Monday, June 27, 2022

#BookReview - FitzDuncan's Fortune (The FitzDuncan Series Book 4)


FitzDuncan's Fortune (The FitzDuncan Series Book 4)

By: John J. Spearman
Publication Date: July 30, 2022
ISBN: 979-8828548408
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 23, 2022
Casimir FitzDuncan is off on another exciting adventure, or more accurately, several adventures, in the newest book in the FitzDuncan series, FitzDuncan’s Fortune.
The newest book in the FitzDuncan series opens with Casimir FitzDuncan (Caz to those who know him well) meeting with his friend Sir Oliver. Ollie is explaining how FitzDuncan’s stepmother hired Aloysius Fenwick, a paid assassin to kill him. Fortunately for FitzDuncan, his stepmother ran out of money and so Fenwick never followed through with the deed (and for those who haven’t read the earlier books, it catches them up on some of the previous action). Now, Ollie explains, the king has hired Fenwick because, well, shouldn’t every kingdom have a hired assassin?
As the story continues, we are re-introduced to Lucy, FitzDuncan’s betrothed, and learn a little about her magical abilities. Other returning characters Freddy, King Mark, Queen Liliana, and a few others, make quick appearances before the meat of the story gets introduced.
FitzDuncan’s first order of business is to help a man, Thomas Gibson, with his inheritance. FitzDuncan had briefly met Tom during a duel and while he didn’t have much time to form an opinion, FitzDuncan felt Tom was honorable. Tom explains that before his father passed away, he left most of his estate to Tom, with control of the estate going to his stepmother until he reached the age of thirty-five. That was fine since Tom’s stepmother was a kind and caring woman. Unfortunately, there’s an unscrupulous uncle who wants to get his hands on Tom’s inheritance. FitzDuncan likes to help people and happily takes the case. He thinks it’ll be an easy fix, even with the uncle’s blackmailing scheme, but when FitzDuncan learns of a crocked judge who will be deciding the case, things get messy.
The inheritance case isn’t all that FitzDuncan has to deal with. Indeed, it’s just the beginning of a very action-packed novel. When the king calls on FitzDuncan, our hero is disappointed to learn that he must accompany Fenwick (yes, that Fenwick, the assassin who was going to kill him) on a long journey to assassinate the sub-vizier of Alygien who has angered the king. FitzDuncan has to assume the role of an obnoxious, irritating noble while Fenwick will play the role of the servant, in order to get close to the sub-vizier. The question is, will the two travelers make it to Alygien before they try to kill each other?
Still, there’s more action in store for readers. Pirates, magic, sword fights and roaming bands of nomads are just some of the things that await FitzDuncan and his fans. And we mustn’t forget the impending wedding between FitzDuncan and his ever patient and beautiful Lucy. Will he even make it back in time from his travels before the scheduled wedding?
It can be hard to jump into any series “mid-stream,” but for this series, the author did a good job of getting new readers up to speed without spending too much time slowing the story down for die-hard fans. FitzDuncan is a very likeable protagonist and it was easy to dive into his story and get lost in his adventures. Told in the first person by FitzDuncan, the story flowed well and the dialogue was believable and the characters enjoyable, whether “good” or “bad.” Fenwick was definitely a favorite, and the interactions between him and FitzDuncan, when they were undercover, were some of the best, and funniest scenes. FitzDuncan overplayed his obnoxious noble role to perfection and their interactions with the sub-vizier were quite enjoyable. The fantasy touches, with magical elements, were interesting and intriguing but not overpowering to the story. The story ends with a cliff-hanger and readers will undoubtedly be anxious for the author to get busy writing and furthering FitzDuncan’s adventures.
Quill says: Whether you start with book 1 or book 4 in the FitzDuncan fantasy series, you won’t want to miss any of the action.
For more information on FitzDuncan's Fortune (The FitzDuncan Series Book 4), please visit the author's website at: www.johnjspearmanauthor.com

#BookReview - Season of My Enemy (Heroines of WWII series)


Season of My Enemy (Heroines of WWII)

By: Naomi Musch
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Publication Date: June 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63609-291-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 27, 2022
Naomi Musch’s shines a bright light on character Fannie O’Brien, a woman of substance in Season of My Enemy, the latest book in her Heroines of WWII series.
Barely a year ago Fannie O’Brien’s hopes and dreams for her future were promising despite the war that raged on in Europe. It’s 1944 and with the sudden passing of her father and two older brothers currently fighting the war overseas, she finds herself taking the lead and doing most of the men’s work on their 200-acre farm nestled in the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin. It was difficult to find help with the harvest. The men were either too young or too old given the heartiest were away at war. Imagine Fannie’s shock when her mother informs her and her younger brother and sister that she has a solution for additional help on the farm.
When Fannie and her younger brother Jerry take a break from the fields for lunch, their mother has an announcement. There are German prisoners on American soil who are more than able to lend a helping hand on the O’Brien farm. Granted, they come equipped with armed guards, but that doesn’t assuage Fannie’s resistance to allowing the ‘enemy’ on her family’s farm. The fact her two older brothers are in Germany fighting the egregious war only manages to fuel her dissent further. Sometimes things aren’t as they seem and when the reality hits that the prisoners will assist with the harvest, the turn of events in the days to come are moments even Fannie couldn’t fathom would have happened.
Naomi Musch has an obvious knack for blending history with a storyline that has wonderful flow. Her characters are rich and her ability to stage a scene that fits perfectly with the moment in time is exceptional: "Fannie O’Brien stepped inside through the back porch screen door. It clattered shut against a sinking sun that cast long, dripping gold rays across the turned black earth in the western field..." I have an admiration for a writer who can instantly transport his/her audience to a period that enables them to sense the mood as much as envision the scene. The era surrounding WWII is layered with a vast array of topics to write. The perspective of the women having to tend to the rich farmlands while the men went off to war is the theme of this story. Ms. Musch richly depicts the tenacity and perseverance through the development of her character Fannie O’Brien. She paints the soft side as well as the strength and forbearance Fannie must embrace to hold onto the O’Brien family’s legacy. Well done Ms. Musch; a fulfilling and enjoyable read.
Quill says: Season of My Enemy is a terrific portrayal of the convictions and fortitude of a women who shuns the notion of ever bowing down to a challenge.

Friday, June 24, 2022

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

#BookReview - A Perfect Night: The Haunted Women, Book One


A Perfect Night: The Haunted Women, Book One

By: Joseph Stone
Publication Date: June 2022
ISBN: 979-8435988710
Reviewed By: Tripti Kandari
Review Date: June 22, 2022
A Perfect Night, book one in Joseph Stone's The Haunted Women series, is a chilling mystery that revolves around an appalling family secret that is handed down through generations – only to females. Is there an ongoing connection with the spirits of loved ones, or an enigmatic “power of sight” passed from generation to generation? The reader will discover the answer as the narrative unravels the story of “The Haunted Women.”
Fourteen-year-old Frances Tarantino or Fran is all set to move in with her uncle and aunt, the Rizzos. Drew Tarantino, Fran's widowed father, who has been caring for Fran as a single parent for the past three years since Fran's mother died in an automobile accident due to an unspecified paranormal power, appears to be shirking his responsibilities. The Rizzos are a traditional Christian family with a ‘seemingly’ undramatic family life with five children. Fran finds a new environment at Rizzo’s which is different from the life she is used to living as a single child. Fran tells her aunt, Laura Rizzo, how her mother's spirit is with her each day, sending her gifts and “making beautiful ladybirds come” to her when she is sad. Laura, however unsettled and heartbroken, dismisses the youngster's confession as the result of a child who has recently lost a parent. Fran adores her mother's spirit and longs for it to manifest itself in some way. However, when the spirit of Fran's mother punishes her severely for minor-to-age misconduct, the reader must ask: Could it really be the spirit of her mother?
Meanwhile, Fran's father commits suicide, which she discovers in a dream. She realizes that she can now sense both her father's and mother's spirits. Fran tells her dowager great-aunt Aurora (her father's aunt) about her rare gift of seeing and experiencing spirits, who urges that she keep the subject quiet. Fran is not just heir to Aurora's grande dame fortune, but also to a bloodline that will make her the next generation of the haunted woman. Aurora wishes for Fran to prevent this "special power" (or curse disguised as a special power) from flowing down the lineage. Will Fran, the next in a long line of haunted women, be able to fulfill Aurora's wish to destroy the spirit that’s been possessing their bloodline for generations?
There is no denying the mysterious element of this book, which leaves the reader with bated breath until the very end. Through his characters, Joseph Stone discloses the psychology of both children and parents, as well as the very essence of what it means to be a human. Be it a sex desire to the point of discarding any sense of logic, or money matters that transcend goodwill, the characters' flaws provide a series of imperfect people with their own dilemmas – dilemmas that the reader cannot deem wholly immoral. Although some characters felt doomed, one can only wait and hope they will receive justice in the next book.
Quill says: A Perfect Night: The Haunted Women blends a ghastly mystery horror with an exuberant narrative devoted to teenagers' naiveté, and a splendid narrative about a Thanksgiving party, concluding with an ending that only heightens the anticipation of the sequel.
For more information on A Perfect Night: The Haunted Women, Book One, please visit the author's website at: www.authorjosephstone.com/

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Matthew J. Mckee, author of Keeping the Stars Awake


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Matthew J. McKee, author of Keeping the Stars Awake.

FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to someone preparing to read your work with no previous knowledge of its outré content?

McKEE: Wow! That’s a great starting question. Well, my advice would be: think of reading Keeping the Stars Awake on multiple levels. There is a story that is complete, acting as the basement level; it’s a humorous and self-contained creation that can be enjoyed all by itself. Above that there is a house full of psychological analysis and above that a meta-work sky that extends to eternity. Theses overlapping layers force themselves into that basement narrative and the book begins to bend and flex and ask you: as a reader, what power do you have here? The book asked a similar thing of me as the Author, and part of this outré—as you so eloquently put it—is that the book came alive to a certain extent and asked the characters to consider that question as well. What power do you have here? So, I’d advise my readers to look for those strains of story, psychological analysis, and meta-work and how they tie together, if they so wish. It’s wild, strange, and crazy, but also very upfront and real. Having a rotational perspective will make Keeping the Stars Awake that much more of an enjoyable and impressionable read.

FQ: "Dead in a matter of pages!" So starts the book’s synopsis. Did you ever hesitate about using that to open your book’s description? It certainly grabs one’s attention!

McKEE: I’m glad to hear it made some eyes boggle, ha ha! But did I ever hesitate? No, it was a very natural phrase that came to me and it worked on several levels, which I liked. First, it is—how you said—attention-grabbing, and second, it lets the reader know that plot armor doesn’t exist in the universe of Keeping the Stars Awake. I wanted in some way, even if only on a subconscious level, to let the reader know this book wasn’t safe. People will die; shit will hit the fan.

FQ: Did this teen saga have any connection to your own teen years?

McKEE: Well, nothing so ludicrous happened to me in small town Wyoming, of course, but books have always been a form of escape for me and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I had daydreamed more than once about some magical portal opening up and whisking me away on a grand adventure when I was young. I’m probably not alone there. That being said, I can distinctly remember a heavy lazy-haze hanging over my teenage years. And once again, I’m sure many people know what I mean. So, what if—just for example—a queen in battle armor showed up and offered teenage me a magic journey? Um, can I do it from my sofa? With a little bit of thought, teenage me probably wouldn’t have wanted to put in the effort. In that sense, it’s perfectly fair to say that yes, there is certainly a connection to my past experiences. That outlook certainly framed the story of Keeping the Stars Awake and informs the baseline for Oh Ok’s je ne sais blah blah blah attitude.

FQ: Have you ever experienced the kind of “shock” that your hero goes through?

Author Matthew J. McKee

McKEE: Hmmm. That’s an interesting question. And yes, I probably have. I was actually a danger-prone child growing up and I’ve broken a lot of bones. The worst of all, however, was when I broke my back. I was skiing in Grand Targhee and took a jump wrong. If I close my eyes I can still picture the sky floating above me, and the horror gripping my heart as I felt gravity claw at me. I fell backwards, face up, so that was pretty terrifying, too, in an existential dread sort of way. I never knew when I was going to hit the ground, so when I did, I hit hard and it jarred me so bad that I couldn’t breathe well for a few minutes afterward. Turns out I broke a vertebra in three places, and I’m pretty lucky that I still have full body function and no lasting trauma. Other than that, driving up to Anchorage in Alaska was a terrifying experience. I had to drive for almost a whole twenty-four hours straight through the dark on a road carved out of snow and there were signs posted along it telling me to keep the car moving over twenty miles per hour, else the engine would freeze and die. And as nerve-wracking as that was, worse were the eyes. They glinted in the dark just off the shoulder of the road: wolves, waiting. Just...waiting...

FQ: What writer(s) of bizarre fiction, or any fiction, inspired you to take off on this incredible fictional journey?

McKEE: Ah, this is the question to kill all those feelings of imposter syndrome! Because—yup. No matter what it is, someone has dipped their toe in it first and we who come after can be proud to take our inspiration and take our turn at the plate, swinging for the fences. In my case, here in Japan, the book world is overflowing with the “Isekai” genre, aka the “sent into another world” genre. There are also some great western classics that I can think of in “Portal Fantasy” like Jumanji, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Tron, but Japan leads in the genre currently. And seeing as a core tenant of being a writer is: read, read a lot; I have done just that. In the case of Keeping the Stars Awake, direct influences would have to be Nisio Isin and his Bakemonogatari series, Natsume Akatsuki’s Konosuba series, and in a quick shift in pace, P.K. Dick’s Ubik, C.G. Jung’s The Red Book: Liber Novus, and Natsume Soseki’s world famous I, am a Cat. If those sound spread out, I wouldn’t disagree, but for me the underlying shift in perspective and the welcoming of absurd turns in logic connect them all, and it is that aspect that I drew inspiration and experience from.

FQ: Do you have plans for the next book, or a sequel?

McKEE: Plans? Well, it’s hard to make a plan of the absurd, but yes, Oh Ok and Sen will return—or rather, their turn to drive my brain will come back around. Those two occupy an important place in my Jungian Shadow, as it were, and I’m not through with them just yet.

FQ: Is writing now your primary avocation or will you explore other avenues of creativity?

McKEE: Oh, I’ve always been a writer. I can’t talk as lucidly or laconically as I write and anything I draw looks best on a refrigerator door. I’ve always loved writing and I always told people when I was growing up that I wanted to be a writer. Getting a good start with Keeping the Stars Awake is a fantastic experience for me and I’m only getting started.

FQ: In your afterword you characterize this work as satire – what do you feel it is most pointedly satirizing?

McKEE: The big question! Perhaps THE question! Well, the answer to that must start in a slightly roundabout way: I didn’t write Keeping the Stars Awake with the intention to satirize to begin with. My brother asked me to “write something serious.” So I thought: all right, let’s get out all my silly, first. Let’s make a vomitorium of stupid, low brow chuckle-hut bits. But, at some point in the process, I showed a page of what I’d written to a friend. And he didn’t laugh. Instead, he turned his nose up at it and said something along the lines of: “That’s…honest, yeah. But I don’t know man, if you gotta get this guy out of you I suppose its good, but I’d get rid of him if I was you.” And that really struck a chord with me. I had to have a sit down with myself and the pieces of myself that were these characters and have a discussion about what was really going on. And from that sort of self-analysis, I came to the conclusion that it was an expression of me “learning to grow up.” To quote Jung: “The descent into the depths always seems to precede the ascent.”

That was the journey Sen, Oh Ok, and I were on, and while those two aren’t capable of the changes, they put that change to work in me and helped me see it. I wasn’t a bad person, but the bad parts in me were not things I had been able to clearly see up until then. And then I thought: How many people do you see like that these days? People who are not “bad” perse, but who say or do things that make you go “wow, that person has ZERO self-awareness.”? The answer is: way too damn many. And that is who Keeping the Stars Awake is sending up with its satire. All the people who start sentences with “I’m not a (fill in blank with whatever evil word you can think of e.g. racist) but...”, all the people who are shocked to learn they aren’t the hero they thought they were but don’t change, all the people who refuse to be part of the solution even as they declare they aren’t part of the problem, all the people who think they’re being witty when in fact they are being mean—those people. Because I believe there are some people who are too dogmatic to change, but others just need to be approached the right way. They need to see the truth for themselves without having it shoved in their face. The people who could change for the better if they looked in the right place in the mirror, those are the people I think Keeping the Stars Awake can reach.

We’ll go down to Dimension 23 together, laugh, stop laughing, start thinking, and start to climb up.

FQ: Having successfully created a wild ride of a story, can you now imagine writing something – perhaps set in your childhood haunts of Wyoming – of a more realistic, settled nature?

McKEE: Absolutely. I’m currently writing a collection of short stories. It should be a book even my grandmother could read. Of course, I’m also writing another story that is more in keeping with my usual style of insanity. But I will say writing Keeping the Stars Awake took a lot out of me, and it feels good to write something a little quieter before heading off in to the great open wilds of the absurd once more.


#BookReview - Living in the Gray by Katie Weber


Living in the Gray

By: Katie Weber
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 2022
ISBN: 978-1639883851
Reviewed by Lynette Latzko
Review Date: June 19, 2022
Living in the Gray is a memoir about living life despite all its uncertainties by blogger, author, and two-time (sort of) cancer survivor, Katie Weber.
In her early 20s, Katie was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. After successful treatment, her life seemed to return to normal for several years - she was able to finish school, start a career, and get married. Unfortunately at the age of 29, her cancer returned, and with it a whole host of life-changing events with effects that remain with her to this day in her mid-30s.
In Living in the Gray, the author shares with readers her experiences, feelings and insights of both the positives and many difficult struggles of living in a new reality as a disabled person. Living in the Gray also includes previously posted entries from the author’s blog, Cancer Thoughts and More, with an added recent commentary updating each post with her current thoughts in 2022.
Readers be forewarned, if you are in search of a fuzzy, feel-good read about a young woman overcoming cancer and flourishing despite the setbacks, you won’t get it in this book (even the author openly admits this in the introduction). However, this book will bestow honesty - sometimes life is terrible and unfair, sometimes there are good parts, and quite often there are even gray areas filled with uncertainty. The task then becomes finding a path towards happiness, despite the grays and limited choices. While Living in the Gray is a short read (despite the heavy topics discussed, the author’s writing is clear, flows well and is sprinkled with a bit of humor so that you may find yourself wanting to read more), it is quite impactful because it not only delivers thoughtful insights into the author's world, but it also encourages readers to think about their own lives, and that to me is inspirational.
Quill says: Living in the Gray is a short yet complex memoir that offers a good combination of honesty, and food-for-thought for everyone.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

#BookReview - Keeping the Stars Awake


Keeping the Stars Awake
By: Matthew J. McKee
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: May 2022
ISBN: 978-1639883462
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 16, 2022
A typical teenage boy – gutsy, rebellious, imaginative, sarcastic – finds himself dead, reborn and on a wild crazy trip with a beautiful non-human female in this non-conforming narrative by debut writer Matthew J. McKee.
The story begins as this teen is at his computer, when a voice simultaneous with its text, comes out of nowhere, telling him to “listen and obey.” The voice identifies itself as the Author, the Storyteller, who, overriding the boy’s objections, delivers its message: “Don’t trust the woman.” Moments later a terrifying but beautiful woman, the Queen, appears crouching on his windowsill, inviting him to take her hand. Or die. Using her sword, she whacks him, and begins to cut him to pieces. As he lies suffering, he hears other voices and sees nasty white goo oozing out of his computer. When he recovers, he finds himself imprisoned, watched over by another female – a pretty, girl-like creature who identifies herself as a Sentry, not human but a homunculus, who has eaten human flesh to survive.
The teen is asked to name himself, and he adopts the moniker “Oh Ok” and dubs the Sentry “Sen.” Together, with a trust blooming between them after she assures him that he has died as a human and now occupies a place where creatures like her live forever, they will make an escape from the cell he has landed in, after he is allowed two wishes. The first is the return of his hoody, which will allow him to disguise himself as he explores his new realm, and then a huge supply of Kinder Eggs. He and Sen will confront the sword-wielding Bloody, Bladed Queen of All and such mystical figures as The King of the Dead and the Mole-Men, as they seek and somehow locate a way out of whatever newly arising dilemma they encounter.
McKee follows this whacky whirlwind with an Afterword in which he humorously seeks to explain – or further obfuscate – his intentions in composing a book in which he, the Author, makes several brief appearances to set scenes right and remind Oh Ok that he is still in charge of the twisted, tangled plot skeins. His work seems designated for a young adult audience, featuring the wild, unclassifiable, creepy adventures of an intelligent, remarkably self-assured boy who has no shame about his caustic “four-letter” language, and a pretty, but also cleverly sardonic and equally intelligent girl who guides him as a good female should, without domineering. He is brave, she is his supportive and devious plotter as they boldly go forth. McKee states that his writing endeavors began in an isolated Alaskan cottage, and indeed this tale seems to have come out of the nowhere that such a scenario suggests, and begs a sequel.
Quill says: Keeping the Stars Awake is a lively epic of youthful grit in a thoroughly unearthly setting that will doubtless appeal to lovers of madcap, high-speed fantasy.
For more information on Keeping the Stars Awake, please visit the author's website at: www.matthewjmckee.com/

Thursday, June 16, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Kirsten Hegberg Pursell, author of On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Kirsten Hegberg Pursell, author of On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager.

FQ: There are a few times when reading your memoir that I really wanted to yell out to the young Kirsten different things including the fact that life will change over time. If you could have a conversation with yourself during that time, what would you tell her? 

PURSELL: I often found myself wanting to yell at her while I was writing the book! I don’t think it matters what I would have told her; she would have done what she wanted anyway. Wisdom is lost on youth. Ultimately, I would have said stay true to yourself and your convictions. Growing up isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s how we get to figure out what we’re supposed to be in all its many forms.

FQ: What are some of the things that you have learned since completing On Becoming Me?

PURSELL: I have learned that not everyone wants to remember those years, which is interesting because mine were not great, but they were necessary. My brother and I had that conversation. He was the popular kid. So, the opposite of me. But when we talked about the book, he said he felt a lot of the same things I did. I had no idea!

Other people have said I’m brave to put it out there. I don’t think of it as brave. I think it’s just real. And we need reminders about real people who struggle for whatever reason but come out okay on the other end. Famous people tell their stories, but stories like mine are about normal, everyday people. We all have struggles! I love when people tell me they take their time reading the book because they’re reflecting and remembering, too. It’s cathartic for them as well.

FQ: Have any of your children read this book or any of your journals, and if so, what did they think about it?

Author Kirsten Hegberg Pursell

PURSELL: Both my daughters have started the book. They’re both in college, which made extracurricular reading a little tough. My youngest daughter has appreciated some of my insights, even quoting me when I said that “College is about the experience, not the education.” I think they have an interest in finishing it. It’d make them appreciate even more why I am the ultra-cool mom that I am! And they might just figure out that I do understand a lot more than they think I do.

FQ: After many years you stopped writing in your diaries. Did you ever restart them?

PURSELL: That was the craziest revelation for me. I was so prolific. When I opened the last of the journals, I was crushed that I didn’t write more. I honestly think I had finally gotten to a really good place and didn’t need them as a crutch anymore. Off and on over the years I have taken to my computer and journaled. Feels so different than the pen and paper nostalgia of my diaries.

FQ: What is it about your memoir that makes it unique and stands out among the many other memoirs available?

PURSELL: First and foremost, the voice! Other than Go Ask Alice, I couldn’t find any other memoirs like mine that truly open up and give you that raw inside look at how a teenage brain thinks while they’re thinking it – not as I remembered it (they would have been so different!). I was all over the place, which I think is so normal. It’s confusing growing up. So many messages. I can’t even imagine what the inside of a teenage brain looks like today! I had some unique experiences as an athlete. I struggled with self-acceptance and suicidal thoughts. I crushed on celebrities. I ran the gamut of emotions. I also was really fortunate to get to experience a foreign culture and that was a huge influence growing up. Music and movies were huge for me then, too. Lots of ‘80s cultural references, a friendship journal, letters, and poetry all meshed together to tell the story.

FQ: As someone who has also spent years off and on handwriting in journals, I understand the value of not only writing in journals but also keeping them for the future. How would you encourage the current generation to unplug from their digital worlds, and write in a journal?

PURSELL: I love this question. I was on a beach in Hawaii last summer and I saw a girl writing in one. I started talking to her and told her about my book. We became “friends,” and she has read my book. She wrote for the same reason I’d encourage handwritten journals: it allows you the freedom to write your thoughts anytime, anywhere. Not worrying about backspacing or missing letters is such a beautiful part of journals. Plus, if you put them away for years like I did, they don’t get lost on your computer. They serve as one amazing reminder in book form of that time of your life.

FQ: Do you think writing in a digital journal could be just as effective as the “old-fashioned” way of writing by hand?

PURSELL: I think any kind of journaling is great. But holding that book in your hand, sneaking off to write, and feeling your words is special to the old-fashioned way. I could see how my tear stains smudged the ink on many pages. That was powerful.

FQ: You referred to several songs and movies from the 80s throughout your journals. What were your favorites?

PURSELL: There is no better decade than the ‘80s. John Hughes was a God. The Breakfast Club is still one of the greatest movies made on not judging books by their covers. I loved alternative rock. Depeche Mode seriously had a song for every mood. But the songs that could make me dance were the greatest. My all-time favorites of that decade are I’ll Stop the Worldand Melt with You by Modern English.

FQ: I noticed that you’ve also published two fiction novels, Harvard and Company Clown. Do you have any future writing plans in the works?

PURSELL: I am currently writing my fourth book called Long Enough to Love You. In ways, I consider it a fictitious sequel to my memoir. It’s a coming-of-middle-age story about second chances in life and love. It challenges many of life’s assumptions. I am loving writing it and sometimes feel I can’t finish it fast enough because I know the story will resonate with so many readers.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

#BookReview of Poteet Victory by J. Robert Keating


Poteet Victory

By: J. Robert Keating
Publication Date: June 1, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639882823
Reviewed by Lynette Latzko
Review Date: June 13, 2022
Come along with author J. Robert Keating, as he takes you on an amazing odyssey into the life of a remarkable man, artist, and American Indian, Poteet Victory.
Born in Idabel, Oklahoma, in 1947, Poteet lived a unique and difficult childhood on his own, essentially having to fend for himself after his parents abandoned him. But, despite a rough childhood, and many setbacks over the years, readers will quickly learn that Poteet’s drive to succeed and become a world-class painter wins out in the end. You see, Poteet Victory is a bit like a real-life Forrest Gump - wherever Forrest/Poteet traveled, interesting, fascinating, and sometimes even incredibly unbelievable things happened to him. For example, who would believe that moving to Hawaii with barely any money and direction, would turn into a wildly profitable silk-screening business? And how about not only rubbing elbows with famous people while living and studying in New York, but actually teaching Andy Warhol the finer points of silk screening?
If the above doesn’t impress you much, perhaps his story about being honored by Native American tribes for his artistic work memorializing all Native Americans and his attempt to educate the public about what really happened during the Trail of Tears, will pull at your heartstrings. These stories and plenty more are all contained in this fascinating book about a man’s life that is as entertaining as it is inspirational. Although this book is quite lengthy at over 600 pages, readers should not shy away from eagerly diving into, and learning about Poteet Victory; a man who believed his journey through life was all over the place, but ultimately got him through some of his darkest moments including alcoholism and poverty (not to mention five wives!), into one of the most celebrated American Indian painters in modern times.
Author Keating takes the actual dialog collected from interviews with Poteet Victory, and expertly weaves a seamless tale of Elliot Jacobs, a movie producer looking to make a TV series about Poteet’s life. This story flows so quickly and effortlessly that you don’t realize you aren’t just being entertained by stories, but you’re actually learning about a real person. A man who has been through it all, and has overcome so much to get where he is today and is someone who this reviewer feels would be a great teacher and friend. There is so much to say about this book and the life of Poteet Victory, that this one small review can’t fully do it justice. So go ahead, read the book; you won’t be disappointed.
Quill says: Come for the fascinating stories, but stay to learn about a truly remarkable man in Poteet Victory.
For more information on Poteet Victory, please visit the author's website at: www.jrobertkeating.com

#BookReview - Battle Cry by Jennifer Sara Widelitz


Battle Cry

By: Jennifer Sara Widelitz
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: April 30, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639882854
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 12, 2022
Author and visual artist Jennifer Sara Widelitz gives voice and vision to her inner hopes and fears through words both strong and delicate, and emotive drawings in her work Battle Cry.
The poems here are arrayed in five segments, emphasizing the challenges that have arisen gradually from her physical disabilities – autoimmunity and chronic invisible illness – and the effects these have had on her continued determination to explore all life’s possibilities.
“Before” is a grouping that recalls Widelitz’s childhood, her mother, and “the carefree days,” while reminding herself and her reader that “wishbones snap just as easily as hearts” (“Wishbones”). Then comes the “Crash” in which she laments in “Abandoned” that,
“My body feels
like the creaking floors
of an abandoned house…”
A gentler perception of the world she inhabits is conveyed in “Interlude: Nature’s Elixir” as she asks birds to sing her a song and “they always respond with a sonnet” (“Bird Song”). But then comes “Relapse” containing one of the poet’s most poignant cries, which will surely touch the hearts of anyone who, like Widelitz, faces chronic illness:
“Will you stay with me
Until I get better?
And will you still love me
Knowing that I may never?”
This poem is accompanied by one of its creator’s vibrant line drawings, of a small female figure crouching, curled in despair.
Widelitz, who has pursued a career in graphic and film arts, provides her own occasional and revelatory illustrations among the poetic pieces in Battle Cry. She concludes her aggregation with a hopeful stance embedded in the segment’s title: “Resilience.” It celebrates “Hope, Resurrected,” and invites the reader to “embrace the darkness.” Her volume, a debut foray into the realm of wording and wisdom, is dedicated, targeted, to - as she boldly lists at its onset - dreamers, those with broken hearts, optimists, pessimists, wanderers, and “the survivor of the human condition, you.”
Quill says: Widelitz’s approach to this new medium seems destined to find a well-deserved niche among those who, like her, have lived much and deeply, and who boldly anticipate much yet to experience.
For more information on Battle Cry, please visit the author's website at: www.jenniferwidelitz.com/

#AuthorInterview with Marsha Roopchand-Walker, author of Transcendence


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lily Andrews is talking with Marsha Roopchand-Walker, author of Transcendence: A Woman’s Guide on How to Heal, Discover Self-love for Better Health, Happiness and Abundance.
FQ: What were your goals and intentions when writing this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: My goals and intentions for writing this book is to help women to be able to discover their true potential and ability to heal in various ways. What is really keeping individuals from being truly happy are their own mental blocks in their mind. When they can remove these mental blocks they can discover true full happiness and abundance.
Based on feedback and reviews I received from readers, they find the book to be useful as well as valuable. So yes, I feel I have achieved part of my goal but there is still more to do.
FQ: Self-love is so important and yet so many people have trouble with the concept. Why do you think that is? Does our society make it more difficult?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: As women, we tend to naturally put our own needs aside for the sake of others, especially those who are mothers. I think society does make it a bit more difficult because women are doing much more than in the past years when women stayed at home and raised their children. They are juggling having careers in the workforce, and are not just staying at home raising the kids. Work in itself can be stressful as well as demanding and then we still need to show up and be there for our families by cooking dinner, helping with school work and supporting the kids in their other interest with sports or other activities, not to mention being a supportive wife. Some women are empty nesters yet they are faced with demanding jobs and or taking care of their elderly parents. It is hard to make time for yourself without feeling guilty for doing so, but it is very necessary.
FQ: You have shared with readers personal experiences that mirror the topics discussed across the chapters including the lifestyle changes that you have worked on over the years. How would you compare your life a couple of years ago and now? How about before writing Transcendence and after?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: My life compared to several years ago has been nothing but growth and continued learning. I didn't know how important it is to have sufficient vitamin D levels years ago when I lacked vitamin D. It can impact your health by causing muscle cramps, fatigue, hair loss and even depression. Having blood transfusion and 2 procedures to stop my continued bleeding episodes really made a major impact on how I needed to improve my health. In comparison to the present moment I am more health conscious now than before where I make self care a priority!
I actually have been writing since my teenage years. I find that I express myself better by writing. I used to write poetry as a teenager and wrote music when I was in a singing group. Now after the book I am continually learning more not just about how I can do better, but more about myself and how I can be more of service to my community of women. I love women empowerment!
FQ: The variety of subjects covered in your book is vast. Is there a particular subject that you found difficult to write about?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: Yes, discussing my childhood was very vulnerable for me as I am an introvert and very private person. Discussing my dad, my childhood memory of him and my mom arguing in addition to discussing the abuse by a neighbor was very vulner for me. I never revealed it to anyone growing up. Also, admitting to living with ADD was something I needed to share despite how critics may view those with brain health issues, I know for me sharing my own diagnosis will help others and I won’t fit into any labels nor do I take any pills!
FQ: As I mentioned earlier, there is an extensive list of topics covered in Transcendence. How did you decide what to include and are there topics you didn’t have room for, that might perhaps be in a follow-up book?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: The Nutrition section could have been a book by itself alone! There’s so much that you can talk about as far as food and nutrients, but I just provided some basics and the importance of food choices and vitamins. I decided I needed to talk about all the topics in the book because they are all quite necessary for personal growth and healing. I didn't discuss emotional maturity and I think I only touched on the topic of communication and yes, I may need to discuss those in another book. My next book on food will cover more on gut brain health if not a cookbook. I haven't decided yet.
FQ: What is the most important lesson that you would want your audience to draw from your book?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: The most important lesson anyone can learn from this book is no matter what you may have experienced growing up or any challenges you may have faced such as health issues, loss of a loved one past trauma, you can still triumph and rise above it all. Once you decide to no longer be the victim and change your mindset you can literally change your reality. Once you do that you can change your entire life!
FQ: Please tell our readers a bit about your business, Health Coach 4 Women Wellness Studio. How did it come about and what are your on-going goals for the company?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: Health Coach 4 Women Wellness Studio started with my own health journey dealing with continuous bleeding from fibroids and getting a blood transfusion which led me on the path of healing. I wanted to help those on their journey and became a health and life coach along with neuro linguistic training on reframing the mind. My ongoing goals for the company is to not only provide coaching and meal plans but to open my actual wellness studio and spa that will provide various services for wellness such as lymphatic drainage messages, meditation sessions, facials, healing herbs education and much more. I want my business to be the place where people come to escape and find serenity of pure relaxation and peace as they continue to move through life living in a state of FLOW Feeling Love Overflow Within.
FQ: The country, and indeed, the whole world, has been through an unprecedented pandemic. How did the self-quarantine and overall worrying about one’s health during the pandemic hurt us?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: Oh my goodness, this is a great question. Many people were and still are living in a state of fear! Being afraid of the unknown, afraid of the future, afraid of dying and adding more stress and anxiety to their lives without realizing that they are weakening their own immune system. Stress is the silent killer! We need to learn how to adapt to changes that are out of our control without losing control. We only have control of how we react to certain situations. The pandemic has caused increased mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Alcohol use and the increase of domestic violence has increased as well putting us more at risk to develop illnesses and diseases.
FQ: In your book, and on your website, healthy eating is one topic that you discuss, and how the wrong foods can hurt your body. Why do you think Americans have such a love/hate relationship with food, and why do so many eat so poorly?
ROOPCHAND-WALKER: Advertising! They make it so tempting! They make these foods look so good and they tell you that they're good for you when it’s quite the opposite. We love the food for the taste, then we feel guilty after eating it because we know it’s unhealthy! Added flavors, fat and sugars is what makes the food so tasty.
Portion control! If we can limit our food portions this can be a useful benefit. Using a smaller plate can help you not to overindulge. Make veggies half your plate as well as protein and carbs, should both be a quarter of your plate size. When eating out, eat and you're served a large plate, eat half of your meal and box the rest. Never feel like you need to eat all that is on your plate.
Lack of knowledge about food is another issue. But if people knew the real facts about sugar which is more addictive than cocaine and what it does to the body, then they may reconsider their food choices. Recognizing food labels is something we should pay attention to. Ingredients such as maltodextrin which is a bioengineered food additives should be avoided just as much as fructose corn syrup which the liver processes and turns it into fat should also be avoided.as well as other added sugars they are unhealthy for you and these sugars metabolize quickly in the body spiking your sugar levels. Let’s eat to live rather than live to eat by learning educating ourselves more on food choices and how to prepare them.