Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review - Rags Hero Dog of WWI

Rags Hero Dog of WWI: A True Story

By: Margot Theis Raven
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1585362585
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 30, 2014

Mon dieu! The little white dog was nothing but a nuisance. No one on earth could ever love a dog that lurked in alleyways overturning garbage. In the dark of one Paris night sirens were heard and people escaped into hiding “so they wouldn’t be seen by enemy planes.” Private James Donovan, an American soldier, accidentally stumbled upon the mutt as he too hid in a doorway in the dark. Even soldiers weren’t supposed to be roaming the streets, but when a policeman demanded his pass, James made up a tale. “Sir, this dog is our division mascot,” he began. “I ran off base to find him when he went missing.” Ah, yes, the little dirty dog was indeed a lucky one, perhaps luckier than anyone could have ever guessed.

First Division Rags became his new name, Rags for short. Donovan and Rags were now on the move, heading to the battlefront. The trenches whirled with activity when Rags chased off the mice. He alerted the men when he “heard the buzz of incoming shells before the soldiers did.” Rags was Donovan’s right-hand man and worked hard to win the war. Even shells exploding around him didn’t keep him from his job as he delivered messages. One day the men found themselves trapped in a whirl of fog in the midst of a major battle in the Argonne Forest. “Go find,” Donovan said to Rags, but then the shells began to hit. Would Rags be able to save the First Division or would they all die in the trenches?

This is the amazing tale of Rags, an unusual hero of WWI that young readers will love. The tale is a bit fictionalized, but Rags was indeed a real dog who was an unexpected hero. The tale is prefaced by a brief overview of the war dogs that were used during WWI. It swings quickly into the tale of one little dog who wasn’t trained for the part, but rather stumbled into it by a chance meeting with a soldier who would take him into battle. The artwork is beautifully rendered in slightly darkened tones, indicative of dark times long ago. Young readers will definitely fall in love with Rags and just may become interested in researching the unsung heroes of war ... dogs. In the back of the book is more information about the fate of Donovan and his very devoted sidekick, Rags.

Quill says: Young readers will be wowed by the heroism of a small dog that no one really wanted!

Feathered Quill Awards 'Early Bird' Discount Expires Soon!

Our annual book award program is in full swing.  To start each year, we offer a special, reduced 'early bird' discount nomination fee - it encourages early entries so our judges can start reading.  This special fee of just $50 ($35 for each additional category) expires this Sunday, August 31.  If you plan on nominating your book, do it now!

Just follow this link! Feathered Quill Book Awards

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interview with Author S.S. Segran

Today we're talking with S.S. Segran, author of Aegis Rising

FQ: Does the word 'Aegis' have a special meaning?

SEGRAN: 'Aegis' is the name of the shield that the Greek god Zeus uses to protect himself. I used it to symbolically portray the five protagonists as they eventually assume the role of ‘protectors of the world’ as the planet descends into chaos.

FQ: Were there any stories or legends about the Pacific Northwest that assisted in sparking the inspiration for this story?

SEGRAN: Not particularly, but when I was younger I was fascinated with Native American culture, especially their connection with nature and wildlife. I find that there is something almost mystical about that connection. Our ancestors lived directly off the earth and had a special connection with it. They nurtured it as it nurtured them. There was no technology back then, no gizmos that pulled us into a virtual plane. I'm certainly not complaining about technology - I'm quite a frequent user of it! But that idea of going back to the roots of our humanity, if you will, to what surrounds us, is what intrigues me and prompted me to use it as a main setting for Aegis Rising.

FQ: The maps at each part of the book provided a great visual. Was this something you planned to include from the beginning?

SEGRAN: I did intend to include maps, yes. A few novels that I've read had maps to help the reader navigate through various locations in a particular story, and I found it very helpful. Having understood the scope of the story in Aegis Rising. I figured that maps would be beneficial to my readers as well and from the feedback I've received so far, it seems that integrating them was a good idea!

FQ: What do you see as the benefits of writing a story with many perspectives as you did with Aegis Rising?

SEGRAN: The way I imagined it, the main benefit would be getting into the thoughts and actions of different characters in a given scene or a sequence with certain clarity and uniqueness. I was hoping that it would give readers a rich variation in perspectives and show that, just as in real life, there are many angles to a story and there may be a number of conclusions that people can draw from a situation. I also hoped that it will allow readers to connect with the characters in way that is real as opposed to simply following one character's thoughts or point-of-view and possibly relegating the other four protagonists to the background.

FQ: What places have you traveled to in the Pacific Northwest that inspired the setting for this book?

SEGRAN: I live in British Columbia, Canada, so I'm very lucky to be surrounded by gorgeous bodies of water and forests with tall, ancient trees. There are mountains, waterfalls and great wildlife, and it all combines to spur my imagination. Just by looking out most of the windows in my house I can see beautiful trees and mountains in the distance. I have also travelled by road and air across BC, as well as by boat into enchanting inlets and bays along its coast. It's very inspiring!

FQ: In many books the elder characters are distant but with your story they are actually quite relatable and approachable. Was this how you intended the elders to be?

SEGRAN: I did! I find that for novels which contain a mentor-apprentice theme, there's sometimes just too much of a barrier between the mentors and the pupils. For the Elders, I didn't want them to be aloof or distant from the teenagers. They needed to be seen as human beings who genuinely care for these five youths who were unexpectedly dropped into their lives. A struggle also had to be shown depicting how they felt knowing that they had to assign these kids a huge responsibility that the five never asked for. I wanted it to vaguely resemble a parent-child kind of relationship.

FQ: The character Hutar was shown to be given a second chance, could this possibly lead to a more positive role for him in future novels?

SEGRAN: Love the question! However, I am unable to say too much for now except yes, Hutar will return. I've always wanted him to stick around with the story for a while plus, I can also say this, he will have a significant role in the future. I certainly didn't want to him to be a one-time character that disappears after the first book. In short, he will return, though whether for good or bad will have to remain a secret for now ?

FQ: Living a simple, purpose driven life is something that can be hard to find in today’s society. Is this what helped to prompt you to write about a community that strives to do just that?

SEGRAN: It's exactly that. Thanks to my parents, this was the kind of ideal that I grew up with - there's no real need for fame or excessiveness. I believe that helping one another and doing the right thing is what betters us as human beings, and that in turn would create a much happier and safer world. The Dema-Ki community in the story strives to do just that. Yet, they are realist who will use their special abilities if the need arises to maintain peace and the well-being of their people and the valley.

To learn more about Aegis Rising, please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - The Wishing Tide

The Wishing Tide

By: Barbara Davis
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-41878-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 27, 2014

Barbara Davis uses the allure of the sea and the pristine North Carolina Outer Banks as her backdrop to tell her captivating tale in her latest novel, The Wishing Tide.

Tropical Storm Penny is making her steady progress toward the small Outer Banks community. The summer season is over and the last of the tourists have all but gone. The quaint bed and breakfast, Cloister House, has survived a storm or two in her sands of time. Lane Kramer watches the progress of the storm as she thinks about her departure from her native Chicago. The devastation of her miscarriage and the end of her marriage is in its wake. As she continues to watch the storm’s progress from her favorite room—her writing room, it is difficult to believe she has been here for five years. She could see the storm clouds circling Starry Point in the distance. The last of her guests were leaving today and so another season would come to its end. Lane would settle into the solitude of her winter months—writing articles of things she knew nothing about for the many magazines she equally knew nothing about...

As the last of her guests leave, Lane is surprised by the sudden knock on the door. When she opens it to find Michael Forrester standing on its other side, her first reaction is to advise him Cloister House was officially closed for the season. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Penny had other plans—particularly now that she was gaining strength. It would seem a rather large tree had fallen across the only point of access in and out of the small community. For the time being, it looks like Lane’s season isn’t quite over after all. When Lane agreed to provide shelter from the storm for Forrester, little did she know her comfortable and predictable life as she knew it would be put to a battery of tests and choices that would change course for ever more...

Barbara Davis anchors her story with the splendor of the Outer Banks as she sets scene and tone early on. Her detailed description of the beauty along with the threat of a formidable storm bearing down at season’s end manages to capture the reader’s interest to read on. Her characters are believable in that their moods are solidly defined—Michael Forrester: handsome and mysterious with a moody edge. Lane Kramer is a woman of substance and has managed to reinvent her life by making a drastic change of scenery from her native Chicago. Even Bag Lady Mary’s role of roaming the desolate dunes daily beckons more than a curiosity from Davis’ audience. Davis has clear tone and voice throughout as she strategically plants the necessary seeds to build her sound plot. She further enhances the plot with the suggestion of the important connection the ‘haunted house’ across the street from Cloister House plays in this story. The dialogue is strong and the story moves forward at a comfortable pace. This book has all the makings and merits of a good read to take along on summer vacation. It has just the right amount of intrigue and flow to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end.

Quill says: The Wishing Tide is the perfect addition to a tall glass of sweet tea, a gentle summer breeze and a schedule with nothing more to do than 'be.'

Book Review - Visions: A Cainsville Novel

Visions: A Cainsville Novel

By: Kelley Armstrong
Illustrated By: Tony Mauro
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-525-95305-0
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 27, 2014

After discovering that she could not only read but also understand omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones is not surprised that she finds herself comfortable in the small town of Cainsville, as this town is far from ordinary. Even though Olivia cannot place her finger on why this town is so different, she can sense from the elders that she is wanted here.

After finding out her parents are convicted serial killers there are two things on Olivia’s mind; the first is to work with her parents' lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, to drop two charges of murder because they had already found that they were not committed by her parents. The second thing Olivia wants to do is to get back to a somewhat normal life on her own. This was the first time Olivia was truly on her own and she wanted to prove to herself more than anyone that she could make it without help.

However, when Olivia finds the body of a dead girl in her car dressed to look like her things change quickly. There are a few possible reasons why the victim is dressed like Olivia - either someone is threatening her or warning her of her own impending death. Of course the first thing she does is call Gabriel, but when he makes it to the house the body has vanished; was this another omen Olivia just saw in her head or is someone playing with her? Well so much for living that normal life she wanted as Olivia throws herself into researching the identity of this murdered girl and what it has to do with her own life. On top of that Gabriel begins to become overly obsessive about her safety, her ex-fiancé James insists on reconciliation, and a certain handsome young man named Ricky Gallagher is constantly catching her eye. Whether finding this body was an omen or a warning planted by someone, Olivia knows there she has little time to find out how all of this relates to her before someone may try to kill her.

Even though I have not read the first book in this series, Omens, I had no trouble getting into this story. The writing of Armstrong is raw enough to keep the book intense but also subtle enough to let the reader know the intricate details of the characters. It was brilliant in my mind to include small chapters from some of the other characters' points of view as the author gave me enough insight to relate to each of these characters yet still held something back to keep them intriguing as well. That is a tough balance to accomplish but Armstrong does this amazingly well in addition to creating a strong character in Olivia. As soon as I started the first page there was no putting this book down - I stayed up late reading just to see where the story was going and what dangers would be com in

Quill says: A gripping story that will have the reader wishing for their own foresight just to know what’s going to happen next.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Interview with Author Sherry L. Meinberg

Today we're talking with Sherry L. Meinberg, author of The Cockroach Invasion

FQ: In your years of teaching, did you just teach third grade, or other grades as well?

MEINBERG: Although my favorite grade to teach was the third grade, in my 50 years as an educator (teaching in public schools for 34 years, and later as a core university adjunct professor for 16 years), I taught all grade levels. For instance, during a number of semesters, I taught elementary school in the daytime, and high school at night (for previous drop outs, or for those students who had been expelled, and wanted to return and finish their education). After retiring for the second time, I began teaching creative writing to senior citizens. So I have taught all age groups.

FQ: How did you decide what facts to put in your book, so it could be understood by young children, but also interesting for adults?

MEINBERG: Since this story actually happened in my third grade classroom, years ago, I tried to record what I remembered, as close as possible. For those older students and adults who might want to explore more information, I included two sections at the tail end of the book: More Interesting Facts About Cockroaches, and What’s Good About Cockroaches. Although I found some scientist’s experiments very interesting, I didn’t include them, because the book would have been way too long.

FQ: Was including the diagrams and sketches by the students something you intended from the beginning?

Author Sherry L. Meinberg

MEINBERG: Absolutely not! When adult professional artists refused to draw cockroaches, I assured them that only a few cockroach sketches were needed, and the rest of the sketches would be other images (a ship, a grasshopper, a dinosaur, etc.), but no one wanted to be involved with cockroaches. It was very frustrating! At long last, I finally conducted an art contest for third and fourth graders, and was so pleased with the result. The 16 winners of the contest are from different schools in different cities. I think the book is much better with the children’s sketches, even though it took eight more weeks to get all of the parental signatures on permission slips. Some parents didn’t believe their children, when they said they won an art contest. “Okay. Yeah. Sure,” they responded, and thought their kids were making up wild stories. The crushed and wrinkled pages were finally found squished in the bottom of the children’s backpacks, which were then hastily signed and returned.

FQ: Pictures and diagrams are always a great way to grab children’s attention, but what do you do to get them to pay attention to the written word as well?

MEINBERG: I just wrote the story in the exciting way in which it happened. The subject matter is what holds the readers’ focus. Oddly, a couple of adults suggested that I should add or omit certain items, which I refused to do. They didn’t get the message that the book is nonfiction.

FQ: What have you found that children most enjoyed about your books?

MEINBERG: One father told me that his soon-to-be 4th grade daughter wouldn’t put the book down, until she read it clear through, cover to cover! (Bedtime had to wait.) That’s what I like to hear! A woman told me that after her 3rd grade granddaughter read the book to herself, she wanted to read it aloud, to her. She began by leaning over and patting her grandmother’s arm, and said, “You will have questions, Grandma, but don’t worry. I have all the answers!” (Wow! A budding teacher in the works!) I think the yuck factor is what interests children the most. Many young readers saw themselves interacting in Room 8. Others wished they could have actually been in Room 8, when they were in the third grade. One letter from Hawaii said that the writer had always been afraid of cockroaches, but now she had a newfound respect for them. A letter from California said: “If I had discovered such a book when I was nine, perhaps my motto would not be: If a bug comes into my house, it gets zapped!” Those are the kind of responses I was hoping for: a change of attitude toward the “unhuggable” and “unlovable” critters of our world. Young readers seem more accepting of all living creatures, which is what I was aiming for.

FQ: Reactions of both boys and girls were included, but have you found that one gender is more attracted to your book than the other, or is it about the same?

MEINBERG: At this point, I don’t see a clear division. Readers seem to be of both genders equally, as they all have had cockroach experiences of their own, and can relate. The great thing for me to see is that many reluctant readers find the topic fascinating enough for them to want to read the book.

FQ: The character of Diego presented a shy personality. Was he based on an actual student of yours?

MEINBERG: Yes, but his shyness was more from a language barrier. Once Diego felt he had a handle on his new language skills, his true personality shone through. For example, I once had a second grade girl, who checked into school late in the year. She relied on her body language, nodding her head, and pointing with her fingers, and such, while listening intently to conversations. She was extremely quiet, seemingly fading into the woodwork, just observing. It later became clear that she understood much more than she let on, but she was simply unsure of using the new vocabulary. I’m sure that she didn’t want to be laughed at. She spent that year soaking up the language sounds and meaning. In the third grade, she felt comfortable and confident with English, and was a total and constant chatterbox. Her conversations, comments, and whispered asides, just wouldn’t stop! She was a waterfall of words. The change was simply amazing.

FQ: Do you have plans to continue writing these books?

MEINBERG: I could definitely have a Room 8 series. On page 116 of The Cockroach Invasion, I ask the readers to choose the next book that they would like to read. I have listed seven other titles, of unusual and unexpected oddball experiences, that actually happened in my third grade classroom. But if children show no further interest, then I will return focus again on adult nonfiction books.

To learn more about The Cockroach Invasion please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review - The Cockroach Invasion

The Cockroach Invasion

By: Sherry L. Meinberg
Illustrated By: Thinkstock
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4808-0747-1
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 16, 2014

The way that young children learn, observe, and then explain what they see is always interesting and reading about the adventures of the third graders in room eight is no exception. Everything that comes out of the mouths of kids is straight forward, to the point and usually quite entertaining. However, in this story the subject is cockroaches and that subject alone provides endless opportunities for these third graders to express their young opinions on these creepy, crawly creatures. Of course each one of these children have their own ideas about these insects but they never imagine how much they will learn about these relatively unknown species.

It was a normal school day for the third grade class in room eight as they all prepared to start a lesson in Ms. Matson’s classroom. However, the day drastically changed as a swarm of cockroaches suddenly came scurrying out of the sink drain! The room erupted into shrieks, screams, and crunching as the boys (primarily) decided they needed to take a stand against the army of roaches invading their classroom. Desperately trying to control the mayhem, Ms. Matson tells the students to find as many containers as they can and trap the cockroaches inside. After most of the pesky insects were trapped in jars the janitor was called in to take care of the mess in classroom eight. As the mess was cleaned, everyone’s interest was quickly overcome with everything that was unknown about cockroaches.

Using this new interest, Ms. Matson decides that as a class they will all do their own projects explaining all sorts of facts about cockroaches. At first the students know very little about cockroaches, but they are eager to learn and answer the many questions as they embark on an information finding quest. What they discover is more interesting than any of them could have predicted. The lesson even brings the quiet students out of their shells.

Working with children is always unique as there is never really a way to predict what will happen or what they will say. It was obvious that the author of this book, Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg, has quite a way with young children as she brought to life a book that not only entertains but teaches - which is exactly what great educators do. Including sketches made by kids was also an amazing touch as I can see how that would be incredibly appealing in the eyes of a child. The writing also flowed easily and quickly, allowing this book to be enjoyed by any age. I even found myself laughing out loud at some of the comments of these third graders. The humor and fun made for a great and enjoyable read!

Quill says: This is a fun read that can be enjoyed by a reader of any age.

Interview with Author Lori Stewart

Today we're talking with Lori Stewart, author of Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today!

FQ: As a fan, let me begin by saying I love this book, and will absolutely treasure it so that my daughter can one day show her children (gulp) all about life…and family.

STEWART: Thank you so much Amy – I’m so thrilled you liked it!

FQ: I have to begin with the past you presented so effortlessly. Are you one of the lucky ones who got to read and learn from those photo albums that Grandma had saved? If so, can you tell our readers the happiest memory of Grandma’s house?

STEWART: Yes I did get to thumb through the old family photo albums – in later days, photos that only made it as far as the dresser drawer!

Memories of Grandma’s house are all of lingering impressions and simple events: I can still see Grandma leaning out of the open top of the Dutch door, watching for us to arrive, and waving as we left: I remember the smell of freshly baked sourdough bread that went straight from the oven into our anxious little hands. I remember the lemonade cocktails she made for us, layered with orange and cherry juice to match the setting sun. I remember sitting in front of the red brick fireplace making wreathes from the nuts and cones and seedpods we’d gather in the yard; wreathes we still hang over the mantle during the holidays. It may be that we keep the good memories and discard the bad, but Grandma’s house really was happy and warm and safe – or so it seemed to me.

FQ: The timeline idea was a perfect addition to the book; in fact, most of the notes written I had no idea about. How did you choose these in particular? Was the tale mapped out in your mind earlier than when it was written, or did the idea just ‘spark’ to add the timeline in?

STEWART: The timeline and the tale and the title are all of a piece; so let me start with the title.
A friend was talking about funny things kids say, and she told me about her granddaughter walking down the hall looking at all the old photos and turning to her and saying, ”Grandma, aren’t you glad the world’s finally in color today! I knew immediately that would be the title and I new exactly what the book would be about.

I flashed back to a couple of things….one was my great aunt’s legacy tape, where she talked about the her childhood: what her school was like, how she got there, how she curled her hair, and how it was cool to wear her galoshes unbuckled.

The other flash back, was to a poem I had written years before as part of an invitation to my mother’s 70th birthday party. I looked through the Columbia History of the World (print version) to find out what was new…what had been invented since 1923, when she was born. So I turned that invitation into the section of the book that starts with:

“It all started way back, way back in the day,” through
“When gold was the standard and LIFE cost a dime;
In fact it was just a few years before TIME”

And that’s where the timeline came in. I started illustrating that section of the book with a timeline, but it was terribly cluttered and not effective. My editor/friend said..."why don’t you stretch the timeline through the whole book?" It was a brilliant idea...and all hers...and I jumped on it.

As to subject matter for the timeline piece, I knew I wanted to stay away from politics and wars and famous deaths. I wanted to focus on inventions and events somewhat associated with the subject of that page. So, thank heaven for the Internet. I just kept Googling –timeline clothes, timeline music and so forth, and picked what I thought was either important or peaked my interest!

FQ: Are you a fan of children’s books? Such as, do you wish to see those Charlotte’s Web and Winnie the Pooh authors arrive on the scene again? What is your favorite children’s book?

STEWART: Yes I love children’s books and am particularly partial to Dr. Seuss. But I think my favorite children’s book is The Velveteen Rabbit. I weep “real“ tears whenever I read it.

FQ: Do you feel, as a person and a writer, that there is a way this world can combine the old with the new? It seems that technology has taken over everything – with children (and adults), spending more time buried in a cellphone texting than actual reading. How can we get that passion for the book back in our children?

STEWART: Yes I do think we can, in fact I think we have to combine both old and new. As Steve Jobs said, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

But getting children engaged in reading is a different subject. I think reading aloud to children everyday is terribly important. And I think cuddling up on a couch with children and reading to and with them is important. It’s the only way I know to get them ‘lost’ in a book, and that’s an experience I want every child to have. E-books are great, but I’m not sure they are the best reading tools for young children. It’s too easy for a young child to get distracted and start doing something more interactive. But reading starts with the parents, and grandparents and teachers turning off their phones and electronics, and spending time reading out loud to the children.

FQ: How do you feel about the ever-growing world/industry of genealogy? It seems to be growing, with more and more wanting to know where they ‘came from’ so to speak. Are you a historian in that respect?

STEWART: I think it’s important to people that they know who they are and where they came from. Interestingly, that will probably be the subject of my next book. I was one of the lucky ones who grew up with old photos and family stories, and the chance to ask a lot of questions. But not everyone had that. The genealogy industry may not be able to give everyone the answers they’re looking for, but it does teach people to ask the questions, and shows them where to look for the answers.

FQ: Family photos...a new way of doing things, of course. Is there a way we can make sure that the technology we have is used to keep the photos for the next generation to enjoy, like our Grandma’s did for us?

STEWART: Technology can be great, but its up to us to use it well. Years ago, photography (the equipment, the film the developing process) was expensive. So people took fewer photos and preserved them carefully in photo albums. It seem as photography became more accessible and less expensive, people took more photos and ended up putting them in dresser drawers. Digital technology has made it easy to take thousands of new photos and scan hundreds of old photos and store them all on chips. People probably won’t put these photos into albums, but those who care can easily create photo books of certain periods or memorable events, or slide shows in digital picture frames, or sliding screen savers, or maybe they’ll just share them on social media for others to enjoy.

FQ: Can you explain a bit about the non-profit organization you founded for wildlife conservation? It is extremely necessary work, as well, and it would be interesting for the readers to learn about your ‘community’ coming together, and perhaps how to get something going in their own area.

STEWART: AFTA (Art For The Animals) was established to support wildlife conservation through community development. We worked with conservation organizationswho, after 40 years on the ground in the developing world (Africa, India, South America, Indonesia, Mongolia) realized that if you were going to save wildlife in those areas, you had to give the people who lived there a way to make a living from conservation. Several of these organizations started ‘conservation enterprises’ – economically and ecologically sustainable businesses such as conservation coffee production, eco-tourism, or arts and crafts. One good example is the work Painted Dog Conservation is doing in Zimbabwe to educate the world about the destruction of wildlife by illegal poaching and the insidious use of wire snares. Painted Dog Conservation contracted local artists to create sculptures made from these snares, which are removed from the bush by their anti-poaching units.

AFTA’s Art for the Animals was a fundraising program that created donation packages as holiday gifts. A donor, who made a contribution to save a wild African dog, would receive one of the snare wire sculptures as a thank you gift. So the program provided funds for conservation and research; income to local artisans – giving them the incentive to preserve their wildlife; and it created original art for holiday gift giving.

We recently made a decision to get out of the gift bundling part of the program. The Internet made it easy for third world artisans to market directly, and larger organizations had incorporated many of our ideas into their own programs – making our involvement less necessary. So our mission is being accomplished by technology, and the adoption of ideas by those with greater resources, and that is what we were after.

FQ: I always ask this question of all writers: Is there one writer (living or not), who you would love to have lunch with and talk to? If so, who would that be and why?

STEWART: Oh...that is such an impossible question! My first thought was Ralph Waldo Emerson, because his optimism and larger truths resonate and I think I would be a better person if I knew him. But, if we’re talking about great thinkers, then why not Plato or Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Socrates or Gandhi, Einstein or Hawking. Or if we are looking for writers, I would say Steinbeck, because he’s familiar and knows this place and the stories I would love to know.

FQ: Are there more children’s books in the works?

STEWART: Yes definitely. I love writing them, and as long as I think I have something to say, I’ll carry on.

To learn more about Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today! please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today!

Grandma, Aren’t You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today!

By: Lori Stewart
Publisher: Palmar Press
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9839293-1-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 14, 2014

This new book is a rhyming tale for children that is absolutely perfect for adults as well. The author who brought the world If I Had as Many Grandchildren as You, which won rave reviews as well as awards, is back with this incredible creation that will become one of those ‘classics’ you keep on your shelf to share with your grandchildren one day.

School is out! Which is what every child likes to hear. But for the two siblings in our story, they are off to the shore to visit Grandma...and the adventure they embark upon is far better than any video game could supply.

As Grandma pulls down the old photo albums because the kids truly want to see what’s in them, a whole world is opened up that they never knew about. They learn all about those ‘black-and-white’ days, where it was fun to ride bikes outside, and horses were used for transportation. Grandma shows them photos of the past, of her mother, and the one-room schoolhouse with girls in pinafore dresses and boys in their sailor suits. These were the days of peace, hard work, and where family and friends sat around the dinner table each night. These were the days of family fun, before the TV invaded every home.

But what Grandma also shows is the difference between today and back then. She tells her grandchildren all about the toys she played with, as well as giving a pat on the back to technology and the inventions over the years that brought the world into Technicolor – from laptops to smartphones to the ability to light up the globe. She speaks of the ventures back then versus the ones that are ahead of our children now – and the amazing things they could create because of what there is to utilize in these modern times.

The beauty of this tale comes from the ‘good’ things in life that are very rarely spoken of anymore...except between those lucky ones who can visit Grandma’s house, smell the scent of the chocolate chip cookies, and literally have a time travel experience, as they meet their relatives and admire and learn about the generations that have come before them.

This author has done a stunning job; from the rhyme to the timeline across the top of each page that actually corresponds with the topic being spoken about (AKA: a timeline of toys is offered that marks everything from the Teddy Bear arriving on the scene in 1902 to the Apple iPhone introduction in 2007). This is a definite look back book, but combined with the present day ‘color’ that the past two centuries produced. Beautiful thoughts, exciting ideas and great photos make this one a definite ‘must-read’ for all kids and adults.

Quill says: A perfect tale that teaches to never forget the ‘black-and-white’ glory, while making sure to celebrate the Technicolor world of today! 

For more information on Grandma, Aren't You Glad the World’s Finally in Color Today!, please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review - The Butcher

The Butcher

By: Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 2014
ISBN: 978-1476734217
Reviewed by: Krisit Benedict
Review Date: August 15, 2014

Edward Shank was a well known household name around Seattle, Washington as he was the one everyone knew had brought down the serial killer known as the Beacon Hill Butcher. The case never went to trial for the man named Rufus Wedge was killed when Edward Shank went to arrest him. It was a quick ending to the nightmare that plagued this city for years, or so everyone thought. Now Edward is eighty-years-old and has finally decided it is time for him to act his age. He moves into a retirement home, leaving his old Victorian house to his grandson Matt. Even though getting old did not set well with Edward, he knew it was time for things to start slowing down but he could not deny that he still missed the thrill he felt when he was chief of police so many years ago.

Matt Shank’s life was going exactly as he wanted, he had a successful restaurant, he was becoming a renowned chef, he had just inherited his grandfather’s gorgeous house, and he also had a beautiful girlfriend. Yes, everything was going great for Matt until during his renovations to the backyard a crate was found buried deep in the ground by one of the contractors. Thinking that this was just something accidently forgotten and left behind by his grandfather, Matt didn’t think it would be a big deal if he opened it himself, besides they were family. What he finds changes everything and would ruin all of the things Matt has worked so long to achieve.

Samantha and Matt Shank had been dating for three years and from the beginning Sam knew that her feelings for Matt were stronger than any she had felt before. She could see herself marrying him, having a family, growing old together but Matt had consistently put his career first. Of course Sam had always admired Matt's ambition and drive but she was beginning to wonder if she would ever move up on his priority list. Thankfully, she was working on a project to write a book about the murders of the Beacon Hill Butcher that helped to distract her from her failing love life. This was a subject she took personal as Sam believed that her own mother was murdered by The Butcher; the only catch was her mom’s murder was after Rufus Wedge was killed. Everyone she explains her theory to thinks she’s crazy but Sam is determined not to stop until she finds closure.

When I started this book I expected a mysterious thriller but what I found was an intense, raw, and absolutely terrifying story. The lies, deception, murders, and killers are so uniquely interwoven together I found myself reading pages as fast as I could to find out what would happen next. If Jennifer Hillier was going for a book that caused me to shiver with each chapter she succeeded amazingly well. I found myself truly shuttering in certain parts of this book as her writing brings to life the beyond psychotic workings of a serial killer’s brain and desires.

Quill says: This is definitely a book that would satisfy any reader who relishes a raw mystery thriller.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review - The Book Stops Here

The Book Stops Here: A Bibliophile Mystery

By: Kate Carlisle
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-0451415981
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 14, 2014

Brooklyn Wainwright is at it again – and this time she's thrown into the middle of two mysteries. With characteristic wit, author Kate Carlisle has written yet another fun mystery that keeps pages turning till the very end.

In The Book Stops Here, the latest in the Bibliophile Mystery series, protagonist Brooklyn Wainwright has been asked to appear on a national antique appraisal show that has traveled to her neck of the woods. “This Old Attic” will be filming in San Francisco for several weeks and they want her to act as the rare-book expert/appraiser. Nothing makes Brooklyn happier than talking about books so she happily agrees and is thrilled when the first book she gets is a first-edition of The Secret Garden. While taping the segment for the show, Brooklyn tells the book’s owner, Vera Stoddard, that the book is worth at least twenty thousand dollars! Vera is speechless, thrilled almost to tears. Having just bought the book a few days earlier for three dollars at a local garage sale, Vera can’t believe her good fortune.

When a teaser airs for the show, Vera’s book is the lead and it gets the attention of a big, burly brute who wants the book. Accosting Brooklyn in the studio parking lot, he insists the book belongs to him and he will kill anyone who stands between him and the book. When Vera winds up dead on the floor of her flower shop, it seems like it will be easy to find the killer. Alas, things are never as easy as they initially seem and that holds true for searching for Vera’s killer.

At the same time, Randolph Rayburn, the host of the show, is convinced that he has a stalker. Other employees at the studio think Randolph merely has an overactive imagination, but when strange things start happening, escalating in their severity, people start taking him seriously. Could the murder have something to do with Randolph’s stalker? Brooklyn needs to find out what’s going on, and fast(!) because most of the attacks seem mistakenly directed at her.

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but that didn’t keep me from quickly getting up to speed with Brooklyn, her hunky beau Derek, old friends and her new friend Alex, as well as her talent for restoring books. The author’s love of bookbinding and her experience in television come through clearly in the writing, making everything vivid and realistic. The story was face-paced and quite enjoyable. If you love cozy mysteries, check out this series.

Quill says: A satisfying cozy read that left me anxious for the next book in the Bibliophile mystery series.

Book Review - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

By: Emily Croy Barker
Illustrated By: Tal Goretsky
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-14-312567-9
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 10, 2014

A quiet worry free weekend in the mountains was all Nora wanted as she traveled with her best friend to attend a wedding. Alas, a wedding was really not the place Nora felt was the best for getting over her own ruined relationship that still hurt her heart more than she wanted to admit. However, she was determined to make the best of the weekend. Her ex was not the only worry troubling her however, as her graduate studies were taking their toll and a career in the near future seemed more and more out of reach. Even with her best attempt to enjoy herself at the wedding all Nora’s efforts are ruined as she discovers her ex is there as well. Desperate to escape the hurtful memories he will be sure to bring up, Nora decides to take a walk in the woods and comes upon an intriguing graveyard. As Nora is busy looking at the graveyard a woman comes to join her and introduces herself as Ilissa and quickly invites Nora to join her at a party. Thinking that this party will be better than the one she just left Nora agrees and finds herself surrounded by the most glamorous people she has ever seen.

Instantly Nora is treated like royalty by everyone around her and without knowing becomes an honored guest in Ilissa’s house and the main interest of her son Raclin. In a matter of a couple weeks Nora finds herself falling in love with Raclin and overjoyed when he asks her to marry him. Everything seems perfect, almost too perfect but Nora feels so happy she forces those doubts down without a second thought until a strange man comes to her. His name is Aruendiel and he warns her about the deceptive ways of Illisa and Raclin and that she must not trust them. Before this stranger leaves he gives Nora instructions on how to reach him if she finds herself in danger.

Nora does not know at the time how true those words would be as she discovers that she is in fact in a whole other world and no one in Ilissa’s house is who they appear to be. Suddenly the stranger named Aruendiel is her only reluctant ally as she struggles to escape the dark magic that has been placed on her and find a way to return to her own world.

Every twist and turn I could have imagined came forth in this book and I loved every bit of it! Just as soon as I thought I had a handle on what was going to happen next the author threw me another curve ball and sent the story into even more excitement and adventure. When I first read the title of this book I do admit I thought it would be more of a recollection of a woman’s knowledge about magic or more of a memoir of a witch or wizard. However, the engaging story I was given blew all of those thoughts out of the water as I was able to read a magnificent story that completely took me to another world and kept me there until the last page.

Quill says: A book that makes a reader think, I’m sure glad I picked this up!

Book Review - Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Reality Shock!

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Reality Shock! (ANNUAL)

By: Ripley's Believe It Or Not!
Publisher: Ripley Publishing
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1609911096
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 14, 2014

I've reviewed each new annual addition of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! for the last several years and you might think that I get tired of seeing "yet another book of weird stuff." Not so! I LOVE these books and each time a new one arrives, I'm giddy with anticipation. I can't wait to see what the folks at Ripley's have come up with to entertain and amaze. Again this year, I'm happy to report that the book is a winner. Where do they find this stuff?!

This year's theme is 'Reality Shock' and as the press release says, the book is "...a mix of can't bear to look, but can't look away stories..." There are eleven chapters that include such topics as sports, animals, body, art, food, and beyond belief.

This is the type of book that is meant to be flipped from page to page, back and forth, to hop from story to story. A visual treat, the full-color photos are fantastic and abundant and will hold teens' interest for a long time. A Klingon wedding? It's here. How about a beard so long that it holds food - and that's not just crumbs but a whole meal? Um, bet that guy doesn't get kissed very often! A grandmother with 18 inch long nails talks about how her life has changed to deal with such long nails. I appreciated the two-page spread on Tippi Hedren and her exotic animal preserve although the eyeball shaving photo was definitely one that well, ewwww...

Among all the photos are a lot of additional quick facts, about anything and everything related to that chapter's topic. Another feature of this year's book are fan uploads, with fans of Ripley's sending all sorts of odd photos from a ridiculously long tongue to a folding ear.

Quill says: I'm not surprised that this series continues to claim 'best-seller' status year after year. Always interesting, always fresh, Ripley's has once again put together a fun, entertaining book for kids of all ages.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interview with Author Andrew J. Rodgiguez

Today we're talking with Andrew J. Rodriguez, author of Santa Rita Stories

FQ: Let’s begin with that ‘small town’ life. Are you from a small town? If so, was there a Pedro among the mix, along with the other familiar characters that a small town offers?

RODRIGUEZ: I lived in a small coastal town as a child, and moved to Havana during late adolescence. At nineteen I left the country, and haven’t been back ever since (for obvious reasons). Though characters were fictional including that of Pedro, most stories were inspired in real-life events, including the Hurricane, and Ernest Hemingway’s encounters with Nazi U-Boats.

FQ: In this world of, what seems like, constant bad news, do you feel that the small town atmosphere is a better environment for a child growing up?

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely; as long as his/her education are comparable in quality to what’s offered in larger city schools.

FQ: Considering you truly delve into the “human condition,” as it were, can you tell readers your personal views on what you feel are perhaps the negatives and positives today? And what may just be the area/industry that could bring down the next generation?

RODRIGUEZ: The cancer that allowed the Castro brothers to take over my former country is alive and well today in most Western societies. Inherent to our human condition, this malignancy is ferociously threatening our life-styles not with the same political ideology, though the end could be similar or worse.

Apathy, value decay, permissiveness, and generalized ignorance, are few of the human conditions that create dangerous vacuums in social leadership. But the most common and dangerous human condition is the tendency to forget human history, for those who ignore the past are most definitely condemned to repeat it. As to today’s positives, thank God there still are numerous men and women whose unique gift to promote truth, continue to exert hopeful changes in our society through their courage, faith, and dedication to family and country.

FQ: Dealing with today’s reality will help you cope with tomorrow’s disappointments” is a quote that came from this particular book. As a writer, though, dreaming is certainly a factor in that career. Do you feel that way? Should both feet always be on the ground, per se, or should one be free to imagine something far greater and then make it happen.

RODRIGUEZ: It is imperative for artists, musicians, and writers to escape reality and live in a fantasy realm of their own with the proviso that he/she remain tethered to the nearest fire hydrant on Earth.

FQ: Family is a support system. Do you have that foundation that encourages you to write?

RODRIGUEZ: Not necessarily. I always leave family and friends out of the loop when I’m writing.

FQ: You seem to have an avid hunger for knowledge. Are there other areas of writing you wish to explore? Other genres that appeal to you?

RODRIGUEZ: Santa Rita Stories is my fifth book. I have written The Incredible Adventures of Enrique Diaz, (historical fiction,) Adios, Havana, a memoir) Helen’s Treasure, (a love story) The Teleportation of an American Teenager, (fantasy/ fiction/ and love story). But to answer your question, Santa Rita Stories have whetted my appetite for short stories, so perhaps my next book will be branded as Andrew’s Decameron, who knows?

FQ: I always ask this of everyone because readers truly would like to know: If there was one writer/philosopher/person, etc., you would like to have lunch with, who would that be and why?

RODRIGUEZ: Beethoven, Balzac, and Hemingway, all at once, and at the same table. Am I unreasonable?

FQ: Have you any other books in the works at the moment? If so, would you tell our readers a little about it/them?

RODRIGUEZ: Right now I can’t think of any. Most definitely I’m under the weather with writer’s block.

To learn more about Santa Rita Stories please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review - Santa Rita Stories

Santa Rita Stories

By: Andrew J. Rodriguez
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4787-3698-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 8, 2014

‘Coming of Age’ takes on a unique meaning in this tale, as a young man learns from, basically, the town ‘gossip,’ about various stories regarding the residents of the small village he calls home.

Right off the bat the reader meets a truly unforgettable character. His name is Pedro, but he is referred to as ‘Old Man.’ Pedro is a homeless person who wanders the docks in the Cuban fishing village of Santa Rita. He is ripe with scent, and he is one of those storytellers who definitely uses the facts and weaves them expertly with his words of wisdom in order to help teach young Carlos about life.

Pedro, the Old Man, weaves ten tales. He begins with the story of a man named Don Patricio Mayor – a poor immigrant who became a nobleman. Of course, to accomplish this feat, Mayor didn’t always do the right thing. Mayor began as a personal assistant when he was young working for a boss named Juan de Dios. This job introduced Mayor to a world of lies and thievery. However, when a fight occurred between the two men, it took years for them to meet up again. And, when they did, Mayor was the boss. He hired Juan to act as a ‘thug’ to round up debts in Santa Rita. But Juan is still the ultimate liar and when he falls ill, Juan decides to make a mockery of the town, as well as his old assistant by using lies to convince the Church that he is basically a Saint. This is one tale that teaches a true lesson about how looks can definitely deceive.

Each and every tale that comes from Old Man Pedro teaches a lesson to Carlos. Whether it be the completely wrong lesson is up to the boy (and readers) to decide. As the story moves forward, we see Carlos deal with many things that occur in real life; from his first kiss to dealing with a bully to his debate and wonder over sex. Carlos defies authority, yet tries to keep his morals and values intact. And while doing all this, he comes to make a lifelong friend.

This author offers up entertainment, fun, sadness and thought. This is a book that teaches a great deal to any age group that reads it. The “Human Condition” is spoken about by many, but as technology grows and as temptation increases, everything can alter peoples’ minds as they attempt to adjust to a far different world, while keeping their faith and self-respect.

Carlos reminds people of their own battles; and the ‘Old Man’ is most definitely that familiar character for anyone who grew up in a small town where everyone from the con men to the saints to the church ladies to the local librarian always knew exactly what you were doing. Although the freedom was lacking there, the support was easy to feel. A small town is a family with both good and bad members – the foundation that never moved, as you did your best to grow up. And this particular author shows every corner of that foundation, even the ‘cracks’ in the marble pillars of society.

Quill says: Outstanding work that offers depth without burying the kindness, humor, and variety of life.

For more information on Santa Rita Stories, please visit the book's website at:

Books In For Review

Here's a quick peek at some of the books that have arrived over the last week or so for review.  Check them out and then stop by our site in a few weeks to read the reviews.

The Cockroach Invasion by Sherry L. Meinberg Cockroach catastrophe! The third graders are in for an exciting and scary experience, as cockroaches take over their classroom. How will they act? What will they do? What would you do? What will they discover about cockroaches? Nobody loves a cockroach! They make nasty houseguests; the ick factor is very high. But most cockroaches live outdoors and never come in contact with humans. The Cockroach Invasion challenges our assumptions and raises awareness about cockroaches and the role they play in our ecosystem. It expands readers' minds and stimulates their imaginations, while contributing to the appreciation of biodiversity. It teaches readers to think twice about underloved yet necessary creatures. The Cockroach Invasion entertains and informs. It is a delightful read for all ages, stunning in its underlying messages: self-reliance, open-mindedness, and respect for all creatures with which we share our world. No matter how you feel about cockroaches, you are guaranteed to find them fascinating!

Real-World Analytics: A Business Leader's Concise Inside View of How to Build and Manage Analytical Teams to Drive Real Results in Today's Big Data Craze by Michael Koukounas Real-World Anayltics was written to help business leaders develop and manage analytics teams in today's Big Data craze. The book focuses on the do's and don'ts of staffing and managing analytical teams. It helps promising analysts transition from developing analytics into more senior management roles, and it helps senior business leaders understand the limitations of their analytical teams, the issues they will need to address in running them, and the investments they need to make in support of analytics in order to be successful in today's business world.

A Man of Understanding: A Noted Scientist's Guide to Happiness and Success by Frank M. Berger MD Dr. Frank Berger (1913-2008) introduced the ground-breaking tranquilizer “Miltown” in 1955, which improved millions of lives and changed modern medicine. Despite this, he never gave up seeking a deeper solution to human distress. During the distinguished career that followed, this vastly curious scientist collected ideas that helped his understanding of the world. Here he offers a formula for achieving the happy, successful life he’d enjoyed and an A-Z of his stimulating views. Remarks by Einstein, Confucius, Joseph Campbell, Warren Buffett, Jackie Mason and others support and amplify them. Dr. Berger had concluded that though we can’t overcome life’s uncertainties, we can greatly increase our ability to handle them with grace and ease. He shows that learning to see things for yourself and determine your own views, rather than accepting those handed down by others, can provide enormous inner strength, clarity, and confidence. You can create a set of beliefs that better outfit you for success and happiness. His catalog of 60 “views on many subjects” is meant as a springboard to inspire you to form your own. Jump into the book and discover for the first time what you really think about things—and see if it changes your life.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she's never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino. Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini's Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives. In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own, haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie's arrival has the power to awaken a sense of hope that Angelo thought was lost to him forever.

A Secret Woman by Rose Solari Louise Terry is the quintessential, modern American woman; a successful and independent artist, sexually liberated and head strong, she’s determined to carve out a life for herself where her painting comes first and where she can avoid messy romantic entanglements. But when her estranged mother, Margaret, dies, leaving a box of documents, photos, and journals, Louise discovers in its contents a new and very different woman from the one who raised her. This Margaret was admired by Catholic priests and Wiccan priestesses alike for her spiritual gifts and was working, at the time of her death, on assembling her visions of a 12th-century cross-dressing woman mystic who not only managed to infiltrate the male bastion of Glastonbury Abbey, but who instigated the tragic fire that burned it to the ground in 1184. Determined to pursue the fragments her mother left behind, Louise travels to England where she meets a cast of characters whom she must depend on to find her way. Blurring the boundaries between past and present, between the body and the spirit, between female and male, this page-turning mystery is a sexy romp through time and space, a profound meditation on the mother-daughter connection, and an enlightening exploration of what it means to make love, to make art, and to make a life worth living.

What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life by Dawn Wells As the sweet, polite, and thoughtful Mary Ann Summers from Kansas in the hit series Gilligan’s Island, Dawn Wells created an unforgettable and beloved character that still connects with people fifty years from the show’s debut in 1964. As the “good girl” among the group of castaways on a tiny island, she was often positioned against the glamorous and exotic Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise, prompting many to ask: Are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann? This book not only helps readers answer that question for themselves but also sends the inspirational and heartwarming message that yes, good girls do finish first. Part self-help, part memoir, and part humor—with a little classic TV nostalgia for good measure—What Would Mary Ann Do? contains twelve chapters on everything from how Mary Ann would respond to changes in today’s culture to addressing issues confronting single women and mothers. Wells brings along her fellow characters from Gilligan’s Island to illustrate certain principles, such as incorporating the miserly Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) in a discussion on money. Anecdotal sidebars also describe fascinating facts and compelling memories from the show, as well as some trivia questions to challenge fans and followers. Illustrated with photographs from Wells’s private collection, this book provides inspiring lessons from TV’s favorite good girl.

Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski For Amy Henderson, 1973 has been a lonely year of so many awkward moments she's actually lost count. Things turn around quickly when she assists in the rescue of an injured seal pup. To help save Pup, she forms an unlikely alliance with a questionable boy in a worn-out army jacket, as well as a peculiar older woman the kids in town refer to as "Old Coot." Amy soon finds that people aren't always what they seem, as she nurtures Pup back to health with the help of her two new companions, Craig and Miss Cogshell. Unexpected detours occur as an ill-intentioned harbormaster hunts down Pup and a group of nosy popular girls set their affections on Craig. As if these weren't obstacles enough, an even graver challenge presents itself soon thereafter, threatening the future of the entire town--and Amy's life as well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review - Prism


By: Roland Allnach
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Publication Date: July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9960-4134-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 7, 2014

When you think of the word 'prism' you think of glass; that triangular shape with refracting surfaces at acute angles that separate white light into a spectrum of colors. It is not an overstatement to say that this author, with this collection of the best of his short stories along with his newest creations, is most definitely that 'spark' of pages that shoots a spectrum of colors through the mind and imagination.
There are too many to delve into for a review, so selecting some of the most extraordinary (which was difficult, considering the writing never fails to entertain), is what to do in order to attempt to frame the pictures that Allnach has created.

In the very beginning the reader opens to the world of a soldier; a soldier who is in thought, considering he's all that's left of what everyone assumed would be a triumphant army. The promise of this battle to the people had been that it would be swift - with the golden armored soldiers making sure to defeat a smaller, less-armed, less-experienced culture that was basically fighting with passion. There are morals here galore, with the foundation telling that money and nobility do not equal success when put up against a man who lives and dies for his beliefs. Readers watch the solider deal with his survival, deal with his own valor, and stay loyal to his oath to protect a city that he can no longer defend. Among him his madness, savages, and a woman who needs that soldier's protection no matter what the cost. The tale is "After the Empire," and the plot is vivid, dramatic, and extremely enticing.

A young boy sits in the classroom, like most, bored with the reality of school. Engaging his imagination the boy becomes "The Great Hunter," heading into a world through his drawings and mind, where predators must be slayed...and perhaps where new prey can be found back in reality.
Bone-chilling fear makes the reader want to hide under their own bed in "Creep." William, the grad student who has found a once-in-a-lifetime discovery and rushes to share the news with his Professor in "Apogee," learns the valuable lesson that when something comes once, perhaps it is the most loved and most supportive person in your life who should head the news...making one of those moments that rarely happen during a lifetime. The 5-Acts of "Titalis" take the reader's breath away, as a journey to a place of lost glory is taken, where minds and souls work and play.

On and on this collection goes, with tales for literally everyone's tastes. Each genre is spoken for - from the technicolor world of sci-fi to humor to horror to fantasy, and beyond. Allnach has a voice that speaks so loud readers lose themselves in the stories, making this a whole lot of fun!
Quill says: Just like a prism, this is a dazzling collection.

For more information on Prism, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - Amy's Choice

Amy's Choice

By: Marcia Strykowski
Publisher: Luminis Books
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-935462-08-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 6, 2014

For those readers who met this amazing cast of characters in Call Me Amy, you will be thrilled with this follow-up. For those readers who have not yet met the cast, enjoyed this amazing locale, and enjoyed writing that was both intelligent and fun, then you have until October to read the first, so that you can dive head-first into the second.

Amy Henderson lives in a small fishing village in Maine. She was one of those quiet types, choosing to read books instead of making it her life's work to become one of the popular girls. Her life was changed by a wounded seal pup a year ago. The seal gave her the confidence she had been missing in life, along with the love and friendship of a little old lady named Miss Cogshell.

Now, Amy is ready to begin her freshman year. 'Pup' is back in his ocean home, but does make sure to pay Amy visits. Miss Cogshell has passed away, and Amy is working to help turn the lady's home into the first Port Wells library that one and all can enjoy. Her friend who helped her last year, Craig, is more than a crush nowadays. In fact, Amy seems to be liking him a great deal and is completely depressed when he has to go away to live with his aunt in Boston for a time...and his letters (that he promised to send) never appear.

There are upsides for Amy, however. She meets a very cool friend who is new to the village named Cat. Cat is one of those fun-seekers who is very kind and is a great BFF for Amy. Think about it: Not having to sit alone on the school bus for the first day of high school is completely awesome. It also doesn't hurt that Cat has a super good-looking brother named Ricky. Ricky is also developing a crush on Amy, but her mind is torn. After all, she loves Craig...doesn't she?

Although Miss Cogshell is no longer on the island, a lighthouse keeper named Finn is a new recruit in Amy's circle of friends. This is a funny loner who comes from the lighthouse to paint pictures, and Amy and Cat befriend him. But, of course, nothing is going to stay all sunshine and roses.
High school is not the only thing Amy must deal with; a fire breaks out and Finn is accused of arson. Not to mention, Craig does return after Amy has developed a few feelings for Ricky, causing her to get trapped at a school dance having to make a decision as to what door to walk through when it comes to love.

This author is one of those rare gems who not only loves to write, but the library is a part of her life, and the reader can most certainly tell. The characters of Amy, Finn, Cat, Ricky and so on, are believable and unforgettable, which makes this a true 'Coming of Age' story, but with entertainment, fun, friendship, and even a mystery that must be solved.

Quill says: Another great job for 'Amy'!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review - Jane Austen's First Love

Jane Austen’s First Love

By: Syrie James
Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-425-27135-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 2014

The popularity of Jane Austen has grown exponentially over the decades. And it has become a well-known fact that the lady who’s still the undisputed queen of romance has a lot in common with this particular author. Simply put, where both women are concerned, their writing is exemplary.

Syrie James has long been a ‘giver’ to Austen fans everywhere, and with this new novel she takes them on a fun adventure back to the early days of Austen’s life. A girl not even old enough to come out in society, Jane is just finding that spark of imagination; that lightning rod of creativity, that she would hone over time to become a brilliant author.

Beginning with a letter found by her sister, Cassandra, Jane’s taken back to the first moment in her life when true love stopped her heart. At fifteen, a letter arrives at her home regarding her brother’s engagement and impending marriage. Edward requests that they all come and meet his future wife’s family. Once there, they will take part in a slew of events, including a ball. After convincing their parents that they must be allowed to go, Jane Austen embarks on the best time of her life: the Summer of 1791.

The family is walking into an extremely upper-class world and Jane can barely contain herself. Riding toward their destination, the carriage has a slight accident on the muddy roads and a hero suddenly arrives to help. Edward Taylor is an odd knight in shining armor. A handsome boy who loves a challenge, he is not exactly the type to deal with rules and regulations, and has misgivings for what his own future holds. But his interest in young Jane is clear.

The pomp and circumstance begins when the Austen clan reach their fancy destination, coming face-to-face with three sisters who seem to spend more time thinking about themselves and what they deserve than thinking about anyone else’s happiness. Unfortunately, Jane relies on the words and facades of the rich, and takes on the role of matchmaker to fix some things that may not be broken. Suffice to say, Jane has her hands full with a play, an error of judgment, and a love that fancies her, yet has another girl waiting in the wings.

This is so well-written that true Austen lovers will find themselves smiling at the ‘nuggets’ of famous works spread throughout the story, for example, the matchmaker who cannot leave well enough alone (Emma, anyone?). And even though Jane is still young, the beauty of emotions combined with a humorous atmosphere featuring a handsome daredevil, would make even the ultimate Austen hero, Mr. Darcy, extremely proud to have ended up being a part of his creator’s popular world.
And you can bet Jane Austen is somewhere smiling, extremely proud of the woman who sits at a computer and brings her - the woman, the author, and her magic - back to life. Syrie James is magnificent!

Quill says: ‘Class-A’ writing is what this author always delivers, and this early Austen adventure is truly unforgettable!

Book Review - Small Blessings

Small Blessings

By: Martha Woodroof
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-04052-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 6, 2014

Martha Woodroof’s debut novel, Small Blessings, is a story about the promise of new beginnings in a small town college.

The small, southern college town is rife with small town scandal. The latest contribution is the arrival of Rose Callahan. Who is she? She is the new (and rather mysterious) hire for the campus book store. English Professor Tom Putnam is intrigued by this new addition to the tawdry and eclectic staff already on hand. Putnam is dignified and projects decorum and above all has resolve with his life and that of his crazy wife Marjory. During a welcome reception at the bookstore (and after introductions of Rose Callahan), when Putnam tactfully attempts to usher his wife to the exit; imagine everyone’s surprise when Marjory extends a dinner invitation to the new addition to campus...

Later that evening and more than perplexed by Marjory’s impromptu invitation, Tom Putnam climbs the stairs to his attic ‘man cave.’ When his cantankerous mother-in-law Agnes breaches his refuge and deposits a mysterious letter on his desk and recedes, Tom is left to read its contents. Imagine his surprise when he learns of the existence of the son he didn’t know he had. Indeed, the tides in the sleepy college town are about to take a distinct turn. Reeling from the news of a son, Tom now has the deed of delivering such news to his crazy wife. Of course, Marjory was well aware of his nefarious wandering act years prior, but this latest blow is one Tom was nowhere yet prepared to explain... and why do thoughts of Rose Callahan persist in his mind while trying to sort out his present dilemma?

Martha Woodruff gathers a gaggle of fractured beings and deposits them across the pages and into the backdrop of college campus goings on. Her characters are unique and believable in their individual respects as much as their interactions with each other. Her two main characters, Tom Putnam and Rose Callahan are somewhat broken individuals but Woodruff’s strategic development of them provides a sublime sense of the hope each carries within. While they come from different backgrounds, there is a distinct tone that their meeting is more than a coincidence and Ms. Woodruff feeds this premise to the reader often through fluid scenes and adept dialogue. Within the first handful of pages, the reader is able to engage with the story and travel alongside Ms. Woodruff’s telling of it. Woodruff doesn’t elicit specific power words in describing her characters. Rather, she uses elusive nuances to portray them; such as: “…as the years crept by, he was turning more and more into Greta Gabo, vanting to be alone…” I am often awestruck when a writer zeroes in on an iconic figure from our past and resurrects his or her persona to deliver the credibility into the current character’s development. Ms. Woodruff is a master at doing this and does it often throughout Small Blessings. I applaud her for the engaging story she has written and look forward to her next. Well done Ms. Woodruff!

Quill Says: Small Blessings is an intriguing story of the promise and hope a ‘do-over’ delivers.

Book Review - The Good Know Nothing

The Good Know Nothing: A California Century Mystery

By: Ken Kuhlken
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0288-9
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 6, 2014

Tom Hickey lived a very interesting life before finally becoming a LAPD Detective, as his father, when Tom and his sister, Florence were children, left them with a very abusive mother. It seemed that Charlie, the father, had just completely vanished into thin air. Tom also ran away, taking Florence away from their mother at the tender age of sixteen.

After he tried some various careers, Tom’s current job is working as a detective in California in the year 1936. The police chief is a little on the shady side, but Tom seems be on his own most of the time even though he has some hard times with his boss. An old friend of Tom’s father, Bud Gallagher, shows up with a manuscript supposedly written by Charlie Hickey. The book was written and published by a man called B. Traven. Tom and Florence read the manuscript along with the published book and find that they are, word for word, identical. This is all Tom needs to start looking for his father in the hope that he is still alive somewhere. Tom is determined to find his missing father even though his quest may just be putting his marriage in jeopardy.

In his travels to find his father, Tom meets up with Harry Longabaugh, more commonly known as the Sundance Kid. Tom learns that Charlie had been on a tear to find out what had happened to author Ambrose Bierce after said author had upset the powerful publisher, William Randolph Hearst. As Tom and his sister get closer to their father’s (maybe) confrontation with Hearst, they get help from evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, a friend of Florence’s. As the siblings go on the hunt for Mr. B. Traven, the so-called author of the book, which was called, The Death Ship, they meet some fascinating folks; beginning with Aimee, The Sundance Kid, a woman called Betty Weaver, who was head of a gangster group that included John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd and, of course last but definitely not least, William Randolph Hearst.

Quill says: This book will take readers on a fast ride through the history of the great depression during the 1930’s. Readers will look forward to more of the antics of Detective Tom Hickey.