Tuesday, July 31, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Adam Siddiq @AdamMSiddiq

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Adam Siddiq, author of Shackled: A Journey From Political Imprisonment to Freedom.
FQ:  After reading such a vivid account of your grandfather’s life, I feel a bit of closeness to him, so I’m wondering, how is he doing?
Adam Siddiq's Grandfather Khaled Siddiq
SIDDIQ: My grandpa was recently in between the hospital and medical rehab for nearly 6 weeks, struggling with pneumonia. He overcame his health challenges and is doing much better at his home now, where he's been recording the last 60 pages of his memoir in Farsi.
FQ: There are many ups and downs in the writing process; what was your favorite and most difficult aspect of embarking upon such a grand and honored task as writing your grandfather’s memoir?
SIDDIQ: My favorite part of writing Shackled was bonding with my grandpa and getting to know my ancestors. It was a very special experience to get to know the people behind so many of the pictures in the book. Also, as I mentioned in the author's note at the beginning of the book, I felt the presences of my ancestors as I'd write into the late hours of the night. This wasn't something that happened once, twice or even twenty times. This was something I experienced over the course of bringing this book to life. Experiencing that was sacred for me.
The most difficult aspect of writing this book...well, I'd say there were two difficult aspects. For one, it was challenging at times for my grandpa to open up with depth and detail about the tragic things he witnessed and experienced. This often took days, even weeks at times, for him to remember and share. I also had to be cautious of when I'd ask him such questions. I lived in his home for about a year during the majority of the writing process and the nights that I'd ask him questions about tragic events, I'd hear him have troubles sleeping as if he was remembering and experiencing those events as nightmares. So, I learned to ask those kinds of questions only in the mornings and to be very patient with his answering. The other difficult aspect of writing this book was acknowledging that this happened to my grandpa and our family.
Adam Siddiq with his grandfather
FQ: What motivated you to write his memoir?
SIDDIQ: Many things motivated me to write this memoir. The biggest thing of all is I felt I was guided to write this memoir, and I feel it's evident for others when they look at the facts in hindsight. For instance, it was a month after my sixth birthday that I first learned what happened to my grandpa and the entire family. It was a month after my grandpa's sixth birthday that the imprisonment began. It was about four months after my 25th birthday that Shackled was published. It was about four months after my grandpa's 25th birthday that he was released from imprisonment. My grandpa named me. My grandpa has written an abundance of poems and composed songs that have been sung by the most famous Afghan and Persian singers in the world. I was inspired by my grandpa to write books and poetry since I was a young kid and had been writing ever since. It's evident there's a bond beyond what I can imagine with my grandpa and me. It was after my grandma passed away that I knew I had to spend more time with my grandpa and to learn more about what my family went through, but based on the above facts, one can see how it was set in motion for me to collaborate with my grandpa on this project from very early on.
FQ: How did your family react to your decision to write about your grandfather’s past? Did they ever have any concerns about bringing up his past in his senior years?
SIDDIQ: My father's side of the family was very supportive of it. The main concerns they had were related to asking questions that elicited raw emotion and telling the stories of the tragedies he witnessed and experienced, given my grandpa's age and out of concern for his health.
FQ: In the book it mentions your grandfather eventually moved to California to be closer to his family. Did he face any challenges in his move from Germany to the United States?
SIDDIQ: No, my grandpa didn't face any challenges moving to the United States. If anything, it would be that he really loved life in Germany. He still misses it to this day. He's also natively fluent in German, where he's conversationally fluent in English, so it's easier for him to read, write, speak in German.
FQ: Shackled is divided up into parts I to IV and each one begins with an excerpt from one of your grandfather’s writings. I was especially interested in Part II entitled, “Open Your Intuitive Eyes.” Could you briefly tell readers more about your grandfather’s other writings? 
SIDDIQ: Absolutely! My grandfather is a poet, song composer, and author of several books, including the most comprehensive history book on Afghanistan over the past two centuries. Each part of Shackled contains a few verses from different poems my grandpa has published. My grandpa has also written a book about philosophy and mystic wisdom, covering all the great philosophers, mystics, and poets he's studied over the years with core lessons and teachings they provide.
The author with his grandfather
FQ: I read on your Facebook page that you started a group entitled, “Humanity is My Family.” Can you explain to readers what this is, and why you decided to create the group?
SIDDIQ: I started the "Humanity Is My Family" group because I want to inspire more humanity in the world. I made two videos that showcased this message and went viral on social media. One was of me showcasing my DNA test results and it ends with my stating that humanity is my family, and then crossing out the word "my" and writing "our" above it. People all around the world loved this message so much that they've been using it in silent protests for human rights, transforming perspectives from hate to love and acceptance, and bringing their own humanity into the world. As far as from where I gained a strong sense of human rights, it's been something in my family lineage. The group has been steadily growing with people from around the world sharing their own personal stories.
FQ: Do you have any plans for future writings that readers can look forward to seeing?
SIDDIQ: Yes! I have several books in the works right now, including a fiction series! Of the non-fiction books I've been writing, one of them goes in depth with the theme of my podcast: living a soulfully optimized life (a life guided by purpose, contribution, and creating a profound impact for life). Another non-fiction book I've been developing is about modern-day interpretations and meanings from Rumi's poems, and how we can apply them to live a more love-inspired, magical life. As for the fiction series, all I can share for now is that the inspirations behind what I've been writing include Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini, and J.K. Rowling.

Meet Author Adam Siddiq

Meet Author Adam Siddiq - author of Shackled

Check out his new author page on Feathered Quill 

#BookReview - Shackled @adammsiddiq

Shackled: A Journey From Political Imprisonment to Freedom

By: Adam Siddiq
Publisher: Lineage Publishing
Publication Date: December 2017
ISBN: 978-1946852007
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: July 30, 2018
In the latter part of the 19th century, Commander-In-Chief Ghulam Haidar Khan Charki became a national hero with his successful efforts to peacefully unite all of Afghanistan. His four sons also became critical government figures, and together with the soon-to-be King, Prince Amanullah, they worked diligently on the arduous task of modernizing the outdated country of Afghanistan. These changes included such things as building relationships with Europe, abolishing slavery, and creating freedom and equality for women. Unfortunately, not everyone believed that King Amanullah’s plans were in the best interest of the country, and while he was overseas in 1929, a coup was developed and successfully forged against him. This led to thousands of people, many loyal to the original King, including the Charki family, to become political prisoners.
Author Adam Siddiq, Khaled Siddiq’s grandson composes a beautifully intense (often leaving this reader teary eyed) and inspiring true account of Khaled’s life that includes many touching family photos, and a solid account of Afghanistan’s turbulent history. The journey begins in 1932, when Khaled is a mere boy of six. His father, Ghulam Siddiq Khan Charki (son of Ghulam Haidar Khan Charki) is exiled, some of his uncles are executed, and his family is imprisoned in Kabul. Forced to barely survive in wretched conditions, Khaled and his family suffer from (and some succumb to) various preventable illnesses. However, instead of languishing in their misery and giving up hope for freedom, Khaled’s family, with the help of his aunt, decide to make the best of their situations by educating the young children. Over the decades of his imprisonment, Khaled was able to learn to speak fluently in several languages, and most importantly he was able to develop the patience, optimism, kindness and fortitude that would serve him immensely throughout the decades of his imprisonment, home confinement, and further struggles with the new Afghanistan government.
A few decades ago, I was a student nearing the end of my studies where our teacher was discussing the critical importance and utmost value of education. The teacher made a profound statement that really left a mark in my memories - he said, “They may take your cars and your possessions. They may foreclose on your home. The world may even do the unthinkable by taking away your family and loved ones, but what no one will ever be able to take away from you is your education. Once you have it, it is yours forever. No one can take that away from you.”
I thought about it, and eventually forgot about what was said that day. Fortunately, over the years, I never had to personally experience repeated and devastating loss, so my teacher’s profundity never truly struck home with me until many years later when I was deep into reading this memoir. Khaled Siddiq experienced substantial loss of his family, his family home and their possessions (and their trusted positions in the government) and most importantly his own freedom at the tender age of six. Yet through all this repeated devastation, he quickly learned the extreme value of education and was ultimately able to withstand years of abuse to, in essence, conquer an entire nation that was against him and his family, and win his complete freedom.
Quill says:  Shackled: A Journey From Political Imprisonment to Freedom, is a powerful true story of one man’s life in Afghanistan filled with raw emotion that is an inspiring must-read for all humankind.
For more information on Shackled: A Journey From Political Imprisonment to Freedom please visit the author's website at: www.adamsiddiq.com

Meet the Author - James C. McCullagh @ChuckMcCullagh

Meet Author James C. McCullagh, author of Chanting the Feminine Down - featheredquill.com/author-bios-james-mccullagh/

#BookReview - Chanting the Feminine Down @ChuckMcCullagh

Chanting the Feminine Down: A Psychological, Religious, and Historical Novel

By: James C. McCullagh
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1-979059909
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 30, 2018
Readers begin in the Bronx…behind a curtain.  There is, however, far more in regards to the “scenery” than you would imagine if you’re seeking a simple “girl in New York” tale. Which is exactly what would and should lead you to read on.
Her name is Colette McGovern and she is going through a time in life that is, by all rights, a choice, but a choice that she must live with for the end of time. She is also a graduate student in the field of Christian Theology. Her journey, so to speak, begins when Colette must choose a topic and put together her senior project for Professor Gleason. But the last thing Colette wants to do is really throw herself into the topic. As she, herself, states, she didn’t care if her topic was about the man on the moon, just so long as it was unexciting and at a time in history that was so far back no one would care too much about it. In other words, get the grade and get out…of both school and the Bronx, which is exactly what Colette is yearning to do. Thus, she picks the Council of Trent as her theme, and even Gleason could care less, thinking that particular period to be nothing more than confused and boring.
Colette’s mother’s name is Patricia. She is what some in today’s society would deem “a die-hard Catholic.” She knows the Latin Mass by heart, attends it regularly, and likes to speak at home in Latin, feeling as if it brings her closer to Colette’s father who has passed away. In addition, Mom also acts a bit like an Agatha Christie character, as if searching for clues to what her daughter’s temptations and sins really are.
Colette’s dreams at night are beginning to get highly haunting. One night she has a dream that truly confuses her and she decides to set up an appointment with the campus counselor, Mr. O’Connell, to see if he can offer any help. What Colette turns to more, however, is her dream journal; recordings made about what she sees and feels while sleeping. The scope of her visions include everything from negative feelings to historical time periods with a cavalcade of characters, and Collette (along with the reader) finds herself literally taking a trek through time.
Colette searches to better comprehend everything from the Council of Trent to Catholicism, to somehow reinstate or bring back her own spirituality which has dissipated. Utilizing everything from religious viewpoints to mythological beliefs, she strives to discover the feminine in Christianity. Only, she stumbles upon more questions as she attempts to gain the understanding she lacks in order to grow, mature, and live life to the fullest.
The writer has done an incredible job delving into subjects that are a bit hard to deal with. Through his character’s eyes, he also allows for beauty and richness from the mystical/mythological world to enter into the text in order to keep the story fresh, introducing people like Boccaccio and the Renaissance crowd. Readers see the struggle that Colette faces in a male-dominated religious landscape, and watch her meet up with and revel in the feminists who, throughout the ages, became true heroes who stood up against patriarchal societies and the Church during their lifetimes.
The title is completely factual for this drama that states it to be a “psychological, religious and historical” novel. Because after reading about Colette and her “travels,” you will completely see all three paths taken in order to create this extremely profound book.
Quill says: A well-done drama spotlighting provocative questions that still reside in the human consciousness today.
For more information on Chanting the Feminine Down, please visit the book's website at: http://chantingthefemininedown.com

#BookReview - It's a Firefly Night

It's a Firefly Night

By: Dianne Ochiltree
Illustrated By: Betsy Snyder
Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Publication Date: July 2018
ISBN: 978-1-60905-618-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 31, 2018
For any child, such as myself, who was raised in one of those rural areas where the brilliance of the stars in the sky were rivaled only by the stunning fireflies that flitted all about, this is the book for you. And if you are a city dweller and have not had the opportunity to see these charming little critters make the summer nights even more magical, this is definitely something your child would absolutely love to read and learn about.
In this sweet tale, Daddy and his little girl (and the little dog, too), see the summer nights as taking a journey into a world of wonder and imagination. The moon rises high in the sky, the stars beam to add their light, and Daddy calls it a “firefly night.” Going on a journey with her glass jar in hand, we race with the young girl and her pup as she zips over the grass and collects fireflies so that she can, quite literally, hold stars in her hand. When the collecting is done and the fun has been had, the girl opens the lid and watches those lovely creatures unfurl their wings and soar over the land.
The artwork in this book is truly lovely. From the excitement on the little girl’s face, to capturing that look of pure love and faith that a little girl and her father share, the artist has done a superior job of bringing these characters to light. In addition, this cover is one that will have the kids pulling this book off the shelf every night in order to see the glitter and glow of the fireflies. This is the perfect book for a child. You can even envision in your own mind that truly loving family sitting together with the beloved dog, the windows open so that the warm night breeze comes through, reading this great story. In addition, the author has placed information in the back of the book so that kids can learn all about those fireflies. The story involves a great way to first teach children how to count, and the book even offers arts and crafts ideas that kids would love to do.
Every decade has one. We all know this. Whether it be our favorites from our time that we still remember…Curious George, perhaps? A little bear called Pooh and his magical friends? Or, even that special Goodnight Moon that has kept children entertained over many, many decades, It’s a Firefly Night has the same beauty, kindness, and special “something” to be that book for this generation and many more to come.
Quill says: This is so well-written and fantastically illustrated that you’ll wish everynight was a Firefly Night!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

#BookReview - The Possibilities of Oneness

The Possibilities of Oneness: Doorways to Life's Deeper Meaning, Wonder, and Joy

By: Will Irons
Publisher: Wisdom Wellspring Publishing
Publication Date: January 2018
ISBN: 978-0999516607
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: July 25, 2018
Will Irons pulls from his experiences to explore the “doorways to life’s deeper meaning, wonder, and joy” in his book The Possibilities of Oneness.
The author's connection with Universal Oneness begins at age five when his hunt for sweets leads him to find and swallow a sugar cube, which, unbeknownst to him, is laced with LSD. What follows is a day-long succession of eye-popping experiences: brilliant lights, and high-definition shapes and sounds, to name a few. While hallucinogenic substances can trigger similarly-related experiences, the point that Irons makes is that every person has the potential of experiencing Oneness without the use of substances.
Universal Oneness—that deep interconnectivity with the rest of the world—is not an uncommon concept with many vehicles (i.e., sports, nature, music) leading to it. Although Irons spends time describing his experiences, they serve only as a catalyst to the main points of his book, which are to raise awareness that several vehicles coupled with the experiences are more ordinary than one may think, to identify stages of awareness leading to Oneness, and then to provide thirteen circles of timeless wisdom that can be used as a practical and foundational daily-life guide.
Irons covers a brief explanation of the book’s outline, terminology, and aspects of his background before delving into chapter three: Degrees of Oneness—four degrees of mindfulness, namely, Ego, Flow, Wonder, and High Peak, that will lead to Oneness experiences. This chapter is a befitting precursor to Irons’s experiences, which he addresses over a set of chapters.
Unique to Irons’s writing style is the effective way he takes an often-described-ethereal topic and translates it into crisp and comprehensible language, “free of cultural or religious baggage.” Rich descriptions of his Oneness experiences via various relatable vehicles (i.e., hiking, snorkeling, and surfing to name a few) connecting him to nature transport readers into a realm that is undoubtedly mystical yet essential to one’s existence.
Irons balances his passionate read with the realities that come with a choice. While Oneness experiences are not planned events, aligning one’s lifestyle to practices of unification is a deliberate act—one that is filled with love and compassion. The flip side—on an extreme level—choosing an ego-based lifestyle can lead to a self-absorbed state of consciousness that is laced with “hatred, terrorism, mass shootings, the horror of death camps, environmental destruction, and genocide.”
The Possibilities of Oneness closes with priceless gems from others who have experienced Oneness followed by an in-depth explanation of Irons’s thirteen circles of timeless wisdom and how they can effectively be incorporated in one’s daily routine.
Quill says: The Possibilities of Oneness is a fitting read during troubled times.
For more information on The Possibilities of Oneness, please visit the author's website at: www.willirons.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Meet Author Lin Wilder!

Meet Author Lin Wilder

and find out about her amazing, award-winning books like:

Visit Lin's new "Meet the Author" page at:

Monday, July 23, 2018

We Do the Promotion with a Feathered Quill Author Page!

Check out our new
Meet the Authors!

A very affordable alternative to building your own website. Also a great option for those who simply want additional exposure for their books. Here's a sample author page:

Check out how we announce your new Meet the Authors page:

- We will link your book image(s) directly to the book’s Amazon page
- Your “Meet the Author” page will be announced on our front page “ticker tape” widget
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- If you publish a new book, new cover image, new website url, etc., just send it to us and we’ll update your page free of charge
- Your author page stays up indefinitely – no yearly fees

A great option for those who don’t want to build their own website, or want additional traffic for their books. Currently offering a "new to our website" special price of just $25. Learn more here:


#BookReview - Whiskey When We're Dry

Whiskey When We're Dry

By: John Larison
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2044-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 23, 2018
John Larson creates fantastic adventure and breathes credible and vibrant life into his characters in his debut novel, Whiskey When We’re Dry.
In 1864, Milt Harney met his beloved Rosa and took her as his bride. It was undoubtedly the experience of love at first sight and there was no need for a lengthy courtship. They continued their trek west—the destination, the prairie lands of Kansas. It was there the Harney family would stake their homestead claim. Milt’s plan was to become a cattle rancher and, God-willing, a mighty rich one at that. Milt and Rosa started their family and the first of their two children, Noah, was born. Noah was a wild child. He had adventure teeming through his veins and there would come a time the adventure would lead him far away from home and into a life of debauchery and notoriety of a legendary killer.
Jesselyn Harney came on the heels of her big brother Noah five years later. Sadly, the birthing of this wonderous child was far more than Rosa was prepared to endure. As she welcomed her sweet baby girl into the world, God had greater plans for Rosa. Soon after Jesselyn’s birth, Rosa bled out and passed into the great wide open.
Times were tough at best for the Harney’s. There were no riches to be gained from the vision Milt Harney once had of becoming the proud and prosperous cattle rancher. Days were long, and seasons were incredibly unforgiving. Noah and Jesselyn continued to grow and the Harney home grew increasingly small for the three to commune under one roof. Noah didn’t see eye-to-eye on the disciplines his daddy imposed. After a near-fatal fight, Noah leaves for the wild west—and certainly has his designs set on never returning. He wouldn’t learn until much later that the blow he landed on his daddy in the parting fight was the precursor to his daddy’s eventual departure from life. After her father’s death, there is nothing left for Jesselyn to hold onto unless she can find her brother. Little did she know that her journey forward would be the life she never expected to live.
To say this was an exceptional read is an understatement. In my opinion, John Larison has secured his place among noteworthy authors forever more. He mentions this project took him ten years to write. After reading it, I can understand why. There is no stone left unturned when it comes to the precision accuracy of the history in the period within which this novel is set. The historical information that overlays the rich character development and complementary scenery is incredibly interesting and captivating. His dialogue puts the reader in the moment and there is a strong sense of belonging to the story within the first handful of pages. There is wonderful depth to the life he has devoted to the vibrancy of all characters who played a role in this epic account. I certainly hope he is making strides toward the release of his next novel. I pray it will not be another ten years before we experience such a treat. This is a phenomenal read and I am, without question, a devoted fan of your work! Well done Mr. Larison.
Quill says: Whiskey When We’re Dry hits the stands in mid-August. Get set voracious readers! This is a must have epic novel that is written by a truly accomplished author.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

#BookReview - The Art of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Steampunk

The Art of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Steampunk

By: Hiroshi Unno
Publisher: PIE International Inc.
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-4756249753
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: July 21, 2018
The Art of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Steampunk is a gorgeous visual history of art from the Romantic era to today. Author Hiroshi Unno explores a host of different artists, including John Martin and Albert Robida, while providing insight into their styles and influences.
This book opens with an introduction of the Gothic and Steampunk styles. There, Unno provides a brief overview of how they initially developed and early Romanticism in England, France, and Germany.
After the introduction, The Art of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Steampunk breaks down into four sections: “Gothic Romanticism in Art History From Gothic Revival to Romanticism,” “The Victorian Wonderland and the Origins of Sci-Fi and Steampunk,” “The London Underworld,” and lastly, “The World of Fantasy Illustration Adventures in Wonderland.” Each chapter is razor focused on one aspect of the genre and provides page after page of beautiful paintings and illustrations as examples.
The first chapter describes Romanticism in detail. Unno references C. M. Browa’s The Romantic Imagination, in which Browa “asserts that imagination is Romanticism’s distinctive feature.” (Unno 28). Unno himself goes on to explain that “imagination was how the self discovered itself.” (28)
The details provided about each artist help readers connect with each piece of artwork. In this chapter I particularly liked the pages devoted to John Martin, known for painting great disasters like Pandemonium and The Great Day of His Wrath.
Following next is “The Victorian Wonderland and the Origins of Sci-Fi and Steampunk,” where readers explore the end of the Victorian era in 1901 and dive into the Victorian Revival that began in the 1950’s. “Steampunk in America at the end of the twentieth century was intimately connected to the Victorian revival.” (95) Unno’s snippets of history are engaging, and make readers want to learn more about these fascinating time periods on their own.
“The London Underworld” is by far my favorite chapter. It opens with a brief history lesson of nineteenth century technology. It was during this century that gas and electric street lamps became commonplace. “The boundary between day and night blurred.” (212) This gave way to a kind of nightlife London had never seen. “The night was dangerous, filled with the risk of calling up horrific monsters that had long lurked in the dark.” (212)
Unno goes on to describe this as the age of “murder as entertainment,” (213) the time when detective and crime novels grew to extreme popularity. His dreary and fascinating descriptions of Victorian London’s underbelly are matched with equally grim illustrations, from James McNeil Whistler’s The Falling Rocket to book covers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels.
“The World of Fantasy Illustrations Adventures in Wonderland” brings this book to a close. Here, Unno discusses the overlap of adulthood and childhood in fantastical books like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. “Steampunk is rooted in nostalgia for childhood’s playing with clockwork toys.” (249) It’s an interesting concept, and one I’d like to further investigate.
The Art of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Steampunk is a beautiful book that I highly recommend. Even if one is not interested in the history and analyses throughout it, merely flipping through the pages to appreciate the artwork is an enriching experience.
Quill says: This book is a must read for every fantasy lover!

Monday, July 16, 2018

#BookReview - The Queen of Xana

The Queen of Xana

By: Fred Pilcher
ISBN: 978-0692988961
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
What would you say to a society where all people are treated equally, and the kingdom is ruled by a benevolent queen who wishes to help everyone feel valued and appreciated, and able to reach for their dreams?  Author Fred Pilcher has imagined such a place in his medieval “fairytale,” The Queen of Xana. 
When we first meet the future queen of Xana, Princess Agatha, she is just a few hours old. Her mother, Queen Julia, is alone in the birthing room with her newborn.  Julia’s husband, Prince Consort Marcel, died in battle five months earlier. Now Julia is charged with ruling Xana as well as seeing to the proper raising of the princess.  While in the royal chamber, the queen and her baby are visited by an old woman who we soon learn is Agatha’s fairy godmother.  She gives Agatha “…the gifts of wisdom and compassion” and promises that the child will grow to be the greatest monarch Xana has ever known.
Agatha’s childhood is spent happily exploring the kingdom of Xana.  She soon discovers an affinity toward the common people and realizes that she is able to help them improve their lives.  She intervenes when a moneylender is trying to take advantage of a saddle maker who desperately needs money.  Alberto, the saddle maker, is profoundly grateful, and is able to lift himself out of poverty with the advice he is given by Agatha.  But the princess also learns an important lesson when she tries to help another commoner who is more interested in getting a handout.
Early on in the story, Agatha is thrown into the role of ruler when her mother is killed by Magi, a ruthless sorcerer.  Fortunately, Agatha’s fairy godmother had given her the power to overcome Magi – which she does handily.  Agatha must next find her prince, who just happens to be the son of the ruler of Wan, another kingdom that Magi destroyed.  Olaf, the prince, is infatuated with Agatha, but she must pursue him (in a rather unique way), to fulfill a prophecy.  All of these events take place early in the story – the main focus, and the bulk of the tale, is made up of how Agatha ruled her kingdom.
Queen Agatha desired to help raise the commoners out of poverty.  She realized early on that one of the best ways to do that was to improve the education system.  She worked tirelessly to build better schools, add tutors for those who were in need, and find the funds to pay for all the improvements.  She willingly took advice from others and considered carefully all that was suggested.  Agatha also took on bullying as well as corruption within her own staff, and personally intervened in numerous cases.  Her people greatly respected her kind and wise decisions, but they also knew that she could be a ruthless ruler when dealing with a swindler, enemy of the state, or even a moneylender.  Agatha had no room in her beautiful kingdom for such people.
The Queen of Xana is told by a narrator who pauses the story at various points to explore the different versions of the myth.  This narrator style gives the story a sense of “this really happened” that adds a level of interest.  Interesting too were the different actions Agatha took to improve the lives of her subjects and the various people who fought those changes.  The erotic nature of the story is limited, and the frequent references to Agatha (and others) being naked in some versions of the myth added little to the story.  The writing was a bit stiff in spots, and sometimes the story seemed written for a youth audience while in other places it was geared more to an adult audience. Beyond that, however, the tale was definitely food-for-thought about what can, and should, be done to help people live their lives to the best of their abilities.  Author Fred Pilcher notes in his prologue that The Queen of Xana is a work of political allegory and that he hopes the story will help start discussions about the current state of affairs, particularly in reference to how the world’s wealth is concentrated within a small group of people – and he certainly achieved that with this book.
Quill says: The Queen of Xana is an interesting take on an “almost” utopian society.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

#BookReview - Along the Watchtower @DavidLitwack

Along the Watchtower

By: David Litwack
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-1622534401
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 11, 2018
Memory, fantasy and trauma are mixed in the mind of a critically injured soldier in this dark but redemptive tale.
When Lieutenant Freddie Williams wakes up on a stretcher, he knows he is leaving Iraq, taking his fears and regrets and going to a place that no longer feels like home. As he gradually, almost reluctantly, regains consciousness, he realizes that four men under his command were killed in the incident that has left him mentally shattered and permanently crippled. He will not lose his leg, but he has lost his heart in the war. So by night he retreats to a land he knows well – the world engendered by his long fascination with computer games. There he is a newly made prince, given thirty days to interpret the signs he reads along his castle’s watchtower and save his kingdom from extinction. By day he is a maimed man who has betrayed the soldiers who trusted him. His only living family member is also lost, possibly also dead.
The images that connect the two worlds are powerful, as Freddie Williams struggles to come to terms with relearning how to walk, assisted by a sweet, concerned young therapist named Becky; and the Dauphin Frederick who battles legendary demons, comforted by lovely young gardener Rebecca. As Freddie gradually accepts and re-engages with his real life, including the possibility that he may be able to locate his missing relative, he becomes stronger in the parallel world, too, able to face and overcome seemingly impossible challenges. In both realms, he has to learn the same lesson: the greatest barrier he must face is within himself.
Litwack is a practiced fantasy writer (The Daughters of the Sea and Sky, The Seekersseries) and a skilled craftsman. His interweaving of the perceptions of two heroes - a soldier emerging from the trauma of battle and a new ruler charged with rescuing his people while still mourning the loss of his father – is highly effective. There are many poignant symbols: the silver stars awarded to brave soldiers in both worlds, and, for each “Frederick,” the flowers secretly delivered by a lady who would gladly offer more if he would only trust her. The reader will quickly begin to anticipate these pairings of events: with every foray into the game fantasy world at night, there are corresponding daytime struggles and gains. Too, one suspects that Litwack has done careful research into the experience of a soldier battling to rehabilitate a torn body and a tormented mind. Depictions of military medical facilities and treatments give his story extra credence, while his unreal world is internally consistent and alluring.
Quill says: Litwack’s construction of side-by-side dream and waking worlds works, allowing the reader to identify with the conflicted nature of a wounded warrior, quick to blame himself and slow to accept help and healing.
For more information on Along the Watchtower, please visit the author's website at: www.davidlitwack.com

#BookReview - Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

By: Delia Owens
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-0735219090
Reviewed by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: July 10, 2018
Kya has always been known to the townspeople as the marsh girl or marsh trash. Growing up in marsh land off the coast of North Carolina with her parents and older siblings, she never had much interaction with anyone outside of her family. Her father spends his days doing one of two things - drinking or taking out his anger on his family. When Kya was six, her mother walked out and never came back. Kya's siblings stayed for a little while, but eventually they all left as well. From that point on, it was just Kya and her father.
Although she lived with her father, at times Kya would go days without seeing him. Through this she learned that the only peaceful way to live with her father was to not cross paths. One morning, while her father was gone, Kya decided to take the family boat out. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before she was lost. Eventually she asked a boy who she passed a couple times if he knew where she lived. This boy, Tate, showed her the way home and soon they were fast friends.
By the time Kya was ten, her father rarely came home and eventually he stopped coming home altogether. From this point on, Kya was truly on her own. In order to care for herself, Kya started collecting mussels and selling them to Jumpin', the man she bought supplies and gas from. This turned out to be a great way from her to take care of herself.
As Kya continued to fend for herself and live on her own, she also spent time with Tate, the boy who helped her when she was lost. They eventually became more than just friends, until Tate graduated from high school. Kya was devastated when she found out he would be going off to college. Before Tate left, he promised Kya that he would come back to see her on his breaks, but that never happened. Kya was devastated and didn't want to get close to anybody else, until she met Chase...
Chase promised Kya the world. He promised they would get married, find a house and start a family. Kya was over the moon until she found out that Chase was set to marry someone else. Although Chase wanted to continue seeing Kya, Kya never wanted to see him again.
After cutting ties with Chase, things seemed to be going well for Kya. That was until Chase turned up dead and Kya become the lead suspect in his murder. Although Kya has an appointed attorney, who is trying to prove her innocence, Kya offers no information to help her case. Soon it seems that Kya will be convicted of Chase's murder.
Where the Crawdads Sing is an emotional rollercoaster. You feel horrible for the little seven-year-old who has to fend for herself. Although you're happy that she finds a way to carry on by herself, it's sad that she has to. As Kya gets older, and makes a friend, you think that things are going to get better, but again things change and you're back to feeling horrible for Kya. Author Delia Owens did an excellent job creating a protagonist who comes to life and the reader cares for, while also creating suspense that keeps the pages turning. This is definitely an interesting book that is hard to put down.
Quill says: If you want a mystery with heartbreak and sympathy, this is the book for you.

Monday, July 9, 2018

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Monday, July 2, 2018

#BookReview - The Patriot Bride

The Patriot Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower, Book 4

By: Kimberly Woodhouse
Publisher: Barbour Books
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-1-68322-606-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 3, 2018
Kimberley Woodhouse’s historical fiction work, The Patriot Bride, is an enjoyable read and the fourth book in the Daughters of the Mayflower series.
It is September 22, 1774 and Matthew Weber is hidden in the corner of Charles Thomson’s study. He is full of trepidation as he waits for Ben Franklin’s arrival. There is considerable unrest and uncertainty in the Colonies as the threat of war looms. Lines have been clearly drawn in the sand. One is either loyal to King George (a Loyalist) or a traitor to Britain and therefore, a Patriot for the independence of the Colonies. Matthew cannot let on he is posing as a Loyalist; yet he is a true Patriot at heart. He is a spy and holds the coveted position of being privy to information on both sides of the imminent conflict.
Faith Jackson is a wealthy widow and a friend to George and Martha Washington. Her relationship goes deeper than friendship. Faith lost her parents when she was a young girl and George and Martha were there to be surrogate parents to her. Faith is an ardent supporter of the Patriot Cause.
There is a message that needs to get to a spy among the Loyalists and Faith steps up to be the one to stand for God and Country to deliver the message. Her task is to deliver the message to Matthew Weber. Upon meeting Matthew, Faith realizes there may be room in her life to love again. Unfortunately, the challenge, nuisance and persistence of one Anthony Jameson and his intentions toward Faith could be the unraveling of a potential future Matthew and Faith could have. Indeed, the future is uncertain and sacrifices for their Country will dictate what future, if any, is intended for the two.
Kimberly Woodhouse demonstrates an admirable achievement with her contribution to this interesting series. Her historical infusion complements the timeline (and period) with terrific accuracy and at the same time breathes life and personality into the likes of both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. I’ve had the pleasure of reading previous books in this series. What is remarkable is that each author (Ms. Woodhouse included) has managed a cohesive collaboration to tie the historical timelines together; yet each body of work can stand alone. I am a fan of historical fiction and admire a writer who can blend fact with fiction and deliver a story that enables a reader to learn something while connecting with the characters. Ms. Woodhouse has mastered this premise. Congratulations on The Patriot Bride. It’s a great addition to this series and I look forward to the next installation.
Quill says: The Patriot Bride is a wonderful reflection (and account) of the willing and unrequited sacrifices made by our forefathers for the price of freedom.