Monday, May 29, 2017

#BookReview - Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege

Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege

By: Sergey Yarov
Publisher: Polity
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1509507986
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 29, 2017

For those fascinated by events of WWII, and in particular the devastating siege of Leningrad, author and historian Sergey Yarov has penned a look at what happens to morality in a time of great hardship, an account that will remain with you long after you have finished reading this book.

The Siege of Leningrad is generally acknowledged to have begun in September of 1941 when the last road into the city was cut off by the Germans. The siege ran for 872 days - one of the longest blockades in history. Yarov looks at the first winter of the siege, which is known as the "Time of Death." What happened to people during that time - how did their morals, their customs, their needs change? By investigating the full range of behaviors, and what people did in order to survive, Yarov helps the reader truly understand the suffering that went on in the city.

Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege is broken up into three sections: Concepts of Morality in 1941 - 1941; the Ethical Dimension; and Means of Reinforcing Morality. Yarov acknowledges that the study of 'siege ethics' can be difficult as memories of past events may change. In addition, survivors, when retelling their stories, may alter events to make themselves seem less cruel, and trying to judge people going through such incredible sufferings from the comfort of our couches is hardly fair or appropriate. Regardless, Yarov carefully investigates the events, and actions of the city's people, through original documentation. From how attitudes to theft changed over time, dealing with orphaned, starving children, to the evolving rituals surrounding death and burial (lack of wood for caskets, weakness of survivors in attending to the deceased, etc.), all elements of life during the "Time of Death" are examined.

The author, the late Sergey Yarov (1959-2015), was a native of St. Petersburg, a professor of History at the European University, and made it his life's work to study the Siege of Leningrad. Having traveled to Leningrad in the early 80s, and seeing remnants of the war everywhere (ex. - a display of bullet-ridden helmets at a movie theater), I was quite familiar with the Siege of Leningrad. But Yarov took that horrifying event and delved further into it than any text I'd ever read - the stories and analysis he provided went far beyond other studies of that era. Using hundreds of first-hand accounts (letters, diary entries, documents), Yarov looked at every aspect of life - and death - within the confines of Leningrad. For those interested in this alarming time in history, Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Siege is a book that must be added to your collection.

Quill says: An in-depth, fascinating, and at times heart-wrenching, analysis of the human spirit and what happens to it in times of great hardship.

#BookReview - Dustrats: Or, the Adventures of Sir Muffin Muffinsson

Dustrats: Or, The Adventures of Sir Muffin Muffinsson

Written and Illustrated by: AdriĆ  Regordosa
Publisher: POW!
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1576878217
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 29, 2017

Sir Muffin Muffinsson is a wonderful and faithful cat. Every night he watches over young Emma as she sleeps in her crib. And Emma's dreams can get a little wild and crazy! Watch out, Sir Muffin Muffinsson, because tonight you're in for a real adventure!

While Emma sleeps, Sir Muffin Muffinsson looks around the little girl's room and realizes that she must have had a very playful week because her room is a mess. Toys are spewed all over the room, there's a book on the floor, the lamp is tilted and ... wait ... what's that? From under Emma's crib pop seven little dustrats, one for each day of the week. With cute little hats, these little creatures look like they have mischievous on their minds. Sir Muffin Muffinsson jumps into action, grabbing his vacuum cleaner so that he can collect the tiny critters. He knows that the dustrats love Emma's wild imagination and if she can dream it, those troublemakers will make it happen in the house.

Sir Muffin Muffinsson follows the dustrats into every room of the house, watching with increasing worry, as the results of Emma's dreams get wilder and crazier. Going into the kitchen, the fluffy white cat finds the room in total chaos, with food and plates strewn everywhere. But with the fridge wide open, the cold has created a winter wonderland, with penguins, a snowman and a polar bear! Just wait until Sir Muffin Muffinsson sees what's waiting for him in the garage!

Dustrats is a creative, and extremely imaginative story about a bunch of little troublemakers who thrive on making a little girl's dreams come to life. With a loyal cat who does his best to vacuum up the creatures before they cause too much trouble, young readers will absolutely love following Sir Muffin Muffinsson on his adventure. The author, who also illustrated this book, did a fabulous job of creating truly wonderful illustrations that bring everything from a dragon to a unicorn to life. Kudos to debut author AdriĆ  Regordosa - I look forward to seeing what other adventures he sends Sir Muffin Muffinsson on.

Quill says: A definite five-star children's story - it may even make your child clean up his/her room!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

#BookReview - Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers

Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers

By: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Publication Date: April 2017
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
ISBN: 978-1-62416-744-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 23, 2017

An Amish cooking class is the perfect recipe for each ‘seeker’s’ future in Wanda Brunstetter’s latest work of fiction, Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers.

Heidi Troyer is a good Amish wife. She loves her husband Lyle to the moon and back, but there is still a void in her life that may never be filled. They’ve been together for more than a handful of years and the only ‘child’ Heidi and Lyle share is their Brittany Spaniel Rusty. No matter how many times Heidi has broached the subject of adoption with Lyle, he won’t budge. His belief is: ‘...if it were God’s will for us to have children, you would have gotten pregnant by now...’ Heidi’s faith and belief is as strong as her husband’s, but lately she has her doubts. She needs something more than the household and garden chores to occupy her mind. Perhaps the cooking class she is about to start is the perfect distraction from that baby she fears she will never have.

With an eclectic group of students, the group assembles for the first day of class. Loretta Donnelly had the happily ever after until the passing of her husband, Rick. Left with two beautiful children, Abby and Conner, she is reminded daily that life must go on and perhaps Heidi’s cooking class is the comfort and distraction she needs to carry on. Charlene Higgins is young and in love. However, even though Len and she have a strong love for each other, perhaps a cooking class will find its way to his heart and the marriage proposal Charlene desperately seeks. Eli Miller is a kind and caring Amish gentleman, but he is lonely. There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t pause and think about his beloved Mavis and wonder why she had to die. Kendra Perkins is young and in trouble. She is pregnant and her boyfriend, the baby’s father, is long gone. She is kicked out of her childhood home and faced with the reality of raising her unborn child alone. Maybe Heidi’s class will have the answers. Last but not least, there is the drifter Ron Hensley. Down on his luck for too many years and facing the future on a con and a prayer, he finds his way to the Troyer’s home for the next chapter in his life. Perhaps the gathering of the group was destiny but only time would deliver the answers they all so desperately sought to find.

Ms. Brunstetter is no stranger to the Amish way of life. As one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, it’s no wonder she would pen her next novel on such a topic. The story has a nice flow and balance with lots of believability infused throughout the story. The dialogue is rich and each character assumes a solid role in the part he or she plays as the story unfolds. There is no predictability toward the outcome and as a result, the reader will naturally continue to turn the pages and enjoy the journey from beginning to end. There is just enough fact about the Amish way of life sprinkled throughout the unfolding plot to intrigue a new comer to Ms. Brunstetter’s latest addition to her library of titles to entice the reader to perhaps take a step back and read another. Thank you for an enjoyable read Ms. Brunstetter.

Quill says: Amish Cooking Class: The Seekers has a solid plot and entertaining premise from beginning to end - certainly a story to pack along with you on that summer getaway this year.

#BookReview - An Illustrated History of Trigger

An Illustrated History of Trigger: The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino

By: Leo Pando
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: November 2010
ISBN: 978-0786461110
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 24, 2017

Trigger, the golden palomino that helped propel Roy Rogers to national stardom, was known and loved by children around the world. In An Illustrated History of Trigger, author Leo Pando takes a look at all aspects of Trigger's life, from his origins, to the movies, and the several horses that played the famous horse.

Divided into eighteen chapters, An Illustrated History of Trigger examines all aspects of the mythos of Trigger, from the horse's breeding, original owner, sale to Rogers, the story behind Little Trigger and Trigger Jr., as well as Trigger collectibles and memorabilia. As a horse person, I found the section on Glenn Randall, the trainer behind the horses, quite interesting, as well as the chapter on Roy Rogers and his equine abilities. The author, also a horse person (he was the assistant manager for an Arabian breeding facility), shows his knowledge of equines in his writing and this makes the book more enjoyable for horse lovers.

Researching a book where the various horses who played the role of Trigger have long been dead, is not an easy task. Add in the fact that those closest to the horses in question have also passed away, and you have a difficult job. Leo Pando did an excellent job of finding original documentation and speaking to/finding letters, interviews, etc. with the children of those involved in Trigger's career. Combine those factors and you have the makings for an informative book. Pando wades through all the literature and helps separate myth from fact, and explains how he came to those conclusions. The book is called an "illustrated history" and it is, indeed, chock full of great photos of Trigger, Trigger Jr., Little Trigger as well as the many stunt horses that played Trigger, Buttermilk (Dale Evans' gelding) and the many other horses that appeared with Rogers on television and in the movies. All photos, with the exception of the cover image, are in black and white and these images are truly the highlight of the book. My only quibble, and it's a minor one, is that there are a fair number of typos in the book and it would be nice to have these fixed.

Quill says: For fans of Trigger, this book is an excellent resource and is worth purchasing just for all the great "Trigger" photographs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

#BookReview - My Little Angel @SherrillCannon

My Little Angel

By: Sherrill S. Cannon
Illustrated by: Kalpart
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1681819471
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 2017

Award-winning author Sherrill S. Cannon is at it again with her newest book, My Little Angel, telling a delightful story about a little girl and her guardian angel.
The star of our adventure, a sweet little girl (we never learn her name), tells the reader about her very special friend, Angela, who just happens to be her guardian angel. Angela sits on the girl's shoulder and is dressed is a light blue dress with matching shoes, a halo, and white, almost translucent, wings. Angela always wears a big smile, and sparkling light seems to follow her wherever she goes.

The little girl talks about all the wonderful things her guardian angel does. For example,

She helps keep me safe as I'm walking to school,
Reminding me always to follow the rules.
She makes me look both ways when crossing the street,
And she makes sure I'm carful where I put my feet.

The author takes the reader through a full day of events, at home, at school, even getting ready for bed, with the guardian angel constantly at the girl's side. Angela reminds the girl of many important things too, from brushing her teeth in the morning, saying "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "Please," to helping her say her prayers at night. If she's afraid, Angela is there to console her, and remind her to "Think of others, be helpful and kind."

As soon as you read the first line of My Little Angel, you'll know you've opened a good book:

Angela sits on my shoulder and glows -
Whatever I do or think, Angela knows...

The story, written in a nice-flowing rhyme, tells a sweet story that also helps impart life lessons (manners, caring for others) to young readers. Like the other books by Sherrill Cannon, this one is illustrated by Kalpart, a company that has a reputation for creating delightful images for books. Again, Kalpart does not disappoint as the drawings are vibrant and fun and are a perfect compliment to the story. At the back of the book the author has included "Special Notes" that ask children to a) hunt and find images of different book covers in the story; b) answer questions about their own safety habits; and c) answer questions about the story. Finally, if you purchase the author's books from the website, 50% of the sales will be donated to help find a cure for Juvenile Myositis - a win-win for everybody!

Quill says: My Little Angel is a wonderful story for little ones who will love reading about Angela, a guardian angel, and dreaming up what their own guardian angel might look like and do to help them.

For more information on My Little Angel, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Light & Laughter Coloring Book

Light & Laughter Coloring Book

By: Suzy Toronto
Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-1497201569
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: May 15, 2017

Light & Laughter by Suzy Toronto is a coloring book with a positive message, “Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting!” and encourages colorists to seize the day, color outside the lines and “...embrace the wonderful, wacky women we truly are, and live a life worth coloring.”

This softcover book contains thirty-two pages of coloring fun depicting various sizes of both large and intricate designs, bold, whimsical characters, lots of flowers and women with wild, wacky hair. Each image also contains a playful, inspirational quote such as “Life is short. Go for the cupcakes!” and “Some of us were just born with glitter in our veins.” The Light & Laughter book is approximately 8”x10” in size, printed on archival and eco-friendly paper that contains images printed on a single side, and is perforated for easy removal. The back of each coloring page includes a fun quote like “Don’t be afraid to be a fruit loop in a world full of bran,” that provides even more laughter and encouragement to colorists while they brighten their pages.

The coloring book has several sample pages colored by the author herself in her favorite medium, watercolors, as well as pages completed by other women using colored pencils, markers and gel pens. Suzy Toronto also includes other extra sections in this coloring book discussing her own personal coloring style and provides a bit of creative coloring encouragement. Finally, technical information for serious colorists who want to learn about the proper use of colors by providing a color wheel with discussion about primary, secondary and tertiary colors, completes the extra added pages in this coloring book.

Light & Laughter has also received DO Magazine’s “Fair Trade Seal of Approval.” Having this seal of approval ensures that coloring consumers can buy Light & Laughter and know that the artwork is of quality, and the author was properly compensated for her creations.

Suzy Toronto’s coloring book is packed full of fun, silly images that will be best enjoyed using colored pencils, sharpened crayons, gel pens and thin markers since the images can be a bit small and intricate at times. The paper has a smooth texture allowing color to lay down and blend easily and is of medium thickness, therefore, using a wet medium such as large markers (copics, sharpies, etc.,) or watercolors may bleed through, so it is best to remove the image from the book or test a small area before proceeding with coloring an entire page. There are numerous quotes and images that will speak to you personally regardless of your age, some will make you laugh and others will inspire you to spend hours filling your book with color. While this book does include a small amount of other fun to color images such as cupcakes and boots, the overall theme contains pages with a plethora of ribbons, doodles, flowers and ladies with crazy hair. This may be an issue for some colorists who crave a wide variety of images to challenge their coloring skills. However, this book can be an excellent “pick me up” when you're feeling down or having a bad day and just want to laugh and feel uplifted by Suzy Toronto’s images of women with zany hair and equally silly quotes.

Quill says: Light & Laughter will brighten your spirits and fill your creative time with hours of coloring fun.

#BookReview - Route 66 Adventure Handbook

Route 66 Adventure Handbook

By: Drew Knowles
Publisher: Santa Monica Press
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1595800916
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 15, 2017

"Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was a popular song from the 40's, sung by Nat King Cole, that helped bring that long stretch of road - Route 66 - to fame. Now you can get your own kicks on Route 66 if you bring along the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, as it will lead you to many of the hidden, and not-so-hidden, gems along this road.

Route 66 was one of the first highways in the United States, with completion coming in 1926. It runs from Chicago to California, and travels through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on its way to Santa Monica, California. In the 1950s, following President Eisenhower's signing of a bill which saw the creation of the "Interstate Highway system" and numerous major, "super highways" being built, many people assumed the famous road was all but dead. But while these new highways challenged the reign of Route 66 and as the author of the Route 66 Adventure Handbook notes, it seemed for a while that the famous road was fading into oblivion, thankfully, travelers eventually recognized the unique qualities of this famous route, and now it is enjoying a resurgence.

Now in its fifth edition, the Route 66 Adventure Handbook is divided into chapters by state, running southwest from Illinois to California. Each chapter includes multitudes of attractions, far more than I've seen in other travel books. And many of these attractions are spots that are missed by other books, places that are about as unique as Cadillac Ranch where car "art" shows real Cadillacs partially buried, "...which are said to be positioned at the same angle as the sides of the Great Pyramids of Egypt." (pg. 290) In addition, each chapter also includes a "Further Afield" section where attractions, just a short distance away from the famous route, can be found.

The Route 66 Adventure Handbook is written in an easy-to-read/follow style and the layout is easy on the eyes which makes this book perfect for picking up and referring to over and over. There is so much to choose from for your road-trip visits within its pages that you'll want to start searching through the book long before your trip begins. My top pick from the plethora of attractions in this book has to be "Big Brutus" - a giant, and I mean GIANT! ("the second-largest ever built") - power shovel in West Mineral, KS. A photograph of Brutus shows a car parked next to it which gives you a good idea of just how large Brutus is. And I must mention all the photographs because this book is chock full of them - almost every attraction mentioned is accompanied by a good, clear photo. To make it even easier to find, below each photo is the GPS location of the attraction. If you're planning a trip to explore Route 66, whether a quick escape along a portion of the road, or an adventure enjoying the full, 2,000-plus mile route, be sure to take the Route 66 Adventure Handbook with you so you won't miss a single attraction on this famous road.

Quill says: John Steinbeck called Route 66 "The Mother Road" in The Grapes of Wrath, and for good reason. Now, with the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, you can explore this fantastic stretch of asphalt and enjoy all the unique jewels it has to offer, jewels that others without the handbook may miss. Get the book, hop in your car, and start driving!

#BookReview - The Half Wives

The Half Wives

By: Stacia Pelletier
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-547-49116-5
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: May 2017

Henry Plageman finds himself waking up in a prison cell for disorderly conduct on one of the most important days of his entire year. A day that runs on schedules and routines, on never stopping and always fighting. This year would have been the sixteenth birthday of Henry and Marilyn’s son, Jack, who tragically died at the age of two. After being pushed away by his wife for two years after their loss and losing his job as a reverend - the only reason he and Marilyn moved to San Francisco - he met Lucy. Each Wednesday, Henry would work late, telling Marilyn he was taking care of the accounting when he was really seeing Lucy. In Lucy, he found comfort, love and an escape, and soon after, a daughter named Blue. The longer the affair goes on, the more painstaking it becomes to maintain their relationship. Hiding it from Marilyn isn’t too difficult, but keeping Lucy and Blue happy is near impossible. Blue is struggling to process the broken relationship between her father and mother, and Lucy is craving a relationship that doesn’t need to be held in secret. This year, there will be no more hiding.

Each year on this day, Henry’s plan is to spend the morning planting flowers at his son’s grave, with help from Lucy, while his wife is volunteering. And each year, the plan is for Henry to meet Marilyn at 2 o’clock to take her to see her son. By 2 o’clock, Lucy will be gone, gone long before anyone can find out about her, or about his daughter. This year, things will be drastically different. There will be no Lucy at the grave to help him, there will be no familiar routine, there will be no more secrets. On the day of Jack’s birth and death, the truth will be unearthed, and along with the truth, so might their son.

At first, The Half Wives is slow to start and difficult to keep up with. This is mostly because it takes some time for the characters and the story to be developed. Once the characters are all introduced and the story begins to get clearer, it becomes easier to understand and put yourself in their place. Blue is the most likeable character, as her childlike innocence and confusion about her life is easily understandable to the reader. The dysfunctional love triangle between Henry, Marilyn and Lucy, while it affects them all, affects Blue the most and it is easy to see this through her actions and behavior. It is easy to empathize with all of the characters because each of them has been affected in a different way. Henry, pushed away by his wife, strays to another woman who loves him madly and deeply. Lucy, desperate in her love for him stays around, though she needs more than he can give her. And Marilyn, hurt deeply by the loss of her son and the circumstances, blames her husband. The reader can't help but understand everyone's point of view and what led them to the path they are on, but it will also lead them to wonder just when enough is enough.

Quill says: Although The Half Wives is slow to start, it's more than worth sticking with. The stories of Henry, Marilyn, Lucy and Blue are real, relatable and expertly tied together.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#BookReview - Bittersweet Memories @LynnOst

Bittersweet Memories

By: Lynn Osterkamp
Publisher: PMI Books
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1933826516
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: May 5, 2017

Author Lynn Osterkamp’s newest book, Bittersweet Memories, gives a glimpse into one woman’s experiences with a memory apparatus.

Having lived in Helena, Montana most of her life, the new reality of seventy-three-year-old Anne Weller Barnes is to attend her friends’ funerals. The hardest loss occurs with the death of her best friend Martha. But the day after Martha’s funeral, the retired septuagenarian judge receives a call about the death of her estranged brother Ned. Even though she hasn’t seen Ned for forty-five years, Anne learns that she is the recipient of his life’s work: the Memory Enhancer (ME)—a device that reliably recovers memories. In his letter to her, Ned asks that she try it out and, if it meets with her approval, fulfill his dying wish to share it with the world so that it “may improve the lives of others.”

Skeptical but oh so curious, Anne decides to test out the ME beginning with pleasant events from her past with her husband Jerry, who had Alzheimer’s. Once Anne has gone through a serious of ME experiences, she refers to other letters Ned left with the device. One letter, in particular, challenges her to “learn from her past.” Of course, what Ned is referring to is the horrific situation that tore the Weller family apart. While keeping Ned’s device a secret from her family, Anne becomes obsessed with the ME. Unfortunately, she loses track of Jerry (he leaves the house donning only his underwear) and she also misses an important meeting. As her children and siblings grow concerned about her actions, Anne has to decide if she should fulfill Ned’s dying wish.

Lynn Osterkamp spins a fascinating and unusual family-focused story in her most recent novel. Inspired by her “own family experiences” and her longing to revisit her family’s past, Osterkamp’s tale may appear to be all about memories. The truth is that the memories point to the dynamic and dysfunctional qualities within family life. Certainly, which family is exempt from carrying grudges and regrets from past events and relationships? Many readers will be able to attest to that. In Anne’s case, clashes exist both with her siblings and her children.

Osterkamp provides clarity to the latter statement by formatting her plot into first and third person viewpoints. Anne, being the principle character, is set to first person POV, while the remaining cast is in third. Following this design, Osterkamp can freely alternate between her well-defined cast members, enabling her audience to observe each character’s thought processes as the story unfolds and Anne struggles to find a way to “heal the cracks” her whole family has lived with for so long.
Amid Anne’s family dynamics, Osterkamp punctuates her narrative with science. For example, Ned, who was a neuroscientist, developed his device by utilizing the controversial transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which in modern medical practice “appears to have some potential for treating depression. However, there is no good evidence that it is useful for cognitive enhancement in healthy people, memory deficits in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, non-neuropathic pain, nor improving upper limb function after stroke.” [Wikipedia]. Regardless of its flaws, incorporating this unique scientific aspect makes for an enriching story.

Quill says: A well-written work, Bittersweet Memories will keep readers captivated till the very end.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Interview with Author Pamela Hartley @PamelaMHartley1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anit Lock is talking with Pamela Hartley, author of The Seasons of a Giant

FQ: Your previous works, Dough For It and The Dirty Thirty: 30 Science Experiments to Try in the Tub, are educationally based books. What made you suddenly shift to fantasy?

HARTLEY: I wrote my science related books when I was in the classroom. After retiring, I had more time to read wonderful fantasies like Harry Potter and The Hobbit! I loved escaping into those rich layered worlds with such colorful characters. You can experience a freedom where everything is possible in a fantasy!

FQ: What would you say is the inspiration for writing The Seasons of a Giant?

HARTLEY: The idea for Seasons came to me in a dream which started the creative juices flowing! I would take long walks and think about how Izzy’s story would unfold. I could hear my characters talking and picture the dark twists and turns. I’d type in my ideas on my phone, and then write them down in a notebook once I arrived home.

Author Pamela Hartley

FQ: Boone is not your typical giant. Unlike many storybook giants, Boone is actually interested in the very creatures that are supposed to be his enemies. What did you hope to accomplish by creating such a caring character?

HARTLEY: I needed Boone to be different from the other giants to create a sharp and interesting contrast. Izzy, his little sidekick, can be snarky, impulsive, and insecure at times. Boone provides a calm to Izzy’s storm.

FQ: Let’s talk about one of the story’s archenemies: Colonel Fletcher. Where did you get the inspiration to create a character such as him?

HARTLEY: There’s always one character in every story that just has to ruin your day, right? He popped in to send the story careening off the path and into a deep ditch. He’s all sorts of evil, isn’t he? Colonel Fletcher proves that even the Groundlings can be bad, not just the Giants.

FQ: One very important aspect of The Seasons of a Giant is your incorporation of themes. Without giving away any spoilers, name one theme and give an example of how it is used in the story?

HARTLEY: The simplicity of one: one person, one belief, and in Izzy’s case, one arrow, can change the tide and make a difference. Be that one!

FQ: What do you hope readers will retain by the end of the story?

HARTLEY: I’m hoping that every reader will find their own warrior within. The very belief in yourself is a powerful thing. Go forth and be unstoppable!

Author Pamela Hartley

FQ: The ending in The Seasons of a Giant could be interpreted in a couple different ways. Do you plan to write a sequel?

HARTLEY: I love this question! I thought how fun would it be to have a second book with the giant(s) invading the Groundling regions! Imagine Boone in your backyard, hiding from your neighbors and wreaking havoc in your town.

FQ: You mentioned in your bio that you’ve been writing stories since you were five years of age. What sparked your interest 30+ years later to revisit your childhood love for storytelling?

HARTLEY: I’ve always had the writing bug! I’m constantly thinking of new stories that need to be told. My father liked to write, so maybe I inherited his joy for the written word. My sister, Stephanie, became a talented illustrator! I’m hoping someday to work on a project together.

FQ: As a longtime educator, have you ever considered creating a math or science-based fantasy book that could be used as an educational tool in classrooms?

HARTLEY: Wow! Wouldn’t that be fun? Actually the giants in Seasons are based on scientific fact. Their physical descriptions, names, and the settings reflect the biomes they’re from. I do believe there are sprinkles of valuable teaching moments in my book.

FQ: If a sequel is not in the works, what future literary projects do you have in mind?

HARTLEY: I have a picture book I’ve been writing and rewriting for awhile now. I also have a horror series saved on my computer—a Goosebumps for the MG/YA readers.

To learn more about The Seasons of a Giant please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - The Seasons of a Giant @PamelaMHartley1

The Seasons of a Giant

By: Pamela Hartley
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1542385831
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: May 3, 2017

A thirteen-year-old girl learns the truth about giants in Pamela Hartley’s coming-of-age middle-grade fantasy.

Thirteen-year-old Isabel (Izzy) LaDuke may be known to all of the other Groundlings from the Rabbit Foot Region as "top rate" in target practice, but the truth is that she hasn’t killed anything scarier than a spider. Regardless, Izzy determines to find the culprit stealing her family’s cows whenever there is a full moon. She is certain that she’s seen the shadow of a Behemorph, a shape-shifting giant, around her family’s farm. Izzy ponders why a beast would be on Groundling Land since Behemorphs have been forbidden from there ever since the War of Separation.

Unbeknownst to her parents, Izzy decides to follow a beast that is holding the family’s prized two-ton Angus in its massive grubby hand. What happens next is unexpected. Izzy gets transported via one of two siloports to the land that hovers “above the clouds,” and more specifically to the home of Boone, a Behemorph and the Gatekeeper of the Great Temperate Forest. Fearful now that she can’t return home until the next full moon, Izzy is shocked when Boone offers to help get her back to her family. But it’s not as easy as Izzy thinks when she discovers that someone is trying to destroy the siloports.
Rising author Pamela Hartley takes a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-like tale to a whole new level in her attractive read. Although there are comical references to the beloved fairytale and Hartley’s framework certainly reflects the people of the land versus the giants living beyond the clouds, there are no magic beans and a beanstalk. For readers who may be disappointed by this fact, you are in for a pleasant surprise since what Hartley presents is far better than one could imagine.

Carefully woven into Hartley’s entertaining plot are thought-provoking themes. Beginning with her principle character Izzy, Hartley has created what appears to be a typical teenager who doesn’t like chores and homework. Not much is mentioned about Izzy’s social life regarding girlfriends and especially boyfriends since it’s the boys who pick on her a bunch because of her wild head of hair. The school situations give a glimpse into Izzy’s low self-esteem and self-doubt. She is also riddled with fears—much of which is directly connected to her lack of confidence. Hartley places Izzy in situations where her choices will either help or hurt her.

Another one of Hartley’s profound themes doesn’t have anything to do with Izzy directly as much as it is a reflection of society and society’s ills. Izzy has been taught that the Behemorphs are evil. The history of the Groundlings even reinforces that belief. But when she comes face to face with Boone, everything that she has learned gets thrown out the window. Without using the term, Hartley addresses race issues that transcend beyond a fictional tale.

Great character development, engaging and often hilarious dialogue and scenes, and plenty of unexpected everything, Hartley’s narrative embodies the heart of a true storyteller.

Quill says: Kudos to Pamela Hartley for producing a fun-filled fantastical work that is certain to be a middle-grade favorite.

#BookReview - The Black Hand

The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History

By: Stephan Talty
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-0544633384
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: May 3, 2017

Joseph Petrosino was an Italian immigrant. He arrived in New York with his family when he was just a teen. His father, like many immigrants, had the mindset of making a better life in America. Upon arriving, Petrosino continued his schooling. Although he went longer than most, he ultimately quit in the sixth grade. After quitting school, he immediately went to work in order to help support his family.

After leaving school, Joe became a shoe shiner. Here, Joe was able to make enough money to help support his family. Even though it was work, Joe wanted more. He wanted to work where he would have a place to advance. Knowing he wanted more, he abruptly quit his shoe shiner job and looked for work elsewhere. During this time he worked many jobs and traveled all over the country, before returning to New York. Upon returning to New York he began working for the sanitation department as a street cleaner. Because the sanitation department was being run by the police department, Joe felt there were advancement opportunities. He worked hard and soon saw himself moving up. With his new promotion, he was in charge of the boat that took the trash away from the city. One day while Joe was working, the officer who was in charge of Joe's department watched him work. After watching Joe work, the officer asked if Joe wanted to join the police force. This was the major advancement that Joe was looking for.

As an officer, Joseph continued to work hard and was soon a well-known detective. People often knew him by his last name. With his great track record and his ethnic background, he soon landed the job of dealing with the Black Hand society (a mafia-like organization). With this Joseph saw many struggles when it came to investigating this group. In the beginning of this investigation, Joseph didn’t have a lot of help. The general thought about the Black Hand society was that it wasn’t a big threat. Although Joe truly cared about helping the victims of this secret group, he was running out of resources. After many discussions with the police chief, he was finally able to set up a task force. After setting up the force, Joe’s team still wasn’t treated equally. His team was not given the same respect or resources as the other officers. Since they were not given the same resources, they had to work harder in order to take on the society on their own. Although it was a hard battle, Joseph and his team took the investigation of the Black Hand Society head on.

The Black Hand is a very informative read. It wraps a history lesson into a good story with interesting characters. For me, it was great to learn about a part of history that I have never heard of before. The book was well written and definitely a page turner. Every page kept me reading and wanting to know more about this secret society.

Quill says: The Black Hand will give you insights into an intriguing part of history that is often overlooked.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Interview with Author Michelle Paula Snyder

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Michelle Paula Snyder, author of The Lost Mermaid (A Tale of Three Kingdoms - Volume 2)

FQ: Did you intend this to be a series of three books when you started the first one?

SNYDER: No. I gave book 1, The Lost Unicorn, to a friend who read it and became very excited about where the story could go, and insisted that it become a trilogy. After book 2, The Lost Mermaid, was out, another friend insisted that book 3, The Lost Dragon, be finished as soon as possible.

FQ: What was your reason for writing this from several characters’ point of view instead of just one?

SNYDER: Writing in what is called ‘third person omniscient’ is a great device for once-upon-a-time stories. It was common with storytellers of old to narrate the tale from the point of view of each character. It allows the reader, or listener, to know things the characters do not know, gives deeper insight into the emotions and relationships of the characters, and gives the narrator/author more freedom to develop and express personality of characters even when there is no dialogue.

FQ: Were there places you had traveled that inspired the different landscapes of the unique kingdoms?

SNYDER: International travel has not been a luxury I have had, although I would love to visit Wales. The landscapes and kingdoms in A Tale of Three Kingdoms developed from my research into the symbols and tales of prehistory, and conversations with Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann, a colleague and mentor. His expertise in history, archaeology, and geology, as well as his translations of ice age inscriptions recently published were of great benefit in developing the world in which these stories take place. Duncan-Enzmann has traveled the world, and described to me the beauty and variety of many areas of Northern Europe, and how they would have appeared in 'once upon a time'.

FQ: What specific Greek mythology did you use for this book?

SNYDER: Mythology in general is inspirational for stories of once upon a time, as are all tales of oral tradition. I did not draw on a specific Greek mythology for the first three books, although books four and five will reflect much of the tradition of that time and introduce familiar characters from Greek mythology as well as some more obscure.

FQ: With so many fantasy stories that have been written, how do you make yours unique?

SNYDER: That is an interesting question. I could use art as an example – there are innumerable works of great art produced in human history, yet each artist has a unique, identifiable technique, and each culture has a style of art which is identified with them. Authors are the same, each one having a unique rhythm and style of using language, bringing to their characters personality drawn from the author’s life and relationships. Yet human experience is not unique and readers identify with it; archetypal symbols such as heroes and villains and damsels in distress are fundamental motifs, as are love and heartbreak, loyalty and treachery, courage and fear. These factors are arranged and rearranged by storytellers, infused with human emotion, then enhanced with a series of wondrous and magical circumstances which evoke a sense of apprehension and wonder. The result feels unique, and also familiar.

FQ: Were you targeting a specific reader for this series of books?

SNYDER: Hans Christian Anderson believed that if you write stories that will be told or read to children, you must also engage the mind of the adult doing the reading. I thought this was good advice, and the stories I write, although filled with magic and danger, life and death, heroes and villains, are suitable to be read to young children by their parents and at the same time can be enjoyed by the adult. My target audience is not children, but women of all ages who enjoy fantasy and classic fairy tale stories, and people who love to read.

FQ: What is your favorite part of writing a book?

SNYDER: My husband, Jay, always reads the stories to me as we develop the books. He has a gift for what-if scenarios and for the theatrical. It is extraordinary to be absorbed in the stories I am writing as he reads them out loud, as we explore the possibilities of what could be. It is a time of expanded imagination and creativity.

FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?

SNYDER: For me, starting the story, although I always revise the beginning over and over; the beginning is what captures the readers’ attention and must be crafted to do so. The beginning of an adventure is laden with possibilities, with what could be, with new things and new beings. The end is more difficult. I don’t want the story to end. It has to leave the reader with a sense of closure and yet a desire to visit the magical world again. The story must convey a sense of hope, of accomplishment, and of loss at the fact that it is over.

To learn more about The Lost Mermaid (A Tale of Three Kingdoms - Volume 2) please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Author W. Bruce Cameron’s Next Novel - "A Dog's Way Home"

#1 NYT Best Selling Author, W. Bruce Cameron’s Next Novel Available on Ecco Bella’s Website William Bruce Cameron’s Novel, “A Dog’s Way Home” will be available on Natural Beauty Brand’s site on May 9th 

(May 1, 2017) West Orange, New Jersey—Natural and eco-friendly skincare and cosmetic company, Ecco Bella is releasing the new novel, “A Dog’s Way Home,” by William Bruce Cameron, NYT’s bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose online at on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. 

To shed light on cruelty-free beauty and an overall compassion for all living beings, Ecco Bella has teamed up with Cameron and will be offering Ecco Bella e-commerce consumers a signed copy (retail value: $24.99) with every purchase order of $125. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Friends of Animals, a non-profit international animal advocacy organization working to free animals around the world from cruelty and institutionalized exploitation. The book will also be promoted on Ecco Bella’s celebrity fan and ambassador, Tracy Anderson’s Instagram, @TracyAndersonMethod. 

About W. Bruce Cameron: William Bruce Cameron began his writing career as a humor columnist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News. He is a Benchley award winner for humor and was the 2011 NSNC Newspaper Columnist of the Year. He has written for TV (the show “8 Simple Rules,” based on his book) and co-wrote the feature film “Muffin Top: A Love Story,” which was released in November of 2014. His novel A Dog’s Purpose spent 52 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list. DreamWorks developed it as a film and he and his writing partner, Cathryn Michon, wrote the screenplay. The sequel, A Dog’s Journey, was published May 6, 2012, and was instantly a NY Times bestseller. His novel The Dogs of Christmas was published October 2013, and he and his wife wrote the screenplay for Fox 2000. His novel, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, was released October 28, 2014. Yes, it has a dog on the cover. For additional information about the author, visit: 

About Ecco Bella: Founded by social entrepreneur Sally Malanga, Ecco Bella has been a pioneer in natural and organic beauty products for over 23 years. Malanga began Ecco Bella, a name that means "Behold Beautiful!" to celebrate the beauty of her customers, because of her disgust with the use of animals for product testing, and with respect for the wonder of nature. To that end, Malanga realized there was a world of plant-based ingredients including powerful nutraceuticals from ethical suppliers that could transform the world’s approach to beauty. For more information about Ecco Bella visit

#BookReview - Smoky the Cowhorse

Smoky the Cowhorse

By: Will James
Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing Company
Publication Date: May 2016
ISBN: 978-0878424139
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 25, 2017

A mouse-colored horse, and what happens to him throughout his life at the hands of various men, form the plot of this 1927 Newbery Medal winner, now in a new printing for today's horse lovers.

For those not familiar with this story, the tale follows a horse named Smoky, who was born on the range, wild and free. His first few years are spent frolicking along with his mother and other horses in his herd. From beating off aggressive, older horses to escaping from hungry wolves, Smoky has many experiences that help shape him as a horse, and make him a strong horse who knows how to survive.

Other than being captured as a youngster with the rest of the herd so all the foals can be branded with the Rocking R ranch's mark, Smoky has no contact with humans until it is time for him to be "broke" and made into a proper cowpony. The "breaking" of the range horses is harsh and eventually wears Smoky down, so that he can be ridden, but only by Clint, the man who broke him and who rides/breaks all the young horses at the ranch. Clint and Smoky come to an understanding and while Smoky frequently bucks, and bucks so strongly that no other man can ride him, Clint likes the horse's feistiness. Smoky also has uncanny cow skills and quickly proves invaluable to Clint and the Rocking R.

Every fall, after the annual roundup is complete, all the cowponies are set free to roam the range until spring. It is during one of these winters that Smoky and the band of horses he is with are stolen by someone from south of the border. Lost to the Rocking R, Smoky proves unrideable and is eventually sold to a rodeo outfit. It is here that Smoky is known as "The Cougar" - a bronc nobody can ride. While Clint searches for his beloved horse, Smoky goes through a series of careers and owners.
Smoky is a classic in the world of horse books and if you're a fan of this genre, you really should read this book. There's a reason it was made into a movie (twice) as well as a winner of the Newbery. The only caveat is that, because it was written by a true cowboy, back in the 20's, it is both dated in the way the horses are handled, the way different people are treated, and the "cowboy speak" that uses mixed tenses, poor grammar, and misspellings (crethure for creature; eddication for education), that are frequent, but at least consistent. It takes a few chapters to get used to the unusual language, and if you stick with it, the reward will be well worth it. The story is interesting and will frequently pull at your heartstrings.

Quill says: A true classic that every horse lover should read.