Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Interview with Anne-Marie Lockmyer

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Anne-Marie Lockmyer, author of When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to TRULY Helping Anyone in Grief

FQ: Can you tell readers what pushed you to write this book? Was it a single moment or words that made you want to talk about how a person can better help another? And what are your hopes/goals in regards to what this book will do for others who are grieving?

LOCKMYER: After my own experience the first year after losing my husband, I found myself constantly saying "Someone needs to write a pamphlet on how to deal with grieving people." People were awkward and fearful with me. They didn't know what to say or they would say the wrong thing. And after the memorial service, they had no idea how to help me. I saw them all stumbling and was often hurt. It wasn't because they didn't care. It was because they didn't know what to do. I behaved just as they did before my husband died. You don't know unless you have experienced it. I wanted to give them the knowledge and tools they desperately needed, so they could come alongside the grieving person and make things better, not worse.

So, I decided to write about it and thought it would be a pamphlet. As I wrote, it became a book because there was so much to say, especially when you are dealing with different types of losses.

Author Anne-Marie Lockmyer
FQ: You speak briefly about a “grief group.” Can you tell readers the pros/cons and/or recommendations you would have in regards to attending such a group?

LOCKMYER: For me, a grief group saved my life. To be with people who TRULY understood and I didn't have to pretend with - who could handle and share my pain. The tools and support they gave me were invaluable. I felt so safe there.

I don't believe a grief group is for everyone. It depends on the person. And not all grief groups are the same. I went to a group called Griefshare. They are all over. The first one I went to was close to my house but I didn't click at all with that group. So I tried another one - and it was just right for me. Same content but different people. So I would encourage those who are interested check more than one out if they don't feel comfortable in the first one.

I have spoken with people who never went to a grief group and those who went two years after the loss. It is never too late. I was in one within a few weeks as I was so desperate.

FQ: What was/is the one thing given to you during that horrible time that you still cherish to this day? Whether it be gift, advice, etc.

Lockmyer's silver heart necklace with her husband's fingerprint 

The Blanket of Comfort

LOCKMYER: Great question. The Blanket of Comfort is probably the second most cherished and I speak about that below. The most cherished item of all was a silver heart necklace with my husband's fingerprint on it. I got it when I was picking out the container for my husband's ashes at the mortuary. They took his fingerprint and kept it on file in case I need it in the future. I also got a keychain for my son with his dad's fingerprint, and a quote his dad always said. Whenever I touch the heart and feel the grooves of his fingerprint, I feel like I am touching him - holding his hand. Like he is always with me. I have included a picture of it.

FQ: Will you be continuing this journey in the writing world by putting together other guides/books in the future on other topics?

LOCKMYER: Yes. I plan to write another book about grief, sharing specific stories of people who have suffered different types of losses. Reading these will really help someone understand what they are experiencing.

The other area that is so close to my heart is mental illness, as my grown son struggles with it. As my experience with grief has changed the way I look at it, the same thing has happened with my experience with mental illness. I see people in a way I never saw them before. I see people I never paid attention to before. Most people don't know how to react to a person suffering mental illness, in the same way, they do not know how to react to someone grieving. The rejection and judgement these struggling people experience is beyond belief.

FQ: What made you put together the Appendix offering information on other areas of grief/loss?

LOCKMYER: There are so many resources out there that can be of help and encouragement. Most people just don't know where or what they are. I want to make it easy for people to find all the help they need. And it will be different for each person.

FQ: Could you talk to readers about the “Blankets of Comfort?”

LOCKMYER: One day, a box showed up at my door. When I opened it, there was a beautiful handmade blanket that my friend made just for me. It was a comfort blanket. Something to cling to when I was crying or wrap myself in when I needed a hug. It was priceless to me! I slept with it and often, still do. There is something so soothing about it. It is more than just a regular blanket. It is one of the most helpful and cherished items I have ever received in my entire life. Since it touched me so deeply, I have since made them for friends who are suffering for various reasons and they are greatly welcomed. You can't explain it until you have had one.

FQ: Your website is lovely. Can you speak about www.ComfortForTheHurting.com and what additions may be made in the future?

LOCKMYER: Thank you. It is relatively new and I am still building it. I have added some video tips on how to help those grieving and will continue to add more. I am creating some products to make it easy to encourage the grieving. I am also setting the site up to offer consultations as a grief partner - to come alongside those who are grieving or those that love them. Sometimes, talking to someone who has been there can be confirming and comforting. Or a family needs guidance in knowing what to do - especially as time goes on. I find, one of the most popular times for someone to want to speak to me, is a year after the loss. Only one who has experienced it knows what they are feeling then, and it can be very reassuring to them.

FQ: Do you speak at events? And do you receive mail from others through your website in regards to dealing with their own losses?

LOCKMYER: Yes, I do. It is an honor any time I am able to help others by preparing them ahead of time to deal with a loss, or by comforting and encouraging them after.

I am surprised at the notes, emails and calls I get from people who have read the book and what it has meant to them. Those who feel helpless, now feel empowered to come alongside their grieving friend (and often say, "Boy, did I ever mess up before I read this!), and those who are grieving seem to find it confirming that they are experiencing the same thing I did. I didn't write it for the grieving person so was quite surprised how much they seem to like it.

FQ: If you had to give only one piece of advice on this subject, what would it be that you most wish readers will take away from this?

LOCKMYER: There is no wrong way to grieve. Everyone does it differently. Do not judge. They will hurt for a long, long time - years! Don't try to fix it. Just be there and say little. Do more, talk less. And don't forget like everyone else does.

FQ: Thank you for your time. I want to say on a personal note that currently I am taking care of my mom. My father was lost in 2001, and she misses him terribly. The holidays are the worst, it seems, but your book offered her some help/comfort, and gave me more understanding. Thank you for that.

LOCKMYER: Thank you for the kind words Amy.

To learn more about When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to TRULY Helping Anyone in Grief please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#BookReview - Where Do They Go?

Where Do They Go? Part 1

By: B.D Donaldson
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Publication Date: October 2016
ISBN: 978-1773022444
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 22, 2016

We've all experienced it - one of your socks goes missing. Where did it go? Why do so many socks disappear? In B.D.Donaldson's new book, he tackles this question in a fun way that will get kids thinking about their own socks.

The story opens with Mrs. Williams pulling four pair of socks out of the washing machine. Then she reaches in again and pulls out one black sock. Mrs. Williams knows the sock belongs to her son Jaylen. But where is the other sock? Oh, oh...

Mrs. Williams asks Jaylen where the other black sock is but he doesn't know. The young boy has no idea what could have happened to his sock but he better find it or he'll lose his video games as punishment. Jaylen's sister Naleaha jokes that there must be a monster that eats socks in the house. Jaylen laughs but makes it clear he doesn't believe in monsters. But again, where is his sock?
That night the childrens' dog Max wakes them up when he barks at something that seems to be on the other side of their door. Could it be the sock monster? The next morning another of Jaylen's socks has gone missing. His mom is not going to be happy. That night, Naleaha suggests they put a camera on Max's head so he can record whatever/whoever it is that is stealing Jaylen's socks. What they find on the video is definitely not what they expected...

Where Do They Go? is a fun take on an age-old question - where do all those missing socks go? It's likely that youngsters have lost quite a few of their own socks and will easily be eager to discover the answer and thus get caught up in this adventure. The answer to the missing socks is unique but be warned - this is part one of a planned three book series so the issue isn't resolved in this book. But it will certainly be fun to tag along with Jaylen and Naleaha as they go after the sock thief.

Quill says: Just where do all those missing socks go? Kids will enjoy joining Jaylen and Naleaha on their adventure to discover the truth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#BookAward Nominations Close Tomorrow!

Last chance to nominate your book for the Feathered Quill Book Awards. Nominations close tomorrow, Dec. 15. Nominate here:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

#BookReview - The Gail Force

The Gail Force: A Jake Travis Novel

By: Robert Lane
Publisher: Mason Alley Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-0692670446
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: December 12, 2016

Private Eye Jake Travis is at it again - this time with a twisty plot that will keep fans of the genre glued to the book well beyond "lights out."

The Gail Force, book four of the Jake Travis series, opens with Karl and Riley Anderson who have just arrived in Florida, not to vacation, but to hide out. It seems that through their accounting company, they picked up a customer who was less than above board. That customer, Phillip Agatha, also known as the "Fat Man," was doing some very illegal deals via his art gallery. Karl went to the FBI and they're the ones who hide the Andersons. Unfortunately, somebody at the FBI shares the hideout location with Agatha. When he shows up at the Anderson's place, he and his thugs kill Karl, although Riley manages to escape.

Riley, frantic and on the run, asks a local resident to recommend a good PI and is told about Jake Travis. She tracks him down and asks for his help - she wants the "Fat Man" to pay with his life for killing her husband. Jake agrees to help Riley, and before long he's working undercover for the FBI.
Jake has a weakness for all things "boat," so a magnificent yacht owned by Agatha, the Gail Force, is something he certainly is interested in, and not just for working the case. But then there's Christina, Agatha's assistant. Does Christina need rescuing too, or is she on Agatha's team? And just who at the FBI can Jake trust? He'll have to figure it all out, and quick, if he's going to survive this case.

I knew I was in for an interesting read when I read (and then re-read) the very first sentence of The Gail Force - "Karl Anderson knew he'd made a mistake when he got a sex change and neglected to inform his wife." It took me a moment to figure out just what was happening (I haven't read any of the other Jake Travis books) but once I did, I had a good laugh. Lines like that are throughout this thriller, which definitely helps break up the tense atmosphere. But that tense feeling is definitely part of what makes The Gail Force so much fun to read. Trying to figure out who the leak is at the FBI, whether Christina is good or bad, and other aspects of the plot, will keep fans of this genre reading till that very last page.

Quill says: If you like thrillers with plenty of twists and turns, check out The Gail Force.

#BookReview - Love, Alice

Love, Alice

By: Barbara Davis
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: December 2016
ISBN: 978-0-451-47481-0
Reviewed by: Diana Hettinger
Review Date: December 12, 2016

A fixture in the cemetery where her would-be-husband is buried, Dovie Larkin sits eating her lunch. One year ago, her fiancé William committed suicide, only weeks before they were to be married. Each day, she sits on the bench by his grave and eats her lunch, searching for answers and being plagued by guilt. He left no note, no warning signs, and now, she will never have the answer as to why he did what he did. Despite everyone’s talking about her being crazy or needing to move on, she continues to go. She makes friends with the cemetery groundskeeper, Josiah, and lets life just pass her by as she wonders what she could have done differently, desperate for answers she knows she will never have. Or so she thinks. As she sits in the cemetery, she watches an older woman who is clearly going through the same things she is. The older woman leaves a letter on the grave she was visiting and then leaves because it is about to rain. Against better judgment, Dovie takes this letter, and, with good intentions, plans to take it back the next day to keep it safe from the rain. However, thinking this can help her grief, she reads it. In this letter she finds much more than she bargained for.

The letter reveals that the elderly woman’s name is Dora. Dora, it turns out, is the mother of Alice, the woman who is buried at the site she was visiting. This woman’s letter is a plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter. Dovie is instantly intrigued. She hurries back to the cemetery to return the letter the next day. She finds Josiah, and asks if there are more letters that he could have possibly found. There were, and against his better judgment, he gives them to her to read and this leads Dovie to want to help the woman. In the course of the story, she seeks to answer this woman’s questions in an attempt to find her own answers. She finds a series of mysteries, more questions and even loss that somehow lead her right back to where she needs to be. Finally present, with answers and ready to forgive and live again.

This was easily my favorite book of this whole year, hands down. The way that Love, Alice switches from past to present in the form of letters is not confusing, as many of these types of books can be. In fact, this book is anything but confusing. The letters tie in beautifully with the present and only accentuate what is happening and drag you deeper into the book. It is easy to sit on the couch and begin reading and then, hours later, wonder where time went because you were so involved. Filled with shocking twists and turns, you will not want to stop reading and yet, when the book is done, you will be wishing you read it slower.

Quill says: Love, Alice is a 100% exceptional book. Beautifully written and haunting, it will be extremely hard to put down.

Friday, December 9, 2016

#BookReview - When Their World Stops

When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to TRULY Helping Anyone in Grief

By: Anne-Marie Lockmyer
Publisher: Joseph Allen Press
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9968024-0-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 10, 2016

As anyone reading this review will know, there are a plethora of books on the market (most written by PhD’s, M.D.’s and any other ‘D’ you can think of) in regards to grief, how to deal with the loss of life, and how best to cope in order to move on to the next stage. This book, however, will actually “speak” to you – all of you out there who has either lost a loved one, or had to find a way to help/aid/support/comfort a friend who was going through the grieving process. I say this will speak to you, because even though the degrees on the wall may state that the person holding said degrees is the “voice” that learned a specific area of medicine, it is not a degree that is at the core of a subject such as grief. Much like people believe you can better help an addict if you’ve gone through the same nightmare, the same can be said for a broken home or a broken heart.

Right from the onset, this author tells of one of the worst experiences a person could go through; the loss of a spouse. This is a woman who was in love with her mate and was just approaching their twenty-sixth wedding anniversary when her beloved passed away. This is a woman who raised her children with the love of her life; they created a world that was suddenly broken. She speaks of how she came to realize, once going through this horrible pain and feeling the whirlwind of emotions, that some of her very closest friends really had no idea how to deal with her grief. Even when they thought they were being helpful, they actually were saying some very wrong things and making her feel even worse. No. They weren’t trying to do this, and because of this she saw that when the shoe had been on the other foot, she had not been the best when it came to giving support/aid to her friends.

Bottom line: No one knows exactly how to respond to grief. Your friends look away and you can actually feel the tension in the room because there truly is no sure way to comfort someone who has just dealt with a loss of this magnitude. The author took it upon herself to let others know what she learned about grief, and offers a “door” to those who are hurt and those who are trying desperately to find the right way to comfort them during this time.

Is bringing a gift to the home right? How do you keep a schedule for the children; how do you best help them cope while your own heart is breaking? Sincerity and dependability are necessary, but when should you talk about the person who has passed? Is telling your friend they’re strong a good thing? When should you send a sympathy card, and what should it read? And, one of the biggest issues in many lives, how to help when Christmas comes to pass. The holiday is full of memories and the depression rates/numbers grow higher during the season.

This is not a tome with large, medical words or doctor ‘speak.’ This is a golden-nugget of a book, if you will, written with heart and, unfortunately, written from experience. These are helpful words and directions that will not solve the issues of grief, but allow you to better understand how to deal with grief and help a friend get through a horrible time.

Quill says: It is a fact that everyone grieves differently, but this author should be commended for tapping into her own traumatic experience to bring others a bit of peace.

For more information on When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to TRULY Helping Anyone in Grief, please visit the website: www.comfortforthehurting.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

#AuthorInterview with Jochanan Stenesh - "A World At Risk"

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Jochanan Stenesh, author of A World at Risk

FQ: A World at Risk is quite a believable read. Obviously, something must have been stirring within you to create your unique storyline. Being a retired chemistry professor, I can only assume that you've seen and experienced enough historical moments over the years to bring you to this poignant point in time. Why write such an alarming narrative?

STENESH: You are quite right in assuming that my background has been a motivating factor to write this book. Having lived through, and personally experienced, two existential threats — first the rise of Nazism and its persecution and extermination of the Jewish people, and then the birth of the State of Israel against overwhelming odds — I am keenly aware of gathering political storm clouds and imminent dangers to liberty and survival. Today’s world seems to me to have many of these; it strikes me as indeed being a world at risk. This prompted me to want to sound an alarm, a warning, a wake-up call, if you will, about what I saw as looming threats on the horizon. In writing the book, I had two goals in mind. First, I wanted to provide readers with enough background to be able to comprehend the intricacies of these flash points and controversial issues. Second, and most importantly, I hoped that the imagined scenarios would, in some small measure, contribute to a much-needed effort to make sure the fiction does not become reality.

FQ: You chose to design your narrative in an epistolary format. Why did you choose this?

STENESH: Because the book deals with disparate events and issues, I felt that covering these by means of newspaper dispatches would not only constitute a unique presentation but would also serve to tie all of them together into one work.

FQ: There is a great deal of meticulously researched factual data amid your fictional account. How long did it take for you to gather this needed info?

STENESH: I can’t give you a precise answer except to say that it took a number of months to research the factual parts.

FQ: How apropos for your book to be coming out at such a time as this! With 2016 election results, in what ways do you feel your informational narrative—even though it is set between 2020 and 2040—lines up with current history?

STENESH: As it turns out, the book is very timely. In fact, as it was in the process of being published I told my wife repeatedly that I hoped it would come out soon because actual events were almost overtaking the fiction. As to the book’s relevance to the post 2016 election period, one only needs to note that many of the book’s fictional vignettes, both domestic (e.g., separation of church & State, evolution versus creationism, abortion) and international (e.g., Iran’s march toward the bomb, China’s saber rattling in the Far East, the rise of global antisemitism) appear to be well on the way of becoming real issues in the new administration.

FQ: You've chosen to view your storyline through a journalistic approach. How would you compare the news reporting of your narrative to what is presently happening in regards to Fake News and the mainstream media's misrepresentation of, as well as lack of coverage of, news?

STENESH: An interesting question. I hope that my dispatches show meticulous factual reporting, something that is all too rare with our current mainstream media. With the exception of a few stellar newspapers and a few substantive TV and radio programs, we are awash in what have become more entertaining and less nformative media. For well over a year we have been exposed to a barrage of sensationalism with facts bandied about coupled with a dearth of intelligent discussion of issues. Moreover, the focus on the election was so intense that the coverage of events and issues in the rest of the world was largely relegated to a backstage. In that, journalism failed in its obligation to properly inform the public.

FQ: How would you compare news reporting back when you were much younger to current news reporting?

STENESH: I think in the past news coverage was more substantive and better researched than is the case today.

FQ: Following 2016 election results, hate crimes increased exponentially. Were you surprised by the sudden vitriol, especially since you incorporate hate crimes in the form of extremist groups targeting Jews in your narrative.

STENESH: I was not really surprised to see an increase in hate crimes considering the fact that we have a large number of hate groups in the country and the fact that the campaign was so replete with inciting rhetoric and veiled references to violent actions. Hate crimes and atrocities always have their beginning with the issuing of words. One should never assume that words do not matter. They matter very much. The Holocaust is a prime example. It all started with words, namely the demonizing of Jews.

FQ: In light of current events, do you foresee writing a sequel or another novel in this same apocalyptic vein?

STENESH: At the moment I am concentrating on the marketing of A World At Risk. I would like to see the book gain exposure and, hopefully, lead to some constructive thinking and deeds to bring about a more peaceful world.

FQ: If not, do you have any other literary projects lined up?

STENESH: Right now I am in a thinking mode.

FQ: In light of current events, what message would you like to leave your readers, particularly younger generation readers?

STENESH: I would like to urge readers to be aware of what is happening in the world, both domestically and internationally, to be critical of both oral and written commentary, and to speak out when wrongs are committed. We must all do what we can to prevent dire scenarios — like those described in A World At Risk — from becoming reality. The following saying, attributed to Edmund Burke (1770), puts it well: “The only thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

To learn more about A World at Risk please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, December 2, 2016

#BookReview - Normal Nina and the Magic Box

Normal Nina and the Magic Box (The Laugh & Learn Series)

By: Ian Sadler
Illustrated by: Adrienne Brown
Publisher: Gelos Publications
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-0996415705
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 3, 2016

Young Nina was a happy girl except for one thing...she was normal - normal in height, normal in shoe size, normal, normal, normal. Was there anything more boring? Nina was about to find out just how nice normal can be.

Normal Nina and the Magic Box introduces Nina who is simply bored to tears with being normal.

But normal to Nina,
Was just dull, bland and plain.
"All of my friends," she said,
"Must think I'm so lame!"

On one normal Monday, Nina wandered into the garden where she discovered a giant red box. Peeking inside, Nina found an amazing array of bright lights and dials, surrounded by squishy soft walls. As Nina explored, a boy dressed in blue, complete with mask, popped out and introduced himself as "...'Jack the Amazing,'A Genie, Grade Two." Like all good genies, Jack the Amazing gave Nina three wishes. Nina is quick to respond,

"Make playmates notice me,
And guess what, most of all,
Like the biggest giraffe,
I want to be tall."

When Nina wakes up the next morning, she discovers that her wish didn't quite go the way she wanted...With two more tries, Nina is determined to get it right and not be normal. Will she succeed?
Normal Nina and the Magic Box offers children an important lesson in accepting themselves as they are. With clever rhymes and a silly premise (Nina's brother is the genie,) children will giggle every time Nina gets her wish and things go terribly wrong. The illustrations are fun and bright and add the right amount of playfulness to the story. At the end of the book are two pages of suggested "group and individual activities."

Quill says: A fun story that teaches children to be happy with what they are instead of whishing to be someone else.

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.