Friday, October 30, 2020
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Skyler Boudreau is talking with Stephen Patrick and David Rike, authors of The Holocaust Engine: A Post-Apocalyptic Pandemic Thriller.
PATRICK AND RIKE: The story centers on an isolated community during a worldwide epidemic. Thus, we needed the setting to take place somewhere geographically isolated. Key West is at the bottom of a tiny island chain, over a hundred miles south of mainland Florida. Those islands are connected by a single two-lane highway bridged between each island. Knock out any one of those bridges and Key West is cut off.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Rock and Roll Murders: An Entrepreneur Finds That Murder is No Business Solution (Based on a True Story)
By: Phillip B. Chute
Publication date: December 2018
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review date: October 2020
A self-made entrepreneur has it all, gets what he wants, and pays the price when his schemes boomerang in this hard-boiled, atmospheric crime fiction novel by mystery writer Phillip B. Chute.
Chute’s protagonist is a rather unlovable fellow named Raymond McDade who has built up a broadcasting company in Southern California in the 1970s, trading largely on the rapid rise of rock’n’roll. He has a fancy mansion and the money’s coming in, but he needs help – female help. A chance meeting with Alice, an orphan scraping by as a nurse’s aide, leads to a skewed romance based on her desperation and his wealth. Through another chance meeting, Alice brings Mitch into the company – a would-be-cowboy on the shady side of the law who knows how to sell, and will increase McDade’s fortunes with his gift of gab. But as the years go by, Alice is less and less content with her marriage; Ray never takes a day off and isn’t the best lover in the world. A brief affair shows her that she doesn’t have to put herself second, and reuniting with Ray, they agree to start a family. But feelings between them don’t change much. When she meets another man, a decent, caring person whom she’s determined to keep, will Ray let her go? Or will his rage win out?
Author Phillip Chute, a businessman with a sharp mind for what can go wrong and why in the murky world of finance, shows the many ways that Ray rewards himself and bilks others on his path to envisioned success. The overall portrait is of a man obsessed by winning by any means, and keeping it all for himself. Alice, Mitch and others are, in his mind, simply his property. Used to eliminating anything that stands in his way, he will try that tactic when things go wrong in his marriage. Chute states that this highly engaging, action-filled plot is based on true but heretofore unpublicized events. References to contemporaneous popular songs spice the plot. Initial concentration on the cynical bad guys is balanced by the introduction later in the narrative of the alert, right-minded Detective Nelson.
Quill says: Chute’s latest offering - smart, scary, full of grit and grift, building suspense page by page - places this author on the high shelf with Hammett, Chandler, Grafton and Parker.
For more information on Rock and Roll Murders: An Entrepreneur Finds That Murder is No Business Solution (Based on a True Story), please visit the author's website at: www.phillipbchute.com
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The Holocaust Engine: A Post-Apocalyptic Pandemic Thriller
By: Stephen Patrick and David Rike
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication date: September 2020
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau
Review date: October 25, 2020
The Holocaust Engine is the first novel in a trilogy by Stephen Patrick and David Rike. Set in the Florida Keys, this novel portrays the collapse of civilized society as a new disease begins to tear through the community.
A key aspect to this story is Bontrager’s disease, a mysterious illness that tears through the island. Very little is revealed about the disease itself, beyond its terrifying symptoms that play a huge role in the plot. Chief among the symptoms is an irrational rage that causes its victims to become extremely violent. They behave almost zombie-like. As the story progresses, a new strain of Bontrager’s emerges. The twist of the new strain adds tension to the plot as the audience scrambles to rethink everything they thought they knew about the disease.
The greatest strength of this novel is in its action sequences. Patrick and Rike craft hard-hitting battle scenes that will keep their audience filled with nail-biting suspicion. They are the heart of the entire story. The authors masterfully shift between a plethora of narrators, allowing readers to experience these gritty scenes from various points of view.
The weakness of the story is with one of the main characters, Reagan, who has been preparing for the end of the world for many years. Once it’s revealed just how dangerous Bontrager’s and its victims are, he knows exactly what to do to keep himself alive. Nothing is ever a challenge for him. While many of the other characters are faced with tough decisions and obstacles, Reagan never faces anything he can’t immediately overcome. There isn’t much at stake when reading from his point of view, because it’s established very early on that nothing can kill him. His passages as narrator are often boring and it's hard to like him at times. In a dangerous survival situation, being likable certainly isn’t a requirement, however, the main character of a novel should be someone who the readers care about.
Likewise, Reagan does nothing to endear himself to the reader and is often very rude and disrespectful to other characters. For example, there’s a scene where Reagan and a group of other survivors are searching for leftover materials in a chemistry classroom and a female character brings up his behavior towards another woman they left behind at their base. He responds with this passage: “You guys think this is what it sounded like backstage at a Beatles concert the last couple of years? Bunch of dudes wanting to get the job done and get back to the hotel room, maybe smoke some hooch, but Yoko just keeps running her head and the guys are looking around at each other like, when is somebody gonna take that bongo out of her mitts and hit her upside the head with it?” (pg. 121) It’s meant to be taken as a funny comment, and he makes similar ones throughout the rest of the novel. Whenever a woman takes on a leadership role or is actively trying to help the group of survivors, he belittles them. Often, the characters he mocks are far more likeable to the audience than he is.
The Holocaust Engine is a dynamic and action-packed thriller that will engage the reader with its concept and action sequences. The story is timely, given our current state, and will have readers wondering about their futures. If you can get past the unlikable character of Reagan, then you'll be rewarded with a good post-apocalyptic pandemic thriller.
Quill says: If the reader can get past the sexism, The Holocaust Engine itself is very engaging and keeps its audience on the edge of their seats.
For more information on The Holocaust Engine: A Post-Apocalyptic Pandemic Thriller,please visit the publisher's website at: evolvedpub.com
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Somebody Else's Troubles
By: J.A. English
Publisher: Zimbell House Publishing
Publication Date: April 2020
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Date: October 25, 2020
J.A. English delivers a complex story that spotlights the art of reinvention in his debut novel, Somebody Else’s Troubles.
Travers Landeman is thirty-eight years old and has nothing left to keep him tied to his less than stellar life in Ohio. When he decides it’s time to abandon his present life for a newer one, the only matter he didn’t consider is the fact he would become a fugitive. In order to understand how Travers became the proverbial guy who went to the store for a gallon of milk never to be seen again is a bit more complex. He sets his plan in motion and flees to the small Caribbean Island of Mabuhay. Imagine his glee when he meets the likes of Marguerite. She’s somewhat of a patriarch on the island of Mubahay, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The final straw that affirms Traver’s plan to escape his present life is the sudden and shocking death of his teenage nephew, Matthew. It would seem Matthew had been abused by his parish priest for many years and when the situation was too much for Matthew to handle, Uncle Travers isn’t available for his nephew’s final (and urgent) plea for help.
The years pass and Travers is quite settled into his island lifestyle; he gets comfy with a new family. Imagine his surprise when Private Investigator Albert McNab who represents the Atlantis Fidelity Insurance Company plans to bring Travers back to Ohio. There are more than a few loose ends Travers failed to tie up and it’s time for him to atone for the sins from his past.
There are endless moments of shenanigans and characters to comprehend in J. A. English’s debut novel. While this read does not disappoint thanks to a fast-paced storyline and an abundance of adventure, there are times when the complexities of the scenes were too convoluted. Mr. English’s style was to teeter between past and present before weaving the next element into the story. This was tedious, at times, and difficult to connect the dots and continue forward with the plot. I will give Mr. English props for his writing ability; in that his characters are colorful, and the dialogue is interesting. However, the jump between past and present was fragmented, and it was often a struggle to reconnect with the story without having to backtrack and refresh first before moving forward. I’ll end with a word of caution to his audience; this book requires a fair amount of concentration in order to maintain a connection with the plot.
Quill says: Somebody Else’s Troubles sets the notion in motion that one can plan to disappear, but the past inevitably will catch up.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Waiting for Normal
By: Zahra Jons
Publisher: Dreampunk Press
Publication Date: April 2020
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2020
Ah...high school. To me, The Breakfast Club was the ultimate way to explain this time in our lives; and, to this day, I still believe that each one of us did fall into one of the six “categories” of kids that movie focused upon. It’s a rough time, a trying time, a time to learn and fret and basically just be angry having to wait within those walls for so many years before being able to really experience life.
However...after reading this fantastic book, and that’s not an over-exaggeration, I must say that I understand high school a bit more now. I actually feel a bit guilty for my overabundance of whining during that time period, and I regret some things that I could have enjoyed but chose not to during those four years. Why is that? Because in this book I met a brave, weathered, frightened, strong, amazing girl who had it a heck of lot harder than I did.
This unforgettable plot opens readers up to the world of “Cat.” This is a teen who loathes high school, like the majority of us, but now actually wishes she could go back to hating it simply for the same reason we all did. But Cat can’t do that now. You see, Cat has a very adult problem she has to deal with; high school may have been vile, but being diagnosed with cancer is even worse.
Cat wants to be unique. She had a boyfriend, Jet, who she loved but most likely stayed with him at times because her dad simply didn’t like the guy one bit. She gets the lectures that all kids get from their loving (pain-in-the-butt-they-just-don’t-understand) parents on a weekly basis, as well. But when lymphoma is laid at Cat’s doorstep, those big, annoying things now seem quite small. She must get treatments and sit in the hospital for weeks. She has to step away from the one thing she’s really good at which is rowing for the crew team, and she has to listen to her mother now change their conversations from the horrible clothes she wears to finding a support group that could help Cat through this trying time. In other words, Cat has a whole new normal that she definitely didn’t deserve.
Even though her love stays by her side and tries to help, the pain of it all is something that is quite easy to see. Like a darkness that comes over you, the regular, everyday bad things in life seem to have no weight anymore. Even the sibling scenes between Cat and her sister are altered, and readers will feel that change and the sorrow that goes along with it. After all, we like being a pain to our siblings, but once illness is involved the relationship takes on a nicer tone, making it even more difficult for Cat to deal with; in a way, she feels like everyone’s demeanor has changed towards her and eyes are looking at her differently, which is the last thing she wants.
The journey Cat continues to take is filled with finding the strength needed to get through school, deal with love and breaking up while figuring out your first real relationship, getting the grades in order to pass, etc. The rules remain the same. But watching someone have to do this while also traversing the problems and absolute fear that comes from cancer, treatments, wondering what the future will bring and even if there is a future awaiting Cat, pulls at a reader’s heartstrings while they become embedded in this teenager’s life.
YA and teen reads, as I have stated before, have become a big market because the stories have been a huge success. This is one that I love because there are no witches and warlocks, magic, or vampires falling in love. This is one that’s all about reality that becomes even more real for a character named Cat who, as she did with me, will engage readers from beginning to end.
Quill says: A great read that is captivating, well-written, and dares to be different — making it a powerful success.
For more information on Waiting for Normal, please visit the publisher's website at: www.dreampunkpress.com