Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review - The Art of Arranging Flowers

The Art of Arranging Flowers

By: Lynne Branard
Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-0-425-27271-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 28, 2014

The Art of Arranging Flowers is a bittersweet account of one woman’s struggle to reconnect.

Ruby Jewell is at a crossroads in her life. After losing her beloved sister, Daisy, there isn’t much point for Ruby to continue her own journey through life. Barely going through the motions of existence in her day to day struggle; somehow, today is different. Ruby has an awakening and acknowledges the many reasons she must carry on. It’s what Daisy would have wanted her to do. How odd the epiphany would come to Ruby by way of flowers. It’s time for Ruby to face her desolate and personal course of self-destruction. Daisy’s spirit channels through the spectral varieties of plants and flowers and delivers a deep-seeded message to Ruby for her to carry on with her own life.

Ruby experiences her awakening and begins her uphill climb to embrace life once more. Her floral business thrives in a quiet Washington town due to her maintenance to a fault of her database full of clients. They are more than ‘files’ however, and she carefully personalizes each customer’s file with specifics unique only to them. Sadly, the attention to detail leaves little time for Ruby to tend to her happiness. If only Ruby would pause for a moment. She should pay attention to why young Will came into her life when he did. Perhaps she should delve a little further into the sublime messages delivered with tenderness and kindness from retired astronaut Dan. There is much for Ruby to learn beyond flowers. Maybe she will arrive at her own destiny and understand how deserving she is of a complete life - a life that flowers play an important role in delivering.

Through the foundational support of flowers and the rich development of the character Ruby Jewell, it is no wonder best selling author Lynne Branard has struck gold once again. Ms. Branard guides her pen with lovely prose as she educates her readers about the healing and medicinal purposes of many flowers and plants. However, this is not an encyclopedic rendering with 40-character scientific terminology. Rather this is a novel laid out in beautiful and fluid prose. Branard has managed a novel of epic feel good and relatable measures. Through her careful and insightful development of main character, Ruby Jewell, Branard delivers a believable story full of heart-felt enticement. Her readers will want to walk alongside Ruby and feel the depths of her grief as much as the glory of uplifting moments - a writing gift Branard truly owns. Often when I read a solidly written book, it is difficult to carve out one particular passage because the overall body of work exemplifies the author’s gifted ability. That said, I found this one in particular, truly moved me: “...Flowers. Do you know, scientifically, how they bloom... the blooming happens on the outside before it happens in the middle... sometimes we think there is supposed to be this great spiritual awakening that happens before we make a change in our lives. We expect some ‘aha’ moment, some beautiful enlightening experience to shape us into the people we want to be, but sometimes it just happens from the circumstances in our lives that present themselves. We become who we are meant to be because of the things along our edges that pull us into existence...” Congratulations Ms. Branard, you have written a novel that leaves an indelible memory long beyond its proverbial ‘The End.’

Quill says: The Art of Arranging Flowers delivers a resounding message of hope and encourages the notion to embrace the glory of life’s journey and ultimately, welcome the varied outcomes.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Interview with Author P.S. Clinen

Today we're talking with P.S. Clinen, author of Tenebrae Manor

FQ: Does the word Tenebrae have a specific meaning?

CLINEN: Tenebrae is a Latin word - literally meaning ‘darkness.’ The word appealed to me for a number of reasons, most obviously the setting of the novel - a house where night is eternal. But Tenebrae also carries religious motives as a Christian service usually celebrated before Good Friday. As Tenebrae Manor deals with the ideals of eternity and salvation versus suffering, I felt it was an appropriate name.

FQ: Was there an actual mansion or structure that provided the inspiration for Tenebrae Manor?

CLINEN: The mansion itself is an assemblance of numerous inspirations. I have always been fascinated with Gothic; as a child I loved anything with ghosts or haunted houses, and today I am fascinated by old architecture. Tenebrae Manor itself drew inspiration from many of my favourite darker stories such as Poe’s The Fall Of The House Of Usher, Lovecraft’s sunken city of R’yleh in the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as Stoker’s Dracula and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast.

FQ: Tenebrae Manor is full of frightful characters but each seems to have their own similarities to human emotions. Was this something you intended for them to have?

CLINEN: It was my intent for the novel to be a little bit weird. The characters appear monstrous, but their individual personalities bring up the old saying ‘don’t judge someone until you know them.’ All of them are underdogs in their own way, each have their troubles that a reader can relate well with. They were born out of imagination - again I can cite my childhood as the source of inspiration, with Tim Burton’s films and Roald Dahl’s books leaving wonderful impressions in my mind, reminding me that it is okay to be strange as long as you are true to yourself!

Author P.S. Clinen

FQ: The character of Usher displayed a profound innocence in the dark world he was surrounded by, so what was your purpose for including him in this story?

CLINEN: At a first glance The Usher may seem little more than a minor character, but his actions exemplify some of Tenebrae Manor’s major themes. He is the doorman and main servant of the manor, so simple of mind that he knows nothing more than to do his job and do it without complaint. In a world where other characters are questioning their purpose, Usher knows exactly what he has been called to do. However, like the others, he does go through stages where he believes there may be something else out there for him. His character illustrates a reluctance towards change, even when one’s world has become stagnant.

FQ: Why did you decide to place Libra, a woman, as head of Tenebrae Manor as many times male characters dominate dictating roles?

CLINEN: I don’t know that it has anything to do with gender as such; Libra is just a strong and self-centred character who chased her ambitions - something characters like Bordeaux and Edweena struggle to do. Libra is the illustration of how too much of a good thing can have negative effects. And her name - Libra - embodying balance (or anything but!) shows how putting one’s self before others can lead to ruin, which is a major part of Gothic literature. While Libra may appear villainous, she really is more of an anti-hero, and though many may love to hate her the reader can’t help but relate to her in one way or another.

FQ: There are many small mysteries throughout this story pertaining to Tenebrae and its residents. Was this something you intended for this book, perhaps to add to the mysterious allure of this story?

CLINEN: When diving into the world of Tenebrae Manor I want my readers to feel as though they are in a dream. Dreams are a place where anything is possible and sometimes things make very little sense, yet it remains a place where things are at their most honest and truthful, which can lead to a greater enlightenment. The world-building of mysteries is mostly just adding flavour to my attempt at producing a literary fable; there are some things in Tenebrae Manor that don’t need to be revealed, doing so could very easily disrupt the intrigue. I think it is important not to show all your cards; real life doesn’t give us all the answers, so a book that does the same thing becomes much more relatable.

FQ: The two main human characters of Madlyn and Jethro were very different in their outlook of Tenebrae Manor. Were these two characters in a way representing two sides of human emotion?

CLINEN: Definitely. Although Madlyn was much more of a major character than Jethro. Jethro was your average person, as such he was very much incapable of accepting such a bizarre and frightening world as Tenebrae Manor. Madlyn on the other hand was fragile in temperament. She lived in a world of impossible fantasy, yet still chose to fly off into her romantic daydreams. It is Madlyn’s beautiful innocence that shields her from the horrors that Jethro is unable to handle, creating a strange counterweight where the weaker-minded person has a distinct advantage over a sound mind.

FQ: Not much was said about Jethro at the end of this story, could he possibly come back in a second book about Tenebrae Manor?

CLINEN: Perhaps, though if there is a sequel I doubt he could breakthrough as a major character. Jethro was more of a segway into the main storyline of Tenebrae Manor. He is intentionally an uninteresting character, as such he slips into the background towards the end of the story while the whimsical Bordeaux, Libra, Deadsol, etc. really get their chance to shine. A number of readers have inquired about a sequel to Tenebrae Manor. At present I have no plans to continue it; I feel the story ends in a good spot and anything further added may take away from the impression left by the book on a whole. I am currently working on my next novel, although I have no release date in sight yet. Having said that though, I very much adored the characters of Tenebrae Manor and loved writing about them. So who knows? Maybe one day down the track we’ll hear more about Bordeaux, Libra and Tenebrae Manor! Thank you very much for your time.

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

Book Review - Eyes on You

Eyes on You

By: Kate White
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-0-0615-7663-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Date: June 28, 2014

The word ‘sharp’ is always used when it comes to this amazing author’s writing, and this new roller-coaster thriller is no exception. In fact, like a great wine, it seems that Kate White’s writing is aging to perfection.

This tale surrounds a definite career woman working in a truly glamorous, not to mention, backbiting and mean, business. Robin Trainer has dealt with some pretty serious issues to re-enter that job market; from a divorce that practically annihilated her to losing her on-air job after dealing with multiple attacks from an unknown colleague. But Kate has risen above all that. She knows this is the dog-eat-dog-world of the media, and the personalities are hit just as hard as the subjects they’re covering.

This time around, however, Robin is not only back, she’s a true star. Working as cohost of a nightly entertainment program that is huge as far as popularity is concerned, Robin can also add ‘hot new writer’ to her resume because of the bestselling novel that she penned, selling to the masses in droves. In other words, Robin’s future is certainly looking sunny. So what happens when everything is going right? Exactly. And when things begin to go wrong for Robin, they go from bad to worse fairly quickly.

Robin has rivals; after all, if you’re going to be hot in the industry you are going to meet up with others climbing the ladder and using you as one of the rungs. But there is a difference between rivalry and downright evil – which is what Robin soon faces. Dolls with eyes gouged out, threatening notes placed in her own handbag – Robin is dealing with far more than just an up-and-comer who wants to make it on television. In fact, as things worsen, it looks like the predator may just be someone she works closely with...causing far more than just sleep to be lost. If the rival meets their goal, Robin has a very good shot at not only losing her newfound career, but also her life.

Again...intelligence, twists, turns, fast-paced action, and the feeling that the author knows everything regarding the topic she is speaking about to her readers. Kate White has put forward a character that is believable and able to be challenged and supported by fans, and the ending is one that you will not see coming!

Quill says: Kate White suspense can NOT be missed!

Book Review - Survival Colony 9

Survival Colony 9

By: Joshua David Bellin
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4814-0354-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Date: June 28, 2014

The world is basically gone – a devastated, desert land where humans have not been able to stay alive. Everywhere you look are vast, endless areas of dust and debris – the only remnants of life left behind. Survival Colony Nine, however, is a band of humans who are striving to not only find food and shelter, but are also guarding against the evil Skaldi that roams the lands, doing their very best to take every human who’s left out of the picture for good. Unfortunately, these beasts can do even more – they can actually take over the body of the human and infiltrate colonies where they can then earn humans’ trust and destroy anyone who may be left.

His name is Querry Genn, and the young man has even more issues than everyone else, considering the fact that he has no memory. Each and every day his father attempts to retrain and reteach Querry all the information he has lost in the depths of his memory banks after an accident. He teaches him how to battle, how to search, and how to protect himself and the group. With his father in charge, Querry also faces the ‘favoritism’ gossip, with a boy named Yov who definitely likes to taunt Querry and put him in his place.

Along with the rest of the group is a girl named Korah. Not only is Querry infatuated and awed by her beauty (even though she is the girlfriend of another member of the group), but he also feels like she is the only person he can talk to. But no matter what seems to happen – from running fast and scared from the Skaldi who are on their trail to discovering an abandoned location where food awaits, Querry’s mind never stops spinning. He knows there is something locked inside his memory that is pushing him away from the group, and if he unearths that secret he may just find himself in unchartered and extremely unfriendly territory.

For those readers who went crazy over The Maze Runner, this is one title that will have you ‘hitting the books’ once again. With the secrecy and the adventure of that title mixed with a bit of the old Thunderdome, this debut novel by Joshua Bellin is most certainly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Quill says: The action never stops, and Querry is definitely a character you will root for!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review - Tenebrae Manor

Tenebrae Manor

By: P.S. Clinen
Illustrated By: Nicholas Roerich
Publisher: Thorpe-Bowker
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-64-692024-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 28, 2014

Deep in an unknown world of endless darkness lays Tenebrae Manor, home to every imaginable creature that finds peace and shelter in the unending night. Bordeaux, a crimson demon, takes it upon himself to make sure that his friends stay safe inside Tenebrae Manor, the only home they know. Unfortunately, this thought is not shared by the ruler of Tenebrae Manor. Libra, the ruler, is much more worried about her birthday festivities than the safety of everyone she oversees. Bordeaux knows that to keep the endless cover of night that protects them all, Libra must be kept content even if most of the inhabitants of Tenebrae Manor are reaching the end of their patience trying to provide for her frivolous wants.

Even when Libra dismisses the fact that danger could be lurking in the forest threatening to destroy Tenebrae Manor, Bordeaux knows that something is definitely not right. For centuries the forest that was filled with the quiet and familiar sounds of the night has now turned to sounds of malice. Creatures called Wood Golems, that are usually slow and easily ignored, have turned viciously and dangerously aggressive. On top of that their aggression is headed straight for Tenebrae Manor where it seems this evil force is trying to strangle the very life out of the manor itself. The safety of every resident is at stake, and Bordeaux is determined that the well being of his friends be ensured.

As the creatures of Tenebrae Manor fight to protect their home, a strange question is burning in the back of everyone’s mind. Why are the wood golems now suddenly attacking when for centuries they have never once been a threat? Is there someone hiding a secret inside the walls of Tenebrae Manor and if so are they willing to risk the lives of everyone just to keep this secret?

When I picked up this book to start reading I expected somewhat of a scary story line, especially after looking at the cover art. However, what I discovered was an intriguing and original tale that shows all of the darkest creatures in a brand new light. The residents of Tenebrae Manor each possess their own unique attributes that contribute to the eternal life they share together. It was wonderful to read a book that brings normally dark characters such as demons and vampires into a most relatable family setting, where they have some disagreements, but also see and love each other as a family. I was hanging on the edge of every page when all of sudden their home was under attack and each member had to work together to save it. The willingness of each of these characters to put their friends' welfare in front of their own made for a wonderful story.

Quill says: What an amazing and original story of friendship and family with a group of unforgettable characters.

To learn more about Tenebrae Manor, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - Shades of Virtue

Shades of Virtue

By: Jack Whitsel
Illustrated By: Ural Akyuz
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-60619-225-2
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 28, 2014

In the midst of a tournament to win the opportunity to rule the land of Rouvarre and earn the hand of Lady Basina, evil lurks at every corner trying to throw the land into chaos. Even though a jousting tournament brings together the bravest knights and gives the people a reason to enjoy the festivities, there is much more at stake than just winning a contest. The champion will not only be given the opportunity to better their life, but he will also play a pivotal part in ensuring the well being of the surrounding kingdoms.

Three such knights who are competing for this opportunity include Marcel, Lambert, and Aimon, who traveled together awaiting the chance to joust in this prestigious tournament. Each one along with forty-five other knights are introduced to Lady Basina at various social functions and all are cordial, but Marcel is completely transfixed when he has the chance to meet Basina. Marcel knows every other knight will be competing just as fiercely as he, but he can’t help but feel that he and Basina have a unique connection. Before this tournament is done he will have to overcome much more than just battling other knights. Marcel will face loss of family, past hardships, and evil magic.

While the excitement of the upcoming joust occupies the thoughts of many, three Dragon Maidens, Lucia, Tallya, and Dragana, are concerned with other problems as it seems sorcery unknown to them is working to manipulate the outcome of this important tournament. Ordinarily these three maidens would be able to sense any magic or witchcraft that was being conjured in the area, but nothing is revealing itself to them. Realizing that some of their powers are being blocked, the three Dragon Maidens know that they are likely dealing with magic much more powerful than they first thought.

The very first chapter of this book had me hooked as I was transfixed by the excitement of the joust tournament and then all of the secret treachery that surrounded the competition kept pulling me into the story even farther. Each phase of the tournament is wonderfully detailed, presenting the emotions and thoughts of the knights which allowed me to easily relate to the characters. In addition, the life in medieval times showcased in this story was in no way shown through rose colored glasses, but was presented in the raw way that a medieval enthusiast would enjoy. This book combined the intriguing traditions of medieval life with the fantasy of magic and witchcraft. With this combination the story was extremely exciting to read and had me turning pages as quickly as I could.

Quill says: This is an exciting combination of fantasy, magic, and medieval life.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review - Imperfect Acts

Imperfect Acts

By: Peter Shianna
Publisher: The Red Oak Readers Press
Publication Date: December 2013
ISBN: 978-0-6159-2327-7
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Date: June 2014

Jason Ferris is your average, ordinary teenage boy who, at the moment, is leading a happy, normal life. He has a dad who rates right up there with the best; he loves his mom, and also has feelings for Cari - the ultimate 'girl next door.' The only thing that might throw him a curveball, however, is the fact that even though he does have feelings for a girl, Jason also wants - not to mention, promised his mother - that he will enter the priesthood.

Faith is ripped apart in Jason’s life when his own father actually witnesses a murder at the place where he works...and doesn’t do anything about it. As a truly loving son and huge supporter of his family, Jason cannot seem to reconcile within himself why his father is simply keeping quiet about such a violent act. With a heart and soul that is deeply religious, Jason must deal with many imbalances all of a sudden. In fact, his own faith is tested as he faces the reality of what lengths a son can and will go to in order to protect his father.

Unearthing both good and evil, and the true torment that a young person can go through in this life, makes this book, on the surface, a highly difficult read. But when you delve into the crux of the story and the vivid narrative this author provides, the story of Jason is one of a faithful soul trying desperately to find the answers about life’s hardest struggles.

Having to choose between ‘good and evil’ in the world is difficult for one and all. But Jason’s test takes that normal plotline to a whole new level. Deciding whether to enter the world of religion or sit on the sidelines and keep his mouth shut, this teen who has faith in the Almighty, comes face-to-face with the messy, chaotic, very real world where no one's'acts' and choices are perfect.

Quill says: A tale with a heavy plot that will leave the reader with the question: “What would I do?”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Books in for Review

Here's a sneak peak at some of the books that have just arrived for review!  Reviews will be posted in a few weeks.

Tenebrae Manor by P. S. Clinen Within uncharted forest, where ancient magic keeps the night sky ever-present, stands Tenebrae Manor. Within its dusky walls dwell beings of macabre whimsy, headed by the pedant demon, Bordeaux, and the hedonistic gorgon, Lady Libra. These apparitions are content to live out their eternity in the half-lit gloom; that is until the arrival of a certain uninvited guest – a live human being – imperils the concealment of Tenebrae Manor and the livelihood of its residents. And in the forest surrounding a new threat emerges – a threat that is rattling the once still trees, and dooming the manor towards irreparable decay. But the characters are unmoored. While some seem desperate to maintain ascendancy over their ruinous home, others adopt a façade of mischievous indifference that could undo them all. And is Tenebrae Manor even worth saving? After all, eternity is a frightfully long time to spend alone...  

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits (Jane Austen Takes the South) by Mary Jane Hathaway Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, is on the fast track to tenure—that is, until her new book is roasted by the famous historian Ransom Fielding in a national review. With her career stalled by a man she’s never met, Shelby struggles to maintain her composure when she discovers that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her small Southern college. Ransom Fielding is still struggling with his role in his wife’s accidental death six years ago and is hoping that a year at Shelby’s small college near his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, will be a respite from the pressures of Ivy League academia. He never bargained for falling in love with the one woman whose career—and pride—he injured, and who would do anything to make him leave. When these two hot-headed southerners find themselves fighting over the centuries-old history of local battles and antebellum mansions, their small college is about to become a battlefield of Civil War proportions.  

Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack In fin-de-siècle Vienna, it was not easy for a woman to find fulfillment both intellectually and sexually. But many believe that Minna Bernays was able to find both with one man—her brother-in-law, Sigmund Freud. At once a portrait of two sisters—the rebellious, independent Minna and her inhibited sister, Martha—and of the compelling and controversial doctor who would be revered as one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers, Freud’s Mistress is a novel rich with passion and historical detail.

Recognition by O.H. Bennett Dana, a single-mother, is driving home one rainy evening when, as she passes a homeless panhandler, she recognizes the features of her long-absent husband. Warren Reynolds disappeared from Dana's life a decade earlier — his body mysteriously missing after a terrible auto accident from which a pregnant Dana was rescued. After glimpsing the man she believes might be her husband, Dana begins surreptitiously searching for him, and is plunged back into memories of the difficulties they were grappling with at the time of Warren's disappearance. She struggles with whether she can reveal her belief that her husband might be alive to her friends, her in-laws, and, most importantly, her son.

BookReview - Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

By: Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Sarah Jio, Sarah McCoy, Kristina McMorris, Alyson Richman, Erika Robuck & Karen White
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-425-27202-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Date: June 25, 2014

To say a novel is exquisite; to state that a short story is written so well it will stay with you forever - are examples of most cases. Yet, this is one review of one anthology that can claim both.

Grand Central Station, as everyone knows, is one of the most historic and stunning locations in this world. From the constellations high above to the huge clock that everyone has seen or stood in front of at one time; to the famed Oyster Bar, and the information desk that has been a small part in millions of lives – Grand Central has it all. And these particular stories each focus on those people and their stories, using one day in September of 1945 when soldiers were coming home, and both friend and enemy were starting new lives and accepting the changes that were created during WWII.

Alyson Richman introduces a character who plays his violin in the grandeur of Grand Central just waiting to catch the eye of a girl who is a delicate ballerina, as well as being a young woman who must deal with the fact that her home and her family has been left far behind. The loveliness and emotional beauty this duo bring to the pages is unforgettable.

From then on out, the reader is given amazing tales that include a man with a ‘tattoo’ forever marking him as a prisoner-camp slave, who is now living among the wealthy and attempting to discern and deal with bias and pity. There are tales that bring a WWII soldier home who wishes the woman from his past would disappear and take her German-born workers with her. A young girl wishing to be an actress waits in Grand Central for the big audition that will change her ways she could never have imagined. From European women coming for the beaus who basically brought them over to play housewives, to women who were part of Hitler’s program to increase the perfect Aryan nation; and, the incredible Pam Jenoff (author of The Kommandant’s Girl) brings her own amazing tale of a strand of pearls that readers will never forget.

These are just a few mentions from this wealth of incredible tales, but the most beautiful aspect of this anthology may just be the fact that the violinist’s melodies flow through each and every story, as if tying each life together as if they were one in the unforgettable location of Grand Central Station.

Quill says: This anthology brought together the absolute best to achieve literary greatness, and they most definitely did just that. A Masterpiece!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review - Secrets of the Porch

Secrets of the Porch 

By: Sue Ann Sellon
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62994-545-3
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 24, 2014

Sue Ann Sellon treats her readers to a heart-felt story of hope and new beginnings in her second novel, Secrets of the Porch.
Sophie Mae Randolph is sixteen-years-old and her life should be as carefree as her age. However, having never known her father and enduring the recent loss of her mother to cancer teaches Sophie life is hard. The only lesson it requires is to grow up too fast. The story begins with Sophie’s court date. After being caught robbing a gas station with her boyfriend, Gabe, the only way to avoid being sentenced to the juvenile detention center is to spend a year with her grandmother on her Nebraska farm and re-enroll in school. For most adolescents, this would be a sign come down from Heaven. As far as Sophie was concerned, it was a death sentence having never met her grandmother; let alone learning she even had one.

Reluctantly weighing the lack of options, Sophie opts for the year with Grandma. She is escorted out of the courtroom and delivered to Lila Mae Randolph—a woman with a tender demeanor and eyes that smile—definitely not what Sophie expected to see as she was turned over to her custody. The drive back to Lila’s Nebraska farm, for the most part, is uneventful. As far as Sophie was concerned, this was her destiny and once she had a plan, she would be out of there. What she didn’t expect was the outcome awaiting her arrival: a destiny with the promise of hope and new beginnings. In order to get there, however, it seems there are secrets both women must trust each other enough to tell before their truths can set them free.

Sue Ann Sellon has written a beautiful story that covers the essence of embracing love and acknowledging God’s constant vigil over all of His children. She is clearly connected to her faith and this resonates throughout the story. Ms. Sellon confidently guides her pen and proves this with her delivery of passage upon passage of powerful prose with more than a sublime insistence that we humans truly are not alone. One scene in particular speaks to the glory and essence of being guided to a love so strong and consuming because it was intended to be so: “...I felt like I had been blind before Charles entered my life, and now, I was finally alive. I had been reborn. Love had touched me. Love had saved me. Love is the greatest gift of all...I have been truly blessed...” One minor criticism, however, is the cover. Her synopsis, without question, captures the essence of the story. The title is intriguing. The cover, however, is displaced. While the imagery of the farm ties to the backdrop of the story, the watermark of (what appears to be teardrops) threw me. Where is the ‘porch’? I would caution Ms. Sellon to consider this for her next body of work. Covers really do matter. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing. Ms. Sellon has written an engaging story that encourages introspection and ‘feel good’ moments throughout.

Quill says: If the walls could talk (or in this case, the porch), how exhilarating the outcome once its ‘secrets’ have been told. 

For more information on Secrets of the Porch, please visit the book's website at:

Book Review - This Private Plot

This Private Plot: An Oliver Swithin Mystery 

By: Alan Beechey
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 9781464202407
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 24, 2014

In his latest mystery, The Private Plot, Alan Beechey delivers solid entertainment through the full-bodied voice and ample British whit of his main character, Oliver Swithin.
On a midnight romp and steps away from the highest point of the Common, Oliver Swithin and Effie Strongitham’s holiday getaway is about to take a drastic right turn. Not quite a destination resort, Synne did hold court to the landmark of the Shakespeare Race; a smattering of ground roughly 150 feet in diameter where the top surface of the “...chalky soil had been scraped away to leave a dozen concentric rings of dark grass, each a yard wide...” It was due to this very notion that Synne was able to capitalize on some of its necessary claim to Shakespearean connection.

Feeling frisky and far from sleep, Bestselling Finsbury the Ferret children’s story writer (and amateur sleuth) Oliver Swithin and love interest Scotland Yard’s Effie Strongitham venture out. What better locale than the Shakespeare Race to solidify Oliver’s intentions by week’s end—a proposal to his beloved Effie... or perhaps not. The moon is full and the setting, romantic and exhilarating at best. Long parted from their clothing, Oliver and Effie are about to get to it when they learn they are not alone. It seems Oliver’s parents were having trouble succumbing to slumber as well. The very thought of his naked parents romping the countryside in their under all is more than a mood killer for Oliver. To make matters worse, they stumble upon the corpse of retired radio broadcaster Dennis Breedlove swinging to and fro from the branch of the old gibbet. Was this suicide or perhaps not? Fortunate for Oliver, the love of his life was brilliant in her Scotland Yard abilities. Sadly, after initial investigation, Oliver finds himself wanting to investigate the possibility of murder while his beloved leans toward the obvious of suicide. The only concrete evidence ascertained that evening was lovemaking was off the table for the time being.

Alan Beechey sets the tone immediately and delivers the vital hook in any mystery within the first handful of pages: a body. Beechey sets the tempo with fluid cadence as he complements pace by peppering many a’ scene with delicious British humor and metaphor. He nails tongue in cheek flair from the onset as he writes nonsensical and conscious moodling thoughts coming from the mind of his Oliver Swithin. He writes of the oddities of a banana’s composition and in the next sentence he is redirecting his thoughts to his quest for his naked policewoman that he chases across a moonlit field. Bizarre, perhaps; but does it work? Absolutely! Beechey anchors the reader’s heart with the whimsy of Swithin and the reader is intrigued to turn the page and learn more. There are nearly 300 more pages of development of this luscious character to consume and Beechey does not disappoint. Beechey has imposed an engaging humorous slant in The Private Plot and is relentless in penning fantastic twists to the plot. He has littered his writing trail with breadcrumbs and is confident his readers will gobble them up to get to the conclusion—a conclusion that is wonderfully surprising and worth eating every ‘bread crumb’ to get there. Well done Mr. Beechey!

Quill says: The Private Plot is ‘Brit Whit’ at its finest and has a story line that makes page turning effortless!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Interview with Author Walter Todd

Today we're talking with Walter Todd, author of My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy

FQ: - Where did the idea of writing about a little shih tzu and his adventures come from? Have you written about dogs before?

TODD: The idea came after my daughter, Stacey Todd, became ill and I relocated from my residence in University Place, Washington to Los Angeles to help her during her illness. Loki is her stage name and she lived in an apartment in Hollywood with her two shi tzu dogs. Her illness affected her eyesight, so to keep busy, we decided to write books about her life with Burney.

FQ: I understand that Loki owns two shih tzus. Is that how you captured the personalities so well?


FQ: And is Burney based on one of her dogs?

TODD: Burney is the first shit tzu she owned after having had a cocker spaniel for over nine years followed by Buster a Sharpe. She had Buster for the four years before getting Burney.

FQ: Why set the story in Hollywood? What is it about the area that drew you?

TODD: Stacey (Loki) majored in theater and has been an actor and a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild for over 15 years. Writing about Burney and an actress was easy and since she lived this life. His personality makes writing about him easy.

FQ: What is it like to co-author a book? Do you meet/discuss/agree to write different parts of the story or work together on all sections? Tell our readers a little about the process.

TODD: When I relocated to Los Angeles, I rented a house in the Beverly Hills area close to the medical facilities and doctors that treated Stacey. She let her apartment go and moved in with me. We loved being co-author’s and living in the same house because I did most of the writing with her verbally providing me with the information. It was a very easy way to accomplish the co-author part of writing My Pack.

FQ: Who did the illustrations?

TODD: Ginger Triplett

FQ: The drawings are very nice and the gray tones work really well. How did you convey what you wanted to the illustrator? Did you discuss often?

TODD: The publisher put us in contact with Cheri Breeding via email and Stacey described the scene. Stacey was provided with the illustrator's drafts for approval and/or suggested changes. But for the illustration depicting the actress wearing glasses, we both were very happy with the final illustrations.

FQ: In the story Stacey takes Burney to her office. It seems that very few businesses allow this today, which is a shame. Have either of you held an office job where you were allowed to bring your dog? Did it work out well or did your dog get mischievous?

TODD: In this story, the office was either a reception area for an audition and animals were permitted, some because they were part of the audition. In another scene, the location was a film studio and pets or animals were part of a production. Stacey worked at Universal Studio’s in customs, bringing her puppy was fun but her boss advised her to stop because he could get hurt. There were many dangerous things occurring throughout the property everyday.

FQ: After a day at the beach, Stacey thought about how much joy Burney has brought to her life. Dogs are truly special; is this a message you’d like to pass along to your young readers?

TODD: Very much so and both of Stacey’s (Loki’s) dogs have been very much part of her dealing with her illness. They are loyal and loving. Comfort dogs to say the least.

FQ: Without giving the ending away, there is a move in the works for Stacey and Burney. Could this be, perhaps, a set-up for a sequel?

TODD: More sequels are planned and the next one is currently in development.

To learn more about My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review - My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy

My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy

By: Walter Todd and Loki Monroe
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: October 2013
ISBN: 978-1478705765
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 18, 2014

A cute little shih tzu puppy with attitude to burn, a Hollywood setting where just about anything can happen, and an owner who adores her dog, are the setting for My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy.

Burney begins his life in Minnesota, with his littermates and caring breeder. When it is time for the little puppy to find his forever home, he is moved to a pet store in Beverly Hills, CA. It's there that Stacey, a young, aspiring actress, spots the pup, hiding in the back of his cage. Their eyes meet, and Stacey knows that this is 'the one.' She quickly buys the shih tzu, brings him home to her apartment, and gets to know her new best friend.

Burney is lonely - he misses his siblings who have gone off to new homes. Soon, however, with Stacey's patience and love, Burney comes to think of her as his new pack. It isn't long before he will do anything for his beloved Stacey, and that includes chasing off some robbers!

Life with Burney is never dull, and so there's a lot of action packed into this 78-page chapter book. The puppy and his 'pack mate' go to the beach, explore Griffith Park, meet some interesting animals at an audition, and even get on a real studio set. Burney's playful curiosity gets the best of him when he meets a cat - whoops, that's not a cat and it smells! While investigating one day, Burney actually helps solve a crime. What a busy life this young pup has had!

My Pack: Burney the Hollywood Puppy was an enjoyable book with plenty of action to keep young readers interested. Burney was a sweet dog, and it was obvious that the authors had plenty of experience with shih tzus and the lovable personalities of these dogs was perfectly portrayed. Stacey, his owner, seemed at times a bit harried, much like a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood would be. Some of the terminology was a bit 'adult' [chick magnet, Kona coffee] and might require young readers to look words up (never a bad thing). The story did suffer somewhat from frequent typos and grammatical errors, and a good editor would go a long way to improving the reading. Overall, however, the story was fun and readers will undoubtedly fall in love with Burney.

Quill says: A sweet story, that with a little work, could be a top-notch, not-to-be-missed story.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review - Center of Gravity

Center of Gravity: One woman's experiment to reinvent her entire life through creativity, spirituality, and a leap of faith

By: Geva Salerno
Publisher: Levity Press
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-0991099412
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 2014

Perhaps when we begin to recognize and pinpoint the exact issues we are struggling with, it’s then we can begin to move forward. Geva Salerno was struggling with addiction, one whose tentacles began to eat into everything around her, including her relationship with her family. Everywhere she looked her addiction was staring her in the face, beckoning her to feast at the table. Geva need only spot a handsome man and her mind would begin to churn, thinking of a future with him, a possible marriage. Rationally her behavior was ridiculous, unconscionable, yet the addictive thoughts continued. Geva made up her mind to put a halt to this ever-churning nonsense, but asked herself “Would I really be able to break this addiction?”

Perhaps she could defeat her self-defeating addiction to dating and there was only one way to do it. Geva had to table dating and one solid year just might do it. She’d already married Carlos on a whim without really getting to know him and a quick divorce told her something. There would be no “Carlos situation” ever again if she could help it. “I have to get hold of my life,” Geva said to herself, but what to do? She began to explore the possibilities around her. It was imperative that she dump the neediness, her addictive need for men, and replace them with things that would add meaning to her life. “Mom, I’ve decided to take this year off from dating,” but Geva soon began to wonder if she could keep that promise to herself, let alone anyone else.

Geva began trying to reclaim herself by taking up guitar, trying to revitalize her interest in painting, becoming more active in drum circles, and taking spiritual vacations. Her roving eye quickly threatened to defeat her project as she spotted men who could easily be dating prospects. She couldn’t even seem to manage making it through that spiritual vacation without spotting a “possibility.” Geva later pondered the situation thinking, “What do they have that we need so badly that it throws off our center of gravity?” Her experiment seemed hopelessly doomed from the start with that seemingly endless addiction to dating. The months began to slowly creep by, months that sometimes felt as if she were climbing up the sheer face of a mountain. Would Geva plummet into a crevice of no return or would she discover herself in the process?

We’ve all had periods in our lives when we’ve had to step back and examine our behaviors and addictions, things that impact everything around us. It wasn’t particularly far into this book that I began to notice something. That something was that this book was written from the heart. Geva mentioned the fact that she’d explored the possibility of hiring a ghostwriter, but that would, in my estimation, have destroyed the journey. The book lacked the polish it might have had, but instead became quite poignant. It was as if Geva, through her journal entries and conversational style of writing, asked me to examine my own life. The more I read, the more I could relate. The beauty of this work was not to be found in the polish, but rather the shine.

The issue of one’s “center of gravity” and what that meant didn’t come up until the latter part of the book. This isn’t a book that I wanted to race through in a day or two, but rather one I chose to read slowly and think about. Geva mentioned that she’d get “these mad crushes, which last for a day or so and then disappear.” Trying to rid herself of this addiction was obviously not going to be easy. At times the reading seemed slow, but forced me to reflect upon what was going on in her life and how one journeys through the addictive process. There was and is a lot of pain trying to elude the grasp of addiction, but the honesty of Geva’s journey made the book all the more meaningful.

Quill says: If you too are struggling with addiction of any sort or want to change your life, perhaps taking a walk with Geva will help you move on.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Interview with Author Sande Boritz Berger

Today we're talking with Sande Boritz Berger, author of The Sweetness

FQ: Whenever I am asked to review a debut novel, I am intrigued by the author's choice of subject matter. What motivated you to write The Sweetness?

BERGER: The novel was originally called The Princess of Avenue T? its inspiration taken from my mother's family, who settled in Brooklyn in the early 1900's where they started a company that manufactured ties, moving on to bathing suits, and eventually ladies knitwear. I'd nearly completed an entire novel about a character who dreamed of fashion design, but because of the war her father, to her chagrin, yanked her out of school. Then one day while helping an elderly aunt sort through some of her papers, I found a bunch of old photographs. One was of the young girl that eventually became the cover of my book. Though I don't want to give away the story, and in truth I had to invent a great deal, once I saw that child's face, I had to create a parallel tale.

FQ: I compare Nazi Germany survivor's guilt to perhaps what returning soldiers' survivor's guilt must be like today. Charles Kane's character is full and rich and I am curious, is he fashioned after a real person?

BERGER: This family patriarch was also based on memories of my grandfather, who could be extremely loving or moody and often depressed. As one learns early on in The Sweetness, Charles Kane goes to Vilna to try and convince his brother to leave Europe, but his pleading failed. The family business became the diversion for all the guilt and suffering I believe. In reality, running a business seemed like pretty good self-punishment as I can recall many family squabbles over the years while growing up. And, because of the war, my mother was forced to give up her dreams of becoming a fashion designer.

Author Sande Boritz Berger

FQ: Did you travel abroad when you were developing The Sweetness and if so, where did you go? How did it add to your inspiration?

BERGER: Some years ago, while I was traveling through Prague and Hungary and Vienna, I had it into my head that I would stay away longer and fly to what is now known as Vilnius. Unfortunately, a very bad back combined with awful flying connections deterred me, and I returned home feeling rather sad. Once settled, I immersed myself in as much historical documents as I could find, which included testimony of Jewish people from the Nuremberg trials. Most of what I'd read solidified my need to complete my novel.

FQ: Was there a particular scene (or scenes) that was/were difficult to write given the subject matter? If so would you please share the experience?

BERGER: There were two scenes that were quite excruciating to write, and I felt my heart pumping so fast but I knew I just had to keep going because I was there, in the moment. I was both the writer and the witness to the fate of those in the story. There was a scene with Rosha, an early chapter, when she is handed over to the candle maker. And then again in a much later chapter, when Rena is very concerned because her sister JJ, newly married, has not shown up for work.

FQ: I found myself often reflecting on Anne Frank when reading The Sweetness and the association of her character with Rosha's. Was it intentional on your part to write the majority of this account through the eyes of a child and if so, why?

BERGER: I wanted to vary the voices of the two protagonists Rosha and Mira, as well as using the first person for Rosha and third person voice for Mira and the other characters. In reality the Rosha pages are much shorter than all the other chapters, but her voice I believe because of the contrast. One of the first books I'd read as a young girl was The Diary of Anne Frank who was older than Rosha but has similar curiosities about her world.

FQ: I applaud you for writing a story that covers one of the (if not the) most horrific events in history. As a writer myself, when I set pen to paper I have a clear vision of my intended audience. What specific audience did you have in mind when writing The Sweetness?

BERGER: Truthfully, if I thought about my audience, I think I would have limited myself somewhat. It's only after most of the book was written that I realized the audience could besides adults also include young adult readers.

FQ: What WWII body of literature speaks to you most and why?

BERGER: Although I might have answered this differently years ago, I am a big fan of The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, which tells the story of the adults and children at the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. William Stryon's exquisite book, Sophie’s Choice, which I read while getting my MFA, blew me away.

FQ: Even through the ravages of Nazi Germany, there is a sublime and constant element of hope in The Sweetness. Was it difficult for you to infuse this premise throughout the story given the subject matter?

BERGER: I think as I began to envision different endings for the novel as well as what might happen to each character, a sense of optimism seeped into the writing. Though I didn't plan this at all, I truly cared about these people and wanted them to somehow represent those themes of grief, healing and hope.

FQ: It was a pleasure to read your compelling novel. I'm hoping you are working on your next. If so, would you care to give a preview?

BERGER: Thank you! For several months I've been laboring over short memoir pieces and stories and am now pretty close to seeing a first draft of a memoir. The theme explores what it was like to grow-up in the 50's and 60's, the only daughter in a house with two rowdy brothers, a tough love Dad, and glamor girl Mom. A time when there were a lot of mixed messages for young girls. Some of the characters will definitely read familiar.

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

Interview with Author Cynthia Bardes

Today we're talking with Cynthia Bardes, author of Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum

FQ: This is the second book in your “Pansy” series, the first being Pansy at the Palace: A Beverly Hills Mystery. Where did the idea to write about an adorable toy poodle’s adventures come from?

BARDES: There were no mystery picture books for children 4-7 that I was aware of. Having been hit by a car and laid up after surgery, I decided to write a story. I live in a hotel so that was the inspiration for the first book.

FQ: The storybook Pansy is based on your real poodle Pansy. How much of the real Pansy finds her way into the stories?

BARDES: Pansy does roam the halls of the hotel and is very curious about everything.

FQ: Why Paris for your second book? Have you spent a lot of time in that beautiful city? And what drew you to wrapping the mystery around a museum?

BARDES: While a dress designer for 13 years, I spent a lot of time traveling to Paris. Art was also one of my majors at Sarah Lawrence College, I studied a lot of art history. Recently, I took my grand daughter Avery to Paris to visit museums. We then went to Venice and I just finished the third book, Pansy in Venice - a mystery which will be out in the fall of 2015.

FQ: Avery, the little girl in the story, is absolutely adorable. Is she based on anyone?

BARDES: Yes, my grand daughter, Avery.

FQ: I love the ‘Dog Day at the Museum’ event! Where did that idea come from?

BARDES: When I started writing the story, that was the first scene that came into my head. All the dogs in the scene were drawn from pictures of dogs belonging to close friends.

FQ: In the story, Avery and Pansy take a walking tour of Paris. It was fun and I believe teaches children a little about this amazing city. Was that your intent?

BARDES: Yes. I wanted to give the "feeling" of the city and keep it fun.

FQ: I understand that your illustrator, Virginia Best, also has poodles. Is that what brought the two of you together?

BARDES: We started working on layout and manuscript ideas together. I found out she was not only an abstract painter but had been a drawing major in college. The poodles were a bonus.

FQ: One thing I love about good children’s books is the way the illustrations help to tell the story. Would you tell our readers a little about the process? How do you and your illustrator, Virginia Best, work together? Do you make suggestions that she then interprets? Do you ask for specific details? Do you meet/discuss often?

BARDES: We start off by breaking up the text into pages. Then a rough concept sketch for each scene. More discussions, then a drawing. Any changes which are necessary are finished and then the color. We meet at least once a week (when in town) and email all the time.

FQ: Will Avery and Pansy be going on another adventure soon? If so, would you give our readers a little peek into what you have planned next for them?

BARDES: Yes, we are off to Vienna! There's an important parrot who disappeared.

To learn more about Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - Pansy in Paris

Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum

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

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

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

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

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


To learn more about Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum, please visit the book's website at:

Book Review - Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets

Written and Illustrated by: Russell Ince
Publisher: Waxcrayon Ltd
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-0957577091
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 14, 2014

Is Santa Claus real? Of course he is! Sometimes, however, in today’s high-tech, super-busy world, it’s hard to believe in Santa. Then there are the questions, so many questions! How, we wonder, could Santa possibly visit all the homes in the world in one night? How do reindeer fly? Does Santa really make all those toys? Fortunately, in Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, we’re given answers to those questions plus so much more.

For Christmas, 2012, author Russell Ince received a very special gift. On the mantelpiece above the fire was a letter … a letter from Santa Claus! Because Russell LOVED Christmas so much and did all he could to keep the spirit of the holiday alive all year, Santa chose him to learn the secrets of Santa Claus, his life, and how everything works at the North Pole. The best part? Russell has decided to share all those secrets with us!

The author begins his special book of secrets by explaining who Santa Claus really is and how he came to be the jolly red-suited man we all know. Nichlaus began his life as a simple toymaker, with the ability to make just about anything out of wood, toys being his favorite. At first he made toys for the wealthy children of his village, but soon he was making toys for every child, rich or poor. Nichlaus drew the attention of magical elves who lived deep in the woods, away from humans. The elves chose Nichlaus to bring gifts to children, not just of his village, but to the entire world! This they knew would help spread peace, love and joy; something the world truly needed. In exchange, Nichlaus and his wife would be given the same, very long lives that the elves enjoyed.

From here, Santa shares many secrets – how the post office works, who his helpers are, how the naughty and nice list is created, how he slips into houses, to name just a few. Everything a child might ask about Santa Claus is explained in this book and children will, no doubt, delight in the explanations. It is obvious that this book is a true labor of love as the illustrations, that are absolutely stunning, are meticulous in detail and no doubt took a very long time to create. There is a fair amount of text and the font used is rather small so younger children (up to ~ age 7) will need help. Perhaps one chapter (they range from one to two pages each) a night leading up to Christmas, with the whole family participating, will help build excitement. The stories are fun and magical, sure to capture the attention of those who believe in Santa as well as those who might be starting to doubt his existence.

Quill says: Destined to become a family tradition at Christmas, Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets needs to be on your Christmas list. Start the tradition this year!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review - The God Squad in an Episode of Mission Him-Possible the Distorted Mirror

The God Squad in an Episode of Mission Him-Possible the Distorted Mirror 

By: Darlene Laney
Publisher: Halo Publishing International
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1612442976
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 2014

Young girls today are facing an amazing onslaught of pressure to be super cool, wear the 'right' clothes, look like the Hollywood ideal, and grow up much too fast. Whether coming from peers or the media, this pressure is intense and many tweens and teens are unable to deal with the pressure. That's where author Darlene Laney, and her 'God Squad' of six awesome girls come in - through the experiences of these youngsters, readers will get ideas on how to cope.

As the story opens, we meet six young ladies - Mia (who helps tell the story), Chris, Angel, Eve, Sadie and Jade. These friends go to Carver Preparatory School and range in age from 12 to 15. All six of these main characters had some "issues" in the past, dealing with body image, and how they saw a distorted view of themselves. Thanks to the efforts of their mentor, and counselor, Ms. Foster, they have learned that they are all special, and of their Heavenly Father's unconditional love. The girls still meet regularly with Ms. Foster in a place they call their 'Sanctuary,' and discuss issues important to them all. They have also dubbed their group the 'God Squad' and with Ms. Foster's help, and their official roles as peer mentors, the girls are eager to reach out to others who have distorted images of themselves.

One day Ms. Foster calls a meeting of the God Squad to discuss another student at Carver Prep who needs their help. Kelsey Blake is somebody who has problems that just might spin out of control. Mia is the first one to talk with Kelsey, and it's in a rather unexpected place. When Mia checks a restroom before class to make sure no girls are hanging around, planning on skipping class, she comes upon a girl hidden in one of the stalls, throwing up. Mia doesn't realize it's Kelsey, but as a peer mentor, she knows it is important to get this girl to the nurse's office.

Kelsey is a girl who hangs with the popular kids. She wears the latest fashions, slathers tons of makeup on her face, dyes her hair and has even had a little cosmetic surgery. She doesn't get along with her mother and as the members of the God Squad soon discover, truly has a low self-image. The girls have their work cut out for them!

Mia and her friends eventually convince Kelsey to have lunch at their table, although Kelsey's popular friends, led by the unlikeable Eva, warn her to stay away from the 'Jesus Freaks.' Fortunately, the power of prayer, and God's eternal love, win out over the negativity of Eva. However, old habits are hard to break and when a Bible study session goes awry, Kelsey runs back to her old friends. The God Squad gang is devastated, but they have to put their fears aside, and use the power of prayer to help Kelsey when she follows Eva into a really bad situation.

The author, Darlene Laney, who found a new life, a new purpose, and a new calling when she found Christ Jesus, wants to share her message with young girls. With a master's degree in Education-Counseling, she has put her knowledge to work by counseling tweens and teens. Laney has put together a 'Color Me Beautiful Etiquette and Social Skills Development Program,' (see for more information), to help girls improve their self-esteem. Sometimes however, the best way to reach a young girl is via a book where the reader can see other kids in similar circumstances work to resolve their problems. Mia and the other girls at Carver Preparatory certainly have their problems and Laney does a wonderful job of showing readers what can happen through the power of prayer, love, friendship, and most importantly, faith in our Lord Jesus. To quote Eve, "God don't make no junk!" and this book helps youngsters realize that "God made them with a specific purpose in mind."

Quill says: Good kids, sharing God's message of love and acceptance, make this book a winner. 

For more information on The God Squad in an Episode of Misson Him-Possible the Distorted Mirror, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - TIME for Kids Book of Why - Stellar Space

TIME For Kids Book of Why - Stellar Space 

By: Editors of TIME for Kids Magazine
Publisher: Time For Kids
Publication Date: May 2014 (reprint)
ISBN: 978-1603209854
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 2014

If you have a little time on your hands (pun intended) and really want to be up on those little odd facts about planet Earth, space, and tech-like stuff, you’ll love making your way through this eye-popping book. First, you’ll learn about our planet, including some flip-flop facts like how it can be wintertime in one part and summertime in another. Oh, and then there are those time zones. Then you’ll shoot out through our atmosphere into the planets and stars. Speaking of the word 'shoot,' you’ll even learn about shooting stars. Last, but not least, there’s the technology section where you can take a look at some interesting and strange, but true, facts. I always wondered why I could see my reflection in a mirror and now I know.

You probably know that tornadoes are dangerous, but do you know that people get sick whenever a volcano erupts? That makes volcanos dangerous critters. They can emit ash and dust that “can harm drinking water, and create volcanic smog call ‘vog.’” Now ‘vog’ is probably a new one on you! In the section about space you’ll learn the reason stars twinkle. You probably learned that in a kindergarten song, but in this book you’ll get the facts, the real ones. Lots of people are techies, but it’s the old-fashioned stuff that might amaze you. Do you know why people have red eyes in photographs? It’s because ... well, I guess if you want to know that you should read about it in this “fact-cinating” book!

This Book of Why is far from boring. The layout has great kid appeal, but very few grownups would be able to pass it by without taking a look. I know I did and couldn’t put it down until the very last page. Now that page was a colorful one and I learned all about crayons, colored pencils, and ink. Full-color photographs swirl through these pages, with a few action-oriented ones like that massive tornado and a daredevil surfer riding a wave. Do you want to know why Tornado Alley gets pummeled with tornadoes? I did. Interested in knowing how sinkholes form? Ever wonder why you can see the moon during the day now and then? You’ll find the answers to these questions and many, many more in this fabulously funtastic book. In the back of the book you’ll find an index, a glossary, and additional book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is a funtastic book of space facts the young reader will love!

Book Review - TIME for Kids - Amazing Sports and Science

TIME For Kids Book of Why - Amazing Sports and Science 

By: Editors of TIME for Kids Magazine
Publisher: Time for Kids
Publication Date: May 2014
ISBN: 978-1603209861
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 12, 2014

If you have a little time on your hands (pun intended) and love sports and science, you’ll love making your way through this eye-popping book. First up you’ll be treated to a bit of sports and then some science. If you’re a sharp thinker, you could even think of ways you could combine them. Perhaps you run in the opposite direction when someone offers you a jalapeño pepper. The running might be the sports part, but “why does eating a hot pepper burn my tongue?” is the science part. You’ll learn several interesting facts about capsaicin, the h-o-t part of that jalapeño. The capsaicin doesn’t bother birds though and you’ll read about one interesting thing that happens when they snag those hot peppers.

Back to the sports section. Perhaps you are into baseball and want to know a few interesting facts about Honus Wagner. If you’ve ever seriously collected baseball cards you may or may not know that his is the rarest of the rare. Just why is laid out right in this book. I’ll only give you one hint and that’s that Honus played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. No, it’s not a good hint and you’ll just have to read this book to find out just why that card is so collectible. I will tell you that there were a couple of one-armed pitchers, Pete Gray and Jim Abbott. One played for the St. Louis Browns and the other for the New York Yankees. If you guessed who played for which team, you just might be correct. That’s just one more interesting fact in this “fact-cinating” book!

This Book of Why is far from boring. The layout has great kid appeal, but very few grownups would be able to pass it by without taking a look. I know I did and couldn’t put it down until the very last page. Now that page told me a lot about HDTV and standard TVs. I’m now in the know, but not just about television. Full-color photographs swirl through these pages, many of them action-oriented while some are totally hot (think jalapeño here). Do you want to know who the fastest human was and is? Now just why does that baseball curve? How come we can stretch a rubber band way out and it returns to it’s original shape? You’ll find the answers to these questions and many, many more in this fabulously funtastic book. In the back of the book you’ll find an index, a glossary, and additional book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: The is a funtastic book of sports and science facts the young reader will love!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review - The Sweetness

The Sweetness 

By: Sande Boritz Berger
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-63152-907-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 10, 2014

Sande Boritz Berger delivers a poignant account of the horrors and devastation resulting from the 1941 German invasion of the Vilna (Vilnius) Ghetto in her debut novel, The Sweetness.
It is 1941 in Vilna (Vilnius) Lithuania and 'evil' is a word that does not come close to describing what is happening to an entire population of innocents. The Germans are closing in with their mission to destroy the course and lives of an entire civilization. It is here where we meet eight-year-old Rosha. Perched by the curtains in her family’s living room, Rosha does not understand why her Bubbe insists she move away from the window for fear 'they might see you.' It is Friday night and Mordecai, Rosha’s Poppa, is late. Rosha does not understand why Mama and Bubbe are upset. She thinks about the random conversations among the adults-whispers between the butcher and his patrons, the '...dry clacking sounds of people’s tongues. When they whisper, their heads shake and their smiling eyes turn dark. All of this makes me think I am not paying good enough attention...' It is nearly sundown. Mama worries and wonders if Mordecai forgot what day it was and the necessity for him to be home now.

In the same lifetime and thousands of miles away in Brooklyn, New York, Rosha has a cousin, Mira Kane. Poppa’s brother and sisters left Vilna behind to make their new life in America. Mordecai was to join his brother Charles (and his wife, Ina), but he wasn’t ready to go with them and leave his Vilna roots quite yet. Like many immigrants who fled to America in the ‘40s, Charles was one of the fortunate survivors. His hard work and persistence paid off. He owned a successful business in the garment district—his signature production, sweaters. His daughter Mira has bigger dreams than a life of factory work in her father’s business. Living a life of privilege gained her entry into the prestigious designer school and her future was pointed toward Hollywood. Her design talents would pave the way. Unbeknownst to any of the Kane family members, the 1941 Nazi invasion of Vilna would be the catalyst to drastically change the course of each life of every Kane family member.

Ms. Berger has captured the essence of conflict between Charles Kane’s survivor’s guilt and Rosha’s innocence of youth as she compares the circumstances between one family’s choice to stay as the other flees. While the tone is not maudlin, Berger’s voice resonates across the pages with a deep and soulful pain as she depicts the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Vilna Ghetto. It is clear she did her research given she infused historical information and tied her story line to actual events with the backdrop of an epically tragic time in history. Berger has created wonderful flow and rich character development. Nonetheless, I found it difficult to read at times because The Sweetness is yet another reminder of the absolute evil humankind is capable of delivering. However, it is because of this very sentiment I give Ms. Berger tremendous props for taking on such a topic and her ability to deliver it with tenderness. Without spelling it out, she left this reader with the thought: "We must never forget..." Congratulations Ms. Berger; truly a beautiful story.

Quill says: There is bitter sweetness in The Sweetness, but the prospect of hope balances the flavor of comfort this story delivers.

Interview with Author James Conroyd Martin

Today we're talking with James Conroyd Martin, author of The Warsaw Conspiracy

FQ: The Warsaw Conspiracy was a book filled with the rich, historical details of the Polish people. Is there a specific reason you tend to lean toward this subject (i.e.: Polish Trilogy/Push Not the River), even though you, yourself, are not of Polish descent?

MARTIN: You could say it was fate that led me to write historical novels set in Poland. Many years ago, a good friend asked me to read his ancestor's diary. Anna was a young countess in Poland at a critical moment in history. It was a fascinating read and changed the course of my life. Her diary was transformed into Push Not the River.
FQ: You are both an American historical fiction author and teacher; therefore, is historical fiction the genre you wish to remain in, or are there others you would like to explore?
MARTIN: I have just retired from teaching, so I am going to be writing full time. I am working on another historical set in Poland, one that explores the Battle of Vienna in 1683. That battle occurred on September 11-12 as the Turks attempted to take the city and all of Europe. The Turks' loss then may be the reason why they chose 9-11 in 2001. As for other genres, the paranormal interests me.

FQ: The family saga is definitely a difficult plot to write. Each character must offset the other, and a wide, grand range of opinions, strengths, and battles between loving someone and having to dislike them at times, is a balancing act. Were you a fan of that type of intricate storytelling before becoming a historical fiction author? 
MARTIN: Yes, I think I read a number of multi-viewpoint stories and so felt comfortable with that format. In working with Push Not the River, my source was, of course, a single viewpoint diary and I tried to keep to that. However, I felt it too constricting and wanted to get into the minds of Anna’s scheming cousin Zofia, her Aunt Stella, and her love interest, Jan. In due time, the story became a four-character viewpoint telling.

FQ: Do you have a mentor who gave you the inspiration to move forward with a writing career? Along that same line, was there a teacher who inspired you to delve into education? 
MARTIN: As far as teaching, all my teachers inspired me along the way. Regarding writing, there is one particular person who moved me forward inspirationally. After years of working in a vacuum on Push, I sent it to the great science fiction writer, Piers Anthony, who told me he would read it but that he almost never puts his name to others' books. In part, this is what he wrote back after reading it: "I am profoundly impressed. [Your story] is a well-written historical romance with all the elements of love, scheming, violence, irony, and tragedy to provide impact ... It left me aching to know more of the subsequent life of Anna ..." Piers gave me my first blurb, but more importantly, he validated years of struggle.

FQ: As a teacher, is there any advice you would give to a student of history who may perhaps be looking for a future career in writing?
MARTIN: In teaching my creative writing course, I encouraged students to read, read, read. To find the authors they would like to emulate and read all their works. So, to the writer of historicals, I would add histories to that admonition.

FQ: I always ask this one question of everyone: If you could have dinner with a writer (or even a historical character), alive or dead, who would that be and why?

 MARTIN: Somerset Maugham, I think. Of Human Bondage had a huge impact on me in college, and I think he led an immensely interesting life.

FQ: Can you tell readers what the next project is that you are either working on or thinking about?
MARTIN: Before I finish the Battle of Vienna story, I will be publishing a ghost story with a unique aspect to it (no spoiler here). It's called Hologram: A Haunting and I hope to see it arrive on the scene in late July or August, if not before.

FQ: Do you have a particular time in history that you would like to explore? 
MARTIN: The times are many, the places more limited. I’d like to finish something I started on sixth century Constantinople and also explore my own ancestral roots in Ireland and Norway.

To learn more about The Warsaw Conspiracy please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.