Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#BookReview - Perfect in Memory @RickNiece

Perfect in Memory: A Son's Tribute to His Mother (Fanfare for a Hometown)

By: Rick D. Niece
Publisher: Five Star Publications
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1589852389
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: August 31, 2016

Author Rick Niece capitalizes on his Ohio childhood stories in the third and final book in the nostalgic Fanfare for a Hometown Series.

"The plan was to read them [the stories] to Mom as she rested in Queen Anne's comfort [her special chair] while receiving supplemental oxygen through a cannula in her nose. Through my stories, I secretly hoped she might breathe in streams of rejuvenating oxygen from the lungs of life's good memories relived." Yet Rick Niece's stated idea never unfolds quite as he hopes. The unexpected happens when he gets word that his mother (who has an incurable lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) is in the hospital and that her condition is worsening. The reality is that Mom is dying and the chance of her being his fact checker providing accuracy to the retelling of past stories is very slim.

Flying to Arizona from Arkansas has its hiccups. With delays in Chicago, Rick and his wife Sherée arrive in Tucson, getting to his mom's 4th floor hospital room moments before visiting hours are over. Relieving his dad and brother Kurt, Rick decides to keep watch over mom by spending the night in the waiting room. The following morning, Rick is surprised to see his dad at Mom's beside. While stories over the course of three days pore out from his parents including how they met and their intense love for one another, they also send up red flags of his father's denial and his mother's fear of death.

Niece, a retired university president turned author, identifies his three-book memoir series as automythography. Defined as "a work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember, and how we think we remember it," the term not only describes how Niece recalls his familial memories, but also offers a realistic picture of how most people recall stories from their past. Niece divides his narrative into five sections, constantly alternating between the present and the past. While capturing his mother's dying moments, Niece seamlessly weaves in memories from his childhood hometown of DeGraff, Ohio.

A mixture of comedy and poignancy, Niece covers a multitude of interesting themes in his tribute to his mother—from Avon soap pistols, the Easter Bunny, and Jesus bookmarkers to cement mixers, converted clubhouses, an unlikely Arthur Murray dance partner, African violets, and gin, just to name a few. In addition to his engaging storytelling, Niece aptly sprinkles in a variety of poetry that includes free form, metrical verse, acrostic, haiku, and shaped formats.

Quill says: A wistful yet uplifting read, Perfect in Memory will seriously get you crying and laughing simultaneously.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hurry! Early Bird Reduced Nomination Expires August 31

Hurry! 'Early Bird' reduced nomination fee ends tomorrow night - don't wait! Having an award seal on your book is a great way to increase sales. Visit
to learn more.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Interview with Author Helena P. Schrader @HelenaPSchrader

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin.

FQ: After such a huge project as this trilogy must have been, considering the tremendous amount of research done, how does it feel for it to be over? Did you create that emotional link with your characters that’s hard to let go?

SCHRADER: Well, of course, it isn't really "over" because I now have to market the trilogy, spread the word about it, enter it in literary contests, etc. Also, you might have noticed that Balian isn't dead. He disappears from the historical record after the Treaty of Ramla (1192) and he last witnessed a royal charter in 1193, leading people to assume that he died shortly afterwards. But there could be other explanations -- like the records were lost, he had falling out with the king, he was traveling abroad on a diplomatic mission, he was on Cyprus, or he had taken Holy Vows and retreated to a monastery. We don't know, so I can't risk writing a "biography" about this period, but -- as you rightly surmise -- I am still emotionally attached to my characters (and not just Balian and Maria) and there is a wonderful piece of history still waiting to be explored: namely, the establishment of Frankish rule on the Island of Cyprus. Aimery de Lusignan was the first King of Cyprus, but not until after he rescued his wife Eschiva from pirates. Also Aimery later marries Maria's daughter Isabella, becoming her 4th husband and King of Jerusalem, while Balian's sons were both regents -- one in Cyprus and the other in Jerusalem. In short, I haven't let these characters go yet! I'm working on a book tentatively titled The Last Crusader Kingdom that will deal with what we in the State Department call "post-conflict reconstruction" and the founding of the Kingdom of Cyprus by the Lusignans and Iberians.

Author Helena P. Schrader

FQ: You write so amazingly well I, as a reader, would love to know what is being worked on next. Is there a fiction or non-fiction project in the works we can look forward to?

SCHRADER: It means the world to me, Amy, that you think I write well and want to read more. In today's world with 4,000 books being released each day in the English language, the competition is fierce and it's hard to attract attention, much less fans. It's very easy to get discouraged and ask oneself "why bother?" But when readers react like this, it is all worthwhile. So thank you, Amy!
As for what's next, it is the book on The Last Crusader Kingdom mentioned above, which will focus more on Aimery, Eschiva, and John d'Ibelin, but with Balian and Maria in strong supporting roles. Then, unless something unexpected comes up, I'd like to write about the baronial revolt against the Emperor Friedrich II in the early 13th century. It was basically a war in defense of the rule of law and the constitution of Jerusalem/Cyprus against imperial tyranny. The revolt was led by John d'Ibelin, Balian's eldest son as a mature man, and his sons, supported by other barons.

Balian d'Ibelin

FQ: Along those same lines, do you have a preference? Does fiction perhaps offer up a freedom that non-fiction cannot, because the latter is already solidified in stone?

SCHRADER: Actually, I find it much easier to write non-fiction because for non-ficton, all you have to do is get the facts right and then write them up in an engaging and fluent style. Fiction requires you to understand much more -- the society, religion, laws, customs, medicine, music, economy, geography, climate, and then to use your imagination to get inside various people's skins -- to walk around in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. You can't have just one "rational" perspective, you must be able to create emotional worlds that don't violate the historical record but go far beyond it by speculating about motives, feelings, fears, hopes, dreams etc. etc. I much prefer writing fiction because I love exploring human nature -- besides I do a lot of dry, factual writing for work. I use writing fiction as a means of balancing that rational work as I focus on the emotional world of my characters and try to imagine why people did what they did and what their relationships with one another were.

FQ: How do you feel about libraries in the U.S.A.? I ask this because of the research element and the love of writing you most certainly have, and the news that American libraries are growing smaller in number.

SCHRADER: Well, as it happens I'm living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the moment and don't have access to U.S. libraries. I have to order my sources on line. I have quite a library of my own as a result, and I'm always buying new books. For sources, I need real paper copies of the books. I can read a novel electronically, but if I'm going to use a book as reference material I need to be able to find things quickly, to flip back and forth, and trathrough the notes and the bibliography for more sources and the like. Those are all things I can't do with e-books, or not efficiently.

The coast of Israel by Ascalon -- a venue in "Envoy"

FQ: As a U.S. diplomat in Africa, can you speak a little about problems or issues of that particular country that people should be aware of? In addition, do you have any plans to perhaps write something set in that country?

SCHRADER: Ethiopia is a complex country with a rich history stretching back to the age of Solomon. It is mentioned both in the Old Testament (Moses' wife was Ethiopian) and in the Iliad (Ethiopia sided with Troy and Achilles killed the Ethiopian king). Andromenda was an Ethiopian princess. The Ethiopians believe that Balthazar, one of the three Kings or Magi, was Ethiopian. Certainly, Ethiopia was the second country in the world after Armenia to make Christianity the state religion -- before Rome. Ethiopia traded with both the Mediterranean world and India in the first centuries AD. In the period of my Balian trilogy, there was an Ethiopian prince in exile in Jerusalem. The Ethiopians received permission to build a chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher from Saladin after the fall of Jerusalem, but the King also built a "New Jerusalem" at Lalibela in the highlands of Ethiopia -- a magical place so utterly different from the historical Jerusalem. I could go on and on, but I think you can already see what a fascinating history this country has. Yet for that very reason, I would never presume to write about it. Ethiopia is simply too complex, too multi-layered and different. Not only does it have this complex history, it has its own language, alphabet, music, Christian Orthodoxy, multiple ethnic groups, a large Muslim population, a more recent history of two varieties of Socialism, famines, floods, coups and military dictatorship. The most I could ever imagine is writing about a foreigner who visits Ethiopia and looks at it from the outside, but I would not dare to try to imagine the interior world of the Ethiopian psyche.

The seal of John d'Ibelin

FQ: Is there one location that is at the top of your ‘to do’ or ‘bucket list’ (whatever you choose to call it) that is an ancient or historical locale you would love to see in person? If so, can you tell readers where that would be and why you have an interest in that site?

SCHRADER: I have been extremely lucky to have visited Jerusalem, Cairo, Luxor/Nile, Istanbul (Constantinople), Athens, Sparta, Olympia, Delphi, and Rome. I've also been to Cyprus multiple times so I have a good vision (and many photos) of Cyprus to feed-off while writing my next novels. After that, I'm tentatively planning a biographical novel of Edward of Woodstock, more commonly known as the Black Prince, and his wife Joan of Kent. I've visited many of the sites associated with them, but would want to go back again to his tomb in Canterbury, for example, or his castles at Restmorel and Hampsted. In fact, I'd like to follow in the Black Prince's footsteps, traveling the route of his two campaigns in France and the one to Navarre as well. Otherwise, I can't really think of anything. The ancient cities of the Far East must be wonderful, but they are culturally too strange to really attract me. I find I enjoy places best when I already know and can relate to the stories of people who lived there and walked their streets.

FQ: If you had to choose to award a medal to the greatest/most dangerous ‘villain’ history has ever produced, who would that be, and why?

SCHRADER: It's hard to compete with Stalin for that award. He was responsible for the deaths -- through cold-blood murder, slave labor, and starvation -- of tens of millions of people.

FQ: Same question as above, but this time the medal goes to who you feel was the ultimate hero in history.

SCHRADER: That's too difficult. I stand in awe of the heroes of the German Resistance to Hitler, but also of Leonidas of Sparta, who gave us an example of self-sacrifice for the greater good. St. Louis of France for his example of leadership and compassion in defeat and humiliation, and -- of course -- I admire the Leper King for doing his duty despite being slowly decaying, or Balian d'Ibelin for being willing to sacrifice his freedom for the poor. There are many heros and I wish people took a greater interest in them -- the real heroes -- rather than losing themselves in fantasy worlds with supermen, spidermen, witches and warlocks. I truly can't comprehend this interest in total fantasy when there have been such fantastic real human heroes over time.

FQ: (This was asked once before, but it remains a favorite with readers, and perhaps new readers would love to know): If you could have lunch with one historical figure, who would that be, and why?

The tomb of Richard I, a major character in "Envoy"
SCHRADER: I think I said General Friedrich Olbricht last time with the reasoning that I would be able to communicate with him. Our worlds (early 20th century and now) are not so very different and we have a common language (modern German). I would not be able to speak with Leonidas (I'm learning modern not ancient Greek), or St. Louis, the Leper King or Balian -- they spoke Medieval French. I doubt a Plantagenet prince such as Edward of Woodstock would be particularly polite to an common woman like me. Also society has changed so much, starting with diet and table manners. I'm not sure lunch could be a success with anyone who lived long ago in the circumstances.

FQ: I want to personally thank you, again, for creating this series. I’ve been in love with it since the beginning and will go back and do it all over again.

SCHRADER: Amy, that is a lovely thing to say! It makes me feel very good and inspires me to keep writing. Thank you!

To learn more about Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#BookReview - Envoy of Jerusalem @HelenaPSchrader

Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62787-194-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 23, 2016

A historical trilogy needs a great deal of substance. When it comes to this writer and her work, this particular reviewer once stated that for a trilogy comprised of very large books, a writer needs to pick a subject that will entrance, excite and lure readers so deeply, so emotionally, that they never want to stop reading. Helena P. Schrader has done just that throughout this entire ride. And now...the grand finale. Beginning in Knight of Jerusalem and continuing in Defender of Jerusalem, this is one of the best historical series ever written.

Readers of these books have walked through the confusing, romantic and amazing time of the Crusades, meeting both valiant characters and others whose souls were as dark as night. Everybody had a plan back then, and would do anything to achieve it. In the last book, readers watched Jerusalem under siege by the Kurdish leader, the sultan of Egypt and Damascus, Salah ad-Din Yusuf. He wormed his way through life and combined two forces, Shiite Egypt and Sunnite Syria, into one major force that went against the Christians. King Baldwin IV was fighting leprosy all his life, yet had to find his strength and prepare for battle. And main character, Balian d’Ibelin, was still the lone source of loyalty to the king.

Now, in Envoy of Jerusalem, the Christian city of Jerusalem is solidly in the hands of Salah ad-Din. With his takeover, the people who are poor and cannot pay a ransom for their freedom are being sold into slavery. In Tyre, in October of 1187, Balian and his wife, Maria, are among the sufferers. It does seem as if the Holy Land is gone, but Balian’s heroic belief and strength has him taking it upon himself to try and negotiate the freedom of the Christians still left in the city.

There is hope. Of course, with hope comes more battles. Beloved man and warrior of many, Richard the Lionheart, now graces the scene with his army and takes his leap into legendary status. He takes center stage, leading the fight to reclaim the Holy Land. All through the battles Balian becomes the ultimate mediator, seeing the hope yet also dealing with the horrors that come as the French and English people, as well as the Christian and Muslim ideas clash.

A very detailed drama full of historical truths intertwined with a fantastically written tale, Balian solidifies himself as a marvelous character; one that was able to challenge all the supposed heroes and villains of his time as he married a dowager queen and brought about an astounding dynasty.
Begin at the beginning, however. Not because this is ‘too’ confusing to be a standalone, but because every page of this series will inspire a reader to move through the battles, lay eyes on these crusader kingdoms, and cheer for a man whose name could not compete with those in high places, yet one who owned the strongest will you can possibly imagine.

Quill says: The zest this author has for her subject is dramatic, intense and something that will never be forgotten!

For more information on Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, please visit the series' website at:

#BookReview - Close Encounters of the Furred Kind

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind: New Adventures with My Sad Cat & Other Feline Friends

By: Tom Cox
Illustrated By: Ceara Elliot
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-07732-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 24, 2016

There is an endless amount of stories, adventures, and laughs that come from living a life with cats and no one brings to life that fact better than author Tom Cox. His four amazingly funny cats Shipley, Roscoe, Ralph, and The Bear are a constant source of hilarious antics, interesting conversations, and lovable moments. In this sequel to his first book, The Good, The Bad, and The Furry, Cox continues writing about his life with these four unique and charming cats.

For several years Tom and his four cats have lived in a wonderful house that he had nicknamed the upside down house. With its modern unique charm, an outside area the cats immensely enjoyed, and room for everyone to have their own space, it had become a perfect place for all of them to live comfortably. However, now the time has come for Tom and his cats to move to an old country cottage, outside of a town called Devon. After discussing the move with his girlfriend Gemma for quite some time they both decided that it was the ideal time to bring their lives together.

Of course this move would be much simpler if it was just Tom uplifting his roots, but relocating four cats including The Bear who was now eighteen years old would be a difficult task. One of the biggest concerns was if The Bear would even be able to make it through the move with his age, but amazingly he seemed to have found his second wind and is now enjoying life. Each of the other cats also seem to be following The Bear’s lead and are exploring the area around their new home, relishing in new adventures, and meeting new friends, all the while showing their fun and unique personalities.

Within the first couple of pages of Close Encounters of the Furred Kind, I was laughing out loud at these hilarious stories that Tom Cox puts together about his life with cats. Anyone who shares their life with animals knows that each has their own antics and personalities and it’s so much fun to see how Cox brings those personalities to life though his words on the page. I found myself thinking about the cats and dogs I have known over my life and how each one left a unique imprint on my heart as each of these cats in this book are doing as well. The stories are so full of vivid details that the reader cannot help but fall in love with these cats as you’re able to share in their world.

Quill says: Another charming and irresistible book from a master cat lover.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Books In For Review

Here they are - the newest books for review.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin by Helena P. Schrader Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was "like a king." He served a leper, but defied Richard the Lionheart. He fought Saladin to a stand-still, yet retained his respect. Rather than dally with a princess, he married a dowager queen -- and founded a dynasty. He was a warrior and a diplomat both. This is Book I of a three-part biographical novel. In this book Balian, the landless son of a local baron, goes to Jerusalem to seek his fortune, but finds himself serving a leper boy instead. Only that boy is soon King of Jerusalem and facing the combined forces of Syria and Egypt as Saladin declares jihad against the Christian kingdom.

Perfect in Memory: A Son's Tribute to His Mother (Fanfare for a Hometown) by Rick D. Niece Perfect in Memory: A Son’s Tribute to His Mother is the third and final volume in Rick D. Niece’s award-winning Fanfare for a Hometown series. Shared from the perspective of an adult son looking back with loving nostalgia on how his spirited, nurturing mother shaped his life, Niece’s heartfelt stories are celebrations of family and the timeless endurance of a mother’s love. As Dodie Niece’s life comes to a bittersweet end, Niece and his family gather at her bedside and share tender memories of their experiences in idyllic DeGraff, Ohio. Written as a tribute to a remarkable woman, Perfect in Memory focuses with tender reflection on the richness of simple gestures that make life so beautiful.

Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial by Ron Frisch In this LGBTQ courtroom thriller set in the late 1970s, a politically ambitious state’s attorney charges Elizabeth Daleiden with the murders of her father and two neighbors in the 1950s. Her trial threatens to blow the lid off her Illinois farming community’s darkest secrets.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson Lena Woodward, elegant and poised, has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried. Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past. Has the real story been hidden these many years? And if so, why? Two girls, coming of age in a dangerous time, bearers of secrets that only they could share.

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian. As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam's childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915. Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love. Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam's story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York. Miracles, it seems, can happen―for those trapped by the past, and for Katerina herself.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Feathered Quill #BookAwards

#BookReview - Write to Die

Write to Die

By: Charles Rosenberg
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 9781503937611
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 15, 2016

Charles Rosenberg captivates his audience in an adventurous Hollywood who-done-it in his latest legal thriller: Write to Die.

Extorted is destined to be the latest Hollywood hit. That is to say until the spaghetti ball of controversy around who exactly wrote the screenplay came into question. Was it the once iconic movie star, Mary Broom (or her former lover Alex Toltec), who wrote the smash hit? Maybe it was a combination of both or maybe not. Attorney Rory Calburton from the prestigious law firm The Harold Firm is assigned to the case and intends to set the record straight. His mission is to take down washed up Mary Broom and her false claims against his studio client, The Sun/The Moon/The Stars.

Meanwhile, there’s other trouble brewing for The Harold Firm. It would seem The Sun/The Moon/The Stars lead counsel, Joe Stanton, has turned up dead and all fingers point to the man at the top of The Harold Firm, Hal Harold. One of The Harold Firm’s newest partners, Rory, has more to prove than his ability as an attorney. The firm has increased its staff and recently hired new associate Sarah Gold. Her credentials are more than impressive and the decision to pair Sarah and Rory together is one the higher-ups believe to be a winning formula. What Rory soon learns is his adept co-worker has a propensity to not only distort the truth, but take matters into her own hands when the mood strikes. Oh and as for informing Rory, well, that’s (in her opinion) on a need to know basis.

Charles Rosenberg clearly knows his way around an investigation and does a superb job of delivering his knowledge through vibrant scenes that set up his court room actions. The characters are richly developed and quite credible in that they speak in everyday language (versus legalese ad nauseum). The pace of this story is terrific with a flawless transition from one page to the next. There is an anecdotal tempo to the tone of voice that lends ample opportunity for many chuckles throughout. As I’ve often said when reading a murder mystery, it is vitally important for the author to deliver the body and deliver it soon. Rosenberg can check this box proudly as he hooks his audience within the first handful of pages with the proverbial dead body. Bravo Mr. Rosenberg. This is a great and thrilling ride of a read and I look forward to the next adventure.

Quill Says: Hollywood scandal and intrigue behind the curtain of murder is the winning formula in this fast-paced, entertaining read.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Interview with Author Sherban Young @mysterycaper

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Sherban Young, author of Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery

FQ: You have such memorable characters in all your books, especially among the cast of the Warren Kingsley series and Enescu Fleet series. Can you tell readers if you have a personal favorite? Is there one character, perhaps, that speaks to you more than the others that you would like to write about constantly?

YOUNG: I definitely put the most effort into my Enescu Fleet series, which has five books compared with Warren Kingsley’s three. You might even call Fleet my “flagship” series (it’s funny because fleets have ships in them). With that said, I feel like Warren speaks to me more than any other single character—especially how he has developed in the most recent book, Double Talk. Warren and I understand each other. I’d love to say it’s because we are both incredibly handsome, but it’s actually Warren’s foibles and his inability to completely “click” with those around him that I enjoy. He can never quite fit in. He’s selfish but in such an abstract way that you can almost overlook it. He’s never malicious. He just sees the world differently. He’s askew. It’s almost as if he’s in another dimension from everyone else. I can relate to that sometimes.

FQ: Is the mystery genre the prime selection for the future of your writing or the only selection? Such as, is there a part of you that would like to dive into another genre at some point?

YOUNG: Mystery is my genre—but so is humor. Mystery just has a more recognizable category. Also, humor is more of a tag than a genre unto itself. I truly believe that everything, from action/adventure to romance to stark drama, needs humor in it. I can’t abide humorless storytelling or people. I could see moving outside the genre of mystery someday. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at soft sci-fi—Groundhog Day, Twilight Zone type of stuff. I think I could incorporate my style into that genre.

Stars of the series - Warren and Mahrute

FQ: You keep your political affiliations to yourself. (Bravo, I say!) But, as a type of media, I must ask for your fans: Can you give your opinion on the current speeches you are hearing on the news? Are you finding humor in this current election year?

YOUNG: It would be hard to conceive of an election season more chock-full of the ludicrous. Politicians have always been generous about providing fodder for satirists—sometimes I think that’s what politicians are there for—but this year they have kicked it up several notches. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing turned out to be an elaborate Saturday Night Live sketch.

FQ: Many authors have a list of “musts” when they write. Whereas some need music playing in the background, others must have the family dog sitting next to their desk in order to write. What is the “perfect setup” for Sherban Young to start writing a new book?

YOUNG: I am a creature of habit and do like things a certain way. Mostly, it’s the routine. I tend to write in the mornings: breakfast, light reading, then work. I like mornings because my head is clear, and the outside world hasn’t crept in on my consciousness. Music is very important. When I’m brainstorming, I listen to rock from the 60s and 70s (sometimes something more modern, as long as it sounds like it came from the 60s or 70s). When I write, it’s only classical. I suppose it would be apropos if I listened to George Enescu while I wrote the Enescu Fleet series, and Alexander Borodin for the Warren Kingsley/Borodin Mahrute books. Actually, I prefer Haydn and Bach, but I couldn’t bring myself to call my detectives Franz Joseph or Johann Sebastian.

FQ: Would there happen to be an author you are particularly fond of that causes you to rush to the bookstore when his/her new title hits the market?

YOUNG: I wish I had a better answer for this. The fact is I really don’t read any modern authors. I’m sort of an irritating snob that way. I like the approach and discipline of long-past writers, especially British writers. I just don’t click with modern authors (especially those snobbish kinds who can’t appreciate their contemporaries). I suppose the last author, sort of modern, was George MacDonald Fraser, best known for the “mock-memoir” Flashman adventure novels. Those were exciting because you were always wondering what famous historical event he would throw his character into next. Sadly, Fraser died almost a decade ago, so I guess that doesn’t answer your question.

FQ: There are many writers who need advice when it comes to a point where they simply can’t find the next path to walk down in their own books. Have you ever reached a point during a story when writer’s block occurs? And if so, how do you get through it in order to gain back that momentum to write?

Author Sherban Young
YOUNG: I don’t tend to get stuck once I’ve started. If anything, my characters have a habit of pulling me in too many directions, not too few. That’s when I have to put my foot down and show them who’s boss. Of course, that never works, and I end up with fifteen things happening at once. It all seems to work out in the end, though. I think the only time I have gotten stuck is when I’ve become overly rigid about the plot—when I have some point I’m trying to make. I’ve learned that I have to go about it more organically than that. I quit having a point a long time ago.

FQ: In your background, did you have a specific teacher or person that brought about the will and excitement to write? When did you first begin?

YOUNG: I started writing when I was seven years old and started getting encouragement from teachers very soon after that, when I was in college—a short twelve years later. I would always approach papers from a standpoint of “how can I make this entertaining?” That usually included writing nothing at all on the topic I was assigned, but somehow, amazingly, most of the professors liked my style so much that they didn’t care.

Outside of school, I’ve been fortunate to have very supportive parents, who have never let me give up on myself.

FQ: I end with a question reader’s love to hear the answer to: If you could have lunch with one writer, alive or dead (they would be alive for lunch, of course), who would it be and why?

YOUNG: I love this question—and I’m glad they would be alive for the lunch; otherwise, it might be awkward. I’ve actually thought about this a lot. It would be a toss-up between P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie. In my opinion, Wodehouse’s writing skill was second to no one. Christie, on the other hand, had magnificent mysteries and an insight into the mind of her characters that rivaled any genre. My concern with Wodehouse would be that he would be too withdrawn. Like myself, he put everything he had to say into his work. I think Christie enjoyed talking about the craft. She seemed like a good adviser. And I bet she’d pick up the bill. Having sold several trillion books, she could certainly afford it.

FQ: As a fan, I want to thank you for your time and the hysterical, smart books you continue to write! I am extremely grateful for them.

Best Regards,
Amy Lignor

YOUNG: Thank you so much! It’s been such a pleasure doing this interview.

To learn more about Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Bay of Sighs

Bay of Sighs (Guardians Trilogy)

By: Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-0-425-28011-9
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 9, 2016

Years and years ago three powerful goddesses created three stars to celebrate the birth of a new queen - the fire star, the water star, and the ice star. However, another goddess who is possessed by evil, Nerezza, plots to steal these powerful stars and when they fall from the heavens she knows that this is her chance to possess them. The only hope to defeat the evil goddess is six unique individuals who have to learn to work as one to find each star before they land in the hands of Nerezza.

After finding the fire star in Corfu, six individuals who used to be strangers are now battling side by side to find the three stars that fell from the heavens. With the first one, the fire star, hidden in a secure place, their search for the water star brings them to the island of Capri. Using Sasha’s visions of the future, Bran’s magic, Annika’s knowledge of the water, Sawyer’s time traveling, Riley’s contacts and research, and finally Doyle’s strength and battle strategies, they have learned to make an unbreakable team that contributes equally in their own unique way. They all know that Nerezza will not stay away for long, as they beat her back once but that means the next time they meet she will come back even stronger. However, for now all they are sure of is that the water star is hidden somewhere in the waters around Capri and they must search out every possible location until they find it.

Being so close to the sea, Annika especially feels right at home, for as a mermaid she is of the sea and always will be. So, she is happy to see that she can be of some help when the group dives in specific caves around the island looking for the water star. A feeling that has continued to grow and now is hard for her to push away is her attraction to Sawyer. There is no denying that there is something special between them but unfortunately Annika knows that she can only be on land for a limited amount of time and when this quest is over she must return to the sea and leave the people on land behind.

After hurting Nerezza and finding the first star, Sawyer knows that he is in good company with the five people he now sees as his greatest friends. There is no doubt in his mind though that Annika is occupying his thoughts more and more. Of course how could they not for he would have to be blind to not see how beautiful, graceful, and kind she is but he knows that she has a limited time on the land and he doesn’t want to make it harder on her to return to the sea. Now, his only focus should be the mission, to find the stars together as a group, any other thought could be detrimental to the quest and the safety of the world.

It was pure excitement when I received this book and was able to finally read this second installment of The Guardians Trilogy for I wanted to start it as soon as I finished the first one several months ago. Author Nora Roberts did not disappoint at all as I was swept up into this amazing world filled with unforgettable characters. The dynamic characters that Roberts created for this series are so outstanding and work so amazingly well together that I can’t help but be transported to another world when reading this book. It was also wonderful to see the story from another character’s eyes as that added another great element to an already fantastic book.

Quill says: There are not enough good things to say about this book - this kind of novel reminds me why I absolutely love reading!

Monday, August 8, 2016

#BookReview - Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery

Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery

By: Sherban Young
Publisher: MysteryCaper Press
Publication Date: June 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9912324-8-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 8, 2016

For those who have not yet had the good fortune to pick up a Sherban Young mystery, now is the time to do so! Let’s just say that once you begin reading this title, you will immediately run to the library and/or Amazon and get all the rest.
A character with his own series, Warren Kingsley, is back. Warren, a man who has the face and physique of a god (and the ego to match), also owns the abilities to brood, ignore others, and know deep in his heart that he really is the “best of the best” in most areas. An ex-bodyguard, he is now the speechwriter for the Mayor of Kilobyte.

In Kilobyte the residents are truly multifaceted; they can never have just “one” career. Even Mayor Frederick Abbott is not content with just being a public servant. He also owns a baseball team, he’s a restaurateur, and has his hands (and money) in half of the other companies in town.

Frederick Abbott was bedazzled by Warren Kingsley when they first met. He saw a very handsome man who could easily nab the female vote right away. Warren stole the mayor’s speech off a table and basically edited out most of it. Without looking up his background, the mayor hired this man...not realizing at the time that he’d just employed a speechwriter who believed everyone spoke way too much.

Mayor Abbott is also married to a much younger, prettier wife who has the acting ability of Streep or Loren. She can turn on the frightened waterworks when need be, flutter her eyelashes and show adoration to her ‘old’ husband, and then turn on a dime and be caught in a pool house with a young dog groomer and have a completely believable excuse for the whole thing.

An old acquaintance of Kingsley’s, John Hathaway, walks into Kilobyte one day with his own agenda. Apparently, Hathaway is the only ex-client of Kingsley’s who’s still alive. Trying to get information about the town and its people from his old bodyguard is basically impossible, but Hathaway is there to do a little “detecting” and won’t go away until his own job is complete.

Very soon, strange packages show up for various workers at the Municipal Building and a paid assassin takes a shot at the mayor in his office. The mayor, thinking on his feet, throws both a dog toy and a much heavier bust at the killer, saving his own life. But the assassin escapes and vows to do the job they were hired for. A press secretary ends up murdered, the cops go on the hunt (led by the very cool Sheriff Jenny Blake), and suspects come out of the proverbial woodwork.

Yes, it might be even more thrilling and funny if you began the Warren Kingsley series with book one: Five Star Detour, but this is definitely a standalone that readers will enjoy without knowing any of the Kingsley backstory. This author and his funny, intelligent words will make you wish that he would actually become the speechwriter for someone in this very real election year. That way, at least the jokes would be funny.

Quill says: Sherban Young continues to gift fans with fantastic mysteries that make you laugh out loud.

For more information on Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - When Mountain Lions are Neighbors

When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out in California

By: Beth Pratt-Bergstrom
Publisher: Heyday Books/The National Wildlife Federation
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-159714-346-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 9, 2016

Like most people, when the state of California is mentioned, the wildlife that lives there is not the first thing that comes to mind—movie stars or the horrific Los Angeles driving still reign supreme. However, upon reading this book, people will become completely engrossed and enamored by the animals that exist in California and their own personal stories.

That is exactly what this amazing work is all about: a compendium of wildlife stories that captured the imagination of this particular author. And what the writer so expertly does here, is show the absolute fact that human beings and animals can co-exist and do it very well.

Horror stories are always spoken about when it comes to animals losing their lives and sometimes entire species being annihilated because of human error or stupidity. Here, a Mountain Lion (later dubbed P-22) moves into the L.A. area after leaving Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Some scientists simply stated that this particular animal headed into the city because he wanted to avoid other cougars and get food for his stomach. But for this author, as well as this reader, that explanation isn’t enough. Animals are intelligent; a cougar doesn’t just say to himself: “I think I’ll head down the 101,” god help him, “and catch me some deer.”

P-22 does take on the freeway and ends up heading to Griffith Park. This extremely small area for a mountain lion to live and hunt is only two miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and boasts more visitors than Yellowstone. Yes, there are those who definitely don’t want to become tangled up with a mountain lion. But, Californians have welcomed P-22, and people are working hard to create the largest wildlife crossing in the world set in one of the largest urban areas in the country. Learning about P-22, his trip, his acceptance, and what the future may bring because of his journey makes for a thrilling read.

But that’s not all. To further show coexistence between animals and humans, the author offers up a tale full of ‘heart’ set in San Francisco, where the Harbor Porpoise has returned. From the Monarch butterflies being saved to the tale of the Urban Coyote, each story is completely factual and should be learned by everyone. The Marines being called in for the Desert Tortoise. The heart-wrenching story of starving sea lion pups that are now cared for by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. And the list goes on...

The National Wildlife Federation’s Beth Pratt-Bergstrom should be extremely proud of this work. Because of her stunning words, emotions and intelligence, people will find themselves feeling exhilarated after reading all about these various creatures, and learning of the awesome work Californians are doing to make sure that these animal species’ stay alive and well.

Quill says: Filled with unforgettable stories that will spark the desire to help, this is the wildlife book everyone needs to read. Bravo!

#BookReview - The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy

The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy

Written & Illustrated By: Elisa Kleven
Publisher: Heyday Books
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-59714-352-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 9, 2016

In 1875, in St. Nicholas magazine, a story was printed for readers called The Gingerbread Man. Although retold generation after generation, this particular tale did not have a happy ending. (For those who don’t remember, the Gingerbread Man met his demise because of the beguiling intelligence of a fox). However, in 2016 this new tale has arrived and definitely can be and should be used from now on for generation storytelling. The story is really nothing like the original; the author/illustrator has used her own delicious twists. She leaves readers with only happiness, joy, and an innate sense of desperately needing to run to Grandma’s house for cookies ASAP!

San Francisco (my favorite city, as well) is the background for this story. A young girl by the name of Shirley is getting ready to go to school when she looks around for a dessert to pack. Baking her own gingerbread treat to enjoy at lunch, Shirley, like most people who smell that amazing scent of gingerbread, just can’t wait and decides to take a small nibble off the gingerbread cookie’s thumb.
When noon arrives, she opens her lunchbox to find a very alive cookie boy who has eaten up her carrot sticks and other packed treasures. He jumps out and tells her he will not lose anymore ‘limbs’ (so to speak) and hightails it out of the school and into the city of San Fran with Shirley following after him. Some of the coolest sites of San Francisco are drawn here, as the Gingerbread Boy runs amok through the streets, snatching everything from lollipops to clams as he rides the cable car and raids the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market. He goes a little berserk when he states to Shirley that if she keeps trying to catch him, he will chow down everything from the redwoods to the Golden Gate Bridge. Shirley makes a deal with this treat and the ending is completely and utterly...sweet.

The author has done a fine job, even going so far as to add a page highlighting the San Francisco landmarks shown in the book and telling readers what they’re all about. There is also a scrumptious recipe to make your very own yummy gingerbread people. careful. You may just make the magical ones that end up being far more than just a great dessert!

Quill says: This is a lovely, fun version of an old classic that should definitely catch on fast!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Interview with Kay Hall, Wife of Author Jerry Hall

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Kay Hall, wife of Jerry Hall, author of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! (Volume 1)

FQ: This is an incredibly honest book. Can you tell/explain a bit about Jerry’s writing experience? Such as, did he bounce his stories off you, or was he more of a man who quietly reflected in front of a computer screen and then gave you the entire book after it was completed to read?

HALL: It is a brutally honest book! Jerry had written a manuscript of this book in the late 1970s. at the time he was told no one wanted to read about Vietnam. So he worked from that original base. I converted all the typewritten pages for him and he would be at the computer writing almost possessed for hours on end. He had me review what he had done almost daily. It was very much an open collaboration. He also had some other trusted people occasionally read and comment as well.

FQ: It is certainly difficult for veterans, but it is stated that dealing with their nightmares once home are even more difficult for their wives/husbands/families. Can you speak a bit about the issues Jerry was dealing with when you two met?

Author Jerry Hall
HALL: Betrayal was big, he was very much all or nothing. If he perceived someone wronged him he was incapable of finding middle ground. He was very vulnerable and guarded at the same time. When we were alone he would break down crying and I would hold him for hours and he talked about his losses, but then the steel trap would enclose around his heart and it was over. He could put on a ‘happy face’ and entertain when he needed to so many people had no idea of his pain. He rarely was at peace. Nightmares were commonplace and more than once I ended up on the floor because he thrashed about.

FQ: Being a memoir, of course, all his characters are real. Did he speak a great deal about the “fantastic four?” And was there one particular humorous story that he loved to tell?

HALL: He did talk about them a lot – he spoke of those training days with excitement. He must have told me about graduation night when he took his dad into the bar to drink with the “Four” a hundred times. He was so proud.

FQ: In this, an election year, can you talk a little bit about what Jerry would think in regards to these two nominees? Did he have a specific President that he believed in or he thought best served this country?

HALL: He, like so many of his generation, was a Kennedy man. No one came close for him afterwards. He felt a strong moral responsibility to help those less fortunate and marginalized and thought the Democratic party did a better job of that.

FQ: Did Jerry comment about watching the indifference for Korean and Viet Nam War veterans change as time went on? In the 80’s and 90’s they eventually became accepted and supported, for lack of better terms; monuments were finally erected, etc.?

HALL: He took pride in the fact that Vietnam vets did their own monument etc and essentially said FU to those that put them down on their return. I don’t think he ever really felt accepted by his country though. He was very skeptical of the flag waving and what he felt was false patriotism by the general public. That is partly why he joined and became commander of the local Disabled American Veterans (DAV). He wanted to work with vets, whom he trusted, to raise the level of understanding and respect for all those who fought for this country, living and deceased.

FQ: Did Jerry have any opinions as to the new brand of war that now comes with terrorism?

HALL: He acknowledged that it was not a traditional war. He was torn between having American boots on the ground and letting the Arab nations solve it themselves. As the attacks progressed in recent years, he knew he was dying and it wasn’t his fight anymore.

FQ: Was writing therapeutic for Jerry? And how did he feel when he heard that statement: “we are publishing your book?”

HALL: It was extremely therapeutic for him. It was part of what kept him going through his cancer, to finally get his story out of his gut. He so wanted validation of what he went through, to repair his soul and pass on insight. I promised him I would do whatever possible to get it out into the world and he believed that. I think for him the bigger moment was when the professional readers report came in with raves, he was in his final days then but lit up when I read it to him. Someone, whom he had no connection with, loved the book. He could rest.

FQ: Many authors want to know how an author sets the scene...what they use to write. Such as: some authors must play music in the background, others must write in a journal before transferring to a computer, some need their loyal pet next to them in order to write, etc. Did Jerry have specific “things” he needed in order to begin writing? And was he interested in one day writing something else?

HALL: His son told me that when Jerry wrote the original draft in the ‘70’s Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty album was blasting at all times. When he wrote this version, it was quiet at all times. He wrote at the computer, generally into the night. He kept a notepad with him at all times to write thoughts and memories. I kept notepads with me as well just in case. He would jot things down during chemo, when we were in the car, anytime he was away from the computer.

He wrote a number of other short stories and really liked the format.

FQ: If Jerry were here, what advice do you think he would give to other authors about continuing the fight to be published?

HALL: Do whatever you have to do. Don’t get discouraged. Get professionals to help.

FQ: If there was one person Jerry could have sat down and had lunch with, author or otherwise, who would it have been and why?

HALL: That is a funny question. He often said he wanted to talk to the actress Debra Winger, thought she was very interesting. But also Tim O’Brien – The Things They Carried – he thought that was a masterpiece.

To learn more about Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! (Volume 1) please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

BookReview - Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full (Vol 2)

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! (Volume 2)

By: Jerry Hall
Publisher: Sundance Hall Publishing
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9972856-2-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 7, 2016

What began in an unforgettable Volume 1—living Jerry Hall’s story and dealing with the heart-wrenching issues of the Viet Nam* War—continues here. The action of battle, fraught with the unending horrors that the “unwanted veterans” dealt with, grows even more painful. And as war comes closer to an end, what should have been peaceful thoughts of returning home alive are painfully absent.

Jerry Hall experiences moral dilemmas. Although wanting to avenge death, he still feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Killing sometimes seems too easy; yet for the enemy, warfare has nothing to do with morality. Learning lessons the hard way, the reader is taken out in the rain-soaked landscape every day, at times screaming at Jerry and telling him not to question what’s right, because if he thinks too long the only one zipped in a body bag will be him.

Personal heartbreak unravels at home, as Jerry attempts airstrikes on suspected V.C. camps while thinking of his beloved son going blind. His brain becomes muddled with anger and alcohol as he says farewell to his annoying captain while a new squadron commander comes aboard. Father William offers up humor and friendship, and a new man arrives (referred to as Walrus), and the loyalty that grows between these men keeps the reader engrossed.

Individual war stories are told, as well as visits with the family who are waiting for the day “Daddy” can come back home. Readers learn that the cockpit was Jerry’s sanctuary—a place where he could think while flying above the madness. In fact, he wanted nothing more than to ride out the rest of the war peacefully. He came to understand that certain people down below were a lot like him. Their families, too, had been ripped apart. Destroyed by the foreign occupation, they now stare at craters where rice paddies used to be.

An assignment back to the States arrives, and the slow trickling of his final days add to Jerry’s nightmares. The ending of this memoir is not something you would guess as you begin Volume 1. Changes certainly occurred for Jerry Hall upon returning home. Perhaps the best lesson to take away from this memoir is the fact that we can change for the better. Perhaps it’s the fact that Jerry Hall crossed many lines, yet somehow found the power within himself to cross back over. But whatever the case may be, the downside remains that war hasn’t become obsolete.

Quill says: This story is a fantastic look at those who served, died, and who returned home to fight a personal war all their own.

*Americans typically write Vietnam as one word. The Vietnamese use two, Viet Nam, when referring to their country. Out of respect, Jerry Hall chose this version.

#BookReview - Dark Horses

Dark Horses

By: Cecily von Ziegesar
Publisher: Soho Press, Inc.
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61695-517-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 4, 2016

Cecily von Zeigesar unites one misguided girl and a failed off-the-track thoroughbred and delivers a story of hope on the heels of devastation in her latest novel: Dark Horses.

Merritt Wenner used to be a fairly even-keeled teenager. She loved visiting her grandmother (Gran-Jo) at every chance and the added bonus was her beloved horse, Noble. Sadly, after both pass on to the ever after, Merritt's new life entails too much alcohol, always with a chaser of pills. Her parents are (somewhat) aware, but elect to accept perhaps it's just a typical teenage phase. Besides, they're busy preparing for their next marathon, triathlon or whatever other 'thon' that involves running. On the morning of her SAT, Merritt struggles to maintain and attempts to shake off her overindulgence of booze and pills from the evening before. She vaguely hears the well-wishes of her parents as she departs for the exam. She arrives late and all she wants to do is leave. She asks for a pass to the restroom and never looks back at the school grounds behind her as she heads for the train station.

Still woozy from the night before and the side-effects from the pills she found (and took) on the train ride, Merritt arrives at her grandmother's house in New Canaan. The thing is, she forgets her grandmother doesn't live there anymore and she can't figure out why that handsome dapple gray horse is in Noble's paddock. The horse trots to the fence and allows Merritt to ease onto his back. She remembers this. She remembers Gran-Jo and Noble and she is crying. Everything is so messed up. Who is that strange man coming toward her from Gran-Jo's house?

When Merritt's parents receive the call about their daughter skipping the SAT and her whereabouts are New Canaan, it's time for some boundaries. They enroll Merritt in Good Fences, a school for troubled adolescents and one exceptionally troubled horse. Enter Red, a failed racehorse and the dark horse of the barn. There was no horseback riding at Good Fences. Rather, there were pairings of lost human souls with a horse in hopes the two could find their way back together. Red had other plans. He had his own paddock because he was crazy. He was muzzled virtually 24/7 because he knew how to unlatch gates. He liked to bite and had no problem scaring the crap out of anyone or anything that got in his way. How is it that he saw something in this new girl Merritt and why would she be the one to open his dark and closed heart?

Cecily von Ziegesar hits her stride (no pun intended) immediately in this heart-warming story between a broken girl and a horse. I have a personal love of stories that capture the beautiful bond between girls and horses and Ziegesar does not disappoint with Dark Horses. Her knowledge of equestrian lingo is spot on, affirming her years in the saddle. Her main character, Merritt, is not your typical teenage girl struggling to 'find' herself. Rather, she is a character who doesn't know where to begin to look and Ziegesar points her in the direction of a very snarky and larger than life character in Red, the failed racehorse. Ziegesar weaves a story of grit as much as love and manages to complement transitions from scene to scene with believable and credible dialogue. In tandem fashion she transitions from chapter-to-chapter between Merritt's voice and Red's voice and accomplishes the segues beautifully. As a mother of two girls who competed in equestrian circles for many years, I was able to connect immediately with the relationship Ziegesar develops between Merritt and Red. This is a wonderful story of perseverance and never giving up - great job in the delivery Ms. von Ziegesar.

Quill says: Dark Horse is a story of victory and redemption as much as it is a tale of love and lessons learned.

#BookReview - The Angels' Share

The Angels’ Share (The Bourbon Kings)

By: J.R. Ward
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 9780451475282
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 7, 2016

J.R. Ward serves it up neat once again in her second installment of The Bourbon Kings series, The Angels’ Share, the continuation of her epic series devoted to the Charlemont, Kentucky Bradford family ‘bourbon kings.’

William W. Baldwine, the ‘bourbon king,’ has passed. His demise wasn’t exactly what his family would have anticipated. How is it possible a man of such strength, power and notoriety would end it all one day by way of suicide? His body had been found at the base of the Falls of the Ohio River; wedged and tangled in one of the boat slips next to a weather-beaten old fishing trawler. Indeed, this was not how his life was supposed to end. Jonathan Tulane Baldwine (Lane) had to see for himself. He drove out to the Big Five Bridge and climbed upon the rail. He wondered what final thoughts went through his father’s mind moments before he took the plunge. He railed insults into the air around him and blamed his father for the death of the faithful business accountant, Rosalinda. He would never forgive him for the act of trying to murder his own son, Edward. The kidnapping and subsequent torture Edward endured in the jungles (and at the hands of his captors) was all due to the orchestration of the mighty William F. Baldwine.

Perhaps it was Lane’s father who got out just in time. In the wake of his death, his family was in financial ruin. The millions were gone—promises and the constant borrowing from Peter to pay Paul had caught up. It was never Lane’s plan to fix anything his father had ruined. He had plans for his future and it didn’t include cleaning up someone else’s mess. His future was looking great with Lizzie, his one and only true love. He could care less about the train wreck his spoiled sister had made out of her life. Let her figure it out even if it required marrying the creep she was about to marry. What Lane didn’t know, however, was back at the estate, a matter is uncovered that changes the notion of Baldwine Sr. committing suicide and has the authorities considering murder in its place.

J.R. Ward succeeds ten-fold in delivering a juicy and scandalous sequel to The Bourbon Kings in her latest installment: The Angels’ Share. I was immediately drawn to the title and even more-so when I read the note from the author. Ward explains the correlation between the title and the fact it is a ‘term of art used in the bourbon-making industry.’ I will not give away any more information as this is merely a tip to the iceberg of a truly well-written and engaging novel. Ward also provides a character guide in the forefront of the book that outlines their respective roles within the story. I had the pleasure of reading the first in this series and found this helpful as a refresher to jump into the continuation of the story. Ward dives into the continuation of the Baldwine family legacy full throttle and the pace does not let up throughout. The scenes are well-planned and are a fantastic platform to launch the reader into the next round of dialogue. The characters are colorful at best and Ward has a natural knack of planting seeds that grow emotion from her audience. Great job! I look forward to where the bourbon kings go next.

Quill says: Yet another epic journey further into the lives of Charlemont, Kentucky’s famed ‘bourbon kings’!

#BookReview - Along the Infinite Sea

Along the Infinite Sea

By: Beatriz Williams
Publisher: Berkeley Books
Publication Date: November 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-17131-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 7, 2016

Beatriz Williams has penned a lovely and elegant work of historical fiction in her latest novel, Along the Infinite Sea.

Pepper Schuyler is a society girl who loves to be naughty. She may have taken her shenanigans too far this time. She is pregnant and the baby's daddy isn’t just some average ‘Joe’. Rather, he’s a renowned politician. Sadly, he has a wife and it’s not Pepper. Proud and defiant, Pepper refuses to grovel and beg for his support and finds a way to support herself and her baby. After all, she can’t ask her own daddy given his elevated social status. Think of the scandal. When she fixes up a rare vintage Mercedes found in a garage on Cape Cod and sells it at auction for a lofty price, Pepper can check money off her list of needs for her and her unborn child.

Annabelle Dommerich has a few secrets of her own. Her husband was a Nazi. Her lover was Jewish and her flight from Europe would have never been successful without the help of both men. That part of her life is in her past. Is it? Without proper closure, her past continues to haunt her present. Who would have thought the sale of the vintage Mercedes would be the conduit of introduction between strangers Annabelle and Pepper? The auto auction unites the two women in an obscure town in coastal Georgia. Such is the beginning of the womens’ respective journeys to confront their complicated pasts and embrace a future that has the potential to wash it away ever more.

My ‘go to’ preference for book reviews is ‘historical fiction.’ When I happen upon a golden nugget like Along the Infinite Sea, I’ve won the lottery! Beatriz Williams does a superb job of delivering a fascinating historical read in Along the Infinite Sea. Her voice lifts off each and every page with beautiful prose and nuance. Her characters are rich and sassy and manage to seep beneath the skin of the reader in a good way. This is a story that is difficult to put down until the last page has been read. There is a terrific balance between action and dialogue. Her characters have backbone and her scenes are vibrant. Williams breaks the story into parts and patiently steps the reader from one era to the next between her two main characters: Annabelle Dommerich, Nazi Germany survivor and Pepper Schuyler, ‘60s socialite bad girl. The chemistry she creates between the two women is electric and a joy to discover with the turn of each page. Well done Ms. Williams!

Quill says: Along the Infinite Sea is a personal library must have. If it isn’t on your summer reading list yet, add it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

#BookReview - Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full! (Volume 1)

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! (Volume 1)

By: Jerry Hall
Publisher: Sundance Hall Publishing
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9972856-0-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 1, 2016

How long does it take for compassion to die? In the case of the Viet Nam* War, little was shown for the “unwanted veterans” from the very beginning. Unlike WWII, and the cheers given to the “beloved” veterans who returned home victorious, the Viet Nam soldiers were not so enamored. And although there are many books written about this particular subject—from the political to the personal—this particular memoir addresses all points. It is a baring of the soul, to be exact, laying the nightmare out for readers to understand.

Not for the faint of heart, Jerry Hall speaks about his personal battles during the Viet Nam War and beyond. In this, Volume 1, readers are introduced to a young man who’d chosen the Air Force when he had to take ROTC upon entering college. We then dive head first into the summer of 1968, when he and his three friends (the “fantastic four” was their title) graduated, ready to fly. The probability for survival, said their instructor, was one in three over in Viet Nam. But their youth and excitement at their accomplishments led them to believe that they were a particular quartet that would end up all still breathing when victory was achieved.

That was the beauty of it all; the initial belief that saving the country would be a good thing and that he and his friends had earned those gold bars that were now pinned to their lapels. Then, however, that shiny gold begins to rust. The young man who began by seeing “the Nam” as a place with “golden beaches leading to a lush jungle,” soon rides down a road with vegetation that’s been completely burned on both sides, so that the “villains” no longer had the ability to sit in ambush. We meet a man he must bunk with who speaks more like the enemy than the American friend. The inner fear is felt when Jerry takes his first solo flight, and everything from the word-for-word account of battles fought to the introduction of Agent Orange that went on to collect numerous victims, is experienced.

Readers will go back and forth—even head to the beautiful Washington State for prison camp survival training. Fights with higher ranking officers; brawls in pubs; a man named Father William who readers will come to love; cease fires that were most definitely not ceased; and the flow of liquor running faster as friends are taken out are faced.

There are no apologies given in this memoir. Readers will not wonder, after watching the pain and darkness that was constantly stored away in Jerry Hall’s mind, why a person would have to fight to keep their morals in this situation. It is almost hard to believe that someone would even fight for their own mortality while stuck in this hell, and not just decide to end it once and for all.
What Mr. Hall must do when he returns home to a country that barely, if ever, accepted the people they trained to kill, is find a way to climb out of the bitterness, liquor bottles, and the overall horror he refers to as a vortex, in order to fight for the only one who deserves his attention: himself.

Quill says: Volume 1 of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! is filled with pages that slap you upside the head as Mr. Hall delivers his story without editing out a second of humor, trauma, or absolute reality.

*Americans typically write Vietnam as one word. The Vietnamese use two, Viet Nam, when referring to their country. Out of respect, Jerry Hall chose this version.

#BookReview - Ripley's Unlock the Weird!

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Unlock The Weird! (Annual)

By: Ripley's Believe It Or Not!
Publisher: Ripley Publishing
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1609911652
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 1, 2016

Late summer means getting ready for 'Back to School' sales, apple pie and the annual edition of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Reviewing this yearly book has become a bit of a tradition at Feathered Quill and while we may not look forward to 'Back to School' events, we certainly look forward to receiving our new Ripley's book each year.

This year's theme is "Unlock the Weird" and this book certainly does just that. From octupus wrestling to a 67 inch peacock made entirely out of neon drinking straws, this book has some very peculiar stories that will keep kids and adults turning the pages.

Like the other books in this annual series, Unlock the Weird begins by featuring a few pages about Robert Ripley. Ripley was initially known for his abilities as a cartoonist and as an amateur anthropologist; it was the combination of these two passions that led to the creation of his Ripley's Believe It or Not! newspaper and televison series that featured unusual facts about people, places, and things. In Unlock the Weird, the editors give us a peek at Ripley's Chinese junk, a ship named the "Mon Lei." Pictures and facts about the ship bring it to life that may just get kids to research the history of these interesting ships.

The "weird" facts, stories and photos are sectioned off into chapters that include Animals, Body, Pop Culture, Transport, Feats, Art, and Food. "Feats" was the one that grabbed me this year, with some very cool and fascinating factoids. You've no doubt heard about the "Scorpion King" but this book puts a whole new spin on the "Scorpion Queen"! Beyond the unusual, any reader of this book is guaranteed to learn many things. Did you know that an African Grey parrot was a "lead singer" for a death metal group? Have you ever wondered what happens to road markings if an intense heatwave should hit? There's an amazing photo of just that which will make you take a closer look. And talk about cool photos...the one of "Chameleon People" kept me staring at it for quite a while, trying to figure out where one person ended and the other began. Unlock The Weird is a fun and educational way to spend your time, whether you are an adult or child.

Quill says: Add Unlock The Weird! to your Ripley's collection. Another winner in the annual series that will keep you glued to the pages for hours.