Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Review - Natalie's Art

Natalie’s Art: Frank Renzi Book 5

By: Susan Fleet
Publisher: Music and Mayhem Press
ISBN: 978-0-9847235-7-7
Published: November 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 29, 2014

Susan Fleet quickly ramps up the action in the latest edition of her Frank Renzi Crime Series, Natalie’s Art.

Thanks to an art heist gone bad in Boston in 2008, Art thief Natalie Brixton (Valerie) had to reinvent herself after shooting former Boston cop, Frank Renzi. In a London museum in June, 2010, Valerie surfaces. After fleeing Boston, Valerie landed in Paris and became a high class call girl. That was just the beginning of her new life. Lucky for her, reclusive and diabolical mastermind, Londoner Jonathan Pym discovers Valerie, and decides to rescue her. He moves her to London to be with him full time and perhaps now, Valerie’s permanent ‘do-over’ has begun. However, this one comes with a price—a price that places her not only under the constant and watchful eye of Pym, but in a situation where every decision she wants to make would be made for her.

It was no coincidence Valerie was hand-picked by Pym. It would seem Pym had done his homework and learned she had stellar talent when it came to stealing coveted and iconic art. Ironically, Pym loved priceless art. While Valerie's ‘job’ proved to be nerve-wracking, what made it worse was her soulless partner in crime, Steven Haas (Gregor). Valerie maintained certain standards. Under no circumstances would she kill any of the victims subjected to their life of thievery. Sadly, when forced to make the choice between freedom and killing a witness at the behest of Gregor, Valerie raised her Beretta, pointed and shot. With no time to waste, she grabbed the Rembrandt and was gone in the wind...

What I always find fascinating about a superbly written crime series is the non-stop twists and turns of plot that begins on page one and continues to ramp and accelerate with the turn of each page. Susan Fleet has mastered this concept. From the onset of Natalie’s Art, there is a ‘come hither’ nuance that Fleet pens through word placement that translates to: 'Hold on, pay attention, you’re about to go on an amazing adventure!' Ms. Fleet adeptly applies a unique personality for each of her characters to assume and own; yet, she leaves a bit up to the imagination of her reader to fill in the blanks toward finishing touches. The pace and tone is set immediately in Natalie’s Art and the subject matter is interesting. The dialogue is crisp and without question, believable. The plot? Well, who doesn’t like a twisting and turning plot that focuses on the ‘kidnapping’ of iconic works of breathtaking art? Fleet’s backdrop places the reader teetering back and forth between two continents, oceans apart and confidently sets credible scenery in each set up that supports the non-stop action. This is the fifth book in her Frank Renzi crime series. What Natalie’s Art did for me was to convince me to take a wander back to the beginning of this series and read the first four leading up to this one! Well done Ms. Fleet. I look forward to your next novel.

Quill says: Natalie’s Art is a fast-paced, action-packed read that will have you cheering for the bad guy (girl, in this case) as much as the cop who’s life mission it is to catch his alluring thief!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review - Double Cover

Double Cover

By: Sherban Young
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: July 2011
ISBN: 978-1463724849
Review Date: November 2014
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld

Murder, mayhem, and comedy, all nicely wrapped up and contained on a small island resort in Connecticut, are the backdrops for a book that takes two minor characters from another of the author’s series, throws them together and produces hysterical results.

Thomas Redding, a rather unpleasant but fairly wealthy tycoon, has called a corporate retreat at the Berwald Island Inn, a charming hotel tucked away on the small island community of Berwald Island, CT. Complete with a really annoying motivational speaker, Redding expects attitudes to improve and sales to climb after the extended meetings. Unfortunately, as the story opens, we meet Redding, er, actually it would be more accurate to say, we learn of his early demise. It seems he’s been whacked by one of his antique golf clubs.

Redding must have known that he wasn’t a popular guy because prior to being murdered, he had hired a bodyguard. Handsome, buff Warren Kingsley might call himself a bodyguard, but it seems most of his clients end up dead, including Redding. Now certain that the killer is after him, Kingsley hires his own bodyguard, Borodin Mahrute. Together, the two bodyguards work to solve the crime and get sidetracked by other, more pressing things, such as making soup!

Kingsley makes fun of the local inhabitants, including Sheriff Ernest Ballard, although Kingsley seems to have mastered the art of ‘bumbling’ all by himself. Forced to stay on the island until the murder is solved, Kingsley and the other guests at the hotel quickly become bored. Together with his bodyguard Mahrute, and another employee of Redding’s, Harvard Blake, Kingsley stumbles upon clues and manages to get attacked by a masked thug, shot at, and pursued by a woman who has love on her mind (or could it be murder?).

I absolutely loved this murder mystery, and read it in one sitting. More than just a fun story, this book is about the odd mix of people staying at the inn and those living in the close-knit community of Berwald Island. The author has a real talent for bringing his characters to life and this goes well beyond the main characters of Kingsley and Mahrute. Judy the motivational speaker, Vanessa the seductress from somewhere overseas (Romania? Bulgaria? Kingsley just can’t place that accent…), and Trevor, the handyman who can’t change a light bulb to save his life, all play intertwined and comedic roles in the story. The dialogue is snappy, clever, and there’s at least one laugh per page. The murder seems to be solved about three-quarters of the way through the book, but don’t assume you know everything till that last chapter. Overall, a very satisfying way to spend several hours cuddled up on your sofa.

Quill says: Meet Kingsley and Mahrute, the new dynamic duo of comedic murder mysteries. See how they got started and I guarantee you’ll be laughing all the way to the last page.

For more information on Double Cover, please visit the author's website at:

Book Giveaway Ends Soon

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Book Review - Cattle Kate

Cattle Kate

By: Jana Bommersbach
Illustrated By: Patrick Cheung
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 9781464203022
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: November 26, 2014

There are countless tales and stories pertaining to the settling of the American West that bring to life the exciting adventures of chasing outlaws and bringing them to justice. One such tale was of 'Cattle Kate.' In newspapers the tale of Cattle Kate was one that presented her as a notoriously terrible woman who rustled cattle from the neighboring ranches but the true story was all together different. In this novel, Cattle Kate by Jana Bommersbach, a completely different view is told and unfortunately in this story there is no sign of justice.

The girl who was known after her death as Cattle Kate was born Ellen Watson in Canada and was the first born in a long line of children for the Watson family. For many years Ellen’s mother and father debated about moving into Kansas where the United States government was offering homesteads to families if they lived on the land for five years and made improvements during that time. Ellen’s father was for the idea but her mother continued to believe that Kansas was no place to raise a family as she had heard about the threat of Indians and the uncivilized behavior that ran rampant. However, the decision was finally made to move to Kansas and Ellen could not have been more excited to start this new journey with her family. While in Kansas Ellen married a man named William Pickell and thought all was well until he became abusive. It did not take long before Ellen knew she could not stay with this man. She left him behind and decided that she would start over by changing her name to Ella and moving to Wyoming.

In Wyoming Ella had the dream to own her own homestead and her own cows but she quickly learned that being a woman made that extremely difficult. One man, who was particularly difficult was a prominent rancher in the area named A.J. Bothwell. He consistently harassed Ella, trying to run her off her land in any way he could. However, Ella was determined to stay for she had earned this homestead honestly and she was not about to let some power hungry rancher take it away from her. Unfortunately she did not realize how far one man will go to get what he wants especially a terrible man like A.J. Bothwell.

As soon as I heard the title of this book I wanted to read it because I knew that it would be related to cattle and ranching and both of those things are something I hold dear. Throughout this book I was easily able to relate to Ellen/Ella Watson as that independent, determined spirit - something I greatly respect. I enjoyed every bit of this story as Jana Bommersbach brought to life not only the history but the emotion of Ella as she tried to make it in an untamed land. In addition, the historical facts at the end of the novel were great as they helped to tie everything together.

Quill says: A wonderfully written story that uncovers a dark tale of the American West.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nominate YOUR Book!

Awards Sell Books!  Wouldn't you like to put this award seal on your book?  Time is running out for this year's nominations.  Learn more here:

We also offer numerous special awards such as the Feathered Quill's "We Love Animals!" Award - Two winners will be selected for this award - the top placing books in categories 19 and 20, Best Animal - Children's and YA; Best Animal - Adult (both fiction and non-fiction). Each winner will receive a Spotlight (front page) review and author interview with links to the book's (or author's) website. Review and interview will also be posted to our blog, twitter account, Facebook page, and In addition, the review will be posted to Barnes& and Google Books (if the book is listed on those sites). If the book has already received a review from Feathered Quill, we will move that review to our main page for not less than two weeks. - $125 value

and the 

BestsellersWorld Award for Best Romance - This award includes an author page on the site and the book and synopsis added to the Featured Books page for 10 days. - $125 value

and how about the

Polka Dot Banner Award for Best Self-Help - The Polka Dot Banner, the book visibility site, will provide the winner of this category with a one-year Pro-Promoter profile that includes: a front page book cover ad, top-of-the-page banner, Featured Author interview, book cover ad, a top-of-every-page mini book icon, Platinum Authors highlight page placement, special easy-access browse tab to your book, and access to all available profile tabs. (See site for complete details of this option.) - $169 value

There's no additional charge for these special awards.  Learn more at:

Book Review - Tending Fences

Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul

By: Terry Barnett-Martin
Publisher: True Purpose Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9910727-6-7
Published: May 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 25, 2014

Terry Barnett-Martin’s Tending Fences is a body of work that places the focus on relationship boundaries. She enlisted the talents of Sue Eberhardt’s whimsical sketches throughout the book and introduces Avery Soul, her character ‘sage.’ Through a series of chapters devoted to a multitude of circumstances for the reader to consider, Martin imparts Avery’s wisdom and knowledge of navigating life’s waters and the necessity and importance of establishing boundaries along the way.

Before getting into the meat of the matter, Ms. Martin presents a definition of fences and how her interpretation equates to the concept of boundaries we humans establish: “A fence is defined as a 'barrier that encloses,' with synonyms that include: to protect, fortify, and secure. Fences also represent connectors that provide healthy conjunctions and most importantly, a sense of security. Built with self-respect and regard for self and others, fences are the cornerstones to healthy relationships and deep peace of mind...” Without further adieu, Martin opens with her first chapter titled “The Roof.”

In the first chapter, the author takes the reader through Avery Soul’s dilemma of living in a home that has a roof in extreme disrepair. He’s all but run out of buckets to catch the water that leaks from every orifice of his roof. The greater concern is if he doesn’t come up with a solution, the interior of his humble abode will be ruined by the constant deluge of falling rain. Avery attempts repairs on his own to no avail. When his neighbor calls out to him he is startled and nearly falls to a catastrophic landing. It would seem his neighbor has a solution for Avery. She hands him Theo Sage’s business card-a man experienced in roof repairs and general construction. Avery gratefully accepts the offer and between the two, not only does he learn the intricacies of roof repair, but the skills needed to repair the interior damage sustained from the faulty roof. The greater lesson he has learned, however, is the concept of accepting help when it is offered. As the series of chapters unfold, Martin guides the reader through a myriad of situations ranging from coping with opinionated people to accepting unexpected tragedy. There are lessons to be learned in each chapter, but not in a preachy fashion.

Terry Barnette-Martin’s approach is a simple and logic-based body of work. She sets up each chapter with a situation her character, Avery Soul, must not only face head-on, but he must also engage his mind and senses to navigate the challenge in order to arrive at the solution. With each problem Martin presents, her voice is established as one that is nurturing and encouraging; willing the reader to process alternatives and possible solutions to arrive at a place where he or she is content and able to move on to the next ‘test’ in life. Martin’s tone affirms the premise we live in a time when humans are faced with either conflict or challenge at every juncture in his or her life. Her astute training in relationship counseling and intuition resonates throughout this body of work. She provides sublime assurances to her audience with a plethora of useful tools and suggestions to use in order to navigate the complexities and demands day-to-day life is capable of presenting.

Quill says: Tending Fences is a quick read filled with guidance and tools to use in building healthy fences that can provide a lifetime of balance and inner strength.

For more information on Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul, please visit the book's website at:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's this week's look at some of the books that have come in for review.  Check them out!

Double Cover: A Warren Kingsley Mystery by Sherban Young Corporate tycoon Thomas Redding is dead, murdered by way of antique golf club during his firm's company retreat. His bodyguard, Warren Kingsley, is certain the killer is gunning for him now. With a list of suspects as long as a corporate tax return, and a small town sheriff well over his head in the investigation, Warren knows he has only one option to keep from ending up like his late client: hire his own bodyguard. Together the pair will sift through the evidence - dodging femme fatales, murderous impostors and motivational speakers - eventually uncovering a devious killer; not to mention stumbling on the recipe for the perfect bowl of chowder.  

Love, Regret and Accidental Nudity: My True Stories, Unusual Circumstances, Unpredictable Outcomes by Mariana Williams Why do I suppose my life is fascinating enough to write about? Love? Hmm, between my mom, dad and myself, we’ve racked up thirteen marriages—if not romantic, certainly optimistic. Regret? Well, if embarrassing, eye-squinting, throat closing, breathless, cringing describes it…I’ve got a few tales to tell, like budget plastic surgery and herding roaches at a party. Accidental nudity? My nudity is about as spontaneous as a space shuttle launch—even so, there’s still the unexpected.

Christmas Desserts by Laura Powell Sweeten up your holidays with Christmas Desserts! With this delicious collection of 20 seasonal recipes, you'll enjoy treats like Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares, Chewy Popcorn Balls, Eggnog Cookies, and more! Not only does this affordable, full-color pamphlet make the perfect gift for neighbors, coworkers, and friends, but these festively flavored recipes will soon become family favorites.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review - Herald of the Flame

Herald of the Flame: Book Two of the Rising Flame Series 

By: Sylvia Engdahl
Publisher: Ad Stellae Books
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-0692293768
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 2014

“I’m not some sort of superman...I’m merely a star pilot who happens to have some uncommon mind skills…” explains Terry Steward to some new friends mid-way through Herald of the Flame. As the reader will have already learned, however, Terry is selling himself short - he just might be the savior of the human race.

As the story opens, we meet Terry Radnor who is using the name Terry Steward to protect himself from his many enemies. The reader is given the backstory on Terry, once a respected Fleet officer, who was gifted with extraordinary psi skills and had been trained on the planet of Maclairn, where a secret colony of people existed who encouraged psi skills. He was imprisoned on Ciencia for encouraging people to hope, hope for ending the repressive government rule that they lived under, to change the censorship laws, to live freely and develop their own psi skills. He had been arrested, jailed, escaped and while on his way back to Maclairn, had discovered that his passengers were terrorists bent on destroying that secret colony. With no real options, he crashed his ship, killing all the passengers and almost perishing himself. The Elders, aliens unknown to all but Terry, had saved his life and now he was free to travel in his spaceship Estel.
Now, before Terry makes his permanent escape from the dreary, always overcast planet of Ciencia, he seeks out Alison Willard, the woman he loves. Together with Jon Darrow, a top-notch pilot, and Gwen Morrell, a maintenance engineer, they take flight to spread hope to other planets. The problem is, some people, particularly those in power, will do whatever they can to stop Terry. It doesn’t help that Terry broadcasts a message throughout Ciencia as they fly away to encourage dissent against the tyrannical government.

Faking an accident in the hopes that their pursuers will think they all died, the small crew destroys the Bonanza, their temporary ship, board the Estel, and head into deep space. Using smuggling as their cover, Terry and the others visit various worlds to bring the future he foresaw to all humankind. That future? A time where the powers of the human mind are accepted by all, where once those abilities are fully developed by everybody, the oppressors will no longer be able to maintain their control.

Herald of the Flame follows Terry as he travels to various planets, smuggling some interesting cargo, while he and the others hack the ‘net’ on these worlds to bring their message to the people. Messages soon go viral which is, of course, what they want, but it also brings out the government agents who will do anything to maintain power. Danger is in abundance, with many close escapes as well as tragedy for the crew.
Having not read the first book in this series, Defender of the Flame, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get caught up in the story. Actually, the prologue had me intrigued and I was hooked within a few pages. There was a bit of a lull in the action while Terry explained to Alison and Jon (and by default, the reader) what had happened to him prior to their meeting (book 1) but once that’s done, the book takes off and gives the reader a very satisfying ride. There were some very clever (or more accurate - cool!) events such as Terry getting caught via a force field that allows people to enter but not exit, the colony world of New Afrika which was settled by emigrants from Africa, and how Terry could use his psi to help ease a person’s pain level, all of which kept me intrigued and wanting to find out what else was in store.

Although the ‘cool’ concepts were fun, the real draw of this novel were the parallels it drew to today’s society. The whole idea of an oppressive government taking control seems all too real. At one point, Terry noted, “People sometimes vote away their own freedom...and I see nothing wrong in attempts to make them aware of that...people being harassed, even killed, because they believe unorthodox ideas…” (pg. 185) We also meet an ‘evolved’ Ku Klux Klan that has brought hate to a whole new level. What has happened through people’s complacency, and how Terry and his friends fight to right it, will have you turning pages quickly.

Quill says: A futuristic ride that has many parallels in today’s society. This is a ‘thinking man’s’ science fiction book – the type we need more of today!

Book Review - A Love Letter From God

A Love Letter from God 

By: P.K. Hallinan
Illustrated by: Laura Watson
Publisher: Ideals Childrens Books
Publication Date: December 2014
ISBN: 978-0824956622
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 21, 2014

What would God tell you if He wrote you a love letter? Would He speak of games, or bright sunny days? I bet God would tell you of his undying love. In this fabulous new book, best-selling author P.K. Hallinan imagines what God would tell a child in a love letter.

I love you, My Child!
What more can I say?
To Me, you are Perfect in every way!

So begins this wonderful children’s book. Told in simple rhyme, the ‘letter’ tells of God’s undying, unconditional love. With songbirds, flowers, and rainbows, through a picnic at the beach and an evening watching the stars through a telescope, God assures the reader that his love is everywhere. He tells how He will send the sunrise to brighten the morning hours and will hold the stars up in the sky to show the might of His love. While struggles may come, God assures the reader that He will always be there to make YOU strong!

Perfectly told, and beautifully illustrated, A Love Letter from God is a treasure. Young readers will easily understand the text and the message of God’s undying love comes through loud and clear. The pages are of a nice thick stock which will make it hard for little hands to bend on the first reading. An added bonus is that each page has ‘die-cut’ shapes that give a peek of what is on the next page.

Quill says: Another fantastic book from P.K. Hallinan that beautifully shares the love God has for all his children.

Book Review - What the Lady Wants

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age 

By: Renee Rosen
Publisher: New American Library
Publish Date: November 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-46671-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 19, 2014

Retail legend Marshall ('Marsh') Field is Renee Rosen's anchor character in her wonderfully engaging epic saga and latest novel, What the Lady Wants.
Nineteenth century Chicago is well underway in its transformation of becoming the proving grounds of some of the most notable success stories in America's 'Gateway to Empire.' It is 1871 and the night before the infamous Chicago fires--an inferno that would level the world of society's famous and certainly most fortunate. Delia Spencer's and Marshall Field's worlds are about to collide. Something as simple as her search for silver hair combs to complete her languish outfit for a party the following evening would be the beginning of their lives together in a truly unconventional way for decades to come.

Chicago's elite are enjoying the finer things in life. In the distance, the land is ablaze with the approaching fires. Earlier in the evening the Spencer sisters had nothing more to worry about than preening and primping for the event of the season. Palmer house was hosting a party. Abby Spencer was all but betrothed to Augustus which left Delia ('Dell'), the last of the Spencer sisters to marry off. An explosion rocks the festivities and the sight of the blaze is rapidly approaching their safe haven. Chicago is ablaze and the formidable fire is proving it isn't selective toward the intended destruction it plans to leave behind in its wake. As pandemonium escalates and the guests trample one upon the other to escape the rapidly approaching flames, Dell is separated from her family. Earlier in the evening, she had met the infamous Marshall Field. He has hold of her hand now and is guiding her to safety in one moment only for the two to be separated in the next. When Dell is finally reunited with her family, she has a fleeting recollection of that moment in time when she and Marshall Field met. Somewhere in the depths of her soul, she knew this was not happenstance. Sadly, life had another plan for her. The journey of Delia Spencer and Marshall Field coming together was a road filled with obstacles of desperation, heartache and insurmountable tests and their ultimate reality would be the fact there are no guarantees in life in the end.

Renee Rosen has written a wonderfully historical account of an epic period of time in retail history. She plays out the behind-the-scenes life and times of the front-facing retail magnate Marshall Field--a man who refused to give up and embrace the challenge of constant do-over's bigger and better each time in his complex life. Ms. Rosen strategically plants the seed of forbidden love between Marsh Field and Dell Spencer in "Scarlet Letter" fashion that deliciously treats her audience to the shock and awe of watching the plot grow. There is a lot to be said when the formula of wealth and taboo come together and Rosen is a master at spinning the twists and turns. The writing has a solid pace and Ms. Rosen knows how to breath credible life into characters that blend perfectly with the times. I am always pleased to read a body of work that is injected with renowned historical account. Ms. Rosen has done her homework and done it well. She has used her detailed research and penned an intriguing story about the life and times of the man responsible for the retail empire: Marshall Field's. This is a fantastically written book and without question, an engaging read. Well done Ms. Rosen.

Quill says: Renee Rosen definitely gives the reader what he/she wants in her latest novel, What the Lady Wants.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review - Of Bone and Thunder

Of Bone and Thunder

By: Chris Evans
Illustrated By: Lisa Litwack
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7931-1
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: November 18, 2014

In the midst of a devastating war set in a thick jungle, with suffocating humidity, and mist covered mountains, an unseen evil is taking shape that threatens to disable an entire army. Author Chris Evans weaves together the lives of many people who find themselves in this war fighting to stay alive. There are some who see the war as a chance to achieve glory and honor - they long to be like the war heroes they hear about in stories. One such individual is Thaum Jawn Ratium. However, as the harsh realities of war hit him square in the face Jawn begins to realize that the most important thing is not to achieve glory but to find what you can do to keep the people you care about safe. On the other end of the spectrum, right there on the front lines is a soldier named Carny who, even though he knows his role in this war, continually questions the reason for the fighting.

Then battling from the air on the back of a rag, the giant winged beasts that resemble dragons, a man named Vorly Astol leads a group of riders through the perilous fighting in the sky. For years it had just been Vorly and his rag Carduus but now he finds himself forced to make a relationship with a recent graduate from the Royal Academy of Thaumology named Breeze. It has become clear that Thaumatics is here to stay and even though Vorly does not like the change he can see the advantage of being able to communicate with every other rider as they are flying over the battlefield. Each of these individuals posses different skills and different reasons for being there, but they all will realize that the reason to fight is not glory but rather the person standing next to them.

The twists and turns and interweaving of the characters in this story was truly amazing and I applaud Chris Evans for bringing such a story to life in such an appealing way. It is fantastic when a book continues to reveal the small details that connect different characters and how that transforms the story from one chapter to the other. That is exactly what Chris Evans did and as soon as I got started on this book it was extremely difficult to put it down until I reached the end. As the relationships were built in this story it was fun as a reader to see the characters who at one time seemed to have such a hard shell show a softer side as they slowly revealed how they felt about the people they had around them and the importance of their safety and well being. One of the best relationships in the book for me was the one between Vorly and his rag Carduus. Vorly did not see Carduus as just a beast but as his partner, a partner he respected. From beginning to end I enjoyed every chapter of this book as it took me on a wonderful roller coaster ride that can only come from a great adventure-fantasy book.

Quill says: An unbelievable book that brings to life an absolutely thrilling fantasy story.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Books In For Review

Here's a look at some of the books that have just arrived for review.  Check them out!

Little Miss Muffitt: Guardian of My Heart: A Tribute to All Those Special Dogs Who Capture Our Hearts and Stay Forever by Rose Miller "Lets move to a farm and raise horses." Those words uttered by four-year-old Rose forewarned her parents who were happy city dwellers that she was an "animal person." But by the time she was eight, the family did move to a Pennsylvania farm where a multitude of animals wandered through her life, but no dogs. When she married, the family began their adventure with canines of many breeds, some purebred puppies, some fostered, some adopted and the loyal hard working K9s who were partners with Rose's daughter and sonin-law on the local police department. Loving dogs means losing them as they "just do not live long enough" but these stories of devoted, and some not so devoted, canines will warm your heart and give chuckles as well as some tears. Several Dobermans were family favorites. Lady Blue, a Giant Schnauzer, was a challenge. Muffitt, the Miniature Schnauzer, who was the love of Rose's life lived with the family for nearly seventeen years, a satisfactory time in dog-life, but losing a devoted companion who was with one that long was extremely traumatic. Grief stricken for months, one day she finds herself in local pet store that allows foster animal meetings with potential adopters. There she discovers an older Miniature Schnauzer, Maggie, and feeling sure that Muffitt guided her there, adopts the rescued puppy-mill mother. This story is a tribute to Little Miss Muffitt and all the other dogs in people's lives that fill that very special need and place in their hearts.  

Natalie's Art: A Frank Renzi Novel (Volume 5) by Susan Fleet In 1990 two robbers stole paintings worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Twenty years later, a ruthless man plans to steal several more. He forces Natalie to help him, but after the heist he intends to kill her. Not only that, NOPD Detective Frank Renzi is hot on her trail. Will Natalie escape? Don't miss the explosive showdown between Frank and Natalie.  

The Reluctant Psychic by Suzan Saxman We all, as children, had our imaginary friends and monsters in the closet. But for Suzan Saxman, those friends and monsters didn’t go away—and they weren’t imaginary. From an early age, Suzan knew instinctively that she had to hide her true self. She couldn’t talk about the specters who haunted her, waking and dreaming. In bed with a childhood fever, winged beings guarded her; bullied and friendless at school, she ate lunch silently under the steps of St. Theresa’s with the ghost of a nun; paralyzed with fear, she woke each night to see a man with no eyes, watching her; and she kept watch at the window, every day, while her real father was at work and Steve, her other father, was with her mother. It was the 1960s in suburban Staten Island and she tried to hide it all—to silence the spirits, ghosts and her own developing abilities to tap into people’s futures. She tried to be a daughter her mother could love. Now, with Perdita Finn, Suzan tells the story of her journey in The Reluctant Psychic, and tries to make sense of her mother’s own personal buried secrets that were never acknowledged. She tells of the joy and terror in seeing things others couldn’t and understanding what no one else expected—and the loneliness and sadness of possessing a tremendous gift. Through powerful readings of others’ destinies interwoven with compelling narrative, a reluctant psychic emerges into the light.  

Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King Hazel Rose never dreamed that the murder mystery book group she and her friend Carlene started would stage a real murder. Nevertheless, the normally composed Carlene is unusually angry and rattled one night during a book group discussion and dies after drinking cyanide-spiked tea. Despite a suicide note, Hazel is skeptical; Carlene never seemed suicidal—she was busy making plans for her future. Incidentally, Carlene was married to Hazel’s ex-husband, and Hazel has always suspected there might be something more to her past than she let on. How much does anyone really know about Carlene Arness? And did she die by her own hand or someone else’s? Hazel begins a search for the truth that produces no shortage of motives, as she unearths the past that Carlene took great pains to hide. And most of those motives belong to the members of her very own book group... Featuring memorable characters and a wicked sense of humor, Murder at the Book Group shows the darker side of a book club where reading isn’t about pleasure—it’s about payback.  

The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey History has all but forgotten...In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...  

Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner Three people, each crying out for help. There’s Karen, about to lose her father; Abby, whose son has autism and needs constant care, and Michael, a family man on the verge of bankruptcy. As each sinks under the strain, they’re brought together at Moreland’s Clinic. Here, behind closed doors, they reveal their deepest secrets, confront and console one another, and share plenty of laughs. But how will they cope when a new crisis strikes? From the international bestselling author, Sarah Rayner, Another Night, Another Day is the emotional story of a group of strangers who come together to heal, creating lifelong friendships along the way.  

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall Melvin It's 1972 and fourteen-year-old New Yorker Elizabeth Landers is sent to the sleepy town of Ahoskie, North Carolina to spend the summer with relatives. Her expectation of boredom is quickly dispelled when police sirens and flashing lights draw her to a horrible scene at the Danbury Bridge. Mr. Samuel, owner of Samuel's Lumber Yard, has driven his car off the bridge and into the river, drowning himself and his daughter. The medical examiner thinks it's an accident, but the Sheriff finds fresh bullet holes on the bridge right where the skid marks are. Curiously, Mr. Samuel died clutching a unique 1909 wheat penny --a penny that is then stolen from the Sheriff's office. Lizbeth witnesses Miss Violet's grief upon learning that her husband and child are dead, and decides she will help by finding the penny. Her search involves Lizbeth in the lives of many Ahoskie residents. Like the owner of the grocery store, mean old Mr. Jake, who --as all the kids in Ahoskie know --hates black folks. Plenty of pennies in his till. Then there is Ms. Melanie Neely, otherwise known as “Ms. McMeanie,” who thinks the lumber yard should belong to her. And Mr. Samuel’s handsome brother Ben, who struggles to keep the business afloat after his more clever brother’s death. Lizbeth searches through the collection plates at church and in the coin jars of crazy old Aunt Ode, a strange old woman missing one eye and most of her teeth, who keeps a flask in her apron pocket and a secret in her soul.  

Latke the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer Rescued from an animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah, Latke the puppy joins the family just in time for the celebrations. Although he has trouble learning the house rules, he is one Lucky Dog!  

Stork's Landing by Tami Lehman-Wilzig When a migrating stork gets tangled in a net in the fish ponds on Maya's kibbutz, Maya wonders what to do. Can she and her father find a way to nurse it back to health and send it back into the wild? Set in Israel, one of the bird capitals of the world with the highest number of migrating birds anywhere, this story brings the beauty of nature in Israel to life and highlights an unusual part of Israeli life the kibbutz.  

Sammy spider's First Mitzvah by Sylvia Rouss Sammy Spider is back in his fifteenth adventure story, learning about Jewish holidays and values with his buddy Josh Shapiro. In this story, when Josh gets a cold, his friend Moti delivers some chicken soup to him, and Sammy Spider learns about the mitzvah of visiting the sick. You’ll also learn the Hebrew word for “Gesundheit!”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review - The Missing Place

The Missing Place

By: Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-47675782-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 13, 2014

Sophie Littlefield delivers an intriguing story of deception and suspense in her latest novel, The Missing Place.

Colleen is far from her privileged and wealthy Sudbury, Massachusetts home. She would have never imagined herself in the throes and nothingness of Lawton, North Dakota. A mild panic grips Colleen as her plane touches down and she arrives in the virtually dark terminal and realizes the rental car counter is closed. She tentatively approaches the man kneeling down by the exit in hopes of getting some answers. When she learns there are no cabs available and no rooms open at the (maybe) one or two hotels in town, Colleen pleads for a ride—a ride that would take her to (hopefully) civilization. Her husband Andy had warned her about going off half-cocked on this wild goose chase. However, nothing would stop her given the fact her son Paul has gone missing.

Through a series of coincidences and perhaps divine guidance, Colleen is deposited on the broken-down doorstep of the RV where hard-worn Californian Shay has taken up residency. It would seem Shay’s son, Taylor, is also among the missing from Hunter-Cole Energy’s Black Creek camp. Both young men had a few things in common: they were definitely “newbie’s” as was their mutual indoctrination into the roughshod life of an oil rigger. It was a given they would find friendship in each other. What Colleen and Shay couldn’t know is the series of road blocks and multitude of dead ends that lay ahead of them in their mission they vowed never to give up on: to find their sons.

Sophie Littlefield has written a compelling novel that truly captured the heart strings of this reader. Littlefield zeroed in on the premise of the horror and fear this mother never would want to experience: my child has gone missing. Ms. Littlefield develops her two main characters, Colleen and Shay—both mothers of missing sons, with a presence of absolute opposites; yet there is a sublime nuance they were destined to come together and they mesh in an awkward way because of the common bond of their missing sons. The pace of this story moves along nicely and Ms. Littleton has a stylistic balance of developing both dialogue and prose. She chooses her words wisely and focuses on everyday language that, in my opinion, makes for a fast and familiar read. Ms. Littleton demonstrates a natural ability of strategically sowing the seeds of her story as she gradually builds the plot from one chapter to the next. There is an abundance of emotion and reality to these women that is anchored in what it must be like to wonder what happened to her missing child. As Littlefield guides the reader throughout this story, I applaud her in tying up loose ends as the story winds down. The surprise ending will leave the reader with a satisfying sense of closure. I look forward to her next novel.

Quill says: The Missing Place is a story devoted to a mother’s worst nightmare and the importance of never giving up hope.

Book Review - Farewell, Monsieur Gaston

Farewell, Monsieur Gaston

By: Nikolai Grozni
Publisher: East West Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014 (1st Ed.)
ISBN: 978-1-619152412-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Date: November 2014

Well, I expected nothing less than perfection from the author who wrote the stunning and unforgettable book, Wunderkind, and perfection is exactly what I received.

This novel is categorically a Dionysian mystery. For those who are unaware, this is all about the spontaneous, the sensual – the world relating to the god Dionysus. From page one, the emotional aspects of human nature come into play: our flaws, our judgment of others, and our reawakening to a world we simply do not understand. Every character in this book is an actor. These actors are characters from plays and/or theatrical works. Immediately, readers are brought into the story as if they were watching it play out on an Athenian stage surrounded by the marble thrones and sculptures of the Acropolis – before the earthquakes came and turned them to rubble.

The chorus leader and his minions behind him welcome you to the tale. The leader lets you know that you are about to enter a world where comedy and tragedy combine. A world where deaths are done in a grand, morbid way. He hints to the fact that the world around you has crumbled, that dark forces and evil gods exist in the land and…HARK...the hero is coming forth (slowly but surely), who will add his talents to the stage. He will allow you, the watcher/reader, to grasp onto his coattails and hope at all times that he wins and that his entrails are not ever found on someone else’s plate.

Our hero wakes up and his past is sealed. His memory is gone. He is now in a strange, foreign world being welcomed into it by a very odd group of beings, and a hunchback that plays a large role in the story. He is told about four rules of the realm, rules the hero must obey before he enters into the adventure. These are rules that must be memorized and, if broken, can create havoc in his life.

This is his quest. A dark quest that’s filled with grand people, places and a whole lot of sarcastic dialogue. Every time you believe the band of characters has reached its maximum number, a musician, a clown, a man-eating bird – you name it – arrive to bring even more to the story. All roads run back to the first, yet this violent realm seems more like Dante’s spheres, with a hero who must find himself while battling, sacrificing and understanding all the madness that’s around him.
Once again this author not only offers up an amazing story, but he also proves and proclaims to the heavens that he is the ultimate writer with an over-the-top mind locked in a mere human body.

Quill says: After escaping into this Technicolor fantasy the everyday world looks gray. Suggestion? Go back to the beginning and start again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review - Inmate 1818 and Other Stories

Inmate 1818 and Other Stories

By: Bernard Otterman
Publisher: Liber Novus Press
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-0990674702
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 12, 2014

It was always her father’s moods that had disrupted the family dynamic. Indeed she had left as a young woman to head to Santa Fe to become a potter. Father never wanted to join the family celebrations, even when she’d finally settled down and married Rubin. “I can’t enjoy myself among ‘goyim.’” There was always something, something maddening about him. He was a Holocaust survivor, but his moodiness was still annoying. Time had marched by and she had two children, boys, her mother had passed away, but the moodiness remained. Father hated Germans, gentiles weren’t on his list of favorites, and he insisted ‘Goishe’ (Christian) nations “looked the other way during the Holocaust.”

The family moved to Merrick. It was closer to Father, but he still was surrounded by an aura of distrust and hatred. There weren’t going to be any “meaningful ties with him,” no matter what transpired. It was Rosh Hashanah and he finally agreed to come for a visit. During dinner the talk unfortunately turned to the Holocaust. “Come this fall, Larry will be studying the Holocaust in Hebrew school.” Nothing but tommyrot according to Father because no way anyone who hadn’t experienced it, couldn teach it. There had been little undecipherable snippets over the years that were clues to the man.

Mother, in the heat of arguments, had thrown out insults like “echtige sonder” and snapped that he was a “’sonder man.’” Nem, they knew nothing about the Holocaust and neither did his flippant daughter who had supposedly studied it. “What do you know about the ‘Sonderkommandos?’” She knew that in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Father had been, there were “groups of inmates who were forced by the Germans to remove the bodies from the gas chambers and burn them in the crematoriums or the open pits nearby.” It was the work of the devil and they were as evil as the SS in her mind. It finally came out ... Father had volunteered to be a Sondercommando. Had the man sold his soul to the devil for clean sheets and a shower?

Bernard Otterman’s characters and their experiences during a period of history’s darkest moments whirl through these pages. My mind, like that of anyone who will be turning these pages, whirled with emotion and questions. There was the woman who chose to lose a part of herself to save her son, the mystical tale of the creation of a golem, a man whose guilt overwhelmed him when he thought he killed his sister, and yet another of a teen struggling with the fact that his grandfather had been an SS commandant. The tales, all exquisitely penned, somehow take on the same tone, asking me to think about the philosophical questions and dilemmas each presented. As I read, I thought little about them, but each time I put the book down I did.

For example, when I read about that teen, who was trying to build a Lego Lager (concentration camp) to soothe his soul over the idea of the fact he was related to an SS commandant, it brought to mind the film Hitler’s Children. The sins of the father’s cannot be owned by the children, nor can any of them atone for them. A Joseph Conrad quote, buried in the pages poignantly tied the tales together: “all humanity was bound together—the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.” Many times I hear people complain that they’ve heard it all when one talks about the Holocaust, but they have not yet heard Bernard Otterman.

Quill says: This is an amazing collection of historical Holocaust fiction that needs to be heard!
For more information on Inmate 1818 and Other Stories, please visit the author's website at:


New York, NY (November 11th, 2014) – XOXO After Dark, the online romance community site, is proud to announce the relaunch of the XOXO After Dark Shop, a one-stop shopping webpage featuring great deals,  books by favorite authors, and special collections curated by the XOXOAD team!

With a cleaner design and more searchable features, the XOXO After Dark Shop will make looking for your favorite reads, at the best price, simple and easy.  Each month the shop will offer an assortment of titles for every reading taste, from books that make your heart swoon to reads that give you chills.

And be sure to check out the shop’s GEMS FROM THE VAULT, an exclusive feature  that highlights timeless fan favorites from bestselling authors including Susan Mallory, Linda Howard, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bella Andre, Linda Lael Miller and many more. This section of the shop will give XOXOAD shoppers the opportunity to fall in love with backlist titles all over again. Showcasing books from every genre, GEMS FROM THE VAULT will help readers fill those holes in their keeper shelves —at prices as low as $1.99! Trends may come and go, but great books never go out of style. 

For more information please visit:  or contact Kristin Dwyer at
XOXO After Dark is supported by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, but features romance and women’s fiction from all publishers.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review - The Paris Winter

The Paris Winter

By: Imogen Robertson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 978-1-250-05183-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 11, 2014

Imogen Robertson channels the ‘Belle Epoque’ era of 1900’s Paris to create the backdrop of her latest novel, The Paris Winter. Using this epoch period of time in the ‘City of Lights’ she tells an intriguing story of emerging artist Maud Heighton.

The story opens with a formalism of The Academie Lafond oil; ‘a loosely painted study shows a life-class in progress’ Maud Heighton is an art student at The Academie Lafond and the news of fellow student and gifted artist Rose Champion’s sudden suicide rocks the students. Maud lives in the same shabby tenement as Rose had—a tenement discretely nestled off the Boulevard Clichy. It was a nondescript building in an equally unmemorable part of town, but Maud had no regrets for leaving the familiarity of her English home and upbringing. She was an artist and it was her destiny to go to Paris and paint. Great artists must suffer on their respective roads to eventual infamy...

Tatiana Sergeyevna Koltsova ‘Tanya’ is the quintessential Russian princess. Contrary to Maud’s destiny of peril and strife to make her mark in the art community, Tanya dabbles in her talents because it is her latest whim. Granted, she has talent, but not the burning passion and desire to succeed like her comrade Maud. Tanya has a kind soul and wishes to help Maud. When she approaches Maud with an opportunity of shelter and warmth from the impending Paris winter, she introduces her to the quirky couple Christian and Sylvie Morel. It seems Christian is in search of a companion for his troubled sister Sylvie and after interviewing Maud, a match has been made in Heaven. With Christian’s immediate generosity of an advance stipend and the promise of the comfort of warmth, shelter and food to sustain her continued art studies, Maud embraces the opportunity and moves into the Morel household. At the onset, life cannot be better. However, as time marches forward, Maud learns a little too late that the choice she has made is one that will change the course of her life forever.

Imogen Robertson has done an admirable job of researching the Belle Epoch period of the art revolution in 1900’s Paris and places the allure and intrigue of it all on paper. She prefaces each chapter with a detailed formalism of artistic style and ability—detailing the brush strokes, imagery and impressions of varied works of art before transitioning into the continuance of the trials and tribulations of her story characters. Her approach captured my interest immediately. Writing is as much a form of art as painting in that a gifted writer manages to paint an interesting story through the use of words and their placement. Ms. Robertson has fused the brilliance of written imagery and the credibility of crisp dialogue and together, has demonstrated her ability to create a cadence that flows as fluidly as perhaps a great painter’s brush flows across the canvass. There are many surprise twists and turns to the story as the plot further develops and at the peak of the story, Robertson gathers loose ends and assembles them neatly together to arrive at a satisfying and clever ending. I am not familiar with Ms. Robertson’s previous works, but after reading The Paris Winter, I look forward to reading some of her prior works as much as I look forward to her next novel.

Quill says: A Paris Winter is both an engaging and educational story of artistic survival during the Belle Epoque period of time in 1900’s Paris.

Book Review - Saving Baby

Saving Baby: How One Woman’s Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption

By: Jo Anne Normile
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1250061195
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 11, 2014

Jo Anne Normile had a dream – a dream to own a grandson of the famed racehorse Secretariat, and see that horse race. She had no idea how deep into the “Sport of Kings” this dream would take her, nor how it would forever change her life.

The first thing Normile needed to make her dream a reality was a top-notch broodmare (a female horse used for breeding) that would produce her future champion. The horse she found was Pat, a sweet Thoroughbred mare that was already in foal. The agreement with Pat’s owner was that Normile would care for the mare and once the horse foaled, she’d be able to re-breed Pat and that resultant foal would be hers. The first foal would go back to Pat’s owner once it was old enough to leave its mother. That foal, officially named “Reel Surprise,” was nicknamed “Baby” and was soon the love of Normile’s life. How could she send Baby back to Pat’s owner? Eventually, Normile was able to work out a deal with the foal’s owner and Baby became her horse. Her horse to love, spoil, and blow kisses to. As Baby grew, however, the time to send him away for training drew near. As part of the sale agreement, Normile had promised Baby’s original owner that she would race the horse and so, reluctantly, she sent her prized horse off to the trainer.

A fair amount of Saving Baby relates the ups and downs of Baby’s training, although as Normile admits, many of the experiences were not positive. From his first trainer’s insistence on keeping the horse through the winter (the horse was originally supposed to go home after a few months of initial training), to the second trainer’s feeding poor quality hay and making her horse very sick, to the actual races where Baby lost almost every time, the author honestly tells all. Time after time, she admits that she allowed things, “against my better judgment,” because she was enamored with the “Sport of Kings” and thought all would be well. But slowly, while spending a significant amount of time in the stabling areas of the track, she saw things that made her re-think the world of racing. When Baby became a victim of these track issues, Normile made a promise to her beloved horse to help other racehorses.

With her background and connections, Normile was the perfect candidate to start rescuing racehorses that had reached the end of their careers. Whether from age or injury, most of these horses were destined to travel in horrible, terrifying conditions to the slaughterhouse. Normile founded an organization called CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses) that grew exponentially once established and word got out about what wonderful sport horses most of these washed-up ex-racehorses would make.

Some readers may question why Normile didn’t simply pull her horse out of training and bring him home. This is a valid question and, no doubt, she asked herself that over and over, particularly after Baby suffered at the hands of the racetrack. But as so many people know, it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement of racing, and think that everything will be okay, that no harm would ever come to your horse. The reader, too, will get swept away in the story, hoping that Baby will return home safely.

As the book progresses, the author tells numerous stories of horses that her organization saved, as well as some that they couldn’t get to in time. This story will give fans of racing something to think about next time they head to the track to bet on their favorite horses.

Quill says: You’ll get angry, and shed a tear or two while reading about Baby and other racehorses. There’s no doubt, Jo Anne, that Baby would be proud of all you have done for ex-racehorses.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interview with Author Trae Stratton

Today we're talking with Trae Stratton, author of To Have and To Hold

FQ: Your book is extremely well-written about the average family. It seems likely that this MacLann unit is very close to your own. Did you take much of the narrative of your book from your own experiences? And, as a sub-question, did your Mom have that look? I ask, because mine still has. (Even the cat leaves the room when it appears. LOL)

STRATTON: Thank you. I really appreciate a compliment like that. It supports my theme that happy endings do exist in the real world if you’re willing to nurture them through good times and bad. I actually come from a broken home, so I have to say generally “no.” However, I was and continue to be very fortunate to have family to count on when I need them, and that’s certainly a major element of the MacLann family dynamic. My mother did not have that imperious look. She kept discipline through rewards and punishment and then following through on them. Growing up like that you learn to think twice, and not to break the rules unless you’re willing to pay the price or absolutely positive you won’t get caught.

FQ: Having writing awards on a resume means something, such as your award in college. Do you always take real events for your writing? Is there a craving to write in a different genre one day?

STRATTON: The funny thing is, I’ve always been a sci-fi and fantasy guy. Those are my true story passions so I would love to write something in one of those genre’s one day. Honestly though, looking at the current Game of Thrones type settings and the intricacies of those galaxies far, far away, I find the massive scope of world building that’s being published today extremely daunting.

FQ: You mention that you were a member of the NYPD. When looking from that angle of your job, did meetings with children or teens who perhaps did not have a “MacLann” background effect you? Do you believe that rehabilitation can be done for kids who have grown up in certain drastic home situations? And how do you believe this country, or even neighborhoods, can stop young people from walking a criminal path?

STRATTON: Among the many hats that police officers everywhere have to wear is therapist and counselor because handling domestic incidents is a big part of the job. In my experience, it’s hard for every police officer to see a kid wrestling with difficult situations at home or bleak futures born of poor life choices, that’s why so many of them volunteer their time off duty. I tend to hold the parents accountable. I think they need to stop blaming teachers, authority figures and society for their children going astray, and start working closer with them to help children make better choices in the first place. Kids at every economic level lose their way. Kids at every economic level rise up and achieve great success. What does that tell you? Discipline and character are learned at home. Economic advantages can be equaled or even surpassed by ambition and dedication. So be a role model and be interested because if you’re not, they will find someone who is. Most likely it’s going to be someone you’d rather it not be. Why do most kids join gangs? They’re searching for a family dynamic in which they feel appreciated, needed, wanted, recognized and valued, or some combination of those essentials that they should be getting at home. Yes. I do believe in rehabilitation for kids. Young hearts and minds are very resilient. They thrive on support and just need to be shown the way, and how to aim high instead of low, because it’s so hard to see how school subjects like English, history and math are the stepping stones to a life and career they want. Museums are great, but it’s much better to go to a real company and see a computer being built, the inside of a precinct or firehouse, stand on the deck of a Coast Guard or naval vessel or see how a magazine is printed, to visit a university science lab or chat with local college coaches and athletes so they can see their sport being played at the next level. Call them, tell your story and most will find time to open their door to you. Whatever it is that your child is passionate about, show them the next level so they know it’s not just a dream, it’s real and it’s attainable if they stay in school and out of trouble.
FQ: Writers, as you mentioned, need stories to tell. With this book you fill a void in a lot of lives. It sounds as if you were always a writer even though you worked another job to pay the bills, so to speak. Are you enjoying your work in the industry, and where are you thinking your next plot will come from? If there is a new book in the works, fans would love to hear about it.
STRATTON: I am. I love writing and developing characters and seeing where they take me. I enjoy the process and discovery of writing. As my daughter gets older, I look forward to having more time to work. But I absolutely don’t want to rush it. She’s only going to be little once and these days are precious. With the publishing of To Have and To Hold I was all set to get started on a spiritual thriller that’s been incubating for a few years now, but instead I’ve delved into some YA because I want my daughter to have something on the shelf dedicated to her when she’s old enough to read it. I don’t have a title yet, but it involves magic, unicorns and the old west.

FQ: There are many readers who will relate and ask this: do you have a “Storm” of your own? It always seems as if the happiest families come with that family dog that supplies comfort and friendship. Do you believe that theory?

STRATTON: I did grow up with a dog. She was a Siberian Husky named Tonya and we all loved her. We always had animals in the house, be it a bird, a cat, a dog or even fish. Yes, I do believe that theory because pets add so much to the home environment, especially affection and company.

FQ: The secret identity of the bride was fun, like a mystery set within a family tale. How do you feel about being the 1% (truly) who decided to tell a tale such as this from the groom’s POV?

STRATTON: It feels great. You always want to do something that sets your book apart from all the others on the shelf. The more you read, the more you crave something different, so my great hope is that people who enjoy family dramas and love stories will find my approach appealing and refreshing- and leave me a good review! As to the mystery, a few people have guessed the identity of the bride, but it continues to amaze me that I haven’t heard from anyone who has actually solved it through the clues I’ve left scattered about the book. Along the way I was really worried that who was under the veil was getting too obvious!

FQ: I ask this of everyone: If you could have lunch with one writer, alive or dead (although the dead will certainly be alive for the meal), who would it be and why?

STRATTON: This is so hard to answer. If I can choose only one: Shakespeare. As I mentioned earlier, I really love the process, so I would love to talk to him about where ideas come from and how you nurture them along. The inspiration. Plot charting. The dialogue. The names. Those wonderful moments when you get a scene just right. I find all the tedious “there and back again” of writing interesting. Plus, so much of Shakespeare is quotable; it would be great learn what lines were born of inspiration, sired by necessity and “borrowed.”

FQ: Because of the beauty and elegance of this tale, who would be the people you most admire?

STRATTON: You know, the media is so agenda driven that it’s nearly impossible to actually have heroes these days isn’t it? So I’ll tackle this three ways. Creatively I’m going to say George Lucas, because it was only through his perseverance and vision that Star Wars has become the juggernaut of mythology and pop culture that it is today. In sports, Hines Ward who accomplished so much on the football field despite the odds and everyone telling him he couldn’t do it, and has since used his success to become an advocate for biracial children. Historically, George Washington. His ambition, bravery and ingenuity are completely overshadowed by his founding father legacy. Close second to Benjamin Franklin.

FQ: You gave a decade of your life to this novel. Was this a personal adventure for you? What made you stick with the MacLann’s?

STRATTON: I don’t know if I would call it an adventure. But it was definitely a journey. A journey I’m proud of but that I’m glad is done. Most of the time it seems like the MacLann’s had a story to tell and they chose me to tell it. They waited patiently for me to get back to the keyboard during some long breaks, like during 9/11 for instance, but they really didn’t tolerate me “cheating” on them with a different story for very long. So, as it is with many things in life, I needed to complete it before I could move on to the next thing. I suppose many people don’t feel the same way, but I believe happy endings do exist in the real world if you’re brave enough to chase them and willing to nurture them through difficult times, so it’s nice to have a story out there that captures that for anyone who might be looking for it. Now, I have to admit, that even though I have two or three projects waiting their turn, I can already hear the MacLanns calling to me from the reception, telling me that’s where I need to set the sequel.

To learn more about To Have and To Hold please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Four Fatal Flaws of a Romantic Hero

Four Fatal Flaws of a Romantic Hero by Jassy De Jong

Author Jassy De Jong
My first introduction to romance novels were the piles of old Mills & Boons which could be found in every bookshelf in our house (I have three older sisters). This was in the early 1980s, when romantic heroes were very different from what they are today. As an impressionable pre-teen, my role models were the flashing-eyed, self-obsessed, controlling and jealous archetypes that populated those pages. No wonder I started off dating all the wrong guys… it took me decades to overcome this conditioning.
So, in the spirit of public service, here are four “dont's” to avoid in a romantic hero, whether real life or fictional. I’ve included made-up 80s excerpts to illustrate.
Jealous 80s excerpt:
Roger’s eyes blazed. “Don’t let me see you speaking to that man again… ever!” he exclaimed. “You are mine… all mine and only mine. I’ll have no stranger devouring you with his lustful gaze!”
“B-but Roger,” I stammered, “that man is my brother Tom!”
Jealousy… definitely one of the least likeable and most destructive traits a romantic hero can possess. A heroine who ends up with a jealous man can expect to be alienated from her friends, estranged from her family, and have her choices criticized and controlled. Which brings me to the second flaw…
Controlling 80s excerpt:
“What will it be, Monsieur?” the waitron asked, as I admired the sumptuous decor of this three-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Roger’s powerful jaw tightened decisively. “We’ll have a bottle of the Chianti, the caviar starters, and the lobster mains, Luigi.”
By all means choose Mr Controlling as your romantic hero if it’s the last choice you ever want to make. He’ll decide everything for his heroine, from what she wears to what she eats and where she travels. She’ll never get another look at a wine list, and if she’s on a diet and he fancies dessert – well, let her eat cake.
Violent 80s excerpt:
“We’re leaving now!” Eyes flashing, Roger grasped my arm in his own powerful, muscular grip, holding me so tightly with his sculpted fingers that I cried out in pain.
If the alarm bells aren’t ringing so loudly for this romantic heroine they sound like a fire truck, she must be deaf. The only time your hero should grasp your arm tightly enough to cause pain is when he’s pulling you out of the path of a runaway train, or a charging elephant.

Patronizing 80s excerpt:
“What’s that” I asked, looking at the small clockwork gadget with interest.
“Oh, it’s an invention I put together in between writing my PhD and winning my Olympic gold fencing medal,” Roger told me dismissively, adjusting the collar of his starched Armani shirt. “I’d explain how it works, but it’s rather complicated and you wouldn’t understand.”
The subtext here, of course, is that you need to be the owner of a penis to understand this. Really, why would a romantic heroine want to trouble her frail, feminine mind with its workings… or with any knowledge at all beyond how to remove her lacy underwear on command? In future, she must do the sensible thing and leave these weighty issues to the menfolk… or, of course, she could make the really smart choice, and look for a different hero!
Jassy de Jong was inspired to write her first novel, Random Violence, after getting hijacked at gunpoint in her own driveway.  She has written several other thrillers including Stolen Lives and The Place for Fallen Horses, and edits a hair and beauty magazine.  She lives in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg with her partner Dion, two horses and two cats. Her new novel, Drowning, is an exotic romance set in South Africa. 
Drowning, by Jassy de Jong now available in print and ebook

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