Monday, December 31, 2012

Interview with Author Michael Kasenow

Today we're talking with Michael Kasenow, author of View From the Edge

FQ: The delightfully sarcastic wit of Joshua Feenics’ character had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. He seems so ‘normal’; yet you begin the story with him coming out of a psychotic break. Why?

The story had to begin in the darkest hour, because it ends filled with light. Like Lazarus, he is rising from the dead (but very slowly). Joshua seems so normal, because all of us seem normal with a mask that we wear to hide our fears, failures and depressions. We play different roles for different people as Mariam tried to explain in regard to her meditation. Often, when we go to work, we just turn the mask on and complete our tasks so that our world functions with limited chaos. How many of us have bad relationships or trouble with our children, too many bills to pay, childhood anxieties that we keep hidden—or just plain old self-esteem issues? Joshua is as normal as anyone, but in the story he has gained a secret, through his psychotic problems; he now understands the absurdity of routine and he is probing the future to find a purpose that has meaning. His son keeps him grounded and going into the right direction, even if he feels lost in the present. His wit, sarcasm, and sense of humor, are defenses that he uses against the absurd. One of my favorite lines, "When you wake up in the morning—duck." Pretty much explains how his history has shaped his vision.
Author Michael Kasenow
FQ: Throughout your book there are scenes devoted to (useless) faculty meetings; typically with the nuance that non-attendance is not an option. One meeting, in particular, has to do with the complex decision of whether to use natural or artificial chalk in the classrooms. As a writer, how liberating is it to be able to write about the banal inconsequentialities and colossal waste of time devoted to useless meetings and what would be one of your most memorable (and useless) meetings you had to attend?

Oh very liberating. Some readers have seen the waste in those meetings as being 'spot-on'. Something that many professionals have to go through to keep their score card up to par. Most of us, who have limited time on our hands, would like to use that time to develop something that works. The "Team Work" meeting that Joshua had to attend, was one that I had to live through—for about 8 hours! I don't believe it was called "Team Work", but it certainly replayed the same message, or tried to. Redundancy after redundancy led by somebody I wouldn't have a cup of coffee with. Unfortunately, when I was a young professor, I had to attend 3 or 4 of those meetings (I too had a score card). I, like many in the corporate world, had/have to live through the "colossal waste of time" as justly call it. What is really neat, as a writer, is when someone reads the book and then talks about the absurdity of those meetings as something they too have had to suffer through. They just smile and shake their heads as if to say, 'been there, done that.'

FQ: What is your litmus test in giving just enough for the sake of humor; versus too much and the humor is lost?

I don't know what the litmus test is. I do feel that the understatement is a much better way of getting a point across when using prose. Somerset Maugham once said that there 'are 3 secrets to writing a good novel, unfortunately, no one knows what they are.' I suppose it depends on the issue. Sexism in this novel is obvious, but that needs to be treated with more respect because it's a serious issue. Sarcasm works, but the scenes must be handled by the writer with care. Too much, and the writer might come across as a bigot of sorts. This happened with the poet Vachel Lindsay, who over-stated the plight of the African-American in some of his poems, and he came across as a racist. If the issue is sensitive, then it must be handled with sensitivity. If the issue is absurd, then the writer can plow through it. I have a friend who reads most of my work, and she tells me when too much is too much—and I am a good listener. I am also one of my best-worst critics. I am constantly examining my work so that it's not misunderstood to the point where the humor is lost. I want the reader to laugh when they should and cry when they should—just like I do when reading a good book.

View From the Edge is an Indie Reader Discovery Award Winner!
FQ: I picked up quite a few subtleties of an affinity for philosophy in this story (i.e., ‘…How little time we have and how much we waste. Mortality is never recognized in the healthy mirror. Every breath is a miracle and the last one is priceless…’). Do you have a favorite (or favorites) in the philosophical realm that has inspired you to write with such strength and conviction?

Albert Camus and the existentialists have influenced my thinking. Although Camus didn't think of himself as an existentialist. He was more than that, as great writers and thinkers are. However, there are some great books out there written by authors who are considered to be writers, not philosophers, but their great stories do make one think. The poet Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is a great novel, as well as many stories written by Joyce Carol Oats. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby also give us philosophical insights about materialism, and the price to achieve dreams. The story should always come first in any novel. Few like to be preached to. So I write in regard to the story. I don't want to be cast into any genre. If the story is good and can keep someone's attention, then it's worth a try. But there's no harm in providing a philosophical framework, so long as it doesn't garble up the story. In this novel, some agree with Joshua, some do not, but they do think about what he does, and that's part of the entertaining—the thinking part. The right and wrong moral choices, well, that's for the reader to decide. I was recently asked if I plan the thinking part in any of my writing, and I do not. The characters develop and as they develop, their philosophies come forward, grow as they grow. That's the fun part of writing, learning about the characters that you create, and of course, learning about oneself. Socrates is another philosopher that has helped to shape my life. Henry David Thoreau is another...he was well ahead of his time...still is in many corners of the world. Dorothy Parker, the critic and poet makes me smile as much as think when I read her comments. Mae West, the actress, she was another thinker decades beyond her time. She drove the censors nuts and certainly made them, and her audience, think.

FQ: Hadrian University’s staff is a Heinz 57 Pound Puppy mixture of personalities. Aside from Joshua Feenics, who would be your 'runner up' for Best Supporting Character in View from the Edge and why?

Holly Hayes. I could easily write a novel about her and her exploits. And may very well do so. She too is lost and looking for purpose. But she is extremely independent and doesn't want to follow the easy path that so many are influenced to follow. Yes, she thinks about marriage and having children, but she also enjoys her travels and her little adventures. Like Joshua, she gets sucked into conformity, but she is smart enough to break free and follow her own vision...whatever that may be. She understands when she's being used and doesn't want to be any man's trophy. That's easy to admire, as well as her free thinking, and traveling to dangerous places. It is easy to understand why her and Joshua are attracted to each other. They have many of the same doubts and convictions. They know what is absurd, and are learning what is important, and they are trying to figure out their places in a world in which they feel they do not belong—and don't want to belong to. I suppose that's what attracts us to the Cool Hand Lukes, and Randal Murphys (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), and Jack Burdens (All The King's Men). These are unpredictable characters doing what many of us would never do. They live in lives outside of our comfort zones. Holly Hayes is such a woman.

FQ: You have a great resume in terms of ‘keeping it real.’ You’ve been a waiter, cab driver, bartender, janitor and the list goes on. If you had to name one, which profession do you draw your fondest memories from and why?

Probably working as a bartender, because you really get to see all sides of the world. The seamy and the good; the hard worker; the drunk, and many, many more. It's not a very healthy profession, but smoke and booze do go together. Bars are places where people go to belong, to feel part of something. Before prohibition occurred in the 1920s, bars were more or less every working man's living room—or extension of a home. It's easy to understand the great loneliness that afflicts the modern human when working behind the bar. You're a pseudo-friend to many, and sometimes the only friend they have. Certainly bartenders are therapists to many. You hear a lot and see a lot in regard to how people react to each other, their lives, their families, their problems. Being that I'm a good listener, it's easy to file away the many personalities that I have come across in the bar. It was a growing experience, and a learning experience. I grew up behind the bar.

FQ: Hadrian University sounds fairly modern-day with references to student texting, cell phones, the internet and the like. Do you think there will be a time in generations to come where the phrase: “…that book was such a page turner…” will be replaced with:”...Dude! That story blew up my Kindle…”? How important is it for you to have the feel and weight of a real book in your hands?

I suppose I'm old-fashion in many ways. I like a hard copy in my hand, and if it's a great book I keep it on my shelf. But I'm no fool, if the reader wants a pdf file, then the reader can have it. I just prefer paper and something I can mark in.

FQ: View from the Edge is a fantastic read! It was a one day, page-turning, can’t put it down for a second experience for me and a pleasure to tell you so. Any sneak preview of what’s next?

You are very kind. It is great when a writer connects with a reader; that's why we write. Others have said something like, "I didn't want this book to end." And another related to Joshua and compared her life to his. We're all just trying to stay alive, but sometimes it gets to be complicated. The neat thing was watching Joshua climb out of the hole that he dug for himself. We are all given choices, and that's all, we control very little, when Joshua understood that, his life was resurrected into a better beginning.
I do have a ghost story coming out in January (I hope). And since you've asked, here's the tease that will be in the back of the book:

"Jonathan MacAlister has arrived in New Brunswick after the tragic deaths of his wife and two sons. He recovers in an old Victorian haunted by the 19th-Century spirit of Mary McLaughlin, the angelic ghost who has waited for her lover to return from a lost voyage. The beautiful serial killer, Tara Walsh, has escaped from an insane asylum and is killing sexual deviants in the maritime province using medieval devices and biblical justice. The thriller unravels to discover what all three have in common and why they are destined to meet in a confrontation from which legends are made."

To learn more about View From the Edge please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review - The Horse That Wouldn't Trot

The Horse That Wouldn't Trot: A Life with Tennessee Walking Horses: Lessons Learned and Memories Shared

By: Rose Miller
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: November 2009
ISBN: 978-1608442645
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: Decdember 30, 2012

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend your life surrounded by majestic horses, reading Rose Miller's memoir, The Horse That Wouldn't Trot, will give you a very good idea. Miller shares, with unusual candor, the ups, downs, joys, and heartaches that anybody who has loved a horse has likely experienced.

Miller begins her memoir by briefly recounting her early years where her love of horses began. Her father would frequently stop by a nearby stable after church so his young daughter could pet the horses. When she was eight, they moved to a farm and Miller was able to enjoy the family's two farm horses. It was, by all accounts, a wonderful childhood. After marrying Hal, a very patient chiropractor, Miller once again found herself living on a small farm. But their brief stint into farm life was cruelly interrupted by a tornado. Moving to a small house, the farm life, and horses, would have to wait.

Several years later, when Miller's ten-year-old daughter Sharon announced that she wanted a horse, it appeared the four-legged animals would once again be part of Miller's life. The family soon had three horses and needed to find a farm. Once the farm was found, it wasn't long before the herd began to grow. That was in the 1970s and from that long ago decade through 2009, Miller shares with the reader all her triumphs and failures as she learned the business of breeding, raising and showing horses.

Miller's first horses included a quiet, older Quarter Horse and an opinionated Appaloosa, but things would soon change. It didn't take long for Miller to decide she wanted to breed a specific type of horse and she settled on Arabians. That worked well for a while, but eventually Miller's bad back got in the way of training young horses. A client of her husband suggested Miller consider Tennessee Walking Horses, a breed known for their smooth gaits. Miller took the man's advice and when she rode her first Tennessee Walker, she was hooked. Soon she had a breeding program and was showing her horses, fairly successfully, on the local show circuit.

The horses that the reader meets within the pages of The Horse That Wouldn't Trot, are varied, and loads of fun to read about. Miller is open and quite honest about her mistakes as she learned the proper way to train, breed, and show her animals. We see the outcomes of her mistakes, and the wonderful results that her love and talents brought to many animals. Miller dedicates a fair amount of her story to the issue of the "Big Lick," a blight on the world of these magnificent animals. It is a training method in which various, painful, methods are used to increase the action of the front legs. It is a cruel, and highly controversial, subject and the author is to be commended for tackling it in her book. She should also be commended for taking in one of her stallion's daughters, a mare who had serious problems due to "soring," one of the methods used to get the Big Lick look. Cookie would become a treasured member of Miller's family and her story will touch your heart.

While I'm a "horse person" and have had horses almost my entire life, I have never ridden, or known, a Tennessee Walking Horse. Number wise, they are one of the smaller breeds. But Miller's description of these noble animals has definitely piqued my interest. As with many breeds where man has interfered and created a horse for the show ring, while ignoring the true value of a natural horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse has suffered greatly at the hands of those entrusted with its care. Miller believes that the breed's popularity would be much greater if the Big Lick had never been created, or at the very least, stopped. It's hard to disagree with that premise. When you read this book, and meet the wonderful equines that filled Miller's barn, you too will wonder how anybody could inflict such pain to their horses. You will also, no doubt, want to meet a Tennessee Walking Horse and start an adventure of your own.

Quill says: A heartfelt, fast-reading, and eye-opening look into the world of Tennessee Walking Horses and the joy they gave one woman.

Book Review - The Boogie Trapp

The Boogie Trapp

By: Kerry Copeland Smith
Publisher: Peppertree Press, LLC
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61493-112-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 29, 2012

Kerry Copeland Smith (Boogie) delivers an hysterically funny (and tragically horrific) tale through the trials and tribulations of two unique boys in his debut novel, The Boogie Trapp. When I read his opening statement: “To The Reader…I feel it necessary for me to apologize in advance for any vulgar or distasteful language and/or any racial overtones I have had to use to make the story complete. It is direct and to the point, exactly as I remember it on that day…,” I knew I was about to read a great story. Loved this touch!

In May of 2008; a typical Florida day begins for Smith—now in his 70’s. On one of his routine errands, on his way back to his car, a big black cat crosses his path. He’s wearing a velvety red collar and while it’s not so much the color of the collar that grabs Smith; it’s the loop hanging down from the collar—a loop that looks a lot like a noose, that gives him cause to pause for a moment. Smith follows the cat around the corner for closer inspection, only to be duped because it’s nowhere to be found. Whatever; he still needs to get some gas. Later on, while at the pump, Smith notices a red corvette that seems to have appeared from out of nowhere... That was on Friday, May 2nd.

On Saturday, May 17th, when Smith gets a letter in the mail, he already knew it was from Jean—Charles Edward Trapp’s (Trapper) sister. He knew what was coming. It was time for him to make good on a promise made nearly 60 years ago between him and his best friend, Trapper. In order to give that promise the just recognition it deserved, Smith would have to take the reader back to post-World War II. The place was an insignificant east/west ridge nestled on the Cumberland Plateau about twenty miles north of Birmingham, Alabama; an area with plenty of coal, iron ore, dolomite and limestone. He wasn’t ‘Kerry Smith’ back then. He was Boogie and his partner in crime was Trapper. As their story begins, what started out as a typical Saturday morning in early April of 1949, ends up as a day far from typical in every aspect of the definition assigned to typical. The outcome was a secret that needed protecting in the many years ahead of it.

Mr. Smith deserves a multitude of praise for writing The Boogie Trapp. The sheer notion he did so to honor a blood brother promise made between him and his dearly departed Trapper, speaks volumes toward what a man of great substance entails. Setting aside character and focusing on his literary abilities, however, I cannot wait until Smith delivers his next novel. His command of the English language boiled down onto page upon page of genuine and relatable dialogue that is a gift that is harbored by only those who truly have the precious ability to tell the epic story that was delivered on the pages of The Boogie Trap. There is never a moment throughout the entire book where the reader is plagued with the mundane drag of too much information and not enough action. Rather, the reader is in a constant frenzy of devouring each page to get to the next and doing so with absolute joy—a recipe Smith also followed to perfection. I found myself laughing out loud often. The one sadness I have experienced since finishing this novel, however, is the reality that Boogie and Trapper cannot live forever. I am grateful to Smith to have left the indelible legacy of those two boys in my heart and soul. I will think of them often in the days to come. As for Mr. Smith, I hope and pray he is working on his next novel. The world of writers needs to learn from his gift as much as the universe of readers needs the satisfaction of consuming yet another great read! Congratulations Mr. Smith! You’ve contributed a worthy effort to the ranks of readers thanks to your story of two coal miner boys in a time when life was far less complex.

Quill Says: This book is a beautiful ode to the innocence of youth and the precious memories of a friendship as well as the honor in delivering a promise made.

Book Review - Murder is a Piece of Cake

Murder is a Piece of Cake: Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper

By: Elaine Viets
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-0451238511
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2012

Harry the Horrible had finally given Josie Marcus a plum assignment for once. Mystery shopping was definitely a dead-end job, but as a “bride on a budget,” checking out Denise’s Dreams would be fun for once. Josie never expected to meet and fall in love with veterinarian Ted Scottsmeyer, especially since she was a single mom. Amelia was a ‘tweener, but she seemed pleased to welcome Ted into the family. Lenore Scottsmeyer Hall, no doubt, had descended from the Social Register and acted the part. Stuck up. Molly turned out to be the perfect salesperson, tending on every perceived need of Josie and her fiancĂ©. It was an amazing coincidence that both of them were engaged to a “Ted” and both of them were into animals.

“I am getting married,” Ted firmly stated, “But not today and not to you.” Molly Ann Deaver had shown up at the office declaring her intentions, expecting to be married within the hour ... to Josie’s Ted. The National Enquirer couldn’t have done it up better when Molly grabbed a scalpel, threatened to slit his throat, and Lenore lunged forward to save the day with her snub-nose thirty-eight. The horrifying moment was caught on a security camera and soon Ted’s mother was on a Channel Seven special report. Dr. Scottsmeyer’s “pistol-packing mama” was a minor celebrity and Josie had more egg on her face than went into a ten tiered cake.

Josie wouldn’t have much time to dwell on her future mother-in-law’s embarrassing fifteen minutes of fame when she discovered bridezilla in the parking lot of Ted’s office. Only this time she wasn’t delivering blueberry muffins or making insane demands. There would be no more muffins and no more stalking because Molly Ann Deaver had been shot in the head. Somehow Detective Richard Gray was not at all surprised to find Josie on the scene, but one thing for certain was that she was going to have to find out whodunit. It looked as if Lenore would be facing murder one and Josie’s fairytale wedding might be on hold indefinitely. She had to work fast, but when another corpse showed up on her watch, Josie was positive her wedding bells might would ringing ... behind bars!

Josie Marcus and her “pre-wedding disaster” will definitely tickle the reader’s funny bone. When Molly Deaver came on the scene it certainly threw a wrench in Josie’s wedding plans. Lenore Scottsmeyer certainly added a huge dollop of flavor to the mystery with her over-the-top buttinsky attitude. I was amazed at the balancing act Josie had to perform trying to deal with everything at once. Not to be outdone, this indomitable sleuth kept plodding along trying to figure out who killed the bridezilla, all the while planning her wedding. The characters were charming, slightly wacky, and just delightfully daffy enough for me to want to read more in the series. If you like your mysteries light and fluffy, just grab a blueberry muffin, a cup of tea and you’ll have just the recipe for a great read!

Quill says: If you adore cozy mysteries, The Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series is sure to please!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review - Zombie Makers

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead

By: Rebecca L. Johnson
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761386339
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2012

Everyone knows that zombies aren’t really real and the only time you see them are in movies. Bzzzz! Wrong. Everyone who isn’t in the know is dead wrong because there are real creatures who “can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures.” Yes, for real! This book discusses several “zombie makers,” gives us nicknames, tells us about their unfortunate victims, and where and how they turn their victims into zombies. These unfortunate zombie victims even live in North America and undoubtedly you know who they are and have seen them. This book does remind you to remember and think about zombie makers because “they’re closer than you think.”

Take for example the common housefly. We’ve all seen them and swatted at them hoping they’ll leave us alone. The Fungus Entomophthora muscae, otherwise known as the “Fly Enslaver,” seeks out the fly to enslave it. E. muscae is parasitic and is a fungus that invades the body of the fly and turns it into a zombie. It then “spreads through the fly’s body, feeding on its organs and tissues.” Eventually the fly is so impacted, even its thought processes change and it becomes a slave of E. muscae and does its bidding. The zombie fly begins to walk, heading toward a clump of grass. How and why does this happen? Once you read this book you’ll find out all about the process.

This is an amazing book about “nature’s zombie maker’s” and their unfortunate victims. This is definitely a high-interest book that will interest many young people, reluctant readers notwithstanding. The book gives off an aura of creepy, but exciting, something that the reader will be immediately drawn to. Even the table of contents with chapters entitled “Can We Eat the Babysitter?” are alluring. The book covers houseflies, carpenter ants, crickets, cockroaches, moth caterpillars, specific mammals, giant gliding ants, amber snails, rats and other warm-blooded animals, including people, and gives an historical overview of why and how zombie makers invade their victims.

Each chapter, after discussing what happens to the zombie victim, gives the “Science Behind the Story.” The layout is bright, vibrant, and has numerous full-color photographs. Some of the photographs do have that gross factor that kids love. For example, we can see a guinea worm (Dracunculus medinesis) emerging from the calf of a patient. In spite of the creep factor that zombies impart young readers, there is a lot of good solid science in these pages. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book, film, and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you have a youngster who loves "gross," and is into science, this is one book you should put on your list! It is a Junior Literary Guild Selection.

Book Review - Food: The New Gold

Food: The New Gold

By: Kathlyn Gay
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761346074
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2012

Many people looked askance at the Group of Eight (G8) summit held in Japan to “discuss the global food crisis.” The banquet was almost frighteningly gluttonous in light of the topic they had come to discuss. Delicacies such as caviar and milkfed lamb were a far cry from the dirt cookies that Haitian women made to enable their families to survive. Worldwide food shortages in many areas caused food to “become a precious item---almost like gold.” Such circumstances often lead to desperation, but even though the summit was somewhat of an embarrassment, people have started to come together to try to solve the crisis and feed people on both local and global levels.

In this day and age, many of us are now very much aware of efforts to feed people in our nation who are “food insecure.” There are an astounding “thirty-five million Americans [who] are unable to buy enough food.” You’ll read about programs set in place to help them. Globally, many feel it is not enough to simply deliver food to those in need, but also to help them “grow or obtain their own food so they can be self-sufficient.” In America, the family who could once grow enough food to support and nourish themselves is gone. Giant agribusiness are at the forefront of food production as the family farm has all but vanished from the face of the landscape.

These agribusinesses “do not handle the hard, day-to-day work of planting and picking crops, milking cows, or slaughtering animals.” These farms are owned by international corporations who run them from afar. Their agricultural domination extends not only to farms, but also to things such as seed companies and food-processing plants. In the 1970s "concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)" appeared on the scene. The entire face of agriculture and food production appeared to change overnight. In this book you’ll also read about inhumane animal treatment, human health risks, immigrant labor, CAFO contamination, health risks to the consumer, food additives, global warming and it’s affect on agriculture, Frankenfoods, genetically modified (GM) crops, and you’ll read many more fascinating facts about food, “the new gold.”

This book looks at the world’s food shortage and the “role of business, politics and the environment.” For such a far-reaching topic, Kathlyn Gay does an excellent job of researching and writing about our food crisis. I feel that this book gives the reader a good understanding of the problem and surrounding issues without becoming overly alarmist. The juxtaposition of the summit banquet and the photograph of a hungry boy waiting for a meal was an excellent way to begin the book. The book alternately will make one think about the issues while debating possible solutions. The book has numerous full-color photographs and informative sidebars. For example, one discusses the practicality of producing biofuels when crops are so sorely needed for food. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional book, film, and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is an excellent exploration of the world's food crisis that would be an excellent stepping stone to further exploration of the topic.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review - The Terror of Black Eagle Tavern

The Terror of Black Eagle Tavern: The Paranormalists

By: Megan Atwood
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761383338
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2012

Jinx, formerly known as a nobody, Jane Marie Wright, was now somebody. Least ways a person of interest even if people were a bit freaked out by her. Jinx loved the minor celebrity and notoriety she received “the minute she’d started the Paranormalists website.” Spooky and freaky she could stand, but ignored she couldn’t. Jackson was a jock, but somehow they’d become partners in their new venture to ferret out paranormal entities. Granted, the resolution to their first case was less than satisfactory, but at least they’d had one.

Jackson was hoping that if they could make contact with a real ghost then maybe, just maybe, he could contact his dad who’d died a few years before. Todd McElvoy was the starting quarterback on the team, but he had something on his mind other than football. His family owned the Black Eagle Tavern and things were getting so bad that the business could go under. “I’m not helping that Neanderthal,” Jinx declared when she knew Todd was asking for help. The tavern was home to a “nice ghost,” but something evil had begun to visit.

Glasses began to fly off the shelves and Todd’s cousin, Michael, up and quit when he got “six black eyes.” Nice was not the word for the evil that had visited the tavern. In reality, Jinx really liked Todd, but being nice didn’t quite fit her new image. However, if they took the case things would really start hopping for the Paranomalists. Todd began to plead, “If you don’t get rid of this ghost, my life will be ruined.” Once Jinx and Jackson took the case and set up their EVP recorder and their EMF sensor they’d find it ... or so they thought. A hiss went “through the bar like a demonic snake.” Had they really gone a bit too far this time?

Jinx and Jackson’s encounter with the unknown at the Black Eagle Tavern will thrill the young reader. This short, but fast-paced and exciting paranormal mystery is perfect for the reluctant reader or someone who simply enjoys a quick read. The duo have teamed up to solve seemingly unsolvable paranormal events happening in their town. Although Jinx and Jackson appear to be polar opposites, they work quite well together. The story moves right along and the freakish tension makes it a page turner. With the second case in the works, they are becoming established and are certainly on everyone’s radar as paranormal investigators. If you have a youngster who likes mysteries that are tantalizingly haunted, this is one series you might want to look at!

Quill says: If you like freaky, haunted, and the paranormal, this is just the series you've been waiting for!

Book Review - Pig City

Pig City: After the Dust Settled

By: Jonathan Mary-Todd
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761383284
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 28, 2012

They’d left the Frontier Motel some time ago and had “spent a few moons moving east together.” The Frontier was a safe place, but it had been time to move on. Everything changed when their world turned upside down as all the adults around them began to die. Nothing seemed to work as it once did and eventually there wasn’t so much as a drop of gas to drive a car. Of course Beckley’s little sister, Emma, had been born at the Frontier and didn’t know any different, but the others did. Malik had been leading them while Wendell proudly said to the group, that he’d “caught our last dozen meals.”

Beckley, on one level, kept everyone going in the right direction. She pored over Gene Matterhorn’s Wilderness Survival Guidebook. Probably once a book that someone used for entertainment, but paying attention to what Gene had to say really kept them alive. Survival was the key, but with a storm threatening as they approached Des Moines, it was going to be necessary to find shelter. They’d avoided cities on their trek, but freezing to death simply wasn’t an option. Beckley’s handmade bola couldn’t protect them from the cold.

They had run up against trouble before from outsiders and Emma’s scarred face was proof of that. The stench of something disgusting hit their nostrils as they entered Des Moines, but something more insidious awaited them. They did meet a friendly band of people and the Captain and Mayor Catherine Forsythe brought them under their watch. The stench turned out to be from the Pig City area where ruthless traders hid out. Malik soon found himself “curled inside a cage” after their group was ambushed. Would they be able to wheedle their way out of this mess or be used to feed those stinking pigs?

This is an fast-paced survivalist adventure that will thrill the young reader. Reluctant readers, the target audience for this tale, will be enticed by this short, action-packed read. The scenario for this series, “After the Dust Settled” is one in which the world as we know it has ended and only the young survive ... if they can. The tale moves along quickly as this band of teens stick together as they move east. Malik, their apparent leader, tells their story in a matter-of-fact way as survival has simply become their way of life. The story is evolving and some of the earlier characters like Hector are no longer on the scene. The storyline as well as the characters are beginning to gel as they mature and learn to depend on one another. If you have reluctant or newly independent readers who want short, but exciting novels, this is one series you may wish to add to your library or classroom shelves.

Quill says: If you have a youngster who enjoys quick, exciting reads, the After the Dust Settled series is one you may wish to consider!

Book Review - Unbridled Greed

Unbridled Greed: Money is the Motive - Fraud is the Means

By: Barry Johnson
Publisher: Rocochi Ridge Publishing
Publication Date:  September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9860246-0-3
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 27, 2012

Barry Johnson’s debut novel, Unbridled Greed, addresses the hot (and utterly contemptuous) topic of health care fraud. There’s a lot more going on at the doctor’s office than a routine check up.

In the opening scene, at 10:40 a.m. on October 15th, hit man Fausto Guzman is introduced to the reader. Shortly thereafter, the reader is processing the outcome of Guzman’s successful hit—the killing and disposal of Republican Congressman Reuben Horowitz. Guzman is the perfect killer for the assignment—ghost-like and always successful at covering his tracks before he is in the wind again. This time, however, what he didn’t know was someone was watching…

The place is Chicago and the crime is the multi-billion dollar industry of medical billing fraud. The players are Department of Justice (DOJ) Special Investigator, Bryan Hampton, and Agent Ted Kucharski, member of Sidereal HealthCare’s Special Investigative Unit. Their assignment: expose and shut down a fraudulent medical insurance billing empire. The kingpin of the fraudulent ring is Dr. Hugh Patterson along with three associate practices strategically located around the Chicago Loop in the windy city. Hampton and Kucharski have built a strong case and are closing in fast. The only thing left to do is raid the clinics, gather the incriminating evidence and watch the domino effect of ultimate convictions ensue. Little did they know U.S. Attorney Albert Tacovic for the Northern Illinois District had other plans for their impending raid on Patterson’s operations …

When the best laid plans go completely haywire, the only option Hampton and Kucharski are left with is to disassemble the task force; not exactly how Hampton envisioned the last stretch of his DOJ career would play out. With too much time to reflect on the months of investigation and case building flushed down the tubes, opportunity knocks again for Hampton when Kucharski sets up a meeting with Davee Da Silva. It seems Da Silva has a vested interest in imploding the fraudulent medical ring too; but not in Chicago just yet. Convinced this is no coincidence and once Hampton hears Da Silva’s plan, maybe he was a little too quick to accept the imminent end of his career. As for Chicago, it was time to go. According to Da Silva, Las Vegas would be Hampton’s next stop on his mission.

I give Johnson props for selecting a relevant and complex plot in order to engage his reader. It is clear he is quite knowledgeable of his topic. However, he infused a little too much knowledgeable information and not enough intrigue which caused the story line to drag. The winning formula in a thriller is one where the reader is challenged to formulate and figure out the many twists and turns; only to be treated to the element of surprise when he or she realizes their conclusion was all wrong. In Johnson’s case, when his character Hampton was given a second opportunity to tackle the fraudulent ring, while it was the perfect opportunity to ramp the story and build to its end, he spent too much time digressing to the dynamics of what medical billing fraud entailed (and not enough time embellishing on the tenacity of his character and how he would - or would not - prevail). This is not to say Unbridled Greed is not a solid and action-packed debut thriller. Rather, it is a novel that could have benefitted far more with less telling and more showing.

Quill Says: The next time you go for that annual check up, you may want to take a closer look at your bill…

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Books in for Review

Here's a sample of the latest books to come in for review.  Check them out and then stop by our site in a few weeks to read the reviews.

View From The Edge by Michael Kasenow Cults, money, artifacts and murder, Joshua Feenics recovers from a psychotic breakdown and tries to make sense of a university thats become a breeding ground for predators.

Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey Stephens All the bureaucratic scolding in Washington cannot stop resourceful CIA Agent Jordan Sandor when he’s hungry for revenge. This time he’s on the hunt for the cold-blooded sociopath known as Adina, whose indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, including Sandor’s close friend, represents man at his worst.

Heart of Ice by P.J. Parish A chilling new suspense novel in the critically acclaimed Louis Kincaid series! First Kincaid discovers he has a daughter he never knew. Then she leads him to fresh evidence in a decades-old murder case that threatens to claim new victims.

Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge On the last day of the millennium, sassy Faith Bass Darling, the richest old lady in Bass, Texas, decides to have a garage sale. With help from a couple of neighborhood boys, Faith lugs her priceless Louis XV elephant clock, countless Tiffany lamps, and everything else from her nineteenth-century mansion out onto her long, sloping lawn. Why is a recluse of twenty years suddenly selling off her dearest possessions? Because God told her to. As the townspeople grab up five generations of heirlooms, everyone drawn to the sale--including Faith's lon-lost daughter--finds that the antiques not only hold family secrets but also inspire some of life's most imponderable questions: Do our possessions possess us? What are we without our memories? Is there life after death or second chances here on earth? And is Faith really selling that Tiffany lamp for $1?

The Boogie Trapp by Kerry Copeland Smith The gloaming is near. I hear the tinkling sound of the creek and the song of the katydids as they serenade the end of the day. Suddenly I panic! What happens when it's dark and I can't see? "You two boys are the last of a dying breed! Folks in this country are getting way too civilized." ~ Sheriff Dorcey Britt-April 10, 1949 "Ain't nobody can help ya'! Cause yo're dead.....Ya' hear me? Yo're dead!" ~ Donkey Bill - April 9, 1949 "Run, Boogie, run...RUN RUN!!!" Trapper trap - April 9, 1949

Demon's Curse by Alexa Egan One of the mythical race of shape-shifting Imnada and a member of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery suffers under a ruthless curse. As the result of a savage massacre on the eve of Waterloo, he and the men he served with are forced to live the hours of darkness trapped as their animal aspects. Now one of them has been murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada may finally have been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth—Bianca Parrino, the beautiful actress whom every man desires. Forging a new life for herself after escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Bianca is again drawn into violence when a dear friend is brutally murdered and she becomes a suspect. Forced to place her trust and her life in Mac’s hands as they flee a determined killer, Bianca cannot deny she is falling for the mysterious soldier. But will his dark secrets tear them asunder? Or will love be the key to breaking even the cruelest of spells?

Writing a New Book? Here Are the Tools...

Writing a New Book? Here Are the Tools
By: Michael Levin, eight time best selling author

Author Michael Levin

Success leaves clues.  If you seek the tools for writing a New York Times self-help best seller, look no further than a new NYT best seller, called, appropriately enough, The Tools.
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels are Los Angeles therapists who have written an outstanding book encapsulating their approach to guiding their patients to successful living.  The book is a tutorial for people who want a better life.  It’s also a tutorial on how to organize and write a great book.  So let’s take a look at the tools Stutz and Michels use that you can put to work in your book.
1. Great title.  A title ought to be what the movie industry calls “high concept” – something you grasp and connect with immediately.  Who wouldn’t want tools?  And then it’s a great title because it makes the reader ask questions:  what tools?  Do I have these tools?  Do I need these tools?  What’s going on here? 
2. Solid subtitle.  A subtitle must reveal the promise or “unique selling proposition” of the book clearly and powerfully.  Here, it’s “Transform Your Problems Into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity.”  Well, who wouldn’t want that? 
3. Killer blurbs.  The title sells you on reading the subtitle.  The subtitle sells you on flipping the book over in your hands to read the blurbs.  And here you have Marianne Williamson and The New Yorker endorsing the coauthors, along with one other respected author and a top Hollywood client.  That’s the kind of third-party verification that sells books. 
4. Chapter one asks a knockout question.  Why can’t therapists solve problems quickly…or at all?  Great question, right?  And then we get just enough of the authors’ backgrounds to know who they are.  They’re therapists profoundly dissatisfied with the limits of traditional therapy.  They tell of the pain they felt when their clients went away without solutions…and so they came up with a new approach.  The Tools.  So you have a problem that we can relate to…authors we can relate to…and the promise of a new solution.
5. Clear organizational plan.  One tool per chapter for the next five chapters, and then a couple of chapters to wrap things up.  Within each of the five chapters describing the tools, a vignette involving a patient, an explanation of the tool, a description of how to use the tool, and other uses for the tool.  Simple and clear.
6. Out-of-the-box “case studies.”  A foul-mouthed road comic.  A young, bitchy, sharply dressed fashion entrepreneur.  A gorgeous yet almost fatally insecure actress/model, afraid that her working class background keeps her from acceptance from the well-to-do West LA soccer moms.  They may be composites as opposed to real people, but they feel so real to the reader.  You get caught up in their stories.  You relate.  Stutz and Michels raise the bar in terms of how to craft case studies.  This is essential for anyone writing a self-help book, because these compelling stories keep us riveted to our seats so we’ll actually learn how the tools work.
Authors have it hard today.  Technology has shredded the average attention span.  Bookstores are a vanishing species.  Infinite entertainment options, or just simply playing with your iPhone, compete for leisure time.  So if you’re going to succeed as an author, put down the toys and pick up the tools…specifically the tools that Stutz and Michel provide in their excellent, and excellently planned and executed, book.

And if you aren’t planning on writing a self-help book, read it anyway.  The tools you’ll gain when you read The Tools will absolutely give you a better life.

New York Times best selling author and Shark Tank survivor Michael Levin runs, and is a nationally acknowledged thought leader on the future of book publishing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Interview with C.B. Murphy - Author of End of Men

Today we're talking with C.B. Murphy, author of End of Men

FQ: This book takes a look at suburban life and the downside of that whole thing. Is this something that you are familiar with? In other words, is the character of Ben close to you personally?

Indeed, he closely reflects my personal experience of suburban life. I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and lived as an adult in Edina, Minnesota—both affluent suburbs of major US metropolitan cities. One of my strongest connections to Ben personally is that I actually did make films as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and hoped to become an “underground” filmmaker. Also, like Ben, when I finally started to get jobs in the business world, I found myself wearing suits and successfully negotiating deals, which never felt true to who I really was. I rapidly rose in the ranks of in the corporate world, which amused me greatly, given how little I had cared about business in school. In my novel, Ben works for his curmudgeonly father. I worked for my curmudgeonly father-in-law, so I know a lot about the tensions of having any boss who is also a relative, let alone a very close one.

FQ: The strongest characters in your book are the females, and the art gallery show’s theme, etc., certainly show the women as the dominant creatures. Do your personal beliefs coincide with that thought? Such as, do you believe that, say, a female should run this country? And, why?

The pressures on men and women are very different now. Men are seeing so much of their traditional territory (i.e. breadwinning) fall away, while women are dealing with the consequences of balancing employment and motherhood. Kay feels she “missed out” on the hippie world that her older husband experienced, but has thrown herself into her work, putting the idea of motherhood on the back burner. Ben’s mother was invested in the old order and displays a certain toughness that we sometimes forget was part of that world, too—not unlike a Bette Davis or Katherine Hepburn who could kick men in the shins even at the height of “male power” (late 1950s). I think the challenge for both sexes now is to realize they do have differences that can be complementary (rather than antagonistic) but this doesn’t necessarily mean either one is less important. I support women who hold top leadership positions (including presidents of nations) and believe they are strongest when they don’t buy into myths (like women are naturally pacifists) but again, recognize the inherent differences—and strengths—of both genders.

FQ: You speak a great deal about Andy Warhol and “The Factory.” Not to sound corny, but if you could sit and speak with Warhol about the past, “The Factory,” his life, his choices - what would be the one topic of conversation you would definitely bring up?

Whatever people say about Warhol, his influence over the arts is unarguably immense. To be sure, The Factory was not the healthiest setting in many respects, but the idea that a bunch of people could live and work together with the purpose of making art was very original. Warhol was in some ways a “counter hippie” in that he valued celebrity and profit from his work. Still, he managed to shock, change minds, and promote creativity in a number of art forms and genres. In addition, he was prescient about where the media was headed: get your name out there and don’t care if what you created was good or bad, as long as they know your name. My best friend in high school adored Warhol and ended up going to college at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In many ways I felt my hippie experiences were from a completely different world, the West Coast back-to-the-land variety.

If I could talk to Warhol now, I would ask him how he feels the Internet has influenced artistic creativity and poetic license. And obviously, I’d want to know how he would manipulate and maximize the opportunities it holds for contemporary artists today.

FQ: I am, historically, very interested in Crowley and researched he and Bacon a great deal. Have you ever had the luck of traveling to Crowley’s residence (Boleskine House) where it was known that his group of followers met? If not, is this a location you would really like to view in person?

Wow, interesting question. I became fascinated with Crowley in college both on the occult study level and also through the films of the underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. I had a mentor at the University of Michigan who was an anthropologist, poet and filmmaker. His name was Richard Grossinger and he’s actually more famous now as the father of the filmmaker Miranda July. Richard introduced to me the world of underground film and also the artists who were, if not literally occultists, used much of the research and thinking in their own work. These were followers of the Black Mountain School poets, the most famous of whom are Charles Olson and Robert Duncan. Stan Brakhage was considered one of “the group”, and his book Metaphors on Vision was hugely influential to me.

FQ: Along this same lines…are you a historian who loves to research? And do you believe in the stories of The Knights Templar, etc.?

By the time the Knights Templar were popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code I was already studying them (and employing their imagery in my paintings). I’ve always been interested in cults and secret societies, and the mythology around the Templars is immense. I was intrigued with the idea that the young princes who joined the order had to divest themselves of everything they knew, which included God and their sexual identity. Crowley also followed the idea that as one journeyed through the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, each world required actions that in another world would be seen as immoral. It’s all very fascinating.

FQ: In this current atmosphere of the literary world, where vampires seem to be heading back to their coffins and eroticism (Fifty Shades of Grey) seems to be the next subject up for commercial success, how do you feel about the eroticism line? Are we heading back into the world of free love with authors not having to deal with the taboo of writing about it?

Being identified as a member of the counterculture for much of my life, it seems more like the straight, “post hippie” world had to eventually embrace eroticism in a new way. Again, this started early for me when my buddies and I (who modestly called ourselves The Freethinker Assocation ) found this free love commune (Kerista) forming on a Caribbean Island and were ready to move there.

I read all kinds of stuff (while going to an all-boys Catholic school, mind you) like Sex Without Guilt, The Harrad Experiment, Kraft-Ebings’ Psychopathia Sexualis and Stranger in a Strange Land all of which challenged conventional morality and sex roles. Fifty Shades of Grey seems like a latecomer to the game as far as I’m concerned, but I’m pleased by the success it’s experiencing.

I’m a big fan of horror movies, too. Once again, it seems like every time something becomes popular (like Twilight), people act like it’s never been done before! Maybe it’s just that each new generation has to discover these metaphors, but David Bowie was a dapper vampire in The Hunger in 1983, and the relationship between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon was one of the most compellingly erotic depictions of vampire love ever produced.

FQ: I have read in your bio that you are a painter as well as an author and anthropologist. Is there a favorite among those interests? What inspires you about anthropology?

In many ways I think anthropology trumps all the other disciplines in that so much of what people think is derivative of their tribe’s “group think” (read Democrats and Republicans, for example).

Anthropology provides models for how to communicate with people who think and live in a different universe than you. Mostly people seem to be saying, “Why don’t you think like me?” A more helpful approach is to examine various perceptions and where the Venn Diagram overlaps exist in your world. It’s like when kids fight about bands, who is “the best?” What they’re really learning is to defend one’s tastes as legitimate while being open to someone else’s influence.

As a self-described “rogue anthropologist” I’m always talking about monkeys (which I think of as anthropological primatology) in that so much of our collective thoughts and feelings arise from primate (and primal) reactions.

I try to paint every day and I learn a lot from it. I attempt to follow an idea and see where it goes, making decisions along the way as to my skill level and whether I want to stop and improve my skills. I tend to be most inspired by outsider artists (Raw Magazine) and those related to the PopSurrealist movement (Juxtapoz Magazine). I have a piece in a Pop Surrealist show now in Baton Rouge.

I also volunteer teach art at a high security prison once a week and I’ve been doing that for five years. I love it. Here are these tough macho guys learning to draw and I am able to show them how art history has enough branches for everyone, possibly even them. It’s very cool.

FQ: I must know, as most readers I believe would love to know - is Shiraz based on a real person?

Though I was inspired by the work of Shirin Neshat, the Iranian videographer, I think Shiraz’ personality is closer to the American avant-garde. My wife was a dancer with the Trisha Brown Company and she also worked with Meredith Monk. I was also, briefly, in an improvisational performance art troop (The Hook’Em Cows) who improvised with Yvonne Rainer at the Walker Art Center. I remember thinking “Oh my god, Yvonne Rainer is lying on me—am I famous?” What I found interesting about Neshat was how she managed to be accepted by the modern art world and walk a line that doesn’t alienate Muslims from her work. That’s quite a feat!

FQ: What’s up next for readers?

I’m currently working on two new books. Bardo Zsa Zsa (working title) is a science fiction story and meditation on gender. It uses the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult as a launching point, which sounds very dark, but it isn’t. I personally find it pretty funny. So does my seventeen-year-old son, Lucas, who is serving as my creative collaborator and critic.

The second novel, The Voodoo Murders of Brainerd is coming along nicely as well. The voodoo gods of Haiti come to visit a small Minnesota town, so “real magic” is woven into the mystery. I’m excited about both.

I’ve also started releasing short stories as ebooks on Amazon. My first one is “Dangers of the Road,” Death of a Salesmen meets Sunset Boulevard. More will be coming along.

To learn more about End of Men please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review - End of Men

End of Men

By: C.B. Murphy
Publisher: Zoographico Press
Publication Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-983-0912-5-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 17, 2012

This extremely interesting book explores many aspects of humanity. The transformation from party/hippie life to responsible adult; the battle between conformity and suburbia versus a life of freedom that allows you to do anything you please with no regrets or thought to societal rules and regulations; the chemistry between parents and their children who have completely opposite goals and are willing to lie in order to achieve them - all sorts of areas are covered in this novel of humor, grief, mystery, the occult and the ups-and-downs of everyday life.

Ben is a man who works in the financial world behind a desk, wearing requisite tie on a daily basis. But after losing his father he’s taken a bit of a sabbatical, which he adores. He can play in his garden and think all the thoughts he wants to without anyone breaking in and taking away his free time. Kay is Ben‘s wife; she took her job at the art gallery a while ago and treated it as one of those frivolous things you do when your husband is the mighty breadwinner and your paycheck is only for ‘fun.’ But with Ben out of work, she has become the ‘man of the house’ and lives a life dealing with the fact that she should have a baby - especially for her mother-in-law who so wants one - while attempting to break away from the beige life in suburbia.

Across the globe is Shiraz - a woman who’s extremely talented - and Gordon, her own ‘Yoko Ono,’ so to speak. Gordon was her teacher at one time, they became an item and have lived as if they were a part of Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory;’ they work with artists, run a school, and are attempting to finish a film that they began years ago. Gordon’s getting older, watching his lovely Shiraz fall for and sleep with a young man named Antonio. He and Shiraz’s relationship is becoming more and more strained because of financial difficulties, yet their conversations range from film noir to selling paintings neither one of them like in order to pay the bills to an obsession with Aleister Crowley and the various initiations and beliefs he had.

These two people also knew Ben during his college years, so when Kay calls them on the phone and begs Shiraz to come to the City because she needs a ‘name’ in order to get her art show off the ground, they travel there. Kay needs a celebrity to get the money necessary to put on her show…and Shiraz and Gordon simply need the money. But when the past and the present meet, Ben and Kay end up accepting an invitation to go to the island and visit. From there, secrets from the past, unrequited love, erotic adventure and a film that may just end up in violence and death, come into play.

This author has done an interesting job combining historical truths, eroticism and violence all together with a couple who want to find love again, yet choose the oddest path to find it on. Readers will recognize names, such as Crowley, Warhol and others, but used in a context they may not have seen before. Advice? Enjoy the thought-provoking scenes leading to psychological games that will have you thinking about the book long after you’re done reading.

Quill Says: An intriguing story with the best aspect being an incredibly memorable femme fatale!

For more information on End of Men, please visit the author's website at:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review - The Haunting of Apartment 101

The Haunting of Apartment 101 (The Paranormalists)

By: Megan Atwood
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761383321
Reviewded by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 17, 2012

Jane Marie Wright was a total nobody, that is until she totally changed her act. For the worse. No one ever looked twice at plain old Jane, but when she garnered a new look and freaky rep they did. “Having a reputation,” she thought, “as someone who dabbled in the dark arts, whatever it meant had its advantages.” Jinx, as she was now known, was a h8er, but now the school had good reason. Add bleached hair and a nasty demeanor equaled noticed. Freak. Well, Jackson knew that she was really a marshmallow on the inside, but he was the only one.

Jinx didn’t like jocks, but Jackson was a football quarterback. He wasn’t a starter, but a jock is a jock. Travis, who was dating Emily, had a spark of fear in his eyes when Jinx called him up for bumping into her in the hall. Freak. He called her a freak, but seriously at least she was on the school radar. Emily was acting pretty freaky herself and Jackson wanted to find out why. She wasn’t wearing makeup, was losing weight, and was totally out of sorts. When he caught up with her she was crying and actually said she could use some help. Heck, for a girl who used to call her “Roberta,” what the heck did she want?

“I’m being haunted.” Seriously, Jinx had her doubts about Emily’s sincerity, but Jackson believed her. Emily wanted them to exorcise, get rid of, or whatever you do to ghosts. No way Jinx wanted to take the case, but it didn’t take long for her to be convinced that this might just be the real McCoy. Jackson could set up his EVP recorder and his EMF sensor in Emily’s Falcon Perch apartment and they’d be in business. Jinx’s website would go viral if they solved this one. It looked like it would be easy until real blood began to flow. Was their little venture into the paranormal going to be their last?

Jinx and Jackson’s creepy investigation into a haunted apartment will awe the young reader. This is a short, fast-paced paranormal mystery geared toward the young or reluctant reader. As the first in “The Paranomalists” series, it sets the scene for the two young paranormal investigators as they join forces to solve slightly freaky cases. Well, maybe big time freaky cases. This tale moved right along with just the right amount of tension that will keep readers wanting more. Jinx and Jackson are excited at the prospect of solving paranormal cases together and with one case behind them and an awesome website, the stage has been set. I liked the duo, the plot, and the pacing of the story, a perfect formula to entice the reluctant reader. If you have a youngster who likes stories a bit on the freaky side, this is one series you may wish to look at!

Quill says: The Paranormalists is a new, exiting foray into the world of paranormal investigation young readers will love!

Book Review - Collared: A Gin & Tonic Mystery

Collared: A Gin & Tonic Mystery

By: L.A. Kornetsky
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7164-3
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 17, 2012

In Collared: A Gin & Tonic Mystery, L.A. Kornetsky has taken the classic Sam Spade detective premise and given it a 21st century update.

Ginny Mallard, ‘Gin,’ is a regular customer at Mary’s Bar. Bartender, Teddy Tonica, ‘Tonic,’ is a seasoned ‘social chemist’ and knows how to blend the perfect cocktail. What neither knew about the other was their lives were about to take on a whole new meaning of adventure on one not-so-typical and drizzly Seattle night when Walter ‘DubJay’ Jacobs enters the bar.

Gin was supposed to meet a new client at Mary’s; a client who would tide over the threat of bill collectors if she could sign the deal. She ran a Concierge service—emphasis on the concierge part because she was more than an assistant. Granted, some of her clients were a little eclectic; like the one who wanted nothing to do with taking an ailing aunt to the hospital because she was too cantankerous for blood relations to deal with. Maybe there was some perfect birthday party planning for a five year-old; whatever paid the bills… Tonic is the quintessential bartender. He pours a mean cocktail and lends an accomplished and sympathetic bartender’s ear. He has a following and his patronage knows their drink comes with a little sound and free advice; all they have to do is ask.

It is when Gin’s ‘no-show’ client is replaced with the appearance of DubJay and she is presented with a proposition for two times her normal pay, she is more than a little intrigued by the offer. There is no way that fish on the end of her prospect line is getting away before she secures it in her net and more importantly, a check. DubJay’s uncle, Joe Jacobs, is missing. All he wants Gin to do is find him. Of course, her annoying woman’s intuition tries to intervene, but the fact the pay was double seemed enough cause for her to snub those doubts out once and for all. Besides, how hard would it be to find DubJay’s uncle; easy money, right?

Behind the scenes, there are two four-legged detectives up for the challenge as well; Gin’s shar-pei, Georgie and Mary’s alley cat mascot, a grey tabby named Penny and while unclaimed, it’s pretty clear she has long-since adopted Tonic. Unbeknownst to Gin or Tonic, Georgie and Penny are on the case and as committed as their owners to solving the mystery of the disappearance of Uncle Joe.
Through a series of clues, intrigue, imminent danger and redirects, the plot is cohesive. Ms. Kornetsky uses a great balance of entertaining wit in her novel. Lines such as: ‘He could see the thoughts going across her face: that was the thing about Ginny, she was so used to working behind a computer screen, she’d never learned to hide her thoughts. The woman shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of a poker table, ever…’ were infused at just the right moment to conjure a chuckle from the reader. However, she was reserved and savvy not to overstate the humor—a sign that she is in command of her story and uses this approach to show her reader rather than tell in opportune moments. It is clear from the onset of Collared: A Gin & Tonic Mystery that Ms. Kornetsky had a clear vision of where she intended to not only lead her reader, but direct the story as well. She was reserved and imposed a natural flow rather than a race to the finish at the behest of a ‘forced pen.’ I give her great props for knowing her audience well and delivering a witty and entertaining detective adventure. Hopefully, this is the first of a series of Gin and Tonic tales. I certainly hope this is the case.

Quill Says: There’s a lot more entertainment to ‘Gin and Tonic’ than a wedge of lime.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review - Realm of the Unknown

Realm of the Unknown

By: James B. McPike
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Publishing Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59299-870-8
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: December 2012

Realm of the Unknown is a fascinating story by James B. McPike, whose debut novel, Final Outcome, was an award winner. Like the first book, this one takes off quickly. In fact, after reading the three-page prologue, the reader will likely want to continue into this historical thriller without delay. Additionally, anyone really interested in religious history will get their adrenaline pumping by the end of the prologue and continue through to the last page without pause as they hunt for answers to the questions that arise as they read.

Vince Ramsey, investigator from the Ministry, is asked to investigate the killing of many people at a gathering in Israel. There seems to be no reason for this slaughter except many years ago, the same thing happened in Masada, Israel. Could the two events be related?

Vince goes to the crime scene and talks to some forensic experts who seem to think that the perpetrator of this horror is something or someone supernatural. Why? Because, they reason, no human could have done such a horrible thing. As Vince is leaving the site he finds a necklace that is very old. He decides to take the necklace to the Antiquities Authority where he meets historical specialist, April Fulton. They decide to work together to find out just what happened at Masada.

Vince and April soon learn that the necklace is linked to a secret society that was founded by a Greek philosopher. However, things are much more wicked and evil than they originally thought. They are now being hunted down at every place they go by assassins. What makes it worse (yes, it can be worse!) is that they don't know who the assassins are working for. What do they want (?), other than, of course, seeing Vince and April dead.

Starting with Jerusalem, at a museum where they are confronted by some rather unsavory people who threaten them to turn over the artifact, the pair continue their search for the truth. It's soon on to Florence, Italy to meet Henry Quinlan, who is an expert in some of the religious findings about the artifact. Unfortunately, the bad guys are there waiting for them. Finally, Vince and April travel to Paris to check on the grave of Nicolas Flamel, who was an alchemist and found the philosopher’s stone that would turn base metal into gold. They find that they are after a very powerful villain who can control a powerful force that is only known by readers of the Book of Revelation. Is it possible to stop this evil villain before it is too late?

Quill Says: Based on historical fact and very well researched, Realm of the Unknown will take the reader from Israel to Italy and France and beyond, as they join Vince and April on a desperate search for the truth.

Book Review - Quests of Shadowind

Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter (Book 1)

By: L.A. Miller
Publisher: Millhouse Press
Publication Date: December 2011 (Revised Edition)
ISBN: 978-0-615-43925-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 2012

Ah…to be young again. That is exactly what this book will remind adults of, while at the same time allowing all young adult's out there to have an absolute ball.

Logan and Mindy Oakes are brother and sister - and they are hysterical. Yes, they stand up for one another and stand beside one another (while they’re teasing, taunting and getting each other in trouble when they can - just like great siblings are supposed to do). What they don’t expect however, is after a party to celebrate the thrills of summer vacation they wake up to find themselves in a house they’ve never seen before, in a neighborhood that’s bombarded with everything from talking anibots to a mechanical spider (with feelings), and huge mechanical ants that work hard to build and repair things.

But they’re not the only ones who wake up in this 'new' world with no parents anywhere; their friends are there as well, and no one can remember anything except a strange-looking cake that was at the party that Logan filled up on.

As Logan and Mindy sit in their new bedroom wearing the strangest PJ’s you can imagine, they watch their next door neighbor, who’s celebrating his twentieth birthday and thinks this must be some kind of practical joke, be transported into the body of the mechanical spider and led away. Not only that but Sami, Mindy’s best friend, has for some reason sided with the neighborhood bully who’s holding something over her head and is about to make a huge mistake by trusting the wrong people.

In order to find their missing parents and get out of this world, Mindy and Logan will find themselves trapped in a computer where they will do everything from playing a game of war with those little plastic soldier figurines to walking through a place of ‘Deep Shadows’ where there’s a man attempting to help them on their quest and a group of dark spirits who are led by one - Torrent - who is searching for a powerful staff that will allow him to become the lord and master of all he surveys.

This is an adventure to end all adventures and it’s truly exciting to not only be offered a plot that’s faster than Indiana Jones and more fun than any video game on the planet - but also to have a book in hand that doesn’t rely on any vampire, werewolf, or the undead to engage the reader. The author has done a magnificent job of writing a book that is full of real action and adventure.

Quill Says: Put the joystick, laptop - heck, even the Smartphone - down and read this book! You’re guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interview with Author N.E. Castle

Today we're talking with N.E. Castle, author of Loogie the Booger Genie: Prince of Prank (Volume 1)

FQ: This is an absolutely adorable book that really touches on a huge lesson for kids; how did you come up with this unique way of getting through to kids?

He just popped into my head one morning when I was remembering a particularly nasty cold which involved the blowing of--dare I keep saying this--a snot bubble.

FQ: Was there an actual castle-tour in you past?

I had actually just finished a trip to England during which we visited several castles along A170 heading from Scarborough to Pontefract. A princely background seemed like a neat twist on the genie concept, so I went with it. And what old English tale doesn't involve a wizard?

FQ: Is there a specific children’s writer who engages you with the way they present everything from humor to morals?

I have a few favorites, including C.S. Lewis, Walter Farley, Dr. Seuss, and of course J.K. Rowling. They all inspire me for different reasons.

FQ: I realize, thankfully, that this is only Volume 1; do you, at present, know how many titles this series will run?

I currently have two additional titles written: Loogie the Booger Genie and the Very Nasty Cold (volume 2), and Loogie the Booger Genie and the Big, Bad Bully (volume 3). I have others concepted and ready to start once I have completed publishing volumes 2 and 3. I envision an ongoing series for Loogie that brings him closer and closer to home. Eventually he will find his way, but he's acted pretty badly and Wizard Hendrick makes no promises as to what will happen once the spell is broken.

FQ: And, in relation to that, there are some writers who ‘already know the end,’ so to speak. This is a question truly aimed at authors because everyone has a different writing style. So, as an author, I was wondering if Loogar is finished in your own mind, or can changes still occur?

Definitely, changes can still occur. Nothing is ever finished until it's finished.

FQ: I personally love the ‘Katie wearing all pink’ character in the book. Is this, perhaps, based on you? In other words, were you or are you a prankster at heart?

My step-daughter loves her pink, but the prankster was my brother growing up, and now my partner has picked up that torch.

FQ: Is you favorite genre children’s fiction? Or are you thinking of branching out into other areas?

My first novel was actually a crime thriller--definitely NOT for children. I like writing whatever comes to mind and I try to structure my writing around the audience that the work is targeted for. I have a few other works under way, including a comedic screenplay, a paranormal sci-fi action-adventure, and a sequel to my first novel that my readers so desperately hound me for.

FQ: YA has become the rage over the past two decades, as we all know. Basically edging out adult fiction after a long reign on top. How do you feel about this? Are you happy that perhaps kids will finally walk away from Facebook and Twitter in order to read again?

Facebook and Twitter have their draw--friends whenever you want them without having to make actual contact. But nothing compares to getting lost in a good book. I do hope that today's young generation don't miss out on that.

To learn more about Loogie the Booger Genie: Prince of Prank (Volume 1) please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review - Loogie the Booger Genie

Loogie the Booger Genie: Prince of Prank (Volume 1)

By: N.E. Castle
Illustrated By: Bret Herholz & N.E. Castle
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4792-7201-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 13, 2012

The title says it all, readers…(LOL). This is one children’s book that will literally draw readers in and keep them there to the very last page.

We begin with a young man - a prince, in fact - living in England at Garoth Castle, 805 years ago. Prince Loogar is the King’s son and basically (probably because there was no T.V. or Xbox back then) spent all his time playing pranks on everyone from the King to his beloved nursemaid to - unfortunately for him - the wizard of the castle named, Hendrick.

Hendrick is what you would call a version of Dumbledore with a mean streak. But you mustn’t be angry with him. After all, Prince Loogar is a tough one to put up with. And when Loogar plays a prank on the wizard and sets him up to be downgraded from ‘magic man’ to kitchen staff by the Queen, Hendrick decides to punish Loogar in order to prove to him that he needs to be more responsible and knock off the ‘bratty’ ways.

Fast forward to present day… Garoth Castle is basically in ruins and a spot on the castle tour for Charlie - a seven-year-old - and his family. Charlie is a prankster as well, although not nearly as good as Loogar was. Was? Nope. Because of an interesting spell created by Hendrick, Loogar finds himself still very much alive in present-day and living as a genie inside Charlie’s nose.

Let’s just say that Loogar and Charlie must battle a bit, because Loogar is a prince and sees Charlie as nothing more than a peasant and has a difficult time with the fact that he’s living inside a subordinate’s nostrils. But in order for Loogar to break the spell and be returned to his own home, he must find a way to do good deeds in order to show that he’s not the spoiled brat he has proven himself to be.
The plot is more than unique and a memorable journey for kids. And because this is only Volume 1 of the story, it will be interesting to see how this humorous author returns Loogar to his time and homeland, as well as how he and Charlie become close friends along the way. From kindness to friendship to learning responsibility while having the adventure of a lifetime, this is a book that offers everything both kids and parents want!

Quill Says: A real ‘life lesson’ told in a really hysterical way!

For more information on Loogie the Booger Genie: Prince of Prank (Volume 1), please visit the book's website at: