Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Books In For Reviews

 And the latest books to arrive for review are:

Shirley, I Jest! A Storied Life by Cindy Williams Cindy Williams, half of the comedic duo of Laverne & Shirley, has had a wild and lively career in show business. This book is an engaging and heartfelt journey from Williams’s blue collar roots to unexpected stardom—from being pranked by Jim Morrison while waiting tables at Whisky a Go Go to starring in one of the most iconic shows on television. With wit and candor, Cindy tells stories of her struggles as a child growing up with meager means and dreaming of becoming an actress. She also shares many misadventures and amusing anecdotes about some of the most famous actors in Hollywood. Never taking herself too seriously, Cindy finds humor and irony in the challenging world of show business.

The Success Principles(TM) - 10th Anniversary Edition: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield In The Success Principles, the cocreator of the phenomenal bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, helps you get from where you are to where you want to be, teaching you how to increase your confidence, tackle daily challenges, live with passion and purpose, and realize all your ambitions. Filled with memorable and inspiring stories of CEO’s, world-class athletes, celebrities, and everyday people, it spells out the 64 timeless principles used by successful men and women throughout history—proven principles and strategies that can be adapted for your own life, whether you want to be the best salesperson in your company, become a leading architect, score top grades in school, lose weight, buy your dream home, make millions, or just get back in the job market.

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill Kate McDaid thought that going to the reading of her great-great-aunt’s will would be just another non-event in her ordinary life. A junior copywriter at an advertising agency in Dublin, she was used to spending her days wrangling clients, over-indulging in chocolatey products, and whiling away nights at the pub with her best friends, using her trusty bicycle to get around town. Instead, Kate finds out that the will and her aunt (also known as the Red Witch of Knocknamee) dictates that Kate must publish a series of strange poems called “The Seven Steps” under her own name in order to inherit the rest of her aunt’s estate. Kate decides to publish the Steps on a friend’s website, thinking that the low traffic on the site would let her posts go unnoticed. She never could have imagined that in a matter of days, she would find herself a local celebrity with her own group of devotees and the target of a mysterious and glamorous newspaper reporter. Even Dublin’s rock-and-roll sweetheart—and Kate’s onetime fling—writes a song inspired by the Steps. While the Steps strike a chord across Ireland and the world, Kate takes the message to heart. But as the tone of each Step moves from free-spirited to sinister, Kate must decide if she will go through with publishing all seven Steps—or protect humankind from an ancient evil.

Butterfly Kills: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery by Brenda Chapman Jacques Rouleau has moved to Kingston to look after his father and take up the position of head of the town’s Criminal Investigations Division. One hot week in late September, university student Leah Sampson is murdered in her apartment. In another corner of the city, Della Munroe is raped by her husband. At first the crimes appear unrelated, but as Sergeant Rouleau and his new team of officers dig into the women’s pasts, they discover unsettling coincidences. When Kala Stonechild, one of Rouleau’s former officers from Ottawa, suddenly appears in Kingston, Rouleau enlists her to help. Stonechild isn’t sure if she wants to stay in Kingston, but agrees to help Rouleau in the short term. While she struggles with trying to decide if she can make a life in this new town, a ghost from her past starts to haunt her. As the detectives delve deeper into the cases, it seems more questions pop up than answers. Who murdered Leah Sampson? And why does Della Monroe’s name keep showing up in the murder investigation? Both women were hiding secrets that have unleashed a string of violence. Stonechild and Rouleau race to discover the truth before the violence rips more families apart.  

Chaos Theory by M. Evonne Dobson Seventeen-year-old Kami is into science, way smarter than she should be, a little obtuse, and born to investigate. The kind of girl who excels in Martial Arts and runs a chaos theory experiment in her locker. Kami finds a way to focus her talents when she meets Daniel, whose younger sister Julia died from an overdose of prescription drugs—drugs that the cops think came from Daniel’s stash. First Daniel turns up at Kami’s MA class, and later she saves him from a couple of drug dealers at the local skate park. Neither episode endears him to her, but Kami views life as a series of data points, and in Daniel’s case, the data do not add up. Her theory turns out to be correct: Daniel is taking he fall to protect his sister’s reputation—and to work with the cops to find out who really supplied his sister with drugs. Kami assembles a team of sleuths to help Daniel meet those goals. Top of the list is her best friend Sandy, who can con anybody out of anything, every time. Sandy’s boyfriend Sam, editor of the school newspaper, is researcher in chief. Then there is gorgeous Gavin, a computer genius whose abilities to help are hindered by the fact that he’s already in trouble with the cops for hacking. Daniel’s novice police handler provides a link to law enforcement. The trail leads to the local stables, where Julia kept a stash of drugs. The team next uncovers a link to the manufacturer of the drugs. Working with the police, Kami goes undercover as an intern at the pharmaceutical company that makes the drugs that killed Julia. But she’s not the only undercover agent on the trail.  

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Night Is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel by Steven Gore Twenty years ago, Judge Ray McMullin proved to the people of San Francisco he could pull that trigger by sentencing Israel Dominguez to death for a gangland murder. But it meant suppressing his own doubts about whether the punishment really did fit the crime. As the execution date nears, the conscience-wracked judge confesses his unease to former homicide detective Harlan Donnally on a riverbank in far Northern California. And after immersing himself in the Norteño and Sureño gang wars that left trails of bullets and blood crisscrossing the state and in the betrayals of both cops and crooks alike, Donnally is forced to question not only whether the penalty was undeserved, but the conviction itself. Soon those doubts and questions double back, for in the aging judge's panic, in his lapses of memory and in his confusions, Donnally begins to wonder whether he's chasing facts of the case or just phantoms of a failing mind. But there's no turning back, for the edge of night is fast closing in on Dominguez, on McMullin, and on Donnally himself.  

Twice Upon A Time: Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth. Reimagined & Remastered by Joshua Allen Mercier Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn't in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s? Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.  

By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge by Ashley Bryan As sleep starts the journey into the blue, marvelous threads unravel dreamy images out of the blue revealing animals, far-off places, a circus, games, toys, wind, rain, a touch of this and a touch of that, words and wordplay. A poem accompanies the whimsical illustrations, perfectly capturing the sense of awe and excitement of childhood. With the eyes of a child, or simply the heart of a child, this book invites you into a dream world, an allegory, a journey.  

In Shadows by D.R. Willis It is 1946 as Roth Braun makes his way through a dense forest in Thailand to reach a camp. Once he arrives, he kills its Japanese occupants and rifles through their belongings until he finds what he wants: a mysterious package left to him by his father. As Roth heads back toward his boat, he knows that even in death, his father is still attempting to dictate his life. In the midst of a harsh New Jersey winter, Nelson Davis has returned from war and buried both his parents-but not before promising his dying mother he would take care of his older brother, Christopher. Determined to fulfill her final wish, he invites Christopher to partner with him in opening a chocolate store. Instead, Christopher heads to Georgia, where he contacts Savannah Times reporter, Rose Blake, and asks her to print a mysterious list of names somehow connected to Roth Braun, setting off a chain of events that leads Braun's fiancée and a PI on a wild goose chase and Nelson on a dangerous quest to investigate Christopher's puzzling death. In this exciting prequel to Lonely Deceptions, the last surviving member of a family teams up with a beautiful newspaper reporter to weave through a maze of perplexing clues that lead him down an unexpected path to the truth.

Troika by Adam Pelzman A young Cuban woman passes her nights dancing in a seedy Florida strip club; a Russian orphan loses everything, then builds a new and prosperous life for himself in New York; a woman struggles to maintain her dignity and hope after a life-changing accident—these are the three members of the troika whose story is told in this dazzling literary debut. Their lives unexpectedly intertwined, Perla, Julian and Sophie discover a world—a way of life—that forces them to challenge their definitions of commitment, love and trust, a world that heals old wounds and inspires them to transform tragedy into beauty.

The Liar by Nora Roberts Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions... The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed. Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning...

Book Review - Butterfly Kills

Butterfly Kills: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery

By: Brenda Chapman
Publisher: Dundurn Canada
Publishing Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1459-72314-6
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: February 25, 2015

Jacques Rouleau is the head of the Kingston, Ontario, Criminal Investigations Division. He and his investigators are called out to investigate the murder of Leah Sampson, a young University Student. The police were shocked by the manner of the attack whereby the girl was tortured and killed. Leah was working, at the time, at the campus crisis hotline and had a secret that she couldn’t tell to anyone, even her long-time friend and former boyfriend, Wolf.

Rouleau’s team consists of Paul Gundersund, who is recovering from a recent marital separation and Kala Stonechild, a young native Canadian. As the three of them work to find the truth, the team is called to interview Della Munroe, a young mother who reported being attacked by her estranged husband. Subsequently, they begin to suspect that the two crimes are somehow related.

In another side story, come two young Indian-Canadian sisters, Dalal and Meeza, who are trapped in a family that are very strict and the girls are stuck in a crisis they can’t get out of. Dalal is trying to protect her sister and Kala tries to help them as she is a former foster child and looked after unwanted children. These three stories are linked and it’s hard to stop reading and look away. Especially, in the story of a Muslim family that is into the old ways of arranged marriages and male dominance.
There is a sub-plot that involves another police officer who works with Kala and he is trying to fend off his estranged wife who cheated on him but now wants him back. She is very jealous of Kala which brings forth more intrigue. Meanwhile, Kala’s life becomes a bit more complicated by her sister showing up. Her sister is in trouble with the law and headed for the lock up leaving her daughter with Kala.

This is the second book in this series, the first being Cold Mourning. In Butterfly Kills we meet Kala Stonechild for the first time. Kala comes with some baggage as she was abused as a child. Each character seems to have personal problems to face. Yet, with all the personal crises the characters are dealing with, they are still, somehow, able to work to solve a murder in Ottawa.

This book brings Kala to Ontario just in time to work on the torture of the student, the rape of a young mother working the campus help line and a self-defense killing of a husband by a wife wielding a hammer. The book goes on from there as the reader tries to figure out if the events are connected.

Quill says: The author has picked an interesting setting for this book as Kingston has a lot to offer a mystery/thriller audience including: several prisons, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, good for so many things such as drowning and smuggling...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review - Shirley, I Jest!

Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life

By: Cindy Williams (with Dave Smitherman)
Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63076-012-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 24, 2015

Cindy Williams of the famed Laverne and Shirley late 70’s sitcom, teams with Dave Smitherman and delivers a bittersweet recollection of when her life and Hollywood joined forces.

Coming from all-American, traditional, middle-class American values, it’s no wonder Cindy Williams would find her comfort zone in Hollywood some day. Before the birth of Laverne and Shirley in the late 70’s, however, Cindy got her taste of stardom in the iconic George Lucas film American Graffiti; surrounded by many up and coming Hollywood icons like Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.

With the assistance of her co-author, Dave Smitherman, the two set out to deconstruct Cindy’s acting life and step it forward to how she arrived at where she is today. Through a series of chapters that play out like a succession of one memorable moment after another, Ms. Williams takes the reader on an enviable trip down memory lane. There aren’t many people from a generation past who can relay a story of one particular night while waiting tables at the Whiskey a Go Go where she was punk’d by the late, great "Rider of the Storm," Jim Morrison. To take the light fantastic even more unbelievable, quite the experience to pen on one’s resume to tout she shared the stage with Gene Kelly; singing a duet of “You Wonderful You” at the Pasadena Playhouse (even if she was standing on his foot while sliding and gliding along to his lead).

Ms. Williams sets a positive tone early on with a heartfelt Forward written by Ed Begley, Jr. This book is a mere 163 pages, yet has a multitude of engaging accounts. Ms. Williams has shared what are clearly many fond memories she has gleaned from her Hollywood life. With the added input from Mr. Smitherman, the two work in beautiful tandem throughout Shirley, I Jest! The chapters have a natural transition from one to the next and there is no drag from one story as it lends way to the next account. The matter-of-fact tone can be heard—heard so clearly at times, one can feel the smile on Ms. Williams face when recounting certain periods of her acting career. As an added treat, there are a handful of photos from Laverne and Shirley days gone by that will take the reader back to that time when two girls who worked at a brewery in small town Wisconsin were just making their way and Americana was eating every second of the innocence up. Thanks for the memories Ms. Williams and I too have a special place in my memories for Boo Boo Kitty.

Quill says: Even if you don’t know who Laverne and Shirley are, Shirley, I Jest! will find its way into that part of you where melancholy lives and capture your interest throughout this read.

Book Review - White Gardenia

White Gardenia

By: Belinda Alexandra
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-9031-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 24, 2015

Belinda Alexandra delivers a captivating story in her latest novel, White Gardenia.
In 1960’s Russia, the Cold War is quite alive. In the final days of World War II, there is a small district,the city of Harbin, that was the last hold-out and safe haven for White Russian families since the Communist Revolution in Russia. Alina Kzolova has reached her crossroads and the time has come for her to make her decision. In order to protect her only child, Anya, she must separate from her. Through finite arrangements, Alina coordinates the safe transport of Anya with family friends Olga and Borus. Resolved to spend the rest of her life in the confines of a Russian prison, in her mind, it is the small price she must pay for Anya’s safe passage to Shanghai. Neither mother nor child can possibly know the sacrifices that lie ahead for both.

Unlike many Russian refugees, Anya has a place to go once in Shanghai. Sergei Nikolayevich and his bride, Amelia, welcome Anya; at least Sergei does. It seems Amelia is anything but amorous and nurturing when it comes to consoling young Anya. Tolerance at best would be a fitting way to describe the relationship between the two. Anya is enrolled in the Santa Sophia School for Girls and continues her studies while adapting to her new life. She is brave to put up the front of happiness and cooperation, but the reality is she is near distraught with sorrow daily not knowing the status of her mother or if she will ever see her again. When dark and mysterious Dimitri enters her life, perhaps this is more than destiny. Perhaps Anya is not as fragile as the white gardenia her father assured her she was so many years ago...

This is Belinda Alexandra’s second American novel (on the heels of her International best seller, Tuscan Rose). While I’ve not read her previous work, after reading White Gardenia I am compelled to go back and do so. Alexandra has a distinct style of spoon-feeding set up to her audience and a fluid way of narrating her story. There is a natural comfort and a recognizable voice and tone to her writing style. Alexandra covers a vast landscape in the writing of White Gardenia (Russia, China and Australia) and in each demographic, she manages to paint a picture that is recognizable even if the reader has never set foot on the continent. She spends time orienting the reader with not only cultural differences, but the Cold War period of time and how it affected each of the regions. I admire a writer who embraces fiction, but is committed to getting the facts down to complement and infuse reality into the overall body of work. I can see why Ms. Alexandra is “...widely acclaimed...” White Gardenia is an engaging story full of historical backdrop filled with characters quite believable. Indeed, a winning formula for a great read. Well done Ms. Alexandra. I look forward to your next novel.

Quill says: White Gardenia is a novel that will take the reader through a litmus of emotions. The writing is solid and carries the reader along the ebb of hope as much as it plunges its audience into the depth of despair. This is an engaging page-turner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Interview with Author Suanne Laqueur

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Suanne Laqueur, author of The Man I Love

FQ: I have to say, I was a bit overwhelmed when I received your book for review. Before I even opened the cover, my thought was: “Good Heavens! How many pages is this book?!” Given this is your debut novel, did you opt to self-publish because that was always your intent (or did you do so because of the age-old ‘first time author’ stigma: ‘...too long...need to pair it down...’)

LAQUEUR: Ha! When I opened the box with the first proof copy, my husband said the exact same thing—“Holy cow, that’s a...that’s a book!” And I got all huffy and said, “Well what did you think I was writing?”

I set a very specific goal in November of 2013. It was the start of National Novel Writing Month and instead of starting a novel, I was going to finish one. The one whose characters had been in my head since college. I was going to finish it and put it out there. I just wanted my friends and family to see this side of me and see what kind of response it would get. And to that end, self-publishing was the best venue for my goal.

Author Suanne Laqueur
FQ: You have a tremendous command of the English language and the ability to set the words in delicious story-telling fashion. A writer writes what a writer knows. How much of Daisy’s character embodies the writer’s life?

LAQUEUR: I come from a dance and theater background so naturally those aspects all come from my own life. What I typically tell people is that The Man I Love is emotionally autobiographical. The themes of loss and emotional suppression; of disconnection and forgiveness; dealing with anxiety and depression; finding your truth...That’s all based in personal experience. It just has a different set of circumstances layered on top and its background is the theater world I grew up in.

The book actually started out being from Daisy’s point of view, with occasional breakaways to other characters. Erik only had about four chapters. It seemed the most logical to me: I’m a woman, I’d write this from the female point of view. But it wouldn’t go anywhere. I had pages and pages of material and it all seemed strangely stagnant. A lot of scenes but no dramatic action. Finally I gave it all to my friend Ami who read it. She separated out Daisy chapters and said, “These are all right.” She separated the chapters from other characters and said, “These are a distraction.” Then she handed me Erik’s four chapters and said, “This is the story.”

And she was right. Daisy couldn’t evolve until Erik turned around to face her. Which meant Erik had the evolution. It was his story.

FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, the incident on the college campus was very credible. How deeply did some of our real-life experiences in the past decade play into the inspiration to tie the event(s) into your story?

LAQUEUR: I never wanted to treat the shooting incident as a dramatic plot twist or spoiler. It’s right on the back of the book, right in the description: this is what happens. Because the shooting itself is not the focus of the novel. The shooter and his motives are touched upon only as much as necessary. The true focus is the victims—Erik and Daisy and their circle of friends, what the physical and emotional trauma of violence did to them and to their relationships. I often feel this is what gets forgotten as our society starts to “numb out” to the prevalence of gun violence. We shout about the perpetrators, shout about the weapons, shout about how it happened and how we can not make it happen again...and meanwhile the victims fade away, their lives forever changed. What happens to them?

FQ: The Man I Love characters have fantastic depth and credibility surrounding each of them no matter the size of the role he or she plays in the story. Which character did you hold a torch for most and did you have dreams about him or her that added to the depth of the character?

LAQUEUR: Erik and Daisy live in my heart, I see them everywhere. Erik, especially, as he began to unfold and grow and develop in the pages and I found it so easy to write through his eyes and get into his head. But I also have a soft spot for Will Kaeger who is so deliciously complex, and a poignant spot for David Alto who is so unpleasant but so misunderstood.

FQ: If The Man I Love should find its way to the “big screen,” what actor do you think would best suit ‘Fish’? ‘Daisy’? And why?

LAQUEUR: Jensen Ackles for Erik. No question he has the dark blond look and expression I envisioned. Daisy is a little harder because she has to be an actress who can dance. I’ve been following Misty Copeland’s rise to fame in ABT and when I see her dance, I see Daisy. Small but strong. Sculpted, not sylph-like. She’s got a sensual presence and brings to ballet a certain athleticism that makes it so fresh and exciting. Exactly how I see Daisy.

FQ: What advice would you give to a first time author who, in your opinion, has natural writing ability, yet cannot seem to break into ‘the world of writing’?

LAQUEUR: I think what should be in quotes is “break into.” The world of writing is what it is. Have I broken in? Sure. To an extent that’s been really satisfying, exciting and forfilling. Have I sold a million copies and been on Oprah? No. But my goal was to finish the book and get it out there. To first time authors I would say: set a goal. Set a realistic goal. Remember the goal. And then go get it because the platforms and resources available to writers these days are absolutely incredible. But they don’t come to you. You have to go make it happen.

FQ: Do you have a writing formula? Do you outline your book from start to finish? Do you sit down in front of the computer and just start pounding on the keys? Stream of consciousness and figure it out once the flow breaks? Or all of the above?

LAQUEUR: It’s largely stream of consciousness. It always starts with the characters. I treat them like literary paper dolls and I start making “outfits” for them by writing scenes. Fan fiction. I just fling stuff onto the paper, not worrying about whether or not it will get used. My scenes either start with dialogue or an emotion. And then I layer action and circumstances on top of that.
Oddly, The Man I Love was written from the ends in. I had scenes of Daisy and Erik meeting and being very much in love. Then I had scenes of them being estranged and starting to reconcile. The middle was a desert. I had no idea why they had broken up.

FQ: The Man I Love truly is a memory of a story. What I mean by this is it lingers on long after the last page has been read. Was there a sense of loss once you penned the last word? If so, how did you move on?

LAQUEUR: So hard to let go of your baby when it’s done. So hard to accept that it’s done and you can’t tinker around with it anymore. You have to peel your fingers off and let it go. But I love where it ended because it wasn’t all tied up in a happily-ever-after bow. It left the door open for every reader to imagine for themselves what these two lovers would do next. Including myself.

FQ: In line with Question 8, what do you do to ramp into your next story? Do you take a breather between projects to regroup? What is your tried and true remedy to detach from a project once it’s done and ‘on its way’?

LAQUEUR: Because it was my first novel I was kept very busy with marketing and promotion, learning all the tricks of that trade. And again, since I was self-published, all the hustle depended on me and no one else. So I put aside the author hat and put on my marketing hat, and for a good five months I focused on promotion. I also took a very nice trip to Europe with my husband and kids, who were so incredibly supportive while I was writing my book.

FQ: I am thrilled to read you are working on the sequel to The Man I Love. Any chance you could share a bit on its development and any indication when we can expect to see it in print?

LAQUEUR: Well here’s the story: I started to write a sequel. In fact, it was more of a prequel. I was very curious about Erik’s missing father and wondered if I could write his story. Erik’s family story. I had some ideas and I started doing a lot of research… And every now and then I’d feel a tap on my shoulder and look back to see Daisy. She wanted to say something. Wanted me to write a scene from the years she was apart from Erik. Explaining. Telling her story. The taps on my shoulder grew more and more frequent. It seemed every time I started working on the prequel, I ended up writing about Daisy.

I realized I’d finished The Man I Love loving Erik, but not 100% sure Daisy deserved forgiveness. Not fully understanding why she did what she did. And I couldn’t move on to the next thing until I let her tell her side. I thought it would be a short little novella. Instead she peeled herself open and surprised me. David peeled open. Will peeled open. John “Opie” Quillis, who was such a minor character, turned out to be an incredible hero. The story turned inside-out. And the result is my second novel, Give Me Your Answer True. The first draft is finished, it’s with my editor and with my beta readers. And I’m hoping to have it out this spring. It’s a challenge. It may be a little bit of a risk: telling essentially the same story from a different point of view. But I believe in it. I have to publish the story I believe in and not the story I think everyone wants to hear. And most of all, I feel Daisy deserves it.

FQ: If you had to pick three authors as your ‘top three,’ who would they be and in what order would they fall (and why)?

LAQUEUR: I would say Stephen King, Rumer Godden, Laurie Colwin.

I discovered Stephen King in college and I quickly realized his genius lay not in the horrific and gruesome, but in the mundane and ordinary that happened in between the scary scenes. How he created utterly ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances.

When I read Godden’s In This House of Brede, I was amazed at how she was able to create well over two dozen characters and make each one unique and vibrant and alive. And I loved her attention to detail when it came to settings and surroundings.

Colwin’s Family Happiness blew me away with its thoughtfulness and depth of emotion regarding a sort of taboo subject—this very ordinary woman found herself having a love affair and struggling with emotions she didn’t have names for.

These authors all made me think “I want to write this way. Make ordinary people extraordinary. Take extraordinary circumstances and show how ordinary and universal they really are. I want to write to connect. Open up my own experience to create greater understanding through a story and characters that resonate.”
Please visit the Pinterest board and the book trailer for The Man I Love.

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

Book Review - Orangutan Houdini

Orangutan Houdini

By: Laurel Neme
Illustrated by: Kathie Kelleher
Publisher: Bunker Hill Publishing Inc.
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-1593731533
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 19, 2015

Fu Manchu was a ‘tweener with a twinkle in his eye. He was a twelve-year-old orangutan on a mission and only Heavy Lamar could help him. Maybe, just maybe she could help him get that metal strand he so needed to escape. Heavy Lamar smiled, as orangutans do, and accepted a cookie in exchange for that strand. Now what would an orangutan want with a little bit of wire? Fu Manchu could turn into the Houdini of the Henry Doorly Zoo, that’s what! Soon he was fiddling with the lock that would help his troop escape. A little wiggle here, a little wiggle there and the door was open! They were off to see the elephants.

The elephants “barely noticed the five balls of red fur dotting the trees,” but zookeeper Jerry Stones
noticed. Fu had done a little wiggle here, a little wiggle there with that metal strand and was happily playing in the trees. Jerry cooed up at Fu, but no thank you, he wasn’t coming down ... yet. For a while all was calm at the zoo, but he was once again becoming a little restless. It was off to the elephant corral and the elm trees once again. This time when they returned, Jerry was determined it wouldn’t happen again, but it did. “I’ll fire the person responsible,” Jerry shouted at the staff. Was Fu Manchu going to get everyone in big trouble or would someone figure out what he was doing?

Fu Manchu is a mischievous orangutan on a mission that will fascinate young readers. Of course this is a mystery from the outside looking in because the reader knows exactly how Fu is making those very unusual visits to the elephants. By default, they will also learn quite a bit about orangutans and their behavior. For example, Fu has a special way of letting Jerry know just who’s boss. We can also see how Jerry reacts to his behaviors. The artwork pops with appeal and definitely brings the tale to life. Although the book is in picture book format, it’s geared toward the confident reader. This is an excellent stepping stone for students to learn more about primate behavior. In the back of the book there’s more information about the ‘real’ Fu Manchu with additional resources on the author’s website.

Quill says: Fu Manchu is one mischievous orangutan that will make everyone want to learn about endangered species, especially primates!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review - The Man I Love

The Man I Love

By: Suanne Laqueur
Publisher: Cathedral Rock Press
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1499715606
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 17, 2015

Suanne Laqueur delivers a 579-page, can’t put down, don’t want to put down, sparks flying from fingertips with the turn of each page, delicious body of work in her debut novel, The Man I Love.

Erik Fiskare (‘Fish’) was a guarded boy. He had every reason to be; especially after his dad went out one night never to return home again. Did I mention Fish was five at the time? That alone could have been the defining moment for Fish to make the decision to never amount to much. The thing is, however, his mother was still there. Perhaps it was her kind and creative soul that nurtured Fish into young adulthood without too many ‘isms.’ Little did he know that Daisy Bianco was waiting in his future. Side-by-side, they would weather life’s lessons and perhaps what wouldn’t nearly kill them, could possibly make them stronger.

Fish didn’t have big college dreams. Rather, he flew just enough under the radar to keep moving forward. It is when his grandfather dies in his junior year of high school and leaves him and his brother a windfall of money, in the fall of 1989, that Fish finds himself stepping onto the campus of Lancaster University. The stars were aligned in near perfect order and he was in pursuit of a technical theater minor in the University’s conservatory program… and along comes the lithe and mystical beauty with the perfect dancer’s body: Daisy Bianco.

I believe the very essence of a blockbuster story happens before the author has put pen to paper. The premise percolates as a memory and its calling haunts the subconscious. When the plot finally rises above the subconscious, so has the time come to write and a gifted writer knows the moment. This is who Ms. Laqueur is; a truly gifted writer connected to the words she writes. Laqueur has a precise and specific command with her word placement. Her fluid development of character Erik (Fish) Fiskare convincingly beckons the reader to latch on and a natural familiarity takes over: “I know this guy...” Laqueur is patient. She allows generous amounts of real estate (pages) to showcase Fish and once she is certain her audience has connected with him, the page is turned and the scene is set for the introduction of someone new. Enter, stage left, Daisy Bianco. The entire process is sprinkled with the perfect balance of sublime nuance for the reader to relish in his or her ‘aha moment’—the moment of clarity and knowing that these two anchored beings were more than a destiny when it came to meeting each other. There is nothing cheeky, predictable or cliché about The Man I Love. Rather, it is a story that speaks to its audience and masters the art of the purpose of a great book. Laqueur’s endless flow of prolific prose, dialogue and rich character development simply translates to: she has nailed this story. I would like to be so bold as to say: ‘Nicholas Sparks! Meet Suanne Laqueur. She’s coming like a steamroller and her engine is: The Man I Love!’ Well done Ms. Laqueur. Please tell us you are working on your next novel!

Quill says: The Man I Love boasts raw writing talent and is a tremendous example of what a great read is supposed to be: the perfect escape!

For more information on The Man I Love, please visit the author's website at: www.suannelaqueur.com

Feathered Quill Joins Pinterest!

Feathered Quill has joined Pinterest. Thanks a TON to reviewer (and awesome social media maven) Charline Ratcliff - who has undertaken the huge project of getting our reviewed books posted to Pinterest.

Friday, February 13, 2015

We Won An Award!

We're excited! Feathered Quill Book Awards just won an award! How cool is that??? We were just named one of the best award programs for independent authors by The Association of Independent Authors! Whoo-hoo! Thanks to all the authors who nominated their books and to our hard working judges who made the tough decisions!

Book Review - The Little Parrot and the Angel's Tears

The Little Parrot and the Angel's Tears 

Written and Illustrated by: M. Anu Narasimhan
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1631770142
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 2015

It was a beautiful day in the forest. All the animals were playing and enjoying the sunshine, even the little parrot. Every day they’d play, and every day they had lots and lots of fun. But there was something that bothered the parrot – he was little. His friends the elephant, the deer and even the rabbit didn’t seem to notice, but still, the parrot often thought about his small size. He wanted to be big like his friends. Soon, however, the parrot would learn that one’s value is not measured by size but by heart, and love for friends.

One day, while the parrot is up high in a tree, getting ready to fly down to meet his friends, he spots danger. Off in the distance he sees the trees of the forest on fire! Immediately, the parrot takes flight to get away from the fire, but then he remembers his friends. They don’t have wings, only feet. How can they get away from the fire?

Our little feathered friend, determined to help his friends, flies to their aid. He tries to lift the elephant, but no matter how briskly his wings flutter, he simply can’t lift his elephant friend. In desperation, the parrot flies to a nearby stream to gather water in his wings and dump it on the flames. Back and forth he goes, but his attempts to squash the fire with what little water he can carry, do nothing to calm the flames.

Devtas (pronounced dayv-tuhs), divine spirits who roam the earth, see what the parrot is doing and laugh at his efforts. Undaunted, the parrot continues to try and put out the fire.

“Laugh if you must but these are friends of mine
I will not stop until the fire I put out
I have work to do! This talking I can do without!”

All the Devtas but one continue to laugh. The one who doesn't laugh sees how the parrot is trying to save his friends and is touched by the bird's love. Would this spirit somehow help save the little parrot’s friends?

The Little Parrot is a re-telling of a tale that the author’s grandmothers used to tell her, inspired by their South Asian heritage. Narrated in rhyme, it flows well and really meshes nicely with the simple but quite bright and pleasing artwork. For those with young ones who frighten easily, don’t fear – there is nothing scary in The Little Parrot. The Devtas smile, laugh and, in the case of the one who takes pity on the parrot, help out. This is the type of story that puts a smile on your face as you read the last page and will stay with you long after closing the book.

Quill says: A delightful story for young and old about the selfless acts of one little bird.

Book Review - The Glittering World

The Glittering World 

By: Robert Levy
Illustrated By: Laywan Kwan
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-7452-7
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: February 12, 2015

Many times when we think of a different world or different species of beings we look to the sky picturing faraway places among the stars. However, in Robert Levy’s book, The Glittering World, a species known as the “fae” dwell under the ground deep below the depths of the land. Some people in the land of Novia Scotia believe that these are evil beings that only mean harm while others see them as amazing creatures that could hold the cure to many ailments that plague the human race. It is exceedingly rare to catch a glimpse of the fae and even more rare to see their homes for the entrances are constantly changing never to be in the same place twice. It is not until four people travel to this seemingly magical place that the world of the fae is truly seen.

When Blue Whitley learns that his grandmother left him her house after her death he comes to the conclusion that it will be best to see the house and then quickly sell it. This will pay some crucial debts that continue to haunt him back in New York City. Seeing this trip as a time for a little rest and relaxation, Blue invites three people to accompany him - his best friend Elisa, her husband Jason, and also another friend and employee of Blue’s named Gabe. However, it soon becomes clear that this trip will not be in any way a vacation, as Blue quickly feels a pull to this land that may not let him return to New York at all.

For all his life Blue’s mother would never tell him much about where he was born and the family he came from but the woods around Novia Scotia seem to be calling him home, his real home. Suddenly flashes of his childhood start coming back and he begins to wonder if he is actually meant to be a part of this world or one that lives below the ground.

After reading the synopsis of this book it did sound like an entertaining and interesting story but unfortunately as I continued reading I never really hit a point where I truly enjoyed this novel. I am not denying that this storyline was quite unique and original but there was not a point where I felt I understood the direction of this book. For me I enjoy having a clear picture of who the hero is and who I should be rooting for as I dive deeper into a story, and I never had that moment. This book is written from the perspective of four different characters and while I was able to learn different attributes of each character, I never felt that I could say which person was the actual main character of this novel. There was no one to cheer for, and not an evil to fight against or overcome and for me, those are factors that make a book a great read.

Quill says: A unique novel but unfortunately a very confusing and unsatisfying storyline.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Books In For Review

Here they are - the latest batch of books to arrive for review.  Check them out and then stop by our review site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews, in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Liberated: A Novel of Germany, 1945 by Steve Anderson It’s May 1945, the war’s just over, and Harry Kaspar, an American captain in Germany, is about to take a new posting in the US occupation—running a Bavarian town named Heimgau. When Harry loses the command to Major Membre, he’ll do almost anything to win the job back. When Harry discovers a horrific scene—three German men tortured and murdered—he reckons that solving the crime could teach the conquered townspeople about American justice, as well as help him reclaim that better posting. The only problem is that Harry’s quest for the real killer will lead him straight back to his commander, Membre, and eventually to his mentor, a can-do rebel US colonel named Spanner. Spanner is a gangster run rampant, plundering the war-torn land for all its grim worth. Harry’s lover, Katarina, a gutsy German actress, helps him realize he must fight back. Recognizing that absolute power corrupted and then destroyed Major Membre and Colonel Spanner, Harry takes it upon himself to overcome any obstacle that gets in his way and set a new American example by which a terrorized town and a mix of battered peoples can rise up from the ashes of a brutal, demoralizing war.  

Winston Churchill and the Treasure of Mapungubwe Hill by Chris AngusThere is vast treasure hidden in an almost impregnable Central African fortress surrounded by cliffs. The mountain is a honeycomb of ancient tombs and palaces, as well as the ancient burial place of a Nubian queen mysteriously wedded to a Roman. Young Winston Churchill, a prisoner during the Boer War, is offered a secret deal for freedom by Britain’s enemy Louis Botha: with Botha’s agent, Zeila, Winston must seek out and protect the greatest secret of the dark continent, a fabulous Nubian treasure known only as Mapungubwe Hill. But a rogue member of the British royal family, Lord Sterne, is also after the treasure. Can Winston and the lovely Zeila both survive being entombed? And will their relationship go further than their mission? Decades later, in the middle of a raging World War II, Winston’s special agent Martin Rand struggles to unlock Mapungubwe’s secrets again before German forces, lead by Nazi-sympathizer Lord Sterne, can overwhelm and capture it. Will Winston prevail over the Nazis, or will the Nubian warriors take matters into their own hands? And will Winston’s secret tryst with Zeila come back to ruin everything?

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason Dee Aldrich rebelled against her off-center upbringing when she married the most conventional man she could imagine: Patrick, her college sweetheart. But now, years later, her marriage is falling apart and she’s starting to believe that her husband has his eye on a new life...a life without her, one way or another. Haunted by memories of her late mother Annette, a former covert operations asset, Dee reaches back into her childhood to resurrect her mother’s lessons and the “spy games” they played together, in which Dee learned memory tricks and, most importantly, how and when to lie. But just as she begins determining the course of the future, she makes a discovery that will change her life: her mother left her a lot of money and her own husband seems to know more about it than Dee does. Now, before it’s too late, she must investigate her suspicions and untangle conspiracy from coincidence, using her mother’s advice to steer her through the blind spots. The trick, in the end, will be in deciding if a “normal life” is really what she wants at all.  

Werewolves: A Hunter's Guide by Graeme Davis Fear the full moon; for on that day of lunacy the terrible wrath of the werewolves is unleashed. For thousands of years, from ancient Greek chronicles to modern news reports, from the depths of the darkest forests to dimly lit city streets, these dread beasts have stalked us in the realms of shadow and nightmare. Now, they are awakening. This book is the only thing standing between humanity and an overwhelming horde of snarling, ferocious lycanthropes. It reveals the secret societies devoted to studying their condition, providing information on where werewolves live, and what they do to survive. It illustrates the startling variety of werewolf subspecies, as diverse as humanity itself, collecting reports of skinwalkers, hengeyokai, and other shapeshifters from across the world. Werewolves offers the dearly bought information from those that have hunted them down through the centuries - the best techniques to find and slay these creatures of the night.  

Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia's Egg-citing Farm Adventure by Lidia Bastianich It is a sleepover extravaganza when Nonna Lidia has her grandkids over for a night full of campfire stories and homemade food. As they all share a meal of omelets the next morning, Nonna Lidia reminisces about growing up on the farm, raising chickens, and gathering their eggs, which inspires a family trip to the local farm, where the kids can have their own chicken-and-egg adventures. With farm-fresh recipes focused on chicken and eggs, America’s beloved Italian-American chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich offers a variety family-friendly dishes and fun, safe ways kids can help cook. Buon appetito!  

Butterfly Kills: A Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery by Brenda Chapman Two separate crimes, two tragic outcomes. Jacques Rouleau has moved to Kingston to look after his father and take up the position of head of the town’s Criminal Investigations Division. One hot week in late September, university student Leah Sampson is murdered in her apartment. In another corner of the city, Della Munroe is raped by her husband. At first the crimes appear unrelated, but as Sergeant Rouleau and his new team of officers dig into the women’s pasts, they discover unsettling coincidences. When Kala Stonechild, one of Rouleau’s former officers from Ottawa, suddenly appears in Kingston, Rouleau enlists her to help. Stonechild isn’t sure if she wants to stay in Kingston, but agrees to help Rouleau in the short term. While she struggles with trying to decide if she can make a life in this new town, a ghost from her past starts to haunt her.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Interview with Award-Winning Author Lesley Dahlseng

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Lesley Dahlseng, author of My Kiss Won't Miss

FQ: In the society that we are living in, My Kiss Won't Miss is truly a tale that’s needed for all kids out there. What made you head down this particular path to write this story of unconditional love?

DAHLSENG: Our greatest need is to be loved. We were created for relationships. This issue has been dear to my heart for years, though I can't really take credit for the storyline. It came out of a personal experience with my daughter and an answer to prayer. When my daughter was around the age of three years old, she began resisting almost any affection I tried to offer. Hugs were fought, kisses were rejected. Nothing else developmentally raised any red flags, yet it was still a source of concern for me.

One day in my living room I asked in prayer how I could relate to my daughter. Immediately, the words popped into my head, "Blow her a kiss and it won't miss." So I made a game out of it. She would hide and I'd blow kisses and tell her there was no stopping them. It's such a simple idea, but I can't tell you the breakthrough that was felt that day. She loved it! That night I sat down to write what is now My Kiss Won't Miss. It's a message of a parent's love. Even more significant is that it points to the God who cared enough to answer my prayer in my living room. He's a personal, relational God who wants us to know Him.

FQ: Infants and toddlers are still away from the cell phones (thank goodness LOL). Do you feel that there is too much technology, and perhaps that we have lost the understanding of how important parent/child time is?

DAHLSENG: Wow. So much can be said about this! Technology advancements bring both blessings and curses. My general sense is that it's causing more problems, however. We're wiring our brains ever more increasingly to need outside stimulation. It's going to have repercussions on attention spans and our ability to learn without all the bells and whistles. With the constant demand for entertainment, how often do people stop and simply THINK anymore? I mean really think - evaluate, reflect, meditate? And despite our social networks, our children are lacking valuable social training because they can hide behind a text message.

The most tragic social neglect, however, is exactly as you alluded to in your question. Though I've been guilty of sticking my children in front of a movie as a sort of babysitter, I try to limit it. Right now our family owns one television set with no stations. With few exceptions, we are allowed one movie per week and the kids get one and a half hours per week on computer games. Even with these strict standards, I know my children would forego these privileges in a heartbeat for more personal family time.

Author Lesley Dahlseng

FQ: I know that books even mentioning the Lord are labeled Christian reading, but do you feel this is a book that really does speak to every child? A way, perhaps, to bring back the love of the Lord into children’s lives?

DAHLSENG: First, I'll say that Christ came for the world and not just a select few, so if something is a Christian message then I believe He wants it proclaimed everywhere. My own prayers have been that everyone (even the adults reading it to their children) would get a sense of their value - that they are loved. And it's my ultimate conviction that nothing will be wholly fulfilling except that which comes from God.

On another note, the majority of the book depicts the love between a parent and child. I recently gave the book as a gift to a little girl who's going through treatments for leukemia and no doubt has periods of time where her parents can't be with her at the hospital. This story is about a love that will cross any distance, and I wholeheartedly pray it can bring comfort to her. It made me consider the many difficult situations children face today - it could be a parent away on active duty, or one of the many cases of divorce that creates physical distance between a parent and child. I hope this book can minister to each of them in a way that other books may not.

FQ: I know you grew up on a small farm in North Dakota. I, too, have the background of a small town. How do you feel “small-town America” positively affects our children of today? Do you believe we have lost that way of life? If so, how can people/parents strive to bring that back in this time of constant running around?

DAHLSENG: I can always tell when I pass into rural North Dakota because everyone starts waving to you as you pass by. That's just the way I grew up. We acknowledge one another and there's a deeper sense of community that is lost in larger cities. When I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, for a few years, I joined a church that was three times the size of my entire hometown. I rarely saw a familiar face in the service, and I couldn't help but feel like just another number. Also, if it takes a village to raise a child, then the larger "village" is not an advantage. There's a greater accountability in smaller numbers. You're more likely to consider your behavior when everyone around knows you.
And yes, I agree with your assessment that we are running around more and more. As a farm girl would say, we "run around like chickens with our heads cut off." Hope that's not too graphic! We don't have to stick our kids in every extracurricular activity! We don't have to spend all our time accumulating things when what's most precious is right in front of us! No matter our location, we can choose to simplify and prioritize. And one last point for small towns . . . who likes big-city traffic? Not me!

FQ: Was the study of Philosophy helpful in your writing endeavors? If so, can you tell us why?

DAHLSENG: Writing philosophy papers and writing for young children is about as different as you can get. Nonetheless, it trains you to look for the underlying meaning of everything. I'm conscious of what it is I'm attempting to instill in young minds. That intentionality drives my general life as well. You don't escape the deep questions of life when studying philosophy. I try to examine my purpose, goals, motivations, and actions and this inevitably makes whatever I put my hand to more meaningful - that includes writing.

FQ: Besides children’s books, are you interested in writing in other genres down the line? I heard you like poetry?

DAHLSENG: I loved writing poetry as a child. As a children's writer, I gravitate towards writing in rhyme. However, I don't foresee writing any specific collection of poems. Other than children's books, I've been ruminating over a couple of topics that would be within the adult Christian nonfiction arena. I jot down thoughts or quotes I come across to possibly include, but now would be premature to really dive into writing them. There's much more for me to learn.

FQ: Could you give a little information to readers regarding your blog? How they can be a part of it; where they can read your musings, etc.?

DAHLSENG: I began a blog in 2014. It was a challenge to decide what direction I wanted to go with it. I love children's books and I also care about issues involving Christianity. The question was whether to include both, since the audiences could be very different. I decided that they're both a part of me, so why try to be someone I'm not? Thus, part of my blog is dedicated to recommending children's books (mostly secular) I've come across of excellent quality and the other is simply sharing what's been in my heart concerning my relationship with God, often an offshoot of something that happened in my life. If anyone is interested, it can be found at www.lesleydahlseng.com.

FQ: Can you offer up a hint as to another title we may see, and when we may see it?

DAHLSENG: I have several children's stories written, all of which are picture books. I've been holding onto them until I feel the time is right, so I can't really give a timeframe...hopefully not too long from now! The manuscript I'm currently finishing is likely the one I'll first submit to see if publishers are interested. It's in an upbeat rhyme, meant for some simple fun, and would fit into the secular category.

To learn more about My Kiss Won't Miss please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Press Release Has Gone Out All Over the 'Net'

And the press release announcing our award winners has just gone out all over the net (and FYI - we used the 'upgraded/paid' service to get the press release out to more people/places):


Winners of Our 2015 Annual Award Program Announced


Winners of Our 2015 Annual Award Program Announced

Started in 2008 by a small group of dedicated, enthusiastic reviewers, Feathered Quill Book Reviews has become one of the preeminent review sites on the Internet. In the summer of 2013, we opened submissions for our first annual award program, with winners announced February 1, 2014.  Now in our second year, the award program has grown by leaps and bounds and drawn submissions from all over the world, from the U.S. to the UK and as far away as Ukraine.  This year, we were honored by the large number of submissions, from the one book self-publisher all the way up to the major New York houses. 

When submissions closed on December 15, 2014, our judges had the daunting task of reading a HUGE number of excellent books and trying to decide the best of the best.  Every book was read, every book was judged, and often it was a mere point or two that separated the winners from the ‘almost won’ books. 

In addition to the prestige of winning a national award, all winning books have been listed in our online bookstore, accessible from all pages of our review site, www.featheredquill.com.  We also offered over ten special awards, valued between $100 and $1000.  For a complete list of winners, please visit our award page and click on ‘2015 winners’ -  www.featheredquill.com/awardprogram.shtml

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