Monday, January 22, 2018

#BookReview - Maid of Baikal @PrestonFleming

Maid of Baikal: A Novel of the Russian Civil War

By: Preston Fleming
Publisher: PF publishing
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9994418-0-0
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: January 21, 2018

Beginning with a flashback to war in the Philippines, we meet First Lieutenant Edmund “Ned” du Pont, a leader in the U.S. Army. Haunted by his nightmares, Ned is also eager to fight again. After going to visit Colonel Charles Holt, they strike up a deal where Ned can return to war, but not exactly as he planned. Holt wishes to send him to Siberia, not to fight, but to aid in correspondence and intelligence as an undercover worker in the Russian Railway service corps as an American Railway Man and telegraph and wireless expert. While this task seems far from simple in the beginning, the truth is he’s about to be in over his head in a completely different mission involving a young Russian woman that could completely change the tides of the Russian Revolution.

Upon arrival in Irkutsk, Ned is to meet Staff Captain Igor Ivanovich Ivashov, his Russian liaison officer. After exchanging information and learning a very small amount about each other, they board a train heading to Omsk. Prior to arriving at their destination, however, they stop at Verkhne-Udinsk, where they will join Stepan Petrovich Dorokhin and his guests for dinner. It is at this dinner that Ned first meets Zhanna, Stepan’s daughter. Zhanna is a headstrong girl of eighteen, and Ned is instantly attracted to her, although he is unsure of exactly why. At the end of the evening, Zhanna gives a slip of paper to Ned with a message to meet her the following morning. The next morning, Ned meets with her and Zhanna reveals that she has been hearing voices of saints. The voices, she explains to Ned, have been calling her to go to Omsk to deliver a message to Siberian dictator Admiral Kolchak. That message could change the course of the war, and she wants Ned to take her there to introduce her to the Admiral. Ned refuses and later finds out she also asked Ivashov. Zhanna's voices, however, tell her they will soon meet again and her mission will be fulfilled. Later, her voices call her to serve in the Serbian Army and lead troops as the Maid of Baikal, but does she get more than she bargained for? How much can her faith and beloved voices protect her?

The Maid of Baikal was by far one of the most well planned and engrossing books I may have ever read. I was impressed from the very beginning thanks to a list of characters, carefully chosen musical themes, historical photographs and maps. There was not one time in this book that I was confused, not only thanks to the tools given in the beginning, but because each character and place was so well-written into the story. The Maid of Baikal provides a deep history in an entertaining and easy-to-understand way while allowing you to become connected to the characters and their stories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was drawn in almost instantly. Anyone who loves history or a well-written story will love Maid of Baikal.

Quill says: The Maid of Baikal is an intriguing tale of war, miracles and the power of faith that is sure to engross history lovers.

For more information on The Maid of Baikal: A Novel of the Russian Civil War, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Whisperings


By: Julie Halliwell
Publisher: Off the Porch Press
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-0-692-88340-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: January 22, 2018

In an enchanting tale of good versus evil, Julie Halliwell resurrects the archangels in her debut novel, Whisperings.

Michael, the archangel, protects against all forces of evil. Is it fate that Miguel, Jibreel and Rafael have embarked upon their respective journeys to make the world a better place of courage and hope? Perhaps it is more than fate.

Miguel lives in the Mexican countryside. His work consists of long days from sunup to sundown conducting back-breaking work in the fields. His pay is small and the drug cartel he works for could care less. They have product to be harvested and that's what matters most.

Halfway around the world, Jibreel is a young Hindu girl trying to make a better way. School is forbidden for the children in the small village near the Hindu Kush mountains. This, however, is not a deterrent for Jibreel and her young sister Hila. They are in search of purpose and the evils of the Taliban will not take this notion away from either of them. The very essence of Hila's name means 'hope.'

Rafael is a young African boy. He lives in one of the richest countries on the mighty continent of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a goat herder and spends his days tending to his herd and often ponders his purpose.

Each of these humans have been chosen by a higher power and in time, clarity will resonate for them to make the difference they are intended to achieve. Miguel learns he is named after the archangel Michael; the glorious protector against evil. Jibreel is named after the honorable messenger Gabriel. Rafael was named after the God of love.

Yuri is the conduit that will bring the three chosen together to launch his international peace project. He is privileged and six years earlier, his life consisted of a free-spirited enjoyment in a life as a university student in Moscow. Originally from the Ukraine, he lived a simple life on his family farm until oil was discovered. His life changed from humble beginnings to belonging to a family of great wealth. Unbeknownst to him, he would be the chosen one to unite Miguel, Jibreel and Rafael to solidify their quest of making the world a better place - a place of courage and hope for generations to come.

Julie Halliwell has penned an inspiring body of work. Her direct approach in focusing on the premise of Archangels and the power of belief is poignant throughout this novel. She uses simple language and realistic events that plant a seed of believability across the pages. There is heartache as much as there is victory in the scenes she sets that are anchored with credible dialogue. I applaud Ms. Halliwell for her patience in laying the groundwork through her worlds and delivering the premise of hope to anyone who is willing to embrace the story. The takeaway is a strong message of belief and faith. Well done Ms. Halliwell. I look forward to your next book.

Quill says: Whisperings is a novel of hope and new beginnings that encourages the reader to have a little faith and a whole lot of belief.

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

#BookReview - Just Between Us

Just Between Us

By: Rebecca Drake
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: January 2018
ISBN: 978-1250167200
Reviewed by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: January 22, 2018

Alison, Julie, Sarah, and Heather may seem like a typical group of friends. They enjoy coffee after they drop their children off at school, some go to full time jobs while others are stay-at-home moms, but in reality, they are anything but typical. They all are hiding secrets, some more than others, secrets that can not only put them in danger, but hurt their families as well.

Alison works from home with an IT company and Julie works in real estate. Sarah and Heather are both stay-at-home moms. Although these four friends are not extravagantly rich by any means, they do live in a nice neighborhood with very little crime.

One morning as the ladies are settling into their favorite coffee shop, when Alison goes to receive their order, she notices something on Heather's arm. Heather, trying her best to hide it, didn't notice that her sleeve had risen up, exposing a bruise on her arm. When Alison asks her about it, Heather claims she must have bumped into something and brushes it off. Alison, concerned that it could be something more, lets it go, but brings it up to Julie. Alison thinks that it is possible that Heather's husband Viktor is abusing her. Julie doesn't think that there is anything wrong and that Alison is just being a little too paranoid. Julie talks to Sarah and they both agree that Alison is wrong and brush it off. They do not want to believe that Viktor, a well-known surgeon, could be hurting his wife. Although the ladies do not think that Viktor is abusing Heather, they do start to pay attention a little more.

One night while they are all at a party, Julie notices Heather and Viktor talking alone. Julie also notices that Heather looks a little tense while Viktor has a firm grip on Heather's arms. Not wanting them to see her, Julie tries to walk away, but Heather and Viktor notice her and rejoin the party like nothing ever happened. With Alison's theory in her head, Julie starts to wonder if Viktor could be abusing Heather. It isn't until the ladies are at the park with their children and they notice a mark on Heather's stomach, that they realize that Viktor is abusing Heather and that they need to help her.
After this incident, the group decides to have a sort of intervention with Heather. Heather, feeling as if she is being ambushed, finally agrees that Viktor isn’t the awesome doctor who everyone sees and confirms their suspicions. Although the ladies try to convince Heather to leave him, she refuses. Heather also informs the group that she is pregnant, which her friends think is even more of a reason to leave Viktor. As Heather continues to refuse to leave Viktor, her friend's concern continues to grow.

One night as Alison is sleeping, she receives the call that they all have been dreading. Heather calls Alison frantically in the middle of the night. Alison, worried that Viktor is about to do something, is surprised to hear that Viktor is dead. Alison, trying to calm a frantic Heather, rushes over while calling Julie and Sarah along the way. When they all arrive, they try to calm Heather down. Knowing, because of Viktor's injuries, that it would not look like self-defense, they come up with a plan to make it look like a carjacking, and take his car to the spot they picked out. Thinking that it is all over, and that they covered their tracks, they try to go back to normal.

The police begin an investigation and soon, the four friends start to worry that they may not have covered up everything and their nervousness grows. While they are trying to remain calm and continue on as normal, they receive a letter from someone claiming to know what the women did. The blackmailer has photos of that night and is planning on going to the police unless the women pay up.

The women are left to make a decision that could not only harm them, but will also affect their families as well. Their decision will change their lives forever.

Just Between Us is a really great book. The whole story is so suspenseful that I was not able to put it down. It is very well written with a lot of detail that makes you feel like you are there. There are so many twists that just when I thought I knew where it was going, it changed and it was something totally unexpected. When I first began Just Between Us, I thought I knew where the story was going, but admit I was very wrong - and that's part of what made this such a fun read.

Quill says: Just Between Us is a great suspenseful story that will show you just how much your decisions can alter and impact your life. It is a really great read.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

#AuthorInterview with David Litwack @DavidLitwack

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with David Litwack, author of The Light of Reason: The Seekers (Book 3)

FQ: As an entrepreneur who developed several successful businesses...when, exactly did you have time to write?

LITWACK: The short answer is, I didn’t. Between building businesses and raising a family, I gave up writing for many years, until my two sons were grown and I had more time.

FQ: According to your bio, you wrote exactly five pages a day. I have to ask: How many do you get to write now? And, as in the past, are you a writer who makes sure to set a certain number of pages to complete each day?

LITWACK: In the early days, I needed the discipline of completing five pages. This was especially true when producing the Seekers trilogy, which was a daunting task. Now, I write when the ideas swirling in my brain compel me to—less frequently than before, but with better results.

FQ: Orah and Nathaniel are a fantastic duo. Where did the idea for this tale come from? Are the characters based on people in real life, perhaps?

LITWACK: I suspect all fiction has an element of real life experience, but for me the characters evolve with the story. I get to know them as one gets to know close friends over a period of years, constantly discovering something new about them. Many times, I attempted a plot turn, but Orah and Nathaniel resisted.

Both of these characters sprouted from a seed, planted during a long walk along Falmouth Heights beach near my home on Cape Cod. This path along the ocean passes two inlets: Little Pond and Great Pond. I imagined growing up in Little Pond with a sense that there was something greater out there waiting. My main characters are two sides of this feeling: Nathaniel is idealistic but impulsive, willing to take any risk to fulfill his adolescent vision of greatness; Orah wants just as much from life, but is more cautious. She approaches each challenge with careful planning, although she’s no less passionate than Nathaniel.

FQ: As a writer, how difficult was it to say so long to characters that have been with you for so long? Is there a time of depression that comes after the final edit has taken place and it’s off for publishing?

LITWACK: The parting was harder than I thought. I’d lived with these characters for more than four years, my mood rising and falling with their successes and failures. Like them, I struggled to find solutions to their seemingly insurmountable problems. The good news is that I can visit them anytime I wish and share memories.

FQ: So what is being planned for 2018? Do you already have a new series in mind, and, if so, can you give readers a sneak preview of what’s going on in that creative mind of yours?

LITWACK: I’m hoping to release a couple of books by the end of 2018. The first will be a new edition of one of my favorites, Along the Watchtower. Like many of my works, this one crosses genres, but more so than the others. It takes place half in the world of a wounded Iraq War vet rehabilitating in a VA hospital, and half in a fantasy realm concocted by his damaged mind, where he strives to overcome demons he’s unable to confront in the real world.

The second is a work-in-progress, and has been tough going, due to a variety of factors: needing a break after the four-year push to complete the Seekers trilogy; some family health issues; and a shift in the kind of novel I wanted to write.

I’ve completed fifty thousand words, but will require some effort to publish by the end of 2018. Like Along the Watchtower, this next novel is a mix of fantasy and reality, but in this story, the protagonist actually crosses into a fantasy realm, thanks to the power of magic.

Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, gave the classic definition of Science Fiction vs. Fantasy:
“It is said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things. Science fiction is the improbable made possible, and fantasy is the impossible made probable.”

My latest work moves further into fantasy than any of my others. In an increasingly chaotic world, sometimes even the possible seems too remote. Time to step through that door and use magic to make the impossible probable.

Stay tuned.

FQ: Is there a certain genre you have not yet written in which you would like to try one day? Is Sci-Fi/Dystopian your favorite realm?

LITWACK: I like to claim that I write literary speculative fiction, which lets me explore my major themes without the constraints of reality. In some cases, this requires an alternate or dystopian world. In others, it may be a alternate view of reality as seen through the eyes of my main character. With my next effort, I’m adding the dimension of magic.

The “literary” label tries to distinguish my works from pure genre fiction (scifi or fantasy). I always aspire to create strong characters, explore thoughtful themes, and tell a good story.

FQ: Considering all that you have done in life, was there ever a time when that “dream” of becoming a writer disappeared? If so, what encouragement/event allowed you to resuscitate that dream?

LITWACK: I wrote throughout my twenties and then stopped as career and family intervened. But truth be told, I also stopped because, as an insecure twenty-something, I needed some positive reinforcement. They say to become a good writer takes ten thousand hours and a million words. After several years, I was less than halfway there. My writing also suffered from some of the pretenses of youth, having not yet learned the most important skill of a writer—to tell a good story.

Of course, I wish I had all those years back to allow me to write more books, but I believe that the passage of time—with so many new experiences (good and bad)—was needed to get me to where I am today.

FQ: Authors are always asked to give a piece of advice to those who are just beginning down the writing path; something they should do that will help them on their journey. But if you could give one piece of advice on what not to do, or what to avoid, what would that be?

LITWACK: On the craft side, read, read, read, and write, write, write. There’s no shortcut and no substitute. On the emotional side, if you love it so deeply that you have no choice but to write, keep at it and never quit. If not, give it up. It’s not an easy path.

To learn more about The Light of Reason: The Seekers (Book 3) please read the review.

#BookReview - A Deadly Ecliar

A Deadly Éclair: A French Bistro Mystery

By: Daryl Wood Gerber
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1683313410
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 15, 2018

Agatha award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber gives her new "French Bistro" mystery series a strong start with the first book in the series, A Deadly Éclair.
As the series opens, we meet Mimi Rousseau, a seasoned chef, who has been forced to leave San Francisco by her husband's untimely death and his enormous debt. She returns home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley, where her best friend Jo introduces Mimi to Bryan Baker. Bryan, a wealthy entrepreneur who loves to help young people who he thinks hold promise, sees something in Mimi and quickly agrees to finance her dream - a bistro and right next door to it - a cute little bed and breakfast. Both businesses are in need of "love" and Mimi quickly gets to work to build both businesses and work off her debt to Bryan.

The first event at the inn is the wedding of Angelica Edmonton, a famous talk show host who also happens to be the daughter of Bryan's half brother Edison. No pressure to pull off the perfect event...

Mimi and her devoted staff get to work to cook up some amazing, memorable food for both the wedding reception as well as the dinner the night before the wedding. While the food is amazing, some of the guests could use some lessons in manners, including the bride's father Edison, who gets drunk at the dinner and causes some problems. Mimi is able to get the guests, and the dinner, back on track and the evening finishes up on a strong note. But the real trouble is about to begin...

The next morning, Bryan is found dead with an éclair stuffed into his mouth. Mimi is just as stunned as everyone else but when the evidence starts pointing to her, she knows she's going to have to work hard to clear her name - and find the real killer. Shortly after Bryan's body is found, Sergeant Tyson Daly, a childhood friend of Mimi's, arrives to question her. It seems that somebody called Bryan shortly before he was killed, and the call came from Mimi's cell phone. And then when it's discovered that Bryan left a letter in his office that said if he should die, his estate would forgive Mimi's debt, things go from bad to worse for Mimi. Strong motive indeed!

Told in the first person by Mimi, it was easy to get drawn into the story quickly. The author brings Mimi to life and makes her a likeable character, and the reader can certainly feel the pressure she was under, hoping her first event would be a success. Background information is introduced quickly so that the story can gear up and get going. There were a few spots in the book where the story slowed a bit, but overall it was a very enjoyable read. It's not the sort of mystery where I have to stay up late into the night to finish the book, but rather an easy read over several days. Note that when you read this book, you'll likely get hungry over and over as Mimi is always cooking up something delicious. Fortunately, the author has included numerous recipes at the back of the book so readers can enjoy some of the same delicacies that the protagonist created at her bistro.

Quill says: A Deadly Éclair is a strong start to a new cozy mystery series.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

#BookReview - A Penny for Your Thoughts @SherrillCannon

A Penny for Your Thoughts

By: Sherrill S. Cannon
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1946540560
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: January 12, 2018

Award-winning author Sherrill Cannon has a knack for turning feelings into words in her latest book of poems on love and loss.

Cannon’s newest has been a long time in the making. A collection of one hundred plus poems geared for a wide range of ages (middle school on) who have experienced the joys and sorrows associated with love, Cannon’s writing reflects many, many years of creativity that didn’t just pile up in notebooks. According to her website, the former teacher applied her gift of wordsmithing to help others: "As a teacher, I used poetry to help counsel many troubled teens and friends, and have continued this pattern throughout the years."

Now in book form, and appropriately divided into three poignant sections, Cannon invites readers to embrace her words of wisdom through this marvelous journey called life.

Subtitled Poems of Love and Loss (Feelings Into Words), Cannon goes a step further by adding Coin Toss? in her Table of Contents. Each carefully weighed section—Heads...Of Love and Friendship; Spinning—Of Related Emotions; and Tails...of Heartache and Anguish—begins to make poem at a time.

Keeping largely but not exclusively to first-person narrative, her first section centers on light issues, such as friends, lovers, parent and child relationships, God, music, and even the beloved Teddy Bear. But as she moves on to sections two and three, the timbre slowly darkens into areas of loss, such as loved ones moving away and death.

Cannon’s assortment of mellifluous poetry, many sprinkled with puns, is replete with free verse, blank verse, couplets, simple 4-line rhymes, alternating rhymes, quatrains, haiku, and concrete poems, just to name a few. Amid the bulk of Cannon’s work, though, are sonnets.
While the various poetic forms in A Penny for Your Thoughts do admirably to translate “feelings into words,” Cannon capitalizes upon her love theme by using a potent structure to verbalize this amorous mien: the Shakespearean sonnet.

Audiences familiar with The Bard’s works will immediately recognize how Cannon effectively captures the varied expressions of this commanding yet fickled four-letter word that is known as “love.” Perfect examples of the Shakespearean sonnet include “Music,” “Sonnet to Friendship,” and “The Road.”

(From “Music”)

“Stop and hear the music in your life— A melody for you to sing along; For it will soothe your heart and ease your strife. If you would only listen to its song...”

Second to the Shakespearean sonnet usage is the Petrarchan. Examples include “A Memory,” “Tentative,” and “The Transplant.”

(From “Transplant”)

“It really wasn’t very long ago, My plant was set into this strange new ground Where everything was different. But it found That even in new sunlight, it could grow...”

There is no vulgarity. Every word spoken is straightforward, intentional, and from the heart. If the reader follows judiciously, he/she will discover that the poems provide plenty to ruminate on and are very therapeutic for those who have unresolved conflict.

Quill says: A Penny for Your Thoughts is so much more than another compilation of poems; it is indeed a book of healing.

For more information on A Penny for Your Thoughts, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - The Light of Reason @DavidLitwack

The Light of Reason: The Seekers (Book 3)

By: David Litwack
Publisher: Evolved Publishing LLC
Publication Date: November 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62253-438-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 9, 2018

What began in the spectacular book, The Children of Darkness, and then continued in the equally-spectacular, The Stuff of Stars, now concludes with this, The Light of Reason. Let us just begin with the fact that this author has most definitely created a memorable ending for this great series that speaks to readers. In fact, this is one of those rare series that do the genres of Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, and even Religious Fiction, proud.

First, a quick recap: This journey stars childhood friends, Orah and Nathaniel—two kids who grew up in the very small village of Little Pond. Like most who are born in areas that are limited when it comes to things to do, Orah and Nathaniel always wanted to see the world and experience life outside the borders of their town.

Little Pond was not always considered a “nice area.” In fact, a thousand years ago the “Darkness” came upon the village; a world ruled by fear and violence commenced, where technology brought about evil. It was the vicars of the Temple of Light who introduced peace and kept it for centuries by utilizing what they called “temple magic.” When Thomas—Orah and Nathaniel’s pal—returned from the Temple after his teaching, he was a depressed, broken young man. And when Orah received her summons to go to said temple to receive her instruction, Nathaniel rushed to save her from becoming just as broken.

This journey went into the prisons of Temple City, and allowed readers to join Orah and Nathaniel’s escape as they kept one step ahead of lies and secrets in order to find the forbidden keep. Now, concluding their story, this couple has finally accomplished what they sought out to do...and so much more. They are now on a ship headed home in order to bring about a better, kinder life for the people of Little Pond. They have missed their family and friends terribly, and can’t wait to see their village once again. They are also no longer just friends: Orah and Nathaniel return to Little Pond as husband and wife.

The ship they travel aboard was designed by the dreamers, some of which have accompanied them home. The first glimpse of their past comes in the form of a bright light cutting through the fog; a light that blazes from the top of a wooden tower on the seashore that had never been there before. Nathaniel’s father is waiting for their arrival. But instead of being the vibrant man they once knew, he is now a weary soul who looks as if death is only a short distance away. The reason for this comes with a tale that includes the disappearance of a loved one, and a mighty, evil grand vicar (AKA: The Usurper) who has literally strived for power and has been crushing anyone and anything that gets in his way or attempts to usurp his reign.

Orah and Nathaniel planned for a fabulous homecoming, where their newly acquired wisdom, combined with a “special treasure” they have brought with them, would usher in a new age for Little Pond. Unfortunately, a horrific battle lay in front of them instead. The seekers are about to become leaders of an army that will have to fight evil in order to see the days of enlightenment begin.
In a nutshell: Start with Book 1 and immerse yourself in these incredible seekers, dreamers, keepmasters, and more. You will be completely pleased with this author’s incredible writing, the flow of the dialogue, and will ultimately fall in love with two young people who grew up to be incredible adults.

Quill says: Make room on your bookshelves because this is definitely a trilogy you will want to read again and again.

For more information on The Light of Reason: The Seekers (Book 3), please visit the author's website at: