Friday, June 26, 2020

#BookReview - Voyage of Pearl of the Seas

Voyage of Pearl of the Seas
By: Ruth Finnegan
Publisher: Balestier Press
Publication Date: January 2018
ISBN: 978-1911221241
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: June 24, 2020
At first glance, Voyage of Pearl of the Seas, written by accomplished British author Ruth Finnegan, appears to be a simple children’s short story about a boy, a girl, a dog, and a boat they built from a log. However, readers will quickly discover that this story is so much more, as they embark upon a marvelous adventure that is part fantasy and part parable, all interconnected by a mix of intense poetry and prose.
Voyage of Pearl of the Seas is a prequel to the adult novel, Black Inked Pearl, however, it was written a few years after the original novel, and targeted primarily for older children. Friends Kate and Chris, and Kate’s little dog Holly, happily spend their time at the seashore frolicking in the sand and water until, one day, Chris discovers a piece of driftwood in the sand and manages to convince Kate it could be made into a boat. So together they spend what seems like forever building the piece of wood into an impressive ship with masts and sails and, after a bit of arguing, they agree upon naming her 'Pearl of the Seas.' Around the world they go, as they bravely sail along, running into disaster and coming across beings, both magical and royal. The magical challenge Kate with riddles, encouraging her along the way, while the royals tell magnificent tales of a time when all animals understood each other's languages. In the end, after what seems like a year and a day, something truly extraordinary occurs between the children, all in time for their evening tea. 
While the message being conveyed in Voyage of Pearl of the Seas is one of friendship, adventure and perseverance, there is a critical issue to be noted in this book. It is not a typical children’s or young adult book. If you’re looking for an easy read, look elsewhere. While the overall plot is a fantasy-based story, brimming at times with vivid descriptions making the reader feel as if they’re on the ship riding next to the children, the wording is also intense and requires quite a bit of concentration to fully comprehend. The author reports that this is partially inspired by such notable authors as Homer and Wlliam Blake, but sadly in this era that relies heavily upon video and technology, many children (and some adults!) have not been exposed to such writing which may lead to some reading frustrations. Of course reading of all authors, genres and writing styles should be strongly encouraged for all ages, and this book may be the gateway to getting someone interested in expanding their reading horizons. The author does however include a “Notes” section at the back of the book that corresponds to a few specific chapters explaining some of the references to other notable works, which was a bit helpful, but would have been appreciated more by this reader had it been located at the front of the book. However, armed with the aforementioned knowledge, readers are encouraged to give Voyage of Pearl of the Seasa chance by sailing through some possibly rough reading waters, and landing on a great tale with a heartwarming ending. 
Quill says: Voyage of Pearl of the Seas is an epic sailing adventure that is sure to delight seasoned readers of all ages.
For more information on Pear of the Seas, please visit the author's website at:

Monday, June 22, 2020

#BookReview - The Rising Place

The Rising Place

By: David Armstrong
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication: April 2020
ISBN: 978-1509230655
Reviewed by: J.M. LeDuc
Review Date: June 19, 2020
David Armstrong has written a riveting novel that was as true in the very beginning of the civil-rights movement as it is today.
Based in the deep south, David tells us a story through a box of letters found after the writer of the letters, Emily Hodge, has passed away. I have to be honest, when I began reading The Rising Place, I was skeptical that a book written in this style would be able to hold my interest, but I was wrong. The emotion and the power of the letters written by the central character pull the reader into the story in a way I have not experienced before.
The Rising Place tells a story about a young woman who has been brought up in a town steeped in southern culture. A place where blacks and whites are far from equal and do not intermingle except when the blacks work for the whites. 
Emily Hodge falls in love with a young man and is carrying his child when he goes off to war. As bad as the stigma of being single and pregnant was in 1941, it is extrapolated by the fact that her suitor is 1/8 black. At that time and place, that makes him black. Period. Once this knowledge gets out, Emily is ostracized by her community, and all the people she thought were her friends turn on her. The only person who stays by her side is her black friend, Wilma. The Rising Place deftly tells of life before and at the very beginning of the civil-rights movement as well as the beginning of organizations such as the KKK.
Through Emily’s letters we gain a better understanding of racial divide, whether it be in the 1940’s or today. We also gain an incredible perspective on what it is like to keep your moral and ethical standards when everyone around you is telling you different. But most of all, we learn how important it is to be “color blind” and to love people because of their spirit and not because of the color of their skin.
Quill says: I highly recommend The Rising Place to all readers regardless which genres you enjoy. David Armstrong has cut through all genres with this amazing story. It is a thriller, a romance, a literary novel, and so much more. If it were up to me, The Rising Place would be required reading in all schools.

#BookReview - The Obituary Writer

The Obituary Writer: A Murder Novel
By: Patrick Oster
Publisher: Padraig Press
Publication: July 2020
ISBN: 978-0991643776
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 23, 2020
Patrick Oster delivers a mystery novel that is simply impossible to put down in his newest offering, The Obituary Writer.
Wallace McRae, Mack to his friends, is a writer who is down on his luck. Once a respected journalist with "The Journal," when his wife Helen fell ill, everything changed. Mack resorted to drinking to deal with the stress and soon found himself without a job. Desperate to pay the mounting medical expenses, he took a job writing obituaries of famous people for the online company His boss insisted that the more "dirt" an obituary have on the deceased, the better. It was disheartening work, the salary was low, but the job came with a free health insurance package.
When we first meet Mack, he's working on an obituary for Dieter von Gehlen, a doctor and chemist who was rumored to be in the running to win the Nobel Prize. The scientist was also 92 years old, and so Mack, and his boss, Anton Teufel, suspected that he might not be around much longer. Part of Mack's job was to write obituaries in advance of someone's death so the write-up could be uploaded to quickly. And because Teufel insisted on getting all the dirt, and the dirtiest dirt, on those famous people wrote about, Mack had some research to do. 
Mack's research showed that von Gehlen might have a checkered past from his childhood in Nazi Germany so he kept digging. But von Gehlen, who was obsessed with his image, kept calling Mack to be sure the information in his future obituary be accurate. When the winners of the Nobel Prize were announced and von Gehlen's name wasn't listed as a winner, he called Mack, but not to complain about the award. Instead, he asked Mack to meet him the next day because he had "something important" to share with the reporter. But Mack would never meet the scientist as von Gehlen was found dead shortly after making the phone call...
The police quickly concluded that von Gehlen's death was suicide but Mack wasn't convinced. A few things just didn't add up for him and so he kept investigating. With the help of a detective from the local police force, as well as von Gehlen's attractive (and much younger) wife, Mack is convinced that the scientist was murdered. But as Mack closed in on the truth, some very nasty people started closing in on him. If he wasn't careful, Mack might end up just like von Gehlen.
While I was initially wondering just how interesting a novel about an obituary writer could be, I must admit that this is a story that sucked me in quickly and kept me interested throughout. Wallace McRae/Mack is a relatable protagonist, with a messed-up life, who is trying his best to straighten things out. He's loyal to his dying wife, but also tempted by several lovely ladies he meets along the way. And while we discover who the murderer is about half-way through the story, the reader is kept guessing as to who is pulling the strings, paying the bills, and why they're doing it. Some computer and phone hacking is involved, as is good old-fashioned surveillance, and the author does an excellent job of explaining both so that even "computer-challenged" readers will understand. If you're looking for a satisfying murder mystery, check out The Obituary Writer. Let's hope that this isn't the last obituary that Mack writes!
Quill says: A thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery with a main character who is fun to cheer for. I hope we meet Wallace McRae in future books as he writes up more obituaries!
For more information on The Obituary Writer, please visit the author's website:

#AuthorInterview with Christine Sunderland

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christine Sunderland, author of Angel Mountain
FQ: Thank you for your time today. I want to start out by saying how much I enjoy your book. Your tone and voice resonate throughout Angel Mountain, while I also found this to be an extremely complex read. What was the biggest challenge in writing this book? The Research? Character development? All the above? None of the above? Please elaborate.
SUNDERLAND: Thank you for this opportunity.
This is my seventh novel, so I’ve developed over time methods that help me in the creation of a novel, but with Angel Mountain my greatest challenge was finding the time, given that I had an unprecedented sense of urgency and numerous distractions—including UC Berkeley’s free speech protests near our offices (I serve as Managing Editor for a small Anglican publishing group). There were issues of safety and a very real fear of violence and vandalism.
I write novels of ideas or, if you will, serious themes, and I have been recently concerned about American culture and our loss of freedoms, especially the First Amendment: free speech and freedom of worship. I felt an urgency to craft a story that warned our culture that without learning the history of our freedoms—the Judeo-Christian heritage—we would plunge into anarchy leading to tyranny and martial law, rule of the strong and the silencing of the weak (Stalin, Hitler, Mao). Unfortunately, it appears to be playing out sooner rather than later, in our present times all around us.
So I listened to the still small urgent voice in my head and found the time and finished Angel Mountain last summer. The research had been done—my stories are products of the research, my reading of history and current events, not the other way around. The settings and characters that reflected the themes had been chosen. I needed to put it together to quell the rising chorus of voices (angels?) in my head telling me to hurry.
FQ: There is a vast array of passages to choose from when it comes to citing some beautifully and eloquently stated moments. One that resonated with me early in the read (approx. 11 pages in) was when you were describing Elizabeth’s love for books... ‘that books were living creatures, carrying and housing precious thoughts of authors living and dead, the language and nuance unique to each writer and uniquely felt by each reader as well...’ I found this to be such a moving description and perhaps it’s due to my own love toward writing (and reading). How many passes did you have to make with this scene before you knew you had it exactly how you envisioned the words would play out?
SUNDERLAND: Thank you! This passage was one of the later ones I added for greater depth and texture, and it came easily from my reading about reading, my thinking about thinking, an ongoing topic in my brain. The miracle of language has long fascinated me, so this passage was a joy to write, one that needed little editing. I often know what I want to say, am in awe of something, some glorious truth, beauty, or joy, and I try to find the words to describe it, pull them from my mind, put them in an order that makes sense, that links me with the reader. Just like these words I am writing, and you are reading.
Words, books, libraries are like that. They are homes for our thoughts or characters we imagine and alive in this sense. We take language for granted, and yet it is vital to human flourishing. We reach out to one another using words; we can also hurt one another using words. What are words? Aural and visual symbols for thoughts. So with the gift of speech and writing we are able to connect, to love one another. We are able to envision other worlds, so that your world is shared with mine, mine with yours. We are able to learn from where we have come, where we are now, and with this vision of our true history, we are able to ponder where we are going—past, present, future. Language is a mystery, a true miracle, and considered by science to be unique to human beings.
I also recall growing up in the ‘fifties and the excitement I felt when, as grade school children, my sister and I as grade school children visited the local library on Mondays. We were allowed to choose books each week to take home. We traveled through those pages as though on a journey into another person’s heart, mind, and soul, sometimes to another time, sometimes to another place. Even so it was difficult to choose, given all the titles on all the shelves, and the choosing itself was delicious, like being in a candy store.
FQ: I was quite drawn to each of the characters in this novel; particularly Abram and his extreme commitment to his faith. I cannot help but believe your faith breathed the exceptional aura and life into his character, but how much of your personal faith embellished his character?
SUNDERLAND: Probably all of my faith is reflected in Abram. I was converted to Christianity by a book — Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which provided reasons for belief in Christ and his claims to be the Son of God. I embarked on a path of joy and never looked back. Everything made sense. My life had meaning and purpose. I became an Anglican, since Lewis was an Anglican, and fell in love with the ritual, the smells and bells as they say, and the sacraments, the wonderful music, the Elizabethan language of the Book of Common Prayer. Along the way I discovered icons, more of an Eastern Orthodox tradition, and began collecting them. My walls in my home office are covered with icons (competing with books), just like the wall in Abram’s cave. I also pray the Psalms morning and evening and have grown to love the great traditional hymns we sing in our local parish, so rich with praise, poetry, and theology.
Many others have influenced Abram’s creation as well. Hermits and monastics have a long tradition in Christianity. In the present day, Fr. Seraphim of Nazareth House in Kentucky (who gave me a jacket endorsement) is a longtime friend, along with his wife (Anglicans clergy may marry). They helped me with the character of Abram, making suggestions after reading an early draft. They live a life of prayer, praying unceasingly for the world, and they run a retreat house outside of Louisville. There are many other holy ones I have known—clergy and laity—who are very much like Abram, in terms of allowing the love of God to flow through them and their ability to hear his voice. I have read about many others in history, going back to the Christian desert fathers and the Jewish prophets before them, those who desire their wills to be one with God’s. There is a glory, a beauty, and truth to holiness, and I tried to capture some of that with Abram and his last days on Earth (plot spoiler). I tried to capture the power of love in creation.
FQ: There are controversial moments woven throughout; especially as the story migrates to the ‘seventh day.’ You are quite clear on painting analogies like what we are experiencing in our lives today (and for some time leading up to today). You particularly reference Antifa, but also expand on it with nuances toward controlled reading. I do not want to segue into a political discussion but would be interested in hearing your views on how current affairs are either bringing the world together or tearing it apart and, based on your answer, why you view it as such.
SUNDERLAND: Both. The world is being torn apart and being brought together at the same time as has always been the case from a Christian viewpoint. We are commanded to love one another, for we are equal in the eyes of God our creator and loved by him. This involves all races, classes, creeds, genders, born and unborn, aged and infirm, handicapped. This is fundamental to America’s founding. But the idea of the dignity of every person is unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Also the idea of confession and repentance is a Judeo-Christian contribution, self-examination, admission of faults. Virtues and vices. Ten commandments. It’s the admission that mankind is fallen and no-one is perfect. When we lose these foundations supporting human rights, then freedom and democracy crumbles. The study of Western Civilization used to be a part of every student’s curriculum for this reason—not that it was Western or white but because it produced America and the Bill of Rights, human rights. Western Civ began as a course called “War Issues” at Columbia University in 1918, so that Americans would understand the values that they were called to defend in World War I, first among those values being free speech.
FQ: How difficult was it for you to write ‘the end’ to this book (and why)?
SUNDERLAND: Writing about Heaven—researching the theologians on Heaven—was delightful and it was difficult to leave those scenes. Many images came to me to describe the indescribable. I relied most heavily on Francis Hall’s Eschatology. In particular, the idea of “gathering at the river” (an old southern hymn) that runs by the throne of God became central, based on Revelation in Holy Scripture. So I didn’t make anything up that didn’t have a solid theological basis. That we will be reunited with our loved ones one day, by that river, in the midst of the music of all creation, is central to Christian belief. It’s good news, glorious news. Angel Mountain ends on Thanksgiving Day, for such news gives us reason to give thanks. Such news is an antidote to grievance, leading to happiness. 
FQ: When you were developing characters, you made Abram and Elizabeth Holocaust survivors who converted to Christianity when they came to America. I was a bit confused as to how this happened. Did you intentionally not go deep into this premise (or would it have put a drag on the flow, and this was a moment to allow your audience to formulate reasons)? Forgive me if you explained it in the story, but I don’t recall any details.
I try to keep the pace of the story moving, those pages turning. Elizabeth didn’t convert, but perhaps I didn’t make that clear. Abram converted to Christianity after a tough time as a homeless man at People’s Park in Berkeley. His Classics Department at the university had been re-designed. A pastor found him sleeping on the porch of the chapel and brought him in, to become caretaker. Abram was introduced to Christ in the chapel by Fr. Brubaker and thus he began his journey of joy.
FQ: In line with my previous question, each character has a distinct life altering moment in their destiny of where they were and where they are headed, i.e., Dr. Gregory Worthington is an esteemed scientist at UC Berkeley; yet when he broadens the horizons of exploration/considerations for his students, he is immediately ‘gifted’ with an open ended sabbatical to ‘complete the book he is writing.’ How close is his character to someone you know in real life (and did he or she recognize this when reading Angel Mountain)?
SUNDERLAND: Gregory Worthington’s conversion to Intelligent Design theory which led to his conversion to Christianity is based on Francis Collins’ memoir, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Dr. Collins is head of the National Institute of Health and led the gene mapping program from 1993-2003. Today oversees the battle against the pandemic. In the process of observing the elegance of the genome he became convinced that there was a Creator, a benevolent Intelligence who designed the world.
Gregory Worthington follows a similar path and shares his discovery in a public lecture on campus that evolutionary science and Christianity are mutually supportive. Gregory's lecture is cancelled after a violent protest led by blackshirts, Antifa. Essentially, open debate, respectful debate is shunned. This was a free speech issue—and free speech continues to be threatened today if such speech is deemed not in agreement with current orthodoxies. For the most part folks are bullied into being politically correct, silenced by the mob.
FQ: In line with my previous question, all your characters are descriptively rich and credible. Are there real-life doppelgängers of them (and if so, how have you worked through this with the real life ‘character’)?
SUNDERLAND: Thank you—that’s a great compliment! I work on it. Character is everything in a novel. I create mini-memoirs for each one (separate from the novel), to help me understand where each is coming from in terms of backstories and for ongoing reference—personal histories that color their present challenges.
No one character is representative of a single person in real life, but they share traits. I mix it up. Parts of Elizabeth came from Yolanda Willis’ A Hidden Child in Greece: Rescue in the Holocaust. I was deeply touched by her experience as a child fleeing Greece with her family, then her forced return to Athens to be hidden by Christian families. Yolanda had a baby brother, just as Elizabeth has Abram. I reference in Elizabeth’s dreams some of Yolanda’s time on Crete. But Yolanda’s experience in America differed from Elizabeth’s. (I haven’t been able to contact Yolanda Willis but do credit her book in my acknowledgements.)
Gregory Worthington, as I mentioned, was inspired by Francis Collins’ memoir. Catherine Nelson, the librarian, reflected many young people who are confused by our times: the sexual revolution leading to the me-too movement, the absentee fathers and the breakdown of the family, the disregard for the sanctity of the unborn, the search for self-knowledge through genetics. I like to have a love story so she and the good doctor embark on promising beginnings of such a story.
FQ: I want to thank you again for such an enlightening and interesting book. I cannot help but think there will be more to come—a continuation if you will. If so, are you able to share some tidbits? If not, are you working on a new project?
SUNDERLAND: I have a rule of thumb not to start anything new until I’ve marketed a new book for a year. (I feel I owe the publisher that.) But we shall see. I clip newspapers and read a good deal, making notes, creating thematic files. Characters and stories fall together naturally. The current pandemic and subsequent protests and riots, still going on as I write, might be a necessary background, for they have had a revolutionary effect on not only our country but the world. We shall see what my gentler years can produce for I am feeling my age. I may need to say a few more prayers before I gather by the river that runs by the throne of God. I may need to listen to my angels.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

#BookReview - Pugs Wearing Parkas

Pugs Wearing Parkas

By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: Morgan Spicer
Publisher: Pigs Fly Books
Publication Date: July 2020
ISBN: 978-1734824209
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 2020
Children’s author Deborah Stevenson has written several wonderful books to delight children and I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing some of them. Each title has been a joy to read and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite - now I must add Pugs Wearing Parkas to that list of favorites. 
Meet two adorable pugs who are proudly strutting around on the first day of spring. They are wearing parkas and they know they “look pretty good.” These pugs are out for a run and are quite happy to show off their parkas to anybody they might encounter.
“We are pugs wearing parkas!” they proudly announce to a dachshund who struts with a hint of a flounce.
“Wearing parkas?” she asks, with a puzzled expression. “On a balmy spring day? Not the best first impression.”
Undaunted by the dachshund’s reaction, they next encounter a hound and again, meet with an unenthusiastic reaction. But soon it is summer and the pugs wear their parkas to the beach. It’s hot and the parkas are probably not the best things to be wearing to the beach but that doesn’t stop the pugs. Maybe those seagulls will be impressed...
One inquires, “What’s a parka?”
His friend gives a shrug. “Never mind about parkas. Explain-what’s a pug?”
Onward the pugs go, through fall and into the winter season. Will the pugs ever get the response they want from those they encounter? Will the parkas ever be the correct outerwear for the season?
Pugs Wearing Parkas is an absolutely flawless children’s book that gave me giggles and had me re-reading the book several times. I even read the book out-loud to my husband to test the rhyme and it got him laughing (he’s not one to typically laugh at a children’s book). The story is funny, the rhyming flows seamlessly, the illustrations are adorable and the ending is perfect. In short, I can’t say enough positive things about this book. Add it to your child’s collection!
Quill says: Pugs Wearing Parkas is a delightful book about silly, adorable pugs that will keep your child engaged and laughing until the very last page.
For more information on Pugs Wearing Parkas, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - Angel Mountain

Angel Mountain

By: Christine Sunderland
Publisher: Wipf and Stock Publishers
Publication Date: April 2020
ISBN: 978-1-7252-5980-5
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Date: June 17, 2020
Christine Sunderland delivers a quest for peace and happiness in her latest novel, Angel Mountain.
Destiny plays a vital role in the crossing of paths for each of the characters in this story. Eighty-year-old Abram is a hermit. He lives in the caves of ‘Angel Mountain’ (Mount Diablo), located in the hills of Berkeley, California. He’s had a difficult life beginning with his survival of the Holocaust. His sister Elizabeth is also a Holocaust survivor. Together they managed to survive the horrors of the Hitler regime while hiding in Greece. When their opportunity to flee to America presented itself, they wasted no time in making the journey. Once in America, they have fulfilling teaching careers, convert to Christianity and if it all seemed to be too good to be true, this is more than a clichĂ© sentiment toward the end of their respective lives. 
Catherine is a library specialist. She and her colleagues have different points of view and were consistently able to agree to disagree until one day they didn’t. Catherine is the sole person on one side of the latest debate while all her co-workers have taken a stance against her. When she is called into Human Resources, she is advised to change her approach and views. In the heat of the moment, Catherine opts to stay true to her beliefs and resigns. 
Dr. Gregory Worthington is a brilliant geneticist and he too is at the headwaters of significant change in his career. In a recent lecture at UC Berkeley (his employer) he elects to broaden his scientific views by including religion into the curriculum. When the University Administration learns of his election to do so, without absolute cause to terminate his employment, they recommend an open-ended leave of absence for the good Doctor. To support their suggestion, the spin is it will provide ample opportunity for him to complete the writing of his book.
Each character is awakened by an Act of Nature in the form of an earthquake. Preceding the earthquake, the Bay Area has been under a thick blanket of smoke and haze from the aftermath of multiple fires. However, the haze seems to sit at the base of Angel Mountain. Elizabeth is worried about her brother Abram. He lives in the caves in the heart of Angel Mountain. It’s his calling and he is bound by his Christian faith to remain there. He believes he is Christ’s conduit to share God’s message of hope and once done, he will be called home to his Heaven. Elizabeth has a strong faith but is more concerned about her brother’s survival from the elements. The first coming together of Abram, Elizabeth and Gregory occurs when Gregory is hiking in the foothills and takes a fall. It is the same day Elizabeth takes a drive to the mountain to check on Abram. Meanwhile, out of work Catherine’s luck is changing when she notices an ad for a librarian to organize an extensive personal library. The library happens to be in Elizabeth’s home. There is one other character who lurks behind the scenes causing mayhem. His name is Malcolm Underhill III. His life’s mission is to create havoc and cause harm to as many good Christians as he can. The day of judgment is rapidly approaching all.
It was a pleasure to read Angel Mountain. There is a common theme that resonates throughout this read: a strong message of faith. Perhaps it’s a bit too cheeky to say how appropriate it is to have a body of work like Angel Mountain in today’s climate, but it is. The depth of character development and the consistent overlay of supporting fact with fictitious characters is uncanny. By no means is this a novel that is the equivalent of a multitude of pulpit pounding moments. Rather, it is a well thought out balance between the clashes of good and evil which, in my opinion, is something every human encounters often throughout his or her life. Ms. Sunderland has documented her use of fact with solid endnotes. She also includes an "Author’s Notes" section to not only render her view on what ‘Heaven’ and its many metaphors represent; again, documenting the research she did to formulate such notes with the sources she referenced in doing so. Angel Mountain is a complex read in many respects as there are bountiful moments for pause and reflection. I commend Ms. Sunderland for staying true to her pen and delivering such a compelling read.
Quill says: Angel Mountain is a body of work that delivers a well-seated message of hope and peace in some uncharted waters in today’s tumultuous world.
For more information on Angel Mountain, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - When I Meet You

When I Meet You (Tree of Life Series, Book 3)
By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication: May 2020
ISBN: 978-1-68322-996-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 18, 2020
Olivia Newport serves up a delicious treat for her audience with the third book in her Tree of Life Series: When I Meet You.
Jillian Parisi-Duffy embraces her work as a genealogist. One of the most rewarding parts is when she can step back and admire the finished product from the fruits of her labor. After hours of research and connecting the dots of many familial layers, her reward is to see the finished product of a family tree. Her dad Nolan loves his work too. He’s an accomplished attorney and has built quite a practice and reputation for himself over the years. They are blessed to live in the quaint community of Canyon Mines; a sleepy bed and breakfast town just about an hour (give or take) from Denver, Colorado. However, on this day, Nolan has had enough of his daughter’s sequestration in her office. It’s time to whisk her away on an adventure. One of Nolan’s clients, a museum curator, has acquired a mysterious steamer trunk, circa turn of the century. Before it goes on display, he needs Nolan to look at it. Records were found inside that warrant some legal evaluation because it appears as though the trunk’s owner was involved in some foul play. Sadly, given the age of the trunk and the lack of clear information of the whereabouts of the rightful owner (or descendants of the original owner), Nolan’s legal acumen is needed. But wait. Isn’t Jillian a genealogist? Isn’t this what she does for a living? As adept as she is at her job, nothing could have prepared her for her findings once she digs into her research.
Meanwhile, back in Canyon Mines, the townspeople are bustling in preparation of a grand fundraising soiree. Nolan’s contribution will be his culinary skills that will entail delectable delights for 200 guests. Jillian will be the keynote speaker and the subject matter? What else, but a dissertation on what her work as a genealogist entails; highlighted with anecdotes of some of her more intriguing projects. However, there’s a whole lot of behind the scenes going on leading up to the gala. After doing some preliminary poking around concerning the steamer trunk, Jillian finds herself on a mini road trip that takes her south near Durango. There may be a connection to it and possibly distant relatives to the original owner of the trunk. Suffice it to say, a warm welcome is far from what she receives upon arriving at the home of her latest lead.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple of previous works by Olivia Newport. One book happens to be book number one in the Tree of Life Series: The Inn at Hidden Run.The beauty in both books is while it’s not essential to read the series in order to stay connected with the characters, it’s recommended due to the entertainment value. I say this because it’s like reconnecting with old friends with each successive novel. Ms. Newport is creative with the storyline in that there is a new predicament with multiple layers in each edition. She builds a delightful relationship between father and daughter (Nolan and Jillian) characters that is relatable. The dialogue is crisp, and the scenery is picturesque and spot on when it comes to describing the wonders and beauty of Colorado. Having lived there for many years, it’s like revisiting a place from my past. I commend Ms. Newport for her innate ability to keep the story engaging, interesting and moving forward. By book’s end, the reader is satisfied and looking forward to starting the ‘next chapter/adventure’ in this series. 
Quill says: When I Meet You is a feel-good novel that is a solid example of what a good read is all about.

Friday, June 12, 2020

#BookReview - The Hiding Girl

The Hiding Girl: Emily Calby Book 1 (Emily Calby Series)
By: Dorian Box
Publisher: Friction Press
Publication Date: June 2020
ISBN: 978-1-7346399-0-2
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: May 18, 2020
The Hiding Girl is a character-driven novel featuring Emily Calby, a young girl who is seeking revenge against the two men who raped and murdered both her mother and younger sister. Throughout this mystery-thriller story, Emily wrestles with various trauma-related mental health issues, all while trying to survive by herself out in the world.
Author Dorian Box keeps his audience on the edges of their seats with the gripping first installment in his new Emily Calby series. He invites them into Emily’s head as she travels the United States, searching for clues to the identities of the men who took her family from her. She is constantly on the alert, for she knows that while she is hunting the men, they might very well be hunting her as well. The tension of this situation is excellently conveyed to readers, keeping them engaged and eager to find out the ending. With this novel’s speedy pacing and binge-worthy plot, it is an ending that can easily be reached in a few short reading sessions.
One of the defining themes of The Hiding Girl is how Emily copes with the extreme amount of trauma she has endured in a very short span of time. It affects all of her actions and stays with her throughout her pursuit for justice. Most importantly, it doesn’t just go away once she accomplishes what she feels she must. Box makes a point to demonstrate how recovery from trauma is a long, winding road that differs for everybody. There isn’t any “instant cure.”
Family relationships also play an important role in Emily’s story. Her tale begins with the death of her own, and she must quickly adapt to being alone. Without her mother and sister, she doesn’t have anyone to look out for, or to take care of her. Being by herself so suddenly is a shock to her, and readers easily sympathize with the deep loneliness she endures before she finds a new family to support her.
The relationship between Emily and Lucas, a friend she meets on her journey for revenge, is one of the best parts of this novel. Amidst the chaos of running for her life and plotting revenge against the two men, Lucas is the first person Emily manages to form an emotional connection to after the destruction of her family. This relationship is a central part to both Emily’s revenge seeking and her development as a person. She’s very young, only twelve to thirteen throughout the novel, and just beginning to come into her own identity. Watching her find a family, not only with Lucas, but with other characters she meets along the way, is touching.
Emily is also thrown face-to-face with several harsh pieces of reality during her time on the road, one of the most shocking to her being racism. As a white person, it’s not something she has ever experienced before befriending people in the black community. She is taken aback by the bluntness of it. One scene in particular stands out. Faith is a big part of Emily’s life. Near the end of the novel, she and Lucas are asked to leave a church, as this particular church has a policy that prohibits mixed families from joining them in worship. She asks the other church-goers for support and is ignored. It’s only one example of a larger issue briefly explored during the story, but reading it really shows how oblivious people can be of inequality until they directly experience it.
The Hiding Girl is an excellent novel for fans of character-driven mysteries and thrillers. The narrator is a child, and as such, views the world through the eyes of one. Many of her observations are deceptively simple, and adults reading this novel will be surprised by how deeply some of them can hit.
Quill says: The Hiding Girl is a strong first entry in Dorian Box’s gritty new thriller series! 
For more information on The Hiding Girl, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

#BookReview - Mop Rides the Waves of Life

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing
By: Jaimal Yogis
Illustrated by: Matt Allen
Publisher: Plum Blossom
Publication Date: June 2020
ISBN: 978-1946764607
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 2020
Mop is a young boy who just loves surfing. In fact, a great day to him is a day at the beach catching the perfect waves. Mop also likes school, except the times when other kids pick on him. Will his love and joy of surfing help him learn to cope with the rough days at school?
As the story begins, we are introduced to Mop. Why is he called "Mop"? He hangs upside-down from a tree and his big mop of hair flops forward - "People call me Mop because, well...Yeah." Next we see Mop head to the beach for some fun. He loves to wait for the perfect wave and then ride!
Mop also likes school but on Monday Toby made fun of the way he played four square. Mop let his anger get the best of him and he pushed Toby. The next day Izzy made fun of Mop's hair and so Mop shouted at her and kicked her blocks. On Wednesday, well, let's just say more unpleasantness was in store for Mop. It wasn't turning out to be a good week.
Finally, however, Mop's mom took him surfing. Yay! She knew Mop was upset about what was going on at school so she made a suggestion: "You're a great surfer. But you can learn to surf life, too." At first, Mop thought it was a goofy idea, but then his mom explained:
"You start by feeling your breath go in and out like the tides. Breathing mindfully helps you notice the emotional waves inside." 
The more Mop's mom explained, the more sense it made to him. Would he learn how to control his moods and thus be better able to control the "stormy waves" at school?
Mop Rides the Waves of Life is a fun and unique look at helping children control their emotions and deal with rough situations. Using surfing, a sport that takes persistence, timing, and control, to help kids understand how to handle conflict works quite well. Learning the "wisdom of the water" and recognizing the good waves that you should ride and letting the bad waves go by is a great analogy that children can easily understand. To add to the fun, both the author and illustrator are surfers and it definitely shows in this imaginative book that nails the lingo and action of a real little surfer dude.
Quill says: Mop Rides the Waves of Life is a great book to add to your child's collection that will help instill the skills necessary to successfully surf the waves of life.

Monday, June 1, 2020

#BookReview - Before the Foundation of the World

Before the Foundation of the World

By: Susan Weiner
Publisher: Belle Isle Books
Publication Date: February 2020
ISBN: 978-1947860452
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: May 29, 2020
Classical, natural and heartfelt imagery combine in this collection of poems by scholar and dedicated Christian Susan Weiner.
Weiner’s book examines our world before, during and after the advent of Jesus, from a multitude of perspectives. The opening piece, “Cinnamon and Myrrh,” celebrates the effect of love in the poet’s innermost being:
Your love, the center stone of my heart
Of blood and breath has joined each part.
Four poems sharing the title Parthian Wine recall the glories of the Middle East in the early Christian era, contrasting God’s love with earthly pastimes and pleasures:
Sweeter than the honey of an Ephesian bee...
As luminous as the Colossus of Rhodes...
Your love is stronger than a gladiator’s sword...
For oh, so much sweeter than dates and figs...
In another grouping, “Pater Mendaciorum,” Weiner characterizes Satan and his evil works: Mine is the kingdom of the asp/the well of poison at the heart of every wasp. 
The notable feature of Weiner’s artistry is her rich vocabulary and sure knowledge of ancient symbols and historic events. She has woven her sense of the time of Jesus’s birth and life story with medieval language and the format of hymns and even a trilogy of lullabies. One offering, “I Am True,” rings out like a powerful paean to God’s care for his created beings, with its repeated refrain ending in the stirring words: No matter how far you fall, I will be true.
Weiner is a student of history and literature whose brief author information states that “her love of God informed this book.” The volume is small, so could be carried in a purse or pocket for reference and sharing. It features pleasant graphics - a thick, vellum-like page appearance and colorful, tasteful decorations gracing each poem. 
Quill says: Before the Foundation of the World would make an appealing focus in several realms of group study, from workshops exploring the Bible and biblical history, to instruction in poetry and the finer points of its construction. And Weiner’s gentle, sincere message regarding the scope and nature of God’s love will engage intelligent Christians and those new to, or just discovering, the faith life.
For more information on Before the Foundation of the World, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Memoirs of a Tortoise

Memoirs of a Tortoise
By: Devin Scillian
Illustrated by: Tim Bowers
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: May 2020
ISBN: 978-1534110199
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 1, 2020
Memoirs of a Tortoise, from the best-selling series of books by Devin Scillian (Memoirs of a Goldfish, Memoirs of a Hamster, etc.), heads off in a different direction from the other books as it deals with the loss of a loved one.
Oliver the tortoise is a very happy, and much loved, reptile. He lives with his best friend Ike, a human who takes very good care of him. Together they enjoy every month of the year with Oliver sharing with the reader the special things each month brings. 
Ike and Oliver have been together for a long time and they are both 80 years old. But while 80 isn't old for a tortoise, it is for a human. When Ike doesn't make it to the garden to share a honeydew melon with Oliver one day, the tortoise isn't too concerned. But after several days, he starts to worry. Where is Ike?
Oliver travels up to Ike's house where he sees many people, all looking quite sad. 
"Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old. Just like me. We were practically twins! I thought we were going to grow old together. Ike, where have you gone?"
Oliver decides to travel to his mother's garden, which is quite a distance away. But he's hopeful that once he reaches her, she'll be able to explain what's happening.
While some readers may be expecting another silly book like Memoirs of a Goldfish, this book instead tackles an important subject that is hard for so many to fathom, the loss of a loved one. Oliver calls Ike his pet, so it's a bit of a twist on the loss of a pet and would work equally well to help explain the loss of a pet and/or a grandparent or other loved member of the family. Like the other books in the series, this one is also illustrated by Tim Bowers and his artwork is truly part of what makes this series so memorable. 
Quill says: Definitely a different take on the "Memoirs" series, but if you're looking for a book to help explain the loss of a loved one, or even of a pet, Memoirs of a Tortoise is a good book to consider.

#BookReview - Unicorn Yoga

Unicorn Yoga
By: Gina Cascone and Bryony Williams Sheppard
Illustrated by: Jennifer Sattler
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: July 2020
ISBN: 978-1534111066
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 1, 2020
Yoga is for everybody...and for every body. Thus begins the new children's book Unicorn Yoga, which introduces youngsters to yoga in a fun, and engaging way.
Today our yoga class is being taught by a talented white unicorn. She has two new students, a little blue unicorn and a little pink one too. Our teacher begins the class by explaining:
We begin by sitting on our mats, crisscross applesauce.
In Easy Pose, we are mindful and centered. Om.
The unicorn yogi carefully explains some basic poses as she demonstrates the proper form of each. The Cow Pose, Cat Pose, Tiger Pose and Child Pose are just a few of the basic poses she explores. The two students diligently try each, sometimes successfully, and sometimes, well, a bit distracted and not quite correctly. But it's all good - they are trying.
A two-page spread is dedicated to each pose. The left page has the text, with the name of the yoga pose, and a simple explanation on how to do it. Opposite the text is an illustration of the teacher and her students, on their mats, doing the pose. It's amazing how a unicorn can actually do some of these movements in such a way to make it perfectly understandable to those not familiar with yoga.
The illustrations in Unicorn Yoga are a big reason this book works. The unicorns are adorable, particularly the young students. They get a little goofy as they attempt some of the poses, which will definitely help keep young readers engaged. At the back of the book are two pages of notes to help young readers better understand the world of yoga and all the benefits it provides.
Quill says: Unicorn Yoga is a wonderful introduction to yoga for young readers and will help get them started on a lifetime of good health. Check it out! Namaste.