Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review - Gollywood, Here I Come!

Gollywood, Here I Come!

By: Terry John Barto
Illustrated by: Mattia Cerato
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1496935090
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: August 2015

Anamazie Marie LaBelle is a turkey! No, not that kind of turkey – she’s a real, live, clucking turkey and she also happens to be one of the best, if not THE best majorettes that has ever performed in her small town of Gobbleville. Anamazie loves the spotlight and she hopes that one day it will lead her right to Gollywood, home of famous celebrities and the movies they make. Will her dream come true?

Anamazie’s talent as a majorette has propelled her all the way to the finals of "Gobbleville’s Got Talent" (an homage, no doubt, to "America’s Got Talent"). Arriving with her mom Henrietta Pearl to cheer her on, Anamazie has her makeup done and then struts on stage. She performs a medley of patriotic songs as she dances around. The audience loves her but when the winner is announced Anamazie is heartbroken to hear another turkey’s name called. With tears in her eyes, she heads backstage to get some hugs from her mother.

While it might seem that Anamazie’s dreams are dashed, things take a drastic turn for the better when a man, er...turkey, from the audience approaches. It seems Mr. Albright is a talent scout and he thinks Anamazie just might be the perfect girl for his boss’s next movie. Will Anamazie’s dream of stardom come true?

This is the second book by author Terry John Barto that I’ve reviewed (see Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon) and it's just as enjoyable as Nickerbacher. While Gollywood, Here I Come! is Barto's first book, it has the same upbeat, fun, 'go for your dream!' message as Nickerbacher. In that story, a lovable dragon takes center stage and in this tale, I have to say that Anamazie’s mother, Henrietta, had me laughing throughout. She keeps a watchful eye out for her daughter and also manages to keep the reader smiling by doing such things as fainting at good news and falling out of a tree when hearing more good news. Beyond that, however, this tale of working hard for your dream and having it come true will resonate with many. It also teaches children that they too, should always go for their dreams. In addition, the illustrator, Mattia Cerato, is to be commended because his bright, colorful and lively drawings really bring this tale to life. Gollywood, Here I Come! is a 5-Star winner that your kids will love.

Quill says: A star is born and her name is Anamazie Marie LaBelle – don’t miss her debut!

For more information on Gollywood, Here I Come!, please visit the book's website at:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review - The Children of Darkness

The Children of Darkness (The Seekers, Book One)

By: David Litwack
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62253-434-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 31, 2015

As all readers know, the “dystopian” era of literature has become a booming business. From top sellers that have reached the screen quite quickly (aka: The Maze Runner), these tales have taken over the minds and hearts of everyone from YA lovers to adults who literally crave a new kind of suspense/thriller. So it is always a pleasure to review a brand new series that delves into the dystopian world and delivers an A+ storyline.

This, Book One of “The Seekers” series, introduces Orah and Nathaniel to the world; two pals who have been friends since childhood and share many traits that include awesome skill sets, as well as a penchant to want to overthrow the limitations put upon them by the powers that be. Yet, for now, they keep silent and go with the flow.

You see, it’s been a thousand years since the “Darkness” came upon everyone. This was the time that ushered in social upheaval and the collapse of the norm. Pain, violence, all bad things came along with the Darkness, and for ten centuries, religious ones (the vicars) who make up the Temple of Light have been doing their best to stop the craziness and try to bring some kind of order and peace to the people. Of course, the Temple isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; after all, they have to set rules and deliver punishment for those who do not follow said rules by using their ‘temple magic.’

Orah is beckoned to the Temple to endure what one would see as a ritual in a child’s life where they leave childhood far behind and hook themselves to the Light for all time. Nathaniel, being her pal and agreeing that the Temple is not as ‘light’ as it should be, tries to rescue Orah so she doesn’t have to become one of them for the rest of time. Adventure springs eternal when they both find themselves wandering Temple City and discovering secrets that are supposed to stay buried. Because if these secrets are known and a mysterious location is found, then Orah, Nathaniel and the rest of the people may be able to find a path that will allow them to rise up against the ‘Light’ machine, so to speak, and get their lives back.

The author has done an excellent job bringing this world to life. From the dark prisons to the awesome magic and awe-inspiring belief that Orah and Nathaniel have in each other – the plot unfolds easily, swiftly, and never lets the readers’ attention wane.

Quill says: After reading this one, it will be a real hardship to have to wait to see what happens next.
For further information on The Children of Darkness (The Seekers, Book One), please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Books In For Review

Here's the latest batch of books to come in for review. Check them out!!!

Give Me Your Answer True by Suanne Laqueur Suanne Laqueur's award-winning debut novel The Man I Love thrilled readers with its memorable characters and depth of emotion. Erik Fiskare's journey of love, recovery and forgiveness captivated hearts but also left questions unanswered. Now Daisy Bianco has a chance to tell her story. It's been three years since a single lapse of judgment cost Daisy the love of her life. Erik was a conduit to her soul but now he's chosen a path of total disconnection, refusing to speak to her or acknowledge her betrayal. Alone and shattered, Daisy attempts to take responsibility for her actions while building her career as a professional dancer in New York City. But Erik's unforgiving estrangement proves too much for her strength. Plagued by flashbacks to the Lancaster shootings, she falls into a dangerous spiral of self-harm, cutting into her own skin as a means to atone. Only the timely appearance of an old friend, John "Opie" Quillis, saves her from self-destruction and gives her a chance to love again. Laqueur skillfully weaves flashbacks to the college years with Daisy's present life. Supported by John's patient affection, she works to separate her evolution as an adult from the unresolved guilt and grief of her youth. As her professional accomplishments lift her out of depression, Daisy learns to hold onto her accountability without letting it become her identity. Years pass and she builds a beautiful life filled with dance and friends. Lovers come and eventually go, leaving her on her own with the old thought: Come back to me. In this parallel narrative, Laqueur peels open the beloved characters from The Man I Love to reveal new and complex layers of vulnerability. The scars from the shooting are deep and pervasive within this circle of friends. Like Daisy, they are trying to evolve without being fully resolved. But when questions from the past go unheeded, you alone must find and give your answers true.

Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel by Kate Hewitt When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet. Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.  

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff Young Adelia Montforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home. Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.  

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery by Eileen Brady Dr. Kate Turner is happy with her new life in Oak Falls, upstate New York. Working as a relief veterinarian at a small house-call practice, she truly enjoys helping her patients. All that changes when client Claire Birnham is found dead, an apparent suicide. A talented artist, Claire had everything to live for: new job, Manhattan apartment, her Cairn terrier Toto. As feisty as the Wizard of Oz Toto, he and Claire were devoted. Kate can’t imagine Claire simply abandoning her pet. Was her death murder? Questions end in the police arresting young kennel helper Eugene. The fragile friendship between Kate and police officer Luke Gianetti frays as she ignores his advice and keeps asking questions. House calls provide gossip and clues, some helpful, some not so much, as she treats her animal patients. Did Claire’s recent insurance windfall prove too tempting for her hard working and hard drinking mother? What does trouble in the art gallery where Claire worked signal? How huge a grudge did heavy metal rocker A.J. hold against high-school sweetheart Claire after she dumped him? Was Claire a threat to AJ’s rich new girl? Dr. Kate mixes real medicine with murder as she risks her life over Claire’s death, aided by insights from a former fire investigator, aka her Gramps.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review - Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon

Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon

By: Terry John Barto
Illustrated by: Kim Sponaugie
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-1496954541
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 2015

A dragon? Oh, no! Run for your lives! Oh, wait, Nickerbacher isn’t a mean, scary dragon, he’s a funny dragon who wants to be a stand-up comedian. Maybe we should laugh instead of run...

Nickerbacher is a very obedient young dragon. He spends his time guarding Princess Gwendolyn because his father told him to. Nickerbacher keeps the princess safe but he isn’t happy – he knows he was meant for the comedy stage. The young dragon passes his time by telling the princess jokes and loves it when she laughs. Gwendolyn is a smart princess and tells her dragon friend, “ need to do what makes you happy.” But then Papa Dragon comes along and reminds Nickerbacher of his duty. “You’re not supposed to make people laugh…you’re supposed to scare them,” he growls. Will Nickerbacher ever be happy?

One day a prince arrives to do battle with Nickerbacher. The prince wants to fight the deadly dragon and rescue the princess but he doesn’t know this dragon. Nickerbacher has other ideas. Instead of being a fierce and frightful dragon, he jokes with the prince. Frustrated, the prince tries and tries to fight Nickerbacher but eventually realizes that this dragon is different; he’s not a fire-breathing monster. When the prince reveals that he too, has a dream, the two become friends and talk about their dreams. Will the encouragement of the prince and princess be enough to encourage Nickerbacher to ‘go for it’ and reach for his dream?

Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is probably the most unique rendition on the ‘reach for your dreams’ story I’ve read. I love how the author took a creature normally portrayed as fierce and dangerous and turned him into a lovable friend (to both the princess and the reader) who wanted nothing more than to be happy. Young readers will get to see what happens when Nickerbacher reaches for the stars (and his dream) and will be encouraged to reach for their dreams too. Overall, a very enjoyable story that teaches an important lesson.

Quill says: Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is a unique twist on the theme of staying true to your dreams.

For more information on Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon,please visit the book's website at:

Book Review - The Ship Captain's Tale

The Ship Captain’s Tale: A Counting Adventure

By: V.A. Boeholt
Illustrated by: Jeff Yesh
Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1589852129
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 29, 2015

Ahoy, Mateys! There’s a new counting book and if you love ‘everything ocean,’ then you need to check it out! It’s a whole lotta fun for the wannabe ship’s captain.
As our story opens, we meet an old ship captain. He’s on a beach, telling a story to some young friends. It’s the story of a wonderful ship, The Queen of the Sea. One day, while the sun is shining and the passengers are enjoying themselves, the Captain of the mighty ship decides to take a nap. He has a terrible headache and needs to rest. However, things don’t always go as planned when the captain of a big ship takes a break.

Right at noon, the ship’s whistle bellowed out the noon whistle. But...but...the whistle didn’t stop. It was loud and piercing and bothered everybody:

One activity director ended the games.
Two passengers stood still.
Three guitarists quit strumming...

...and so on all the way up to twelve birds that scattered overhead.

The crew didn’t know what to do. People tried, but nobody could get the whistle to stop. Finally, one of the ship’s mates decided he had to wake up the Captain. Would the Captain be able to make the whistle stop?

The Ship Captain’s Tale is a fun twist on the traditional counting story. Most counting books I read are all counting and very little story. This one has a lot of story to go with the counting. I also liked how the book counted to twelve rather than ten, introduced ordinal numbers, and also counted backwards from twelve to one. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and mesh perfectly with the story. At the back of the book is a resource guide, a chart of counting to six in nine different languages (as well as English so they can compare), as well as a glossary of ship related words that young readers may not know.

Quill says: The Ship Captain’s Tale is bound to be a hit with youngsters who have a yearning to travel the high seas.

Book Review - Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method

Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method: More than 100 Hands-On Science Experiments for Children

By: Sally Kneidel
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-1938486326
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: July 27, 2015

Did you ever think that having some Madagascar hissing roaches would be hiss-terically good pets to have? Probably not and undoubtedly most parents would give a definite thumbs down if you requested them as pets. If you read all about them, you just might want to learn more about them and actually snag yourself a terrarium and observe their behaviors. Of course that terrarium would have to have a very secure top. There are some ultra-interesting facts to be learned about Madagascar hissing roaches, including the fact that the females "provide maternal care for their young." Go figure, motherly bugs!

Now if you saw creepy crawlies like those Madagascar hissing roaches in your classroom, you probably wouldn't be at all surprised. There are a ton of things you can learn about bugs and critters of all sorts. Many kids have heard about black swallowtail butterflies and may have even read a book about raising them, but how about bessbugs? No, not bedbugs, bessbugs. They really are beautiful and are "sometimes called patent-leather beetles because they're shiny jet-black like patent leather."
Collecting critters is one thing, but there are so many things that can be learned from them and about them. Chances are you don't live in an area where you can forage for Madagascar hissing roaches, but you might be able to find some bessbugs under a rock or rotting log. Of course if you're a city-dweller, there's always the option of ordering many of the creepy crawlies discussed in this book. Before you even begin, you'll learn all about the scientific method in order to prepare yourself for your journey as a junior scientist.

Once you've got the scientific method down pat and understand the difference between it and a simple activity, you're good to go. You'll learn proper eco-friendly ways to attract and collect your critter of choice. In this book you'll not only learn about experiments, but also many facts about those creepy crawlies that co-exist with us. You can select from millipedes, butterflies, aphids, spiders, beetles, and yes, those Madagascar hissing roaches. Do you think a bessbug can learn to travel through a maze? You'll just have to run an experiment using the scientific method to find out!

This is an amazing hands-on book of science experiments children will love. I've read several books that have included some science experiments, but none quite as thorough and fun as this one. Sally Kneidel certainly knows from her work in a classroom and in the field what helps students learn. The introductory chapters introduce students to the scientific method and ways to attract and maintain them at home or in the classroom. Subsequent chapters are prefaced by an introduction, how to obtain the creepy crawlies of choice, material and housing needs, background information, behaviors, and other pertinent scientific facts followed by experiments. The book has numerous black and white photographs, line drawings,and reproducible charts and graphs. In the back of the book is an index and very comprehensible bibliography. This is an excellent resource for use in the homeschool or classroom setting.

Quill says: This is one of the best, most comprehensive books out there for learning about those creepy crawlies around us!

Book Review - Weightless


By: Sarah Bannan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05092-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 27, 2015

Sarah Bannan writes a disturbingly real account of the damage and wreckage that is left in the wake of bullying in her debut novel, Weightless.

It’s a hot and steamy August afternoon on the athletic field of Adams High School in small town, Adamsville, Alabama. Summer is nearly over and it’s the perfect time for a pep rally to prepare students for the imminent return to the school year ahead. It doesn’t matter that the temperature is oppressively sticky and hot. Of course, you’d never know it by watching star cheerleader Taylor Lyon as she shakes her stuff and does her thang to the envy of all the lower class wannabees. Taylor is perfect with her nearly red, but mostly auburn, hair. Ever since kindergarten, she was picked first for everything. Enter Gemma Davies; another example of flawlessness and envy with her beautiful blonde hair and ‘best personality’ title. It didn’t matter that she was only going to be a junior; her boyfriend Andrew Wright was a rising senior which definitely was a status boost. She is the daughter of the town’s preacher man and Gemma can do no wrong. The trifecta and without question, the one calling all the shots, however, is Brooke Moore. She is the epitome of perfection and the constant envy of her peers with her trendy bob haircut and flawless skin. Rumor had it she never had a zit. Her eyes were a perfect shade of brown and no girl would deny spending hours in front of the mirror fitfully attempting to master their eyeliner application to that of Brooke’s Neutrogena look. Her greatness, however, is solidified by her boyfriend, Shane. He is the captain of the football team. Sadly, all this ‘it girl’ utopia is about to be compromised when newcomer Carolyn Lessing arrives on the scene.

Summer’s last hurrah is upon the quiet little community of Adamsville. Hot air balloons took to the sky early Saturday morning for the Sky Sprint. It was the beginning of the Annual 3M Adamsville Balloon Festival at Harper’s Memorial Field. The festival organizers were prepared to deal with intermittent rowdiness and shenanigans and overall, this year’s event would deliver a successful outcome once again...mostly. Nobody was prepared for the final curtain of the day’s events when star footballer Shane (and boyfriend of Brooke Moore) sits down next to best friend Andrew and places his arm around new girl Carolyn Lessing...
Sarah Bannan delivers a compelling and extremel
y real account of the egregious irrefutable damage bullying imposes on the innocence of adolescence. This is a situation that lurks among many young groups and perhaps it is part of a child’s ‘rite of passage,’ but oh-so wrong. Her character development is spot on. Bannan has precision focus on the development of mean girl Brooke’s persona. She is diabolical and formidable and will stop at nothing and constantly keeps her eye on the prize of revenge, no matter the cost. The victim, Carolyn Lessing, dared to be different. Her ‘new girl’ tag is brazenly obvious and superbly applied by Bannan. As a parent of two girls—one still in the vortex of navigating through her journey of high school acceptance, the book had me applauding Bannan often for painting an incredibly accurate (and disturbing) picture of reality with her words. Weightless is a solid reminder that while this may be a work of ‘fiction,’ the sublime elements of reality rise to the surface often throughout this read. Great job Ms. Bannan! I look forward to your next book.

Quill says: Weightless is a must read for any parent who has faced the three-headed dragon with a child who has been bullied or is the bully!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Interview with Author RjCook

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with RjCook, author of The Road Behind Me: The Lie of Hannah

FQ: I give you great props for laying out your emotional struggles in seeking closure of your break up with Hannah. However, I have to ask how your current wife managed this?

RjCOOK: Patti (who is "Mattie" in the book) understands that my writing has always been from the heart and is as honest as the summer day is long. She knows the intricacies of the memories of a first love and has respected my willingness to not disguise with innuendos and symbolism such events that occurred before she entered my life.

FQ: Continuing the premise of the question above, a portion of your dedication is directed to your wife Mattie for her ‘...tolerance and support...’ Were there moments during your writing of your memoir that were particularly difficult for her? Are you able to share and how did the two of you overcome and move on?

RjCOOK: The tolerance and support is mostly in reference to just putting up with me as a husband and never questioning or challenging anything I put to paper.

FQ: Now that you have told your story and it is out there for the world to embrace, do you feel you have come to terms with your ‘love lost’ and you have ‘turned the page’?

RjCOOK: The Epilogue of the book is true-to-form in my finding closure I didn't even realize was needed. Meeting Hannah again after so much time, and then learning how erroneous was my perception of what occurred between us, how she actually felt about me so long ago, was a revelation that brought an entirely new perspective to the embedded memories and emotions I carried deep within me for most of my life. There was really no need to come to terms with anything, it evolved naturally into a state of subjective acceptance.

Author RjCook

FQ: Have you spoken with Hannah since you’ve published The Road Behind Me? If so, what was her reaction to the story?

RjCOOK: At first Hannah was skeptical, reluctant to have such a personal time in her life exposed to so many, but after she read it she realized it was an homage to my long-ago love for her. Also, all the names and locations in the book have been changed and some of the events offering only a condensed view of what actually occurred; Hannah knew it would be nearly impossible for anyone to recognize that she is the Hannah of my book. Anyone who was a part of our lives back then has long moved on, some have even passed away.

FQ: Times are vastly different today in comparison to the ‘70’s’. What do you miss most from those days and why?

RjCOOK: I don't think I miss much, if anything at all. Maybe my youth, but who doesn't? I also miss going to concerts: Fillmore in NYC, Capitol Theater in Passaic, etc. The world had its problems but it was still a lot less terrifying then it is today. I was an active musician, playing with a variety of very talented people, something that I no longer have the opportunity to do. To me, the 1980's were a much more exciting time, music was new and creative again, there seemed to be less insanity in the world. It was tough getting through Reagan but we managed. The best part of the 1970's to me? Meeting Patti.

FQ: Of all the adventures you had while in California, what experience do you think shaped you the most and why?

RjCOOK: There were so many. The incident when the Anaheim riot squad showed up at my door while I was entertaining about 15-20 people, all stoned out of our minds, and somehow me bullshitting my way out of it comes to mind. Or the night I sat in the doorway of my 1970 Dodge van in the parking lot of the seedy motel where I lived and composed the poem, A Broken Heart, that appears in the book: I would have to say that was a turning point for me. I felt like I was beginning to find my voice in my writing, albeit still as yet immature, but the candor and the integrity of my words were coming to fruition. But in retrospect, the adventures I had hitch-hiking back home across the USA after my motorcycle died in Nevada were far more impactful on me than any event I lived through in California.

FQ: I’m curious as to the subtitle to The Road Behind Me (the Lie of Hannah). What is the ‘lie’?

RjCOOK: Actually, that is the question I want the reader to answer. Per the story, the "lie" I often told to my friends of missing Shelley when I meant Hannah, just to save face with them, is what most generally assume is what the sub-title refers to. In the Epilogue, when Hannah tells me what her "true feelings" were for me way back when, there is a hesitancy before her offering this information and it is in response to my revealing how I adored her when we were so young. Does that hesitation on her part indicate an honest reply? Or was she just placating me to conform with the moment?

FQ: Based on your experiences, do you have a formula for how you will nurture and guide your own children when (and if) they experience a similar ‘broken heart’?

RjCOOK: My children are all grown now, each one has already experienced their share of having a broken heart, and yes, my experience in such matters did prove useful when it was my turn to be the father who held them and with confidence told them everything was going to be all right, that the pain was not forever.

Author RjCook with Patti (Mattie) 

FQ: Do you feel as though you do have closure where Hannah is concerned and is it attributable to writing The Road Behind Me?

RjCOOK: Hannah was a buried memory, for all purposes forgotten, until I came across the check-out girl at a local market who resembled her. On a whim I searched for Hannah on social media, ultimately finding her. The book expands from there, leading to our eventual meeting for what was the very last time we were together. Closure was easy because I am content and happy with the life I was given. Neither Hannah or I ever considered our reunion as a "second chance", it was simply answering questions that were never asked. It allowed us for one brief afternoon to be young again.

FQ: Along the same lines, was it your idea to commit your experience to paper (or was it Mattie’s encouragement for you to do so) or perhaps a little of both?

RjCOOK: Here is the interesting part of my story: I chose not to relate any of the hard-core experiences of my youth to my children, simply because I wanted to be their father more than their friend and I felt they needed to choose their own paths without any undue influence ingrained in them from tales of my exploits. However, when they became young adults I wanted to let them know of my California experience so I put it to paper, but the original draft contained absolutely no reference to Hannah! Partly out of respect to their mother but mostly because, over the years, her memory became so buried that I wrote the story with no thought whatsoever of including Hannah. It was only after reacquainting with her did I realize that the events I wrote about were the result of having her in my life, so I re-wrote the story, this time in an honest rendition that became The Road Behind Me (the Lie of Hannah) .

FQ: Thank you for sharing your story. I commend you for bearing your soul across the pages of The Road Behind Me (the Lie of Hannah). Are you working on your next project and if so, would you care to share?

RjCOOK: I am and always have been a short-story writer. Short stories and poetry are where I feel the most comfortable, the most competent. Currently I am working on a collection of short-stories with the tentative title: Dream Lover and Other Tales. My time is currently at a premium so I can't offer any projected completion date, but all I can do is keep on writing when the moments are available.

To learn more about The Road Behind Me: The Lie of Hannah please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review - The Road Behind Me: The Lie of Hannah

The Road Behind Me: The Lie of Hannah

By: RjCook
Publisher: iUniverse
Publication Date: June 2014
ISBN: 978-1491732915
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 27, 2015

RjCook delivers a melancholy introspection of the ‘love’ who got away in his memoir, The Road Behind Me.

It is the summer of 1974 and Cook is bound for Anaheim, California. Hitchhiking most of the way from his northern New Jersey home to the SoCal Utopia breathes new hope for Cook to process the logic of leaving not one, but two loves lost behind. As Cook writes: “...Mostly, it is a story of unrequited love and the lengths to which a man would go to vanquish the demons of painful memoir...” Cook’s theoretical take on love plays out the premise in terms of the ‘average’ number of times man falls in love with woman. Mind you, he is barely 20 when he embarks on his adventure; yet his personal experiences are grounded for him given his heart has been broken twice at this stage in his life.

Cook sets the stage early on; laying out the complexities of his family—multiple siblings and certainly a large blended family. He touches on the relationship with some of his siblings along with the equally estranged and lack of connection with others. All this is achieved within the first handful of pages before he launches into the meat of his memoir. By the time the reader has reached page 7, Cook redirects the reader back to his teens and the late 60’s. The Viet Nam War is a common household discussion, but one that is ‘tired.’ Enter ‘Shelly,’ the first woman Cook ever ‘...passionately kissed...’ and certainly the first female he ever uttered the words 'I love you' to. However, memories of Shelly are not the recollections of the woman who will haunt him for the next forty years...

I found RjCook’s book to be his homage to the sublime ‘innocence’ of a time that has long-since dissipated in our society. It was a time long before internet and cellular phones and the notion of social media might as well have been the equivalent of taking a trip to Mars. Cook portrays a solid performance of painting a picture of what it meant to have his heart broken. There are several passages of prose that lead the reader on his journey of seeking the cure for his ‘broken heart.’ While his memoir is a brief 115 pages, there are opportunities for the reader to feel the emotional depths of his tumultuous struggles. There is a cathartic tone to this story that resonates Cook’s mission of seeking closure for the obvious demons that haunt him concerning the break up between him and his beloved ‘Hannah.’ Cook is generous with his inner thoughts and treats the reader to an abundance of relatable circumstances. By crafting his memoir this way, in my opinion, Cook demonstrated he had a clear vision of the audience to whom he was writing.

Quill says: The Road Behind Me affirms that life can go on even when the heart is oft a heavy load to endure.

For more information on The Road Behind Me: The Lie of Hannah, please visit the website:

Book Review - The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man

By: Kate White
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-235065-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 23, 2015

Kate White draws her audience in with an engaging plot in her latest novel of suspense, The Wrong Man.

The story begins in Islamorada, Florida. Kit wakes to her last morning in paradise before her imminent return to New York reality. Granted, she has combined work with her mini-vacation, but she had hoped the vacation aspect would be more eventful. There were no dare-devilish shark-cage diving excursions or throw caution to the wind parasailing moments over the pristine waters of the captivating Florida Bay. This wasn’t Kit’s MO. She was responsible and while she had a precise and trained eye for turning drab into magic with her design business, Kit the person was far too responsible. With her last day on the horizon, things were about to change once she met the likes of rugged and handsome Matt Healy.

It turns out Matt was staying at the same hotel as Kit. Even though she was in Islamorada primarily for business, maybe Matt was the Godsend and welcome refuge for Kit to put the pieces back together in her life after her break up. After bumping into Matt at the marketplace and agreeing to dinner with him later that evening, she wondered if perhaps this was a bit too spontaneous. Her apprehensions are quelled once she sees him already seated in the patio restaurant. The two eased into comfortable conversation and the effortless banter suppressed Kit’s anxiety. By the time dessert rolled around, it was a no-brainer they would be taking it back to Matt’s room. Little did Kit know she was about to jump into more than a one-night stand...

Ms. White knows how to navigate the pages and place her words purposefully. Having already accomplished the composition of more than a handful of fiction and nonfiction bodies of work, she wastes no time in capturing her audience with The Wrong Man. The plot is believable in that it is an age-old premise: girl meets boy...girl is intrigued by boy...girl throws caution to the wind and simply goes for it. The twist, however, is: what is the outcome? This is the essence and job of the writer to guide the reader down the path. Ms. White does a terrific job of doing just that. She takes her time in developing the personalities of each character: Kit, the young, entrepreneurial firecracker who has an eye for design flair; Baby, the seasoned design veteran who is firm, but fair and together the two complement each other; Matt Healy, the mysterious man who ‘coincidentally’ bumps into Kit’s life, but was it a coincidence? Ms. White does a fantastic job of planting a multitude of seeds and adeptly layers situations and circumstances as the story evolves. In so doing, the allure encourages her audience to assume the investigative role with a desire to solve the mystery at hand. There is no point where this story drags in that each time the roller coaster seems to be coming back into the ‘home gate,’ yet another turn whips the reader into the bend of surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed The Wrong Man and applaud Kate White for crafting a book that is a quick read with lots of intrigue and adventure across its 322 pages.

Quill says: The Wrong Man is a great balance between suspense and intrigue. It will keep you guessing the ‘who done it’ until you arrive at its surprising (and unpredictably satisfying) end!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

15th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival Coming Sept. 5

Free Event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Offers Array of Activities

The organizations sponsoring the Library of Congress National Book Festival offer an array of fun and exciting activities and programs for festival attendees of all ages in the exhibition area, on the lower level of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.    

The 15th National Book Festival will be held at the Washington Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (doors open at 9 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 5. The event is free and open to the public. More information is at

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are the honorary chairs of the event. The distinguished benefactor of the festival is David M. Rubenstein. Rubenstein also funds the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program.
National Book Festival sponsors will offer family-friendly activities on the exposition floor in Halls A, B and C and will be open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

In addition to the activities throughout the day, scheduled special events will be posted on the festival website and on on-site signage to help visitors plan their days. New to the festival this year will be an event app, available in coming weeks to give visitors additional scheduling tools.

Festival-goers can stop by the new Literacy Corner to learn what literacy is and why it is important, and to participate in literacy-themed activities. The Literacy Corner will feature an ongoing story time for ages 4 through 8, literacy information for parents, caregivers and educators, a graffiti wall and other interactive opportunities presented by Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program award winners. 

AARP will feature its literacy-focused programs for people of all ages in an exciting and interactive exhibition space filled with surprises, activities and contests. Giveaways and opportunities to win prizes will be offered throughout the day. 

AARP Experience Corps, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington Hylton Branch -- sponsored by the Old Dominion Chapter (VA), The Links, Incorporated -- and others will participate in story reading and interactive reading and literacy games. AARP TEK (Technology, Education, Knowledge) will provide a charging station for attendees to recharge electronic devices, while computer experts will answer technical questions and show people how to get the most out of their computers, tablets and phones. AARP Books will showcase useful publications, which will be available in the festival’s onsite Politics & Prose bookstore. Festivalgoers can also learn about AARP and the many “Real Possibilities” it provides for people of all ages.  Dynamic Life Reimagined programs will be showcased along with AARP’s efforts to “disrupt aging.”

A slide show will acquaint visitors with the history of AARP’s impact on the American landscape and AARP staff will provide information on community-focused programs and campaigns, volunteer opportunities and career opportunities at AARP.

Attendees can talk to representatives of their home states and learn about each state’s literary heritage from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. in the Pavilion of the States. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the major sponsor of this pavilion, with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The IMLS and NEH support allows an affiliate of the Library’s Center for the Book in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories to come to the festival.  The “Discover Great Places Through Reading” brochure offers a list of 52 great reads and a map for kids that encourages them to visit all 52 affiliates (plus the Library of Congress Center for the Book) to get a unique sticker or stamp. Many of these books will be for sale in the festival bookstore.

The Washington Post will invite visitors to become their own storytellers in an exciting new series of spoken, written and visual activities. To celebrate the tradition of oral storytelling, local authors will read aloud from their books throughout the day. Festivalgoers can use their imaginations and practice writing by picking up a storytelling activity book that includes storybook word games, National Book Festival trivia, a create-your-own comic strip and a removable color-your-own bookmark. Visitors are welcome to complete each activity at special stations with examples of how to complete the exercise.  

The Post’s mascot, Ned the Newshound, returns to the festival and will make a special appearance from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to pose for photos.  As part of the Post’s longstanding partnership with the festival, a special edition of “Book World” covering the festival will be available at information booths.

This year Wells Fargo is excited to introduce Wells Fargo’s all-new Together Experience, where festival-goers can participate in a virtual maze challenge interactive game, record a testimonial in its video booth, take photos and win prizes.  Wells Fargo representatives will continue to read and share a large assortment of children’s books, and, of course, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach and hands-on history activities will be onsite as well.
The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors the Poetry & Prose pavilion of author presentations (Room 145AB), which will again feature readings and discussions by award-winning writers and poets, many of whom have received NEA Literature Fellowships.  The Poetry & Prose pavilion will also feature student champions from Poetry Out Loud, an NEA and Poetry Foundation program in which high-school students memorize and perform classic and contemporary poems in competition. The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, the National Endowment for the Arts and the poetry organization Split This Rock will also present the National Book Festival Youth Poetry Slam, which will showcase slammers from Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. 

C-SPAN2’s Book TV will be live from this year’s National Book Festival – as it has been for every festival. Its coverage of the festival will include author presentations and author call-in segments from the Book TV set. The network will also provide its ever-popular festival bag – this year in blue – available at information booths, the bookstore and at the Book TV exhibit on the exposition floor.  “First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women,” by Susan Swain and C-SPAN will be available in the festival bookstore.
The Junior League of Washington (JLW) will return as the Library’s primary partner for volunteer support, a role the organization has played since 2003. More than 400 JLW volunteers will manage the book-signing lines and staff other locations throughout the festival. The JLW is committed to promoting volunteerism, improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers and developing the potential of women. Learn more about the JLW, its mission and its focus on literacy at the JLW table.

The festival heads to Mars with National Geographic and Buzz Aldrin, the pioneering astronaut, rocket scientist, advocate for Mars exploration and author of the new children's book “Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet.” Aldrin will speak in the Children's pavilion at 1:20 p.m. and sign books from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Meanwhile, in the National Geographic exhibit, festival-goers of all ages can get an Interplanetary Experience.  Take space-selfies, play the “Pack Your Bag for Mars” game, enjoy the coloring station and learn tons of weird-but-true space facts. There will also be a chance to win exciting prizes and take some fun home with great giveaways.

Scholastic returns to the festival with an array of giveaways, tips and titles to help inspire the joy and power of reading and "Open a World of Possible" for all children. Young festival-goers can pose for a photo with their favorite literary characters and join in the arts-and-crafts fun by coloring and glittering special character pages. The whole family can kick back and relax in the reading corner, which will feature exciting new Scholastic releases and read-alouds scheduled every hour. Stop by and visit staff and volunteers from WAMU 88.5 FM, a festival media partner, to learn more about WAMU 88.5 programs and to pick up giveaways. WAMU 88.5 FM is one of the top news and information radio stations in the Washington, D.C. region and the leading NPR public radio station in the nation’s capital.  It provides comprehensive local, national and global news and is home to award-winning hosts and reporters, such as Diane Rehm and Kojo Nnamdi.

Young children and their families can share the joy of early-math learning at the Mathical Station sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. Throughout the day, authors of Mathical storybooks will meet and greet kids and their families. Kids can sign up that day for mini-workshops on geometric balloon bending. The schedule also includes a chance to play apps and activities for early math learning, “e-book storytime with mathy tales” and a fold-and-create art activity for kids of all ages. Kids of all ages are encouraged to play! Many of the Mathical: Books for Kids from Tots to Teen - a new youth book prize honoring the most inspiring math-related fiction and nonfiction books - will be available in the festival bookstore.

The Mensa Education & Research Foundation is working with the Library for a fourth year to create a festival poster Eye Spy activity and a Children’s Guide to the festival. The guide will be available online at, and at information booths.

The National Book Festival ( is funded by private donors and corporate sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy. Since 2010, National Book Festival Board Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein has been the festival’s lead benefactor and has pledged funding for the festival for five more years. Charter Sponsors include AARP, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patron sponsor, the National Endowment for the Arts; the Contributor-level sponsors are C-SPAN2’s Book TV, Jacqueline B. Mars, The Junior League of Washington, National Geographic, Scholastic Inc. and WAMU 88.5 FM; and, in the Friends category, the Marshall B. Coyne Foundation Inc., the Cultural Institute of the Embassy of Mexico in the United States, The Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Hay-Adams, Inter-American Development Bank, The Jefferson Hotel, Susan Carmel Lehrman, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute with support from board chair Roger A. Strauch, Mensa Education & Research Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, NPR, Small Press Expo and Split This Rock. Those interested in supporting the National Book Festival can contact the Library at

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions.
The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit

Friday, July 24, 2015

Books In For Review

Here's the latest batch of books to arrive for review.  Check them out!

Defender of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian D'Ibelin by Helena P. Schrader The Christian kingdom of Jerusalem is under siege. The charismatic Kurdish leader, Salah ad-Din, has succeeded in uniting Shiite Egypt with Sunnite Syria and has now declared jihad against the Christian kingdom. While King Baldwin IV struggles to defend his kingdom from the external threat despite the increasing ravages of leprosy, the struggle for the succession threatens to tear the kingdom apart from the inside. In the high-stakes game, one man stands out for his loyalty to the dying king, the kingdom, and Christianity itself. That man is Balian d'Ibelin. This is the second book in a three-part biographical novel about Balian d'Ibelin, who defended Jerusalem against Salah ad-Din in 1187.  

Gollywood Here I Come! by Terry John Barto The Tale of a Young Turkey's Rise to Cinematic Stardom. Who doesn't fantasize about becoming a big movie star, living up all the glitz, glam and glory that comes with it? A talented little turkey named Anamazie does... while practicing in the small town of Gobbleville. After a few hard knocks, she gets discovered and is chosen to star in a major motion picture. Gollywood Here I Come! taps into current pop culture trends of TV shows like "America's Got Talent" and the public's fascination with celebrities. At its heart, the story leaves young readers with the positive message "You can do anything if you work hard and never give up."

Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon by Terry John Barto "Dragon" You Along On A Comical Tale! Children's Book Celebrates Fulfilling Your Dreams. A dragon named Nickerbacher guards a princess because his papa told him to. However, he practices his jokes on Princess Gwendolyn, as he yearns to be a stand-up comedian. The young dragon gets up the nerve to tell his papa about his dream and is sternly reminded of his dragonly duty. Later that day, Prince Happenstance arrives for the princess and repeatedly challenges the dragon to fight. The opponents manage to find common ground and Nickerbacher leaves for the big city to pursue his dream. Nickerbacher is the only dragon who wants to make people laugh. And in the process, he encourages the prince (and kids) to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months. Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble. While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?  

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Eye-Popping Oddities Ripley's Believe It or Not!'s Eye-Popping Oddities 2016 is the newest edition of it's bestselling series. It is packed full of incredible photographs, unbelieveable stories, and amazing facts, and with thousands of crazy new oddities, this book is sure to entertain children and adults alike. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Eye-Popping Oddities is an incredible collection of the weirdest and wackiest facts in the world. From strange traditions in far-off places to weird collections from the town next door, this new Believe It or Not! title will amaze and astound everyone. Crystal clear photography and incredible facts will keep readers turning the pages, as every new fact is unbelievable, but verified to be true.  
The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang, a vainglorious and well-established antiques dealer, has made a fortune over many years by globetrotting for the finest lost objects in the world. Only Sax knows the true secret to his success: at certain points of his life, he’s killed vampires for their priceless hoards of treasure. But now Sax’s past actions are quite literally coming back to haunt him, and the lives of those he holds most dear are in mortal danger. To counter this unnatural threat, and with the blessing of the Holy Roman Church, a cowardly but cunning Sax must travel across Europe in pursuit of incalculable evil—and immeasurable wealth—with a ragtag team of mercenaries and vampire killers to hunt a terrifying, ageless monster…one who is hunting Sax in turn.  

Main Squeeze: Juicing Recipes for Your Healthiest Self by Iris McCarthy Say goodbye to unhealthy sodas and energy drinks and hello to delicious, healthy juices you can make in your own home! Perfect for anyone looking to boost their energy level- and maybe shed a few pounds at the same time-these simple and satisfying recipes will tantalize your taste buds and keep you going strong! All you have to do is drink up!  

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review - Beyond Suspicion

Beyond Suspicion: A Whispering Springs Mystery

By: Catherine A. Winn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-1-929-34510-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 24, 2015

Catherine A. Winn treats her young adult audience to an engaging work of suspense in her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion.

It's hard enough trying to fit into middle school, but it's especially hard for Shelby. She is the statistic when it comes to her home life. Her parents are divorced and her mom has remarried. Not only does she have a new dad, but a new baby brother as well. Often, it feels like she is the odd man out and the built-in babysitter for her new brother, Josh. Why did her mom and dad split anyway? And why did her mom have to go and have a kid with her stepfather? Whatever. Tonight was her night. Her parents were letting her go to her first boy-girl party and Lord knows Shelby had spent weeks preparing for this monumental event. However, when Shelby gets home from school that afternoon, she wasn't prepared for the re-shuffle of her cards. Roger (stepdad) has changed his mind and informs Shelby she will be babysitting Josh...again!

Furious and disgusted, Shelby needs to cool off. She figures if she takes Josh for a stroll to the park, by the time she gets home, maybe her parents will change their mind and hire a babysitter so she can still make the party later that evening. On her way, she passes that white van again. Who is that bleached blonde wearing the baseball cap and that sketchy guy? No matter, next stop, the park. The park is a busy place today-soccer game, lots of runners and noise. Shelby manages a quiet bench off the beaten path to be sure baby brother Josh doesn't wake from his nap. Everything is going fine until a series of loud pops disturbs her thoughts. Reactively, Shelby follows the other on-lookers toward the source of the commotion. It turns out it was nothing more than a bunch of yahoos setting off firecrackers. When she returns to check on her sleeping brother, panic sets in. Shelby is horrified when she peeks into the stroller and finds he is no longer there. She immediately launches into a frenzied search for her missing brother only to come up empty-handed. Her stomach does a flip when she thinks about going home and she has to explain to her mom and stepfather why it is only her and she has no idea what has happened to baby Josh.

Catherine A. Winn launches mystery and intrigue early on in Beyond Suspicion. The essence of a winning mystery is to deliver the body and do so within the first handful of pages. Character baby Josh is the 'body' in this case and Winn confidently establishes his departure. The dialogue and hormonal roller coaster emotions assigned to main teen character Shelby are signature. She owns her acting out as teens are oh-so capable of doing. There is a nuance that threads throughout this read related to turn-on-the-dime snubbing adolescents are naturally capable of demonstrating as well. The dynamics are further solidified with the premise of one day, Shelby has a BFF and in the click of moments, she is the posterchild of the kid no parent wants his or her kid associated with. This is a great read for young adults looking for something quick and relatable. It has all the credible elements of 'tween-aged' adolescence and presents many opportunities for its audience to apply a theory of 'what would I do if faced with a similar situation?' Ms. Winn has done a great job in delivering her debut novel, Beyond Suspicion. In my opinion, it would bode well on school library bookshelves.

Quill says: Beyond Suspicion is a terrific 'food for thought' mystery for young adults.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review - High Country Nocturne

High Country Nocturne: A David Mapstone Mystery

By: Jon Talton
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0400-5
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: July 23, 2015

High Country Nocturne is a fast-paced mystery told in the first person by our protagonist, David Mapstone. This book is number eight in the author’s series about David Mapstone and it doesn't disappoint.

David is an accomplished man who holds a PhD in History and has been a professor at various universities. He has also worked as a deputy sheriff, a private detective and has an opinion on everything. David has been working recently for his buddy Mike Peralta; at one time as a deputy sheriff when Peralta was Sheriff, and then as a partner in a private investigation company.

As the story opens, Mike has come up missing following a robbery of diamonds. David thinks that Mike is working undercover and is not a criminal even though the diamonds have also disappeared. To make things even more interesting, Mapstone and his wife Lindsay, who is an ace hacker helping law inforcement, are in the sights of a woman assassin who is also looking for Mike. and the diamonds.

Also, there is a subplot going on as the new sheriff in town, Christopher Melton, who is definitely not Mapstone’s best buddy, asks him to put on the badge again as deputy and begin an investigation into a death that took place thirty years in the past. As if that isn’t enough, the poor man’s partner is still gone and his wife is after Mapstone to find him as Mapstone’s own wife is under suspicion about something or another. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with everything but the writing in this book is first rate and the pace is quick. There is a lot of action and drama as Mapstone jumps from one case to another and he is sure that he will find Peralta, along with the assassin and the loot.

Quill says: This is a genuine page-turner and many readers will definitely make this a one-day read.

Book Review - Lady Maybe

Lady Maybe

By: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-0425282076
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 23, 2015

Calamity turns into convenience, but at what cost? Klassen's latest Regency romance novel is laced with deception and love.

Hannah Rogers returns to her previous employers—Sir John and his promiscuous wife, Lady Marianna Mayfield—in the hope of receiving her final payment. Hastily leaving them after discovering that she was with child, Hannah is in desperate financial straits since she does not have the necessary funds to rescue her baby from a corrupt maternity home. The visit to the Mayfield estate is not what Hannah expects. Marianna tells Hannah that she will receive payment after she accompanies them to their new home. In the midst of a terrible storm en route, their carriage goes off a cliff.

Hannah awakens to find herself not only in unfamiliar surroundings, but also among strangers who insist on calling her Lady Mayfield. Over time, Hannah learns that she is one of two survivors. The other is Sir John, who is comatose. Seizing upon a serendipitous situation, Hannah uses her new persona for the sole purpose of retrieving her son. Hannah also needs time for her arm to heal before leaving to find employment. Apparently no one is around to recognize her true identity. But that is about to change and unsettledness takes over big time when various people enter Hannah's life, followed by a slew of bizarre circumstances. And with no one else to turn to, Hannah has no choice but to remain steadfast in her faith during times of uncertainty.

Well researched—even to the point of visiting the specific UK area, Klassen's third person narrative is a wonderful combination of history with a hint of Jane Eyre. Klassen's attention to detail accurately captures a time period when women sought out ways to be valued amid exploitation while living in a power-driven and staunchly patriarchal society. But readers with a fetish for Regency romance novels will be quick to identify a Jane Eyre-Mr. Rochester feel as Klassen's plot unfolds. While Klassen clearly admits to the Brontë inclusion, her novel is definitely a standalone and bears no resemblance to the British classic.

Klassen's highly developed and largely foiled cast is a balanced mix of congenial and not so congenial servants, proud businessmen, lowlives, and everything in-between that brings out the worst and the best out of Hannah. Of course, a romance novel wouldn't be complete without its suitors, and Klassen makes sure to surround Hannah with a small but very carefully designed selection of men—all of whom she feels passionate about, but leaves readers wondering who the winner will be until the very end. Constantly alternating between the present, backstories, and character scenes, Klassen slowly but definitively folds in a flurry of drama, mystery, romance, as well as throws in a healthy dose of comedy while sprinkling Christian virtues within tension-filled environs.

Klassen deserves much kudos for creating a delightfully spellbinding story, one that unquestionably should be read more than once.

Quill says: Lady Maybe is one compelling read that is not only earmarked to be an award-winning book, but also a beloved classic!

Book Review - The Gates of Rutherford

The Gates of Rutherford: A Novel of Rutherford Park

By: Elizabeth Cooke
Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-27719-5
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: July 22, 2015

The Gates of Rutherford is book three in the 'Rutherford Park' series by Elizabeth Cooke, and like the others in this collection, this book delivers a very satisfying read.

Book one in the series, Rutherford Park, tells of the estate of the Cavendish Family in Yorkshire, England. It’s really a dreamy setting if you are only looking from a distance, with all the money and manners of the family. However, if you look a little harder, you will find that not everyone is happy. The family consists of William, the head of the family, his wife Octavia, who is making the best of her loveless marriage and learns to live with it as William has to have her money in order to keep the place the way he wants it. They have a son, Harry, who wants to be a pilot and doesn’t want to run the house. Daughter Louisa is the spoiled daughter looking for a husband and youngest daughter, Charlotte, has a secret that would definitely shock the family. In the second book, The Wild Dark Flowers, Harry joins the Royal Flying Corps and the family must deal with the ravages of war.

On to book three, The Gates of Rutherford. This book begins with Charlotte’s wedding day. The year is 1917 and Charlotte is a very young nineteen years old. The war is still violently raging and her brother, Harry, is still in the Royal Flying Corps. Her parent’s marriage is in danger of ending and her mother has fallen in love with an American living in London.

Charlotte’s groom is Preston, a blind soldier who she nursed back to health. Her parents are very happy about the marriage as Preston comes from a good family and might be able to get rid of some of Charlotte’s wildness. The two do marry but Charlotte begins to see that she is not really happy and doesn’t know quite why at the start. When she does understand her feelings, she cannot tell her family, or anyone for that matter. The writer gives readers much to think about as this series draws to a close and readers will begin to know just what is going on with Charlotte. The Gates of Rutherford, is a great summer book to take to the beach.

Quill says: Just think of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs and enjoy.

Book Review - Creating Joy and Meaning for the Dementia Patient

Creating Joy and Meaning for the Dementia Patient: A Caregiver's Guide to Connection and Hope

By: Ronda Parsons
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1442227552
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: July 22, 2015

The role of a caretaker, particularly that of one in the throes of Alzheimer’s or other serious dementias, can be an extremely stressful and daunting one. It’s a role that if one had to choose, most would walk away from, most likely run. The emotional roller coaster of Ronda Parsons life was evident, but instead of riding it in fear, she decided to find joy in her journey. She prefaces Nan’s story, for it is ultimately hers, by stating that dealing with a severe dementia was a “demanding reality that can bring the most loving caretaker to their emotional breaking point.” Ronda’s and Nan’s journey was penned in a comforting, almost lyrical manner, but I saw flashes of anger, frustration, if not tears in certain situations.

For Ronda, as with many people I know, it was one of those “someone has to do it moments” when she took over responsibility for her mother-in-law’s care. Her beloved Nan had “lost her ability to connect the dots,” a task that now shifted to others. For Ronda the realization that helping and watching “someone you love slowly change and slip away is unfathomably sad and frightening.” What could have continued to be a desperate situation somehow became one of joy. For anyone who has ever received a call from a nursing home or other care facility asking for assistance in controlling or calming a loved one, it can truly make one’s heart turn to stone. I’ve been the recipient of some of those and my heart sank as I read a brief recounting of one.

Ronda’s recounting of their journey was a pensive one for me, but also a learning experience. It altered the way I looked at the treatment, the caretaker, and someone like Nan, a “gentle soul seated in a Geri-Chair.” It wasn’t a book that I was planning on racing through, although it would have been an easy task. I watched, listened, and learned through their loving experience with dementia. No, it wasn’t a cake walk, but when Ronda learned that she “possessed the power to alter the tempo and undercurrent of [their] relationship,” it was my wake-up call. I began to move forward, looking instead not at my needs in relationship to the afflicted, but rather theirs in relationship to mine.

Instead of becoming what Ronda dubbed a “champion of self-pity,” which any family member could be I carefully read what she had to say. Her dictate was that “You must decide how you will behave.” Indeed we have choices in life and how we conduct ourselves is one of them. In her dealings with Nan, she developed her Moment by Moment technique, one I will keep in mind if I once again find myself in a caretaker position. Little snippets such as “don’t try to drag them back into your world” will really hit home for those who need assurance.

Somewhere in the middle of the book the word “brilliant” came to mind. No, this is not a textbook nor was it ever intended to be one. It’s a book that speaks to the heart of the caretaker, giving them a soul-saving method to continue on their journey. Ronda’s statement that her “primary goal in all I do for Nan is to maintain her health and dignity.” This could be a mission statement, but certainly a must and can do for anyone. The conversational style made it quite easy to read and the book was extremely well-written. At the end of each chapter are “Insights,” brief statements I learned and will learn from.

Quill says: This book is brilliant and most certainly one of the most heartfelt books I’ve read in some time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review - Backyard Dutch Oven Cooking

Backyard Dutch Oven Cooking

By: Bruce Tracy
Publisher: Hobble Creek Press
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-1462114207
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 21, 2015

There’s nothing like a good meal prepared in a proper Dutch oven, prepared over coals in the backyard. The smell, the expectations, the camaraderie of good friends as you enjoy the tasty delight make for a memorable experience. Yum. With a plethora of Dutch oven cookbooks on the market, however, how do you decide which is best for you? After reading, and preparing some of the recipes in Backyard Dutch Oven Cooking by Bruce Tracy, I suggest you seriously consider adding this one to your cookbook library.

The author of Backyard Dutch Oven Cooking, Bruce Tracy, is an award-winning cook, having won, among other accolades, the 2004 International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championship. Put simply, this man knows how to use a Dutch oven and in this book, he generously shares that knowledge with the reader.

The book begins with an introduction that includes selecting a Dutch over, needed tools, and temperature control. I particularly appreciated this last topic as it went into great detail about how to control your temperature down to the number of coals, per specific sized ovens, needed to reach 350 degrees. It also included how to then increase the temperature, by 50 degrees at a time, to the desired temperature. The perfect information any chef needs to control the temperature and create their own outdoor masterpiece.

There are seven chapters in the book, covering breakfast dishes; breads; soups and chilies; main dishes; sides; desserts; and sauces, toppings, and frostings. The recipes varied in difficulty, ranging from simple dishes for the novice, to advanced dishes for those well versed in Dutch oven cooking. I have seen other cookbooks that included a notation at the start of each recipe noting the difficulty. For this title, while there was mention at the start of a chapter such as – “there are recipes here for the novice, intermediate, and advanced cooks” (pg. 36) - there was no notation with each recipe. Of course, perusing each recipe one could fairly easily decide if the meal was above their skill level.
I wanted to try the stuffed peppers because I have a good recipe for these that my family loves and I wanted to compare. I have to say that the Dutch oven method was easier (no blanching of the peppers) and VERY tasty. I also wanted to give a casserole a try and selected the ‘easy ham and cheese noodle casserole.’ It’s a little fancier than the ever popular macaroni and cheese casserole I’ve made in the past (the cheese sauce requires buttermilk, sour cream and condensed cheddar cheese soup) but it did prove very popular in my house.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed testing (and eating!) the meals prepared via this cookbook. While the book doesn’t have the fancy, glossy paper that some other cookbooks use and readers may wish for color photos over the black and white photos used, this is still a good, solid cookbook to expand, or begin, your Dutch oven meals. Give it a try!

Quill says: Easy to follow, with meticulous attention to details such as the number of coals to use to control the temperature, make this book one worth adding to your library.