Monday, January 18, 2021

#BookReview - Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God


Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God: A Lesson On Being Still

By: Christi Eley
Illustrated by: Aries Cheung
Publisher: Cottontail Publishing
Publication Date: January 2021
ISBN: 978-1735968001
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 18, 2021

Cam is a sweet young boy who has too much energy – he runs around all the time and makes lots and lots of noise. Will he ever learn how to be still and quiet?

Cam loves to run around the house, run around at school, and run and play everywhere he goes. Crash, bang, splat! All that running and playing is causing a bit of a mess as well as quite a lot of noise. “…talking, yelling, asking questions.” Cam enjoys the noise he makes as he runs about – after all, it’s fun! But his parents, teachers, and others are not as enthusiastic about Cam’s high energy level. They ask Cam to “…slow down, sit still and be quiet!”

Why does Cam have to slow down? What’s wrong with having fun? What’s wrong with making a mess and lots of noise? He doesn’t understand what the adults want. He also hears people quote Psalm 46:10 – “Be Still and Know That I Am God…” What does it all mean?

Fortunately, Cam has an amazing best friend - Mr. Flopsy. Maybe Cam should ask him what it all means.

Mr. Flopsy is an adorable white bunny with long, floppy ears. Cam loves his bunny and thinks perhaps Mr. Flopsy might be able to help him. After all, the bunny is very, very good at sitting quietly in his favorite spot, barely moving. How can he do that when he also loves to hop around? Will Mr. Flopsy be able to help Cam learn to control his energy and find stillness and peace?

Debut author Christi Eley has penned a wonderful children’s book with a strong Christian focus in Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God. The author reminds children of God’s love through the use of a little bunny. Mr. Flopsy is full of wisdom and carefully explains to Cam all about God’s love in words that little ones can understand. At one point, Cam asks Mr. Flopsy if he ever gets scared and if so, what does he do? Mr. Flopsy replies that it can be hard but that the “...thing that helps me the most is thinking of you holding me. I feel so safe and love that the most.” The message of God’s love continue throughout the story and as Mr. Flopsy explains each lesson, Cam begins to relax and breathe. He is learning how to listen and feel the love of God. In addition, the illustrations are absolutely perfect – bright, playful, and engaging. This truly is a beautiful story about God’s love and is a great way to share that message with the young children in your life. At the back of the book is a page of additional suggestions to help children learn to be still and quiet as well as additional Bible Verses for the topics covered in the story.

Quill says: Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God is a delightful book, with enchanting illustrations and a great message that will help energetic children cope with their abundance of energy and understand how, and why, they need to learn to find stillness and peace.

For more information on Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God, please visit www.mrscottontailandfriends.

 

#BookReview - The Queen's Dog


The Queen's Dog (Empire at Twilight Book 3)

By: N.L. Holmes
Publisher: Wayback Press
Publication Date: June 2020
ISBN: 978-1734986877
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Date: January 17, 2021

The Queen’s Dog is a political thriller novel in the Empire at Twilight series by N. L. Holmes. Set mainly in Ugarit, a vassal state to the kingdom of Hatti, it follows Nahish-shulmanu, nicknamed Naheshi, a eunuch slave to the queen of Ugarit. He is infatuated with her but is eventually coerced into spying on her disloyal activities by the king’s mother. As an Assyrian in Ugarit during a time of potential war with his country of origin, he stands at a unique risk. This is something people do not shy away from taking advantage of, much to Naheshi's detriment.

I haven’t read any other book set in an ancient Syrian kingdom before, and it was exciting to learn a little bit about such a complex and fascinating culture. It’s so wildly different from the Western cultures many historical novels are centered around, and it’s a refreshing setting to explore. Audiences have to navigate the politics of not only the main characters’ own courts, but the social consequences of who they associate with. Each decision they make has personal and professional ramifications that have the potential to come back and haunt them.

N.L. Holmes builds a set of complicated relationships between her main characters, all of which are heavily influenced by whatever positions they hold at court, and who has power over whom. Every seemingly sincere action is soured by an ulterior motive, creating a fast-paced, quickly thickening plot of political drama.

Holmes’s strength for building complicated relationships between characters also unexpectedly develops one of the novel’s greatest weaknesses. As the queen’s chamberlain and supervisor of the household staff, her main narrator, Naheshi, is expected to interact with many other slaves and servants, one of which is an older eunuch named Agripsharri, who he is somewhat afraid of. At one point in the novel, Agripsharri briefly ends up in a position of power over Naheshi, as a blackmailer. He then uses that power over Naheshi to rape him.

While initially the incident is treated as horrible and wrong, it’s later excused by implying Naheshi deserved the assault for treating Agripsharri unkindly. While this is clearly dealing with a different time and culture, the victim blaming plays no other role in the story beyond being a “character development” moment. Naheshi is a generally unlikable character, but him realizing he “deserved” the rape is treated as personal growth. Even taking the culture differences into account, it’s a scene that feels out of place in a novel published in 2020, and has the potential to alienate some of the author’s audience.

Most, if not all, of the main characters are very unlikable. The queen is self-centered and has an excuse for every mistake she makes. Naheshi is an easily manipulated coward. Every major political power is out solely for themselves. While this makes it impossible to connect with any of them emotionally, this detachment does allow the reader to really think about the political decisions being made. The contemptible nature of the characters seems to be a deliberate decision of the author’s, to keep the main focus on the political drama unfolding across Ugarit.

The Queen’s Dog is a plot-centric political drama that explores the complex relationships between the vassal states of the kingdom of Hatti. With its focus on plot, it’s not the ideal read for a reader who prefers character-driven stories. However, the fast-paced plot will keep its target audience engaged and eager to keep devouring the unfolding court disasters. The Queen’s Dog is sure to find a home among historical fiction fans with an interest in more plot-centered novels.

Quill says: The Queen's Dog is an interesting dive into ancient Middle Eastern politics.

For more information on The Queen's Dog (Empire at Twilight Book 3), please visit the author's website at: www.nlholmes.com/

 

Meet Author Christi Eley

Meet author Christi Eley, the author of the children's book, Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God: A Lesson On Being Still in Feathered Quill's Meet the Author section:

https://featheredquill.com/author-bios-christi-eley/ 




Friday, January 15, 2021

#AuthorInterview with E.J. Michaels


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with E.J. Michaels, author of The Size of the Moon.

FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?

MICHAELS: I grew up doing theater all through elementary and high school (my mother directed several of my plays ), and I was involved in a few professional productions after college. While I enjoyed acting, I loved creating my own tales. Before completing my first novel, I battled doubt about whether I’d be able to write a book and thought it a goal well out of reach. I wrote short story after short story, and soon my stories grew longer and more complex. Short stories became novellas. Novellas soon needed chapters for characters to grow and worlds to be created. In time, a full-length novel became a published book. And in the near future, a published book will blossom into a series.

FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.

MICHAELS: The Size of the Moon asks the question: if elves existed in our world today, what would they truly be like? My vision of what they’d be like and the world in which they exist in turns the myth sideways, and the intersections and clashes between the culture of elves and the world of humans is what Marcus Besnik must navigate as he attempts to find a cure for a devastating virus while also battling for the life of his son and the woman he loves.

FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ...?

MICHAELS: Although some authors find it beneficial to schedule their writing times, I write best when the idea to write is strongest in my mind. Often, ‘writing’ involves working the story out in my head while sitting and staring at a blank screen, walking, or thinking in bed before I go to sleep. Even if no words are being typed, I’ll still be ‘writing.’ For me, a schedule wouldn’t work. When the chapter is ready to be put to paper, I’ll start typing regardless of the time, even if that means I get up from bed at night and write for a few hours – or many hours. I’ll continue to type the next day as soon as I am awake (and have the time) and continue until the next break in the story when I’ll write by staring, walking, or lying in bed thinking about it.

FQ: The genre of your book is fantasy. Why this genre?

MICHAELS: As a child, I read the Dragon King trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. Since then I’ve loved the fantasy genre, though I’ve written books and stories in other genres: futuristic science fiction, contemporary action, contemporary literary. The Size of the Moonis a melding of modern action adventures with mythical characters in a way that could almost be real (at least that’s my intention). In many ways it’s easier to write in the science fiction or epic fantasy genre since the worlds created are purely from an author’s imagination.

FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?

MICHAELS: I’d love to have dinner with Edgar Rice Burroughs and ask him why none of his books seem to have happy endings. It’s a storytelling tool I’ve grown fond of and sometimes employ the use of in my tales...a terrible habit to have. You’ll be happy to know that The Size of the Moon doesn’t use...well it’s a happy ending, though perhaps since it’s the first part of a trilogy, it’s ending is...hmmm...needing another few books to feel complete.

FQ: If you were to teach a class on the art of writing, what is the one item you would be sure to share with your students and how would you inspire them to get started?

MICHAELS: If I were to teach a class on the art of writing, I’d tell my students to learn to accept time. It takes time to craft a story from start to finish and there are many time-taking steps: pre-writing, draft creation, editing, rewriting - sometimes scrapping whole chapters and parts and writing others, more editing, more rewriting, until finally completing a final draft that you’ll read and see more things you’ll want to change. Once you can accept time, all these steps will take care of themselves. One step will flow into the next. It’s best to just start creating, whether it’s a short story, poem or novel. My students would spend a lot of time writing, editing and writing.

FQ: Is this the first book, the second, etc. in the series and how many books do you anticipate writing in this series? 

MICHAELS: The Size of the Moon is the first book in a three-part series. Due to the nature of the characters’ long lifespans and extensive and ancient histories involved, after the initial series is finished, I plan on writing other books telling the past stories of the other characters.

FQ: Tell us a bit about the series. Do you know where the series will take the characters or are you working that out as you go along with each book? What has been the reader response to your series? 

MICHAELS: The series follows the relationship between Marcus Besnik (a human) and Autumn (half human/half elf) and their battle against dark forces manipulating viruses and genes in an effort to gain more power. The second installment sees Marcus undergoing a physical and emotional transformation that will test his beliefs and convictions and either strengthen or weaken his love for Autumn. At the same time, the two factions of elves are heading toward civil war, a war Marcus doesn’t want to be involved with since he needs to find something Autumn needs.

The reader response has been excellent and positive, and I’m being asked for the sequel.

FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.

MICHAELS: Marcus Besnik is a former Marine who was injured and discharged before serving his full term. His wife died at the hands of the strigoi, leaving him to raise their only son Michael. Marcus hasn’t recovered from the loss of his wife but finds himself in a relationship with Autumn, who’s lived over a thousand years but has only married once. He’s conflicted about his feelings since he still loves his late wife who is dead but may not be destroyed yet (spoiler alert)...

FQ: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?

MICHAELS: I don’t like when characters die, especially the good guys. Stories often take on a life of their own, and characters make choices only they would make. One of the characters I created and fell in love with dies. It wasn’t planned, meaning, I didn’t create the character knowing death would come calling. Perhaps just as difficult to write was the scene where Marcus finally takes the action needed to resolve his tie to his past sorrow by destroying what he was keeping needlessly alive.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

#BookReview - Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel


Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel

By: Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra
Publisher: Thrills&Kills Press
Publication Date: November 2020
ISBN: 978-0986209543
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 13, 2021

Called in to investigate a suicide, Detective Nick Larson and his crew soon discover reasons why it must have been murder. When, where and how are readily established, but who did it and why will be the stuff of mystery for reader and protagonist alike in this eerie tale by award-winning writer Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra.

The scene was set up to look like death by hanging – but the victim, Isabel Creasy, was on the verge of a new and fulfilling change of life. Creasy shows none of the signs of horrific strangulation or psychological collapse that would suggest self-destruction – signs Larson of the NYPD knows all too well. He lives with the haunting image of the death by hanging a few months ago of Angie, the woman he tried to love. That memory will both disturb and compel him as the team will discover another, and another, feigned suicide.

Larson, in tandem with his partner Victor Sacco, are under unusual pressure because there is a flu running rampant in the city that is forcing them to take on extra work. Interviewing and investigating the known friends and colleagues of the bodies piling up in the morgue becomes a constant. And for Larson, there’s more: he’s seeing a shrink to help him process Angie’s suicide, while contemplating, with serious reservations, a romance with Laura Howard, victimized by her psychopathic sister with apparent murderous intent, but more than willing to start a new relationship with the handsome, empathic Detective Larson who handled her case. As more and more clues surface around the first faked hanging, stress is mounting on Larson from all directions. But he’s tough, and that’s how it has to be.

Alonso-Sierra, a world-traveled author, initiated her Detective Nick Larson series with a prequel short story, Mirror Mirror, offering an early portrait of the man and his manner of dealing with crime and criminals. She has fleshed Larson out in this new book: a street-smart yet sensitive guy whose instinct for solving problems enhances his profession, but sometimes causes him to think too much about personal dilemmas. Throughout this offering, the author shows him wavering about a new relationship, while revealing solid reasons for the trauma that prevents him for committing. But his commitment to sniffing out the monster who is perpetrating the faux suicides never flags, as he moves from clue to clue looking for some linkage among the victims.

Quill says: Hanging Softly in the Night is a page-turning read with snappy dialog and hardcore action that will charm fans of gritty, police-procedure whodunits, with enough latest technologies, cross-cultural characterizations and social savvy to engage a newer generation of fans.

For more information on Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel,please visit the author's website at: www.mariaelenawrites.com

 

 

#BookReview - Vestal Virgin: Chosen for Rome


Vestal Virgin: Chosen for Rome

By: Katherine Spada Basto
Publisher: Painted Turtle Press
Publication Date: December 2019
ISBN: 978-1733390071
Reviewed by: 978-1733390071
Date: January 12, 2021

A little girl is sold to a religious cult, grows beyond the trauma and becomes a stalwart force for true righteousness in this history-based novel by Katherine Spada Basto.

Cornelia Cosa, growing up in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, is excited; it’s her tenth birthday. Little does she realize she has been entered into a lottery, the winner of which will become one of the virgin followers of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Vestal Virgins are revered in Rome and overseen by Nero himself. To her shock, Cornelia wins, seeing her father receive bags of gold for the “prize.” 

Cornelia is forced into a new life at once, leaving behind all she has known. Despite the many restrictions placed upon her by the order, she gradually learns the powers and ceremonial enjoyments of being a member of the sacred cult. Her acceptance of her fate is bolstered in part by the kindliness of Lucius, a young man serving as an augur in Nero’s court. One of Cornelia’s fellow virgins tells her in secret of a Nazarene named Jesus, whose teachings of a single deity supersede the mythological pantheon of gods and goddesses touted by the Roman authorities. Cornelia will have a chance to hear the preaching of Paul, opening her mind to fresh possibilities. By contrast, she is plagued by the memory of Nero’s personal, brutal assault on one of her Vestal sisters. Then Nero goes mad, Rome burns, and the young teen will have a chance to exercise her Vestal powers.

Author Basto has garnered awards and recognition for this novel, written with gusto and grounded in recorded fact. From the beginning, the reader will feel the stress and sadness of the child Cornelia describing her abandonment to a strict religious cult. The story quickly expands, with many plot twists that are all believably set in ancient Rome at a critical time in its history. Christianity is making itself felt and will affect Basto’s brave young heroine, sharpening her perceptions of the true meaning of spirituality. The author has drawn from historical annals both the names of several of the main characters, including Cornelia, and some of the notable incidents enlivened in the account. She deftly weaves these names and snippets together into the larger tapestry of the known world in a time of crisis, with Cornelia as sharp-eyed observer and bold participant.

Quill says: Basto’s Vestal Virgin combines her storyteller’s arts with intriguing slices of legend and real events to excellent effect, constructing a broad panorama with cinematic potential.

For more information on Vestal Virgin: Chosen for Rome, please visit the author's website at: www.katherinespadobasto.com/ 

 

Meet Author Ruth Maille

Meet author Ruth Maille, the author of the children's book, The Power of Positivity: The ABC's of a Pandemic in Feathered Quill's Meet the Author section:

https://featheredquill.com/author-bios-ruth-maille/