Monday, February 29, 2016

Books In For Review #bookreviews

Wowza! Check out all the books that have just arrived for review.  Reviews will be posted soon to both this blog as well as (plus all our social media sites).

Flatlander and the Rise and Fall of Mike and the Ravens by Peter Young While the baby boomer generation gets a lot more press (not to mention prestige) these days, author Peter F. Young isn’t ready to let war babies–those born between 1938 and 1946—fade into the night without a turn in the spotlight. Like others in his generation, Young came of age during the early years of rock ‘n’ roll—and promptly fell in love with the so-called “devil’s music.” Like scores of other kids in small towns across America, Young not only worshipped rock stars, he dreamed of becoming one himself. But, unlike most of those other kids, he almost made it. In this charming, irreverent, and hilarious memoir, Young recalls his boyhood and teenage years in the small towns of rural Vermont and Northern New York State, home of the almost-famous Mike & the Ravens. Despite their shoddy equipment and decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll upbringings, Young and his band mates managed to get signed by a record company, become regionally famous, pull a ton of stunts—including causing a rock album to be played over a church’s robust belfry speaker system at 2:00 a.m. and land in jail like real rock stars—and still grow up to become productive, contributing members of society.

When Bunnies Go Bad: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir by Clea Simon Winter is hard in Beauville, where the melting snow can reveal much more than last season’s dead leaves. So when a wealthy, obnoxious tourist and his ski bunny girlfriend surface in Pru Marlowe’s little Berkshire town, she knows she should stay out of their way. The bad-girl animal psychic has to focus on more immediate concerns, including a wild rabbit named Henry, supposedly tamed and illegally living with an eighty-four-year-old lady in her home. Henry, who seems to be acting out and hiding, avoids responding to Pru. Yet when Pru discovers the tourist murdered and his girlfriend’s high-maintenance spaniel falls to her care, she gets dragged into a complicated case of crime and punishment that involves some new friends, an old nemesis, and her own shadowed past. A recent museum art heist draws the feds into the investigation along with a courtly gentleman radiating menace, who represents secretive business interests in New York and shows a surprising awareness of Pru. Her on-again, off-again romance with police Detective Creighton doesn’t stop him from warning her to steer clear of the inquiry. The spaniel, however, lures her in. Pru lives in a world where only her crotchety tabby Wallis knows the whole truth about her past, her flight from Manhattan, and her unique gift that surfaced abruptly one day. Fearing the worst, Pru now comes dangerously close to being exposed. With everything in motion, Pru, Wallis, and everyone they hold dear will be lucky to a hare.

DIYA: A Megawatt Approach to Change by Aruna Gurumurthy Have you ever woken up in the morning and wondered if you could have a Bible of Life to accompany your cuppa? That is, a set of tenets on how to deal with everyday life, its surprises, dispositions and disappointments? Have you ever wondered that to err is human but to be human our errors must be minimum? In other words, do you want to change the way you think, say and do, to minimize relationship tension, and let a contemporary and cool friend help you? How does a shift in thinking patterns lead to world peace? From time to time, you must have craved the honest opinion of someone that has dabbled in the biology, evolution and psychology of life and used candid and expressive language to bring forth her vitality. Have you fancied music to be your soulful element and a medium you might like to put to greater use but not sure exactly how? Do you want to undergo a mental and emotional catharsis? Do you ever wonder where a person gets her strength, conviction, uniqueness, ambition and unbridled optimism from? Using skills of in-depth analyses, cogency, candor and humor, author Aruna Gurumurthy has delivered her observations and reflections of every day and every year happenings, the past, the present, the future and everything in between. DIYA is a dream and a beacon. It aspires to bring character and organization to people’s thoughts and actions. It wishes to see a world where we interact with each other in a suave and friendly manner without feeling the need for heated emotional egress. Wouldn't we love to live in a world where people are accountable for their words and actions without causing harm to others?

Acea and the Animal Kingdom by Kyle Shoop Twelve-year-old Acea Bishop was always the nerdy kid who would rather go to the library during recess to read about animals instead of playing basketball like the other boys. Now, after being kidnapped and waking up inside of an ancient kingdom strangely resembling a zoo, Acea is running from those same animals he used to love reading about. Worse yet? Acea's not just on a quest to get home - his mom and the dad-he-never-knew are both being held hostage inside by an evil sorcerer with a vendetta. Realizing that his odds of survival and freeing his parents are slim, Acea raises an army of animals to combat the sorcerer and regain control of the kingdom. Follow Acea as he travels through the exotic zoo habitats in rooms labeled "aquarium," "safari," "jungle," "aviary," and "terrarium." Unlock secrets with Acea located deep inside the Animal Kingdom which reveal the kingdom's mysterious past and hold the key to Acea's fate. Acea has secrets. Big ones. He just doesn't know it yet.

Would a Worm Go On A Walk by Hannah C. Hall Would a worm go on a walk, if you could lead him down the street? / Would he wear his tiny tennies, if he had two worm-sized feet? So begins this humorous and imaginative picture book that introduces children to the idea that animals are uniquely created by a loving and wise God. Would a Worm Go on a Walk?, with its colorful, comical illustrations, is a fresh, fun way to teach young children that God created all things very good. He gave all the animals, and children, too, wonderful qualities and unique strengths. Children will giggle over the ridiculous scenarios presented, and they will come away with the knowledge that we all are loved and special.

Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape by Angela England Turn your yard into the envy of the neighborhood while adding to your dinner table! Learn how to garden like a ninja as you sneak in plants that you can use for everyday cooking, creating a sustainable and beautiful landscape that's easy to maintain. Save time and money using the visually appealing and edible designs and harvest the fruits from your delicious paradise!

Stress-Free Vegetable Gardening: Thriving Gardens with Minimal Effort by Caleb Warnock Save time and money in your garden! This book shows you exactly how easy it is to create an abundant crop with almost no effort. All you have to do is stop fighting against your garden's natural growing patterns and get out of Mother Nature's way; she'll do the hard work for you! With this book in hand, you can enjoy delicious harvests that come back year after year!

The Promise of Forgiveness by Marin Thomas When it comes to family, Ruby Baxter hasn’t had much luck. The important men in her early life abandoned her, and any time a decent boyfriend came along, she ran away. But now Ruby is thirty-one and convinced she is failing her teenage daughter. Mia is the one good thing in her life, and Ruby hopes a move to Kansas will fix what’s broken between them. But the road to redemption takes a detour. Hank McArthur, the biological father Ruby never knew existed, would like her to claim her inheritance: a dusty oil ranch just outside of Unforgiven, Oklahoma. As far as first impressions go, the gruff, emotionally distant rancher isn’t what Ruby has hoped for in a father. Yet Hank seems to have a gift for rehabilitating abused horses—and for reaching Mia. And if Ruby wants to entertain the possibility of a relationship with Joe Dawson, the ranch foreman, she must find a way to open her heart to the very first man who left her behind.

The Chocolate Lover's Cookbook by Christina Dymock Silky smooth, rich, and delicious, chocolate is good for your taste buds and for your soul. With this decadently delicious collection of recipes--including sweets, drinks, and desserts to try--you'll never have to let your chocolate cravings go unsatisfied. So go ahead and indulge your inner chocoholic!

The Cost: My Life on a Terrorist Hit List Born into a prominent Shia Muslim family in Pakistan, Ali had it all—prestige, security, wealth, social status. The Cost is the extraordinary story of his dramatic encounter with Jesus that would change everything. That life-altering choice to follow Jesus would turn Ali from a typical teenager into a target of a terrorist organization based in his hometown—a target they would soon act on. The Cost is the riveting and remarkable journey of a young man who left everything behind to follow the one thing he knew to be true. Through excommunication from his home and family, near-death experience, a miraculous healing, and a cross-continental chase for his life, Ali’s faith sustained him while also compelling him to bring the gospel to Muslims—no matter the cost. This modern epic is a must-read for anyone who wants to be informed about the state of Christian-Muslim relations today, and inspired by just how much a single light in the darkness can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview with Author Jenna McCarthy @jennawrites

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Jenna McCarthy, author of Everything’s Relative.

FQ: This was one of the funniest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. Your sense of humor is breathtaking and I would venture to guess the personality and voice that plays across the pages of Everything’s Relative is pretty darn close to the gal who wrote it. Have you ever been misinterpreted by someone close to you with a delivery that was meant to be humorous (but wasn’t received that way)? If so, can you share the moment?

MCCARTHY: First, thank you! You sure know how to make a girl’s day. And second, that’s one of the toughest questions I’ve ever been posed. The truth is, there is a bit of me in every character I write; I don’t even know how there couldn’t be. So to that end, whenever anyone misinterprets the humor in my work, or fails to find it funny, it’s a bit of a blow. When I write, my goal is to always find a fresh way to say the things that I *think* other people think but don’t necessarily want to admit. If it makes the reader a little uncomfortable, that’s okay—as long as she’s going Oh my God, I think/say/do that, too!

FQ: I was sad to see you are a ‘recovering’ leopard-print addict. Does this mean it is nowhere to be found in your wardrobe (and if so, why)?

Author Jenna McCarthy
MCCARTHY: Please note I said “recovering,” not “recovered.” The truth is, I love animal prints of all kinds. (In fact, as I type, I am wearing my favorite patent leather leopard-print flip-flops, and my living room floor is buried beneath a giant zebra rug.) Sometimes I fear that one day I’ll be that old lady you see toting a giant bedazzled giraffe-print handbag and wearing the matching visor. But then I decide that wouldn’t be so bad. I’d rather be her than the gal next to her in the sensible shoes and the moth-eaten cardigan.

FQ: I was thrilled to see you have two daughters. I also have two daughters and can assure you they were sugar and spice and everything nice until they passed through the gates of the teen years. What has been one of your greater challenges when you have to assume the role of referee between them?

MCCARTHY: It’s exhausting, that refereeing bit. But honestly, there is nothing in the world like having a sister. It’s such a profound training ground for how to be a better roommate, spouse, employee and friend. Sure, sisters know how to push each other’s buttons faster and better than anyone else on the planet; they’re also the only ones who understand both your nature and your nurture on the deepest of levels. They were there; they saw what you saw. And not to get too maudlin here, but my siblings and I have lost both of our parents. I can’t imagine having gone through that without them. And while my brother has been just as integral to this survival process, his relationship with our parents was different than the one my sister and I had, simply by virtue of his gender. I remind my girls this all the time: friends and boys will come and go, and someday dad and I will be gone...but they will always have each other, like it or not. (They love it when I say this! NOT.)

FQ: Okay. Enough of the personal questions! Let’s dig into this deliciously humorous tale you’ve spun! Of the three sisters, which of them was the easiest to develop and why?

MCCARTHY: I love all three of these woman as if they were my own flesh and blood. When I was conjuring them, I won’t lie: I began with myself and my siblings in mind, albeit vaguely. Then I crafted lists of characteristic birth order traits. Jules, the oldest, had to be reliable, driven and protective. Brooke, the middle, had to be thoughtful and loyal; the peace-keeper. Lexi, the baby, was destined to be a reckless, independent, red hot mess. It turns out, in my own family, my siblings and I fit these molds practically to a T. When the book came out, my brother—the baby, and also a high school drop-out and recovered drug user with an illegitimate child—was like, “Wait. I’m Lexi?” I laughed and laughed. I was like, “Really? This surprises you?”

FQ: I adored Lexi’s character because she is so spot on in her assumption of the role of the baby among her sisters. However, she is such a bad*** in many respects! Were there moments in the creation of her character when you had to draw down a bit in your rewrites? If so, was it your call? Your editor?

MCCARTHY: Oh, Lexi was way worse in the first draft. And the truth is the rougher and edgier she was, the more I adored her. Alas, it was my editor who wanted her reined in a bit. She insisted that if Lexi was too bad, she wouldn’t be a sympathetic character whom readers would root for. I fought for the bits of her that I felt made her interesting and whole, and reluctantly gave up the rest. Fortunately, I adore my editor and trust her experience and good judgment.

FQ: I was laughing out loud concerning Jules’ obsession with clean warm towels in that it sounded like she never had too many coming out of the shower growing up. Did you conjure up the concept of soggy wet towels always for Jules as a draw from childhood memories (and if not, what inspired you to use this as one of the recurring themes for Jules)?

MCCARTHY: Jules is a bit of a martyr, for good reason in my opinion. She was forced into this caregiving role and while she resents it on some levels, she also couldn’t relinquish it if she tried. I come from the “show, don’t tell” school of creative artistry, and I just loved this metaphor for Jules. She can viscerally appreciate the idea of a warm, fresh towel and she wastes no time getting one for Lexi when she’s hurt. And someday, I hope the reader believes, she’ll treat herself to one.

FQ: I desperately wanted to use this next quote in the review I wrote and thought - Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t’. Now that I have the opportunity to interview you, I figure, what the heck! There is a moment when Lexi is setting her sister up on a blind double date with her and her cop boyfriend. Suffice it to say, in my wildest imagination, when I turned the page and read the following scene, I thought I was going to hyperventilate I laughed so hard:

“Lexi was so proud of herself she wanted to pound her chest while swinging from a chandelier. To say that Brooke and Frank had really hit it off would be an understatement, unless Brooke had actually gone home with him after dinner to help him write some lame-ass report like they claimed. She’d seen the sparks flying between them, she was sure of it. Besides, Brooke taught preschool, not college English. Her students didn’t even know how to write their names! Lexi would bet her last push-up bra that her sister was riding that pig like a rodeo queen right now and not drafting up a rap sheet on some drug dealer or gang-banger. The thought made her beam in the darkness...”

Was this one of those moments when the passage wrote itself?

MCCARTHY: I love the set-up of this book, with the chapters alternating POV from Jules to Brooke to Lexi. Writing this way, I was able to be each character. I’d literally say to myself, “How do I feel right now? What am I thinking? How would I react?” At the risk of sounding like Neale Donald Walsch (or some sort of freak in general), when I write my novels, I truly feel like a conduit. I don’t plot or make elaborate flow charts or worry whether my plot points are “hitting” at the right spots. It’s just a feeling that something needs to happen; a wrench needs to get thrown into things right now. More often than not, I’d write for eight or ten hours and then save and close the manuscript and think to myself, “I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.” That’s the truth!

FQ: It is clear you were born to write. You have a distinct voice that is heard throughout your work and I wonder, when did you realize this was your calling in life?

MCCARTHY: Again, thank you! I never didn’t write. (I realize that’s a double negative, but it actually feels more accurate than “I’ve always written.”) I was submitting short stories to Highlights magazine when I was seven or eight, and my high school girlfriends and I would make little bound books for each other, typically highlighting our romantic disasters. I wrote for my college paper, and while my first job was in advertising sales for a small magazine, I was offering to rewrite the (patently crappy) articles for free because I intuitively knew they could be better—and frankly, because I knew I could sell more ads against stronger editorial. To me, there are few greater joys than the satisfaction that comes from crafting a perfect sentence or scene. The best is when I go back and read something I’ve written and think to myself, “Damn, that’s good. I couldn’t do that again if I tried.”

FQ: It has been a genuine pleasure to read your work and I thank you for your time. I cannot wait until your next title is available. Any indication as to when that will be (and are you able to share a teaser now)?

MCCARTHY: Seriously, how many times can I thank you? (Thanks! Mean it!) I am currently juggling about 378 balls, which is pretty much my happy place. Since my TED talk racked up a few million views, I’ve been fortunate enough to be regularly hired as a keynote speaker, and I have several gigs on the books in the next few months. In addition I have a children’s picture book, Lola Knows a Lot (the first in a series), coming out with HarperCollins this June, and another series based on a character named Poppy Louise who “is not afraid of anything,” that debuts next year with Random House. (Both of these are more than a little bit loosely based on my own brave and hilarious daughters, naturally.) I’m also working on a screenplay and a TV pilot, all while germinating the idea for my next adult novel. (Adult as in grown-up, not porn. I’ve found it’s important to clarify that.) Hey, if you know anyone handing out a few extra hours a day, would you give them my number?

Check out the book trailer for Jenna's book, If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon

To learn more about Everything’s Relative please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ads for Award Winning Books - Check Them Out! #bookawards

Just posted to our site - a new batch of ads for some of the books that won in this year's annual award program.  One of the perks of winning is a free two-week ad on the high traffic front page of our review site,  You can click on any ad and be taken directly to either the Amazon page for the book or the author's website (winners decided where they wanted shoppers to go).  Check them out!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review - Everything's Relative @jennawrites

Everything’s Relative

By: Jenna McCarthy
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 9780425280690
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 19, 2016

Jenna McCarthy delivers an uproariously funny read in her latest novel, Everything’s Relative.

Jules, Brooke, and Alexis (Lexi) are sisters. Jules owns her role of oldest. She is responsible, dependable and always does the right thing. At the age of twelve, the rug of her near-perfect life she and her sisters lived was ripped out from underneath them when her dad dropped dead at a ball game. Before their dad died, their mom, Juliana, loved them. All that changed once he was gone. Mom was married to her job after that. She had three mouths to feed. Jules became the substitute mom for her younger sisters. Brooke, the middle sibling, was the quintessential pleaser: never make waves, listen to Jules and keep the peace no matter what. Lexi was the baby and she was off the rails. She was defiant as much as a deviant and the word ‘no’ was the equivalent of a joke when either sibling opted to use it on her.

It isn’t until the girls’ mother, Juliana, passes away a decade later, that the siblings are reunited. Did I mention once Jules graduated high school, she fled as quick as her feet would carry her long ago and far away? She was married to a great guy and supported him with both love and honor as he studied to become a lawyer. They owned a small home in the LA burbs and life did go on for Jules. Brookes was (sort of) getting on with her life as well. She was a preschool teacher and her toddlers adored her. Granted she was an amazing track star during her high school years, but it was the decade between then and now that every waking hour was devoted to consuming empty calories. At least she had something to show for it given the fact she had managed to pack on enough pounds to be considered obese. And then there was Lexi. She was the ‘bad girl’ poster child. She was getting along just fine among her posse of LA’s not-so-finest. When they are reunited in the attorney’s office and read the last will and testament of their departed mother, shock is one way to put their reaction once they learn they are about to become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. However, before receiving their inheritance, they have the ensuing year to achieve specific goals mommy dearest detailed in the will before they can cash in on their respective fortunes.

Jenna McCarthy has put it all out on the pages of Everything’s Relative and succeeds in crushing the laugh factor as a result. It’s not often I pick a book up in the morning and wipe my calendar clean to finish the book in the same day because it’s simply too darn good to put down. Such is the case with this book. I am the third of three sisters and the wave upon wave of flat-out relativity to the dynamics and interactions of the three fictional sisters is uncanny. It made me think back to some of the shenanigans my sisters and I imposed upon each other growing up. A writer can’t learn that kind of writing in a workshop; it’s in her DNA! McCarthy treats her audience to rich, believable and down-right hilarious dialogue. There is not one iota of drag throughout this story. The sucker punch ending is brilliant and ties beautifully with the overarching plot. Bravo Ms. McCarthy! May I have another, please?

Quill says: Everything’s Relative is one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud reads I’ve had the pleasure of devouring in a long time—a must read!

Monday, February 15, 2016

More Ads for Award-Winning Books #bookawards

Just posted the next batch of ads for award-winning books to our review site's main page:  These ads are one of the perks of winning an award in the annual Feathered Quill Book Awards program.  Every book that wins a first, second, or third place gets a FREE two-week ad on our main page.  Check these neat ads out!

All these books are available on Amazon!

Book Review - Her Forever Hero @automelodyanne

Her Forever Hero (Unexpected Heroes)

By: Melody Anne
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-7859-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 16, 2016

In the final installment of her Unexpected Heroes series, Melody Anne delivers Her Forever Hero; an entertaining story of mystery and romance.

Ten years after her departure, Grace Sinclair returns home to her Sterling, Montana roots. She stands on the rickety porch of the once proud structure she grew up in. Happy memories and the warmth of growing up in her childhood home weren’t her first thoughts as she stood on the dilapidated porch of the once bold and prominent Sinclair mansion. Rather, the ghosts of a miserable childhood wasted no time in reminding her of the many reasons why she left. She thought about her one and only true love and felt the tightness in her stomach at the sheer thought of seeing Camden (‘Cam’) Whittman again. Much to Grace’s displeasure, their reunion was inevitable.

Grace was having her doubts about returning to Sterling. The reason she had left in the first place was to get as far away from Cam as time and distance would allow in order to mend the broken heart he so generously delivered. New York was a colossal failure in the love department the years she was gone. It’s not like her heartless mother, Victoria Sinclair, was ever there for her. The only comfort she and her father ever offered Grace was money—the answer to everything that needed fixing. Grace had a bigger problem. It would seem a large sum of money had been misappropriated under the guise of charity and her name was all over it. Sadly, the only person who may be able to get her out of the deep water she was treading was one Cam Whitman.

Melody Anne has penned the perfect weekend read. The pace is quick and the dialogue crisp. The situation is an age-old plot of love gone wrong and too much time between past and present. The plot lends ample opportunity for the reader to engage and interact in the challenge of whether or not the guy and girl will find their way back to each other. Ms. Anne blends a back story of mystery and peril that complements the premise of consistently throwing the two estranged lovers together; forcing them to play nice and find their way together once more. With each turn of the page, the reader anticipates this to be the outcome only to be hoodwinked into yet another roadblock that precludes the inevitable of true love reigning. Ms. Anne carries the suspense to the very end of the read. While her audience may think they have it all figured out, the surprise ending is one that makes this book a worthy read.

Quill says: Her Forever Hero is the perfect book to have along for that weekend getaway of R&R.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review - Galloping to Freedom @caroljwalker

Galloping to Freedom: Saving the Adobe Town Appaloosas

By: Carol J. Walker
Publisher: Painted Hills Publishing
Publication Date: November 2015
ISBN: 978-0981793610
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 13, 2016

Stunning photography and a compelling story combine to make Galloping to Freedom a must-have book for horse lovers and indeed, a must-have for anybody who loves animals.

Award-winning equine photographer and author Carol Walker has written/photographed several books about horses, focusing most of her energies on the plight of wild horses. The first book of hers that I read/reviewed, Horse Photography: The Dynamic Guide for Horse Lovers, gave me a new understanding of how to photograph my own horses. Her beautiful photos along with easy instructions had me hooked. Many horse enthusiasts likely know her/her work from the Cloud Foundation calendars (showcasing the stallion ‘Cloud’ and the horses of the Pryor Mountain Herd), which she has photographed, donating the proceeds to the Cloud Foundation. Her newest book, Galloping to Freedom, continues the amazing work Ms. Walker has done to help the wild horses of the American West.

Galloping to Freedom follows the plight of wild horses from several areas of Wyoming, including the Great Divide Basin. In the fall of 2014, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) gave in to pressure from cattle owners to remove wild horses from publically, and some privately, owned land. Despite ‘allegedly binding legislation,’ the Checkerboard Roundup went on. Stallions, mares, and young foals were chased into holding pens by helicopter. Once captured, these wild horses, who form very strong bonds with their families, were separated by gender and age, and forced into confining pens with strangers. Fights broke out, injuries occurred and foals were put in dangerous situations as they tried to stay with their mothers.

Carol Walker was very familiar with a particularly band of horses that had been captured, those known as the ‘Adobe Town Appaloosas.’ She had previously photographed them and had even named the herd sire – Bronze Warrior. When Ms. Walker heard of the roundup, she immediately set to work with other wild horse advocates to purchase those horses, and bring them to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary where they could be reunited. Ms. Walker expertly captures all of this with her camera lens, from the roundup to the eventual release of Bronze Warrior's family at the sanctuary.

The cover image on Galloping to Freedom was enough to draw me into this book and once I started reading through the pages, I couldn’t look away. Ms. Walker has a talent for capturing the heart and soul of the horses she photographs and the images in this book are no exception. The story will make you angry with the politicians who bow to pressure from cattle interests to rid the land of our country’s greatest treasures, and how those horses, ripped away from the only family they have ever known, frequently suffer. Lest you think, however, that the book is only about the misfortunes, take heart because there are plenty of beautiful photographs of wild horses enjoying life at the sanctuary. Thank you, Ms. Walker, for keeping the plight of America’s wild horses in front of the public.

Quill says: A book every horse lover should read – you’ll be mesmerized by the photos and story and quite thankful that there are people like Carol Walker working diligently to save the magnificent wild horses.

For more information on Galloping to Freedom, please visit the website:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review - The Last Thousand @JeffreyEStern

The Last Thousand: One School's Promise in a Nation at War

By: Jeffrey E. Stern
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1250049933
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 11, 2016

The Last Thousand introduces the reader to a school in war torn Kabul, Afghanistan, that educates both boys and girls, and teaches them how to think and question the world around them. This school, Marefat, flourishes under the protection of the United States, but as the countdown to the “Outsiders” leaving draws close, those who cherish the school fear the worst.

The Marefat School is the brainchild of Aziz Royesh, a member of the Hazara (a minority group that has borne the brunt of too much racially motivated violence and discrimination). Aziz dreamed of building a school for the children of the Hazara, where children would learn to “question, criticize…sing, poke fun at one another, to protest.” In fact the name ‘Marefat’ means ‘knowledge’ but it also invokes other meanings – wisdom, education, intellect and awareness. Above all, Aziz wanted to educate a generation of students who would have a “...built-in resistance to the big men wielding religion like weapons, the ones who claimed to be descended from the Prophet; to any man who would demand reverence simply because he was standing on a podium.” (pg. 276) Indeed, Marefat would be, and did become, a very special place.

The Last Thousand follows the story of Marefat from its humble beginnings to the period when Afghanistan was thrown into years of war, its fairly peaceful years as the Americans secured the area, and then the troubled countdown as the Americans get ready to leave. The book introduces us to numerous people whose lives have been changed through their connection with the school. We meet a young married man, Nasir, looking for odd jobs to support his family, who gets a chance to work at Marefat and does all he can to stay at the school because he’s so impressed with the ideals it promotes; Ta Manna, an angry girl who lost her best friend to a suicide bomber and then struggles to come to terms with it during her time at Marefat, and the one who touched me the most, Najiba, a young mother who gets her children into the school and then through persistence and a tenacity that is quite commendable, gets herself into the adult education portion of the school.

Author Jeffrey Stern shows readers the profound effect Marefat has had on the community by closely following the lives of several people. We don’t just see Najiba’s life at the school but get a good look at her early life, how her father and husband treated her, how she desperately tried to teach herself to read, what she sacrificed to go to school and how learning changed her life. In short, we get to know those touched by Marefat quite well. At the same time, we learn about life in Afghanistan, the horrors and the triumphs, and that faraway place becomes more than just an obscure place on the nightly news. The text flowed nicely, making for an enjoyable, eye-opening read. While the last few chapters dragged a bit as Aziz fought to find ways to save his school as the Americans prepared to withdraw, overall it was an excellent read.

Quill says: The Last Thousand is a compelling read about struggles in Afghanistan and gives an awareness to what happens when the United States pulls out of a country it has held together for so long.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review - Calico Spy #bookreview

Calico Spy: Undercover Ladies series

By: Margaret Brownley
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62836-628-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 9, 2016

In her latest detective series release, Calico Spy, Margaret Brownley introduces Katie Madison. She’s a spit-fire, red-headed, sure-footed Pinkerton Detective who pulls out all the stops when it comes to taking down the villain.

Katie Madison isn’t like her sisters. Maybe she could have been had her one sister not up and married the man she loved. With nothing left to lose, Katie signs on with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. As far as her daddy was concerned, she made her bed and all that was left to do was lie in it. Katie had a natural flair for surveillance. She could separate a no-do-gooder from a law abiding man any day of the week including Sunday. She was a good girl and practiced her faith always and perhaps in due time, her daddy would understand the path she chose to mend her broken heart. Her latest undercover assignment took her to the far reaches of the Kansas plains and her cover was waitressing. However, she wasn’t your typical run of the mill waitress. Rather, she was a Harvey Girl; the best of the best with perfect posture, a beautiful smile and without question, a Harvey Girl always embraced the notion that the customer is always right. However, Katie Madison may be the Harvey Girl to change the image forever more.

There’s a serial killer lurking in the shadows of the Harvey restaurant and while Katie’s fellow workers have no idea she is the plant in place to (hopefully) solve the crime, Katie needs to own her waitressing role and protect her cover. With the townsfolk on edge and little clues to go on, Katie wastes no time assessing the clientele. She was much better at surveilling than she was at memorizing drink orders. The last thing she needed was another distraction and that’s exactly what she was about to get the day Sherriff Branch Whitman sauntered into the restaurant. While it would seem they had a common interest in catching the killer, Katie wasn’t quite prepared for the extracurricular distraction Branch was about to provide.

Margaret Brownley paints a believable picture of what life must have been like for a woman detective in a man’s world during the early settlement days. Brownley seizes ample opportunities to infuse situations of conflict between Kathie and Sherriff Whitman and uses this to her advantage as she weaves a sublime sub-plot of romance behind the scenes. Once the reader is hooked on such a notion, Brownley gets back down to her brass tacks by redirecting her readers back to the suspense of the overarching plot. The dialogue is credible and the characters are identifiable and likeable. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Brownley’s previous work. However, Brownley has certainly struck a winning formula in Calico Spy. The story flows and it is rich with many occasions for a chuckle here and an aha moment there.

Quill says: Calico Spy is a quick and enjoyable read that will have you rooting for the heroine with the turn of each page.

Book Review - Even the Dead

Even the Dead: A Quirke Novel

By: Benjamin Black
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1627790666
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 8, 2016

Quirke had been working at the Hospital of the Holy Family as the chief pathologist until something went wrong. Absence seizures and mild hallucinations didn’t do him any favors. “Something has happened to me,” he explained to his one-time lover and sister-in-law, Rose, “something has-gone out.” He was living with his adoptive brother, Mal, and Rose of course. Dr. David Sinclair, the chief consulting pathologist, was definitely going to have his job if he didn’t recover quickly. To add insult to injury, Sinclair was dating Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe. It was all so very complicated and unnecessarily cozy, really. There was, however, a body on the mortuary slab that needed a second opinion, one that Quirke needed to take a look at.

Such things as accidents do happen and there was a young man who probably committed suicide in Phoenix Park. Sinclair had the somewhat distasteful job of examining the body, but noticed a slight indentation in the side of his head, a fact that Quirke was concurred with. It looked suspicious, “the result of a deliberate and savage blow.” Before Leon Corless hit that tree, someone dealt that blow, doused everything in petrol, and somehow sent that car down an incline into that tree. No doubt they were looking at a murder, a murder Quirke would set aside his neurological issues to investigate. Detective Inspector Hackett would be more than willing to share a drink or two and work on the case.
Leon was just a twenty-something kid, sans any enemies who wanted him to slam into that tree. On the other hand his father, Sam Corless, was a Trotskyite troublemaker.”Would Corless have enemies,” he asked Quirke, “vengeful enough to kill his son?” Maybe, but then again Leon was working in a rather sensitive government area himself. Something to do with women and babies, but what possible secrets could Leon be harboring? Surely it wouldn’t warrant the death sentence he received. The real twist was when Leon’s girlfriend, Lisa Smith, contacted Phoebe. There was little connection between the two, save a single class, but Lisa was wildly desperate and needed Phoebe’s help.

Sinclair didn’t think that Sam Corless looked “like much of a threat to the institutions of the state,” when he lifted the sheet so he could identify his son. It would soon become apparent that there was more to the case than either Quirke or Hackett could have imagined. Phoebe had squirreled Lisa away in the house in Ballytubber, a safe haven for anyone, or so she thought. Someone was threatened by that murdered corpse, Lisa’s lover, because she vanished without so much as a trace. There was absolutely nothing to indicate anyone had been there at all. Was Lisa Smith some sort of figment of Phoebe’s imagination? A Quirke-like genetic hallucination? There was no one named Lisa on the roster in Phoebe’s class. There was a dangerous enemy out there, but just who was it?

I do love a good ending and Even the Dead had a killer, one that made the read well worth it. This novel can stand alone, but barely. I would have enjoyed it much more had I been privy to the others in the series. The pace of this work was even, nicely building up to the “whys” of the mystery. This is forensic crime fiction, but the clues on the body pointed to an unknown killer who only arrived on the scene in the latter pages of the book. For me, it felt as if Quirke and Hackett stepped out of a noire...into the pages of this book. I could almost tell that this particular novel was / is a turning point in Quirke’s character with the promise of future love, the rekindling of life in a man worn down by everything around him. For me, it will be a time to look back into Quirke’s past by reading the others in the series. For others, I’m sure they’ll be anxiously awaiting the next in the series from Quirke, a man who has discovered things about himself and his past.

Quill says: This is a powerful mystery, one of not only political and church intrigue, but that of an inimitable detective...Quirke.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Interview with Award-Winning Author Susan Count

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Susan Count, author of Selah’s Sweet Dream

FQ: What experiences did you having with horses before writing this book?

COUNT: My Grandmother was a librarian in a quaint library in Falls Village, Connecticut. She had a shelf stocked with the classic horse books and I am convinced they were especially for me. My love for horses was born in that library and nurtured by many horses on the trail. To see a horse is to love them.

FQ: What made you choose to have your main character as a twelve-year-old rather than making her older as many books do?

COUNT: I wrote with no preconceived ideas about the age of the main character. The story chose Selah’s age as it unfolded.

FQ: Have you had or been around someone who personally trained their horse?

COUNT: Yes, I avail myself of every opportunity to study equine training techniques. I can learn from everyone.

FQ: If no, what research did you do to write about the training part of this story?

COUNT: No matter how much one might know about horses, every equestrian discipline has its own practices and vocabulary which can trip a writer up. I make no claims of expertise in any discipline and I hope that research keeps me from annoying those who would know.

FQ: Was Sweet Dream and/or her behavior based on a horse you have known?

COUNT: Sweet Dream is a composite. One model was my thirty-three year old, Missouri Foxtrotter mare. She would fight a dragon if it landed in her pasture, but she loves and humbly submits to little children. The other models were my Rocky Mountain horses. They are smart, willing, and intuitive. They try so hard to figure out what I'm asking of them.

FQ: Who was your intended audience for this book?

COUNT: I wanted to bless young girls with a story to show them a love relationship in a family, with the Lord, and with a horse.

FQ: Were there any particular horse books that were your favorite(s) growing up that stuck with you?

COUNT: It’s so sad to give the most obvious answer, but there it is - The Black Stallion.

FQ: Were there any books about horses or training that helped inspire this story?

COUNT: Not books so much as being a rabid follower of phenomenal trainers. The natural horse training techniques are fascinating. Top drawer is Lorenzo in South France. There is a must see video of his on my facebook page. I adore Stacy Westfall. Look for her freestyle reining ride from 2006 and you will adore her too.

To learn more about Selah’s Sweet Dream please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review - Selah's Sweet Dream

Selah’s Sweet Dream

By: Susan Count
Illustrated By: Melissa Gates
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9970883-0-4
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: February 5, 2015

The two weeks that twelve-year-old Selah gets to spend with her grandfather are always wonderful but the only thing that could make it perfect is having a horse. Unfortunately, her grandpa has decided to never have horses again, for after Selah’s grandmother passed away he vowed to never be around them again. The memories of the happy times with his wife were just too hard to think about and horses brought those thoughts up even more. So, much to Selah’s dismay it looked like the only animal she would be hanging out with was her grandpa’s sweet dog named Skunk.

One day when her Grandpa went into town to run errands, Selah decided to take a hike but soon discovers a group of buzzards circling over something. As she ventures closer she discovers that the buzzards are zoning in on a horse that has been tangled up in wire and could not get herself out. Frightened that trying to free the horse by herself would just cause the horse to become even more entangled, she runs as fast as her legs can carry her and scrambles back to the house to find her grandfather. Thankfully he is back from his trip into town and after hearing his granddaughter’s frantic story he quickly follows her to the trapped horse. With a quiet, gentle approach Selah and her grandfather slowly untangle the frightened animal, carefully slip a halter on her head, and one step at a time they lead her back to the barn.

After a thorough exam from the veterinarian, Selah and her grandfather finally get a minute to get a good look at this mysterious horse. Aside from the cuts and scratches they could see she was a beautiful, well-balanced, and attractive black mare that was clearly owned by someone who cared for her at one point in her life. As Selah’s grandfather continues to look at this horse he remembers a young horse that got loose after a trailer had flipped over about two years ago; the horse was never recovered so everyone assumed it was living wild in the woods. As the search for answers continues, both Selah and her grandfather will be surprised to find that this horse is connected to their family in more ways than one.

This was a wonderfully written story that inspires an age of reader that sometimes is overlooked. At the age of twelve the main character of Selah goes on quite an amazing adventure that had me smiling the whole way through this book. I also enjoyed the real life experiences that were brought alive as Selah works through the training issues that arise as she works with her horse.

Quill says: A wonderful combination of inspiration and engaging horse adventure.

Ally's Kitchen: A Passport for Adventurous Palates

By: Alice Phillips
Publisher: Front Table Books
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1462115464
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 5, 2016

I’ve most certainly been an adventurous person during my lifetime, with a passport to match. In the kitchen, I must admit I’m rather lacking in the “adventure” line when it comes to trying out new recipes. I have more or less colored within the lines so to speak, but Ally’s Kitchen has made me look beyond the rather bland cooking of my youth...way beyond. When I’ve traveled I have enjoyed trying many new dishes, but never experimented with them on my own. When I first began taking a look at this cookbook it was almost as if I were taking a peek into kitchens around the world.

In fact, I enjoyed reading about the foods, their origins, and even how Alice “Ally” Phillips savors them as much as I loved sampling them. Armchair travelers will more than welcome the worldwide adventure as well as the foods. Each section is prefaced by a personal, almost lyrical introduction to the area as well as personal vignettes. What’s really amazing is the awe Ally feels for each recipe, something I could immediately sense as I read those vignettes! Each recipe is prefaced by a story and has a “Style Maker” at the bottom to round it out. For example, the Jerusalem eggs recipe “looks really cool served in wooden bowls” because “Somehow a ‘common’ serving piece makes this once-forbidden treat even more tasty now that we can all enjoy it.”

As I worked my way through the book I peppered it with Post-It Notes marking my favorites or those adventures I wanted to try. One everyday recipe I loved was the “Dead Sea Spiced Granola & Granola Bars.” Not so exotic, but great tasting and fun to make. One can opt to make one or the other, but I decided to go for the granola, which can be set aside to make granola bars at a later time. No chance because it was great to eat a bit at a time, tossed in my oatmeal, as well as a great addition to my yogurt. Many of the ingredients are standard granola fare, but also included are Chinese 5-spice that gives it that flare (maple syrup too!) and cacao nibs. Needless to say, the granola wasn’t exotic, but was delicious.

One other recipe I ended up loving were the unfamiliar “Down Under Anzac Biscuits.” The photograph made it one of those I-just-have-to-try-it recipes for me. Although one can garnish these biscuits, I loved them as they were. Old-fashioned oats, coconut, honey...well, they just had to be made. This particular recipe was in the “Side Trip Escapades” section. There are several main sections that include European, Mediterranean, Middle Easter, African, Asian, Caribbean, and a smattering of other foods. My favorite section was the Asia section as I’m a fan of Asian food, but those Post-Its have marked several other recipes.

Ally’s Kitchen is most certainly a cookbook for the person who loves to experiment with a wide variety of foods. The more I read, browsed, and experimented, the more the book struck me as a food travelogue as well as a cookbook. It reminded me of foodie Anthony was that good. I certainly enjoyed traveling with Ally around the world. The book popped with alluring photographs, those fabulous vignettes, and recipes. If you’re not adventurous in the kitchen, you’ll certainly want to be after you try a couple of recipes and browse the others. Fabulous cookbook for the foodie who loves adventure!

Quill says: If you’re a foodie who loves adventure, Ally’s Kitchen is one cookbook that you’ll just have to put on your kitchen shelf!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Image Ads for Award Winning Books #bookawards

All the books that have won awards in the 2016 Feathered Quill Book Awards program get a free two-week ad on the main page of our site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews.  Here are the first ads to come in/get posted.  Check them out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Award Winners Posted to Pinterest

Just posted all the winning books (if they're available from Amazon - several are not) to our Pinterest page. A good chance to see all the book covers in one place. Check them out!