Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review - Heart of Glass

Heart of Glass

By: Sasha Gould
Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-385-74152-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 1, 2013

For everyone who read the incredible story, Cross My Heart, this is the sequel that, if possible, is even better than the first.

Here we begin with Roberto - the Doge’s son - honing his battle skills with the love of his life, Laura della Scala. Laura is the young lady who solved the murder of her sister three months ago by joining up with the secret society of ‘masked’ females who call themselves the Segreta. These are women who help one and all, by trading their massive skills and huge network of resources for secrets.

One day, when Laura heads out to choose her wedding dress, she runs across a young woman whose face is adorned with the proof that she’s being beaten by her husband. Laura tells her to come to a very specific spot where the Segreta will meet that night, in order to see justice done. However, when the woman arrives, the secret she trades is one of war - a secret that the Segreta will use in a very interesting way.

Soon the night comes where Laura goes out on her first special mission, sent by the head of the Segreta. Unfortunately, the mission is a bust, but what’s worse is when Laura returns to the city and finds a murdered woman in Roberto’s home.

Dealing with the pain of watching her beloved go through agony over a crime he did not commit, Laura must also deal with her father - who is still far more interested in money than he is in his children. Although Laura enjoys the company of her brother, the wife he has chosen is not up to snuff in her father’s eyes, and he constantly complains about her.

However, when Roberto is accused of murder, her father does receive a glint in his eye, when Prince Halim and the Turks arrive in Venice on a strictly diplomatic trip. The city goes into an uproar over the visit, but the Prince is extremely interested in Laura, and wants to vie to win her hand from the Doge’s son who has literally been pushed off his glamorous throne. When it is revealed that the dead woman was actually Prince Halim’s sister, the Prince tells all of Venice that the Ottoman Empire will strike if Roberto is not put to death immediately.

The adventure begins as Laura and her masked Segreta women try their best to unearth the secrets and lies that have been put in place, racing against the clock in order to save both Roberto and their beautiful city.

As was said in the beginning, it is always a thrill when ‘Book II’ is even better than the first. This author has done a magnificent job continuing the tale of Roberto and Laura, and readers will not be able to put this down!

Quill says: A magnificent tale of mystery, intrigue and danger; the author receives a definite ‘A+’!

Book Review - Strands of Bronze and Gold

Strands of Bronze and Gold

By: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-97598-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 1, 2013

Talk about Jane Austen with a twist! In fact, this is one of those novels that offers the historical and romantic beauty of Austen, yet also provides enough spine-tingling chills for the most modern-day paranormal and suspense lover to jump on board.
Our main character is Sophia. A good girl, she has lived a wonderful life thus far, although money has been extremely tight. She’s only ever seen ‘riches’ when her godfather - an old friend of her father’s - would send gifts to her on birthdays, holidays, etc. He was always doting on her, and now the time has come for Sophia to meet him face-to-face.

When her father dies suddenly, Sophia knows she must find a way to support her siblings and accepts an invitation from her godfather to come stay with him at his stunning Louisiana estate called Wyndriven Abbey.

This is 1855, and slaves are a part of life at the Abbey, but the most uncomfortable thing for Sophia is her guardian’s slightly overzealous feelings for her. Bernard de Cressac certainly doesn’t lack when it comes to charm; however, as his secrets are revealed one by one, Sophia soon learns that he has buried many wives who suffered various ‘accidents,’ as well as one who committed suicide. As Bernard goes off on his various business trips, Sophia uncovers even more information that makes her wonder if there is any chance whatsoever of her breaking free from the frightening castle alive.

Meeting up with a Reverend Gideon, Sophia soon understands that he is the only one she can count on to get out of the situation that’s growing more strange by the second. From a war hero to a literal monster, Sophia must use her wits to get out of the clutches of this man.

This author is so good at her job that the reader can immediately feel their own skin start to melt as she explains the heat that’s felt in a carriage ride through the Deep South, and they can almost see the weight of the humidity upon the oppressed willow trees. From the explanations of the mythological paintings gracing the Abbey’s walls to the stunning grounds that hold a medieval, gated chapel that’s locked in order to keep prying eyes away, each page of this book feels like a literal dream.

Quill says: This is pure and utter poetry wrapped around a haunting tale readers will never forget!

Book Review - Starstruck


By: Rachel Shukert
Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-385-74108-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 1, 2013

Ever since the ‘Flappers’ series, it has been such a thrill to see the YA world turn to the past and unearth the extremely ‘cool’ eras. And in this new - completely amazing - book, readers get to take a peek into the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood…a time that was literally filled with true stars.

Beginning where any Hollywood story should, readers are delivered to the red carpet. It is 1938 and Diana Chesterfield - the star of all stars - is celebrating the opening night of her latest Olympus Studios picture that the world has been waiting for. Unfortunately, even though many big stars arrive, Diana doesn’t, leading the gossip mill to begin buzzing about where, exactly, she could have gone.

At the premiere, watching the flashbulbs and trying not to drool over Dane Forrest - the most handsome actor in the world who is said to be Diana’s true love - is Margaret Frobisher. She is one of those girls with a longing to leave her debutante, boring life behind and shine onscreen, where she will become everyone’s next beloved star.

Oddly enough, unlike most of the girls who fantasize about this particular life, Margaret’s dream comes true. As she sits in Schwab’s, which is the unofficial canteen of the Hollywood colony, the Director of Publicity for Olympus Studios suddenly appears and offers her a screen test; a screen test that, with the help of the amazing Dane Forrest, is a smash hit. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Margaret looks a great deal like the missing superstar, and Olympus Studios is desperate to find someone who can take Diana Chesterfield’s spot ASAP.

Soon, Margaret sees behind the scenes and secrets are revealed about the Hollywood life that she hadn’t even imagined. She is beyond tantalized by the glamour and captivated by Dane’s smile; however, the pall of mystery still hangs over her head, wondering what on earth happened to Diana Chesterfield. Is the studio harboring a secret, or is Dane Forrest a man who has made an evil mistake? Whatever the case may be, Margaret finds herself knee-deep in a world that looked a heck of a lot more fun on the pages of Variety magazine.

This is beyond exhilarating. The reader will feel as if they are standing right on that red carpet as old Hollywood is revealed to one and all. The secrets, the lies, the back-door deals, the young stars living on drugs in order for them to keep up with what the studio and American people want from them - every page is an absolute rush!

Quill Says: This is one you do not want to miss, and it will have you dreaming of what Hollywood was like before the class and charm disappeared.

Book Review - Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York

Mallory and Mary Ann Take New York

By: Laurie Friedman
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Publication Date: January 2013
ISBN: 978-0761360742
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2013

Mallory McDonald, age ten and a half, wanted to be a fashion designer more than anything. Well, almost anything. Fashion Fran was going to have a “Design Your Dream Outfit Contest” and Mallory and her BFF, Mary Ann, were planning on winning it. The popcorn was ready and Fashion Fran was going to announce how to enter the contest. It was soooo exciting and they’d been waiting for weeks for the big announcement. Max, Mallory’s BIG, annoying brother, grabbed the remote because he wanted to check out some sports scores. Not. “Are you crazy?!?” she yelled. “Mary Ann and I have a V.I.S. show to watch.” Fashion Fran was a “Very Important Show” and no way were they going to watch sports.

The “Design Your Dream Outfit Contest” was going to be Mallory’s chance to be on a V.I.S. and she was planning on winning. There was only one problem and that was Mary Ann. “All we have to do is make a pinky swear,” she claimed. “If one of us wins, we’ll figure out a way to both go on the show.” Time was running out and they had to submit their drawings. Skinny jeans, a tunic top, sunglasses, a wig, and a few more things and Mallory was done, or so she thought. It wasn’t long before George the mailman brought her a letter. Miss Mallory McDonald had won the contest and only the winner could go on the show. How on earth was Mallory going to get Mary Ann on Fashion Fran’s?

Mallory is in big time trouble when she makes a pinky swear with Mary Ann she can’t keep. Naturally it’s a huge problem because Mary Ann is her “lifelong best friend” and a pinky swear is well, a pinky swear. The girls went to Washington before (Red, White & True Blue Mallory), but New York City is the trip of a lifetime. It’s a huge opportunity to be on a V.I.S., Fashion Fran’s, but it looks like there’s big time trouble on the horizon that even a pinky swear can’t seem to remedy. When they play the “Quiet Game,” they stop speaking to each other and things go downhill practically from the time they get off the plane. The little twist at the end is ingenious, making this Mallory book one of the best I’ve read. If you haven’t met Mallory, age ten and a half, you’re in for a real treat!

Quill says: If you love Mallory, you're going to enjoy her zany trip to New York City with her BBF, Mary Ann!

Book Review - Panda Panic

Panda Panic: Awesome Animals

By: Jamie Rix
PUblisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1438003047
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2103

No doubt it would be just another day on Mount Tranquil for all the pandas. Tranquil indeed until Ping ran toward everyone screaming, “Run for your lives!” The poachers were out to get them all. Not. An, Ping’s twin sister, told him that “your lying stinks worse than golden monkey poo.” Ping was always anxious for a big adventure, but there wasn’t a lot of it on the Wolagung Nature Reserve where tourist’s came to take their pictures all the time. Mao Mao, his mother, warned him to quit making up so many stories all the time. Even Choo, a golden monkey, called him a fibber. A fibber yes, but an adventurous one!

Ping was really getting bored and “if he didn’t do something exciting soon, he would almost certainly turn into a stone.” Maybe a big giant rock. Hui, a grandala bird, had overhead one of the rangers talking about some sort of Panda Exchange Program. Could it be one way that Ping could get out to see the world and have some real adventure in his life? Ping asked Mao Mao if she could help him write a letter to the London Zoo. “Help, is,” she replied, “the thief of self-knowledge.” Another one of her sayings wasn’t going to help him see the world. “Living life in the slow lane,” had to stop. What could Ping do to convince the rangers that he was just the perfect panda for the Panda Exchange Program?

This is a fun and zany story of Ping and his life full of panda-monium. All excitement and pandemonium break loose in the Wolagong Nature Reserve when young Ping gets his heart and head set on getting just the right kind of attention that will send him around the world. Each time Ping hears about a new exchange, he writes a letter. In return, another foreign panda tells him just the right kind of crazy skills he’ll need to be a star in their country. Ping tries everything from surfing, to dancing, to kickboxing, all of which land him in the vet’s office. If you have a youngster who loves adventure like Ping, he or she might just find it in the pages of this book!

Quill says: Ping is just the kind of wild and crazy animal that everyone will fall in love with!

Book Review - Assaulted Pretzel

Assaulted Pretzel: An Amish Mystery

By: Laura Bradford
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0425252000
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 1, 2013

Claire Weatherly had only been in Heavenly, Pennsylvania for about eight months after her divorce. It wasn’t easy to leave her old life behind, but her aunt Diane welcomed her to Amish country with open arms. The Heavenly Inn, Aunt Diane’s inn, would be her new home. Claire had already set up a gift shop, Heavenly Treasures, and made new friends. It was now what she had to look forward to that really mattered, not the disappointment of her past. Claire was planning on going to the Amish Food Festival that night, but was pleasantly surprised when Melinda Simon, a guest at the inn, had an announcement to make. Apparently Rob Karble, of Karble Toys, was going to introduce a new line of toys, “Back to Basics.”

It would be an exciting opportunity for the residents of Heavenly, especially for Daniel Lapp who already produced Amish toys. The whole town was excited about the venture until they found out just what Karble had up his sleeve. Yes, there would be an Amish line of toys, but no one in Heavenly was planning on working in Grand Rapids on an assembly line. Claire’s surprise turned to shock and disappointment at the discovery. Detective Jakob Fisher, who’d been excommunicated from the Amish community when he decided to become a police officer, learned of the new development along with Claire when they went to the festival.

Ann and Rob Karble had been fighting in the evening, but it finally began to dawn on her why there was turmoil. Benjamin, an old rival of Jakob’s, confirmed that Karble had apparently taken “pictures of Daniel and Isaac’s work.” Isaac, Jakob’s brother, had even shown him specialized plans. It definitely looked like Karble was no more than a thief. It soon looked like there would be even more trouble in Heavenly when Esther King found a body. Rob Karble could no longer steal from anyone ... “a half-eaten pretzel found inches away from a blood-soaked rock” next to his corpse ended it all. There was a mysterious note that could be the answer to his death, but would Claire be able to find out before someone else died?

Everything is anything but heavenly when murder once again visits Heavenly, Pennsylvania. I’ve read both books in the series and find that Laura Bradford definitely captures the gentle nature and spirit of the Amish in her work. The complications of Jakob’s excommunication and how the Ordnung works are covered more thoroughly in Hearse and Buggy, but I still find the tension between him and the members of the Heavenly Amish community interesting. When Esther cries out, “But killing is wrong! For any reason!” we learn a lot about the philosophy. Claire is a more than capable sleuth, one that I’ll be watching for some time to come. Is there chance for a romance? There is one man she can never be with and another pushing her away. This is one fascinating series that has a lot of promise and loads of intrigue.

Quill says: This is an exciting new series that definitely is one of the most exciting and intriguing I've seen in some time!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review - Outrageous October

Outrageous October

By: Barbara Levenson
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: February 2013
ISBN: 1480093661
Reviewed by: M.A. Thomas
Review Date: March 2013

Mary Katz is content with her life as a proficient criminal defense attorney and having a gorgeous fiancé, Carlos. Unfortunately for Mary, a rift developed in her relationship with Carlos the night she saw him with his ex-spouse in a restaurant. Without waiting to hear his explanation, she broke off her engagement with him, packed her belongings in her SUV and made her retreat to High Pines, Vermont with her German shepherd, Sam.

During her stay at her friend’s summerhouse in Vermont, Mary came to the realization that she was living in the wrong house when she received a stack of mail addressed to the Brousseau family. Carolyn Brousseau is the name of the socialite who was found murdered in the same house. Her son, Tom was the prime suspect, but her murder was still not solved. As a result of this discovery and further investigations, Mary ends up meeting the charming lawyer of the village, Dash Mellman. He is intrigued with Mary and persuades her to provide legal assistance for one of his clients. Although Mary came to Vermont to heal her broken heart after seeing her ex-fiancĂ© with another woman, she is dedicated to her career. She makes the decision to take over the legal case for Dash and suddenly finds herself immersed in a neighborhood feud that progresses into all-out warfare.

While her legal work is underway, Mary also learns that Lillian Yarmouth, one of her former clients has a daughter, Sherry who is missing. Her gut instinct tells her that Sherry’s new boyfriend is involved with her sudden disappearance. During the investigation, Lillian receives a phone call that her daughter is being held for ransom. She knows that time is of the essence before Sherry is found dead. Should Mary return to Miami to reconcile with Carlos or continue her involvement with the pending investigations in Vermont?

Outrageous October is the third mystery novel from the Mary Margruder Katz series. Ms. Barbara Levenson is a brilliant author who created a chilling tale that will captivate the imagination of readers as they turn each page. The characters are beautifully drawn and held my interest. Outrageous October is a suspenseful novel that I enjoyed and grateful for the chance to review. I am looking forward to reading Ms. Levenson’s fourth installment in her mystery series.

Quill says: Mystery fans will have a good adventure reading this gripping storyline that consists of an unsolved murder, mystery, and romance.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review - When She Was Gone

When She Was Gone

By: Gwendolen Gross
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-8474-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 29, 2013

26 Sycamore Street is where Linsey Hart was before she disappeared in Gwendolen Gross’ latest novel, When She Was Gone.

Linsey Hart would be leaving her quiet New Jersey neighborhood to attend her first year at Cornell College in a few short days. However, there’s a problem. She’s gone missing. The last person to see her alive was her eccentric neighbor Mr. Leonard—former music teacher who lives at 24 Sycamore Street. Chronic insomnia was as much a curse as a gift for Leonard given the endless hours he spent awake and completely enrapt in his ongoing ritual of composing music. He was uncertain whether he heard Linsey whispering into her phone from the safety of her front porch rocker the night before or maybe it was the voices inside his own head…

In the early morning dawn the next day and long before respectable small town communities embrace the new day dawning, Linsey quietly slipped out the front door of her 26 Sycamore home; taped her note to the mailbox and continued down the steps. As she adjusted the strap to her duffle, she didn’t bother to look back as she placed one foot in front of the other. Perhaps if she had, she would have noticed the breeze that kicked up and did not subside until it released her note taped to the box. Nobody was there to witness its departure as it cascaded down to the porch below and effortlessly slipped through the crack before landing in its final resting place in the foundation below.

Maybe Linsey’s decision to go missing was because her mother, Abigail, spent way too much time planning every facet of her life—the most recent implementation being the insistence Linsey break up with her boyfriend Timmy. There was no point for the two of them to continue seeing each other. Timmy was headed to California for college while Linsey would remain on the East Coast. Abigail rationalized her mandate further by insisting Linsey was too young for an ever after union at this juncture in her young life. The reality that Linsey has gone missing accelerates when Abigail’s forty-something, over-sexed housewife/mother and neighbor, Helena, at 6 ½ Sycamore Street enlightens her with the fact Linsey never showed up for her summer babysitting gig that particular date. If only that note hadn’t slipped between the cracks on the porch hours earlier.

Ms. Gross was very consistent in painting clear images with her words as she introduced each of her characters who lived on Sycamore Street. However, beyond that, Ms. Gross disallowed the reader to engage and formulate his or her own mood because she overcompensated with an abundance of analogous and metaphorical depictions. This is not meant to be a slight as much as an observation. Generally speaking, one of the more prominent pleasures I look forward to when reading a good story is to have the opportunity to formulate my own opinion based on the scene or situation played out across the pages. It entices me to turn the pages to find out what happens next. There is no question Ms. Gross was directing her audience. However, she controlled too much of the story with her analogies and metaphors which disallowed this reader to wonder what would potentially happen next. However, I will give her credit for her portrayal of the relationship between mother, Abigail and daughter, Linsey. I have a ‘baby’ on her way to college this year. It’s a monumental time in a mother and daughter’s life and I think Ms. Gross was very connected in not only conveying the imminent change on her two characters’ horizons but what that would mean for both women as well.

Quill says: When She Was Gone is a solid depiction of the contrasts between belonging (or not) with an ending that is far from predictable.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review - You Cannoli Die Once

You Cannoli Die Once

By: Shelley Costa
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 2013
ISBN: 978-1476709352
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 28, 2013

Eve Angelotta had enough on her mind that afternoon. Not only was she the head chef at the family owned/operated Italian restaurant Miracolo, trying to plan the evening’s specials, but she also had to deal with all the quirky personalities that frequented the place, from Dana, the singer who, honestly, couldn’t carry a tune, to Maria Pia, Eve’s extremely strong-willed, opinionated, lovable but incredibly annoying, grandmother. The last thing Eve needed was to stumble upon a murder victim in her beloved restaurant’s kitchen. Who the heck was it?

To be fair, not even Sherlock Holmes would have guessed who was lying on the floor since the old man’s head was pretty bashed in. And just why was the body sprawled out on top of one of the restaurant’s Enrico Caruso records? Fortunately, it didn’t take police long to identify the victim…unfortunately, the victim was Arlen Mather, Maria Pia’s beau. Quicker than Eve could whip up a scrumptious veal saltimbocca, Maria Pia was hauled off to jail. Would Eve and her cohorts be able to solve the mystery, spring “Nonna” from jail, and return to the good life of making fabulous Italian cuisine at Miracolo?

The first book in author Shelley Costa’s new cozy mystery series set in and around Miracolo, an Italian restaurant in a small town near Philadelphia, is a hoot. I admit to initially being attracted to this book by the title – could the story be just as enticing? Yes! Within a few pages, I knew I was in for a good read. The characters are interesting and funny, the plot engaging, and the mystery has enough twists and turns – are the rash of robberies related to the murder? - to keep you guessing. There’s also a little hint of romance lurking (will it be hunky dumpster-diving lawyer Joe Beck or Marlboro Man Mark Metcalf?), that promises to go from slightly warm to sizzle as the series progresses.

Quill says: A fantastic start to a brand new cozy series. I’m hooked and eagerly looking forward to the next dish Eve Angelotta will be serving in her restaurant.

Book Review - Rainbow Panda and the Firecracker Fiasco

Rainbow Panda and the Firecracker Fiasco

By: Eileen Wacker
Illustrated by: Alan M. Low
Publisher: Once Kids, LLC
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1467517492
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: March 28, 2013

Rainbow Panda is soooooo excited! Tomorrow is the start of the New Year Celebration and there are so many fun things to do in preparation. He has also been told that firecrackers used during the celebration will wake dragons, “who then fly across the sky and water crops.” Wow, how neat is that???!!! As a typical curious, fun-loving youngster, just getting ready for the celebration isn’t enough for Rainbow Panda. He has come up with a plan that will make him a hero. Because he knows where the dragons live on the island, he will go to them and throw firecrackers under their feet. They’ll jump up in a fright, and fly across the sky. No doubt Rainbow Panda will be a hero.

Although Rainbow Panda has been told NOT to play with firecrackers, he continues with his plan. He enlists the help of Green Hamster and Pink Hamster, who convince Rainbow Panda that it’s not nice to throw fireworks at others. They agree that they’ll just light the firecrackers and then off they go, to the forest to find Dynasty Dragon. When the group finds the dragon, the little firebreather has some serious reservations about playing with fireworks too. After a brief discussion, Rainbow Panda volunteers to light the fireworks because he is “an expert.” What could possibly go wrong?

Parents will know immediately what can, and will, go wrong as Rainbow Panda proceeds with his plan. Young readers may guess, too, that mayhem is about to break out as matches are lit and dropped to the ground. It is an excellent lesson on why you should always listen to your parents when they caution against doing certain things. Rainbow Panda also provides a wonderful look at a different culture, with different customs (why orange juice and a pear is given to each participant at the New Year Celebration, for example). There are also seven pages at the back of the book with explanations on various references made in the story, from long noodles to drinking tea.

Quill says: A cute story, with a happy ending, that teaches lessons in obeying elders as well as instilling an understanding for the beauty and wonder of Asian culture.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review - On the Move

On the Move: Mass Migrations

By: Scotti Cohn
Illustrated by: Susan Detwiler
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1607186168
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2013

The herd of caribou sticks close together as they begin their migration. A calf bleats to his mother as she walks along. There are many different types of animals that migrate and “they do this to find food or to give birth in a warm, safe place.” Migrations take place in every season, but each group of animals has their own reason for moving from one place to another. In the spring it’s time for the spotted salamanders to head to wetland pools. It is there where “they find their mates.” The females lay their eggs that cluster on the plants. The sandhill cranes also are on the move in springtime. Their “warbling, trumpeting, chirping” fills the air as they fly. It’s time for them to move and to mate as they migrate.

Horseshoe crabs gather on the beaches to lay their eggs in the spring. Red knots are also on the move and take the opportunity to steal the horseshoe crabs’ eggs when they can. Common green darner dragonflies watch the crabs and the red knots, but they will not migrate until the fall. At the end of summer when early fall approaches, “thousands of chimney swifts are on the move.” They are heading south, but will “swirl down into the smokestack to spend the night.” In this book you will meet many animal groups who migrate at different times of the year. You’ll learn about the free-tailed bat, the monarch butterflies, polar bears, cottonmouth snakes, northern elephant seals, salmon, and gray whales.

This is a fascinating glimpse at the mass migrations of animals. The times and reasons for migrations vary, but the artwork in this book brings excitement to the topic with full-page, full-color depictions of the animals. The locales vary so children who live in different parts of the country may have seen some of these animals in motion. For example, because the monarch butterfly has a wide migration route, many children will be familiar with them. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with more difficult words such as “amphipods.” In the back of the book are several activities that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: This exciting book about animals on the move would be an excellent book to introduce young students to animal behavior!

Book Review - Animal Helpers

Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries

By: Jennifer Keats Curtis
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1607186113
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2013

The big tiger moved forward, his eyes focused as if he had spotted his prey, but wait ... is he in the wild? Unfortunately, this tiger may have become a victim of circumstance instead of being able to roam in the wild. These days “some people do own wild animals as pets or as part of a performing act.” Unfortunately, these critters don’t always remain small or hold their charm and people find themselves unable to take care of them. Just what will happen to those lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals who find themselves in this predicament? Fortunately “there are sanctuaries, rescue zoos, and even care farms” where they can go to have their needs met.

Not all states have laws in place to prevent people from obtaining wild and exotic animals as pets. The cute factor quickly goes away as they mature and they “can grow to be large, dangerous, and wild.” Lilly and Titan once found themselves in a serious predicament because they were not only ill, but starving. Fortunately they were taken in by The Wildlife Sanctuary and discovered each other. Kiki, a Canadian lynx, would be unable to take care of herself in the wild because she was declawed and her teeth were filed. When her owner was no longer able to care for her, she found a safe harbor at Safe Haven Rescue Zoo. In this book you’ll meet many other animals who have been rescued from an assortment of circumstances and have now found forever homes.

This is an amazing story of wild rescue animals who have found forever homes in sanctuaries. This is a “photo journal” of several different animals who have found themselves in a predicament not of their own making. Unfortunately, as the book states, these once cute and cuddly animals do grow up and can become a danger to the humans around them. The focus is not only on the animals, but also those who help them. The text is set into full-color, full-page photographic spreads. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with more difficult words and phrases such as “operant conditioning.” In the back of the book are several activities that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website.

Quill says: The "Animal Helpers" series is a wonderful series that introduces children to both animals and those special people who help them.

Book Review - Shark Baby

Shark Baby

By: Ann Downer
Illustrated by: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1607186229
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2013

Way beneath the ocean waves the seahorses, little crab, and a fish were nearby the Shark Baby who nestled in his egg case. The case was secure because it was “tied fast to a strand of kelp.” When he was tiny he was able to turn this way and that in his case, but soon he grew too big to “do somersaults.” Baby Shark looked this way and that, as he wondered to himself, “What kind of shark am I?” A storm tumbled through the ocean and “the egg case broke loose” and he “went tumbling and rolling in the wild current.” Whoosh! The case had torn as it tumbled and through the opening he saw a big, giant eyeball and lots of spots. What could that strange thing be?

It was a horn shark, but when he asked Shark Baby what he was he had no answer. “I don’t know,” he replied. The current continued to move Baby Shark along the bottom of the ocean floor. Once again he met up with an unusual creature. What could that strange thing be? Of course it was another shark, a pajama shark. “A pajama shark is a fine thing to be,” exclaimed the shark. Maybe, just maybe Baby Shark was a pajama shark too. He was going to meet up with many other ocean creatures, including an octopus, a manatee, a manta ray, a sea lion, and others. They were all very interested in him, but who was going to tell him what kind of shark he was?

This is a delightfully fun book of how Shark Baby finds out just who he is. The flow of the story is perfect as the reader follows Shark Baby as he discovers his world and the other creatures in it. The artwork is beautiful with full-page, full-color illustrations that introduce us to many different type of sharks. Of course children will also be able to look around the ocean floor as they identify Baby Shark's neighbors. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with more difficult words such as “pufferfish.” In the back of the book are several activities that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: This adorable book is perfect for the young nonfiction reader who wants to learn about sharks!

Book Review - Nature Recycles - How About You?

Nature Recycles - How About You?

By: Michelle Lord
Illustrated by: Cathy Morrison
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1607186151
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2013

The decorator sea urchin was hiding beneath “colorful algae, rocks, and coral.” These things offer him some protection that he might not have if he simply lay at the bottom of the ocean floor. A colorful fish swims by him, but can he see that decorator sea urchin? Perhaps, but maybe a predator might not see him and would wander on by. We all know that one thing: “Urchin recycles. / How about you?” A hermit crab peeks out from beneath a borrowed sea snail’s shell. Children play on the sand as he watches. The hermit “cannot grown his own shell,” so he recycles too. Once the shell he is wearing becomes a bit crowded, he will find another one.

A Carolina wren sings out as she lines her nest, a nest she made in an old boot. “Tea-kettle. Tea-kettle.” She has found all kinds of things no one wants any more, including “used feathers and dog hair too.” Yes, she is another creature who recycles. An elf owl peeks out from “an old woodpecker hole in the hundred-year-old saguaro cactus,” a hole that she has recycled. “Yip. Yip. Yip.” Yep, recycling is important. You’ll also learn about several other animals in nature who do just that, including the veined octopus, a Galapagos Island woodpecker finch, a dung beetle, mound-building termites, a caddisly larva, a poison dart frog, and an Asian elephant. What do you recycle?

This is a fun and fascinating look at many creatures in the wild who recycle. Full-page, full-color artwork swirls though this book as it illustrates many unusual ways that nature’s creatures ingeniously reuse and recycle as they help themselves. One of the more interesting ones is when we are able to watch the Galapagos Island woodpecker finch use a cactus spine to spear a grub for dinner. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with more difficult words such as “precipitation.” In the back of the book are several activities that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: This is the perfect book to introduce young students to recycling and creatures of the wild who do just that!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review - Ferdinand Fox's First Summer

Ferdinand Fox's First Summer

By: Mary Holland
Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1607186144
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 25, 2013

Grass and old leaves whirl around the outside of a tunnel. Inside little Ferdinand and “his four brothers and sisters were born in an underground den.” It’s very dark and they remain in there for weeks until it is time to come out. Ferdinand is the smallest kit, the “runt of the litter.” When they are young they all drink their mother's milk. At five weeks of age it is time for them to come out of the tunnel and see the world for the first time. They look around, but don’t wander off. The kits nestle up to their mother to continue nursing, but Ferdinand isn’t always first in line.

Ferdinand and the other kits all look like big balls of orange fir. Their mother takes good care of them and when she grooms them “she uses her teeth to grab bugs and burrs from their fur and then spits them out on the ground.” It’s now time for Ferdinand and the other kits to get out and learn about their habitat. It looks like he enjoys putting things in his mouth, including that little stick. Ferdinand is especially attentive to the smells around him because a “fox’s most important sense is his sense of smell.” In this book, you’ll also learn about how kits learn to hunt by playing, why they “fight” with their siblings, you’ll watch as their parents bring food to them, see their mother try to wean her pups, and you’ll learn many other fascinating things that happen to Ferdinand during his first summer.

This is a fun look at Ferdinand, a fox kit, and how he starts his life. The layout of the book is in the form of a photo journal of Ferdinand’s entire summer. The full-page, full-color photographs give an exciting look into the life of young kits from the time they emerge from the den to the end of the summer when they are capable of hunting on their own. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with unusual words such as “pounce.” In the back of the book are several activities that can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: If you have young students in your classroom who are interested in learning about wildlife, Ferdinand would be more than happy to tell them about his family!

Book Review - A Fete Worse Than Death

A Fete Worse Than Death: A Hemlock Falls Mystery

By: Claudia Bishop
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0425262795
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 25, 2013

Sarah “Quill” Quilliam-McHale was a girl who `caint say no. The Hemlock Falls annual Fingerlakes Autumn Fete was coming up and she was on every committee from the Furry Friends committee, the arts committee, to the one to “keep the Craft guild ladies from whacking each other to pieces” committee. Quill was sitting in on a meeting of the advisory committee when all heck broke loose. Brady Beale, who wanted a piece of the pie, made a motion to move the fete from Hemlock Falls to Summersville. Wrong. Of course Rev. Dookie Shuttleworth would clam up, but the motion was soundly defeated when Mayor Elmer Henry took a vote. His wife, Adela, had coordinated the festival for thirty years and no way would that idiotic suggestion pass.

Quill had been an innkeeper at the Inn at Hemlock Falls for fifteen years along with her sister, Meg, who was the chef. “So everyone went home mad,” Quill explained to her friend, Madge, but that wouldn’t be the end of it. From pickles to pies, there would be petty bickering, but those thirty thousand people showing up for the fete couldn’t have imagined what was going on behind the scenes. Carol Ann Spinoza, making good use of her “inner Idi Amin,” began finger pointing at Adela Henry. The cat fight was on and the next thing you know, Adela quit. Carol Ann may have just as well been holding up a sign that said: “Embezzler.” What next?

Hemlock Falls had to find an event coordinator, that’s what, and Adela went missing. Sheriff Davy Kiddermeister had to find her because this “fete-fraud” called for an investigation. “It’s what they say about nightmares,” Elmer exclaimed, “I’m in one.” Althea did the scouting and soon Linda Connelly, a professional event coordinator from Presentations, was on the job. It seemed like everyone in Hemlock Falls was acting as crazy as Jeeter Swenson, Quinn’s new long-term resident at the Inn, who claimed he’d seen the Seneca Lake Monster. Davy Kiddermeister had seen something just as scary as that monster when he opened up the trunk of a car at Peterson Automotive. It was Ms. Connelly and Bismarck, a cat. “Shot in the back of the head,” Quill told her husband, Myles. She swore she’d never become involved with another murder investigation, but was this one too intriguing to resist?

Hemlock Falls is in an uproar when murder and mayhem threaten to put an end to the festivities. The town turmoil was very realistic and not unlike that of any small town, especially when not-so-kind words begin to fly. However, eventually this mystery goes far beyond the usual discovery of a body as all is not quite as simple as it seems. There are people who aren’t who they claim to be and eventually, beneath the surface of it all, this cozy mystery is far from cozy. Hints of money in the Cayman Islands, another murder, the appearance of the FBI, and even hints of long-ago Russian involvement add to the intrigue. Hemlock Falls is murder magnet, but Quill, who has a lot of corpses “under her belt,” will solve them all!

Quill says: If you want to take a step beyond the small town cozy mystery, Meg and Sarah will definitely show you around and give you the tour of a lifetime!

Book Review - Heart of a Falcon

Heart of a Falcon

By: Janice M. Ladendorf
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Publishing Date: November 2011
ISBN: 978-1611603026
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: March 2013

In the year 1830, 14-year-old Lizbeth McTavish and her father, who is a doctor, move from the hills of Virginia to Pittsburgh, PA where they board a boat that takes them to an Army Encampment at Fort Gibson in what would become the state of Oklahoma. Dr. McTavish has contracted to work at the fort's hospital, as Chief Surgeon for three years. In their family they also have Maybelle, who was a slave but was freed by Lizbet’s late mother.

This book is extremely well-researched and takes the reader back in time to the American Frontier. Lizbet’s mother was obviously a very liberated woman for that moment in time and Lizbet was well taught in the ways of women’s lib before it was a "real" movement. Lizbet’s dad has worked hard to teach his daughter to be independent and he is also a very learned doctor, scientist, and horse whisperer. All this was probably due to the fact that he is part Indian (Ottawa Tribe).

On their journey west they have many adventures as Lizbet and her father fight off men who want to harm Maybelle. The two hunt together and the Doctor tends to sick people in the ports that they visit as well as passengers on the boat. Lizbet, due to her Indian heritage, sees a beautiful silver horse in her dreams and the author introduces readers to a Mustang, who is also having dreams of being owned by a young girl. These passages lead readers into the spirit world of the Indians and readers will wonder if Lizbet will ever see the beautiful horse of her dreams.

Quill says: This young girl is a true wonder and sometimes it’s a bit hard to believe that she is so perfect. In her defense, she is very intelligent and a good daughter and also a good friend to all she meets. Heart of a Falcon is a nice story about a young girl in love with horses.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Books in for Review

Here's a peak at some of the books that have recently come in for review.  There is a definite children's theme this week!  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews.  Enjoy!

My Ever After Chronicles by Carol Lynn Vengroff In her new inspirational book "My Ever After Chronicles" author Carol Lynn Vengroff relives her near-death experience for readers, offering them information about the afterlife and answering many of their profound questions about life and . . .heaven.  

The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven Banished by her wealthy Filipino family in Manila, Amparo Guerrero travels to Oakland, California, to forge a new life. Although her mother labels her life in exile a diminished one, Amparo believes her struggles are a small price to pay for freedom. Like Amparo, Beverly Obejas—an impoverished Filipina waitress—forsakes Manila and comes to Oakland as a mail-order bride in search of a better life. Yet even in the land of plenty, Beverly fails to find the happiness and prosperity she envisioned. As Amparo works to build the immigrant’s dream, she becomes entangled in the chaos of Beverly’s immigrant nightmare. Their unexpected collision forces them both to make terrible choices and confront a life-changing secret, but through it all they hold fast to family, in all its enduring and surprising transformations.  

Balloon Trees by Danna Smith Ever wonder how a balloon is made? Follow the journey of a balloon from its beginnings as gooey sap in a tree to its completion at a rubber factory. You ll be surprised to discover what a balloon started out as and how it becomes the bright, air-filled decoration that you enjoy today.

Deductive Detective by Brian Rock Someone stole a cake from the cake contest who could it be? Twelve animal bakers are potential suspects but Detective Duck uses his deductive reasoning skills to quack the case. After all, the thief left hairs behind so the thief wasn t a bird. Follow along as he subtracts each suspect one at a time to reveal just who the culprit was. This clever story will have children of all ages giggling at the puns and the play on words.

Shark Baby by Ann Downer Who am I? wonders Shark Baby. When his mermaid's purse egg case is torn loose in a storm, he finds himself on a journey through different ocean habitats: kelp forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows. He learns what kind of shark he isn't, but not what kind he is. He needs to find the mermaid to learn where he belongs, but the ocean is big and full of dangers. Will he find out who he is-and what he can do-in time?  

Animal Helpers Sanctuaries by Jennifer Keats Curtis Just as tiny kittens and puppies grow into bigger cats and dogs, wild animal babies grow into adults too. These full-grown animals may no longer be cute and cuddly. Their wild instincts may kick in. They can become very large, even dangerous. What happens to these exotic pets when owners realize they can no longer care for them but they can t be returned to the wild? And what about big predators that get hurt or sick? This photographic journal takes readers behind the scenes at five nonprofit sanctuaries and rescue zoos, and one care farm, that have opened their doors and their hearts to desperate animals in need.  

Ferdinand Fox's First Summer by Mary Holland Follow this photographic journal of a red fox as he explores the world around him during the first few months of his life. He s about a month old when he first comes out of the den. Watch as he learns to hunt through play and by using his senses. See the changes as he grows from a young kit to a young fox. After all, by the next summer, he'll have kits of his own! Naturalist photographer and environmental educator Mary Holland has captured Ferdinand Fox's First Summer in a way that is sure to grab children's hearts.  

Nature Recycles: How About You? by Michelle Lord From sea urchins in the Atlantic Ocean to bandicoots on the Australian savanna, animals recycle all over the world. Explore how different animals in different habitats use recycled material to build homes, protect themselves, and get food. This fascinating collection of animal facts will teach readers about the importance of recycling and inspire them to take part in protecting and conserving the environment by recycling in their own way.

On the Move: Mass Migrations by Scotti Cohn Imagine seeing hundreds of the same type of animal gathered at the same place at the same time! Right here in North America, many animals gather in huge numbers at predictable times and locations. Not all migrations are tied to seasonal food changes some are tied to life cycles. Certain birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and even insects migrate during spring, summer, fall, or winter. Travel along with them as you learn about what puts these animals On the Move.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review - The Bull Slayer

The Bull Slayer: A Plinius Secundus Mystery

By: Bruce Macbain
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0108-0
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: March 2013

This mystery is the second in a series, the first being Roman Games. The main character, Plinius Secundus, has just been sent by Roman Emperor Trajan to serve as Governor in the Roman province of Bithynia-Pontus. This particular province is not a great place and you have to feel for this Governor as he is charged with cleaning up corruption in many high places.

Most of the local population is comprised of Greek citizens, some Persians, and also a cult that has a cave in the woods where they meet to worship a Barbarian God who will remind readers of the mighty Minotaur.

Readers follow a murder mystery involving the theft of money committed by two men in the government. When the new Governor begins his investigation into this crime the story goes from good to grand as everything odd about Ancient Rome is unveiled. The mysterious religious cult that meets in a cave comes along with a cast of characters that will confuse and delight - a young boy with epilepsy which the Romans refer to as the sacred disease, a beautiful Persian who runs the local brothel and a group of Roman wives who resemble the ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ As the criminals come forth and the suspects mount up, readers will find themselves pulled in and rooting for the Governor who may be in way over his head.

Even though this book takes place in ancient times, the reality of it is that the plotlines are very familiar. Researched beautifully, this author knows his subject and adds some scenes that bring out the true history of that time. It also presents ancient governments that will remind one and all of the mess current governments are in and how they are run. The Governor is a really nice guy who takes good care of his people and tries very hard to govern by doing his job and not offending anyone. He is a hard worker and pays attention to his duties even though sometimes it’s very difficult, as people do not respect him or his office.

Quill says: Although the story is a bit difficult to get into, once you are in – you’ll never get out as the Godfather so rightly said. It was a fantastic read, utilizing fact and fiction where the reader will not be pleased with the Romans who took over the world but, if you remember, couldn’t keep it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review - The Gilly Salt Sisters

The Gilly Salt Sisters 

By: Tiffany Baker
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0446557290
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 20, 2013

Tiffany Baker has delivered the essence of literary eloquence in her latest novel, The Gilly Salt Sisters.

On December’s eve each year, the townspeople gather at Tappert’s Green to watch the bon fire. The draw isn’t so much to watch a pile of timber dwindle to ashes as much as its purpose is to witness the tossing of the salt and rising of the smoke; the salt’s color being a critical and defining moment. If the fire flashes blue, the town will prosper in the coming year. A yellow flare means change is on the horizon. It is understated to say black smoke is more than undesirable. The small Cape Cod community of Prospect’s prophecy for the coming year rests in the color of the smoke. Even though the Gilly’s (Jo, Claire and mama) supply the salt, they aren’t welcome to stay. Rather, their role is to toss the salt into the fire and then it’s time to leave. When she was barely six, Claire Gilly had her debut tossing of the salt. How unfortunate once the crackles and pops subsided, a stream of coal black smoke rose high into the night in its aftermath.

Longer than time itself, the clearest imaginary line had been drawn between the Gilly’s and Ida Turner and her son, Whit—on one side was have and the other, have not. It was no challenge to figure the have part out. It belonged to the Turners. Their strapping estate perched high atop Plover Hill was merely a portion of their holdings once the majority of town ownership was factored in. The have not belonged to the Gilly’s and their series of salt flats that made up Salt Creek Farm. Jo learned to accept her fate early on in life—especially after those very flats took her brother Henry’s life at the tender age of eight. Claire, on the other hand, was on a vengeance to escape once she was old enough. She refused to accept the lousy poker hand she was dealt that doubled as her life. Even after the love of her life left her for his greater calling—a lifetime of worship and devotion to God, she still managed to find a way out.

Tiffany Baker deserves to be proud of the beautiful prose and heart-felt literary fiction she has delivered across the pages of The Gilly Salt Sisters. As a writer, I must confess her ability is enviable. I often found myself reading and re-reading certain passages she had written—not because I couldn’t follow the premise. Rather, I wanted to experience the passage one more time before moving on with the story. Ms. Baker is a true master when it comes to blending situation and feeling together and delivering the two in the form of words; specifically with sentences such as: “…It cheered her to remember that there was something even colder and harder in the world than a Cape sky turning to winter…” Having lived on the Cape for a spell years ago, I had an instant connection to the tone and purpose of the mood she intended to deliver. Winter is stark and bone-chilling on the Cape and Ms. Baker successfully pulled off the mood with her analogy whether (or not) one had ever been to the Cape. Her attention to details with each of her (many) flawed (and extremely likable) characters made this reader want more and then some. It is also enjoyably entertaining to read between the lines of the story and question the possibility of salt having the many magical components she eludes it to have. Regardless, The Gilly Salt Sisters is a wonderful and charming story with terrific literary merit. Well done Ms. Baker! I do look forward to your next novel.

Quill says: The Gilly Salt Sisters is a captivating tale of family with a sprinkle or two of magic and without question, more than a dash to keep the reader hooked—truly a well written and engaging novel.

Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize

Note: Feathered Quill is simply passing along this information.  This is in no way an endorsement.

Presenting the


At Black Balloon Publishing we champion the weird, the unwieldy, and the unclassifiable. We are battle-worn enemies of boredom and we're looking for books that defy the rules, bend reality, twist preconceptions, and imagine the unimaginable.
If you're our kind of writer, you're braver, and smarter, and strategically crazier than all the rest. You've already written a masterpiece without a manual and we want to read it; we want to go down the rabbit hole, into the vast nothingness of outer space, swim among the strange illuminating creatures deep in the ocean. And to that end, we're very pleased to announce the first ever Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize, an award for a previously-completed manuscript which comes with $5,000 and a Black Balloon Publishing book deal.

The best part: there is no entry fee.

Read More....

Book Review - Wave Good-bye: Southern Beauty Shop

Wave Good-bye: Southern Beauty Shop

By: Lila Dare
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-0425257814
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 19, 2013

Violetta Terhune was really puzzled when cancellations kept coming in at her hair salon, Violetta’s. Grace Ann sympathized with her mother as she was busy scrubbing black mold from under a cabinet. Hurricane Horatio hadn’t done them any favors, but a former employee had left them with even less. Apparently Lisa Butterworth, the new manager at the new big box salon, Snippets, had left more damage in her wake than Horatio. Grace Ann was feeling big-time left out when her long-distance relationship with Marty left her stranded. No way she wanted anyone to think she was desperate and dateless, so she headed to Walk-In Foods to snag a bit of dinner. And there she was ...

Lisa Butterworth was ripe for the picking. “You were hired to manage a social marketing campaign,” raged Grace Ann, “and instead you stole our client list!” Of course everyone in St. Elizabeth probably heard that exchange. After contemplating her losing lifestyle Grace Ann decided she needed a pet. Sight unseen she bought a one-eyed parakeet she named “Sam” at the Pet Emporium. While she was at it, she decided to check out Snippets, the shop that was threatening to put Violetta’s out of business. Her best friend, Vonda Jamison, told her she “must have been in the parking lot of Snippets around the time she was killed.” It was news to Grace Ann, but soon she’d regret ever having known Lisa.

Lisa was deader than the beehive hairdo and it looked like Grace Ann was “Suspect Numero Uno.” Hank Parker, her ex-husband, another one of Grace Ann’s mistakes, was all riled up. “This could make my career ... I plan to crack this baby wide open.” Fortunately Special Agent in Charge John Dillon would be handling the case. “Unnamed sources” had been pointing the finger at Grace Ann, but in a small town that could be anyone. That louse Wynn Goodman could have killed Lisa, but so could his wife, Eve. Maybe it was Carol Brockman, but then again Suzee Gaylord, the gal who found the body, looked guilty as all get out. “We found your prints on the back window of Snippets,” claimed Marshall Dillon. Grace Ann really had to work fast and figure out whodunit before she was making license plates instead of cutting hair!

Grace Ann Terhune was in big time trouble when it looked like she killed the competition. Literally. Lisa Butterworth is just the kind of gal we all love to hate. There were more crumbs in this cozy mystery than at the bottom of a toaster. Grace Ann just seemed to be either dating them or surrounded by them. It actually made this cozy mystery more fun than an old-time soap opera when she had to deal with them at every turn. Grace Ann’s interest in hotty, Marshall Dillon, was a teaser that everyone will look forward to in the next book in the series. The mystery did get “curious-er and curious-er,” as Grace Ann exclaimed, the deeper I got into it. St. Elizabeth’s Ms. Terhune, is definitely a sleuth to watch out for!

Quill says: If you like your cozy mysteries more delectable that a Goo Goo Cluster, you're going to devour the Southern Beauty Shop series!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review - When Horses Fly: The Karankawa of Terlingua (Vol. 1)

When Horses Fly: The Karankawa of Terlingua (Vol. 1)

By: F.H. Grissino
Publisher: F.H. Grissino
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-6156-1422-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 2013

Falling into the category of ‘Adult Christian Novella,’ this particular author - who has an extensive background in the world of ‘sermon writing’ - offers a story that combines mankind’s daily life with the words of the Lord, as seen through the eyes of a Native American girl.

When readers begin the first chapter with Francy, she is all of twelve years old and is sitting at the dentist. Eating various vegetables out of other peoples’ gardens, Francy’s teeth are a lovely orange color, reminding one of Halloween. Here, she uses the truly respectful word ‘Sir,’ and makes sure that her friendly dentist understands that the word was learned from her favorite TV show hero, Tarzan. And from this one innocent conversation comes a blend of real life with a lesson one can learn from the Bible.

Many short tales arrive about Francy, from playing with her dog and learning all about the earth and its resources to listening and observing everyone from her parents, to her odd neighbors, to the young man named Thom who believes that Francy will one day marry him when they grow up because his father, the great ‘Doc’ Bannon town psychologist, has recommended the union.

Francy shows the reader not only kind things within her life, but also trials and tribulations about some extremely adult topics that will make people in similar situations feel a tad bit calmer as they read the poetic words. All subjects are touched upon - from greed to lust to envy - but when Francy’s actual heritage is discovered and announced inside the famous ‘Alamo,’ a tale comes forth about how lasting prejudices can literally change the course of a human life.

A great deal of thought was put into this small book, and the lessons taught and words spoken can range from a punch in the gut to a ‘hug’ from an understanding friend. Although this book needs an editor that will clean and present this information in an easier-to-read manner, the points being made are extremely poignant.

Quill says: This is just the first volume of things this author has to say, so it will be interesting to see what comes next.

Book Review - Complete Knitting Skills

Complete Knitting Skills

By: Debbie Tomkies
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 978-1438001715
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 15, 2013

I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. When I was a child, my mother, a fabulous knitter, tried teaching me. Alas, she failed miserably (my fault, not hers). Then, a few months ago, I stumbled upon a “knitting loom.” I taught myself how to use it and actually managed to make a few respectable scarves. The loom, however, is a bit limited and I really, really wanted to succeed at traditional, two knitting needles, kind of knitting. That’s why I was so excited to see Complete Knitting Skills come across my desk. Would this book be able to teach me to knit?

Complete Knitting Skills is divided into seven chapters which cover everything from the very basic (choosing needles and yarn, casting on, binding off), to more advanced techniques (buttonholes, pockets, lace, cables,). My favorite is a chapter called “Knitting SOS,” (yes, a chapter on avoiding problems and how to fix those that you’ve, well, bumbled into). A final chapter on “The Knitting Community” offers advice on finding other knitters, selling your work, as well as knitting terminology.

I must compliment the author on writing a book that is very easy to understand, as well as pass along kudos to the publisher for a great design job that makes this title so easy to view. In addition, probably the best part of the book is that there are so many, many clear and concise photos. I once had a book with all the knitting photos in black and white, photos that were tiny and fuzzy, and I finally gave up. In contrast, the photos in this book are bright, easy to follow, and perfectly complement what the author is saying. For example, when teaching the “Russian Join,” a technique to join two skeins of yarn of the same color, there is a sequence of six photos, using two different colors of yarn so readers can easily see how the yarn is joined. No trying to figure out what the author is explaining; it’s clearly shown on the page.

Finally, there are 27 "how-to" brief video clips to help teach various techniques. A link, as well as a smartphone code, appear on the pages where the technique is explained. There's also a notation in the Table of Contents next to each topic that has a teaching video. How easy is that?!

So, the answer to the question asked in the first paragraph, would this book be able to teach me to knit is YES! I’m so excited to finally be able to knit and have all sorts of projects in mind. With a newly discovered, HUGE knitting store just a few towns away, watch out because I’m going to be visiting often. Thank you, Debbie Tomkies for writing this fabulous book!

Quill says: If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, rush, don’t walk, rush and get a copy of Complete Knitting Skills!

Book Review - The Christie Curse

The Christie Curse: A Book Collector Mystery

By: Victoria Abbott
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 2013 ISBN: 978-0425255285
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2013

Jordan Bingham was back in Harrison Falls, New York after receiving her masters. Her “not so law-abiding uncles,” who had raised her, would have welcomed her with open arms and some Kraft macaroni and cheese, but she needed a job. Any job. Vera Van Alst needed someone with her qualifications, but the old bat also let her know that it was a man’s job. Vera was the town’s “most hated citizen,” but if Jordan wanted to strike out on her own she’d have to put up with her. “A play. They are saying she wrote a play,” Vera harped on. “I must have it. I must.” Honestly, the woman was as bonkers as she was mean. Dame Agatha Christie had mysteriously disappeared for eleven days, but had she written a play in such a short period of time?

Obviously Vera was convinced she had and was desperate to acquire the manuscript for her collection. Eddie McRae let it slip that Jordan had a predecessor, one Alexander Fine. Dame Agatha’s mysterious disappearance coupled with Vera’s closed-mouth attitude about Alex was disturbing. Signora Panetone, the cook, crossed herself when Vera coldly claimed he had been “pushed into the path of an oncoming train.” So much for getting any reasonable information out of her employer. Jordan decided to start by asking her dreamy librarian friend, Lance DeWitt where she could find rare book and manuscript dealers. “Where there’s desire,” he warned, “there’s always a dark side. Just be careful Jordan.”

Right. If there even was a manuscript was it worth murdering for? Jordan went to the Antiquarian Book and Paper Fair in Grandville and dropped a few subtle hints with George Beckwith and Karen Smith, two rare book dealers. Maybe one of them would take the bait. She also had a few people to question about the possible whereabouts of Alex’s research materials. Jordan began to formulate a few theories and was certain that Vera Van Alst was “playing games” with her, but why? She was hoping to get some answers when she went to speak to Karen, owner of the “Cozy Corpse” book store, but a “slowly spreading pool of blood” under Karen’s body wasn’t exactly the kind of cozy she had in mind. Had someone killed once for this mysterious manuscript? Would they kill again?

Even Dame Agatha would give a thumbs-up to The Christie Curse. This mystery had a very interesting twist in that there was already one murder victim before Jordan even arrived on the scene. The mysterious manuscript was totally intriguing as Agatha Christie really did disappear for eleven days and in reality there could be one in existence. The cast of characters, from the slightly evil Vera Van Alst, Signora Panetone (who is a whiz with a fry pan) handsome Lance Dewitt, to Detective Fenton Zinger (“One more time, we ask the questions.”) are fascinating. Jordan is an intelligent, solid sleuth who doesn’t get rattled easily. The twists and turns of this cozy mystery will keep even the most ardent mystery buffs guessing!

Quill says: The Christie Curse is the first in a series that has that hot off the press appeal!

Book Review - Yes, Let's

Yes, Let’s

By: Galen Goodwin Longstreth
Illustrated by: Maris Wicks
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-933718-87-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 14, 2013

Ninety-nine percent of the world’s people can think back and remember those special days…

Climbing into the station wagon with your siblings and elbowing them in the ribs in order to make room for the family dog (which was basically the only one you wanted to travel with in the first place); Dad was up front, yawning, but staring out the window wishing he was heading into the forest with a much quieter crew so he could catch some fish; and Mom was in the passenger seat rolling her eyes, looking out her window and most likely imaging how great the day would be if it involved peace and quiet, yet still excited about the fact that the family was doing something fun together.

Even my own mother used to say she’d love a ‘cabin in the woods where she and the cat could go and hide’ so she could read a book without two children constantly whining. But when it came to the ‘family vacation’ or ‘outdoor family fun day,’ she would also smile wide, grateful we were all together.
With this fantastic book - that should be read by both children and their parents - the reader goes on one of those ‘family fun days’ and calls up all of their own stored memories. From attempting to wake up the children to get an early head start, to riding in that cramped station wagon, to then reaching the destination where everyone has a smile on their face, excited about their upcoming adventure. On through the woods, enjoying a swim in the lake or a rest on the beach - this book has it all.
Dad goes fishing and the kids learn all about the beauty that the wilderness has to offer. Every single page of this book is filled with lovely memories just like that, and illustrations that will bring a smile to the face and warmth to the heart.

The very best part of this children’s book is the fact that it reminds our twenty-first century, technological world that family fun is 100% better than staring at a computer screen or talking into a cell phone while the world passes us by.

Quill Says: A big ‘congrats’ to the team that put this together. Hopefully, family memories such as these will continue to be made!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Books in for Review

Here's a sample of the books that have recently come in for review.  There is a definite "cozy mystery" theme this week!  Check them out and then stop by our site again in a few weeks to read the reviews.  Enjoy!

You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa In this entertaining and delightful mystery, an Italian chef and her cousins start their own investigation to clear their grandmother’s name after she’s arrested for murder. When Chef Eve Angelotta arrives at her family-owned northern Italian restaurant outside Philadelphia to start cooking the special of the day, she doesn’t expect to find a dead body on the floor. The victim, killed with Eve’s favorite marble mortar, turns out to be her grandmother’s boyfriend. When Grandma Maria Pia’s alibi falls apart and she’s arrested for the murder, it’s up to Eve and her cousins to find the real killer. With the help of handsome lawyer Joe Beck, they discover that Maria Pia’s boyfriend wasn’t everything he seemed. And now that murder is on the menu, they have to find the killer before he dishes up another victim!

Rainbow Panda and the Firecracker Fiasco by Eileen WackerToday most of the pandas are preparing for the New Year's celebration. They are sweeping and cleaning, planting flowers and writing wishes on ribbons. But Rainbow Panda really wants to be a hero and has an explosive plan. Can Rainbow Panda convince others to join him? Will he become a hero or just get everyone in a lot of trouble? Rainbow Panda and the Firecracker Fiasco is the sixth book in the award-winning cross-cultural Fujimini Adventure series, which invites readers to explore Fujimini Island with a cast of memorable characters who embark on unexpected and hilarious adventures.  

Bowled Over: A Vintage Kitchen Mystery by Victoria Hamilton Vintage kitchenware and cookbook collector Jaymie Leighton has been estranged from her high school best friend Kathy Cooper since they were teenagers, but she never knew what turned Kathy against her. After fireworks at a Fourth of July picnic, Jaymie discovers the body of her former friend in the park. On the ground nearby is Jaymie’s own Depression-era glass bowl, broken in two. With her fingerprints all over the bowl and a troubled history with the victim, Jaymie suddenly finds herself at the top of the list of suspects. Did the killer intend to frame her for the murder? If so, she is ready to mix it up, because solving crimes is vintage Jaymie Leighton…  

Assaulted Pretzel: An Amish Mystery by Laura Bradford The quiet town of Heavenly is buzzing with excitement over the latest guests at the local inn, Sleep Heavenly. Toy manufacturer Rob Karble is in town to meet the members of the Amish community who will soon be crafting a new toy line for his company. But when word gets out that Karble intends to use the Amish designs without employing the Amish to make them, someone sends the interloper to his final reward. No one wants to believe anyone from the Amish community could commit such an act, but as Claire and Detective Fisher have learned, no one is above sin—or suspicion.  

Peach Pies and Alibis: A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery by Ellery Adams Ella Mae LeFaye’s Charmed Pie Shoppe is wildly popular in Havenwood, Georgia—which is not surprising since Ella Mae can lace her baked goods with enchantments. The shop’s extraordinary success seems destined to continue when Ella Mae meets an engaged couple who hire her to handle the dessert buffet at their wedding. But Ella Mae has a lot on her plate. She is also searching for the origin of her magical powers—and hoping to determine if the spark of attraction she feels for the handsome Hugh Dylan is authentic or just her new abilities gone awry. Then Ella Mae discovers a high-standing member of the community dead, and a wedding guest becomes seriously ill at the event she’s catering. Now she’ll have to use all her sleuthing skills and culinary talents to prove her pies don’t contain a killer ingredient . . .  

Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death: A Devereaux'z Dime Story Mystery by Denise Swanson Dev’s five-and-dime may be doing well, but her love life is in turmoil. She’s torn between Deputy U.S. Marshal Jake Del Vecchio, who is on an undercover assignment, and her ex-beau Noah Underwood, the local doctor from a high-society family. So she welcomes the distraction when Elise Whitmore offers her a great deal on antique chocolate molds that would be perfect for her Easter gift baskets. But do the molds actually belong to Elise’s soon-to-be ex-husband? In buying them, has Dev committed a felony? When Elise is found shot to death, the mystery deepens—and Dev’s good friend Boone, who discovered the body, is taken into custody. With the help of her best buds, Dev must clear Boone’s name and find the real killer. Good thing that when it comes to amateur sleuths, they broke the mold with Dev Sinclair.  

Trouble in the Tarot: A Fortune Teller Mystery by Kari Lee Townsend Lately Sunny has been experiencing a period of big opportunity: her business in Divinity, New York, is thriving, and Detective Mitch Stone has finally agreed to take Sunny on a date. But thanks to her clairvoyant abilities, Sunny knows better than anyone that life deals out bad cards along with the good. When Sunny agrees to read tarot cards at the annual Summer Solstice Carnival, she meets her Granny Gert‘s “arch nemesis” Fiona Atwater, and is overcome by a vision of Fiona in a violent argument. Sunny knows trouble is brewing when Granny and Fiona start having squabbles all over town. But the fighting comes to a head when a local baker gets run over by a big white Cadillac—and Granny and Fiona are found at the crime scene. Sunny knows she should step aside and let Mitch handle the investigating, but she’s not about to ignore her visions and leave her granny’s life in fate’s hands . . .  

A Fete Worse than Death: A Hemlock Falls Mystery by Claudia Bishop Disaster strikes a mere week before the Hemlock Falls Ladies’ Auxiliary hosts the annual Spring Fete when the festival’s chairwoman—the redoubtable Adela Henry—gives up her job in a huff. Who’s going to judge the justly renowned Jell-O architecture contest? Or stop the members of the Craft Guild from sabotaging their rivals, the Crafty Ladies? More to the point, who’s got the tact, diplomacy, and iron will necessary to organize the booths and settle quarrels over the programming? Hemlock’s mayor hopes to assure the fete’s success when he recruits professional organizer Linda Connally and her staff to take over Adela’s duties. But when Connally’s body turns up in the trunk of a used car at Peterson’s Automotive, Meg and Sarah are back in the detecting business . . .  

Wave Good-Bye: A Southern Beauty Shop Mystery by Lila Dare Violetta’s salon is up in arms. Business is dead. Snippets, a big box haircutting chain, has opened in St. Elizabeth, undercutting prices and luring away loyal customers. Violetta’s daughter, hairdresser Grace Terhune, is shocked to discover that it’s her old high school rival Lisa Butterworth who’s behind the big sweep—and Grace isn’t going to take this sitting down. Snippets’ cold-blooded prized employee is doing wonders with Violetta’s client list. According to Lisa, it’s just business—until a bitter confrontation leaves Grace more than frustrated, and Lisa less than alive. Now Grace is the prime suspect in her rival’s murder. And only her friends at Violetta’s can save her—before the charge proves permanent.