Monday, May 17, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Susan F. Banks, author of Red Souls


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Susan F. Banks, author of Red Souls: Book One of the Red Souls Series.

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

BANKS: I studied neurosciences in graduate school. My working profession is software and systems engineering, emphasis on cybersecurity. My interests include music, art, history, technology, physics, economics and spiritual studies. I’ve been a wordsmith in all my endeavors, and it was always my intention to tell stories. Fantasy gives me the greatest latitude to include many aspects of my interests and explore interactions between the physical and supernatural sides of life.

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

BANKS: Red Souls introduces us to a woman named Gem who has an important mission in the city of Los Angeles to protect it from the forces of the Astral Underworld. The fulfillment of that mission has given her extraordinary power to deal with the negative emotions of others. She shows four new adults in LA what is really happening in their city and enlists their support when LA comes under extraordinary threat. Turns out, it is a type of support they are uniquely qualified to give.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

BANKS: In the fantasy genre, my favorite authors are Ilona Andrews, Mike Carey and Jim Butcher. Their characters have heart and humor, and their fantasy worlds are anchored in real life, qualities I aim for in my own writing.

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

BANKS: The Circle of Augustus will complete their first mission in three books. Red Souls is the first book of the series. Book 2, Wall of Unknowing, has already been published on Amazon. I am working on Book 3, States of Being, right now. After that, the Circle will begin a new mission in a new set of two or three books. Each of their missions will be a sub-series in the overall saga of the Circle.

Author Susan F. Banks

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? 

BANKS: The saga of the Circle of Augustus is about four modern people becoming aware of the fine line between the reality they see and other realities beyond that line. Where do physics and the supernatural meet? At some point, they operate under the same rules. That is the fundamental premise of my books. Those other realities affect this one. People experience that every day, whether or not they are aware of it. Each character in the Red Souls series deals with this growing awareness in different ways. Some resist, some accept, some embrace. Readers find this series to be unusual in the fantasy genre. One reviewer said ‘Nothing compares.’ There are no vampires, no witches, no magic. My stories are about soul beings. Their powers come from the choices they make and their understanding of the forces of nature.

FQ: Where did the idea for your story come from?

BANKS: I was interested in what life would be like for a person whose hearing was so acute that sound was an enemy instead of a friend as it is in my own life.

FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.

BANKS: Willet Du Place was born with an abnormal auditory anatomy which causes extreme sensitivity to sound. Her hearing is so sensitive, she gets severe migraines if loud sounds hit her ears. She lives out in the desert to escape the noise of modern life. Her sister runs interference between her and the outside world. Willet’s long-term expectation for her life is an isolated, limited existence, until she meets Gem and becomes a member of the Circle of Augustus.

FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.

BANKS: All the characters are parts of myself. TJ is the one I have the most fun with. He’s the snarky one who voices my sense of humor.

To learn more about Red Souls: Book One of the Red Souls Series, please visit the author's website at: susanfbanks.com

#AuthorInterview with Gail Cushman, author of Cruise Time


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Gail Cushman, author of Cruise Time: A Wrinkly Bits Senior Hijinks Romance.

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

CUSHMAN: I am a native Idahoan, a mother, and now a widow, having recently lost my husband of over fifty years. He and I were both former Marine officers. Together we had a remarkable journey, capped with about ten years of worldwide travel, visiting every continent, including Antarctica. We have two children, two in-laws, and four teenaged grandchildren who amaze me every single day. I taught school for nineteen years, was an educational administrator for an additional fourteen years, including seven years administering educational programs for the Department of Correction. All those years I watched people, and now I write.

FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?

CUSHMAN: Words come easily for me and I have written all my life. As a child I wrote letters to friends and family. Stamps cost just a nickel and for a quarter I could write five letters and I would get back five answers and I liked it. With only twenty-six letters in the alphabet, I can easily rearrange them, and make all kinds of words, which still fascinates me. Magic!

I taught composition for high school students and watched their essays go from the mundane as freshmen to the magnificent a few years later. I wrote with them, read my essays aloud, and dabbled in poetry about them. I wrote many grants and helped people with resumes and other written documents that they needed. I usually won the grants and others usually got the jobs, and it was fulfilling. I must say that writing grants is a dull way to spend an afternoon, while writing Wrinkly Bits gives me energy.

I composed my first full-length book, a mystery entitled Absolution, about twenty years ago and finished it in about six weeks. The words literally poured out of me and I thought, “Wow, that was easy,” but getting it published proved more difficult and that book still takes up space in my cupboard, along with three more mysteries I wrote along the way.

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

Author Gail Cushman

CUSHMAN: The Wrinkly Bits Series tells the story of senior citizens escaping routine in favor of adventure, with a bit of spice thrown in. All the main characters are over sixty with time on their hands, looking for new and adventurous ways to remove the aches and pains and insecurities of feeling invisible and unneeded. Their bodies and ID cards say they are over sixty years old, but their emotions and their, ahem, libidos, remind them that age is only a number.

Cruise Time is the story of Idaho farmers Audrey (age sixty-seven) and Griff (age seventy) who have been married nearly fifty years (with the last twenty being rather spice-less and ho-hum). Griff decides they should go on a cruise. “Grab your bikini, Hon, we’re going on a cruise.” As they board the ship, she meets Logan, a widower, age seventy, who falls head-over feet (he’s a podiatrist) in love with Audrey and is unwilling to take no for an answer. He becomes instantly smitten and cannot imagine spending the rest of his days without her. His wheels might squeak, but they still work, and she is just the oil he needs.

After several unsuccessful attempts at publication of mysteries, my daughter suggested that I change genres to either westerns or romances and since I don’t know anything about horses, I opted for romances. My editor, Anna McHargue, and I researched what romances were available for the over-sixty crowd and she said, “Gail, we’ve got a whole new genre, it’s wide open.” While libraries’ romance shelves house thousands of books, the “senior characters” max out at age fifty and the older-than-you-can-possibly-imagine age group has been largely ignored. But let me assure you that their libidos are alive and well. I now have written three in the Wrinkly Bits series: Cruise Time, Out of Time, and Wasting Time with two more planned for this year. They are all about people over the age of sixty who have libidos and passion along with their lifetime of experiences.

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

CUSHMAN: I am a Pat Conroy fan and have read every book he’s written multiple times. He too was in love with words, and they flowed like trout through Griff’s stream onto the pages of his stories. It is obvious that he labored at finding exactly the right words for each thought he wrote. He was also a people watcher and wrote about people he met and loved and didn’t love. The Prince of Tides wins my favorite book award.

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

CUSHMAN: Cruise Time is the first of the three-book series, but they can be read in any order. I wrote Out of Time second and Wasting Time third. Two more are planned, hopefully coming out this year. If readers enjoy my stories, I will write more, as I have a bunch of stories and characters rattling around in my head. Audrey, Griff, and Logan are anxious to have their stories told.

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?

CUSHMAN: Senior citizens are filled with life and stories of adventures, life, and love and each person has a different tale to tell. I see my stories as adventures with no real beginning or end. It’s another adventure.

Out of Time tells of Logan’s continued pursuit of Audrey. Griff and Audrey’s sons live a state away and invite Audrey to babysit, leaving Griff, who is on the mend from an accident, at home alone. Logan seizes the opportunity to be alone with Audrey and goes with her. Her adult children are dumbfounded to find her with another man and rush back to Hunter to implore retired schoolteacher Phyllis to care for Griff. Phyllis, who can’t resist a new adventure, launches her Academy of Romance to teach Griff how to be romantic proving that you can get carried away by love and libido, no matter your age.

Wasting Time continues the saga as Audrey has to decide whether she will honor her long-ago wedding vows and be loyal to Griff or follow her heart and move on to Logan, who adores her and treats her like a queen. She wrestles with the concept of love, whether loving someone (Griff) and being in love (Logan) are the same thing. Audrey and Logan’s adult children continue to cause tension about their apparent romance.

Those who have read them have laughed, enjoyed the characters. My first review was a five-star! (Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite)

FQ: Many authors say that it’s hard to say good-bye to the characters in a series? Do you think it will be difficult for you? Have they become part of your life?

CUSHMAN: I have said good-bye to two characters, and one pops into my brain every now and then and he might reappear. A second character simply walked away, and it is doubtful she will return as I seldom think about her. She was funny, but enough is enough.

My six main characters (Audrey, Logan, Griff, Phyllis, Gus, Carlee, and Steve) have become a part of my life now. Their wrinkly bits are my Wrinkly Bits.

FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?

CUSHMAN: Oh, yes, my children are excited that I am putting words on paper, which means I don’t bother them as much. My friends and neighbors wave at me through my front window as I write and most have read one or more of my stories. My grandchildren have not read these stories, but they told their friends about their grandma writing somewhat naughty books. I suppose their parents told them that, but my books are only a little bit naughty with no eroticism.

FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.

CUSHMAN: Audrey Lyons lived on a soybean and hops farm eighteen miles from a rural Idaho town where she worked as a nurse, coming home nightly to raise her children and help with Griff’s farm chores. She dreams of travel and adventure, especially going to France, but Griff is content to spend time hunting and fishing. She has four grandchildren, whom she seldom sees, and listens to books while she walks the fields for entertainment. Her life has become so boring that when they sold the farm, she missed talking to the chickens. But then she meets Logan and realizes that her life could be a lot more.

FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.

CUSHMAN: I enjoyed writing about both Audrey and Logan. They both have had productive lives and are interesting and energetic and are now looking at retirement with open eyes. Audrey is surprised to discover that her libido engine can still get fired up and Logan is more than happy to help her. She recognizes that loving someone and being in love with someone are two different things. She loves Griff, but she might be in love with Logan. Who knows?

To learn more about Cruise Time: A Wrinkly Bits Senior Hijinks Romance, please visit the series website at: wrinklybits.com

Friday, May 14, 2021

#BookReview - Insight and Suitability


Insight and Suitability

By: James Wollak
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: February 2021
ISBN: 978-1636495330
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 12, 2021

In this notable debut novel, author James Wollak has created a sequel to Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, following some of its characters through the pangs and possibilities of courtship and marriage.

Taking place some months after the ending of Austen’s novel, Wollak’s view encompasses the personal longings and frustrations of young women in the early 1800s faced with the prospect of choosing the best lifestyle, which must of necessity center on choosing the most suitable husband. But to find that partner, avoiding impulse and studying the problem from all angles, women from the highest born to the lowliest will need special insight.

Although there are many interwoven storylines in Wollak’s complex panorama, he focuses special attention on a few, including those of Anne de Bourgh and Kitty and Mary Bennet. The book opens when Anne pays a surprise visit to Elizabeth Darcy to privately ask her opinion about two men by whom Anne is being courted. Tarquinius Duvall is handsome and easy to talk to, yet at times, shows a mysterious, somehow disturbing aspect. Edgar Rutledge is harder to engage in conversation, but reveals a high-minded kindness that attracts Anne deeply. Kitty is drawn to Marius, Tarquin’s brother, but put off, indeed, angered by the ingrained snobbery of the young man’s mother, Lady Julia, aimed not only at Kitty but at her shy but studious sister Mary. Once both Kitty and Anne have settled on and been lovingly accepted by their future spouses, Mary’s fate is still undetermined. But with secret machinations from allies behind the scenes, she hopes to meet a man who has an admiration for her talents and intellect.

Wollak professes a lifelong fascination with the works of Jane Austen, a prolific author who, for her times, was determined, like so many of her heroines, to step outside the rigid lines drawn by society in order to express her attitudes and aptitudes. It is this quality that Wollak has seized on, showing, for example, Kitty’s resolve in speaking harshly, almost threateningly, to a man who is abusing her sister’s trust. Wollak gives the men a say also, showing them as for the most part honorable, and also bound by social restraints though not so tightly as the women. The author is to be commended for keeping both the dialogue and narrative in Austen’s style, offering a new generation of her fans a wider look at her world. Composing his view of that world, with its large cast of characters and many intricate details of lifestyle and custom, must surely have been a prodigious task.

Quill says: Wollak’s novel will no doubt garner a fan base of those who, like him, find significance in the dynamic interactions of our forebears – men and women who could both accept the class, culture and mores they were heir to, and whenever possible, strive for better.

For more information on Insight and Suitability, please visit the author's website at: jameswollak.com

 

#BookReview - The Ruth Adventures: Life on the Farm


The Ruth Adventures: Life on the Farm

By: Nancy Youngdahl
Illustrated by: Diana Delosh
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publication Date: July 2020
ISBN: 978-1645431053
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 13, 2021

Meet Ruth, a six-year-old girl who lives on a farm in North Carolina. She's sweet, adorable, and works very hard to help take care of the animals on the farm. And most importantly, she's loved by her entire family.

Life on the Farm follows Ruth as she goes about her day on her parents' farm. She lives with her mama, daddy and big brother, Samuel. Ruth shares with the reader all the fun, and important, things she gets to do every day. She adores her daddy and the two spend lots of time together. Ruth explains that they are "...the best of friends," and when she grows up she wants to marry someone "...just like my daddy!"

Ruth enjoys watching her big brother Samuel as he does his chores. He has to clean out the horse stalls and then put fresh straw down for the horses. Ruth is too small to take care of the horse stalls but she hopes to one day help with cleaning the barn. What Ruth can do is feed all the animals and there are a lot! She feeds the chickens, rabbits, ducks, horses, dogs, and cats.

At night, Ruth's mother reads to her and teaches Ruth how to say her prayers. Ruth also learns that "...my other Father, God, loves me even more than they do!" The reader comes away with a clear understanding that Ruth is happy and that she feels secure and loved.

Life on the Farm is a sweet story about a little girl and her adventures on a farm. There are "mini" adventures throughout the story, such as the time Ruth's stuffed bunny, Harry, took a mud bath. There's also an episode where Ruth learns an important lesson. Ruth and Ralph, the farm's old donkey, had a misunderstanding that didn't end well. With a strong Christian message of love and forgiveness throughout the story, Ruth realizes that what Ralph did wasn't really his fault. Ruth makes the difficult decision to tell her daddy what happened, and that it might have actually been her fault. It's a hard lesson, but one that shows the love of the Father. There are also little tidbits of what farm life is really like, such as Ruth explaining the reason the farm has so many cats. Overall, Life on the Farm is a charming, enjoyable story with a Christian message that is so needed in today's world.

Quill says: Get ready to meet an adorable little girl who will wiggle her way into your child's heart and have them asking "when can we move to a farm?"

 

#BookReview - Code Blue


Code Blue

By: Marissa Slaven
Publisher: Stormbird Press
Publication Date: May 2021
ISBN: 978-1-925856-36-1
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: May 12, 2021

Author Marissa Slaven’s debut young adult novel Code Blue tells the story of a mysterious eco-thriller. The protagonist, Tic Brewer, is a teenage girl who lives with her mother. Her “Uncle” Al, who is actually her neighbor, plays the role of her father figure, as Tic lost her own dad in a boating accident before she was born. Tic is intrigued by science and spends every spare minute she has studying the subject.

Our story begins as Uncle Al takes Tic to take the entrance exam for North East Science Academy (NESA), a prestigious science-centered school. Tic’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a scientist. She wants to make a difference in the world, which has suffered extreme climate change, resulting in certain previously livable areas becoming uninhabitable.

Tic is ecstatic when she receives the news from NESA that she has been accepted, and she embraces student life at the school wholeheartedly. She develops relationships with Lee, the mysterious and handsome boy who she meets at the entrance exam; Phish, the smart and spunky girl who gives her a ride to NESA; and Tate, the fourth-year student who becomes her mentor and eventually, an unlikely friend. With the help of her new companions, she uncovers mysteries surrounding her father’s death and how it relates to a current climate phenomenon, the melting of the glaciers.

Slaven’s fictional story of climate change keeps the reader guessing until the end. With so many twists and turns that the reader does not see coming, Code Blue is the epitome of a page-turner. As a teenage girl, the protagonist Tic will appeal to young adult readers. Tic undergoes typical teenage situations, all while experiencing love and loss that force her to grow up faster than any child should be compelled to.

It is worth mentioning that this novel would be best suited for young adult readers over the age of 15 due to certain sensitive topics including: death, violence, and sex. Slaven’s main character, Tic, manages all of these subjects throughout the story. None of these issues are presented in a graphic or distasteful way, but they do occur. The situations in which these topics appear are pertinent to the story and serve a purpose, which is refreshing, considering that many young adult novels often throw these issues into a story simply to obtain shock value.

Quill says: Code Blue is a fascinating ecological brainteaser that will urge readers to consider the effects of their actions on our environment. Numerous cliffhangers throughout the story help shape this book into an environmental thriller that will interest and engage young and old readers alike from start to finish.

To learn more about Code Blue, please visit the author’s website at: marissaslaven.com.

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

#BookReview - Do Chickens Have Lips?: Chicken and Egg Book 3


Do Chickens Have Lips?: Chicken and Egg Book 3

By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: David Stedmond
Publisher: Frog Prince Books
Publication Date: June 2021
ISBN: 978-1734824247
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 5, 2021

Get ready for another crazy adventure from Chicken and Egg that will have children (and adults!) laughing out-loud at the goofy antics and clever storyline in Do Chickens Have Lips?

In book three of the "Chicken and Egg" series, our friends Chicken and Egg have decided to go to a square dance. It sounds like a great idea until Egg realizes that they will need dates. The best friends don't want to dance with each other, so who will they ask? And how will they ask those potential dance partners?

Egg decides to ask Eggwina, who has a shell that is like fine porcelain, while Chicken wants to ask Dolly Duck because she "...smells like a pond on a summer day..." Next, they have to figure out how to ask the ladies to the dance. They come up with a few ideas but finally settle on giving Eggwina and Dolly Duck flowers, lots and lots of flowers.

Several funny things happen while Egg and Chicken get ready for the dance and all seems to be going well until Chicken realizes that dances with dates require a goodnight kiss. But can he give his lady friend a goodnight kiss? Don't you need lips to do that? Does he have lips? How can he tell? What will he do?

This is the third book in the "Chicken and Egg" series that I've read/reviewed. Each time I marvel at the clever mind of the author - how does she come up with such novel and funny exploits for these two characters? Like the first two books, Chicken and Egg discuss many silly things, frequently taking "a ridiculously long time," while they debate. Examples from this book are whether dandelions are flowers, and which outfit is the right one for the dance. The story moves at a quick pace, with no dull spots that might lose the attention of young readers. And the story has a "deee-lightful" ending too. In short, if you're looking for a new title to add to your child's bedtime reading list, be sure to add Do Chickens Have Lips?

Quill says: An Egg-cellent book about two best friends trying to help each other solve an age-old mystery. If you haven't discovered this delightful series yet, be sure to check it out. If you are familiar with Chicken and Egg, you're going to love this book just as much as the first two in the series.

For more information on Do Chickens Have Lips?: Chicken and Egg Book 3, please visit the publisher's website at: www.frogprincebooks.net/

 

#BookReview - Crisanta Knight: Into the Gray


Crisanta Knight: Into the Gray (the Crisanta Knight Series Book 7)

By: Geanna Culbertson
Publisher: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: October 2020
ISBN: 978-1-945448-83-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 5, 2021

You all heard my shouts of glee and praise when I first entered this world...I was beyond happy to meet Crisanta Knight, daughter of Cinderella, living in her homeland of (correctly named, by the way) Book. Not only did she pull me in, but I smiled wide when I met up with the wonderful citizens of Book—who you’ll know immediately, as they are characters you’ve grown to love since the day you began reading, as well as some others who make up the popular casts of the most famous fairytales ever written. I jumped on board and soared with Crisanta and her friends long ago as she read, followed, fought, and discovered things about herself and her future that were written in her very own “protagonist book” which actually details her fate.

Crisanta took it upon herself to stand up and fight against the hideous prophecies that had been written about her, saying evil creatures would come together in order to overthrow the realm of Book and eliminate one and all. Now, of course, I learned that these beings found out about the prophecy and knew they had to take Crisanta out of the game for good in order to have their own plot of destruction succeed. So I, along with a ton of other very smart readers who love to have that perfect series enter their lives, went on every adventure thus far with Ms. Knight and her friends. And I have enjoyed every single second in their presence!

I partied it up in Neverland, went on a journey to locate Excalibur, and even met a young man—the actual grandson of King Midas—who’s working diligently to win Crisanta’s heart. I have now had the pleasure to soar once again through Book #7 of this series and, I must say, I am more in love with this author and these books than ever before...if that’s even possible.

This time around we are getting ‘down to brass tacks’ as my grandmother called it. We are looking at a true hero who, this time, has to battle with her own conscience. The clock progresses on all of us; even Crisanta. She has had ups, such as becoming a star athlete at her protagonist school and has become closer to her network of friends. She’s also had more than a few downs; such as, she’s looking ahead to a trial that will be held soon where the leaders of the realm – as well as the high-up Fairy Godmothers – will bring down their form of justice on Crisanta’s head. They know now, as we all do, about Crisanta’s gift of “Pure Magic” and the plot of the villains that their realm could perhaps avoid if Crisanta no longer was a part of Book. There are things that could help everyone see the light and how much Crisanta could help them all, but let us just say that information is locked away in a princess’s brain with no way of getting the girl to speak because she’s been silenced by a sleeping curse.

The commons rebellion is strengthening their resolve each and every day. Crisanta is now living with the fact that she has taken a life because of an evil queen’s plan that made the young girl snap. Although it was a ‘bad guy’ she brought down, the moral struggle she now faces is a difficult one. Crisanta must learn to get her powers under control before, perhaps, she does follow the wrong road and become a member of the darker side of the world.

Readers still receive the fantastical locations, characters, and an action-packed story from this incredible author; however, Book 7 also delivers a deeper, more emotional tale. Much like Star Wars fans rave about the more revealing Empire Strikes Back, and how Potter fans speak about The Half-Blood Prince, this is the book in Crisanta’s series that explores the harsher side of things and focuses on the maturing of a character who finally sees and feels all that their strength can do, yet is now highly worried about how to get it under control.

The fight for her friends and her home of Book has now been joined with the fight she is having with her own conscience. The previous books have perfectly led up to this “gray area” that Crisanta now finds herself immersed in; and it is here, in this haze, where she will make the choice to solidify herself as a hero, or turn toward the darkness and allow her long-time enemies to win the war, after all.

Quill says: This series now walks into a place where the best or worst choices will be made, and continues to shine: 5 Stars!