Thursday, June 22, 2017

#BookReview - The 5 Manners of Death

The 5 Manners of Death

By: Darden North
Publisher: WordCrafts Press
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0998941608
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 22, 2017

In his newest book, author Darden North has penned a mystery in which the bodies keep piling up, and the reader is kept guessing about who/why all these people died and whether their murders might be connected.

Doctor Diana Bratton is having a bad day. People around her just keep dying. It's true that she's a surgeon, working in a hospital, but it's definitely disconcerting. As the story opens, Diana has come to her Aunt Phoebe's house to check up on the sixty-plus year-old woman. Phoebe has been ill - with the flu perhaps? - and Diana decides it's time to take her to the hospital. As they're getting into the car, Phoebe's neighbor, Carvel Eaves, approaches and greets the ladies. Carvel likes to pick up trash during his walks to help keep the street clean. He tells Phoebe that he found an old piece of paper, apparently written by Phoebe, about "The Five Manners of Death." Phoebe shrugs it off, saying it was just an old college English writing assignment. Phoebe isn't concerned (about her health or the paper) as Diana hustles her to the hospital, but that English composition will come back to haunt Phoebe...

While Phoebe is in the hospital being treated, Diana's ex-husband Alex brings his current wife Blythe in for an exam. Blythe hasn't been feeling well and Alex wants his ex to check her out. While they may be divorced, Alex and Diana do have a daughter so they stay in touch. When Blyth dies, followed by a pharmacist Diana knows, she starts to worry. When a construction worker discovers the remains of a man who died in the 60s on the edge of the University of Mississippi campus, and it turns out the young man was a friend of Phoebe's, Diana's concern turns to outright worry. She has connections at the police station that she uses to try and help clear her aunt's name. But when yet another body is found, it looks like Phoebe may just be guilty...

Set in Mississippi, with a cast that includes not just the characters but the environs around the University of Mississippi, The 5 Manners of Death was a story that kept me guessing throughout. Phoebe was definitely the star of the story as a strong-willed woman with a dash of Southern humor thrown in - she's a woman most people wouldn't want to mess with. A unique twist to this mystery was that there wasn't just one, or two murders to solve, but a whole slew of deaths. And they all fit nicely into Phoebe's "5 Manners of Death" college English paper. Trying to figure out if the deaths were natural or homicides, if they were connected, and if they truly all (or some) pointed to Phoebe was a challenge. While the author does reveal a partial "who-dunnit-it" near the middle of the story (I can't say more without giving too much away), it only adds to the mystery of who killed Phoebe's college friend back in the sixties. In all, The 5 Manners of Death is a satisfying mystery that brings those five manners of death - natural, accidental, suicidal, homicidal and undetermined - to light in a new and unusual way.

Quill says: The 5 Manners of Death is a great read with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking about the book Opry: A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle,by Simon Plaster.

NOTE: Because Simon Plaster is again under a gag order related to ongoing marital litigation, legal counsel advises that he speak as an anonymous third person.
* * * * *
FQ: Not only is this a great mystery but, as with all your books, your wit keeps a reader both engrossed and having a great deal of fun all at the same time. Does satire come easy to you? Is this a gift - the ability to laugh without coming off as cynical - or is this a learned skill? If the heck do you learn it?

Answer: Plaster has not learned anything about anything since kindergarten, as can be seen by his current studies in wood, in particular his carvings of apples that are usually mistook for radishes.

FQ: What brought you into the writing world?

Answer: With a knife he received on his sixteenth birthday, Simon began carving his name and/or initials on household furniture, tree trunks, a friend's foot, etcetera. At the state reformatory only chalk was allowed, but he carried on with his writing, and later found a pencil in a garbage can.

FQ: I would have to assume you are a country music fan, because you make sure to never "put down," so to speak, the country music and/or honky-tonk lifestyle. If so, do you have a favorite country music star? If there was one you could sit down and speak with, past or present, who would that be and why?

Answer: They're all great, but if he had to pick one, it would be Waylon Jennings, who was a good ol' boy from West Texas and had some lively times, along with John Anderson, Roger Miller, Conway Twitty, George Jones, John Conley and a bunch of others.

FQ: The inspiration for all your plots and characters must come from somewhere. Do you take snippets from the surrounding world or are they really just "out of the blue" thoughts?

Answer: Out of red wine "sippers" would be more like it. Heh, heh.

FQ: Is there a particular genre you would like to write in that you haven't yet explored?

Answer: Plaster would like to explore writing his full name in snow, but the opportunity hardly ever arises in his part of the country, and when it does the wind is usually fierce and cold enough to cause frostbite.

FQ: When it comes to events or even blogs/letters from fans, is there a fan moment that perhaps sticks in your mind that you care to share with readers out there?

Answer: Plaster doesn't have a mailbox, but a moment that sticks in his craw was sight of his soon to be third ex-wife fanning flames in a fireplace kindled by a woodcarving-in-progress of one of his first ex-wive's boobs, that actually did resemble a radish.

FQ: Is Honky Tonk based on a real bar or perhaps a conglomerate of several you have visited? For those of us from other parts of the country, would you share a bit about how these clubs in/around OKC are distinct?

Answer: Most such bars in OKC don't open 'til after dark, so like Maestro Kornhoffer in the book, Plaster has never been inside a honky tonk. He just wanted to make the point that country music is a lot like highbrow opera from overseas, though unlike Kornhoffer, he has never actually seen or heard any longhair music show.

FQ: What comes next? Is there a new mystery headed our way?

Answer: Simon is just now finishing up a new one, titled SPOTS: A Tale of Misfame and Misfortune that is sure to have readers scratching their heads more than usual.

To learn more about Opry: A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Opry: A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle

Opry: A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-991448081
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 16, 2017

We begin with a line that sums up life, as well as the writing community: God Bless Satire! And, most definitely, those who bring it. Among these few greats is author Simon Plaster. Taking readers to the Oklahoma City stockyards, here he opens the door to a massive joint where the beer is flowing and the KaraOkie contest is heating up. A place aptly named, Honky Tonk.

We begin with Henrietta, who’s sitting inside the building of the OKC SCENE News Group. She’s there for a job opening, and feeling just a little bitter about it. After all, she’s young, has a heck of a resume, and had, up until recently, a big job with a TV network, a boyfriend, and a really cool apartment. Now fired, her boyfriend has run off to Wyoming to be a real cowboy, and she can no longer pay rent. So she finds herself wondering how on earth she’s going to deal with being nothing more than an entertainment reporter covering the nightlife of some small-scale OKC district. But, beggars can’t be choosers. What she gets, however, makes her drool. She is into serious reporting and likes danger, so when she gets appointed to the Stockyards City scene, her pulse races at the thought of covering the news in an area where dark and shady creatures can be found.

There is one place called Honky Tonk which isn’t one of those “happy” party clubs, yet everyone wants to go. The owner, “Moon” Mullins, is currently running a contest which allows all wannabe country stars to have their shot. Jewel McAdoo is basically a shoe-in to win it all, but that becomes difficult to do when she up and disappears under seriously mysterious circumstances.

Once Jewel’s singing partner (as well as a partner in the bedroom), Chad Puckett is dying to win this contest in order to head to Dollywood. But would he eliminate his own past lover to do just that? What about a City Councilwoman who seems like she will do anything to get rid of Honky Tonk for good? We even have a suspect sibling of Jewel’s who literally hates her sister (not to mention her own husband’s cheating ways). But whoever has 'dunnit' (whatever ‘it’ may be), Henrietta the reporter will stop at nothing to solve the mystery and unmask the most evil being of them all.
Broken up into an overture and acts instead of those hum-drum prologue and chapters, every character gets their moment in the sun and time in the shadows, which creates a memorable story. No reader will know what the author has up his sleeve, but all will be singing with glee when everything is brought to light. Perhaps you’ll even head to the closest “honky-tonk” you can find to grab your own brass ring. Of course, if you happen to be living in a state like Maine, locating one of those establishments may be harder than finding the Lost Ark. Advice: Move South.

Quill says: As it was in the beginning...God Bless Satire!


#BookReview - Harris Estate: The Aftermath

Harris Estate: The Aftermath

By: Stacey Cotter
Publisher: 3L Publishing
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-0996677639
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: June 17, 2017

Leah Murphy is trying to get her life back to normal, with her husband Kevin and two children, Kayla and Ethan. They've been dealing with some family issues for the past couple of months (see the author's first book Harris Estate) and it's time to get back to living a normal life. One morning Leah decides to start cleaning the house since she has been gone for so long. While she is cleaning the bathroom she notices some unused pregnancy tests from her last pregnancy. Even though she knows what the outcome will be, that she isn't pregnant, she decides to take the test anyway. While she is waiting for it to finish processing, she continues cleaning. When she comes back to the test, she is surprised to see that it is positive.

Leah decides, knowing that there must be some mistake since her husband cannot have anymore children, to go to her doctor for a check up. After her doctor's appointment, she heads off to pick something up before meeting Kevin for lunch. On her way to lunch, she receives a call from her doctor saying that her test results came back and she was in fact pregnant. After hanging up with her doctor, she becomes very panicked thinking about how this could have happened. The stress she experiences causes her to black out and she gets into a car accident.

When Leah doesn't show up for lunch, Kevin starts to get worried. He calls around and ultimately hears about the car accident. When he arrives at the hospital he finds that Leah was placed in a coma and is in critical condition. The doctors also mention that the baby is doing fine. Since Kevin did not know that Leah was pregnant, this comes as a shock to him. As the days go on, and Leah still isn't able to be removed from the coma, Kevin decides to get tested to make sure that he can't have any children. While Kevin is waiting for his results, he learns that there is more to his wife's family issues than he originally thought. Kevin begins to wonder what actually happened while Leah was gone.
Once Kevin receives his results, it is clear that something happened while Leah was away (see the previous book Harris Estate to see what that might be). Since Leah isn't able to answer any questions for him, he must take matters into his own hands. Knowing that this secret could potentially ruin his family, he must figure out a way to make things right.

Harris Estate: The Aftermath is a well written and interesting read. Although it is a sequel, you can still follow along with what is happening. As you start reading you learn a little about what happened in the previous book which brings the reader up-to-date on the action in this book. As the story goes on, the plot starts to come full circle and really connect. Continuing on you get an idea as to what is going to happen, but in the last couple of chapters, a huge bombshell happens. I had an idea as to how the story was going to pan out, and I was completely surprised. Although it was something that I wasn't expecting, it was very good. It made me want to go back and read the fist book.

Quill says: Harris Estate: The Aftermath is a great read that will draw you in and leave you wanting more.

Monday, June 19, 2017

7 Deadly Mistakes Authors Make

7 Deadly Mistakes Authors Make — And How to Avoid Them!
by Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group 

Perhaps you have thought of writing a book, or you have the beginning shape of your book outlined in a notebook, or you just know it’s something you want to tackle one day. Writing is a book is challenging, and publishing it is even more so. Most every author I meet looks back upon the process and tells me about something they wish they had known up front. 

You can save yourself a few headaches by approaching the process like a writing veteran. Here are seven common mistakes authors make when writing and publishing a book (and how to avoid them):

  1. Writing Without an Audience in Mind The most successful books build an audience over time through word of mouth recommendations. For your book to reach that status, don’t skip the prep work of defining the specific readers you want to reach. It helps to construct reader profiles with demographic and lifestyle details filled in so you always remember who you’re writing for and remain focused on serving that audience.
  2. Freaking Out About Grammar, Syntax, etc While Writing
    Worrying about where to put that comma or when to use “who” or “whom” will pull you out of a writing mood in no time flat. When writing, your job is to get ideas onto paper with a focus on content over execution. There are plenty of editors who will clean up those commas for you so that you stay focused on your best, highest use: delivering your message to your readers. Just get the words down to get started!
  3. Working in a Vacuum
    Writing a manuscript is a huge commitment of time and energy. Many authors refuse to share their writing until it is “done-done,” and when they inevitably get constructive feedback on their work after that point, they are frustrated at the notion of picking the pencil back up and reworking sections. It’s more productive to share your work with a qualified editor or book development coach as you go. Doing so will help you avoid the double-work of rewriting sections that lack clarity, flow, or purpose down the road. 
  4. Not Hiring Professionals 
    Many authors will try to save time or money by leaning on friends and family for editorial and design support. Unfortunately, despite their good intentions, people not trained in the specific art of editing and designing books are not the best people to edit and design your book. You’ll probably end up paying to redo it once a publisher or distributor gives feedback on the end product– so invest in quality work the first time to save yourself the headache of redoing any part of your book.
  5. Shotgun Publishing
    Writing a book well takes time, and launching it to a retail market requires a fair amount of strategy and collaboration. Sometimes authors rush their books to market without regard for retail buying cycles or publicity lead-time requirements. For multiple reasons, it’s much better to launch correctly the first time than to rush it, make some mistakes, and try to re-launch later. Interview a few publicists, publishing professionals, and/or book distribution experts to better understand the timelines they need to boost your chance of success.
  6. Underestimating the Importance of Author Brand and Platform
    It’s hard to over-emphasize the competitive landscape authors face when promoting their books. Today’s authors are competing with other book launches as well as a fire hose of media including blogs, podcasts, tv, film, and all of the other content trying to find an audience on any given day. Marketing and publicity support are critical to for a successful book launch, and that often requires heavy involvement from the author. Plan your schedule in such a way that you have enough time and energy to properly promote your book around the time of its release – but also commit to building your audience early and intentionally through your own platform development efforts.
  7. Flawed Expectations
    It takes a certain amount of confidence to publish a book; writing your ideas out for the world to critique is an admirable act of vulnerability. But don’t let your confidence get in the way of rational thinking. Some authors expect to sell millions of copies in year one without having done any research on the book market, or worse, without having done anything to build their own author platform from which to promote. Realistic expectations will help you maintain your energy during the launch phase and stay focused on why you wrote the book to begin with.  Consult with a publisher or distributor to better understand what “success” might mean by retail standards for your genre. (But it’s fine to have a stretch goal, of course!)
Writing a book certainly involves creativity and artistry, but for it to succeed in retail, the book needs to be treated as a product and developed with the same care, feedback loops, and subject-area partners as any other product being brought to a national market. Invest some time on the front end to ensure that you don’t find yourself trying to unravel one of these common mistakes. 

As CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, Tanya Hall drives the company’s growth efforts and fosters a culture built around serving authors. Prior to her current role, Hall worked directly with Greenleaf’s authors to develop publishing strategies (including multiple New York Times bestsellers); spearheaded growth strategies including Greenleaf’s eBook program and the River Grove Books digital-first imprint; and built Greenleaf’s distribution organization, working directly with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest growing distribution businesses in the industry. She is a columnist for and regularly speaks at business and publishing conferences. Before joining the publishing industry, Tanya worked in digital media and as a television producer. Learn more about Greenleaf Book Group at and connect on Twitter (@GreenleafBookGr & @TanyaHall) and Facebook (

New England Authors Expo @NEauthorexpo

Contact: Chris Obert
Phone: (978) 372-5825


Attend the largest New England literary event this summer.
Meet and greet over 75 of your favorite authors & illustrators!

New England Authors Expo was created for die-hard readers who love, eat and breathe books. With over 100 authors, illustrators and publishers invited from all over New England, you are bound to find books you love and cherish the conversations with your favorite authors. In addition to the expo we will be having panels and lectures in the downstairs ballroom.

Here’s the best part - The Expo is FREE for the general public. New England Authors Expo will take place on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at the picturesque Danversport Yacht Club located at 161 Elliott Street (Route 62) in Danvers, MA. Doors will be open to the public for the panels and lectures from 11:30 AM to 9:00 PM. Doors will be open to the public for the book sale from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Doors are open for librarians, bookstore owners and the media from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

In addition to authors, the Expo also invites service providers to the literary community. It simply creates a win-win situation for everybody. Whether you are a fan, an established author or a new-and-upcoming author, you will find value at the New England Authors Expo. In our experience, New England Authors Expo has always been much more fun when attended with a friend.

About the New England Authors Expo

New England Authors Expo started eleven years ago hosting author events and this is their sixth year hosting the large summer expo. NEAE events quickly gained notoriety and today their events are recognized as some of the best events in New England’s literary world. The summer expo has a national audience with visitors coming from as far as New York, Texas, California and Alaska.

To learn more visit or visit our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Friday, June 16, 2017

#BookReview - Time Without @veronicatabares

Time Without

By: Veronica R. Tabares
Publisher: Sun Break Publishing
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-1-60916-017-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 14, 2017

For those lucky enough to have read Veronica Tabares’ last title, Gray Zone, about a cyber-prank gone wrong, you’ll absolutely LOVE Time Without.

Vanessa is a woman who just happens to have the ability to travel through time. Once, she even traveled through time and the scientists in the future wanted to keep her there in order to protect the time line. But when they found out she was to be the mother of the eventual creators of time travel, they had no choice but to send her back to the 21st-century. Giving an oath, Vanessa swore to keep quiet about what she’d seen.

Thus far, this morning, Vanessa has been “lost in a dream” about a castle made of cake with towers of white icing. She had been arguing with the stingy owner about which parts she could eat when the ringing of her telephone pulls her from the scrumptious dream. When she answers this annoying ring, she finds a doctor on the other end telling her that her husband, Tony, has been in an accident.
In 3027, a loving couple by the name of Philip and Annabel Jensen are living their own lives. Philip loves his wife but right now is really angry that he has been turned down for the job position of Chief Scientist of the DTA lab (Department of Temporal Adjustment), even though he’s the most qualified applicant they have. He believes he’s being penalized for his “Adonis-like” looks. (It’s rough to be the smartest of all yet your stunning high cheekbones stop your road to success, isn’t it?) Very upset, he asks his super-intelligent wife to make a small ‘jump’ into the past to ‘tweak’ the course of his future so that he will land the job. Annabel is frightened of doing this, considering any small hiccup could alter the entire time line, but she loves her husband. Besides, what he’s asking her to do is miniscule and shouldn’t really have any effects if done both quickly and correctly.

Once again we are with Vanessa in her delightful dream. The phone rings in her 21st-century house and a very odd doctor who will only talk to the “man of the house” because those are the “rules,” needs to tell someone that her husband, Tony, has been in an accident. Seems that a small ‘tweak’ made by a loving wife in 3027 has completely altered Vanessa’s life. She must suddenly embark on a journey to change things back to what they’re supposed to be. Because if she and her children fail, it’s very possible the eventual creators of time travel will end up working at KFC instead.

Quill says: This author continues to write stories that are fun, uplifting and highly, highly intelligent. You’ll have a ball with this one!

For more information on Time Without, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - The Sure Mercies @AuthorSal

The Sure Mercies

By: Salvatore Esposito
Publisher: eLectio Publishing
Publication Date: December 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63213-330-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 14, 2017

There are those in the world who touch us on a level that can’t be explained. Whether that person be a parent who gave it all to give us a chance at a good life; or a teacher who set us on our life’s path, there was that “one” whose actions or words made a huge difference. When it comes to this book, readers meet up with “two” of those people who we all wish we had the chance to know in person.
Uriah Landon was a soldier who left behind a letter to his family and some truly powerful words in a bloodstained journal; a journal that’s delivered to a comrade of Uriah’s named Benjamin Orry. These words set Ben on a path to visit Uriah’s small hometown. Perhaps, at the beginning, Ben is headed there to return these personal items to Uriah’s family. Yet within the pages he discovers some things that could literally end up hurting these people. But Ben has to go. His own experiences in Iraq lead him to explore Uriah’s past and perhaps find the answers to what forgiveness is all about.

Readers will fall in love with Uriah immediately, because the first tale is all about a wonderful ‘moment in time’ when Uriah falls for a young girl who he pays to teach him how to dance. He states that he needs to be able to dance with a date and wants the help of a real pro so that he doesn’t look like a bumbling idiot. The person who he wants more than anything to dance with (for the rest of his life) is a teacher named Kelly.

Uriah is not a boy who constantly plays X-Box games or worries about which of his friends is texting his cell phone. His thoughts are squarely set on how he can land a job right out of high school, with salary and benefits, so that he can claim his mom as a dependent in order to get her medical care. With that in mind, and as Kelly and Uriah begin planning a life together, Uriah takes some advice and enlists. After all, at least he’ll be taught a trade in the armed services and be able to land a job and take care of his family.

More tales are told of Uriah’s life from then on and readers watch as faith becomes more important than oxygen. Walking beside Ben as he takes readers back through Uriah’s happiness, pain and literal transformations, there are times when good is shadowed by evil. Above all, you want Ben to somehow “win.” To somehow make all the bad, the anger, the war (both at home and in Iraq) go away. You want to root at all times for those beloved soldiers who give up their lives, as well as all the rest who return home to face a different world. What you do get at all times is honesty, friendship, and courage. If there was any criticism to give regarding this book, it would be that I wanted more.

Quill says: Not a ‘dainty’ story, but an honor to read. This is a tale that encourages faith, even when it feels like that’s the most impossible thing to find.

For more information on The Sure Mercies, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - One Good Thing

One Good Thing: A Ten Beach Road Novel

By: Wendy Wax
Publisher: Berkley Books NY
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0451488619
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 14, 2017

Wendy Wax delivers yet another vibrant read in her latest title, One Good Thing.

Maddie, Avery, Nikki and Kyra were well on their way to getting their respective lives in order. Maddie’s love, William Hightower, has made a tremendous comeback with his music and is going on tour. Much to Will’s chagrin, Maddie can’t seem to pry herself away from the notion she is responsible for everyone else first before it is her turn. Nikki is pregnant with Joe’s twins; yet, Joe stopped asking for her hand in marriage after not one, two, but three definitive ‘no’s’ from her. In due time, perhaps. Avery has her own struggles with paramour Chase. While it’s abundantly clear their feelings for each other are true and deep-seeded, it would seem his teenaged son Jason has other plans for their happily ever after. To compound the friction, Chase seems quite comfortable when it comes to reminding Avery she is not a parental figure when it comes to raising his children. Kyra has her own tangled web to unweave. When baby (and somewhat absent) daddy, movie star Daniel decides he would like to play a more active role in his son’s life, Kyra isn’t so sure she likes what he has in mind. And last but certainly not least, when Bitsy Baynard arrives unannounced it’s more than strange that her hubby Bertrand is nowhere to be seen.

After the crash of Do Over (a cable do-it-yourself makeover show) and renovations of the Sunset Beach property, the ladies have quite the mountain to climb toward solvency. Condo’s aren’t’ moving and time share sales are non-existent. There is also that loan that Kyra took out (leveraging Bella Flora) that is about to become due and not only does she not have the balloon payment, but Maddie, Avery and Nikki have no idea they could potentially lose the property. Fortunately for all the ladies, there are the nightly spectacular sunsets on the Gulf and the commitment to share ‘one good thing’ about the day before the sun kisses it good-night.

In perfect Wendy Wax style, she has delivered yet another engaging and captivating beach read just in time for summer. Her characters continue to intrigue her audience and Ms. Wax is not at a loss throughout for the perfect teasers of drama to complement the wonderfully delicious flow of this novel. Her dialogue is believable and having read Sunset Beach, it was a wonderful treat to revisit with the women of Bella Flora. I applaud Ms. Wax for keeping her storyline ‘real’ within the premise of ‘fiction.’ It makes the story that much more enjoyable. I look forward to her next novel and (hopefully) the next chapter of the life and times of the women of Bella Flora. Well done Ms. Wax! I thoroughly enjoyed One Good Thing.

Quill says: One Good Thing is a delicious novel one can take along on vacation, sink down into a comfy chair, and enjoy the art of turning the pages of a truly terrific read.

#BookReview - Royally Roma

Royally Roma: The Royals Volume 1

By: Teri Wilson
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5963-4
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: June 14, 2017

After years of disappointment and heartbreak at the hands of men who she thought she could trust, Julia Costa believes she has learned her lesson. After her father ended up as Wall Street’s biggest embezzler, dragging her name through the mud and her into the limelight, Julia fled to Rome to study Archeology.

In the city of romance, Julia falls hard for a man and becomes far too trusting. When she doesn’t see it coming, he packs up and leaves with every cent she owns. Now, Julia is left to fend for herself with a job as a tour guide in Rome until she can save up the money to complete her thesis in order to earn her Master's degree. Julia, much too involved in getting to where she needs to be going, does not pay attention to tabloids and celebrity gossip, but instead gets lost in the sights and sounds of Rome. Until one day, when a tour goes wrong - or oh, so right. If Julia had paid attention to the news and gossip of Rome, she may have realized that one of the tourists, “Mano Romano,” was not, in fact, a tourist at all, but the crown prince of Lazaretto. Naive as Julia is, she fully believes “Mano” to be the person she is giving a full day’s tour to. Not only is this a costly booking, but one that helps her live and save for her degree. Mano just so happens to be Niccolo La Torre, who is not a client at all, but a Prince tired of living up to his royal day to day duties. How much would he pay for a day of no responsibilities, especially with someone as unnerving as Julia? Everything. Except he has no money and no way to pay Julia for the tour. Is that what Julia gets for being too trusting, yet again, even as alarm bells were ringing in her head?

In a rush of emotion, fear and, most of all, anger at losing her job, Julia kidnaps her client until he is able to pay for his tour. Being a Prince, he is not accustomed to carrying money, he has people who do that for him. He’s also used to people giving in to his every whim, however, because Julia does not know who he is, she gives him no special treatment. This is both unusual for Nico, but extremely attractive. With the promise of giving her money the next day, she takes him home with her. After speaking with his secretary the next day, it is discovered that the money could not be secured. Not only because it is such a large sum, but because it happens to be a Sunday. Ironically, even being a Prince doesn’t make for such accommodations to be made. Julia, determined to get her money, insists Nico stay with her, but in a twist of events, he asks her to give him another tour, one in which he will pay even more money - just to be able to have one more day of freedom. With alarm bells ringing, ignoring her past luck, she relents, as there is something about this mysterious man that is utterly attractive and different about him. She is not the only one feeling this way. Will she ever get her money, learn who Nico really is, and maybe even find love despite her past hardships?

This book was not only addicting and hard to put down, but it also didn’t come off as a normal “cheesy” romance like so many others do. The descriptions of Rome and the sights made me crave travel and the twists and turns had me guessing until the very end. As the first book in this series, I can hardly wait to begin the next. I can only hope that Wilson's next book in the series is as well-written, enchanting, and adventurous.

Quill says: Royally Roma makes it easy to feel as though you’ve travelled and fallen in love without ever leaving the couch.

#BookReview - Koi: A Modern Folktale

Koi: A Modern Folktale

By: Sheldon Harnick
Photographer: Margery Gray Harnick and Matt Harnick
Publisher: Beaufort Books
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0825308413
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 14, 2017

Koi are beautiful, majestic, and a little bit mysterious and have been the focal point of numerous legends. In the new book Koi: A Modern Folktale, a new legend comes alive to entertain and intrigue readers.

With a foreword by Alan Alda that gives the reader a little background on the history and legends surrounding koi (and please don't call them big goldfish - they are ornamental carp), the reader is transported to a faraway land where koi are numerous and brighten the waters with their magnificent colors. In this modern tale, written in haiku, we learn about the role of koi in bringing delight to mankind with their resplendent colors.

The gods high up in heaven soon notice how much pleasure the koi give man:

What impressed the gods
was the way in which the koi's
prismatic beauty

could brighten men's days,
as it nourished their senses,
and lightened their hearts.

The gods decide that the koi should be rewarded for "enriching men's lives." They cast a spell on the koi that...I don't want to spoil the story so I'll simply say the koi are amply rewarded as is the reader by following along with the adventure.

The author of Koi, Sheldon Harnick, is a Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist and his talent definitely carries over to the writing of haiku. Because the Japanese are credited with developing the ornamental varieties of koi that we know today, the choice of writing the story in haiku is particularly fitting. Along with the fun story, Harnick's wife, actress and photographer Margery Harnick, and their photographer son, Matt Harnick, have provided absolutely stunning photographs of various koi that add so much to the book. The expressions on the fish, their colors, and even the rainbow qualities of the water, add a mystical feeling to the story that makes it seem as if the koi are jumping off the pages. Together, this talented family has created a lovely new legend that boasts a great selection of amazing photographs of the brightly colored, majestic koi.

Quill says: A lovely new legend mimicking the stories of old, with absolutely stunning photographs, that brings the wonders of koi to readers of all ages.

#BookReview - Gladden the Heart

Gladden the Heart (Amish Turns of Time)

By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-1683221104
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 2017

In the latest installment in the "Amish Turns of Time" series, author Olivia Newport tests her characters' faith and love of family.

The time is 1847 and the place is the Kishacoquillas Valley of Pennsylvania. The characters are the members of the local Amish church as well as people from the surrounding community who, while they might not be Amish, are friends and do care for each other. Susanna Hooley is a young Amish woman, devoted to God and her family. She is promised to Adam Yotter and they truly care about each other. Susanna is also good friends with Patsy Baxton, the daughter of Reverend Charles Baxton, a Methodist preacher. Susanna and Patsy have been friends since childhood, although they really don't understand the finer points of each others' religions. As the story opens, Patsy catches Susanna peeking through a tent at a Methodist church service run by a traveling preacher.

The story continues as various characters are introduced and the reader gets a feel for life within and around an Amish community in 1847. All seems quiet and well until the day that Susanna was having a casual conversation with Noah Kauffman - her mother's cousin's son - as the meal after the church service was ending. They were talking about Noah's desire, or lack thereof, of becoming a minister. As they talk, Noah's face suddenly turns white and his eyes roll back. Noah collapses in Susanna's arms and Adam, who isn't far off, notices something is wrong and comes running to her aid. Noah appears to fall into unconsciousness and Susanna goes rushing to find Noah's wife Phoebe. By the time they return, Noah is up and preaching up a storm, and definitely not preaching in the quiet, solemn ways of the Amish. A crowd soon gathers, curious about what is happening to a man who had never preached before. More than two hours later, Noah collapses and falls out of his trance.

Noah's trances and preaching continue in the ensuing days and the crowds slowly grow. And while the Amish way is to be quiet and not bring attention to oneself, Noah's loud and animated preaching while in these trances are more like the Methodist revival meetings Susanna has recently observed. Susanna wants to help Noah and believes that her cousin has no control over the trances, while Adam doesn't know what to believe. This difference of opinion causes stress in their relationship. Meanwhile, because Noah is unaware of his surroundings while in the trances, he one day wanders off and the whole community must come together to help him.

While I've read many Amish romances and inspirational books, this is the first in the "Amish Turns of Time" series that I've read. I was initially intrigued by the storyline, but I kept waiting for the story to get moving and the plot to engage me. While it was somewhat interesting, and I did enjoy the historical aspects, many segments dragged and I had trouble getting invested in Susanna's story. The romance between Susanna and Adam fell flat and while Noah's sudden preaching trances were of interest, it wasn't enough to carry the story.

Quill says: An interesting, but not a "must read," story of a "sleeping preacher" that never really takes off.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#BookReview - Return to Babylon @lee_eiland

Return to Babylon: The Orfeo Saga, Book Five

By: Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1537090534
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: June 12, 2017

Author Murray Lee Eiland spins a tale of shadows, secrets, and sabotage in book five of the Orfeo Saga.

Orfeo and Clarice are back in Pylos after “their battle with the Spartans.” For the first time in a long time, life is peaceful, almost too peaceful—like the lull before a vicious storm. That is most likely the sense they feel, although they can’t quite put their fingers on why. Moments later, Orfeo, who was on a walk, is attacked. While the police assume that the attack was an assassination attempt, their investigation reveals that foreign agents were in search of Zurga. More disconcerting information unfolds when Webbor, who overtakes the throne of Mursillius the Hittite, sends Orfeo a letter indicating that a “mad assassin” killed Mursillius. The letter sends up a red flag that danger is imminent. The question is who is perpetrating this fear?

The answer comes clearly to Daryush (who now has a kingdom of his own) when he gets word from his spies that his old lover Zinaida (Zurga’s Fire), and now the ruler of Babylon, has plans to kill him. While it is true that she devises his demise, Zinaida’s anger spreads far and wide—even to Zurga whom she has a difficult time locating—to annihilate every person who attacked Babylon and overthrew her father, Nurim Sin. Little by little leaders from areas bordering Babylon are mysteriously murdered, which is unnerving for Orfeo, Clarice, Daryush, and Semira. With Zinaida’s spies out and about and reeking havoc, the troop of friends band together with their neighboring friends attempt to put a stop to Zinaida’s clandestine strategy to rule the world.

Fans of the Orfeo Saga have much to look forward to in book five of Eiland’s inimitable series. Continuing where book four, The Wanderer’s Journey, left off, Eiland places his protagonists within a new battle. But this time it is far different than the fearless troop has ever encountered; one that is veiled in shadows, smoke and mirrors. As with his previous books, Eiland always includes new characters, both minor and major, and the pivotal roles they play in aiding his heroes and heroines in overpowering their enemies. Without giving away any spoilers, featured characters to watch out for in Return to Babylon are Araka and Cyrus.

There are other aspects of Eiland’s writing style that offer a warm welcome to Orfeo Saga fans, as well as newcomers to the series. Besides the information mentioned above, Eiland’s narratives follow a consistent format. Each story is divided into four sections. Each section is broken up into a handful of short chapters. Snippets of back stories from previous books are incorporated in each story, which ties the series together; and when appropriate, Eiland includes historical references. That said, each book functions as a standalone. But once you’ve read one, you’ll want to read them all.

Return to Babylon offers readers another opportunity to explore an incredible adventure into ancient history. Plenty of scene changes replete with twists and turns and yet another cliffhanger closure that will get readers anxiously waiting for The Slave Boy, book six of the Orfeo Saga.

Quill says: Return to Babylon is a page-turner, replete with twists and turns--up to the very end.

For more information on Return to Babylon: The Orfeo Saga, Book Five, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - The Invention of Celebrity

The Invention of Celebrity

By: Antoine Lilti
Publisher: Polity
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-1509508747
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 11, 2017

Author Antoine Lilti has penned an in-depth analysis of the origins of "celebrity" with his new book, The Invention of Celebrity.

Lilti begins his exploration of celebrity in 1778 (with many references throughout the book to earlier dates/events), with an examination of the then eighty-five year old Voltaire. Upon returning to Paris after a thirty-year absence, the author notes that the philosopher was in great demand by the people of the time, with people eager to catch a glimpse of the man. And, notes Louis-Sébastien Mercier, a French writer of the time, "An epidemic curiosity made people rush to catch sight of Voltaire's face, as if the soul of the writer were no longer in his writings but in the way he looked." (pg. 15). Sound familiar? The name "Voltaire" could be replaced with just about any present-day celebrity. And that, in essence, is the author's premise - that while "we" (present day celebrity watchers) like to think that "celebrity" is a fairly modern creation, it really isn't. Long before movies, or television, or social media helped spread images and news of various celebrities, Lilti notes that the foundations of celebrity were already well-established - in fact, many aspects of celebrity were developed in Europe during the Enlightenment.

The Invention of Celebrity is broken down into seven chapters that explore Voltaire in Paris; Society of the Spectacle; A First Media Revolution; From Glory to Celebrity; Loneliness of the Celebrity; The Power of Celebrity; and finally, Romanticism and Celebrity. Within each chapter are numerous sections that look at various aspects of that topic, and include such varied and interesting discussions as private lives/public figures; a European celebrity; the burden of celebrity; and celebrity in America.

One of the many interesting topics the author examines is the "Invention of the Fan(atic)" and to do this he takes a careful look at the life, and death, of Francois Joseph Talma, a stage actor born in 1763. What, asks Lilti, caused "...thousands of Parisians to follow Talma's funeral procession and readers from all over Europe to read in the newspapers the accounts of his last days and all the details of his career?" (pg. 43) Lilti argues that celebrity is not the same as success because it goes beyond that person being well-known/liked in his field to a desire by others to learn about the personal/private life of that person. Indeed, the author argues, that with celebrity, people desire a closeness to that person and " events do the best job of creating this illusion of long-distance intimacy." (pg. 44) In contrast, George Washington "...firmly refused all requests to talk about his private life" (pg. 203) but this didn't keep his peers from building him up as a hero, and thus, celebrity. How this differed from others before, and after Washington, is but one way celebrity status is achieved.

The author of The Invention of Celebrity, historian Antoine Lilti, is Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and has written several books on public figures and sociability. He does an excellent job in his newest book examining the development of celebrity, both in Europe and America, with detailed examples of many public figures and the stories behind their fame. This is not a light, Saturday afternoon read, but rather a detailed examination that will reveal many interesting facts and events behind so many well-known, as well as lesser-known, figures of the past several centuries. Indeed, The Invention of Celebrity is an excellent read for those intrigued by the development of fame.

Quill says: Exhaustively researched, with in-depth analysis, this book is not a light read, but is definitely an interesting read for those who have more than a passing curiosity for the history behind the rise of "celebrity."

#BookReview - Owl and the City of Angels

Owl and the City of Angels (The Owl Series Book 2)

By: Kristi Charish
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-1501122101
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 11, 2017

Stealing authentic artifacts was something former archeology student Alix Hiboux did not exactly see herself doing as a career but things have a way of changing. Now she is known by the name "Owl" and is considered one of the best for this particular skill. However, everyone around her would admit that her methods are often times unorthodox, risky, and quite dangerous. This is why Alix chose not to tell anyone about her current plan to locate and steal two artifacts on the same trip for it would produce double the rewards but be twice as risky.

Unfortunately, while looking for these two artifacts, Alix is found by a group of International Archeology Association agents (IAA agents). Alix is not on good terms with this group because they do not appreciate thieves coming to steal artifacts from under them. Barely escaping from the IAA, Alix cannot help but wonder why in the world they were after her with such force, for yes she has stolen artifacts for clients but there are many bigger problems that the IAA should be preoccupied with. After returning to Las Vegas to face her boss, Mr. Kurosawa, who is secretly a dragon hidden under his human form, she is told the reason for the IAA’s keen interest in her. There have been several cursed artifacts stolen from a place called the City of the Dead, which is a terrible idea for ancient curses are extremely powerful, but the worst part is that the thief has been identified as the Owl.

Suddenly, the realization hits Alix that the IAA was hunting the person pretending to be her because whoever he/she was they had stolen cursed artifacts under her name. Now, she is on the top of the IAA’s list and Mr. Kurosawa is debating whether to keep Alix or fire her. He decides her next job will be to first steal the cursed artifacts that have been taken from the City of Dead and bring them to him and next to find the person responsible for impersonating her. The catch is that these artifacts cannot be handled by humans for they will instantly be cursed by whatever evil lays within them and these curses lead to death for the host. So, with no other choice, Alix heads off to find these artifacts knowing that they will probably be difficult to locate, and they will curse her if she touches them. Also, her boss will most likely kill her if she does not complete this job successfully. With her vampire attacking cat Captain along for the ride, Alix locates the artifacts but the web of deception surrounding them is connected to something much more terrible than anything Alix has encountered before.

There was not a page in this book that wasn’t filled with suspense, adventure, and action which made for a great read. The character of Alix is a wonderful mix of cockiness, stubbornness, but also ambition that creates an unforgettable personality. Even though the language is definitely geared toward an adult audience, the storyline is compelling and fun to read, causing me to flip pages as fast as I could. I have the next book ready to start and I can’t wait to begin reading the next installment.

Quill says: A series with an unforgettable character who brings the action to life.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

#BookReview - Dead Spider

Dead Spider (A Loon Lake Mystery Book 17)

By: Victoria Houston
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1507204566
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 6, 2017

In the seventeenth book in her "Loon Lake" mystery series, author Victoria Houston delivers a satisfying mystery that will keep fans wanting more from the residents of Loon Lake.

Paul "Doc" Osborne, retired dentist and occasional deputy coroner, is attending the annual Loon Lake Youth Fishing Tournament with his daughter Erin. They're hoping that Erin's son Mason might win an award in the "muskie division." But the music is much too loud, the crowds a bit too boisterous, the fireworks have started, and Doc would like nothing better than to get out of there. The annual event is sponsored by Chuck Pfeiffer - the richest man in Wisconsin and a long-time acquaintance of Osborne's. Like many residents in the area, Osborne isn't particularly fond of Pfeiffer as the man has done many hurtful things, to many different people.

As the event comes to an end, screams are heard and Osborne heads in the direction of the commotion. He quickly discovers the reason for the screams - Chuck Pfeiffer has been shot in the head and is quite dead. Police Chief Lewellyn Ferris arrives soon after and the investigation into Pfeiffer's murder begins. With the coroner out of the country on vacation, Ferris enlists Osborne's help as deputy coroner. It won't be an easy investigation as Pfeiffer had a lot of enemies...

As the investigation continues, Osborne, Ferris, and the other officers and staff on the case pour over photos and video taken at the tournament. With the abundance of images and video, the challenge of finding someone or something within the digital evidence is daunting. At the same time, Osborne's fifteen-year-old granddaughter Beth is arrested for doing drugs and there's a robbery at the local nursing home that requires Ferris' attention. With their time and energies split between the various issues, it will be tough to solve Pfeiffer's murder.

Dead Spider was an easy book to get lost in as the story took off quickly and kept a good, even pace. I had not read any of the other books in this mystery series and yet I had no trouble following along and keeping track of the various characters. While the story wasn't as intense as some of the other murder mysteries I've read, it did hold my interest and was perfect for a rainy afternoon read. I look forward to meeting Doc Osborne and the other members of the Loon Lake area in their next case.

Quill say: Dead Spider is an easy, satisfying continuation of the Loon Lake mystery series with likeable characters and just enough twists in the plot to keep you guessing.

#BookReview - The Child @figbarton

The Child

By: Fiona Barton
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-1101990483
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: June 6, 2017

Kate Waters is a reporter for the Daily Post. One day while reading through another newspaper, she sees a small story on the back page, that she knows she needs to make her own. The story is about a baby's body being found at a construction site. Although there hasn't been any identification on the baby, police have said that the body could have been placed there recently or years prior. Since Kate is looking for a story to really hit the front page, she talks her editor into letting her investigate the story.

During her investigation, Kate comes across a woman named Angela Irving and her husband Nick. Angela and Nick, forty years ago, lost their middle child Alice, while Angela was still in the hospital recovering after giving birth. While Alice slept in her crib, Angela left the room to take a shower. When she came back, Alice was gone. Although they searched the hospital and continued searching, Alice was never seen again. When Kate goes to talk to Angela, Angela is adamant that the baby that was found is Alice. After talking with Angela, Kate encourages her to reach out to the police involved with the case now for a possible identification. After days of waiting, the news finally comes back and the baby is a positive match to Angela.

After finding out that the baby is a match, Kate runs her story. After running her story Kate receives a call from a woman, using a fake name, looking to get more information about the baby and asking Kate to continue looking into the story. The woman claims that the baby may not actually be Alice at all. When Kate presses the woman for details, the woman suddenly has to get off the phone.
The mystery woman on the phone is Emma. Emma works from home as a book editor while her husband Paul is a professor at the local university. As Emma tries to carry on a normal life, sometimes her anxiety gets the best of her. Although for years Emma has been deemed to have a mental illness, no one understands the full extent as to why.

With this new information, Kate continues to investigate. Through her investigation, Kate uncovers many secrets and keeps some information to herself. Soon, she must decide what, if any, of this information she will give to the police. After talking it over with her editor, they decide that Kate needs to bring all that she knows to the police. After bringing her information to the police, although Kate has the story she wanted, she finds herself in the middle of a decade-long mystery.

The Child is a great read. This book will leave you wanting more. It is very hard to put down. Your investigative skills are put to the test because just when you think that you may have an idea as to where the story is going, another twist happens and another piece of the puzzle is added. It isn't until the end that you truly understand why and how everything happened.

Quill says: If you are looking for a heartwarming mystery, that will put your investigative skills to the test, this is your story.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#BookReview - Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege

Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege

By: Sergey Yarov
Publisher: Polity
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1509507986
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 29, 2017

For those fascinated by events of WWII, and in particular the devastating siege of Leningrad, author and historian Sergey Yarov has penned a look at what happens to morality in a time of great hardship, an account that will remain with you long after you have finished reading this book.

The Siege of Leningrad is generally acknowledged to have begun in September of 1941 when the last road into the city was cut off by the Germans. The siege ran for 872 days - one of the longest blockades in history. Yarov looks at the first winter of the siege, which is known as the "Time of Death." What happened to people during that time - how did their morals, their customs, their needs change? By investigating the full range of behaviors, and what people did in order to survive, Yarov helps the reader truly understand the suffering that went on in the city.

Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege is broken up into three sections: Concepts of Morality in 1941 - 1941; the Ethical Dimension; and Means of Reinforcing Morality. Yarov acknowledges that the study of 'siege ethics' can be difficult as memories of past events may change. In addition, survivors, when retelling their stories, may alter events to make themselves seem less cruel, and trying to judge people going through such incredible sufferings from the comfort of our couches is hardly fair or appropriate. Regardless, Yarov carefully investigates the events, and actions of the city's people, through original documentation. From how attitudes to theft changed over time, dealing with orphaned, starving children, to the evolving rituals surrounding death and burial (lack of wood for caskets, weakness of survivors in attending to the deceased, etc.), all elements of life during the "Time of Death" are examined.

The author, the late Sergey Yarov (1959-2015), was a native of St. Petersburg, a professor of History at the European University, and made it his life's work to study the Siege of Leningrad. Having traveled to Leningrad in the early 80s, and seeing remnants of the war everywhere (ex. - a display of bullet-ridden helmets at a movie theater), I was quite familiar with the Siege of Leningrad. But Yarov took that horrifying event and delved further into it than any text I'd ever read - the stories and analysis he provided went far beyond other studies of that era. Using hundreds of first-hand accounts (letters, diary entries, documents), Yarov looked at every aspect of life - and death - within the confines of Leningrad. For those interested in this alarming time in history, Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege is a book that must be added to your collection.

Quill says: An in-depth, fascinating, and at times heart-wrenching, analysis of the human spirit and what happens to it in times of great hardship.

#BookReview - Dustrats: Or, the Adventures of Sir Muffin Muffinsson

Dustrats: Or, The Adventures of Sir Muffin Muffinsson

Written and Illustrated by: Adrià Regordosa
Publisher: POW!
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1576878217
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 29, 2017

Sir Muffin Muffinsson is a wonderful and faithful cat. Every night he watches over young Emma as she sleeps in her crib. And Emma's dreams can get a little wild and crazy! Watch out, Sir Muffin Muffinsson, because tonight you're in for a real adventure!

While Emma sleeps, Sir Muffin Muffinsson looks around the little girl's room and realizes that she must have had a very playful week because her room is a mess. Toys are spewed all over the room, there's a book on the floor, the lamp is tilted and ... wait ... what's that? From under Emma's crib pop seven little dustrats, one for each day of the week. With cute little hats, these little creatures look like they have mischievous on their minds. Sir Muffin Muffinsson jumps into action, grabbing his vacuum cleaner so that he can collect the tiny critters. He knows that the dustrats love Emma's wild imagination and if she can dream it, those troublemakers will make it happen in the house.

Sir Muffin Muffinsson follows the dustrats into every room of the house, watching with increasing worry, as the results of Emma's dreams get wilder and crazier. Going into the kitchen, the fluffy white cat finds the room in total chaos, with food and plates strewn everywhere. But with the fridge wide open, the cold has created a winter wonderland, with penguins, a snowman and a polar bear! Just wait until Sir Muffin Muffinsson sees what's waiting for him in the garage!

Dustrats is a creative, and extremely imaginative story about a bunch of little troublemakers who thrive on making a little girl's dreams come to life. With a loyal cat who does his best to vacuum up the creatures before they cause too much trouble, young readers will absolutely love following Sir Muffin Muffinsson on his adventure. The author, who also illustrated this book, did a fabulous job of creating truly wonderful illustrations that bring everything from a dragon to a unicorn to life. Kudos to debut author Adrià Regordosa - I look forward to seeing what other adventures he sends Sir Muffin Muffinsson on.

Quill says: A definite five-star children's story - it may even make your child clean up his/her room!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

#BookReview - Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers

Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers

By: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Publication Date: April 2017
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
ISBN: 978-1-62416-744-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 23, 2017

An Amish cooking class is the perfect recipe for each ‘seeker’s’ future in Wanda Brunstetter’s latest work of fiction, Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers.

Heidi Troyer is a good Amish wife. She loves her husband Lyle to the moon and back, but there is still a void in her life that may never be filled. They’ve been together for more than a handful of years and the only ‘child’ Heidi and Lyle share is their Brittany Spaniel Rusty. No matter how many times Heidi has broached the subject of adoption with Lyle, he won’t budge. His belief is: ‘...if it were God’s will for us to have children, you would have gotten pregnant by now...’ Heidi’s faith and belief is as strong as her husband’s, but lately she has her doubts. She needs something more than the household and garden chores to occupy her mind. Perhaps the cooking class she is about to start is the perfect distraction from that baby she fears she will never have.

With an eclectic group of students, the group assembles for the first day of class. Loretta Donnelly had the happily ever after until the passing of her husband, Rick. Left with two beautiful children, Abby and Conner, she is reminded daily that life must go on and perhaps Heidi’s cooking class is the comfort and distraction she needs to carry on. Charlene Higgins is young and in love. However, even though Len and she have a strong love for each other, perhaps a cooking class will find its way to his heart and the marriage proposal Charlene desperately seeks. Eli Miller is a kind and caring Amish gentleman, but he is lonely. There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t pause and think about his beloved Mavis and wonder why she had to die. Kendra Perkins is young and in trouble. She is pregnant and her boyfriend, the baby’s father, is long gone. She is kicked out of her childhood home and faced with the reality of raising her unborn child alone. Maybe Heidi’s class will have the answers. Last but not least, there is the drifter Ron Hensley. Down on his luck for too many years and facing the future on a con and a prayer, he finds his way to the Troyer’s home for the next chapter in his life. Perhaps the gathering of the group was destiny but only time would deliver the answers they all so desperately sought to find.

Ms. Brunstetter is no stranger to the Amish way of life. As one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, it’s no wonder she would pen her next novel on such a topic. The story has a nice flow and balance with lots of believability infused throughout the story. The dialogue is rich and each character assumes a solid role in the part he or she plays as the story unfolds. There is no predictability toward the outcome and as a result, the reader will naturally continue to turn the pages and enjoy the journey from beginning to end. There is just enough fact about the Amish way of life sprinkled throughout the unfolding plot to intrigue a new comer to Ms. Brunstetter’s latest addition to her library of titles to entice the reader to perhaps take a step back and read another. Thank you for an enjoyable read Ms. Brunstetter.

Quill says: Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers has a solid plot and entertaining premise from beginning to end - certainly a story to pack along with you on that summer getaway this year.

#BookReview - An Illustrated History of Trigger

An Illustrated History of Trigger: The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino

By: Leo Pando
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: November 2010
ISBN: 978-0786461110
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 24, 2017

Trigger, the golden palomino that helped propel Roy Rogers to national stardom, was known and loved by children around the world. In An Illustrated History of Trigger, author Leo Pando takes a look at all aspects of Trigger's life, from his origins, to the movies, and the several horses that played the famous horse.

Divided into eighteen chapters, An Illustrated History of Trigger examines all aspects of the mythos of Trigger, from the horse's breeding, original owner, sale to Rogers, the story behind Little Trigger and Trigger Jr., as well as Trigger collectibles and memorabilia. As a horse person, I found the section on Glenn Randall, the trainer behind the horses, quite interesting, as well as the chapter on Roy Rogers and his equine abilities. The author, also a horse person (he was the assistant manager for an Arabian breeding facility), shows his knowledge of equines in his writing and this makes the book more enjoyable for horse lovers.

Researching a book where the various horses who played the role of Trigger have long been dead, is not an easy task. Add in the fact that those closest to the horses in question have also passed away, and you have a difficult job. Leo Pando did an excellent job of finding original documentation and speaking to/finding letters, interviews, etc. with the children of those involved in Trigger's career. Combine those factors and you have the makings for an informative book. Pando wades through all the literature and helps separate myth from fact, and explains how he came to those conclusions. The book is called an "illustrated history" and it is, indeed, chock full of great photos of Trigger, Trigger Jr., Little Trigger as well as the many stunt horses that played Trigger, Buttermilk (Dale Evans' gelding) and the many other horses that appeared with Rogers on television and in the movies. All photos, with the exception of the cover image, are in black and white and these images are truly the highlight of the book. My only quibble, and it's a minor one, is that there are a fair number of typos in the book and it would be nice to have these fixed.

Quill says: For fans of Trigger, this book is an excellent resource and is worth purchasing just for all the great "Trigger" photographs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

#BookReview - My Little Angel @SherrillCannon

My Little Angel

By: Sherrill S. Cannon
Illustrated by: Kalpart
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1681819471
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 2017

Award-winning author Sherrill S. Cannon is at it again with her newest book, My Little Angel, telling a delightful story about a little girl and her guardian angel.
The star of our adventure, a sweet little girl (we never learn her name), tells the reader about her very special friend, Angela, who just happens to be her guardian angel. Angela sits on the girl's shoulder and is dressed is a light blue dress with matching shoes, a halo, and white, almost translucent, wings. Angela always wears a big smile, and sparkling light seems to follow her wherever she goes.

The little girl talks about all the wonderful things her guardian angel does. For example,

She helps keep me safe as I'm walking to school,
Reminding me always to follow the rules.
She makes me look both ways when crossing the street,
And she makes sure I'm carful where I put my feet.

The author takes the reader through a full day of events, at home, at school, even getting ready for bed, with the guardian angel constantly at the girl's side. Angela reminds the girl of many important things too, from brushing her teeth in the morning, saying "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "Please," to helping her say her prayers at night. If she's afraid, Angela is there to console her, and remind her to "Think of others, be helpful and kind."

As soon as you read the first line of My Little Angel, you'll know you've opened a good book:

Angela sits on my shoulder and glows -
Whatever I do or think, Angela knows...

The story, written in a nice-flowing rhyme, tells a sweet story that also helps impart life lessons (manners, caring for others) to young readers. Like the other books by Sherrill Cannon, this one is illustrated by Kalpart, a company that has a reputation for creating delightful images for books. Again, Kalpart does not disappoint as the drawings are vibrant and fun and are a perfect compliment to the story. At the back of the book the author has included "Special Notes" that ask children to a) hunt and find images of different book covers in the story; b) answer questions about their own safety habits; and c) answer questions about the story. Finally, if you purchase the author's books from the website, 50% of the sales will be donated to help find a cure for Juvenile Myositis - a win-win for everybody!

Quill says: My Little Angel is a wonderful story for little ones who will love reading about Angela, a guardian angel, and dreaming up what their own guardian angel might look like and do to help them.

For more information on My Little Angel, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Light & Laughter Coloring Book

Light & Laughter Coloring Book

By: Suzy Toronto
Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-1497201569
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: May 15, 2017

Light & Laughter by Suzy Toronto is a coloring book with a positive message, “Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting!” and encourages colorists to seize the day, color outside the lines and “...embrace the wonderful, wacky women we truly are, and live a life worth coloring.”

This softcover book contains thirty-two pages of coloring fun depicting various sizes of both large and intricate designs, bold, whimsical characters, lots of flowers and women with wild, wacky hair. Each image also contains a playful, inspirational quote such as “Life is short. Go for the cupcakes!” and “Some of us were just born with glitter in our veins.” The Light & Laughter book is approximately 8”x10” in size, printed on archival and eco-friendly paper that contains images printed on a single side, and is perforated for easy removal. The back of each coloring page includes a fun quote like “Don’t be afraid to be a fruit loop in a world full of bran,” that provides even more laughter and encouragement to colorists while they brighten their pages.

The coloring book has several sample pages colored by the author herself in her favorite medium, watercolors, as well as pages completed by other women using colored pencils, markers and gel pens. Suzy Toronto also includes other extra sections in this coloring book discussing her own personal coloring style and provides a bit of creative coloring encouragement. Finally, technical information for serious colorists who want to learn about the proper use of colors by providing a color wheel with discussion about primary, secondary and tertiary colors, completes the extra added pages in this coloring book.

Light & Laughter has also received DO Magazine’s “Fair Trade Seal of Approval.” Having this seal of approval ensures that coloring consumers can buy Light & Laughter and know that the artwork is of quality, and the author was properly compensated for her creations.

Suzy Toronto’s coloring book is packed full of fun, silly images that will be best enjoyed using colored pencils, sharpened crayons, gel pens and thin markers since the images can be a bit small and intricate at times. The paper has a smooth texture allowing color to lay down and blend easily and is of medium thickness, therefore, using a wet medium such as large markers (copics, sharpies, etc.,) or watercolors may bleed through, so it is best to remove the image from the book or test a small area before proceeding with coloring an entire page. There are numerous quotes and images that will speak to you personally regardless of your age, some will make you laugh and others will inspire you to spend hours filling your book with color. While this book does include a small amount of other fun to color images such as cupcakes and boots, the overall theme contains pages with a plethora of ribbons, doodles, flowers and ladies with crazy hair. This may be an issue for some colorists who crave a wide variety of images to challenge their coloring skills. However, this book can be an excellent “pick me up” when you're feeling down or having a bad day and just want to laugh and feel uplifted by Suzy Toronto’s images of women with zany hair and equally silly quotes.

Quill says: Light & Laughter will brighten your spirits and fill your creative time with hours of coloring fun.