Friday, February 28, 2020

#BookReview - Betrayal of Faith @justicfellow

Betrayal of Faith (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 1)
By: Mark M. Bello
Publisher: 8Grand Publications
Publication Date: November 2019
ASIN: B07ZL16H3B
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: February 27, 2020
Whether it be Perry Mason, Atticus Finch, or even Turow’s famous lawyer, Rusty Sabich in Presumed Innocent, who was actually pursued by his own kind, everyone out there most likely has a favorite fictional lawyer. You know...the one who when a new book or movie or TV episode came out, you just had to watch, or read, and find out what happens. When it comes to this brand-new lawyer (in my life, anyway), a man called Zachary Blake, I can honestly say that with just his first starring role in a series of legal thrillers written by Mark M. Bello, he has captured my imagination, earned my respect, and made himself a “must-read” for the rest of time.
This is not an easy tale, by any stretch, but I can’t remember when I found a lawyer more riveting. When we first meet and begin to understand Zachary, we learn that he is definitely the epitome of a lawyer and man who’s down in the dumps and is at a point where it may just be impossible to turn his life around and put his career back on track. Changes alter his life awfully fast, however, when Jennifer Tracey decides to become his client.
Jennifer is a woman of unending faith. She believes in the Lord, but is now stuck in a position that brings pain to her heart and could just shatter her faith completely. Recently widowed, saying goodbye to her true love, Jim, she’s now a single parent of two boys: Jake (9 years of age) and Kenny (age 11). A new priest was transferred to her parish when the man the boys felt close to, Father Bill, left. He was transferred to Virginia which caused the boys to feel sorrow again; it was as if their “substitute” father had also died. Worse was that he was replaced with Father Gerry, a man Jennifer soon finds out brought harm—and not friendship or kindness—to her two sons. But, don’t shy away just because you “think” you’ve read this plot before. It’s not just a lawyer against a sick man who wears a cross around his neck in order to get away with sin; this abuse has links to something on a much larger scope: The Coalition. This is one organization that is not only a “secret” club run by the church, but it’s also run by a man who’s drunk on power and will stop at nothing to protect this group who needs to, quite literally, be punished by God on high in order to receive the right amount of wrath.
Absent the Lord being able to wreak vengeance, Zachary steps in with his P.I., Micah Love. Zachary needs to get his head on straight, so to speak, as his life has been made up of binge drinking at strip clubs after his wife kicked him to the curb and took everything. But somewhere deep inside this man’s soul lies the intelligence, ego, and ability that once made him “Detroit’s King of Justice.”
Clues start to add up about this sinister church group, including the fact that Zachary and Micah discover two families actually “disappeared” after they had an encounter with Father Gerry; as well as finding out that a person who could have provided much-needed information about The Coalition died under mysterious circumstances.
But with Jennifer’s determination, Zachary will rise up from the darkness he’s been in for a while and fight with everything he has—both in the courtroom and outside of it. Readers will immediately get pulled into Zachary Blake’s intuitive mind, and it is not an overstatement to say that they will be entertained throughout the entirety of this tale that actually makes Detroit thrilling.
Quill says: The greatest thing you can say about a book will be said here: Book II awaits, and everything will be set aside in order to dive right back in to Zachary Blake’s life!
For more information on Betrayal of Faith, please visit the website: www.markmbello.com


Monday, February 24, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Mark Daniel Seiler @markseiler3

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Mark Daniel Seiler, author of Shave Ice Paradise.
FQ: What would you say was the turning point in your life that led you to become a writer?
SEILER: When you’re a kid, you notice little things, like air. “Hey! Why isn’t anyone talking about this invisible stuff?” Even though we can’t live long without air, we just kind of get used to it and don’t really think about it much. Little invisible things, like air, tend to go unnoticed until the tiny unseen things gather together into a storm: a tornado carries away your home or a gale blows your ship off course and you find yourself shipwrecked on a desert island. What was the turning point? Why did I begin writing? I blame the little invisible forces.
FQ: Who would you say are your inspirational authors, and why?
SEILER: Just the right book, at just the right time in your life, can change the world. As a terrible teen, a kind, older woman gave me Tolkien’s ​Lord of the Rings​. Looking back on it, had I not run into those hobbits and elves at just that precise moment, I probably would have become an orc? Books aren’t just “okay.” Books change the world.
FQ: What books would you say have had the most influence on your life as a writer, and why?
SEILER: Before I ever dreamed of becoming a writer, reading Hermann Hesse’s ​Narcissus and Goldman​ in high school had a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. Many of Hesse’s novels follow a similar pattern: childhood friends take diverse paths, one quits school runs away and has unexpected adventures and experiences, while the other youth goes to university and leads a conventional life. By chance, many years later, the two friends meet and compare mythologies. I love stories that blend the knowledge learned from experience with the knowledge that can be taught. And yes, I was the friend who ran away.
FQ: Since Hawaii is your place of residence it makes perfect sense to write a story that weaves everything Hawaii in them. There are under fifty novels (according to Wikipedia—thirty-three, to be exact) written with Hawaii in the backdrop. Have you read any of them, and if so, would you consider any of them to be inspirations to why you’ve chosen to write a Hawaiian-based novel? If not, what inspired you to write this story?
SEILER: I’m shocked there are only thirty-three Hawaiian novels. If you walk around the neighborhood you’re bound to bump into at least thirty-three storytellers. Life is a struggle on the island. Locals work three jobs to make ends meet, but they make time to talk story. Along with the constant Trade Winds, there is also a prevailing attitude of giving on the islands. A little respect, a measure of kindness, and a pinch of generosity returns to you thousandfold. If you’re very lucky, you will encounter the true Aloha Spirit which can’t be captured with words, but must be experienced. I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the people I meet.
FQ: What would you say is the inspiration for your characters in ​Shaved Ice Paradise?​
SEILER: Though other people appear in our dreams, I’ve read that we are all of the people in our dreams, which is crazy to think about. Dreams are wonderful and wild—pure storytelling. We have little, if any, control over the characters in our dreams. Similarly, the characters in ​Shave Ice Paradise​ have minds of their own and seldom, if ever, listen to my advice. They are willful, troublesome, stubborn, and fun. I’d like to say we have somethings in common, though I’m not sure they would see it that way.
FQ: You’ve chosen to portray all your characters in ​Shaved Ice Paradise —​ protagonists and antagonists alike — with redeeming and flawed qualities, which is not common in literature. Why did you choose to do this?
SEILER: “Redeeming and flawed,” you say? Flawed sounds like a piece of pottery that comes out of the kiln with an imperfection. We’re all certainly works in progress. Somethings in life come easily for us, while other things are just plain hard, if not impossible. What’s in the way, what are the obstacles keeping us from being content? One can make a compelling argument that the reason we’re not happy is because of things that can’t be changed, that we ourselves can never change. One of the dirty secrets is we ​are​ able to change. Transformation is not only possible, it is taking place around us all of the time.
FQ: You incorporate environmental issues in ​Shaved Ice Paradise. ​Are they based on events that have happened or are presently happening in Hawaii?
SEILER: Yes, there are many serious environmental issues at present in Hawaii.
FQ: With two award-winning books under your belt and a possible third with your latest novel, ​Shaved Ice Paradise,​ what plans do you have for your next literary project?
SEILER: If you love fun characters, my new novel, ​RIFT,​ is coming out in the spring of 2021, followed by a thriller, ​Black Tango. T​he genres may vary, but at the heart of all my novels is a love story.
FQ: What do you hope your audience will come away with after reading ​Shaved Ice Paradise?​ 
SEILER: Mostly, I want readers to have fun and enjoy the story. If I’ve done a proper job, there might be one or two points of interest along the way. One of the many things I love about being a writer is hearing from readers. I’ve learned to never underestimate the reader’s imagination. I’m constantly amazed by the rich, wonderful world the reader creates from the words I’ve strung together. When the reader describes the story they read, the tables are turned, and I’m the one who comes away with something new.
FQ: Do you foresee writing more Hawaiian-based mysteries in the near future?
SEILER: My hope is readers enjoy ​Shave Ice Paradise​ and they leave me no choice but to write the continuing adventures of Gina Mori.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

#BookReview - Shave Ice Paradise @Markseiler3

Shave Ice Paradise

By: Mark Daniel Seiler
Publisher: Owl House Books
Publication Date: May 2020
ISBN: 9781947003682
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: February 21, 2020
A mysterious murder leads the daughter of a Buddhist into more than she bargains for in Mark Seiler’s mystery, Shave Ice Paradise.
Something fishy surrounds the mysterious death of Gina Mori’s Auntie Nalani. The feisty daughter of a Buddhist minister contacts her police friend, Carla Moreno, for details on the crime scene for starters before Gina investigates. Curly (aka Julius), a stream biologist, is busy gathering samples for the Department of Land and Natural Resources near the crime scene at the time she shows up. The two hit it off, and Gina takes Curly with him to search for more clues after he finds Auntie Nalani’s missing handbag.
Even though Curly becomes immediately enamored with Gina, he has a difficult time reading Gina’s feelings because of her hardcore persona. It doesn’t help that she is the complete antithesis of what he would expect from a foxy-looking female. While Gina, undoubtedly, is a force not to be reckoned with, the two become an item until one of them divulges a bit of their skewed past.
A chain of events, spurred by a bus accident and an agrochemical company, leads Gina to further sleuthing, and this time without Curly’s help. The more information she gathers, the more she fears that she may be the next on her aunt’s murderer’s hit list.
Award-winning author Mark Seiler weaves in “all things Hawaiian” in Shave Ice Paradise. Although Seiler’s new mystery opens with the plot’s crime scene, readers should expect immersion into the fauna, flora, culture, traditions, and language of Wai Nau, the northwestern portion of the Island of Hawaii, from the get-go.
There is more to Gina Mori than the bumbling, awkward persona she displays around the Buddhist temple where her father serves as minister. Once she gets wind of her aunt’s death, Gina morphs into stealth mode. Her gutsy, no-nonsense approach to how she handles herself around the townsfolk makes her a complicated character to read for several chapters. One thing is for sure though: she’ll do whatever it takes to get answers.
Curly enters her life very early in the plot. A bit reserved to her gutsiness, Curly has no idea what’s in store when he falls head over heels for Gina and joins her on some of her sleuthing adventures. While a light romance builds, there are other issues brewing, such as their pasts...
This first glimpse into the protagonist’s flaws is just the tip of the iceberg as Seiler slowly but deftly develops the inner workings of his cast—a vital and attractive element to his literary writing style. It is from this character-building element that Seiler’s storytelling takes off and provides the perfect setup for him to cleverly weave in a Hawaiian word here or there, the area’s landscape, and even environmental issues.
Scenes mainly shift between Gina’s investigations and her relationship with Curly, but as the story develops, scenes begin to glance at other characters with their strengths and shortcomings. Chapters are short and engaging and close on light cliffhangers until the plot thickens. Seiler pulls from the several tangled situations to create unpredictable twists and turns, a ticking-bomb climax, and a slam-bang ending.
For more information on Shave Ice Paradise, please visit the website: www.sighingwomanteas.com

#BookReview - Juliet and Dead Romeo @thatacus

Juliet and Dead Romeo (Shakespearean Murder Mysteries, Book 1)
By: C.J. Love
Publisher: Columbine Publishing Group, LLC
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1945422836
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: February 21, 2020
Mixing and matching with equal ease, author C. J. Love has recreated elements of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, in the process creating a new, modern sleuth - the very feminine, very gutsy Juliet Da Vinci.
Juliet loves a policeman named Nicolo whose surname – Montague - would be anathema to her feisty father Santos, who has been in a feud with the Montague clan ever since Mariotto Romeo tried to steal his secret recipe for risotto – and might have seen his wife naked, accidentally. Juliet has kept her feelings for Nicolo a secret, and that means playing hard to get. Meanwhile her mother Italia, eager to arrange a marriage, has introduced her to the handsome Paris, who finds her quite attractive though she is not in the mood to reciprocate. But the two find themselves taking a walk on a dark night, and together discover the dead body of Mariotto floating under a bridge. Santos is summoned, tampers with the scene, and makes Juliet and Paris swear to tell no one since the corpse is on his property. But after the conflicted Juliet sends a surreptitious text to Nicolo, Mariotto’s demise is deemed murder with Santos the prime suspect. The actual perpetrator will not be discovered until many layers of truth and lie have been unveiled, bringing in a cast of characters with Shakespearean names and roles recalling the bard’s famous drama. Identifying Mariotto’s killer will expose Juliet to the ultimate threat and show her what she is capable of, not only in solving a murder case but also in the art of self-defense.
Author C.J. Love has set out in a new direction in her writing, moving from the romance genre to this whodunit saga, with Juliet and Dead Romeo already designated as Book 1 of a series. She cleverly injects notable names from the original script: Tybalt (kind of a drunk, hothead, sneak, rather like the original character); an overbearing mother bent on finding Juliet a husband; lovely Roseline who has the power to charm Juliet’s would-be lover and evoke her jealousy; and a priest, Father Larry, who knows enough herbal lore to concoct a poisonous potion. A few other names and situational echoes borrowed from the bard crop up in the narrative, but even those who have never read a word of Shakespeare’s plays will be hooked by the strong personalities and the action-packed storyline in this strong new offering. Love’s crime thriller begins with a brawl and ends with a fight to the near-death, yet remains centered on the heart of the matter: who loves whom, and how and when will they acknowledge it and go on an actual date, instead of mainly meeting on several well-placed balconies? 
Quill says: C. J. Love’s Juliet and Dead Romeo innovates by melding modern parlance with reference to a great classic, throwing out alluring clues and revealing the development of a nervous, doubt-ridden girl into an adventurous, self-confident woman poised to solve more mysteries in future volumes. 
For more information on Juliet and Dead Romeo, please visit the website: lovecj316.wixsite.com

Friday, February 21, 2020

#BookReview - I Am Me

I Am Me
By: Trevor D.
Illustrated by: Christina Rudenko
Publisher: Kia Harris Juniors
Publication Date: November 2019
ISBN: 978-1734218657
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 17, 2020
Get ready for your little readers to meet one precocious and adorable young man in author Trevor D.'s debut children's book, I Am Me.
On page one of I Am Me, we meet Jayden, an African American boy with a big smile and confidence oozing off the page. He tells his readers:
I am Jayden.
I am me!
No one can be me.
No, not like me!
Jayden continues by telling kids about his eyes, nose, fingers and toes (in a nice flowing rhyme). He also explains that his skin is brown, just like his parents' and his best friend's. We soon learn a lot about the star of this book, and all he can do. He works very hard, loves to sing, and while he's very successful at what he does, Jayden is clear that he never has to cheat to get ahead. Still oozing confidence, Jayden delivers my favorite lines in the story:
I am pretty cool.
No, I am not shy.
My barber says,
he thinks I am fly.
I Am Me is the first book in a planned series by author Trevor D. to empower African American boys. This underserved market definitely needs more books like this to show them how special they are and open up a world of possibilities. The message is incredibly hopeful and through Jayden, readers will realize a very positive self-image. Jayden doesn't mince words when he talks about how special he is and that's one message we need to hear more about. The text is very simple and while the book's Amazon page lists the reading level as 4 to 8, I believe that even younger boys would benefit from this story. The illustrations by Christina Rudenko are bright and playful and blend nicely with the story to hold one's attention. I Am Me is an excellent start to what promises to be a popular series to empower young African American boys. I look forward to reading the next book in this series! 
Quill says: Jayden is one cool guy and if you have a little one you'd like to grow up strong and self-assured like him, add this book to your child's bedtime reading list.
For more information on I Am Me, please visit the author's website at: www.trevordauthor.com

Monday, February 17, 2020

#AuthorInterview with B.T. Keaton @mylittledemon

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with B.T. Keaton, author of Transference.
FQ: How much of Barrabas/Kilraven is really B.T. Keaton?
KEATON: Parts of him are very much my Dad, and parts of him are my brother—the two most important men in my life, of course. On the other hand, some of Barrabas is very much “me” and some of him isn’t. At the same time, I didn’t envision him so much as the protagonist of the story, but as someone having crossed paths with some unsavoury characters. So, in a way Barrabas simply ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s funny talking about him as if he were a real person! (laughs).
FQ: Has your own world travel and transplantation given you insight into the footloose life of your characters?
KEATON: Wow, that’s an interesting question. I am not sure how to answer it and not sound like a jerk. I suppose if the characters in Transference are footloose, that’s probably because the world’s economic system as we now know it has crashed, which means perceived responsibilities have also changed drastically. Gone are the days of the American Dream, so to speak. As far as insight goes I wouldn’t ever say that I have any leverage over one person or another, however, I would admit that traveling does change you. It’s so good for your soul. On the flipside, I think if you are a traveller it’s partly because you’re constantly looking for something more, whether that’s to fill an internal void, or to find something greater than yourself. And frankly there are things about the world that you simply cannot fully grasp if all you ever do is stay in your hometown. I’m not judging anybody in saying that, it’s more of a remark on my own life. I wish everyone could travel more. Someone needs to invent those transporters in Star Trek so it’s easier for everyone to see the world!
FQ: Are you a student of reincarnation as described in many Eastern religions, since it represents a more etheric kind of “transference”?
KEATON: I’m a student of baloney. (laughs) In truth I don’t know enough about the subject to really talk about it intelligently, but, in my heart, I subscribe to the notion that we all get one life. I certainly don’t want to come back and do it all over again. I mean, could you imagine living forever in this plane of existence? What a nightmare. It’d be like being a vampire...all the people you once loved are gone, and you can only watch as life goes on and times change, while you yourself are fundamentally incapable of making the world better. I think that would be an awful, awful thing. Then again, I can see how another person might find reincarnation enlightening… and I think it could be, if you were able to carry all your knowledge from one life to the next.
FQ: Do you see in our current world the possible development of such elements as the cold domination of Church and the stratification of society as described in Transference?
KEATON: Absolutely. We’re already there in some ways. Look at the innumerable allegations against, let’s call it, “Exhibit A,” and what it’s been accused of with in regards to gross sexual misconduct. That kind of abuse literally damages the soul, and it derails lives forever. On the surface, it seems to me that there’s been no real accountability there, and I’m baffled as to how it continues to thrive. At the other end of the spectrum look at the dangers of militant extremism from “Exhibit B.” It seems painfully clear and quite logical to me that a religion which encourages martyrdom through violence and allows for the destruction of other human beings is in fact not a religion, but rather an archaic sect that does not cherish life, and as such ought to be relegated to a far distant past. All of these things are so shameful and have no place in modern-day society, nor a future one. Fortunately, we still live in an era where there are wonderful people, saints of all faiths, who wish to coexist to achieve what I think we’re all really here for—to help one another. 
FQ: Is writing now your primary profession or will you explore other avenues of creativity?
KEATON: No, but I wish it were so! When you’re writing, there’s a zone you get in, and once you’re in it, you don’t want to get out. It’s such a wonderful place to thrive in that even having to stop and do necessary tasks like eating dinner seems irritating (laughs)! So yeah, I find that having a regular “9 to 5” is a detriment to that process. In fact it’s so distracting for me to the point that, more often than not, I’m unable to write. It probably doesn’t help either that the visual representation of my brain, where you to see it, is probably akin to watching a ping pong match.
FQ: Your book, while focusing on a world in which science and religion have both gone awry, is still a hopeful story. Does this beg a sequel in which things veer off again?
KEATON: There was a villain from The Matrix who said hope was “mankind’s greatest strength and simultaneously its greatest weakness.” I love that juxtaposition! When I wrote Transference in 2012-2013, it was intended to be a one-off story and it was far less hopeful than the final product ended up being. So, I’m glad that you said that about hope, because it means that changes made to the book afterward were for the better. Lately I have been toying with the idea of a sequel, and I already know how it would begin… but I don’t have the ending. I think for it to work, yes, it would need to veer off, and to be scarier than the first book. Think T2: Judgement Day. Personally, I would have to feel that whatever I come up with will top the first book, in order to not disappoint myself or the reader...and I’m not quite there yet.
FQ: Who - besides Tolkien - influenced you most in the creation of Transference?
KEATON: I love Tolkien so much, don’t you? Especially The Silmarillion. I could never even come close to pulling off what he did. I mean, he crafted an entire world, with a full backstory, even to the beginning of Time. Amazing! But to answer your question it was mostly a hodgepodge of movies that influenced the book coming to life—Ghostbusters, Return of the Jedi, Dune, Tombstone, to name a few. Ultimately, I wrote the book for my late father, who loved sci-fi books and films. I loved him dearly, and I love him still. I really just wanted to make him proud.
FQ: Do you have plans for the next creative endeavour? 
KEATON: Transference was entirely self-published, and it’s been a long and bumpy road. Kinda like life is at times! (laughs). Financially speaking I don’t think I could do this again, at least not for a couple of years, so I have to navigate a way to keep my writing career viable. That said, I’ve got three children’s picture books fully written, and I’m also roughly halfway through a novel about time-travel. (Back To The Future, anyone?) I’m overwhelmed and quite baffled by the response to Transference thus far, so I am hopeful that I can get some of these other projects off the ground in the near future. If all else fails, I can always fall back on my cooking skills. I’ve heard from more than a few people that I make a mean French toast!


Saturday, February 15, 2020

#BookReview - Transference @mylittledemon

Transference
By: B.T. Keaton
Publisher: Ingleside Avenue Press
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1645701507
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: February 14, 2020
A rough-cut thief holds the key to saving society from its worst ills in B.T. Keaton’s deep exploration of an eerie future world.
About 100 years from now, Earth has become a mechanistic, highly controlled monoculture controlled by the Church, as much a despotic machine as a religious entity, with a never-ending set of illusions to keep humanity under its fist. The greatest of its secrets is transference, the process of moving souls from one body to another, giving the promise of everlasting life. The lowest strata in this bizarre set-up are men like Barrabas Madzimure, who for his crimes of thievery has been relegated to prison on a far-off planet where he and his scurrilous cohort are forced to mine a precious ore used by the Church for its continued domination. 
The book opens when Barrabas has been confined for killing a warden. He has six days to live. Under interrogation he asserts that he is actually Thaniel Kilraven, a person of genteel upbringing who witnessed the first transference and was punished by the Church for his technological revelations, which it then co-opted. Since Kilraven, if it is he, would be of utmost danger to the Church, a mysterious, and not entirely unsympathetic interrogator, Corvus, is put on his case. Kilraven will learn who Corvus really is – or was - while in the act of escaping with a band of rough, tough miners. His goal – to return to Earth and find his family – gradually morphs into a determination to change, and save, the world.
Keaton’s book is remarkable for the wide range of ideas it presents and the thoroughly enjoyable way he mixes and matches those ideas. He contrasts the grit and recklessness of the criminal element with the arrogance and occasional graces of the elites, at home with the language of both as he constructs lively dialog. He postulates the pros and cons of life eternal in the theory of transference: if one’s soul can inhabit many bodies, not by the divine method of reincarnation but by the control of science, how will it react to the changes? Will it bring happiness or weariness to know one can never die? An admirer of Tolkien, whose fantasy worlds have elements of comparison with Transference, Keaton boldly takes on big themes and has created in Kilraven a hero big enough to deal with them. And, importantly, though Kilraven must tackle universal problems, what matters most in the end, it seems, is family love and loyalty. 
Quill says: B.T. Keaton has created an imaginative tale that will have appeal for fans of dystopian fiction by engaging the emotions, as well as to those who enjoy the more technological and intellectual aspects of the sci-fi genre.
For more information on Transference please visit the author's website at: www.brandonkeaton.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

#AuthorInterview with J.R. Klein

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with J.R. Klein, author of To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail.
FQ: What made you decide to write this memoir?
KLEIN: When I returned from my journey on the Gringo Trail in 1980, I had a diary in the form of three spiral notebooks filled with my thoughts of the trip. I turned this into a manuscript initially just to better flesh out the experiences. I still have the original three notebooks, tied together with string, sitting on a shelf in my office.
FQ: You had quite the experience during the 101 days you were traveling in search of meaning in your life. Would you do it again?
Author J.R. Klein
KLEIN: Not in the same way, I suppose. It was the right approach back when I was more impulsive, and it did largely accomplish what I was after. However, it has always been my nature to explore my feelings and to seek answers to them. Today, I am able to do that in a number of ways, an important one of which is through writing. There is another reason I probably wouldn’t attempt a similar trip now, however. In 1980, life had not yet evolved into the digital era it is today. Instant communication did not exist. For the most part, I was totally out of touch with my family and everyone else in the US; they had no idea where I was at any given time. That made the journey more dangerous and more scary at times, yet oddly more exciting and meaningful.
FQ: After you completed your quest and returned home, was there anything you regretted? 
Author J.R. KleinKLEIN: Despite the ups and downs that came out in the book, the experience was a heart-warming one overall. I’d be hard-pressed to find anything I regretted.
FQ: Why did you choose to change your name while writing your memoir?
KLEIN: That’s a good question. When I originally wrote the book, I did so as a book of fiction, which of course was based heavily on my experiences. I kept the names of the people in the book as they were in my travels, apart from myself and the person who became Stefan in the book. When I realized that the book was truly a memoir in every way, it made sense to go in that direction. There are a number of examples in literature of how memoirs and biographies were converted totally over into fiction. Perhaps one of the most notable is On The Road by Jack Kerouac. In my case, after To Find was written, I felt more comfortable using a memoir format for a number of reasons. One was that—as they say—life is stranger than fiction. Were it a book of fiction, some might find various events preposterous and absurdly far-fetched: for example, the notion that it was possible to travel on less than five dollars a day even back in 1980, or my experiences at the Mayan temples.
FQ: Looking back over the years, how has your life changed since you took this trip in an attempt to find yourself?
KLEIN: The trip was transformative in many ways, both mentally and spiritually. It brought a sense of inner searching that I still continue to nourish.
FQ: There are numerous, wonderful characters you write about in your memoir. What happened to them? Do you still have contact with Stefan, Yvette or any other amigos you met on your travels through Mexico and Central America?
KLEIN: Stef and I eventually drifted apart, largely due to the different paths we have chosen in life, and to a certain extent because I have moved about quite a bit since 1980—after MIT, I took a position at the University of California in San Diego, then in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now in Houston, Texas. Things between Yvette and myself didn’t work out. I attribute that to the fact that life on the Gringo Trail was a whole lot different from life in the ‘real world’—on a day to day basis, at least. I occasionally wonder what happened to Nash, who was a source of constant entertainment for us while we traveled. He was heading down to South America when Yvette and I got to Guatemala.
FQ: Do you have any tips or suggestions for aspiring writers who are considering writing a memoir?
KLEIN: Memoirs are very tricky. The big question for me was: Okay, this stuff is important to me, but who really gives a hoot about me or my life? It was a question that really troubled me for a long time—forty years, in fact, from the time the original manuscript was written until now when I published it. My wife read the manuscript almost twenty year ago and has been after me to publish it ever since. I’m glad I finally followed her advice.
FQ: As a seasoned author who has written in several different genres, do you feel that writing a memoir is effortless or more challenging than writing fiction? 
KLEIN: In writing fiction, it can be easier to keep the pace going. If I find that things are slowing down, there are lots of ways to rev up the momentum again. The challenge with a memoir is how much to put in, how much to leave out, and how to ensure that it is nothing more than a tally of life’s events.
FQ: Are you planning on writing a sequel? Perhaps a story of life after the Gringo trail?
KLEIN: Not yet. I haven’t mastered the art of sequel writing the way some writers have. Every time I try, the book ends up being a butchered version of the original.

#BookReview - Westering Women

Westering Women
By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-23966-2
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 11, 2020
Once again, Sandra Dallas knocks it out of the park with her latest book, Westering Women.
It is 1852 Chicago and Maggie is a young seamstress with a young daughter. She happens upon a flyer seeking ‘eligible women’ to venture west to the gold mines of Goosetown, California. Maggie has many secrets she struggles to keep at bay. This is a perfect opportunity to leave them all behind and begin a new life for her and her daughter. Not giving it a second thought, Maggie opts to join 43 other women along with two reverends and embark upon a treacherous and dangerous journey west to enjoy (hopefully) a life of joy and peace. Sadly, what Maggie can’t possibly know is all who begin the journey will not make it to the end.
As the migration west begins, Maggie learns she is not the only woman looking for a new start. Secrets and hardships that were meant to be left behind in Chicago have a way of rearing their ugly heads. One thing that is certain is the bonds these women form along the way are a force to reckon with. Together, they are determined to do whatever it takes to protect each other.
Sandra Dallas is the real deal when one looks up the definition of writer in the dictionary. From the opening lines of her stories, the reader is immediately swept into the moment and certainly can relate to the characters, situations and the overall story. In Westering Women, Ms. Dallas paints from a pallet of vivid color and brilliant sceneries through her natural ability of superb word placement and plot development. It is clear she does her research on the period within which the story is set and because of this, reading her work is like being a part of the story she tells. Never once have I experienced drag when turning the pages of one of Ms. Dallas’ books and the only regret I often have is when the end is near. It is truly a natural-born gift a writer has when he or she can command the attention of his/her audience simply by weaving an epic tale. Hands down, Ms. Dallas was born with this gift. I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few of Ms. Dallas’ titles and must admit, when asked to read another, never do I waiver when considering the opportunity. It is always a yes! Thank you once again for a most enjoyable read.
Quill says: Westering Women is a fantastic trip back in time rife with women of substance and the hardships they endured.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Stuart Rawlings

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Stuart Rawlings, author of The God Child.
FQ: Do you have a favorite historical character among the ones you depict in The God Child?
RAWLINGS: I would have to say that Jesus, Thomas Jefferson and Eleanor Roosevelt would be my favorites. There are all on the cover for a reason. 
FQ: Did writing about oppressive leaders and the ways they might be reformed give you a sense of satisfaction, or a sense of much work to be done by us moderns?
RAWLINGS: Yes, writing about Trump’s metamorphosis pleased me, although I know it's not going to change the basic problem the country and our world is facing.
FQ: Much of your book focuses on Donald Trump – do you want your readers to think of him, as you seem to suggest, as open to positive changes in style and policy?
RAWLINGS: No, I think readers already understand that Trump is a lost soul, or as Maxine Waters would put it, “a miserable excuse for human being.”
FQ: You have created a scenario of behind-the-scenes scheming by Trump’s cabinet; is this something you believe might be going on now?
RAWLINGS: No, I think that everyone around Trump is too scared and too morally bankrupt to give him the slightest criticism.
FQ: You have a strong grasp of current events; is this based on your personal perspective alone or on research beyond the usual news sources?
RAWLINGS: My “strong grasp of current events” is based on an intense following of the news from many sources, as well as from 77 years of an active life—including working in 80 countries, speaking seven languages, earning four advanced degrees, and having a very curious, critical-thinking mind. 
FQ: You have paired Hitler with Joan of Arc – does that suggest the possibility of redemption for Der Fuhrer?
RAWLINGS: No, Der Fuehrer is a comical figure in this book. In real life, he was pure evil, responsible for tens of millions of unnecessary deaths, which was no laughing matter. I tried to lighten him up here, like Charlie Chaplin’s character in The Great Dictator. Joan of Arc seemed like a good match for him, since she was a young, white, militant, naive, passionate girl. 
FQ: What do you think the reader should take away from the encounters among Jesus, Moses and Mohammed, both in light of religious tradition and of worldly events?
RAWLINGS: My storylines with Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and Buddha reflected my own thinking about what is right and wrong with these religions. For example, I liked Mohammed, but i think he would be furious to find the Sunnis and Shiites in an endless war, the terrible mistreatment of women in many Islamic countries, and the refusal to allow the 80% of non-Arabic Muslims to have the Qu’rantranslated into their first language.
FQ: The ending of this volume could be seen as preparation for a sequel, or a way of letting go of the characters and the fantasy for good. What’s your plan for this motley crew?
RAWLINGS: I haven’t decided on whether or how to write a sequel. Much will depend on the success or lack thereof of this book.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

#BookReview - To Find

To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail
By: J.R. Klein
Publisher: Del Gata
Publication Date: October 2019
ISBN: 978-1733906951
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: February 9, 2020
In the early summer months of 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland, author J.R. Klein (known as Alex Moreau in this memoir) had just recently completed a doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University; the world was his oyster. Instead of feeling energetic and motivated to begin a new life free of the shackles that come with studying, and open to a new world full of possibilities, he felt stagnant and burnt out. Yes, he had everything, a job, a girlfriend, a good life, everything that he worked so hard for, but something was missing; he realized it wasn’t what he really wanted out of life. A life of science was not what he truly desired anymore, what he really dreamed about was to be free, perhaps be like his friend, Stefan (the only person who truly understood him), a wanderer and avid photographer. So after a night out with friends, an impulsive decision was made together with Stefan; they were going to embark on a trip to Central America, leaving everything behind to escape the stark reality of life in search of a new meaning.
The explorers’ adventures began with only a few hundred dollars in their pockets and a Ford Pinto they had to deliver to Texas. After that they used a combination of lengthy sweltering, bumpy rides on dilapidated buses, (including riding on the roof of a bus, witnessing a woman giving birth inside), old worn-out trains, and good ol’ hitchhiking to wander their way into Mexico and down throughout the Gringo trail. Although the travelers had no specific plans, pressing on and experiencing every sort of small, poor town, wild jungle or big city was an overall goal. Despite being quite dazzled by the town of San Miguel, nearly getting swept away in a deadly hurricane, and even being shot at by machine guns while huddled in a tent, Alex continues his travels experiencing as much as possible in search of answers his soul seeks. Along the way the duo meet quite a few fellow adventurers, as well as several locals who all play an integral role in shaping their experiences, both positive and negative, on the trail. Of particular note is fiery and spirited Yvette, an Australian who catches Alex’s eye and quickly becomes his lover. They eventually embarked upon their own journey that took them deeper south into Central America, including an eye-opening and mystical stop at a Mayan temple, and back north 101 days later. Upon his arrival back home the author finds himself with a renewed sense of purpose, ready to return to his previous life. 
To Find is indeed a memoir, a telling of a person’s life experiences. However, what sets it apart from the deluge of other memoirs that are vying for attention on bookshelves everywhere is J.R. Klein’s masterful ability to not merely tell readers what happened to him in the summer of 1980, but to thoroughly engage them with such vivid descriptions of his travels in Mexico and Central America that it hooks readers from the beginning, and takes them on an enjoyable odyssey throughout the book to a simple, yet satisfying end. Readers easily feel as if they’re one of Alex Moreau’s fellow amigos riding alongside him in sweltering hot buses through deserts and jungles with the ultimate goal of experiencing everything life has to offer, and finding oneself. 
Quill says: Tired of the daily humdrum in your life and seek to just get away from it all? Be an armchair adventurer as you follow author J.R. Klein on his whirlwind journey to find himself in 1980’s Central America - you won’t regret it!
For more information on To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail,please visit the author's website at: www.johnrklein.com

#BookReview - An Armadillo on My Pillow @BooksFrog

An Armadillo On My Pillow
By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: Morgan Spicer
Publisher: Pigs Fly Books
Publication Date: February 2020
ISBN: 978-1732541061
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 2020
Young readers are about to go on a delightful, and very funny, adventure as they join a young girl who discovers an armadillo on her pillow.
It's time for Miranda to wake up for school but as soon as she opens her eyes, the young girl knows it is going to be a very unusual day. A quick peek and she sees:
"Asleep by my head is a snug armadillo! His shadowy form softly snores on my pillow."
What is going on? Miranda stays under the blankets as she peers cautiously around the room and sees more unusual animals including a capybara. As the room fills up with still more animals, Miranda pops out from under her blankets to watch the commotion.
"Now a mongoose in sneakers goes barreling past.
Though one sneaker falls off, she is still lightning fast!
She's hot on the trail of a copperhead snake.
The reptile seems worried -
he's started to shake."
But the action isn't over yet. More and more animals come to Miranda's room, and these are not your typical soft, furry pets but rather critters such as a spectacled owl, a hippo and even a sloth. Could this all be real? Is it a dream? Whatever is going on, I think Miranda is going to be late for school. 
An Armadillo On My Pillow is a very funny book that will keep readers wondering what is happening. I've read/reviewed a few other of Deborah Stevenson's book and have enjoyed all of them. This one, however, takes it a step further with the silliness of the story, the giggles that it will elicit, and I suspect children will want to read it again and again. Of particular note, the story, told in rhyme, does not use easy animal names to rhyme, but instead names such as chinchillas, a platypus, and my favorite, a wallaroo wearing a tutu. Morgan Spicer, the illustrator, has worked with the author on her other books and the two definitely have beautifully merged their skills to tell a perfect story. Well done!
Quill says: I loved An Armadillo On My Pillow and I'm sure your youngster will too.
For more information on An Armadillo on My Pillow, please visit the publisher's website at: www.FrogPrinceBooks.net

#BookReview - Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black

Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black
By: Norman Whaler
Illustrated by: Mohammad Shayan
Publisher: Beneath Another Sky Books
Publication Date: February 2019
ISBN: 978-1-948131-38-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: February 8, 2020
Oink is a young pig who has the adventure “spark” within him that is equaled only by the one inside Indiana Jones. His buddy, Gobble, is a turkey who really believes caution is a virtue. She’s hysterical, actually, and loves rolling her eyes at Oink when he tends to go too far out there with his creative imagination. This spark-filled go-getter and this truly “grounded” turkey make great friends, as they keep their days rolling by filled with humor that you wouldn’t normally see on a regular farm. Or, perhaps you would, if you paid more attention to the “gobble/oink” conversations animals are having.
In this particular adventure, however, a duo come upon the farm that many people know as the “Men in Black.” In fact, this duo was so funny in the movies, and so memorable, that you kind of hear the happy theme song in your mind as you open this book and begin to read.
On this morning in the town of Little Bottom, Oink has discovered that he can shoot water out of his nose. Although Gobble smiles and thinks the skill is funny, she does understand why some of the animals on the farm think Oink is “a few fries short of a Happy Meal.” Anyway, the night before there were lights high up in the sky over Little Bottom, and Oink – even though Gobble told him what he saw was a plane – believes that the lights were an alien spaceship. His imagination grows even more when he stares out the slats of the fence and sees two men dressed in dark suits, wearing cool sunglasses, and donning slicked-back hair speaking to Farmerman. Yes, Oink truly believes that the Men in Black have arrived because of last night’s strange, otherworldy occurrence. 
As Oink and Gobble follow the men around the farm, they try to remain inconspicuous as the strange guys use a gadget with lights, and then pick up samples of the farm’s dirt and place it into jars. Gobble finally convinces Oink that there’s nothing to worry about, but when they turn back towards the farm...a surprise comes about that only readers of the book are allowed to enjoy.
Yes, this is one of those series that is beyond fun. Not only is there a twist, but the main characters are a remarkable team that young and old alike will love to form a friendship with. The author also has placed adorable farm/animal jokes in the back of the book to share. 
Although the age range for the book is stated to be 4-7 years, as a grandmother of two (ages 2 and a very wise 3 who, I believe, may be the president of her own country one day), I have to say that we all enjoyed this book a lot. The kids were interested in Oink and Gobble and going on adventures with them on their fantastic farm. It is not a surprise this is an award-winning series; these books are colorful, memorable, and one of those rare finds that, like the favorite stuffed animal they have to sleep with every night, the kids will ask Grandma for again and again.
Quill Says: This book is a stand-out among the other great books in this series. Once you enjoy them, grandmothers and grandchildren everywhere will unite for Oink and Gobble!
For more information on Oink and Gobble and the Men in Black, please visit the author's website at: www.NormanWhaler.com

#AuthorInterview with Bernie Freytag

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Bernie Freytag, author of Find Wonder in the Ordinary: A Kid’s Book for Adults.
FQ: Congratulations on winning The Feathered Quill award for Best in the Animal/Adult book category! How did you feel when you heard about the accolade?
FREYTAG: Honestly, my jaw dropped. I really didn’t expect this. It truly shocked me. To the point where I didn’t tell anyone about it for a couple days. Haha! I wanted it to sink in. Bask in it. I’ve had some decent success with the book in my area since it was released, but being recognized within the industry like this truly justifies a lot of the hard work. I’m honored and grateful for the acknowledgment. I’m simply at a loss for words and can’t thank you enough. 
FQ: Please tell readers how the idea for this amazing book first came about.
FREYTAG: The idea was probably born about 20 years ago, and that’s somewhat laid out in the first chapter of the book. But it was only an idea at that time. It grew from that little idea to basically my lifestyle and how I view life. It wasn’t until about a year and half ago that I saw it as a book. The “idea” had a major turning point when I had what I could only describe as a "spiritual awakening." I know that sounds crazy, but it was a specific moment where I suddenly saw the world differently. More connected. A wholeness. And the book grew pretty quickly after that moment. I’ve always been a visual artist, but I think that moment somehow gave me the voice to write. I mention this particular moment very briefly within this book and have been toying around with the idea of describing that “awaking" in much more detail in my next book. 
FQ: Your drawings/artwork in this book are just as memorable as the words, themselves. Can you share with us a bit in regards to your journey as an artist? And, perhaps, how the art may have played a part in writing the book, itself?
FREYTAG: Thank you! The drawings are a huge part of me and I’m glad you asked about them. I’ve been drawing and creating since as early as I can remember. Drawing is the one thing in my life that keeps me in check. It Balances me out. It’s very much my own type of meditation. Writing is as well. And Daydreaming. And Music. Haha, I’m getting off track. Anyway, drawing for me is an escape. A way for me to go to a place where anything is possible. Just the power of the brain. And it’s a way for me to feel like a kid again. To regain that perspective. Very often if I’ve had a stressful day, I’ll go home and draw and everything else just fades away. 
As for how the art played a part in the book? I’m sure I could analyze the crap out of that question, but at the simplest level, I wanted the book to be entertaining. I tell people quite often that for me, the book is a bridge between entertaining and enlightening. Silly and serious. I didn’t want the book to be too serious in nature. 
FQ: If you had to name one, what would be the one thing – the one lesson, perhaps, that you would like readers to take away from this book?
FREYTAG: Wow, that’s a great question and a tough one to answer. But I think the answer is in the title of the book. Find wonder in the ordinary. There’s wonder in every second of every day, but it’s up to us to notice it. Or to find it. Or wait for it. Wander around and let it find you! I guarantee if you walk outside in any type of weather you will find wonder in something. Kids do it all the Time and it’s such a gift when us adults capture that same feeling. 
FQ: It would be interesting to know that if you had a chance to have dinner with any author or artist, from any time period, who would be sitting across the table from you and what would you most like to discuss with them?
FREYTAG: There are so many artists I would love to sit with. Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet...but I’d also love to sit with some cartoonists like Gary Larson creator of The Far Side. Or Bill Watterson creator of Calvin & Hobbes. Or Charles Schultz creator of Peanuts. If it was more of a traditional artist, I may pick Salvador Dali. I think that would be a hell of a dinner. His work was grounded within his subconscious so I’d be very curious to know how he tapped into that creatively. Hmmm, I guess I didn’t pick one. Haha! I was never great with rules. 
As for authors, I would only pick one, Stephen King. I’ve always been a fan of his and it’s not for his work in horror, but more his work as a storyteller. I’d want to know how he conjures up so many stories, so many ideas...in such a short period of Time. It seems he has a connection with some sort of supernatural power or something, so that’s why he writes about those things...or maybe he’s just working a larger percentage of his brain, which also would make for a great dinner conversation. A second choice maybe Elizabeth Gilbert just to talk to her about her book Big Magic. A book about how creativity works...or how she thinks it works. Which I believe in something very similar. 
FQ: Are you interested in writing in another genre one day; if so, what would that be and why would you like to take on that endeavor?
FREYTAG: I think I’d love to write a book of fiction someday as I think it would exercise the same types of feelings I have about drawing, but I just don’t know when I’d have the Time. Seems like a ton of work. Though I wrote a very short story of fiction a while back and it would be interesting to take that further. It was kinda funky to create a whole scenario from scratch and I’d be very intrigued on where that would lead me. But, I think since I’m such a visual person, I’d have to figure out something with drawings, too. Maybe a graphic novel or something, but again there’s the Time thing again. 
FQ: Your book is so many things – from reflective to self-help to inspirational – was it difficult to get through the process of writing this creation? Was there ever a point that brought about writer’s block for a time, and, if so, how were you able to get by that and move forward?
FREYTAG: Thank you! Overall, the writing came quickly and I was lucky in that respect. I wrote the whole things in about 9 months, so I sometimes say it was like birthing a baby. Haha! I will say that I set myself some goals with dates, and those were thrown away as it simply wasn’t done until it was done. Also, there were two times during that process where I traveled and afterward I would write something new (or rewrite something). The entire chapter on Clouds was rewritten after a trip to Ireland...and there’s actually an interesting story about a lot of the smaller drawings in the book being created on the same trip. Travel always initiates something creative for me and it’s not any coincidence that a lot of the stories in the book are about traveling. 
FQ: Readers will want to know, as do I, what you’re working on at the moment and what we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future.
FREYTAG: Right now I’m gathering up ideas for something that most likely will be a follow-up to this book. But that could Change. I’m not going to give much away as far as the content but I think it’s really going to be interesting if what’s in my head is what is eventually produced. Though I did give a little bit away in one of the previous questions, that’s a pretty small part of it. Anyway, I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years! Haha!
FQ: Thank you so much for the amazing book. It really is one of those rare few that has a place on my bookshelf because I will want to read it again. And congratulations on winning. Your book definitely deserves the honor!