Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#BookReview - Fresh off the Starship @ann_crawford1

Fresh off the Starship

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9485-4382-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 13, 2019 
If you’re a fantasy lover, who also likes more than a little bit of humor in their lives, then this is one of those books you most assuredly do not want to miss.
Author Ann Crawford introduces readers to many new things – the most important being a literal “starbeing” named Missy. Missy hails from Andromeda, a galaxy far, far away that George Lucas would feel a kinship for, considering that he is the name synonymous with such galaxies. (Yes, that is a shout out to you Star Wars fans!)
Missy is coming directly to Earth for more than just a shopping trip in downtown Manhattan. She is, in fact, on a quest. She has been given an assignment to stop Earth’s humans from heading into the dark abyss that is just waiting out there to destroy them and their planet. What she aims for is Washington, D.C. After all, that is the location on Earth where the people-in-charge sit. But, much like those aliens who ended up in Roswell, New Mexico back in the 1940’s, Missy ends up completely missing D.C. and instead lands in Kansas. As we all know, politics is not exactly what Kansas is all about. 
Once in Kansas, however, Missy provides enlightenment, humor, fun, and inspiration that only a “starbeing” could produce. As she awakens after landing on Earth, she hears strange voices all around her. Of course, they are human voices, but they sound more than a bit odd. Yes, Missy knows English. She had to learn it in her studies before heading out on this assignment. But the accent is brand new to her alien ears. Even though her mission has been diverted and Missy is now in Kansas attempting to live life as a small-town girl, she has not forgotten—nor has she given up on—her initial goal to help humanity discover the beauty and kindness that is all around them. Using her own charm, Missy leads people back to a world of understanding. A world that sees and loves nature and respects all creatures, whether great or small.
This is one of those books that offers pure and utter honesty to readers. It allows everyone to laugh and enjoy the words and the character of Missy, while also being captivated by romance, a solid plot, and dialogue that is absolutely thought-provoking. We learn lessons through Missy, and each of us are reminded that life is something that should be cared for and never taken for granted. The author has done a great job encasing a true ‘chick-lit’ work within an emotional drama that, quite literally, can alter one’s perception.
I give an A+ to this wise, memorable character. And, I must say, I hope this is one who readers clamp on to in order to perhaps see more of Andromeda’s “starbeings” come to Earth in the future. Frankly, I think one that does land in D.C. and gets a job inside The White House would be a joy to see.
Quill says: An insightful, warm book that definitely does the author proud. 
For more information on Fresh off the Starship, please visit anncrawford.net

#BookReview - Spellweaver @ann_crawford1

Spellweaver: A Historical Fantasy Novel

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: July 16, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9485-4321-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 12, 2019 
When it comes to the fantastical, author Ann Crawford yet again lets her imagination run free as she introduces readers to a young heroine, a diabolical fiend, a heartwarming village, and those who can be manipulated by a devious mind. 
Her name is Catriona: a stunning Scottish girl who seems to have the sun emanating from her at all times. Catriona’s hair glows like copper fire, and she is the one who villagers absolutely love to speak with because of her undying charm and passion for life. She is also the older sister of Elspeth – a young lady who does not speak a word. She was said to have chattered all the time when she was just a babe, but when their mother died after having never quite recovered from childbirth, Elspeth stopped uttering a word. The girls have no clear memory of their mother, but their father turned from a leader of the village that was held in high-esteem to a man who still holds the title of leader, but was so hurt by his wife’s death that he became nothing more than a drunk. He also held anger and hatred in his heart for Elspeth, blaming her for his true love’s death.
In this village there is one who despises Catriona, but only because he absolutely wants her to become his own wife. He goes by the name of Shane, and the only way Catriona has figured out how to deal with him is to be the kindest person she can be while Shane is around. Her voice never rises in anger, with anyone, and she basically spends her days picking plants growing on the mountainside that come in handy for the villagers. You see, Catriona is a Wiccan healer. Although many still classify Wiccan as being witches and warlocks who are out to damage and harm life, Catriona is a true Wiccan—out to protect people by utilizing her knowledge of herbs and remedies in order to help those in need feel better. 
There is darkness on the horizon of this small Scottish village, however; there are strangers bearing down on their land. One is a witch hunter. Dressed in black, he and his attendant are coming towards the village for a very important purpose, to call out a true “Spellweaver” and burn her at the stake. The other man coming closer to them is on his own journey that does not involve darkness or pain. He hails from a familiar land that the villagers (and readers) certainly know about: Glastonbury. His name is Byron, and he has been traveling for almost a year. Although he has stopped in many a town along the way, no others have played home to a young woman, such as Catriona, who steals his heart in the very first moment he lays eyes upon her.
From romance to deception, this tale holds on to the reader and never let’s go. Not only are the characters and subplots intoxicating, but this story is also told from five different perspectives, with the book being broken up into the elements: earth, air, wind and fire. The addition of the fifth, being ‘love,’ rounds out the elements. Here, the magical exists. Here, the fantastical is normal. And it is here, where you are guaranteed to lose yourself within the pages. 
Quill says: All that can be said is that the author has cast her own remarkable “spell” upon readers with this unforgettable tale.
For more information on Spellweaver: A Historical Fantasy Novel, please visit anncrawford.net

Friday, January 11, 2019

#BookReview - Life in the Hollywood Lane @ann_crawford1

Life in the Hollywood Lane

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: May 2018
ISBN: 978-0982169025
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 10, 2019
At first glance, Life in the Hollywood Lane appears to be just another fictional account of the life and times of an actress in and around the famous city. But this story is so much more - it's a story of a woman discovering the innermost truths about herself and taking the reader along for the journey.
Trish is an actress who has had some success in Hollywood, and while she hasn't made it big, she's "...made it medium." Originally from the Midwest, Trish moved to Hollywood as soon as she was old enough to make the trek and got busy going to auditions. It was at an audition that she met Cyndi, her soon-to-be BFF - "...the bestest of bestest friends in the history of bestest..." Cyn was bright, beautiful and had that special something that drew people to her. Together, the BFFs made a life in Hollywood, doing commercials and nabbing an occasional role in a movie. Trish and Cyn were able to pay their bills, but they always felt as if they hadn't quite "made it." 
As the two friends continued to work on their careers, time passed and suddenly it was twenty years later. In a town that judges a person in large part on their looks, reaching the age of 40 can be a big deal. For Trish, the event passed without much fanfare, but for Cyn, it was a much bigger deal. The night before her fortieth birthday, she killed herself.
The events up to and including Cyn's suicide happen within the first 20 pages and then the focus shifts to Trish's journey after her best friend's death. Dealing with the pain, the emptiness, the family, all these and more determine what Trish does. She questions so many things about her life, and her best friend. What could she have done differently? Was is something she said? Didn't say? The numbness and guilt could be overwhelming. Slowly, with the help of friends, such as her very funny agent Cara, Trish is able to get back to living.
While a book about an actress dealing with her best friend's death may sound like a real "downer," Life in the Hollywood Lane is actually a very uplifting read. Author Ann Crawford has a knack for setting a heartfelt, and yet, at times lighthearted, atmosphere to her stories. This is the second of her books that I've read, the other was Angels on Overtime, and both books had many, many funny moments, as well as deep, thought-provoking ideas. One moment you'll feel yourself tearing up as you read, and then a minute later you're laughing. As Life in the Hollywood Lane progresses, Trish begins to find herself, and find new relationships too. The author, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, shares snippets of what it's really like behind the curtain of fame in Hollywood, getting ready for the Red Carpet, the hurry-up-and-wait aspects of movie making, that add a bit of realism to the story. Most importantly, however, is the journey of discovery the Trish goes on and with which she takes the reader along. "...we can't truly be destroyed...only transformed...no matter what path we take." Words to live by, Trish, thanks for sharing.
Quill says: Life in the Hollywood Lane is a heartfelt, uplifting, and at times funny story about one woman's journey to finding herself that will linger with you long after you've finished reading.
For more information on Life in the Hollywood Lane, please visit the author's website at: anncrawford.net

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Katie Keridan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Katie Keridan, the author of Once Upon A Girl



FQ: You mention in the book’s bio that you’ve wanted to be a writer “ever since I can remember.” Can you recall that turning point?

KERIDAN: For me, writing has always been a way to make sense of things. Slowing down and reproducing experiences one letter at a time has helped me better understand the world around me, as well as the ever-changing landscape inside my own head. As a child, writing initially allowed me to describe things that were important to me, validating them and giving them a permanence at a time when things seemed to change so fast. It then allowed me to control things – specifically, to make sure that the ending would be happy – at a time when I felt unable to control much of what was happening in my life.

FQ: Again, from your bio, you mention: “The stories and poems I read as a child shaped me into the person I am today.” Which writers (authors/poets) inspired you over the years, and how?

KERIDAN: I grew up loving John R. Erikson, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, Thornton W. Burgess, Bonnie Bryant, and Ann M. Martin. Many of the authors used animals to teach “life lessons,” and I liked learning vicariously without having to make all the same mistakes for myself. I also liked stories with strong female characters who valued family, friends, and actively solving problems.

FQ: What are some favorite book titles, and why did these books make an impression on you growing up?

KERIDAN: This list could be pages long, so I’m limiting myself to three:

The first is a series, rather than one single book – the Hank the Cowdogbook series by John R. Erikson. I read those books over and over again, and I also wore out the audiotapes I’d borrow from the library, listening to them as I fell asleep. Hank was such an endearing character…he made so many mistakes, but his heart was always in the right place. The books felt familiar (they took place on a ranch, I grew up on a ranch), and they were filled with humor. They taught me that, even when things seem terrible, there is always a reason to laugh.

The second book is Sabriel, by Garth Nix, the story of a young woman with magical powers who leaves behind the world she knows to fulfill her destiny as a necromancer called the Abhorsen. I was immediately captivated by the mixture of strength and vulnerability in the character. She was simultaneously mysterious and relatable, and I just love that she failed and grew and learned and fought for what was important to her.

The third book is The Book Thief,by Markus Zusak. That book broke my heart in all the right ways. It taught me that, no matter the circumstances, there is always beauty to be found. It always made me dream of one day writing something even a fraction as beautiful…something that settles into your bones and acts as a demarcation between before I read thisand after I read this.

FQ: Your main purpose for writing Once Upon a Girl is to raise awareness to low self-esteem and provide hope for those who feel hopeless. You mention in your bio that what you read as a child made you “feel strong and smart and hopeful.” Obviously, an accumulation of events that took place in your life, left you high and dry and misdirected before you had to reinvent yourself. What words of hope would you offer to those who have lost their way and have bought into hopelessness?
KERIDAN: Reinvention is always possible. You are never too far gone to get where you want to go. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, only that it’s possible.

FQ: You paint metaphors throughout Once Upon a Girl. Name one metaphor you hope readers will find relatable and hopeful?

KERIDAN: I hope readers relate to the metaphor of being their own rescuer – don’t sit inside the castle, bemoaning the fact that you’re trapped, waiting for someone to save you. Save yourself! Leave the castle, find a dragon to help you burn it down, if need be, make your way through the woods, and make your own happily ever after.

FQ: One strong theme inferenced in your poems is codependency. While the term is often related to alcohol or drug addiction, the reality is that it works with relationships, too. A vicious love-hate (often passive-aggressive) cycle develops among people of low self-esteem who develop a false sense of love. What words of advice would you offer to those who find themselves going from one codependent relationship to the next?

KERIDAN: In looking at my own life, my co-dependency was classic “looking for love in all the wrong places,” to borrow a line from the country song. Humans are created for connection, and sometimes we become so desperate for it that we’re willing to do anything to have it. Real relationships never involve desperation! They involve choice and respect. Ask yourself the hard questions and answer honestly (perhaps with the help of a professional therapist or someone you trust)…does this person make me feel good about myself? What have I changed in order to stay with this person? What will happen if I stand up for myself? Why do I fear not being in a relationship? Until you address the root of your co-dependency, you’re very unlikely to change it.

FQ: You incorporate more storytelling in your poetry, which allows readers to join you on your personal journey to reinvention. Do you see yourself continuing in this style, or delving into novel writing?

KERIDAN: I hope to do both! I want to continue writing poetry and using it as a vehicle to connect with others and remind them that they aren’t alone. At the same time, I love the style of a novel, where you can work in a longer time frame and have the freedom to bring in different perspectives.

FQ: If there is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book, what would that be?

KERIDAN: It would be the unwavering belief that they, too, can reinvent themselves.

FQ: Do you envision yourself doing counseling, volunteer or otherwise?

KERIDAN: When I’m not writing, I’m actually a pediatric neuropsychologist. I specialize in cognitive testing with children and adolescents, many of whom have a chronic medical condition or have experienced a brain injury. I identify their unique learning strengths and challenges, and this helps them receive the support they need, both at home and at school. It also helps them realize that they aren’t “stupid” or “bad.” I’m especially passionate about identifying dyslexia, as no child should ever miss out on the joys of reading simply because of how their brain is wired.

FQ: Do you have any project in the works? If so, can you give your audience a peek into your new writing venture?

KERIDAN: I’m currently working on a fantasy novel that’s a coming-of-age story involving (surprise, surprise) a female protagonist who learns to stand up for what she believes in, even when doing so means making very hard choices. At the same time, she also discovers that some of the things she believes in are not as infallible as she’s been told, and this will require change on her part. The book is currently with my editor, and I hope to have it finished and published this year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#BookReview - Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge By: Norman Whaler
Publisher: Beneath Another Sky Books
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1948131025
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Date: December 2018

Did you ever wonder what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge after that fateful Christmas day when he discovers the true meaning of the holiday? Did he keep his promise? Did he truly become a changed man? In this sequel to A Christmas Carol, author Norman Whaler creates a believable and enjoyable story that tells us what might have happened.

As the story opens, we learn that Scrooge has just died. Alas, everybody is quite sad because Scrooge did indeed become a changed man and they all dearly loved him. While all are saddened, Tiny Tim is particularly grief stricken because Scrooge had become like a second father to him.

The Cratchit family attends Scrooge's funeral and then tries to return to their everyday, normal lives. Tim now works with his father at Scrooge's company, "Scrooge & Marley & Cratchit," but with so many memories of Scrooge within the walls of the office, Tim just can't concentrate on his job. Sadness and grief overcome him, he loses his faith, and he becomes a truly lost young man.

Next, the reader is introduced to Becky, a young woman who had been Tim's school sweetheart. Becky was from a wealthy family and they had determined that Tim was not a suitable match for the girl. Instead, she was forced into a loveless marriage with a wealthy but cruel man, where her sole joy was caring for her son Jimmy. But when her husband started showing his violent side, Becky made the bold decision to leave the comforts her husband provided in the hopes of keeping Jimmy safe from his beatings. The two found themselves living in the poorest section of London, struggling to find enough food to eat. When Becky's health began to suffer, it appeared all might be lost for her and her little boy.

When all seems lost, Tim is visited by the ghost of Ebenezer. Like the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in The Christmas Carol, the ghost of Ebenezer tries to show Tim how blessed he truly is, and that life has meaning. The question is, will Tim be able to get over the death of his friend, find purpose, and perhaps reunite with Becky?

 Attempting to write a sequel to a classic such as A Christmas Carol is a bold move and one not many authors would attempt. Norman Whaler, however, does an admirable job of bringing the beloved characters that Charles Dickens created back to life. Like the original, this book is divided into 5 "Staves" (a term Dickens used to denote each chapter - a musical notation). Whaler also sprinkles his text with language that Dickens might have used to help set the mood and includes numerous illustrations, some with a definite Victorian feel, others more modern (clip art). At the back of the book are numerous Christmas carols that are mentioned within the pages of the story. While it is unlikely that any author could match the beauty of Dickens' classic, Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge does a good job of taking the reader back to old London. Throughout the story, there's a strong Christian message that Ebenezer brings of love and hope for the future, that both fans of Dickens and those who are looking for a good family story can enjoy.

 Quill says: Looking for a family Christmas story with a strong message of love and hope? If so, you should definitely take a look at Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge.

#BookReview - Bulwark @CarolePRoman

Bulwark

By: Brit Lunden
Publisher: Chelshire, Inc.
Publication Date: January 2018
ISBN: 978-1947188907
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 6, 2019
A sleepy little town in Georgia is the perfect setting for a paranormal thriller that amps up the "creepy" factor in a story with more twists and turns than an old country road.
Clay Finnes is the sheriff of Bulwark, Georgia, a small town where nothing much happens. He's got a slightly annoying deputy, Owen Bishop, who means well but just isn't the brightest light bulb in the pack. As the story opens, Clay and Owen are at the scene of an accident where an out-of-town couple got their car stuck in a big green pond of muck. The accident happened at the outskirts of town, a place where there are remnants of an old road, but nothing else. Where were they coming from and where did that pond of bad smelling water come from?
After finishing the investigation at the scene of the accident, Clay goes to interview the couple. They're staying nearby at a hunter's cabin, with the owner there to keep an eye on them, while they wait for the ambulance. The husband is motionless on the couch, and the wife isn't much better, babbling about a witch in the woods. When she spots a picture on the mantle of the hunter's dead wife and claims, "...she's the witch that took my children," the hunter is understandably upset. That's when Dayna Dalton, an annoying local reporter, shows up at the door. Fortunately, Clay is right behind her and he forces her out of the way as he goes in the house. Clay doesn't have much luck interviewing the couple who are soon hustled off to the hospital.
At the hospital, Clay runs into his wife Jenna. Unfortunately, they are separated...things fell apart shortly after their young daughter Claire went missing the previous year. Clay still loves Jenna and hopes she feels the same, but with a hot doctor making the moves on her, things don't look too promising. Meanwhile, the wife from the accident is still babbling, telling anyone who will listen that they need to find the gingerbread house, which is where her children were taken. When wolves are mentioned too, Clay has had just about enough. What is going on?
Bulwark is one of those fun stories that grabs you quickly and doesn't let go until the very end. At just 109 pages, it won't take long to read and with short chapters that keep tempting you to read just one more, you'll likely finish the book in one sitting. The story has witches, werewolves, a town with a long-hidden history, and a very determined sheriff, who not only is intent on solving the mystery but also getting his wife back. Don't think you've figured this one out as you read, and don't assume you know who is good, or bad...you'll likely be wrong, which is what makes this story so enjoyable. The only thing the book needs is a careful review by an editor as there are numerous editorial errors - not enough to ruin the story but they do get annoying. Beyond that, however, this is a very good story that will leave you quite satisfied.
Quill says: If you like your thrillers with lots of twists, plenty of "creepy," some paranormal events, and a fast-moving plot, check out Bulwark. You might just be afraid to turn off the lights after reading the last page.
For more information on Bulwark, please visit the author's website at: caroleproman.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

#BookReview - Angels on Overtime

Angels on Overtime: A Divine Romantic Comedy

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: July 2018
ISBN: 978-1948543200
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 1, 2019
Do we have guardian angels watching over us as we go about our daily lives? In this lighthearted, and at times very "deep" romantic comedy, author Ann Crawford has imagined a world of guardian angels that will stay with you long after you've read the last page.
As the story opens, we meet Brooke, an angel who has requested the "hardest job in the universe," which just happens to be an Earth assignment. Henry, a somewhat overweight, balding angel, is a manager of "Angelic Affairs." He's questioning Brooke about her desire to go to Earth, but she convinces him that it's what she truly wants. Soon, Brooke is on Earth, Southern California to be exact, getting to know Jack, the human she's been assigned to help. Jack already has three angels watching over him - as does every human. Each has a different job, such as whispering positive messages in their charge's ear, while another keeps track on a computer of what's going on. When a human is ready to "wake up," to find true joy and love, they get a fourth angel because of course, the workload increases. That's where Brooke comes in - if Jack is ever going to enjoy life to the fullest, he will need Brooke's help. The problem is that while Jack adores his children, his wife, and her lover, definitely put a kink in his finding true happiness.
Next, we meet David, another angel, who is in another office, talking with another angelic affairs manager, about going to Earth. His manager, too, gives in and sends David to Earth to watch over his assignment. Meet Emily, a sweet woman, who is wandering aimlessly through life and a loveless marriage.
Brooke and David quickly learn what's required to help their respective humans, thanks in large part to the other angels watching over Emily and Jack. When Jack is arrested for having drugs in his car, and Emily is truly lost after her beloved mother dies, it appears as if Brooke and David have a heck of a lot of work ahead of them. As their work continues, the two angels start to spend more and more time together and "things" start to happen. Perhaps a couple of angels might also find true love and joy...
When I began reading Angels on Overtime, I wasn't quite sure what kind of story it was, but I quickly decided it was a lighthearted tale of guardian angels. But as I read further, I began to realize that there is a lot more to this story than simply a fun angel adventure. This was especially true in a chapter where Brooke and David were shown the lives of several people in despair, people whose tragic lives lingered over the pages. I paused and re-read those pages a few times to get the full meaning of each person's experience - it was deeply moving. While the story was initially about Jack and Emily, and the choices they made/would make, the way the author slowly brought about the relationship between Brooke and David was truly enjoyable. Finally, there are many words of wisdom throughout the story, ideas such as "At bottom, everything is a choice...absolutely everything," (pg. 35) that will cause the reader to reflect on his/her own life.
Quill says: Angels on Overtime is a truly unique tale, filled with humor, a great cast of characters, and a comforting premise of how we each have angels watching over us. The story will surely linger with the reader in a satisfying way, long after the last page has been read.
For more information on Angels on Overtime: A Divine Romantic Comedy, please visit the author's website at: anncrawford.net