Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review - To Kill the Duke

To Kill the Duke

By: Sam Moffie
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-461-14706-0
Reviewed By: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: May 1, 2012

Laugh in the faces of Communist oppression and nuclear warfare in this irreverent historical novel where neither golden Hollywood icons nor brutal totalitarian dictators are immune to mockery. To Kill the Duke tells the story of an outrageous murder plot gone awry. As the story begins, comrade Ivan Viznapu works in a Soviet government office as a lowly mailman. When offered a job as a movie projectionist at a party for “Uncle Joe” Stalin, he jumps at the chance of a promotion despite the risk of execution should things go wrong. Although he is well-briefed by the man for whom he is filling in, his first night as a projectionist is more bizarre than he could ever have been prepared for. After befriending security guard Alexei Aleksandra and chef Boris Gila and witnessing the strange proclivities of the Soviet big shots, Ivan and his new friends find themselves dealing with the aftermath of Stalin’s sudden death in his private screening chamber. When the terrifying secret police chief Mr. Zavert comes to investigate the death, he enlists the three men to head a mission designed to destroy the morale of Americans and put the Soviets ahead in the Cold War: assassinate John Wayne.

While Ivan and Alexi head to Hollywood to set up a movie production company that serves as a front for their mission, movie producer Dick Powell is busy trying to arrange the filming of The Conqueror, a movie about Genghis Khan starring John Wayne himself. Funded by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, the movie is set to be filmed in the red deserts of Utah on land which the government has leased to him for one dollar. After lining up the actors, extras, and suppliers, Dick begins filming the movie but faces difficulties as frequent windstorms blow red sand into the works. Hughes eventually discovers the reason why the land was leased so cheaply, and realizes that it’s not only sand being carried in on the fierce desert winds. Boris, Alexei, and Ivan find that their mission may be obsolete, as the American government is already doing their job for them through a horrifying experiment conducted on its own citizens.

To Kill the Duke is an unusual historical novel that brings 1950s Hollywood and Soviet Russia to life, as well as shedding light on the atrocities committed by the Soviet and American governments during the Cold War. Moffie shows no sympathy for the powers that be as he turns fascism into farce and democracy into duplicity in this political satire. The cast of classic movie stars add glamour to the story and the intricacies of movie production are worked fluidly into the plot. Howard Hughes is a fascinating character with his many quirks, and Dick Powell is immensely likeable as the lone man of integrity in the superficial and immoral world of Hollywood. The Russian characters offer comic relief with their peculiar expressions and love of puns, and the plot takes many unexpected twists as the story unfolds and the real villains are revealed. Despite some punctuation and spelling errors, the novel is very readable, and although it comes off as a bit odd altogether, its uniqueness certainly makes it stand out from the average historical novel.

Quill Says: With an offbeat sense of humor and a star-studded cast, To Kill the Duke offers a fresh and twisted take on the Cold War and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

To learn more about To Kill the Duke, please visit the book's website at:

Book Review - The Golf Swing

The Golf Swing: It's All in the Hands

By: James Lythgoe
Publisher: James Lythgoe
Publication Date: November 2011
ISBN: 978-0981339207
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 1, 2012

Anyone who thinks they could score an albatross on any course after simply reading a golf instructional would be a fool. On the other hand, anyone who feels they wouldn’t benefit from reading one in an attempt to improve their game wouldn’t fare much better. Many professional golfers who have written books on the subject, have focused on a variety of aspects of the sport they claim makes their game. For example, Ben Hogan once claimed that it “is utterly impossible for any golfer to play good golf without a swing that will repeat.” James Lythgoe would probably agree with that statement after decades of observing amateur golfers, but just how can one get to the point where that swing is consistent?

Lythgoe claims that “By far the most important factor in the achievement of an effective golf swing is the correct use of the hands.” If you think you can master Ben Hogan’s swing, the first thing you’ll need to do is master your hand actions, something that is paramount to the success of your game. Many people feel the grip is the most important thing to master, however, Lythgoe respectfully disagrees. The proper grip, along with addressing the ball, hand action, and the shoulder turn are covered in great detail in this book. Keep in mind, this book is geared toward the right-handed golfer, but undoubtedly the left-handed one will benefit from it’s sage advice, advice that is accompanied by more than two hundred photographs.

In an attempt to be as precise as he can, Lythgoe uses multicolored dots, the letter V drawn on the palm, and clock analogies to drive his points home. The visuals, along with photographs of him demonstrating an exercise, leave little wiggle room for error. When introducing the proper grip, you’ll learn exactly where to place both hands, which are “relative to the clubface.” In this section you’ll learn just why you may be getting that maddening hook or slice. Proper positioning of your hands will eliminate these problematic swings. You’ll also learn about three grips: overlapping, interlocking, and the baseball and which one you should use and why. In addition you’ll receive an overview of the right-hand grip, strong vs. weak grips, the desirable neutral grip, grip pressure, whether or not you should wear a glove, and the importance of practice.

Lythgoe sensibly claims that “when you implement the same solution over and over again you will eventually become an expert in it, and it will become a permanent change.” In addition to that all-important grip, which he doesn’t minimize the importance of, he similarly delves into addressing the ball, examining how you move your hands, and covers the shoulder turn. Lythgoe scrupulously melds his information from his own observations, but also those of numerous professional golfers, including those such as Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus who have opposing viewpoints on golf minutiae.
This amazing golf instructional will be of use to everyone from the novice to the seasoned amateur who wants to tweak his or her game. One thing I felt was particularly useful were the photographs which detailed both the way an exercise should be executed the proper way, but also the incorrect way. A check mark in the corner of the photograph indicates the right way, while the letter X clearly shows the incorrect one. Although not recommended, a full-length mirror would be a useful tool to have. Carefully culling materials from a lifetime of playing golf, Lythgoe recommends that the reader too read everything they can on the game. This golf instructional was one of the best I’ve seen in some time, one that anyone wanting to improve their game should definitely add to their list!

Quill says: Practice makes perfect and if you take James Lythogoe’s advice, you’ll make par for the course!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review - A Plain Death

A Plain Death: An Appleseed Creek Mystery

By: Amanda Flower
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publishing Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4336-7697-0
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: April 2012

This mystery is a perfect afternoon read, written by a librarian, who spent her early life in Amish Country in the state of Ohio. As a reviewer of mostly mystery books, I wanted to read this as I loved the writer's earlier books, Maid of Murder and Murder in a Basket. I don't know what I expected, as I'm not into Amish Country books all that much, but I loved this one too. Apparently, the author is an avid believer in writing what you know and she knows libraries and Amish living.

In this newest Flower installment, Chloe Humphrey, a young computer maven, moves to Appleseed Creek in Ohio. This little college town is smack in the middle of Amish Country. Chloe has come to Appleseed Creek to be the Director of Technology Services at a small college. The first person she comes in contact with is Becky, an Amish teenager who is running away from home and looking for a new one. Becky has gotten herself into a bit of a mess, trying to get away from a couple of real bozos who are bothering her on the road. Chloe comes along and gives her a ride, which puts Chloe on their list to harass.

Chloe tells Becky that she can stay with her a while until she finds a job and another place to stay. Enter Becky's extremely handsome brother, Timothy, who is a carpenter by trade and becomes a big help to the girls. The following day, Becky is on her way to see someone about a job. She is driving Chloe's car and, by the way, does not have a driver's license when she has an accident with an Amish buggy, killing an Amish elder. Becky is in big trouble but that changes a little when the police find that the brake line was cut on the car and now perhaps Chloe was the intended victim. Chloe goes into investigative mode to find the culprit before someone else gets hurt. With the help of Becky's family, including the handsome brother, they try to find out who wanted to hurt Chloe or the Amish gentleman and save the day. The storyline is great, perfect Amanda Flower writing and the characters are easy to both love and not love. I won't say hate because the characters don't seem to hate anyone.

Quill Says: This is a new series by the author and, I think, will take off. A very good book that covers much of the problems between the Amish and the Englischers in a small town and the college.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review - Writers on the Edge

Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency

Editors: Diana M. Raab and James Brown
Publisher: Modern History Press
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61599-108-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 26, 2012

Scalding, unflinching, in-your-face right off the bat, the Foreword of this book is chilling, preparing you for the stories inside. This anthology comes from the minds of truly amazing authors and isn't for the faint of heart. Each one takes a look at the harsh reality of their own addictions, as well as some who deal with a family dependency - living in fear that the next generation will follow the same path.

The compilation shows a world that may be a great deal different than your own, but each piece is told with truth - which is something not often found today. As anyone knows who suffers, or has a family or friend they watch suffer from an addiction, the isolation, depression, and self-loathing is almost impossible to bear. From alcohol to drug abuse, overeating, depression, cutting, as well as the need for love through empty sex, addictions and obsessions are numerous.

Although it's impossible to highlight each story, there are many that stand out. Scott Russell Sanders delves into his childhood, watching his father slip away from the family and into alcohol. He offers the thoughts of a child, who lies in bed awake and scared. Not scared of the abuse (which he doesn't receive on a physical level), but scared because he feels he’s the one responsible for his father’s drinking; if he could be a better son, perhaps his father would be sober. This in-depth look into the detriment of a family, and a man who doesn’t want to become what his father was, is a stunning piece of writing.

Linda Gray Sexton talks about loss and how cutting is a release. Sitting in a car just needing that overwhelming pain to come 'out' no matter what her therapist says, her horrific memories will scare you to death. Sue Silverman delves into the world of love. Romance is told in all forms in this day and age, but when the 'physical' was the entirety of the love you received from your own parent, an addiction can form where the only way to get love from a man is with the body. Yet another writer speaks of overeating - a way to stop depression and feel love - although neither ever happens by eating more food. She speaks of support groups, and how being able to see that others are on 'your side' does wonders for a person on the edge.

The Barthelme brothers tell a very different tale of an addiction that can't hurt - gambling. There's no risk when you have money in the bank, it's simply an entertaining addiction that hurts no one. With the inclusion of this piece and others like it, readers are shown that with every triumph over addiction, there are also those who remain in the deep end of the pool.

These writers are truth-tellers, and they have the words. For the writer out there, this is a lesson in dignity and courage when it comes to putting pen to paper. The scariest prospect for a writer is to lose their words and end up living in a black and white world inside their mind. Listening to their struggles, triumphs and defeats is both heart wrenching and eye-opening.

Quill Says: This isn't frilly or sweet. There are no fantastical characters. Be ready for the truth but, most of all, be willing to listen.

Book Review - Put That Knife Away

Put That Knife Away: Alzheimer's, Marriage and My Transformation from Wife to Caregiver

By: Phyllis W. Palm, PhD
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0615570679
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2012

Many of us have either personally experienced dealing with a loved one slowly slipping away due to Alzheimer’s, or know of somebody who has dealt/is dealing with the disease. It is difficult for all involved and unfortunately, those who are thrown into the role of caregiver suffer as well. They may not know what to expect, what to do, and feel abandoned and alone. Phyllis Palm, who experienced all of these emotions as she cared for her ailing husband, also put pen to paper to share her experiences with others in the hopes of easing some of their angst and confusion. While therapeutic to write, the author also wanted to share her experiences so that others might recognize the early signs of dementia and seek medical help quickly.

Phyllis and Bob had a wonderful life. A second marriage for both of them, they each had grown children from their first marriages, and they were deeply in love. They traveled, went to Broadway shows, and dined with dear friends – in short, the perfect life. That was, until Alzheimer’s began to take its toll.

Looking back, the author now realizes that there were little signs that her husband was having problems. At the time, however, she chalked it up to simple aging issues. One day Bob announced that he wanted to sell their house, a house he had loved for 36 years. Phyllis thought it was, perhaps, because he felt the need to downsize but still, she couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t right for him to part with his beloved house. But Bob also began forgetting to send his children birthday cards, something he’d always enjoyed doing, and got annoyed when reminded. Then he decided not to send cards at all. In addition, he no longer wanted to drive the car, he preferred staying home and was relying on Phyllis more and more to make decisions. With the urging of her friends, Phyllis finally made an appointment with a neurologist.

The author recounts her frustrations with the medical community, from the doctor who seemed to blame her for her husband’s condition, to the doctor who seemed totally inconsiderate of Bob’s condition. Many doctors, she noted, seemed to be in competition with each other which led to drug interactions and other problems. Bob, meanwhile grew more confused and agitated.

As Bob’s condition deteriorated, Phyllis changed her schedule, and life, around to accommodate his needs. Her whole world was soon consumed with Bob’s welfare. And, as she recalled, “Nothing is stable, nothing is predictable and nothing stays the same for very long.” (pg. 119)

When Bob was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, again the medications needed to be adjusted and Phyllis was the one who had to deal with all the repercussions. As well, she had Bob’s children, who seemed to initially blame her for many of the problems, to negotiate. But it was the changes in Bob’s personality, going from a mild-mannered, sweet, loving man to a stranger who might explode in a dangerous tirade at any moment, that frightened and challenged Phyllis the most. Medication helped, but not every problem can be solved with more medication.

The author has written a very personal, very informative book about life with a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. More than a document about what to expect (and the author acknowledges that the effects of the disease are different for each person), and how early diagnosis can help, this book addresses the needs of the caregiver. Many times Phyllis admits to feeling like a failure, that she somehow didn’t do enough for her husband. Her health suffered and it was only through time, and with the support of others who were in the same situation, that she realized she needed to take care of herself. “I take very seriously the admonition that we caregivers must take care of ourselves…” (pg. 168) If you are looking for a book that addresses all aspects of life with an Alzheimer’s patient from a caregiver’s point of view, you should consider Put That Knife Away.

Quill says: More than a look at one family’s battle with Alzheimer’s, this book is a survival manual for caregivers and reassures all that you are not alone.

4 or 5 Stars???

My rant for the day:

I hate the star system.  There, I said it.  The star-rating system that many sites such as Amazon, Barnes&Noble, etc. use to rate books stinks.  It's not accurate and gets people upset.  The reason?  Because what reviewer #1 thinks deserves 5 stars may very easily get 3 stars from reviewer #2.  This causes confusion and angst, particularly among authors.

According to the B&N website:

1 Star  = Poor
2 Stars = Below Average
3 Stars = Good
4 Stars = Very Good
5 Stars = Exceptional

I know one reviewer who only gives 5 star reviews.  His reason?  "I only review books I like.  If I don't like a book, I stop reading it and won't, therefore, review it."  Okay, I guess that makes sense.  But again, he gives EVERY book he reviews 5 stars. Exceptional?  Really?  Every book?  Maybe, but personally I don't think every book I read is exceptional.  In fact, a lot of decent books should rate 3 stars.  But alas, many (not all) authors understandably think their books should all be rated as 5 stars.  Many (again, not all) see anything less as a slam against their books.  And believe me, I've seen authors get upset because their book only received 4 stars.  But in my "book," that's a good rating.

It's sort of a no-win/you can't please everybody situation. Yes, if you rate everything 5 stars, readers may start to devalue your reviews.  But that's only if they follow your reviews closely.  Otherwise, how would they know?  Personally, I'd prefer the star system to go away and let the review stand on its own.  What do you think?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interview with Diana M. Raab

Today we're talking with Diana M. Raab, author of Listening to Africa

FQ: How did you first decide to go on safari?

My father died twenty-five years ago a few days before Christmas. Ever since then, December has been a depressing time of year for me. In 2008, I decided I wanted to do something different. We always wanted to go to Africa and now that my children are all in their mid-twenties, we thought this would be a good time. We started planning the trip just two months before the journey. We had a fabulous travel agent.

FQ: When did you realize that this journey would become a collection of poems?

Before leaving on my trip, my friend Tristine Rainer told me that a book of poetry might be a good idea because so many people are curious about Africa but will never make it there.

FQ: As I was reading, I imagined you with a pencil and notebook, jotting down the scenes as they were happening. Is this how it was? Or did you do a lot of writing after returning from your trip?

I am an avid journal keeper so I documented my trip each day. Some of the documentation is in the form of prose and others in the form of poetry. Thus, when pulling together the collection after returning to the United States, the poetry remained poetry and the prose was transformed into poetry.

FQ: Can you tell us about your writing process?

When writing poetry, in particular, I begin with either a feeling or an image or poem title and then go from there. I never know where the poem will lead me. The joy of writing poetry is the very pleasant surprise when, in the end, it all comes together.

FQ: Which poets have most influenced your writing?

Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Pablo Neruda.

FQ: Readers will get the sense that your trip through three African countries has changed you. Can you describe the ways in which it altered your perspective?

Africa reminded me of the fragility of life. It elicits a sense of danger and survival, while at the same time a fascination with nature. After visiting Africa I realized how little we need to live in order to be happy and that happiness is really a state of mind and not something that can be measured by bank accounts, ownerships and belongings.

FQ: What is your next project?

I am working on another poetry collection. I write regularly for the Huffington Post and teach about the healing power of writing. I am currently a PhD candidate in psychology in California.

To learn more about Listening to Africa please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Love the Red Sox/I Hate the Yankees

By: Jon Chattman, Allie Tarantino, Rich Tarantino
Publisher: Triumph Books
Publication Date: February 2012
ISBN: 978-1600786792
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 24, 2012

If you’re a true Red Sox fan, then you know, at least deep down in your gut, why you love the Red Sox and hate the Yankees. And part of what binds Sox fans together is this love/hate relationship that we all share. Now there’s a fun new book that puts our thoughts – and facts – about our ongoing Red Sox/Yankees rivalry all in one place.

I Love the Red Sox/I Hate the Yankees is a flip book, with the Red Sox section leading off (the Yankees cover gets the bar code). Of course, you’ll want to read about the Red Sox first so it makes perfect sense to have the Sox on the FRONT cover. There are four chapters in the Red Sox portion: Red Sox Moments We Love; We Love Red Sox Players and Legends; We Love Red Sox Nation and Red Sox Games We Love. The titles speak for themselves and while the true die-hard Sox fan may know most of what is presented (but you only qualify for this status if you know the history behind the song Tessie), this book is written in such a fun, honest, and easy-going way that time will pass quickly as you read. For example, when talking about the disastrous 1965 and 1966 seasons, the authors write, “ treated Fenway like a Taco Bell bathroom; staying away to avoid another stinker.” (pg. 10) There are nice bios of many of our favorite players, overviews of some great games, and testimonials from fans about how the team/game has affected their lives. There is also, of course, a look into why “we” love the Sox so much and why we hate the Yankees. Dating back to that first game played at Fenway against the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees), the authors look at the various reasons this great rivalry has existed and continues to play out.

Admittedly, reading the flip side of this book is not nearly as much fun for the Sox fan. While “No Yankees were harmed during the making of this book…” (pg. v), the authors certainly got some pleasure showing the darker side of the Bronx Bombers. However, as it must to be fair, the book does also show many of the highlights of the Yankees team - of course some of these are not pleasant memories for Sox Nation. The chapters mirror those in the Red Sox section; Yankees Moments We Hate, etc., although they’re not quite as flattering. “While news spread that A-Rod and Jeter were no longer in a bro-mantic relationship… after denying use of performance-enhancing drugs, A-Rod – or as the Fenway faithful dubbed him, A-Roid…” (pgs. 42-43) While the book tells of devoted Sox fans, who are with their club through the ups and downs of baseball, it shows in vivid detail why Yankees fans’ pride is so obnoxious. Yup, we know that and it sure is nice to see it in print!

Quill says: Wicked funny, wicked silly, wicked true - the perfect book for Sox Nation. However, Yankees fans should probably skip this one!

Book Review - Secret Diary (Lou!)

Secret Diary (Lou!)

By: Julien Neel
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Publication Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-0761388685
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2012

Dear Mom: "BEGONE! or I'll make you eat your weight in brussels sprouts." Even though Lou's mom was cool, looking in her super secret diary was not, especially since there were things about her in there like she had zero style. Oh, and she was always sitting on the couch gaming and when she got up to cook it was disastrous. Lou and her mom were "super close" because they were a solo act with no father in the picture. In fact Lou had never met him. Mina was her bff and they were super close too.

Lou admitted to her diary that she thought she was gorgeous, but did have "a lot of hang-ups." She was "mega small" and the "Queen of Shyness!" Blech! Lou created her own clothes and all the other girls laughed at her. Like who cares? She'd just confide in her super secret diary and Mina. It wouldn't be long before she'd be running something by Mina. Lou was up on the rooftop with her binoculars spying on Tristan, her crush, when all of a sudden he started to pick his nose ("Dig Dig Excavate"). Mina set her straight claiming, "So you've never picked your nose when you're alone?" Duh...

Mom was too busy gaming and pretending to write her novel to get a crush on anyone, but that would soon end. Lou and Mina would be trying to play matchmaker, introducing her to the new guy in the building, Richard. Lou would whip up an outfit so she'd be the belle of the party. Not. Lou's mom had practically spoiled her chances with Tristan when she'd shown him her baby pictures. "And in this one, Lou's six months old and teething. Poor little thing. You can see what horrible diaper rash she had." WAAAAAH! Love might have been in the air, but would Mom ever get off that couch? Would Lou ever get a chance with Tristan after he'd seen that rash on her you know what?

Many graphic novels I see for this age group skirt around issues as if they feel prepubescent girls and boys should be treated as innocents. One of the most amusing set of panels includes such dolls conversing as Lou and Mina play with them. They suddenly come to a realization that "the magic is gone." Lou knows about things such as divorce, crushes, jealousy in a relationship, and how her own father (whom she never met) skipped town when her mother "took one of those tests." This is Lou's coming of age story...her joy, her angst, her comedic moments, and life with a single parent. As she claims, "I love my life just the way it is." I love this humorous, progressive graphic novel that tells it like it is, least ways for Lou.

Quill says: This is a refreshingly realistic look at a 'tweener,' Lou, and her not so secret life.

Book Review - Under Oath

Under Oath 

By: Margaret McLean
Publisher: Forge
Publishing Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2813-7
Reviewed By: Mary Lignor
Review Date: April 24, 2012

A new book by Margaret McLean is now on the shelves. The author had a very successful book in her first legal thriller called Under Fire, that featured defense attorney Buddy Clancy. In this foray into the courtrooms of Boston, she has come along with this treat called Under Oath that still is a legal thriller but is written from the prosecution’s side, featuring Boston prosecuting attorney, Annie Fitzgerald. But, take heart everyone as Buddy will be in there helping out.

This book takes place in Charlestown, which is a neighborhood in South Boston that had been the site of 33 unsolved murders between the years 1975 and 1992. This area had the dubious honor of there never being any witnesses and never one arrest in these cases. There was a time when this area was known as "The Code of Silence" which translated to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, especially to the police. Buddy Clancy, aforementioned defense attorney is hired to defend Billy Malone, who is a killer and drug dealer in the area. Prosecutor Annie Fitzgerald is joining up with the Boston Homicide Department Detective Mike Callahan, who has been after Malone, to put him out of the crime business. Malone is on trial for the killing of a young artist, Trevor Shea, who painted extremely lifelike portraits of the locals and Annie brings one of the portraits into the courtroom as she believes that the picture will tell the Judge and Jury who was responsible for Trevor’s death. As stated before, it’s difficult to find witnesses who will testify against Malone and Attorney Clancy is very adept in creating doubt in the minds of the Jury. With Annie’s most important witness murdered and the FBI interfering at every turn, she and Callahan are finding it almost impossible to try the case. Also, Trevor’s brother Chris is in the courtroom every day and Annie has her work cut out for her.

The author writes some exceptional trial scenes but doesn’t make the whole book take place in a courtroom, which many legal thrillers do. Sometimes courtroom scenes tend to go on and on and the reader loses the story line. The reader will not lose interest in Under Oath as there is action right up to the last page. A definite keeper!!

Quill Says: A very intriguing read that will keep legal/thriller readers busy. The scenes in Charlestown are mind-boggling and the justice system is put on trial covering the questions that exist in the legal system today.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Review - Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose (Robyn Hunter Mysteries)

By: Norah McClintock
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-0761385318
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2012

Robyn Hunter's two best friends, Morgan and Billy, were now an item. It was a surprising turn of events because when Billy asked Morgan out a while back, she claimed "There was no chemistry," and now the sparks were flying big time. Billy was "an animal-loving, tree-hugging, fur-eschewing vegan idealist," but she loved him anyway. Now they all found themselves picking up dead and dying birds in front of high rises for DARC, the Downtown Avian Rescue Club. Morgan and Billy's attraction for one another was a mystery, but then again so was Robyn's attraction for Nick D'Angelo.

Nick was the bad boy type and had anger issues, but it didn't matter to Robyn. On the other hand, it did to her mother. "I'm sorry, Robyn, but kids like Nick have so many issues to deal with." Her parents had their own issues and this weekend she'd be spending with her dad, Mac, a former cop who now owned a private security and investigation business. Dead birds were one thing, but the next day there was a lot to talk about. Someone had brazenly stolen her knapsack right out from under her and there had been a murder in Chinatown a few days before. Robyn's father loved to talk about stuff like that. And then there were the nineteen dead people in a shipping container.

No way was Robyn going to mention she'd been in Chinatown with Nick. "Anytime there are people who are that desperate, there are always other people who find a way to profit," her father declared. Yeah, snakeheads were well-known for human trafficking. There was something else unusual going down in Chinatown. When she went with Nick he was really acting strangely. He was surreptitiously collecting envelopes from people and in turn, they appeared to be staring at him in an unusual way. What was up with him? Did it have anything to do with that shipping container? Things would heat up fast when Nick was pushed in front of a car and later someone ominously said to Robyn, "Be quiet, please. I have a gun pointed at your friend." Something serious was going down in Chinatown and Robyn just could be dead before she solved the mystery!

Robyn is a modern day Nancy Drew, only the twist is that her mother is a lawyer instead of her father. She's cool, calm and collected as she peruses her environment, searching for clues to solving the mysterious goings-on in Chinatown. Her sorta-boyfriend Nick, a sixteen-year-old with a dark past and a jagged scar on his face, is somehow the perfect foil for her. I liked the hint of love in the air, the teen concern for environmental and human issues, but most of all liked Robyn, a gutsy young sleuth. If you're interested in a new mystery series, this is one you might want to add to your list!

Quill says: This is an exciting, intriguing mystery that Robyn Hunter fans will love.

Book Review - The Klampie Mystery

The Klampie Mystery

By: Luis Rodriguez
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publisher: May 2012
ISBN: 978-1620860311
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 21, 2012

Samantha Parker is going on a trip! Together with her mother and father, she is traveling to Australia to visit her aunt and uncle. This is going to be Samantha’s first trip outside of the United States and she is very excited.

To help Samantha prepare for the big trip, her dad buys her a life-size stuffed koala bear. Samantha names the koala “Klampie” because just like a real koala bear, his arms like to clamp on to things.

Soon, Samantha and her parents are on the plane, heading for Australia. They have a fun plane ride and are then met at the airport by Uncle Tim and Aunt Sophie. On the trip from the airport to their house, however, something happens…that transforms Klampie into a real koala.

While Samantha enjoys her trip, and the wonders of the world “down under,” she doesn’t notice that Klampie is now a real koala. It isn’t until the plane ride home that – eeek! – the truth is learned. But how did Klampie become a real koala? It’s a mystery to Samantha but the reader will surely say, “I know! I know!”

The Klampie Mystery is a sweet story that introduces young readers to the country of Australia. There are facts about Australia slipped into the story, as well as a half-page look at koalas. Because there is a fair amount of text in this story, it is best suited for older youngsters who will happily sit for a while. The text is a bit awkward in places and there are also a few spots where children may become confused, such as when the mother explains the meaning of ‘vice versa.’ Finally, editors may cringe to see the word ‘alright’ used repeatedly.

Quill says: A fun little story about Australia that would benefit from some editorial work.

Book Review - Conflict Resolution Smarts

Conflict Resolution Smarts: How to Communicate, Negotiate, Compromise, and More

By: Matt Doeden
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0761370208
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 21, 2012

Seldom a day goes by when we face some sort of conflict in our lives, but when the conflict involves another person or group of people, resolution can oftentimes be difficult. When this book defines the word ‘conflict’ it means that it “is a disagreement between two or more people or groups.” Sometimes when we are in the throes of a disagreement, it seems that resolution is impossible, however when “handled properly, conflict can be a positive thing, with results that benefit everyone.” In this book you will learn how to approach conflict and bring it to a resolution in a number of ways, particularly through the use of proper communication.

There are many places we encounter conflict, including at home, school, and on the job; essentially, “anywhere people want the same limited resource conflict can arise.” Have you ever had a fierce disagreement with someone only to find out that it was caused by a simple misunderstanding? It happens all the time. If we don’t learn to listen properly or communicate in ways that others can understand, conflict will arise when we least expect it. Conflict is a process that starts from a simple seed and escalates. When this happens, people react in an assortment of ways from domination, avoidance, to attempting to manage conflicts that arise.

When faced with conflict there are different approaches or strategies we can use to effectively resolve our differences. Strategies we have available to us include “competition, compromise, accommodation, arbitration, mediation, and collaboration.” You will receive an overview of each one of these, perhaps even finding a solution if you are facing some sort of conflict. Of course the “ultimate conflict management strategy is collaboration,” but that’s not always possible. You’ll also learn about expressing yourself, proper communication, checking your emotions at the door, using “cooling-off’ periods, thinking about what you say, you will learn how your parents can help, communication in different realms of your life (home, work, online, school), and you’ll learn many more things about “conflict resolution smarts” that will help you live a better life.

The material is very well researched and written in such a manner that doesn’t come across as preachy, but rather exudes a tone that a mentor might use to help a young person. Many adults could take a few pointers from this book as conflict travels with us through life. As I read, I kept thinking that this would be an excellent guide for a teacher to read and discuss with students. An example of a conflict between two best friends is discussed in the beginning of the book and is occasionally referenced. There are full-color photographs, USA Today articles and “Snapshots,” and numerous informative sidebars scattered throughout these pages. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is an excellent guide that will help teens to understand conflict and learn how to deal with it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Books in for Review

Check out the books that came in this weekend for review.  It must be spring because there is a definite sports theme here.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

I Love the Red Sox/I Hate the Yankees by Jon Chattman, Allie Tarantino and Rich Tarantino
Presented in a unique reversible-book format, I Love the Red Sox/I Hate the Yankees is the ultimate Red Sox fan guide to baseball’s most celebrated and storied rivalry. Full of interesting trivia, hilarious history, and inside scoops, the book relates the fantastic stories of legendary Red Sox managers and star players, including Ted Williams, Jim Rice, and David Ortiz, as well as the numerous villains who have donned the pinstripes over the years. Like two books in one, this completely biased account of the rivalry proclaims the irrefutable reasons to cheer the Red Sox and boo the Yankees and shows that there really is no fine line between love and hate.

Baseball's Best Short Stories edited by Paul Staudohar No other sport has inspired as many great writers as baseball has, and this exceptional anthology brings together 34 short stories about the nation’s favorite pastime. The stories span several decades and are written by some of America’s favorite writers, including Zane Grey, James Thurber, Robert Penn Warren, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and Michael Chabon, among others. Many of the stories are about the game itself, while others use baseball as a backdrop for timeless themes, such as morality, greed, and love. Eight new stories have been added to this expanded edition and include “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff, in which baseball is the surprising last memory of a dying man; George Plimpton’s “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” a fictional story about a baseball player who throws a 150-mph fastball that was a notorious April Fools’ Day hoax in Sports Illustrated; and Leslie Pietrzyk’s “What We All Want,” about a pitcher’s wife’s concern for her aging husband. This collection is for all baseball lovers—long after the season is over. 

The Taker by Alma Katsu On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

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. Time is of the essence...but will justice prevail? Former prosecutor Margaret McLean combines the best of John Grisham’s legal thrillers and Dennis Lehane’s Boston crime novels in Under Oath.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review - Listening to Africa

Listening to Africa

By: Diana M. Raab
Publisher: Antrim House
Publication Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936482-18-4
Reviewed by: Eloise Michael
Review Date: April 21, 2012

“Pulled to Africa,” the second poem in this collection, sets the stage for Listening to Africa, in which readers go on safari with author, Diana Raab, and her family. While Raab's daughter is photographing the sights, Raab is taking snapshots, as well, capturing images from the journey with pencil and notebook. These poems are arranged in order, as in a picture-album, beginning in the United States around Christmas time, when Raab first contemplates the trip, and traveling through Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, to return home again shortly after New Year's Day.

Some poems are snapshots of animals, of course, since the family is on safari. Others are impressions of people and the culture of the places Raab visits. All are set against the backdrop of an African landscape or the depth of its night.

Raab describes images from the trip, but the poems in this collection are also personal. They allude to a second journey. The safari begins after the anniversary of her father's death, at a time when Raab is contemplating her own mortality, having been diagnosed with cancer. In “Christmas Woes,” (pg. 12) she describes her frame of mind shortly before traveling to Africa.

Christmas Woes

The scent of Christmas
litters its sadness,
as it signals the time of my dear father's passing
reminding me

how sad memories
stick to holidays
like ink smudges on
clean sheets of paper.
My heart feels stepped upon,

this crushing sensation
on the same beating muscle
inherited from my dad
with all its plaques of love,
as I press on in his footsteps

in the hope that he watches down
on my dreams postponed
during this painful
month of December.
How to disarm this month's power

with its sorrowful sun-beaten soil?
I climb the stairs one step at a time
uncovering this mysterious continent
with the same shape of a hand gun.

Raab is struck by the disease and death that are commonplace in the countries she visits. This is a contrast to the more sterile world she is accustomed to. At the same time, she writes, in “Digestive Paranoia,” (pg. 18) “my latent cancer cells which I carry in my mind and marrow, must never be awakened.” Raab brings her own disease with her, and this undercurrent, though subtle, is present throughout the journey.

Raab writes of home in “Bush Solace,” (pg. 28) saying, “as much as you can pack into one suitcase, it will never be enough to erase the feeling of homesickness knotted in your solar plexus.” By the end of the safari, she is ready to return to the United States, and that longing brings Listening to Africa full circle. The collection ends with the final evening, the departure morning, and ultimately a poem entitled “Trip Summary.” (pg. 66) Raab writes that Africa still tugs at her, leaving readers with a sense that she will always have a connection to this place and that the parallel inner journey goes on.

Quill says: Snapshots from an African safari reveal a parallel inner journey.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review - It's the Bass Player!

It’s the Bass Player!

By: Cabot Barden
Publisher: PublishAmerica
Publication Date: March 2011
ISBN: 978-1456053536
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 18, 2012

Mood rings, platform shoes, muscle cars and polyester leisure suits. Who doesn’t look back on the decade of the 70s with fondness for bad clothes and great music? For those of us growing up in the 70s, it was a carefree time to explore life and have some fun. For best friends Toby, Corey and Fred, it was a time to form a rock band and see if they could make it all the way.

Loosely based on the real life adventures of author Cabot Barden, It’s the Bass Player takes place in the early 70s and follows the three best friends through the ups and downs of playing in a band. Nineteen-year-old Toby is the main character, the bass player of Common Faith, and a generally all-around good kid. Nothing makes him happier than playing and being with his friends. As the story opens, the band is getting together to have a professional photo taken of the group for promotional uses. Corey is a bit apprehensive because he’s sure there is a jinx; every time a picture of the group is taken, somebody quits. And sure enough, shortly after that picture is taken, the first of many member changes takes place. But the group also gets a contract with a local agency that is able to get them bookings to keep the gigs, and money, coming.

Before the band can head out on a road trip to the first gig that the agent has booked, they have to play that Saturday night at the American Legion Post, the local dive. According to Fred, it’s the place where “old drunks that come in here drink enough to pickle them for the next hundred years.” (pg. 19) The place is too rough for the band’s female singer, Donna, who stays home, and the guys, too, barely make it out with their lives that night.

At last the band is on its way to stardom as they begin to travel to bookings that their new agent has signed. But travel requires money and a decent car, two things the band doesn’t have. Still, they have their youth and enthusiasm and start playing in more cultured places such as the Officer’s Club at the Columbus Air Force Base near Columbus, Mississippi. The clientele is much better behaved at the military base and the gig, where the band is a hit, is just the start of a wild and crazy ride through life in a rising rock group.

The author takes the reader through many adventures that Toby and his friends experience. Some will make you laugh - the car breakdowns, the gaggle of girls who start to follow the players, and the annoying audience member who was insistent he was a better bass player; others will make you shed a tear along with Toby such as the death of a dear friend. One in particular will make you angry, wondering why the boys didn’t come to the aid of a couple caught up in the hatred of racial bigotry. But then you remember that this memoir is based on real events and the band members very likely feared for their own lives. It doesn’t make it easier, but it does make it realistic.

While the story of Toby and his friends is an enjoyable ride for those curious about what being in a rock band is like, there are quite a few editorial and layout issues that detract from the pleasure of reading this book. The careful eye of an editor would really enhance the telling of Toby’s unpredictable life. There is also a nice selection of photos in the middle of the book, but with no captions, it’s anybody’s guess who/what we’re looking at.

Quill says: It’s the Bass Player! is a wild look into a teen rock band that, with some judicious editing, could be a really fun story.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interview with Author Cabot Barden

Today we're talking with Cabot Barden, author of It’s the Bass Player!

FQ: What made you decide to write about your experiences in a band? Did your friends keep telling you “you should write a book” because nobody would believe all the things you experienced?

Actually. I started thinking about writing after I picked up a couple of Clive Cussler books and reading them back in the eighties. But I thought, I didn't have the knowledge or experiences he had to write mystery and adventure novels, so I thought I'd write about what I knew, which is the music business.

FQ: How much of the band’s story was taken directly from your band’s real-life adventures?

About 80% of it is true. The concert at the end never happened, although we were offered a chance to do the concert. The band broke up before we had that opportunity. Several other opportunities were given to us back then, but we did not follow up like we should have. I chalk that up to inexperience.

FQ: Toby and Nancy are a pair in the book. Do you think they live “happily ever after”?

In my second book they end up eventually getting married and having kids. The second book picks up where the first one left off. My second book, Mixed Blessings just came out on April 9, 2012.

FQ: The night at the American Legion Post, where the African American couple are accosted was hard to read. Did it really happen like that?

Yes it did. When we saw what they did to that poor man, we feared for our own lives, because in those old codgers' eyes, we were rock musicians, which was almost as bad as being black in a small southern town back then. They tolerated our music because we mixed in enough of the old country to get by in that place. After the gunshots splintered through the door from outside, we just wanted to get out of there alive and not ever come back. Fights were pretty typical in most, what we called, "Redneck Bars" in those days. There was one bar in my hometown where the saying was,"If you didn't have a gun or knife when you came in the door, they would issue you one.

FQ: The band goes through a lot of changes, with members leaving and new personalities coming on board. How do such changes affect the music a group produces?

We were always learning new songs, because there were always new tunes on the radio every week, so our music repertoire was constantly changing. So the personnel changes didn't effect us as long as there were four of us holding it together.

FQ: The band came so close to making it big, even cutting a record. But like real life, a “speed bump” got in the way. When writing, did you think of perhaps having the record released and following the rise to fame of the young band?

I seriously entertained the idea, but I thought I'd leave that aspect for the next book. In the second book, the guys actually get that break. When I worked in Nashville in the music business, I found that the average "overnight success" usually took about 15 years to get to that point, unless you were a corporately owned band like the Monkees.

FQ: Telling young groupies to become pen pals was a unique way to get rid of them. Did you really do that, and if so, did any of them actually write?

I had several girl penpals who wrote for a while, then stopped usually because I didn't have the means to go see them regularly. And I would usually stop writing if I started dating one girl. One girl showed up on my doorstep once. She had run away from home to come see me. My mom called the police and they worked things out with her parents getting her home. Most of the so called groupies were usually under 15, which we considered off limits dating wise.

FQ: Toby and his friends met some great rock stars at the last concert in the book. Were those people all stars who you met, and if so, who were your favorites? What surprised you the most about them?

Well, we didn't get to meet our heroes, Three Dog Night, like we wanted, but we did get to meet Steve Winwood and Traffic at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Seemed everytime Three Dog was playiing anywhere close by, we were booked somewhere in the same town that night. In the 80s I played with a country band that opened for Emmylou Harris and Mickey Gilley. One of the unlabeled pics in the book is of me and Mickey. In the 90s me and the other 2 muskyteers did get to open for the Georgia Satelites, Jan and Dean, and Grayson Hughe. Then when I moved to Nashville in 1995 I really did meet John Kay and had a wonderful conversation with him. It is very possible to "bump into" music stars in Nashville. Of course, working at Opryland helped a lot too. John was living in Nashville at that time. I asked him why he would live there instead of L.A. He said it was safer in Nashville for his family. I found that there are quite a few old rockers living there too, including Peter Frampton.

To learn more about It’s the Bass Player! please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review: Death of a Dreamer

Death of a Dreamer: The Assassination of John Lennon

By: Alison Marie Behnke
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0822590361
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 19, 2012

Julia was married to Alfred Lennon, a military man in Britain's Merchant Navy. When their son John was born on October 9, 1940, the "young, fun-loving, and not very responsible Julia struggled to care for her baby alone." John's Aunt Mimi, on the other hand, was responsible and soon took him home to raise him. He wasn't exactly an easy child nor a "model student," but his Aunt Mimi and her husband George Smith loved and cared for him. It wasn't until much later when John became interested in music that he and his mother Julia began to bond.

When John was in high school he and several friends formed a band called the "Quarrymen." Skiffle, a popular type of music at the time, was based on a combination of "jazz, blues, and folk music." It even boasted a member who played a washboard, but soon John was looking for guitar players and a drummer. It wasn't long before Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best joined forces. When his mother Julia was killed by a drunk driver, the seventeen-year-old "sought comfort in music." The band, renamed the "Silver Beetles" in May 1960, was soon in demand, playing more than two hundred shows at the Cavern.

Richard Starkey, Ringo, replaced Best, John began a family, they gained a manager, Brian Epstein, and the band became known as the "Beatles." Quickly and unexpectedly the band became famous and Beatlemania had set in. With their arrival in the United States, "the frenzy surrounding each public appearance," according to John, was "like being in the eye of a hurricane." The drudgery of playing soon set in and the "magic of playing live faded away." The band began to change with the death of Brian Epstein and, to the woe of the other band members, when John became enamored with the lovely Yoko Ono.

Once the band disbanded, John began his life with Yoko and newborn son, Sean. Perhaps because he "grew up during a period of great change and upheaval," he became interested in becoming a figurehead for peace along with Yoko. The U.S. government was monitoring the couple and they were "judged as both undesirable and dangerous agents." Deportation seemed imminent. John claimed, "I am going into an unknown future, but I'm still all here. And still where there's life, there's hope." Someone else too was watching John closely and that was Mark David Chapman. In this book you will hear the rest of John's story and that of Mark's, the man who took his life in front of the Dakota on December 8, 1980.

In essence, this book is divided into two sections, the first covering John's life, the second David's. The biographical material was draw from several sources and masterfully blended into these pages. Many, who have formed their own opinions about Chapman, will find an unbiased look at his life and unfortunate obsession with Lennon. I enjoyed reading about Lennon's life and especially enjoyed learning about his activism. There are black and white photographs scattered throughout these pages and numerous informative sidebars. For example, under one entitled "Public Enemy," we learn why Chapman was kept in solitary confinement. In the back of the book is an index, a timeline (1940 to 2011), a "Who's Who?" listing, extensive source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book, websites, dicography, and filmography resources to explore.

Quill says: This is a fascinating look at John Lennon and Mark David Chapman, the man who took Lennon's life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Books In For Review

Check out the latest books to arrived at Feathered Quill for review.  Then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab
Poet Diana M. Raab travels to the heart of Africa with her family to experience the beauty and fascination of another world. During her safari, she observes the distress, the delight, and the dignity of the humans and animals who live there and parallels them with her own quest for health.

Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency by Diana M. Raab and James Brown, editors Writers On The Edge offers a range of essays, memoirs and poetry written by major contemporary authors who bring fresh insight into the dark world of addiction, from drugs and alcohol, to sex, gambling and food. Editors Diana M. Raab and James Brown have assembled an array of talented and courageous writers who share their stories with heartbreaking honesty as they share their obsessions as well as the awe-inspiring power of hope and redemption.

Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty by Sam Forman The definitive biography of the Revolutionary War doctor and hero. An American doctor, Bostonian, and patriot, Joseph Warren played a central role in the events leading to the American Revolution. This detailed biography of Warren rescues the figure from obscurity and reveals a remarkable revolutionary who dispatched Paul Revere on his famous ride and was the hero of the battle of Bunker Hill, where he was killed in action. Physician to the history makers of early America, political virtuoso, and military luminary, Warren comes to life in this comprehensive biography meticulously grounded in original scholarship.

 The Golf Swing: It's All in the Hands by James Lythgoe This book is written from the perspective that correct hand action is crucial to developing a well coordinated fault-free golf swing. The author's opinion is that proper hand action is missing from most golf swings. The solution offered begins with chapter three with a description of correct hand action. Detailed step-by-step instructions follow on how to implement correct hand action into the golf swing. In fact, all chapters are written using detailed step-by-step instructions accompanied by colour photographs illustrating the steps. Chapter four addresses how you should use your shoulders during the golf swing. Instruction is provided on how to modify Paul Runyan's chipping method to hit full shots. Using this technique your shoulder turn can easily be monitored and coordinated with your hand action. How to grip a golf club and address a golf ball are discussed fully in chapters one and two.

NaLee by Erin Sankey

Anthology by Scott Martin

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interview with Author Annabelle R. Charbit

Today we're talking with Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit, author of A Life Lived Ridiculously

FQ: Considering the subject matter that you are speaking about and how you present it, do you believe that the old adage "laughter is the best medicine" may be true?

Yes I do, 100%. I use laughter to get through the toughest situations. Unless I’m too busy bawling my eyes out. But then I’ll laugh about it later...

FQ: I know you are a doctor, can you tell readers what you specialize in? Also, I'm aware that you are currently in the States researching migraine headaches, can you expand on that at all?

I did my PhD in London, UK, specializing in head pain. I then moved with my entire laboratory to UCSF in San Francisco to continue our research. It has been an amazing journey trying to understand a condition like migraine that is so common yet can be hard to treat and robs many people of their quality of life.

FQ: As the mom of a daughter who has had to watch the heartbreak, I have turned into Xena the Warrior Princess many times and wanted desperately to just take the boys out. I know that’s wrong, but public hangings are gone now so you really have no choice. Do you have a daughter, or a friend, who you have seen go through this heartache? And how do you suggest solving such an issue?

If I ever suspected a friend was involved with a sociopath, I'd tell them straight away. It is important to note that there is a huge difference between a sociopath and a guy you think might be a bit of a jerk. As a mother, I can imagine you'd want to protect your daughter from both, but the reality is that the sociopath is a lot more harmful and always has a malicious hidden agenda. So if you have to fight your daughter, go after the sociopaths and let her figure the jerks out for herself.

FQ: I have to know if this is slightly autobiographical. Are the characters of the grandmothers real? Aunt Muriel? etc.?

A Life Lived Ridiculously is somewhat inspired by personal experiences, in adherence with the technique of 'write what you know.' For instance, some of the characters, such as the grandmothers and Maxine's best friend Tina are based on real people. Most of the characters though come from a collection of people. Maxine's mum and dad, for example are constructed out of the voices of many frustrating people, all knitted together to form the two most annoying parents imaginable.

FQ: OCD is a very real issue. Can you discuss what your feelings are on this matter? Is this something you’ve studied in your work or research?

I’m interested in OCD because it seems like such a willful condition yet the sufferer is completely at the mercy of the intrusive thoughts and cannot help performing the compulsions. Imagine having a song in your head (we've all experienced that), but it will not go away, ever. Not only that but the song is accompanied by the most terrifying sinking feeling of fear and dread that you've ever experienced. Then another thought pops into your head that if you just clean your house, check the oven or put everything in a certain order, the song and accompanying fear will vanish. People with OCD are neither weak nor stubborn. Their minds are literally hijacked by thoughts that they have no desire to entertain. Sufferers of OCD are as busy and determined to get on with their days as the rest of us, but they are constantly interrupted by barrages of thoughts that they cannot control and do not invite.

FQ: Your play, Sound Advice, was performed in London. Is that plot along the same lines as this book?

Sound Advice was pure comedy, and very light too. It was a about a bunch of students and all sorts of silly antics that they get into. Kind of like Friends but with British humor. I used my own crazy student days as inspiration for that one. A Life Lived Ridiculously on the other hand uses humor to deal with the serious, real life issues of dating a sociopath and suffering from mental illness.

FQ: Do you have plans to continue writing novels, plays, etc. in the future?

I do have another novel up my sleeve. I won’t say too much, but I am currently doing some reading on personality disorders, as I'd like my main character to be afflicted with one of those, though I haven't decided with personality disorder to write about yet. They are all so very interesting…

To learn more about A Life Lived Ridiculously please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - A Life Lived Ridiculously

A Life Lived Ridiculously

By: Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit
Publisher: FireFly Publishing & Entertainment
Publication Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9846428-6-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 12, 2012

From the very beginning of this novel readers will smile; they will then reach ‘all out laughter’ by the second page. The amazing thing about this story, however, is that laughter turns frightening when the author offers up a twist that readers will not see coming.

Maxine is a twenty-eight-year-old Jewish girl living in London. This is a brilliant woman who is studying to be a scientist and taking classes at the University. Her reasoning for becoming a scientist (as she tells one of her professors) is that she can’t stand not knowing how things work. At times, Maxi thinks she’s losing IQ points when she misplaces her car, and acts a bit scattered now and then, but it’s not true. What she’s experiencing when her mind whirls and she thinks about numbers, becomes paranoid by clutter, rearranges the furniture in her apartment forty-five times in an hour, or when she keeps burning her fingers on hot light bulbs because she cannot find a lampshade that provides soothing illumination to her bedroom, has nothing to do with her IQ - it is a case of a person dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. Of course, it is a bit difficult to achieve that diagnosis when you are surrounded by the people who surround Maxi.

Maxi comes from a wealthy family. Her mother is more than a bit overbearing and a real pain in the butt. All she seems to care about is entertaining, traveling, and constantly yelling at Maxi about how she’s not dressing properly or combing her hair suitably in order to catch a nice young man. As far as Mom is concerned, give up the science and hit the streets until you get a husband. (This is not the woman you call when you want to be talked off a window ledge!) Dad is a bit nicer about it, admiring his daughter for her achievements but he, too, wants her to walk down that aisle. When readers first meet this group of ‘marriage-mongers’ the laughs commence, especially when the two grandmothers try to ‘one up each other’ by having a contest to see which one has to take more painkillers in order to reign as ‘Queen of the Pity Party.”

At this particular party, it is Aunt Muriel who appears with another young man for Maxi to marry. Sam is hunched over like a toad, has no earlobes, and once he speaks, he lets everyone know that all of his family and girlfriend have died from various causes. This is not the guy to have around for ‘light and airy’ conversation. Maxi most definitely is not attracted to him, once again spoiling the family’s hopes that she will don a wedding dress.

As the story goes on, the author does a wonderful job of combining humor with some pretty harsh events. Maxi ends up liking Sam, and her obsessive compulsive personality comes to light. All of a sudden she’s not the one running away, she’s the one trying to figure out what his problems are and why he acts so strangely all the time. Sam eventually goes from a nice ‘nerd’ with serious problems to more than a bit creepy. Maxi soon finds herself in a desperate situation where facing a broken heart becomes far less important than surviving a sociopath.

Maxi is one of those women we can all identify with. The outlandish humor mixed with the fantastic dialogue makes Maxi a character you want to stand up for, be best friends with, and even help ‘take out’ the people who make her feel sad or miserable. An unforgettable character all the way around who makes a solid point and attempts to stay balanced in a world that is out of control.

Quill Says: Laugh, cry, laugh, believe, laugh, be shocked and, above all - laugh! An author who brings humor to every page she writes.

Book Review - Gods, Gangsters and Honor: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Odyssey

Gods, Gangsters and Honor: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Odyssey

By: Steven Machat
Publisher: Beautiful Books Limited
Publication Date: May 2011
ISBN: 978-1-905-63683-9
Reviewed By: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: April 11, 2012

In his years working in the music biz, lawyer and producer Steve Machat has seen it all. Struggling to maintain integrity in a world full of drugs, greed, sex, and danger, where the only thing that matters is the bottom line, he has negotiated deals with some of the toughest men in the business, learning some hard lessons along the way. In Gods, Gangsters and Honor, Machat recounts these lessons and the circumstances which brought them, as well as exposing a lot of dirt on the artists and companies he’s worked with. He’s also not afraid to take the blame when it is due or recount some hilarious and embarrassing secrets of his own in this collection of memoirs that rubs some of the glitter off the image of rock ‘n’ roll.

These stories span his life, beginning with his teenage days when he gets advice on choosing a college from Frank Sinatra- “If I was you, kid, I’d go to Miami – you’ll have a field day with all the chicks” (pg. 2). They follow his career from law school, through his work in his father’s law office representing musicians to his ventures into music production and politics. The incidents he describe range from outrageous – Ozzie Osbourne biting the head off a canary and spitting it into an executive’s lap, being awakened at 4 AM by a naked, screaming Nicolette Sheridan, an entire gram of cocaine delivered to his wife for her birthday – to moving – his daughter’s struggles with drug addiction, the death of his father, and his own diagnosis of diabetes and the realization that his high-flying lifestyle was killing him. Some stories are told simply for humor’s sake – asking directions to a gym with Donny Osmond and being sent to a gay club by mistake - while others tackle serious issues like racism as he describes his attempts to “mix black and white to make greenbacks,” (pg. 274) and the difficulties faced by Jews in the field of law. He also discussed his troubles trying to promote music for the sake of art in an industry only interested in making money, “My mandate at Sony is to make money. F- the art,” (pg. 288). Machat’s experiences of deals gone bad, betrayals of trust, and corporate greed are enough to turn most people into cynics, yet he ends the book with a chapter that reveals a beautiful outlook on life, having transcended these obstacles to attain a philosophy of peace, love, and acceptance.

Machat’s world is a fascinating place to visit, where one can vicariously deal with gangsters and party like a rock star without fear of hangover or assault. The celebrities he’s worked with come from all genres, and any music fan, regardless of their taste, will likely find an icon they admire within these pages. Machat does not hold back any gritty details, so this book is strictly for those who enjoy R-rated reading. Some of the contract deals that he describes are incredibly complicated and may make for slow reading for the non-business minded, but they are worth following to get to the juicy tidbits that are revealed along the way. These stories are especially relevant in light of current anti-piracy debates, and Machat makes it difficult to have sympathy for the record companies as he depicts them ripping off artists, bootlegging their own albums, and blowing the profits on women and drugs. Altogether a great read, Gods, Gangsters, and Honor will have you laughing out loud, seething with disgust, and in the end, warmed at heart.

Quill Says: Dig through a pile of the rock gods’ sweat-stained, coke-powdered, dirty spandex tights in this must-read for any music lover that is alternately outrageous, hilarious, cynical, and hopeful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review - Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome (USA Today Health Reports: Diseases and Disorders)

By: Marlene Targ Brill
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0761381440
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2012

Caroline often got upset when her Tourette Syndrome tics were noticeable because she felt “like the odd person, different from everybody.” Tourette Syndrome, which is commonly called Tourette’s Syndrome or TS, has been a challenge for her, especially in the school setting. Caroline’s odd clicking noises, head jerking, and quirky mouth movements were something she couldn’t hide, but eventually she learned to deal with them. People like Caroline who are afflicted with this neurological disorder “make movements and sounds, called tics, that are beyond their control.”

Tics in school children are not uncommon and it has been estimated that “almost 25 percent of school-aged children display” them. For most children the tics they have are not problematic, but for those like Caroline who have TS they are. When these tics occur, “the brain tells one or more muscles to contract, causing unwanted sounds or movement,” sometimes without any warning.” There are two kinds of motor tics, simple and complex. In this book you’ll learn the difference between them and will learn about the severity, the frequency of occurrence, and common types of tics.

Tourette Syndrome is not easily diagnosed because there aren’t any specific tests for it nor any “diagnostic guidelines.” Once TS is diagnosed, often there is a “greater likelihood of also having something else” such as obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, learning disabilities, or conduct problems, all of which are discussed in this book. You’ll also read about the history of Tourette Syndrome, recent forays into research, a genetic overview, medications (including those for related disorders), alternative treatments, professional therapy, how families can help (including siblings), how to get help from outside sources, and you’ll learn many other interesting facts about TS.

TS is a disorder that is often misunderstood, one in which people tend to shy away from the afflicted. One sentence that stood out stated: “The most well-known symptom of TS is coprolalic--cursing or saying inappropriate words or phrases,” when in fact most people have mild TS. The author does not minimize the seriousness of the disorder, but helps us understand what it is all about from the simple to the scientific point of view. Once a young reader understands TS, the likelihood will be that they will also accept it. 

There are several stories of teens who discuss their journey with TS and how they’ve struggled with it.
There are numerous informative sidebars, including period USA Today articles, charts, artistic renditions, and photographs. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a list of related organizations, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. They include information for students, siblings, parents, educators, and adult readers. There are complementary educational resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This is an excellent overview of Tourette Syndrome (TS) and how you can “help yourself, a friend, or family member live and thrive” with it.

Book Review - Alternative Medicine

Alternative Medicine (USA Today Health Reports: Diseases and Disorders)

By: Catherine G. Davis
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0761381457
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2012

Andy, a lawyer who had a high stress job, knew there was something wrong. When he received the diagnosis of a peptic ulcer from his family doctor, he decided to look into “alternative, or integrative medicine.” Andy was interested in working with a neuropath and ultimately decided to work with a combination of therapies including acupuncture, diet, and natural supplements. Unlike conventional medicine, which is based on a disease model, alternative or integrative medicine refers to “the wide range of traditions that are available for managing health,” traditional treatments that can be as simple as herbal supplements or as complicated as biofeedback.

Not all alternative therapies have been backed up by scientific research nor approved by the FDA. In fact, some can actually be dangerous. Whether we are aware of it or not, many ancient heath practices “are still with us in the twenty-first century.” Statistics show that the majority of us have used some form of alternative medicine in our lifetimes. There are several categories of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including herbal and dietary supplements, mind-body, hands-on treatments, energy-based therapies, and whole medical systems available to us. Most have heard of the chiropractic approach to healthcare, but not many know much about Native American Ayurvedic medicine. In this book you’ll get to take a look at examples of all of these approaches.

Conventional medical practice focuses on diagnosis and treating the symptoms of those who are already ill, while alternative medicine “uses herbs, natural oils, massage, and spiritual methods” and other methods “to encourage general well-being.” Your doctor must be licensed to practice, but not all forms of alternative medicine fall under specific guidelines, regulations and licensure nor are covered by insurance. In this book you’ll learn popular herbal remedies and supplements, mind-body therapies, “false healers,” spirituality and healing, guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, music therapy, yoga, Tai chi, hands-on treatments (chiropractics, osteopathy, massage), energy-based therapies (acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic touch), whole medical systems (naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, Qigong, Ayurveda), futuristic approaches to healthcare, and much more about alternative medicine. Do you know what Reiki is? Rolfing? You’ll find out when you read this book.

In years past, most people equated alternative medicine with quackery, however in recent years there has been a resurgence as interest has heightened. Young people, as they read this book, will become familiar with many different types of alternative medicine. I liked the wide-ranging discussion of therapies presented, something that prevented the book from becoming bogged down like others I’ve seen that simply discuss herbal supplements or dismiss alternative medicine as tomfoolery. There are several portraits of people who have opted for alternative medicine or supplemented their conventional medical care with it.

The reader will find charts (“Snapshots”), photographs, and numerous informative sidebars, including USA Today articles, that add to the text. For example, in one we learn about the Choose My Plate website, something that all young people should be aware of when they are “eating for good health.” In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a list of related organizations to contact, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. Complementary downloadable educational resources are available on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This is an excellent, comprehensive overview of alternative, or integrative medicine.