Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review - A Single Breath

A Single Breath

By: Lucy Clarke
Publisher: Touchstone – A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5015-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 2014

In her latest novel, A Single Breath, Lucy Clarke entices her reader with the sublime question: “How well do you know the one you’ve betrothed your love and unrequited trust to?”

Eva and Jackson have been married for barely eight months. On a weekend visit to her mother’s place at the shore in Dorset, England, Jackson rises early the morning after they arrive. He ventures down to the stormy coastline and navigates the jetties that finger their way out into the angry and churning sea. He has the blood of a fisherman that runs through his veins and knows that is where his prize catch awaits. Unfortunately gale force winds and the unfamiliar ground beneath his feet cause Jackson to lose his footing. The waves waste no time as they seize the moment and sweep him out to sea. When Eva learns of the tragic mishap, she refuses to give up hope. Search parties are organized and are relentless as the day continues from dawn to high noon and into the twilight of dusk. When the Coast Guard delivers the news to Eva that they are calling the search, Eva is left with a sad reality: her husband is dead.

Eva isn’t the only person left behind in his wake. On the other side of the world in Tasmania, Australia, Jackson’s father Dirk and his brother Saul soon learn of his passing. It’s more than difficult for Dirk to accept. No parent ever wants to bury a child. Saul, however, is more than disturbed; especially since he and his brother hadn’t spoken to each other in nearly four years.

The one thread Eva has to hold onto (after acknowledging the reality of her husband’s death), is her job. Eva is a midwife and loves her job. Sadly, what was once such a sense of completion and joy has become rote. Unable to focus on anything, Eva takes a leave of absence and decides to seek out Jackson’s estranged family halfway around the world. Besides, they were supposed to visit Tasmania in the fall—a trip that would give her the opportunity to finally meet his family. What Eva wasn’t prepared for were the answers she sought to the questions she had once asked.

Lucy Clarke does a fine job of planting seeds that enhance plot and encourage the reader to nibble as he or she ventures further into the story. She demonstrates a comfortable flow with her narrative writing style and, as a result, the story is easy to read. While I've never been “Down Under,” Ms. Clarke describes the countryside with such familiarity, it was as though I had been there before. However, there are points in the story that tend to be drawn out more than necessary. Sometimes less is best in describing feelings, sensations, situations, etc. which, in my opinion, is a sure fire way to keep the reader fully engaged and less apt to wander or skip a page or two. Overall, A Single Breath is certainly a story that will capture the readers’ interest.

Quill says: A Single Breath consistently poses the question throughout: “How well do you know the person you love”?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review - Fly Away

Fly Away

By: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin Edition
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-03181-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 29, 2014

Kristin Hannah delivers a beautifully poignant and bittersweet story of everlasting friendship across the pages of her latest novel, Fly Away.

Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey have been inseparable friends for over thirty years. From the onset, undying friendship was inevitability and their meeting was a destined collision with the intention of friendship forever. Beyond college, Tully’s life was a journey of fame. Kate’s path was that of motherhood and wife. Even though their roads were different, their bond of friendship was everlasting. It is when Kate is diagnosed with breast cancer and the diagnosis has a definitive end attached to it, that life intervenes and presents the tests of what friendship can and cannot survive.

Johnny Mularkey is Kate’s husband. He is also father to their sixteen-year-old daughter, Marah. He is ill-prepared to assume the role of sole parent once his beloved Kate passes. Perhaps Kate knew this and the promise she extracts from her lifelong friend Tully (who is also Marah’s godmother) is to be there to temper the storms ahead. What no one could have seen coming upon Kate’s passing is the bottom dropping out of the once solid foundation they all took for granted. Johnny is consumed with grief. Marah is guilt-ridden and on a course of self-distruction. She is burdened with the memory of her last words with her mother before she died. Tully has her own issues. Her once sky-rocketing career is now nose-diving. She is over forty and doesn’t have the luxury of career resurrection. Kate was her rock and now that she’s gone, Tully is forced to face her baggage—baggage she has carried for far too many years. She still cannot let go of the fact that her hippy mother “Cloud” threw her away with yesterday’s news when she was a child...or did she?

When the crescendo of tragedy reaches its pinnacle, each of these intricately woven together beings will need to recognize the clarity that lurks on the other side. There is hope and promise of new beginnings. However, the sacrifice in order to get there is to acknowledge the rock bottom before a new beginning is possible. Kristin Hannah has written a novel that embraces and portrays the dimensions, tribulations and multi-facets of true and undying friendship. She is a storyteller and showcases her abilities by weaving beautiful fabric together with sound plot of familial joys and equally heart-wrenching disappointments. Simply put, she has written a story of “fiction” with a strong element of real life to it. Her characters come alive on the pages and I, for one, literally could not keep my nose out of this book. Hannah knew how to grab the attention of her reader within the first few pages of Fly Away. I accepted her outstretched hand within the first couple of pages and willingly immersed myself into the story from chapter to chapter. Hannah’s voice is crisp and refreshing and her story is engaging. She has accomplished what I believe all we fiction writers endeavor to do: Provide an escape that enables the reader to experience the familiarity and connection with each and every character. There is a lot to be said about a writer who manages sadness from her readership when the proverbial “the end” is before them—a sadness that comes from a longing for the story to continue. That, in my opinion, is the essence of the gift of writing.

Quill says: Fly Away is a lovely depiction of the essence of true friendship. It is truly a book that is difficult to put down until the last page has been read.

Book Review - Pansy in Paris

Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum

By: Cynthia Bardes
Illustrated by: Virginia Best
Publisher: Octobre, LLC
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-0615840192
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 29, 2014

Pansy the adorable little poodle and her best friend Avery are at it again when they are asked to travel to Paris, France to solve a mystery. Having solved a hotel mystery in their first book, Pansy at the Palace: A Beverly Hills Mystery, the clever dog’s reputation for solving crimes has spread far and wide. It isn’t long before she receives a letter from Inspector Claude, all the way from Paris. It seems that somebody has stolen a painting from their museum and the Inspector needs help! Pansy, along with ‘her’ little girl Avery, and Avery’s mom, board a plane and travel to Paris.

In Paris, Inspector Claude takes the pair to the museum so they can see just what is going on. Between the Henri Muttese and Leonardo DogVinci paintings is an empty wall; a spot where there once hung a valuable painting. The only clue, explains Claude, is a bacon-flavored dog biscuit. Will Pansy and Avery be able to solve the mystery of the missing painting?

Pansy in Paris is a sweet story of not just a mystery, but of the love between a young girl and her beloved dog. They work together to solve a fun mystery, one that will engage children as they watch, and try to help, Pansy put the clues together. To add to the fun, as the duo go about solving the crime, there are a few pages of the lovely sights around the City of Lights. The story has a happy ending, one where love is stressed above all else. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, a perfect fit for the story. In short, Pansy in Paris is a winner!

Quill says: Will Pansy save the day? Readers will want to help the adorable little dog as she sniffs out clues to the great Paris museum mystery.

Book Review - Simple Faith

Simple Faith: The Peacemakers Series, Book Two

By: Anna Schmidt
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publishing Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62029-141-2
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: March 2014

As Simple Faith begins, three prisoners, Lisbeth, Josef and Anja, have just escaped from a Nazi concentration camp and found their way to Anja’s home in Denmark. The three are trying to keep one step ahead of the Nazis and are leaving Denmark to live in Belgium. They are Quakers by faith and are getting involved in the Underground Resistance. The Underground, of course, is helping Allied pilots who have been shot down in enemy territory to escape into Spain and find their units in England.

Their work becomes very personal when American pilot, Peter Trent, parachutes into their lives. When Peter comes on the scene, he is a wounded pilot who finds himself in the midst of these brave people. Peter parachutes onto a field near Anja’s grandfather’s farm and they begin to plan how to return him to his unit. The pilot will have to travel across most of the Western part of Europe with his protectors and, of course, the Gestapo is a couple of steps behind and coming up fast. However, there is a problem. Anna is starting to look at Peter in a new way and she knows that loving this brave soldier could be life-threatening to both of them.

For readers who have read Book One in the series, All God’s Children, this story will be easy to fall into. For those who have not read the first book, I'd recommend picking up a copy and starting from the beginning. The author has done very accurate research and, with that said, Simple Faith, is truly well researched as to times and events. The story tells about the resistance, who were some of the many heroes of WWII, who often died in the line of duty and no one ever knew of their bravery. Many people do not recognize the plight of these wonderful civilians who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to help the allies as they were living in Nazi occupied countries and didn’t know from one moment to the next if they would be alive the next day. It is nice to see them remembered in this historical novel.

Quill says: Perhaps this series of books will remind historians just how brave the men and women on the sidelines were.

Book Review - Jane Austen's Guide to Life

Jane Austen’s Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman

By: Lori Smith
Publisher: skirt!
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7627-9642-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 29, 2014

There is many a female who wonders what Jane Austen - the woman who is not only heralded as the mistress of romance, but also a woman who worked hard, kept her strength, and was unfortunately taken from the world far too soon - would think if she was living in the 21st century. Would she be able to understand the electronic clicks instead of dinner conversations being held in households across the world? Would she understand the sex before marriage issue, or single parenthood? Or, the woman having the career over the man?

Well...chances are she most definitely would understand some, shake her head negatively when it came to others, and sit back and ponder others. And, perhaps, create yet another bestselling novel for us to think about and enjoy.

In this thoughtful book, Author Lori Smith, has dove head-first into the mind of Jane Austen, and by using her books, her few personal words left behind and her life story, she has brought nuggets of pure gold to the reader; offering solid advice on everything from getting a career to finding the love of one’s life to living with joy.

To name just a few topics...Living Your Dreams is a chapter that shows people that if they persist, follow their head and heart and be brave, they can make all dreams come true. When it comes to a career, one of the most poignant topics talks about what a person would do for work, even if it was a job where they could end up poor. Austen was all about passion and becoming a woman of substance through conversations, thought, and valuing yourself without devaluing others, and her strength certainly shines through in lessons such as these.

The author also explores the world of finance. And rightly so, explains how, in Austen’s world and mind, she always believed recognizing that money was essential was a certainty, but it was not essential to a person’s happiness. Another piece of sage advice is the fact that no one should ever equate fame with their success or importance in this world.

There is also a full spectrum of thoughtful lessons from Austen regarding the world of love. Whether it be marrying well, enjoying passion, or how to go it solo in the world and be happy with that. Cherishing family, friends, yourself, and thriving because you embrace your gifts and enjoy the laughter of life that IS accessible, are also words of wisdom for one and all.

Although Austen certainly came from a very different time period than females in the 21st century, her words have endured for this long for a very important reason: The woman was intelligent. This is not a self-help guide; this is a way to open doors to things that you have closed off within yourself because of hardship, broken love, dreams that never came to fruition, or simply because life has become mundane. A super project that offers superior advice for all of us.

Quill says: A perfect way to re-learn or first understand the precious life each of us was given! Great job!

Book Review - Lost in Thought

Lost in Thought (The Sententia, Book 1)

By: Cara Bertrand
Publisher: Luminis Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-935462-94-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 29, 2014

Lainey Young is a girl who has experienced both the worst and the best in life...and she's only a teenager. Losing her parents in a car accident, an image that is burned into her memory banks forever even though she was not in the car at the time; Lainey was raised by a very loving godmother who became her true family. Her godmother is an artist and traveled all over the world, taking Lainey with her to experience the magic of the world and the happiness that's still out there.

Lainey had a rough time throughout her young life. She was constantly tested, poked, and prodded by doctors because she seemed to faint at the drop of a hat and no one could understand why. Truth is, Lainey knew why. She had a gift, or a curse depending on how you look at it; she could see death, whether already happened or soon to happen. Her migraines were hideous and the stress of seeing these things takes its toll.

On the advice of a family friend, Lainey is told about a boarding school; a place that will give her a solid location for a while and stop traveling the roads. Although her aunt is heartbroken, she understands that a base where Lainey does not have to constantly move might be just the ticket to good health, and when she is told about a mysterious 'Legacy' that Lainey has at this small, peaceful school called Northbrook Academy, Lainey is soon on her way into a strange situation she knows nothing about.

The school is fun. The roommate, Amy, is a kick, and school life basically grants Lainey the 'regular world' she's been missing - with the token hot guy working at the bookstore, as well as a jealous girl who seems to have a built-in dislike of the new, pretty girl. But, of course, nothing is easy. Northbrook Academy has a group, and not a small, private one. Included in this mysterious group are most of the staff as well as half of the entire student body. The group is called the Sententia, and it is for the physically gifted.

Although Lainey should be more than a little frightened by all this, it actually helps her to understand that her 'gift' of divining death is not as bad as she once thought it was. And she also finds acceptance. What she doesn't count on is the fact that her 'Legacy' may just be the biggest secret Northbrook Academy has ever had. And her acceptance soon turns into threats against her, as Lainey deals with her secret, and the thrills and chills of the series begins.

The characters are fun; the story is exciting; and the secrets that will be revealed will have readers following Lainey's path through the mysterious and frightening for a long time to come.

Quill says: This is a good start to what seems like a great new YA series!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Interview with Author Avraham Azrieli

Today we're talking with Avraham Azrieli, author of Thump

FQ: Sir, you have written a number of titles that reach into the political arena, as well as back into the Holocaust era. What made you decide to write a legal thriller with sexual harassment at its core?

AZRIELI: The story of Thump had to be told -- it's been brewing in my mind for a while. Besides, writing in the legal arena is quite natural for me. I have spent over two decades in the legal world, earning two law degrees, serving as a law clerk for two different courts, and representing clients in business litigation at every level, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. As you can guess, all this legal experience provides a great deal of material for great stories. A lot of different threads of my life came together to knit the fabric of Thump -- law, love, libido, likes and dislikes of certain people, and my longtime fascination with the volatile flashpoints of race and sex. But perhaps I had to wait, as a novelist, to make sure I’ve earned the requisite knowledge to write authentically, i.e. to bring to life the ambiguities of the law, the intricacies of courtroom action, and the competitive machinations of lawyers. But turning a legal conflict into a dramatic and suspenseful story was a new challenge and, as it turned out, an incredible experience for me. I hope my readers will agree.

FQ: The Investment Manager strategy that Thump utilized seemed almost like the token ambulance chaser; he looked out for deaths and then headed to the widows to sign them up as fast as possible with the company. Do you feel that this is a very real look at this specific industry? And, if so, can changes ever occur in such a world that has worked this way for so long?

AZRIELI: As a novelist, my mission is to take my readers on an exciting ride. I believe readers are very smart and can tell when the story is rooted in reality. I therefore make a tremendous effort to make sure that the factual background is true to reality. In this case, the way certain industry professionals operate in the asset management field is reflective of reality. As to morality, I leave it to my readers to judge.

FQ: Readers will appreciate the fact that Thump basically hedged his bets by looking for more blue-collar/semi-wealthy clients in order to have people in his own stable if the very privileged did not work out as clients. Do you feel this non-trust of the wealthy (and, secretly his own company) spoke to the poor background he had?

AZRIELI: This is a very interesting aspect of American society. We live in a democracy that promises equality, opportunity and freedom. To a large extent, the United States fulfills its promise. In fact, I believe U.S. laws and its unique system of governance does provide the best opportunities for anyone willing to work hard. It is not a coincidence that people from every continent aspire to immigrate to this country. At the same time, it is human nature to create a class society, divided by economic and social status. In that respect, the United States is better than most countries, yet not prefect. Thump pursues his business ambitions with a realistic view of his social handicap, and does not shy away from using every tool in his arsenal to succeed. In this respect, he is no different than many men and women who do what they have to do to reach their goals.

FQ: Thump is, like many in the world, obsessed with that moneyed life and will do anything to achieve it for himself, his mother, as well as his fiancée. Do you believe this will always be the case with people? That the 1% of this world will always be the group that others envy, despise, and wish to be all at the same time?

AZRIELI: I don't know about the 1%. That's a political term which I don't think reflects reality at all. I have met and worked with many people who succeeded financially and professionally, some of them to a great extent. For the most part, they work hard, serve clients or customers diligently, and are driven not by envy or thirst for power, but by a personal sense of duty to succeed and live a meaningful life. In that sense, Thump is no different than most of us, aspiring to reach higher professionally and financially. What makes him different is his willingness to pay a greater price and engage in unsavory activities that he eventually comes to regret.

FQ: Bringing together the ex-judge turned lawyer who made remarks about African Americans based on her data and background was an expert move. In your opinion, do you believe if people just listened to the other side of the debate instead of continuing to look down or up at one another, things could change for the better? Could there be more opportunities for everyone? Could the arguing stop and the world move forward, or will there always be the squabbling in the sandbox because people will never listen?

AZRIELI: Yes, eventually we all reach a peaceful place where no one is arguing any longer. But for the living, yes, I think it is human nature to disagree, "to look down or up at one another," and to engage in passionate (or vicious) conflicts. But you have to admit that this makes life much more interesting. Thump does parallel several social conflicts that continue to plague America, perhaps going back to the era of slave economy and women’s subjugation. But it is a very current story, totally of our time. Rather than an indictment of any particular group or idea, Thump is a courtroom drama that brings to life the real-world human conflicts between young and old, men and women, rich and poor, and white and black. Besides, it explores the give-and-take that sexually attractive people engage in to obtain what they need, how far they would go, and what horrendous consequences could result when things go wrong in that arena. Add to that the intense and volatile flashpoints of race and sex, and you find yourself in Thump’s devastating predicament.

FQ: You have a character in your novel of a homeless man. Can you go deeper for the readers into why he appears?

AZRIELI: Yes, there must be a whole novel that should be written about this homeless man, and many others. We tend to look away from the homeless, pretend they are not there, but my point in including him in Thump was that each homeless person has a story that's as interesting and as humanly deep as any of us. Another aspect of homelessness in America is that may of our homeless are veterans of the U.S. military. While I am a veteran of the Israeli army, I feel a great deal of camaraderie with every veteran. In fact, my current novel-in-progeress is a thriller that deals with the commercialization of Memorial Day. It features Ben Teller, the motorcycle-mounted investigative reporter from The Mormon Candidate.

FQ: Thump is, like many, extremely driven to get to the top. Therefore, he does set aside morals in order to get that power he’s craved for so long. Do you believe this is still the mentality for the young male and female in 2014? And, do you feel as if sexual harassment is prevalent in the workplace for the younger generation who is striving to rise?

AZRIELI: There is no question that sexual harassment in all its forms and variations is incredibly resilient, not only in the workplace, but in the military, within families, and in every hierarchical environment where men and women (or men and men, or women and women) exert power over one another—and can extract sexual favors. Any situation of dependency—financial, emotional, social, academic, etc.—offers the opportunity for sexual dealings. In some situation, such as the story of Thump, it’s terribly difficult to tell where the line separates victim from perpetrator, consensual sex from predatory imposition, and a mutual arrangement from sexual harassment. That’s the challenge facing the jury (and the reader) in the case of Thump.

FQ: This book truly offers up people who are not innocent. Every character has flaws and has chosen the low road more than once in the business world. Can people make a vow and keep it while still getting to the top of the ladder? Or, in your opinion, will the world always be doing anything to get to the top and then worrying about the repercussions later? Is there a way to bring back morals and values that have dimmed?

AZRIELI: Flawless, totally innocent people rarely exist, if at all. I haven’t met one yet. The main character, Thump, is a combination of men I’ve worked with or known socially—bright, driven, confident (or cocky)—and a bit reckless, especially when it comes to sex. He is quick-witted, ambitious and decisive—the qualities necessary for an African American kid from a poor neighborhood in Baltimore to succeed in the white-man’s business world. But he also has a good heart and, like most men, he loves his mother and is determined to make her proud. His nickname, Thump, is not only an allusion to a more abrasive four-letter word, but also mirrors the novel’s attributes—succinct, explicit and shocking—like a good thump on the head.

FQ: Women in power still seems like a fantasy in 2014. Along with the racial and sexual harassment issues presented, there is also that old adage that women being in power is as much a shock as an African American being in power. Our current President changed that for one group, but do you believe that sometime in the 21st century women will be in charge? Or, is that an impossibility?

AZRIELI: One of my most precious childhood photos is the one showing me, age ten or so, meeting Golda Meir at a Navy Day parade in Haifa, Israel. Golda was an American woman who immigrated to Israel and rose through party ranks to win the Prime Minister post. There are a number of successful women in top political positions in various countries around the world. In the United States, women serve in top positions, such as the Speaker of the House, cabinet secretaries, state governors, and CEOs. Therefore, yes, I believe it is only a matter of time until the White House is won by a woman. As a novelist, i explore this area with Tanya, a frail and beautiful Holocaust survivor, who becomes a Mossad agent in The Jerusalem Inception, and eventually (and reluctantly) rises to lead Israel's spy agency. Similarly, the main Character in The Masada Complex is a woman of incredible courage and resilience, who defies the odds in her own way.

FQ: Can a court be color blind?

AZRIELI: Courts are run by judges, who are human, and therefore susceptible to prejudice. Having worked in and around courtrooms for over two decades, I’d say that my main inspiration for the characters that populate "Thump" has been real life. My experiences as a lawyer, the people I’ve worked with, worked for and—most importantly—those I worked against, have given me plenty of realistic material for captivating conflicts. As courtroom dramas go, of course, Philadelphia is incredible because, likeThump, it deals not with a crime but with a moral conflict born of prejudice. I have also loved Civil Action, Presumed Innocent, Primal Fear, Class Action, The Accused, The Verdict, A Few Good Men, and the best of all, Inherit the Wind. I think the reason we love courtroom dramas so much is that the most dramatic conflicts end up before the courts. That's where the action is, when it comes to human conflict. Thump brings all of these things together in an intense legal conflict about race, sex and unbridled ambition.

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

Book Review - Thump


By: Avraham Azrieli
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1494281755
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 25, 2014

In the shady world of sexual harassment in the workplace, a man called Thump is not exactly someone you would perceive as ever being a victim of such a criminal, horrific act. However, Thump is most definitely the one under the boss’s...thumb, not to mention clients who are needed by the rich investment firm of KKG. One of these very rich partners in the firm utilizes Thump to bring clients and their exorbitant wealth through the doors, using far more than just his pleasant personality.

T.M. Jefferson was nicknamed ‘Thump’ back in his school years. A stunningly handsome African American male, Thump has worked extremely hard to build a life. He is able to not only climb the ladder of success, but he uses his wit, intelligence and understanding of people to pole-vault the steps of the ladder to reach the top.

An older woman, a partner in the firm of KKG, knows exactly what Thump can provide. Oddly enough, she even has a solid reason in her own mind and in her background as to why Thump needs to not only be a junior player in the firm working underneath her instruction, but also why he must do her bidding when it comes to giving out sexual favors.

Thump is now engaged. But before he proposed, some of the ‘questionable’ favors he was asked to do or, more rightly, told to do in order to attain rich widows, etc., didn’t seem so bad, considering the promotions and bonuses he received. However, when Thump is offered the opportunity to rise to the top of the firm by putting together a very important presentation to keep KKG’s biggest client on board, he attempts to leave his playboy protégé status behind and stand on his own two feet. Thump soon realizes that walking away from such a deviant lifestyle is not so easy, particularly when his mentor turns on him and a great future turns into a solid nightmare.

Meeting up with an attorney who used to sit in the judge’s chair before she got embroiled in a mess regarding racial issues that caused her to fall from grace, Thump brings a heavy-duty lawsuit against KKG. He must find a way to convince the world that, even though he owns guilt for things he’s done, he is far more innocent than his employers are in the eyes of the law.

Thump is a fantastically in-depth, yet always entertaining and fast-moving novel. This author is to be commended for bringing to the table many subjects people still avoid speaking about in 2014. From female bosses versus the ‘good, old boys’; to the race wars that are not black and white, the author makes all readers think, and perhaps even change their minds, as they become engrossed in a story that shows the best and worst of all sides of humanity.

Quill says: This is a captivating read that all legal thriller lovers will enjoy immensely!
For more information on Thump, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone: The Secret Ingredient of Unforgettable Food Is Suffering

By: Will Storr
Publisher: Marble Arch Press
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-3043-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 24, 2014

Will Storr demonstrates an accomplished and sound command of his pen in his debut novel, The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone. As he serves up portion upon portion of information that breathes credible life into his main character, Killian Lone, the reader is easily hooked within the first few pages.

Killian Lone has an obsession with the culinary world and rightly so. He was born into a family of talented cooks that dated back to the seventeenth century. From a young age, Killian had a kinship with cooking and a clear vision he would be one of the great chefs to add to his family legacy some day. Sadly, however, between an abusive mother, a more than passive father and a collection of classmates who used him for their daily dose of bully target practice, Killian had more than a mountain ahead of him to climb. Thankfully Killian had some relief from his formidable childhood in the safe haven of his Aunt Dorothy’s kitchen. She was patient and wise and knew her way around her Dor Cottage kitchen. She adored teaching Killian her knowledge of the creative culinary process.

Years later and in college, Killian lands a coveted apprenticeship. It seems his early years of instruction with Aunt Dorothy paid off as he enters the kitchen of Max Mann, the most famous chef in London. Perhaps Killian should have been more careful toward what he wished for as he soon realizes kitchen life can be quite horrific. There is a glimmer of light in the organized chaos of the kitchen when he meets fellow apprentice, Kathryn. She seems to be the only person to bestow genuine kindness toward Killian. Refusing to give up, Killian’s hopes are on the brink of doing just that until he discovers a dark family secret that was better left alone. It seems a distant ancestor was burnt as a witch for creating food with undeniably behemoth flavor. Had Killian done his research, he would have learned all who tasted such bliss had no defense toward the end result of stark raving madness.

Will Storr is the real deal when it comes to knowing how to write and deliver a credible and extremely entertaining story. From the onset of The Hunger, there is a distinct ebb and flow to the writing that complements the story line. Through his precise word placement, Storr is able to push the reader to the brink of an abyss before resurrecting that same reader to a lighter moment in the next handful of passages. I am in awe of a writer who is able to show such talent through the intentional marrying of words. Storr has done a superb job of portraying Killian Lone as the poster child (and victim) in a world of culinary madness and has delivered him on a silver platter to his audience. Well done Mr. Storr. This is a very engaging tale.

Quill says: The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone is a “five star read.” It has the perfect balance of a pinch of terror and the full body flavor of a savory story.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's a quick peek at a few books that came in for review this weekend.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews.  Enjoy!

Scary Story: An Anthology by Assorted Authors Summer's fading, and there's more than the bite of autumn in the air. Zombies are biting in ‘Last Dawn,’ and that's just a taste of Scary Story, a collection of twisted fiction and dark fantasy that's guaranteed to keep you turning pages and checking your back. The undeads in ‘The Path of Dead Roses’ are more ethereal, but whether or not the posy-plucking polters have the key to helping the heroine's troubled father is as uncertain as their very existence, and can only be discovered by readers brave enough to wander down that path. An extra-sensual treat is detailed in ‘The Wrinkled Duplex Halfway up the Hill,’ unveiling suburban secrets and mysteries particular to those wild enough to explore. ‘Silent Night’ turns frightful when a young girl left alone on Christmas Eve improvises her own holiday cheer. From the haunted coal mines in ‘Paradise Lost,’ to iffy experiments on a med student’s trusting wife in ‘Fire of Faith,’ there's something for every horror fan in this anthology. Authors include Samantha Frazier Gordon, Roger Leatherwood, Katherine McMullen, Cynthia Morrison, Kate Raynes, and Karen Robiscoe. Jane 

Austen's Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman by Lori Smith Jane Austen has become our patron saint of romance, our goddess of happy endings. Her name is synonymous with romantic sighs, period costumes, and the ideal of what love should be. But if she could give us advice about life and love, what would she tell us? What would she make of, of our Real Housewives, or of our obsession with finding The One? Austen’s stories give us relationship advice that still works today, but her life offers us so much more wisdom than just that pertaining to love. In our fame-obsessed culture, it’s refreshing to think that Austen preferred to remain anonymous. Ironically, Jane Austen—master of love stories—never married and can teach us something about being single. She also endured many painful circumstances and managed them with grace and humor. In this light biography and guide, author Lori Smith surmises about Austen’s sensible advice for twenty-first-century women—on everything from living our dreams, being a woman of substance, finding a good man, managing money, and much more. As such an astute student of human nature, Austen can teach us an awful lot about ourselves and about what it means to live well.

Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother by Rosemary Mild Don’t we all have mixed emotions about our mothers? But how many of us have a mother like Rosemary’s—multi-talented yet super-tough to live with? Luby Pollack was a skilled journalist, book author, club woman extraordinaire—a true leader, and even an artist of sorts. She sometimes had a daunting role to play. In the delivery room during Rosemary’s birth, her psychiatrist husband ordered her not to make any noise during labor—it was “unseemly for a doctor’s wife.” Rosemary Pollack Mild started to write a book strictly about herself, but that didn’t go so well. She discovered that Mother popped up on every page. Looming. Encouraging. Warning. Always the Protagonist, the Star, the Heroine, the Antagonist, and sometimes the Villain from the viewpoint of a loving but ornery daughter.

Lost in Thought by Cara Bertrand Lainey Young has a secret: she's going crazy. Everyone else thinks she has severe migraines from stress and exhaustion. What she really has are visions of how people died--or are going to die. Not that she tells anyone that. At age 16, she prefers keeping her crazy to herself. When doctors insist she needs a new and stable environment to recover, Lainey's game to spend two years at a private New England boarding school. She doesn't really think it will cure her problem, and she's half right. There is no cure, but as she discovers, she's not actually crazy. Almost everyone at Northbrook Academy has a secret too. Half the students and nearly all the staff are members of the Sententia, a hidden society of the psychically gifted. A vision of another student's impending death confirms Lainey is one of them. She'd like to return the crappy gift of divining deaths with only a touch, but enjoys spending time with Carter Penrose--recent Academy graduate and resident school crush--while learning to control it. Lainey's finally getting comfortable with her ability, and with Carter, when they uncover her true Sententia heritage. Now she has a real secret. Once it's spilled, she'll be forced to forget protecting secrets and start protecting herself.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review - Zack's Choice

Zack’s Choice

By: Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
Illustrated By: Ameshin Yossarian
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1495983290
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: March 2014

An easy relaxing motorcycle ride across the country on his Harley was all Zack wanted to enjoy before going to Harvard Law School. After this little break he would check off his list, become a lawyer, work in his mother’s prestigious law firm, marry his long time girlfriend, make his parents proud and live happily ever after. However, a hitchhiker on a highway in New Mexico changes all of that in a second. Usually Zack would not think twice about picking up a hitchhiker but this sixteen-year-old boy, who claims his name is Bobby, pulls at his heartstrings and Zack offers to give him a ride, a free meal, and a place to sleep for the night. The next morning Zack discovers his wallet and money are gone, stolen by the boy he tried to help out. Completely frustrated with the situation he is now in, Zack calls his mother and asks her to wire him some money so he can at least finish his trip to Portland. Deciding to forget about the young thief, Zack makes a stop in Las Vegas to try his hand at gambling and enjoy what’s left of his break.

However, fate has other plans as Bobby shows up once again in Zack’s life. At first Zack is all for beating down this young thief and taking all his belongings back. In a dramatic twist though, Bobby willingly gives back all of Zack’s things and then tells him of a secret mission from God that he has been sent to accomplish. In addition, Bobby informs Zack that God told him in a dream that Zack was sent to assist him in this task. The mission involves stealing The Sword of Damascus that Bobby claims must be buried in hollow ground so the Devil’s evil minions cannot use it to create a portal between earth and Hell. Zack is weary but eventually agrees to help in this plan after seeing two extremely strange signs that he thinks could have only come from God.

Before the plan is able to be carried out however this so called ‘Bobby’ turns out to be a girl not a boy! Now Zack is really having second thoughts about everything he just agreed to do with this person, for if she was lying about her gender what else could she be lying about? Her excuse was that her parents were killed by evil minions of the devil that broke into their house and they have been hunting her. To stay hidden she had to completely change her appearance because obviously they would have been looking for a young girl, not a teenage boy. With this explanation Zack is on board once again with the plan to steal the sword and save mankind. He believes he is now on a mission for God and even if that mission involves stealing a valuable artifact it will be worth it, or will it?

Zack’s Choice is filled with twists that I did not see coming. Just when I thought that I had the story line figured out the author would change the plot in some way and send the story in a completely different direction. When I first started reading, it seemed that the life altering choice would be made by Zack at the beginning of the book and send him on a spectacular mission. In fact the life altering choice comes much later in the book and is actually not a choice about a mission but a choice of what kind of life to live. Honestly I was a little disappointed that the story was not centered on an exciting mission that keeps the reader holding on waiting to see if the characters will be able to make it through or not. However, I did end up enjoying the conclusion of this book as the author added a small bit of adventure in the last few chapters.

Quill says: This book will keep you guessing at all the twists and turns right up until the very end.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview with Author Philip Gaber

Today we're talking with Philip Gaber, author of Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl

FQ: Let me preface my question with a statement: I am a fan of your work! How is it that through the myriad of dark moments you write about, there seems to be a silver lining of humor surrounding the situation?

GABER: I suppose it’s just a coping mechanism. It’s how I deal with my life. Plus it’s a whole lot healthier than drugs and alcohol.

FQ: Have you ever had a person you know press you to admit he or she was the subject of the piece you wrote (and if so, how did you respond)?

GABER: Not really. I think because my kind of writing is so patchwork and such a big old melting pot that it’s almost impossible, even for me, to point to a character and say, “Oh that’s so and so.” The characters are such composites. I do have one friend who believes I base all my female characters on her, but I’m not really conscious of that. Maybe I do and don’t even realize it.

FQ: Your style is very conversational, yet fragmented. Is this intentional or simply your “writing zone”?

GABER: It’s both. The result of reading so many plays, I suppose. I’ve always been fascinated by the stage and always seem to take away a lot of life lessons from drama. More so than any other kind of writing. I’m unusual in that respect. I also like the idea of taking some of those playwriting tools and incorporating them into prose. I definitely have writing a play on my bucket list.

FQ: Your bio references “...seemingly random series of occupations...” What was your most fulfilling occupation and why?

GABER: I worked in the restaurant industry for several years. When I look back on all the jobs I’ve held, that’s the one that really stands out. Got to love restaurant folks!

FQ: In line with Question 4, would you mind elaborating further about your “...instructor role for an organization whose vision is for all people in its region to have the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential through family-sustaining employment...”?

GABER: I’m a career educator. I prepare people for entry or reentry into the workforce.

FQ: When writing Epic Sloth, is there a particular piece that was extremely difficult to write and if so, what did you do to overcome the discomfort of writing it?

GABER: If by “difficult” you mean, was there ever a time when I was overcome by emotion while I was writing something? I can’t recall an instance when that happened. For me the difficulty is proofreading, editing, paring down, shaping, etc.

FQ: My overall interpretation of your work is a consistent delivery of a life lived with intention and filled with ‘street-wise’ experiences. What words of wisdom would you impart on today’s youth to enlighten them and guide them safely along their journey toward adulthood and why?

GABER: Consult yourself. You’re going to get a lot of advice from people who don’t have a clue who you really are or what’s best for you. Most of that advice won’t apply to your life, anyway. Just look at these people and smile and keep it moving.

FQ: I find it difficult to zero in on one particular piece in your body of work because your overall delivery sparks so many emotions. However, my interpretation of “he had a few things to sort out” struck me. While I interpret many of your writings as sneak peaks of who the writer behind the pen is, it seemed as though you divulged some clarity toward who you truly are as a person. You point out: ‘Itzhak was a fraud…’, yet by the end of the piece (and Itzhak’s passing), you, along with many ‘...came by the half dozens in the rain to remember him...’ For me, it was as though you divulged you often have a ‘crap detector’ when first meeting people; yet you implement a ‘benefit of the doubt’ philosophy to size them up. Is this fairly accurate?

GABER: I just like to get to know people. The good, the bad, and the crazy! Listen to their stories. Learn about their perspectives, philosophies, their lives, where they’ve been, where they’re going. Out of curiosity.

FQ: It was an absolute pleasure to read Epic Sloth. I’m hoping you are working on your next writing adventure. If so, would you care to provide a bit of a preview?

GABER: Thank you! Currently working on a novella with a more linear and sequential plot-line.

To learn more about Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl

Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl

By: Philip Gaber
Publisher: Philip Gaber
Publication Date: June 2013
ISBN: 978-0-615-72648-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 18, 2014

Philip Gaber is back with a vengeance with an abundance of thought-provoking prose in his latest body of work: Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl.

Mr. Gaber has done a beautiful job of committing insightful perspective across the pages of Epic Sloth. There is a balanced blend of prose, short vignettes and poetry—each of which contains his signature tone of heartfelt angst. Having had the pleasure of reviewing Mr. Gaber’s first body of work last July (Between Eden and the Open Road), I welcomed the notion to dive into his latest work. Mr. Gaber is unafraid to get down into the grit and reality of every day life and address real issues that plague real people. There is a natural kinship the reader is able to form with the many troubled people (including himself, I would surmise), that he introduces through his writing. As soon as I began reading Epic Sloth, it felt as though I was reconnecting with an old friend because it didn’t take long to drift in between the sometimes sublime (often blatant) sentiments that is signatory to Mr. Gaber’s work.

I find it difficult to narrow the margin and select one specific piece over another due to the unique quality of each. Mr. Gaber has incredible grit when it comes to committing something visionary to paper such as: “…So I’d go to Washington Square Park in New York City, sit under a tree, light a Marlboro, turn on the recorder, and watch poverty and art having sex in public again…” (In his prose titled: “such a fine line between homage and plagiarism”). He is also a master of redirecting the reader to an opposite end spectrum when he recalls childhood memories; peppering such memories with darkness and using them as analogy for failed relationships. The reader can feel Mr. Gaber’s distinct edginess, i.e.: “My lousy luck with women began in the womb. I’d roundhouse kick my mother like a martial artist. She’d fight back by punching her belly. 'Don’t you ever do that to me again!' she’d scream. The match lasted nine months. The judges scored it a draw. There was not a rematch…” (excerpt from “the radar was awash with hot reds and blues”). Coming purely from a writer’s perspective, the most uplifting moment for me in Epic Sloth is when Mr. Gaber toys with the reader and provides a glimpse of his humor in “struggles and rebellion”: “…Critics said my influences included Clifford Odets and Mad magazine, but in interviews, I was cheeky like Dylan, and told them I was actually influenced by God. They’d become visibly pale and ask me, 'What gets you out of bed in the morning?' Wow. Basquiat had the best response to that question. He walked off camera and disappeared into his bedroom…”

There is something so compelling in how Mr. Gaber uses his pen to draw the reader in. While the nuance of a tortured and troubled life and mind oozes from many of the pages of Epic Sloth, Gaber tempers the emotions with accomplished and intentional word placement. He taunts the reader to keep turning the page to see what comes next. Truly, Gaber has created the perfect “people watcher” formula on paper and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his newest book.

Quill says: Epic Sloth: Tales of the Long Crawl is an admirable portrayal of “down and out” and is complemented by an absolute delivery of what it means to persevere throughout the journey.

Book Review - Tractor Pulling

Tractor Pulling: Tearing It Up

By: Paul Hoblin
Publisher: 21st Century
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1467721233
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

When you think of tractor pulling, you probably think of a John Deere pulling a wheel rake in a field. Not. If you’ve heard the ear-splitting roar of a tractor or truck engine at a fair, you think of those tractors tearing it up at a tractor-pulling competition. The heart-pounding sights and sounds probably have hooked you right into being a fan, but do you know the history of the sport? Believe it or not, tractor pulling, one of the largest motorsports event, began with horses. Even though John Charter invented the “first gasoline-fueled tractor” in 1887, farmers competed with horses.

Farmers wanted to see whose horse was the strongest so out came the doors. They lay them on the ground, hitched them up to a horse, added the weight of a few men, and tried to see how far a horse could go. In the 1920s tractors took over the competition and “farmers wanted to test their tractors against one another.” Their no-rules competitions grew until “people began modifying their tractors” and the competition grew fierce and dangerous. In 1969 the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA) came into play and “created a set of rules that tractor-pulling competitions began to follow.”

Instead of horses pulling doors, big tractors were pulling a lot of weight on sleds, including deadweight sleds. Safety pays in many ways and the rules disqualified driver’s whose tractors didn’t meet the requirements. Other safety features included helmets, concrete barriers to “protect spectators from engine fires,” tractor inspections, and things such as kill switches. The tractors were ever-changing and those engines grew more powerful. In fact, many “were trying to increase the number of engines in a tractor.” You’ll learn about the classes of tractors, modified tractors, divisions, you’ll meet the drivers, and how the tractors are “tearing it up” in competition.

This is an awesome look at the history and sport of tractor pulling young fans will love. The eye-popping layout of the book is quite exciting and action-packed. You can see them as they rev up those engines and spew smoke into the air as they try to pull a load. There’s a lot to be discovered and young tractor pulling fans will pore over these pages trying to get the scoop. There’s a two-page spread showing the "Breakdown of a Tractor-Pull Sled," one that showcases the design and gives out the specs. There are numerous informative sidebars and captions that add to the text. For example, in “Amazing Engines” we learn some very unusual sources for engines. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you have a young tractor pulling fan, this is an exciting book that he or she will get lost in!

Book Review - Monster Trucks

Monster Trucks: Tearing it Up

By: Brian Howell
Publisher: 21st Century
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-1467721202
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

Bob Chandler was into his Ford F-250 pickup truck, but unfortunately the parts he wanted were difficult to find. To remedy the situation, he “opened a four-wheel-drive parts shop in 1975,” a solution that gave him access to everything he needed. Apparently Bob was the experimental type and the bigger the better. The more he worked on his truck, the more powerful it became. Bob put the pedal to the metal and people decided to nickname him “Bigfoot,” a name that soon ended up on the side of his truck. With giant wheels on his pickup, it wasn’t long before Bob George “called Bigfoot a monster truck,” a name many youngsters these days are quite familiar with.

Bigfoot soon became very popular and quite famous in the Midwest. Things began to change for Bob Chandler when his truck was featured in a movie. He quickly discovered how easy it was to crush cars. Crrrunch! Needless to say, Bigfoot began performing before crowds of people. The “monster truck craze was underway,” but Bigfoot wasn’t the only competitor. Safety pays in many ways and by the time Chandler retired, he had “cofounded the Monster Truck Racing Association,” an organization to ensure safety among drivers and competitors.

The race was on and so was the mania surrounding monster trucks. Events cropped up around the world and included “races and freestyle contests.” The appearance of those trucks were a far cry from Chandler’s Ford F-250. In fact those tricky trucks are a big part of the excitement. El Toro Loco, the Monster Mutt, Maximum Destruction, the Prowler, and the Grave Digger can be checked out in the pages of this book. You’ll learn what it takes to be a monster truck driver, how the trucks are built, the kinds of stunts they can perform, the competitions, the drivers, how to get started in the sport, and you’ll learn many other interesting things about the sport of monster trucks!

This is an awesome look at the history and sport of monster trucks young fans will love. The eye-popping layout of the book is quite exciting and action packed. Monster trucks fly through the air as they race, crush those junk cars, and fly through the air. There’s a lot to be discovered and young monster truck fans will pore over these pages trying to get the scoop. There’s a two-page spread featuring Grave Digger, one that showcases the design and gives out the specs. There are numerous informative sidebars and captions that add to the text. For example, in “Creating the Track” we learn how a stadium is converted into a monster truck track. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you have a young monster truck fan, this is an exciting book that he or she will get lost in!

Book Review - Elan, Son of Two Peoples

Elan, Son of Two Peoples

By: Heidi Smith Hyde
Illustrated by: Mikela Prevost
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-0761390527
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

Elan dreamily glanced out the railroad car window at a nearby trolley car. He and his parents were leaving San Francisco headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a special time in Elan’s life, an exciting one with lots of ceremony and excitement. Just the day before he’d celebrated his Bar Mitvah. With his grandfather’s tallit around his shoulders, he read from the Torah, chanting “from the portion called ‘Bamidbar,’ which tells of the Jewish people wandering in the desert.” Yet another celebration awaited the thirteen-year-old, but this one would be in the land of the Pueblo atop a mesa. Mama was an Indian and he would celebrate that part of his heritage.

As a boy of two worlds, two peoples, Elan “would take part in the Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man.” Mama gave him a special package on the train as they headed south. It was a special tallit that she had woven for him, a tallit he would wear when he read the Torah atop that mesa. There were Jewish symbols, but also “colorful stripes” symbolizing “yellow for the sun, blue for the corn, white for the rocks, and red for Mother Earth.” It was a time when Elan was becoming more aware of things, becoming aware of his Acoma Pueblo heritage, becoming a man. What would happen after his ceremony in the kiva?

This is a fascinating story of Elan, a boy with a Jewish father and a Native American Mother. The tale is based on the life of the eldest son of Solomon Bibo and Juana Valle, “granddaughter of a former Acoma Pueblo chief.” The tale, set forth in picture book format, doesn’t go into depth, but does bring out the symbolism, ceremony, and rites of passage for both the Jewish and Pueblo boys. The most striking line is when Elan’s mother says, “Always remember you are the son of two proud nations whose roots are as sturdy and deep as this oak tree.” The artwork is stunningly beautiful and adds tremendously to the tale. In the back of the book is a glossary and additional historical information about the Bibo family.

Quill says: This is a tale of the merging of two cultures with the coming of age of Etan, a Jewish, Native American boy that will fascinate young readers!

Book Review - Sadie's Lag Ba'Omer Mystery

Sadie's Lag Ba'Omer Mystery

By: Jamie Korngold
Illustrated by: Julie Fortenberry
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-0761390480
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

The moon was full, lighting up the way for Grandpa, Sadie, and Ori as they walked down the street hand-in-hand. Sadie glanced up at the moon and wanted to know if it was a holiday. She’d learned lots of interesting things in Hebrew school and knew that “Jewish holidays often begin with a full moon.” Passover and Purim were two of the most recent, but what could this special holiday be? No one had said anything about it. There wasn’t any holiday on the full moon, but Grandpa declared that “there is a holiday soon after.” Ori and Sadie had no clue. “It’s a mystery!” Indeed it was and they were going to have to find out about this mysterious holiday.

Ori sat on a stool as Sadie checked out the big calendar over her bookshelf. Mmmmm ... one, two, three days after the full moon there was a funny notation, “Lag Ba’Omer.” What could that possibly mean? Yes, “It’s a mystery!” Ori and Sadie said again. They began to search their bookshelves for some clues. There were books about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot, but no Lag Ba’Omer. They knew all about these other holidays because there were special things they celebrated with, including the “shofar their father blew on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” This was truly a mystery. Would Ori and Sadie find anyone who could help them solve the mystery of Lag Ba’Omer?

This is a fun mystery of a minor Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer, that children will enjoy solving right along with Ori and Sadie. It’s a very interesting mystery that will interest many in learning not only about Lag B’Omer (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai), but also about other Jewish holidays. They begin their search by asking the UPS man, but get their first real clue when Aunt Katy asks, “Isn’t that when you go on picnics?” The artwork is simple, yet lively, and seems to express the importance of family life and the role of children during holiday celebrations, even minor ones. In the back of the book is a brief vignette that offers up additional information about the mysterious holiday of Lag B’Omer.

Quill says: This is a fun, unusual mystery that will help children learn minor Jewish holidays!

Book Review - Scarlatti's Cat

Scarlatti's Cat

By: Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Illustrated by: Carlyn Beccia
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-0761354727
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

Pulcinella cat sat on a red hassock dreamily looking over at Scarlatti as he composed a sonata at his harpsichord. The sun came through the window, toasting her beautiful orange fur. It was nice to hear Scarlatti play, but “what she wanted to do more than anything, was compose.” The notes danced through her head at night and she glanced up at the moon, imagining her paws dancing on that keyboard. In the morning Pulcinella cat sat on a stool in front of the double keyboard. No, that Scarlatti had rules and one of them was that “no one was ever allowed to touch his favorite instrument.” Not ever!

Scarlatti grew famous with his compositions and that meant they would travel. They even “met some of the greatest composers of the day,” including George Frideric Handel. Unfortunately, Pulcinella cat “thought he had very poor taste in pets.” Yes, he had none other than a dog. They moved to Madrid and thoughts of composing drifted away. That was until she spotted a very unwelcome visitor beneath the harpsichord. The chase was on for that mouse and all of a sudden when Scarlatti tried to “shoo” Pulcinella cat away, she “jumped on top of the harpsichord–and landed on the keys.” Would this be the end of her composing career before she even began?

This is the amazing story of Pulcinella cat that will make everyone chuckle. Many people have heard of the great composers, including Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, but few have heard of his special cat, Pulcinella. Legend has it that Scarlatti credited her for helping him compose “The Cat’s Fugue” when she landed on that keyboard. The twist at the end is a fun one and perhaps fodder for yet another Pulcinella tale. The artwork is very Baroque-like, capturing the essence of the period, although Pulcinella cat could just be in ‘most anyone’s household these days. Of course Pulcinella will be a most welcome cat on anyone’s shelves as well.

Quill says: This amazingly fun and humorous tale will tickle everyone's funny bone, including that of the most diehard curmudgeon!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review - Sinners and the Sea

Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah's Wife

By: Rebecca Kanner
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9523
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 18, 2014

Rebecca Kanner delivers a poignant and compelling story in her debut novel, Sinners and the Sea, as she casts a light and provides a distinct voice to the nameless, Biblical woman, Noah’s wife.

She is an innocent child who was born with a grotesque birthmark over her brow—a defect that creates a stigma and perception of evil to all who come in contact with her. Committed to delivering her to a worthier life, her father’s mission is to release her from the painful existence that smothers his only child.

When 600-year old Noah arrives in their village, her father betroths his only daughter to Noah. Reality hits hard when the thought occurs he may never see his daughter again as he watches the two disappear over the horizon. Noah and his new bride are destined for Sorum; a community full of violence and sexual sinners. As their lives together unfold and Noah’s wife delivers his three sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth), she realizes her only true companion is loneliness. Noah converses far more with his God than with her as he preaches God’s message to the ill begotten dwellers of Sorum. Left to her loneliness, Noah’s wife attempts friendship with members of the fallen people of Sorum to no avail. After many failed attempts, she focuses her attentions on the rearing of their three sons. What comes as somewhat of a shock, however, are the signs of their sins despite the self-righteous upbringing they were exposed to.

When Noah’s God informs him of plans to destroy the world by flood, Noah follows His specific instructions to build an ark. The construction of the vessel was the necessary key to the salvation needed for his wife, three sons, their wives and a bevy of animals in order to repopulate the new world. What none of them could possibly know, however, was the perilous journey they would navigate and endure to arrive at their new world. As they secure a stronghold on survival through the formidable forty days and forty nights, divine hope guides them in the end. Perhaps the only faith they needed was to believe their destiny truly was in the hands of the God Noah had spent his life’s devotion toward fulfilling—an unfaltering devotion to deliver His message to the people.

Ms. Kanner has done an admirable job of breathing dimensional life into the nameless character of Noah’s wife. It is an honor to review authors who demonstrate confidence and command of their pen with eloquent style. Kanner is a true companion to her pen and while there are many scenes that depict clear pictures, one in particular truly grabbed my attention: “…Nothing but rain guards the ark. The only footsteps on deck are those of the clouds…” It is a pleasure to read the work of a fellow author who is able to deliver such depth to her work as a result of the careful placement of very few words. In my opinion, Kanner demonstrates her natural-born gift of writing in Sinners and the Sea. This was a well-written and captivating story.

Quill says: Sinners and the Sea is a beautiful account of the importance of faith and perseverance as well as a strong message of learning how to rise above judgments as we endeavor to look beyond those who sit in judgment.

Book Review - Sea Slime

Sea Slime: It's Eeuwy, Gooey and Under the Sea

By: Ellen Praeger
Illustrated by: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1628552102
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

A colorful clownfish peeked out from inside a sea anemone and watched the ocean come alive with activity. A school of fish hurriedly passed overhead while a zebra moray eel kept watch as a colorful parrotfish approached. There was something else interesting in the water, something “gooey” and very icky. It was sea slime, a substance that “slips, slides, and sticks.” Some creatures don’t use that slime, but instead are made up of it. Take for example that jellyfish that is hanging down in the water. Its “whole body is see-through slime.” Amazing, but true!

Everyone knows that snails and slugs can be very gooey and slimy. They are really slow creatures and in order to go “faster, a sea slug travels over its own slippery goo.” Perhaps the sea butterfly is a creature you’ve never seen before, but it too uses that slime. In order to catch critters to eat, sea butterflies “blow a bubble of mucus like a parachute of sticky goo.” If any little critter gets caught on it, look out! The sea butterfly has its lunch when they “slurp up their bubble of slime.” Yuk! Some use that ocean goo to protect themselves, some to capture food, and some use it to travel.

This is a fun book about “eeuwy, gooey” ocean sea slime kids will love. Of course that yuk factor is something a lot of young students are drawn to. In this book they will learn how sea creatures learn to use that disgusting slime to their advantage. The gross factor is there, but the learning one is there as well. Some of these deep sea creatures may be familiar while others such as the vampire squid and the hagfish might not be. The artwork is quite vibrant, colorful, and is very appealing. My favorite is the two-page spread of several different types of moray eels. In the back of the book are four pages of activities, including an all-time favorite, “Make Your Own Slime.” There are additional complementary resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This is a great book with lots of eeuwy, gooey sea creatures that has great kid-appeal!

Book Review - The Shape Family Babies

The Shape Family Babies

By: Kristin Haas
Illustrated by: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1628552119
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

Wedding bells were ringing and soon “a rectangle and a rhombus fell in love” and were married. They were all excited when they learned they were going to have a baby, but were wondering what it would look like. Perhaps the baby would look like Mother Rhombus and “have four equal sides.” But then again, it just might look like Father Rectangle and would “have four right angles.” They were all excited and could hardly wait until their baby arrived. It was a big surprise when they got to the hospital and found out that the big surprise was not one, but three babies! There was something very unusual about one of them though.

Rhombus Jr. looked exactly like her mother and Rectangle Jr. looked like his father. The third baby was, well ... rather different and they didn’t know quite what to name their third beautiful baby. She looked like both of her parents with “four right angles and four equal sides.” It was a puzzling situation and they decided to consult the family. Cousin Triangle thought they could name her Polygon while Cousin Trapezoid thought Parallelogram was as good a name as any. All kinds of names were suggested including Quadrangle, Quadrilateral, Rectombus, and even Rhombangle. None of them seemed quite right, but someone had to know what to name that baby!

This is a fun tale that will help young students learn about geometric shapes. The tale of the Shape family will help them learn not only the names, but also what they are comprised of. For example, when Aunt Hexagon talks about naming the baby, she says that “She has four angles. We could name her Quadrangle.” Like all the other characters in this book, her body is shaped like the shape she’s describing. Some of them have background illustrations showing a visual mathematical representation. The artwork is simple, thus bringing the shapes to the foreground. There are four pages of activities in the back of the book. Additional complementary activities can be accessed on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This is an excellent book that will help young students learn about basic geometric shapes!

Book Review - First Fire

First Fire: A Cherokee Folktale

By: Nancy Kelly Allen
Illustrated by: Sherry Rogers
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1628552072
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: march 2014

The stories of how things came to be began to flow out into the air under the nighttime skies. The stars twinkled as the children listened to their father’s tales of when the “world was new” and there was no fire to be had. The spider, snake, and birds looked over the water as “the Thunders hurled a lightning bolt.” The skies lit up with a dazzling display and a sycamore tree soon lit up in flames. It was very cold and the animals needed that fire spreading through the sycamore’s branches, but how could they get it? The “council of animals” met and decided that they did indeed need that fire and someone had to go get it.

The raven volunteered and quickly spread his white wings and flew toward the flames. Raven leaned forward peering into the flames trying to figure out how to return with the fire. Instead “the heat scorched Raven’s feathers black.” Legend says that is why the raven’s feathers are black. “I’ll get the fire,” shouted Screech Owl. Off he went to the burning branches of the sycamore tree. A sudden flash of flames quickly burned Owl’s eyes. Legend says that is why “Screech Owl’s eyes shine red in the bright light.” Neither Raven nor Screech Owl were able to bring back the fire, but could one of the other animals do it?

This is a fascinating, fun look at a Cherokee legend that explains how we got fire. The Cherokee storyteller in this tale is relaying to his own children things he heard from his elders. We learn how Raven, Screech Owl, Hoot Owl, Horned Owl, Racer (a racer snake), and Spider attempt to capture the fire and light from the sycamore’s branches and return with it. We then learn how each animal was changed by his attempt. The tale will be quite memorable as children will not only learn about legends, but also how they are passed on from generation to generation. The artwork lights up the pages with excitement and brings the tale to life. Newly independent readers can tackle this beginning nonfiction book with a bit of assistance with words such as “sycamore.” There are four pages of activities in the back of the book. Additional complementary activities can be accessed on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: If you are interested in Native American culture, you'll love to learn about these Cherokee legends!

Book Review - Daisylocks


By: Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by: Cathy Morrison
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1628552157
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

A young hand was getting ready to plant a packet of daisy seeds after the trowel had turned over a bit of soil. A few seeds in each hole should do, but a few of them took to the air, including Daisylocks. Not quite satisfied where she was to be planted, she wanted to go elsewhere. There had to be a “better place where Daisylocks could live and thrive,” so she asked Wind to take her to other habitats. Perhaps there would be just the perfect place for her to grow and become a beautiful daisy. Wind would lift Daisylocks into the air and their journey would begin. Would it be in the desert, the mountains, the wetlands, the rainforest, or the beach?

Wind picked Daisylocks up and they began to explore. The first stop found them among the desert tortoises who were walking on dry, parched soil. The cacti flourished, but it was no place for a daisy. Wind picked Daisylocks up once again and “whooshed her all the way to a treeless plain that was partially covered with ice and snow.” The cold was too much for Daisylocks and no way would her roots be able to sink into the “frozen ground.” Unsatisfied, they continued on their journey. Wind would take her to the ends of the Earth, but where was that perfect, special place for her to grow?

This is an excellent tale to introduce the young reader to Earth’s habitats. Of course Daisylocks is only one type of seed, but as the young reader works his or her way through the book they will see flora in other habitats. The illustrations are filled with flora and fauna which inhabit mountain, desert, wetlands, beach, and rainforest habitats. It’s almost more of a visual experience with which to begin to explore Earth’s ecosystem. The book is very vibrant and alive, a fun one to find and identify an assortment of plants and animals. In the back of the book is a brief overview of “Plant Parts” and several activities, including some 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 are doing a unit on habitats, this is a perfect book for your young readers to read and explore!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review - Kali's Story

Kali's Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue

By: Jennifer Keats Curtis
Illustrated by: John Gomes
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1628552089
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

The polar bear den was a winter wonderland, filled with ice and snow. There was only one thing missing and that was a mother polar bear to take care and raise the cub she left behind. A little snow covered nose peeked up through the entrance to the den. “GRRRR,” he exclaimed as a man removed him. The little orphaned cub would not survive without help and it was time to leave. Vroom, vroom! The cub was whisked away to a nearby village where they would try to help him. It was there the cub received his name, Kali (pronounced Cully), named after the village. There was only one problem ... he was unable to eat.

Little fuzzy Kali was loaded into a large dog crate to head to North Slope Borough to visit the wildlife vet. He was healthy, but “like human newborns, the baby bear drank from his mother, not a bowl or a cup.” Kali needed to take yet another trip, but this time it was by plane to the Alaska Zoo where they could tend to him. Open wide! The “milk” from that bottle was “filled with fatty puppy formula and whipping cream.” Kali began to play with everyone, rolling in the snow and checking people out. He began to eat solid foods, learned to swim, and practice his hunting skills in preparation for yet another move. Where would he go next?

This is the amazing true story of Kali, the orphaned polar bear, everyone will fall in love with. One of the real draws of this book are the outstanding photographs of Kali from the time he peeked out of that den until he ended up at the Buffalo Zoo with Luna. A large portion of the book looks as if it were an actual photograph album, something that will make it accessible to all, including emergent or non-readers. The tale brings Kali’s story to life, animating him and making him into the loveable bear that has excited so many people. In the back of the book is an interesting look at the “Polar Bear Life Cycle” and several activities, including some 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: Kali is just one of those little creatures that everyone, young and old, will instantly adore!