Thursday, April 28, 2016

Interview with Author Ruth Finnegan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Ruth Finnegan, author of Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

FQ: Much of your work is scholarly in nature, focusing on communication, oral traditions in storytelling, and the art of the spoken word in combination with music. What would you say earmarks that "Ah ha!" moment in your life when you knew without a shadow of a doubt that you would write an epic romance story?

FINNEGAN: Not really - it just arrived without my deliberate planning or even, in a sort-of way, awareness of what I was doing. I suppose the first ‘aha’ was when it was liked enough to be accepted for publication (wow), was published, and then, especially, when it started to get reviews pointing out dimensions I had never thought of, almost as if it was a classic: ‘aha’ so I seem to have penned a novel, amazing!’ Looking at it I can now see more continuity with my scholarly work than I’d have thought -(pointed out by some reviewers).

FQ: You incorporate scenes that are reminiscent of your Donegal schooling in Ireland. Are Kate's experiences a true reflection of your Irish education? What are the similarities and differences between you and Kate in this instance?

FINNEGAN: The account of the little Donegal school in chapter 2 is an exact description, down to the ink wells, cold stove, walk there, bull, and, aged 7, crying when I found I'd forgotten to minus 13 (though in my case, thankfully, I stayed good at math). The same is true of the chapter about Oxford, all drawn from my memories, apart from the last scene - though that might have been true too (except that it was ‘Measure for Measure,’ that bleak play, not ‘Othello’ - the latter just seemed more appropriate for the story of Kate’s rejection then impulsive quest).

Kate’s convent experience in chapter 3 is different from mine. Mine was an excellent if quirky Quaker school (The Mount) where all the teachers, more, or less, competent, were kind, though there was one blinkered headmistress (rather like the reverend Mother H.E.N. in the book - actually I think she was probably the model for that). But what I learned there about literature and quotation and up to a point life was very similar: I can never be grateful enough.

The author in 'academic mode'

FQ: Again, Kate travels to the Congo, which also seems to reflect your experience in Africa. What are the similarities and differences between you and Kate in this instance?

FINNEGAN: I’ve never been or could be a business woman like Kate nor have I visited the Congo, except for one transit overnight (the view of the river from the air was absolutely stupendous and much impressed me which is why, apart from its soft-of cosmic associations, it occurred to me to use it here). I know what a kind of cataclysmic epiphany can feel like, as with Kate, although for me, believe it or not, it was in a dentist’s waiting room in England. The stories however are authentic African, translated and slightly adapted by me, recorded when I was doing anthropological fieldwork in Sierra Leone, and casting their oral influence all through the book.

FQ: It has been said by many authors that writers can easily find themselves totally absorbed in their plot and especially their characters. Did you find that experience to be true in the creation of Kate?

FINNEGAN: Yes, absolutely. But apart from the couple of directly autobiographical chapters (Donegal and Oxford) I didn’t realise until well after I had finished the novel that Kate was myself. (And I now see that that’s why in the ‘Epilogue,’ though I express my hope, I have left the ending open for it will not, cannot, be known until my life is at an end).

FQ: You include poetic portions from different schools of literature—both sacred and secular—in Black Inked Pearl.. Is there one poet who stands out as having a profound influence in your literary background?

FINNEGAN: Yes Homer. The first real book I read (not having learned to read till I was seven - my mother thought learning about other things more important than having your head in a book - she was right) was Homer’s Odyssey, soon followed by the Iliad and crying over Prima’s visit to Achilles to beg for his son’s body, amazingly touching, still moves me to tears. They were both in the old-fashioned biblical-language translations fashionable in the nineteenth century and that affected me too.

I think Homer's similes (which I’ve reproduced and copied so freely in my novel) are, so apparently simple, among the most wonderful things in literature - indeed ‘the world in a grain of sand’ (I love Blake too).

The author at home in her garden with dogs Pippa (in arms) and Douglas feet (photo taken by husband David)

FQ: Black Inked Pearl is written in such a way that it is open for reader interpretation. While that interpretation can vary widely, what is one thing that you would hope your audience would take away after reading your epic story?

FINNEGAN: Oh I suppose - to love the world and everything in it (not least those who search after impossible but not so impossible dreams (think of Coelho’s Alchemist), those who experience dementia, those who struggle between dream and reality - and above all yourself, the hardest.

FQ: Do you foresee more projects of epic literary proportion in the near future?

FINNEGAN: Hm, there is one trying to fight its way through this very day and before, but I am trying to close my mind to the dreams - I know they will still be there when I look. I need to finish off a bunch of academic books first. Won’t say any more at this stage but I guess I’ll be back.

FQ: Have you ever considered the possibility of writing a story for youth?

FINNEGAN: Oddly enough a taxi driver (a local church leader, originally from Ghanq) having heard the plot of the Black Inked Pearl as he drove me to the airport on the way to my yearly visit to my daughter in New Zealand - the land, to me always liminal where my novel started to come to me - suggested this. It had never occurred to me. He said ‘children should know there is a heaven and a hell!' So I am thinking about this - a version not of something new but of a Black Inked Pearl suitable for 12 year olds.

Am also planning to do an audio version in nearish future which, though unchanged in wording might be more accessible for modern youth than the written version. Perhaps too a film, which would have the same effect.

I have also been enjoying constructing some retold fairy tales for early readers (the first to be called something like The Frog Adventure - an upside-down version of the frog prince story) and have found a most wonderful illustrator to help. Watch this space!

To learn more about Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#BookReview - Theodore and Hazel and the Bird @theohazelkids

Theodore and Hazel and the Bird

By: Riza Printup and Marcus Printup
Illustrated by: Elyse Whittake-Paek
Publisher: RiMarcable Publications
Publication Date: March 2016
ISBN: 978-0692678718
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2016

A sad little bird has lost his song. How will he ever find it again? In this charming story, two young children help the bird look for his ‘tweet.’ Working together, will they find the music the bird has lost?

Theodore is a trumpet player and his friend Hazel loves to create beautiful music on her harp. One lovely day, the two friends decide to head to the local park. The sun is shining and it’s the perfect day to play outside. They take their instruments along, because, gosh, it’s also a perfect day to share their music with others. As Theodore and Hazel are enjoying the park, they come across a bird who looks very sad. Wondering what might be wrong with their new acquaintance, the bird tells them that he has lost his song:

“I think I lost my song,” said the Bird
as his tears began to flow.
“I open up my beak to sing
and I sound like this...hhhhhhhhhhho!”

Theodore and Hazel offer to help the bird find his song so off the three go in search of the bird’s ‘tweet.’

As they wander through the park, the new friends, along with the reader, meet several creatures that call the park home. These animals, as well as a bike and human, make many different sounds. They all seem to have their own songs. But what about the bird? Will he, with the help of Theodore and Hazel, ever find his song?

Theodore and Hazel and the Bird is an enjoyable read for both children and adults. It’s great to see a book for early readers where the characters happily carry their instruments around everywhere they go. It’s clear that the authors, a husband and wife team, one who plays harp and the other trumpet, love their music and want to share it with others. The positive message of finding your inner voice, along with the comical revelation of what the bird sneezes out of his mouth will delight young readers. Add in the colorful illustrations and you have a book that children will ask for at bedtime.

Quill says: A charming story about finding your own special voice – with a happy ending, and a pair of unusual peas. This is a perfect bedtime story that children will want to read again and again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Interview with Author Michael Pronko @pronkomichael

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Michael Pronko, author of Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo

FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed Motions and Moments. The work flowed and I found myself often feeling as though I was engaged in endless conversation with you. Given this is your third compilation of essays on the subject of Tokyo, what inspired you to write the first (and continue the series)? Was it more a journey for you to understand its people (or a mission to explain the culture to the world)?

PRONKO: I’m glad you enjoyed it. I wanted readers to hear the conversation between Tokyo and me, but also to join in the conversation, too. I started writing these essays because Tokyo overwhelmed me when I first started living here. I wanted to pick apart my reactions, to not lose them, but also to understand what I was experiencing, which felt very intense. And still does! Then, I got lucky to find a couple of publications, Tokyo Q (which sadly died) and Newsweek Japan that were interested in publishing my thoughts and musings. That kept me writing. A lot of Japanese readers wrote in over the years, and I got invited to be on TV, so that was encouraging that Japanese wanted to hear what I thought. And Tokyo never runs out of topics to write about. So, it’s both to understand myself and to understand Tokyo. Explaining it to the world comes in third maybe, but that’s been interesting, too.

Author Michael Pronko

FQ: As a native of the Midwest in America, how difficult was it to assimilate to Tokyo when you first traveled there?

PRONKO: Difficult, I would say, in most ways, the language, ways of doing things, the flow of life, and cultural values are all hard to get your mind around. But in other ways, it’s felt natural, and easy even. I’ve always liked strange experiences, and Tokyo has plenty of those. But Tokyo’s also a very huge, open place that encompasses all kinds of people and attitudes and lifestyles. I could find music, food, books and other sustenance. Italian food one night and Japanese the next is not the hardest assimilation anyone’s ever had.

That said, I’m not sure I’ve assimilated altogether. Friends and colleagues who are Japanese language or culture specialists, or who married a Japanese person probably assimilate better than me. Strangely, as a writer and as a professor, I’m paid to be American in some way, to see and teach from that slightly outside position, though with an understanding of the Japanese side, too. I’m used to things here, comfortable with them, but I still find a lot of them weird. That seems a productive balance.

FQ: In line with Question 2, when you travel back to Tokyo after spending time in the States, do you find you adapt more quickly each time to return—to the pace? Culture? Environment? Is there a specific process you implement to adapt?

PRONKO: Less and less quickly, I think. It’s always confusing to switch cultural situations, but I notice differences more and more. I think the only process I use is to write down observations and reactions as fully as I can. Going both ways is weird, so I jot down what I feel. The times when I switch cultures are the times when I get the most ideas. I like to observe my observations. And maybe more importantly, I’ve developed much more of a sense of humor about the differences, which helps immensely!

FQ: I particularly enjoyed your essays on the quakes. I cannot imagine not only experiencing such a catastrophic occurrence, but how do you cope with the notion the next one can happen at any time?

PRONKO: Total denial is very helpful. It covers the day-to-day of lingering anxiety. Sort of. After the most recent disaster in Kyushu, though, I was reminded again of how possible a big quake in Tokyo really is. And how lucky Tokyo has been so far. I try to calm myself with facts, emergency bags, and a pre-set plan. That kind of constant unconscious awareness is there all the time, so you get used to the idea. Each small quake, and there are a lot of them, really gives me a start. Each time on hits, and the whole building starts bucking and jolting, I get flooded with adrenaline, and then I wait to see if it gets worse, try to stay calm and ride it out. I wanted to get some of that feeling into the essays.

FQ: What life experience or experiences stands out most in your life in Tokyo?

PRONKO: The people here. Tokyo people are so different from me, I feel at times, but exactly the same at other times. People are hard to write about, as they’re so complex, but they’re the ongoing experience that stands out. My students are really intriguing, and the experiences with them are ones I value. My students talk with me a lot and invite me to their weddings or out for drinking parties long after they graduated. I write about jazz, too, so I know a lot of musicians, jazz fans and club owners. They’re different from business people, who are the vast majority of Tokyoites. There are a lot of other things that I love always, like just walking around the city. I went on TV a few times, which was interesting doing this completely different activity, being ordered around by a director, filming in the streets and performing in the studio (with make-up!). Still, people are the best experience.

FQ: How difficult (or easy) was the adjustment to the cuisine? What is your favorite dish?

PRONKO: Very, very easy. I love Japanese food, which is generally healthy, and served with great attention to detail. Eating is deeply integrated into general life here in ways that makes America seem like a culture that scarfs down food out of necessity. I like the whole culture of cuisine here. It’s ritualized, overly so at times, but always respectfully and humanly. Meals with friends stretch out over hours, talking, drinking, ordering after discussing what to order. And there’s lots of quick eats, too, like ramen, which I love, and ton katsu, deep-fried pork cutlets, which I grab on the run between classes. Probably, my favorite is just fish, both raw and grilled, which is just marvelous here, done simply. But there are so many other cuisines here, too, Chinese, Italian, French, Thai, everything, so that makes it easy to adjust by just diversifying.

FQ: I have often thought the Asian culture is quite respectful and adheres to protocol. What is one of the greatest ‘foibles’ you orchestrated during your time abroad? How did you overcome the faux pas?

PRONKO: One thing I used to always do was to wear the toilet slippers out of the toilet. In Japanese homes, the toilet area has different slippers, which you change into and out of each time you go in. No outside shoes in the house, right? I would always forget and just wear the toilet slippers back out around the house. But the toilet is even more outside than the outside, so it’s disgusting, by Japanese standards! The words for “having an affair” and “gardener” sound similar, so one time I spoke to a gardener working in a garden nearby my house, but switching the words, I asked him if he was an “affair” person who could come have an “affair” in my backyard. Seeing I was a foreigner, he took a big breath, and figured it out. Fortunately.

In addition to those kinds of mistakes, other things were tougher. One colleague yelled at me in the hallway, I mean really screamed, about my introducing an essay section to our entrance exam. I was on the committee and just added it, American style! Which was absolutely wrong in Japanese culture, as it was a singular action taken without extensive group discussion. The Japanese way would have been to discuss it in meeting after meeting, listening to everyone’s opinion, checking with other universities to see what they did, sending a formal proposal to the Education Ministry, waiting for the reply, announcing and discussing it at more meetings, and…well that would have taken years and ended up with nothing at all. What I did was “wrong” but it worked.

The number of other similar foibles, faux pas, and foul-ups could fill another volume of essays. Just worrying about trying to find the right way can be a huge pain. Japanese culture is super-strict about polite, passive adherence to accepted ways of doing things. Some of those ways are efficient, smooth and have their own internal logic. But others are inane and even Japanese hate following them! Many Japanese would even feel a certain envy at my not feeling obligated to do things in the correctly, long-accepted, Japanese way. However, on the flip side, I learned to be respectful and patient as the first response to whatever happens or is said. That attitude of take-a-breath and wait-and-see cuts down on most faux pas.

FQ: I have never been to Tokyo, but have friends who have traveled there and relayed a similar observation you touched upon often in your essays: It’s incredibly clean! What DO they do with all the refuse?!

PRONKO: Well, places in the public eye are amazingly clean, but there are dirty, unkempt, abandoned places too, here and there. It’s just this deep-set cultural value to be clean, neat, and tidy. At some places like old temples or funky drinking places, it’s OK to just let things fall into a kind of beautiful disrepair. In the right place, dirt is relaxing. It always seems to me that the cleanliness is so much work. I guess if it is clean already, it’s easier to keep it clean. It’s a kind of ongoing, constantly enacted purification, I suppose, like washing your hands before entering a temple. It’s a way of maintaining consideration about space and people. To have a lot of dirt, trash or disorder in front of your store or your home would be considered rude to customers, neighbors or passers-by. So, you clean it up. That happens on a small scale and on a large scale.

FQ: In line with Question 8, I (think) you mentioned strict adherence to recycling, but I don’t recall if lofty fines are imposed on violators. How serious is the penalty to those who violate the codes?

PRONKO: We have a trash calendar to remind us what days are set for throwing out glass, PET bottles, random plastic, non-burnable, burnable, paper (3 kinds) and dangerous things like batteries. It’s very tightly organized. Basically, I think violation is just not done. When I’ve gotten my trash category wrong outside my house, the trash collectors will peer into my trash bag (special bags purchased from the city), and then tape on a little form note with boxes to check off with my specific error. They just leave that out in front of the house. It’s SO embarrassing to come home from a long day and find that all day long everyone in the neighborhood has been glancing at my trash mistake as they passed by! Shame is the ultimate penalty. But I think, too, people feel connected to public space, and do not want to inconvenience others. So, it’s maybe less actual penalty than social expectation. I once spent the equivalent of a couple hundred dollars to haul off some old heaters, shelves, laundry poles and this and that. You have to pay to play the garbage game. It adds up, but on the other hand, it makes you super-aware of how much each little this and that will cost to dispose of. So, you pay attention to that end cost. Fair enough.

FQ: When in Tokyo, what is the one comfort from home you cannot obtain (and how do you overcome the desire to have it)?

PRONKO: Most creature comforts are now easy to come by in Tokyo. Somehow someplace, you can find almost anything. Tokyo’s very big. Some things, you might have to search out, like a good hamburger. Mexican food is in short supply. There are some fancy places, but not the kind of casual, authentic Mexican food I really used to love. So, I’ve learned to make it myself at home. Bookstores in English are good, but not like the local indie places you’d find in America. But, I have a library at school where I can order what I like. What I really miss is little, casual exchanges, like with a store clerk or wait staff or even someone in my university office. Those kinds of interactions tend to remain extremely formal here, stiff and restrained by American standards. I miss easy, light banter with passing strangers.

FQ: Tokyo seems to be the city of constant motion. Is there ever a time when the streets sleep (other than December)? What is that like?

PRONKO: It is a city of constant motion, of necessity or regularity or just to avoid the exhaustion of stopping, but things do slow down, too. I think the streets are the place for energy and motion, so the slowing down tends to take place more in private spaces. Japanese take a bath at night, so that’s a real still point for most people. An individual and private stillness. There are plenty of calm coffee shops, restaurants, parks and other places, where sitting quietly doing nothing is the norm. But, the main streets tend to stay active. There are plenty of quiet neighborhoods, and those can be very tranquil. In the early morning hours, before the trains start back up, it’s very quiet most places, but still not quite asleep. There’s no daylight savings time in Japan, so the sun comes up early and it’s light by 5 am in summer. It’s quiet then.

FQ: I thank you for your captivating essays. Is there another in the series in the works or are you on to a different project? If so, could you share a bit?

PRONKO: I finished two novels set in Tokyo, noir-like mysteries, so I hope to get one of those out this year. They’ll be my main focus this year. I’m working on more essays, as there is so much more in Tokyo to write about, but it takes time to build up enough for another full collection. I work on those little by little and don’t want to force them. The new ones seem to be focusing on Tokyo people, their lives, passions and what they tell me and do. I’m also working on a book about Japanese jazz, as that is a real passion of mine, with my own website as the starting place, Jazz in Japan. As always, the problem is finding enough time to do them all.

To learn more about Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, April 22, 2016

#BookReview - Motions and Moments @pronkomichael

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo

By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-942410-11-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 23, 2016

Motions and Moments is a well-thought-out compilation of introspective ‘essays about Tokyo’ by Michael Pronko.

The third in his series of musings toward Tokyo living is an interesting and captivating read. The book is laid out in logical fashion in that it takes the author on a journey of: ‘...first you take a step… then you take another...’ There are a total of five parts to the book beginning with “Surfaces.” In the opening part, Pronko focuses on the nuances and mannerisms of the inhabitants of Tokyo—millions of people co-habitating in miniscule space. He speaks of “The Language Dance” under the guise of how people can go “...for weeks without needing to converse with anyone. You can silently order, pay the bill, use an IC or credit card to slip in and out of stations, and get by at work or shopping with set polite phrases that involve no real thought...” In his next sentence he challenges his audience with the premise of Tokyo being the city of conversations. Part I of Mr. Pronko’s book is a terrific foundation that sets the tone to assuage the reader’s mindset in preparation for learning all there could possibly be to know about life in Tokyo.

Each essay is succinct in that it doesn’t span more than 3-4 pages, yet by the end of each essay, one has a sense of reading a short story and enjoying the journey in so doing. There is a tone of absolute respect Mr. Pronko has for Tokyo and its natives. Later in the book, he devotes a section to the architecture and construction abound. It was interesting to read his comparisons between we westerners and our affinity with sprawl. Yet, in Tokyo, there is only so much real estate to spread out upon and the ‘fix’ Tokyo has mastered is to go up (versus out). Imagine! Getting lost in a city beneath its surface!

Michael Pronko has an engaging tone through his writing. He is conversational as much as educational without boring his audience with too much lecture. It is no wonder he has hung his hat in this mystical place for fifteen years. His essays have a beautiful flow from one thought to the next and it was easy for me to settle into the journey of this body of work. He often uses the Japanese word (or words) for the subject he depicts and, in my opinion, this infuses greater credibility to the essays he has written. There is a subtle nuance that plays throughout this series of essays that piques a desire in the reader to visit this enchanted land. With such a large population on such a small island, it is abundantly clear harmony among its inhabitants is a must. Mr. Pronko depicts this time and again throughout this wonderful compilation of essays. Well done!

Quill says: Motions and Moments is a terrific series of essays that captures the essence and allure of Tokyo with a lot of heart infused in the work.

For more information on Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#BookReview - Shot Down @ShotDownB17

Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth

By: Steve Snyder
Publisher: Sea Breeze Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9860760-1-5
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 20, 2016

Steve Snyder brings his dad, Howard Snyder and his exceptional flight crew of the WWII B-17 Susan Ruth, back to vibrant life across the pages of his memoir: Shot Down.

Sometime around February 8, 1944, Howard Snyder and the crew of the Susan Ruth were forced to abandon ship. The Susan Ruth was struck by enemy fire and the cockpit was filling with smoke (and fire) at a rapid rate. Howard Snyder was the pilot and the mission began as each mission began. The crew assumed their positions in the tight quarters of their aircraft. They donned the air and eased into fighter formation. Sadly, on this day, their fate perhaps was pre-destined, but none of the men could have known what lay ahead in the days and months to come once their craft began its rapid descent from the comfort of clouds and sky.

The campaign of war and the formidable Nazi Regime led by the tyrannical monster, Hitler, was far from being over the day the Susan Ruth went down. Rather, the heat was being turned up more than a notch and proud American soldiers had one vision they focused on: stop the madness of Hitler. Howard Snyder had a young wife and two beautiful baby girls state-side. Yet, as his ship spiraled downward, all he could wonder was whether he and his crew would make it out alive. Would they be captured? Would they perish? Would they survive if captured? Beyond the crash, the days and months ahead would live in infamy in Snyder’s memories years beyond the end of war. Although his son Steve had yet to be conceived, it would be his commitment and the love of his father and family that would compel him to set pen to paper decades later and begin his personal journey of telling the world yet another story of the brave crew of the Susan Ruth.

I finished reading Shot Down a little over a week ago, but wanted to savor this magnificent story before immediately running to my computer to write my critique. From the onset of this amazing story, I felt an instant connection with this author. He is proud. He is bursting with love. He is patient and he is on a mission to tell his father’s story not only with heart, but with precise accuracy. I was not aware of the tyranny and day-to-day trauma our brave men of this era faced. My dad was a WWII Veteran (82nd Airborne). I often recall how close-mouthed he was when it came to sharing his experience. It was simply something he had no desire to speak of. I applaud Mr. Snyder for his conviction in getting the thoughts down on paper—thoughts created by hours, months and years of sifting through the journals his father kept as much as sourcing historical accounts to get it right. The honor and pride this author has for his father is audible page after page and he pays beautiful homage to the ghosts left in the wake of such an egregious war. While I did not fact check every historical reference, I commend Mr. Snyder for his exceptional bibliography and index at the back of the book. It further enhances his commitment to telling the story and his rounded ability as an historical writer. The love this man has for his father and men (and women) in service is palpable and I thank him for his service in sharing such a beautifully written memoir. Well done Mr. Snyder.

Quill says: Shot Down is a compelling memoir that further affirms why we must ‘never forget.’

For more information on Shot Down, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Firstborn Destinies - Lies @ML_Lacy_Author

Firstborn Destinies: Lies

By: M.L. Lacy
Publisher: M.L. Lacy Production
Publication Date: February 2016
ISBN: 978-1523443727
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 2016

There was little that Kelsey Johnson remembered about her parents as she was told they died in a house fire when she was just a small child. Her grandparents had raised her, and all her memories revolved around them. Now a grown woman, her grandfather had already passed away and her grandmother was nearing the end of her own life. Terrified of the thought that the last of her family was about to leave her, Kelsey is not prepared for the information her grandmother gives her while laying on her deathbed. Apparently, the truth about her parents was kept from Kelsey for her own protection. Her grandmother tells Kelsey her parents did not die in a fire, but rather had to abandon Kelsey because the place they had to go would not be a safe place to raise a child.

Suddenly Kelsey’s world is turned upside down as everything she thought she knew about the past turns out to be a lie. Her few clues to what really happened to her parents are written down in a box full of cards and letters that they sent to her grandparents for the first few years after they left. However, the letters don’t give much information on where they could currently be living except that the postmark is from a small town in South Dakota. One part of Kelsey’s mind is thinking that she should make a trip to this small town just to see if she could uncover any information about where her parents are currently living. However, the other part, the more sensible part, is telling her to just leave the past in the past and move on with her life and don’t think about the unanswered questions. Ultimately, curiosity takes over and Kelsey decides to take a two-week vacation to travel to South Dakota and just see what comes up. Kelsey reasons that at the very least, the trip will at least give her time to recover after her grandmother’s passing.

As fate would have it this trip turns out to be anything but a simple quest for answers, it ends up changing Kelsey’s whole life. On her first day in town she meets a man named Justin who has an amazingly strong pull on her as if she was meant to meet him. The attraction seems to be mutual as Justin asks her to go to dinner the next night. As Kelsey and Justin get to know each other the secrets of the past will start to unfold.

It took all of three pages for me to start enjoying this book and it kept my attention to the very end. The main character of Kelsey was one that I instantly connected with and I found myself cheering her on through all of her trials. It’s always fun as a reader to put yourself in the character’s shoes and with this story I felt as if I could see everything through her eyes perfectly. This is a wonderful start to such an exciting series and I cannot wait for the next installment to come out. Please Ms. Lacy, hurry up with book two!

Quill says: An absolutely fantastic beginning to an incredible fantasy adventure!

#BookReview - Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

By: Ruth Finnegan
Publisher: Garn Press
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 978-1942146179
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 12, 2016

Finnegan spins a refreshing, one-of-a-kind love story in her epic novel Black Inked Pearl.

Kate is fifteen years of age at the time she meets her enigmatic lover by the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, Ireland. Although entranced, Kate's youth and inexperience push her to immediately reject her lover. Under the tutelage and spiritual instruction of the nuns at convent school, Kate finds herself vacillating between feelings of guilt and desires for pure love. As a result, Kate longs to be in her lover's presence, constantly keeping to a dreamy state. Growing up in Ireland, "she knew her fate was a quiet, gentle one. Among the paths of faerie, Tir na nOg, enchanted dreams and histories...Just an ordinary girl. In a magical world."

Years later as a successful young businesswoman, Kate appears to put away childish things, finding many yet superficial loves en route. Traveling to the Congo in Africa, Kate is caught off guard when she listens to a storyteller's version of the Garden of Eden story. It is in the retelling that her heart is stirred and she once again finds herself longing for the presence of her lover. In her quest for love and happiness, Kate makes her way to various places—both corporeal (i.e., Donegal, Ireland; St. Pancras, London; an old-aged home) and intangible (i.e., hell, heaven, and Eden). Although Kate is often in a quandary about life and love, her viewpoint begins to change when she meets a beetle that points her in the right direction and literally out of the pit of hell.

Finnegan's writing style transcends all concepts, definitions, and boundaries of storytelling, leaving readers to draw their own interpretations. Using a combination of prose and poetry, Finnegan weaves in segments of secular and sacred works of Shakespeare, Rumi, W. B. Yeats, Wittgenstein (philosopher), Homer, William Blake, Milton, Rider Haggard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as various Christian prayers within Kate's quest for true love. Finnegan's third person narrative keeps to a near lilting style reminiscent of Irish literature that carries its own trance-like quality. Since Finnegan's plot constantly highlights allusions, it is difficult to tell when scenes shift from reality to surreal and vice versa.

That said, Kate's journey evokes a progressive dream. Indeed, many scenes are replete with nonsensical situations, people, beasts, celestial beings, and to top the list, a talking beetle. Considered one of God's lowly creatures, the beetle (nicknamed Mickey, which the beetle finds disrespectful so the name is only mentioned once) functions to some extent like Jiminy Cricket, encouraging Kate (so-to-speak) to "let her conscience be her guide." With so many references to God and Kate's self-awareness, one could easily interpret that Kate is on a spiritual quest and that her search for true love begins with loving herself first and foremost.

Quill says: A highly atypical romance tale, Black Inked Pearl is a must read for those who desire a deeper understanding in the realm of love!

For more information on Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest, please visit the publisher's website at: