Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review - The Taming

The Taming

By: Atticus Krum
Illustrated By: Patrizia Donaera
Publisher: Huntly House
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9885349-1-9
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: May 1, 2014

For all glade-dwellers it is widely known that leaving the protection of the Glade is forbidden as terrible dangers await anyone who leaves. However, Thutter McClutter, who is just a small young shrew, finds himself doing that very thing accompanied by three companions, Scruffy (a mouse), Plumpkin (a rat), and a wise old friend named Patch (a mole). From the beginning it is clear that Scruffy is the instigator of this so called “adventure,” but Patch knows that something is not right and takes it upon himself to watch over Thutter. These four travelers set off to find the mysterious creature called a Solkreat, for this animal is something that few have the opportunity to behold. However, with each step of this journey danger is around every corner and it becomes increasingly clear that seeing a Solkreat was not the intended goal of this quest. Scruffy is hiding something, but continually skims the truth of why he talked his friends into coming on this adventure, but some secrets will not stay hidden for long.

As the four friends dodge danger, and escape evil creatures, it becomes clear that an unknown force is helping them along their way. This adventure suddenly becomes anything but as events start to unfold that point to the unrelenting conflict between good and evil. The four weary travelers are thrown into a dangerous battleground that will test them to the absolute limit. Fortunately for Thutter, Patch is there to help him and being the wise mole that he is, slowly decides that Thutter needs to learn exactly what his role is in the protection of the Glade that they all call home. With Patch’s wisdom thrumming through Thutter’s young mind he quickly becomes aware of what his role is and realizes that he is now a part of something bigger than he could have ever imagined.

From the very first page I was intrigued with this story and continued to be completely caught up in it until the very last word. Each chapter is filled with adventure, danger, mystery, friendship, and strength that will have the reader transfixed. An unlikely hero combined with the ongoing struggle between the powers of good and evil set the stage for an amazing story! Instantly I found myself sympathizing with young Thutter as he worked to understand the dangers around him, Patch’s words of wisdom and the inner battle that is within him. That inner conflict that everyone goes through at one point or another trying to find their place and role in the world is shown amazingly well through this character. Atticus Krum does an exquisite job of giving the reader a story that shows what can happen when time is taken to listen to the voice deep inside each of us and follow the path that we were meant to take.

Quill says: This is a wonderfully intriguing and truly inspiring tale!

Book Review - Sting of the Drone

Sting of the Drone

By: Richard A. Clarke
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-04797-7
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 1, 2014

Sting of the Drone is the latest suspense/thriller by this author that will definitely make the reader sit up and take notice. We’ve all heard about drones and the destruction that they cause without killing the military people that send them to their targets. In this particular story, the pilots and the people who operate the drones are in a desert location and go home at night to their families without a scratch. This is a lot safer than flying huge bombers over enormous oceans, as in previous conflicts, when the pilots don’t walk away free. They still have to keep close watch that they don’t have any collateral damage (innocent people coming into range of the drone) and when they do, they feel responsible, much worse than in hand-to-hand combat.

The American drones, both Predator and Reaper, as they are called, continue to punish the nation’s enemies, or as they are called, the people who fit the profile of an enemy. From a site in the desert of the US, controllers (pilots) use joysticks, much like video games to strike at targets many miles away on the back side of the world. And, what is an enemy to do but strike back, blow up parts of America, such as subway systems and kill the controllers of the drones in the US. As an enemy named Ghazi says, “We have had enough of drones and are going to go after them and swat them dead. Maybe we can capture a drone and use it against America.” The bad guys think that they are about to make the Americans stop using the killer drones. And then the fun begins! The scenes jump from place to place on different continents. The author writes a fabulous story using folks who will remind the reader of Clancy’s Jack Ryan exploits. This book doesn’t have one particular hero, unlike Jack Ryan, but a team of heroes who prevent revenge on the US. The enemies in this story are determined to stop the drones and the Americans are just as determined to stop them. One of the scariest parts in the story deals with what might happen if the enemy also had drones and had the power to put their pilots into offices a world away and blow America off the map.

This extremely well-written novel builds suspense by the minute. The reader follows the terrorists who are executing their plan of using home-made bombs to attack the US near the Christmas holidays and also using a stolen drone to kill their own innocent people and make it look like a US drone attack against an orphanage.

Quill says: This story brings us back to the horrible days following the attack on the Twin Towers and, of course, the picture of those two magnificent buildings falling to the ground.

Book Review - The Beautiful American

The Beautiful American

By: Jeanne Mackin
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-46582-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 1, 2014

In her latest book, The Beautiful American, Jeanne Mackin pays admirable homage to American photographer and beautiful woman, Lee Miller. Ms. Mackin focuses on Miller’s notoriety whose iconic status was established as a fashion model in New York in the 1920’s before going to Paris where her fame continued to grow as a noted fashion and fine art photographer.

Lee Miller was born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1907 to a family of privilege. Unlike most girls her age, Lee wasn’t interested in teddy bear teas and playing dolls. Rather, when she met Nora Tours, daughter of the family’s gardener (and weeks apart in age), she finally met someone who understood adventure (nearly) as well as she did. Lee’s father, Theodore, was an amateur photographer and often used Lee as his model subject for his work. Perhaps he was the inspiration for Lee’s ultimate love (and ability) of photography. No matter, at the age of eight, Lee’s attention was focused on Nora’s arrival with her father and the adventures of climbing trees and being tomboys. The course of life is fragile and innocence is lost. Such was the case for “Li Li,” Nora’s nickname for Lee, after a visit to a family friend in Brooklyn. It wasn’t until years later and a continent away that Nora learns why that sweet little eight year old girl in the flowing white dress couldn’t come out to play anymore.

Years later and more than a collection of history in their respective pasts, Lee and Nora meet again. It is post war England and as was the case with many, Nora’s purpose in being there was to continue her quest to pick up the pieces of her life post WWII. Her reason for being in England was her continued search for her missing daughter, Dahlia. Not necessarily as fate would have it, she literally bumps into Lee outside of Harrods. The last she had seen Lee was years earlier; a brilliant time for expatriated Americans “finding themselves” in Paris. It was a time before war and devastation, but there was one memory that resonated for Nora when she sees Lee again ... The love of her life, struggling artist Jamie, was one of Lee’s love conquests. The first memory that comes rushing back for Nora in that Harrods doorway is the image of Lee and Jamie in Lee’s Paris studio bed. Perhaps their chance meeting a (sort-of) continent away was more than just a coincidence.

Jeanne Mackin has done a brilliant job in committing the life and times of Elizabeth “Lee” Miller to the pages of The Beautiful American. Mackin’s ability to take a real person (Lee Miller) and fuse her life together with the fictitious “Nora Tours” and create a friendship that transcends the infamy of pre and post WWII is fascinating and an accomplished feat that has been delivered ten-fold. “Nora” is as credible a character as the real person Miller is. Mackin has a style that requires little coaxing to encourage the reader to turn to the next page. She is the epitome of a story teller in that her opening to The Beautiful American immediately hooks her readership and convinces them that they have just come across a must read. She consistently sets up each scene with solid foundation that easily coaxes the reader into the situation with a natural curiosity to find out what will happen next. After reading The Beautiful American, I went back to the internet to learn more about the infamous Lee Miller and found that everything I read, Ms. Mackin had accurately captured and adeptly spun the information into storytelling fashion personified in her book. This is a fantastically written book and truly a story that I would challenge anyone who reads it to say it was easy to put this book down before the last page had been read. Well done Ms. Mackin! I am a fan!

Quill says: An exceptional story about a woman of substance who left an indelible mark as her legacy.

Books For Review

The books just keep on coming!  Lots of neat looking books have arrived - can't wait to start reading! Check out these titles and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews.

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack Evolved Publishing presents the literary saga of a young girl plucked from the sea under mysterious circumstances, in "The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky" by David Litwack, award-winning author of "There Comes a Prophet" and "Along the Watchtower." ~~~ After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light-two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean. ~ Children of the Republic, Helena and Jason were inseparable in their youth, until fate sent them down different paths. Grief and duty sidetracked Helena's plans, and Jason came to detest the hollowness of his ambitions. ~ These two damaged souls are reunited when a tiny boat from the Blessed Lands crashes onto the rocks near Helena's home after an impossible journey across the forbidden ocean. On board is a single passenger, a nine-year-old girl named Kailani, who calls herself "The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky." A new and perilous purpose binds Jason and Helena together again, as they vow to protect the lost innocent from the wrath of the authorities, no matter the risk to their future and freedom. ~ But is the mysterious child simply a troubled little girl longing to return home? Or is she a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of a godless Republic, as the outlaw leader of an illegal religious sect would have them believe? Whatever the answer, it will change them all forever... and perhaps their world as well.

Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry by Linda Carroll From the moment they first galloped head-to-head in Saratoga Springs, the two chestnut colts showed they were the stuff of racing legend. Alydar, all muscle with a fearsome closing kick, was already the popular favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed, deceptively laid-back streamlined elegance, was powered forward by his steely determination not to settle for second place. In the Sport of Kings, the Triple Crown is the most valued prize, requiring a horse to win not just one race, but three: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. And 1978 would not be just for the record books, but also one of the greatest dramas ever played out in the racing world. There were names to conjure with, worthy of the Sport of Kings. The bloodline of Native Dancer. The teen wonderboy jockey Steve Cauthen. The once unbeatable Calumet Farm—the Damn Yankees of the racing world—now in eclipse and hoping for a comeback. The newcomer Harbor View Farm—owned by brash financier Louis Wolfson, who wouldn’t let even a conviction and a prison sentence for securities violations stand in the way of his dreams of glory. And the racetracks themselves: Belmont, Saratoga, Pimlico. And, of course, Churchill Downs.

The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced eleven-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung‒stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the “curse” laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Guess Who Zoo by Howard Eisenberg Fun that educates. Monkey has stolen Zookeeper's keys and the animals won't return until children guess their names. A charming rhyming story for ages 3-6 followed by inter-active poems with clues in every line and the animal's name left blank. (Plus there's a special fascinating fact section entitled, If Animals Could Talk...) This book is based on the Guess Who Zoo CD that won a Parents' Choice Award and a Parenting Magazine Pick.  

Fairy Tale Murders by Kelly Money Women are disappearing in Topeka and with each disappearance there comes another “special delivery” from a man who calls himself the Fairy Tale Murderer. Detective Kate Kingsley searches for her missing best friend, Kristen, while hot on the trail of an emerging serial killer. Is Kristen one of the killers “princesses” or is she simply the bait to lure Kate to her own Fairy Tale ending?

Time Lost: Teenage Survivalist II by Julie L. Casey Ben's 13th year was when his family fell apart, but his 14th year is when his whole world, or more precisely, the whole world, collapses. He had thought 13 was his unlucky number, the year that Time turned its back on him, but he was wrong; that year, it was he who had turned his back on Time. The following year, the fury of the sun turns back Time for everyone in the world. On PF (Power Failure) Day, a huge electromagnetic surge from the sun destroys the power grids and civilization as we know it. Living in the middle of downtown Kansas City makes survival nearly impossible. Starvation, dehydration, disease, freezing temperatures, and out-of-control fires imperil the desperate population. After facing unimaginable losses, Ben finds hope for the future when he meets Sara, who has endured her own share of agonizing loss. But when a murderous gang threatens to take away everything Ben has left, they flee to a wilderness area of a large city park where they learn to live off the land for survival.  

A Long Time Gone by Karen White When Vivien Walker left her home in the Mississippi Delta, she swore never to go back, as generations of the women in her family had. But in the spring, nine years to the day since she’d left, that’s exactly what happens—Vivien returns, fleeing from a broken marriage and her lost dreams for children. What she hopes to find is solace with “Bootsie,” her dear grandmother who raised her, a Walker woman with a knack for making everything all right. But instead she finds that her grandmother has died and that her estranged mother is drifting further away from her memories. Now Vivien is forced into the unexpected role of caretaker, challenging her personal quest to find the girl she herself once was. But for Vivien things change in ways she cannot imagine when a violent storm reveals the remains of a long-dead woman buried near the Walker home, not far from the cypress swamp that is soon to give up its ghosts. Vivien knows there is now only one way to rediscover herself—by uncovering the secrets of her family and breaking the cycle of loss that has haunted her them for generations.

Muzzled by Eileen Brady Anything can happen during a veterinary house call, including murder. Dr. Kate Turner thinks she’s seen it all until she finds two elderly clients shot dead and their show dogs running loose in the house. Chief of Police Bobby Garcia dismisses it as a sad murder-suicide, but Kate isn’t so sure. Something about the scene isn’t right. There are twenty-seven Cavalier King Charles spaniels found in the home but one dog may be missing. Or is he? As she learns more about the murdered couple a twisted scheme of fraud and deceit begins to develop. Each one of her house call clients provides a clue to the mystery. Is the tattooed biker who loves to bake a hit man? Did a ten million dollar lawsuit drive the filmmaker to shoot for real? Or perhaps the estranged daughter got tired of waiting for her inheritance? As the number of suspects goes up so does the cups of coffee and pieces of pie Kate wolfs down, leaving her nerves jangling and her pants too tight. Before she knows it someone tries to frame her for the murder. Who can she trust? The bookkeeper with her pet parrot, Capt Hook, stuffed into her cleavage or the grouchy office manager who knows where all the bodies are buried?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview with Sandy Peckinpah

Today we're talking with Sandy Peckinpah, author of How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen: A Parent's Step by Step Guide to Healing After the Loss of a Child

FQ: Thinking about the death of one’s child is extremely difficult, let alone writing about it. What spurred you to go beyond your personal journaling experience to create a self-help experience for others via short Stepping Stones?

PECKINPAH: I first discovered the power of storytelling when my daughter was born with a facial cleft, she taught me everything about the beauty of imperfection. I was inspired to write my first book, Rosey, the Imperfect Angel. I wrote the fairy tale to help all children who felt different. I had a profound pave the way for my child and others like her.

But my life challenges didn’t end there. Not even close...when my 16 year old son woke up with fever, and was dead the next morning I realized I had just experienced the worst that can happen.
The steps to healing aren’t easy. In the course of my bereavement I realized, however, there’s a responsibility to humanity in every life event, even the loss of a child. Because I’m a writer, I healed in words, and I began to record my story and the steps I took to heal. And, I became aware that in this master plan of life, my story could help other bereaved parents. It started with my journal, then my blog, I was so grateful for the impact and reaction it was having and decided I was ready to move forward with my book. I had to resurrect a purpose from my most painful life experience.

Author Sandy Peckinpah

FQ: You talk about the importance of utilizing the service of a therapist and support groups. At what point in the grieving process should outside help be considered?

PECKINPAH: I highly recommend a therapist or support group in the very beginning stages. I think it awakens people to the thought that healing will, in fact, take place. Many are resistant to therapy for various reasons, so a support group might be more feasible. If not in the beginning, my recommendation is to seek professional help at the first sign of feeling out of control with grief. That can manifest in many ways like not sleeping or sleeping too much, feelings of hopelessness, poor personal care, addictive behaviors with food, drugs, alcohol. The list is long, but for me, I detail in the book how it caused me to have obsessive behaviors and fears. I was compulsively organizing and overly worried about my children’s well-being. I needed professional help to get through this.

FQ: I was impressed that you actually didn’t make the grieving process appear to be seamless as so many writers attempt to do. When did you actually realize that you were indeed going to heal?

PECKINPAH: Thank you for acknowledging that. I think people need to know the truth. Losing a child is the hardest loss of all and it takes commitment and perseverance to get through it. The first few years are extremely difficult. In that time, you’re learning to establish a whole new relationship with your child and with life in general. It’s a process in learning to live with loss. I think my first realization that I might really feel spontaneous joy again was with my best friend, Melissa. We went to a spa for a week and I remember we were playing water volleyball. I slammed the ball down in the water and it knocked her over and into the water. She came up from the water with this look on her face like “where the heck did that come from?” I burst into laughter and at first I didn’t know who was laughing because I hadn’t heard the sound of my own uninhibited laughter in so long. It felt so good, but most of all it awakened me to the possibility that my life could really be happy again.

FQ: Fortunately you realized your living children began to show “signs of despair.” Briefly describe how you were able to help Trevor and Julianne cope with the loss of their brother, Garrett.

The author's son Garrett

PECKINPAH: I had to diligently pay attention. I have a quote in my book from David Kessler saying “children are the forgotten grievers.” That was profound for me because if you think about it, children live in a fantasy world during much of the early years. They can appear all right because they still play on the playground or dance to music. However, their little hearts are wounded, frightened, and lost. They don’t understand why mommy and daddy are sad, and where the heck did their brother go? Much of my children’s healing came through consistency.

I worked with a group of bereaved children in the school system here, and frequently they said the first thing to go when their family member died was the family dinner...and they missed it. I think family dinners, rituals and connections are the most important tools of all. I also took my children to a ceramic art studio with me. We would sit and paint for hours and it was a time they could sit in silence, or they could express what they were thinking while they were painting. For some reason, that was very soothing to them. I also planted a garden. They would get out in the sunshine with me and get their hands in the dirt, all in the name of planting a garden for their brother Garrett. “Garrett’s Garden” still lives today.

FQ: It’s so very obvious that without the loving friendship of your best friend, Melissa, you may not have made it, so to speak. Do you have something to say to her that you may not have said before?

PECKINPAH: Words could never adequately express the love I have for Melissa. We’ve experienced so much life together...and so much loss. She was my lifeline, and within our friendship I feel safe. She says we’re soul sisters. It’s true. I know she is always there for me and I for her. That’s the way it’s always been, and will always be. Together we celebrate the joys and weather the sorrows. Our next big event is the upcoming wedding of my daughter...Melissa’s Goddaughter. Now that’s joy.

FQ: You admit that you struggle with the innocent question, “How many children do you have?” You do talk about being prepared for when people ask you questions. What do you say and are you becoming more comfortable answering it?

PECKINPAH: To this day, it’s the hardest question of all. I had a radio interview last week by a woman who’d lost a daughter (many years ago). She said the same thing! It’s the one question that still makes me pause. So here goes: “I have four children. One is in heaven.”

FQ: Your book is obviously a tribute to Garrett on one level, but how do you keep him close to your heart on a day-to-day basis?

My beautiful boy is in every breath I take. He is my inspiration to love harder, be a better mother, friend, co-worker, and humanitarian. In the loss of Garrett, I learned to create a new relationship with my son, one that honored him. He died leaving me the tremendous task of his legacy...making his life and his death matter. Because I’m a writer, I simply had no choice but to write this book for other parents like me. I wanted to share that healing doesn’t mean you’ll never feel sad again. Healing means you’ll come to a place of acceptance where you can incorporate the memory of your child into your present life and truly be happy. I’m committed to honoring my son by healing and living a joyful life again. It’s his memory that lights the fire of possibility. It’s the gift my son gives me every day. And for that...I will be forever grateful.

To learn more about How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen: A Parent's Step by Step Guide to Healing After the Loss of a Child please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - Early Birdy Gets the Worm

Early Birdy Gets the Worm: A PictureReading Book for Young Children

By: Bruce Lansky
Illustrated by: Bill Bolton
Publisher: Meadowbroook Press
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1442491762
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 30, 2014

Baby Birdy is having one rough day! After waking up from a nap, he looks down from the nest to see his mother getting a worm. Hmmmm...he thinks... “I can do that!” and down he goes!

It doesn’t seem like it should be hard to catch a worm, but Baby Birdy soon learns that, well, yes, it can be hard. Particularly when so many other things can look like a worm – the tail of a kite, a mouse’s tail, and, oh, yes, don’t forget that the other end of the worm may be sticking up into another hole, and, gosh darn it, somebody is pulling the worm from that end! Jeepers it’s hard!

Early Birdy Gets the Worm is a very cute story with a neat twist; there are NO words in this book. That’s right, not one word. According to the dust jacket flap, a “PictureReading” book is “...meant to be read to, with and by children…” and that the goal is to “...turn over to the child the role of figuring out the plot points and connecting them with a narrative thread as soon as possible...” The jacket flap text goes on to suggest several questions to guide the adult through the process and gives a publisher’s website link for further information. On that site there are story summaries, brief videos and a detailed user’s guide that includes (for every page): the story summary, suggested vocabulary words, background-knowledge question, and PictureReading prompts.

While there are no words in this book, the illustrations are fantastic and bring each page to life. It should be easy, and loads of fun, for a child to make up a story that matches the pictures. Building confident, enthusiastic readers are what we all want and this book helps give those early readers a great boost of encouragement.

Quill says: If you have a youngster who isn’t quite ready to tackle the “big kids” books, try one of these PictureReading books. You’ll be amazed at the neat stories your little one will tell you.

Book Review - The Artist and the King

The Artist and the King

Written and Illustrated by: Julie Fortenberry
Publisher: Alazar Press
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0979300035
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2014

Young Daphne loved to draw, and paint, and do just about anything that required a creative touch. She was an artist and wore her red artist’s cap with great pride. That love of artistry, however, would soon be tested by a very grouchy king.
The day of the royal parade, Daphne was painting a picture of the King. It wasn’t a very nice likeness, and in fact, showed how mean and unhappy the King looked.

All was fine until a gust of wind took away the painting and deposited it right on the King’s face!
The King was furious and took away Daphne’s beautiful artist cap. He replaced it with a dunce cap made from the paper that she had used to paint the King's likeness. While Daphne was sad, you just can’t keep a young artist down and so she soon began to re-design her dunce cap. She changed the color to match her dress, added bright decorations and soon the townspeople began to notice. They wanted caps of their own! Daphne opened a little shop in the marketplace to keep up with demand and all was well until the King found out. What would happen to Daphne this time?

The Artist and the King is the absolutely delightful story of a young girl who refuses to give up. In addition to the message of never giving up, the story incorporates the important lesson of forgiveness. The tone is very upbeat, the story well-written, and the bright drawings tell the tale beautiful. The Artist and the King is sure to bring a smile to your face, whether you are a young artist or simply young at heart.

Quill says: An enchanting story that teaches youngsters to never give up.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review - Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle

By: "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Illustrated By: Scott Garrett
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59474-676-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 29, 2014

In the newest book in the 'Nick and Tesla' series, trouble seems to always surround the pair. Just a couple short weeks after this dynamic eleven-year-old duo solved a kidnapping they have now discovered that they are being watched by a spy! After hearing an alarming message from their mother warning them to be cautious of everyone, the siblings are instantly on high alert for anything out of the ordinary. Suddenly everyone who Nick and Tesla come in contact with becomes a potential suspect and when some unexpected guests come to Uncle Newt's house, the list of potential spies becomes larger and larger. Housekeepers, exterminators, a new lab assistant, and Uncle Newt's potential love interest all find themselves on the list of suspects. However, when Tesla's pendant disappears there is no doubt that the person looking for them is lurking within the walls and watching their every move.

Now the gadgets come out as Nick and Tesla plot to capture this thief/spy red-handed by using Nick's pendant as bait. Putting all of their greatest scientific ideas together and with the help of their friends Silas and DeMarco, this brother and sister team identify fingerprints, plant hidden cameras, and set alarms to catch the unknown spy. The sky is the limit when this team puts their heads together to solve a case and keep each other safe from the unseen dangers they will soon be facing.

This is now the second book in this series that I have read and in regards to the gadgets being showcased this book once again did not disappoint. It does not take long for these siblings of science to put their brains together and come up with amazing inventions that I could never have imagined. It is great reading a book for middle school age kids that shows science in such a positive and intriguing light. The first Nick and Tesla story I read was the High-Voltage Danger Lab and with that book an element of mystery was also added to the concept of science. In this book, Secret Agent Gadget Battle there was not quite as much mystery which I do admit I missed, for it was easy for me to keep the pages turning when I was trying to solve the kidnapping right along with Nick and Tesla in the High-Voltage Danger Lab. With this book I did not get that excitement quite as fast.

However, this book was still very well written and I read straight through it in one sitting wanting to know if the gadgets worked for Nick and Tesla. With the warning message from their mother a new element of danger descended on the story which makes me think that the adventures are definitely going to continue for this brother and sister duo and I'll be eagerly waiting to read the next installment of this series.

Quill says: The new gadgets and in this next story of Nick and Tesla definitely do not disappoint giving the reader another great read!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Panthers Play for Keeps: A Pru Marlowe Pet Mystery

By: Clea Simon
Illustrated By: Rich Siegle
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-5905-8872-7
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 25, 2014

Big cats are predators that have not been seen in the east woods for decades as people have settled the wilderness around them. However, when Pru Marlowe is led to a mauled body by a service dog named Spot that she is training, it appears as if nothing but a big cat could be the cause of death. Knowing that her connection and comprehension of the thoughts of animals could be the only thing that allows this case to be solved, Pru finds herself cracking a case that she did not even mean to get involved with. Trusting Spot’s instincts and acute senses, Pru works to decipher exactly what this dog is trying to tell her and sort out the clues that will help solve this mystery. Along with Spot’s help Pru also seeks council from her cat Wallis, who always has something smart to say and does not mind letting her opinion be known. Even though Wallis is a much smaller cat than the one possibly running loose in the woods, her predator instincts may be just the clue Pru needs if she pays close enough attention to realize it.

While Pru is constantly working out the thoughts voiced by the animals around her, the people of the community have decided that the hunting of this big cat will be taken into their own hands. Fortunately Pru’s sometimes “beau” is a police officer named Jim and both know that this hunt needs to be stopped or someone else will end up getting hurt. Even as all the evidence points toward a cougar attack something continues to eat at Pru, as there are too many pieces missing to be completely sure that a big cat was responsible for this murder. However, when another murder happens it appears that both women were attacked in much the same way. Still refusing to believe that a cougar or some large predator was the one responsible for these murders, Pru throws herself into this investigation and knows that it will take all of her special abilities with animals to find the answer to this mystery.

From the first few pages this book had me intrigued. It took me a bit to figure out how the author portrayed the speaking of the animals and Pru’s interpretation, but once I figured that out, and after I comprehended Clea Simon’s style of writing, I could not put this story down. The connection between Pru, the animals around her, and then showing the difference between human and animal nature is done brilliantly in this book. This is the first one I have read of this series and I definitely see myself reading the others in this series in the future. Each chapter had me hanging on wanting to know more and what’s going to happen with the next turn of the page. After starting the book I finished it within a day as I was easily caught up in the intriguing writing of Simon and the thrilling mystery that was unfolding.

Quill says: Such an amazing mystery that showcases a refreshing and unique heroine!

Book Giveaway for April

Have you entered this month's book giveaway yet???? Don't wait, April is almost over!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review - How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen

How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen: A Parent's Step by Step Guide to Healing After the Loss of a Child

By: Sandy Peckinpah
Publisher: BalboaPress
Pubication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1452582269
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 24, 2014

Admittedly, Sandy was “caught up in the magic of fairy tales” and walked not only the literal Red Carpet with her husband, David, but also that of motherhood. As a mother she was a star among four beautiful, shining ones in her life, Garrett, Trevor, Julianne, and one-year-old, Jackson. Although there were whimsical and fleeting hopes that David would one day write a script that would launch the family into a real fairy tale existence, the day-to-day reminders like bills brought Sandy Peckinpah down to earth. A growing family couldn’t be fed on dreams and things like philosophical musings were best left to others.

Any dreams that Sandy may have had for a star-studded existence would soon be shattered. "Lots of fluids and ibuprofen to keep his fever down," the doctor ordered. "He should be better in a few days." Yes, as mothers we’ve all heard that before. Add a cool compress and a dollop of loving care and call the doctor in the morning. Instead, Garrett’s heart stopped suddenly during the night. A virulent case of undiagnosed bacterial meningitis shattered the family into a million pieces and a young soul had flown into the universe, never to return again. Sandy’s fairy tale existence had turned into a nightmare, one in which her child would be “16 years, three months, and ten days ... forever.” Life would never, ever, be the same and the entire family was thrown into a deep abyss from which there seemed to be no return."

“You wake up in the morning,” Sandy later claimed, “and for a brief moment, you believe your loss was a terrible dream, and then it hits you.” There was no going back and the shift into the reality of Garrett’s death was staring her in the face. There were her other children to love and cherish, and the needs of young Jackson couldn’t be put on the back burner while she grieved. Yes, Sandy would go through Elizabeth Kübler Ross’s five stages of grieving, but would need to add one to the list ... resilience. The “haze of emotions” was overwhelming, yet there was a wealth of support around her, although she may not have recognized it at the time. There was her best friend, Melissa Gilbert, Paula, her “angel in the night,” and others who stepped forward to surround the Peckinpah family with a cocoon of love.

Sandy’s greatest gift to Garrett would begin one word at a time. She began to write, to move forward, and would eventually teach others how to do so as well. “No, you never forget,” she later explained. “You never get over it. You just learn how to live with it.” In this subtly soothing book, she explains how she taught herself to do just that and helps others via “Stepping Stones.” Sandy explains everything from planning the service to those first steps of recovery to the ultimate end ... healing. For those who are suddenly faced with a journey toward recovery they don’t wish to contemplate after the loss of a child, this book will be an immense comfort. How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen is not only a tribute to her own child, but one for every parent who has lost theirs. This book is a powerful, thought provoking, and singularly stunning guide to recovery.
Quill says: If you, or someone you know has lost a child, there’s no better gift you can give than a way to survive and flourish. In Sandy Peckinpah’s book, you will learn how you can heal and eventually bring joy back into your life.

For more information on How to Survive the Worst That Can Happen, please visit the book's website at:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review - Authorpreneur in Pajamas

Authorpreneur in Pajamas: Building Your Author's Platform Without Leaving Your Home

By: Geraldine Solon
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-1495201677
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 23, 2014

Bestselling author, Geraldine Solon, has delivered a wealth of valuable information across the pages of her latest body of work, Authorpreneur in Pajamas.

This book is tailor made for aspiring authors! The sheer notion (and joy) of marketing one’s labor of love that he or she has written and doing so in the comfort of ‘jammies,’ in my opinion, is a winner! Suffice it to say, while it is motivating to put my ‘big girl’ shoes on and a pulled together look, if I have blissful hours preparing myself for the ultimate face-to-face pitch in my jammies, sign me up! Before settling into the meat of Authorpreneur, the cover had me salivating with bestselling author Marsha Collier’s endorsement: "Authorpreneur in Pajamas is an inspirational guide for aspiring authors. It provides the beginning fiction writer with ideas to take their first steps to publishing their work."

With three solid novels in her own cache, Ms. Solon, has done what true writers are committed to doing: she has paid forward the insurmountable nuggets she has gleaned along her own writing journey and shared them with the up and coming ‘Authorpreneurs.’ The book is less than 80 pages in length and, in my opinion, packs more valuable insights, knowledge and information than some other works that have been lauded as the ‘must have guide if you ever expect to succeed...’ The chapter headers alone pique the reader/aspiring author’s interest; such as: ‘Identify Who Your Readers Are,’ ‘Research is a Must,’ ‘Why Advertising Matters,’ to name a few. As the reader delves further into each (succinct) chapter, Ms. Solon adeptly paints obvious logic with her word placement. She breaks down the concept and insists on the vital importance of engagement coupled with total commitment the writer must have if he or she covets being recognized by an audience of being just that.

Every chapter in this book has something valuable to offer and what consistently grabbed my attention was the ongoing message (and suggestion) of focus, focus, focus. Writing truly is a lonely craft at times, yet we do it (and willingly) to reap the rewards of tapping into the real emotions of our audience. Ms. Solon encourages the ‘Authorpreneur’ not only with words of wisdom from her own experiences, but a sublime message throughout of staying the course. Solon has packed a multitude of resources in this skinny, little book of anthology merit (websites, blogs, writing communities and forums, etc.) and backs the information up with a word of caution to start slow and steady with one or two options and build upon them once the writer has confidence that his or her initial choices have been put to the test (and are working).

I applaud Ms. Solon and genuinely thank her for her generosity in sharing the abundance of useful and helpful information she has penned in ‘Authorpreneur.’ She exudes confidence through her written word and without question, has provided a tremendous gift to many aspiring fiction writers (present company included). I plan to pay this information forward to many of my writing pals and am honored to do so. There is no self-puffery or overly braggadocios pontification in any of her delivery. Rather, there is solid and genuine care and concern to share what she has learned with a message that resonates her hope that she has helped that next up and comer to the next level in his or her writing career. Heartfelt thanks to you Ms. Solon. This is a terrific body of work!

Quill says: Authorpreneur in Pajamas is the penultimate guide for any aspiring author who is ready to begin the marketing and advertising journey of publication for a body of work just waiting to be recognized!

Books In For Review

Busy, busy, busy!  The books just keep on coming.  Here's a look at what has just arrived for review.

TIME-LIFE World War II in 500 Photographs by TIME/LIFE BOOKS Time-Life Books' World War II in 500 Photographs brings the war to life today, in its most compelling moments and images. In this enthralling, illustrated, original volume, Time-Life Books explores the greatest conflict in the history of the planet. Here are the great battles and the great generals, the essential weapons and the tactics that made the years between 1939 and 1945 the most memorable in history. The visuals encompass Morocco to Malaysia, Berlin to Iwo Jima. With 500 dazzling photos--including rare color photos--this book succinctly and powerfully tells the full story of the war. History comes alive, thanks to scores of historic photos, first-hand accounts from a host of fronts, images of artifacts, and compelling maps and charts that clarify the politics of this vast war that shaped our modern world. Here is World War II as you've never seen it--and as you'll never forget it.  

TIME-LIFE Everything You Need To Know About the Bible by TIME-LIFE BOOKS Everyone can benefit from understanding the Bible, and Time-Life Books' Everything You Need to Know about the Bible is the ultimate visual guide. This helpful book is filled with photos, illustrations, art, and maps, plus sidebars throughout featuring fun facts, Top Ten lists, verses to know, and more. Learn the fascinating story of the Bible itself-how it was written and how its contents have survived over the centuries. Meet the great characters, from Abraham and Isaac to Mary Magdalene and St. Paul. Discover the life, works, and teachings of Jesus Christ and his disciples, with observations offered by today's most noted interpreters of the Bible. It's all gathered in an easy to read, compelling visual format that brings a fresh understanding to readers of all spiritual backgrounds, whether you're new to the Bible or a daily reader of its inspiring words.  

The Immortal Crown: An Age of X Novel by Richelle Mead Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion. Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity. Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.

Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry by Linda Carroll In the Sport of Kings, the Triple Crown is the most valued prize, requiring a horse to win not just one race, but three: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. And 1978 would not be just for the record books, but also one of the greatest dramas ever played out in the racing world. There were names to conjure with, worthy of the Sport of Kings. The bloodline of Native Dancer. The teen wonderboy jockey Steve Cauthen. The once unbeatable Calumet Farm—the Damn Yankees of the racing world—now in eclipse and hoping for a comeback. The newcomer Harbor View Farm—owned by brash financier Louis Wolfson, who wouldn’t let even a conviction and a prison sentence for securities violations stand in the way of his dreams of glory. And the racetracks themselves: Belmont, Saratoga, Pimlico. And, of course, Churchill Downs. It has been thirty-five years since Affirmed and Alydar fought for the Triple Crown, thirty-five years when no other horse has won it. Duel for the Crown brings this epic battle to life. Not just two magnificent Thoroughbreds but the colorful human personalities surrounding them, caught up in an ever-intensifying battle of will and wits that lasted until the photo finish of the final Triple Crown race . . . and Alydar and Affirmed leaped into the history books.  

Early Birdy Gets the Worm by Bruce Lansky This Story is Told in Pictures so children 3 to 6 can “read” the pictures and enjoy the story. Waking up early one morning, Early Birdy watches Mother Birdy catch a worm. Inspired, Early Birdy wants to catch one too. But catching a worm isn’t as easy as it looks. Join Early Birdy on an exciting and funny adventure set in a beautiful springtime forest environment created by illustrator Bill Bolton. Don’t be surprised to find yourself “smiling from ear to ear”. Don’t for one minute think you’re going to “read” (aka narrate) this story to your child because you’re the adult and your child is, well, the child. Your child can “read” the pictures as well as you can. A fact that changes how this story will be read: this is a story you and your child can read together. You might start the collaboration by asking a question: You: What do you see in this picture? Child: A little baby birdy is waking up You: And in the next picture? Child: A big bird is catching a worm. You: Meanwhile back in the nest? Child: The little birdy is watching. Child: He wants to catch a worm, too. He flies down. Child: He sees a worm. Child: He bites it. Child: And then uh oh! That’s not a worm! See what just happened? you and your child were reading the book together, until your child got much too excited to wait for you to ask a question. Suddenly your preschooler is telling the story as fast as she can turn the pages. And you’re thinking, “Wait a minute! My 3-year-old doesn’t know how to read. But she’s so excited—I can’t stop her from telling the story. She’s running away with the story. What happened to our quiet little game of question and answer?”  

Don't Let Us Win Tonight: An Oral History of the 2004 Boston Red Sox's Impossible Playoff Run by Allan Wood Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox’ unprecedented championship run in the fall of 2004, this guide takes fans behind the scenes and inside the dugout, bullpen, and clubhouse to reveal to baseball fans how it happened, as it happened. The book highlights how, during a span of just 76 hours, the Red Sox won four do-or-die games against their archrivals, the New York Yankees, to qualify for the World Series and complete the greatest comeback in baseball history. Then the Red Sox steamrolled through the World Series, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, capturing their first championship since 1918. Don’t Let Us Win Tonight is brimming with revealing quotes from Boston’s front office personnel, coaches, medical staff, and players, including Kevin Millar talking about his infectious optimism and the team’s pregame ritual of drinking whiskey, Dave Roberts revealing how he prepared to steal the most famous base of his career, and Dr. William Morgan describing the radical surgery he performed on Curt Schilling’s right ankle. The ultimate keepsake for any Red Sox fan, this is the 2004 team in their own words.  

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker “Thick. Heavy. Big-boned. Plump. Full-figured. Chunky. Womanly.” To Emery Jackson, these phrases are just nice euphemisms for the big “F” word of “fat.” But to her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former Laker Girls mother, they are unacceptable states of being. Emery’s cash-strapped family’s solution? Signing up for a reality TV show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win a million dollars. As the pounds start to drop and the ratings skyrocket, Emery feels the weight of success. And she must figure out how to turn the truths she uncovers—about beauty, love, fame, and family—into the keys to more than just fortune.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review - Home Behind the Sun

Home Behind the Sun: Connect with God in the Brilliance of the Everyday

By: Timothy Willard and Jason Locy
Publisher: Nelson Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0566-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2014

Timothy Willard and Jason Locy team together and have penned Home Behind the Sun; an insightful (and soulful) read outlining their philosophies and self-perception of what God means to them, but what it can mean for all mankind.

Messrs. Willard and Locy open Home Behind the Sun with a prologue that speaks to their personal mission, compulsion and, most importantly, purpose in writing their book. Challenged from the onset, they share the sentiment of one friend, in particular, when they shared their information of embarking upon such a book: “...I love how you guys are reframing the whole image Dei discussion. I often feel like ‘the image of God’ gets narrowed into social justice compartments. If I’m not active in some cause, then I’m not fulfilling the gospel. Isn’t it gospel living to raise my four boys and to make a living, supporting my wife and family?...” While the question was taken to heart, it set the tone for both men to broaden the spectrum (and certainly shape the content) to include an important statement: “...the gospel of Christ extends into every facet of this life...”

The overall message that resonates as much as resounds throughout this body of work is the reality that we humans do exist under the guidance and direction of a higher power; and more importantly, He is God. There is an insistence of awareness to the aforementioned premise. Both men challenge the reader to consider how we have evolved as a civilization (generally speaking) when it comes to faith. Much has changed since the beginnings of time and in more recent times; the ‘gospel’ is used to fit our day-to-day, month-to-month personal needs—as a matter of convenience if it were. By no means have Willard and Locy written a 200+ page diatribe of sermons and prayers. Rather, they’ve broken down complexities and religious wonders and simply affirmed their beliefs of how blessed we are once we allow the concept and premise of God into our lives.

When asked if I was interested in reviewing this particular book, my initial reaction was trepidation. I don’t profess to be an ‘all knowing’ sort, but what convinced me to take on this book was my personal convictions and commitments to keep an open mind. Besides, I seek answers for a better understanding. However, I do have a deep-seeded aversion to a pulpit pounding delivery as much as fundamental insistence from a 'professed authority.' Much to my relief, Mr. Willard and Locy have writing styles likened to two men who simply want to share the joy they have achieved because of their devotion to God. They break their message down chapter-by-chapter using the innocence of children (their respective children) and how fresh and open they are to the message of belief. In yet another chapter titled “Mist Kiss,” they take the reader to Yosemite (which happened to be compelling for me, personally). El Capitan and Half Dome, located in Yosemite National Park, is their reference point. I have stood at the footpath of both majesties and asked myself the question: “How is it possible there is no God when one is here in the moment?” I commend both men for writing a carefully crafted book. I also thank them for delivering a body of work that truly has something in it for a culturally diverse readership.

Quill says: Home Behind the Sun carries a superb and beautiful message that strips away secularity and presents the premise of understanding and opening the heart and welcoming God into it.

Book Review - Plots and Pans

Plots and Pans

By: Kelly Eileen Hake
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62029-958-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2014

Kelly Eileen Hake conjures up a tasty tale of the wide open range and rustic romance in her latest novel, Plots and Pans.

Tucker Carmichael is set in his ways and determined to carry on the legacy and continued success of the Bar None Ranch. The period is the 1800’s and the setting is cattle farming at its finest on the open ranges of frontier Texas. The story opens with the passing of Bar None Ranch’s patriarch, Simon Culpepper. Once Tucker learns he is one of the heir apparents (Culpepper’s only son, Edward, the other), Tucker hunkers down and embraces his newfound responsibilities. All things considered, he’s succeeding in his new position of authority. However, the one thing Tucker wasn’t ready to accept was the return of Simon’s only daughter Jessalyn. Seven years prior to Simon’s passing, Jessalyn’s father made the difficult decision to ship her off to the finery and tutelage of proper English lady lessons. Difficult as the decision was, after his wife passed, it became clear to Simon that the rough edges and exposure to ranch life was no place to raise his daughter into becoming a proper lady. While Jessalyn may have been a lady by all definitions of the term, one thing Simon overlooked in his decision was the fact that his ‘lady’ was also a natural born cowgirl at heart.

To say the apple cart was turned on its side with the return of Jessalyn is an understatement. Not only does Jessalyn have to cope with the grief of the passing of her father, but she also needs to embrace the notion she has an aunt she never knew existed. Couple these facts with her reintroduction to the overly cantankerous Tucker Carmichael and Jessalyn has her own set of challenges ahead when it comes to re-establishing her rightful place in her Bar None Ranch home. Jessalyn has never been one to back down. Persistent to dig in for the long haul and prove to Carmichael she belongs is perhaps one of her greatest feats yet. Days before the cattle drive that will make or break the destiny of the Ranch’s future, Tucker is presented with a proposal he adamantly refuses to accept. The unfortunate reality for Tucker, however, is he isn’t the only person with the authority to accept or decline such a proposal.

Ms. Hake takes the reader back to a time long before strip malls and fast food restaurants. She patiently paints a tale with an abundance of allure and life on the open range. She secures the backdrop beautifully within the first dozen pages or so and accomplishes reader engagement in so doing. It is easy for the reader to feel as though he or she has entered a good old fashioned western with the right balance of drama, romance and the roughness and hard times long before modern medicines and comforts. She adeptly captures the essence of what it meant to face the consequences of having nothing more than gut instincts and common sense to survive. If I could make one constructive criticism, however, it would be Ms. Hake’s propensity to write too much character thought. It takes away from the flow of the story. I’m not sure if this was intentional or simply Ms. Hake’s writing style, but I found myself purposely reading over the italicized thoughts. Ms. Hake’s scenes are capable, in my opinion, of getting the intent across to the reader without adding affirmation (or clarification) with the added thoughts. They are a distraction. That said, I would read previous (and future) works by Ms. Hake. She is a strong story teller of this plot line and I would encourage her to continue to embrace the ‘Wild West’ as her inspiration. She knows how to spin a great western.

Quill says: Saddle up your pony and ride along the trail of Plots and Pans. It’s a terrific rendition of life and adventure on the wide open range.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Book Review - An Evolving Society

An Evolving Society

By: Fadi Hattendorf
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: November 2013
ISBN: 978-1492170839
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 21, 2014

Having children is an amazing thing and many women want to experience this with all of their heart. Unfortunately, sometimes nature does not allow this experience for some women and if their desire for a child is strong enough they will look for other means of having children. That is just what this book shows as three unconventional families find out that they have more in common than they ever thought when the past is revealed to all of them. Choices that one generation made ultimately affected the next generation in how they viewed who they were and where they came from. For some, the news that they were created from completely unknown DNA was extremely hard to take and it changed forever the way they saw their own lives and everyone else they came in contact with. It was hard to shake the fact that now every person they saw could possibly be related to them in some way and they would never know it.

For Mana, knowing that her mother decided to use a sperm donor to have a child caused her intense confusion as she felt empty, incomplete, and a little lost. Even though her mother married after giving birth to her and she had a life full of support and love, there was no shaking the thought that she might have half siblings passing her by in the street. Eventually Mana is able to put these thoughts behind her and finds love in a man named Kalak who she has two sons with. Everything is going wonderful until Kalak learns from his mother that his birth was also the result of anonymous sperm donation. Mana and Kalak’s perfect world suddenly comes crashing down as each realizes that there is a slight possibility that they could be related! Will this information tear apart what they have built even though none of it was their choice?

The direction that Fadi Hattendorf presented this book in was something I did not expect but ended up finding very interesting. Some background information was given about the parents' choices to find other reproductive options but the main focus was on how these decisions affected the lives of their children. Using this view made the writing intriguing for me and it brought up the possible negative consequences of using alternative reproductive options that I had never thought about before. I do not have children of my own so I thought that it might be difficult for me to relate to this story. However, because the perspective of the children was highlighted, I found it quite easy to relate to and enjoyed seeing these different views. Hattendorf does a great job of connecting each of the families in the story and this keeps the reader hooked waiting for the next set of clues that will reveal how each person is connected. I was pleasantly surprised to find that An Evolving Society was not all filled with facts and figures but took a closer look at the emotional reactions of every person that is affected.

Quill says: This is a uniquely written story that keeps the reader thinking all the way through to the end.

For more information on An Evoling Society, please vist the author's website at:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Review - Nothing Like A Dame

Nothing Like A Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater

By: Eddie Shapiro
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-0199941209
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 19, 2014

From Carol Channing to Chita Rivera, Sutton Foster to Patti Lupone, there are so many of the “GREATS” of musical theater in this book, fantastic stars who bear their souls, that you won't want to miss a page. If you want an insider’s view of life on stage, buy this book!

Nothing Like A Dame includes interviews with 21 luminaries of Broadway, all chosen by the author who had a strict criterion he wanted to follow. “...all had to have devoted the majority of their careers to the theater: no one who started in theater but moved on ... no stars from other media who visit Broadway...” (pg. xi). The selection of stars is fantastic and as soon as I received this book, I dived right in, heading straight for number one on my personal favorite list, Angela Lansbury. Rather than write a book that reads like a biography with a few juicy quotes sprinkled in for good measure, the author chose to use a straightforward interview format. There is a brief, one-page synopsis of each star’s career prior to the interview, but then it’s “game on!” and the fun starts. The author, Eddie Shapiro, is a die-hard Broadway fan, who has seen over 1200 Broadway performances and happily admits, “I saw everything, and I loved it all. Even the stuff I hated, I loved.” (pg. xi) His passion and understanding of the theater shows in his knowledgeable, probing questions and as each interview progresses, more intimate confessions and fascinating facts are brought to the surface.

Each interview has the air of two friends sitting down on a couch for a casual chat, a moment to reflect on a career, and all the ups and downs that entails. While Shapiro undoubtedly had a series of questions he wanted to ask each artist, the talks sometimes go wonderfully off tangent, as he follows his artists’ stories to unexpected places. For example, Angela Lansbury tells us about Sweeney Todd and how Stephen Sondheim played “The Worst Pies in London” and “...I thought it was so damned funny. It just killed me ... He kept slapping the piano for the dough. He kept getting the lyrics all mixed up. I was immediately terribly interested…” (pg. 86) while Kristin Chenoweth admits how shy she is, “...shy around celebrities. When I met Madonna my manager said, “She really wants to meet you,” but I barely said a thing. I’m a weirdo.” (pg. 284) There are so many great lines in this book, that I could go on quoting them forever ... but I won't. You'll just have to read the book yourself to get lost in the lives of these amazing women.

You’ll laugh, cry and come away with a lot of respect for the hard yet incredible lives these Ladies of Broadway have lived. This book is a definite keeper and I for one, am going to put it on my special bookshelf where all my favorite books live.

Quill says: If you’re a fan of musical theater, you have got to get a copy of Nothing Like A Dame!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review - Love! Laugh! Panic!

Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with my Mother

By: Rosemary Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9838597-7-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 16, 2014

Rosemary Mild pens a bittersweet memoir in her latest work, Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with my Mother.

The story begins in 1943. Rosemary introduces her mother, Luby (Bragernick) Pollack and shares her recollection of having to take weekly piano lessons with Miss Parchel. Her parents’ (mother’s) goal was to provide Rosemary with cultural rounding. There is a distinct tone concerning Lucy’s persona once she insisted upon something and Rosemary’s only choice was to embrace the notion. Complaints from Rosemary were not an option (even if she didn’t have the talent). Somehow, through the many choices her mother made on Rosemary’s behalf; the outcome usually had a silver lining. In the case of piano lessons, handsome Tommy Brown was the prize. Easy on the eyes, Tommy had a propensity for mischief which translated to something to look forward to for Rosemary.

As the story progresses, I couldn’t help but think the purpose of Ms. Mild penning this story was to pay homage to the intricate workings of her mother’s larger than life persona. While each chapter is devoted to the experiences Ms. Mild had growing up, there is a distinct spotlight that is constantly shone upon her mother. Early on, there is an entire chapter devoted to Luby (Bragarnick) Pollack’s education. It details the immediate launch of her journalism career shortly after her graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1929. She lands her first job with the Boston Store in Milwaukee shortly after graduation and eludes such accomplishment was merely a door opener to a long and fruitful career as an esteemed writer.

In many respects, Ms. Mild paints a clear picture of the devotion and undying love she has (and had) for her mother, yet there is also a perception that no matter what Rosemary accomplished (at least while her mother was alive), there was an innate sense she never quite measured up to her mother's standards. This is not a pontification of malice toward her mother by any means. Rather, I interpret this story to be a cathartic account that Ms. Mild needed to set to paper.

My interpretation of Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with my Mother is that Ms. Mild embarked upon a journey to pay homage to a woman who was a tremendously important cornerstone in her life. She portrayed Luby Pollack’s strengths (sometimes overbearing), but her insistence that she was the most important teacher in Ms. Mild’s life resonated throughout. I give her great props for penning the myriad of accounts ranging from utter embarrassment to borderline rage. The overall message, however, was an account written by a daughter in memory of a mother whose life ended too soon. Luby (Bragarnick) Pollack died of stomach cancer in her early 40’s. Her legacy to her daughter was a trunk filled with memories of her larger than life existence and how integral her presence was in molding the woman Ms. Mild became. In short, the author has written a sometimes whimsical, other times eyebrow raising account of her life and what it meant to be the daughter of Luby Pollack.

Quill says: Live! Laugh! Panic! is a daughter’s heart-felt rendition of memories of the most important person in her life… her mother.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's a quick peek at some of the books that have just come in for review.  Check them out and then stop by our site in a few weeks to read the reviews.

Sting of the Drone by Richard A. Clarke In Washington, the Kill Committee gathers in the White House's Situation Room to pick the next targets for the United States drone program. At an airbase just outside Las Vegas, a team of pilots, military personnel and intelligence officers follow through on the committee's orders, finding the men who have been deemed a threat to national security and sentenced to death. On the other side of the world, in the mountains where the drones hunt their prey, someone has decided to fight back. And not just against the unmanned planes that circle their skies, but against the Americans at home who control them.  

Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross At the turn of the twentieth century two new technologies—the car and airplane—took the nation’s imagination by storm as they burst, like comets, into American life. The brave souls that leaped into these dangerous contraptions and pushed them to unexplored extremes became new American heroes: the race car driver and the flying ace. No individual did more to create and intensify these raw new roles than the tall, gangly Eddie Rickenbacker, who defied death over and over with such courage and pluck that a generation of Americans came to know his face better than the president’s. The son of poor, German-speaking Swiss immigrants in Columbus, Ohio, Rickenbacker overcame the specter of his father’s violent death, a debilitating handicap, and, later, accusations of being a German spy, to become the American military ace of aces in World War I and a Medal of Honor recipient. He and his high-spirited, all-too-short-lived pilot comrades, created a new kind of aviation warfare, as they pushed their machines to the edge of destruction—and often over it—without parachutes, radios, or radar.  

'Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma Lauren Francis-Sharma's 'Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever. On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.  

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?  

Authorpreneur in Pajamas: Building Your Author's Platform Without Leaving Your Home by Geraldine Solon This may be the best time to be an author, but with thousands of books released daily, what will make your book stand out from the rest? Whether you’re published through a traditional publishing house or are self-published, every author should market their book. Although authors need to have a strong face-to-face presence, Authorpreneur in Pajamas focuses on how authors can build their platform in their pajamas while using online tools that increase exposure and visibility. We live in a virtual world, where digital has taken over paper, where smart phones, tablets and eReaders are now necessities, and where building your author’s platform can be done with a push of a button. Authopreneur in Pajamas teaches you how to build your author’s platform without leaving your home.  

An Autobiography of Black Chicago by Dempsey Travis Few were more qualified than Dempsey Travis to write the history of African Americans in Chicago, and none would be able to do it with the same command of firsthand sources. This seminal paperback reissue of Travis's best-known work, An Autobiography of Black Chicago, depicts Chicago's African-American community through the personal experiences of Dempsey Travis, his family, and his circle. Starting with John Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first non–Native American to settle on the mouth of the Chicago River, and ending with Travis's own successes leading the city's NAACP chapter, organizing Martin Luther King's first march in the city, and providing equal housing opportunities for black Chicagoans.