Sunday, June 28, 2015

Books In For Review

Check 'um out!  Here's a sampling of the books that have just arrived for review.  Stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

The Wrong Man by Kate White Finn couldn't be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction. But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off in the Keys, she doesn't recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she's been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Now the only way to protect herself, her business, and the people she loves is to find out the true identity of the man who has turned her life upside down.  

Drop Dead Punk: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested. A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha--a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop--he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.  

A Lady of Good Family by Jeanne Mackin Raised among wealth and privilege during America’s fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe with her mother and aunt, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. How this highborn woman with unconventional views escapes the dictates of society to become the most celebrated female landscape designer in the country is the story of her unique determination to create beauty and serenity while remaining true to herself. Beatrix’s journey begins at the age of twenty-three in the Borghese Gardens of Rome, where she meets beguiling Amerigo Massimo, an Italian gentleman of sensitivity and charm—a man unlike any she has known before...  

Beyond Suspicion by Catherine A. Winn Her mom’s remarriage has been hard on fifteen year old Shelby. Roger is strict and treats her like a child. At least they’re letting her go to her first boy-girl party. That is until she gets home from school and finds that Roger has changed his mind—he wants Shelby to babysit her year-old brother Josh. It’s so unfair! Fuming, Shelby takes Josh in his stroller to the park. After all, it’s not his fault. Someone sets off fireworks, distracting Shelby. When she turns around—Josh is gone. Shelby tells the police she’s seen a white van cruising the neighborhood lately, and she thinks she saw it at the park as well. But to her horror, the police are not interested: Pointing to angry texts to her girlfriends about getting back at Roger, they accuse her of causing Josh’s disappearance! The police focus on the woods around the park, driving Shelby wild with fear and anger that the kidnappers will get away. With TV reporters all over the front yard, Shelby sneaks out the back to find her brother, any way she can. So begins Shelby’s race against time—and against a world that has turned on her. And yet she finds help along the way. There’s mysterious Matt, who says he wants to help, but doesn’t seem to want anyone to know it. And there’s Jess, who watches out for Shelby as, against the odds, she tracks down the kidnappers down just as they are leaving town.  

The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet. For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets. As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.  

Weightless by Sarah Bannan When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school's cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn's bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign. Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hashtagging Your Way To Social Media Relevance

Those Seemingly Inconsequential Hashtags Are
Crucial To Gaining More Exposure For Your Brand

By Jay York
Not so many years ago, many people probably paid little attention to that pound sign on the computer keyboard. You know, the one that looks like this: #.
Then along came Twitter and what we have come to call the “hashtag,” and social media marketing was changed forever.

Yet not everyone takes advantage of hashtags the way they should, and that’s unfortunate because if you are not using hashtags you are missing out on exposure for you and your brand.
When you are on social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram, your goal should be to become part of the conversation. The hashtag allows more people to find your contributions to that conversation. Without them, you miss out on lots of eyes that could be viewing your content.
For example, let’s say 1,000 people follow you on Twitter. Not counting re-tweets, only 1,000 people will see your posts if you don’t use a hashtag.
Add the hashtag, though, and you start picking up momentum because the post has the potential of being seen by, and re-tweeted by, any number of people.  A common hashtag, such as #love, can position your post to be seen by potentially millions of people.
But be warned.  While there are great benefits to hashtags, there also are pitfalls. Hashtags don’t come with exclusivity. Anyone can use them, so a hashtag can become a weapon that works both for you and against you. Critics of your brand, or just the usual assortment of Internet trolls, may attempt to hijack your hashtag, putting you or your business in a bad light.
A prime example of a hijacked hashtag happened a few years ago when McDonald’s, apparently hoping for a flattering conversation about the restaurant chain, introduced #McDStories on Twitter.
#McDStories went viral, but not in a good way as the Twitter world had a field day tweeting unflattering tales of their alleged bad experiences with the restaurant.
Don’t let such cautionary tales deter you, though. March boldly into hashtagging, but as you do keep in mind these suggestions for getting the most out of your efforts.
•  Use proprietary hashtags. One of the advantages to a proprietary hashtag, such as “Orange is the New Black’s” hashtag #OITNB, is that it is linked directly to your brand. These hashtags typically are not used as widely as a more generic hashtag, but the goal is to brand yourself through the hashtag with the hope it could go viral.
•  Don’t overdo it. A post littered with too many hashtags can be difficult to read, so your message might become obscured as your followers see what appears to be gibberish. Perhaps you saw the skit Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon once performed in which they spoofed the device’s overuse by lacing their spoken conversation with seemingly endless hashtags. It was hilarious and annoying all at the same time.
Twitter itself suggests using no more than two hashtags per Tweet. Certainly, three should be the very maximum on Twitter. A different etiquette exists on Instagram, though, and most Instagram followers will tolerate excess hashtags. Meanwhile, although hashtags can be used on Facebook, there’s little reason to include even one. That’s not the way people use that social media site.
•  Think geographically. If you are a local company that depends mainly on local clientele, a hashtag that links to your location works well. Hashtags such as #Seattle or #Bangor drop you into numerous conversations about your hometown.
Since social media has become such a vital element of any comprehensive marketing strategy, understanding all of the nuances is critical.
A hashtag may not look like much, but it’s really a powerful tool that is a double-edged sword.  If used correctly it can greatly bolster your marketing reach.  Used incorrectly, it can have adverse effects or unintended consequences.
With social media, your hashtag is your brand, so use it wisely.

About Jay York
Jay York, senior digital marketing strategist for EMSI Public Relations (, is an internet marketing expert with extensive experience in social media marketing dating back to the early days of MySpace and LiveJournal. Since graduating from the University of South Florida Business School, Jay has worked as marketing coordinator for an international IT training company; business development and branding manager for a startup restaurant management group; and CEO of his own social media management firm.

Book Review - InterstellarNet: Enigma

InterstellarNet: Enigma

By: Edward M. Lerner
Publisher: FoxAcre Press
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936771-64-6
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 2015

Being a historian was much more than a career for Joshua Matthews as he was fascinated by the facts of the past and how moments through time have been linked together. His latest theory was that the InterstellarNet, a community of worlds in the solar system, have had similar historic occurrences around the same time even before these worlds were able to communicate with each other. Finally, he is given the chance to write down the history of InterstellarNet and have it published. However, before he has the chance to get started he disappears for a full month with no recollection of where he was or who he was with. One day he is just dropped off by a driver in a taxi cab feeling as if he was hungover from the night before, but that night was nearly thirty days ago.

Suddenly completely disgraced, Joshua is unemployed and loses the chance to publish the history of InterstellarNet. Not wanting to give up on his idea so easily Joshua continues to wonder exactly what happened to him as there was no security camera footage of him anywhere, no phone calls, and no memories. How could someone completely disappear off the grid for a full month? It comes to his attention that someone could have planned this, that someone did not want him to write the history of InterstellarNet so before he even got started they made sure it could never begin. As Joshua starts investigating he gets into a conflict that reaches across the entire solar system.

Reporter Corinne Elman survived the Hunter Invasion and that has been her ticket to fame for the past twenty years as they are still doing stories on it. However, the nightmares of that time still haunt her and even though it has brought her fame she is ready to find a real story again that she can dive into. When Joshua Matthews shows up and seems to have had a month long drunken party, Corinne decides this is her chance to become a reporter again and get to the bottom of what really happened to Joshua. She never dreamed it would take her as far as it does.

As I've mentioned in other reviews, science fiction is one of my favorite genres to read so when I saw this particular one it looked like it would be right up my alley. There were many elements of this book that I enjoyed as the incredible futuristic setting of the solar system was immensely fun to imagine as were all of the different worlds within it. Also, whenever the plot is so interwoven and each new chapter brings to life new pieces of the puzzle, that definitely makes a book a fun read and this one did do that. The one thing I did not enjoy was that I sometimes found myself reading over the same few lines to understand what I was reading. The writing was at times just so detailed and technical that it took me a little while to compute exactly what I was reading.

Quill says: An intriguing science fiction novel that creates an unforgettable view of what the future could be.

Book Review - Resorting to Murder

Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, A British Library Crime Classic

Edited by: Martin Edwards
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0375-6
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 26, 2015

There are fourteen stories in this collection, gathered by the British Library Crime Classics and Spy Classics series. The holiday mysteries in the title refer to all types of holidays, not just the big ones (Christmas, New Year’s, etc). The entries are all Classic British writers including such amazing authors as Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Helen Simpson, and Patricia Highsmith.

As always, the holidays let us all get away from it all and so does a really good detective novel. This collection is full of vintage mysteries that combine sitting on the beach with a good book, especially a murder book. The reader is able to go to the golf course in England and on to a small hotel in Paris and then on to the Swiss Alps and the White Cliffs of Dover. The authors are right on the mark, and the stories are varied and even include the victims and suspects on a summer holiday.

Each of these stories is a real gem as the readers will find out in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot which brings us to a case where Doyle tells the readers how it was solved by Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It’s a really terrific story. A few stories by Dame Agatha Christie are mentioned in the book along with the fact that she loved holiday mysteries. Unfortunately, those stories are not included in this collection. Regardless, it's still a great selection of stories. Finally, the editor, Martin Edwards, has written a very interesting introduction to the book and told a little about each story before beginning the narrative.

Quill says: Resorting to Murder is a perfect holiday book or, for that matter, a perfect read for any time of the year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review - Finder's Keepers

Finder’s Keepers

By: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1501100079
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 25, 2015

What happens when you have a crazed fan, a stack of unread manuscripts from said fan’s favorite author, and an unlucky teen who happens to get in the way? In the hands of author Stephen King, you get an intense, nail-biting thriller that will take over every crevice of your mind.

Author John Rothstein is an elderly man who, after writing the famed Jimmy Gold trilogy, retired to New Hampshire where he lives as a recluse. Rumors abound about additional Jimmy Gold books. Rothstein’s number one fan, Morris Bellamy, will do anything to get those manuscripts including killing Rothstein. The story opens with Rothstein’s death at the hands of Bellamy but before Bellamy can read his bounty, he is arrested for another crime and sentenced to life in prison.

Before his arrest, Bellamy managed to bury his treasure in an old trunk and as he rots in prison, the only thing that keeps him going is the thought of one day getting out and reading more Jimmy Gold books. Unknown to Bellamy, a young teen, Pete Saubers, who has the misfortune of living in Bellamy’s old house, stumbles upon the trunk and, together with a stash of cash that was also stolen, finds the manuscripts. Like Bellamy, Saubers is a big John Rothstein fan and devours the unpublished stories of Jimmy Gold, careful to hide the manuscripts from everybody, lest he be accused of stealing them. At the same time, he slowly and anonymously dishes out the cash to his parents. Of course, the reader of Finder’s Keepers knows that Bellamy will get out of jail one day and that he will go after Saubers. And that’s where the story really explodes.

I’ve been a long time fan of King’s, dating back to the Cujo and Pet Semetary days. The last few books of his that I have read, however, haven’t kept my interest like those previous books. I’m happy to report that Finder’s Keepers grabbed me on the very first page and while I finished the book last night, it still hasn’t let go. King slowly, methodically, builds the tension from the time of Rothstein’s murder in 1978 to present day where Bellamy and Saubers will meet.

Finder’s Keepers is the sequel to Mr. Mercedes, but you needn’t read the first to dive right into this newest offering. There are numerous references to the first book, and some chilling scenes between the villain from that first book and Hodges, a detective out to save Pete Saubers, that nicely sets things up for a third book, but again, King guides the new reader through those characters/events so there’ll be no problems following along.

Quill says: Finder’s Keepers is Stephen King at his absolute best. I loved it!

Book Review - It's You

It’s You

By: Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-27715-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 2015

Jane Porter treats her audience to a good read in her latest novel, It’s You.

Alison (Ali) McAdams is the ‘it girl’ in It’s You (no pun intended). She is a successful dentist. She loves her work. She is bright, easy on the eyes...lives in glorious Scottsdale, Arizona. When the sudden derailment of her happily ever after rocks her world, however, ‘it’ is soon replaced with ‘lost.’ How could she know when she went out to pick up ice cream that her return home would be a greeting of her fiancé Andrew swinging from the chandelier—the end result of his successful suicide mission.

Compound the death of Andrew with the recent passing of her mother and Ali is grateful her Dad is still alive; albeit their relationship isn’t the greatest. He lives in Napa in an assisted living facility. When Ali is summoned to California by her father for a visit, it was perfect planetary alignment. Call it coincidence, but it seems Ali’s business partner insists (mandates) she take a break around the same time. Once in Napa, Ali begins to understand the full depths of her sorrow and fears she doesn’t have the strength of facing her future without Andrew by her side. Unbeknownst to Ali, brusque and cantankerous Edie is about to enter her life and with her, she brings the prospect of hope and healing for Ali.

I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Porter’s previous work. However, I will say It’s You is a great introduction. Porter has a strong familiarity and connection with her first person narrative style and it resonates across the pages. Her main character, Alison (Ali) McAdams, is believable in that her story is relatable: true love found, true love lost and all that is left is the painful clean-up of emotional wreckage. After reading It’s You, I wanted to know more about Ms. Porter. As I often do with many authors I review, I want to learn more about the author to understand what inspires them to write what they write. I happened upon a nugget of a YouTube interview. Ms. Porter was posed with the question of (and I’m paraphrasing, here) ‘...what’s your winning formula...’ to which she answered to near perfection by explaining the reality that not everyone is going to like your work. There are naysayers as much as there are undying fans. The object is to know the audience YOU are writing for; stay true to your audience and go for it. Having such clear vision enables the writer to sit down and focus solely on the solid construction of a good story. I’d venture to guess this was how It’s You was born - a definite ‘must include in the beach bag’ summer read! I look forward to reading some of the author's earlier titles (and certainly her next novel). Congratulations Ms. Porter! Well done.

Quill says: This is a story with depth in that it has great pace and solid plot - the perfect formula for a good read!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review - The Art of Baking Blind

The Art of Baking Blind

By: Sarah Vaughan
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05940-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 24, 2015

Sarah Vaughan conjures up a yummy read in her debut novel, The Art of Baking Blind.

Eaden’s Grocery Chain is in search of the ‘New Mrs. Eaden.’ What better way to discover the best of the best than to hold a baking competition? The place is Chelsea, England and Kathleen Eaden, baker extraordinaire and wife of millionaire/owner George Eaden is the inspiration. Her portrait is the anchor image on display in every Eaden’s grocery marketplace. Fifty years after its doors opened, the grocer is in search of the New Mrs. Eaden; a coveted role to carry the chain’s reputation forward and breathe new life into its existence.

The choices are made and the competitors are in place. There is Karen: the epitome of physical envy with her lean and lithe physique. How is it possible that someone with enviable baking skills is able to maintain what appears to be a less than zero body fat count? Mike, the only male in the competition, may be the dark horse. Of course homemaker Jennifer (‘Jenny’) is one to watch. Her outward appearance is a threat in and of itself with her grandmotherly curves and sweet disposition—obvious credentials for the quintessential baker. Chloe has her own reasons for seeking the coveted titled—barely out of her teens she is a single mom and would do anything to secure the purse and the promise of finding a way to support her young daughter. Vicki is a perfectionist. She loves her adoring son and husband, but now is her time to prove to her mother she can succeed. Perhaps with this win, her mother will finally acknowledge her accomplishment. It’s time for the group to don their stations and fill their mixing bowls...let the competition begin and may the one who is worthy be the one who is victorious...

Sarah Vaughan establishes a velvety and smooth cadence from the onset of The Art of Baking Blind. In many respects, I found myself wondering if she too is a baker given the gradual and consistent procession of folding plot into the mix as the story progressed—i.e., a pinch of drama, followed by a balance of prose. The overarching theme of the story is the cooking competition and Ms. Vaughan cleverly breaks down the sections into select categories of baked goods: i.e., beginning with Cakes, once the concept is mastered and the contestants have presented their respective masterpieces, it is time to move onto the next section: Bread. Throughout the read, there is the back story of the famed “Kathleen Eaden” that delves into her life story and struggles not only to attain motherhood, but the demands of being the ‘perfet’ Mrs. Eaden. Ms. Vaughan stays true to her subject matter and demonstrates a solid knowledge of the ‘art of baking’ that creates strong credibility for the characters she has created. With summer upon us, this is a great read to take along on vacation. Well done Ms. Vaughan. I look forward to your next book.

Quill says: The Art of Baking Blind is a scrumptious read that will pair well with a shoreline, toes in the sand and just enough breeze to turn the pages!

Interview with Author Bev Pettersen

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Bev Pettersen, author of A Pony for Christmas: A Montana Holiday Novella

FQ: Do most of your books take place in northern states like Montana?

PETTERSEN: I’ve written another short story with a Montana setting (cold and blustery) and a longer novel based in Alberta, Canada. But some of my other books were based in southern states like Florida and California. As long as there’s a horse setting that I know and love, I’m inspired!

FQ: When you were writing this book how did you work to make it unique from other “pony for Christmas” stories?

PETTERSEN: I had just finished writing a longer romantic mystery novel when my five year-old niece told me about her expectations for Santa that year. I couldn’t forget her hopeful innocence so had to shift gears and write this novella. I wasn’t thinking of other Christmas books, just this story that quickly filled my thoughts.

FQ: Do your own memories and experiences with horses find their way into your books?

PETTERSEN: Absolutely! I always wanted a pony, for Christmas and every other day. When I was little, I hid a box in the family bathroom, asking visitors to donate money for my pony in exchange for toilet paper. I’ll never forget one kind gentleman who left a generous sum. That helped buy my first years later.

Author Bev Pettersen with Nifty

FQ: While the book is aimed at young children, as an adult, I found it a fun read. Was it intentional to make it readable by such a wide range of readers?

PETTERSEN: I didn’t set out to write a children’s book. My eight other books are romantic mysteries. But writing from a young girl’s perspective gave a primary story which seems to have provided this novella with a wider appeal. I was surprised and honored at its reception.

FQ: What are the advantages in your opinion in writing from a child’s point of view?

PETTERSEN: Writing as a five-year-old let me slip into Suzy’s mind and really see the world through her eyes. Children feel so intensely, it was exciting to show her highs and lows and her utter disappointment that bleak Christmas morning.

FQ: Are there any disadvantages or difficulties that you found with choosing this point of view?

PETTERSEN: Suzy’s mother was a struggling widow who caught the interest of a prosperous rancher while Suzy was oblivious to their blossoming romance. It was a little challenging to slide in subtle hints, things that wouldn’t be picked up by younger readers but might be appreciated by adults.

FQ: How do you decide how long a novel should be for it to still be interesting for adults but not overwhelming for children?

PETTERSEN: Children are amazing. They can read almost any length if they find it interesting. And the story naturally played out to its proper length.

FQ: Did you consider writing from more than one perspective for this book?

PETTERSEN: No, this story was best told from Suzy’s perspective. She was such a kind and determined little girl so it was refreshing to show her view of Christmas and her utter faith in Santa.

To learn more about A Pony for Christmas: A Montana Holiday Novella please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Book Review - 100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It)

100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It)

By: Ana Maria Spagna
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1612124568
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 21, 2015

Disease, a nuclear disaster, a terrorist matter the cause, if the world – as we know it – is altered irrevocably, there’s no doubt you’ll need certain skills to survive. And chances are you don’t have many of those skills...yet. This book will clue you in on what you need to know, before you need it, so you can be prepared sure exactly what...

In a brief introduction, the author explains, “...One thing is certain: we don’t know when or if the world will end. But we also don’t know what the future may bring, and we can’t expect things to stay exactly as they are.” Whatever the cause, the author argues that changes brought about by a calamity will require humans to live closer to the land, and the skills required to do that have been lost by so many of us. Her list of 100 skills (and she suggest that the reader add to the list or come up with his/her own list) follows in alphabetical order, from animal husbandry to whittling.

Two pages of this compact book (5 x 7) are dedicated to each skill. One page has a picture, the other a description of the skill. Do not expect to be well versed in these skills after reading this book – there’s very little beyond a brief overview of the needed knowledge for each skill. A few, such as ‘Basic First Aid’ go into a bit more detail, “...keep the stitches a quarter inch apart…” (pg. 15) but I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to stitch a wound after reading this book. Nor do I believe the author intended these overviews to be complete lessons in any topic. Rather, they are jumping off points for further research.

As I read through this book, I found myself wondering what its purpose was – to entertain, bring a laugh, or a serious look at things you might need to know should the world go haywire. There are serious skills listed such as shelter building and welding, but laughing? Sleeping? Really? It seemed that 100 Skills is a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it an overview of survivalist skills or a quirky look at those who believe the world will end? If you’re looking for a gag gift or a silly, read-through-once and laugh book, you might want to consider this one. Otherwise, I’d skip it.

Quill says: If you really want to learn survival skills, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a 
somewhat fun, but relatively useless, overview of skills you may need, you might want to look at this title.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review - Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat

Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat

By: Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle
Publisher: Rizzoli
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-0847844784
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 21, 2015

I’ll be the first one to admit it – I like hats, but I’m certainly not knowledgeable about various styles, histories, and the role of hats in the evolution of fashion. But after reading this beautiful book about Patricia Underwood, THE milliner who set the standard for all others to follow, I have a new love and appreciation for hats and the fun, and yes, important, role they play in creating the perfect ensemble.

The book opens with a forward by Isaac Mizrahi, in which the famed designer gives us a peek into the life of Patricia Underwood. He talks about how Underwood turned an often overlooked accessory into an important part of any outfit. Truly, the hat, under Underwood’s skillful eye, became the part that ‘finished’ an ensemble. And Underwood believed that a hat couldn’t be just pretty, it had to “look good and function.”

An interesting biography by Doria de la Chapelle accompanied by photos of Underwood, her family, business partners as well as early models sporting Underwood creations follows. We read about the milliner’s early challenges, entering a field that, at the time, seemed to be dying out. After all, who in the early 70s was thinking about hats? This was a time when “A hat was about the last thing a girl thought to wear with her long peasant dresses and shag haircut.” (pg. 28) Underwood certainly had her work cut out for her!

Not one to give up, Underwood’s hats gradually found their way into iconic New York fashion stores such as Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, and the milliner’s hard work began to pay off. Unlike so many of her competitors, Underwood’s hats were “...both an artistic and a functional endeavor, a balance that demands the combination of fine materials and flawless construction.” (pg. 25)

The bulk of this visual treat of a book is Underwood’s portfolio – page after page of beautiful images of models showcasing the many creations of Patricia Underwood. Some are in color, others in black and white, and there’s no doubt you will find many within these pages that you absolutely love. At the back of the book is a ‘hats off’ tribute to some of those people who ran the business that is Patricia Underwood, along with a four page history/explanation of Underwood’s favorite hats. Overall, I have to say that this book was the most fun to review in a very long time – what a great way to spend time – ogling beautiful hats and learning the history behind them. Thank you, Ms. Underwood, for creating such gorgeous hats that those of us out in the ‘real world’ can enjoy!

Quill says: Stunning, gorgeous, informative – this is far more than a coffee table book to decorate your favorite room. There’s no doubt that after reading this book, you’ll have a new appreciation for the role of ‘The Hat’ in that perfect outfit.

Book Review - Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta

Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta

By: Eileen Cameron
Illustrated by: Doris Ettlinger
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-1620869840
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 2015

The country is England and the year is 1215. Like most youngsters who must learn a trade, twelve-year-old Rupert works with his father, learning how to make fine parchment. One day while he and his father are out delivering skins to Rupert’s uncle, two sheriffs appear and decide to take the two carts of skins. “That’s not fair!” cries Rupert but unfortunately, in 1215, the King, and his minions, could do whatever they wanted.

While Rupert and his father were justifiably upset with the actions of the King’s men, the barons and bishops of England had also had enough of the King’s actions. King John needed tax money to maintain his army but the barons were tired of paying so many taxes and being at the whim of their king. Something had to be done...

Rupert’s Parchment is the story of the Magna Carta, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. We see how Rupert and his family are treated by the King’s men, as well as the dissatisfaction of the nobility. The reader will learn about the meeting between King John and others that led to the creation of the Magna Carta. While a few words may be difficult for some readers, there is a glossary in the back that defines many of the terms. There is also an “All About Magna Carta Principles, People, and Places” as well as a side-by-side comparison of five of the clauses of the Magna Carta and five of the amendments of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Rupert’s Parchment brings an historical event, from the Middle Ages, to life for young readers - the perfect book to start a school project or simply learn more about a very important event that helped shape the United States' government.

Quill says: Rupert’s Parchment is a good story for youngsters eager to learn about this very important document and the history behind it.

Book Review - Fabulous Me, Piper Lee And The Peanut Butter Itch

Fabulous Me, Piper Lee And The Peanut Butter Itch

By: Tolya L. Thompson
Illustrated by: Terence Gaylor
Publisher: Savor Publishing House
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-0970829672
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 21, 2015

Like almost all youngsters, Piper Lee LOVES peanut butter. Yum, yum! Piper Lee knows she can’t eat peanuts, but perhaps just a small taste of that creamy peanut butter on the counter is okay...She’s about to learn just how dangerous any peanut product is to her young body.

Piper Lee is in the kitchen when she spots a jar of peanut butter. She knows she can’t eat peanuts, but surly a creamy, buttery mix would be safe to eat. Piper Lee takes just a tiny taste and double-yum! What a great taste – and surprise – she feels fine.

“Friends, look at me. I am OKAAAY!
Yay! Peanut Butter every day!”

Unfortunately, Piper Lee spoke too soon. It isn’t long before she gets an itch, her lip feels fat and then she starts to wheeze. Time for mom to rush into action! Fabulous Me, Piper Lee And The Peanut Butter Itch is a super fun way to teach children about peanut allergies. Told primarily in rhyme that works perfectly, the story teaches without getting scary:

“Hey friends, my lip is feeling really fat.
What do you think is up with that?
My nose itches. I have to sneeze.
And when I breathe I hear a wheeze.”

Illustrations that accompany the text are bright, cheerful and fun. This book should be in the home of every family that has a youngster with a peanut allergy as well as in every pediatrician’s office. To top it off, any author who can use ‘epinephrine’ successfully in a rhyming book deserves 5-stars on that fact alone! What a great book to teach youngsters about the dangers of peanut allergies.

Quill says: Kudos to author Talya Thompson and illustrator Terence Gaylor. Together you’ve created a wonderful book about peanut allergies that all little readers will love.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review - Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery

Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery

By: Ed Ifkovic
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0392-3
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 18, 2015

As book six in the Edna Ferber mystery series opens, the year is 1914 and rumors are flying about a war that is in the making. It’s been two years since the sinking of the Titanic and Edna Ferber (an author and reporter) is traveling to Budapest, Hungary, the homeland of her father. Edna travels with Winifred Moss, a London suffragette. When they arrive, they book rooms in the Arpad Hotel, which is not the swankiest in the area but they like it. In the middle of the establishment sits the Café Europa, which is (according to Harold Gibbon, a reporter working for the Hearst papers) the hub for all gossip and front page news.

Gibbon tells Edna and Winifred that he wants to write a book featuring the decline and fall of the Austrians and that he is at the Europa to get a story concerning the upcoming marriage of an American heiress, Cassandra Blaine, to an Austrian count, who doesn’t have a penny to his name. However, Cassandra is smitten with Endre Molnar, who is from an old family but doesn’t have any of the old family money. To top it off, Endre is not exactly the favorite of Cassandra’s mother who is a social climber to end all social climbers. Cassandra talks to Edna and after she talks to Edna, Cassandra gets a note from Endre asking her to meet him in the garden. Sadly, Cassandra is soon found murdered and Endre is suspect number one.

This is the point where Edna and Winifred go into investigation mode and start looking for suspects. Edna is convinced that Endre is innocent and she's not going to stop until she is able to prove it. The duo find a few people who could have done the deed and are on their way to putting together the pieces of the puzzle of Cassandra’s murder, but there is a war looming and not much time. Between the mystery and the tense moments created by Archduke Franz Ferdinand's preparations for a trip to Sarajevo (and we all know what happened there), Café Europa was a very satisfying read.

Quill says: Another five star book in the Edna Ferber mystery series.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

4 Tips to Help Authors Sell More Books

Want to Attract More Readers? – Publishing Sales Coach Offers Helpful Insight
By mid-2014, self-published authors began taking home the bulk of all ebook author earnings generated on Meanwhile, authors published by all of the Big Five publishers—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster—combined slipped into second place, according to the January 2015 Author Earnings Report. As a direct result, more and more authors are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the sales and marketing of their books.

“I’ve received several emails via LinkedIn over the years from newly self-published authors who were promoting their books, trying to convince me to buy them. If you’re one of these authors, I genuinely applaud you for taking that important step toward self-promotion,” says Staflund, founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG), “Unfortunately, 99 percent of the contacts you emailed never purchased your book because your message was flawed in one or, perhaps, all of the following ways.”

WIIFM: What’s In It for Me?

This is what all our customers are asking themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, whenever they consider making a purchase: what’s in it for me? All salespeople need to be aware of the WIIFM acronym and be sure they’re answering that question in all of their marketing materials, in a clear and concise manner that speaks to customers in their language. 
Being “clear” means telling them what’s in it for them in a manner that addresses their needs directly. Will your book increase their joy? If yes, how? Will your book decrease their pain? If yes, how?
Being “concise” means telling them what’s in it for them in as few words as possible. We live in an “instant soup” society filled with customers that want quick and easy solutions to their problems. Your materials are best received when someone makes up their own mind to review them—not when they've been interrupted by a long, drawn out, unsolicited email on LinkedIn or elsewhere. 
And “speaking to them in their language” means communicating what’s in it for them in a manner that they will understand and appreciate most. Two of the marketing languages you may choose from are price-based marketing and value-based marketing.
TOMA: Top of Mind Awareness
Your target market is a fluid and ever-changing stream of old and new customers. You need to stay in front of them so that, when they’re ready to buy whatever type of book it is you’re selling, they’ll recall your book ahead of all the others. In the world of advertising and marketing, this is known as creating top of mind awareness.
Some of the traditional ways that businesses create top of mind awareness are to place regular ads on television, radio, and billboards, or in print media outlets such as magazines and newspapers. Repetition is the key to success in any advertising campaign, and this can get pretty expensive in these traditional arenas. We’re talking hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars per month to run enough ads to achieve top of mind awareness with the general public, depending on how large a trading area you’re trying to reach. Luckily, authors have a virtually free online alternative known as blogging that utilizes the power of keywords to draw people in from anywhere in the world that has Internet access. And, authors also have the benefit of free social media websites to super-charge those blogging campaigns.
An Attractive, Accessible Storefront
All your blogging and social media marketing efforts will be profitless unless you’re using those vehicles to consistently redirect people to the webpage where they can buy your book. Make it quick and easy for them to find the place to buy your book once they’ve read that compelling blog post or viewed that interesting tweet on Twitter. Make the page so attractive that they will want the book even more.
Convenient, User-friendly Purchase Options
Some people are more comfortable with online shopping than others. Where one customer may want to pay for a purchase using PayPal, another will prefer to pay via their favourite credit card. Some still prefer an old-fashioned “pay by cheque or money order” option. The more purchase options you can provide, the more convenient and user-friendly your online storefront will appear. It’s the equivalent of casting a much wider net to catch a greater variety of fish.

About Kim Staflund
As the founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG),, Kim Staflund works with businesses and individuals around the world to produce professional quality audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks and hardcovers using a supported self-publishing business model. As a bestselling author and sales coach, she shows authors how to sell their books using all the effective traditional and online tricks of the trade. Staflund has a substantial sales and sales management history combined with over 20 years of book publishing experience within the traditional and new publishing markets.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Review - A Pony for Christmas

A Pony for Christmas: A Montana Holiday Novella

By: Bev Pettersen
Illustrated By: Kim Killion
Publisher: Westerhall Books
Publication Date: November 2014
ISBN: 978-1-987835-00-7
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 9, 2015

From the very first day of each year until December rolls around again there are children everywhere wishing for something special to come from Santa on Christmas morning. In a town in Montana all the children are counting down the days until that exciting morning. For a little six-year-old girl named Suzy Jenkins the only thing she wants this Christmas is something she has asked for the last couple years, a pony of her own. All year she has been reading up and getting everything ready for her new pony including saving a few carrots as treats. She has also made sure to write a perfect letter to Santa and give it to her teacher at school so it can be mailed to the North Pole, because everyone knows that mailing a letter is the best way to tell Santa exactly what you want.

In addition to sending a letter Suzy has also made sure to be extra nice this year with everything she does. She even shared her candy cane with a lonely man named Carl, and she did not tattle on the boys who had bullied her as she thought that Santa probably would not like tattling. Unfortunately, Suzy’s mom does not seem as excited about the idea of a pony as Suzy does, for every time Suzy mentions it her mother says something such as “a pony costs too much to feed,” or “we can’t handle taking care of a pony right now.” Since Suzy sees that getting a pony is upsetting to her mom she decides not to mention it anymore but she does keep asking Santa to make her wish come true. She can feel that this will be the year that some true magic happens and she will find a pony just for her in the barn on Christmas morning.

This was a wonderfully sweet and refreshing read and even though it was not a long book I did enjoy the story. There were a couple Christmases when I was a little girl where I remember wishing with all my might that Santa would bring me a horse so it was easy for me to relate to the thoughts the character of Suzy was having. Thinking about a beautiful pony or horse with flowing mane and tail waiting for you in a barn is something quite magical and Bev Pettersen captures this feeling perfectly as she brings to life a heartwarming story. That innocence of childhood is something that, while it lasts for just a short time, is a memory to be cherished. This book could definitely be enjoyed by any age group and especially young children starting to read early-reader chapter books.

Quill says: A heartwarming story that brings together the wonderful innocence of children and the magic of the Christmas season.

For more information on A Pony for Christmas: A Montana Holiday Novella, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - The Tulip Resistance

The Tulip Resistance

By: Lynne Leatham Allen
Publisher: Bonneville Books
Publishing Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4621-1696-6
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: June 9, 2015

The Tulip Resistance begins in 1940 in the Dutch countryside before the German Army rolled into or over Holland and shows that life in the country was peaceful. It also, however, shows how easy it was when the Germans finally took the country using much violence to keep the people at bay so they could take over. The main character, Marieka Coevorden, is a local girl who has her chores to do in the morning, milking the cow, picking up eggs and making deliveries in the neighborhood. Her family, consisting of Mom, Dad and brother Bastiaan live, as you’ve probably guessed, on a farm.

There have been many, many books written about Hitler’s armies in WWII but one set in Holland is intriguing. Much of the story was told about the children and the differences in their lives before and after the German occupation of their homeland. At first the kids are playing and teasing each other and then, practically the next day, the livestock of the townspeople (chickens and pigs) are being taken from them by the army, a curfew is enforced, there is rationing of food and people are being attacked in the streets, especially Jewish people, and they have to run from their homes.

The resistance is formed and many people chose to help others even though they might be killed if caught. But everything comes to a halt for Marieka when she comes upon a wounded German soldier who is trying to defect and needs her help. She knows that if the man is caught with her she will be killed along with him and more than likely, her family will also be killed.

Quill says: This is a fine story of a young girl who, by helping the resistance, could be putting her whole family at risk. The extremely different storyline is definitely worth a read.

Book Review - This Land is Your Land

This Land is Your Land

By: Catherine Morrison
Illustrated by: Cathy Morrison
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1628555660
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 2015

A beautiful mountain range loomed in the background of the family campground. A boy and his mother sat on a log, discussing the natural world around them. He held a pair of binoculars, ready and waiting to take a closer look, while his mother pointed at something in the distance. What would they be able to see that would tell them about landforms they found on their map? "Earth has landforms everywhere: / special places people share. / Nature makes an awesome scene ... / up high, down low, and in between."

Their map would tell them all about the jagged seacoast where the land nestled up next to the sea. It's a wonderful place where a little girl and a dog can run in the sand while sandpipers search for food in the incoming waves. They could learn about snowcapped mountains and their snowy peaks. Brrrrrr! If you take a close look at the map you can easily see that hills and plateaus have much different shapes than a mountain. The map inset shows four states in the Colorado Plateau, but just what is a plateau?

"A plateau stretches miles long. / Its rocky structure makes it strong. / The land is raised and flat on top. / Desert plateaus can't grow a top." Around the world they can travel, exploring the different geological features it has to offer. A physical map can tell us all kinds of things about our Earth's landforms and geological features. Do you know what an archipelago is and how one is formed? Perhaps you've seen a depiction of the Hawaiian island chain. You learn all about how this chain was formed and much more in this fascinating book!

This is a great geo adventure that will help young students learn about the Earth's landforms and geological features. This story in rhyme is an animated overview of our world as seen from both the eyes of children and adults enjoying its features. Each two-page spread has an inset that shows some aspect of the area being explored or discussed via the rhyme. For example, when discussing the hill where wilderness are seen sliding, we see a physical map in the inset. In the back matter are activities that include additional landform information, a matching activity, map skills information, and questions. In addition to the four pages of activities, there are free complementary activities on the publisher's website. This is an excellent read and discuss book for students in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Accelerated Reader: 2.7
Flesch-Kincaid: 2.0
Lexile: 580L
Fountas and Pinnell: N

Quill says: This is a great geo adventure that will help young students learn about the Earth's landforms and geological features!

Book Review - Achoo! Why Pollen Counts

Achoo! Why Pollen Counts

By: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1628555592
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 2015

Baby Bear's eyes looked swollen and itchy and he came out of his den. Rub, rub, rub! Even his little nose ran and his eyes watered from all the pollen in the air. "Achoo! Achoo!" The pollen was everywhere and "a coat of yellow dust covered the forest outside his home." Baby Bear rolled in the clover with his toes up in the air, but that yucky yellow pollen stuck to his coat. Even Valerie Vole began to sneeze when she came out of her burrow. "Achoo! Achoo!" what to do?

Rubbing up against tree bark was a great way to get rid of some of that yucky pollen. "It's messy. It's itchy, " Baby Bear exclaimed. "It makers me--ah, ah, a-choo--sneeze!" He wasn't crazy about pollen at all, but his mother cuddled him and began to tell him just how useful it was. Many of the forest plants and animals needed it to survive. Some would eat it while insects like bees pollinated plants as they moved from plant to plant. Bzzzzzz! Not all of the pollen out there would make Baby Bear sneeze and feel yucky.

Momma Bear told him about how Sandy Spiderling caught pollen in his web to eat it and how Zoe Zebra Butterfly used her long proboscis to get herself a "tasty meal." Baby Bear was very interested in those honeybees and Honey Bee told him all about pollen collection, beebread, and nectar. "Achoo! Achoo!" There were certainly a lot of things to learn about pollen and why the creatures of the fields and forest need it. Did you know that even wolves can use pollen? If not, you'll learn all about it in this book!

This is a fun book that will teach young children about pollen and why we need it. Of course many children who are allergic to some forms of pollen might not find it useful, but they will adore Baby Bear. He sneezes here and there throughout this highly informative book, one that makes it easy for children to understand the pollination process. The artwork is fun, vibrant and the picture book format makes it easy for even the most reluctant reader to learn some very interesting facts. In addition to the four pages of activities, there are free complementary activities on the publisher's website. This is an excellent read and discuss book for students in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Accelerated Reader: 3.3
Flesch-Kincaid: 3.2
Lexile: 670L
Fountas and Pinnell: N

Quill says: This is a fun, fascinating book about the pollination process that's perfect for instructional purposes in the homeschool or classroom setting!

Book Review - Fibonacci Zoo

Fibonacci Zoo

By: Tom Robinson
Illustrated by: Christina Wald
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1628555622
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: June 2015

Notebook and pencil in hand, Eli was ready to pass through the gates of the Fibonacci Zoo. It was no ordinary zoo and he had to look carefully and discover just what was different about it. The first thing Eli and his father spotted was a lone alligator. Hmmmm, not anything unusual about that and Eli recorded his finding in his notebook. The little notebook soon read "1 alligator" and "1 bison." Just what was so special about this zoo anyway?

Eli's teacher said that the Fibonacci Zoo "was different from most zoos," but even though his list began to grow there was only one unusual thing about it. The unusual thing was the fact that there weren't a lot of animals. Eli continued to observe and write: "2 camels," "3 dolphins," "5 elephants," and "8 flamingos." All of a sudden he began to see a pattern and exclaimed "if I take any two numbers in order and then add them up, I get the next number." Hmmmm, next up were the gorillas.
Eli began to work through his pattern, trying to visualize and work through the formula. His father smiled, knowing that Eli had found out the secret to the Fibonacci Zoo. "See?" He began to explain to his father. "1 + 1 = 2. 1 + 2 = 3. 2 + 3 = 5. And 3 + 5 = 8." They rounded the corner, checking out the gorillas and marking the number in his notebook. He began to count them to see if his hypothesis was correct. Can you finish the formula and come to the same conclusion Eli had? Just how many gorillas would they see?

This is an excellent book to introduce young students to numbers and patterns. The visual imagery presented in this book will make it easy for students to understand and grasp Fibonacci sequencing. Simply introducing mathematical concepts sans a way for children to visualize them can be a daunting task for many. In addition to Eli's notebook there are small sidebars with the equations and sequence (2 + 3 = 5 and 1 1 2 3 5). The artwork is very vibrant and appealing, drawing one's eye to the animals. In the back of the book there are four pages of activities as well as free complementary activities on the publisher's website.

Accelerated Reader: 3.0
Flesch-Kinncaid: 4.4
Lexile: 510l
Fountas and Pinnell: M

Quill says: This is an excellent book to introduce numbers and patterns to children in the homeschool or classroom setting!

Book Review - Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory: The Kami Files

By: M. Evonne Dobson
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-92934-5083
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 2015

In the first installment of her young adult mystery series, M. Evonne Dobson delivers a great plot and entertaining read in Chaos Theory.

High school senior Kami is your not-so-typical school-ager. Sure, she is capable of drama queen moments, but it’s her senior year and the success of her Chaos Theory science project is the only separation between her landing acceptance into a mediocre college or MIT, the one she covets. She’s spent countless hours cramming inconsequential stuff into her locker. She is detailed to a fault logging analyses into her diary to support her theory of its significance: scribbled notes on a napkin, battered show and music programs—insignificant but not insignificant...each small item might trigger a huge change for someone in the future.

BFF Sandy is Kami’s constant. Granted, she may have fleeting thoughts of Kami’s borderline craziness at times, but she’s her best friend nonetheless. When dark and hunky Daniel shows up on the scene, little did either girl know they were about to jump feet first into the investigation of his sister Julia’s suicide...or was it suicide? Between countless trips to the barn, skate parks with more than sketchy patronage and a whole lot of who done it along the way, Kami and her entourage are going to get to the truth no matter the consequences.

M. Evonne Dobson knows her young adult audience and knows it well. The essence of writing to this particular audience is no different than that of a children’s audience. Credibility is an absolute must. There is no cheeky dialogue among her high school peers. Rather, there is grounded drama when drama demands a presence. There is tension when sticky situations present themselves—i.e. hormonal confusion when boy meets girl; girl meets boy and the tantamount moment when boy and girl go in for that kiss—a kiss that is more than a peck on the cheek. There is a balance between the conflict of the ‘them and us’ theory when an adolescent is faced with the ridiculous notion that a parent knows better than he or she ever will. Her dialogue is crisp and her ability to set up a scene by showing her audience versus telling is spot on. In true mystery fashion, Dobson teases her audience with just enough information to will them to turn the next page. Sometimes it’s a give; other times it is an 'aha moment.' This is the perfect formula to keep a young mind engage. I applaud Ms. Dobson for writing a solid mystery that certainly appeals to her intended young adult audience. I look forward to the next in this series. Well done Ms. Dobson!

Quill says: Chaos Theory is a solid read and a good example of the passion a gaggle of kids possess toward never giving up until they are satisfied the truth has been exposed.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Books In For Review

Check out the new books that have just arrived for review!  Reviews will be posted to our site and blog soon.

Cafe Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic In 1914, as rumors of war float across Europe, Edna Ferber travels to Budapest with Winifred Moss, a famous London suffragette, to visit the homeland of her dead father and to see the sights. Author Edna is fascinated by ancient Emperor Franz Joseph and by the faltering Austro-Hungarian Empire, its pomp and circumstance so removed from the daily life of the people she meets. Sitting daily in the Café Europa at her hotel, she listens to unfettered Hearst reporter Harold Gibbon as he predicts the coming war and the end of feudalistic life in Europe while patrons chatter. Then a shocking murder in a midnight garden changes everything. Headstrong Cassandra Blaine is supposed to marry into the Austrian nobility in one of those arranged matches like Consuela Vanderbilt’s still popular with wealthy American parents eager for titles and impoverished European nobility who have them to offer. But Cassandra is murdered, and her former lover, the dashing Hungarian Endre Molnár, is the prime suspect. Taken with the young man and convinced of his innocence, Edna begins investigating with the help of Winifred and two avant-garde Hungarian artists. Meanwhile possible war with Serbia is the topic of the day as Archduke Franz Ferdinand prepares to head to Sarajevo. While the world braces for disaster, Edna uncovers the truth―and it scares her.

Fabulous Me, Piper Lee And The Peanut Butter Itch by Tolya L. Thompson Fabulous Me Piper Lee and the Peanut Butter Itch is the first release featuring Piper Lee in the existing line of Smarties Books. Guided by her inner voice, MeMe, Piper Lee struggles to resist the temptation of eating peanut butter even though she knows she is allergic to peanuts. The itch to taste, and the total body itch that follows, provide an unforgettable lesson on food allergies. Join Piper Lee on her adventures of illnesses seen in the emergency room and discover how to stay healthy, fabulous and ER free. In the special Smarties Page included in the back of each book, get wise to the facts of food allergies and discover how to stay healthy, fabulous and ER free.  

100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It)by Ana Maria Spagna What skills will you need after a global catastrophe? Whether it’s the end of oil, an environmental disaster, or something entirely unforeseen, Ana Maria Spagna outlines 100 skills you’ll find indispensable for life after the apocalypse. Once the dust has settled, you’ll need to know how to barter, perform basic first aid, preserve food, cut your own hair, clean a chimney, navigate by the stars, stitch a wound, darn socks, and sharpen blades. You’ll also want to build a stable and safe community, so you’ll need to master the arts of conversation, child raising, listening, music making, and storytelling. This fascinating and entertaining book, full of quirky illustrations by artist Brian Cronin, will provoke surprise, debate, and laughter while it provides a road map to greater self-reliance and joy, whatever the future brings.

Losing Me by Sue Margolis Knocking on sixty, Barbara Stirling is too busy to find herself, while caring for her mother, husband, children, and grandchildren. But when she loses her job, everything changes. Exhausted, lonely, and unemployed, Barbara is forced to face her feelings and doubts. Then a troubled, vulnerable little boy walks into her life and changes it forever.

Rupert's Parchment: Story of Magna Carta by Eileen Cameron Celebrating 800 years of liberties enshrined in Magna Carta, Rupert's Parchment gives Rupert, son of a local parchment maker, a ring side seat at the historic sealing of the great document, Magna Carta, at Runnymede meadow in England in the year 1215. This historical fiction picture book tells the exciting story of the fight for the principles of freedom while readers live through this momentous time through the eyes of young Rupert. Included is a section explaining the history of Magna Carta, a glossary and comparison of Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights.  

Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries: A British Library Crime Classic edited by Martin Edwards Holidays offer us the luxury of getting away from it all. So, in a different way, do detective stories. This collection of vintage mysteries combines both those pleasures. From a golf course at the English seaside to a pension in Paris, and from a Swiss mountain resort to the cliffs of Normandy, this new selection shows the enjoyable and unexpected ways in which crime writers have used summer holidays as a theme. These fourteen stories range widely across the golden age of British crime fiction. Stellar names from the past are well represented – Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton, for instance – with classic stories that have won acclaim over the decades. The collection also uncovers a wide range of hidden gems: Anthony Berkeley – whose brilliance with plot had even Agatha Christie in raptures – is represented by a story so (undeservedly) obscure that even the British Library seems not to own a copy. The stories by Phyllis Bentley and Helen Simpson are almost equally rare, despite the success which both writers achieved, while those by H. C. Bailey, Leo Bruce and the little-known Gerald Findler have seldom been reprinted.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Interview with Author James A. Misko

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with James A. Misko, author of As All My Fathers Were

FQ: As cliché as it is to say, a writer writes what a writer knows! That said, how much of your own ranching experience found its way onto the pages of As All My Fathers Were?

MISKO: Virtually none. The canoe trip, the horseback trip—yes, I have done both in many locations and circumstances. The farming stuff was research by books and interviews with organic farmers and internet.

FQ: I covet a book that can draw laughter as much as tears from me when I am immersed in the story. There was one instance that brought absolute, raucous laughter from deep within me. I purposely marked Page 266 and went back a few times and re-read the passage. There is an exchange between Seth Barrett and the hotel bell boy when, in an abject, but direct way, Seth calls him an ignoramus. Did you find there were times in the writing of this book when it wrote itself rather than you directing the course? If so, was this one of those occasions and does this happen often when you are writing?

MISKO: I think there are times when you get into the character and you just know how he is going to react to the circumstances. Sometimes it is humorous and sometimes sad, but I, like you, enjoy them both in a book. I am so concentrated when I'm writing that nothing gets into my vision but the words going from my mind down to the computer screen and I love it when readers pick those out and love them too.

FQ: It is obvious you have a love for the Platte River and its history. Did you spend any length of time getting to know it while you were writing your book?

MISKO: I lived with it on Google Earth every day and drove Highway 30 from Plattsmouth to Ogallala and back twice with stops in many places along the way. Google Earth will take you to 20 feet above the surface and you can see almost anything. It's a wonderful thing to see the channels and know that mentally you are there on the river feeling it.

FQ: In line with Question 3, what characteristic stands out most for you when it comes to defining the mighty Platte?

MISKO: It reminds me of the buffalo or moose. It moves so slow most of the time but when it gets a head of water up it and roars; everyday watchers are astounded at its majesty and power.

FQ: You have a colorful work history. Of all the work adventures you’ve had, which one was your most memorable experience and why?

MISKO: Working in the Big Muddy oilfield in Wyoming in the winter on a night that was twenty below zero with a seventy mile an hour wind blowing and the driller told me to go open the drain from the sump pond as it was freezing up. I fell in the sump but it was like heavy gravy because of the severe cold and I didn't sink below my waist. By breaking the ice and pawing and climbing I made it to the far side, got out, and my clothes froze at once.

FQ: How much of an inspiration was your 350 mile navigation down the Columbia River when you sat down to pen As All My Fathers Were?

MISKO: Totally different circumstances. Columbia is fast and deep and cold. The Platte is shallow, slow and quite warm in the summer. Canoeing techniques similar but a distance apart, but once you know how to handle a canoe it works on any water surface—and I wanted it to work on this.

FQ: I’m often intrigued by a book’s title and how it complements the story. There isn’t a lot of mention of your characters Seth and Richard Barrett’s father throughout the story. Therefore, I’m curious how you came up with the title.

MISKO: I want a working title before I began a novel and usually look in the Old Testament for a phrase that moves me. I like longer titles, unlike Jim Michener who used one word titles. All men come from fathers, yet the mother in this case was the survivor and handed down the ranch. The title comes from a Bible verse, "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." - Psalms 39:12 King James Version

FQ: I am in awe of your storytelling ability. When I read your dedication, I knew I was in for a long overdue treat of a great read after reading your personal favorites of living and deceased authors. We have similar tastes in those authors who inspire. In both categories, you’ve listed some of the greatest storytellers over time. If you had to pick one of the living and one of the deceased to be your ‘number 1’ who would it be and why?

MISKO: Since my book was published, John Graves and Kent Haruf have died so don't know where to put them as it pertains to your question. But John Graves would have been my living author. The deceased would be R.F. Delderfield. And both would be because they took time to develop their characters as you would in real life. Bits and pieces of character would come along as the reader got to know the people in the story and you can feel the character, be with them, and know them.

FQ: There is a comfortable and familiar cadence to your writing style. I believe with every fiber of my being there are writers who evolve and writers who were born with the gift. In my opinion you were born with the ‘gift.’ How old were you when you knew you would (most likely) write for the rest of your life and was there ever a time you had your doubts about pursuing a writing career? How did you overcome the notion?

MISKO: I started writing fiction in college and other than a stint as a feature writer for a daily newspaper, wrote only fiction for five years. I produced two novels, neither of which sold. Then I entered the real estate business and gave it my heart and soul for forty years and had two real estate non-fiction books published by NY publishers in that day. I am very happy when I am writing and have a novel going well. My wife and friends notice the difference. When I am struggling with the 6th or 9th rewrite of a novel, I don't believe I was born with the gift, but others have said I was. Having been writing for over fifty years I knew then that I would always write. I have not had any doubts about it. Doubts about getting published and rising from the top 10% of authors to the top 2%--ah, that's a different story.

FQ: While it is beautifully sublime, the nuance is strong throughout this story that carries a message of considering kindness to the earth we walk. There are wonderful layers to your story that carry this sentiment throughout and I wonder if you spend a fair amount of time focusing on practicing the organic way in your own life. If this is an accurate assumption, what was your tipping point to opt for such a way of life?

MISKO: We had an organic garden in Oregon in 1972 and started knowing the difference in tasty, fresh, wholesome foods vs the processed. Ever since then we have spent the extra money to eat foods that are not harmful to our bodies or minds. One meal a week we eat hamburger, milk shakes and Cheetos but even then the hamburger is organic. I have no idea how Cheetos are made and probably don't want to know.

FQ: As I stated in my review of All My Fathers Were, there hasn’t been a cowboy story since Lonesome Dove that has consumed me so. While the plots are different, I likened the love the Barrett brothers had for each other to that of the love Gus and Woodrow had for each other. Has anyone else made a comparison similar to this? What is your reaction to such observation?

MISKO: Yes, Howard Frank Mosher in his blurb for the book cover, mentions it. And I could picture Gus leaning on the saddle horn on page 266 (you mention above) and carrying on that conversation with the hotel employee. My brother and I are fifteen months apart and very different, not unlike Seth and Richard. Our sister is adopted. It was not a surface thought when I started the novel. I was thinking about writing something similar to what Daniel Boone did when he was sixty going up to the headwaters of the Missouri River from St. Louis, alone and on foot. Then I didn't want the Missouri, I wanted a river I knew and loved and that became the Platte. Then I had to have a reason, a compelling reason for them to do that and it evolved into the plot that it became with numerous changes as it developed.

FQ: Thank you for the jewel of As All My Fathers Were. It was an honor and pleasure to read and review it. The world of readers needs another treasure from you. Are you working on your next project and if so, would you care to share?

MISKO: It took awhile but I finally chose one of eight novel ideas I had running around in my head and got started on it in April. I'm now over 30,000 words and it is going well. The working title is The Path of the Wind and again comes from the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 11:5 "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mothers womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things." It is a story about a first year teacher hired to teach in a dying school district by a Superintendent who is determined to go down with it.

To learn more about As All My Fathers Were please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.