing and Jack didn’t appreciate the commentary, least ways the thing about being in a circus. A strange “thing” emanating from Jack pushed Shreve back. “No!” This kid had more than a gajillion fingers, he had some sort of power. Shreve shouldn’t have said anything about those fingers, but he wanted to listen to Mr. Quincrux interview Jack and needed to bribe Ox so he could listen through his wall.
“Your former foster brother will live ...” This kid’s powers were seriously strong and Quincrux wanted him for some reason. Jack had defeated “five older children in hand-to-hand combat.” Shreve’s powers began to quickly emerge and he remembered what happened when Quincrux got into his head. Quincrux’s “residue or something was left behind,” and Shreve was soon able to read minds and take control of other people’s bodies. The two boys had to escape from juvie because they had a mission to accomplish. Somewhere out there something was calling to them, but who or what was it?
Shreve and the twelve-fingered boy, Jack, meet up with zombies ... and become them. This is an amazing debut novel that captures the essence of two young men and their flight into the unknown world. The novel progressed so evenly and rapidly that the characters are well-rounded and their situation almost becomes believable. Shreve’s powers grow and begin to eclipse those of his young cohort, Jack. All the while, we still are grounded on earth as we feel Shreve’s angst at his “incarcerado” and the longing for his dysfunctional home, family, and girlfriend, Coco. Everything starts in Holly Pines Trailer Park, a place where there is no inkling that things will spiral into the twilight zone. This is an excellent zombie novel the YA crowd will love!
Marketing Expert Offers 4 Tips for Authors
Don’t Sell Your Back Cover Short! She Says
• Know your audience: You have to consider their point of view when you decide what to say on the back cover, and you need to know who they are in order to figure that out. This is your 10-second commercial, so be sure you give your audience what they’re looking for!
• Keep it simple: Many authors try to cram too much information on the back cover in the hopes that something will pique the reader’s interest. But too much information overwhelms browsers and their brain becomes sluggish. Rather than read everything, they read nothing and walk away. Treat the text on your back cover like poetry and keep the message condensed and poignant.
• Choose the right fonts: Certain font styles appeal to different audience demographics. Whether your audience is mostly teens or college students, middle-aged adults or seniors, they’ll respond differently to the looks of different type faces. Choosing small red fonts on your cover is the worst thing you can do if your market is the reader older than 55 because red is one of the hardest colors to read when aging affects vision. Also, your fonts shouldn’t blend in with the colors on your back cover, or the words lose value to the reader.
• Typos will kill your book sale: If your back cover has a typo, even a small one such as a redundant word or two words with no space between them, it will doom your book. Authors are indeed “judged like a book by its cover” and readers will assume that your book wasn’t edited and that it will be full of errors. One of the most frustrating things for readers is finding typos in a book. It dilutes the meaning of the content, distracts them from reading, and most importantly, makes the author look amateurish. Even if the only typo in your book is the one on your back cover, readers will make critical assumptions based on that one fatal flaw.
Illustrated By: Betsy Snyder
Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Publishing Date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 22, 2013
Perhaps if you were born in a big city you won’t have the blissful memory of what this book is all about. If surrounded by tall buildings and busy streets all your life, you may not understand the absolute beauty and fun this tale brings. But you should definitely experience it.
As a person who grew up in a small town with big skies filled with stars, I can relate to walking with my father hand-in-hand on a summer’s evening and discovering the mass of fireflies that twinkled in the air.
Chasing the fireflies was like chasing tiny little angels. When you caught one and cupped your hand around it, it felt almost like Harry Potter’s magic did to the kids in the last generation. The fireflies in the open skies fluttered and blinked causing you to race behind them; you thought that if you looked into the strange light long enough that the firefly would unveil some sort of secret magic.
This author and illustrator team obviously knows this world quite well, because they have done an amazing job of bringing that experience back to others. Far away from computers, cells, video games, etcetera - this is a simple tale of a father and daughter who go out in the night to chase those fireflies. The little girl runs through the high grass on a warm summer evening with her dog by her side. The grass is soft and warm against her bare toes and she feels absolute excitement catching the fireflies and then allowing them to continue their journey - soaring into the air as they join with the stars above to make the sky extra-special.
Although eBooks are the rage in this fast-paced world, a hardcover children’s book with stunning illustrations is still the best; reminding everyone that even with technology it’s important to have face-to-face time. Resting, sitting back and holding the book in one hand while your child curls up beside you to live the magic, is a memory you want to have as a parent. And this lovely book should be a part of those quiet family times. If you are out there in that small town with a great big sky, make catching fireflies a ritual. There is nothing more fun…and I have my Dad to thank for that).
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Publication Date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 22, 2013
The title (not to mention the cover), doesn’t really let the reader know He is actually categorized as a work of crime fiction. The unnamed protagonist is a law student. He aids the ‘madame’ (who is the ex-wife of his ex-boss) every Saturday, watching her son until the nanny, Misha, arrives.
Misha is a stunning young woman who has seen the fact that ‘He’ stares at her with nothing but wanton lust. Although she’s apparently sick and tired of the constant and unwanted admiration, Misha must feel a spark because she begins sending angry messages (AKA: Back off), yet includes a sexual gift with her first letter that only increases ‘He’s’ attraction. In other words, she’s setting up a “Fifty Shades” of her own, making ‘He’ into the puppy she can command.
While this relationship, for lack of a better word, continues, ‘He’ finds himself in the middle of a crime caper. Eve, another beautiful woman, leaves her briefcase behind in a coffee shop. ‘He’ sees this, considering ‘He’s’ been leering at her the entire time she’s been there. Running after her to give her back the briefcase doesn’t work. Taking it home, ‘He’ investigates the contents (naked pictures of Eve; a cell phone; and, a strange metal rod.) Eve sets up a meet, comes to his home, gives him a show in exchange for her property, and ends up dying by poisoning. A bit of a German spy-game commences.
The dialog used is complete common sense. Unfortunately, the thousand-dollar-words inserted into the thoughts and explanations that begin at the very beginning, tend to make the story slow to a crawl. (i.e.: He found the mail an agglomeration of irrelevancies mixed with bills. Rarely did anything good come in the mail, or email for that matter, that spam-ish indifference of digitized pablum).
‘He’s’ odyssey is based on the stereotypical women; cold, heartless tramp, savior, and aging female who just wants a younger guy for a minute or two. To better understand, take James Bond. He had his choice of females, but did not hunt them; it was always the other way around. And although he made sure they knew they were the ‘beta’ half of the equation, he also showed emotion. Whether for Queen and Country or hot babe, Bond was enticing because of his layers of charm, mystique and absolute class. Unfortunately, He is not in Bond’s category.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Publisher: Meaningful Publications
Publication Date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 19, 2013
Dr. Haraburda begins his book by taking the Dicken’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities, and applies his Christian translation to the premise: “It was the best of Christianity, it was the worst of Christianity, it was the age of Wisdom, it was the age of Ignorance…” His opening request for open mindedness is heartfelt as he cautions (as much as requests) his readership to understand: “an open mind should mean that the mind is not “closed” to the introduction of new knowledge and understanding, even though it may contradict previous ideas…” The first chapter is well thought out and extremely foundational as a guide for what may be construed as unsettling, yet factual, information throughout the remainder of the book. Dr. Haraburda is willingly transparent about his Christian convictions and there is a tone of confidence in his scientific theories on the subject matter. He is certainly knowledgeable and capable of delivering scientific theory toward the subject of Christianity as he is a ‘rocket scientist’ by trade.
The meat of the book begins to take solid shape and form roughly thirty pages in. It is at this point that Dr. Haraburda accelerates the topic by addressing Christian rules with Jesus’ lessons. He covers the diversities between secular ethics and the ethics of Jesus. He gains further momentum when he dives deeper and presents many comparatives (overshadowed by the contradictions) between early Christian church ethics and modern age Christian ethics. Later in the book he takes the reader through historical research on Christian leaders through their use of varied versions of the Bible as their platform and their defiance of Jesus’ leadership. With each consideration, it is apparent Dr. Haraburda did his homework. His scientific approach toward his theories resonate the accomplishments of his research as all of his propositions are properly foot-noted and supported with a wealth of factual information in support of his statements and views.
When I was approached to review Christian Controversies: Seeking the Truth, what intrigued me most about the synopses I read before agreeing to read the book, was the clean and straightforward portrayal of the book’s content. Dr. Haraburda is not only a brave individual to pontificate his personal beliefs and understanding of Christianity, but has supported every theory with superb fact-checks and footnoting. He has delivered the complexities of this topic in understandable terminology and deserves accolades for writing such an intriguing read from cover-to-cover. I am personally touched by Dr. Haraburda’s inherent belief and faith: “Through all of my work, I can honestly and logically summarize this into three words that I know to be the absolute truth. God loves you.” Thank you for your utterly captivating and fascinating book.
Publication Date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 2103
Some people believed in that superstitious mumbo jumbo, including Liz’s mom, Vivian Gordon, whose “mystical whimsies” were old hat. She clung to those whimsies like they were going out of style and also clung to the idea that Liz and Jarret would get back together. Not gonna happen because Liz was seeing Nick Garfield, a professor at NoHo, who was actually teaching a class in occultism. Baseball was still fun to watch and Jarret was a star pitcher for the Dodgers and the whole family was heading to the game. Unfortunately, so were Kyle and Laycee.
“This conversation is over,” Liz harped at Laycee, “You’re dead to me.” Laycee wanted to use Liz’s contacts to cheat on her husband, but that wasn’t going to happen. It was just one of those crazy days and even Jarret was freaking out over a pigeon that spooked him when he was on the mound. Nick claimed that white pigeons were “death omens.” Liz would live to rue the day when she told Laycee she was dead to her when she showed up exactly that ... dead in Jarret’s bedroom. There was the little matter of her being there that very afternoon. Had someone mistaken Laycee for Liz? If she didn’t find out who the murderer was, it wasn’t going to take a soothsayer to figure out who was next.
Liz Cooper has to delve into the unknown to solve a ghastly murder. Liz is a somewhat more sophisticated sleuth than most I’ve encountered in cozy mysteries, but no less appealing. There are plenty of no-account losers and suspects for her to ferret out and Liz really has to work hard to figure out whodunit. From the bloody symbol on the corpse to the voice that crooned, “Why don’t you die?” and everything in between kept me turning the pages. Nick is a perfect foil for Liz, but the two-timing Jarret adds a lot of color to the plot. If you want a good solid mystery with a lot of “weird” thrown in for good measure you’ll love this series!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: June 2013
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 18, 2013
Tonight’s event is being held at Bess’ Bakery, the shop that started Bess Brantwood’s meteoric rise to fame as the star of the Yummy Channel’s popular Bess’ Bakery show. The occasion? To celebrate the 100th episode of the show and Bess is the guest of honor. While the guests and press have arrived, Bess is MIA. Where is she???
Unable to wait any longer, Jen makes her way to the podium and as she’s about to speak, her ex-beau and bakery employee, Billy Davidsen, pokes his head through the kitchen door to announce that he’s found Bess, and she appears to be dead. Up on the podium, with the news cameras rolling, Jen faints and tumbles right into a cupcake tower.
Jen is brought to her feet by 'yummy' NYPD Officer Alex D’Alby. Embarrassment, frosting on her face and a tight-fitting, too tight fitting dress are probably not the best ways to impress the handsome officer and Jen realizes that her chances with Alex are probably nil. However, it certainly isn’t a time to think about romance when the guest of honor was just found dead in the back alley.
It soon becomes apparent that Bess didn’t die of natural causes. But who would kill her? Jen admits while at the police precinct for questioning that Bess was not the most likeable person at the Yummy Channel. In truth, she knows that most people hated the diva. A list of suspects might actually be pretty long.
When Billy shows up at Jen’s doorstep with Bess’ diary, a diary he found at the bakery the night of the murder, things go into overdrive. Jen, with the help of Alex, and her good friends Gabby, a food blogger, and Elizabeth, a life coach, work to solve the crime AND start a new diet.
The cozy mystery genre is exploding with new series hitting the market virtually every week. Some are fun, some are quite silly, but how many have main characters that the reader can truly identify with? Honestly, how many of us are going to solve a murder? But Jen Stevens is an ‘everywoman.’ She’s stressed, always trying to eat fewer carbs, get into that slinky dress, and looks with a bit of disdain, and jealousy, at that co-worker who managed to drop some pounds and get a new boyfriend too. She’s a super-fun, likeable character who, like the other characters in the story, come to life within the first few pages. The mystery is fun, and there are clues sprinkled throughout but you must pay attention. There’s also a nice dose of humor (for example, a ‘cat’ fight that includes plenty of cake and flung insults such as ‘chubbster’ and ‘Skeletor’) that helps keep the atmosphere light-hearted. Add in a hint of romance and you’ve got the perfect cozy mystery.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: January 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 18, 2013
Zen was as good as it gets in the age department being a year older than Alice, but he sure was different. Alice had “little interest in typical girl stuff like dolls and jewelry and makeup,” but Zen read “Tween Magazine” and curled and crimped his hair with a curling iron. Seriously, he did. And he knew all about fashion and wanted to eventually open a “total body salon.” Zen’s grandmother, Babs, only had eyes for Andy Griffith, but Zen had his eyes on Alice. He was going to make her into a perfectly popular and prissy student for the first day of school at Sachem Regional Middle School.
Alice was really interested in fitting in and went along with Zen’s plan. He was a perfect friend and gave her quizzes that would help her pick out friends that were high on the popularity scale and Rebecca Aulowitz wasn’t one of them. Rebecca smiled at Alice and looked like someone she’d like, but ignore was the word for it. Alice soon was in the “in” crowd and loving every minute of it. Not. Alice was going to sit with Zen in the lunchroom when Haley exclaimed, “He’s only the weirdest, most revolting person in the entire school district.” All the popular girls wanted to do was gossip, act mean, and watch “Another Life.” Where had the real Alice Bunt disappeared to? Did she really want to be popular?
This is a fabulous tale of Alice Bunt and her struggle to be true to herself. Most ‘tweeners are insecure when they first enter middle school, but Alice has to decide whether she wants to be popular or just be plain old Alice. Zen of course, is a young man who has to deal with the angst of being who he is without wavering. He’s just Zen and wouldn’t change himself for the world. There is a haven for him in a “bizarre church that made everyone feel so normal,” but Alice doesn’t know which way to turn. The tale is perhaps one that plays itself out in every middle school and is one that most young people can relate to. The twist at the end was an excellent culmination to a truly unique tale that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s a marvelous tale that tells its young audience that diversity and individuality are very special things.
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: April 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 2013
“I’m not making this up!” declared Uncle Fearless, but no one believed him except his little ones. Ever since the eagle owl attack took out his eye and practically killed him he was a nobody to the Sharpeyes. Queen Heartless no longer wanted him as king and took his younger brother, Chancer, as king. Uncle Fearless was nothing but an old washed up babysitter who made up stories. He was once a fearless king, but no one believed this one-eyed fool. “We’re going on an adventure,” exclaimed Little Dream. They had dug up a mysterious egg chamber and crossing the desert to see those blah blahs and oolooks would prove that Uncle Fearless was really a king. Was he really a king or just a BIG liar?
This is a fabulously fun and zany adventure with Uncle Fearless and the meerkat pups. Uncle Fearless and his “adopted” pups are considered to be a bunch of misfits in Sharpeye society, but the discerning young reader instinctively knows that the old meerkat is no fool. Of course the trick is to cross that mighty desert and prove to everyone that his Glory Days were the real thing. The story line is told from the vantage point of the meerkats who think blah blahs and oolooks (humans) and their vroom vrooms (cars) and quite odd. Young adventurous readers will certainly enjoy this zany bunch and will learn a lot about meerkats in the process.
Friday, May 17, 2013
FQ: Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work. Were the reader takeaways you envisioned (and intended) to be as much about 'good vs. evil' as they were about encouraging the reader to consider what it would be like to have the opportunity to crossover (and return) before death actually happens?
'Good vs evil' was certainly one of the conflicts I tried to develop, and in a philosophical manner—for Tara is very dangerous, but also very smart. Many crazy people are intelligent, and often justify their sadism using a narcissistic viewpoint, and in Tara’s case, considering the people she kills, she enjoys the challenge, thinking she can out-think her opponents. But yes, the prospect of crossing over to the side of death (or life) and then returning was another aspect that grew from the story. Death is a mystery to all of us. To contemplate what it would be like to be dead or to be in a place where the dead reside allows the imagination to go into many directions. I didn’t want the dead place to be like a zombie haven, but something worth striving for, that is, to live a good life to get there, and then enjoying that type of eternity. And to ponder, like we all do, what happens to the soul once the life we live is over.
FQ: There is such sincerity in the way you depict the environment in the 'afterlife.' There is a strong element of serenity in your writing toward this point because it provides the reader with a strong sense that all sorrows, woes, and complexities of life are swept away. Yet, there are still 'rules' to be followed. I’m not sure I ever thoroughly understood the ‘rules’ your character Mary McLaughlin alluded to. Would it be too much of a spoiler for you to further elaborate on this particular theme?
The "rules" are really simple, and they do make sense in a God-like-heaven, the dead cannot help the living make decisions because, as Mary says, “The dead know too much.” The living must find their own path; the dead cannot interfere or help. As much as the dead may want to help the living, especially those they love, they can’t, because they could suffer banishment from heaven if they do so. As Mary points out the rules in heaven must be followed, just like the living must follow the “rule or law of gravity” and other such physical rules. The dead are tempted to help, but as the living must deal with mortal temptations, the dead, in order to remain in heaven cannot interfere with the path of the living, the dead must allow the living to stumble into their own afterlife, just as the dead had to. The dead cannot interfere with life; the living must make their own choices. That is the basic rule.
FQ: In our last interview, I acknowledged and asked about your philosophical style and thoroughly enjoyed your response: “…The story should always come first in any novel. Few like to be preached to. So I write in regard to the story. I don't want to be cast into any genre…” To have characters as rich and full-bodied, I’d be curious to know which of your past and wonderfully colorful jobs was the stock most drawn from to develop this lot?
Most likely from my bartending days. I served drinks for about 3-4 years in a neighborhood bar, and met a whole bunch of personalities in doing so. I draw from that stock a lot, and have in most of my stories. I’ve generally been a listener, and not too much of a talker. I’ve kept those stories and personalities in my personal reserve. By listening you can gain perspectives about anger, love, prejudice, guilt, shame, pride, loneliness and so on. I still listen a great deal; I enjoy laughing at the fun stories that people share. But in my bartending days I also met and avoided some dangerous people—you can hear the danger in their voice and see it in their eyes. Some eyes I will never forget. I did a lot of drugs in my wasted youth, and bumped into some dangerous people on that road too.
FQ: Do you ever write the ending first when you are developing a new book project?
I never write the ending first, although I sometimes think I know how the story will end. But honestly, I’m as surprised as any reader on how my characters develop. I don’t know where the story will take them or how they will get there. For me that is the joy of writing, creating characters, but letting them take me into a story and into their lives. I don’t really know how a book will end until about 1/2-to-2/3rds of the way through. And when bad things happen to good characters I cry, for they have lived inside my head for a year or so, and I want good things to happen for them, but as in real life, sometimes bad things happen to good people. I did throw away the first chapter once the book was completed, and created a new beginning to match the integrity and ambiance of the story.
FQ: When you are full throttle in the depths of creating the story, do you dream about your characters?
Yes I do. I often times drift or daydream about my story and the characters that are in it. Fortunately I live with someone understands and gives me space to create like that. She’ll see me staring off into space and say something like, “You’re writing, right?” and I’ll smile and laugh with a happy nod. But it works.
FQ: I liken "writer’s block" to writing with a forced pen and trust me, when I read back a scene I have 'forced,' the outcome is definitely a product of something that was forced. When you experience a block with your writing, what do you do to get your train moving again?
For me, "writer’s block" is more like "writer's redundancy." I can always put something down on paper, but I'm wise enough to realize that I have repeated a philosophy, metaphors, a type of character, which for me is a lazy way to write. Not only do I not want to be classified in any genre, I don’t want to be labeled as a formula writer. When you duplicate something that you have written before, in a different way, then the writer is using an assembly line approach. That makes writing less fun to do and more like a job. To get out of that rut I read more, sometimes a lot more, until I feel comfortable with my daydreams and where they will be taking the story. I don’t worry about it all that much, it's more like an annoyance. If it’s a good story, it will eventually find itself.
FQ: When did you realize no matter what else you did in life, writing would be your constant for the rest of your life and how would you overcome the obstacles ahead of you once the decision was made?
I used to write poetry before I went into the university as a geologist. I still do. But when I went into science, for about 10 years I wrote science books through Water Resources Publications. So I always wrote, just not fiction. Sometime about 10-12 years ago I began thinking about fiction and began to dabble in it. I have a good job, so that allows me to avoid the obstacles, which can be income for most writers. The public reads headlines about writers getting 6-7 figure contracts, which is not the standard. Most writers, many of them very good, cannot support themselves. By making a plan and supporting that plan with my university work, I have been able to overcome the hardships that many writers confront—mainly, eating and paying the bills. Making a plan and following it, in any aspect in life, is very, very important. You cannot control the plan, but you can control the choices you make about the plan.
FQ: What one person has left the most indelible mark in your life in support of your writing?
Her name is Elsie. We've known each other for about 10 years. She simply has a good ear in regard to what I write and read to her. If too much is too much she tells me why. Sometimes I write into the very early morning (I am a night bird) and she’s just fine with it. She thinks I’m good at doing this and inspires me to continue. I take constructive criticism very well, in fact; I am my worst critic.
FQ: Thank you for your time Mr. Kasenow. It was an honor to have the opportunity to interview you once again. I must tell you when Feathered Quill asked if I was interested in reading (and reviewing) A Wicked Thing, I was elated. I knew before I read the first line that it would not only be another page-turner, but an overall fantastic read as well...and it was! You are a storyteller and a very gifted one at that. There must be a "next." Would you care to share?
You are very kind and your comments make me want to write more. Thank-you. There is a next story, right now I am processing it, and I have about 10,000 words down, but it's moving slow and will take sometime. I rarely, if ever talk about my new project, because it may very well become an old and discarded one. However, I am also putting together a new collection of poems, which will take some time, and I hope it will be completed by early next year. Again, thank-you so much for your kind words and your thoughtful questions.
To learn more about A Wicked Thing please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Publication Date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 16, 2013
In the quaint maritime province of St. Martins, New Brunswick, Gwen and Stephen Burns have a good life—near perfect, actually. Between their thriving real estate business, the handful of cabins they own and rent and Gwen’s ghost tours, the notion of ever retiring simply wasn’t an option. It seems Gwen was a strong believer in the afterlife and there was plenty of that to be found when the fog rolled in most nights near the Bay of Fundy that fronted their property. Stephen Burns, on the other hand, didn’t believe in ghosts. Most nights he was content to ignore such nonsense and opt for his easy chair with a good read—often the likes of a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Quiet was about to change for the Burns.
St. Martins effortlessly delivered up many perfect blue sky days for summer beach dwellers. When a young boy and his mother happened upon Jonathan McAllister face-planted in the sandy shoreline, curiosity roused the boy’s imagination and he asked his mother if Jonathan was one of those beach bums as they passed by. Hearing the boy’s comment, Jonathan sat up and looked around. Dazed and confused, he couldn’t remember how he got there. What was more troubling was he had no idea where ‘there’ was. He shook off the night; picked himself up and set off in the direction of what he hoped would be town. He heard the voice of Ian McLaughlin before he saw the man, perched on the porch of the turn of the century Victorian. After a brief conversation and coming to the conclusion Jonathan needed a job and place to stay, Ian pointed him in the direction of the Burns. Maybe being here was a destiny; especially after the death of his wife and two sons. With the prospect of a place to stay in trade for some handyman work for the Burns, perhaps this was where he needed to be to sort things out over the summer ahead.
St. Martin was about to lose its innocence. Stunning, redheaded, blue-eyed beauty Tara Walsh was declared legally insane after she satiated the appetite of an industrial wood chipper with the likes of her husband. According to Tara, the two horrific years of marriage to her brute of a husband Charley was the most frightening experience of her life. Fact of the matter was nobody knew for sure if Charley was the awful beast Tara described. No matter, all she ever wanted from Charley was the endless acres of timber he owned and the money that went along with it. On trial for his murder, she knew exactly when to turn the waterworks on for the jury as much as when to toss a sultry glance toward the judge. In the end, nobody bought any of it as she was found guilty and insane before being shipped off to the sanitarium. St. Martins was going to regret that decision for a very long time to come.
Michael Kasenow is a master of the pen. He demonstrates this once again with his signature and fluid style. I had the pleasure of reading his previous book, A View From the Edge, and experienced an instant connection with his work. Such was also the case with A Wicked Thing. Mr. Kasenow deserves big props because it is clear to this writer; he knows how to write from his soul. He has an innate and natural ability to hold his audience willingly captive and engaged through the entire read. The man is a fantastic writer and without question, I am a fan. Keep writing Michael, you clearly have the gift.
FQ: First, I have to know – is Sugar based on a real cat?
My younger daughter had a black cat with green eyes and a stubby tail. Her name was Melba. I always liked her spirit and playfulness. She adored my daughter and loved to snuggle—when she was ready! She also was the queen of the household, keeping her "brother," Burrito, in his place, though he was 3 times her petite size! So although Sugar is white on the outside, I like to think that she is Melba inside.
FQ: Santa, elves and a cute kitty – a great combination! Where did the idea for the story come from?
My husband and I were traveling to visit our daughters one Christmas. There were decorations everywhere, holiday music around every corner, so my mind was stimulated by that. I thought about Santa and his calling and thought that at the end of his deliveries we tend to forget about him as a person. I started to think that Santa needed a pet to pay him special attention and to bring some personal joy to his life. A kitten seemed like the right fit for a busy person. Then I thought about how Santa would care for the kitten. He would want her loved and cared for when he couldn't be with her. A gentle spirited, playful elf who was struggling with his identity seemed like a good choice. Every good story must have a problem and someone who grows with having to solve that problem. Nugget fits that description.
|Author Jane Gerencher|
FQ: The story teaches a very important lesson about believing in yourself. Was that the intent from the start?
As the story line develops, I want readers of all ages to understand that we all make mistakes, but we are defined by how we resolve them. Nugget needed to get outside of his own problems and care about something else. In letting go of his own uncertainties, he was able to be brave and do the right thing. The wonderful results of that were beyond his wildest dreams. I think there is a little "Nugget" in each of us.
FQ: I wanted to hug poor Nugget when he found that Sugar was missing. He was so sad. Do you think children will relate this to how they've felt at times?
Having been a child, having had children of my own, and now revisiting childhood through my darling granddaughter, I have no doubt that children can be very empathetic. It is important for children to learn that being human involves feeling sad at times and then coming to terms with the sadness through some constructive way.
FQ: I mentioned the illustrations in my review – they're wonderful. Would you tell me a little bit about Michael Patch, your illustrator?
Michael is a young professional illustrator I met at a Book Rack bookstore in Mesa, AZ. The owner who knew of his talent introduced us. Michael showed me his work and I loved it. His pictures do not disappoint, do they? We had a good time collaborating on the artwork for the book to achieve the timelessness of the story I was hoping for.
FQ: Another question about the artwork. There is quite a bit of it in your book. Would you tell our readers about the process of working with your illustrator, coming up with ideas, discussing your vision for the book, etc.?
|Santa, Sugar and Nugget|
FQ: There are a lot of Christmas books on the market but so many of them are, well, commercialized to the point of missing the message of Christmas. Was that something you wanted to bring back to children - that Christmas isn't about toys but really, about love?
I never intended to make a commercial book. I wrote the story for the pleasure of writing a story. Every good story should challenge us to think. I wanted children to know that children like Nugget and even adults as famous as Santa make mistakes. How we deal with our mistakes is what builds character. Friendship, forgiveness and kindness are also important values that Nugget discovers as modeled by Santa and Mrs. Claus, the cooperative efforts of the elves, and the respect paid to the reindeer. When Nugget decides to follow his heart, he has grown considerably. He is willing to take the consequences of his choice because he wants to do the right thing. And, this is a children's story, so it is only fair that his actions would lead to a happy ending with Sugar safe, Santa proud of Nugget, and Nugget having a new friend in the reindeer Twizzle. He feels taller too which is another way of saying he feels more grown-up and confident.
To learn more about Santa's Sugar, please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.
Publisher: Gadfly Publishing
Publication Date: April 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 2013
Since when did it become fashionable for others to tell you what to do? Since the evangelical Christians decided to shake hands with the Republican party, that’s when. The Republican party has evolved into a conservative one and the marriage was a match made in heaven, one that revitalized a party that was fractionalized and fraught with dissension. Mudslinging was rampant as the more conservative members labeled other more progressive members RINOs, Republicans in Name Only. Now we have the Teavangelicals whose outlook on your life and mine is biblically based. The Republican party now has cohesion with many adhering to a biblical world view.
The intent of this book is to help us “learn to identify Bible bullies -- their personality traits, their tactics, and how they use the Bible to push others around” while exploring topics so near and dear to their hearts (and Bible). Undoubtedly, few people need to read a book to learn how to identify those who have a Bible verse at the ready to back up their political beliefs, beliefs based on their religious ones. We all are prone to confirmation bias and can find support for our beliefs on many levels, but Bible bullies are armed and ready to spew their “unvarnished hatred, ostensibly justified in the name of religion.” Perhaps the terminology is a bit strong, but the Ellises counter their verses and voices with a little logic and points that defy argument.
The first part of the book deals with topics near and dear to the Bible bully’s heart: misogyny, child abuse, family planning, sexual diversity, alcohol, social programs, creationism, and public prayer. In a firm, conversational style, the Ellises open their Bibles and find the verses the Bible bullies so often use to support their arguments, arguments that are often weak and cannot be attributed to the teachings of Jesus. WWJD is not the question, but rather it’s what did Jesus say? Many Bible thumping bullies cite verses that Paul penned. For example, “The only verses in the New Testament that sanction child discipline are attributed not to Jesus, but to Paul.”
Perhaps someone should alert the Pearl family of this faux pas. The second and third parts of the book use confirmation bias (what’s good for the goose is good for the gander) to further voice and support the Ellis’s viewpoints. Of particular interest to the reader will be an exploration of Paul’s teachings in contrast to Jesus’s. What I did appreciate was the fact that there was no venom in these pages. There was an attempt to give an historical overview of an issue, relay what the evangelical Christian or Bible bully might cite for “proof,” and examine what actually is in the Bible, or isn’t as the case may be. The book itself is a challenging read and if you want to challenge Bible bullies, you’ll find this to be a fascinating read with plenty of food for thought.