Wednesday, April 7, 2021

#BookReview - Test of Time by Jacqueline T. Johnson


Test of Time

By: Jacqueline T. Johnson
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN: 978-1481090056
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: April 5, 2021

Author Jacqueline T. Johnson presents readers with the first book in the Sons of Meir series, Test of Time, a strong start to her fantasy series.

This engaging fantasy story is set in the majestic, but brutal times when kings ruled nations and regularly battled for control of not only their own lands, but the takeover of other kingdoms as well. Our story begins with Erich, who, through a few strategic moves, has managed to develop a trusted relationship with King Onio that quickly transformed his lowly status in life into not only becoming an imperial soldier in the kingdom of Meir, but a husband to princess Kalya, the future queen. Together with his longtime comrade, Nash, from the kingdom of Noyi, they both come to a mutual decision to forget about, and move on from their roguish former lives, and work toward protecting and strengthening the kingdom of Meir.

Time progresses and as Meir’s army becomes more formidable, it further solidifies Erich’s position as a great leader. But like many nations during this time, peace and power comes at the price of attracting the attention of other nations, ones with their own relentless thirst for absolute power. You see, the King of Noyi, Lugar, has been plotting and building his army to overthrow King Onio and his land. This all appears to be a simple age old premise, kingdoms fighting for power with each other, right? Yes, except for the fact that one of the men is suddenly thrust into a new reality where he comes to realize he was a pawn in a larger, much more sinister conspiracy to not only overthrow kingdoms, but a plot that will ultimately challenge friendships and even blood relationships. But will the men overcome the challenge thrown at them and do what is right, or will they succumb to powers greater than themselves?

Test of Time is an intriguing story filled with adventurous suspense that will undoubtedly keep your attention until the cliffhanger ending. It should be briefly noted however, that some readers may find a few abrupt scene changes while reading that may disrupt the natural flow of the story, so it is advised to read carefully in order to fully enjoy the story as it unfolds. However, the author has developed solid, realistic and likable characters that easily allows readers to become fully engrossed in the storyline, and look forward to what happens next in the sequel.

Quill says: Author Jacqueline T. Johnson pens a good fantasy read that keeps the pages turning.

To learn more about Test of Time, please visit the author's website at: jt-johnson.com

 

April's Free Book




Looking for a great children's book to read to your little ones? Check out this month's "Free Book" - Pugs Wearing Parkas by Deborah Stevenson, a Feathered Quill Award Winner. Entering is simple: https://featheredquill.com

Monday, April 5, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Daniela Amato, author of Finding Joy: A Dog's Tale


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Daniela Amato, author of Finding Joy: A Dog's Tale.

FQ: Your book touched me deeply. When you describe the bond that forms between Little Bear and ‘Mommy,’ I get a sense you drew your writing of this beautiful story from personal experience. Could you elaborate?

AMATO: I am so happy that you felt that bond! Little Bear was my companion. The story is his story as communicated to me after his passing. As an animal communicator, I can communicate with animals both live and those that passed. Finding Joy is a true story, HIS story. It was wonderful to hear about his life and how he perceived things. It was also very emotional for me to learn about the unpleasant things he experienced. Writing his story helped me heal after his passing and remains a great comfort to me.

FQ: In line with my previous question, both our daughters are equestrians. During their time at one of the barns where they rode, our youngest was training a fairly green horse. His owner loved him in her way, but our daughter understood him and went beyond just tacking him up for a ride each and every time she was at the barn. When it was time to give up the reins to the girl who would show him, our daughter took a back seat and eventually we moved to another barn. Months later, we heard the horse seemed off—as though he was depressed. They had a spiritual guide come out to the barn and do an assessment and she told the owner that he ‘misses his person.’ They didn’t understand what that meant until the guide said he told her he missed drinking Gatorade with his person and her hugs. When I heard this story, it brought tears to my eyes because I instantly knew our daughter was his ‘person.’ Have you ever had someone discount the credibility to such powerful connections with animals?

AMATO: Your daughter is so blessed to have that connection. Horses are wonderful beings. Many people are not aware or are afraid to admit that these special connections are true. It isn’t until you experience it, that you truly understand the connectivity of all beings. I have had many encounters with people who doubt these powerful connections. They consider animals as “less than” humans or beings placed on earth for human use. These individuals are skeptical and in my opinion are missing out on one of the purest relationships, second only to a mother and her baby. The bond between an animal companion and a human is pure love and trust.

FQ: There are wonderful life’s lessons throughout this read and such a strong message of living in the moment. I was intrigued in reading in your bio when you had the realization that you were, in fact, communicating with animals through picture messages and energy. Describe one of your most memorable moments and elaborate further on what the ‘picture messages’ were.

AMATO: Great question! It is hard to pick just one. Each encounter with an animal is unique and special. One of the most powerful and also sad encounters happened last summer. I was lounging on my deck enjoying the sunshine and dozing off in that summer slumber. I suddenly saw a herd of horses, some fallen and some struggling to get up. As some of the horses got up, they shook their bodies to remove debris. Others remained on the ground. A black horse stood and looked directly at me. I asked who they were. The black horse described a metal container that the horses were in. This container crashed and fell over. I saw flames and felt a lot of heat. I asked the black horse what happened. He said there was an accident while they were being transported. He said the humans did not care for them; the horses were only a commodity to the humans. A glowing white horse appeared and all the horses, even those on the ground, began to follow her. As they followed, galloping and neighing, I felt a heaviness leave them. The black horse said, “we ran for you, but now we run for ourselves.” I was left feeling a great sadness but also a sense of relief. The horses were finally free.

Later that day, my friend called me and asked if I heard about the horrible accident. I had not listened to the news that day. She told me that racehorses were being transported up north. The transport truck had an accident, turning over and catching on fire. All the horses perished. Not one of the humans involved even had a scratch. I believe the black horse chose me to relay the message and show me their transition. The white horse was their Spirit Guide, I believe. I know they are happy now. I will never forget that encounter.

FQ: You have a beautiful voice and without too much of a spoiler, when it was time for Little Bear and Mommy to continue with their separate journeys, I was openly crying. How difficult was it for you to write that scene?

Author Daniela Amato

AMATO: That was one of the most difficult moments to capture with pen, and understandably one of my most difficult moments in life. I too was crying openly. During the editing process, each time I came to that section, I cried. I can say that it did get easier with each edit. The sadness and loss is always there but knowing that life continues, and Little Bear is still with me in Spirit, does help ease the pain. As difficult as it was, I felt it was important to include. So many people struggle with this moment. My hope was to give courage to people so they stay with their companions till the very end.

FQ: In line with my previous question, leading up to the event, the important lesson you impart, ‘...Life’s Purpose does not have to be a huge spectacle or event. It is the little things that help others feel whole and loved that are the most important...’ At what point in your life did you have this reckoning?

AMATO: Another great question! I think I have always believed that the small things are most important in life. However, it was not until I had my children and Little Bear that I fully realized this to be true. Humans tend to look at the larger events, rush from one thing to the next in search of love, accomplishments, prestige, or monetary awards. In doing so, we miss out on all the smaller more subtle things that truly make life rich. My children and Little Bear taught me “the pause”. They showed me life through different, more innocent, and purer eyes. I saw the world with a newly awakened sense of awe, but also a deep desire to make it a better place. Little Bear made me more aware of nature and all the inhabitants...creatures I would not have noticed before even though they are always there. Bringing my focus in towards nature has kept me grounded. I credit a lot of my important learning to my children and Little Bear.

FQ: Your poem at book’s end ‘A Place Called Joy’ is lovely. Do you have a book of poems or have you thought of publishing a book of poems?

AMATO: Thank you! I wrote that poem when Little Bear first passed. It was my entryway into writing Finding Joy. I do not have a book of poems yet, but it has crossed my mind as a possible next project.

FQ: The past year has been a year of uncertainly and turmoil at best. We need more inspiring people like you to share your message to the masses. Do you do speaking engagements or have you thought about doing speaking engagements given your strong messages of hope and love?

AMATO: Thank you, again! I have not done speaking engagements to date. However, I do speak to my clients (I am a massage therapist) and have emailed them during Covid, with messages of hope and tools they can use to change their daily thoughts from negative to positive. It is especially important to look to yourself for healing and positivity. When you take control of your thoughts and actions, everything else around you falls in line. It is not the events in your life that define your character, but how you handle them that makes all the difference. I would love to have speaking engagements, although on a small scale. I get nervous in front of large crowds!

FQ: To expand on my previous question, ‘...Daniela believes if humans learned to hear with their hearts and not their minds, we would be able to resolve many of the issues society faces...’ What has been your greatest challenge to overcome over the past year and how did you diffuse the situation?

AMATO: Wow! This question is intense. There are so many challenges that I have faced in my life. As I read your question, they flooded into memory. The past year has been trying, the Covid “quarantine” and having to close my business - like many people it was an adjustment and scary time. There was so much uncertainty financially and emotionally. I handled it by focusing on what I could control and not on those things outside my control. When I had to close my business (103 days, but who was counting!), I decided to take the time to learn new things online, publish Finding Joy, create new habits (daily meditation, daily reiki), and read more. I also created an oasis on my deck by planting wildflowers, sunflowers, and putting up hummingbird feeders. I embraced nature in my small area. I was able to witness the cycle of life by seeing larvae grow into caterpillars and then butterflies. It was the most beautiful thing to see them grow and change! How often do we SEE this transformation that happens all the time undetected? It was also a great lesson in patience.

The quoted text above came in handy for many reasons. The past few years the amount of angry people has grown tremendously. People do not listen and only react. To listen with your heart means to leave your ego and thoughts to the side. Hear what people are feeling, instead of their words and your opinions. If someone is angry, they are most likely afraid of something. If someone is depressed, they are feeling hopeless and cannot get past their own circular thinking. Instead of reacting to the what is in front of us, take a moment to pause and listen to the heart- what are the underlying emotions? It helps to communicate from the heart vs the brain.

FQ: Your bio also mentions your choice of a plant-based lifestyle. What’s one of your favorite ‘go to’ recipes?

AMATO: This is probably the hardest question to answer! Lol I am a “foodie,” so I have a different favorite meal at any point in time, even within the same day! I will say that I like to recreate “comfort” foods from my youth and make them vegan and healthy. There are so many vegan options and exotic ingredients are much more accessible, it has become quite easy to “veganize” most meals. I do love a lot of flavor and sometimes even different flavors sharing the same plate. I have been known to prep a variety of foods and then on busy days take a little from each pre-made dish and eat it all together. My mom used to call that a “mish-mosh” dinner. Lol A little of everything left over to make a delicious meal.

FQ: Thank you for such a wonderful read Ms. Amato. I’m a voracious reader and an exceptional read lingers with me well beyond the proverbial ‘the end.’ Finding Joy: A Dog’s Tale will live on in my heart and memory for a long time and I thank you. There are times when I get a sense the book ‘chose’ me, and such was the case with your book. I’m hoping you’re working on your next project and if so, would you care to share?

AMATO: Thank you so much for saying that! It was my hope that Finding Joy would leave a lasting impression. I believe there is a take-away for everyone, even non-animal lovers may find a few gems in the story that may help them in their own journey. I am currently not working on a specific writing project, but I do have some ideas floating around my head. One is, as mentioned earlier, a book of poems and the other is a book about my animal communication sessions. I am not committed to a particular idea or outcome; this helps me adjust more easily and change course if necessary when I reach bumps in the road. When the timing is right, the idea will flow onto paper. It happened this way for both my books and I feel that it will be that way again. Whatever the new project ends up being, I know I will love every minute of it. =)

#AuthorInterview with Mark M. Bello, author of Supreme Betrayal

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 6).

FQ: As a retired attorney, and now the creator of these award-winning thrillers, can you tell readers what “headline” this particular book was inspired by?

BELLO: The novel was inspired by the Brett Kavanugh hearings, but I want to issue a strong caveat: Brett Kavanaugh was ACCUSED of misconduct by Christine Blasey Ford. He was not found guilty of any crime; no witnesses testified in support of Mrs. Ford. Because of these two factors, Kavanaugh secured the nomination. While Supreme Betrayal was inspired by the Kavanaugh saga, it is fiction. The reader is introduced to a vicious, narcissistic, predatory antagonist who will stop at nothing, perhaps even murder, to secure the appointment of his dreams. We may have certain opinions, but we cannot say these things about Brett Kavanaugh.

FQ: Could you explain a bit more to readers about your work as a social justice advocate? Along those same lines, could you perhaps speak about the differences you’ve seen when it comes to the majority of cases/problems today vs. the past; is society improving at all when it comes to caring for one another? 

BELLO: Sadly, I think America is getting worse. We have become more polarized, more divided in our politics and social justice views than we were back in the 70's when I first began practicing law. My career has been spent championing the rights of people who have been wronged by big business, big government, big insurance, and the like. It has truly been a David vs. Goliath type experience. Companies lobby politicians who ignore the 7th Amendment and pass restrictions on our rights to litigate. We are currently in the middle of a nationally televised trial—A police officer callously kneeled on the neck of a human being for over nine minutes, literally suppressing his last breath. How can we possibly say things are better?

FQ: If you had the chance to be a lawyer on one “headlining” case that occurred in this country, what would that case be and why would you want to be a part of it?

BELLO: I have been a champion of the rights of clergy abuse victims. My first novel, Betrayal of Faith, is a fictional account of one such case. While there isn't any one case out there, the public is still being duped by the church. Recently, in my home state of Michigan, the attorney general has commenced an investigation of the many early cases that went unreported. Perhaps the perpetrators will finally be brought to justice. Victims have reached out to me and I have forwarded them to the AG's office, while the church continues to enable the perpetrators. Why? I have no idea!

Author Mark M. Bello

FQ: Could you explain a bit to readers about writing for the Legal Examiner;how that came to be, and how you feel social media has (and can continue to) help the American public? 

BELLO: The Legal Examiner is the product of the Injury Board, a group (which includes me) of social justice and safety lawyers. The Board's founders created the magazine as a justice and safety education tool. Social media is an important part of that—the news is now reported in real time, by ordinary citizens recording events on their cell phones. Would George Floyd be a household name without the video of the event recorded by a teenager? Educating citizens about justice and safety issues on social media will help prevent injustice and tragedy. It is as simple as that.

FQ: If there was one personal message you would like to get across to people out there in regard to the state of the world – politically and/or focusing on the justice system – what would that message be?

BELLO: Your constitutional and civil rights are being trampled upon. Business interests have successfully lobbied our government to take away your rights. These efforts continue as I write this. Hospitals, doctors, manufacturers, insurance companies, large businesses, white collar criminals, and the like are being issued free or limited liability passes at your expense, in violation of your 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendment rights. For the most part, we citizens have stood aside and let this happen. We cannot continue to let them get away with it—become an informed citizen and let your voice for justice and safety be heard. It was hard to do that with a small, local, law practice. My social justice novels give me a much larger and louder voice to denounce the forces of evil.

FQ: Would you speak about the next Zachary Blake thriller and what, perhaps, we can expect to see from him in the future?

BELLO: Zachary's next adventure will take place on two continents and will focus on the crisis at our borders. It is an interesting and entertaining look at our immigration system. Most of us are the children or grandchildren of immigrants who were welcomed into this country. When did America become a closed and selfish society? Betrayal at the Border takes a look at these issues.

FQ: If you had to choose, what do you feel gives you the most freedom and happiness: being a lawyer or an author?

BELLO: I have definitely enjoyed more freedom and happiness being an author. The problem is that I made a nice living as an attorney—not so true as an author, which has, so far, been a labor of love. Buy my books...please?

FQ: Not wanting to get locked into a debate (LOL), but can you give your thoughts in regard to the political system of the U.S.? Has it improved in your eyes; and what do you feel the American public should get to see with this new presidency, and down the line?

BELLO: Our political divide is larger than ever. The Covid-19 relief package passed without a single vote from the opposition party, despite the fact that a majority of our citizens supported the legislation. When 50% of our government officials stubbornly adhere to failed political ideology instead of the will and desires of their own constituents, we are in trouble. When the minority party has to resort to pre-1960 type voter suppression to rig future elections, we are in trouble. I wish I could say I am optimistic, because I have always been an optimist, but the 2016 election, the conspiracy theories that have been proffered since, and the actions of the opposition party, have shaken my optimism to its core. Minorities are still being denied justice in this country. Did you ever think you would witness a white supremacist insurrection in our lifetime? Well, neither did I.

I note your "LOL" and understand the reference, but our political and legal realities are actually not all that funny. On the plus side, an experienced politician is now POTUS. He has stabilized our government and improved our response to the pandemic. I trust that we are finally on the right path to ending this serious public heath crisis. President Biden recently introduced a massive infrastructure plan that will create jobs, stimulate the economy, and improve the physical well-being of our country, something that is long overdue. A majority of our citizens seem to trust and respect his leadership. Hopefully, we can pull some reluctant and resistant politicians along for a rocky ride into the 21st Century. There you go! There's that old Bello optimism again!


Thursday, April 1, 2021

#BookReview - Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller)


Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 6)

By: Mark M. Bello
Published by: 8Grand Publications
Publication Date: April 2021
ISBN: 978-1734548921
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 31, 2021

It will come as no surprise, for anyone who has had the brilliance of mind to pick up one of this author’s books, that Mark Bello is a retired lawyer. After all, each novel he puts out is more than realistic when it comes to storylines, characters, and locations. Think of it this way. They always say a chef excels when they cook the dishes they know. Well, for a writer, it is the same: Write what you know and you will excel. For Mr. Bello, having that law background has allowed him to carve out his very own award-winning niche in the very busy genre of legal/political thrillers.

This time around, we begin at a party being held inside a stunning lakefront home. Yes, all the young adults have gotten together to tie one on and celebrate life because the parents are away. Hayley Larson Schultz is a 16-year-old at this party, but she’s not exactly a wild child; she hasn’t even given up her virginity as of yet (which, let’s just say, is a novel idea nowadays). Although Hayley is among the “good girls,” that also means there’s something she does not have—street smarts. Very quickly into the book, Hayley learns that the male species is not very nice at times. She ends up sexually assaulted, turning this picturesque home into Hayley’s own personal nightmare.

We fast forward over two decades later and learn that Hayley’s attacker, Oliver Wilkinson, has graduated law school and has now become the president’s nominee to sit on the best and most powerful judicial body in the world: The Supreme Court. Although Oliver has enough wealth behind him so that he believes he can get out of any bad situation, Hayley has grown into a strong woman and is about to become his worst enemy. There is no way she can allow this heathen to achieve this kind of success. But she will not bring the glowing nominee down by herself. Zachary Blake, the lawyer who one and all have come to love through Bello’s books, once again is there to aide a victim and make sure that the truth sees the light of day.

What Hayley and Zachary do together in order to toss Oliver off his golden throne encompasses a series of amazing, intelligent and somewhat crafty scenes. There are times in this book where you will stop and wonder if Oliver Wilkinson is finally the one person Blake won’t be able to see fall. There are other times in the tale that you will be pumping your fists in the air and cheering for the fact that ‘good versus evil’ still exists and that good still wins out.

Told from alternating points of view so that readers get a real feel for each character and the heart and soul they possess, Supreme Betrayal serves up knock-out punches through words and actions creating a battle that even Rocky, himself, would be proud to fight.

Quill says: Powerful and, at times, gut-wrenching, this engrossing thriller shines the light on history, politics, and society’s errors to create an unforgettable read.

For more information on Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 6),please visit the author's website at: www.markbello.com.