Thursday, August 30, 2012

DVD Review - Holy Flying Circus

Holy Flying Circus - DVD

Actors: Charles Edwards, Steve Punt, Ben Crispin
Studio: Acorn Media
DVD Release Date: September 2012
Format: Color, Widescreen
Number of discs: 2
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Run Time: 90 minutes

In 1979, Monty Python released the movie Life of Brian, a humorous look at the exploits of a man who was born on the same day as Jesus. Mistaken for Jesus by the three Wise Men, Brian had quite an interesting life. When the film debuted, it was met with wide criticism, particularly from religious groups. Holy Flying Circus is a docudrama that retells the events surrounding the movie’s controversial history.

While Life of Brian was a financial success (it was the fourth highest grossing film in the UK that year), close to 40 groups in the UK banned it or gave it an X rating. It was even banned in a few countries such as Ireland, and as such things usually do, this worked wonders for the marketing of the movie. The controversy eventually led to John Cleese and Michael Palin appearing on a BBC2 show, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, debating Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge about the merits of the movie.

Played by a cast of characters who look remarkably like the original group (particularly Darren Boyd playing John Cleese and Charles Edwards in the role of Michael Palin), Holy Flying Circus imagines what it was like behind the scenes as the actors dealt with the fallout from their newest movie. It begins with the movie’s release and follows through to the infamous debate with Muggeridge and Stockwood.
No retelling of this story would be complete without poking “Pythonesque” fun at the various people and events. With whimsical dream sequences, men in drag (Palin’s wife is a standout in this area), animation, and even brief guest appearances by God and Jesus, the viewer can easily fall into the world of Monty Python. After a quick and funny start, the movie dragged a bit towards the middle. Fortunately, it picked up again as the debate approached. There are plenty of laughs here for true fans of Monty Python (Cleese’s “silly walk” gag even makes it on screen) and there’s no doubt by the end of the movie that the gang from Monty Python are the clear winners.

Quill says: If you love Monty Python, you should check out this DVD and get a peek at the absurdity surrounding the release of Life of Brian.

Book Review - Diva: The Flappers Series

Diva: The Flappers Series

By: Jillian Larkin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74041-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 30, 2012

The Flapper Series is one trilogy that will remain locked in the imagination and on bestseller lists for a good, long time to come. Which is why the release of this book is both fantastic (because we get to read more about the amazing group of girls created by Larkin), and also heart-wrenching…because readers are told that this is the last we will see of these incredible characters.

The three girls these books orbit around are still as noteworthy as they were when first introduced in Vixen. And with the second novel, Ingenue, readers were taken even further into their lives, as an unforgettable tale of enemies, friends and circumstances created an unforgettable tale.

With this gift, we return to the Roaring 20’s with Clara Knowles, party girl and friend of Gloria Carmody; Gloria, who was a girl brought up in luxury and was just about to become engaged when she went to a jazz club, sang to a very handsome man, and ended up running away with him; and last, but certainly not least, Lorraine Dyer, who has alienated the other two girls, gone to New York and become a reporter for a scandal sheet called the ‘Manhattanite.’

As the series comes to an end we begin in the big city where each girl has been sent down a new path - from promising singing careers to careers in journalism. Gloria has narrowly escaped going to prison after shooting someone who was after her fiancé. She’s now helping out a government agent in order to get ‘something’ on a family who live high on the hog on Long Island. Lorraine is trying to break into Broadway and help out a true friend who simply won’t listen to her. And Clara’s writing becomes even more popular as she struggles in her personal life to win back the true love she’s lost.

This final dramatic episode offers a very interesting climax. As the girls have grown up and are getting together to get what they all want, the action becomes seriously intriguing. The author has created a riveting, titillating, romantic and extremely cool end to an extremely cool series!

Quill Says: Goodbye to The Flappers. Hopefully, Jillian Larkin will come up with another series that is just as fascinating very, very soon.

Book Review - Diva: The Flappers Series

Diva: The Flappers Series

By: Jillian Larkin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74041-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 30, 2012

The Flapper Series is one trilogy that will remain locked in the imagination and on bestseller lists for a good, long time to come. Which is why the release of this book is both fantastic (because we get to read more about the amazing group of girls created by Larkin), and also heart-wrenching…because readers are told that this is the last we will see of these incredible characters.

The three girls these books orbit around are still as noteworthy as they were when first introduced in Vixen. And with the second novel, Ingenue, readers were taken even further into their lives, as an unforgettable tale of enemies, friends and circumstances created an unforgettable tale.

With this gift, we return to the Roaring 20’s with Clara Knowles, party girl and friend of Gloria Carmody; Gloria, who was a girl brought up in luxury and was just about to become engaged when she went to a jazz club, sang to a very handsome man, and ended up running away with him; and last, but certainly not least, Lorraine Dyer, who has alienated the other two girls, gone to New York and become a reporter for a scandal sheet called the ‘Manhattanite.’

As the series comes to an end we begin in the big city where each girl has been sent down a new path - from promising singing careers to careers in journalism. Gloria has narrowly escaped going to prison after shooting someone who was after her fiancé. She’s now helping out a government agent in order to get ‘something’ on a family who live high on the hog on Long Island. Lorraine is trying to break into Broadway and help out a true friend who simply won’t listen to her. And Clara’s writing becomes even more popular as she struggles in her personal life to win back the true love she’s lost.

This final dramatic episode offers a very interesting climax. As the girls have grown up and are getting together to get what they all want, the action becomes seriously intriguing. The author has created a riveting, titillating, romantic and extremely cool end to an extremely cool series!

Quill Says: Goodbye to The Flappers. Hopefully, Jillian Larkin will come up with another series that is just as fascinating very, very soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review - Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom

By: Jennifer Holland
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Publication Date: June 2011
ISBN: 978-0761159131
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 30, 2012

It’s well known in the publishing world that a book cover can make or break a book’s sales. And if one is to judge by the cover of this book, sales must be booming. The irresistible photo of a young rhesus monkey hugging a dove tells the reader that s/he is in for a heartwarming experience while reading through Unlikely Friendships.

This book includes a look at 47 amazing friendships, from a dachshund taking care of a premature piglet, a hamster and a four-foot rat snake, and even, as a well-known song immortalized, a lion, a tiger, and a bear, oh, my! The descriptions of each bond are fairly brief, typically running two to three short pages. First we learn what happened, how and when the two animals first met, and then what happened to them. (Not all had "happily-ever-after" endings so the book may not be suitable for young children.) The author is a science writer who has written for National Geographic magazine and she is honest in her assessments of each relationship, avoiding the urge to anthropomorphize the animals and instead look at the scientific reasons behind each interaction. For instance, in the above mentioned hamster and snake “bond,” the author surmises that because it was autumn and the snake’s need to hibernate was approaching, it simply wasn’t hungry. Regardless of the reason(s), these relationships are still quite fascinating.

The highlight of the book is without a doubt the amazing photos that accompany each of the 47 stories. Upon reading, many of the events may seem impossible, that is until you look at the photos. They are truly wonderful and there are, no doubt, some amazing bonds displayed with the pages of Unlikely Friendships.

Quill says: The perfect gift for the animal lover in your family.

Book Review - A Woodland Christmas

A Woodland Christmas Tale: Lift the Flap for Every Day of Advent

Written and Illustrated by: Hannah Whitty
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0764165399
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 30, 2012

Christmas is coming and everybody is excited! As all the animals of Willow Wood danced in anticipation, Badger suggested they have a party to celebrate. What a great idea! The wise owl, perched high above on his branch, offered to send out invitations. And, he announced, he had a special guest in mind. Who could it be?

Every animal in the forest was busy preparing for the party. The mice collected berries while Fox and her cubs found the perfect Christmas tree. Then all the animals who had been invited to the party began arriving. Would the special guest come too?

This is a delightful tale for children who want to share in Christmas preparations. At just eight pages, with minimal text, it should easily hold the attention of the youngest of Santa’s fans. The illustrations are vibrant and playful and are perfectly suited for this upbeat tale. The last two-page spread has a lovely picture of the “special guest” and tabs for every day of Advent to be opened by the eager owner of the book.

Quill says: This is one Christmas book that children will want to keep close throughout the Advent season.

Book Review - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

By: Robert May
Illustrated by: Denver Gillen
Publisher: Applewood Books; Facsimile edition
Publication Date: October 1990
ISBN: 978-1557091390
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: August 2012

How do you review a classic? It’s not easy but I must admit that it was a lot of fun to read the tale of Rudolph as it was originally written.

We all know the story of Rudolph, how the other reindeer teased him because of his bright red nose, how he ran away, and then how he came back and saved Christmas. In the original version, a poem written by Robert May, Rudolph is actually living with other reindeer, far from Santa’s home in the North Pole. Like all the other animals, and girls and boys, on Christmas Eve, Rudolph is fast asleep, dreaming of the toys Santa will bring. But Santa is having trouble delivering his gifts because a terrible fog has settled into the land. What will happen if he can’t get to all the houses? Santa is in a panic and he doesn’t know what to do, but then he comes upon the house where Rudolph and his friends live. Perhaps that bright red nose… There is, of course, a happy ending, Rudolph saves the day, all the toys are distributed, and Christmas is saved.

Applewood Books is a publishing company that has brought many classics back to life to be enjoyed by new generations of readers. For Rudolph, they have kept the look of the original 1939 publication by using the same text, design, illustrations, and even typeface. The delightful feel of the original is kept and while reading, it becomes clear why this story has become a cherished part of every Christmas. Don’t miss it!

Quill says: Every home should have a copy of this book to enjoy at Christmas!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interview with Author Carrie F. Shepherd

Today our reviewer, Amy Lignor, is talking with Carrie F. Shepherd, author of Fall From Grace: The Scribing of Ishitar

FQ: Readers would love to know how this epic story came to your mind? It truly is unique!

I have always been fascinated with theology throughout cultures and time and the common themes that almost every belief system holds. The idea was to take the basics of each and bring them together in a manner that the stories are compatible. The questions really become: What if there is not one true religion? What if we’ve all got it right? And, as a result, wrong?

FQ: Are you a Greek Mythology fan? The representations of everything from Mount Olympus to the Christian heaven were extremely interesting and seemed to really gel together; which path would you say was your favorite to write?

Yes. I’m a fan of all genres of Mythology. I was introduced to the Egyptian Gods by one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Shea, in seventh grade. From there I was hooked. By the time I graduated High School I’d read all of the stories from Greek, Norse and Native American cultures. It was then that I started seeing the common themes and threads.

As for the path I enjoyed most writing, that would be whenever the Gods met at Council. I could easily picture what the room would look like and find myself sitting at one of the tables engaging in the debate and conversation.
Author Carrie F. Shepherd

FQ: Do you have a favorite character?

Azrael. Probably out of necessity!

I spent a lot of time living in his head and interpreting the world from his point of view. It was fun for me to reflect on what he would find interesting, or infuriating, enough that he would come out of the story to share his opinion with the reader and what he would just tell as fact from the point of view of the characters.

FQ: I have to say unveiling the forms, figures, even the entities’ ability to be male or female was amazing to watch when various scenes took place. Were you interested in delving into human ‘mortal’ issues such as sexual orientation, power, love, greed, etc.?

I wanted to create a society that was somewhat true to the real world we live in where all of these things you mention exist.

But, specifically, in this story, the women clearly have no voice and tend to use their ability to change their essence to further their politics and their aims. Yet, interestingly enough, rather than demanding equality from the men, or simply over powering them and taking it from them, these women turn against one another.

The author's daughter Jayde and their dog Commander Jon Snow
FQ: In the book mortals are blamed quite a bit (and the affinity the Lord has for them). Do you feel that humanity HAS let the Divine down because of the wars, death, pain, anguish, and more that we bring to the world?

I think that’s the ultimate question. Mortals are raised above angels, demons and even Gods in many different versions of theology. Do we have the ability to live up to the Divine’s expectation of us? I think the vote is still open on that one.

FQ: I love the look into politics as well. Were you interested in focusing a bit on the male/female political views in our day and age? Such as, should a woman be President?

The larger political question in my mind, as far as these characters are concerned, is how far will each character go—what will he/she do—to gain control of the ultimate throne. By the end of the book, the main factions are pretty clear. But we won’t know who, ultimately, is seated to power until the end of the series.

One of the author's biggest fans - Sir Buns McGee of Brautwerst

FQ: Raziel - the powerful woman - was fun to watch. I was wondering if she was perhaps based on Athena?

Raziel’s personality was based on a multitude of women in literature who have been in her position. She wants the power, but she’s limited by her sex given she’s a member of a society where only men rule. She’s a woman who isn’t above doing anything, however, to get what she wants. Noliminan and Lucias had best watch their backs.

FQ: I read that this was a twenty-year project for you. That is truly amazing, but the complexity of the story certainly was researched and not just thrown together. Is Book Two in the works? Or, will there be as much time taken, do you believe, to unveil the second? And, in the end, will this be a trilogy?

Book two is definitely well in the works. The skeleton outline is done for each installment; they just need to be fleshed out now. The story is meant to be built as a series, rather than a trilogy. Though, I haven’t pinned down exactly how many installments it will take to wrap it up.
Link the Ferret
To learn more about Fall From Grace: The Scribing of Ishitar please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review - Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace: The Scribing of Ishitar

By: Carrie F. Shepherd
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4750-1952-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 28, 2012

Upon opening this book readers will immediately see this as an amazing feat for an author to accomplish. This is a tale that offers a full-scale view of angels, demons, saints and more - and how each one’s personal work can bring about sacrifice, triumph and tragedy.

We begin with Marius Talbot, a banker who is about to meet with his number one client, Mr. Hamilton, and the man’s nephew, Mason. This day, Mr. Hamilton comes to place something into his private collection at the bank - a very old, strange looking puzzle box that has far more meaning than anyone knows.

Immediately readers are brought into Azrael’s world - the Archangel of Death - whose job it is to witness mortal issues and pass judgment. However, he has been punished because of sharing information in order to save someone who he cared very deeply for.

As a full quorum is introduced, the angels are all up above talking about what has happened since the Great War. Much like the Greek Council, there are a group of entities who work together to lead the humans down the right path. King Noliminan is Lord of all his sisters and brothers at this amazing forum, but is having a hard time with the anger that’s being batted about by his family. Everything from Free Will being a bad idea to the fact that some believe God loves his mortal children far more than His angel/demon children - almost every subject is a hot button topic for the Divine. In fact, they are getting madder by the minute and starting to choose sides once again against their brethren. There is only one - Ishitar - who was born of the Heavens AND the Hells. Only he can find a way to bridge the gap between the sisters and brothers and stop another war from taking place.

A potential Queen named Raziel is also there. Obsessed with power, this is the character who needs to play many sides and keep various entities angry as she writes her account of Lucius’s betrayal. Her game is the hardest, considering she wants the crown on her head and the power to rule over the Sixty Realms. Gabriel also plays a large part and familiar names such as Triton and his underwater battles between sea dragons and faeries join in the fight.

This book is filled with many figures and back stories from Christianity to Mount Olympus and Greek mythology, and the author has certainly made sure to give each and every character a true background as well as explaining in-depth to the reader the wants and needs of each one and how they’re going to achieve them. But the true ‘nuggets of gold’ in this particular title come from the explanations and understanding that’s discovered between souls who are complete opposites. In fact, when it comes to this tale it is hard to spot who is a friend and who is actually…the enemy. At times, this vast group of characters, and their myriad of stories, led to some confusion, so there are sections where you may need to slow down the pace of your reading to be sure you catch every little detail. Overall, however, this is a unique and enjoyable story of mortals, angels, demons and more.

Quill Says: Unlike so many books that have concentrated on this particular subject that all sound the same, Fall From Grace certainly delivers a new take on an epic tale of good versus evil.

Book Review - The White Forest

The White Forest

By: Adam McOmber
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6425-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 2012

Jane Silverlake has a gift…a gift that she wishes she didn’t have. She can ‘hear’ things you would not normally think would be able to make noise - inanimate objects such as furniture, a house, jewelry - any man-made object, in fact. Jane can actually hear their souls.

Her best friends, Nathan and Maddy, know about this gift and feel completely different about it. Whereas Maddy doesn’t want to speak of it because she feels as if it’s some type of evil, Nathan loves it. In fact, there are many times he wants to just sit with Jane, hold her hand, and learn exactly where this power comes from.

Living on The Heath, this trio used to play and have a great time when they were younger and that’s still what Jane wants to do. However, she lost her mother in a very ‘odd’ death, her father barely speaks to her anymore, she lives in a house that is crumbling around her, and she has a ‘nurse’ who believes she’s some kind of Satan’s spawn. Suffice to say, it’s not an easy life.

Over the years she’s fallen for Nathan, as has Maddy, but he has slowly been changing right before their eyes. Nathan is a free spirit. He was a soldier in Crimea and hates his father and his House of Lords mentality. A true Saxon beauty, Nathan has the soul of a poet, but recently he’s been spending time in the clutches of a cult run by a very strange madman named Ariston Day. Day runs the Temple of the Lambs and has been recruiting the sons of London’s wealthy men to join his following. This is a man who wants nothing more than to find that parallel universe and leave the horrific world far behind.
Soon Maddy and Jane discover that this cult leader has far more in mind than just opening an invisible door into another world. And when Nathan suddenly disappears, Jane must enter the Temple and face-off with the evil leader who may actually have sacrificed her love in order to find paradise.

Although this plot may sound confusing, it really isn’t. The author does a fabulous job of explaining the different levels of Heaven, what ‘paradise’ is all about, and how Jane’s gift can go from a talent to a curse depending on the moment.

Quill Says: This is a unique, thrilling and unforgettable story.

Book Review - Sins of a Virgin

Sins of a Virgin

By: Anna Randol
Publisher: AVON Romance
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-202579-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 28, 2012

As Avon romances usually go, this is yet another with a strong female lead, a male who can’t stand her (at first) and a romance that has been seen before. But what DOES allow this to stand apart from all the others is the very good plot involving some truly funny, fresh characters who will stick in the mind for a good, long time to come.

Madeline Valdan is basically a really ‘bad’ chick who has given her all to her country just for the government to turn around and leave her with practically no money to live on. You see, Madeline is part of a trio that was ready to hang from the gallows for their individual crimes when a man saved their lives and made them agents created to spy on the enemy. She, Ian Maddox (The Wraith) and Clayton Campbell (Cipher) have put themselves into some seriously dangerous places for the crown and now their services are no longer required. They are, in fact, being paid off but not handsomely. Although the men aren’t worried, Madeline wants more, so she decides to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder. What she mainly does is attend various parties to be seen by all the men who desperately want her so they will bid high and she can make a fortune. (Is she a virgin? You have to read to find out.)

What Madeline also needs is a bodyguard. Gabriel Huntford is a Bow Street Runner and spends his life capturing London’s worst criminals. But the one he really wants to find is the person who took his sister’s life. He believes that being around a courtesan like Madeline will help him get to her suitors, and an evil man he definitely needs to investigate.

Madeline walks into danger and Gabriel must save her from her own foolishness and overwhelming need to do anything within her power to land a massive bid. Of course, what Gabriel doesn’t know is her dangerous background and her ability to not only take care of herself but also anybody else who gets in her way.

Quill Says: The writer adheres to some of the ‘bodice ripper’ norms, but strays just enough with plot and character to make this romance stand out from the rest.

Book Review - When the Cookie Crumbles

When the Cookie Crumbles: A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery

By: Virginia Lowell
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251485
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 2012

Everyone in Chatterley Heights was gearing up for its 250th anniversary, including Olivia Grayson, owner of The Gingerbread House. ‘Livie’ and her best friend and partner in the store, Maddie Briggs, were planning to cookie it up big by creating a gingerbread replica of the Chatterley Mansion. The whole town was ready for the pomp and circumstance and no one was more prepared than Mayor Karen Evanson, who was more fluffed up than Puffed Wheat. Quill Latimer, the town historian, and Aloysius Willard Smythe, more commonly known as Mr. Willard, were making sure their somewhat overly opinionated voices were heard in committee meetings. Frederick P. Chatterly, the town’s founder, would have saluted the lot of them. Salud!

All was well until Paine and Hermione Chatterley unexpectedly showed up to lay claim to the town’s favorite mansion. Ms. Evanson wanted “proof of identity” and in return Paine retreated and put the kibosh to the upcoming festivities. “Chatterly Mansion will be closed to the public during your little celebration.” The Chatterley’s might have been a royal family in England, but they were nothing but a royal pain in the Heights. Even Hermione thought that Paine took some delight in being miserable but the man was going to be even more miserable than he could ever have imagined ... he was soon found floating face down in his tub.

Olivia’s “special friend,” Sheriff Del Jenkins, put the cuffs on Binnie Sloan, but something wasn’t adding up. There were way too many people who had a key to the Mansion and even more who had reason to bump off Paine. It was rumored that there was a fabulous collection of rare cookie cutters secreted away somewhere in the Mansion. Would someone kill for those? And then there were the unexpected descendents of Freddie, who were the result of his little dalliances. Secrets and lies started coming out of the woodwork, but Olivia and Maddie were determined to find out the truth. It even came to light that Paine had actually “signed his own death certificate.” What on earth was going on in Chatterly Heights?

This cozy mystery is more whimsical and delectable that a batch of snickerdoodles just out of the oven. The recipe for murder was intriguing as the plot thickened with all sorts of possibilities as to why someone would want to consider drowning poor Paine Chatterley. I loved traveling with Olivia and Maddie as they tried to figure out whodunit, something that wasn’t easy in light of the complexity and quirks of the Height’s residents. I was especially tickled to discover that Virginia Lowell does her research and knew about Linda Campbell Franklin’s book on kitchen collectibles, a well-worn book I adore. This cookie-cutter series is the crème de la crème in the cozy genre!

Quill says: When the Cookie Crumbles is a delightful cozy mystery that is as good as any cookie recipe you can whip up!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review - The Kill Order

The Kill Order: Maze Runner Prequel

By: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74288-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 27, 2012

Just when readers had dried their tears and dealt with the fact that the best YA series to come along in quite some time had come to an end, the incredible author was nice enough to offer just one more nugget of gold in the form of a Prequel. Now that ‘The Maze Runner’ series has come to an end readers are given this fantastic tale of how on earth this incredible world began.

Yes, we remember that WICKED was the organization that erased Thomas and his bff Teresa’s memories. They were two teens who helped build ‘The Maze’ and were headed up in the ‘box’ where they would be put into the Glade to start an epic adventure. But how did it come to that in the first place?

Well…thirteen years earlier we meet up with a group who are living in a village in the mountains. After surviving the horrific sun flares that cost many people their lives, this group is among the lucky ones who survived. Alec is the father figure - an old soldier who, with Lana - once an army nurse - work together to watch out for the kids. Mark is one kid who remembers every moment of the sun flares natural disaster; he still sees that horrible day and the run he and his friends took through the underground tunnels of the city, attempting to survive. Trina, a very pretty girl who loves to read, also remembers that day and has developed certain ‘sparks’ for Mark. Toad, Darnell, Misty and DeeDee are also part of the gang and they are all trying to do their very best to live a poverty-stricken life in a world that no longer seems to care.

One day over the village comes a huge airship (AKA Berg) - and when the doors open people in odd looking suits appear and spray the village with a toxin. Soon people begin to get ill while Mark and Alec find themselves on the Berg trying to defeat this new evil. When they return their friends are ill, some are already losing their minds, and they decide to follow a map to the Berg’s supposed landing site in order to find out what’s going on and if they can stop this virus from spreading even further. Add in a child who was sent away from her ‘family’ because they believed she was pure evil, and you have yourselves an amazing mystery.

From a village filled with oddly acting worshippers to a coalition that has turned against the government and wants nothing more than revenge - this group, led by Alec and Mark, have to save their friends and find a way to survive something far worse than the disaster that almost killed an entire world.
Readers, this final offering is just as phenomenal of a story as all the rest of ‘The Maze Runner’ series and truly gives just the right amount of background to understand fully how WICKED Dashner’s unforgettable world came to be. Now all he has to do is begin another series that’s just as spectacular. We will be waiting...

Quill Says: Note to Hollywood: Get these on the big screen soon!

Book Review - Thirteen: Women of the Otherworld

Thirteen: Women of the Otherworld

By: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95283-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 27, 2012

All good things must come to an end…and with Thirteen Armstrong brings her huge fan base who have followed the ‘Otherworld’ series with eager anticipation, a truly epic and entertaining ending.

Beginning the book by bringing readers back to where it all began, we once again walk hand-in-hand with Elena. Soon, however, we switch to Savannah (the witch who has truly grown up in these books) and became a warrior to all her readers.

A lot has happened for Savannah Levine; she has come through the first stage of all out war as a victor of sorts, having saved her half-brother from seriously creepy medical testing that the Supernatural Liberation Movement was doing on him. The Movement wants nothing more than to expose and unveil all the supernatural creatures to the rest of the world. They want all mortals to know that a vampire or witch may live right next door, yet Savannah and her friends are doing their very best to stop that from happening. After all, if this information comes to light the world will be changed for the worse.

But in this unforgettable finale the author has brought in everything. Not only are there necromancers, werewolves and everybody’s favorite demons, but the worlds of Heaven and Hell are now joining the pages and have changed the ‘Otherworld’ series from a fight to a true life and death battle for one and all.

It was amazing to watch Savannah, Adam, Clay, Hope and ALL the characters from other stories arrive for the fight, and readers will have an absolute ball with this…right before they burst into tears knowing that Thirteen will be the very last tale starring these characters who have become true friends.

Quill Says: Anyone who knows Armstrong knows there must be another series just waiting to be written, and we are ALL looking forward to it!

Book Review - A Witch Before Dying

A Witch Before Dying: A Wishcraft Mystery

By: Heather Blake
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0451237637
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 27, 2012

Darcy Merriweather was a Wishcrafter, but perhaps the last thing she may have put on her wish list was the necessity of having to move in with her aunt after her divorce. Aunt Ve owned "As You Wish," a concierge service that lived up to it's name, something that Darcy would soon discover. Aunt Ve was indisposed with the flu and when Elodie Keaton approached her with an unusual request, it truly was a your-wish-is-my-command situation. Elodie's mother, Patrice Keaton, vanished from the face of the earth more than a year ago and her house needed a bit of a makeover. Well, maybe a lot because Patrice was a hoarder, an extreme one.

Marcus Debrowski spooked Darcy when he claimed that the Anicula amulet was responsible for Patrice's death. Magic did live in the Enchanted Village, but such a potent amulet shouldn't have been in anyone's possession, let alone Patrice's. The Anicula was the only way a Wishcrafter could "grant their own wishes," but had she really abused its powers? It was a moot question because she was missing and Darcy had to clean out that mess. She'd rather be making eyes at hunky police officer, Nick Sawyer, but garbage would have to do. Darcy discovered that the Hoarders show and its disgusting bugs had nothing on the Keaton house when she found the mummified remains of none other than Patrice Keaton ... in a suitcase.

"Ghouls the lot of them," thought Darcy. Even her sister, Harper, was waiting for the details. She knew that Andreus `Mr. Macabre' Woodshall, Patrice's boyfriend, might kill for the Anicula, but he wasn't the only one. Not surprisingly Elodie asked Darcy to "snoop around" and ferret out her mother's killer. A seeker would definitely want the Anicula, but so would a Crafter. The whodunit list was going to be a long one. There were treasures and secrets to be found in the Enchanted Village, but there was also danger lurking. A Peeper Creeper suddenly began to stalk the streets. An unexpected evil tongue lashed out at her. "Stay out of my way, little girl ... you've been warned." Would Darcy be the next one in a suitcase?

This is a fabulous series that everyone from seekers to Wishcrafters will adore. If any cozy mystery could delight and fascinate from the first page to the last, this one certainly did. I loved how the cast of characters developed and intertwined, including the familiars, to create a tight-knit plot. Darcy Merriweather was an unwitting sleuth who more than proved her mettle when it came to nailing down the murderer. The plot was intricate, but smoothly unfolded, exploding with an unexpected twist at the end. This stand alone book is the sequel to It Takes A Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery.

Quill says: If you've been wishing on a star for a fabulously fun, bewitching series, Heather Blake won't disappoint!

Book Review - Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker

By: James Mahew
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0764165818
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 27, 2012

Madame Rosa's ballet class peered out a domed window and watched as snowflakes began to fall to the ground. It was almost time for class and the girls moved away from the window to cluster around the Christmas tree. Madame Rosa declared, "It's the perfect weather for today's lesson." It was indeed and when she opened her special music box they saw a dainty ballerina with a pink tutu. All the girls began to dance along with her when the music began. Ella Bella's eyes widened and she pursed her mouth when she heard the music from The Nutcracker.

Ella Bella wanted to know if the music was about snowflakes, but Madame Rosa explained that is was also about "toys and fairies and even sweets, too." All the little ballerinas wanted to hear more about the story, but it was time for their big surprise party. Ella Bella was sent to fetch the music box, but when she went back to the tree she couldn't resist listening and dancing to its enchanting music. All of a sudden she noticed a strange girl sleeping beneath the Christmas tree. The princess-like girl was holding a wooden nutcracker. When Clara opened her eyes a magical adventure began!

This marvelously adventurous tale of Ella Bella, Clara, and the wooden Nutcracker will enchant young readers. I loved the easy, beautiful flow of this magical tale and enjoyed the innocence of little Ella Bella as she travels with Clara. It does not replicate Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the King of Mice, but rather gives it a delightful modern twist. The inimitable Mayhew artwork sparkles, twinkles, and shines as it elicits the innocent charm of the young dancers as they dance through these pages. In the back of the book is an overview of the ballet, including vignettes about Hoffman, Tchaikovsky, and the performance.

Quill says: This is the perfect book for any little ballerina, especially if they just happened to be named Ella!

Grants to Schools


CHANDLER, AZ (August, 2012) – As Arizona's Centennial year comes to a close, schools have one last opportunity to win one of nine grants for a free author visit plus two Centennial Legacy Project books or one of five grants for four free Centennial Legacy Project books from Five Star Publications, Inc. The combined total value for all the Five Star Centennial Legacy Project grant packages is more than $4,000.

"So many schools want to have Five Star authors visit with their students, and they desperately want to purchase our Centennial Legacy Project books for their libraries, but they just don't have the budget for it," says Linda F. Radke, president of Five Star Publications, Inc. "Five Star and its authors have been so fortunate with the unprecedented number of books sold, that we decided to offer these grants as a way for all of us to give back to the community and get the books into the libraries of deserving schools."

Five Star's Centennial books and authors include Addie Slaughter: The Girl Who Met Geronimo by Susan L. Krueger, Ed.D. with Reba Wells Grandrud, Ph.D.; Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog by Elizabeth W. Davidson, Ph.D.; and two books by co-authors Conrad J. Storad and Lynda Exley: Arizona Way Out West & Wacky andArizona Way Out West & Witty, winner of 2012 ONEBOOKAZ for Kids. Only one grant will be awarded per winning school, and applicants must represent Arizona elementary or K-8 schools. While teachers can voice their author preferences on the application, there is no guarantee as to which author will visit, which books they will receive or which grant package will be awarded should they win. The author visit grants are good for one appearance only. However, grant winners may choose to add additional performances and/or books for a fee.

To download the Five Star Centennial Legacy Project grant application or learn more about the centennial books and authors, visit and click on the AHAC Centennial Legacy Project icon. The deadline to apply is November 1. To learn more about Five Star Publications, Inc., which celebrates 27 years in business in Chandler, and its other award-winning books, visit the website, email or call 480-940-8182.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Review - The Sauvignon Secret

The Sauvignon Secret: A Wine Country Mystery

By: Ellen Crosby
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1451669404
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 25, 2012

The wine business is tough, in fact, it can be a real killer. Paul Noble, a well-known wine merchant found out just how deadly the business can be when his life came to an abrupt end. By the time Lucie Montgomery found him hanging in his art studio, Paul was deader than a shriveled-up grape. With a bottle of Lucie's fine Sauvignon on the floor near Paul, Lucie took it upon herself to solve the murder before the police got around to deciding whether Paul's death was suicide or murder.

This is the sixth book in the "Wine Country Mystery series," and as this one opens, Lucie is on the phone with Paul, a wine merchant who is about as well liked as a pimple on prom night. He has a monopoly on buying, and selling, wine and if you don't deal with Paul, you don't sell your wine. Lucie knows this and thus is understandably upset when Paul calls to tell her he can no longer pay the agreed upon price for her Cabernet Sauvignon. Paul says it's the economy, sorry, it's not open to negotiation. Lucie is devastated as this price cut will seriously impact her business, a wine business that was already teetering. Paul gives Lucie two days to "think it over" and she decides to pay him a personal call to try and talk him out of his price cut. But when she arrives at his place, she finds him hanging inside his studio, quite dead, with a bottle of her Sauvignon Blanc on the floor beneath him, along with a glass with an unusual figure drawn on it. Lucie does the right thing and calls the police. They arrive shortly thereafter and take over.

Lucie, of course, can't stop thinking about Paul's death and so when she and her grandfather, who has come for a brief visit all the way from Paris, are invited to a party, the talk is naturally about recent events. The party's host, Charles Thiessman, seems to know more about Paul and his past then he is letting on while his wife Juliette, who once had a thing for Lucie's grandfather, appears to still be taken by the elderly man. When Charles invites Lucie and her grandfather to his private lodge to discuss "things," a tale of mystery, brilliant scientists, a secret society, and two untimely deaths emerges. Could Paul's death be related to that secret society? At Charles' urging, Lucie heads out to California to investigate.

Soon Lucie is entangled in an odd web of mystery about long forgotten events surrounding a group of once close friends. As she digs further, the story takes several unexpected turns, keeping the reader guessing as to the motives and guilty party. In California, Lucie is reunited with old beau Quinn Santori that adds a nice blend of romance (can Quinn be faithful to one woman?) to the story. This series has developed nicely with a great cast of central characters and some pretty interesting new people who grace the pages. While some cozy mysteries get a bit too goofy and unbelievable for many readers, this one stays true to form and casts a story that is fun and realistic. Can you solve the mystery before Lucie does? It's doubtful, but give it a try!

Quill says: Grab your best bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, sit by the pool, and enjoy this latest story in Ellen Crosby's wine mystery series. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review - The Harbormaster's Daughter

The Harbormaster's Daughter

By: Heidi Jon Schmidt
Publisher: New American Library/Penguin
Publishing Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-451-23787-3
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 20, 2012

This new book by Heidi Jon Schmidt is a pleasing page-turner that takes place in Oyster Creek, a small town in Massachusetts. This village on Cape Cod is the same spot her first book, The House on Oyster Creek, was set which served as a reminder of the people and their problems in this part of New England.

In the beginning of The Harbormaster's Daughter, Franco Neves, the assistant harbormaster is just a little bitter because the previous harbormaster has retired and Franco thought he was next in line for the job. Franco is of Portuguese descent and has lived on the harbor for many years and he was sure that when the harbormaster retired he would automatically get the job. Well, it didn’t work out that way as the powers that be felt that the wealthy summer tourist trade needed a harbormaster who fit the magazine rendition of the job (i.e. handsome, rugged, inclined to pat men on the back and flirt with the women).

Franco went on to have a brief affair with Sabine, a tourist, that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and a lot of trouble for Franco. A few years later Sabine was killed and Franco became suspect number one. Their daughter, Vita, who doesn’t know who her father is, is sent to live with LaRee, a friend of Sabine’s where she grows up without knowing about her past. Then, of course, the past starts to surface when Vita is a teenager and she feels betrayed by her adopted mother and all the friends who knew the secret of her past and never said anything to her. Vita is determined to come into her own and become more independent as the two cultures (Portuguese and the summer tourists) come to a head.

The author tries to tell a tale of tragic vs. hopeful, a young girl trying to find her way in the world that was taken from her, and a father and mother who she didn't really know. Then add in a mystery of the child, Vita, trying to find out who killed her mother and why. At times, the plot was so complicated that it was difficult to pin any one thing or person down. Overall, however, it was an enjoyable story and I’m sure there are many people who will like this book, especially the passages about life on Cape Cod.

Quill Says: A very considerate and thoughtful story of life on the small Massachusetts Cape and the two cultures that make up the area (the haves and the have-nots).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review - Healthy Foods from A to Z

Healthy Foods from A to Z/Comida sana del la A a la Z

By: Stephanie Maze
Publisher: Moonstone Press
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9834983-1-5
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 20, 2012

Yum! Just a quick look through Healthy Foods from A to Z will make your mouth water. And a closer look will inspire both children and adults to get creative with nutritional foods and eat healthier!

In the ongoing battle to get kids to eat healthy, this new book hopes to encourage youngsters’ interest in healthy food by, in essence, playing with that food. And what child doesn’t like to play with their food? By arranging the food into faces, young readers will laugh, giggle, and wonder at all the interesting combinations of food that make up each entertaining face. From a hat made of collard greens to a nose made out of asparagus, it’s all here. Did you ever see a beard made out of mustard greens or bright yellow hair composed entirely of corn kernels? You will in this book as well as seeing many other funny, odd, yet intriguing uses for so many healthy foods.

As an added bonus, the pages are arranged in alphabetical order, with the foods for each page beginning with that letter (or in some cases letters). Each food is also listed in both English and Spanish to add a nice bilingual flavor to the book. At the back of the book are instructions on making your own healthy food face, additional healthy food projects as well as several pages for parents listing the foods outlined in the book and the benefits of each one.

Quill says: Tasty, delectable foods arranged in entertaining, funny, and creative faces will engage youngsters and get them interested in eating healthy foods.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interview with Author John Paul Padilla

Today we're talking with John Paul Padilla, author of Johnny Big-Ears Meets His New Neighbor Suzy

FQ: Like so many people, you were teased as a child. For you, it was your big ears (me too – I was called ‘Watermelon ears’). Is that what inspired you to write the Johnny Big-Ears series?

Yes, most definitely what inspired me to write the Johnny Big-Ears series was the fact that I was teased because of my ears from elementary all the way through my high school years. Another inspiration is my love for writing. I wanted to write something inspiring to help others. This is for those who have been through similar experiences as I have and yet make it through to learn how to feel better about themselves. I have worked with children as a paraprofessional and have seen such cruelty on the school grounds and off. Once a shy, insecure, loner growing up in school, I decided to combine my love for writing and love of children. I came up with the Johnny Big-Ear's character based on my life. The special names of the rest of the characters are simply nicknames. These names are based on kids' unique attributes that make them all stand out and quite special.

FQ: I understand that you have worked with kids through various school programs. Did you see a lot of teasing going on while there? Do you feel bullying was gotten worse in recent years or is it that we are more aware of the problem?

Yes, I have been an advocate against teasing and bullying for over three years. Currently, I have been volunteering my time, along with my Johnny Big-Ears mascot at schools, church events, charity events, farmer's markets, Relay for Life, Cerebral Palsy, daycare centers, and mom's home-schooling groups to get my message across as much as possible. I have spoken to many kids, parents, and teachers. Bullying seems to be getting worse more than ever before. Children are being raised in difficult conditions and there are more peer pressures. I believe that helps make kids become bigger bullies. They do tend to target those other kids who may look different, who seem weak or more sensitive. Not only are kids being teased and bullied at schools… but now there are kids being cyber bullied on Facebook and Twitter. Technology is a new way of Bullying at a higher volume. More kids are doing that because they are not being monitored by parents or called out for what they say or do. So with time, it has become worse. Through the Media, we see it mentioned more often as well.

FQ: You make a lot of school appearances with Johnny Big- Ears. How do the kids react to the character?

The kids have reacted very positive from the beginning when the original Johnny Big-Ears mascot first came out for assemblies and school presentations. I think kids could identify better with the story. Once they had seen the Johnny Big-Ears mascot the story was brought to life. Thanks to the mascot (and the helpers that wear the Mascot) Johnny Big-Ears, has become more popular. Johnny Big-Ears has become so popular that people recognize me on the streets but yet call me Johnny, instead of John Paul!
When the book first came out, it was my idea to design something to get the kid's attention. I now have two books on the market and the Johnny Big-Ears Plush Doll. The children love the Johnny Big-Ears Plush doll because they can hold the character of the book in their own arms.

FQ: Do the kids at your talks ever open up about bullying? Would you share with us a few of your experiences?

Yes, a lot of kids have definitely opened up to me about bullying and not just during a presentation but while I was sharing my own personal experiences as well. My books were written to bring out the topic about teasing and bullying into the open much easier for discussion. A few parents have even shared with me their own experiences of being teased with tears in their eyes. I have noticed a lot of the kids who do open up are in aggressive and/or violent situations at home. These kids see it as something normal and are the ones, who in turn come to school and bully others. They use that anger from home to hurt others, who are weaker than themselves. Bullies are not born; they are made from what they see happening in their environment. If parents teach their kids tolerance and love for themselves no matter who they are or how they look, they will be more secure and happier kids who won't want to tease others. You put out to others what you feel inside and if kids are brought up in a hostile environment, you can't expect them to be perfect angels.

FQ: In your book, you clearly show how much bullying hurts Suzy. In your experience, do you think bullies are aware how much their words/teasing hurts?

Unfortunately, most bullies do not know how their words can hurt others. They have become victims themselves. It may be such as an older relative, brother, sister or parent, and they may feel trapped and frustrated. So they bring that anger to school, where they pick on other kids. Some kids like to intimidate and tease others to look tough due to peer-pressure and also to gain status or respect from others in a group. Kids mimic what they see and hear. It’s up to all of us to teach children when they are at a young age to have respect for others and the consequences of teasing or bullying others.

FQ: So much focus is placed on the child being bullied. What about the bullies? You cover that in your book – how to talk to bullies. Any advice for parents who may suspect that their child is a bully?

My advice is that parents need to be more loving and understanding with their kids from the beginning. Parents are the kids’ first role model and anything they do positive or negative will have an impact on their children’s lives in school and in the real world. Parents can teach their kids tolerance, love and respect for themselves and others no matter who they are or what they look like. Parents need to pay more attention to those small details, like what their kids are doing at school, who they hang out with, do they like their classmates, and even who they talk to online. Parents can learn to read their body language and see if they act strange and ask if they are happy in school. A lot of kids don’t want to come across as being weak, a failure. Communication with your child is the key. Even if they do not tell you everything it can become apparent that something is wrong. Some signs they are being bullied at school are as follows:

Your child comes home with torn or damaged items
Have very few friends they spend time with
Unexplained cuts, bruises, scratches
Seems afraid of going to school or riding the bus
Lost interest in schoolwork
Appears sad, moody or depressed when they come home
Complains of headaches or stomach aches frequently
Having trouble sleeping and frequent bad dreams
Loss of appetite
Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem

FQ: Would you tell us a little about your poetry? How you got started, what you’ve published, what you’re working on?

I have always loved creative expression and writing poetry was actually my first form of writing, followed by lyrical verses for songs. Poetry has been the best form of personal expression for me because I have used it as a form of therapy during my difficult times in life. From when I was growing up being teased, to the times when I was feeling lonely, mad, scared, or even sad. I started writing poetry while I was in high school. I originally wanted to be a Pop singer and would write my own lyrical verses, thinking they would someday be potential songs recorded. In fact, some of my lyrical works were recorded in Nashville by Keith Bradford, who recorded my song on his album I Wasn’t Born To Love. Then Lulu Roman of the television show Hee-Haw also recorded my song, God is Here. I have always sought ways to experiment with my writing and to be more creative. One day, while I was doing freelance modeling, I decided to enter several poetry contests in order to get my name out. I submitted my first poetry to “The National Library of Poetry” and "The International Library of Poetry” I received three Editor’s Choice Awards through the course of time and was included in "The International Who's Who in Poetry." Poetry has led me to other forms of expression, opened doors for me to build a name for myself, and to grow as a writer. Currently, the only poetry I am writing are the inspirational words I post on Facebook and Twitter!

FQ: Would you tell our readers about the other books you’ve planned in the Johnny Big-Ears series?

So far, I have written about special characteristics such as big ears, freckles, and having a different body weight than others. I plan on continuing to write about qualities that kids get teased or targeted for. I already have the characters in mind, and now it’s just a matter of time before they come alive and introduced in my books. Kids need role models to look up to and what better role models then the Feel Good Friends, a group of kids who may seem different at first glance but in reality, are simply just gifted kids with exceptional qualities, who are ready to help other kids deal with teasing and bullying. My goal is to have a series of books that can teach all kids and adults all over the world to feel good about themselves and to respect everyone for who they are, just as they are. Today, through books, I hope my characters will motivate adults and children alike. Tomorrow perhaps through a cartoon series or animated movie!

To learn more about Johnny Big-Ears Meets His New Neighbor Suzy please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Books in For Review

Check out this list of books that have come in for review recently.  And yes, those first two books are Christmas books!

A Woodland Christmas Tale - Hannah Whitty (illustrator) This beautifully illustrated Advent calendar and storybook includes a charming Christmas tale featuring woodland animals plus a detail-packed two-page Christmas illustration that includes 24 flaps for children to lift and discover Christmas surprises. The woodland animals are planning a Christmas party, and Owl has invited a mystery guest. As young readers follow the excited woodland animals, they must try to guess the identity of Owl's mysterious guest. Color illustrations throughout.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert May In 1939 Robert L. May, a copywriter working at Chicago's Montgomery Ward & Co., wrote a holiday story at the request of his employer. Almost two and a half million copies of the little tale about a reindeer with a shiny red nose were given away to all the children who visited Montgomery Ward stores that year. The rest is history. Over seventy years later, the beloved classic is once again available in a hardcover faithful facsimile of the 1939 Rudolph, with original text and original Denver Gillen illustrations.

The Sauvignon Secret: A Wine Country Mystery Among the world-class vineyards of the Napa Valley, “Virginia’s favorite vintner-detective” (Library Journal) and her winemaker ex-beau investigate the role of a secret society in two mysterious deaths— and whether there is hope for their rocky romance. When Lucie Montgomery finds the dead body of a prominent wine merchant hanging from a beam in his art studio, she is unwittingly dragged into his murky past and its dangerous implications for a family friend. The puzzle sends Lucie to California wine country where she teams up with former lover Quinn Santori. Soon they are embroiled in a deadly cat-and-mouse game to discover whether a killer is seeking vengeance for a longago cover-up. As Lucie and Quinn examine clues from the past, they must also decide whether they have a future together. Ellen Crosby blends an intriguing mystery with an absorbing plot, vivid characters, and a richly evoked setting in a charming tale that should be savored like a glass of fine wine.

Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance edited by Ekaterina Sedia The Season has finally arrived, filled with the magnificent balls, scandalous gossip, and clandestine romances that every lord and lady in good society has come to expect. But far within the walls of lavish estates and in the dark corners of the city lies a world that the aristocracy dares not touch, with rules and risks that glamour cannot overpower. Yet true love has no boundaries, and heiresses and street thieves alike must use their savvy and strength to create new beginnings and happily-ever-afters. Sometimes luck is enough, but every once in a while, a touch of magic may be needed.

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer Holland Written by National Geographic magazine writer Jennifer Holland, Unlikely Friendships documents one heartwarming tale after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways. A cat and a bird. A mare and a fawn. An elephant and a sheep. A snake and a hamster. The well-documented stories of Koko the gorilla and All Ball the kitten; and the hippo Owen and the tortoise Mzee. And almost inexplicable stories of predators befriending prey—an Indian leopard slips into a village every night to sleep with a calf. A lionness mothers a baby oryx.

Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin Minnesota librarian Karen Nash decides to go on her London vacation anyway even though her boyfriend has jilted her the day they are about to leave. Then she sees him at the airport boarding the same plane as she, only with another woman. Karen’s thoughts turn murderous and later spill over in what she assumes is an idle pub conversation with a sympathetic stranger. Only later does she realize this man might have taken her at her word when she angrily said wanted her ex dead. Meanwhile as Karen gets better acquainted with Caldwell Perkins, the owner of the charming B&B where she is staying, she discovers they have a lot in common—he might well love books as much as she does. Things are starting to look up when all of a sudden a dead body turns up in Caldwell’s B&B sitting room—and several of the guests have reason seem suspicious. Karen can’t help but play detective, and clues begin to fall into place as she visits museums, used bookstores and the Chelsea garden show. With that mystery solved, Karen realizes it’s time to put her hurt and anger behind her. But is it too late?

Blood Crave by Jennifer Knight Headstrong heroine Faith Reynolds returns in this thrilling sequel to the paranormal romance Blood on the Moon! After surviving being kidnapped by a vampire, Faith would just love to focus on some alone time with her hot (though occasionally furry) boyfriend, Lucas. Unfortunately, with a vampire uprising on the horizon and her best friend, Derek, about to wake up and find himself transformed into a half-werewolf, half-vampire being without a beating heart, Faith has a few other things to take care of first. Faith is not without help, in the form of her newfound powers of sensing people’s emotions and being able to influence werewolves’ actions, not to mention her begrudging but rather helpful boyfriend. Even so, convincing a werewolf packmaster to prepare for an epic battle may be difficult to do without solid evidence. Lose yourself once more in the deliciously suspenseful world of werewolves versus vampires, otherworldly boys with deadly charm, and addictive, spine-tingling action and romance!

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Download the Weird by Geoff Tibballs For the legions of dedicated Ripley's fans, and anyone else on the planet who loves the unbelievable, the latest annual in our bestselling series is a feast of delights. As well as the jaw-dropping images and strange facts, we present intriguing interviews with some of the astounding individuals who feature in the book, and informative "Ripley's Research" boxes that give the scientific explanation behind some of the most incredible tales. In addition, there are fascinating black and white photos from the Ripley archive, numerous lists, and a brand new Ripley's Weird Records feature.

Book Review - French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs: Breed Profiles Series

By: Susanne Saller-Schneider
Photographer: Debra Bardowicks
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0764165450
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 15, 2012

Small, opinionated, and with a face to die for, these are traits of the French Bulldog. But this distinctive breed is so much more than a pretty face and in this new book, part of the Barron's Breed Profiles series, you'll learn enough about the French Bulldog to make an educated decision on whether this is the right breed for you.
Written by long time French Bulldog breeder and second president of the International French Bulldog Club, Susanne Saller-Schneider, the author's love of the breed comes through on each and every page. Clear and concise, there is a plethora of information within the pages of this book. After learning the history of this noble breed, how they are descended from enormous Molossers (solid, very large dogs), the author follows the breed's development through the years and the various countries where the French Bulldog can trace its roots.

Next up in this breed profile is a look at the French Bulldog as it is today, and then the reader gets to follow a puppy through its early development. Other chapters include: Free Time With A Frenchy, The Healthy Frenchy and Health Care and Illnesses. Within these chapters the author covers such topics as showing your dog, early training, and how to choose the right veterinarian. The author is to be commended for making it clear that while the French Bulldog is a wonderful breed, certain characteristics may keep it from being a perfect fit with some people and/or households. A lover of children, the Frenchy will likely bond quickly with yougsters in your home. However, if you are looking for a hiking companion, this dog may not be right for you. Other interesting facts include how French Bulldogs interact with other dogs and the unique problems the breed's appearance may pose (extremely short tail renders it almost "wagless," thus making it difficult for other dogs to read their emotions, while their heavy breathing might be interpreted as aggressiveness).

No review of this book would be complete without mentioning the fabulous photographs found on each and every page. From the adorable puppies just begging to be picked up to the Frenchy playing on the beach with his owner, the photography is a visual treat and adds much to the reader's understanding of this unique breed.

Quill says: An excellent book to help the prospective French Bulldog owner decide if one of these irresistible dogs will truly be the perfect fit for their home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review - Sour Apples

Sour Apples: An Orchard Mystery

By: Sheila Connolly
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251508
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 2012

The Warren family estate was really nothing but a “drafty old house” that even Bob Vila would probably stay clear of, but Med Corey loved it. The farmhouse was home to Meg and Briona ‘Bree’ Stewart, her housemate and orchard manager. Bree’s excitement about expanding the apple orchard onto three acres of Seth Chapin’s land was infectious. Meg finally had to admit that she loved the idea, but any kind of long-term commitment with Seth was a bit unsettling. She wasn’t the only one having land problems. Joyce Truesdell, a nearby dairy farmer, had cow problems. In fact, one of them died and several others suddenly became sick.

Joyce’s land was obviously tainted, but how and why? Like Meg, she wanted to expand her operation and leased land from the town. Not many people wanted to step into small farm operations during tough economic times, but Joyce and her husband thought they’d give it a go only to experience disastrous results. Meg and Seth were headed to Granford’s annual Spring Fling and were hoping to have a good time. The Fling wasn’t disastrous, but Seth’s mood took a serious turn for the worse when Rick Sainsbury and his political entourage crashed the scene. The pretty little wife, the campaign manager, and the I’m-gonna-hit-every-chicken-pot-pie event in the county was written all over the guy’s face.

Another odd thing about the Fling was that Lauren Converse, Meg’s former co-worker, was that campaign manager. Huh? The weirdness of the Spring Fling events were quickly put on the back burner when Art Preston showed up at the farmhouse and announced that Joyce Truesdell had died when her Guernsey, Cyndi, purportedly kicked her in the head. Purportedly was the word for it because when the autopsy results came back things looked more like murder. Meg and Seth started to take a closer look and it wouldn’t take long for them to figure out that murder and mayhem were alive and well when someone was strung up in the rafters of a barn. What was going on in Granford and why did so many things appear to be connected?

Seemingly bucolic Granford is anything but bucolic when murder visits the countryside. This quiet whodunit is the type of mystery that invites readers who enjoy making sense out of puzzling riddles to join in. Meg and Seth, who appear to be somewhat hesitant partners, also reluctantly join forces to sort out and connect the threads between corporate corruption, murder, burglaries, and an errant political campaign. There were no spiking moments of high tension, but rather a steady stream of clues that invited me to think about connections. As I read I wanted to point things out the duo just might want to look into. If you like your cozy mysteries with a tight plot and a hint of romance, you’ll enjoy following Meg and Seth as they ferret out a murderer!

Quill says: An intriguing mix of murder, corruption, with a romantic teaser will keep readers asking for more!

Book Review - Fear Itself

Fear Itself

By: Andrew Rosenheim
Publisher: Overlook Press
Publishing Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4683-0072-7
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 14, 2012

This first novel of a new series concerns the beginnings of the war in Europe.

A young American Special Agent with the FBI, Jimmy Nessheim is trying to come to the attention of the head of the FBI and make a name for himself. Jimmy is from the Midwest and was a football star until he was hurt and could no longer play the game. Without telling his prospective employers about his handicapped knees, Jimmy got a job in the FBI, an agency that did not yet have the name recognition that it would eventually. The Bureau didn’t become really famous until they went after the home-grown mobsters that were robbing banks across the country. Their entry into the trials and tribulations of the Great Depression was the thing to think about at this time. Europe was on it’s way to war when Jimmy was given the assignment to get himself into an American run organization called the “Bund,” a pro-Nazi organization in the USA. The Bund’s chief to-do list was to stop President Roosevelt’s efforts to help the allies in Europe to deliberately damage the work that Hitler was doing to become King of the World.

Jimmy finally realizes that the Bund will take no prisoners and finds people plotting at the highest level of Washington’s society to ruin Roosevelt’s chances of a third term in office even to the point of planning his assassination.

Reading about the planning of an assassination of a prominent figure that you know was not assassinated is quite interesting. While it has been done many times before, this time the reader finds it hard to believe that it did not happen. This is a fascinating read as it is about an America that is struggling to keep out of the war and the suspense that surrounds the planning to kill a world leader will keep readers up nights trying to figure it all out.

Quill Says: Since this is a planned trilogy and this book only takes us to the summer of 1940, when America has not yet entered the hostilities, it keeps the reader interested. The book is very well researched and well written and I’m looking forward to Book 2.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview with Author Giacoma Giammatteo

Today we're talking with Giacomo Giammatteo, author of Murder Takes Time: Friendship and Honor Series, Book 1

FQ: First of all, I love the title of this book. How did you happen to settle on this particular title?

The series name (Friendship & Honor) came from the theme of the books, but the title of this book, Murder Takes Time, I came up with after considering the plot and how things developed. As soon as I thought of it, I knew it was right.

FQ: It must have been quite a culture shock to move from a busy neighborhood in Delaware to the great state of Texas. Part of my family moved from a tiny town in Connecticut to a Dallas, TX suburb and loved it from the start. I assume with all the animals that you are in the country. How does your present life differ from the past?

Differs completely. Even though Wilmington, DE has a small population, it always seemed more like a big city. A "little big city" I like to call it. When I was growing up, it had the feel of a big city, complete with the ethnic neighborhoods and all that went along with that—good and bad.

By contrast, where we live now is secluded. We're close to malls and everything else but we're surrounded by woods.

On one hand, I love the seclusion, especially for the sake of the animals, but I miss the city, too. I loved the city.

FQ: I’m anxious to read the next installment in the Friendship and Honor Series. When do they come out?

The second book in Friendship & Honor will be out at the end of the year, but the first book in another series, Blood Flows South, will be out in September. The third book in Friendship & Honor will be released late spring of next year, with others following every six-eight months.

FQ: I live with a writer, my daughter, and know that sometimes she does her best writing at night. But, I see that you have a busy day job also. When do you sleep?

It's been getting more and more difficult. Between the day job, and helping my wife take care of the animals, I'm forced to do my writing late. I guess I'm lucky that I don't need much sleep.

FQ: Did you have a lot of problems trying to get your first book published? Being a former librarian, I have heard many stories of the publishing world and I admire anyone who can stay with it long enough to actually get some recognition.

I had more than trouble. I tried the traditional route for almost two years. Murder Takes Time was rejected more than 100 times. I think 103 was the actual count. Finally, I said, enough of this, and did it myself.

FQ: I really enjoyed your book as you didn’t use any of the usual Godfather quotes such as: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse and Everytime I try to get out they pull me back in. Your story seems so true to life and tells the family stories behind these characters. How did you manage to tell a mob-related story and not get into all the expressions that are always used in mob books and movies?

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I never viewed this as a mob book. This is a book about three kids and how their lives changed. It just happens to have mob elements. As far as the dialogue, I tried to stay as true to life as I could. The stuff you see in movies is great, but it's for movies.

FQ: I always, in author interviews, ask if the author has any animals. Well, I can see that you do and admire you and your wife very much for taking these animals in. Even the Wild Boar. Is he really your buddy? He looks very formidable in his photograph. We have a very large, black Belgian Shepherd that looks very scary but, is really a big baby.

Ah, the animals! Besides my family, the animals are my real passion. And yes, that crazy wild boar is my best buddy. It's a long story about him, but I rescued him from dogs when he was about a week old. The vet suggested we put him to sleep as he wouldn't make it. He's now a little over two years old and about 350 lbs. I go for walks with him every day and he's very playful. The trouble now is he's getting too big to be playful. When he runs and hits against me, he knocks me on my butt.

FQ: Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions and I’m looking forward eagerly to the next installment.

To learn more about Murder Takes Time: Friendship and Honor Series, Book 1 please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.