Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#BookReview - A Beginning to the End: A Poetic Journey

A Beginning to the End: A Poetic Journey

By: Aruna Gurumurthy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1544742571
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 21, 2017

Poet Aruna Gurumurthy weaves enlightening and inspiring themes in her latest work, A Beginning to the End: A Poetic Journey.

A pre-med student turned poet, Gurumurthy has found her calling in rhyme and verse. Speaking from the depth of her soul, Gurumurthy leaves no stone unturned in expressing how she feels about various aspects of life, deftly weaving this common theme over the course of six sections that include forty plus poems.

Each poem, set in first person POV, alternates between “I” and “we.” This subjective shifting creates a sense of unity, of oneness, providing her audience with the opportunity not only to engage in the reading process but also encourage individual contemplation. Two literary tools that Gurumurthy heavily uses to emphasize this sense of unity and oneness are repetition and restatement. Her writing style is lilting—at times, resembling raps. Gurumurthy always speaks from the heart, speaking truth into existence.

In part one titled New Day, New Hope, Gurumurthy opens with a warm and welcoming invitation to readers before delving into her lyrical poetry. The last stanza of “New Book in the Cards” aptly closes with these words: “With soft palms, come life my new book. / With sparkling eyes, a gentle smile, and / Kind fingers, / Come sift through my new book.”

Replete with current political overtones, the six poems in New Day, New Hope reflects Gurumurthy’s choices made after introspection. Certainly, what she embraces—love and well-being for all—are themes that do not stand alone but ring true to all who have chosen to create a new and positive page turn in their lives. In “We Are the Homo sapiens,” Gurumurthy offers a profound statement and word of encouragement to people throughout the world who are fighting for justice and equality: “We are the Homo sapiens / We are the Champions / Don’t tether our voice. / Don’t shackle our vision. / Don’t extinguish our spark.”

Epiphanic and sagacious moments grace the next set of poems in part two, Love and Whatnots. At the end of “A Writers’ Confluence,” Gurumurthy writes: “Because, as writers, / We are responsible for the humor, drama, and / Awareness in people’s live / We as responsible for people’s lives.”

Parts three and four, Discrimination, Dogma, Dirt and My Inspiration, My Love, give glimpses of the racial profiling and cultural stigmas that Gurumurthy has had to face, as well as her persistence to overcome all those barriers. “There is no doubt in my mind, not even slight / Keep on going-- / You may have lost today, but I promise! Tomorrow looks bright.” (My Inspiration, My Love, “Quit Not!”)

Lastly, Gurumurthy emerges from her painful situations, determined to make a difference in her life and the world in sections five and six, Clarity in the Fog and Abstractions, Precisions, and Solutions.
“Freedom in No Fickle” (Abstractions, Precisions, and Solutions says it all: “I am free / I love to be free / There is freedom in no fear / Freedom in no fickle / Freedom in the infinite / Freedom in everlasting... / Freedom in / Never lasting torment / Freedom in the eternal / In eternity.”

Quill says: A Beginning to the End is a “feel good” book, offering encouragement and empowerment to those who desire meaning and purpose in life.

For more information on A Beginning to the End: A Poetic Journey, please visit the publisher's website at: www.createspace.com

#AuthorInterview with M.J. Evans @mjevansauthor

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with M.J. Evans, author of The Stone of Courage: Book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles

FQ: Was it always your plan to create four books for this series or did that develop after the writing of the first book?

EVANS: From the moment I first conceived of this storyline, it was four books…one for each of the stones that would give Carling the traits of a wonderful queen. The traits of Mercy, Courage, Integrity and Wisdom are characteristics that I wish all leaders possessed.

FQ: If you had to pick a favorite character, which would it be from this book and why?

EVANS: My heart continues to be first and foremost with Carling. She is the type of character that I can relate to. She is humble and filled with doubts and insecurity yet is committed to her assignment and willing to push herself beyond her perceived limits. She’ll take that step into the darkness and bring her own light with her. That said, I also have fun creating the bad guys! Shim, the Tommy Knocker, (note my spelling is different than the miner’s tommyknockers because I was creating an entirely new creature) is a nasty little fellow but he makes me chuckle when I write about him.

FQ: What was the inspiration for the Ice Horses?

EVANS: The idea to add the Ice Horses came from a photograph that a friend sent to me of a snow sculpture contest. The sculpture in the picture was of beautiful horses carved out of snow. They were so spectacular; my imagination went crazy and I had to add them to the book as inhabitants of the Northern Reaches.

FQ: Are movies ever an influence when designing the look of the different races such as the centaurs, ogres etc.?

EVANS: The images of the creatures such as the Centaurs, Ogres and Cyclops that influence me the most are early paintings of mythological characters rather than movie characters. I take all the literary license I want, however, and make them look like I imagine them in the story. For example, the Ogres are far different than any ogre you would have read about…kind of a stone “transformer” if we are looking for a movie connection. Carling is a Duende. The Duende are creatures that I created. They are half human, half fairy. So, she and her friends just came out of my imagination.

FQ: What is your favorite part of writing a book - developing the plot, writing particular types of action scenes or ...?

EVANS: I love, love, love creating the plot. I’m a story-teller at heart and I love to let my imagination go wherever it wants when developing the storyline. Next are the action scenes, especially scenes filled with tension where the reader gets a little bit nervous wondering what the outcome will be.

FQ: What has been the easiest part of working on this series?

EVANS: The easiest part of this series is keeping it organized. With each book telling the story of Carling acquiring a new stone, it is easy to keep the plot organized. I did something a little atypical, however. Instead of writing the story so that Carling finds each stone at the end of a book, she finds it in the middle. Then I get to show how the stone changed and influenced her while she developed each quality.

FQ: How do you keep each book unique from the one before it but cohesive at the same time?

EVANS: The cohesiveness is achieved by repeating the pattern: 1) Carling is sent on a Quest to find the next stone, 2) Carling finds the stone, 3) Let the stone influence Carling as she faces those who oppose her.

Each story is unique in that each quest takes Carling to a different part of the land of Crystonia where she meets different challenges and opponents.

FQ: What would you say is the most difficult part of writing?

EVANS: The most difficult part of writing a series like this is keeping the protagonist consistent while helping her learn and grow. Even as she gains mercy (the first book) and courage (the second book,) she must remain Carling, a young, naïve, and insecure girl who never desired to be the queen.
The most difficult part about writing in general is how lonely it is! I am a very social person. I love to be around people. However, writing is a solitary job. I sit by myself, surrounded by my imaginary friends and type, type, type! Then I hope someone will like my work. However, there are no guarantees!

FQ: Since I'm so eager for book 3, would you tell us how far along you are in the writing of it? Can you give our readers a little tease on the storyline?

EVANS: I am so glad that you are eager for book 3. I think it is the best so far. I have completed the first draft of the manuscript and am now doing revisions…so I’m getting there. Carling is sent on a new quest to find the third stone: The Stone of Integrity. It has been hidden on a mysterious island populated by Fairies who hide their faces behind masks. They don’t want anyone to know what they are thinking or feeling. They must learn to develop integrity even more than Carling does.

To learn more about The Stone of Courage: Book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - The Stone of Courage @mjevansauthor

The Stone of Courage: Book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles

By: M.J. Evans
Publisher: Dancing Horse Press
Publication Date: April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9966617-6-8
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: July 24, 2017

In book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles, the fate of the land of Crystonia rests in the hands of a girl named Carling.

Carling has been given the silver breastplate, a sign that she is the next destined ruler of the kingdom. However, before she can sit on the throne she must find four stones, The Stone of Mercy, The Stone of Courage, The Stone of Integrity, and The Stone of Wisdom. Carling has already acquired The Stone of Mercy, which she had to battle through an angry group of centaurs from the Heilodius herd to get, but with the help of her friends Higson, Tibbals, and Tandum she made it through unharmed. Unfortunately, her and Higson’s families were killed in a raid by the evil Heilodius herd that will stop at nothing to make sure that Carling is not able to claim her rightful throne. With the support of each other, Carling and Higson pull together and begin to train with different weapons for they know that the fighting is far from over and that they have many more dangers to face in the upcoming months.

Now, the wizard of Crystonia who has been suddenly appearing and disappearing in Carling’s life ever since she received the silver breastplate, informs her that it is time to find the second stone, The Stone of Courage. It was such a dangerous quest finding the first stone that Carling is initially apprehensive about this next adventure but she does know that this is now her destiny and she must be ready to confront whatever challenges come her way. The wizard then tells her that the stone is hidden in the mountains of the Northern Reaches and protected by a creature named Shim. Just the mention of the Northern Reaches sends a chill up Carling’s spine for no one she knows has ever dared to venture into those lands - they are just too treacherous for anyone to travel through. Of course, this is where her journey is taking her so with all the courage she can muster she gathers her friends and they set off for the Northern Reaches, hoping that their combined strength will be enough to find The Stone of Courage and return home safely. Unfortunately, the guardian of the Stone of Courage is not a friendly creature and may give Carling more trouble than she ever thought.

Before this journey is over Carling will face ogres and angry centaurs and also find that a treacherous plan is unfolding to keep her from ever taking her rightful place as ruler of Crystonia. As each new challenge hits her Carling begins to question if she is strong enough for this task, for how could such a small being be chosen to rule all of Crystonia?

When I saw that the second book had come out in this series I could not wait to read it, for the last book left on such a cliffhanger that I was excited to see what would happen next. Through the first book, author M.J. Evans introduces her characters beautifully and that really helped to get me into the story. In book 2, The Stone of Courage, Evans expands on the characters' personalities in such a way that it had me relating to them even more. The camaraderie that is created through these adventures is wonderful and had me hanging on every page.

Quill says: Another wonderful addition to the Centaur Chronicles that I could not put down!

For more information on The Stone of Courage: Book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles, please visit the publisher's website at: www.dancinghorsepress.com

#BookReview - A Beautiful Here: Emerging From The Overwhelming Darkness Of My Son's Suicide

A Beautiful Here: Emerging From The Overwhelming Darkness Of My Son's Suicide

By: Linda Phillips
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1537413678
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 24, 2017

Award-winning author Linda Phillips shares her journey from darkness into joy amid unspeakable grief in her poignant memoir, A Beautiful Here.

“Suicide remains a silent neglected epidemic.”

While this terrifying fact is something mental health professionals have to contend with every day, the quote has a different impact upon those who have lost loved ones to this muted disease. One such person is Linda Phillips, who lost her youngest son, Nuçi, on Thanksgiving Day in 1996. Nuçi was twenty-two at the time that he decided to end his life. There are no appropriate words to describe the mental and emotional anguish a parent goes through when they lose their child. Nonetheless, Phillips finds a way not only to turn her darkness into joy amid unspeakable grief but also to capture her emotional upheaval after Nuçi's death.

Opening on her wedding day, Phillips gives a glimpse of married life during the first few years. Marrying the man of her dreams is truly a freeing experience from her scarred and traumatic childhood. Surrounded by family riddled with mental illness of one form or other, Phillips determines early on not to follow in their footsteps. Pushing her troubled past deep in the recesses of her brain, Phillips is confident that her tainted childhood history will never rise and haunt her ever again, especially when her two beautiful boys, KP and Nuçi, enter the scene. Little does she know that genetics will come back to bite her, affecting her life in more ways than she could ever imagine.

Phillips is not one for mincing words. Her straightforward two-part narrative carries readers from a happy tight-knit family to one that suddenly gets thrown into the turbulence of Nuçi’s teen years and the first sign of mental illness, even though Phillips doesn’t recognize it until his later teens. Helplessness seems to be her trademark as she fails to reach out to him during a flurry of moody interludes. While her story leads up to that fateful 1996 day in part one, Phillips walks readers through the ordeal of figuring out a way to process Nuçi’s demise. After a two-year period of mourning, Phillips begins to look into mental health issues. Her words are profound:

“If the medication is the right one, energy levels may increase before the mood lightens. This is a period when the depressed person may regain the energy to take his/her own life. Therein lies—in my opinion—the Achilles Heel of treatment. Those waiting gaps, they need to be addressed.”

Phillips’ reasoning leads to the establishment of Nuçi’s Space, an adjunct to the treatment process.

With an overarching focus on suicide prevention, Nuçi’s Space’s emphasis is on musicians. Nuçi was a musician. Beyond that, the community of Athens, Georgia—where he was attending college and eventually ended his life—is heavily based on music. As Phillips states, “Many musicians consider themselves somewhat disenfranchised from society. They struggle to make a living and more often than not have no medical or dental insurance. Society tends to look at what they do as fun rather than work. Many times, rather than receiving a paycheck, they’re paid with alcohol or drugs.”

Phillip’s story is nothing less than a gut-wrenching yet highly encouraging read. It is fitting to close with Phillip’s goal for writing A Beautiful Here: “I sincerely hope that anyone who reads this will never know intimately the horror and heartbreak of losing a loved one to suicide. But for those who do, I hope to offer a bit of solace and hope. There is a way to survive and even to flourish.”

To learn more about Nuçi’s Space, go to www.nuci.org

Quill says: A Beautiful Here is one story that needs to be told and shared widely!

To learn more about A Beautiful Here: Emerging From The Overwhelming Darkness Of My Son's Suicide, please visit the author's website at: www.lindaphillips.org

BookReview - The Bookshop at Water's End

The Bookshop at Water’s End

By: Patti Callahan Henry
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-58311-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 25, 2017

Patti Callahan Henry delivers a perfect blend of family secrets, tragedy and true friendship in her latest novel, The Bookshop at Water’s End.

It’s been decades since Bonny Blankenship visited Water’s End. She built a life of rewarding success as a doctor. She is married to an equally successful attorney. However, all great things have their moments of a downward spiral. Bonnie is at the headwaters of her unraveling. Her daughter, Piper, has miserably tanked her first year of college. To compound the situation, when her best friend’s brother Owen winds up in the ER (and she is the attending physician), little did Bonnie know the ‘reunion’ would be the catalyst to the possibility of her losing her license to practice medicine. The trifecta to her drama is the imminent implosion of her marriage of thirty years. All signs were pointing to a trip back to Water’s End.

Bonnie and Lainey were known as the Summer Sisters. Lainey McKay got as far away from Water’s End as possible. Petaluma, California was her home—a home where she married a great guy and had two beautiful children. When she received the call from her ‘summer sister’ with the request to meet her in Water’s End for ‘one last summer before she sold the place,’ she wasn’t sure she could accommodate. She was thirteen years old that last summer. It was also the last time she and her brother Owen would ever see their mother—a mother who left them and was never to be seen again.

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to review a variety of wonderfully entertaining bodies of work. As an author, I consistently (and typically) approach fellow writers’ stories with the question: ‘what makes this one special?’ In Ms. Callahan’s case, it began for me with her dedication. She pays tribute to one of the most iconic authors of our time: Pat Conroy; ‘In honor of Pat Conroy October 26, 1945-March 4, 2016. Your life and work taught me both the power of story and of truth, and your death the same. You are and will be achingly missed for all time.’ In my opinion, truer words have rarely been written. I took pause after reading such a powerful dedication and knew I was in for a treat. With each word Ms. Henry had placed upon every page, there is purpose and intention. She beckons the attention of her audience and refuses to let go. She artfully builds plot from one scene to the next and infuses rich dialogue throughout. Her characters have depth; enabling her reader to engage and know these fictitious beings as one of their own in their respective circle of friends. Just like a Pat Conroy novel, as the pages dwindle in number, melancholy takes over - the end of the story is near. Ms. Henry nails the art of writing in The Bookshop at Water’s End. Outstanding read and I look forward to her next.

Quill says: The Bookshop at Water’s End takes a stronghold on its audience and vows to entertain from beginning, to middle, to end.

#BookReview - Walter and the Wallet

Walter and the Wallet

By: Billy Bloom
Illustrated By: Tanya Leonello
Publisher: Eifrig Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63233-116-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 25, 2017

Okay, kids, did you ever have a bad day? Well, if you have not, you are either very lucky or living in a world created by Disney (which, believe me, is a place I would love to live.) However, since I know that everyone in life has witnessed a bad day (unfortunately), where it seemed like nothing at school seemed to go at all well, than each and every one of you will do what I did after reading this book: You will become friends with Walter Whippingdale.

Walter is from Connecticut (as am I), and he has had a bad day. What else could you call a day when everything bad happens, from the girl you have a crush on in school liking someone else to slipping on some mustard just as you are about to enjoy a hot dog? Not to mention, being mortified that on this day that pimple grew to the size of a volcano right on the end of your nose. Yes, this is a bad day for Walter, but...the day isn’t over.

Earlier that day, in Walter’s hometown, a wallet had been dropped in the street. The wallet was old, brown, yet brimming over with money. Walter, leaving school with his head hanging down is the one who finds this wallet, and with this find, he realizes he can purchase everything he wants at the local stores and turn this horrible day into a super one. But when he meets up with a somewhat frightened, definitely worried man talking to a policeman and begging the officer of the law to find his lost item – an item that without it he won’t be able to pay the bills, or feed his child – Walter has a decision to make.

To every parent out there, BUY this story. Not only because you are talking about a great tale that speaks of morals and values through a super-fun character, but also because the author has written this in rhyming verse (which I always praise because how difficult that is to do and keep doing throughout the book in order to hold the child’s interest). And don’t forget to take a look at the cool website (www.eifrigpublishing.com) to learn more about Walter.

Quill says: From awesome words to fun illustrations, the day you ‘find’ Walter will always be on your list as being one of the best days you’ve ever had.

#BookReview - Bring Her Home

Bring Her Home

By: David Bell
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-0399584442
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 25, 2017

Author David Bell does not disappoint in his latest thriller, Bring Her Home.

Bill Price and his fifteen-year-old daughter Summer don't exactly get along. Since Bill's wife died in a tragic accident almost two years ago, he and his teenage daughter have been doing more fighting than getting along. Still, life must go on, and it does, until the day Summer goes missing. When Summer and her best friend Haley disappear, Bill goes into full panic mode. The story opens as Bill arrives at the local hospital, relieved that the girls have been found. Sadly, Summer is in a coma and Haley is dead, both girls having been brutally beaten. Even though Summer can't speak, Bill refuses to leave his daughter's side.

With Summer's face swollen and bandaged due to the severe beating she was given, Bill is hard-pressed to recognize his daughter. And when he and his sister, who rushed to Bill's side when Summer was found, learn the truth about Summer and Haley, their world goes into a tailspin. The police have been digging into the girls' past and what they find doesn't please Bill. Has he been that out of touch with his teenage daughter? Bill goes from doting, somewhat calm father to panicked and almost out of control father in a snap. Things change quickly in the case and Bill doesn't like what he's finding...

I brought Bring Her Home with me on a recent vacation in the hopes that I'd find some time to read. Typically I get very little reading done while traveling but I gobbled up this book in just two days. The story took off in the first chapter and had me asking questions before I began chapter two. There were plenty of twists and turns that I'd expect from a David Bell novel, and just enough new questions kept popping up that I couldn't stop reading. While I did figure out "who dunnit" well before the end, it didn't diminish my enjoyment of Bring Her Home.

Quill says: Bring Her Home is a fast-moving story that will keep mystery fans satisfied.