Monday, June 27, 2022
By: John J. Spearman
Publication Date: July 30, 2022
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
By: Naomi Musch
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Publication Date: June 2022
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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This is an excellent option for those on a tight marketing budget. The Author Interview is the perfect way to get information on your book out onto our various social media sites as well as our main website. This promotional package does not require a review of the book prior to posting the interview. For these interviews, we provide the author/publisher/publicist a link that has a series of standard questions. Once you have purchased your interview, we will send you the url of the page with the list of questions. You may pick up to ten questions, answer at your convenience, and return your answers to us. We will include an Amazon link to your book’s/ebook’s page. Submit your book here:
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
By: Joseph Stone
Publication Date: June 2022
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
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Matthew J. McKee, author of Keeping the Stars Awake.
By: Katie Weber
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 2022
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
By: Matthew J. McKee
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: May 2022
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
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Kirsten Hegberg Pursell, author of On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
By: J. Robert Keating
Publication Date: June 1, 2022
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
By: Jennifer Sara Widelitz
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: April 30, 2022
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/
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.