Tuesday, July 16, 2019

#BookReview - Days to the Gallows

Days to the Gallows: A Novel of the Hartford Witch Panic

By: Katherine Spada Basto
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: December 2016
ISBN: 978-1536978043
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 2019
Katherine Spada Basto shines a light on a chilling portion of Connecticut’s history in Days to the Gallows.
Life in Connecticut Colony takes a turn for the worse while Governor Winthrop is away over the course of a year, negotiating a charter with the King of England. In his stead are Captain John Mason and Marshal Gilbert. The latter controls the colony with an iron fist, warning the town folk that punishment is imminent if they veer away from righteousness.
Two friends, Hester Hosmer and Ann Cole, sneak out one night to investigate the pagan goings-on in the South Wood. They look on warily, knowing full well that the traditions of England—the very things that Marshal Gilbert talks about—go against Puritan religion. While the event is unnerving to the two older teens, strange happenings occur after they witness the mysterious death of eight-year-old Betty Kelly.
Ann is particularly troubled by the little girl’s untimely death and seeks revenge by pinpointing various town folk. She also feels that these same people are the reason she is unable to find a husband. Jealousy arises when she learns that Hester has a suitor, a peddler by the name of Tom Flagg.
Hester begins to distance herself from Ann when her histrionic displays during church meetings reveal witchery among specific individuals. Mary Sanford’s quiet hanging on Gallows Hill is the first of many to come. When Hester speaks out in defense of one of her neighbors accused of witchery, Ann begins to target her. Now fearful for her life, Hester has no idea how she will be able to escape the gallows.
First-time author Katherine Spada Basto draws readers into an ugly time of American Colonialism: the Hartford Witch Panic of 1662. A well-balanced mix of fiction with fact brings this turbulent event to life. Unique to Basto’s narrative is the cast, which mainly consists of historical figures. Only a handful of characters are fictional, such as Tom Flagg and his father. In the case of Hester and Ann, they were indeed friends and lived across the street from one another.
Other features make this tale engaging as well. At the forefront is Hester’s narration set in Elizabethan speech, which offers authentication to the story. The first-person presentation, as told through Hester’s perspective, is a perfect vehicle for Basto to provide readers with a glimpse of how a spark of revenge can turn everything dark. Indeed, Ann’s choice to go down that road not only costs her Hester’s friendship but also the lives of innocent people. Irony quickly steps into play as both static characters, Hester and Ann, head in opposite directions: Hester (the protagonist) becomes emboldened to do what is right while Ann (the antagonist) chooses to buy into the self-subscribed form of “righteousness” of the Puritan leaders.
Kudos to Basto for a stellar job recreating a horrific period in American Colonial history. Well-written and researched, Days to the Gallows is a riveting and chilling story from beginning to end.
Quill says: Days to the Gallows is nothing less than a must-add book for American Colonial history buffs.
For more information on Days to the Gallows, please visit the author's website at: www.katherinespadabasto.com

Friday, July 5, 2019

#BookReview - Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

By: Ellen Feld
Photographed by: John Cebula
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing
Publication Date: June 2019
ISBN: 978-1733767408
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 1, 2019

Donkey-Donk is at it again! This time she's going to a horse show and she'd like you to come along.

We first met Donkey-Donk (she insists you call her "Donk") in What Can I Do? A Donkey-Donk Story.In that adventure, Donk moved to a new farm, and try as she might, she just couldn't do any of the jobs that the other horses and ponies did. The story had a happy ending and was chock-full of delightful photographs of Donk as she tried her best. To capitalize on the popularity of that book, author Ellen Feld and photographer John Cebula captured another delightful adventure of Donk's as she prepares to go to a horse show. 
Hopeful that she might win a blue ribbon, Donk is very excited about the upcoming horse show. But she quickly realizes, when she tries to go over a jump, and can't, that she better practice before the show. The reader "rides" along as Donk tries several obstacles and realizing each time that she is unable to perform the needed task, she decides, "I better practice..." She then returns after practicing and, each time, successfully completes the obstacle. Once at the horse show, Donk is met by a group of very big horses. Will she be able to perform all the obstacles at the show and maybe, perhaps, win a blue ribbon?
Like the first book in this series, Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Storyis told through simple text and fantastic photographs of the adorable Donkey-Donk doing what she does best - entertain. And the cuteness quota in these photos is high. The author uses simple words to convey her message and readers will learn several action words too. For example, Donk tells her readers that she is going in a trail class where "...I will have to go over, under, or through different obstacles." This text is accompanied by three photos - one each of Donk going "over," "under," or "through," and with the appropriate word underneath each photo. Like the first book in the series, this story conveys an important message (if you have trouble, practice, practice, practice) and has a happy ending. Overall, a great story combined with wonderful photographs make Donk's second book a winner.
Quill says: A joyful gigglefest that also teaches a valuable lesson.  Young readers will love Donkey-Donk’s adventure.
For more information on Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk story,please visit the publisher's website at: www.willowbendpublishing.com

Sunday, June 30, 2019

#BookReview - My Garden of Flowers

My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

By: Manjeet Kaur, M.D.
Publisher: Inspirante Publishing LCC
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1-7326462-0-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 28, 2019

Dr. Manjeet Kaur delivers a beautiful book that showcases the miracle babies who took their first breath of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Women & Babies Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 
(Dr.) Manjeet Kaur was born in Delhi, India. While her credentials speak for themselves, it is the person behind such credentials that makes this book a bittersweet journey that is laced with unwavering commitment and a ferocious tenacity of a person who never gave up. In 1984, Dr. Kaur traveled to Lancaster, PA, where she established roots and set to the task of singlehandedly setting up the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In the early years of taking on such a feat, there were many days when Dr. Kaur worked twenty-four-hour shifts (and sometimes more) to stabilize a sick and quite premature infant. Simply put, there was no one else who had the knowledge or ability to do what she did. 
Through her commitment and leadership, Dr. Kaur established a care unit that was not only gaining recognition beyond Lancaster, but a place that was renowned for its level of quality care thanks to her vision and determination. Despite her unconscionable workload, Dr. Kaur never took on a case without applying her personal touch of love and compassion. This book is truly a testament to her legacy. Specifically, in 2002, the hospital recognized Dr. Kaur’s unfaltering achievements and awarded her a prestigious honor by naming the neonatal division at the Women and Babies Hospital the ‘Manjeet Kaur MD Division of Neonatology.’
When I was first approached to read and review Dr. Kaur’s book, my thought was: I have to do this. My mother has passed, but I have fond memories of the years when she would share her stories and experiences while working as a nurse in the NICU of Plantation General Hospital. Dr. Kaur has done an epic job of chronicling the first breaths taken by premature babies whose birth, by all accounts, defied survival. Not only did these little miracles survive, many grew up to become quite accomplished adults. Dr. Kaur’s voice resonates throughout this book and through her words, she has painted a beautiful ‘garden of flowers’—the ‘flowers’ depicting the premature babies she treated. There is a vast array of articles, photographs, and personal stories of the surviving babies and their families and tender moments of reunions year after year with Dr. Kaur—a gift the good doctor was graced with each time she saw her miracle babies who fought tremendous odds and won. While I was blessed years ago with two full-term and thriving ‘baby girls,’ this book is a must for all the women out there whose little bundle of joy simply couldn’t wait for full gestation. Well done Dr. Kaur. This is an outstanding book.
Quill says: My Garden of Flowersis an exceptional read. It offers a bounty of beautiful accounts of the miracle of birth that are anchored with faith and the will to live.
For more information on My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,please visit the book's website at: mygardenofflowers.wordpress.com

#BookReview - Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties

By: Stephen King and Owen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1501163401
Reviewed By: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 26, 2019
A world where all the women have fallen asleep, wrapped securely in cocoons, while the men fight it out in a somewhat barbaric fashion takes center stage in a novel co-written by the father-and-son team of Stephen and Owen King. 
 Sleeping Beautiesopens in the small town of Dooling, somewhere in Appalachia (surprise - not Maine!), where the local sheriff, Lila Norcross, keeps tabs on the petty crimes common in rural America. Her husband, Clint Norcross, is the senior psychiatric officer at the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women. They have a son, Jared, and are relatively happily married. After several chapters where the authors introduce the various players in this novel (and there are a lot of them!), the action starts. It seems there has been an accident at a local meth spot, that is quickly re-dubbed a multiple murder site. As Lila is rushing to the scene, she almost hits a woman on a side road. Stopping to help the woman, Lila soon handcuffs the strange woman when it becomes apparent that this unusual person is on some type of PCP...or something and is in need of help.
Evie, as the strange woman is dubbed, is taken to the women's prison for evaluation. At the same time, a strange affliction has taken over women on the other side of the world...and is quickly making its way to the United States. When women, and only women, fall asleep, they are enveloped by an odd white cocoon of a weird, sticky substance. They continue to breathe, and appear unharmed, but if disturbed, and the cocoon is ripped open, these women become extremely violent and kill everyone near them. As the virus, plague, or whatever it is, advances toward Dooling, Lila and the other women struggle to stay awake.
One by one the women in Dooling fall asleep, as the town erupts in chaos. Like the others, Lila eventually succumbs, and with that, Part One of this novel comes to an end. The second part deals with the men as they break up into two camps - one at the prison that is willing to risk all to protect Evie, who they are convinced is at the center of the outbreak, now called "The Aurora." The other group of men, led by a somewhat violent man determined to save his little girl and free her from her cocoon, is convinced that Evie needs to be captured, and sent to the CDC, or maybe killed or...? As the battle at the prison heats up, the reader learns that the women who have been "cocooned" are not dead, but instead have been transported to a parallel universe or perhaps a time in the future (it's not really clear and left up to the reader to figure out). They establish a civilization and seem to be living in an almost perfect place. But as often happens, things do go wrong.
The premise of Sleeping Beautiesis definitely unique and makes for a fun read. Now in development for a limited television series, it's no surprise as the typical "creep factor" so common to King's novels is present. Some readers may not like the fact that we never learn what, or who, Evie is, but rather are left to speculate on some possibilities suggested by the authors. Readers familiar with Stephen King's writing will likely notice a slight difference between the storytelling here as his son Owen takes on much of the tale (it was Owen who came up with the original idea). The novel is long, at slightly over 700 pages, and there are sections that seem to drag a bit, such as the battle at the prison. That's common in many of King's novels, and something most of his fans are willing to overlook. As previously mentioned, there are a lot of characters in this book and perhaps because of that, the character development is a bit lacking. But overall, it is a fun, unique novel that follows the format that King is so well-known for that will satisfy his readers.
Quill says: While not the "best of the best" of Stephen King's novels, Sleeping Beautiesis definitely a satisfying read for fans of the "King," and of the genre.

#BookReview - Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Written by: Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion
Illustrated by: Andrew Ceolin
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110069
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 20, 2019 
Tip and Tucker are two little hamsters who live in a pet shop. Tucker is a fearless little guy who loves to explore while Tip is leery of new adventures. When they are purchased by a teacher for his classroom, Tucker is quite excited while Tip is afraid. Will their new adventure turn out well for the adorable hamsters? 
Two little hamsters, living in a pet shop, are going about their day when a new customer enters the store. The customer, Mr. Lopez, is a teacher who is looking for the perfect pets for his classroom. While bold little Tucker pops up to the top of his cage to see what's going on, fearful Tip dashes to his hamster igloo to hide. Mr. Lopez decides that the hamsters will make the perfect addition to his classroom and purchases them, along with a new cage and some food. When Mr. Lopez tells the store clerk that the hamsters' new home will be noisy but fun, all Tip hears is "noisy." Tucker, meanwhile, isn't worried about any noise in his new home, but instead focuses on the "fun." As Mr. Lopez carries the cage with the hamsters out of the pet shop and into his car, Tip again hides in his igloo while Tucker does his best to convince his friend that their new home will be wonderful. Will Tip get over his fear and finally have some fun?
Tip and Tucker: Road Trip is the first book in an emerging reader "I Am A Reader" series. Best suited for the K-1 audience, the language is simple and brief and the adorable drawings tell much of the story. The story doesn't progress very far - just up to the hamsters being placed in the classroom after the students have gone home for the day. Tip is nervous about the possible noise and activity that he may encounter the next day, but readers will have to move on to book 2 in the series, Tip and Tucker: Hide and Squeak to see how the little hamster settles into his new home. The story is a good jumping-off point to start a conversation with youngsters who may be afraid of school and the new adventures that await.
Quill says: A good story for emerging readers who may be apprehensive about attending school.

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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

#BookReview - Badger's Perfect Garden

Badger's Perfect Garden

By: Marsha Diane Arnold
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110007
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: May 1, 2019 
Badger's Perfect Garden is a great accompaniment to planting your spring garden! While teaching your child about the work that goes into an actual garden – the planning, weeding, seeding and waiting, you can also make some teachable moments about patience, expectations and when planning just doesn’t go as planned! There are an adorable array of animals, including Red Squirrel, Weasel and Dormouse, who help a very diligent Badger plant his huge variety of vegetable and flower seeds, excited for the most perfect garden.
When Mother Nature decides to dump a deluge of rain down on poor Badger’s garden for days, he is very discouraged that all of his seeds have washed away and his perfect garden will never come to fruition. But his friends are hopeful and encouraging, trying to convince him that there will be many new seeds to collect again and start over. But Badger is sad and disappointed. Weeks later, his friends discover the most wonderful surprise and can’t wait to show Badger.
Illustrator Ramona Kaulitzki does a lovely job combining beautifully colored landscapes with the furry little creatures scattered throughout the pages. Even the inside of Badger’s tree-house is cute and colorful, with just enough detail to not overwhelm small senses. I particularly loved the whirling mix of wildflowers and vegetables near the end. You could almost smell them in the air!
Quill says: Badger’s Perfect Garden is a charming little story with a great lesson to be learned. Sometimes you just have to let go of your idea of “perfect” and let nature take its course...you never know what wonders may await!

#BookReview - The Forgiving Jar

The Forgiving Jar (The Prayer Jars)

By: Wanda Brunstetter
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: February 2019
ISBN: 978-1-62416-748-5
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 1, 2019
With the release of her latest book in her Prayer Jar Series, The Forgiving Jar, Wanda Brunstetter delivers yet another heart-warming and insightful story.
Sara Murray never knew who her mother’s parents were. It was only after her mother passed that Sara learned she had grandparents and to compound such a surprise, they were Amish and living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. After sorting out the loss of her mother and the fact she was raised Amish, Sara realizes it’s time to venture to Pennsylvania to meet her relations. Little did she know there was a greater surprise awaiting her arrival. How was it possible an imposter had beat Sara to the punch of meeting her extended family and was living under their roof? Not only was she an imposter, but she was also someone who thought it was okay to pose as Sara’s grandparents’ flesh and blood.
Willis and Ruth Lapp were kind and simple people. They embraced life in their humble Amish community of Strasburg and were devout in the practice of their Amish ways. Although their daughter chose to step away from her Amish upbringing and venture out into the English community, they never lost hope that one day they would meet the unborn grandchild their daughter carried when she left. Even though their daughter was gone, the prospect of the day they hoped and prayed for to meet their granddaughter had been fulfilled. It was an affirmation that yet another prayer had been answered for Willis and Ruth Lapp. When the truth rises to the top, as it often does, imagine the Lapps’ surprise when they learn the young woman who was living with them wasn’t Sara at all. Rather she was Michelle Taylor and it would seem Michelle had also been in search of a family connection, even if they weren’t blood relations.
The joy of reading one of Wanda Brunstetter’s novels occurs within the first handful of pages. She takes her time to develop the lay of the story and as it gains momentum, it is the rich characters that complement the storyline. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Brunstetter’s work for quite some time and The Forgiving Jar doesn’t disappoint. Rather, it accentuates the talent further of this woman’s ability to carefully craft a beautiful story with fantastic nuances and subtleties throughout when it comes to the importance of faith. As I’ve said before, never have I had a sense when reading one of Ms. Brunstetter’s books that it is rife with Amish pulpit pounding. Rather, the story pulls you in because of Ms. Brunstetter’s fantastic ability to plant a seed of the importance of faith and family and allows her audience to watch it grow as the tender tale unfolds. Ms. Brunstetter has created characters capable of standing in their own light as much as they complement and contribute to the uniqueness of their fellow characters. I applaud Ms. Brunstetter for delivering another terrific read. I am a fan for the long run with this author and look forward to the next installation in her Prayer Jar Series.
Quill says: The Forgiving Jar is a wonderful depiction of how life consistently delivers the real story that swoops in to replace the fictitious film that played in the imagination.

#BookReview - Death at Whitewater Church

Death at Whitewater Church (An Inishowen Mystery)

By: Andrea Carter
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1608093021
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: April 24, 2019
Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is a solicitor acting for the owners of a de-consecrated church in disrepair when she comes across a mysterious skeleton wrapped in a blanket hidden in the church’s crypt. The locals are convinced the skeleton must belong to Conor Devitt, a well-known neighbor who vanished six years before on his wedding day. Ben becomes embroiled in a mystery that has eaten away at her adopted community for over half a decade while simultaneously coming face to face with a past tragedy of her own. One that she would rather not dig up.
From the beginning of the novel, author Angela Carter draws the readers into the tight-knit town of Inishowen, rife with its secrets and dark history. She brilliantly captures the atmosphere of a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Her writing style imbues the story with a chilliness that permeates far more than just setting, which is in itself both charming and spooky.
As the reader discovers the deep, sometimes surprising connections between the people of Inishowen alongside Ben, they can’t help but speculate as to the conclusion of the mystery themselves. Despite that, no amount of speculation will bring Carter’s audience to the true answers to the questions that are sure to arise for them throughout the story.
Twists and turns are an obligatory part to any mystery novel and Carter definitely delivers. While unexpected developments are numerous throughout Death at Whitewater Church, they are never overwhelming or difficult to follow. Whenever her audience begins to relax, she throws something new at them and readers are once again on the edge of their seats.
One aspect of the story that is particularly interesting is the drama of Conor Devitt’s disappearance. Though it’s quickly revealed that Devitt is not the skeleton found in the crypt, the personal drama of his disappearance before the story takes places connects many members of the community in ways that both Ben and the reader do not expect. As the mystery of the skeleton is investigated, Ben learns more of the secrets that Inishowen has been hiding from her, as she is still a relatively new resident. Ben herself is an engaging character with a secret of her own. She is an excellent narrator who brings the story to life with her sharp observations and curiosity. Both intriguing and relatable to the reader, she is a stand-out among the many other colorful inhabitants of Inishowen.
Andrea Carter delivers a strong start to a new murder mystery series. Death at Whitewater Church is a clever story with a large cast of interesting characters. If the subsequent novels are anything like the opening one, she and her protagonist Ben are certain to attract a devoted following. 
Quill says: The town of Inishowen definitely has a few more mysteries that need to be solved!

#BookReview - The Inn at Hidden Run

The Inn at Hidden Run (Tree of Life Series) 

By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: May 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64352-137-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2019
Olivia Newport delivers an intriguing story in the first of her Tree of Life series, The Inn at Hidden Run.
Jillian Parisi-Duffy is a genealogist and loves what she does. Her home doubles as her office and is nestled at the base of Pikes Peak in picturesque Canyon Mines, Colorado. She shares the quaint and beautifully restored Victorian on the outskirts of town with her lawyer dad, Nolan. Her best friend Nia Dunston is a walk down the street. She runs a bed and breakfast at the end of Main Street and the Inn is quite the tourist destination during the summer months in colorful Colorado. It’s not hard to spot a newcomer to town since its year-round population is miniscule. When Meri shows up on Nia’s doorstop and practically begs for a job, Nia is all too willing to accept the help. It was the excess baggage Meri had in tow that Nia would soon learn was quite a heavy load.
The more Jillian learns about her friend's mysterious new-hire, the more she is compelled to do what she does best: search Meri’s family heritage. With more than enough work on Jillian’s plate already, the last thing she wants to do is take on a pro-bono task. After discussing the details (or the lack thereof) when it comes to Meri and her family history, Nolan steps up to the plate to offer up his attorney skills in an attempt to gain Meri’s trust and determine what this young woman is running from. Why did Meri flee her roots of Tennessee and end up in Colorado of all places? Is she running from the law? Is she running from harm’s way? Or is she simply running from her past with no desire to look in her rear-view mirror ever again?
Olivia Newport has penned a novel worthy of turning its pages to see what lurks ahead. The depths and traits of all her characters are beautifully developed and are easy to connect with. The flow of this story has no drag whatsoever and it is easy to find voice from its inception. Having lived in the Colorado Rockies for many years, I enjoyed the scenery Ms. Newport painted with her words. There were often times when I found myself in the moment and place she described. I tip my hat to Ms. Newport’s ability to stay true to her pen and allow the writing to flow effortlessly as she layers the story with her adept creativity. I look forward to the next book in her Tree of Life series. Well done Ms. Newport.
Quill says: The Inn at Hidden Run is a terrific story that blends history with the present and is full of mystery and intrigue throughout.

Monday, April 15, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Brit Lunden @BritLunden

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Brit Lunden, the author of The Knowing: A Bulwark Anthology (Book 1).
FQ: As I mentioned in my review, I was a bit surprised (in a good way!) that you didn’t center this first book in the “Bulwark Anthology” on the main character from Bulwark, Clay Finnes, but rather someone who played a minor role in that book.  What made you decide to go in that direction?
LUNDEN: I didn't know who was going to be the main character when the other authors approached me and asked if we could turn Bulwark into an anthology. I simply opened the book, and it happened to be the chapter with JB. I wrote the first sentence, and JB took over the story. Originally it was going to be a haunting, but JB had other plans. While I loved Clay and his wife, I felt Bulwark has many tales to tell, and even minor characters have interesting backstories.
FQ: Every chapter in The Knowing uses a football term as its name – I assume in honor of JB and his love of football. Plus, each term perfectly described something in that chapter (in “Blitz” there’s a big fight, etc.).  Was this something you planned to do from the onset, or did the idea come to you as you were writing?  
LUNDEN: I have to share that I've never watched a football game. I've never played football, but JB had to be football crazy. I knew most small towns love their team and felt it would play an important part in his life. My brother told me about the famous football coach, Bear Bryant and I had a lot of fun looking him up and trying to imagine what he might say. That scene between JB's father and the coach was so vivid in my mind. In fact, a friend of mine from Georgia couldn't believe how natural that chapter sounded. When I finished the book, I googled football terms and then matched them to each chapter.
I never plan anything when I write. I let the plot evolve naturally and I like not knowing where it is going to go.
FQ: JB can’t shake the feeling that he somehow knew Ellie, that there was some connection. His grandmother had said “It’s the Knowing. It’s that feeling when you gonna meet your someone special…” I suspect many of us have experienced this, but I’ve never heard the term “Knowing.” Is it something your family called the sensation or was the term made up by you? And do you think this feeling is spiritual, mystical, or?
LUNDEN:  I made the term up. I don't remember if I named the story or it was born from that scene with JB's grandmother. I think I was calling it JB's Story for a while and switched to The Knowing somewhere in the middle of writing it.
I truly believe we come here to live our lives with the people we need to be with. I also think we come back many times. How often have you felt as if you have been to a place before, or had that instinct that the person you met is not a stranger? It has happened to me all my life. I am a believer, and it brings me comfort to know it doesn't just end here. There's more to everything.
I've also had past life regressions and I knew the minute I met my husband 48 years ago, that not only did I know he was meant for me, deep in my gut, I knew we had been together before. I have been to mediums and many have confirmed those feelings.
FQ: JB has a rather depressing home life but at least he can share football with his father.  The game certainly plays an important role in many families, and indeed, would do so for JB. Without football, what do you think would have happened to a young man like JB with few options in a small Southern town? 
LUNDEN: He would have been a peanut farmer, like every other male in his family. College was out of the question. His parents allowed him to play in high school as long as his chores were being done. When Bear Bryant recruits JB and promises a full scholarship, his parents are dead-set against him furthering his education. As far as they are concerned, he has no future in that direction. Remember in the sixties, very few players were getting those big paydays. The Straton's absolutely had nothing extra to support his dreams.
FQ: Scent plays a big role in The Knowing, Lilies of the Valley being a significant aroma. Indeed, scent brings back so many specific memories to many people.  Do you think it’s hard-wired into the human brain? 
LUNDEN: I do. Scents trigger all kinds of memories for me. When I write, I try to include all the senses because it's it how we perceive our world, even when we are not aware of it. Smell french toast and what memories does it bring back? How about that odor of blacktop after rain? Even the smell of a book brings back my tween years and junior high for me- hanging out in the library. Scents take us back to comforting times or incidents that brought us stress- the astringent smell of alcohol before a needle, or the stifling, heavy fragrance of flowers at a wake. Scents trigger something primeval in us. It's built into our DNA.
FQ: Without giving too much away, the events after JB’s fight with Ellie’s brother, that take the reader to the Civil War, had me at first perplexed, and then, mesmerized. How did you come up with that?
LUNDEN: When I realized it was going to be a book about past lives, I knew with Georgia as a background it would have to be the Civil War. I've made the drive from New York to Florida many times in my life and I always travel back in my imagination to that time period. I think about the soldiers slogging away in muddy terrain, the awful hand-to hand combat. The close proximity of fighting to homesteads, the horrors of invading armies, deserters and just the casualties of families caught in the 'cross-fire' of fighting,  whether young sons were leaving home or the war was brought to the front door. War is a terrible thing, and the wounded are not just on the battlefield. How many lives are interrupted, family matters left unsettled?
FQ: The idea of soul-mates plays a central part in your story. Do you believe that everybody has a soul-mate? 
LUNDEN: Yes. I believe we have many soul-mates. I have had many soul-mates in my life, and they don't have to be romantic ones. There are people that I have felt connected to, rooted in such a way they are as much a part of my make-up as my skin, or my hands.
FQ: In your author’s note, you thank numerous people for helping build “…the Bulwark Universe.” What is the process you go through, with your friends, to build the world in and around Bulwark? 
LUNDEN: Writing is a very insular activity for me. While I do write in the office I share with my brother, he is basically the only person I talk to when I work. He knows what I am thinking and where my brain needs to go. We are very close. His imagination is very different from mine, but I do bounce certain things off him. He does not believe mediums, past lives, or many of the things I do, so it's good to have someone so very opposite listening when I relate an idea. He is legally blind, so when I finish a book, I usually read it to him and he will offer up suggestions.
I thanked the people who enable me to do this. My kids who encourage, and push me to fulfill my dreams. My fellow indies, whose unwavering support and encouragement find ways to help promote and market. I don't know if I would have written an anthology for Bulwark, if not for RL Jackson who asked if we could do it. Then all those wonderful authors agreed to take my world and expand it. It was a great moment of pride for me. The town I created, the characters I lovingly nurtured were considered important enough that others were willing to invest their time and efforts to make it bigger. I am both humbled and honored. Lastly, I am forever indebted to my husband, who encouraged me to reach for the stars and never be afraid to jump.
FQ: Have you started the next novella in the Bulwark Anthology series? If so, would you give our readers a peek into what to expect next? 
LUNDEN: Dayna Dalton has something to say, and I think I have no choice but to accommodate her.
Here is a very rough draft-
The crisp, clear sunlight was not her friend. Dayna Dalton winced at the bright light that squeezed in through the slats on the venetian blind. She reached over giving the cord a hard tug, sending the tiny bathroom into near darkness. Behind her, the shower head dripped with a steady plop that reminded her of the expose she did on water torture in Guantanamo Bay, that never got published. It was deemed too harsh to print. The Bulwark Advance preferred her to write… fluffy pieces. She sneered thinking of the crap on her computer, the half-written article about the elusive Easter Bunny that was waiting for a final edit. She hung her head in shame, thinking what her sorority sisters from Georgetown would feel if they knew where Dangerous Dayna Dalton ended up. There'd be hell to pay in the form of eternal humiliation.
She twisted the faucet, her freckled knuckle turning bone white from the effort. It was no use, the leak continued relentlessly driving a hole in her throbbing head. Oh, that last round of shots was totally not necessary.
No matter how hard she wrenched the faucet, the dribble continued. She should ask her guest to fix it before he left, he was a plumber after all.
Skip Benson’s bear-like yawn turned into a growl from the bedroom. “Dayna,” he whined.
Dayna rolled her kohl-smeared eyes in the mirror.
“Dayna, come on back to bed.”
Dayna took a steadying breath, both hands gripping the sink. What was she thinking last night?
Skip Benson? How low could she go? A shudder ran through her thin frame. That left only Trout Parker and she could now report she had officially and irrevocably scraped the bottom of the barrel of Bulwark, Georgia.
Look for The Devil and Dayna Dalton coming this June 2019.