Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Interview with Author W.H. Raymond

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with W.H. Raymond, author of Theo and a Horse Named Rocket.

FQ: Was there a specific person who inspired the character of Gramps in this book?

RAYMOND: Yes actually, there was a person who inspired the character of Gramps. When I was a little girl I was invited on adventures with my dad. He was a veterinarian and enjoyed company when he went on farm calls. I loved the adventures we had together helping farmers keep their animals healthy. Each trip was a new farm and new animals. My family also lived on a farm, and adventures were plentiful with the many animals we kept as pets. I was always learning while watching my father. In a way, my dad was my hero – taking a sick animal and making them healthy again.

FQ: What experiences did you have with horses as a child that made you want to include a horse in your book?

RAYMOND: The adventures I had as a child with horses were more observational. I always dreamed of having my own, but we lived on a dairy farm, so cows were the closest thing I could find to a horse. As mentioned above my father would take me on doctor calls to cattle, sheep, pig and horse farms. I would watch him trim their hooves, de-worm them with a long tube and treat any ailment that was of concern. Horses have always seemed majestic and sophisticated to me. Although I know from my own experiences, cattle are smart animals – horses are extensively trained and therefore seem smarter. As I grew older I sought out opportunities to go riding with friends and family. I still enjoy horses to this day, but cannot say I own one – at least not yet.

FQ: What drew you to horses?

RAYMOND: The intelligence and capabilities of a horse is what first drew me to them. There is a curiosity in a child that wonders what a horse can do if left to their own devices. Horses have been known to let themselves out of their pens simply by using their teeth and mouth to unlatch the gate. The competence they seemed to possess, the beauty of their sleek coat and long mane and tail, along with their strength and power leaves a child in awe. I was thoroughly infatuated.

Author W.H. Raymond
FQ: Have you always had a love of all animals?

RAYMOND: Yes, I have always had a love of animals. When I was very young I would rush up to any dog or cat that came near me. After several bites and scratches, and after warnings from my mother and father I finally started to back off a little. The love was still there but I realized caution with some animals can be beneficial. I think with so much interaction as a child I learned that animals have some of the same feelings as humans. Animals of all types experience pain, happiness, sadness, curiosity, love and a desire for cleanliness. Surprisingly, revenge never seemed to be one of them.

FQ: Were there trips you took as a child that inspired the trips in this book?

RAYMOND: As a child, I didn’t travel much. My dad couldn’t leave town often. Animal emergencies were a constant in his life. The traveling I wrote about was inspired by trips I have taken as an adult. I have enjoyed watching my own children learn and grow from their own observations. Most of the vacations we’ve taken recently as a family, include some kind of interaction with animals. We’ve explored several different places in the U.S. learning what kind of wild animals thrive there and then hoping to find them in their natural habitat.

FQ: Was there a particular reason you chose to write about a boy instead of a girl?

RAYMOND: This is a great question. I chose to write about a boy simply because it seems girls don’t mind reading about boys, but boys usually don’t like reading about girls. I wanted both to find my book fun and interesting, so I decided to make the main character, Theo, a boy.

FQ: What initially brought on the inspiration for this book?

RAYMOND: I have always enjoyed writing, but the push for writing this particular book was inspired by my desire to write a fun and interesting book for my two younger children. These two happen to be children who never found their calling in reading books. Reading, to them was like torture. I wanted to give them a book that could not only teach them something new but could also trigger their heartstrings and make them a better person.

FQ: Did your experiences as a teacher help with the writing of this book?

RAYMOND: My experiences as a teacher solidified my knowledge on how children interact at school, in which situations they find their independence and their voice, and what triggers their desire to be kind versus unkind. Some children march to the beat of a different drummer. My main character, Theo certainly did. I wanted to show children that these kids having feelings too. And like reading we should never judge a person by what they look like. Sometimes what’s inside could surprise you.

FQ: What was your favorite part of this story to write about?

RAYMOND: I think my favorite part of this story was writing about the adventures Theo had with his friend Winston. There is nothing more satisfying and simple than a super fun and mutually respectable relationship with a friend. It can be nostalgic. Relationships are so important for children’s mental health and livelihood.

To learn more about Theo and a Horse Named Rocket please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, April 24, 2017

#BookReview - The Lost Mermaid

The Lost Mermaid (A Tale of Three Kingdoms - Volume 2)

By: Michelle Paula Snyder
Publisher: White Knight Studio
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1482672152
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 20, 2017

The three major kingdoms of The Lost Mermaid were ruled by three different beings including fairies, unicorns, and mermaids who each had their own unique talents. The fairies were impressive with their use of magic, the unicorns possessed a strong army, and the mermaids were efficient in navigating the waters for trade. Knowing that unification between their kingdoms would be best for all, a royal wedding has been planned between the Fairy Prince Andreas and the Mermaid Princess Presinne. Even though Presinne has known Prince Andreas since they were children and she has grown to respect and love him, there were still apprehensions about the larger responsibility on their shoulders. Add in the fact that Presinne will now have to live away from the openness of the ocean in the fairy kingdom and she is worried...just a bit.

However, there is little time for worry as an array of important guests descends upon the mermaid kingdom in anticipation of the upcoming wedding. Although there is one person in the kingdom who is not quite as excited about Presinne’s upcoming marriage...Camellia, who just happens to be the youngest daughter of the mermaid king and queen. For young Camellia, her oldest sister Presinne was the soul person she could connect with as her sister would always make time to listen to Camellia’s stories and look at her drawings. With her sister moving to the fairy kingdom, who would take Presinne’s place as Camellia’s confidante and friend?

With exciting preparations going on in the mermaid kingdom there is an evil plan commencing in other parts of the city. Not everyone is quite as happy about the upcoming marriage of a fairy and mermaid and they will do what they can to sabotage this event. Giving orders to set their plan in motion, an evil witch and devious wizard hide back in the shadows waiting for the opportune time to turn these kingdoms against each other and throw them into turmoil.

When I read the summary for this book and series it brought to mind the prototypical fantasy fairy tale that every little girl dreams of reading and author Michelle Paula Snyder definitely delivers on that. This book has every element that is needed to create a fun fantasy adventure including the amazing fairies, mermaids, and unicorns that make the three kingdoms. Then in addition, there is the added element of danger that keeps the reader hooked until the very last page to see how this adventure ends. The only critique I had for this book is that it is written from several different perspectives and at times I had to go back and remind myself who was talking and where we were in the story, but overall the story was wonderfully entertaining.

Quill says: A wonderful story of fantasy and adventure that young (and young at heart) readers will love!

For more information on The Lost Mermaid (A Tale of Three Kingdoms - Volume 2), please visit the publisher's website at: www.whiteknightstudio.com

#BookReview - The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli

By: Alyssa Palombo
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-07150-7
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: April 17, 2017

Beginning in Genoa in April of 1469, we find Simonetta Cattaneo, her mother and maid preparing her for one of the most important moments of her life - or so she is told. Signor Marco Vespucci, a Florentine man and an intimate of the Medici circle, has asked her father if he may court her as he has the intention of marrying her. As a member of Genoese nobility and as an extremely beautiful woman, Simonetta is no stranger to the attention of men, however, she craves to be known for more than simply her beauty. She wants to be known and admired for her mind as well. Upon meeting with Signor Vespucci, Simonetta finds herself bored by his subjects of speaking but intrigued by the light in his eyes as he speaks of what he loves. When he notices a copy of La Divina Commedia by Dante, he mistakenly assumes it is being read by her father, and much to his surprise, Madonna Simonetta is the owner of this book. Unwilling to sit by and let it be assumed she is uneducated, she quotes a passage and is met with the following passage being recited back to her. In this moment, she makes her decision. If asked, she will be married to Signor Vespucci and she will revel in the opportunity to be invited into the educated, artistic and gifted Medici circle.

Upon a proposal from Signor Vespucci and being invited to dine with the Medicis, Simonetta is found to be not only beautiful, but charming and brilliant, “a true child of this renascimento,” according to Lorenzo Medici. In their circle she meets poets, writers and artists. As she is awestruck by art, she finds herself admiring work of a man named Sandro Botticelli and is promptly introduced to him. There is no denying that they are artistically drawn to each other and can easily speak about their artistic opinions. Lorenzo remarks that she would make a wonderful subject for a portrait, clearly reading Sandro’s mind. As the Medici brothers joke that Sandro is “mapping out a canvas for her in his mind,” he gives a slight nod to Simonetta, which she returns. It is then she realizes that she has entered into a secret accord with this great artist. Simonetta finds herself so well-liked by the Medicis that they offer to host their wedding on their own grounds, and soon after, she is married to Signor Vespucci. Simonetta, as swept up as she is in Florence, finds that marriage is not what she thought it would be and that who she married is not who she believed him to be either. As she struggles to find her place in life and navigate the “curse” of beauty that she is given, she finds herself falling for Sandro and his educated mind, and she quickly becomes his muse - not only for her beauty, but for her mind - and becomes forever captured in his painting "The Birth of Venus."

From the very instant I opened this book, I was completely drawn in. The story of Simonetta and her life in Genoa was expertly tied into how her life would be in Florence. We could always see that Simonetta craved more out of life and love than many do - she wanted to be respected and loved for her mind and not simply her beauty, as beauty is fleeting. She had such a strong desire to be a part of something bigger than herself, while in those days many women were just content to be married and had no need to be educated. This is still such a relevant issue today and I love how this book deals with multiple issues that can be applied to life as it is right now. The lessons and thoughts tied into this book will be relevant for years and years to come and I found myself staying up too late to continue reading, in suspense of what would happen next. I have never read a work of Alyssa Palombo’s before, however after reading this and craving more of the same style, I could hardly hold myself back from purchasing The Violinist of Venice. If it is anything like The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, I cannot, and will not, be disappointed.

Quill says: Beautifully written and poetically told, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence will leave you in tears and rushing to get your hands on anything else written by Alyssa Palombo.

#BookReview - The Graves

The Graves: Book 2 in the Abby Endicott series

By: Pamela Wechsler
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1250077882
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: April 17, 2017

Abby Endicott works in the district attorney’s office as chief of the homicide unit in Boston. Although she does well, her parents wish that she was not in that position. They have even gone so far as cutting her off from her “allowance” until she leaves her job and her current boyfriend Ty. Although Ty does have a criminal background, he has moved on and is pursuing a music career.

Currently, Abby is not supposed to be taking cases. She was placed on a leave of absence after her previous case almost got her and Ty killed. When her friend Kevin, a detective, calls with a case that could potentially be linked to a serial killer, she knows she has to take it, no matter the consequences.
When Abby arrives at the scene, Kevin fills her in on what is going on and what they know so far. While she is looking at the scene, she sees a mark on the victim’s hand that is similar to the mark that a local bar uses for its patrons. As Abby is filled in on the crime scene, it is starting to sound similar to another recent unsolved case. When her boss Max shows up at the scene, and finds that she has taken the case, he isn’t too happy about it. Although Max allows her to take the case, he makes it clear that she isn’t supposed to be doing any of the detective work. When Abby announces that she is going home for the night, Kevin offers to take her home. Instead of going home, they head off to the bar that could have been the last place their victim was seen.

When they arrive at the Crazy Fox, they ask the manager if their victim had been there before. Since he cannot give them a definite answer, they ask to see his camera footage. As they are looking through the camera footage they spot their victim. Although she came in the bar alone, she did leave with someone. When they ask the manager if he knows the man the victim left with, he says that it is Tommy Greenough, the oldest son of a senator.

After this latest break in the case, Abby decides to talk to Max about it. While talking with Max, Abby learns that he will be running for Mayor. This leaves the DA position open, which Max thinks she should run for. Although this would be something Abby would like to do, she doesn’t think that her chances will be very high when people find out that their murder suspect is none other than the senator’s son.

As Abby and Kevin continue to investigate, they find themselves not only learning about their victim, and finding another victim along the way, but they also find that members of Boston’s elite are becoming mixed in with the case. Although Abby would love to see her future as the DA, she knows that she must stop at nothing and not let politics get in the way of solving her case.

The Graves is an interesting read. Not only are you taken through the whole process from the crime scene to the investigation to the trial, but there is also a romance story playing out as well. As the book goes on, the mystery and romance come full circle and tie everything together. It will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat and throws in an unexpected twist as well.

Quill says: The Graves shows you all aspects of a criminal case. It is a great mystery with some romance tied in.

#BookReview - The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

By: Marie Lavender
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publication Date: February 2016
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: April 2017

Can one mistake cause someone to find love and change their entire life? Author Marie Lavender writes about that possibility in her new romance The Missing Piece.

The Missing Piece is a short story about good-girl Alyssa Masters. One morning Alyssa wakes up on her college fraternity’s lawn with a massive headache and a spotty memory, and instantly panics. Parties aren’t her scene, she’s a recluse and doesn’t drink. She’s a good student and doesn’t do anything that involves too much risk, until last night, apparently.

As Alyssa struggles to take in her surroundings and figure out what day it is, a young man named Justin helps her to put some of the pieces together. She finds that she did, in fact, attend the frat party and clearly drank, but much of what happened afterward is still a mystery. All she knows is what Justin has told her - that she had spent time with a fraternity member named Brendan and eventually followed him upstairs after doing some jello shots. In an instant frenzy, she thinks of the worst possible outcomes, only to be assured by Justin that Brendan is a good guy. He vows to help her figure out the pieces of her missing memory, but they could very well find that they were each other's missing piece all along.

The Missing Piece was a quick and fun read, and I enjoyed meeting Alyssa and the other characters. Given the constraints of the short story format - this is a 30-page story - it's difficult for the author to "flesh out" the characters and really develop them. I would have loved to see the characters be more deeply developed, and I would have loved to be more involved in this story. I really did want to keep reading more, as the style of writing was easy to follow and intriguing. I am hoping for a sequel to this short story, as I would like to know how the romance between characters develops and if Alyssa comes to change her good-girl ways or finds someone who will accept her for everything she is and always was.

Quill says: The Missing Piece is a mysterious and romantic read that readers will find themselves wanting more of and definitely looking for other stories by this author.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl

FQ: As a person who has actually been in Henryetta, Oklahoma, can you tell our readers if this story is based on Cowboys Quarterback Troy Aikman's hometown, or is this a fictional world only? If fictional, where did this idea first come to you? And, are any or all of the characters based on real people in your life?

PLASTER: The tale, like all my other written ones so far, is in fact set in the small Oklahoma town that was once widely known as HOTA ---- Hometown of Troy Aikman ---- but is now more widely known as HOTAGG ---- Hometown of both Troy Aikman and Gaylord Goodhart ---- since publication of my tale, titled Sumbitch, about Goodhart's football exploits that surpassed Aikman's. The idea for it first came to me in my head, out of a bottle of Merlot, I expect. My impressions of real people are usually that they are characters, so it's hard to say which are based on which.

FQ: This is the 10th satirical book you've written. Do you believe that humor is a "must have" or, at least, a great addition when it comes to writing a mystery?

PLASTER: Well, jokes and mystery stories both tend to be about being surprised that things turn out to be not in sync with what you might normally expect, so...I have no idea if there's a "must have" connection to anything except women.

FQ: Is there a genre you have not yet delved into that you would like to attempt in the future?

PLASTER: I could be wrong, but Attempted Genre sounds like it might be a crime in the State of Oklahoma. So, I don't know if I will ever delve that way or not.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

PLASTER: I don't read much, not at all actually, but would say my own books make set-abouts that are about as good as anybody's that I've seen on a shelf or coffee table.

FQ: How did the writing path first begin for you? Did you have teachers that helped you along, or a mentor that perhaps encouraged you to write?

PLASTER: My writing path started with printing, and yes, I had a high school teacher, Ms. Tuck, who helped me a lot with the letter S. But longhand, in my opinion, is a talent you're either born with, or without. Not only has no one eve encouraged me to write, most have advised me to stop doing it.

FQ: Tell us about a perfect Simon Plaster writing day. Your surroundings? Music has to be playing in the background? CNN running on the TV? What makes it "just right" for writing?

PLASTER: A perfect writing day for me would take a pot of coffee, about three packs of cigarettes, and a good looking gal rubbing my shoulders. But I live in an imperfect world, so have to make do with just coffee and an unlit cigar.

FQ: On a serious note, how do you feel about the tabloid journalism that seems to have taken over the world we live in today? Do you believe anyone tells the truth anymore?

PLASTER: If you're talking about The New York Times, no. Nothing it's put out since Gus was a pup is "News Fit to Print," in my opinion. As for actual tabloid-size papers, I always take cans of food through the supermarket express check-out lane, so I am only familiar with the the headlines and pictures put out by National Enquirer and the like, which usually look pretty dang interesting.

FQ: What is next up for you? Can you give readers a "sneak peek" at what you're working on right now?

PLASTER: Just finished OPRY, A Semi-Musical Tale of Honky Tonk Lifestyle, which has a singin', drinkin', cheatin' story line such as you would find in both many if not most country songs and old-time, high-brow, foreign language musical shows from overseas.

FQ: Readers love this question, so I must ask: If you could have dinner with one author, living or dead (but they would be, of course, alive for dinner), who would it be and what would be the one question you would love to ask them?

PLASTER: I have dinner with my own self all the time, and always ask the same question about every subject that comes up: "What the hell were you thinking?"

FQ: Thank you for your time. And thank you for a great book!

To learn more about News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#BookReview - The Wanderer's Last Journey @lee_eiland

The Wanderer's Last Journey: The Orfeo Saga, Book Four

By: Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1519655790
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 2016

Friends venture into unchartered territory to rescue Orfeo in author Murray Lee Eiland’s fourth book of the Orfeo Saga.

Book four of the Orfeo Saga finds Orfeo and his wife Clarice living in the small sovereign city-state of Pylos. Journeying abroad, they become trade representatives of Malta. It’s during their time at Malta that they spy an odd Theran-like ship. This situation is quite unnerving for them since very few of this vicious tribe, which they encountered during the Great Battle, have survived. As the crew prepares to depart, they whisk Orfeo away on their ship. Daryush and his wife Semira get word of Orfeo’s kidnapping, prepare a forty-man team, and meet up with Clarice. Ninety-year-old Zurga the Wanderer, who is in Egypt, learns of Orfeo's disappearance and investigates the mysterious Theran-looking ships. His probing eventually leads to obtaining a ship and a volunteer crew. Although the two groups set off from different locations, their destination is the same—they are sailing “to the ends of the earth” to rescue Orfeo.

Orfeo, in the meantime, has been treated well by his captors even though he is not certain of their intentions. It’s not until a quetzal cock perches itself on Orfeo’s shoulder soon after the ship lands on the island of Ixtlan that he realizes the Ixtlans believe him to be Quetzalcoatl, the living god. The King of Ixtlan and his high priest cousin Asok notice the mesmerizing effect Orfeo has on the people. The two come up with schemes not only to accrue riches but also to trap and overtake their long-time enemies, the Nastases. Concurrently, Zurga meets up with the other group and shares his smart yet highly dangerous strategy to rescue Orfeo.

Eiland’s fascination with ancient history, traditions, and myths provides the groundwork for his six epic-like novels. Each book has a singular focus on people, places, and events of that period. In book four, Eiland centers the bulk of his plot on the Mesoamerican legend of Quetzalcoatl (pronounced KET-zel-QWAH-tel). Orfeo’s notable features and near-white hair make him the perfect model for this “feather serpent” god who has been idolized and worshiped for centuries within Mexican and many Central American cultures.

Although The Wanderer’s Last Journey begins where book three, Zurga’s Fire, leaves off, Eiland has designed each novel as a near stand-alone. While Eiland has quite a penchant for including copious amounts of fictional and factual minutiae, he also has an apt ability to weave his love for these forms of ancient history into the developing lives of his principle cast, which he mentions in each book. Additionally, his use of repetitive situations from previous books offers well-rounded tales and builds cohesion throughout his saga. However, what keeps his readers coming back for more are his infectious cliffhanger endings. That said, book four certainly has a catchy closure.

Quill says: The Wanderer’s Last Journey is another fascinating read, perfect for Orfeo Saga fans as well as history and fantasy aficionados.

For more information on The Wanderer's Last Journey: The Orfeo Saga, Book Four, please visit the series' Facebook page at: facebook.com/orfeosaga

#BookReview - Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

By: Audrey Penn
Illustrated by: Barbara L. Gibson
Publisher: Tanglewood Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1-939100-11-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 2017

For anyone who has missed even one book in this absolutely fantastic series entitled, The Kissing Hand Books, you are missing out on something truly special. Specified for ages 3 to 7, parents will be thrilled to share these books with their kids. All about love and affection, warmth and family – this series focuses on every area of kindness that exists in the world. Thus, it’s not a surprise that the characters in these books teaching this kindness are animals.

In this, the 10th book in this series, Chester is looking at having his first “overday” with his friends across the pond from where he lives. He is headed to Pepper Opossum’s tall white oak home located on the far side of Butterfly Pond. Mrs. Raccoon (beloved Mommy) drops off Chester and leaves him with a kiss in the middle of his palm. Although he’s nervous about being away from her, he is also very excited to be spending the day with his pals. And these are some really cool pals: Pepper, of course, is the hostess. Then we have Stanley Squirrel, Badger, Chester’s own best friend Cassie Raccoon, and the fun and slightly smelly Amber Porcupine. (She’s a great friend. She just has an issue with making “stinky puffs” at certain moments in time.)

The friends have an absolute ball. They run, they hang upside down in trees, they play darts – you name it, they do it. They even have a feast of some really delicious grubs and slugs that Mrs. Opossum serves. But, like all of us, after playing hard and eating well, all we feel like doing is taking a nice, restful nap. But it’s difficult napping away from home. You miss Mommy and your siblings, even though you also love the day of play you’ve had with your friends. So...what will Chester do? Well...you have to read and find out. Also, you get to stare at absolutely wonderful artwork that brings these characters to life. I’m not exaggerating; this is one illustrator who is so specific and so brilliant in her work, that you and your children will feel like Chester and his gang are literally real and living right outside your window.

It is not a shock that this series has gone on for so long and been so popular. This reviewer (who is now a Grandma and wants the perfect books to share with her beautiful granddaughter) loves the fact that Chester has gotten to the big “Ten.” This is one series that lets all of us follow along with a great young lad as he grows up and experiences the world, teaching life lessons along the way that every family should celebrate.

Quill says: This is the perfect set for young children to have in their homes. Chester is a whole lot of fun!

#BookReview - Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7

Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History

By: Beckie Elgin
Publisher: Inkwater Press
ISBN: 978-1-62901-400-5
Reviewed by: Janice Ladendorf
Review Date: April 16, 2017

Wolves are predators who normally hunt in packs and compete with humans for prey. Bison and other hoofed ungulates are their natural prey; but when their herds shrink too low, wolves may turn to hunting cattle or sheep. Human societies traditionally feared and hated wolves. Once plentiful in the United States, thousands have been killed by guns, traps, or poison. At times federal and state governments have paid hunters a bounty for every wolf they had killed.

The wolves were almost all gone before scientists discovered they are a keystone species who were needed to maintain the natural balance of any ecosystems they inhabit. This book presents the case for the preservation and protection of wolves through the story of one remarkable animal who was named OR-7. When he was two years old, he was spotted from a helicopter, darted by a tranquilizer gun, and fitted with a collar. This devise enabled biologists to track his movements.

Most wolf cubs stay with their parents and join their park, but OR-7 was an exception to this rule. He left his family and began moving around Oregon and California. Before he found a mate, his journey took three years and covered 4,000 miles. When records of his journey were publicized, he became world famous. Two movies were made about his adventures. When a public contest was held, the winners gave him the name of "Journey."

In the twentieth century scientists began to study wolves and the author of this book drew on their discoveries and her own experiences to write a series of delightful stories about Journey's life. She began with his first adventure when he climbed out of the den to get his first view of the outside world. Her stories show wolves as ambient animals who are gentle and playful with each other. When OR-7 decided to leave his home and family, she described what he saw as he wandered around Oregon and California. When Journey finally found his mate, a detailed description is given of how they found and courted each other.

This book was created for middle-grade readers, but it can be read and enjoyed by older children and adults. The text is arranged in a somewhat complicated format that is packed with detailed information. It is well illustrated with many photographs, maps, and some sketches. Appropriately, it ends by quoting Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Law of the Wolves."

Quill says: A must read for anyone who is interested in wolves or rewilding.

Friday, April 14, 2017

#BookReview - News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl

News: A Tale of Too Much Information and a Girl

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: December 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9914480-7-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 14, 2017

This is one of the funniest books you will read in a long, long time. Yes, it is an intriguing mystery, yet it is filled with colorful characters, great lingo, and absolute reality when it comes to showing exactly how horrific journalism (AKA: the lack of actual factual reporting) there really is out there in the world today.

Her name is Henrietta. She used to live in small town Henryetta, Oklahoma, where she worked for the local newspaper, the Henryetta Weekly Herald, as a journalist. This is a small, small town, so it didn’t really have a whole lot of juicy headlines, but Henrietta made sure to always research well, investigate appropriately, and always tell the truth – even if it was a bit boring at times. She did, however, sink her teeth into a couple of stories that promoted her up the ladder by Mr. Harold, the owner and publisher of the Herald. Mr. Harold also encouraged her to seek a brighter future. So, Henrietta ends up in a much bigger city working for a local TV station as an assistant producer. What does that mean, you ask? Well...poor Henrietta is basically a girl who runs around helping a reporter who’s not all that nice, fixing her makeup, fixing her hair, etc. But one day, she receives a call from her mother back in Henryetta. Her mom, Wynona Sue, who works at the “Best Little Hair House in Henryetta,” calls her daughter to tell her about a reality show that’s going to be shot inside the Hair House. She needs her daughter’s help when it comes to the “news” and how she should act on TV. But that’s not all that’s happening back home.

Three girls have gone missing, No one knows why and there are no clues as to where they went or what happened. When she heads home, Henrietta finds herself in a real mess. The person who took over her job at the Herald is all about salacious journalism. She picks and chooses certain words from a very real story and presents it in a way that makes for great tabloid journalism. Her name is Gigi Carpenter. She used to work for Newsweek. Let’s just say her demise came about because of a man by the name of Trump who sued her for ruining his character.

Readers will be engrossed by Henrietta and...Henryetta. Not only is she knee-deep in dealing with this ridiculous Gigi, but she is also trying like heck to track down these three missing girls who literally seem to have disappeared off the planet from the alley behind the Ps-n-Qs pool hall and quaint café. You have characters and suspects galore in this one, and each and every one of them owns a hysterical background story all their own. Will Henrietta be able to go up the ladder by solving this crime? Will she be able to expose a bad journalist? Every question is answered, and any mystery reader who loves that tinge of humor will absolutely love this book.

Quill Says: HEADLINE—Simon Plaster has Once Again Written a ‘5-Star’ Tale!

#BookReview - Theo and a Horse Named Rocket

Theo and a Horse Named Rocket

By: W.H. Raymond
Illustrated By: Archway Publishing
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4808-2548-2
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 14, 2017

The one person young Theo held in regard above all others was his beloved grandpa, whom he called Gramps. Even though his family lived in the middle of a busy city, Gramps was always finding places to take Theo that brought both of them close to wilderness. On one trip they hiked up mountains in Colorado during the winter months where the snow covered the ground and the wild sheep blended in with their white coats. Then they switched gears and took a trip to Miami, Florida. In Miami they encountered the intense and sometimes dangerous life of animals as predators were hiding everywhere. In all of these wonderful trips Theo was constantly asking questions and loved the time with his grandpa where he learned so much from the information his Gramps had gained over the years. There was also a trip these two took together that was a little closer to home that brought them to a place called Three Pines Ranch. Here is where Theo was introduced to a palomino gelding named Rocket who just captured Theo’s imagination, as he was amazed that an animal that large could be controlled by a human on its back.

However, when Theo’s grandfather suddenly passes away, Theo is left with a hole in his heart that he cannot seem to fill with anything else. His grandfather was the sole person who could help him see the wonders in life and with him gone Theo is having trouble finding anything enjoyable in his world. On top of that, his best friend and neighbor moves away to Colorado with his family, leaving Theo utterly alone to face life by himself. He has no interest in the subjects in school and the constant bullying from other students continues to tear down his confidence. As his grades drop and interest in life declines, his parents become worried that they won’t be able to find something to help bring their son out of his depressing state. The answer will come from an unlikely friend and a sweet horse from Theo’s past that no one expected.

This story presented a quite relatable character in Theo and I instantly enjoyed reading about him. I also found myself wanting to help him though this hard time in his life. In that regard the author, W.H. Raymond, did well in creating a character and story that pulls at the heartstring and pulls the reader in effectively. The one critique I would have for this story is that the title is slightly deceiving as the main focus is on the character of Theo but only a small portion of the story included that horse named Rocket. So, in hindsight, after reading this book I did expect more mention of Rocket based on the title. Overall, however, I found this to be a very enjoyable read.

Quill says: A story with a sweet relatable character that pulls at all your heartstrings.

Monday, April 3, 2017

#BookReview - Little Girl Gone

Little Girl Gone

By: Margaret Fenton
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1523266999
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: April 2017

Claire Conover works for the Jefferson County Department of Human Services in the child welfare division. Although it is tough work, she genuinely enjoys her job. Even though she is already loaded down with cases, she is the next in line in the rotation and gets handed another case. She receives a case involving an officer finding a girl, possibly around thirteen years old, sleeping on the highway. When asked, the girl does not give up any personal details. When Claire goes to pick up the girl, she tries to get more information out of her. Although the girl does not want to give up any information, she does tell Claire the she can call her Sandy, but that isn’t her real name. When Claire and Sandy go back to the DHS office, Sandy is allowed to get some sleep while Claire works on placing her in the foster system. Claire immediately has a great foster mother, Nettie Sandler, and works to place Sandy there. After getting the details situated with Nettie, Claire takes Sandy to her temporary home.

After getting Sandy situated, Claire decides to go over to her father’s house for dinner. Before Claire can even take a bite, she receives a phone call from Nettie informing her that Sandy has run away. Claire goes over to Nettie’s house to begin searching the area. She soon finds that someone had picked Sandy up from a gas station. Since she is unable to locate Sandy, Claire informs the police of what happened and they are on the lookout for her.

The next day Claire tries to get some work done, but is preoccupied with worry about Sandy. Then Claire receives a call that the police want her to go to a townhouse in the area. Hoping that they found Sandy, she heads right over. When she arrives, a reporter that she is familiar with, Kirk Mahoney, is there. Kirk explains that he is there following a story he is covering about a woman who was found murdered in a ditch. Although Claire has no idea what the murdered woman and Sandy have in common, the officer in charge brings her up to date. The murdered woman is Jean Chambless and Sandy, although her real name is Samantha, is her daughter. When the police ask to talk with Samantha, Claire informs them that she ran away. Claire realizes that Samantha may be in extreme danger. Claire sets out to do all she can to find Samantha. She soon finds herself investigating, and working, with usual sources to not only find Samantha, but to help solve Jean’s murder as well.

Little Girl Gone is a great read. It is a different kind of mystery. Not only does it show the
investigation from a different point of view, but it pulls at the heart strings many times throughout the case. There is a lot of detail that makes you feel one with the characters and feel like you are right there with them. It definitely will leave you guessing. There are multiple times when you may think that you’ve figured it out and then another twist comes. Every chapter will leave you wanting more.

Quill says: This is a great book if you’re looking for a different kind of mystery that pulls at your heart the entire way.

#BookReview - Wacky 1-2-3 and ODDphabet

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Wacky 1-2-3


Ripley's Believe It or Not! ODDphabet
Publisher: Ripley Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-60991-170-6 ODDphabet
978-1-60991-181-2 Wacky 1-2-3
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 3, 2017

Looking for a few good board books for your little one? Books that will teach the ABS’s and 123’s? Check out the newest offerings from Ripley Publishing – you won’t be disappointed.

In true Ripley Believe It or Not! form, these two crazy-fun board books offer up a plethora of brightly illustrated animals to entertain and teach children.

Within the pages of Wacky 1-2-3 are twelve fantastic, silly animals counting up to twelve.

There are so many
odd and fun animals!
Count along with them
From 1 to 12!

Every left page has the number brightly marked, the number also spelled out, and the animal(s) featured on that two-page spread. To the right are the bows, wheels, etc. readers are supposed to count, along with the suggestion, “Count the …” Happy and bright are definitely the themes of this book.

The ODDphabet learning letters book certainly lives up to the Ripley reputation of odd – unusual animals doing unusual things – and all of them are based on “…a true Ripley’s verified story.”

T is for turtle
Green hair on his head
He brushes his Mohawk
Then tucks into bed!

Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique set of learning numbers/letters board books this reviewer has ever seen. Both books are illustrated by Ripley cartoonist John Graziano, who illustrates the daily Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon. His drawings are certainly part of the charm of these books – they add a zany aspect to every page. I suspect these books will be very heavily read, and cherished, by young readers and requests for re-reads of the books will be made every night for a very long time.

Quill says: Children are going to love this unique, very fun, set of board books.

#BookReview - Beautifully Different

Beautifully Different: Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures

By: Dana Salim
Illustrated by: Pavel Goldaev
Publisher: DS Publishing
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9963045-1-1
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2017

Author Dana Salim tackles an issue that all children will likely face at one point in their lives – why am I different – in her newest book, Beautifully Different.

Yousuf and his dad are in their house, having a great time playing with building blocks. But then Yousuf asks his dad a very important question – “...some of the kids in my class are different than me. Why is that? Why can’t we all be the same?”

To explain to his son why we’re all different - and perhaps more importantly - why that’s a good thing, Yousuf’s dad suggests they play the “Imagination Time Travel” game. Yousuf loves that game so he gleefully agrees and before long, he’s traveling through the ocean with Captain Baboon. They see an island and once on solid land, Yousuf spots some beautiful flowers. The young boy loves their varied colors and styles and is having a great time until a batch of weeds come along to scare off the flowers. Oh, oh...Yousuf is worried. Will the flowers be able to survive the invasion of the weeds? What will happen to them?

Author Dana Salim has written a clever story to explain to children the differences among us, why that’s good and how we can overcome adversity if we work together. The analogy of the flowers and weeds works well and is one youngsters will understand. The story is told in a mix of rhyme and prose and it is here that the story suffers just a bit. A few lines of rhyme don’t quite flow and the back and forth makes the reader stop and re-read to correct the rhythm while reading to a child. Other than that minor quibble, however, this was a lovely story.

Quill says: Children all fear being different - Beautifully Diifferent nicely explains and celebrates those differences.

#BookReview - Windy City Blues

Windy City Blues

By: Renee Rosen
Publication Date: February 2017
Publisher: Berkley New York
ISBN: 978-1-101-99112-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 3, 2017

In her latest body of work, Windy City Blues, Renee Rosen treats her audience to a compelling and historical novel devoted to the birth of the blues.

Eleven-year-old Leeba Groski sat on the hood of an old and rusted-out Chevrolet in a junkyard on Twenty-ninth and State Street. Her pals Leonard and Phil Chess sat right alongside her as they reveled in the gospel music pouring out of the church’s open door and windows. The place is Chicago, the time is 1933. Leeba was seven when her family arrived from Poland. She could barely speak a word of English, but fast forward to eleven and she is tapping her toes, clapping her hands and belting out every word to "Jesus Gave Me Water" that came pouring out from that church.

It wasn’t easy being a Jewish immigrant in early Chicago. Money was tight and the Groski’s made do with what they had. Compared to their beginnings in Poland, they were living on easy street in their four bedroom flat on Karlov Avenue. Leonard and Phil lived right across the street. Leeba didn’t have much of a singing voice, but boy could she play the piano. There was always a tune working its way from her mind to the keys of its board. Someday, she was going to write music all the time. The years continue forward and it’s 1947. Red Dupree sits cramped in the Jim Crow car headed north from New Orleans to Chicago. With his broken-down suitcase and his beloved Stella (guitar), he’s headed to the Windy City to claim a life of singing the blues. Little did Red or Leeba know their lives would soon collide. Forbidden love was on their horizon and with it, their lives would never be the same.

Renee Rosen soothes her audience’s soul to the core with her heart-felt story, Windy City Blues. She lays the foundation of her characters in the prime real estate of the first 20-30 pages and proceeds to catapult their beings into an epic novel devoted to the birth of the blues. There is a beautiful kinship this author has with her ‘Windy City’ and it speaks volumes across the pages with outstanding scene set-up; complemented by rich dialogue. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James coupled with the iconic Chess Brothers as their producers have all secured their home among the pages. Rosen deserves praise for the research she has done. She owns her talent and ability to take fact and naturally weave her fiction with the facts. There is a sublime and resounding message throughout of: ‘this is a story that had to be told.’ I have had the pleasure of reading a few of Ms. Rosen’s titles and must say she is like a fine wine. Each title is more robust than the last—all, however, genuinely delicious. I say bravo for Windy City Blues and look forward to the next ‘escape’ in the form of a book she delivers.

Quill says: Windy City Blues will have you tapping your toes, clapping your hands and all the while, rooting for the underdog.

#BookReview - Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Coulda Woulda Shoulda: Baseball Stories You Haven’t Heard (Yet)

By: Chris Williams
Publisher: ACTA Sports
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-0-87946-586-5
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 3, 2017

Sports writer Chris Williams has put together an assortment of his own essays on events within the world of baseball in his newest book, Coulda Woulda Shoulda.
A collection of twelve essays, covering a broad range of topics that span the early years of baseball right up to the present, pepper the pages of Coulda Woulda Shoulda. The author presents thoughts on why certain teams, or players, won or lost, compares relationships between certain players, and adds a bit of personal experience to the book as well. There is some statistical analysis included too, but not so much as to overwhelm the essays.

The book opens with the “bromance” between Cubs players Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and compares it to the friendship between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. With a brief comparison on these two friendships and what they have in common, most of this essay, “Bookends Buddies,” concentrates on that second relationship. It was interesting to read about the “several years of bliss” followed by how “...things began to sour.” (pg. 6) I was familiar with the ups and downs of the relationship of “The Bambino” and “The Iron Horse,” but had not read about the real reasons behind the bumps in their years playing together.

Other essays tackle different teams and players that offer food for thought (did I mention the author noted his mostly successful attempt to stay away from clichés?). In “Mob or No Mob,” Williams points out that part of the “proof” people use to prove that the “Black Sox Scandal” was true, was that the Chicago White Sox were vastly superior to the Cincinnati Reds. Williams argues that this isn’t true and in fact unfair to the 1919 Reds and proceeds to pinpoint reasons why the Reds were, in fact, a very strong team. He uses a similar argument in “Curse or No Curse” where he discusses the 2016 World Series teams.

My favorite essay was definitely “My First Baseball Thrill” (a close second is the last essay that replays the words of the author’s great-grandfather’s time playing baseball). Instead of discussing famous players, or games, the author recounts his best baseball memory – that of attending a doubleheader in Philadelphia with his father. While his team, the Phillies, lost both games, the memories made that day in 1967 are still cherished. We can all remember a similar fond baseball memory and it was fun to share that day with the author.

Coulda Would Shoulda is a brief (108 pages) book and each essay can be read rather quickly. There’s no terribly deep analysis of any one topic, but as the author admits, he hopes that his book will provide a jumping off point for further discussion among friends. To help in those discussions, the author has provided several pages of source material for each essay at the back of the book. If you’re looking for a fun, light baseball read, this book might just fit the bill for you (another cliché!).

Quill says: An easy, quick read that may get you thinking about various events and players within the world of baseball.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Interview with Author Tamarack Song

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Tamarack Song, author of Becoming Nature: Learning the Language of Wild Animals and Plants

FQ: With all of the types of birds you have studied, how did you decide which to include in this book?

SONG: This was a tough one for me. I wanted to include the birds I knew best; and at the same time, I needed species that were easy to recognize and widespread, so that my readers could find and study them. Compounding the issue was the fact that I have a large readership in Europe, so I needed species found there as well.

The best way to learn something is in varied circumstances, and this definitely holds true for birdsong. I decided to choose a bird common to cities, one easy to observe in rural areas, and a conspicuous water bird. In addition, they had to have easy-to-recognize songs that were distinct from each other’s.

Once I got these criteria down, three species materialized out of my mental fog. What water bird is better known—and has a more distinctive call—than the Loon? And Europe has a parallel species. The urban bird had to be the Rock Dove, which is easily found in urban areas worldwide and has a call everybody knows. The rural species had to be the Red-Winged Blackbird, which is found in fields and wetlands across the North American continent and has a European equivalent in the Reed Bunting.

Author Tamarack Song

FQ: The pencil drawings were beautiful - were they done specifically for this book?

SONG: All of the artwork is original, and it took as long to complete as the book itself. Jennine Elberth (chapter-opening pieces), Kristine Scheiner (instructional illustrations), and I worked closely together, to achieve a high degree of word-image complementarity.

If I’d my druthers, Kristine and Jennine, along with the editors and publisher, would be listed on the front cover right along with me. We functioned as a family, and without the contribution of any one of us, Becoming Nature would not—and could not—be the book it is.

FQ: Storytelling was mentioned as a vital tool to develop you animal mind, was storytelling a major research tool for you for this book?

SONG: “The universe is made of stories, not atoms,” says poet Muriel Rukeyser. Whether it be the Becoming Nature is one grand adventure story into that world. And into our animal mind, which brings us into oneness with the world.
entire forest or a tiny bug within it, stories hold their blueprint for existence, stories give them purpose, and stories are the web that binds them together.
Much of what I share in the book comes through storytelling. It was the prime tool the elders used for teaching me what I share today. The pack of Wolves I lived with taught me through story as well, and I learned from the stories I read in animal trails.

As a learning tool, stories work hand-in-hand with knowledge and experience. Reading is not enough, as it speaks mainly to our rational mind. And experience is not enough, as it is limited by what we can perceive. Stories pull it all together, then take us out onto our frontier, where we can be the full-fledged human animal we are. There, talking with animals comes naturally, and they are no longer afraid of us.

FQ: What step do you find people have the most trouble with?

SONG: It’s usually Step 4, which is escaping the time-media trap. This is perfectly understandable as we have intrinsic needs that need to be met, and we learned how to meet them through keeping track of time and using media as a stand-in we lost when we stepped out of nature.

Another issue is that we are creatures of habit and pattern. Around 98% of what we do is not conscious or by choice, but rather because we have done it before. This is a great survival strategy, as we would go crazy in short order if we had to consciously control every move we made.

The trick for escaping the trap is to first believe that nature can meet our needs, then establish new nature-based patterns that we will automatically revert to when the needs arise. For starters, this can be as simple as repositioning my desk to be near a window, so that when I need a distraction, I can look out and see what the birds and squirrels are doing in my backyard.

I have a friend in Brooklyn who lives in a sixth-floor apartment, yet she does the same. She has potted wildflowers on her balcony, which are visited by bees and butterflies. They in turn attract various birds. Pigeons nest on the nearby ledges, and a falcon occasionally swoops down to grab one for feeding her young.

FQ: When a person does start these steps, when is the usual time they begin to see success?

SONG: It’s beautiful to watch people light up when on Step 2 (Learning Silent Language of Birds) they realize that a bird is not just singing, but sharing a load of information. Through body language, where he chooses to perch, and choice and tone of his song, the bird is saying whether or not he has a mate, whether they have eggs or young, if there is a predator in the area, if there are competing males, and more.

People tell me they’ll never listen to birdsong again in the same way. This is their doorway to realizing the potential they have to develop a new relationship with nature. They start listening and seeing with more sensitivity, as they now realize that there is more—much more—going on than first meets the eye.

This is very rewarding for me. At that moment, I feel as though all the effort I put into writing and publishing Becoming Nature was worth it. Not only is someone’s quality of life much improved, but here is one more person who has crashed the man-nature barrier; one more person who will be nature’s lover and advocate.

FQ: Which one of your stories from this book have you found resonates with the most people?

SONG: Whenever I talk about how I came to live with a pack of wolves and the adventures we had together, people are fascinated. Wolves are an iconic symbol of the distant wilds, and nearly everybody who loves nature seems to recognize them as the warm, caring social creatures they are.
Instead of having to defend wolves and plead their case, I can share what it was like to be an intimate member of their pack. Very few people are surprised to hear that I could run and frolic with them in complete abandon. Many readers tell me that what the wolves taught me about moving silently as a shadow, listening deeply, and living as an integral part of nature, touches them deeply and inspires them to do the same. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

FQ: Is there a step you consistently have to work on?

SONG: There is one—Step 6: Enter the Silence, and it’s more that I am fascinated with the seemingly endless potential that this step holds for me. Zen masters call it entering the Void. It’s the place where we leave our egos and all of our attachments and expectations behind, and we become fully present, open, and sensitized beings. Along with Zen stories and koans, I use shamanic journeying tools (such as trance dance, fire, and drumming) to help me enter the silence.

If anyone would like to explore these options and learn how to use them, I have written two books on the topics: Zen Rising and Trance-Trauma Release.

FQ: What is the best aspect of teaching these steps to other people for you?

SONG: It is the sense of community that I feel when others join with the animals and me in nature. For me, it’s a spiritual experience to walk silently through the woods with a group of people who for the first time are seeing the animals they used to walk by and miss. The awe and sense of reverence that these newcomers to becoming nature portray gives the feeling that we are partaking in a sacred ceremony.

To learn more about Becoming Nature: Learning the Language of Wild Animals and Plants please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.