Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Interview with Author W.H. Raymond

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

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

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

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

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

FQ: What drew you to horses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

#BookReview - The Lost Mermaid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview - The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview - The Graves

The Graves: Book 2 in the Abby Endicott series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview - The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#BookReview - The Wanderer's Last Journey @lee_eiland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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