Friday, April 29, 2016

#BookReview - The Book of Joe #VincentPrice

The Book of Joe: About a Dog and His Man

By: Vincent Price
Illustrated by: Leo Hershfield
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication Date: April 2016
ISBN: 978-1504030403
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 29, 2016

We all know Vincent Price as the master of the horror genre. It's no secret that many an Edgar Allan Poe story came to life under his very capable hands. But few people know that Price was also an animal lover, particularly fond of dogs. And one dog in particular, Joe, caught his eye and heart. This is the story of Joe, and Vincent Price, and their lives together.

Originally published in 1961, The Book of Joe has just been brought back to life, thanks to the efforts of Price's daughter Victoria. The memoir recounts the good, and bad (as well as sometimes comical) times man and dog enjoyed together. Price had had dogs prior to Joe entering his life, but after losing two dogs (one to an accident, the other to divorce) at the same time, while also enduring his first Christmas without his wife (they were getting divorced) and his son, Price was at a particularly lonely point in his life. Off the actor went to a pet store to find a new friend. At the store, one puppy, who held back his enthusiasm for the people gawking at him, caught Price’s eye. The mutt, a mix of...who knows...quickly weaseled his way into Price’s heart.

Through the pages of this memoir, the author tells numerous stories of Joe, from the funny (Joe’s brief friendship with Josephine the cat) to the sweet (Joe caring for his master when he was temporarily blinded in one eye) to the downright unusual (Joe’s day in court). There are numerous recollections that give the reader a peek into the life of Vincent Price and his family – his wife’s desire to breed a line of white poodles come to mind – that are quite enjoyable to read. In addition to recollections of Joe, Price tells of other animals that joined the household through the years, as well as devoting a chapter to various animals he had worked with during his movie career. From a goat to a camel, these little stories are quite fun to read.

The relatively short book (104 pages), is a quick read that dog lovers are sure to enjoy. Mr. Price shows his mastery of the English language with his vibrant command of the written word with sentences such as “I am the innocent battleground on which this war is waged, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see poppies sprout out over the acreage of my body…” (pg. 46) While reading this book, it’s important to remember that it was written in 1961, when things were different – Joe was allowed to run free and would do so sometimes for days at a time, and although a mutt, was never neutered and sired several litters of puppies through the years. Such things may make the contemporary reader cringe, but again, the book was written about things that happened in the 40's and 50's when animal welfare carried little weight. Other than this minor quibble, The Life of Joe was a very enjoyable read.

Quill says: A fun look into the life of Mr. Vincent Price and his beloved dog Joe.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Interview with Author Ruth Finnegan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Ruth Finnegan, author of Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

FQ: Much of your work is scholarly in nature, focusing on communication, oral traditions in storytelling, and the art of the spoken word in combination with music. What would you say earmarks that "Ah ha!" moment in your life when you knew without a shadow of a doubt that you would write an epic romance story?

FINNEGAN: Not really - it just arrived without my deliberate planning or even, in a sort-of way, awareness of what I was doing. I suppose the first ‘aha’ was when it was liked enough to be accepted for publication (wow), was published, and then, especially, when it started to get reviews pointing out dimensions I had never thought of, almost as if it was a classic: ‘aha’ so I seem to have penned a novel, amazing!’ Looking at it I can now see more continuity with my scholarly work than I’d have thought -(pointed out by some reviewers).

FQ: You incorporate scenes that are reminiscent of your Donegal schooling in Ireland. Are Kate's experiences a true reflection of your Irish education? What are the similarities and differences between you and Kate in this instance?

FINNEGAN: The account of the little Donegal school in chapter 2 is an exact description, down to the ink wells, cold stove, walk there, bull, and, aged 7, crying when I found I'd forgotten to minus 13 (though in my case, thankfully, I stayed good at math). The same is true of the chapter about Oxford, all drawn from my memories, apart from the last scene - though that might have been true too (except that it was ‘Measure for Measure,’ that bleak play, not ‘Othello’ - the latter just seemed more appropriate for the story of Kate’s rejection then impulsive quest).

Kate’s convent experience in chapter 3 is different from mine. Mine was an excellent if quirky Quaker school (The Mount) where all the teachers, more, or less, competent, were kind, though there was one blinkered headmistress (rather like the reverend Mother H.E.N. in the book - actually I think she was probably the model for that). But what I learned there about literature and quotation and up to a point life was very similar: I can never be grateful enough.

The author in 'academic mode'

FQ: Again, Kate travels to the Congo, which also seems to reflect your experience in Africa. What are the similarities and differences between you and Kate in this instance?

FINNEGAN: I’ve never been or could be a business woman like Kate nor have I visited the Congo, except for one transit overnight (the view of the river from the air was absolutely stupendous and much impressed me which is why, apart from its soft-of cosmic associations, it occurred to me to use it here). I know what a kind of cataclysmic epiphany can feel like, as with Kate, although for me, believe it or not, it was in a dentist’s waiting room in England. The stories however are authentic African, translated and slightly adapted by me, recorded when I was doing anthropological fieldwork in Sierra Leone, and casting their oral influence all through the book.

FQ: It has been said by many authors that writers can easily find themselves totally absorbed in their plot and especially their characters. Did you find that experience to be true in the creation of Kate?

FINNEGAN: Yes, absolutely. But apart from the couple of directly autobiographical chapters (Donegal and Oxford) I didn’t realise until well after I had finished the novel that Kate was myself. (And I now see that that’s why in the ‘Epilogue,’ though I express my hope, I have left the ending open for it will not, cannot, be known until my life is at an end).

FQ: You include poetic portions from different schools of literature—both sacred and secular—in Black Inked Pearl.. Is there one poet who stands out as having a profound influence in your literary background?

FINNEGAN: Yes Homer. The first real book I read (not having learned to read till I was seven - my mother thought learning about other things more important than having your head in a book - she was right) was Homer’s Odyssey, soon followed by the Iliad and crying over Prima’s visit to Achilles to beg for his son’s body, amazingly touching, still moves me to tears. They were both in the old-fashioned biblical-language translations fashionable in the nineteenth century and that affected me too.

I think Homer's similes (which I’ve reproduced and copied so freely in my novel) are, so apparently simple, among the most wonderful things in literature - indeed ‘the world in a grain of sand’ (I love Blake too).

The author at home in her garden with dogs Pippa (in arms) and Douglas feet (photo taken by husband David)

FQ: Black Inked Pearl is written in such a way that it is open for reader interpretation. While that interpretation can vary widely, what is one thing that you would hope your audience would take away after reading your epic story?

FINNEGAN: Oh I suppose - to love the world and everything in it (not least those who search after impossible but not so impossible dreams (think of Coelho’s Alchemist), those who experience dementia, those who struggle between dream and reality - and above all yourself, the hardest.

FQ: Do you foresee more projects of epic literary proportion in the near future?

FINNEGAN: Hm, there is one trying to fight its way through this very day and before, but I am trying to close my mind to the dreams - I know they will still be there when I look. I need to finish off a bunch of academic books first. Won’t say any more at this stage but I guess I’ll be back.

FQ: Have you ever considered the possibility of writing a story for youth?

FINNEGAN: Oddly enough a taxi driver (a local church leader, originally from Ghanq) having heard the plot of the Black Inked Pearl as he drove me to the airport on the way to my yearly visit to my daughter in New Zealand - the land, to me always liminal where my novel started to come to me - suggested this. It had never occurred to me. He said ‘children should know there is a heaven and a hell!' So I am thinking about this - a version not of something new but of a Black Inked Pearl suitable for 12 year olds.

Am also planning to do an audio version in nearish future which, though unchanged in wording might be more accessible for modern youth than the written version. Perhaps too a film, which would have the same effect.

I have also been enjoying constructing some retold fairy tales for early readers (the first to be called something like The Frog Adventure - an upside-down version of the frog prince story) and have found a most wonderful illustrator to help. Watch this space!

To learn more about Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#BookReview - Theodore and Hazel and the Bird @theohazelkids

Theodore and Hazel and the Bird

By: Riza Printup and Marcus Printup
Illustrated by: Elyse Whittake-Paek
Publisher: RiMarcable Publications
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-0692678718
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2016

A sad little bird has lost his song. How will he ever find it again? In this charming story, two young children help the bird look for his ‘tweet.’ Working together, will they find the music the bird has lost?

Theodore is a trumpet player and his friend Hazel loves to create beautiful music on her harp. One lovely day, the two friends decide to head to the local park. The sun is shining and it’s the perfect day to play outside. They take their instruments along, because, gosh, it’s also a perfect day to share their music with others. As Theodore and Hazel are enjoying the park, they come across a bird who looks very sad. Wondering what might be wrong with their new acquaintance, the bird tells them that he has lost his song:

“I think I lost my song,” said the Bird
as his tears began to flow.
“I open up my beak to sing
and I sound like this...hhhhhhhhhhho!”

Theodore and Hazel offer to help the bird find his song so off the three go in search of the bird’s ‘tweet.’

As they wander through the park, the new friends, along with the reader, meet several creatures that call the park home. These animals, as well as a bike and human, make many different sounds. They all seem to have their own songs. But what about the bird? Will he, with the help of Theodore and Hazel, ever find his song?

Theodore and Hazel and the Bird is an enjoyable read for both children and adults. It’s great to see a book for early readers where the characters happily carry their instruments around everywhere they go. It’s clear that the authors, a husband and wife team, one who plays harp and the other trumpet, love their music and want to share it with others. The positive message of finding your inner voice, along with the comical revelation of what the bird sneezes out of his mouth will delight young readers. Add in the colorful illustrations and you have a book that children will ask for at bedtime.

Quill says: A charming story about finding your own special voice – with a happy ending, and a pair of unusual peas. This is a perfect bedtime story that children will want to read again and again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Interview with Author Michael Pronko @pronkomichael

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Michael Pronko, author of Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo

FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed Motions and Moments. The work flowed and I found myself often feeling as though I was engaged in endless conversation with you. Given this is your third compilation of essays on the subject of Tokyo, what inspired you to write the first (and continue the series)? Was it more a journey for you to understand its people (or a mission to explain the culture to the world)?

PRONKO: I’m glad you enjoyed it. I wanted readers to hear the conversation between Tokyo and me, but also to join in the conversation, too. I started writing these essays because Tokyo overwhelmed me when I first started living here. I wanted to pick apart my reactions, to not lose them, but also to understand what I was experiencing, which felt very intense. And still does! Then, I got lucky to find a couple of publications, Tokyo Q (which sadly died) and Newsweek Japan that were interested in publishing my thoughts and musings. That kept me writing. A lot of Japanese readers wrote in over the years, and I got invited to be on TV, so that was encouraging that Japanese wanted to hear what I thought. And Tokyo never runs out of topics to write about. So, it’s both to understand myself and to understand Tokyo. Explaining it to the world comes in third maybe, but that’s been interesting, too.

Author Michael Pronko

FQ: As a native of the Midwest in America, how difficult was it to assimilate to Tokyo when you first traveled there?

PRONKO: Difficult, I would say, in most ways, the language, ways of doing things, the flow of life, and cultural values are all hard to get your mind around. But in other ways, it’s felt natural, and easy even. I’ve always liked strange experiences, and Tokyo has plenty of those. But Tokyo’s also a very huge, open place that encompasses all kinds of people and attitudes and lifestyles. I could find music, food, books and other sustenance. Italian food one night and Japanese the next is not the hardest assimilation anyone’s ever had.

That said, I’m not sure I’ve assimilated altogether. Friends and colleagues who are Japanese language or culture specialists, or who married a Japanese person probably assimilate better than me. Strangely, as a writer and as a professor, I’m paid to be American in some way, to see and teach from that slightly outside position, though with an understanding of the Japanese side, too. I’m used to things here, comfortable with them, but I still find a lot of them weird. That seems a productive balance.

FQ: In line with Question 2, when you travel back to Tokyo after spending time in the States, do you find you adapt more quickly each time to return—to the pace? Culture? Environment? Is there a specific process you implement to adapt?

PRONKO: Less and less quickly, I think. It’s always confusing to switch cultural situations, but I notice differences more and more. I think the only process I use is to write down observations and reactions as fully as I can. Going both ways is weird, so I jot down what I feel. The times when I switch cultures are the times when I get the most ideas. I like to observe my observations. And maybe more importantly, I’ve developed much more of a sense of humor about the differences, which helps immensely!

FQ: I particularly enjoyed your essays on the quakes. I cannot imagine not only experiencing such a catastrophic occurrence, but how do you cope with the notion the next one can happen at any time?

PRONKO: Total denial is very helpful. It covers the day-to-day of lingering anxiety. Sort of. After the most recent disaster in Kyushu, though, I was reminded again of how possible a big quake in Tokyo really is. And how lucky Tokyo has been so far. I try to calm myself with facts, emergency bags, and a pre-set plan. That kind of constant unconscious awareness is there all the time, so you get used to the idea. Each small quake, and there are a lot of them, really gives me a start. Each time on hits, and the whole building starts bucking and jolting, I get flooded with adrenaline, and then I wait to see if it gets worse, try to stay calm and ride it out. I wanted to get some of that feeling into the essays.

FQ: What life experience or experiences stands out most in your life in Tokyo?

PRONKO: The people here. Tokyo people are so different from me, I feel at times, but exactly the same at other times. People are hard to write about, as they’re so complex, but they’re the ongoing experience that stands out. My students are really intriguing, and the experiences with them are ones I value. My students talk with me a lot and invite me to their weddings or out for drinking parties long after they graduated. I write about jazz, too, so I know a lot of musicians, jazz fans and club owners. They’re different from business people, who are the vast majority of Tokyoites. There are a lot of other things that I love always, like just walking around the city. I went on TV a few times, which was interesting doing this completely different activity, being ordered around by a director, filming in the streets and performing in the studio (with make-up!). Still, people are the best experience.

FQ: How difficult (or easy) was the adjustment to the cuisine? What is your favorite dish?

PRONKO: Very, very easy. I love Japanese food, which is generally healthy, and served with great attention to detail. Eating is deeply integrated into general life here in ways that makes America seem like a culture that scarfs down food out of necessity. I like the whole culture of cuisine here. It’s ritualized, overly so at times, but always respectfully and humanly. Meals with friends stretch out over hours, talking, drinking, ordering after discussing what to order. And there’s lots of quick eats, too, like ramen, which I love, and ton katsu, deep-fried pork cutlets, which I grab on the run between classes. Probably, my favorite is just fish, both raw and grilled, which is just marvelous here, done simply. But there are so many other cuisines here, too, Chinese, Italian, French, Thai, everything, so that makes it easy to adjust by just diversifying.

FQ: I have often thought the Asian culture is quite respectful and adheres to protocol. What is one of the greatest ‘foibles’ you orchestrated during your time abroad? How did you overcome the faux pas?

PRONKO: One thing I used to always do was to wear the toilet slippers out of the toilet. In Japanese homes, the toilet area has different slippers, which you change into and out of each time you go in. No outside shoes in the house, right? I would always forget and just wear the toilet slippers back out around the house. But the toilet is even more outside than the outside, so it’s disgusting, by Japanese standards! The words for “having an affair” and “gardener” sound similar, so one time I spoke to a gardener working in a garden nearby my house, but switching the words, I asked him if he was an “affair” person who could come have an “affair” in my backyard. Seeing I was a foreigner, he took a big breath, and figured it out. Fortunately.

In addition to those kinds of mistakes, other things were tougher. One colleague yelled at me in the hallway, I mean really screamed, about my introducing an essay section to our entrance exam. I was on the committee and just added it, American style! Which was absolutely wrong in Japanese culture, as it was a singular action taken without extensive group discussion. The Japanese way would have been to discuss it in meeting after meeting, listening to everyone’s opinion, checking with other universities to see what they did, sending a formal proposal to the Education Ministry, waiting for the reply, announcing and discussing it at more meetings, and…well that would have taken years and ended up with nothing at all. What I did was “wrong” but it worked.

The number of other similar foibles, faux pas, and foul-ups could fill another volume of essays. Just worrying about trying to find the right way can be a huge pain. Japanese culture is super-strict about polite, passive adherence to accepted ways of doing things. Some of those ways are efficient, smooth and have their own internal logic. But others are inane and even Japanese hate following them! Many Japanese would even feel a certain envy at my not feeling obligated to do things in the correctly, long-accepted, Japanese way. However, on the flip side, I learned to be respectful and patient as the first response to whatever happens or is said. That attitude of take-a-breath and wait-and-see cuts down on most faux pas.

FQ: I have never been to Tokyo, but have friends who have traveled there and relayed a similar observation you touched upon often in your essays: It’s incredibly clean! What DO they do with all the refuse?!

PRONKO: Well, places in the public eye are amazingly clean, but there are dirty, unkempt, abandoned places too, here and there. It’s just this deep-set cultural value to be clean, neat, and tidy. At some places like old temples or funky drinking places, it’s OK to just let things fall into a kind of beautiful disrepair. In the right place, dirt is relaxing. It always seems to me that the cleanliness is so much work. I guess if it is clean already, it’s easier to keep it clean. It’s a kind of ongoing, constantly enacted purification, I suppose, like washing your hands before entering a temple. It’s a way of maintaining consideration about space and people. To have a lot of dirt, trash or disorder in front of your store or your home would be considered rude to customers, neighbors or passers-by. So, you clean it up. That happens on a small scale and on a large scale.

FQ: In line with Question 8, I (think) you mentioned strict adherence to recycling, but I don’t recall if lofty fines are imposed on violators. How serious is the penalty to those who violate the codes?

PRONKO: We have a trash calendar to remind us what days are set for throwing out glass, PET bottles, random plastic, non-burnable, burnable, paper (3 kinds) and dangerous things like batteries. It’s very tightly organized. Basically, I think violation is just not done. When I’ve gotten my trash category wrong outside my house, the trash collectors will peer into my trash bag (special bags purchased from the city), and then tape on a little form note with boxes to check off with my specific error. They just leave that out in front of the house. It’s SO embarrassing to come home from a long day and find that all day long everyone in the neighborhood has been glancing at my trash mistake as they passed by! Shame is the ultimate penalty. But I think, too, people feel connected to public space, and do not want to inconvenience others. So, it’s maybe less actual penalty than social expectation. I once spent the equivalent of a couple hundred dollars to haul off some old heaters, shelves, laundry poles and this and that. You have to pay to play the garbage game. It adds up, but on the other hand, it makes you super-aware of how much each little this and that will cost to dispose of. So, you pay attention to that end cost. Fair enough.

FQ: When in Tokyo, what is the one comfort from home you cannot obtain (and how do you overcome the desire to have it)?

PRONKO: Most creature comforts are now easy to come by in Tokyo. Somehow someplace, you can find almost anything. Tokyo’s very big. Some things, you might have to search out, like a good hamburger. Mexican food is in short supply. There are some fancy places, but not the kind of casual, authentic Mexican food I really used to love. So, I’ve learned to make it myself at home. Bookstores in English are good, but not like the local indie places you’d find in America. But, I have a library at school where I can order what I like. What I really miss is little, casual exchanges, like with a store clerk or wait staff or even someone in my university office. Those kinds of interactions tend to remain extremely formal here, stiff and restrained by American standards. I miss easy, light banter with passing strangers.

FQ: Tokyo seems to be the city of constant motion. Is there ever a time when the streets sleep (other than December)? What is that like?

PRONKO: It is a city of constant motion, of necessity or regularity or just to avoid the exhaustion of stopping, but things do slow down, too. I think the streets are the place for energy and motion, so the slowing down tends to take place more in private spaces. Japanese take a bath at night, so that’s a real still point for most people. An individual and private stillness. There are plenty of calm coffee shops, restaurants, parks and other places, where sitting quietly doing nothing is the norm. But, the main streets tend to stay active. There are plenty of quiet neighborhoods, and those can be very tranquil. In the early morning hours, before the trains start back up, it’s very quiet most places, but still not quite asleep. There’s no daylight savings time in Japan, so the sun comes up early and it’s light by 5 am in summer. It’s quiet then.

FQ: I thank you for your captivating essays. Is there another in the series in the works or are you on to a different project? If so, could you share a bit?

PRONKO: I finished two novels set in Tokyo, noir-like mysteries, so I hope to get one of those out this year. They’ll be my main focus this year. I’m working on more essays, as there is so much more in Tokyo to write about, but it takes time to build up enough for another full collection. I work on those little by little and don’t want to force them. The new ones seem to be focusing on Tokyo people, their lives, passions and what they tell me and do. I’m also working on a book about Japanese jazz, as that is a real passion of mine, with my own website as the starting place, Jazz in Japan. As always, the problem is finding enough time to do them all.

To learn more about Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, April 22, 2016

#BookReview - Motions and Moments @pronkomichael

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo

By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-942410-11-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 23, 2016

Motions and Moments is a well-thought-out compilation of introspective ‘essays about Tokyo’ by Michael Pronko.

The third in his series of musings toward Tokyo living is an interesting and captivating read. The book is laid out in logical fashion in that it takes the author on a journey of: ‘...first you take a step… then you take another...’ There are a total of five parts to the book beginning with “Surfaces.” In the opening part, Pronko focuses on the nuances and mannerisms of the inhabitants of Tokyo—millions of people co-habitating in miniscule space. He speaks of “The Language Dance” under the guise of how people can go “...for weeks without needing to converse with anyone. You can silently order, pay the bill, use an IC or credit card to slip in and out of stations, and get by at work or shopping with set polite phrases that involve no real thought...” In his next sentence he challenges his audience with the premise of Tokyo being the city of conversations. Part I of Mr. Pronko’s book is a terrific foundation that sets the tone to assuage the reader’s mindset in preparation for learning all there could possibly be to know about life in Tokyo.

Each essay is succinct in that it doesn’t span more than 3-4 pages, yet by the end of each essay, one has a sense of reading a short story and enjoying the journey in so doing. There is a tone of absolute respect Mr. Pronko has for Tokyo and its natives. Later in the book, he devotes a section to the architecture and construction abound. It was interesting to read his comparisons between we westerners and our affinity with sprawl. Yet, in Tokyo, there is only so much real estate to spread out upon and the ‘fix’ Tokyo has mastered is to go up (versus out). Imagine! Getting lost in a city beneath its surface!

Michael Pronko has an engaging tone through his writing. He is conversational as much as educational without boring his audience with too much lecture. It is no wonder he has hung his hat in this mystical place for fifteen years. His essays have a beautiful flow from one thought to the next and it was easy for me to settle into the journey of this body of work. He often uses the Japanese word (or words) for the subject he depicts and, in my opinion, this infuses greater credibility to the essays he has written. There is a subtle nuance that plays throughout this series of essays that piques a desire in the reader to visit this enchanted land. With such a large population on such a small island, it is abundantly clear harmony among its inhabitants is a must. Mr. Pronko depicts this time and again throughout this wonderful compilation of essays. Well done!

Quill says: Motions and Moments is a terrific series of essays that captures the essence and allure of Tokyo with a lot of heart infused in the work.

For more information on Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#BookReview - Shot Down @ShotDownB17

Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth

By: Steve Snyder
Publisher: Sea Breeze Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9860760-1-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 20, 2016

Steve Snyder brings his dad, Howard Snyder and his exceptional flight crew of the WWII B-17 Susan Ruth, back to vibrant life across the pages of his memoir: Shot Down.

Sometime around February 8, 1944, Howard Snyder and the crew of the Susan Ruth were forced to abandon ship. The Susan Ruth was struck by enemy fire and the cockpit was filling with smoke (and fire) at a rapid rate. Howard Snyder was the pilot and the mission began as each mission began. The crew assumed their positions in the tight quarters of their aircraft. They donned the air and eased into fighter formation. Sadly, on this day, their fate perhaps was pre-destined, but none of the men could have known what lay ahead in the days and months to come once their craft began its rapid descent from the comfort of clouds and sky.

The campaign of war and the formidable Nazi Regime led by the tyrannical monster, Hitler, was far from being over the day the Susan Ruth went down. Rather, the heat was being turned up more than a notch and proud American soldiers had one vision they focused on: stop the madness of Hitler. Howard Snyder had a young wife and two beautiful baby girls state-side. Yet, as his ship spiraled downward, all he could wonder was whether he and his crew would make it out alive. Would they be captured? Would they perish? Would they survive if captured? Beyond the crash, the days and months ahead would live in infamy in Snyder’s memories years beyond the end of war. Although his son Steve had yet to be conceived, it would be his commitment and the love of his father and family that would compel him to set pen to paper decades later and begin his personal journey of telling the world yet another story of the brave crew of the Susan Ruth.

I finished reading Shot Down a little over a week ago, but wanted to savor this magnificent story before immediately running to my computer to write my critique. From the onset of this amazing story, I felt an instant connection with this author. He is proud. He is bursting with love. He is patient and he is on a mission to tell his father’s story not only with heart, but with precise accuracy. I was not aware of the tyranny and day-to-day trauma our brave men of this era faced. My dad was a WWII Veteran (82nd Airborne). I often recall how close-mouthed he was when it came to sharing his experience. It was simply something he had no desire to speak of. I applaud Mr. Snyder for his conviction in getting the thoughts down on paper—thoughts created by hours, months and years of sifting through the journals his father kept as much as sourcing historical accounts to get it right. The honor and pride this author has for his father is audible page after page and he pays beautiful homage to the ghosts left in the wake of such an egregious war. While I did not fact check every historical reference, I commend Mr. Snyder for his exceptional bibliography and index at the back of the book. It further enhances his commitment to telling the story and his rounded ability as an historical writer. The love this man has for his father and men (and women) in service is palpable and I thank him for his service in sharing such a beautifully written memoir. Well done Mr. Snyder.

Quill says: Shot Down is a compelling memoir that further affirms why we must ‘never forget.’

For more information on Shot Down, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Firstborn Destinies - Lies @ML_Lacy_Author

Firstborn Destinies: Lies

By: M.L. Lacy
Publisher: M.L. Lacy Production
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1523443727
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 2016

There was little that Kelsey Johnson remembered about her parents as she was told they died in a house fire when she was just a small child. Her grandparents had raised her, and all her memories revolved around them. Now a grown woman, her grandfather had already passed away and her grandmother was nearing the end of her own life. Terrified of the thought that the last of her family was about to leave her, Kelsey is not prepared for the information her grandmother gives her while laying on her deathbed. Apparently, the truth about her parents was kept from Kelsey for her own protection. Her grandmother tells Kelsey her parents did not die in a fire, but rather had to abandon Kelsey because the place they had to go would not be a safe place to raise a child.

Suddenly Kelsey’s world is turned upside down as everything she thought she knew about the past turns out to be a lie. Her few clues to what really happened to her parents are written down in a box full of cards and letters that they sent to her grandparents for the first few years after they left. However, the letters don’t give much information on where they could currently be living except that the postmark is from a small town in South Dakota. One part of Kelsey’s mind is thinking that she should make a trip to this small town just to see if she could uncover any information about where her parents are currently living. However, the other part, the more sensible part, is telling her to just leave the past in the past and move on with her life and don’t think about the unanswered questions. Ultimately, curiosity takes over and Kelsey decides to take a two-week vacation to travel to South Dakota and just see what comes up. Kelsey reasons that at the very least, the trip will at least give her time to recover after her grandmother’s passing.

As fate would have it this trip turns out to be anything but a simple quest for answers, it ends up changing Kelsey’s whole life. On her first day in town she meets a man named Justin who has an amazingly strong pull on her as if she was meant to meet him. The attraction seems to be mutual as Justin asks her to go to dinner the next night. As Kelsey and Justin get to know each other the secrets of the past will start to unfold.

It took all of three pages for me to start enjoying this book and it kept my attention to the very end. The main character of Kelsey was one that I instantly connected with and I found myself cheering her on through all of her trials. It’s always fun as a reader to put yourself in the character’s shoes and with this story I felt as if I could see everything through her eyes perfectly. This is a wonderful start to such an exciting series and I cannot wait for the next installment to come out. Please Ms. Lacy, hurry up with book two!

Quill says: An absolutely fantastic beginning to an incredible fantasy adventure!

#BookReview - Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

By: Ruth Finnegan
Publisher: Garn Press
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 978-1942146179
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 12, 2016

Finnegan spins a refreshing, one-of-a-kind love story in her epic novel Black Inked Pearl.

Kate is fifteen years of age at the time she meets her enigmatic lover by the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, Ireland. Although entranced, Kate's youth and inexperience push her to immediately reject her lover. Under the tutelage and spiritual instruction of the nuns at convent school, Kate finds herself vacillating between feelings of guilt and desires for pure love. As a result, Kate longs to be in her lover's presence, constantly keeping to a dreamy state. Growing up in Ireland, "she knew her fate was a quiet, gentle one. Among the paths of faerie, Tir na nOg, enchanted dreams and histories...Just an ordinary girl. In a magical world."

Years later as a successful young businesswoman, Kate appears to put away childish things, finding many yet superficial loves en route. Traveling to the Congo in Africa, Kate is caught off guard when she listens to a storyteller's version of the Garden of Eden story. It is in the retelling that her heart is stirred and she once again finds herself longing for the presence of her lover. In her quest for love and happiness, Kate makes her way to various places—both corporeal (i.e., Donegal, Ireland; St. Pancras, London; an old-aged home) and intangible (i.e., hell, heaven, and Eden). Although Kate is often in a quandary about life and love, her viewpoint begins to change when she meets a beetle that points her in the right direction and literally out of the pit of hell.

Finnegan's writing style transcends all concepts, definitions, and boundaries of storytelling, leaving readers to draw their own interpretations. Using a combination of prose and poetry, Finnegan weaves in segments of secular and sacred works of Shakespeare, Rumi, W. B. Yeats, Wittgenstein (philosopher), Homer, William Blake, Milton, Rider Haggard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as various Christian prayers within Kate's quest for true love. Finnegan's third person narrative keeps to a near lilting style reminiscent of Irish literature that carries its own trance-like quality. Since Finnegan's plot constantly highlights allusions, it is difficult to tell when scenes shift from reality to surreal and vice versa.

That said, Kate's journey evokes a progressive dream. Indeed, many scenes are replete with nonsensical situations, people, beasts, celestial beings, and to top the list, a talking beetle. Considered one of God's lowly creatures, the beetle (nicknamed Mickey, which the beetle finds disrespectful so the name is only mentioned once) functions to some extent like Jiminy Cricket, encouraging Kate (so-to-speak) to "let her conscience be her guide." With so many references to God and Kate's self-awareness, one could easily interpret that Kate is on a spiritual quest and that her search for true love begins with loving herself first and foremost.

Quill says: A highly atypical romance tale, Black Inked Pearl is a must read for those who desire a deeper understanding in the realm of love!

For more information on Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - Original Cyn

Original Cyn

By: Sylvia Dickey Smith
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63363-149-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 12, 2016

In her latest novel, Original Cyn, Sylvia Dickey Smith delivers the ‘preacher’s wife.’

Cynthia Carter wasn’t always Cynthia. Granted, it was her birth name, but growing up, everyone who knew her called her Cyn. That was one of the first things to change when she married preacher Wilburn Carter. After all, how could the preacher’s wife be addressed as Cyn? Cynthia had no identity or purpose other than the title of the preacher’s wife. Wilburn redefined her role and purpose: up at dawn, cook his breakfast, attend church regularly and keep your opinions to yourself. Better yet, don’t have an opinion at all.

Once her son Justice leaves the nest for college, it’s time for Cynthia to find her voice. Cynthia resents Wilburn and his self-righteous and pious holy behavior. Thankfully, she receives a welcome surprise visit from baby sister Dee who comes for a quick visit on layover to her next foreign correspondent writing assignment. Obligated to join the women of the church for a planning meeting, Cynthia has no choice but to bring her sister along. Stuffy president, Hazel Harrison, is front and center when they arrive all too curious to meet the woman tagging along with the preacher’s wife. Once introductions are made and before the meeting begins, Cynthia is happy to see her one friend toward the back of the rectory. Anxious for her sister to meet her BFF, Ginger Goodman, Cynthia is taken aback by her unsolicited warning toward any woman being Cynthia’s friend. Adamant to convince Dee she is a good friend, it doesn’t take long for Ginger’s true colors to show. Shortly thereafter, Cynthia embarks on a mission to take her life back; beginning with her childhood name.

Sylvia Dickey Smith has a wonderful storytelling quality to her writing. Her voice is recognizable within the first handful of pages and she is quite focused toward her development of engaging plot. There is a fair amount of activity that advances the story from one chapter to the next to keep her audience engaged. In addition to the main plot, there is a subtle nuance that percolates beneath the surface that provides ample food for thought to ponder when it comes to embracing life once the nest is empty. Thanks to a steady flow, smooth prose and dialogue, this is a read that can easily be consumed in no more than a few days’ time. Well done Ms. Smith. I look forward to your next project.

Quill says: Not only is the title a delightful play on the topic, but the story within is an enjoyable and engaging read.

#BookReview - Finding Fraser

Finding Fraser

By: KC Dyer
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-0399584367
Reviewed by: Jennifer Tilley-Voegtle
Review Date: April 21, 2016

Finding Fraser by KC Dyer brings to life a die-hard, quirky, fan of the Outlander series on a mission to find her own version of a fictional 18th century Scottish hero. Emma Sheridan is a barista, on the cusp of her 30th birthday, and ready for a major life change. Fired from her coffee shop job and tired of the life she has made for herself in Chicago, she sets out on a journey across Scotland in an attempt to find a man as amazing as Jamie Fraser, the lead male character in the Outlander series. Emma has been in love with Outlander and the hero, Jamie Fraser, since she was 19. Taking her fate into her own hands, she travels to Scotland to find a Scottish man with all the same amazing qualities.

To prepare for her campaign to find her perfect Scot, Emma sells off all her worldly possessions except her laptop and a few personal items. Before the trip begins she creates a blog to keep track of her adventures, and more often misadventures! Much to the consternation of her younger sister, she sets out to travel from Chicago to New York where she plans to fly out of JFK airport to Scotland. On her way to New York, Emma takes a detour into Philadelphia to attend a romantic fiction conference. Set to appear at the conference, is “Herself,” Diana Gabaldon, the creator of Jamie Fraser. Emma is convinced the opportunity is an obvious sign that she must attend to speak with Ms. Gabaldon to get her advice on how to find her own Jamie.

Once on the greyhound bus and traveling to Philadelphia, Emma has a major panic attack somewhere near Pittsburg. Thanks to the advice of a kind female police officer and her Ativan, Emma is back on the road to Philly. After multiple wild mishaps with some very lively characters, on her trip to Philly and then on to New York, Emma finally sets out for Scotland. The trip around Scotland turns out to be everything she dreamed it would be and more! She tours the country in the footsteps of the female character from Outlander, Claire Fraser, discovering fascinating historical places but no Scottish hero. Continuing her search into the Highlands, Emma finds herself low on cash, and patience, in the small town of Nairn. In that small Highland town, where everyone knows everyone, Emma begins to find her place in the world even if she has yet to find her own Scottish hero.

Throughout the book there are numerous laugh out loud moments and plenty of references to Outlander. The story has many small similarities to Outlander that are purposely planted in the plot to call to the fans. A reader who has not had the pleasure of reading Outlander may enjoy this book but it is most likely a book for a fan anxiously waiting for Diana Gabaldon’s next release. The story takes some time to develop and the reader must be patient. There are numerous plot twists that seem to be disconnected but the author ties them all together nicely in the end. There are quite a few surprises and twists that the reader won’t see coming that are a delight to discover.

Quill says: A fun book for light-hearted reading with a motley cast of characters who are endearing and interesting.

Award-Winning Book Gets Additional Press! #bookaward

How cool is this????  Congratulations to "Selah's Sweet Dreams" and author Susan Count on all the additional press they're getting from winning a Feathered Quill Book Award.  This time the award has gone international with mention in a Dutch magazine!  Congratulations Susan!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Books In For Review

Check out the most recent books to arrive for review!

Theodore and Hazel and the Bird by Riza Printup Theodore and Hazel help a new friend find something believed to have been lost...or was it?

 A Parent's Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child by Russ Walsh What is a parent to make of the current narrative about public education in the United States? We hear that our public schools are mediocre at best and dysfunctional and unsafe at worst. We hear politicians and pundits arguing that the country will fall behind economic competitors like China and Japan, if our schools do not improve. We hear education reformers, well-funded by corporate lions like Bill Gates and the Walton family, suggesting a smorgasbord of solutions from school choice to more rigorous standards and from increased standardized tests to test-based teacher accountability. What is education reform and how will it impact schools, children and parents? What are charter schools and should I send my child to one? What is the impact of standardized testing on my child? Should I opt my child out of standardized testing? How can I make sure my child gets a good teacher? What does good reading and writing instruction look like? How should technology be used in the schools and at home? A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century is written to answer these questions and help today’s parents sort through the weeds of educational reform to make informed decisions designed to get the best possible education for their children. The book starts from the point of view that public education is a vital institution, central to our democracy and economic independence, and then suggests ways that parents can not only get the best of education for their own children, but also support policies that will make the institution of public education stronger for future generations.

The Book of Joe: About a Dog and His Man by Vincent Price Actor Vincent Price won acclaim for his performances as a menacing villain in dozens of macabre horror films, such as House of Wax. Less well known, though, is Price’s lifelong love of animals, especially his fourteen-year-old mutt, Joe. From his wife’s passion for poodles to film set encounters with all types of creatures, including goats, apes, and camels, Price’s life was full of furry, four-legged friends. But it was Joe who truly captured his heart. Intelligent, courageous, and devoted to his owner, Joe was a special dog with a personality all his own. In this touching and light-hearted memoir, with a new introduction by Bill Hader and a preface by Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria, Joe gets involved in all sorts of hijinks: At one point, the actor has to defend his canine companion in court! Despite some bad habits, like stealing guests’ shoes, pursuing lustful trysts with neighboring dogs, or belly flopping into the garden fishpond—crushing more than a few fish—Price loves his Joselito, whose unconditional loyalty more than makes up for his minor indiscretions. And when Price’s elderly cousin who comes to stay with him is stricken with cancer, Joe never leaves her side. Price’s tender and witty recollections of his time spent with Joe will bring joy to any animal lover’s heart.

Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancĂ© were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home...Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch...

Finding Fraser by KD Dyer I met Jamie Fraser when I was nineteen years old. He was tall, red-headed, and at our first meeting at least, a virgin. I fell in love hard, fast and completely. He knew how to ride a horse, wield a sword and stitch a wound. He was, in fact, the perfect man. That he was fictional hardly entered into it. At 29, Emma Sheridan’s life is a disaster and she’s tired of waiting for the perfect boyfriend to step from the pages of her favorite book. There’s only one place to look, and it means selling everything and leaving her world behind. With an unexpected collection of allies along the way, can Emma face down a naked fishmonger, a randy gnome, a perfidious thief, and even her own abdominal muscles on the journey to find her Fraser?

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity. Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown: A Mystery with Sun-Powered Gadgets You Can Build Yourself by Bob Pflugfelder Kid inventors Nick and Tesla Holt have outsmarted crooks, spies, and kidnappers. Now they have to crack their biggest mystery yet: Where the heck are their parents? To outwit the criminal mastermind who’s holding their parents hostage, the twins will need all their brainpower, the help of their eccentric Uncle Newt, and an assortment of homemade solar gadgets. Will the Holt family be reunited at last? Or will a hijacked solar satellite beam down doom from the skies? The adventure includes instructions for creating a solar-powered hot-dog cooker, alarm, secret listening device, and model car, plus a nighttime signal cannon that fires illuminated ping-pong balls.

Friday, April 8, 2016

#BookReview - Gardening Like a Ninja

Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape

By: Angela England
Illustrated by: Wendy Piersall
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1462118083
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 9, 2016

The thought of transforming a dull, drab yard into something beautiful AND edible sounds too good to be true but according to Angela England, it can be done. If the idea intrigues you, check out Gardening Like a Ninja!

As a long-time gardener, I know all about what to grow in my garden. That, however, doesn’t mean the rest of my land is being put to productive uses. The landscaping around my house has been severely neglected. I wasn’t sure what to plant, where to plant, how much sun, type of soil needed, etc. The author tackles all of these issues and more, and makes it fun too.

The book is broken up into three well-delineated chapters – Why Sneak Edibles into Your Landscape; Original Edible Garden Designs; and Plants That Matter. The first chapter gives an overview of just what you can do with an edible landscape, some things to take into consideration such as using color (to attract as well as detract), water and soil as well as zone considerations. Chapter two takes a look at some actual edible garden designs, with before and after photos that really excelled at showing just what you can do with a little space. And speaking of little spaces, that’s one of the neat things the author helps the reader with – for those with small properties and/or Homeowners’ Associations that tightly control what you can do – she shows you how to do a lot with almost no land and little if any notice by your homeowners’ association.

The third chapter is a very long list of the plants, from vines to annuals, perennials to trees and shrubs that you can consider for your edible landscape. For each plant the author has included botanical information, a growing guide, potential pests and diseases, how to use, and her recommendations.

Gardening Like a Ninja was a fun and very informative read and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a love of gardening – even if you’re not interested in adding edibles to your landscape. There’s a lot of helpful hints to keep your plants healthy and happy, regardless of use. I particularly enjoyed the second chapter where there are numerous before and after photos of landscapes, with the author adding her how/why for various plants, styles, etc. It gave me a lot of ideas of what to do with my own yard. In addition to the illustrations, there are a LOT of photographs that really add to the quality of the book and make for a great read. This is one gardening book that you’ll be referring to again and again.

Quill says: A very useful and informational book on transforming your landscape into something beautiful and edible!

Monday, April 4, 2016

#BookReview - The Chocolate Lover's Cookbook

The Chocolate Lover's Cookbook

By: Christina Dymock
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1462117239
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 5, 2016

A cookbook for chocolate lovers? When I heard that a chocolate cookbook had come in for review, I knew I needed to read/review it! After all, how can you not love chocolate? And this book brings that love right into your kitchen in a delightfully yummy way.

The Chocolate Lover's Cookbook begins with a bit of the basics about chocolate - things such as how to properly melt chocolate, using the right knife as well as different types of chocolate. Do you know what 'blooming chocolate' is? Be sure to read about it before beginning your chocolate adventure.

The recipes are broken down into six chapters - brownies and bars; cakes and pies; cookies; desserts; candy; and sauces, fillings and frostings. I loved that the author included so many different brownies, from the ever common fudge brownies to her Grandma Joyce's 24-hour brownies. Brownies are a good, quick option for all sorts of outings, from school events to church potlucks and while everybody seems to favor the boring store-bought box version, next time I'm going to bring some yummy homemade mint brownies. They are gooooooood!

The first think you'll notice when you get your hands on this book is the salivation inducing photos spread throughout. Close-up pictures of all the gastronomical delights make it hard to choose what to prepare first. Normally I test prepare/cook three of the recipes in a cookbook but this time, I went a little overboard. It was just so hard to choose what to make (and eat!) that I decided not to limit myself. I started with a simple recipe, the 'Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies.' I've made plenty of peanut butter cookies in the past but haven't combined the two ingredients before. The recipe was easy to follow and while the cookies came out a bit gooey (my fault), they didn't last very long. Next up were a couple of different types of brownies - mint and the author's grandmother's brownies. The mint ones were awesome and again didn't last long. Grandma Joyce's brownies were a bit more involved - they take several hours to 'set' so they're not a good last minute,'gotta make something for Johnny's school event tonight' choice, although the author assures her readers that they can be made 24 hours in advance (thus the name) so as long as you plan accordingly, they're a good choice. They were, like the other things I made, quite tasty.

What I really enjoyed about The Chocolate Lover's Cookbook (besides the chocolate, of course!) was that there were no recipes that required a master's degree in cooking. The recipes are all fairly easy, instructions are clear, and for those of us with little time to spend in the kitchen, there are plenty of tasty things to make that won't keep us chained to the kitchen all day. Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable cookbooks I've reviewed in a very long time. Well done, Ms. Dymock!

Quill says: Love chocolate? You'll love this cookbook!

#BookReview - 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

By: Mona Awad
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-0-14-312848-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 2016

Mona Awad’s debut novel, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, is perplexing at best.

Young Lizzie is coming of age in Mississauga (‘Misery Saga’). She is a fat girl and subjects herself to the constant belief that her cards in life have been stacked against her. She isn’t a prom queen, nor the up and coming valedictorian. Rather, she is a robustly plump young lady and therefore must take her place at the back of the line (in her view). Lizzie is in that place in her life when boys are of interest, but what boy wants to date a fat girl? Thank goodness for the internet and online dating. It is her cocoon of a safety net because they cannot see her live and in the flesh.

Online dating is just one of the many choices Lizzie migrates toward in trying to sort out her miserable life. She is uncomfortable in her own skin and compounds such discomfort by connecting with sordid sorts who have a fair amount of self-loathing going on in their respective lives. There is underage sex, ditching school, drug experimentation and a plethora of other unsavory choices Lizzie seems to think are what her path in life is meant to be. And then the clouds part and Lizzie takes charge of her life—parsing out a handful of almonds to satisfy her robust appetite followed by healthier food choices. Sadly, through the myriad of alternative measures to morph into a different being, what will always lurk beneath her surface is the view and vision of the fat girl that never quite disappears.

I say Ms. Awad’s debut novel is perplexing at best because I do not know where she is going throughout this little more than 200-page work of fiction. One chapter ends and the next begins and the tie between the two is non-existent. In essence, there are a series of stand-alone diatribes of a ‘fat girl’ who is trying to find her way; yet the only theme I am able to pick up throughout this read is a person who is on a course of self-destruction even after she thins down. It is difficult to find Ms. Awad’s voice throughout this read and I’m not sure the beginning ever transitions to the middle or ever carries the reader to the proverbial ‘the end’. I think Ms. Awad has admirable credentials concerning her education. However, in my opinion, there are those who write and they do it well because it is their artistic gift (or calling). On the other hand, there are also those who write because they believe their education says they should given their successful and impressive academic achievements. Perhaps the latter should stick to teaching. For the record, I’m not a ‘fat girl.’

Quill says: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a fragmented delivery of vignettes lacking in cohesive continuity and purpose.

#BookReview - If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? @TheGina Barreca

If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?

By: Gina Barreca
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-06074-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 4, 2016

Gina Barreca’s latest book, If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?, is a collection of tell it like you see it hilarity.

Ms. Barreca wastes no time as she launches into a diatribe of situational comedy that is actually life as we know it. Her perspective is razor sharp and she is all eyes and ears waiting to pounce when it comes to getting her observations down on paper before the thought is lost forever. The book is broken into parts ranging from the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ in the opening (Part I: “I’m Not Needy; I’m Wanty”) to closing with saying way you see (Part 7: “Seeing Something, Saying Something”). There is a delicious and extremely humorous tone that resonates immediately in this body of work—this broad has chutzpah!

I found myself laughing out loud when she compares the modern woman of today with the woman of yesterday. She focuses on the mega-successful undergarment ‘Spanks’ and keeps it real: “Could you be talked into purchasing a foundation undergarment so restrictive, so unyielding, and so draconian it makes a wetsuit look like a nightgown?...” She is calling today’s gal out and forcing them to recognize these amazing garments (a/k/a Spanks) for what they really are...a girdle! Remember? Mom wore one! Barreca’s refreshing and quite audible voice rings loud and clear from the rafters across the pages. She has arrived and through the conduit of her pen, is comfortable in her own skin to call it how she sees it.

It did not take long to settle into the hilarity of this book and it took even less time to recognize Ms. Barreca channels an infamously famous person who delivered such bravado back in the day: Erma Bombeck. Conversely, Erma was a woman before her time and (thankfully), Barreca is unafraid to carry the torch and tell it like she sees it. Ms. Barecca has a style and approach of taking no prisoners as she pens her views brashly and unabashedly—topics ranging from sex to relationships to shopping and the uncanny and never-ending differences between man and woman. Yet she ties the premise together beautifully time and again as she points out the stark opposites and the wonder of how such co-habitation continues to work—for the most part. I say thank you for a delight of a read Ms. Barreca!

Quill says: This book is laugh out loud engaging and delivers many ‘aha’ moments throughout.

#BookReview - The Obsession

The Obsession

By: Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-17516-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 1, 2016 she is again. Whether it is her “In Death” series starring beloved Detective Eve Dallas and her cast of truly amazing characters (written under the alias, J.D. Robb), or it is any of the other engaging and thrilling suspense novels that fill bookshelves at all times, Nora Roberts continues to prove that she is a writer of the highest caliber.

In this new tale, it is seventeen years ago when Naomi Bowes follows her father into the woods only to learn that he has been keeping a young girl locked up in a root cellar out there. Waiting for him to depart, Naomi then goes in and sets the poor girl free. Yet, oddly enough, she doesn’t believe her father has done anything wrong. Instead, she thinks the “bad guy” who has hurt many young women over the years is actually someone else. By finally revealing the horrible crimes that made him infamous in his own head, Naomi’s father is caught by the law and eagerly admits to every atrocity.
Fast forward to the present. As much as she’s tried over the last seventeen years, Naomi cannot bury or forget the sins of her father. She has actually become obsessed with his evil mind and horrific crimes and it has harmed her life. Moving to a different place, trying to find a fresh start, Naomi changes her name and tells no one where she’s going. She is now Naomi Carson, a successful photographer living in a lovely place called Sunrise Cove.

Purchasing a house that’s a real eyesore, Naomi truly loves the place. It calls to that creative photographer within her. Making friends with her contractor, his wife and her mechanic-sometimes-musician, Xander, Naomi tries to start a normal life. She even buys a dog. But just as tranquility begins to descend, things start going wrong; young women are turning up dead and reminding Naomi of her own nightmare.

While planning for the future, her past catches up. Seems that someone in Sunrise Cove does know her real identity and is not about to let Naomi forget dear old dad. As bodies pile up, Naomi’s new life falls apart and her defenses go back in place. The obsession she has is always at her very core, and no amount of kindness or normalcy will ever stop the sins of her father from haunting her every step. Or, perhaps, Naomi can rise above this new monster and expose the truth before she’s destroyed for good.

Quill says: Norah Roberts’ is all about creating suspense “perfection,” and she continues to nail it every single time!

#BookReview - A New Leash on Life

A New Leash on Life

By: Kara Hamilton
Illustrated by: Alexandria Gold
Publisher: Nothing But The Truth, LLC
Publication Date: April 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9968999-1-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 1, 2016

Every once in a while a children’s book comes along that is not only cute, kind, and lovable enough to put on a book shelf for generations to enjoy, but also one that is an absolute necessity. This is one of those books.

Here we have a tale of jealousy. No, not the jealousy of siblings, or kids in a classroom vying for the kindergarten teacher’s attention. This tale is about a lovely little dog named Smokey and his wonderful family. This poodle is spoiled with trolley car rides and ice cream; in fact, he was the King of Chestnut Street! But then...something entered Smokey’s realm, and with the new blessing of a baby in the household Smokey’s “place” in the family changed somewhat. Smokey was still loved, but the baby did receive a great deal of attention.

One day as the toddler raced and played, she stepped on poor Smokey. The poodle decided to take things into his own...paws...and teach his “sister” about dogs and how to treat them. In other words, the pet would train the toddler on how to be gentle with a furry friend. As the lessons commence, the pup finds a best friend in the girl, who even passes him some of those great treats under the dinner table when Mom and Dad aren’t watching too closely.

Guys and gals, this is adorable and certainly a new “take” on how to train humans like us on the best way to handle, raise and love our most loyal companions. As one person who is about to be a grandma with a daughter who has five (yes, count them, FIVE) spoiled pups already in her household, this was a joy to read and lessons well learned. In fact, this will be one tale I read to my grandbaby as he grows into that always-on-the-go toddler.

Including a Q&A with “Moms” of The Humane Society of the United States, the tale as well as the adorable illustrations are a must-read/must-see. Being released on National Kids & Pets Day, it is also important to note that a portion of all profits from the sale of this book will be donated to The Humane Society of the U.S., which just makes Smokey’s story all the more important to own and enjoy.

Quill says: Charming! Even Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame would run out and buy this one.

#BookReview - Stress-Free Vegetable Gardening

Stress-Free Vegetable Gardening: Thriving Gardens with Minimal Effort

By: Caleb Warnock
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1462113415
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 4, 2016

Spring has finally arrived and with its arrival, many folks start thinking about their gardens. Looking forlornly out the window at an area of neglected soil that has languished since the previous fall, we carry hopes of doing a better job this year. Could it be possible to enjoy a stress-free gardening experience? The author of this new book says “Yes!”

Stress-Free Vegetable Gardening is broken up into several sections. The first five chapters give an overview of the author’s gardening philosophy and the various things he insists you can do with your garden to enjoy it and not stress over it. Warnock’s first chapter, “The Goal: Authentic Health, Flavor & Confidence in Nature & Yourself” is a brief introduction to the success he has had with “…year-round, self-sufficient gardening for all climates,” as well as owning/running an heirloom seed company that works to save some of the rarest of seeds. The author next addresses nine principles of successful stress-free gardening, ‘benign neglect,’ and finally, how to organically deal with garden pests.

Next the book gets into the meat of the book, um, I mean the vegetables! From broccoli to collards, garlic to leeks, there’s a wide selection of vegetables included. The author first gives a brief overview of the vegetable, followed by when to plant; where to plant; how to plant; how to fertilize; how to transplant; when to harvest and how to preserve along with recommended varieties.

Before writing my review, I ‘digested’ this book for several days to think about what I wanted to say. Why? Because there are numerous things that I love about this book, from dealing with garden pests (check out the author’s way of keeping aphids in check) to his natural green leaf fertilizer tea. I learned a fair amount that I hope to put to use this year in my garden. That said, there were a few things that I didn’t enjoy. The chapter on “The Broken Law of Abundance in the Modern Garden” got a bit preachy about food production in today’s society (some valid points but I don’t believe they belong in a book about stress-free vegetable gardening). In addition, the author frequently refers to his website to buy his seeds, as well as his edible weedkiller (which he spent over a page discussing and then says, "...I cannot give this recipe away. The recipe is available for purchase at..." you guessed it - his website). All these suggestions to head over to his website to buy a product made the book, at times, read more like an ad. That said, if you can move beyond those issues, this can be a tremendous reference guide to a successful gardening experience.

Quill says: Skip the ads and the early chapter on "The Broken Law of Abundance" and this a very useful gardening book for those who wish to ‘go organic’ with minimal stress.