Thursday, June 13, 2019

#BookReview - To Hell with Johnny Manic

To Hell with Johnny Manic

By: Andrew Diamond
Publisher: Stolen Time Press
Publication Date: August 2019
ISBN: 978-0996350778
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 11, 2019
More haunted than hunted, a man on the run meets a beautiful, dangerous woman who shares his need to be somebody else. But does being somebody else mean killing anyone who threatens your disguise?
Early in this gritty first-person narrative, Tom Gantry admits that his current moniker - Johnny Manis – is not his; he has assumed the guise of a man who gained and then rejected fame. When we first see him, the man known as Manis is coming off a massive gambling binge. Then he gets a chance to do easy but well paid work as a computer fixer for wealthy clientele in a pleasant rural town. He jumps on it, having more than one reason to want to start a new life. But on his first day in town, he falls under the spell of a woman who will lead him into a maze of deception that exceeds anything even he could have schemed up. Wife of a well-known corporate magnate, Marilyn easily seduces him, dubbing him Johnny Manic. She slowly drags him into her evil web with tales of her faltering marriage and suspicions of her husband’s plot to get her out of the way so he can live with his new mistress. 
Looking on is a smart, doggedly persistent town cop named Lou, who has his own suspicions. He begins tracking Manic, making him feel hemmed in on all sides. Added to Manic’s trouble with the police is the mysterious alter ego – the real Manis - that is grabbing increasing control of his mind. In love now, Manic is bullied by his shadow self and seized by fears from his past. He feels he must help Marilyn, not aware of the true deviousness of her intentions.
Award-winning author Andrew Diamond has created a tough, twisted tale of distorted dreams and evil plans going wrong in every direction. Anti-hero Gantry is likeable enough, trying in his blundering way to do the right thing while falling deeper into a hole of his own digging. The cinematic plot is thoroughly engrossing, with tortuous turns and all the wrong characters showing up at all the wrong times. Manic’s work assignments with a varied cast of colorful customers provide a few breaks in the unnerving, rapidly escalating scenario of deception piled on deception. The cleverly conceived aspect of dual personality - Manis slowly gaining sway over Manic - adds a fascinating layer. Diamond manages all these threads deftly, with subtle humor and a wealth of forensic and personal detail. 
Quill says: With rapidly changing action in every chapter and psychological undertones, To Hell with Johnny Manic is very likely to garner new fans and further recognition for mystery writer Andrew Diamond. 
For more information on To Hell with Johnny Manic, please visit the author's website at: adiamond.me

#BookReview - One Red Sock

One Red Sock

Written and Illustrated by: Jennifer Sattler
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110267
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 11, 2019 
We've all been there - searching for the missing mate for one of our socks. For one little hippo, finding the match to her red sock turns into an delightful story about learning that it's okay to be less than perfect.
A little purple hippo is in her room, getting dressed so she can go out and about her day. Sitting in a big pink chair in her room, with walls that are covered in polka dots, the adorable hippo has one red sock on one foot. Unfortunately, her other foot is sock-less because she can't find the matching red sock.
"It looks funny this way.
This just will not do."
So she put on another sock.
This one was...blue!
And so it goes, as the hippo tries on sock after sock. Will she ever find her missing red sock? And if she can't find it, what will she do? Surely she can't go outside with mismatched socks - or can she?
One Red Sock is a fun story about an adorable hippo who tries her best, with a smile on her face throughout the story. It has a happy ending, one in which the little hippo realizes that not everything has to be absolutely perfect. The author, who is also the illustrator of this charming story, has created a lovable character in her purple hippo, with perfect facial expressions that help tell the story. The text is short, just a few sentences of rhyme per two-page, alternating with a two-page spread with one word - the color of the next sock the hippo finds. Not just a good story to learn some colors, the story also, and primarily, tells of how worrying about being perfect may not be the best solution to a missing sock.
Quill says: Simply adorable. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Simon Plaster



FQ: As a master storyteller who has some strong points, to say the least, talk about politics of 2019. Readers and fans want to hear what you have to say about the “world of Trump” and the “path” the U.S. is on as we speak.
PLASTER: Readers and fans ought to buy my latest books if they want to know what...Excuse me, Amy, could we just skip ahead to that question you mentioned about the publishing business. I have to get on a Greyhound Bus in a matter of minutes.
FQ: Your views on today’s authors: Who is doing it right, and what would be the one thing you would change if possible when it comes to the world of publishing?
PLASTER: What I would change is my own dang publisher, from Mossik Press to someone who is a heck of a lot better at marketing; that’s what I would do. The Mossik bossman out there in California, Marty Lowry; he talks a good game on the phone, but...Well, here I am, in Del Rio, Texas, for a book signing event that the sumbitch set up. I had to pay my own way to get here before finding out that the Mercado Poco convenience store only had two books in stock; neither one of them mine and both in Spanish. I went ahead and signed them, but won’t make a penny off the deal.
On the other hand, I guess I should be thankful not to be stuck in a kibbutz over there in Israel, where Marty also wanted me to go, on my own dime. He says Plasterworks sell like hot knishes in the Holy Land, but shekels coming my way have been sparse.
I know, I know; I should have checked into Marty Lowry’s background before I got in bed with the sumbitch, but...Only long after the fact — I had already sent nine or ten typed-up tales out there — did I find out that the word “mossik” is Yiddish, and means “prankster.” So I guess the joke’s on me.
FQ: What’s up next? Are you working on Henrietta’s next tale? Or is there a different book in the works? 
PLASTER: My latest tale is already in Marty Lowry’s hands, and — dang it — I only typed up that one copy. Henrietta rides again, alright. I can’t tell you the title, ‘cause I forgot to make up one, but I can tell you this: The tale replays a big event that took place almost a hundred years ago — one of the most important events in American history that led directly to the election of Donald Trump — though not ten out of a hundred people now living have ever heard of it; nine of which have a misunderstanding based on a motion picture account. Henrietta snouts out a couple of villains patterned after sumbitches thought of by most to have been heroes. I have not yet heard back from Marty Lowry on the matter, so can’t say if or when...Sorry, Amy, I’ve got to get on that bus and head up the road to Odessa for a book signing at an Arturo’s convenience store. Hasta la vista, my dear.
FQ: Thank you once again for bringing Henrietta and her wit into my world. Have a great day!

Friday, May 17, 2019

#BookReview - The Boy Who Grew A Forest

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

By: Sophia Gholz
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110243
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: May 8, 2019

This wonderful little story briefly outlines the life of a young Indian boy named Jadav Payneg and his home near Majuli Island in northeastern India. As a young teenager in 1979, he became quite distraught when the annual floodwaters would steal away the land, little by little. He knew how important trees were for so many reasons and as the trees washed away, animals went with them. When he saw hundreds of dead snakes he knew he had to do something to help.
The elders of his village were able to provide him with bamboo saplings, which he painstakingly planted, watered and nurtured, all on his own for many years. Even after the bamboo was a great success, he continued to do everything in his power to assure there would be plenty of food and shelter for the wild animals of the land. From his 20 original saplings, he eventually fostered a 40-acre forest that has since been named after him!
The beautiful illustrations of Jadav growing from a boy to a man accompany the development and maturity of the forest, as it goes from barren browns to lush greens. All of the animals depicted are simple, yet realistic, from bunnies and birds to rhinos and tigers. The author even includes instructions at the end of the book on how to “Plant a Forest of Your Own.”
Quill says: The Boy Who Grew A Forestis an incredible true story of how one small boy’s big dream literally grew into a thriving reality. It is possible for a single person to make a big difference in the world!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#BookReview - BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart

BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9994-1852-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 13, 2019 
We begin with the ever-vigilant—and slightly angered by the establishment when it comes to granting her a story that will win her the Pulitzer—reporter by the name of Henrietta. For those who have been reading this series, leap for joy that this amazing female protagonist is back and better than ever. For those not following Henrietta, the heck with you. No, just kidding, jump on board so you don’t miss this one!
From a small town, she is pure Oklahoman when it comes to her spirit and desire to “be all that she can be” in the journalistic world. This time around, she is filled with glee, considering that her boss, Nigel Fleetwood, at the local newspaper she works at – SCENE – has offered her what she feels is a juicy assignment, one that will perhaps bring her the fame she has longed for all this time. Readers sit beside Henrietta at a Town Hall Lecture Series (one that will bring back memories for all small-towners, like myself). Her assignment? She is to cover the Lecture Series and soon finds herself delving into the life of a “top secret” colonel who has a resume of monumental proportions. We’re talking about a “think tank” expert from a foreign government who’s using his time in the ‘spotlight’ to speak about a variety of subjects that include prophesies about how the United States will fare in the future. But he is not the only one Henrietta meets up with. Sitting at the table with Colonel Top Secret is Agent X; his job is to interpret the horrendous and dastardly predictions that this foreign military leader is voicing. 
We proceed on a trip of monumental (and extremely humorous) proportions, as the author—through his memorable cast of characters—takes on a great deal of issues and makes them not only more interesting, but also sheds new light on points of view that need to be heard more often. To name a few: the U.S. headlines that have brought about controversy since Trump has taken office; a possible secession of one pretty large state that would make the U.S. map look more than a bit ridiculous if it were to happen; and even sports subjects, such as the intense rivalry between the Lone Star State and Oklahoma when it comes to their shared passion of football.
From Henrietta’s never-ending fight to be the best at what she does, to the never-ending Sooner fight song which is prevalent in this tale, every “battle” Simon Plaster takes on makes you want to stand up and salute. Webster’s defines satire as a “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm to expose and discredit vice or folly.” Some reviewers, readers, and others call Simon’s work satirical. I believe that doesn’t fully fit the bill. For me, there are authors who are so good at what they do they have become kings or queens in their specific niche (i.e., the ultimate King in the realm of horror). When it comes to Simon Plaster, to me, he has become the King of satire, and no one should miss a word of it.
Quill says: Sarcasm (done well) equals a happy life. By reading the unforgettable Henrietta’s stories, you are on the right path to absolute happiness. 
For more information on BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart, please visit the author's Goodreads page at: Goodreads.SimonPlaster.com

#BookReview - Royal Blood

Royal Blood: A Paulette Monot History

By: Bruce Woods
Publisher: Penmore Press LLC
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1946409843
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 2019
A strangely gifted, eerily elegant young female joins forces with a well-known literary character and some historical figures to play her part in Africa, and war, in this well-honed fantasy by author Bruce Woods. 
Paulette Monot is an American, a lady of sorts, a world traveler, and...a vampire, one of the “kin” whose numbers are unknown, but who, she will learn, are as populous in Africa as in Europe and America. She will make this discovery at the behest of none other than colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes is in London plotting with the legendary if fictional investigator Sherlock Holmes, and, importantly, with Ellen Terry, the celebrated actress who, it seems, is also one of the kin. Terry has shared a friendly quaff of hot blood with Monot as a way of welcoming her to London, and all involved are aware that the two females are indeed among the undead. Monot is asked to trek to southern Africa, locate more of her vampire kin, and organize them to aid Rhodes in quelling a rebellion being fomented by Lobengula, Chief of the Matebele. Lobengula has no firepower, but can command vast numbers of warriors to subdue a small garrison of British soldiers. Monot accepts the challenge and travels to Africa partly by newly devised airship, taking along her beloved spring-powered Coilcycle and a new Gibbs-Farquaharson-Metford rifle, the latter to promote the illusion that she is on safari. 
Once on the ground in the British colonial lands, Monot meets famed hunter Frederick Selous (like Rhodes and Terry, a real person) whom she gradually takes as a lover. The two, aided by many loyal native tribespeople, do indeed locate her vampire kin, particularly prevalent among the Bush people, whose leader Xam is convinced of Monot’s good will. All will play a significant role in a violent historical fray known as The First Matabele War. But as the dust settles, Monot is slowly developing opinions of the African indigenous peoples that differ greatly from those of Rhodes or even her cherished Selous. 
For those not familiar with the “steampunk” genre, Woods, editor and nature lover, offers a hearty immersion, mixing fantasy and history with vampiric deeds and desires in a setting laden with the latest quirky inventions of that era. Woods, who has published nonfiction in the past, has composed this well-plotted, imaginative work as part of a series. He has penned Monot’s saga with verve, seeing everything from warfare to wardrobe through her eyes - the eyes of a bloodthirsty, erotically attuned yet strangely idealistic young female vampire. It’s clear that the author has done his research carefully, demonstrating an intelligent understanding of the many dynamics at play.
Quill says: Royal Blood is an eerily enjoyable mix of romance, danger, vampire love and lore, 19th century colonialism, and a thoughtful look at Africa – its multi-faceted cultures and the greater aspirations of its people. 
For more information on Royal Blood: A Paulette Monot History, please visit the publisher's website: www.penmorepress.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Geanna Culbertson @gculbert14

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Geanna Culbertson, the author of Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back.
FQ: As a long-time fan of your series, I was wondering if you can tell our readers what it’s like to write a series; what it’s like to be with these characters for so long and find a way to continue to create such amazing paths for them to follow? Was the original concept and all of the books laid out in your mind beforehand; or, with time, have they just “appeared” in the story without being pre-planned?
CULBERTSON: It really is amazing and strange to spend so many years with the same characters. They feel so real to me, like they’re actual humans I created. It reminds me of that quote from the last Harry Potter where Harry asks Dumbledore if this is all real or it’s just happening inside his head, and Dumbledore responds, “Well of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. Why should that mean it’s not real?”
It has been incredible to watch these characters grow and help them do that, Crisa in particular. As I write her journey I am continuously surprised by her and proud of how much she has changed. I don’t always know everything that’s going to happen to her or my other characters when I’m writing, and letting those internal arcs and external arcs develop—flow from my mind onto the page into existence—is wonderful and kind of surreal.
I always knew this was going to be a series and had many of the main plot points, character growth trajectories, and twists worked out from the beginning. However, filling in the areas between those events happens organically as I go on writing the story.
FQ: Throughout, is there one character in the series that found a larger part or took on a larger role than you first assumed they would? If so, who would that be?
CULBERTSON: There are some characters that may have started with smaller roles (like Chance and Girtha) that I always intended to make more important parts of the series. In terms of involvement most of my character arcs and roles have been in my head since the start. If I had to pick one example though . . . I suppose I would say Merlin. I always knew he would matter, but once I created him and saw his interactions with Crisa, I knew this was a relationship I wanted to continue to highlight and push because he brings out both bad and good in her and they have an interesting dynamic.
FQ: Have you thought of the day when the series comes to a close; how do you think it will be to let go of the characters you’ve been with for such a great length of time?
Author Geanna Culbertson
CULBERTSON: Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll react. It’ll definitely be weird. And sad. By the time the eighth book comes out in 2021, I’ll have basically spent 10 years with this world and these characters. I’m only in my twenties, so that’s a huge portion of my life so far LOL. But I have so many other stories I’m itching to write (ideas come to me constantly and I have to put them aside for later). So I’ll probably dive into another series immediately and devote my heart, mind, and soul to the creation of new fantastic worlds and fascinating characters.
FQ: Are you interested in one day creating standalone novels, or do you feel that another series is already stirring in the back of your mind?
CULBERTSON: Oh, I have a lot stirring back there. I currently have three other book series and a couple of standalones I intend to write. Who knows what else I’ll think of in the coming years in addition. So the real question is, which will I focus on next?!
FQ: Is there a genre that you’ve never written in before that you truly wish to tackle one day?
CULBERTSON: As mentioned in the previous answer, there are plenty of books I am eager to write and characters I can’t wait to give life to. These span across multiple genres and they’re going to be epic!
FQ: Can you speak a little about social media and how you believe it negatively or positively affects your marketing, promotion, etc.?
CULBERTSON: Social media is a finicky thing. I actively employ many platforms to publicize events and promote my series as best I can. A negative, I guess, would be the time that takes. But a positive is the ability to connect with people all over the world through more outlets. I’ve definitely had some great engagement with fans via social media in the past.
FQ: Can you give readers a sneak peek into what, perhaps, other famous locations will be seen before the series comes to an end?
CULBERTSON: Hmm. Well, I don’t like spoilers. But we’re definitely going back to Earth. We’ll return to some other places we’ve been before too, like Camelot. And (Sneak Peek Alert) – in Book Seven we’re going to spend some time in Chance Darling’s kingdom. But that’s all I’m saying.
FQ: Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from this series?
I always intended for my series to connect with readers on a fundamental level—both relating to and inspiring them.
I want my readers to learn about things like the profound value of change, friendship, taking fate into your own hands, self-acceptance, and the power of choices. I hope this series will encourage people to think about the deeper questions, like in regards to the morality of taking life, what it means to be strong, tough choices about identity, and so forth. Additionally, at the core, I truly hope that as my readers grow with Crisanta, they are inspired by her hero-princess archetype to be the strongest, boldest, most honorable versions of themselves as they fight for the change they want to see in the world and in themselves.
And (of course) I want people to close the last book in my series with a smile—feeling good and feeling fulfilled with all that has come to pass.