Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God: A Lesson On Being Still
By: N.L. Holmes
Publisher: Wayback Press
Publication Date: June 2020
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Date: January 17, 2021
The Queen’s Dog is a political thriller novel in the Empire at Twilight series by N. L. Holmes. Set mainly in Ugarit, a vassal state to the kingdom of Hatti, it follows Nahish-shulmanu, nicknamed Naheshi, a eunuch slave to the queen of Ugarit. He is infatuated with her but is eventually coerced into spying on her disloyal activities by the king’s mother. As an Assyrian in Ugarit during a time of potential war with his country of origin, he stands at a unique risk. This is something people do not shy away from taking advantage of, much to Naheshi's detriment.
I haven’t read any other book set in an ancient Syrian kingdom before, and it was exciting to learn a little bit about such a complex and fascinating culture. It’s so wildly different from the Western cultures many historical novels are centered around, and it’s a refreshing setting to explore. Audiences have to navigate the politics of not only the main characters’ own courts, but the social consequences of who they associate with. Each decision they make has personal and professional ramifications that have the potential to come back and haunt them.
N.L. Holmes builds a set of complicated relationships between her main characters, all of which are heavily influenced by whatever positions they hold at court, and who has power over whom. Every seemingly sincere action is soured by an ulterior motive, creating a fast-paced, quickly thickening plot of political drama.
Holmes’s strength for building complicated relationships between characters also unexpectedly develops one of the novel’s greatest weaknesses. As the queen’s chamberlain and supervisor of the household staff, her main narrator, Naheshi, is expected to interact with many other slaves and servants, one of which is an older eunuch named Agripsharri, who he is somewhat afraid of. At one point in the novel, Agripsharri briefly ends up in a position of power over Naheshi, as a blackmailer. He then uses that power over Naheshi to rape him.
While initially the incident is treated as horrible and wrong, it’s later excused by implying Naheshi deserved the assault for treating Agripsharri unkindly. While this is clearly dealing with a different time and culture, the victim blaming plays no other role in the story beyond being a “character development” moment. Naheshi is a generally unlikable character, but him realizing he “deserved” the rape is treated as personal growth. Even taking the culture differences into account, it’s a scene that feels out of place in a novel published in 2020, and has the potential to alienate some of the author’s audience.
Most, if not all, of the main characters are very unlikable. The queen is self-centered and has an excuse for every mistake she makes. Naheshi is an easily manipulated coward. Every major political power is out solely for themselves. While this makes it impossible to connect with any of them emotionally, this detachment does allow the reader to really think about the political decisions being made. The contemptible nature of the characters seems to be a deliberate decision of the author’s, to keep the main focus on the political drama unfolding across Ugarit.
The Queen’s Dog is a plot-centric political drama that explores the complex relationships between the vassal states of the kingdom of Hatti. With its focus on plot, it’s not the ideal read for a reader who prefers character-driven stories. However, the fast-paced plot will keep its target audience engaged and eager to keep devouring the unfolding court disasters. The Queen’s Dog is sure to find a home among historical fiction fans with an interest in more plot-centered novels.
Quill says: The Queen's Dog is an interesting dive into ancient Middle Eastern politics.
For more information on The Queen's Dog (Empire at Twilight Book 3), please visit the author's website at: www.nlholmes.com/
Meet author Christi Eley, the author of the children's book, Mr. Flopsy Whispers From God: A Lesson On Being Still in Feathered Quill's Meet the Author section:
By: Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra
Publisher: Thrills&Kills Press
Publication Date: November 2020
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 13, 2021
Called in to investigate a suicide, Detective Nick Larson and his crew soon discover reasons why it must have been murder. When, where and how are readily established, but who did it and why will be the stuff of mystery for reader and protagonist alike in this eerie tale by award-winning writer Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra.
The scene was set up to look like death by hanging – but the victim, Isabel Creasy, was on the verge of a new and fulfilling change of life. Creasy shows none of the signs of horrific strangulation or psychological collapse that would suggest self-destruction – signs Larson of the NYPD knows all too well. He lives with the haunting image of the death by hanging a few months ago of Angie, the woman he tried to love. That memory will both disturb and compel him as the team will discover another, and another, feigned suicide.
Larson, in tandem with his partner Victor Sacco, are under unusual pressure because there is a flu running rampant in the city that is forcing them to take on extra work. Interviewing and investigating the known friends and colleagues of the bodies piling up in the morgue becomes a constant. And for Larson, there’s more: he’s seeing a shrink to help him process Angie’s suicide, while contemplating, with serious reservations, a romance with Laura Howard, victimized by her psychopathic sister with apparent murderous intent, but more than willing to start a new relationship with the handsome, empathic Detective Larson who handled her case. As more and more clues surface around the first faked hanging, stress is mounting on Larson from all directions. But he’s tough, and that’s how it has to be.
Alonso-Sierra, a world-traveled author, initiated her Detective Nick Larson series with a prequel short story, Mirror Mirror, offering an early portrait of the man and his manner of dealing with crime and criminals. She has fleshed Larson out in this new book: a street-smart yet sensitive guy whose instinct for solving problems enhances his profession, but sometimes causes him to think too much about personal dilemmas. Throughout this offering, the author shows him wavering about a new relationship, while revealing solid reasons for the trauma that prevents him for committing. But his commitment to sniffing out the monster who is perpetrating the faux suicides never flags, as he moves from clue to clue looking for some linkage among the victims.
Quill says: Hanging Softly in the Night is a page-turning read with snappy dialog and hardcore action that will charm fans of gritty, police-procedure whodunits, with enough latest technologies, cross-cultural characterizations and social savvy to engage a newer generation of fans.
For more information on Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel,please visit the author's website at: www.mariaelenawrites.com
By: Katherine Spada Basto
Publisher: Painted Turtle Press
Publication Date: December 2019
Reviewed by: 978-1733390071
Date: January 12, 2021
A little girl is sold to a religious cult, grows beyond the trauma and becomes a stalwart force for true righteousness in this history-based novel by Katherine Spada Basto.
Cornelia Cosa, growing up in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, is excited; it’s her tenth birthday. Little does she realize she has been entered into a lottery, the winner of which will become one of the virgin followers of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Vestal Virgins are revered in Rome and overseen by Nero himself. To her shock, Cornelia wins, seeing her father receive bags of gold for the “prize.”
Cornelia is forced into a new life at once, leaving behind all she has known. Despite the many restrictions placed upon her by the order, she gradually learns the powers and ceremonial enjoyments of being a member of the sacred cult. Her acceptance of her fate is bolstered in part by the kindliness of Lucius, a young man serving as an augur in Nero’s court. One of Cornelia’s fellow virgins tells her in secret of a Nazarene named Jesus, whose teachings of a single deity supersede the mythological pantheon of gods and goddesses touted by the Roman authorities. Cornelia will have a chance to hear the preaching of Paul, opening her mind to fresh possibilities. By contrast, she is plagued by the memory of Nero’s personal, brutal assault on one of her Vestal sisters. Then Nero goes mad, Rome burns, and the young teen will have a chance to exercise her Vestal powers.
Author Basto has garnered awards and recognition for this novel, written with gusto and grounded in recorded fact. From the beginning, the reader will feel the stress and sadness of the child Cornelia describing her abandonment to a strict religious cult. The story quickly expands, with many plot twists that are all believably set in ancient Rome at a critical time in its history. Christianity is making itself felt and will affect Basto’s brave young heroine, sharpening her perceptions of the true meaning of spirituality. The author has drawn from historical annals both the names of several of the main characters, including Cornelia, and some of the notable incidents enlivened in the account. She deftly weaves these names and snippets together into the larger tapestry of the known world in a time of crisis, with Cornelia as sharp-eyed observer and bold participant.
Quill says: Basto’s Vestal Virgin combines her storyteller’s arts with intriguing slices of legend and real events to excellent effect, constructing a broad panorama with cinematic potential.
For more information on Vestal Virgin: Chosen for Rome, please visit the author's website at: www.katherinespadobasto.com/
Meet author Ruth Maille, the author of the children's book, The Power of Positivity: The ABC's of a Pandemic in Feathered Quill's Meet the Author section:
By: Georgina Le Flufy
Illustrated by: Francisco Fonseca
Publisher: Ethicool Books
Publication Date: September 2020
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 5, 2021
A quaint little village, full of vibrant colors, and a child's curiosity are the backdrops for the charming new children's book, April's Window.
April is a little girl who is watching the world go by from her window. While we only see April from the back, in the eye-catching cover illustration, we get to follow along with her within the pages of the story as she investigates each village window.
Open the book to the first page and we see the entire village from April's window - what April sees every day. And with a child's imagination and curiosity, she explores all those windows. What might each window share with the world?
As we stroll around the village with April, we see so many beautiful windows, every one with a unique story to tell:
Windows where people are watering plants,
Windows where people are learning to dance.
Learning to sew,
Learning to cook,
Falling in love with the words of a book.
Each of those windows has a lovely illustration of said window. We see a woman watering shelves of brightly marked flowers with a cute little watering can. Flowers are exploding off the page, with flowers behind the woman, on the windowsill, in front of the window and even off to each side. Another window shows a grandmother teaching her grandson how to sew - the love they share flows from the page.
Windows with hearts.
Windows with rainbows and kids making art.
While it's not stated in the story itself, but rather in the book's description on the publisher's website, April is at home because of the pandemic. While children today are having to deal with the stresses brought about by the pandemic, the author has made the decision (a good one, I believe) not to make that an issue in the story. Rather, April is like all other children around the world right now - not able to go into friends' homes. The author, through April, encourages children reading the story to imagine what might be behind the windows on their own street, or hometown. The story is simple, with a very positive message, and conveys that warmth and happiness to the reader. The illustrations are by the very talented Francisco Fonseca, who shares his unique talents, with vibrant, playful images that bring the story to life. The last few pages of the story is a tribute to all the nurses, police, and other first responders who have kept us all safe during these difficult times.
Quill says: April's Window is a wonderful story that brings a small village to life through the eyes of a child. Perfect for children 6 and under, this will undoubtedly become one of your child's favorite bedtime stories.
For more information on April's Window, please visit Ethicool Books.