Tuesday, February 28, 2023
#BookReview of Standing Dead: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
#AuthorInterview with Heidi Laird, author of The Frankfurt Kitchen
Monday, February 27, 2023
#BookReview of Pack of the Lost
Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest
By: Nikita Kapoor
Publisher: Paper Lily Press
Publication Date: October 5, 2022
Reviewed by: Trix Lee-Rainwater
Review Date: February 23, 2023
After their home is ruined and two young wolves are separated from their pack, what kind of adventures will they encounter as they set out to reunite and rebuild what was broken? We follow Daffodil and Jasper in their journey in Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest by Nikita Kapoor.
When the roof of the mountain cave collapsed, there came chaos. The wolves were scattered and the leader of the wolf pack residing in the cave fell unconscious after casting a magical spell to save his packmates from falling rocks. In the aftermath of the chaos, two wolves, Daffodil and Jasper, found themselves separated from the pack. For some reason, these two wolves ended up trodding inside the Uninviting Forest, a dark and dense woods full of overgrown and prickly undergrowth. After a frightening encounter with tigers, the two wolves got separated and they each had their own set of adventures while trying to get reunited.
As Jasper was trying to figure out a way to find Daffodil, he met two Yorkshire terriers named Cosmo and Nova. The terriers brought the wolf to the human places where they had an incident with a triple-decker bus in which, fortunately, nobody got hurt. Jasper eventually met a mean and aggressive doberman called Fang and a friendly chubby bulldog called Rocky in his efforts to find his missing friend. In the meantime, Daffodil came across one of the other wolves in their pack. While digging in the soil to escape the sweltering heat of the sun, Daffodil came across a shiny amulet which turned out to be an artifact from wolf siblings who were descendants of the wolf god of the sun. It then came to light that Daffodil was a descendant of one of these legendary siblings, a wolf named Felix. The legendary Felix then appeared in front of Daffodil and gave her instructions to rebuild the broken pack.
Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest by Nikita Kapoor is a children’s fantasy novel about rising up to the challenges and responsibilities of being a leader and how personal darkness could turn you into someone malicious and could push allies away from you. There are a few scenes that seemed abrupt and out of character such as the scene when Jasper suddenly decided to invite Daffodil to go into the forbidden Uninviting Forest even though he was sent away from the collapsing cave chaos specifically to take care of Daffodil. Similarly, the subplot about Daffodil’s personal darkness, when she started being aggressive and mean to the other puppies, came out of nowhere and was resolved just as abruptly. It would have been great to see a foreshadowing and a closure for such an important subplot. Nonetheless, considering that the author is just ten years of age, she created an entertaining story for kids. I’m interested to see how the author could grow into her potential as a writer.
Quill says: Although it has some plot holes, Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest is an entertaining fantasy novel for kids about mystical wolves and the journey in finding allies to rebuild a broken pack.
For more information on Pack of the Lost: The Uninviting Forest, please visit the author's website at: www.nikitakapoor.net
#BookReview of Nature Study Buddies
#Bookreview of Mr. Thatcher's House
Friday, February 24, 2023
#AuthorInterview with Bruce Smith, author of Legend Keepers: The Partnership
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Bruce Smith, author of Legend Keepers: The Partnership.
FQ: I really love the concept of Legend Keepers and having the animal characters be such a huge part of the story. Where did the character of Buddy come from? Why a mountain goat and not some other animal?
SMITH: Why not reveal climate change through the eyes and lives of animals who live its consequences every day? Animals serve kids as trusted teachers and the mountain goat is a perfect gateway species to the climate crisis. It lives at higher altitudes than any other large animal in North America. And it’s at those highest altitudes—and the highest latitudes—that the planet is warming fastest. Species living up there must adapt fast, if they can.
Buddy, the heroine kid mountain goat, leapt from the pages of my nonfiction book, Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat. Adapting the book’s chapter that explains how global warming is affecting alpine creatures into a story for young readers—and creating Buddy, this charismatic central character—was an easy choice.
I also chose Buddy as the protagonist because of my fondness for mountain goats. That dates back to the 1970s when I spent 2 years living among and studying them deep in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area of western Montana.
FQ: What made you decide to include a human character in the second book as such a major part of the story?
SMITH: Although Buddy knows that things are changing on her mountain, she doesn’t know why. To explore the climate crisis more deeply, human characters needed to join the story in the series’ second book, The Partnership. They bring more depth and layers to the story.
For Garson’s sixth-grade science project, he climbs to the Shining Mountain Glacier in the wilderness that’s near his home. There, he encounters Buddy and that changes everything as these two kids’ lives become entwined. Their shared alarm over the Great Warming’s threat to the glacier, and to Buddy’s mountaintop home, transforms Garson from an introverted boy into an environmental advocate. Sometimes it takes a partnership to bring out the best in us.
FQ: I love that Garson is such a normal kid and that a part of your storyline was not only his desire to help Buddy and the others, but you also show us how hard his personal life is at times. Was it hard to go off-topic, so to speak, and give the reader the personal as well as the science?
SMITH: I think the most endearing and relatable characters are those who are flawed and face personal challenges. It gives them room to grow. That was common to the lives of both protagonists. Garson just didn’t fit in and was bullied because he was different, not unlike many kids. During the course of the Legend Keepers story, he grows more self-confident. His growth is a product of discovering and acting on what is important to him—his purpose—as is the case for his costar, Buddy. In a sense they live parallel lives. This provides readers both a boy and an animal to root for. Both are great role models. These protagonists also provide readers an opportunity to experience the climate crisis through the eyes and lives of both animals and kids.
FQ: Was there a lot of research involved in this story regarding the science (glaciers, global warming, etc.) and how hard was it to translate all of that information into something that kids could easily understand?
SMITH: Writing about topics an author is familiar with, and in my case subjects I’ve studied and written nonfiction about, does simplify the background research. Yet, it’s important to be current on the subject matter. So I did plenty of reading. I also conducted personal interviews of forest ecologists, glaciologists, and Marine Corps recruiters to ensure the underpinnings of the story were factually accurate. But that alone doesn’t make a good story. I read loads of current middle-grade fiction and studied the craft of writing for this age group. It also helps to live inside the characters while writing.
FQ: I know that I do, but do you have a personal favorite out of the characters you have created?
SMITH: The most fun about creating Legend Keepers was bringing to life this cast of characters. Certainly so for the animal characters. As Buddy interacted with Roark the wizardly raven, Maurice the vociferous, daffy marmot, Whodare the cool, courageous pygmy owl, and the other mountain goats of her band, the characters became believable—at least to me. Perhaps without young readers aware of it, animal characters serve as stand-ins for humans. We can find something relatable in each as they struggle to overcome obstacles and discover the importance of friends and family.
Which one is my favorite? Well, that’s like asking parents which child they like best.
FQ: What made you decide to write the series for kids rather than adults? Do you feel that the books are helping kids to understand the issues that our planet faces?
SMITH: Young people are feeling stressed about the climate crisis. They’re smart. They see, hear, and read what’s happening. And with their whole lives in front of them, they know that the changing climate’s consequences are sure to grow worse for them. Many kids are experiencing what psychologists now call eco-anxiety or climate grief. The good news is that young people are taking action. They’re leading the way because they feel that we adults are failing them. To nourish kids’ aspirations and activism through hopeful stories is why I wrote Legend Keepers for them.
The Legend Keepers books blend fact with fiction to entertain, educate, and empower readers. “The Science Behind Legend Keepers” offers several pages of information at the back of each book about geology, glaciers, climate change, and the animals in the story plus suggested further reading. These are perfect classroom books for STEM learning, and for family discussions. I would like to see Legend Keepers, and books with similar messages, in every school library and part of classroom curricula.
FQ: I must say that I adore the drawing on the cover of the book. Did you design it yourself or did someone else handle the art? If so, did you tell them what you wanted it to look like?
SMITH: I feel the same way about the cover artwork! Of course, I’m biased. My wife Diana created the watercolor art. The general designs for the covers were my idea. She took my simple sketches and created on paper what I could only imagine. Nice that her office is just down the hall from mine so that I could watch the interior illustrations and book covers come to life.
FQ: I know from your biography that you have written non-fiction books as well. Which is easier for you to write? What made you choose to create a fiction series on this topic instead?
SMITH: A big question. I hadn’t planned to switch from writing adult nonfiction books to writing fiction for kids. I had no prior experience doing it. But when I was on a book tour for Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat, I was disappointed that few children came to my events. Their parents and grandparents didn’t bring them, even though event publicity made clear “This is a talk for the whole family, with lots of slides of animals.” It just hit me that I needed to write a story for kids. I’d talk directly to them, or rather the characters in my novel would.
So that the book wouldn’t sound preachy, I chose fiction and wrapped the climate theme in a grand adventure at the roof of the world. Because it was new to me, I can’t say writing fiction was easier than my nonfiction projects, just more fun and creative. I discovered that the interplay of the characters I fashioned, and came to love, had as much to do with the story’s arc as did any preconceived plot. Holding a loose rein on what I thought “would be” was essential to the creative process. Writing nonfiction, even narrative nonfiction, is nothing like that!
FQ: Can you tell us what comes next for Buddy, Garson, and the rest of our new friends?
SMITH: To tie up all the loose ends left dangling in the second book is the challenge for me in the next book. I’m curious just how the characters will do that. Perhaps it’s best for me to answer your question with no more than the teaser at the end of The Partnership: Garson is determined to keep his promise to Buddy, even as Roark chides her, “Maybe there’s nothing goats and ravens can do to change the future. And whatever makes you think that boy can?” But never underestimate a twelve-year-old with a plan. There’s nothing Garson wants more than to protect Shining Mountain. Nothing except to see his dad again, and perhaps Buddy.
Thursday, February 23, 2023
#bookReview of Legend Keepers: The Partnership by Bruce Smith
Meet Author Melissa Ahonen
Meet Author Melissa Ahonen and learn about her award-winning book, Aspen's Magical Mermaid Necklace in her new author biography page at Feathered Quill Book Reviews:
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
#AuthorInterview with Betsy L. Ross, author of The Bones of the World
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Betsy L. Ross, author of The Bones of the World.
FQ: Thank you for your time today. I’m looking forward to discussing The Bones of the World with you. Before jumping into the storyline, I would be remiss if I didn’t address your impressive biography. I’m particularly interested in your ‘happily retired attorney’ status. What type of law did you practice and what is your takeaway from being an attorney?
ROSS: I’ve had a varied career as an attorney, but most of my time was spent as an attorney for the State of Utah, the most challenging/rewarding position as lead judge for the State Records Committee, a quasi-judicial entity that resolved disputes over access to government records. Sounds arcane, but there were often sensitive records at issue and the decision to retain or release had conflicting consequences. It taught me how to listen well, how to take into account differing perspectives, and how to live with often imperfect outcomes.
FQ: Moving into The Bones of the World...I enjoyed the mechanics of how you laid out the story in that you continue to anchor the accounts of many of the adult characters through the eyes of the children’s stories. Without too much of a spoiler, what was your motivation in structuring the novel this way?
ROSS: Ultimately, the children’s stories are the core of the novel. All of the action occurs in preparation for those stories to be told. That structure highlights the (damnable) cyclical nature of the events, but also allows the spotlight to be shared with the idea of stories and their purpose.
FQ: I enjoyed the development of the relationships among Inés, Eloise, and Rachel and their connection with the afterlife. I’m a strong believer we humans have the ability to converse with the spirit world. Have you ever encountered an experience when you have done this? If so, can you elaborate?
ROSS: I am a believer, foremost, in possibilities, aware as I am of my limited perspective on life. In fact, literature is my way of attempting to broaden my perspective, and my own writing is the way I can play with realities I may not live. But it sounds like you may have a much more interesting answer to that excellent question than I gave!
FQ: In line with my previous question, do you believe the stronger one’s faith is anchored, the greater their ability to see and communicate with things/situations others less connected with their faith are not able to do? If so, what’s your theory?
ROSS: You could probably tell from my answer above that anchors frighten me. Rigidity frightens me. Certainty frightens me. But I allow that, as I suggested above, that is just me. I don’t know the answer to your question. In fact, I know the answers to few questions, but revel in questions and in the consideration of answers.
FQ: With all due respect, I’ve not watched your documentary Looking for David yet. However, I would like to understand how incredibly difficult this must have been to produce this tragic story. What was your defining moment to go forward?
ROSS: I hope you’ll watch it, and that many others will continue to watch it as well, as I made it to educate those who believe that addiction strikes only the weak. I made it as a love story to my son, talented, kind, remarkable young man that he was. And I made it, ultimately, because when I found David dead, I had no idea he suffered an addiction to opioids. For me the defining moment was the morning I walked down the stairs at 7 am, looked into the darkened family room, saw him slumped over the coffee table, told him to go to bed and he didn’t answer.
FQ: My personal commitment as a writer consistently relies upon who I am writing the story for before I sit down to actually engage in telling the story. In my opinion, some of the greatest writers who have ever lived (and live) focus on this guiding principle; hence delivering an epic read. What is your view toward this sentiment and if you had to impart one of your guiding principles in writing, what would that be and why?
ROSS: I write to understand, to explore things that currently play an important part in my life. So The Bones of the Worldbegan with my attempt to understand “suffering.” The novel I am currently working on is an attempt to understand “generosity.” I actually don’t think of an audience, but I’m interested in how that works for you.
FQ: In line with my previous question, do you believe in order to be an accomplished writer, one must also be a voracious reader? Please elaborate.
ROSS: Wow, you have wonderful questions. I would have to say that it likely helps to be a voracious reader but is not necessary. I am thinking of oral traditions, the Bible, Homeric poems, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Native American stories, etc. when I suggest it is not necessary. However, I know The Bones of the World is built on the backs of so much great literature, without which it would not be the same.
FQ: Thank you again for the opportunity to sit and chat with you today. I cannot imagine you aren’t already working on your next novel. If so, are you able to share? If not, what’s next?
ROSS: I am working on three different concepts right now, waiting for one to carry me off by storm and demand that I finish it.
#BookReview of The Bones of the World by Betsy L. Ross
The Bones of the World
By: Betsy L. Ross
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 30, 2022
Filmmaker, poet, book reviewer, and retired attorney Betsy L. Ross adds to her cache of talent with the delivery of her novel, The Bones of the World. She takes her audience on a spiritual journey as told through the voices and souls of her memorable characters.
The story begins with Rachel. She is hiding from the Righteous, a group of militants determined to wipe out the existence of the Jewish population. Her husband Henry has taken her to a safe place; a mansion located next to an enchanted cemetery. This is where Rachel will begin her journey down her spiritual path of uncovering a familial history of pain and suffering and most importantly, the truth. The mansion is owned by sisters Eloise and Inés who have the powers to speak with the dead. Inés has experienced the voices and interacted with the Jewish children murdered long ago by the Righteous. The children wait patiently in the cemetery for their turn to tell Inés their painful tales. It is time for Rachel to hear these horrific accounts as a means to awaken her to her own Jewish heritage.
During the many situations Rachel encounters in her dreams, Rachel meets Sariah. She is a young woman who had two strikes against her. The Inquisition had labeled her not only as a Jew, but a lesbian. In tandem with meeting Sariah, Rachel is introduced to Jakob, a young boy who throughout the Holocaust, spent his youth hidden in a farmhouse where his thoughts were consumed by hours and days of plotting his revenge. Rachel navigates between consciousness and dreams as she mentally tries to sort out what is real and what is a dream. She is terrified for her son David and while she refuses to acknowledge it, the fact is, he is dead. David’s demise happened at a time known as the ‘Night of the Ascent.’ How does her husband Henry fit into this confusing puzzle and why is her mother’s friend Maura a vital key to answering this particular question for Rachel?
I applaud Betsy L. Ross for embarking on her journey of writing a faceted novel that addresses the history of the Holocaust. She sets the tone on the first page with the introduction of character Rachel and how she may appear as a woman and wife of privilege, yet her deeper sense of being is she is a Jewish woman. Ross’ adept driving of her pen makes it clear she has deeper plans in store for her character. Ross layers her tale with precise scenery that lends way to credible dialogue: "...She can’t remember exactly when the room had begun speaking to her. Not in words exactly, but in patterns she found in niches and corners. Three cracks in the plaster of the ceiling above her bed. Some nights, as she lay observing them, they were the branches of a tree; one night, a laurel, and she imagined herself Daphne, metamorphosing just in time to elude Apollo’s lustful advances..." Ross is cautious with her word use in that she doesn’t pen a prolific rant of loathing in listing all that was clearly catastrophic and devastating when one selects the Holocaust as his/her backdrop to the novel. Rather, she is kind and gentle and open-minded, but forceful just the same in anchoring the point that this is a time in history that should have never occurred. Ross adopts a back-and-forth style from chapter to chapter among her characters and plants enough of a seed at the end of each to tie the sum of all together as she approaches the end of her tale. Bravo Ms. Ross. I am a fan and look forward to reading your next body of work.
Quill says: The Bones of the World is a prolific account of why we must ‘never forget’ what history encourages us to learn.
For more information on The Bones of the World, please visit the author's website at: www.betsylross.com/