Sunday, July 31, 2016

#BookReview - Frankie Jones

Frankie Jones

By: J.R. Klein
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-1532782462
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 2016

J.R. Klein's thought-provoking debut zeroes in on a young man's search for happiness.

Frankie Jones is your atypical sort of guy. Frankie's life takes a drastic turn when by age nine he is sent to an orphanage soon after his mom's unforeseen death. Released from the orphanage by age sixteen, Frankie is fortunate to land a job in a diner, as well as meet Cecil, the diner's short-order cook. A deep relationship between Cecil and his wife Betty develops, and for the first time Frankie is certain that this is what family must feel like. Over the next many months, Frankie accrues enough cash to travel around the world. Leaving his cushioned environs, Frankie explores the seven continents for the next two years. By age eighteen, Frankie is already a well-rounded individual—having been shaped by street smarts, massive amounts of reading, learning a couple languages, as well as a multitude of worldly experiences. But upon his return to the states, Frankie learns that Cecil has died and his family, broken.

Restlessness seizes him and Frankie heads from Saint Louis to Chicago. Despite his lack of high school credentials, Frankie convinces a Northwestern University dean that he is college material. His journalism degree lands him a job at the Chicago Tribune. Restlessness seizes him again and Frankie makes his way to Boston working for the Boston Globe. It is there that he meets Mercedes Brewster, a woman whose background is diametrically opposed to Frankie's lackluster familial upbringing. Nonetheless, the two fall in love, but obviously not enough for Frankie to stay when restlessness creeps in once again and he heads off to San Diego—this time working for the San Diego Sun. Frankie develops a close relationship with Owen Brooks, one of his working buddies, and starts a new romance with another woman. Although there are memorable moments, Frankie can't help but reflect on his life, especially the unresolved conflict from the one true love of his life—Mercedes Brewster.

Klein presents a story that touches on many facets of the human condition. Keeping to a slow-moving pace, the overarching plot theme calls attention to a person's hopes and dreams for a better life and this constant yearning for greener grass. In the case of Klein's principle character, life hands Frankie a box of lemons. Yet somehow, someway Frankie manages to turn the bitter fruit into lemonade—at least it appears that way. Everything about Frankie's unfortunate familial beginnings statistically dictates that he should be poor, uneducated, and struggling to survive. Yet he defies that stereotype. What Frankie represents is the American poster child who believes that if he works hard enough, he will succeed—a common belief that is not only tightly woven into the concept of the American dream, but also inherent in every single person that calls the US their home.

There, however, is another side to Frankie, and yet another human issue that is difficult for people to face. Calling it the elephant in the room more specifically, this human condition fears the past laced with the ugliness of human error and a flurry of unresolved conflict. Those who choose to face these fears understand that going there creates peace, freedom, and ultimately a deep sense of happiness. Obviously, Frankie is not there and he gets challenged to do so in one form or another. Using Frankie as narrator, Klein's plot displays a man who does an immense amount of philosophizing, and rightfully so since Frankie is a relatively young man who still has many unanswered questions about life. Frankie is only one in a relatively small but highly defined cast. Klein sets his inimitable characters within a balanced mix of aptly clichéd and totally un-clichéd yet tense scenes that incorporates engaging dialogue sprinkled with romance—all of which slowly leads up to one surprise ending.

Quill says: A stunning debut, Frankie Jones is a must read by all.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Books In For Review

Check out the newest books to arrive for review!

Frankie Jones by J.R. Klein Frankie Jones is searching for something—something elusive. Abandoned as an infant by his father, orphaned after his mother died when he was a child, Frankie grows up tough, edgy, and street smart. The quintessential self-made man, he lives life to the fullest. Frankie becomes a journalist, hoping to be the next great American writer. While in Boston, he meets Mercedes Brewster. Refined, sophisticated, and from a prominent New England family, she is the complete opposite of Frankie. He can't help falling for her, but can he keep his wanderlust in check? Yet, it is the American Dream that Frankie seeks more than anything. Get the career. Get the success. And most importantly, get the girl. In California, Frankie becomes friends with Owen Brookes. Gutsy, brazen, and at times reckless, Owen is Frankie’s alter ego. It is Owen who challenges Frankie’s belief in the American Dream. Will either of them achieve what they want? What must they give up in pursuit? Some lessons you learn the hard way, but it is how you react in the face of adversity that ultimately matters. Frankie Jones is a rich tapestry of hope, love, friendship, and betrayal—a story of life itself.

The Dead Tracks by Tim Weaver The Dead Tracks is the second in the David Raker series from Tim Weaver. A serial killer more terrifying than you could ever imagine...Seventeen-year-old Megan Carver was an unlikely runaway. A straight - a student from a happy home, she studied hard and rarely got into trouble. Six months on, she's never been found. Missing persons investigator David Raker knows what it's like to grieve. He knows the shadowy world of the lost too. So, when he's hired by Megan's parents to find out what happened, he recognizes their pain - but knows that the darkest secrets can be buried deep. And Megan's secrets could cost him his life. Because as Raker investigates her disappearance, he realizes everything is a lie. People close to her are dead. Others are too terrified to talk. And soon the conspiracy of silence leads Raker towards a forest on the edge of the city. A place with a horrifying history - which was once the hunting ground for a brutal, twisted serial killer. A place known as the Dead Tracks.

The Slow Waltz of Turtles by Katherine Pancol Fortysomething mother of two Joséphine Cortès is at a crossroads. She has just moved to a posh new apartment in Paris after the success of the historical novel she ghostwrote for her sister, Iris. Still struggling with her divorce--the result of her husband running off to Kenya to start a crocodile farm with his mistress--she is now entangled too in a messy lie orchestrated by her sister. And just when things seem they can't get any more complicated, people start turning up dead in her neighborhood. As Joséphine struggles to find her voice and her confidence amidst a messy web of relationships and a string of murders, she and those around her must learn to push on with determination, like headstrong little turtles learning to dance slowly in a world that's too violent and moving too fast.

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard In his long-awaited memoir, Yvon Chouinard-legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Inc.-shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth. From his youth as the son of a French Canadian blacksmith to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport's equipment, Let My People Go Surfing is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life-a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler When Sheila Kohler was thirty-seven, she received the heart-stopping news that her sister Maxine, only two years older, was killed when her husband drove them off a deserted road in Johannesburg. Stunned by the news, she immediately flew back to the country where she was born, determined to find answers and forced to reckon with his history of violence and the lingering effects of their most unusual childhood—one marked by death and the misguided love of their mother.

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.

Their Promised Land by Ian Buruma During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger, Ian Buruma’s grandparents, and the film director John Schlesinger's parents, were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. And write they did, often every day. In a way they were just picking up where they left off in 1918, at the end of their first long separation because of the Great War that swept Bernard away to some of Europe’s bloodiest battlefields. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma. Now, in a labor of love that is also a powerful act of artistic creation, Ian Buruma has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age.

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind by Tim Cox Close Encounters of the Furred Kind begins with a long, emotional goodbye to Norfolk, and continues with another amazing new lease on life for The Bear, the Benjamin Button of the cat world, among the bluebells and verdant hedgerows of Devon. Readers who became attached to The Bear's magical, owlish persona during his previous adventures will become more so here as he proves, once again, that he's a cat with endless secrets and significantly more than nine lives.

#BookReview - Palimpsest

Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word

By: Matthew Battles
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0-393-35292-4
Reviewed by: Janice Ladendorf
Review Date: July 29, 2016

This book is a collection of literary essays on the written word. While it does not provide a complete or chronological history of this subject, the author has some brilliant insights in the evolution of writing. The essays are tied together by two themes. One is the author's interest in the mechanics and potential of writing. The second is the author's use of palimpsest as a metaphor used to explain the evolution of writing and link it to the function of the human brain.

A palimpsest is a writing surface used and re-used over a long period of time. Whether the original text is effaced or partially erased, traces of it can still be seen. Early parchment was made out of animal skins and it could be washed and reused, but the original text could not be completely removed. These skins were the first palimpsests.

Art had to come before writing and real animals are painted on the walls in Paleolithic cave art. The author classifies these paintings as natural, enigmas, or casual. He suggests the natural ones were drawn by hunters who had to know their prey really well and the casual ones by adolescent boys bragging to each other. One of the enigmas is shown and is defined as a palimpsest with bison, boar, and horse superimposed.

Pictograms and ideograms came after pictures. They are symbolic representations of real objects or activities. Each one carries meaning both individually or in combination. They are the basis for cuneiform. In Mesopotamia this form of writing was first used for counting herds of animals, but it soon became a tool used by the powerful to proclaim their laws, judgments, and successes. Our modern alphabet is a step beyond this stage. Instead of hundreds or thousands of conventional symbols, it utilizes twenty four letters which become meaningful only as they are combined.
Pictograms and ideograms were also the basis for Chinese writing. For thousands of years, this system was used extensively by the government bureaucrats to keep required records. To the elite, calligraphy became an art form. The structure of this system emphasized inter relationships, rather than causal ones. In the nineteenth century, this structure interested various Americans, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ezra Pound was the first to apply it to poetry. To increase literacy, the Communist government has simplified this form of writing, but they kept its essential structure.

In the medieval world, literacy tended to be limited to religious institutions and scribes produced many beautiful works of art. Printing created a revolution in the use of the written world. It greatly reduced copying errors, encouraged the spread of literacy, and introduced upper case letters. One illustration in the text shows two pages, one from a medieval manuscript and one from Gutenberg's printing press. Although the letter forms differ, the layout and decoration are similar.

Computers caused the next revolution because their capabilities reduced the time required for the formerly tedious task of producing and printing written materials. Computers can only understand command codes. Several pages of such a code are printed in the text. What they contain is a mixture of words and special symbols. The symbols function as abbreviated instructions.

The subtitle of this book is somewhat misleading. There are many books available on the history of writing, but this is not one of them. What it does contain is literary essays which attempt to go beyond simple history. As the title suggests, they show how every innovation in the art of writing stands on what has gone before and traces of earlier stages are always present in later ones. The human brain also learns in stages and the earliest ones can never be completely overwritten.

Quill says: Palimpsest does include some interesting information, but it is buried in text which is not an easy read. The writing style suggests it is best suited to a literary or academic audience.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interview with Author Stacy Harshman @stacyharshman

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Stacy Harshman, author of Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise

FQ: It is remarkable with your various insecurities at the time and therapy sessions getting nowhere that in a moment of desperation a long flowing red wig catapults your life in a different direction. What type of budget did you keep to pay for your experiment expenses and hired helper considering that you were not working back then?

HARSHMAN: Well, luckily, I had generous dividends from stock in companies my family had founded. My Dad helped me manage my money, but I remember thinking, “I’m not going to ask, he’ll say no and this project is too important for me.” So, I just went and used my credit card. Bonnie and I fretted, occasionally, about how much we were spending. But we said, “well, it’s in the name of social science and it’s cheaper than a mental ward!” ... and hoped it would all be ok. Luckily it was. My parents realized how important having this structure and project was for me, no matter how weird it was.

FQ: You share about your 1999/2000 psychotic break, eventual hospitalization, and hellish Chicago experience as you gained seventy pounds—a result of side effects from prescribed medication. What did you do to lose the accumulated weight gain and return to your normal size?

Author Stacy Harshen

HARSHMAN: I exercised, exercised and exercised! I also moved from Chicago and went to a language immersion program in Quebec City for the summer. I knew I had to make a radical change and be around people. There, I played soccer, went on kayak trips, jogged, and lived with a host family. The man was an amazing chef, so I ate well and healthy. It took me about three months after I left Chicago to feel somewhat attractive and healthy again. It took me about a year to lose the weight.

FQ: Just prior to your wig investments, you share your frustration with the ineffectiveness of your therapeutic sessions, even though your therapist rightly stated, "You're doing this because you need to learn something about yourself." What words of wisdom do you have for your audience, particularly those suffering from mental illness in one form or other and who are frustrated with their therapy?

HARSHMAN: I think therapy is important. I think it is very important to find someone who gets you and has a modality/way of working that is effective and safe for you. But it’s also hard to find someone or even get yourself organized enough to go to a session when you are depressed or in the middle of a manic episode.

I actually found my first therapist in New York City because the name of her therapy practice was very similar to my last name. I was manic and saw that as a “sign” and that she would save me. I can’t say that’s the best way to pick a therapist, but it gave me a place to start.

I’ve tried different therapists and different types of therapy. It can be extremely frustrating. I believe some of the therapy I’ve received actually worsened my condition. For example, my Jungian therapist invited all the voices I was hearing to come into the session with me and give them a platform. There could be a lot of value in that, but it wasn’t wise for me at the time.

Now, I’m with a therapist who specializes in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is very skills based, focuses on keeping you in the moment, and gives you tools to deal compassionately with your mind and emotions.

I would also suggest to bring in a trusted friend or family member to help make the therapist decision with you.

FQ: As you came to love and accept yourself, what became of your depression, hallucinations, and panic attacks?

HARSHMAN: After I completed the experiment, I started to write the book with my assistant, Bonnie, who was my spy during the entire experiment. I had gotten so close with her during the experiment so by the time it was over I didn’t want to loose our bond and her company. She was an experienced writer and agreed to help me write the book. We worked together for many years. She was my coach, friend, and cheerleader… or as she put it, “occasional crazysitter.”

Writing the book together was kind of like another experiment. We worked every weekday together, writing at different coffee shops and any other interesting place we could find in the city where we could write. Our friendship and adventures grew.

Her friendship and the work we did together really steadied me. Having her company, help and friendship and creating/producing my writing was a base which allowed me to maintain and grow my other relationships, including the one with myself. I was so much happier and had so much more confidence. I dated but I didn’t have a boyfriend, instead I had a close group of friends that meant the world to me.

I didn’t cycle back into depression/mania, hallucinate or have panic attacks (anxiety, sure, but not crippling) during all of those years – I’d say six or seven in a row. I did have some blips on the map after that. One day, my mind just opened up, back into a psychotic place, very similar to one I had been writing about from my past. I became manic and had a mini psychotic episode. Then the anxiety/panic and depression came back full force. I had to wrestle with that, but Bonnie and I kept going through it all. She stuck by me and so did my friends and family. And I got back on track.

FQ: After the experiment did you continue with therapy and medication, or were you able to find other ways to create balance for yourself, such as through diet, exercise, the creative arts, and working with people?

HARSHMAN: I still have a therapist. I find having one necessary and helpful for me. Team-Stacy needs a support crew!

I have tried to go without medication and find my health and well-being through the creative arts, shamanism, meditation, yoga, Tantra, reiki, massage, past life therapy, and so many other modalities, including working with exorcists and energies from other planets and life-forms, but I always end up in trouble – very manic, very psychotic or very depressed. I don’t like labels and I wish I didn’t have to take medication, but I’ve learned my lesson, many times. I’ve accepted it.

I also want to help with the stigma, that I perceive, especially in spiritual circles, that if you are taking medication means that somehow you are not whole or spiritual enough or you are not meditating enough or yoga-ing enough or whatever enough. It’s just not true. I don’t think most of the spiritual or new age leaders that insist that one must be “happy” and chemically “pure” to be spiritual or enlightened know anything firsthand about depression or psychosis. I think those messages can be aggressive and hurtful and don’t reflect the true human experience that includes the full range of emotions.

FQ: At what point did your creative life begin to unfold—being an artist and launching Andarina Designs?

HARSHMAN: When Bonnie and I were trying to find an agent for the book, I bought an antique rug, on Ebay, of course. It didn’t work for my house, but it was really beautiful, so I re-sold it on Craigslist for more than I paid. That started my antique tribal rug business. It was so much fun for me. My customers loved it, and so did I. Having all that history and handmade beauty in my house made me happy. I felt like I was a rug match-maker.

One day, when I was in antique stores looking for rugs, I saw some vintage glass swizzle sticks, the kind you use in cocktails. The light was shining through them, and I thought, I want to make lighting out of these! And my lighting company was born. I tinkered around myself, coming up with all kinds of lighting ideas, learned how to work with glass and then brought in some professionals to help make my creations safe and workable! Bonnie worked with me on this project as well.

I called the company, “Andarina Designs” which means “little walker” in Spanish. I like the idea of honoring the child-like spirit that walks within me and sees beauty, gets excited and sparks all these ideas.

The book was kind of simmering in the background while we kept sending out queires to agents.

FQ: On your website,, you state, "Stacy is inspired by women all over the world, working in community partnerships to produce beautiful and sustainable work." Give examples of your community partnerships with women.

The author's featured collage painting from her
 "Hope. Power. Play." art show

HARSHMAN: I started interning with a female Shaman who worked with women (and men) around sex, sensuality and healing. I was introduced to and helped with women’s healing circles, sensual shamanic immersions and initiations. All of your senses are enlisted in this work and creativity is manifest everywhere. I began to open more to other women and their friendship and became more at home in my body and sexuality. My home was at the center of many of these gatherings.
This work inspired me to create a monthly Art Salon series at my home which provided a safe, fun and supportive space for women and men to share their creativity. The Salons have been running for over five years. Many collaborations and creations have come from them.

Another example, which was a very powerful experience for me was working with art, handi-crafts, hand made papers, jewelry and other products made by women all over the world in sustainable collectives. These collectives have the mission to give women meaningful work, employing their skills and artistry, generating income and thus empowering the women to be more independent.

I worked with an Eco - Sustainable goods store in my neighborhood and bought these beautiful, artisanal items. I took them home and made collages with them. What happened surprised me. Each piece of art, whether it be a ring or a paper elephant, spoke to me. I could feel the energy of the collective in the material, the textures and the colors. I began to have a conversation with the materials. The women became alive and “we” created the pieces together. It was an on-going dialogue, actual voices alive in my head, telling me stories and where they thought each piece belonged in the whole. When I was debating if a piece was done or not, one voice would always say, “Well, does it speak? If it does, it is done. If it doesn’t, it is not done.”

Then, once I had a collection of these “community collages,” I displayed them at the Eco Store. My first show was titled, “Hope. Power. Play.” I explained my unusual collective process as well. The collages were beautiful, they inspired people and found new homes.

FQ: Do you foresee yourself starting any new writing projects, and if so what are you envisioning?

HARSHMAN: I feel the writing urge coming back to me, which feels amazing. I’ve been focusing on painting, which I love, but writing is deeply satisfying, as well. It also soothes my brain. What inspires me right now is connection...finding unusual ways that we can connect with and help each other. For example, I’m thinking about doing an essay on my experience posting an ad on Craigslist for a Friends With Benefits. Of course, there were the standard disgusting replies, but there was also something deeper and sweeter in the desire for connection that came through. There’s a certain tenderness and vulnerability in there that I can’t find words for, yet, but I feel it.

I’m also thinking about making a creativity journal to go along with my book Crowning Glory!

To learn more about Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Books in for Review

Check them out!  The latest books to arrive for review!

Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery by Sherban Young Warren Kingsley has retired from bodyguarding. (Or maybe he hasn't.) Leaving his violent past behind--or not--he enters the dog-eat-dog world of politics. (Or perhaps he doesn't.) One thing we can say for certain: the Warren we know and love is back and ready for anything. (Or as ready as he'll ever be.)

The Last Treasure by Erika Marks As students with a shared passion for shipwrecks, Liv, Sam, and Whit formed a close bond searching for the mysterious Patriot, a schooner that disappeared off the Carolina Coast in 1812 with Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia aboard. But as the elusive ship drew them together, love would bring them even closer—and ultimately tear them apart. It’s been nine years since Liv left Sam to be with Whit, and the once close-knit triowent their separate ways. Liv has given up her obsession with Theodosia Burr to focus on her career as a salvage diver and her passionate but troubled marriage to the reckless and hedonistic Whit. But when a diary of Theodosia’s is discovered in a collector’s estate, she is pulled back to the world of the Patriot, this time with startling new clues to what might have really happened. Diving back into the lost history of the Patriot could be just what Liv needs to find closure to a mystery that still haunts her. But when she and Whit reunite with Sam for one last salvage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, buried romantic tensions begin to resurface, and once again Liv must choose between two men with very different hearts.

The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder...No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself. Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior...or the worst of all the sinners?

Write to Die by Charles Rosenberg Hollywood’s latest blockbuster is all set to premiere—until a faded superstar claims the script was stolen from her. To defend the studio, in steps the Harold Firm, one of Los Angeles’s top entertainment litigation firms and as much a part of the glamorous scene as the studios themselves. As a newly minted partner, it’s Rory Calburton’s case, and his career, to win or lose. But the seemingly tame civil trial turns lethal when Rory stumbles upon the strangled body of his client’s general counsel. And the ties that bind in Hollywood constrict even tighter when the founder of the Harold Firm is implicated in the murder. Rory is certain the plagiarism and murder cases are somehow connected, and with the help of new associate Sarah Gold—who’s just finished clerking for the chief justice—he’s determined to get answers. Will finding out who really wrote the script lead them to the mastermind of the real-life murder?

Ripley's Believe It or Not: Unlock the Weird Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® Unlock the Weird! 2017 is bursting with 100% ALL NEW facts, features, and photos from around the world—all verified to be 100% TRUE! From weird feats to bizarre food, strange animals, and more, this brand-new collection of Ripley’s stories and photos includes exclusive features not found anywhere else. Filled with thousands of unbelievably strange oddities to discover, children and adults alike will find a new favorite on every page.All true, 100% ALL NEW, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® Unlock the Weird! 2017 will amaze and astound readers from the first to the last page. Hair-raising photographs, incredible stories, and the mind-blowing facts Ripley’s is famous for promise hours of entertainment for every Ripley fan! With thousands of stories—including submissions from readers around the world—you’ll discover something new each time you read it!

Shut Up and Do the Work by Stephanie Sinclair Shut Up and Do the Work is the ultimate guide for experienced entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs and those with dreams and ambitions of entrepreneurship, who know without a doubt that they were born to do more, be more and have more, yet they can't seem to grab it. In this book, entrepreneur, business coach and speaker, Stephanie Synclair shares: • The secret formula that she, her clients and other self made millionaires have used to create massive success. • The steps to getting "unstuck" • The reasons why the "hustle" mentality alone does not work and what it should be combined with to see the results you desire. • Why regardless of how you were raised, your environment or current circumstances, you too, can create wealth And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you will learn inside of Shut up and do the work. It is a transformational gift that will leave you transformed.

Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word by Matthew Battles Why does writing exist? What does it mean to those who write? Born from the interplay of natural and cultural history, the seemingly magical act of writing has continually expanded our consciousness. Portrayed in mythology as either a gift from heroes or a curse from the gods, it has been used as both an instrument of power and a channel of the divine; a means of social bonding and of individual self-definition. Now, as the revolution once wrought by the printed word gives way to the digital age, many fear that the art of writing, and the nuanced thinking nurtured by writing, are under threat. But writing itself, despite striving for permanence, is always in the midst of growth and transfiguration. Celebrating the impulse to record, invent, and make one's mark, Matthew Battles reenchants the written word for all those susceptible to the power and beauty of writing in all of its forms.

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path. Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.

Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

#BookReview - A Black Sail @rzahradnik

A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery

By: Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-1603812115
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 15, 2016

The year is 1976 and Coleridge Taylor is bored...and seasick. Used to covering exciting, and dangerous, crime stories for his beloved, and sadly defunct, Messenger-Telegram newspaper, he's now stuck covering an utterly dull story. Taylor is reporting on Operation Sail, a Bicentennial celebration taking place in the New York Harbor. Taylor can't wait to get back on solid land, write up his story and move on to something more interesting. How could he know that something far more interesting was about to float his way?

As a police reporter, Taylor has connections within the police force and is riding in an NYPD boat to view the celebration. When the call comes in for a "possible drop" (someone dumped something in the water), Mott, an NYPD scuba diver, goes in the water to see if he can find anything. Expecting to find drugs, he, and the whole crew, are quite surprised to find a body. And not just any body but the body of a woman with several bags of heroin wrapped around her waist. Must be a drug war related murder, they all guess. Perhaps a new gang moving in and someone is sending them a message to get out. Could it be that simple? Taylor was going to find out.

Now working for the City News Bureau (a news wire service), Taylor reports on the body in the harbor to his boss and gets the okay to dig around - but not before he finishes that story on the majestic ships. Taylor's first clue that the dead woman may not be associated with two rival drug gangs that are known to the police is that mobsters never involve wives and children in their killings. Perhaps it's an Asian gang...

When the body is finally ID'd as Bridget Collucci, Taylor heads out to Dobbs Ferry to interview the woman's husband. Carl Collucci is willing to talk to Taylor because he is desperate to find out who killed his wife. The local police have been no help and Carl doesn't know where to turn. Carl assures Taylor that he has disassociated himself from his father's mob dealings and is on the straight and narrow. But then, during their conversation, Carl's "public relations consultant" walks in the room, and the guy just oozes mobster. To add to the weird situation, Collucci's father-in-law arrives, along with the man's son, and it looks like war is about to break out in the room. Someone knows something but they're certainly not going to tell Taylor.

This is the third book in the Coleridge Taylor series and the second one that I've read and I have to say I enjoyed it as much as the first one I read (Drop Dead Punk). Taylor is a very likeable protagonist, with all his faults and hang-ups, and I was happy to see that Samantha Callahan (who we met in Drop Dead Punk) as well as Mason the dog, were back to soften up Taylor's gruff exterior. Because the stories take place in the 1970s, the author obviously did a fair amount of research to bring the era to life from the Bicentennial celebration to cars of the time (remember the Pacer?). Solving the murder of Bridget Collucci required a fair amount of sleuthing on Taylor's part and will keep readers guessing until almost the last page. If you love a good murder mystery, check out this series - I promise you'll be hooked in no time flat.

Quill says: Another winner in the Coleridge Taylor mystery series. When is the next one coming out???!!!

For more information on A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Echo Ranch

Echo Ranch

By: Diane Lunsford
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68270-391-5
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 18, 2016

A daughter out of control, and a mother who desperately wants to help, sets the stage for a heartwarming novel by debut author Diane Lunsford.

Louisa and Jake Croft have a good life. They are happily married, have a nice life in Virginia and have two beautiful daughters. Kylie, their oldest, is a well-adjusted college student. Unfortunately, their other daughter, Dani, is a high school student who has fallen in with the wrong group of kids. She is rebellious, her grades have fallen, and since she's always on her cell phone, calling or texting a friend, she has pretty much forgotten how to have a real conversation, particularly with her patents. Oh yes, and the troubled girl also blames her parents for many of her problems. In desperation, Louisa, or Lou to her friends, decides that she and Dani will spend the summer at Echo Ranch, a spectacular working ranch in the gorgeous Colorado countryside.

Years ago, when Lou was a young woman trying to find her place in the world, she discovered Echo Ranch. The owners, Zack and Tessa Calhoun, welcomed Lou to their farm, provided she carry her weight and worked hard. Along the way, with the careful guidance of Zack and Tessa, Lou learned so many important life lessons. Now, twenty years later, Lou hopes that Dani too, will discover her true self at Echo Ranch. Deciding that it would be best for Lou to travel alone with Dani, Jake and Kylie stay in Virginia. Soon, Mom and a very angry daughter leave their home and embark on a long car ride, headed for the mountains of Colorado.

The car ride is indeed long, and most of it is spent in silence. Dani simply doesn't want to know. When they arrive at Echo Ranch, Dani is still an angry and confused young woman, but with Zack's wisdom, Tessa's support, and the love of a special horse who shares some of Dani's "issues," the girl's walls slowly dissolve. Fresh air, open spaces and the time spent away from texting and phoning friends is helpful, but it doesn't solve all problems. It isn't until Dani meets a young man who is attending a summer camp at Echo Ranch, that Dani starts to discover who she truly is. As the summer draws into fall, mother and daughter learn many important lessons that help to bring them closer.
It only took me a few pages to become thoroughly entranced with the story of Lou and Dani. With daughters of her own, the author writes about what she knows. In even the most loving of relationships, conflicts arise and resolutions aren't always easy to find. Making it more realistic, Lou learns that she too, has some issues to deal with, issues that have helped build those walls between her and Dani. The dialogue was crisp and believable and the descriptions so perfect that I could see the beauty of the ranch myself, and smell that clean, fresh air. Truly a wonderful debut novel, I can't wait to read the next offering from this author!

Quill says: An uplifting story about a mother and daughter who find themselves, and along the way find each other too.

For more information on Echo Ranch, please visit the author's site at:

#BookReview - Wedding Girl

Wedding Girl

By: Stacey Ballis
Publisher: Penquin Random House
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-0-425-27661-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 15, 2016

Stacey Ballis gets the party started immediately in her latest novel, Wedding Girl.

Sophie Bernstein is a beyond talented pastry chef. She is getting married to an equally talented guy, sommelier Dexter Kelley IV—DK to his friends (and Dex to Sophie). This will be the wedding of the century. The bride-to-be and her groom personified work at Chicago’s two Michelin-starred restaurant: Sale et Sucre. The reception will be at one of Chicago’s iconic turn-of-the-century mansions. There will be a smoking room for the cigar crowd and anterooms for intimate conversation. The attention to detail continues when the entourage is escorted back to the first floor library for breakfast and the all-night snacks buffet. Sophie is an image of rapture and beauty in her stunning, custom-crafted Vera Wang gown. There’s only one problem, where is Dex? On the day when Sophie plans to cross her line from maiden to happily ever after bride, imagine her horror when she learns Dex won’t be coming. Rather, he has fled to the islands with another woman—the woman who he really intended to marry and the rest to put it quite bluntly, is history.

The aftermath of the debacle sinks in for Sophie. She is in debt beyond her eyeballs, her once coveted job sucks and the once happy-go-lucky, overflowing cup of positive now holds the remnants of a jaded and cynical view of her being. She is forced to give up her condo before foreclosure makes the decision for her. She opts to move in with her beloved grandmother, Bubbles, and begins her journey back to where it is she is destined to go in life. She has lost her job and is the subject of pity in many eyes of her beholders. Sophie realizes it’s time to rally and start over. She finds a job in a local neighborhood bakery, Langer’s Bakery, making it clear to its owner, Herman Langer, that she is not committing to anything long-term. She just needs something to keep the creditors at bay until she figures out her next step. When bride-to-be Amelia happens into the bakery in a quandary of what to do for her wedding cake, she leaves ecstatic after not only receiving the perfect cake recommendation, but solid advice of do’s and don’ts for her upcoming wedding. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Amelia has a brilliant idea to set up a website for Sophie. She may not realize it quite yet, but Sophie has a knack for dishing out terrific advice when it comes to planning the perfect wedding...even if the outcome of her wedding was a colossal train wreck.

Stacey Ballis has hit it out of the park with Wedding Girl. Her tenacious and colorful persona through the development of main character Sophie Bernstein is fantastic. She fires on all pistons when it comes to credibility. The whimsy of Sophie and her tightknit community of a Jewish family unit is delightful and lovable and it brings the reader to a place where family is the centerpiece of molding a balanced and wonderful life. She steps the reader through chapter upon chapter whose titles are named after some of the constant and iconic black and white movies in time. There is a sublime notion of romantic melancholy that builds to a terrific crescendo at story’s end without selling the plot down the river before the reader arrives at the proverbial end. This is a great romantic comedy and it will entice anyone who is in search of ‘...and they lived happily ever after...’ Thoroughly enjoyable read and Ms. Ballis’ writing ability makes the outcome seem effortless!

Quill says: Wedding Girl is wholesome and laugh out loud funny that provides great entertainment for Ballis' intended audience.

Book Review - Sunshine Beach

Sunshine Beach: A Ten Beach Road Novel

By: Wendy Wax
Publisher: Berkley Books NY
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0425274484
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 15, 2016

Inspired by childhood memories, Wendy Wax spins a great work of fiction in her latest beach read, Sunshine Beach.

Maddie, Avery and Nikki are picking up the pieces and starting over. Victims of a Ponzi scheme, it’s time to build something greater and better in their respective lives. Madeline (Maddie) Singer has a new love interest. He’s not just some run-of-the mill rebound. He is William Hightower and his comeback may be bigger than his original career. How this middle-aged momma wound up with him is a situation that never lingers too far from the forefront of her consciousness. Avery Lawford in many respects is the glue that continues to stick—even after the death of her iconic designer mother, Deirdre Morgan. Avery inherited her mother’s genetics; take her vision and sketch it into magic. Nicole (Nikki) Grant is having trouble accepting the fact that her rival, The Millionaire Matchmaker, is succeeding. At one time, Heart Inc. (her company) was the quintessential matchmaking mecca. Not anymore...Plus, it was time for her to let go and put her low-life, scheming brother, Malcolm Dyer, in her rear-view mirror—a hard pill to swallow since he was the reason for all of their demise.

Maybe better times were closer than the women knew. Do Over was a (sort-of) successful cable do-it-yourself makeover show that could be their ultimate resurrection to get back on their respective feet. It is on one particular morning jog when Maddie’s daughter, Kyra, stumbles upon the hidden property of the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club that inspires her to pitch her vision. At one time, the property must have been the destination ‘It Place.’ Sadly, years of neglect and more than an overgrowth of Florida foliage has left the property in ruins and disrepair. As the concept of relaunching the club into its new life takes form, none of the women could have fathomed the challenges and roadblocks that stood between them and the new and improved structure they were determined to create.

I applaud Wendy Wax for her confident writing style when it comes to delivering a solid beach read. Sunshine Beach is a fine example of that ‘must have’ read to take along on a weekend getaway. The plot is rich, the characters credible and the twists and turns are sufficient in willing the reader to keep turning pages. The premise of a gaggle of women who have had the rug pulled out from underneath only to resurge bigger and better is a winning formula. The scene is anchored early on and captures the beauty and simplicity of the captivating Florida Gulf Coast. Having grown up in South Florida, I spent many weekends growing up and enjoying weekend getaways at this very coast with my family. The tempo and pace of this book holds the interest of its audience and creates an instant connection with the story. Ms. Wax is truly in control of the outcome of the story and does not disappoint in that she delivers a story that is neither predictable or cheeky. Well done! I look forward to your next book.
Quill says: Sunshine Beach is a feel-good story that deserves a place in your bag of good reads for the perfect weekend getaway.

#BookReview - Abomination


By: Gary Whitta
Illustrated By: Jason Gurley
Publisher: Inkshares
Publication Date: July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-941758-33-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: July 15, 2016

In the midst of a gruesome war between the people of England and the brutal Norse from across the sea, King Alfred on the English throne knows that loyal soldiers are essential for victory. One soldier in particular stands out above all others and after coming to the King’s defense and ultimately saving his life, this man named Wulfric becomes one of Alfred’s most trusted friends. Now, many years after the war is over, Alfred is in need of Wulfric’s expert fighting skills once again to fight an extremely different type of enemy.

Being a soldier was something Wulfric never thought of doing. Surprisingly, however, when he joined King Alfred’s army to fight the Norse he found that he was not only good at fighting but had an impeccable instinct for it. It took no time at all for Wulfric’s fighting skills to be known throughout the ranks of the army and his reputation became well known by all. However, still to this day Wulfric saw nothing good or honorable that came out of killing, so since the wars’ end he had been content to work his farm with his young wife who was expecting their first child. The last thing he wanted to see were the king’s guards riding up to his house to request that he come immediately to the palace. Of course Alfred was more than Wulfric’s king, he was his dear friend so with a heavy heart he leaves his wife and farm behind for what he hopes will be a short, uneventful trip.

Of course Alfred did not summon Wulfric for something as simple as a quick visit to just catch up; he explains that their country is under attack from a threat never seen on this Earth. Throughout the castle these beasts have come to be called 'Abominations' and are the result of the darkest, most evil magic that either of these men had ever seen. The magic that brought these abominations to life was discovered by the Archbishop Aethelred who was convinced that this was the key to defeating all of England’s enemies. However, the Archbishop’s thirst for power became more and more apparent and without the King’s awareness he created an army of abominations that are now pillaging through every village they encounter. With the sheer desperation of the situation, Wulfric knows that he cannot deny help to Alfred, but he has to wonder what this war will cost him when he had hoped to never pick up a sword again.

There are not enough positive compliments I can give this book for I absolutely was hooked on every single word from the first page. There were so many amazing, suspenseful moments that I found myself holding my breath, and then gasping when the plot was revealed. It was a book that had me so entranced in the story that I found myself encouraging the characters, feeling sad when they were heartbroken, and smiling when they felt happy and content. It is an amazing experience when a book completely takes you into the world pouring out from those words on the page and author Gary Whitta does an incredible job of accomplishing that.

Quill says: This is a book that reminded me of why I love to read!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with Author Christine Sunderland @chrisunderland

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Christine Sunderland, author of The Fire Trail

FQ: On your website, it states, "Having spent considerable time in Italy, France, and England, she developed a keen interest in history, the ability of the individual to change events, and the power of belief. In her stories, she brings to life the effect of the past upon the present, the puzzle of perception, and the mystery of time." Was there a poignant moment in your literary journey when you knew without a shadow of a doubt that you wanted to write stories with a historic and religious purpose?

SUNDERLAND: I can't say there was a moment when I knew I wanted to write such stories, although I've always been keenly interested in history and the meaning of life. My first novels (Pilgrimage, Offerings, and Inheritance) rose from meditative travel journals that considered the history of Western Europe, the churches and villages formed in the last two millennia. The historic and religious themes loomed large and I prayed that God would show me how to make use of this experience. He answered my prayer, and slowly I learned the craft of novel writing, attending workshops and critique groups, listening to readers and mentors. I'm still learning and always will be.

FQ: After writing stories set in France, England, Italy, and Maui, what gave you the idea to create a tale based in your own hometown?

SUNDERLAND: I fell in love with the structure of the novel and went on to create Hana-lani from scratch so to speak, not using earlier journals. The next novel, The Magdalene Mystery, was a Catholic correction to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. When I considered this most recent novel, our current cultural issues called me. I was especially troubled by escalating terrorism, national threats to freedom and peace, the erosion of the rule of law. I work a block from UC Berkeley, the heart of the Free Speech Movement, and decided I was qualified to set such a novel in this university town. I lived in Berkeley as a child when my father was Youth Pastor at First Pres Berkeley in the fifties. I grew up in the Bay Area and attended San Francisco State in the sixties when demonstrators threw rocks, burned flags, and stormed Berkeley's People's Park in the name of free speech.

Berkeley, CA - the site of "The Fire Trail"

FQ: What would you say were the inspirations for your characters in The Fire Trail?

SUNDERLAND: My characters reflect combined traits of various people I know, voicing their own deep concerns about our country's path in the last fifty years. I have known many versions of Jessica and her sisters, victims of the Sexual Revolution, of Zachary and his desire for truth and beauty, of Anna and her fierce passion to protect children from crime and pornography, of pastors like Father Nate who pray without ceasing for their community, country, world. Americans are a caring people. They care about one another, and I wanted to reflect that deep yearning in my characters, a longing for domestic and world peace.

FQ: You relay thought-provoking perspectives on life, love, and spirituality. Have you always been a faith-based person, or did that coincide with your keen interest in history?

SUNDERLAND: My faith has been a journey, a "pilgrimage into God with God" (St. Benedict). I became an informed Christian at the age of twenty, having read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I needed a reasonable explanation for belief; I would not settle for blind faith, and Lewis gave me reasons to believe. I never looked back. I grew up in a Presbyterian home, but I left the faith in my teens. In the sixties faith was considered unreasonable, too demanding and restrictive in a time of free love and self-indulgence. But a few years later, God pulled me back, with "a twitch upon the thread" (Evelyn Waugh and G.K. Chesterton) and showed me Christianity was quite reasonable after all. I was confirmed in St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, San Mateo. My real life, my pilgrimage through time, began.

Author Christine Sunderland
FQ: Anna Aguilar, Zachary's mother, is an activist and advocate for children's rights, particularly wholesome literature. Following in her lead, your website has a link of children's books that you recommend. Have you given any thought to writing your own children's books?

SUNDERLAND: I love working with children and welcome our grandchildren (now numbering ten) to our home whenever possible. Children are our future and they teach us so much. They show us how to believe again – in truth, goodness, innocence. I admire those who write good children's literature that provide role models and a hopeful vision. At this time in my life, however, I prefer to write for adults rather than children.

FQ: Since much of The Fire Trail is geared toward Jessica and her personal journey, do you have any plans to write novels in the young adult genre?

SUNDERLAND: Jessica is twenty-two, on the verge of making decisions that will shape her adulthood. It is an interesting age, when a person has recently graduated from college and faces the real world with all of its challenges and responsibilities. It's helpful to include at least one character in that age group, for it is a pivotal time in life, an age abused by our culture.

FQ: On your website, you state, "I have also been fascinated with the interaction of body and soul, matter and spirit. Science is only beginning to understand some of the mechanisms of the brain; how we think and perceive is still a great mystery. Evidence supports the theory that the body and soul are closely connected, that our mental/spiritual state affects our physical well-being. My novels explore some of these ideas." Do you have any upcoming projects that will explore these ideas on a larger scale?

SUNDERLAND: In future projects I will indeed explore the interaction of body and soul, matter and spirit. This fusion is the heart of our humanity, the genus of the human experience in the time frame we are given. As I age, that time frame shrinks, and like many I hear the clock's tick. I might write about body and soul and their relationship as we approach the end of our lives. But then I also like to celebrate life, and how life can be glorious and joyful, once body and soul unite, something I experience in Christian worship. We shall see what comes next! I have many ideas from which to choose.

FQ: Do you foresee yourself writing other literary trilogies, such as Pilgrimage, Offerings, and Inheritance, or continuing with a chain of mysteries?

SUNDERLAND: Trilogies and sequels, I learned, are complicated. The author must create consistent backstories. I'd rather write stand-alone novels, literary and not genre, works that don't fit into a formula but breathe on their own, so that the story and characters define the novel's structure. Aside from my early Trilogy of Western Europe, my following three novels are unique. Hana-lani is the story of a city girl learning the meaning of family and community and love; The Magdalene Mystery is a quest to find the historical Mary Magdalene and in so doing discovering the truth of the Resurrection; The Fire Trail is a suspense reflecting the chaos of today's culture and the yearning for beauty, truth, and transcendence. None of my novels follow the detective-mystery format, but it is true they all involve a mystery, some serious question or problem immensely important both to the characters and (I hope and believe) to all of us.

To learn more about The Fire Trail please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

#BookReview - Where Jesus Slept

Where Jesus Slept

By: Norma Lewis
Illustrated by: Katy Hudson
Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-0824956790
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 9, 2016

The story of the birth of Jesus is a very important event to all Christians and is something that we deeply cherish and want to teach to our children. In the lovely new book, Where Jesus Slept, young children are introduced to the very special, very humble stable, and its inhabitants and visitors, where Jesus was born in a fun and entertaining way.

We all know the story of Jesus' birth - the stable, the animals, the shepherds, and the three wise men. Most children will likely be initially drawn to the animals that called the stable 'home.' As our children grow up, more important lessons about the birth of Jesus will take hold in their minds and hearts. To start their education, however, a simple retelling of the Nativity works best and author Norma Lewis has done just that in a very clever way.

Rather than simply tell the Nativity story in simple text or rhyme, Lewis has written a story that builds upon itself. If you're familiar with I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, then you know what I'm referring to. Where Jesus Slept uses a cumulative story structure (also known as a chain tale) to keep things flowing in a nice, easy manner that keeps kids engaged. Because it uses a lot of repetition, it also encourages participation by children while their parents read.

This is the STABLE
that sheltered the COW
that shared the STRAW
that lined the BED
where JESUS slept.

In addition to the playful repetition, the story also capitalizes key words (Jesus, Angel, Shepherd, Star, etc.), which helps to emphasize those words. Add in the absolutely lovely illustrations by Katy Hudson and you have a book that should be in every home and read not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

Quill says: A fun way to teach children about the humble birth of Jesus that, through fun repetition, will help them remember the story.

Friday, July 8, 2016

#BookReview - The Fire Trail @Chrisunderland

The Fire Trail

By: Christine Sunderland
Publisher: eLecto Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-1632132840
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 5, 2016

Christine Sunderland offers a thought-provoking viewpoint on the collapse of Western civilization in her latest murder mystery.

Twenty-two-year-old Cal student Jessica Thierry witnesses the rape and murder of a young woman while walking on the scenic Fire Trail. It is difficult for Jessica to get the horrific images out of her thoughts. Jessica is particularly unnerved by the fact that she and the murderer made eye contact. Between his dysfunctional family issues and the murder, Jessica has to find a way to keep her attention on her history dissertation research, instead of allowing herself to be engulfed by fear and worry. Fortunately, her advisor points her in the direction of the Comerford House, the perfect place to gather information for her thesis.

Another Cal grad, twenty-six-year-old Zachary Aguilar hasn't been able to get Jessica off of his mind since he encountered her in one of his classes. While helping his docent mom Anna out at the Comerford House, Zachary is caught off guard when Jessica not only attends a house tour, but also applies for the open assistant docent position. A strong bond begins to build between Zachary and Jessica. Plus, Zachary's Catholic beliefs start to rub off on Jessica, providing her with a deep sense of peace and encouragement during this troubled season in her life. Yet Jessica is unaware that her newfound faith will soon undergo testing.

Sunderland chooses her own stomping ground for the backdrop in her sixth religious novel. Featuring the popular Fire Trail frequented by "joggers, walkers, and hikers of all ages," Sunderland has created a story that draws from the Catholic faith as well as raises issues of free speech and relaxed sexuality (as a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s) and its effects on society. Sunderland's fictional cast is surrounded by the histories of Berkley and the beneficial work of the Presentation Sisters, while punctuating factual news articles from September 2014.

Forthright about her deep concerns with "America's cultural collapse, the decline in civil order, and threats to freedom of speech and religion," Sunderland unflinchingly weaves in conservative perspectives that give readers plenty of food for thought. Examples include speeches from speakers at the Fidelity Society highlighting sexual purity and encouraging traditional marriage. Although fictionalized, the Fidelity Society "is loosely based on the Anscombe Society (which began at Princeton), and the Love and Fidelity network, which links such university groups." Incorporating a flurry of expected and unanticipated scenes, Sunderland's plot is a nice mix of fact and mystery from beginning to end.

Quill says: The Fire Trail is a perfect read for religious enthusiasts.

For more information on The Fire Trail, please visit the author's website at:

Book Review - An Act of Murder

An Act of Murder

By: Mary Angela
Illustrated By: Sabrina Sun
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-1-60381-375-4
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: July 6, 2016

One of the best aspects of the tiny college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, in Professor Emmeline Prather’s mind was that everything was consistent and quiet. Each semester began in the same way, her classes moved on steadily, and the semester would end the same way it had the year before. As another semester begins, Emmeline can’t hide the excitement she feels to meet a whole new group of students and discover each of their own personalities and talents. One student named Austin Oliver stood out in particular as he showed a determination to his education that Emmeline rarely saw, especially in a freshman.

In just a few days Austin became involved in many activities across campus including constructing sets for the upcoming play being put on by the Arts and English departments. However, Austin does not get a chance to help for long as following an afternoon of working at the theatre, he is found dead by the night janitor. Initially, everyone jumps to the conclusion that this was simply an unfortunate accident. However, Emmeline can’t help but feel that this death was a result of foul play. Why would anyone want to harm Austin - a young man who seemed to be a determined student and all around good guy? The police investigation turns this small college town upside down but even after all the searching, the cops still believe that Austin’s death was simply just a terrible and unfortunate accident.

Not satisfied with the conclusion of the investigation, Emmeline goes searching for answers, trying to find out exactly who were the last people to talk to Austin before he died. As the list of people with information grows, the list of questions also grows, as this case becomes more and more complicated. Suddenly, Emmeline realizes that she will need an ally, so she recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins to help her think of other possible suspects and possible motives for the murder of this boy. At first Emmeline and Lenny are pushed on by the sheer curiosity of what really happened to Austin, but as they dig further someone takes a dislike to their snooping. One night the killer even decides to pay a nighttime visit to Emmeline’s house making her realize that even she is now in danger.

This was a fun, sweet, and impressive first mystery novel for author Mary Angela that I enjoyed immensely. In fact, once I started reading, I finished the book in record time. The wonderfully in-depth and detailed descriptions of the town, seasons, and college were absolutely wonderful. There were so many times I could almost feel the chill of the wind or picture the breeze in the trees against the brick of the old buildings and I love when authors can create that setting for their reader. Author Mary Angela does this beautifully and with the mystery element added to this quaint little town I found myself enjoying every part of this story.

Quill says: A wonderful first mystery novel that has me wanting to read more.

For more information on An Act of Murder, please visit the author's website at:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Review - Little Girl Gone

Little Girl Gone (An Afton Tangler Thriller)

By: Gerry Schmitt
Publisher: Berkley Books NY
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 9780425281765
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 29, 2016

Gerry Schmitt delivers engaging, edgy suspense in her latest thriller, Little Girl Gone.

Susan Darden leisurely made her way through the Minneapolis mall without a particular place in mind. When she saw the Doll Show exhibition, she was immediately drawn to the life-like crafts on display. Her beautiful baby girl, Elizabeth Ann, immediately came to mind as she approached the woman standing by the table. Susan struck up a conversation with Marjorie Sorenson. It was vital that Marjorie allow this obviously affluent blonde woman to initiate the conversation. It didn't take Susan Darden long to take the bait. The baby dolls have been crafted with a precision hand and eye for lifelike...reminding Susan of her real cherub, Elizabeth Ann.

Afton Tangler is a liaison officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. She and her friends are on a weekend climb. As she traverses her way up the difficult wall, little does she know her weekend adventure is about to end.

Ashley Copeland breathes a sigh of relief now that the Darden’s have left for the evening. This is her second babysitting gig this week and thankfully, baby Elizabeth Ann is fast asleep in the nursery which will make this payday easy money. The doorbell rings and Ashley wonders if the Darden’s are back already. When she opens the door and sees the disheveled mess of Ronnie on the other side, she is confused. Who is this guy and why does he have a pizza box? Unfortunately, Ashley’s brain doesn’t give her the time needed to process the answer to her question. Within seconds, Ronnie the pizza guy delivers a crushing blow to her face and the aftermath of hell breaking loose ensues. Baby Elizabeth Ann has been kidnapped.

I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Ms. Schmitt’s Afton Tangler Thrillers and must say, Little Girl Gone is a great incentive to go back and do so. From the inception of this read, Schmitt skillfully lays plot and accelerates intrigue. Across each page, there is a chilling anticipation of dread focused on: ‘just wait...there’s more...’ There is no doubt Ms. Schmitt is the master and director of her pen and knows how to draw her readership in with the anticipation of each precisely placed word. Her characters are credible and the set up to each scene complements the ease of engagement with the storyline. Schmitt’s voice is easy to detect early on and her ability to thread the needle of a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller is spot on. I enjoyed turning each page and welcomed the element of surprise throughout. I am a fan and highly recommend this read to all those readers who covet a solid thriller to read. Well done Ms. Schmitt. I look forward to your next body of work.

Quill says: Little Girl Gone is a must-read to take along on a weekend getaway. It’s a fast-paced, captivating and action-packed read.

Book Review - The Battle for Oz

The Battle for Oz

By: Jeyna Grace
Illustrated By: David Drummond
Publisher: Inkshares Inc.
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN: 9781941758311
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: June 29, 2016

When Dorothy first traveled to the Land of Oz by being swept up into a tornado she did not realize that she would rid the land of an evil tyrant and defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. She returned home to Kansas with her loyal dog Toto thinking that the world of Oz would always be a distant memory and that she may never return. However, fate had another plan for her when a power hungry queen from another land took over Oz and vowed to kill anyone who tried to use magic to rise up against her. The people of Oz know there is only one person who can save them because she has saved them before; they needed to bring back Dorothy.

When Dorothy returns to Oz with Toto after being summoned by her good friend the Scarecrow, she is sad to see that the world she knew has been turned into a land of fear and turmoil because of this terrible queen. The last time she was in Oz she was just a girl, but now being older Dorothy knows that she is facing a far greater challenge. Dorothy will need help if she is going to defeat this evil queen. She learns that this queen was once defeated in another land by a young girl named Alice, so instantly Dorothy knows that this is who she needs help from.

This girl named Alice is also from Earth and has traveled to another mysterious world just as Dorothy had - except Alice traveled through a rabbit hole to a world called Wonderland. After Dorothy tracks Alice down there is no doubt after hearing the description of this evil queen that she is none other than the Queen of Hearts that Alice battled in the world of Wonderland. Knowing that she needs to try and defeat this queen once and for all, Alice agrees to go to Oz with Dorothy and together find a way to end her terrible reign.

When I first read the description on the back of this book I admit that it did not occur to me that two such imaginative stories were being combined into one. The famous tale of Dorothy in Oz, and the equally thrilling tale of Alice in Wonderland are combined in this exciting adventure that continues the ongoing battle of good vs. evil. This book reminded me of the ultimate fan fantasy as it takes two unforgettable characters that have two equally intriguing stories and mashes them together to make an even grander adventure. Any reader who enjoys either of these famous tales will be greatly pleased by this story as I definitely was. Through this writing my imagination was given the freedom to soar as far as it wanted to and I love when that is able to happen.

Quill says: A fascinating book that lets the reader’s imagination soar to new heights.