Thursday, May 29, 2014

Interview with Author Amy Lignor

Today we're talking with Amy Lignor, author of The Charlatan’s Crown: Tallent & Lowery, Book Four
FQ: First of all, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to read The Charlatan’s Crown. I’m having so much fun with this series. I was wondering, as the series progresses, do you find yourself getting more and more attached to various characters? 
LIGNOR: I have to say that I have been hooked on Leah since day one, and the more I explore her background, the more I truly understand her vices and how they change over time. Leah’s always going to be that naysayer – that one who wants proof. But, unlike a CSI technician, she is also open to new things like faith and belief but only because of the role Gareth Lowery is now playing in her life. He is really the one who opens her up in the first book, and has the sense of humor and intelligence to help her understand – and eventually accept – that there is far more in the world than what you can see. This is one couple I am completely hooked on writing about, and I have a feeling letting them go will be a funeral I will not want to attend.

FQ: I noticed that Gareth referred to Leah at one point as his wife. At first I thought ‘What???!!! Did I miss something???’ So, tell me, will he ever be able to REALLY refer to Leah as his wife? 
LIGNOR: Gareth likes to shock Leah; he also likes to side with her very loud mother regarding the fact that she should be married with kids by now. That’s why I gave her the cell phone at Christmas as a gift from her mother that rang out ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ which made Leah practically jump off a plane. Leah has always shied away from marriage, choosing to go it alone. And now that you have seen her past unfold a bit, you now know why she has those trust issues and has a hard time dropping the walls she’s built. Will they get married before the series ends? Come on! I can’t tell you that!

FQ: Many authors tell me that their characters invade their dreams. Have you had that happen? And I must ask, if this has happened, since this book dealt heavily with Nazis and the lore surrounding them/their beliefs, did you have some creepy dreams? 
LIGNOR: Oh, gosh...dreams. I have actually been bombarded with dreams – some pretty horrific – since the age of 13. And that’s not from having a bad life, or anything; that is from having an imagination that seriously doesn’t seem to stop. Yes, I have most definitely toured Himmler’s Castle; I have most definitely been to Knossos, Petra; and everywhere else in between inside my mind. I am a true research buff, and now I am headed down the Rasputin path, so you can imagine what the dreams are like now. The scariest time periods were when I found myself going to sleep and ending up in Loch Ness, and when I was on the streets of Whitechapel with The Ripper. The dreams are Technicolor, so they do bring up the heart rate. I do love it, though. You have to take the bad with the good; so if nightmares are what it takes to continue to write and explore these adventures – fine with me.

FQ: As I mentioned in my review, I love the character of Daniel Bauer. Please tell me we will see him again!
LIGNOR: Ah...Daniel. Is Daniel dead? Is there a new bad guy in town? LOL. I love Daniel because of the dynamic he has with Leah and the true machismo he invokes in Gareth Lowery – a person who doesn’t really lean in that direction because he is so self-assured. Daniel Bauer has a mission…that I can tell you. I can also tell you and fans that the 7 book series of ‘Tallent & Lowery’ will bring back characters you thought were gone in ways you will never assume could actually happen. And, no, we’re not talking supernatural ghosts – we’re talking real, live, heartless people. So…chances are Bauer will be back (just like Jack Bauer, who was kind enough to come back to TV). :)

FQ: Like the other titles in this series, there are a lot of historical facts intertwined with the action. How much research did it require to get it right, or do you have a card catalogue mind like Leah? 
LIGNOR: Both, actually. My mother is a retired lifelong research librarian. When my sister and I were kids we had books, not TV, texting, Facebook, etc. I was in love with libraries and I loved heading back to the past and finding details and pictures of what really happened in these places. However, when it comes to the intricacies of each puzzle, I do extra research to make sure I do not do something dumb. In other words, I want any room or street I choose to look exactly the way it looked then...and now.

FQ: One of the things I truly enjoy about the Tallent & Lowery series are all the historical references. Most people have heard of Nuremberg, but may not be familiar with the Zeppelintribüne. I did look it up to learn more. Is that one of the goals of your books, to get people interested in various historical events and places?
LIGNOR: One of my absolute favorite things is when fans write to me and say: “I rushed to my computer to find out.” I love that! That, to me, is a brain that is not only interested and having a ball with the story, but absolutely excited to either learn about it, or prove that I am completely wrong – depending on what their goal is. LOL. So...although I’m not sure it was an original goal of mine, I am thrilled that readers are having as much fun finding out the real history of our world as I am.

FQ: Wolf, Hansen and Williams – three very sinister guys. Where did the idea for these men come from? 
LIGNOR: Believe it or not, like the rest of the very small details in these books, they are real men from long ago. I named them differently, however, but these three men did meet with Himmler right there where I put them; a fact I found in one of those trillions of books in the library.

FQ: I also love the way you insert light-hearted moments into a very intense story. The absolute BEST line of the book came from Leah, “Oh, please…you probably haven’t dated a woman since Jesus was a boy.” I snarfed on my soda on that one! Do these barbs just come out naturally as you’re writing or do you have to work on them? 
LIGNOR: Well...unlike the perfect card catalogue of a mind – sarcasm is something that Leah and I definitely have in common. LOL. I love offering that dry tone, and I can hear Leah and me talking about these things basically over coffee in the basement of the NYPL. I have a feeling our humor would gel perfectly.

FQ: I really enjoy how the story is intertwining with past books in the series. Did you have the whole series, plots, etc., worked out before you began writing the first book? How do you keep all the facts, events, characters straight in your head? 

LIGNOR:  I was surprised by how it happened. The idea came from nowhere – just a small conversation a co-worker and I were having on a boring day at work about her astrological sign, believe it or not. But when I was halfway through writing 13, I could see The Sapphire Storm coming on. The Hero’s Companion, The Charlatan’s Crown, etc., basically were like a waterfall effect. And the events, places, dates – I am extremely lucky because I have that photographic memory that keeps everything it reads. (Trust me, it was the only way I made it through school).

FQ: Finally, would you give our readers a little tease about book 5? 
Book 5 is going to be difficult, because it is much darker and there are more than a few surprises that are unexpected considering the series thus far. The Double-Edged Sword will bring back characters you thought were gone, and end with a ‘bang’ that will, like I said above, cause some screaming emails, I have a feeling. We will head to the Palace at Knossos, and enter a room with a very familiar friend…and go below the historic site to prove an old legend true AND false. Leah and Gareth will be apart for a brief bit, but long enough for something out of the blue to happen to both of them before coming back together. We will find people who only existed in Gareth’s mind, and we will walk into a location that once healed people by having them lie out on floors, lift small doors in the walls, and send snakes crawling all over them while they slept. (Not kidding, totally true). And…the location where the 13th sign originated will be a place Leah and Gareth have to find a way to escape from. Emmanuel has a large part in this one because he knows a secret about Leah even Gareth doesn’t know..., and a bloody head will REALLY ruin a good day. In other words, where ‘Tallent & Lowery’ are concerned, nothing is done yet and nothing is set in stone.

Book Review - The Charlatan's Crown

The Charlatan’s Crown: Tallent & Lowery, Book Four 

By: Amy Lignor
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: May 2014
ASIN (Kindle): B00KKYC0KY
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 28, 2014

Are you ready for another fantastic roller coaster ride of fun and adventure from the series that just keeps getting better and better? Tallent & Lowery are at it again, this time tracking down the Devil’s Crown in what can only be described as one of the best series in recent memory about a passionate, perfectly matched couple who have a knack for solving mysteries.

At the end of Book three, The Hero’s Companion, author Amy Lignor gave us a peek at what was to come in the next tale when we learned that Leah’s biological mother, Neith, was still alive. As book four opens, we find Neith being held prisoner by the evil Daniel Bauer. We met Bauer earlier in the series – he’s the Australian fortune hunter whose motives are, shall we say, less than pure. I’m convinced Bauer has the hots for Leah, but she is justifiably revolted by the Aussie. Now on to the story...

Book Four follows the hunt for a very special crown that needs a particular emerald inserted into the center to work. Once the two are together, the wearer may just be able to take over the world, or worse. The problem is, Bauer is the one who wants the crown and he needs Leah to find it for him. He also needs her emerald, the one Gareth bought for her in Whitechapel. Apparently the emerald is THE emerald that will make the crown work. How the beautiful tear drop emerald ended up for sale in a store in Athens, Greece, we don’t know...yet.

Leah and Gareth soon learn what Bauer wants, and it has to do with a well-known Norse tale that includes Valhalla and a legion of Aryan soldiers. The crazy Aussie has assembled a small group of equally loonie collaborators, men who claim to be descendants of Hitler’s inner-circle of equally psycho megalomaniacs. Will Leah and Gareth be able to stop these men, keep the emerald from their clutches and deal with Bauer once and for all?

Like the other books in the series, this one takes the reader all over the world. The adventure starts at Leah’s favorite spot, the New York Public Library, and winds through various locations including numerous places made famous by Nazi Germany. Speaking of Nazi’s, they play a prominent role in this story, as does the reading of runes and Norse mythology. While you may think you have a strong background in these topics, you are sure to learn something new from The Charlatan’s Crown. The author, again, has really researched these topics well. I found myself looking up various people, places, and things that play roles in the story. Are they real? Yes, most of them are and it really helps to bring the story to life. Leah and Gareth are undoubtedly the stars of this adventure, but Bauer is coming on strong. He’s a deliciously evil character, one who I look forward to seeing again in future books. He is intent on beating Leah, and her card catalogue mind, and I don’t think he will quit until he reaches his goal. If you’re looking for a fantastic read, one that will swallow you up and force you to read late into the night, check out The Charlatan’s Crown!
Quill says: Another fantastic book in the Tallent & Lowery series, one that you do NOT want to miss!

Book Review - Til the Well Runs Dry

Til the Well Runs Dry 

By: Lauren Francis-Sharma
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0805098037
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 2014

Lauren Francis-Sharma delivers an epic saga through the eyes and life of native Trinidadian, Marcia Garcia, that transcends the 1940s-1960s in her debut novel, Til the Well Runs Dry.
In the wide spot in the road of Blanchisseuse, Trinidad, Maria Garcia does all she is able to do to put food on the table for the nameless, young twin boys. Thankfully, her neighbor Carol Ann would care for them whenever Marcia needed to travel the equivalent of the other side of the world to Tunapuna, Trinidad. Marcia is a seamstress and an accomplished one at that—a talent that ran from her mother’s veins directly into Marcia’s hands. At barely sixteen, she is motherless (and fatherless) and the boys are the only family Marcia has left. Her responsibility of raising the boys was enough for Marcia to continue to put one foot in front of the other each day.

Mrs. Duncan was Marcia’s mother’s most faithful customer. Keeping clients like her happy was what kept food on Marcia’s table. Fate has a funny way of entering a person’s life. Such was the case the day Marcia was making her dress delivery to Mrs. Duncan. One of the most handsome boys—young man, actually, Marcia had ever seen happened to be at the Duncan house when she arrived. While the prospect of a life beyond the boys was far removed from possibility, Marcia couldn’t help but steal more than a glimpse of the polished specimen of Farouk Karam when she arrived with her delivery. Unbeknownst to Marcia, Farouk felt the same way once he witnessed her hypnotic beauty. As though destiny was on both their sides, their paths cross again and their lives together (or not-so-together) are delivered on a road that entails a journey of not only an abundance of heartache, but many unforeseen misfortunes in their lives together. When Farouk enlists the help of Tanty Gertrude who has a reputation of ‘dabbling in darker arts’ (which made voodoo pale in comparison), the outcome isn’t quite the original deal he had bargained for.

Lauren Francis-Sharma has accomplished a captivating story in her debut novel. Given the fact she is a child of Trinidadian immigrants, this writer has written what she knows. I have never been to Trinidad, but after reading the many descriptive passages devoted to the lay of the land and listened to the native dialogue she has devoted to each character of this intriguing island, I feel as though I’ve been there. Ms. Sharma paints beautiful imagery of the allure of the island such as a sky exploding with the majesty of color before the sun rests for another day. She immediately affirms the beauty by balancing the next scene with the whimsical and native dialect of her characters—'children' are ‘chil’ren’ and 'the' is ‘de.’ She describes savory native dishes of goat cheese and meat and mangos so delectably sweet, one can place themselves at the table set and savor the flavor as a direct result of how the scene was written. She touches upon the third world element of a country devoid of modern technologies and fast food restaurants; yet the simplicity is the essence of a silver lining of just being. Ms. Sharma’s voice is distinct throughout this story and she has paid admirable homage, heart and soul to this story because of her heritage. The only criticism I would offer would be the length of the story. While there is terrific pace and cadence for the most part, there were periods when I felt as though the story would drag because Ms. Sharma applied too much description before moving on to the next action. Overall, however, this truly is a beautifully written debut novel. Well done!

Quill says: One can almost hear the calypso of magical steel drums playing while navigating this heartfelt story of Trinidadian lifestyle.

Book Review - Duel for the Crown

Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry 

By: Linda Carroll and David Rosner
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1476733203
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 27, 2014

The rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar is the sort of competition the ‘King of Sports’ has not seen in a very long time. Indeed, the drought in Triple Crown winners has left racing fans reminiscing for days of old when two great thoroughbreds sped through the history books with their amazing speed, ability, and desire to win.

The battle to the 1978 Triple Crown was more than a simple contest between various horses, and the top breeding farms in Kentucky. This was the year that saw two royally bred colts, one by Raise a Native (THE sire of winning race horses in the late 60s and 70s), and the other a grandson of the illustrious sire, challenge each other all the way to that May day at Churchill Downs. Both horses were bred to be champions, but only one would win it all.

Alydar, the son of Raise a Native, was born at Calumet Farm, and while the famous facility was not enjoying the wealth of winners it once had, it was still considered racing royalty. Alydar was the chosen one, the one who would bring the farm back to prominence. Affirmed, meanwhile, was a Florida boy, born at a new farm, founded with “new” money. He, nor the farm’s owner, Lou Wolfson, were what the Kentucky racing aristocracy considered part of the in-crowd. They would have to prove themselves every step of the way and Alydar would be there each and every time to challenge the upstart.

Duel for the Crown is a true gem for racing fans. More than a synopsis of the races, this book details the lives of all those involved, from Raise a Native to the young phenom Steve Cauthen. The authors, one a sportswriter, the other a writer and horse trainer, show their familiarity with the world of racing as they chronicle the events that led up to Affirmed winning the Triple Crown. The look into the life of Raise a Native at the start of the book supplied the needed background to understand just what the owners and trainers saw in these two horses before they hit the racetrack. Lots of quotes from those involved help spice up the telling. The book covers everything involved in the build-up to the '78 Triple Crown, including the history of Calumet, the strategies of trainers and jockeys, and the temperaments of the horses. After reading this book, you will have a new appreciation for both Affirmed and Alydar. The only thing that would have made this book an even more enjoyable read would have been more photos; there are very few in this book.

Quill says: A fantastic read for racing fans that brings the rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar to life.

Book Review - The Hollow Ground

The Hollow Ground 

By: Natalie S. Harnett
Publisher: Thomas Dunn Books
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-40198-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 28, 2014

Natalie S. Harnett delivers a soulful narrative in her debut novel, The Hollow Ground.
In the 1960s, the coal mines of Centrereach, Pennsylvania began to burn. The underground fires turned the once solid footing beneath the community’s feet into a wasteland of hollow ground. Brigid, named after Saint Brigid, was barely twelve when she experienced her first of many losses in her young life. One moment, her Auntie was standing at the edge of the pit near their Centrereach home and the next she was gone forever. Her parents, Delores and Adrian, gathered Brigid and her younger brother ‘Brother’ along with their Spartan possessions and left Centrereach. They were going to Barrenville; a place Ma vowed never to go again.

Barrenville, Pennsylvania was Adrian’s childhood home. It was a (somewhat) safer area where the underground fires had yet to make their mark. In the 60’s most of western Pennsylvania was noted for its coal mining commerce. It was the only livelihood the majority of the hill population knew. Sadly, returning to Barrenville was more than a place of refuge for Ma, Daddy, Brigid and Brother. It was a new beginning, but not the kind filled with hopes and dreams. Rather, what lay in wait was an unfinished life filled with digging up skeletons and allowing them to rise to the surface—a life meant to force them all to face challenges only the strongest could possibly overcome.

Natalie Harnett has intentional presence with her narrative style. When I began to read The Hollow Ground, I immediately recognized a style I hadn’t read since I had read some of the long-standing classics. Hemmingway came to mind, in particular. Similar to him, Harnett has a haunting quality toward the way she places words upon the page. What grabbed me consistently throughout this body of work was the depth of feeling and inherent sorrow each character assumed as the story evolved. Harnett latches on to her main character, Brigid, from the onset and fully develops a young girl with more soul than a ninety-year-old war veteran. She remains true to the concept of writing a story through the eyes of a twelve-year-old child, but embodies deep-seeded situations of dire poverty and hopelessness. We see what it is like to start life with nothing, travel through that same life—still with nothing, yet there is a persistent quality the main character voices through little more than sublime and coveted hope that life is good even with its layer upon layer of hardship.

I could hear Harnett’s voice often. One scene that comes to mind is when Ma and Brigid are talking. Brigid’s Ma is more than hardened from the life she has lived; yet she imparts her hope for a different life for Brigid when she tells her she has a heart big enough for everyone to live within. This is a pinnacle moment in the story and even though there was less than a handful of words to deliver such a powerful message, Harnett was able to resurrect that sense of hope this reader wanted to latch onto throughout the story. A minor criticism, however, would be to suggest Ms. Harnett consider paring the story down. For me personally, when power words open the scene and instantly hook the reader, it’s time to move to the delivery which alleviates a sense of belaboring the moment with too many words. Overall, Ms. Harnett has written a compelling novel and I look forward to her next body of work.

Quill says: The Hollow Ground is a heartfelt story of survival and embodies a sense of hope as its guiding light.

Book Review - Enduring Courage

Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed 

By: John F. Ross
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-03377-2
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 28, 2014

Enduring Courage is a book that chronicles the life and times of Eddie Rickenbacker, an American legend and Medal of Honor recipient, with 26 victories in the skies. He was also into race cars and did some racing. In addition, he was an automobile designer, military consultant and the head of Eastern Air Lines. He was the master of all he surveyed and a genuine hero for all to look up to. “Eddie” loved machines of any sort and defied the Grim Reaper many times with his racing exploits in both car or plane.

Eddie Rickenbacker was born in Ohio, a son of Swiss immigrants. When he was a teenager, his father died after a fight with another man. Eddie left school to get a job and help his family, but found that he couldn’t leave any kind of machine alone. He decided to enroll in an engineering course, trying to learn all he could about automobiles and eventually becoming a salesman at the Columbus, Ohio Buggy Company. He became a well-known race car driver who competed in the famous Indianapolis 500 four times before World War I.
Before the US entered the war, Rickenbacker was chomping at the bit to be an aviator. When he finally was able to join up he faced many challenges, including, at one time, of being accused of spying for Germany. He did, however, go on to become an American Ace pilot. Don’t forget folks; this was way before parachutes, radar that could find you in a jiffy and any type of radios. So, the pilots were pretty much on their own up in the wild blue yonder. This is a reason that the gung ho pilots usually didn’t have long lives as they pushed their machines to the edge and over it if they had to.

In his later life, Rickenbacker was just as gutsy as he had always been by buying Eastern Air Lines in 1938 and becoming an ace businessman. During WWII, he lived through two terrible plane crashes, one of them during a secret mission into the Pacific which left him lost at sea for 24 days until he and his fellow survivors were rescued.

Enduring Courage is a terrific story about the emerging age of speed, how it came about and how this man, above all else, let the world know that they would be moving forward. Many people believed that Rickenbacker was a bit of a show off, but he definitely had courage and smarts to outwit drivers on a race track, men piloting air planes, and commanding men in the skies.

Quill says: This is a very honestly written story about a very courageous man who led an exemplary life. The author does a fine job letting the readers know that this particular legend was a man who always pushed the envelope, particularly when the subject of speed came up.

Book Review - The Wild Dark Flowers

The Wild Dark Flowers: A Novel of Rutherford Park 

By: Elizabeth Cooke
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publishing Date: July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-425-26259-7
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 2014

The Wild Dark Flowers is book two in the "Rutherford Park" series and tells the story of the family and their servants living at Rutherford Park.

Rutherford Park is a beautiful estate owned by the Cavendish family. It is a dream house and money actually seeps out of the walls and gardens. The family has been around for decades and are certainly among the elite of folks who have a winter home in London and a summer home in the countryside. Starting with the first book about Rutherford Park, the reader will realize that all is not well and almost everyone at the estate, upstairs and down, are harboring secrets.

In this second story of the Cavendish family, World War I is about ready to explode and their only son, Harry, has joined up with the Army. William Cavendish, owner of the Park and his wife Octavia have been living a lie for some time, staying married for the children’s sake. Their son, Harry, is now in the Army and World War I is about to change the lives of the family and many other families. The family also consists of two younger women, Louisa and Charlotte, and a tiny baby girl who is Harry’s child by a liaison with one of the maids. This is a very aristocratic dynasty that is ready to fall apart. This particular story ends with many unanswered questions that I’m hoping will become volume three as the problems are far from settled.
The Wild Dark Flowers follows numerous haunting love stories and conflicts. While interesting, these intertwined plot lines were, at times, difficult to understand. Still, the book was well researched and gives readers an intimate look at the details of living on a beautiful country estate. The author does a good job of showing what it was like to endure all the trials and tribulations of the ruling family as well as the men and women who served them.

Quill says: While not quite as gripping as the first book in the series, I look forward to reading more about the Cavendish family and those who live at Rutherford Park.

Book Review - A Long Time Gone

A Long Time Gone 

By: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-0451240460
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 2014

Karen White delivers yet another superb story in her latest novel, A Long Time Gone.
Vivien Walker Moise thinks about her ‘long time gone’ as she makes her way across country from California back to her Indian Mound, Mississippi homeland. When she left nine years earlier, she vowed never to return. As she drives the last miles of that familiar road back to her childhood home, she thinks about the bed she was born in—the same bed in which her mama and her mama before her was born. Now would be a good time to pause and take another one of her mother’s little helpers as she mottles through her conflicted thoughts...

Her marriage was over and there was nothing left to keep Vivien in California. Maybe if her ex hadn’t forbidden contact with her twelve-year-old stepdaughter, Chloe, after the divorce she would have stuck around. She thought about her miscarriage, the constant reminder and final straw to the unraveling of her marriage. No matter, she had bigger fish to fry. She had no business driving her Jag on the muddy backwoods roads of the Mississippi Delta; especially given the storm that was chasing her faster than she was able to outdrive it.

The one guiding light Vivien would always have was her beloved grandmother, Bootsie. She always managed to right all the wrongs her own mother, Carole Lynne, dealt Vivien. Besides, her mother was gone more than she was present; especially after she jumped from the Tallahatchie Bridge. It seemed that was the final straw in Vivien’s twenty-eight years of life that convinced her to go to California in the first place. Not too long after she swallowed that last calming remedy without the comfort of water, Vivien is ripped from her reverie when she hits the mud rut on the shoulder and manages to bury her fancy wheels deep into the Mississippi mud. After a few failed attempts the reality hits her: "That Jag wasn’t going anywhere..." Thankfully, she can see the outlines of her “Dr. Seuss” home on the horizon and sets out on foot to complete the last leg of her journey. What Vivien didn’t realize in the years she was gone chasing ghosts, however, was the time had come for their ultimate face off.

Karen White has spun absolute magic once again in her latest novel, A Long Time Gone. Just like her previous novel, The Time Between, I could not put it down before the last page had been read. Worlds apart in their story lines, there is instant connection in this book as is the case with her entire catalogue of work. In her latest book, the storyline delivers four generations of truly magnificent women of substance. Ms. White has developed such depth and solid foundation to support the essence of soul and credibility in each character she has created. The story transcends historical periods of the mighty Mississippi Delta ranging from the great floods in the ‘20s to modern day in the antebellum south and all its glory and proper southern charm. Haunting and heart-wrenching depth weeps from the pages of beautiful prose, descriptive scenery and credible dialogue. This is one writer who no matter the length of the novel, has mastered the art of storytelling which ignites conscious apprehension from the reader when the pages dwindle in number. Karen White is an amazingly gifted writer and captures the full attention of her readership from the first page to the very last. She writes a story that this reader simply doesn’t want to end and leaves you with the memory of characters who live on long after the story has ended. Thank you once again Ms. White for a fantastic read. You are a writer who truly knows how to hook your reader.

Quill says: The greatest frustration one experiences upon finishing one of Ms. White’s novels is enduring the time between its end and the delivery of her next novel!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Would You Like to Be in a Trailer?

Would You Like to Be in a Trailer for The Magician’s Land With a Bunch of Famous Writers?

I’m serious. This is not a theoretical question.

I’ve never done a book trailer before. A theme song, yes, but never a proper trailer. And I wasn’t going to do one this time either, except that I had an idea that I liked too much to leave it alone. But I need your help with it.

Here’s the idea: I’m going to put together a video of the first few paragraphs of The Magician’s Land being read aloud. But I’m not going to read them. You’re going to read them.

To read the rest of the post and learn how to participate, please head over to Lev Grossman's site at:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review - Duel for the Crown

Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry

By: Linda Carroll and David Rosner
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1476733203
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 27, 2014

The rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar is the sort of competition the ‘King of Sports’ has not seen in a very long time. Indeed, the drought in Triple Crown winners has left racing fans reminiscing for days of old when two great thoroughbreds sped through the history books with their amazing speed, ability, and desire to win.

The battle to the 1978 Triple Crown was more than a simple contest between various horses, and the top breeding farms in Kentucky. This was the year that saw two royally bred colts, one by Raise a Native (THE sire of winning race horses in the late 60s and 70s), and the other a grandson of the illustrious sire, challenge each other all the way to that May day at Churchill Downs. Both horses were bred to be champions, but only one would win it all.

Alydar, the son of Raise a Native, was born at Calumet Farm, and while the famous facility was not enjoying the wealth of winners it once had, it was still considered racing royalty. Alydar was the chosen one, the one who would bring the farm back to prominence. Affirmed, meanwhile, was a Florida boy, born at a new farm, founded with “new” money. He, nor the farm’s owner, Lou Wolfson, were what the Kentucky racing aristocracy considered part of the in-crowd. They would have to prove themselves every step of the way and Alydar would be there each and every time to challenge the upstart.

Duel for the Crown is a true gem for racing fans. More than a synopsis of the races, this book details the lives of all those involved, from Raise a Native to the young phenom Steve Cauthen. The authors, one a sportswriter, the other a writer and horse trainer, show their familiarity with the world of racing as they chronicle the events that led up to Affirmed winning the Triple Crown. The look into the life of Raise a Native at the start of the book supplied the needed background to understand just what the owners and trainers saw in these two horses before they hit the racetrack. Lots of quotes from those involved help spice up the telling. The book covers everything involved in the build-up to the '78 Triple Crown, including the history of Calumet, the strategies of trainers and jockeys, and the temperaments of the horses. After reading this book, you will have a new appreciation for both Affirmed and Alydar. The only thing that would have made this book an even more enjoyable read would have been more photos; there are very few in this book.

Quill says: A fantastic read for racing fans that brings the rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar to life.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Books In For Review

Here comes another great selection of new books in for review.  Check them out and then stop by our site in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Center of Gravity: One Woman's Experiment to Reinvent her Entire Life Through Creativity, Spirituality, and a Leap of Faith by Geva Salerno Geva Salerno is a businesswoman who embarks on a year-long experiment designed to step outside her pre-conceived ideas about life, in order to reclaim her true self. After finding herself over-worked, divorced and obsessed with achieving society's vision of the perfect life, Geva gives up dating for a one-year more online dating, no more blind dates and no more thinking about men. Set in southwest Florida in 2011 and 2012, the story is the true account of how a woman re-created her life step by step. As she begins the process of dismantling her false life and slowly building an authentic, creative and fulfilling one, Geva brings to life long-forgotten dreams and aspirations and begins to take risks. But, as she begins to re-discover her true self, she also discovers her true voice. Her family must learn to adapt to this "new Geva" as she begins to carve out a new place for herself in her family of origin. She must also find a new, healthier relationship to work, which forces her to examine her real monetary needs and how she spends her time. As her old life unravels, Geva must simultaneously create a new one and be open to what the new life brings. Can she survive in this brand, new world unfolding around her? Over the course of the year, Geva meets new friends who are on similar, but different paths. Strong new women enter her life, while several interesting men tempt her to give up the quest and she is forced to choose between familiar patterns and a new, unknown future. "Will Geva give up the experiment and return to her old life?" "Can Geva create a new life, where she no longer needs men?" "Will her new discoveries affect the lives of millions of women around the world?"  

The Sweetness by Sande Boritz Berger Early in The Sweetness, an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their Vilna ghetto. "Something to remind me of the sweetness," the wise woman tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive. Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives promise to converge. Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women's knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Vilna exterminated by the invading Nazis. Yet, unbeknownst to her American relatives, though orphaned, Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his child during a round-up, her father thrust the girl into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who hides her in a root cellar─putting her entire family at risk. The headstrong and talented Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from the threats of a brutal world. All the family must challenge his injurious and spiraling survivor guilt. Though the Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others.  

The Dragon's Orb by J.T. Twerell In the 1970’s, France developed a nuclear missile program called the TN-90. In 1996, President Mitterand slashed the program and placed the remaining warheads in storage. Unfortunately, five of the missiles were recently “lost” and somehow North Korea “found” them. Dawn Laskey, a thirty-two year old fashion designer from New York, decides to take a vacation break to Paris where she becomes involved with Anthony Marconi, a romantic and fun–loving resident of Paris. On the last night of her vacation, she witnesses a murder and is forced to run for her life. Unknown to her, Anthony is an arms dealer with ties to North Korea and is in the midst of the theft of the TN-90 missiles. The murder she witnesses is part of Anthony’s dealings with the North Korean underground known as the Munmu Warriors, who report directly to Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea. Anthony is killed during their attempt to flee from the North Korean assassins. While Dawn escapes, the Munmu Warriors believe she is involved with Anthony and has vital information they need to complete the arming of the stolen TN-90 missiles. Fleeing to America, Dawn is now hunted by North Korea with the plan to torture her for the information. In addition, high levels of the French police discover her connection to Anthony and now want to question her. In New York, she comes under the protection of thirty-eight years old Detective Gerald Denton who tries to grasp her innocence while the international incident escalates. The story is filled with twist and turns leaving the reader riveted as Dawn tries to stay alive while very dark forces hunt her down and ultimately capture and torture her.  

Shades of Virtue by Jack Whitsel Nearly two years have passed since the Harhn incursion. While the Hugue recovers from the devastation, the Order of the Secret Throne resumes their agenda. Lord Yannic and his armies march the breadth of the Vol Thaldane to rally the divided human fiefdoms into the new realm of Shyrlandia, while engaging the Braug tribes and Harhn Hordes still plaguing the region. In the Hugue, a tournament champion is foreseen to have an impact on future events. The Council of Whispers dispatch Lady Lucia and her two apprentices, Dragana and Tallya to oversee the event. Amidst the spectacle of pageantry and martial prowess, Lucia must uncover the dark powers wishing to thwart the Order's agenda, while supervising her headstrong apprentices. There is more at stake than winning a lady's hand, for whoever wins the tournament will set events in motion that will forever impact the future realm of Shyrlandia, the Vol Thaldane, and the Hugue.  

TIME For Kids Big Book of When: 801 Facts Kids want to Know (Time for Kids Big Books) by Editors of Time for Kids Magazine If you were asked to come up with a list of the most important events, inventions, people, or discoveries in the past 100 or 1,000 years, what would you choose? TIME FOR KIDS new Big Book of When, the newest release from the hugely successful Big Book Series, is a riveting new resource for younger curious readers. This engaging and instructive book presents kids with answers to the kinds of intriguing questions that appeal to their sense of curiosity about when the most important events in history happened. Colorful graphs, spectacular photos, and clear, engaging timelines help answer a myriad of questions. TIME FOR KIDS Big Book of When is a must have book to satisfy the most curious kids. It will have readers of all ages thumbing through its pages again and again.  

Can't-Wait Willow! by Christy Ziglar Willow is so excited that the Over-the-Top Circus has finally come to town! The only problem is that when left to make her own decisions, she can't say 'no' to her favorite things. On the way to the show, she is distracted by enticing treats and fun that she just can't turn down. Willow arrives late and is sad to find that not only has she has run out of time, but money, and she won't be able to enjoy the pink cotton candy she's been dreaming of. Willow is given valuable advice and a second chance and is ultimately taught the lesson that sometimes in life you have to say 'no' to good things to end up with something great!

Must-Have Marvin! by Christy Ziglar Marvin loves new things -- he especially loves finding the latest, greatest, most awesome new things! Soon Marvin finds himself focusing on a new toy that he wants, to the exclusion of his friends. He lets them down when they need his help and nearly loses their friendship. Through a chat with a wise neighbor and a second chance to help, Marvin learns the important life lesson that people are more important than things.  

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

Book Review - Bing & Nero

Bing & Nero: Boy + Robot = Fun! (The Adventures of Bing & Nero) (Volume 1)

By: I. L. Williams
Illustrated by: Inci Alper
Publisher: Northern Phoenix
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-8293353003
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: May 2014

Ho, hum, it was soooo boring just looking out the window. Bing didn’t have anything to do and a cat really wasn’t any fun. No fun at all actually and “none of his friends could come and play.” Bing would never be bored if he had a dog, but his mother said he couldn’t have one. He’d even decided to name it Nero, but just maybe there was something else he could do. All of a sudden Bing had a great idea. He “would make a new friend” and that friend would be a robot. Down over the stairs he went and into the basement. There were several boxes and yes, there was that boring cat sitting on one, but Bing wouldn’t be bored for long.

Bing began to open boxes “to find all the parts he needed.” There was an old toaster, a hair dryer, a speaker, and all kinds of things he could use to make that robot. Bing worked for hours while that boring cat looked on. He decided that “it wasn’t so easy to build a robot,” but he kept on working. He put his hand to his chin and looked at his robot. Hmmmm, not everything was going right, but after a while he was all done. Bing flipped a switch and his robot’s eyes flashed and sparks began to fly. It sure looked like he’d have a friend and when the robot began to smile at him he knew he would. There was no Nero the dog, but Nero the robot. Just what kind of fun could a boy have with a robot?

This is a fun, charming tale that everyone who ever wanted a robot will love. Bing most certainly looks like a little scientist in the making and I loved to watch him as he created Nero. The artwork was bright, colorful, vibrant, and definitely added to the tale. Bing had an appealing Harry Potter-like look that many young readers will love. The imaginative tale was fun and moved right along as Bing brought his creation to life. The book is in picture book format, but young emergent readers will be able to tackle the tale with a minimum of assistance. The perfect book for any young robot lover!

Quill says: If you have a youngster who’s into anything “robot,” Bing and Nero will be a big hit with them!

Book Review - Muzzled: A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery

Muzzled: A Kate Turner, DVM, Mystery 

By: Eileen Brady
Illustrated By: Mike Hagelberg
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0186-8
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: May 22, 2014

When Dr. Kate Turner got a call from a small town vet she never realized how much her life would change. She agreed to work there while the current vet took an around the world vacation, but now that she was there, everything was quickly turning upside down.

One morning as Kate was making her morning house calls she came to the Langthornes, an older couple that is well known for their champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels. This had been a frequent stop for Kate since she had arrived in this small town so nothing seemed out of the ordinary until the only answer she received when knocking on the door was frantic barking. Sensing that something was wrong, Kate opened the door and was confronted by a gruesome sight. The Langthornes had both been shot and the dogs were running radically through the house!

The police quickly call this a murder-suicide but Kate is sure that something is being missed as the list of potential suspects continues to grow. In no way satisfied with what the police have concluded, Kate does some investigating of her own including tuning into the local dog show gossip that is constantly circulating around the dog show world. To someone on the outside it’s just a group of people and their dogs, but to the breeders and owners those dogs are prize possessions. But would this be enough motive to murder two people? Kate’s grandpa always told her there are two motives for murder, love and money, and now Kate is bound and determined to find out who did this and why.

If I am glancing at books in a store a mystery is not something I instantly gravitate to as it is just not my first choice, but Muzzled is definitely causing me to reconsider that position. From beginning to end I enjoyed every bit of this book and applaud the author for creating such a relatable protagonist. In addition, I have had the opportunity to work as a vet tech so all of the little crazy things that happen when working with animals are something I can completely relate to. The way Eileen Brady described her appointments, patients and clients had me laughing out loud as I read through this story. Even somebody without experience around animals would get a kick out of the great humor in this book.

To top it off Brady writes an intriguing mystery that is complimented by the entertaining stories that come from being a veterinarian. It is always exciting to find a book that truly keeps you guessing until the very last page and this book definitely does that. Through each chapter new suspects would come about, new evidence, and little details that had me truly guessing who the real culprit would be. With skilled writing Brady kept me hanging on until the very end and reveals a completely unexpected twist that can only come from a great mystery.

Quill says: A wonderfully written story that will have you looking for that perfect spot to curl up and enjoy a good book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview with Author David Litwack

Today we're talking with David Litwack, author of The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky

FQ: The ocean, of course, is important and used often in the story, is the ocean one of your favorite places to be and did that provide some inspiration for this story?

LITWACK: I live on Cape Cod, which is surrounded by ocean. Many an inspiration has come while walking by the sea. One of my favorite places to walk is along Falmouth Heights beach, with a constant view of Martha’s Vineyard, frequently shrouded in fog. There’s a mystery about the far side of an ocean, one that emphasizes the divide between people.

FQ: What was the time period of this book? Were you picturing the present time, sometime in the future, or this more a period of the past?

LITWACK: I made the setting an alternate world, albeit similar to our own. I wanted the freedom to have a complete separation between religious and secular societies, one that’s not credible in our own interconnected world. The advent of the Internet has produced two contrasting effects—the positive one of minimizing differences between people and the negative of allowing extremists on all sides to organize more effectively. How would the early stages of such advances in communication impact a polarized world? As a model, I used the mid 1970’s ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet that was limited to the government and universities. In The Daughter, the new technology is embraced by the zealot, Benjamin, despite his disdain for secular science, but it also opens the door for the two worlds to come together.

Author David Litwack

FQ: Kailani is quite an intriguing character, what provided the inspiration for this character?

LITWACK: I had the concept of a girl from the Blessed Lands crashing her boat on the cliffs, but no model for the girl. During the planning phase for the book, I went to a wedding at a venue by the sea. A young girl, about nine-years-old, came walking down the aisle (to this day, I don’t know who she was). She was dressed all in white, carrying a bouquet of flowers, and had golden hair and striking blue eyes. As she drifted past a picture window, with the sun setting over the ocean, looking more serious than a nine-year-old should, I knew I’d found my model. Ideas are everywhere if you’re open to them.

FQ: What was the reason for her young age? Was there something in particular that made you choose not to make her older?

LITWACK: I needed a character old enough to have been inculcated in her culture, enough so she would build myths about what happened to her, but not so much as to rationalize it. I wanted the passion of a young child and innocence without cynicism.

FQ: The line between reason and faith can be tricky, how did you decide what to include in this story?

LITWACK: I believe the writer’s role is more to pose questions than provide answers. One of the great issues of our time is the clash between reason and faith. Extremists on both sides have become so polarized they fail to see that the most important questions remain unanswered. Through Kailani, those on both sides discover how much we share the human condition. Beliefs become less important than relationships, and the clash between reason and faith matters less than the power of hope and love.

FQ: Both faith and reason are shown in positive and negative ways, was that your intention when writing this story or did you intend to focus on one more than the other?

LITWACK: Our strident media would have us believe that everyone has a strong position on one side or the other. But most people are just trying to find their way in life. As the minister of commerce from the Blessed Lands says about the so-called soulless: “He’d met some. They were not as the senkyosei portrayed them in temple sermons—empty shells or demons. They were not so different from him. They loved their children and grieved for their dead.”

FQ: The questions continued to pile up as I read this story wondering about Kailani’s past giving this book a mysterious feel. Was a sense of mystery intended when you started writing this story?

LITWACK: One of the unusual things about this book is that the main character is never the point-of-view character. This was necessary to maintain Kailani’s mystery. If the reader was allowed inside her head, she’d either reveal her past too soon or have to lie in her thoughts, becoming an unreliable narrator.

Not to compare, but F. Scott Fitzgerald uses a similar technique in The Great Gatsby. The main character is Gatsby. The plot is to discover the secret of his mysterious past. He’s never the point-of-view character, and the reader only discovers his secret near the end.

FQ: Near the ending I was sure Jason and Helena would migrate to a new country, what was the reason for keeping them in their original country?

LITWACK: The Daughter is Kailani’s story, not theirs. The ending needs to be about her, not them. Furthermore, what they learn from her is that the fulfilment they were seeking comes not in some exotic new place but from within themselves.

To learn more about The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky 

By: David Litwack
Illustrated By: Mallory Rock
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62253-431-9
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: May 12, 2014

In author David Litwack's latest offering, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, the reader is challenged to question where the lines of reason, faith, and fantasy cross. Different people may have very different views on this and in Litwack's book; these different views are tested and in fact, cause a war. The war separates a once united area into two countries. One country, known as The Blessed Lands, believes in faith; the other country, called the Republic, throws faith aside for the lure of reason.

The story introduces Helena, a woman who grew up in the Republic. She had been taught her whole life that reason should always be the deciding factor and to forget all thoughts of faith. Her father wanted her to become a scientist who would find answers to all the problems of the world and be ten times greater than he was. She had promised him before he died that this would be her goal, but when a mysterious nine-year-old girl with golden hair and ocean blue eyes comes into her life everything Helena thought she knew is now being questioned.

When Jason went on his run across the beach he expected to see Helena and was hoping to rekindle the connection they once had, but nothing could have prepared him for what was about to happen. He found himself rescuing a young girl named Kailani from the ocean after the boat she was sailing crashed into the rocks. Suddenly his and Helena’s life is turned upside down as they try to find out exactly where this girl is from and why she insists on calling herself the daughter of the sea and sky. Both Jason and Helena know that trusting in blind faith as this girl believes can bring down harsh punishments in their country but feeling a sense of protection over Kailani they take it upon themselves to make sure she is safe.

Helena and Jason decide that the best solution is to take Kailani to a remote farm in the north where she can be away from the public eye and slowly adapt to life in the Republic. However, on this farm there are people who believe Kailani was sent there for some higher divine purpose and will stop at nothing to prove that this is true. It does not take long before Kailani’s presence at the farm grabs the attention of extremely high-ranking officials from both countries and has everyone wondering if this young innocent looking girl knows much more than she claims to.

The very beginning of this book hooked me quickly as the mystery of this unknown girl being saved from the ocean presented an intriguing mystery. However, this book became much more than a mystery as each person who meets Kailani starts to go on this journey of self-healing and discovery. It was unique to see a story that puts such a young character in a very important role. Each event that takes place relates to the decisions that lead to the next event and David Litwack does a great job of connecting these little details. However, when I made it to the end the conclusion to this mystery was not as intriguing as I thought it would be. Even though the ending was good in the sense that all of the characters are content, I was slightly disappointed as I was expecting something a little more exciting as the story builds all the way up until the last few chapters, but the ending fell somewhat short of my expectations. Regardless, overall it was a very fun and satisfying read.

Quill says: A uniquely written story with an equally intriguing main character. 

For more information on The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - The Immortal Crown

The Immortal Crown: An Age of X Novel 

By: Richelle Mead
Illustrated By: Juliana Kolesova
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-0-525-95369-2
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: May 10, 2014

After the unbelievable and once thought impossible things that have happened since Justin March and Mae Koskinen met, they now know that anything could happen. Since discovering and bringing down a dangerous religious cult together and Mae freeing herself from the clutches of an evil God, these two are suddenly thrown into another overwhelming mission.

Lucian Darling, who is running for one of the two highest offices of the Republic of North America (RUNA), has asked Justin and Mae to accompany him on a political trip to their neighboring country of Arcadia. Lucian believes this will be a perfect opportunity to negotiate peace between the two countries and illuminate him in a favorable light when election day comes around as the people will see him taking action rather than just giving speeches. While in the RUNA religion and politics are strictly separate, in Arcadia religion is the driving force in politics and this fact has caused the countries to erupt in terrible battles as each country believes they are the superior people.

In addition to the different religious and political views in these two lands, women are seen as property and given no rights whatsoever in Arcadia. To ensure that peace comes of this trip, all of the women from the RUNA are told to behave in a manner resembling the Arcadian women, which is somewhat of a challenge for Mae and the other women accompanying this political group. However, to make sure that this trip is safe for everyone, Mae and the other women are quick to comply. As Justin works to figure out exactly what religious threats are at work here Mae finds herself tied to another quest. In a bizarre vision Mae is shown that her long lost niece is being held in Arcadia where her captors are planning to sell her when she comes of age. Knowing that this may be the only chance she may ever have to save her niece Mae takes a huge leap of faith and embarks on a rescue mission that she is not entirely sure she will be able to survive without divine help.

This is the second installment of the Age of X series by Richelle Mead and before jumping into this book I first read Gameboard of the Gods and was completely hooked from the first page. I quickly read through the first book in two days and immediately started The Immortal Crown and was not disappointed in the least. This second book picks up right where the first left off and continued to entice my imagination with every page. Richelle Mead has an amazing way of creating characters that demand respect but are also relatable on an intimate level. Both the characters of Justin and Mae have undeniable courage and strength but they also have a need for one another and that combination makes for a breathtaking read! At the end of the story Mead left with a tantalizing cliff hanger and I sure hope that a third installment is on its way to continue this wonderfully written and intriguing story.

Quill says: This is a story that makes me say, 'this is why I love books!'

Book Review - How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love

How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love
By: Ken Baker
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7624-5014-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 10, 2014
Through hilarity and thought-provoking insights, Ken Baker hits the mark in his incredibly believable work of fiction: How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love.
While this may be a work of fiction, the premise of this book is a resounding truth when it comes to teens and obesity in our world today. Main character Emery Jackson is a sixteen-year-old high school junior. She lives in a little piece of heaven: Highland Beach, California. She has a pretty face and that’s about as far as it goes. She’s not an “It” girl, an athlete or a sought after ‘BFF.’ Rather, she is 199 pounds packed onto a 5’6” frame and most of her days are filled with thoughts of how she can abscond with another double cheeseburger and super sized fries. Her mission: orchestrating the crime without her former LA Lakers Cheerleader mom figuring out her daughter’s daily crimes toward yet another food fest with her passion for unhealthy food choices...

However, there is one trump card Emery holds to maintain her personal preservation. She knows she is obese and willingly acknowledges the situation. She defies her mother about her weight problem every time she reaches for another hidden candy bar from her panty drawer stash. Her underwear model sister, Angel, is everything Emery isn’t. She is a cheerleader. She is an “It” girl and she is drop-dead gorgeous in her 5’9,” 119 pound frame. She is a contender for talk show hostess fame on her horizon and certainly the eye candy satisfaction to all she encounters. Emery is even non-phased by her absentee father’s motivational speeches he spans the globe to deliver. Simply put, Emery accepts the life she clearly has chosen and created.
When the Jackson family is approached to be the subject of a new reality television show, Fifty Days to Freedom, the ink is barely dry on the paper when Emery realizes the ‘fifty days’ is a direct link to her and the ultimate success of the show.

Ken Baker has addressed the dirty little secret reality to a serious problem: teenage obesity. He is visionary in how he set his pen to paper and created this often hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching and overall insightful dissertation of the inner workings of the teenaged girls’ mind. No girl (or anyone for that matter) wants a self image of being different that is directly related to her (over)size. Emery is obese and food is her comfort. Baker couples his story line with the real life smack down most of society gets with the insisted image and perfection (particularly young girls) are to adhere to. Given the premise of Mr. Baker’s book, which is for Emery to face her obesity head-on, he cleverly broke it down into four distinct parts with chapter headings of: I. Appetizer, II. Soup or Salad, III. Entrée, and IV. Dessert. As the story evolves, just like a great meal, the book becomes more appealing the further the reader ingests the text. He doesn’t use flowery language or site statistics. Rather, the story is peppered throughout with the inner thoughts of the mind, situations and raw feelings of a teenaged girl. He has demonstrated sound confidence of showcasing his writing ability through his story line of a solid voice that is truly supported by obvious research and knowledge of the topic. This is by far, a book every young girl/woman should read - ‘obese’ (or not). Well done Mr. Baker!

Quill says: This book will have you laughing out loud, checking your own mirror and it could possibly nudge you into replacing the script running in your head with a new and improved way of taking charge of your own existence.

Book Review - Fairy Tale Murders

Fairy Tale Murders 

By: Kelly Money
Publisher: Fideli Publishing Inc.
Publishing Date: June 26, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-49108-578-3
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 2014

This book is definitely not a fairy tale in the usual sense. This is about Stan, whose mother read him fairy tales when he was a child and he brings these fairy tale princesses to life in his mind, kidnaps and murders them.

Starting at the beginning, Stan’s father is the owner of Country Haven Mortuary and Stan works for him. Stan takes a lot of guff from Dad and ends up watching his father die of a stroke right before his eyes. When Dad is gone, Stan calls 911 and rids himself of his whiny demeanor and becomes 'Stan the Man.' Stan is now very different in his dealings with the public as he now has a great deal of freedom to do as he wishes. Stan soon discovers that he can get satisfaction by murdering women who resemble the women in the fairy tales his mother read to him as a child. Stan meets Kristen, who is going through the devastation of her mother’s death. Unfortunately for Kristen, her mother's services are to be held at the Country Haven Mortuary. Kristen becomes Stan's first victim, turning up missing after her mother's death.

Kristen’s best friend is Kate Kingsley, a police detective, and she and her partner Harper are investigating the trail left behind by Kristin. They keep seeing signs of Country Haven everywhere they look for clues. Stan is getting quite disturbed by the fact that the detectives are always showing up at his place of business. Kate can’t figure out that the Mortuary’s phone number keeps coming up on her missing friend’s home telephone. Kate, of course, thinks that she will never see her friend again, but is determined not to give up until this case is solved. In the meantime, other women are coming up missing. However, there is one clue at all the various scenes; a book of fairy tales.

This story is a real creep fest as Stan goes about his business, operating the family funeral home. As the owner of a funeral home, he of course has a crematorium which is a perfect way to hide evidence. He begins to find women who look like the pictures and descriptions of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and other fairy tale women and makes them his own, stalking them and using chloroform to put them to sleep, after which they find themselves strapped to a table in the basement of the family business. Meanwhile, Kate continues to investigate her friend's disappearance and it appears she just might become Stan's next victim. Will she find herself strapped to that table or will she solve the mystery of the fairy tale murders?

Quill says: Readers will turn on lights and look under the bed while reading this one.

Book Review - World War II In 500 Photographs

Time-Life World War II In 500 Photographs 

By: Time Life Books
Publisher: Jim Childs, Time Home Entertainment
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-60320-993-9
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 9, 2014

World War II In 500 Photographs is the second book being released by Time-Life this month (see our inspirational section for a review of Everything You Need To Know About the Bible). These books were popular in the 1960s and it's a great treat to have them brought back for both today's younger generation and those of us who remember the old books.

In the 1930’s Germany was in a bad way. They, as with most of Europe, were going through a depression and they were looking for strong leadership to take them out of the mess brought about by the end of World War I. When the Nazi Party, run by Adolph Hitler, came into being, all bets were off. The party took over the German Parliament and Hitler became the Chancellor, which was a very high public office; they laughed at the German Constitution and killed anyone who objected. They also brought about the Nuremberg Laws that put restrictions on just about everyone except Aryans. After all this, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the War began. This was the beginning of World War II even though America was a few years away from entering the fighting.

World War II In 500 Photographs is a marvelous book that will help readers see into the Greatest War in History, beginning in 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland up through 1945 when peace treaties were signed. Many lives were lost in combat, in the horrible concentration camps and so many beautiful cities were destroyed for the egos of a few people who wanted to rule the world. In this book readers will see key battles and events; meet the leaders of the war (friends and enemies) and see fabulous photographs of some of the greatest events and most horrible events that take place in a conflict like this. This book starts with the Nazi’s rise to power after World War I. It delves into the fact that the Japanese didn’t like us all that much either and attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, crippling the Pacific Fleet and bringing the US into World War II. The photos in this book are unbelievable and were captured by photographers who were running around the battle ground snapping pictures, carrying a camera and pen instead of a gun and doing their jobs perfectly. Each picture in this book has a story behind it, a story not to be missed. This is a marvelous educational book that will help the young people of today understand loyalty to their country.

Quill says: Take some time to look through this book and look at it often, you won’t be disappointed.

Book Review - Everything You Need to Know About the Bible

Time-Life Everything You Need To Know About the Bible: Genesis to Revelation, Your Illustrated Guide

By: Time-Life Books
Publisher: Jim Childs, Time Home Entertainment
Publishing Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1603209960
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: May 9, 2014

Many readers will be pleased when they see that Time-Life Books has brought back the type of books they published in the 60’s. These books show the reader images of subjects that will help to educate young people and remind their elders of times that actually settled the world around us. In the 60’s, Time-Life Books sold many books, using direct mail, letting the public know about things that had happened from the Creation of the world to the settling of the West, to the Wars fought to keep our freedom. These were mostly told in the form of photographs and the books were wonderful keepsakes. Unfortunately, in 2003, this part of Time Life was sold and the books stopped. Fortunately, there was a recent sale to Time-Life Entertainment, allowing them to use the name Time-Life and this company will start these great books once again. The first two books for the public’s perusal are Everything You Need To Know About the Bible: Genesis to Revelation, Your Illustrated Guide and World War II In 500 Photographs (see our historicical section for a review of World War II in 500 Photographs).

In Everything You Need To Know About The Bible, the story starts, of course, with Genesis and ends with the death of Jesus on the Cross. The pages are full of beautiful paintings depicting the Bible Story with short narratives and time lines. This book will fascinate children as well as adults who attended Sunday school in their youth and, with the portraits of various Bible figures, it will be a great educational tool for young and old. Readers will find many things that they have forgotten and will also be able to look up various stories that were favorites. The book will help readers to know the Bible again and will take them on a journey through the times of Moses, Noah and on up to Jesus’ birth and his life before being crucified and rising from the dead. The illustrations are magnificent and the stories are told for anyone to read.

Inside this book will be found many stories of the most important figures in the history of religion; Bible verses that correspond with the stories and many reference points for scholars, young and old. The reader will meet kings, prophets and the apostles of Jesus along with reading about the Last Supper and Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. This book also gives an account of the Apostles following Jesus’ death and how they spread Jesus word throughout the countries. For anyone interested in the Bible, this book is a 'must-have' and is also a perfect educational tool - thank you Time-Life for bringing these books back to life!

Quill says: A great addition to your personal library.

Book Review - Time Lost: Teenage Survivalist II

Time Lost: Teenage Survivalist II (Volume 2) 

By: Julie L. Casey
Publisher: Amazing Things Press
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 9780615986944
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: May 2014

Living in a world without electricity was something Ben had never once thought about especially since his parent’s divorce occupied his mind at the time. However, when PF (Power Failure) Day comes, the power grids are completely wiped out by an electromagnetic surge from the sun forcing everyone to realize just what it is like to live without electricity. Chaos erupts everywhere as Ben and his father try desperately to find ways to survive, but the limited supply of water and food in the city is diminishing quickly, causing people to take desperate measures. As winter approaches, Ben’s father unfortunately becomes ill with the flu and Ben decides he has to go out and find food alone. Unfortunately, while he is gone, a fire erupts in their apartment building taking his father away in a sea of ashes.

Feeling completely lost and hopeless, Ben goes to find the only other person who he believes would care about him, his mom. He finally makes it to his mother’s house but only finds Lyle, her new husband, who informs him that his mother died just three days earlier from the flu. Ben’s last thread of hope is now gone, taken away by this devastating disaster that surrounds him. The only thing he knows for sure is he must leave this house where so many ghosts haunt his dreams but as to where he is going Ben has not a clue.
In the wake of utter despair a glimmer a light comes into Ben’s life as he meets Sara, a young woman who has also lost both of her parents. Feeling a connection between them, they decide that they would rather run away together and keep their freedom rather than be thrown into some foster home, school, or orphanage that would keep them confined. With the unrelenting will to survive, Ben and Sara head out on their own knowing that the only people they can truly trust is each other. However, with the increased crime, panic, and desperation of everyone around them will they really be able to survive?

As soon as I started this book there was absolutely no way I was going to put it down until I reached the very last page! Each chapter had me hanging on the edge of my seat wondering if Ben and Sara could truly survive after everything that had happened. It is wonderful to read a book that truly makes a reader think about what would happen if that situation was true. This book definitely had me thinking with every page I read and really showed the essence of human emotion when everything but the vital components of survival are all that is left. In addition, seeing this story from the viewpoint of two teenagers was intriguing as many times it is teenagers who get caught up in all of the material things of life instead of the small essential things. I applaud Julie L. Casey for creating a story that shows the renewed joy in finding a purpose in life even in the aftermath of destruction.

Quill says: A truly amazing story showing the perseverance of the human spirit!

Book Review - An Autobiography of Black Chicago

An Autobiography of Black Chicago 

By: Dempsey Travis
Publisher: First Agate Bolden
Publication Date: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-932841-67-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 10, 2014

Richard Steele opens Dempsey Travis’ re-print of An Autobiography of Black Chicago with his perspective toward understanding how the black community fits into ‘...Chicago’s urban mosaic...’ and the necessity to understand the ‘...intersection between race relations, politics and business...’

Perhaps the motivation for the Travis family to re-release the 1981 publication of Dempsey Travis’ autobiography was to provide an education to many of the inherent convictions Mr. Travis had toward his personal vision of never giving up and seeking out what he believed he could achieve. By the end of his life, he had risen to admirable status in the real estate world and became a solid voice and advocate for the black community. We live in a time where there is more than a sublime suggestion of racial discourse and I would surmise if a man were to take to the streets and ask a variation of nationalities with diverse cultural background: “What do you think the current climate is toward racial issues in our country today?” the answers would be spectral. It is no secret there have been many eras of unjust and mistreatment in this great nation of America. Perhaps this is why An Autobiography of Black Chicago has been re-released now.

Mr. Travis breaks down his autobiography chapter-by-chapter sharing personal accounts of what it was like to begin his life in 1920’s Chicago—a time when it was roaring in the smoke-filled speakeasies and prohibition was a word that applied to those on the outside of those speakeasies. Time marched forward for Travis and with it came a further understanding that because of the color of his skin, his rights were limited due to the color of his skin. Travis continues to step his story forward and with its unfolding, there is an evolution and purpose to why it was important for him to seek a sound education; overcome the obstacles of being “black skinned” and make a difference. While I cannot say I can relate to what it must have been like to be “black” back then—I am white and a few years younger-I do believe every human being no matter their race, color or creed do have a common intersection of knowing and feeling when it comes to the experience of injustice and that, I believe, is the essence of what the take away is from this particular book.

Travis had moments in his autobiography where I believe it was close to impossible to not vent his anger and frustrations he and his brothers in arms experienced in their respective lifetimes. While there is nothing offensive in the way the book was crafted, it is abundantly clear Mr. Travis used his pen to deliver his perception and message; such as: "...The Sivart mortgage banking presence in Chicago not only raised the “cotton curtain” between the black community and the FHA, it also created jobs for blacks within the mortgage banking industry in “lily-white” companies that had never previously considered a black either for a job or a mortgage application..." I had never heard of Dempsey Travis before reading his book. I migrate toward historical works because history is an intrinsic element to the evolution of any society. I believe Mr. Travis delivered a sound perspective and historical roadmap of his experience of growing up in a time and place when change was a necessity versus an option.

Quill says: An Autobiography of Black Chicago is an interesting account of the importance of focusing on the will to succeed no matter the color of one’s skin.