Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interview with Kim Chatel - Author of Horse Camp

Today we're talking with Kim Chatel, author of Horse Camp

FQ: Do you have a horse of your own? I’m guessing you either have a horse or have had some involvement with equines as your horse background shows up in the book, the topics you cover, and your obvious love of animals.

I have a deep love for all animals though I’ve never had my own horse. When my daughter, Genevieve, was six, I thought it would be a fun mother-daughter activity to learn horseback riding together. We took a few lessons and then I broke my foot (not riding). I was unable to ride for nearly two years. She continued her lessons and now, at age 12, she is quite an accomplished rider. That’s her on the cover of Horse Camp. We do hope to get a horse of our own in the near future. In the mean time, she continues her lessons at Rocking Horse Stables. We also volunteer at The Gress Mountain Ranch, a local animal rescue. They have 1 horse and 3 ponies. So we get to work with them often. I just love being around horses. I love the smell of them. I love brushing them and picking out their feet. At The Gress Mountain Ranch, we have an old draft horse, Elle, who has trouble walking. I like to sing to her as we make the nightly journey across the pasture to the barn. And when she looks at me with her soft brown eyes and wuffles into my hand, I feel good all the way to my toes.

FQ: What was the impetus for writing Horse Camp? Did you attend a camp as a youngster, have friends with children who were about to head off to camp or was it something else?

Horses were never part of my experience as a child. Only as an adult did I discover that I have an affinity for them. Genevieve does too. She attended horse camp twice. I’ve always been a photographer (I used to own and run a camera store in Canada) so it was natural for me to take my camera and follow the girls at horse camp. Barns are incredibly photographic. And so are horses. As I was photographing them, I realized that these images would make a great picture book. I’d never seen a book like the one I envisioned. Most books about horses deal with only the facts. I wanted to capture the joy that blossoms between kids and horses. I was lucky enough to have some help with the technical issues about horses from some very knowledgeable people, mainly Shannon Ebert from Rocking Horse Stables and Tara St. Clair. I learned a lot writing the book too.

I also worked with Lynda Burch at Guardian Angel Publishing to bring my vision to life. She let me create the layout for the book interior, something that many publishers wouldn’t allow. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

FQ: You were also the photographer for Horse Camp and visited two farms, Rocking Horse Stables and Last Chance Ranch to get your shots. How long did it take to get all the right pictures? Did you know exactly what you were looking for before you arrived at each place or did you just go and see what happened/what the horses and kids did?

Well, since the idea came to me while I was photographing, I looked over the images I had and created a layout for the book. Shannon Ebert at Rocking Horse was kind enough to let me shadow the girls at horse camp. I shot hundreds of photos. After fitting those into my layout, I realized I was still missing some images. So I went back a third time and took a few specific shots. These were mostly to fill in the missing coat colors or leg markings. Finally, I visited Last Chance Ranch for some of the more unusual pictures like the mule and the miniature horses. The whole process took over a year. Then I had to build the layout with all the design elements. Finally it had to be proofed and published. The whole process took over two years. It’s fun to look back at the girls in the book and see how they’ve grown.

FQ: What was the reaction of the young students who are featured in your book when they learned you wanted to take pictures of them for Horse Camp? Excited, nervous, interested in seeing the finished book?

Most of the girls were kind of shy. I tried to stay out of the way so they would act naturally. Because it took so long for the book to appear in print, I think the girls forgot about it. I was very excited to show them the final product and see their delighted faces. The best part was when I did a presentation at a local school and two of the girls in Horse Camp were in the audience. I made sure to thank them publicly. I think they enjoyed that. I enjoyed creating Horse Camp from inception to completion, but there’s nothing better than sharing your book with a room full of kids.

FQ: There’s no doubt that many, many youngsters, especially girls, love horses. What do you think is the attraction? Why is there such a strong interest in horses?

I thinks girls and horses are like boys and dirt bikes or race cars. Cantering on a horse feels like flying. But unlike a machine, a horse is sentient. So not only do girls get to fulfill their need for speed, they also get a friend. And what girl doesn’t like to cuddle? Getting nuzzled by your favorite equine is like nothing else. Not to mention that horses let you braid their hair and paint their nails. What more could a girl want? The first time my daughter cantered in the pasture, her smile was as big as the sky. She rode up to me and said, “This is the best day of my life!” I don’t think either of us will ever forget that day.

FQ: I understand that 50% of your royalties are being donated to The Gress Mountain Ranch. Would you tell our readers about the ranch and also why you selected them as the recipient of the funds?

The Gress Mountain Ranch is a special place. It’s a forever home for over 40 animals: horses, donkeys, goats, alpacas, pigs, cats, dogs and more. The animals are all rescued from abuse or neglect. Some of the have been surrendered due to the tough economy. At TGMR they become therapy animals for people with emotional and psychiatric disabilities. Genevieve and I volunteer at the ranch several times a week. We have developed special bonds with many of the animals there and we see all the good work this place can do. The ranch survives only on donations, so it was natural for me to want to help out. I think Horse Camp is a good venue for fundraising. Parents can feel good about buying a book that their kids will enjoy and know that their money is helping a great cause.

FQ: I see that you are also a fiber artist (great examples of your work on your website). Would you tell us a bit about your work?

I illustrated my first picture book Rainbow Sheep with fiber art. Each image in the book is like a wool painting that I photographed. The back of the book teaches kids at parents the art of needle-felting. About 8 years ago, I saw the relatively obscure craft on a TV show and I took to it immediately. I soon discovered that I can make anything out of wool. In recent years, the craft has grown in popularity and I’ve had great fun teaching needle-felting to both children and adults. Now I make ornaments from fleece sheared from The Gress Mountain Ranch alpacas. I’ve been teaching other volunteers at TMGR too and we’re using this art as another fundraiser. We have a store on Etsy at:

Thank you for letting me share my book Horse Camp and experiences with your readers. If anyone would like to learn more about my books they can visit If they’d like to learn about The Gress Mountain Ranch they can visit

To learn more about Horse Camp please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Taxes and the Writer

If you're an author, here's an article with some timely advice for handling tax time: Taxes and the Writer

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The BEST Thing I've Done to Increase My Facebook Following

Every author wants to up their Facebook following.  I've tried various things, posting to other pages, keeping my page updated/current, etc.  While I might have gotten one or two "likes" from these efforts, over time, my fans remained few.  That's when I decided to hold a contest - and man, did that work well!!!  It's still going on so I don't know what the total increase will be but get this, after the first three days, my weekly stats arrived and, and, and.... those "talking about this" went up a whopping 2,250% and the "weekly total reach" increased 954%.  The secret?  I believe the fact that I made a fun photo contest brought a LOT of people to my site.  My books are not the theme of the contest although the winner gets to choose one of my books, along with a stuffed animal for a prize.  There are easy, easy apps to set up these contests.  I used "Offerpop" and it only took a few minutes for me to do it.  Curious?  Check it out - click on "photo contest" in the left column (note you have to "like" the page to view the contest).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review - A Conflict of Interest

A Conflict of Interest

By: Adam Mitzner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: May 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9643-4
Reviewed By: Mary Lignor
Review Date: March 2012

This offering is a novel that will keep you interested by a fairly new author who really knows his subject.

The story begins in Florida, where Alex Miller, a Criminal Defense Attorney has travelled, to attend the funeral of his father. Alex meets an old friend of his father’s, Michael Ohlig, who now runs a brokerage firm in Florida and is about to be investigated by the Government for his business practices. After speaking to Ohlig, Alex decides to represent him in court, if it should go that far.

This case is about a ruthless scam that has cost Ohlig's investors millions of dollars and this defendant is so self absorbed that he firmly believes he is innocent. The man is extremely slippery in his dealings with others, most especially his lawyers. Alex prefers to think that his client is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the rest of the legal eagles on the defense team are a bit more cynical, including a beautiful and very smart lady lawyer, who is a close colleague of Alex’s. This is not your usual securities fraud case (like the movie Wall Street). The lawyers work to free Ohlig and when the case is finished, Alex gets some very bad news. His mother has died mysteriously and he is thrown back into ‘investigative mode’ of a whole different kind.

It seems that the ever present Michael Ohlig is somehow involved in the case of Alex’s mother’s death and a different court case comes into the foreground blaming Ohlig for murder. This brings the reader into one of the most attention-getting conclusions this reviewer has ever read. While reading this book, it was almost impossible to believe that this was a first attempt by this author. It is a definite keeper and readers will look forward to the next Mitzner book with anticipation.

Quill Says: This novel will not let the reader rest. As soon as one problem is settled another will pop up with gusto. As they say in The Godfather, “Every time I get out they pull me back in!” This is very true of this book.

Martha Speaks and Arthur Celebrate National Poetry Month

Martha Speaks and Arthur Celebrate National Poetry Month with a Week of Reading, Writing, and Poetry, April 2-6 on PBS KIDS (check local listings)
Former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins to kick off three new episodes of Martha Speaks and inaugural Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky to be featured on Arthur
(Boston, MA, March 27, 2012): The Poetry Foundation and WGBH are teaming up to invite kids to celebrate National Poetry Month with Martha Speaks and Arthur. Tune in to PBS KIDS Monday, April 2, 2012 (check local listings) to join former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins and inaugural Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky in episodes highlighting poetry. Kids also are invited to create and publish their own poetry online with an all-new game, Martha’s Rhyme Time at and Fern's Poetry Club at

Martha Speaks and Arthur share a focus on literacy and actively encourage creativity and love of words,” says Carol Greenwald, Senior Executive Producer at WGBH. “Through this partnership with the Poetry Foundation, we hope to encourage and inspire the next generation of poetry readers and writers.”

“Children who are exposed to the joys of poetry at a young age are most likely to become lifelong readers of poetry as adults,” adds Stephanie Hlywak, Media Director of the Poetry Foundation. “How better to create a new generation of poetry lovers than to enlist the help of Martha, Arthur, Billy Collins, and Jack Prelutsky?
Airing Monday, April 2, 2012, PBS KIDS will premiere the brand-new Martha Speaks episode “Billy Collins Speaks” (check local listings). In this episode, Billy Collins writes great poems about dogs, and Martha thinks she knows why. Obviously, the former poet laureate must be a canine himself! When Martha meets Billy Collins, she’s in for a few is he. Tune in to learn words like poem, poet, prose, imposter, and metaphor. Then in the classic Arthur episode “I’m a Poet,” Arthur and his friends are challenged to write a poem for a contest—to be judged by inaugural Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky. Though intimidated at first, everyone comes up with a poem that reflects his or her own unique approach.

Two new Martha Speaks episodes highlighting parts of speech and featuring a visit from the Bookbots air on PBS KIDS Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3-4, 2012 (check local listings). Additionally, past episodes of Arthur celebrating creative writing will air on PBS KIDS Tuesday-Friday, April 3-6, 2012 (check local listings).

New Games Highlight Poetry and Creative Writing Online at!
Kids are invited to read, write, and share poetry online with Martha’s Rhyme Time at and Fern's Poetry Club at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review - The Paris Directive

The Paris Directive

By: Gerald Jay
Publisher: Doubleday
Publishing Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53548-9
Reviewed By: Mary Lignor
Review Date: March 27, 2012

This novel has everything! Suspense, wonderful characterization, beautiful descriptions of the French countryside and it is truly a one-day read with a lot of edge-of-your-chair narrative.

It begins with a man, Klaus Reiner, who is a Hit Man by trade and very good at his job. The first hit that we follow him on really doesn’t have anything to do with this story but still, you can’t help but buy him as someone who really loves his work. After this small side trip, the real story begins. Klaus is hired by two former French Intelligence Agents to kill an American who will be vacationing in a small town in the French countryside. Klaus locates the target although the intended victim and his wife are there visiting an old friend and there are numerous people around which is not to Klaus’ liking. He just likes to point and shoot and take off for places unknown until the fuss blows over. The hit goes south as Klaus watches from a hiding place and he has to plan it all over again. This new plan also messes up and Klaus has to kill all four of the vacationers. His plans were always to kill his target and get out. This time it didn’t work out for him at all.

A new person on the scene, Inspector Paul Mazarelle, formerly on the Police Force in Paris who is now working in this small town, is asked to investigate this horrible crime. His main suspect is Ali Sedak, a local handyman, who is a thief (and not a very good one) but the Inspector finds it hard to believe that he would have had the smarts to pull this off even though the evidence points to him. The daughter of two of the victims, who is a District Attorney in New York City, shows up and tries to help. Unfortunately, most of her "help" is simply getting in the way of the Inspector’s investigation.

This crime turns out to be very political and not at all what anyone expects, which makes the story even more interesting. Anyone who is a fan of intrigue will jump on this book and read it from cover to cover.

Quill Says: This novel will excite readers of thriller/fiction and is also like a travel guide through the French countryside. It will bring all the skills of a 'cool as a cucumber' villain against a Police Inspector who was ready to hang it up and end his career.

Book Review - Horse Camp

Horse Camp

By: Kim Chatel
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: April 2011
ISBN: 978-1616331450
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 27, 2012

If you love horses, then what could be better than going to horse camp? It's fun, you learn a lot, and best of all, you get to be around horses all day! In Horse Camp, the young reader will discover much of what is in store as she heads off to camp.

Loaded with lots of great pictures of campers and horses, this book introduces the beginning rider to the concepts of riding and caring for equines. At the start, we see eager horses waiting for their new riders. After a few safety tips, the horses are brought in from the pasture to be groomed and tacked up. The eager riders learn how important it is to properly brush a horse so that all dirt and debris is removed - even a little dirt under a saddle can cause discomfort and sores.

Once the horses are clean, it's time to learn about tack. English and western saddles, bridles, girths, bits and stirrups; and then it's on to how to get that saddle and bridle on the horse. But wait! Before you can ride, you need to listen to a brief talk about riding safety, something that is so very important.

Finally! The girls are riding their horses and what fun they are having! They learn to walk, trot, canter and gallop and will soon be going over cavaletti poles which is the first step in learning to jump.

Once the lesson is over, it's time to learn about hoof care with a farrier as well as some basic horse facts. There is a lesson on face and leg markings, breeds and colors, how horses are measured and even a few short quizzes to test your knowledge. Words that may be new to the young reader are highlighted in green and defined in the glossary in the back.

Horse Camp is an excellent introduction to horse camp as well as the world of horses in general. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous pictures and the text, for the most part, appears in short one or two sentence snippets, making it easy to read. The book avoids getting bogged down with too much detail, covering just the right amount for the aspiring equestrienne. If you have a youngster who will be heading off to horse camp, this an wonderful book to help answer questions and ease any anxiety she may feel. Overall, this is a fun, delightful book that young horse lovers will love.

Quill says: Young horse fans are bound to love going to camp with this book!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review - Midnight Sun Arctic Moon

Midnight Sun Arctic Moon: Mapping the Wild Heart of Alaska

By: Mary Albanese
Publisher: Epicenter Press
Publication Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-1-935347-17-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 26, 2012

For anyone who has a love of that amazing state that still holds its mystery, its beauty, and has the ability to offer the most harsh existence framed in the most stunning landscape on earth - this is the book for you!

Mary Albanese is from upstate New York; a girl who was headed down one path, yet had a quest so embedded in her mind that she simply gave up all the safety and comforts of home to head out into an unknown world that supplied danger and beauty that only a ‘god’ could provide. From the world of teaching, which she was trained for, Mary decided that there was a stronger calling, and eventually it became her life’s work. In a way, from the moment she placed her foot down on the frozen tundra, Mary became an arctic explorer, and her words, courage, and excitement come through every facet of this book.

One of the best parts of this memoir is the humanity. Mary leads readers through Alaska, but does it with stories and tales that will have readers smiling, crying, and wide-eyed. She was once told that when the temperatures rose to 20 degrees, that she would see the people in Fairbanks walking around in t-shirts and, yes, that was absolutely true. Although surprised many times, Mary was unshaken by their tests of endurance and strength - and she soon found that Alaska was deep in her blood.

She speaks of her mentors, teachers, ‘kings’ of the geophysical world - and invites people into her life with Tom - the man who receives the piece of her heart that Alaska doesn’t own. She talks of their children and (my personal favorite) Ruby - the wolf dog - who is outstandingly beautiful and every reader will want her the moment they see her.

There are so many amazing facets of this memoir that it actually appeals to everyone. It is a fact that when someone is speaking about their ‘true love’ that their words resonate with intelligence, kindness, fear, honor, and complete and utter happiness. Mary’s ‘industry’ is geology, but she is actually a woman who found a miracle that not many ever find - her niche that was waiting for her out there in the world. She took chances, she played through fears, and she found a place that is as much a part of her as she is of it.
Readers will get lost in the mountains, crevasses, the highest peaks, the glistening white wonderlands - and they will come to know right away that even though Mary could feel the freezing temperatures that were mind-boggling harsh, her incredible love for Alaska kept her soul warm. And the tales of the family, as well as the pictures, provide an intimate and unforgettable look into this mysterious land and the life of a writer who will touch your very soul.

Quill Says: Stunning, beautiful, funny, sad - a memoir that will have you taking the chance to find your niche in the world!

Book Review - The Elf Mage

The Elf Mage (Clan Elves of the Bitterroot, Book III)

By: Lyndi Alexander
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936381-35-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 26, 2012

This is the third offering in the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series and, no doubt, the best so far.

When readers first begin they stand beside the body of Daven Talvi. Daven is a courageous warrior who has shown his loyalty for his people in the most amazing and heartbreaking ways anyone ever could. This is the character who gave up his own beloved mate and son in order to save the Elf Queen long ago. This time around, he wakes inside the newest Elf Queen’s tree house - built by the elves for their Queen, Jelani. Now, Jelani is a positive and a negative for the elves. She has given birth to a son, she’s in love with Daven Talvi’s son, Astan, but she is half-human - which brings the human world into the elves’ ‘turf’ which has caused many a problem thus far.

Daven has a huge headache, especially since he was attacked by his own son. Astan and Jelani believe that Daven played a part in their son’s disappearance, and they are quite angry. They have stormed away, leaving Daven with his own thoughts and woes, desperate to find their son. Daven, knowing that it was not him who took the baby, starts out on his own mission; his own quest to bring his grandson back safely. He truly believes that the kidnapper must be the evil Grigori, but when Grigori is found dead, the mystery grows ever larger and more exciting.

Jelani and Astan head back to Jelani’s human friends located in Missoula. (These guys are the absolute best, by the way.) Crispy and Lane are computer geeks at heart and they are so funny - they are even the ones who protected the baby because they thought harm was going to come to him.

When Astan and Jelani arrive, they become embedded in a new quest that now includes an ex-military man named Kevin and, of course, Iris, who is in love with Daven and sticks up for him when Astan and Jelani accuse him of wrongdoing. Add into all this a clan that has set out on their own. Leaving the Elders behind, the Youngers are now becoming one under the rule of Veraena, who has told them that the truly evil Bartolomey is not dead (as the Elders believe) but is quite alive and gearing up to take over. War is coming!

Every aspect of this book, like the ones before, is intriguing. This time around a huge shout-out is given to Daven’s storyline. When this incredible warrior has to begin again - humbled - as a lone Elf who must find a way to bring back his magical gifts in order to serve his new Queen, the writing is incredibly thoughtful and extremely powerful. Readers will stand behind him and wait with anticipation for their hero to emerge from his loneliness. The beginning is swift and draws the reader in immediately, and the 'full circle' ending for Daven is extremely memorable.

Quill Says: Another incredible book in the series! Advice? Begin with Book I - The Elf Queen - and set yourself up for an unforgettable reading weekend!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Grow that Facebook Following!

All authors want to grow their Facebook page.  Get more fans, keep them engaged and best of all, get them to buy your book.  Here's in article with some good suggestions to do just that.  I do, however, disagree with the writer's suggestion to send all your friends requests to "like" your page.  It's now considered by many as the Facebook equivalent of spam.  Still, there are some good suggestions on how to grow your Facebook numbers.

Book Review - The False Prince

The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy)

By: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-0-545-28413-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 23, 2012

Sage is a thief. A boy who lives at Mrs. Turbeldy’s Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys, Sage possesses a quick hand, fast legs and a sarcastic mouth that seems to ‘shoot-off’ at the worst possible moments.

One day, as he’s running away from the butcher with the pilfered meat in his hands, he runs directly into a sour-faced, slightly annoying man by the name of Bevin Conner. It seems that Mr. Conner is going to be Sage’s new master, and although the young lad tries to run away, the ‘guards’ that Conner employs - Cregan and Mott - make sure that Sage’s freedom remains just out of reach.

As Sage is thrown into the back of a carriage with three other orphan boys: Tobias, a well-educated, slightly evil young man; Latamer, a sickly, pasty-faced boy who suffers from some sort of ailment; and Roden, a large tanned dim-wit - Conner’s plan is soon revealed, and one boy pays the ultimate price.
This all has to do with the treachery and intrigue that is happening behind the throne in the world known as Carthya. Bevin Conner is a loyal member to the royal family and he needs a boy - only one - to help him succeed in a plan to stop treason and halt a war that is almost ready to begin.

As the boys follow the training they’re given - too scared to fight or run from the nobleman - they stumble across everything from a young, mute girl within the Conner household who may just become Sage’s only protection; to a once future Queen who has no idea that her betrothal may just be nothing more than an empty promise.

Sage is an incredibly fun character who can stand face-to-face with his sometimes violent master and the other boys who he must win against in order to survive. His smart mouth, wit, and his ability to keep secrets in order to attain what he’s after has readers following his adventures with pure excitement.

Quill Says: A plot that, when exposed, will leave readers breathless. This is a truly fun YA!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Using Social Media to Promote Your Book - Does It Work?

There has been lots of talk about using social media sites such as Facebook to promote authors' books.  Does it work?  Lots of companies, publishers, authors, etc. seem to think it's a lot of time and effort for very little return.  Contrary to talk that it doesn't work, however, is an interesting piece on how social media can drive book sales.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First Chapter

Readers - Looking for a place to find books?  A place where you can read the first chapter before buying?
Authors/Publishers/Publicists - Looking for a new place to promote your books? 

Check out First Chapter Plus

First Chapter Plus is your best source for book previews. Just as film previews help you decide whether to pay to watch a movie, each month our e-catalog will give you glimpses into the first chapters of books so you can read a preview before you decide to purchase a book.  Our catalog focuses on independent authors and independent publishers, those books, which just like independent films, are often cutting-edge, creative, and go beyond the mainstream. First Chapter Plus allows you, the librarian, bookstore owner, book reviewer, blogger, or reader to decide which books you want to read.  Besides descriptions, we provide direct links to the books on Amazon as well as the publisher and ISBN information you need to order a book today.  In this age of the Internet, doesn’t an e-catalog make the most sense for quick information and ordering? We think so and we hope you’ll agree.

— Irene Watson, Managing Editor
First Chapter Plus

Book Review - Game Changers

Game Changers: Book 1 (The Game Changers)

By: Mike Lupica
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 2012
ISBN: 978-0545381826
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 22, 2012

Ben McBain likes football. No, actually he LOVES football and can't get enough of the sport. Together with his friends Coop, Sam, and Lily, he plays every chance he gets - at school, after school, on the weekends. And this year, the eleven-year-old has high hopes for his team, the Rockwell Rams, because the new coach, Matt O'Brien, was a college football star and even played for the Colts for a few years. This will be the year they go all the way to the championships!

Ben's dream is to be starting quarterback and this will be the third year he tries out for the coveted position. He has the speed, he has the throwing arm, but he doesn't have the size. Ben meets the weight requirement by a whopping one pound and his height? Well, let's just say he doesn't tower over anybody. Then there's Shawn O'Brien, the son of Coach O'Brien. Shawn's father was a star quarterback and it looks like Shawn is on his way to being even better than his dad. Ben doesn't stand a chance. As expected, Shawn gets the prized position and Ben gets the pep talk from his coach.

As the season progresses, it becomes apparent to Ben, and others on the team, that while Shawn may have the talent, he doesn't have the love of the game that Ben has. Plus, he's got one heck of a temper. Ben tries, much to his friends' disapproval, to befriend Shawn and help him, but the guy just doesn't seem to want any help. He'd rather storm off the field during an important game than help his team win. Ben has some difficult decisions to make, decisions that will change the game for him and everybody else on the team.

Game Changers is a story that will get all young football fans involved and caring about the story of Ben McBain. There is a lot of action between the pages, with great plays and interesting strategy throughout. The friendships are real and the aggravation Ben feels while trying to figure out just what is going on with Shawn will connect with many readers. While at times Ben seems wise beyond his years, for the most part, he's a young man who football fans will relate to. This is a perfect book to get sports fans, who might be reluctant to read, involved in a good book.

Quill says: A fun sports tale that will keep even the reluctant reader turning the pages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review - Wild Beau and Her Kittens

Wild Beau and Her Kittens: The Kitty Tales Trilogy

By: Peggy Krause
Illustrated By: Christian J. Pogorzelski
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4681-1014-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 2012

The saving, as well as the humane treatment of animals, is beautifully represented by this author. Not only is this an amazing story for children that is fun and lighthearted, but the kindness and ‘messages’ that flow throughout truly have parents and children loving this series.

Soupy is Molly Taylor’s cat. Soupy is a wonderful animal who loves his life; the only thing that makes him a bit sad is that he misses Ferdinand, his ‘son.’ You see, Soupy had gotten lost last summer and ended up burying himself in a hollow log in the forest, and on this particular adventure he found a tiny, hungry orphaned raccoon and immediately adopted him. Now Soupy has been home for a while but he really wants to go back to the forest and check on Ferdinand to make sure that he’s okay and having a good life in the preserve.

Soupy has some great friends who will help. There are sisters named Lola and Lila; a young, slightly nervous fluff-ball of a kitty named Puff-Puff; and an older, husky kitty named Spider Man. This little conclave of pals team up to head to the preserve to help Soupy find his son and see how he’s doing. The gang does leave Puff-Puff home to keep watch on the neighborhood while they’re gone because they can see that he’s really scared of heading into that dark, wooded place.

When the other cats get there, however, Ferdinand is not who they find. They find a young, staving kitty who is a new momma and has had hardly anything to eat. She needs to feed her kittens. The poor thing has been hurt by humans, teased by animals, and been harmed by cold weather, so when this team of strange kitties arrive she’s more than a little frightened. But a solid friendship is soon formed where the kitty-cats get together to name the new cat (Beau), and to bring her food from their own houses so that she can feel better. They want to get her and her kittens a new home so that when winter comes the little family won’t be harmed. Soupy and his pals soon get together to make a plan that will, hopefully, have everyone safe, happy, and healthy when they’re all done.

Add in the adventure of a forest journey, a big ‘raptor’ who likes to swoop down on his prey, a gang of ‘invisible’ cats who become saviors, a young ‘fluff-ball’ who ends up being a brilliant hero, and the amazing human characters who truly show what it is to love and care for a pet who needs a home and a family in order to survive, and you have a lovely book. Not to mention, the illustrations are so well-done, colorful and humorous that they add an extra something to this book that not many young reader’s books have anymore.

Quill Says: Kind, heartwarming, and offering a message of hope and humanity for the forgotten animals out there in our world.

Books Arriving for Review

Check out the latest books to arrive for review!

The River Bends in Time by Glen Mazis
This book follows the flow of time and the river as it unwinds in a small town in Pennsylvania along the banks of the Susquehanna. The narrator experiences those quiet moments of joy when ducks come from the sky to skim the water's edge or in the height of a Nor'easter as he walks through the forest filling with snow, but also the sadness of a neighbor's dying or love breaking apart. The river flows, always bending and changing, like the love found in finding a mate with whom to run under flying snow geese or pile wood together. Yet, the postmodern world seems lost without a past. A bout with colon cancer brings a renewed sense of the preciousness of each day and how the culture is wrong in its headlong race towards the future. The book ends with moments that resonate with the past in a state of continual discovery.

Horse Camp by Kim Chatel Follow a group of young horse enthusiasts through a week at horse camp. Learn about tacking and grooming. Enjoy a visit from the farrier and test your knowledge of breeds and markings. Illustrated with beautiful photography that is sure to delight all horse fans. Fifty percent of author royalties will be donated to animal rescue foundations.

The Paris Directive by Gerald Jay In a Berlin hotel room in the late 1990s, two former French intelligence agents hire Klaus Reiner, a ruthlessly effective hit man, to eliminate an American industrialist vacationing in the Dordogne, in southwestern France. Reiner easily locates his target in the small village of Taziac, but the hit is compromised when three innocent people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Enter Inspector Paul Mazarelle, formerly of Paris but now living in Taziac, charged with bringing his experience and record of success in the capital to bear on the gruesome quadruple homicide at the height of tourist season.

A Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner Criminal defense attorney Alex Miller has the life he’s always dreamed of: a loving and patient wife, a beautiful daughter, and a career as the youngest partner in one of the most powerful law firms in New York City. At his father’s funeral, Alex meets a wealthy and mysterious family friend who requests his representation in a high-profile criminal investigation of an alleged brokerage scam that has cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars. The shocking facts of the case propel Alex to unscrupulous depths in a desperate search for the truth, forcing him to confront a past defined by deception and a future in jeopardy. One false step will close the case on Alex and everything he holds dear forever.

Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood: The Good, The Bad, and the Scary by Jill Smokler In a culture that idealizes motherhood, it’s scary to confess that, in your house, being a mother is beautiful and dirty and joyful and frustrating all at once. Admitting that it’s not easy doesn’t make you a bad mom; at least, it shouldn’t. If I can’t survive my daughter as a toddler, how the hell am I going to get through the teenage years?

The United States Constitution: A Round Table Comic Graphic Adaptation Round Table Comics' adaptation of the supreme law of the United States of America, created by the team at Round Table Companies, includes 100% of the original text from the Constitution as well as a narrative to communicate the concepts from one of history's most important documents. Full color illustration throughout combines an entertaining read with the factual accuracy that readers of history expect. Adapted by Nadja Baer (Delivering Happiness: A Round Table Comic, Altucher Confidential: A Round Table Comic), illustrated by Nathan Lueth (Altucher Confidential, Everything's Okay), and overseen by former documentary filmmaker David Cohen, now VP of Round Table. Guidance provided by Dr. Katie Monnin, assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida.  

The Second-Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel A tragedy of manners, like Jane Austin in 1950s London. It's 1952 and for England, it's a brave and bright new world. The Depression is over, the War is over, even the endless bloody rationing is nearly over, and the future looks as lovely as the young Queen Elizabeth, due to be crowned next June. Ms. Harriett Wallis, for one, cannot wait for tomorrow. Her husband has an important job with an important firm, the children are settling in with the new nanny, the new fashions are terrifically flattering, and the War-grubby, grim, ghastly-is done. Life is going to be just killing wonderful.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Author Interview with Mushtaq H. Jaafri

Today we're talking with Mushtaq H. Jaafri, author of The Quiet Mind: How to Attain and Maintain Inner Peace in Eleven Seconds

FQ: How did you come up with the specific time of eleven seconds for quieting the mind?

During my 30+ years of research and study of the metaphysical teachings, I found beyond any room for doubt that an average man or woman can not stop the incessant compulsive thinking of the mind for more than eleven seconds at a time. If you count backward from eleven to one, you too, will know that it is true.

FQ: What is the greatest challenge to quieting the mind, in your opinion?

In my opinion, the greatest challenge to quieting the mind is the ability to hold the mind quiet (without any thoughts) for eleven seconds at a time. With persistence and determination it can be overcome. I guarantee it!

FQ: It can be difficult to value this quiet space of mind, since it is so different from the way we normally think. Can you reiterate some of the benefits for readers who are new to these ideas?

The value of this quiet space of mind cannot be reiterated in words for the reason the benefits can only be experienced by the readers. In a psychic nutshell, it is a place where the Soul dwells. In this quiet space you experience yourself as a Soul, not as a theory but, as a reality in life. The sad thing is that you can only experience it in this quiet space.

FQ: Your experience at the University of Metaphysics sounds very interesting. Can you describe the curriculum there?

I had the good fortune of working directly with the Dean and the President of the University of Metaphysics. My Master's Degree studies included 30 academic subjects, plus 3 special subjects such as Psychic-Mystical Secrets of Getting Prayer Answered and Developing A Prosperity Mentality. My Master's Degree thesis was Exploring the Choice of Metaphysical Operation. My Doctoral Degree studies included 16 academic subjects such as Telepathic Thought Control, Meditational Programing, Meditational Synthesis, and Transcendent Visualization. My Doctoral Degreet thesis was The Seven Laws of Nature. Based on my thesis, I worte and self-published a new book The Seven Laws of Nature. This book is now available at or from Mushtaq Publishing. I also received a Practioners Diploma from the National Metaphysical Institute (a subsidy of the University). This diploma was awarded to engage professionally in the treatment of physical and menttal ailments through spiritual means. I am an Ordained Metaphysical Minister by the Metaphysics National Institute (an educational division of the University). I was published in Who's Who in Metaphysics.

FQ: Your book is dedicated to your father, who supported your spiritual education. Is there anyone else who’s been an inspiration to you in your studies?

Yes. Very definitely there have been many outstanding individuals who have been an inspiration to me and my studies. The very first name that comes to my mind is the name of Napoleon Hill, the author of the world famous book, Think and Grow Rich. The second person would be Earnest Holms, the founder of the Science of Mind church and Dr. Wayne Dyer and finally Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, the editor and founder of A Course in Miracles. My book is the essence of these teachings as I know it.

FQ: Was there a particular moment in your life when you realized your calling as a teacher of spiritual practices?

I believe that all teachers of spiritual teachings have somehow agreed with their Creator to do HIS work. What they teach and how they teach is all planned for them. Since English is my second language (as you noticed), I felt a calling to share this unique 'thought-system' with the world but it sounded like a crazy idea. Then, I heard someone say that "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." (By the way, it was Steve Jobs of Apple Computers who said this.) The funny thing is that with this decision, somehow everything came my way as if God has sent them.

FQ: Are you currently working on any new books?

My next book will be An Awaken Mind. One of my major goals is to find 'like-minded' people interested in learning the ideas in my book The Quiet Mind and help me teach to people all over the world. If you are interested as a facilitator of this teaching I ask that you please log on to my website: and get the details of this worldwide movement to tip the scale in favor of world peace one person at a time.

To learn more about The Quiet Mind: How to Attain and Maintain Inner Peace in Eleven Seconds please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, March 16, 2012

We Won An Award!

I just received an email from the Association of Independent Authors informing us that Feathered Quill Book Reviews was selected as a winner of their "Best Websites for Independent Authors" award!  Everybody here at Feathered Quill is excited and honored by this recognition.  It makes all those long days and nights worth it. Thanks to everybody who voted!  You can learn more about the award, and about the Association for Independent Authors here.

Book Review - The Quiet Mind

The Quiet Mind: How to Attain and Maintain Inner Peace in Eleven Seconds

By: Mushtaq H. Jaafri
Publisher: Mushtaq Publishing Company
Publication Date: February 2012
ISBN: 978-1892189127
Reviewed By: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: March 15, 2012

How do you find peace in a world full of problems and chaos? The answer is surprisingly simple – by stepping out of the incessant stream of thoughts that run through the mind, peace can be found in a quiet space without thought. Many people are so used to the constant activity of their mind that they never think to question its value, or are not even aware of it. But this mind activity is generally negative in content, creating negative circumstances and experiences in our lives and blocking the awareness of peace. By becoming aware of the thought stream in the mind, one can detach from it and live from a more tranquil and positive mindset. In The Quiet Mind, Jaafri teaches techniques for stilling the mind that allow this state of peace to be accessed no matter what is going on in the world outside. By using these techniques and quieting the mind for the eleven seconds or more that Jaafri recommends, as often as possible throughout the day, a new, peaceful state of mind and way of living can be attained.

Jaafri incorporates his own insights with teachings from traditions such as Buddhism and A Course in Miracles. He describes the model of the mind that he has created out of his own studies and meditations, which can be used to visualize the positive and helpful aspects of the mind’s activity and to strengthen these areas. Jaafri explains the benefits of having a quiet mind, such as attracting positive circumstances into one’s life and healing physical problems. He explains that there is a non-physical being that resides within each of us as a friend and guide, and that by quieting the mind we can gain access to its help and wisdom, and find our own spiritual curriculum and purpose in life. He also includes quizzes on the material to emphasize the important points of his teachings.

The Quiet Mind presents Jaafri’s own interesting perspectives on spiritual wisdom and practices. His model of how the mind works makes a nice visual aid for those who find having mental images useful in meditation practices. His method of stilling the mind by counting backwards from eleven is effective in interrupting the mind’s incessant thought stream and becoming present. While the book is sometimes repetitive and disorganized, with some grammatical errors, and may be confusing for people not already familiar with these concepts, Jaafri presents many important truths that can lead to a more peaceful and happy life. This may be a good supplement to other spiritual texts, as having a diverse set of practices can be helpful in preventing any single practice from becoming rote and ineffective. Anyone interested in discovering if Jaafri’s style is for them may want to browse the author interview questions for this book and for his previous book, Original Sin.
Quill says: While the presentation could be clearer and more organized, the ideas discussed in The Quiet Mind are useful spiritual principles that can create a more peaceful life. 

To learn more about The Quiet Mind: How to Attain and Maintain Inner Peace in Eleven Seconds, please visit the book's website at:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Ensure a Bright Future, Your Teen Needs to be Reading

Author Offers Tips for Getting Adolescents to Turn the Page
Being able to read well is more important than ever for young adults to achieve economic success. But more than 60 percent of middle and high school students score below “proficient” in reading achievement, according to a December 2011 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“Teen literacy is a huge problem in the United States – its 15-year-olds rank 14th among developed nations in reading – behind Poland, Estonia and Iceland,” says Rhiannon Paille, 27, an advocate for teen literacy whose new fantasy novel, Flame of Surrender ( targets young adults. (South Korea, Finland and Canada rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd.)
“Kids need strong reading skills if they hope to graduate from high school AND they really need to plan for college – 59 percent of U.S. jobs today require some postsecondary education, compared to 28 percent in 1973.”
The best thing parents can do to help boost their 12- to 18-year-olds’ literacy is to get them reading – anything.
She offers these suggestions:
• Buy them comic books. Boys persistently lag behind girls in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Paille says. If your son isn’t a reader, try getting him hooked on comic books. “Stephen King started off reading comics, ‘Tales from the Crypt.’ Hey, if it was good enough for him …!’’ From comic books, they may move into graphic novels, a popular young adult genre. As long as they’re reading, they’re building comprehension skills and vocabulary, so it needn’t be “War and Peace.”
• Look for book-to-film novels. Chances are, if it was a great movie, they saw it, and that’s often enough to get a non-reader curious. This is another especially good hook for boys, Paille says.
• Tune into what they’re interested in. What kinds of video games do they play? Some popular games have spawned novels, including Halo, EverQuest, ElfQuest and Gears of War. Even gaming guides, which players read to unlock new clues to advancing in the game, can motivate a teen to crack a book.
• Read the same book your teen is reading. Book clubs are popular because people like talking to others who’ve read the same book. Your teen may not be ready for an evening of petit fours and grape juice while discussing the pacing of “Hunger Games,” but it can make for some interesting conversation on the way to soccer practice. And you can always nudge them along with comments like, “Oh, you haven’t gotten to that part yet? It’s really good!”
“People tend to think their young adults aren’t reading if they’re not reading novels,” Paille says. “But novels aren’t for everyone, and whether it’s a comic book or a gaming guide, all reading helps build comprehension skills and vocabulary.”
Good magazines, with shorter articles suited for distractible adolescents, might include Sports Illustrated, People, Seventeen or Mad.
“When you’re out shopping, think about what they’re interested in and pick up something just for them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as putting the right reading materials right into their hands.”
About Rhiannon Paille
Rhiannon Paille is an active advocate for youth literacy and an avid reader of young adult novels. Her first book, the non-fiction Integrated Intuition: A Comprehensive Guide to Psychic Development, remains a popular seller on Paille is the founder of the Canadian Metaphysical Foundation. She’s married and the mother of two children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review - The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens

The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens: Everything You Need to Know . . . and Didn't Know You Needed to Know About Backyard and Urban Chickens

By: Andy Schneider and Brigid McCrea
Publisher: Quarry Books
Publication Date: September 2011
ISBN: 978-1592537280
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 6, 2012

With the resurgence of people interested in growing their own food and knowing the actual raising process, whether it be lettuce or chickens, guides such as this one are welcome and quite useful. The term "chicken whisperer" in the title is a bit of a misnomer as many might expect some sort of dialogue on how to speak to your flock much as Nicholas Evan's horse whisperer talks to horses. No, you won't be whispering to your chickens, but you definitely will know how to take care of them. In part, I see this as a decision making guide for many. Do I really want to raise chickens?

One of the first considerations you must consider, even before considering purchasing this book, is whether or not your municipality will even allow you to raise chickens. Additionally there are your neighbors. Mind you, I live in a rural area and am zoned residential and agricultural as are many of my neighbors. The mixed zoning is creating some animosity. Let's just say that the animal life around here is not welcomed by all in the village. "Can you smell that?!!" If you really want to raise chickens and have a green light (think about that rooster) then by all means I'd consider this book.

There is a nice section on the selection of breeds that will mesh well with your personality, the type and color of eggs you might prefer, or even the beauty of them. You'll be able to read about several breeds, their appearance, personality, popularity, and will be able to see a full-color photograph of one. Do you know which kind of hen lays brown-shelled eggs? It's quite simple, but you'll have to read the book to find out.
This is not an expansive book, but I don't believe the intent was to be encyclopedic. I do like the flow and layout of the book as it will help guide the reader in his or her decision making process. Once a decision is made, there are other books that can be purchased if you need more specific information. I'd lean toward purchasing the hard copy as this is a great reference. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a list of mail-order poultry supplies, organizations, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. Would I recommend it? Most definitely!

Quill says: All in all, I'd say this is an excellent guide for the beginner to explore the topic and think about the feasibility of raising chickens.

Book Review - Police Forensics

Police Forensics (On the Radar: Defend and Protect) 

By: Adam Sutherland
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-0761377740
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2012

If you have your eyes glued to the television set when the crime scene investigator starts poring over the evidence, chances are you'll love reading about police forensics. There are several different types of forensic scientists including those who look at toxicology, psychology, pathology, graphology, and dentistry. Each one looks at evidence that may "provide information that helps the police to solve the crime." For example a forensic pathologist thoroughly examines a body "during an autopsy to try to establish the cause of death." Some causes may be very obvious, while others can be quite elusive.

Crime scene forensics has its own lingo. Perhaps you may be familiar with words or terms such as luminol, exposing reagent, ballistics, or antigens. If not, you may have a lot to learn. If you are familiar with all of them, you probably are a forensics aficionado. One of the first forensic scientists was the fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. When he worked on his cases "he used the science of fingerprinting and blood analysis to solve crimes. You'll swing through time and will read about others in the field such as Hans Gross, Edmond Locard, August Vollmer, Francis Crick, and James Watson, all of whom contributed to the science.

Just what do those crime scene investigators, or "experts on-site," do when they arrive on the scene of a crime? You'll learn how they protect or secure the scene, who takes charge of the body, how they collect evidence, you'll learn about weapons, check out prints, and what the medical examiner (ME) does. There are different types of evidence to look at and also several ways to collect it. Did you know that there are three basic types of fingerprints? You can look at your own to see if you have rare ones. You'll also read about a day in the life of a real DNA scientist, Dr. Georgina Meakin, a forensic school graduates story, you'll learn how to go about investigating a crime scene, how to recognize fingerprints, how we are fighting cyber crime, take a look at some famous cases, and you'll learn about many more interesting facts about police forensics.

With the wealth of shows, reality and fictional, about forensics, this book is sure to be a hit with many youngsters. The layout is vibrant and exciting. There is some straight text, but also numerous informative sidebars strategically placed among photographs to give the book a wow effect. For example, when the tools of the trade are discussed photographs of them are scattered over a two-page spread. We're able to take a close look at things like an identification tag, dusting powder, and an evidence bag. In the back of the book is an index and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is a fascinating look at many aspects of police forensics.

Book Review - Freedom (Miss Annie)

Freedom (Miss Annie) 

By: Frank Le Gall
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-0761385462
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2012

Miss Annie was curled up on the cushion of a chair when her master, "The Dad," instructed her to guard the house because he was going out. Of course that was a silly thing to say because Annie already was. There were other masters in the house as well and they were called "The Mom" and Sarah. Everyone had other names Annie was supposed to know. In fact, Sarah had several: "Mydear, Lambchop, Ladybug, Brat, and Go-to-your-room." Annie's eyes grew wide when the door shut and after a good yawn and a stretch, she jumped down to get to work. Annie was almost five months old and there were lots of things to tend to.

"MRRii." Annie got a scolding for her efforts, but it was no matter. She worked just as hard as everyone else. The Mom claimed that "She worked hard today too! You should see the state of my desk and the kitchen." One of the things that Annie wanted to really do was go outside. "Miaw! Miaw! Miaw!" Kitty cats really needed to go outside and she had to look for her opening, but in the meantime she'd just have to take care of the house for her masters. One day she felt a little "something in the air." She peeked up at the window over Sarah's desk and saw that it was open. Was Annie finally going to find some adventure?

Annie, like most cats and kids, is a seasoned pro at taking care of the household when everyone goes out. She does have a knack for getting into mischief and one of my favorite scenes is when she asks Keishia the mouse if she wants to play with her and "unroll this yarn." Another is when she engages in a fierce battle with the enemy flowers on the table. This tale is set in a graphic novel format, perfect for young confident readers or reluctant ones. The panels are detailed, bright, and animated as they capture Annie's wonderful, dynamic spirit. If you are a cat lover, or have a mischievous kitten, you're sure to love little Annie!

Quill says: This is the delightful story of Annie, a young kitten who is gung-ho for a bit of adventure in her life.

Book Review - Night of the Living Dogs

Night of the Living Dogs (Chicagoland Detective Agency)

By: Trina Robbins
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-0761356370
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 12, 2012

Raf was playing one of his three-dimensional games on his Raf-Box as Megan and Bradley looked on. Megan thought his inventions, especially the portable "Raf-Touch," were awesome, but every time he tried to sell them it was a no go. The game companies just dismissed him and the last one simply patted him on the head and sent him home with Squeaky the Squirrel, "a programmable squirrel." Bradley, who had been turned into a "talking dog genius" by a mad scientist, was a partner in the Chicagoland Detective Agency along with Megan and Raf. No one would buy Raf's inventions and until now, buy their super sleuth services. But that had just changed and they were now actually going to work on a case!

Bradley was happy to have "a caper at last," but when Megan told them it was for finding a lost puppy Raf was some disgusted. Rhonda Kanaris and her mother were anxious to find out just where and why a puppy that showed up on their doorstep would suddenly show up and then disappear the next morning. The puppy showed up while they were talking, but Bradley had big time problems with the little didn't have any doggie smell! He claimed, "That little mutt in there ain't no dog. Sure he looks like a dog and barks like a dog, but the nose knows." If he wasn't a dog, just what was he?

The gumshoe trio began their investigation in earnest and started their stakeout in a closet to see just where the mutt was going at night. Once the puppy was on the move they zig zagged around the town in search of him as Bradley tracked his scent. They ended up in a most unusual location, the Navy Pier. Megan, Raf, and Bradley also ended up facing a ferocious pack of the mysterious mutt's pals. They began to growl as Bradley once again declared, "You're gonna think I'm nuts, but none of these critters are dogs!" The mystery would only get deeper and more frightening when they learn about a curse, the curse of Lycaon!

Megan, Raf, and "doggy Einstein," Bradley, team up to solve a totally odd 'n awesome missing dog case. Megan, who is into haiku speak, had her work cut out for her when the Chicagoland Detective Agency attempted to solve this most unusual mystery. The case of a simple lost puppy will entrance the young reader as it morphs into one that gets more exciting and weird with every turn of the page. The artwork is done in black and white, a typical manga style that I like and find very appealing. The cast of characters hasn't changed, but the cases are still unusual to say the least. As they claim, there is "no case too weird" for them to tackle, and this is one of the weirdest ones yet.

Quill says: Every young reader from the reluctant one to who just like their mysteries a tad on the odd side, will love this one!

Book Review - Catch & Release

Catch & Release 

By: Blythe Woolston
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: February 2012
ISBN: 978-0761377559
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler

Polly Furnas and Bridger Morgan sittin' in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. They had a plan. The Plan. There was the 2.6 kids and the white picket fence and, heck, Bridger even loved her, or so she thought. First comes love and them comes MRSA (a contagious staph bacteria infection). Polly was Case One, but some of the athletes "just rotted and died." Bridger couldn't visit her in the hospital, but Case Three could. It was odd that it was Odd Estes, a rising athlete. The Plan didn't called for a one-eyed freak and a guy with a robotic leg to find solace in one another. The Morgan family sent her a card. No lovely inscription, no nothing, nada. MRSA "left behind a sprinkle of new graves in the community cemetery," shattered dreams, and the Polly-That-Was ... all because she scratched that freaking zit.

There were more things missing than an eyeball and a leg, but Polly and Odd didn't have to be told that. Polly's mother had "morphed into a mom-bot" and was driving her nuts with the babykid crap. Her depth perception might have been shot out the window, but she could see well enough to know what a provisional diploma meant. Everything was gone, including The Plan. Polly would have had to be a fool to think that a one-eyed freak would be welcomed back at the Kid-O-Korral working with the kiddos. Odd knew what Pales Duns and Yellow Sallies were and how to use them. He had Grandpa Odd's ten-mile-per-gallon boat, D'Elegance, a gun, and knew how to use them too. Polly-That-Was had a debit card, knew how to use that, and knew that Bridger was in Portland. It was the new Plan. Polly and Odd were going fishing. Were they really going to cast a line and "tear Bridger a new one" or would they find something else they weren't expecting?

Polly's future was abruptly stolen from her as was Odd's. Their unimaginable encounter with flesh-eating MRSA leaves them adrift in a world they know nothing about, a world they don't want to accept nor one that wants to accept them. We follow the unlikely duo as they try to rediscover who they really are as opposed to what they thought they were, what society thought they were, and what The Plan dictated what the future would hold for them. I was impressed at how Woolston caught the very essence of Polly's inner demons, her very soul. Lines such as "One of us is a social misfit and a weirdo. It ain't her," cut to the brutal reality of what is now life for many people. This is a powerful novel that depicts a new legacy left to the young ... a superbug created from foolhardy choices, choices they didn't make.

Quill says: This is a poignant, gut wrenching tale of Polly-That-Was and her search for a new meaning of life.

Book Review - Alex Rodriquez: Hot Corner, Hot Shot

Alex Rodriguez: Hot Corner, Hot Shot (USA Today Lifeline Biographies)

By: Serena Kappes
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0761381556
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 11, 2012

Even as a very young child Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez was fascinated by anything baseball. The two-year-old "carried around a red plastic bat and swung at everything he could." That didn't bode well for the household furnishings, but his family was proud and amused by his passion. His father was especially interested because at one time he was a player on a Dominican Republic baseball team. Alex's intense interest in baseball pushed him ahead of his peers and by the age of six he was "playing with boys three and four years older than he was." His parents, Lourdes Navarro and Victor Rodriguez, undoubtedly expected great things from Alex, even though he was a sandlot player.

Although Alex had been born in Manhattan, the family's good fortune had allowed them to move back to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the good life they wanted. Soon financial misfortune came upon them and they lost everything. Forced to sell their home and move to Kendall, Florida, the family was unsettled. The once happy family was devastated when Victor abruptly abandoned them, never to return. Lourdes was left alone to tend to Alex and his siblings, Susy and Joe. Adrift in a place they knew little about, it was going to be a struggle.

Baseball, no doubt, was a solace to Alex. Juan Diego Artega, a youth baseball league coach, eventually drew Alex under his wing, creating a mentorship that would boost his spirits. Another coach at the Hank Cline Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, Eddy Rodriguez also gave him hope. Eddy told Alex, "Believe in yourself, but ask more of yourself. This will sustain you in times both good and bad." There would be a mix of both. In this book you'll learn about his dedication to the game as a young man, how he honed his skills, his mother's critical support, his high school career, how he was "bombarded" with offers, his agent, when he was drafted, his multi-million dollar contracts, his amazing career, and you'll learn many other interesting facts about one of baseball's greats.

In this very well written, concise biography young readers will get to know a lot about Alex and his passion for baseball. I especially enjoyed reading about the people who inspired him, on and off the field. His mother's unending encouragement, as well as that of his coaches, undoubtedly did much to make him into the player he is today. A prophetic statement by Coach Rich Hofman clearly indicated not only his sheer talent, but also what can happen when adults believe in young people: "Well, tenth grade you had an OK year. Next year everyone will get to know you, and in twelfth grade you'll be the number one pick in the country." The book is generously illustrated with photographs, period USA TODAY articles, and numerous informative sidebars. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, Alex's career statistics (1994 to 2011), extensive source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is a fascinating look at Alex Rodriguez, one of baseball's "greatest all-around" players.

Book Review - Power Hitter

Power Hitter (Team Travel)

By: M. G. Higgins
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-0761385394
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2012

After TJ was seriously injured, the Las Vega's Roadrunner's coach Scott Harris decided that it might be best if the team entered a wooden tournament. In practice, when Carson Jamison pitched him a high and tight heater, Sammy Perez knew he was in trouble when his hit drew an easy out. He was a power hitter who was weaned on composite bats. The up and coming tournament in Austin was all-wood and Sammy knew he was going to be in trouble. When he chucked the bat down the third base line, Coach Harris was none too happy with him. It was only his first day using a wood bat and he had a long way to go. A very long way.

Gus Toomey and Alexander Jamison had it easy. Their families had money, but Sammy's struggled. It really was a sacrifice for his family to keep him in the Roadrunner's elite traveling team, but his dad thought it was worth it. Sammy's dad, Tony, was once a player and wanted his son to hit the big leagues and wasn’t happy with the all-wood tournament. "You need that sweet spot, Sammy. You're a power hitter. It's what you do." Not really, it wasn't what he had to do. He had to do wood because that's what the Austin tournament was all about.

Sammy dreamed of the day he could make his family proud and give them everything they wanted. It was hard to believe that a piece of maple or ash stood in his way. His dad had hinted at PEDs, performance-enhancing drugs, but just the thought "made his stomach clench." Sammy grew tenser the harder he tried and the more he failed. When his temper flared, Coach Harris's patience lessened. "Cool it, Sammy! I don't like hotheads and neither do big-league teams!" The scouts were coming to that tournament…the "MLB, Big 12, PAC 10, SEC." Sammy's confidence was failing him and everyone thought he was deliberately blowing the games. Would PEDs give him the edge or would they boot him out of the game he so loved?

In this tale Sammy Perez, a boy who has long had aspirations of hitting the majors, is in a terrible batting slump. The story tactfully deals with the sensitive subject of PEDs. The lure of an easy way to solve his problems frightens Sammy, but at the same time he wants to get ahead and save his family. The tale will have high appeal to young baseball fans from the ages of 9 to 12, including those who are also reluctant readers. The negative consequences of PEDs are made clear, but the book refrains from being preachy. This is a thought-provoking baseball tale, but a good one that young fans and players will enjoy.

Quill says: This is a high-flying story of Sammy, a hotheaded power hitter who is considering performance-enhancing drugs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lots More Reviews Coming Soon!

We've got a big batch of curriculum based books being reviewed right now.  The reviews will be posted shortly.  Stop by in a few days to read the first of those reviews...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Here's What Showed Up on Our Doorstep This Week

Okay, maybe they really arrived via our mailbox, but you get the idea.  In for review:

Wild Beau and Her Kittens: The Kitty Tales Trilogy by Peggy Krause
“Wild Beau and Her Kittens” is the third book in Author Peggy Krause’ “The Kitty Tales Trilogy.” Poor Beau is a scruffy, hungry cat living in the forest preserve trying to take care of her two tiny kittens all on her own. It’s very challenging being a cat without an owner or a warm, dry house to live in. The cat friends, Soupy, Lila, Lola, Puff Puff, and Spider Man stumble across Beau one day while on a trip to the forest preserve to find Soupy’s foster raccoon-son, Ferdinand. Seeing how thin and battered Beau is from living outside, the cats make it their project to help Beau and her kittens in every way they can.
Under Oath by Margaret McLean The “code of silence” remains sacred in Charlestown, one of the most historic yet insular neighborhoods of Boston. Gangster Billy Malone stand accused of killing Trevor Shea, a suspected FBI informant, with a potent dose of heroin. Prosecutor Annie Fitzgerald must crack the infamous code of silence and battle seasoned criminal defense attorney Buddy Clancy, who unleashes reasonable doubt with his penetrating cross-examinations. The trial explodes into a high-energy race to justice when Annie’s chief witness is killed, jurors defy their instructions, and FBI cover-ups obscure the truth. While the jurors are deliberating, Annie discovers incriminating evidence against the Malones.

The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy)by Jennifer Nielsen The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end. In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well. 

Game Changers by Mike Lupica Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider's knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News, which includes his popular "Shooting from the Lip" column, which appears every Sunday. He began his newspaper career covering the New York Knicks for the New York Post at age 23. He became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper with the New York Daily News, which he joined in 1977. For more than 30 years, Lupica has added magazines, novels, sports biographies, other non-fiction books on sports, as well as television to his professional resume.

The Elf Mage (Clan Elves of the Bitterroot) by Lyndi Alexander Daven Talvi made a choice a quarter-century ago to serve the Bitterroot Elf Clan, allowing the Circle of Elders to send him into suspended animation until the queen could be rescued. In doing so, he gave up his mate and his newborn son, sacrificing his own life for that of the clan. It had been a mistake. With the clan now in chaos and the new young queen in hiding, Daven must acknowledge his own errors and take responsibility to set things right. He teams up with Lane Donatelli, a human who has too long used food and computer gaming to feed his own insecurities. Together, they use Lane’s beloved technology with Daven’s innate magical abilities to wage battle against the evil elf mages threatening the clan.

Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?: And Other Questions About the Witchcraft Trials By Laura Hamilton Waxman In June 1692, a jury in Salem, Massachusetts, found Bridget Bishop guilty of performing witchcraft. The only evidence against her was villagers' testimony. As punishment she was publicly hanged. Meanwhile, local girls had been behaving oddly for months. They cried out of being pinched or choked by a witch's spirit. The girls accused neighbors, outcasts, and respected community members of tormenting them. As fear spread through Salem, jails filled with the accused. In the end, nineteen people were hanged for witchcraft in one of the darkest moments in U.S. history.

In Search of the Fog Zombie: A Mystery About Matter (Summer Camp Science Mysteries) by Lynda Beauregard When campers arrive at Camp Dakota, rumors start flying. The Fog Zombie is on the prowl, moaning and creeping through the thick fog that often settles on the lake. At first, the kids don't believe the rumors--until they find mysterious clues leading to the zombie! Can the campers track down the Fog Zombie with their science smarts? Or will it find them first? Look in the back of the book for experiments and more to help you become a science detective too!

Night of the Living Dogs (Chicagoland Detective Agency)by Trina Robbins Yes, Chicagoland is an odd place. But the word is out that Megan, Raf, and Raf's talking dog Bradley are the team to go to when weirder things than usual start happening. Their Chicagoland Detective Agency takes danger in hand (and paw) to find a mysteriously missing puppy and an even more mysterious pack of dogs that only shows up once a month. Bradley's nose knows from the start that this is more than a simple case of stray pets...and a whole lot more than a stray case of full-moon transmogrification! Will high tech and haikus be enough to save them from the world's worst case of doggy breath?

Letter from Scott Turow: Grim News

From Scott Turow, President of the Author's Guild to the members:

Dear member,
Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture. 

You can read the rest of the article on the Author's Guild site.