Wednesday, September 29, 2021

#BookReview - A Gathering of Broken Mirrors by Anthony E. Shaw

A Gathering of Broken Mirrors: Memories of New York Survivors
By: Anthony E. Shaw
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 2021
ISBN: 978-1639880560
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: September 28, 2021
Stories of the varieties and vagaries of human life, some based in fact and all in enduring truth, are shared by New York City writer and thinker Anthony E. Shaw in his newest offering, A Gathering of Broken Mirrors.
Shaw is of Italian and Sicilian descent, and opens this vibrant collection with the story of his Uncle Del. As a child, he’d go to Del’s for “Sunday Gravy” – a rich meal brought from Naples spiced with garlic and basil, and always imbued with constant conversation. In this vignette we meet a man who had faced three career alternatives available for kids growing up in the Bronx in his era: “laborer, priest, or gangster.” Del chose the third and his memories included extortion, gambling, possibly even making someone disappear. He was often arrested and convicted, finally dying alone “in a hospital bed with the FBI by his side.” Like other characters depicted here, Del was an early influence on the author as Shaw developed his moral code. To gather the elements of that code, he respected family, played craps in deserted basements with his school pals, befriended Jewish, Irish, Black and Puerto Rican pals, and pondered such seminal events as the crash of two airplanes over Brooklyn in 1960 that resulted in many lives lost and the destruction of a church building that had hosted the Klan and preached against ethnic minorities.
Once Shaw found himself slipping into an inner conversation with a plain looking woman – a pickpocket - on a commuter train; with his Jewish mentor Yael he concluded that she was a demonic figure and that he had been mystically freed from her “spell.” He tells from her viewpoint, the revelations of a woman who realizes she has found her parents in spirit and no longer needs psychotherapy; and recalls family lore about a European gypsy woman who correctly predicted someone’s surprising future.
Shaw has a background in law enforcement, so readers can imagine that some of these 24 well-crafted portraits spring from his knowledge of the criminal mindset, ameliorated by his ability to step back from issues of simple right and wrong to pose meaningful questions from a more nuanced, at times religious, standpoint. Tales are told from varying viewpoints, and assigned dates, some real such as the airplane crash, others perhaps imaginary, but redolent of certain historical time-frames. The author recalls his shock and pursuant feelings when, at age 15, he learned of the John F. Kennedy assassination, looking at its meanings then and now. The most current story, dated 2020, is politically swathed; it concerns the assassination of a mayor trying to deliver a message of “income equality, racial awareness and community activism…to a starving city.”
Quill says: All of Shaw’s offerings are drenched in NYC lore and presence and will be appreciated by the city’s denizens – and by many others, since America’s affection for the spirit of that metropolis has been inculcated through film and unforgettable, timeless headlines.

#AuthorInterview with Eenam Vang, author of Labyrinth

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Eenam Vang, author of Labyrinth.
FQ: You mention that you were around five years of age when you decided to become a writer. What inspired you to go in that direction?
VANG: I remember being in my kindergarten classroom one day and holding the new 5-10 page booklet of the week. In my little brain at the time, all I could think of was how cool would it be to write a book one day and have people read my stories. From there on, my dream of becoming an author grew transparent and I knew this was where I belonged. Writing without a doubt is my first love and I still cannot believe that I am standing here today, witnessing the fact that I am indeed an author.
FQ: Who would you say are your inspirational writers, and why?
VANG: Poets like Orion Carloto and Lang Leav inspire me as a writer. Something about their storytelling and voice gives me strength to create my own writing. Whenever I’m in a rut or have trouble writing a poem or prose, I make sure to have their books near me to navigate what I want to express and say on paper.
FQ: What would you say was a turning point in your life that led you to write Labyrinth?
VANG: Poetry wasn’t really in my tale of interest until my first semester in college. I was taking a Creative Writing class that gave students an opportunity to dive into poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Being in that class allowed me to explore writing out of my comfort zone and from there, I began to find a love for poetry--something that I didn’t see coming. This led me to continue my writing in poetry and prose; it was also how Labyrinth came to life.
FQ: How do you see dystopian works, such as Labyrinth, as a tool for hope and healing for others?

Author Eenam Vang

VANG: Funny enough, I actually did not think of Labyrinth as a dystopian work. I was writing to just express the truths in my imagination while also crossing over to my reality as well. Therefore, I never thought of a fit category it can fall into. However, now that I am thinking about it, Labyrinth can absolutely be connected as a dystopian work of writing. I hope this can be a tool for hope and healing for others in a way where we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable in our thoughts, emotions, and feelings without being uncomfortable. It can be tricky, of course, but hope and healing isn’t a straight line, it can be anything that makes you feel empowered, creative, alive--an outlet to express yourself.
FQ: Who do you hope to be your target audience?
VANG: I never had a target audience in my head before. I remember my editor asking me if I had one and I told her no. I know I should, but I think the reason being is because if I do, I’m limiting the interest of readers outside of what Labyrinth represents. To me, Labyrinth is an exploration of one’s unknownness and also wanting to experience the uncomfortable. This brings an open invitation to those who are willing to walk through the streams of consciousness of what it’s like to be human.
FQ: What one thing do you hope your readers will take away after reading Labyrinth and why?
VANG: The one thing I hope readers will take away after reading Labyrinth is to feel inspired to continue to become who they want to be regardless of the circumstances. Reason being is because we are constantly growing, evolving, and changing; the only thing that we truly have in life is ourselves. It’s important that at the end of the day, we’re proud to be who we are without feeling like we need validation from other people.
FQ: Do you foresee creating more works of poetry, or do you see yourself delving into storytelling?
VANG: It’s funny because I was a writer of fiction first. I have always envisioned my first book to be a novel and not poetry. Like I said before, my love for poetry came quite late. However, my explorations within different genres have allowed me to be open to new forms of writing styles. So, yes, you can expect both poetry and storytelling books in the future.
FQ: Do you have a target audience you plan to reach in future writings?
VANG: I’m a sucker for romance novels, so anyone who fancies the love aura is who I plan to reach in my future writings. However, I am also delving into other alternative genres as well that I never thought I would be going into. So, I’m excited to explore the different kinds of universes my future books will open up to readers.
FQ: Do you have any projects in the works? Describe briefly.
VANG: My mind is always moving and creating on it's own. I’ve been in the process of writing a couple of novels while I was writing Labyrinth already. The one I’m currently working on is about soulmates. I have so many books I want to write, but I know I have to finish them one at a time. My journey as an author has only just begun, but I’m ready for all of my ideas to play into life and for readers to dive into my side of the universe.

#BookReview - A Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur

A Small Hotel

By: Suanne Laqueur
Publisher: Cathedral Rock Press
Publication Date: September 2021
ISBN: 978-1737264958
Reviewed by: Kimberly Trix Lee
Review Date: September 28, 2021
It has always been the job of history books to tell us about the major points of war - the Grand and Defining where and when and who. But who tells the stories about the in-betweens, the casual moments that could also be grand and defining? In A Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur, we find out.
It was the summer of 1941 when 22-year-old Kennet “Nyck” Fiskare, the eldest son of the current generation of the Swedish hotel proprietor Fiskare family, met the love of his life. A decade after Kennet first saw Astrid’s photo, he met the lady in the flesh and promptly fell in love. It was a whirlwind summer romance but, just like all good things, it ended. Astrid had to go and marry someone out of familial obligation. That winter, just as Kennet was mourning the loss of his love and perhaps his unborn child, Pearl Harbor was attacked.
It was late autumn of 1944 when the three oldest Fiskare sons were back home for the last time in a long while. Minor (real name Erik), the second son, was in the Navy, Nalle (real name Bjorn) was recruited by the Army’s mountain unit, and Kennet joined the 21st Army Infantry Battalion. That winter, the brothers bid their goodbyes, never knowing whether it was going to be their last, and went off their separate ways to go to unfamiliar places and fight in a long and bitter war.
From Belgium to France and across Germany, Kennet kept a journal, writing about anything and everything, immortalizing the human moments he observed every time the war took a second to catch its breath, keeping a record of his own thoughts, preserving the memories of the brothers-in-arms he made, kept, and lost. He wrote about anything and everything and all of the entries were addressed to the intangible yet ever-present Astrid. After all is said and done, where do you begin to reconcile who you are at war and who you are in peaceful times?
A Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur is a brilliant soul-stirring historical fiction set in the middle of World War II. The main character, Kennet, who was raised as a gentleman and gradually started to be changed by the war as you turn the pages, was easy to like, all the way down to the last pages. He was articulate and his journal entries were powerful and provocative and heartfelt. The characters, the dynamics among them, and the context in which they were written were developed so well - from the sassy and charming second Fiskare brother Minor, the stoic O’Hara, the rowdy “Jockstrap,” up to the religious Anderson. The dialogues, the connection, and the banter were all realistic and engaging. Every little detail was well thought out, from the Swedish lore to the colloquialisms. On top of this, the combination of points of view, third-person limited and first-person journal entries, was done magnificently. Laqueur is a master storyteller.
This was more than a historical romance. This was a tale that spoke of love, of longing, of heartbreak, but more than that it’s a tale that spoke of familial loyalty and bonds that transcend blood. This spoke of the horrors of war and the gradual yet unmistakable changes it could do once it has sunk its teeth into you. This spoke of fear, of grief, of shrieking despair, of utter helplessness and white-hot anger and cold apathy. This spoke of principles broken by circumstances and values muddied by choice. This spoke of the irony of men fighting for freedom and society’s rejection of its very heroes solely on account of their sexuality.
This was a glorious read. I want more.
Quill says: This is a brilliant tale set during World War II about love (by blood, by choice, be it romantic, familial, fraternal) and war and everything in between.
To learn more about A Small Hotel, please visit the author’s website at

Thursday, September 23, 2021

#BookReview - Saguaro's Gifts

Saguaro's Gifts
By: Kurt Cyrus
Illustrated by: Andy Atkins
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2021
ISBN: 978-1-534111301
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: September 2021
From author Kurt Cyrus and illustrator Andy Atkins comes the story of a very giving saguaro cactus in Saguaro’s Gifts. The story opens as the saguaro cactus is celebrating a momentous occasion, its 100th birthday.
Throughout the story, the reader sees various creatures come visit the cactus, including a bat, an owl, a hummingbird, butterflies, doves, bees, a coyote, a rabbit, a tortoise, finches, a porcupine, a bobcat, javelina, and a lizard. As these creatures visit the saguaro cactus, the cactus provides something for each of them. The bat always finds the sweetest nectar at the cactus, while the owl makes his home inside the cactus. The butterflies, doves, and bees enjoy tasting the cactus’s sweet nectar, while the rabbit uses the cactus as a hiding spot to escape hungry coyotes. The old, slow tortoise visits the cactus to gobble up any fruit that it may have dropped. The finches build their nests in the cactus and the bobcat climbs up the cactus to escape a herd of javelina. In return for all that the cactus provides, the animals eat its fruit and spread the seeds, thus allowing pollination to take place. This phenomenon is all that the saguaro cactus needs.
Author Kurt Cyrus’ Saguaro’s Gifts is a beautiful story exemplifying an example of the circle of life present in our environment. As many creatures visit the cactus for their own benefit, these creatures are also helping the cactus by allowing pollination to occur. This lovely tale shows the importance of a 100-year-old cactus, and the interdependence of this plant and its visitors.
Illustrator Andy Atkins does a magnificent job making the animals come to life in this story. The desert landscape is beautifully colored and the detail in the illustrations is second to none.
At the end of the book, the author includes a “Facts About Saguaro” page, which is a nice touch. Young readers will enjoy learning about the saguaro cactus and its important role in the ecosystem of the desert.
Quill says: Saguaro’s Gifts is a charming story of how the plants and animals in the desert rely on each other to survive. Even though the saguaro cactus in this story is 100 years old, its important role in the desert landscape does not diminish with age.
To learn more about Saguaro’s Gifts, please visit the author’s website at or the illustrator’s website at

#BookReview - The Zodiac Revisited

The Zodiac Revisited, Volume 1: The Facts of the Case

By: Michael F. Cole
Publisher: Twin Prime Publishing
Publication Date: December 2020
ISBN: 978-0996394307
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Date: September 2021
The Zodiac Revisited is a three volume series exploring the terror that gripped the nation in the wake of the Zodiac Killer crimes. Author Michael F. Cole draws on an abundance of research on the history of the crimes to take his audience down this horrifying journey and into the mind of this terrifying man. In this book, Volume 1: The Facts of the Case, the author goes over everything the authorities currently know about the Zodiac Killer events in preparation for a deeper dive into speculation and analysis in the second and third volumes.
In this initial volume, Cole compiles all the known facts of the case in one book. He goes over everything from the locations of the murders to the strange letters and experiences of the press as competing newspapers were pitted against each other to publish these letters and cover the updates. One key point of Cole’s research is in separating the useful facts from the distracting ones. In a case this old, there are bound to be leads that have been either proven useless or are so disputed it’s impossible to make sense of them. Cole’s approach is systematic and logical; he takes care to move through the case chronologically, taking into account other cases that at first seemed unrelated to the Zodiac crimes but later proved to have some level of association. As he lays out the facts of each incident, he points out which pieces of information are more useful than others and explains why. The readers feel like they are sitting beside Cole stitching together the story of what happened alongside him and reading through old case files.
The Zodiac Killer cases were incredibly multifaceted on their own. Together, they combined into a single, larger mystery. It’s easy to get lost in all the pieces but Cole doesn’t allow that to happen. Instead, he lays out everything in a straight-forward and easy to follow manner. He goes in-depth in exploring how the Zodiac letters were interpreted and the taunts the police faced from the composer of those letters. Cole also introduces each case individually and then explains how they were either directly attributed to the Zodiac Killer or suspected to be associated with him and his crimes. By approaching this larger mystery in bite-sized chunks, he is able to dive deeper into the case as a whole, eventually tying together everything he has discussed in the final chapters.
This book’s strength lies in the clear dedication of author Michael F. Cole to studying this case. His fascination with it shines through on the pages and draws his audience in. His descriptions of how each event unfolded will keep his readers on the edge of their seats. For those familiar with the Zodiac Killer and his associated crimes, it will be more of a review before diving into the other volumes. The Zodiac Revisited, Volume 1 is also a good introduction to true crime as a genre for a reader who has little to no experience with the genre.
Quill says: The Zodiac Revisited is a terrifying and intriguing recollection of a decades old mystery for prospective true crimes fans.
For more information on The Zodiac Revisited, Volume 1: The Facts of the Case please visit the website:

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Arnold Johnston and Deborah Ann Percy

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Arnold Johnston and Deborah Ann Percy, authors of Mr. Robert Monkey Returns to New York.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: We were readers before we were writers. And before we were readers our parents read to us every evening at bedtime. Of course we didn’t know each other then. Arnie grew up in Scotland, then in Detroit; his favorite authors were Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Kidnapped) and Hugh Lofting (Dr. Dolittle). Debby grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, reading Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles) and C. S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). When we started writing, we took our craft seriously, wrote every day, kept notebooks, imagined adventures, and kept reading writers we admired. When we met, we found that we loved writing with each other. We now write plays together and were collaborators on an Arts & Entertainment column. Debby writes fiction, too. Arnie writes fiction, poetry, and translations. Over twenty of our books have been published, and our plays have had more than 300 productions and readings.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: Debby likes writing on a more or less regular schedule, often in the morning. She writes a lot, often saving snippets and letting them percolate until they’re ready to turn into stories or plays. Arnie is more of a binge writer, letting ideas develop in his head until they pop out and drag him along with them. When we collaborate, each of us is always surprised and delighted with what the other comes up with. We figure if we can surprise ourselves, that will surprise readers, and the unexpected is always fun.
FQ: Is there a genre you have not yet delved into that you would like to attempt in the future?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: Actually, we pretty much try everything. Writing a children’s book was one of the last genres we’ve explored. We’ve worked hard and practiced a lot to improve our writing, and we’ve both taught creative writing to lots of aspiring writers. As for us, we just keep hoping to get better and enjoy what we’re doing.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: Debby loves Ernest Hemingway for the perfection of his Michigan stories and his amazing dialogue. She also admires Mark Twain, especially Tom Sawyer. Arnie has always enjoyed Charles Dickens, especially Great Expectations and David Copperfield. As playwrights, we admire Anton Chekhov, Alan Ayckbourn, August Wilson, Harold Pinter, Wendy Wasserstein, and Lorraine Hansberry.
FQ: How do you approach a new story and when you set pen to paper, is there a specific process you follow (or do you just write and let your story take the lead to where it must go)?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: As we said earlier, stories depend on a major challenge for the main character, as well as obstacles to overcome, all of which add suspense and make readers want to know what will happen next. We also wanted Mr. Robert’s adventures to be fun for adults to read to children, so we wrote the story in rhyming couplets, which are enjoyable to listen to—and every rhyme in itself is a small happy ending.
FQ: Where did the idea for your story come from?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: We started writing this book because we acquired a little stuffed monkey toy one day. We accumulated a pretty large collection of stuffed monkeys, and we often give them as gifts to children we meet along the way. We called that first one Mr. Robert Monkey, and it amused us to take him along any time we made a trip somewhere. Then we decided to write the book about Mr. Robert taking a trip of his own. We believe this book about friendship and loyalty can appeal to contemporary children in the way an earlier generation was captivated by the first tales of the classic Winnie the Pooh.
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: Our parents certainly encouraged us every step of the way. Now our sons, their wives, and our grandchildren cheer us on—as we do them. We read early versions of the story to our grandchildren and the children of friends. They immediately loved Mr. Robert and said, “More, more, more!”
FQ: Was the plot worked out completely before you started or did it evolve as your wrote?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: The plot grew from the germ of an idea about a father who, on a whim, buys a little toy monkey for his son Bobby. We enjoyed imagining how Bobby and Mr. Robert became fast friends. As with all plots, complications are necessary, so we invented a main difficulty for Mr. Robert to overcome—getting lost on the way to a new home in New York. Then we had to think of more problems to make his journey back to Bobby challenging—and fun! We also decided late in the process that Bobby should wear glasses, because lots of children who need to improve their sight are too young for contact lenses. And everyone in our families wears glasses, too!
FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.
JOHNSTON/PERCY: Mr. Robert and Bobby share a special bond and share imaginary adventures. “When you see one of them, you’ll always see the other.” As with Calvin and Hobbes, Mr. Robert comes to life when he and Bobby are together or when he encounters other toys or animals. Otherwise, he’s a stuffed toy.
FQ: Are any of the characters based on real people you know? If so, how closely does your character mimic the real person?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: One of our granddaughters has a beloved stuffed pig toy she received when she was a baby. She never takes it on trips because she couldn’t bear to lose it. We found her a duplicate pig for her to take on trips. She calls it TP—Traveling Pig. That, and our habit of taking Mr. Robert along on our own travels gave us the germ of Mr. Robert Returns to New York. The plot—getting lost and finding the way home—goes all the way back to Homer’s Odyssey. And like The Odyssey, our little tale has a happy ending.
FQ: How did you approach the need to keep readers engaged and tuned in to keep turning those pages?
JOHNSTON/PERCY: As we said earlier, stories depend on a major challenge for the main character, as well as obstacles to overcome, all of which add suspense and make readers want to know what will happen next. We also wanted Mr. Robert’s adventures to be fun for adults to read to children, so we wrote the story in rhyming couplets, which are enjoyable to listen to—and every rhyme in itself is a small happy ending.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

#AuthorInterview with A.M. Grotticelli, author of The Bond

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with A.M. Grotticelli, author of The Bond.
FQ: Your career is in journalism. What led you to decide to write a book?
GROTTICELLI: The Bond is a story that I have lived with for over 40 years. It was time to share it with the world. The hope is that it can bring some sense of understanding to a confused and frustrated foster kid like I was. My thesis: foster kids are people too.
FQ: Did you interview anyone from your past while you were in the process of writing this book, and if so, who?
GROTTICELLI: I interviewed all of my brothers and sisters for the book. This is their life too. It was important that I get the stories right, so I gave everyone a first draft and let them comment on specific stories I had recollected. If three of them agreed that the story was true, it stayed in the book.
FQ: What was it like transitioning from the type of writing you typically do for your career in journalism to authoring a memoir?
GROTTICELLI: The transition was not easy. As a technology journalist, my goal is always to be accurate and not fill my stories with opinion or biased observation. In writing a memoir, it was important to make the story interesting and to “show” what happened as opposed to “telling” what happened. That’s the biggest difference between the two disciplines.
FQ: The stories you share in your book are very specific. Were these experiences from your past easy for you to recall and write down?
GROTTICELLI: From a very young age I was obsessed with writing in my diary and I used some of that for the book. But I also have a good memory and can recall very specific things that happened long ago. Not every story made it into the book. But that’s what makes a good writer, I believe, having a good memory. There’s that and being a good yarn spinner, which I’ve often been accused of.
FQ: Were your siblings involved in any part of the creation of this book and if so, how?
GROTTICELLI: See Response to Question #2. It was important that they all knew about and participated in the creation of this book. Some of them wanted very little to do with it, as they felt it was better to leave bygones in the past, but most were actually happy that our story was being told—even if it was really my personal memory of it.
Sometimes three people can experience the same things and come away with three different reactions. When the story was not about me specifically, it was important to get those people that were directly involved to let me know if I got it right. I tried to find the general consensus and embellish it a bit.
FQ: Having seen the other side of foster care, would you ever consider being a foster parent to children within the foster system?
GROTTICELLI: I have three children of my own, so I didn’t consider foster care of another child. I have been involved in programs like Big Brothers of New Your City, as a way of giving back. Foster care was a bad experience for me, so I wasn’t anxious to get involved unless I was 100 percent committed. Fostering a child is a lifelong commitment that I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t want to make the same mistake my biological father made: My own children came first.
FQ: It is a bit ironic that today you reside in the same city where you lived with Mr. and Mrs. Nelson. Can you explain a bit about why that is?
GROTTICELLI: I actually do not live in Huntington, NY any longer but I did live there for ten years (exactly the amount of time I spent in the Nelson’s house). It was interesting, however, and a bit fateful, that a home on the water in Huntington became available and my wife and I decided to buy it. The irony was not lost on me and moving to Huntington became the impetuous for actually sitting down and writing the book. During the writing, I would often drive over to the old house on Bryant Drive and sit outside to refresh or summon memories.
I didn’t plan to live in Huntington, ever again, but there I was. I didn’t resist it I was re-invigorated by it. Life is funny that way.
FQ: I can imagine that writing a story this personal must have been emotional. Can you share a bit about your experiences while writing your book?
GROTTICELLI: It’s interesting that my wife tells people I was an emotional (moody) wreck during the writing process, but I don’t remember it that way. I was laser focused on getting it down on paper and sharing the story with the world. All of the bad feelings surrounding my fostercare experienced had long since passed by the time I wrote The Bond, or so I thought. In reading the book, one reviewer said, “There’s anger ion every page.” I never planned for that to happen.
FQ: How has living through such a tumultuous childhood shaped who you are as a parent?
GROTTICELLI: As I say in the book, the biggest effect it has had is that the Nelsons taught me how NOT to treat your kids. It helped me turn negative feelings into fresh, positive ones. There have been many times when a situation would come up with my kids and I would think “That’s how the Nelsons did it, but it’s not how I will.”
As a parent I’ve learned that everyone’s opinion counts. I might not agree, but we all have a say. You grow as a person by discussing problems openly with the confidence that someone is actually listening, That’s how you grow as a person and that’s what I’ve always given my kids, because it was never the case living in the Nelson’s home.
FQ: Could you offer any advice to a child who is currently in the foster system?
GROTTICELLI: Advice is a tricky thing to give a kid in foster care. They don’t want to be there and it was of no fault of their own that that are. Foster children often find themselves discarded, unwanted, abused, and malnourished, among other things. There’s a stigma attached to themselves that is difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. The Bond attempts to shed a light on what it means to be a foster kid, from my very personal perspective. When I was writing I was keenly aware that there are not a lot of books that let the foster kid express what’s on their mind, or ones in which kids are not looked at as a number (or a tragedy).
What I can offer them is the path that I took and how I came through it. It isn’t the same for every foster kid, but maybe if they see someone like them coming out the other side, that might resonate and give them the tools to be the happiest and confident they can be. Since the book has been available I have spoken with and emailed with several kids who have express their gratitude in my getting the story—their story too—right.

#BookReview - Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima

Striking Range: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
By: Margaret Mizushima
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: September 2021
ISBN: 978-1643857466
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Date: September 18, 2021
Author Margaret Mizushima keeps the action and suspense coming in book 7 of her popular Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, Striking Range.
As the story opens, Deputy Mattie Cobb is sitting in her car in the parking lot of a Colorado state prison along with her K-9 partner, Robo. She's waiting for the arrival of Detective Jim Hauck, who will help her question John Cobb - the man who tried to kill her (see Burning Ridge). It's possible that Cobb may also have information on Mattie's biological father. It's going to be a hard interview, but one Mattie must do. Unfortunately, Mattie never gets the chance to talk with John Cobb because while she and Detective Hauck wait for their meeting, the prison goes on lockdown.
The cause of the lockdown is soon revealed - John Cobb has been found dead in his cell. Disappointed beyond measure by the unexpected turn of events, Mattie nonetheless goes into "detective mode" along with her temporary partner. They get permission to go into Cobb's cell and while promising not to touch the body, they closely examine the evidence. The pair suspect murder, rather than an overdose, but they agree that the coroner will have to confirm. When Mattie turns her attention to Cobb's cell, she discovers the book "Trails in Timber Creek County." Why would a cold-blooded killer, in prison, have a book on hiking trails? And why was the page with the trail for Redstone Ridge, the place where John Cobb had killed her brother and tried to kill her, dog-eared and with different spots on the map marked with Xs? What was going on?
While Mattie and Hauck wait for the coroner's report, they respond to a hunter's discovery of a young woman's body. That discover soon leads to other discoveries that may, or may not, tie into Mattie's abduction as well as another missing woman's case. And while Cole Walker, the veterinarian who usually works with Mattie has been sidelined with a litter of puppies, he's soon drawn into the mystery too. Indeed, it'll take all of Robo's K-9 talents, and Mattie's clever deduction skills, to tie it all together.
Striking Range is the first of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series that I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I had no trouble catching up with the characters, and instantly fell in love with Robo (such an awesome dog!) The mystery was tangled (in a good way!) and kept me guessing as to what was really happening, who the "baddies" were, and what the outcome would be. There was a particularly notable showdown between Mattie and Robo with a suspect that was tense and showed the author's understanding of the training and handling of a K-9 partner. Now it's time to go back and read the other books in the series. Enjoy!
Quill says: Get ready for suspense and page-turning action in the latest offering in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, Striking Range.

#BookReview - The Ghouls' Guide to Good Grammar

The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar
By: Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by: Mary Sullivan
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 15, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-534110953
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: September 17, 2021
From veteran author Leslie Kimmelman and award-winning illustrator Mary Sullivan comes a hilarious and informative tale for kids in The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar. Kimmelman’s story is, at its core, a reference book, but it possesses something that most reference books do not: amusement.
Kimmelman’s story follows an assortment of monster characters as they teach the reader about all things pertaining to grammar. Definitions of various rules of grammar are explained, including periods, question marks, exclamation marks, commas, hyphens, quotation marks, contractions, possessives, capitalization, spelling, and homophones. The definitions are further bolstered with hilarious examples of these grammar rules in action.
The story portion of The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is written succinctly and appropriately for the book’s target age group of 4-8 years. The ghoulish theme throughout the book will thoroughly appeal to this age group. In fact, kids who are often reluctant to utilize a reference book while studying or doing schoolwork are likely to find themselves reaching for this book repeatedly due, in part, to its sheer silliness.
Any well-written story would not be complete without its counterpart, the illustrations. In this story, Sullivan has complemented the written words perfectly with her creepy, but not too scary monsters. Her imaginative monster creatures are the ideal combination of strange and cute, so that even young kids will find them amusing and not be afraid of them.
Another exceptional feature in The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is the grammar quiz that the author included at the conclusion of the book. It is very easy, yet it is a simple tool to help reinforce the concepts that the reader learned throughout the story.
Quill says: Kimmelman and Sullivan have created a unique book in The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar. With its adorable monster characters and ghoulish theme, Kimmelman’s story is sure to please any young reader, while parents and teachers alike will appreciate its informative and helpful nature.
To learn more about The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar, please visit the author’s website at or the illustrator’s website at

Friday, September 17, 2021

7 Essential Productivity Tools Every Writer Needs

7 Essential Productivity Tools Every Writer Needs

By: Jessica Fender (see bio at bottom of article)


As a writer, you need to make sure you're using your writing time the way you should. Staying inspired, productive, and efficient can be hard at times, due to all the pressure or distractions you may be experiencing. Luckily, you're the one controlling what you do and how you do it. So, you should explore and find productivity tools that will make every writing session a success.


To help you out, we've made a list of 7 essential productivity tools that every writer needs. Let’s break it down.

source: Pexels


Every writer needs great organizational skills, to keep their workdays filled with meaningful tasks. A great tool you can use to keep all your tasks, goals, and ideas organized is is an organization app that allows you to:

-        create and run a writing schedule

-        create lists and reminders

-        keep track of your progress on certain writing tasks


Plus, you get to sync it across devices, which allows you to stay organized wherever you are.

2.     Freedom

If you get distracted easily and find yourself searching the web or scrolling social media in the middle of a writing session- you need Freedom.


Freedom is an app designed to block distractions and keep you focused on your writing tasks. You can block anything you want:

-        websites

-        apps

-        social media


You can even sync blocks across all your devices, to make sure nothing keeps you away from your writing work.

3.     Grammarly

As a writer, you need a surefire way to check your writing accuracy, without doing it manually and relying just on your proofreading skills.


Grammarly is one of the best proofreading and grammar-checking tools you can find. It will do the following tasks for you:

-        analyze your entire document

-        mark errors in grammar, spelling, word choice, and structure

-        suggest corrections

-        save your document formatting


You'll avoid wasting time proofreading yourself and stay productive for other more important tasks.


All you have to do is drag and drop the document, and download it after you finish your Grammarly analysis. If you need advanced proofreading options, you could check out EssayService. Their professional writers can do editing, proofreading, and rewriting of your documents.


Every active writer knows what it’s like to be unable to find the right words to express your ideas. You know what you want to say, but no words you’re thinking of seem adequate or like the perfect fit.


That’s when you can turn to is a tool that will provide a ton of synonyms and antonyms for the words that are roaming your mind. You’ll be able to find the right words faster and produce high-quality content without trouble. 


All you need to do is type the word you want to explore, and this tool will make suggestions and unlock those parts of your brain that were blocked just a second ago.

5.     Hemingway App

Another helping hand for writers that helps boost productivity and maximize writing success, is the Hemingway Editor. This editor focuses on all the most important aspects of writing:

-        readability

-        sentence structure and complexity

-         use of active and passive voice

-        clarity


You can use Hemingway to learn more about the content you’ve written and analyze it objectively.

6.     Cliché Finder

When you're trying to be productive and reach your daily writing goal, you can come across many pitfalls. One of those pitfalls is using too many clichés in your writing.


In fact, even a single cliché is too much for a serious author.


So, Cliché Finder is a tool that will help you find and eliminate words, expressions, and phrases that are used too often, corny, or empty.


This will improve your writing and make sure you avoid sounding like a second-class writer.

7.     Ulysses

Finally, to maximize your writing productivity and achieve all your daily or weekly goals, you can try the Ulysses writing environment for authors and writers of all sorts.


Ulysses is a writing app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users. It’s designed to increase your productivity by helping you stay focused on your writing tasks. It comes with features such as:

-        distraction-free writing interface

-        documents management

-        cross-device syncing

-        text editor

-        attachments

-        etc.


This all-in-one tool will keep you away from the time-consuming switch between multiple apps, and help you stay fixated on the task you’ve set in front of you.

Final Thoughts  

Writing is primarily a creative activity but this doesn't mean writers shouldn't practice self-discipline and be productive. Each writing session needs to have a goal and writers have to make sure they reach it.


The 7 productivity tools we’ve selected and explained above will help you boost your productivity and do more writing work every day.

Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun. You find her on Twitter.