Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#BookReview - It's Hard to be Good

It's Hard to be Good (Life's Little Lessons By Ellie the Wienerdog)

By: K.J. Hales
Illustrated by: Serene Wyatt
Publisher: Open Door Press
Publication Date: November 2016
ISBN: 978-1942264026
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 29, 2016

Oh, my! There's a sandwich on the table and it looks so yummy! What's a good little dog to do? That's the dilemma faced by Ellie the dachshund in this adorable children's book.

Ellie is an happy (and very cute!) dachshund who really wants to be good. She loves hearing her humans tell her what a good dog she is. But there are temptations all around her - things to chew, things to chase, and most importantly, things to EAT! Her great hound nose picks up all the smells of yummy treats and the poor dog is constantly being tempted. The ultimate enticement is a sandwich that's on the edge of the table just above Ellie:

Today I'm in luck,
for what do I see?
A freshly made sandwich
calling to me.

It's Hard to be Good is an hysterical look at the plight of a dachshund who is trying so hard to be good. Told in the first person by Ellie, the story is written in simple prose that will get emerging readers into the story quickly. The dog's facial expressions as she's trying to decide if she should/should not grab the sandwich are truly laugh-out-loud-funny and I can't imagine any child not falling into hysterics while reading this book.

Quill says: Ellie has to be one of the cutest dogs around, with a great story to tell. Add this book to your collection!

Monday, November 28, 2016

#BookReview - The Puppa-na-Wuppana Series: Living the Puppa-na-Life

The Puppa-na-Wuppana Series: Living the Puppa-na-Life

By: Cindy Koebele and Lori Weaver
Illustrated by: Michael LaDuca
Publisher: Koebele Weaver Enterprises
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0990920229
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: November 29, 2016

Puppa-na-Wuppana (or just Puppa to those who have trouble pronouncing the full name) is a cute little beagle puppy with a magical nose. That nose is great at smelling all sorts of goodies and often gets him into trouble. Readers are sure to have lots of fun as they tag along with Puppa, who shares his tales in this early-reader chapter book.

Living the Puppa-na-Life is the first in a planned series of books about Puppa-na-Wuppana. In this first book, we meet Puppa and follow along as he learns and grows, gets into all sorts of trouble and is often saved by his loving human family.

The story begins with Puppa being adopted by his new family and then howling the night away in a lonely crate. The crying worked wonders as Puppa is soon sharing a warm bed with his two human brothers. Puppa soon learns about potty training, what he can and can't chew in the house, and how to play "hide and seek" with Keekers, the family cat.

Puppa's nose is very talented at smelling out all sorts of things from where Keekers is hiding, to where a box of chocolates are stored. Frequently that nose gets him into trouble, particularly when he finds various food treats that he is not supposed to eat. How can a puppy resist all those great smells?
Told in the first person by Puppa, this story is a charming read with many fun, and funny, adventures. Children will laugh along with Puppa as he recalls his exploits and they may even be reminded of their own dogs too. Add in the wonderful artwork, some of the best I've seen in a very long time, and young dog lovers will definitely want to check out this book.

Quill says: A perfect early-reader for animal lovers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#BookReview - The Digital Now

The Digital Now

By: Roland Allnach
Publisher: Tabalt Press
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-0-9967-8540-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor

If you love dystopian “magic,” you’ll love this one. Carly Westing is our main character in this fantastical universe. Referred to as a Patrolman, she is the law and order type. And, much like the bow and arrow was to Katniss in The Hunger Games, Carly never leaves home without her trusted repeater at her side.

At the very beginning of this tale, Carly and her partner/patrolmate, Graham Chapel, find themselves in the midst of an all-out riot being held on the streets of the City of Seven Hills – a place they have both sworn to protect. Highly interesting, her home (as described by the author) has the city’s seven hills curving around one edge of the distant Downlow—the massive, sunken concrete dome that entombed the waste pile of the old city. Graham is a good man and a good partner; however, their boss, Patrolmaster Alden Bayard, is not the nicest of all men. In fact, he has a tendency to take advantage of things, including his employees. There is also Endo Stutts; whether he is friend or foe will be up to you to find out.

Carly has a slight obsession, if you will, with her home. She actually loves the City, feels like it’s a part of her, but doesn’t understand why it “belongs” to others in power. When it comes to light that a riot was simply a cover for far more sinister activity, Carly finds herself thrown into a mystery of mammoth proportions. She and Graham go on a search of the city, and when she meets up with a resident who calls himself Ian Gadwick, Carly finds out new data that will change the course of her life. Ian tells her that he actually “is/owns” the City. He is looking for his successor, and Carly is the one he seeks. So why is Carly Westing in line for the throne, so to speak? What exactly must she do to get the job? And will she be able to sort out her real friends from some very real enemies in order to get what’s coming to her?

This is an author who has given his dystopian world real legs to stand on. His characters are attractive, the pace is all action, and the City itself is a riveting place to spend some time. You will love the imagination, too. From eating the real breakfast of champions, Shaky Flakes and Moo-ju; to watching the patrolmen train with civi-sticks, this tale has it all. Much like this author’s other collections, in this book he has brought together all the best parts of fantasy, horror, technological savvy, and thrown in supernatural spice that would make the X-Files gang envious.

Quill says: One read of an Allnach title and you’ll be a fan for life!

For more information on The Digital Now, please visit the author's website at: www.rolandallnach.com

#BookReview - Potatoes at Turtle Rock

Potatoes at Turtle Rock

By: Susan Schnur
Illustrated by: Alex Steele-Morgan
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1467793230
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 2016

It's the sixth night of Hanukkah and Annie, along with her brother, parents, Ubi the goat and Richie the chicken are going to celebrate by going on a journey in the woods. Together they'll make four stops and learn important things about each other, and Hanukkah, along the way.

Annie's family has a tradition of celebrating Hanukkah in the woods if it is snowing and tonight "...it's really snowing!" So off into the woods they go. Annie has been put in charge of making the plans for the family's trip into the woods and she has carefully thought out the adventure. She has a sled with a box of secret packages to help her family celebrate the night, and everybody wants to know what she has. Annie explains that there will be four stops - at Old Log, Squeezy Cave, Billy Goat's Bridge and Turtle Rock.

The first stop is Old Log and as everybody sits down on the log, Annie opens her box of secrets and pulls out a package. She asks her family how Great-Grandpop kept warm as he walked to school in the cold. Mom, Dad, and brother Lincoln all guess but nobody gets the correct answer. When Annie pulls out hot potatoes and explains how Great-Grandpop put them in his pockets to keep warm, everybody laughs. Little do they know the potatoes will re-appear at another stop to help teach the lessons of Hanukkah.

Potatoes at Turtle Rock is a companion to the author's first book, Tashlich at Turtle Rock, in which Annie and her family learn about the Tashlich ceremony. It might be helpful to read that book first as you'll then know the characters. Potatoes at Turtle Rock opens with Lincoln (the brother) asking, "Hey, can Ubi come?" and I admit to being lost, trying to learn who Ubi was and where the family was going. I initially thought that the first few pages of the book were missing. Once past that, however, the story settled down and told a nice tale about a loving family and their traditions.

Quill says: A nice story to help teach the importance of traditions in the celebration of Hanukkah.

#BookReview - A Hanukkah with Mazel

A Hanukkah with Mazel

By: Joel Edward Stein
Illustrated by: Elisa Vavouri
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1467781763
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 22, 2016

Misha is a poor artist, living all alone in the village of Grodno. As Hanukkah approaches, Misha is sad that he has nobody to celebrate the holiday with - but that is about to change...

On a very cold winter night, a cat wandered into Misha's barn and curled up with Klara the cow. In the morning, when Misha went out to milk Klara, he found the hungry cat hiding in a corner of the barn. Sensing that the man had a good heart, the skinny cat walked over to him. Soon the weakened cat was curled up in the little cottage, next to the fire, with a full belly of milk. Misha named his new friend "Mazel," which means "Luck" in Yiddish. The two were soon fast friends and while they had very little - Misha couldn't even afford candles for the menorah - they had each other to share the holiday of Hanukkah.

Misha shares some delicious latkes with Mazel, and comes up with a very clever way to light the menorah candles. But when a peddler comes to the cottage, Misha might just lose his new best friend. Will Misha be able to celebrate Hanukkah with Mazel?

A Hanukkah with Mazel is a charming story about the true meaning of Hanukkah. With lovely watercolor illustrations to bring the story to life, children will enjoy hearing this tale over and over.

Quill says: A sweet story that teaches children the important lessons of Hanukkah, a time for hope.

#BookReview - Hanukkah Delight!

Hanukkah Delight!

By: Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by: Amy Husband
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1467793537
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 16, 2016

Hanukkah will soon be upon us! What better way to introduce very young readers to the Festival of Lights than with a delightful new book, Hanukkah Delight!

Kar-Ben publishing has produced a broad range of early reader board books to introduce children to various aspects of Jewish life. With Hanukkah Delight! children will learn about the Festival of Lights with the help of an adorable family of bunnies.

A short rhyming verse accompanies the bright, simple drawings of the bunnies and their friends. Readers will see a cat, goat, owl, and other animals join the bunnies as they recite blessings, light candles and eat latkes. Children will surely ask for Hanukkah Delight! to be read over and over, particularly as the holiday approaches.

Quill says: A sweet, easy-to-understand story for the very youngest children to help them grasp the events surrounding the Festival of Lights.

#BookReview - When All the Girls Have Gone

When All the Girls Have Gone

By: Jayne Krentz
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 2016
ISBN: 978-0698193673
Reviewed by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: November 23, 2016

The love of money is the root of all evil and the proof is shown perfectly in When All the Girls Have Gone.

Charlotte Sawyer has a great job that she loves and is living in the city near her stepsister Jocelyn. Charlotte is a woman who is dealing with a failed engagement and trying to go about her life as normal as possible. When Jocelyn decides to go on a technology-free retreat for a month, she puts Charlotte in charge of collecting her mail. While Charlotte is collecting Jocelyn's mail, she receives a chilling package from her stepsister's best friend Louise. Since she was told to open anything that may be important, she decides to open the package. Inside the package, Louise leaves keys for Jocelyn and tells her about important documents that Jocelyn will need if anything happened to her. Deciding that she needs to know more, Charlotte tries calling Louise, only to find out that she has died. Charlotte, not believing the details surrounding Louise’s death, decides to head to Louise’s apartment to look for the documents. Instead of finding the documents, she finds PI Max Cutler investigating her death.

After talking with Max and finding the information left for Jocelyn, it is clear that something is going on and she needs to get in touch with her sister. Since Max feels Jocelyn is involved in what happened to Louise he looks into her and finds that she isn't where she said she would be. Knowing her sister can't be involved, Charlotte teams up with Max to figure out what really happened. As they race to find answers, and her sister, Charlotte finds out that there is a whole other side of Jocelyn that she never knew, and it all ties back to Jocelyn’s past. Throughout the web of lies, mystery and blackmail, Charlotte finds herself not only getting closer to her sister, and what really happened all those years ago, but closer to Max as well.

When All the Girls Have Gone isn't a typical who-done-it mystery where you wait to find out who the killer is, but more of a why did it happen story. For someone who loves to try to solve the case and figure out who did it, it is a nice change trying to figure out why something happened instead. Although you find out early on who the suspect is, you are left on the outside looking in with numerous possibilities as to what happened. Each chapter is a constant cliffhanger. The story is well written and while each chapter gives out some information, you won't know until the next chapter how that ties into the story. Although the story was a little bit slow to start out, once you get into the details it is hard to put down.

Quill says: Definitely a good read for mystery-loving case solvers.

Book Review - Puppa-na-Wuppana

Puppa-na-Wuppana: The Beagle with the Magical Nose

By: Cindy Koebele and Lori Weaver
Illustrated by: Michael LaDuca
Publisher: Koebele Weaver Enterprises
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0990920205
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: November 16, 2016

Who can resist the adorable, happy face of a beagle puppy? Puppa-na-Wuppana is a puppy that always gets into trouble but is still loved by his family. His antics will have young children wanting to read his tale again and again.

The story opens with Puppa-na-Wuppana introducing himself to readers and explaining that he has a magical nose. His nose helps him find many things, which is good, but it can also get him into trouble. Next the little beagle introduces his human family, his "mom" and two human brothers. He tells of how he was adopted by them when he was a very little puppy and the fun that they have. Puppa-na-Wuppana also tells his readers about his best friend, the family cat Keekers, and how they love to play together.

Told in the first person by the beagle, Puppa-na-Wuppana is not a typical story with a beginning, middle and end, but rather a series of events that the puppy has experienced (being adopted, teething, playing with the cat). The star of this book is definitely the amazing illustrations that bring Puppa-na-Wuppana to life. Children will absolutely love this little beagle puppy and surely look forward to many future adventures. A minor issue was that numerous words were printed in bold and it's not apparent why, but again, that is a small point.

Quill says: Puppa-na-Wuppana is the sweet story about an irresistible puppy that young readers are sure to love.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How To Write a [ Genealogical ] Memoir

                                      How To Write a [ Genealogical ] Memoir
By: Ceil Lucas

The question for me would be, “How do you not write a memoir ?!”, with an exclamation point. I was born in Phoenix in 1951. In 1956, my civil engineer father was offered a job in Guatemala City. We spent four years there and that’s where I started school. In 1960, he was offered a job with the Food and Agriculture division of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy. I finished elementary school and high school there at the Overseas School of Rome and returned to the U.S. in August of 1969 for college. The four years in Guatemala and the nine in Rome were the very rich source of many memories and stories, especially given the particular span of years. The 1956- 1960 years in Guatemala were marked by strong political unrest that would not really end until 1996.  1960- 1969 in Rome, the years of the post-war economic “boom” and the beginning of the “years of lead”, with more political upheaval. In both places, I immersed myself in the language and culture, with school, extensive travel in Central America and Europe, and many bilingual and bicultural friends. In 

addition, my mother documented almost everything with her trusty Brownie camera and later with the disposable instamatics. So the memories in my head are all very well supported with an extensive photographic record in black and white starting with when I was brought home from Good Samaritan Hospital – known as “ Good Sam”  - on that early Monday evening in March of 1951. In my early thirties, no doubt spurred by my father’s passing in 1981, I started looking back and was struck by the breadth and depth of my upbringing in these two outstanding places – Guatemala City and Rome, Italy – and by the sheer luck that had landed me there. I started making notes on the memories and, insofar as I could, pairing the memories with photographs. The memories grouped themselves chronologically from 1954 through 1972 and the outstanding ones made themselves known, the ones that would have to be included. And the memoir of those eighteen years took shape.

But there was something else going on at the same time. The result of my expatriate childhood was that when I came up for air at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington as a freshman in August of 1969, I almost invariably said, upon meeting someone new, “I’m not from here; I didn’t grow up here.”, “here” meaning America. The “I didn’t grow up here” part was correct but the “I’m not from here.” part turned out to be somewhat off the mark but I wouldn’t know that for a while. I spent 1971-1972 in Italy, but I moved back to the U.S. for good in August of 1972. I go to Italy yearly and have been teaching Italian since 1973, but my home is now “here”.  My “I’m not from here; I didn’t grow up here” mantra now comes with a “but” that finds its source directly in my family’s genealogy. And at the same time I was working on getting the memoir organized, I had started working on that genealogy. My mother had passed on a fairly good chronology for both her side and my father’s but neither chronology extended back past about 1810. So I started digging seriously. I got comfortable with the National Archives in Washington, DC to the point of entering many days at 9 a.m. and exiting at closing time. I also became familiar with the Maryland resources available in Annapolis and Easton and in other pertinent locations around the country and abroad. It’s a very long story which starts with my mother’s first ancestor being transported to Maryland’s Eastern Shore from Scotland in 1654 and my father’s first ancestor sailing from England to Philadelphia in 1679. The stories of the people in the ten generations on each side slowly became my stories and I came to feel that I know these people. If I was going to write a memoir, these stories could not be left out; they would have to be included. And so I wrote a genealogical memoir that runs from County Fife in Scotland in the 12th century and from Kent, England in 1500. It includes settlement in colonial Delaware and Maryland, the 1893 Oklahoma Land Rush, enrollment in the Union Army during the Civil War, and a saloon owned by Lebanese immigrants in what was then the Territory of New Mexico. 

Author Ceil Lucas

One thing is clear: once the genealogical facts have been learned, they cannot be unlearned. So that is my answer to someone who asks, “How do I write a memoir?”  For one, certainly include the historical context in which your own upbringing took place, the crucible of your own life. Document your own life and the historical context with photographs, newspaper articles, official documents. But also do the genealogical homework and include the stories of your ancestors also with as much documentation as you can. Make a separate draft that lists your sources as footnotes. A memoir is not an academic document and footnotes should not be included, as they can be mind-numbing, but you do need a record for yourself of where you got the information. You can include a list of sources at the very end of the memoir but do not refer to them in the text. And the information should consist of primary and secondary sources – that is, original documents and scholarly published accounts of the historical context. While Wikipedia often includes good lists of sources, do not write a memoir based on Wikipedia !

So, bottom line, include the stories of the folks who came before you. They are who you are.

Ceil is Professor Emerita, Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, where she taught linguistics 1982 – 2013 through American Sign Language. She started teaching Italian in 1973 and continues to do so.  She is the editor and co-author of 22 books. Her memoir, How I Got Here, is available on Amazon.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#BookReview - The Cat Who Saved Christmas

Oliver: The Cat Who Saved Christmas

By: Sheila Norton
Publisher: St. Marin’s Press
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-10847-0
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: November 3, 2016

In a small quaint pub in a little town outside of London lives a sweet orange and white cat named Oliver. Ever since he was picked up as a little kitten by the pub’s owner, George, the two had become inseparable friends. Oliver loved his life living with George in a little apartment above the pub and even enjoyed spending time downstairs with all of the customers who came in, although he kept his distance when it became too crowded. One terrible night however, Oliver’s world is turned upside down as the pub catches fire. Luckily Oliver is able to warn George early enough so they are both able to get out, but in his frightened state Oliver runs off into the woods and becomes lost. Now, with no home, no owner, and no food in sight, a feeling of hopelessness comes over this poor little cat as he wonders if he will ever see George again.

Fortunately, before Oliver lost all hope a man named Daniel came upon him in the woods and seeing that Oliver was in distress, gathers him up and takes him home. When Daniel gets home and shows Oliver to his wife Nicky, it does not take them long to realize that this is the same cat that lived in the pub down the road and belonged to George. Wanting to let George know that the cat was safe they called him up and gave him the good news. He was so glad to hear the news that his wonderful cat was safe but sad to tell them that he would be unable to take George for a while as he was living with his sister in London while the pub was being rebuilt.

Not wanting to leave Oliver out in the cold but also not having the finances to take care of a cat full time, Nicky and Daniel ask for help from their neighbors, Sarah and Martin, in taking care of Oliver. They decide to split the responsibility of taking care of him, giving Oliver the choice to go back and forth to each of their homes until George is able to come back to take care of him. Oliver can’t help but think that he is such a lucky cat as now he not only has one family to look after him but two homes that he is welcome at. However, as Oliver observes the lives of these two families he notices that not everything is going well for them. Soon Oliver is determined to help these humans who have been so kind to him. Oliver vows to help make this the best Christmas season for everyone.

With the holiday season coming up I could not think of a sweeter or more heartwarming book than this story about Oliver. The way author Sheila Norton describes everything from Oliver’s point of view is wonderful and had me laughing out loud at parts where this cat is trying to figure out what we crazy humans are doing. As the holiday season progresses I am going to suggest this book to so many people for a perfect "curl up by the fire read" that will not disappoint.

Quill says: A perfect holiday book that makes you remember what makes life special.