Sunday, July 28, 2019

#BookReview - Dragon Blood

Dragon Blood: A Paulette Monot History (Book 2)

By: Bruce Woods
Publisher: Penmore Press
Publication Date: July 2019
ISBN: 978-1950586110
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 26, 2019
A sensuous vampire once again roams the world to witness and if possible affect the course of history, in this latest in the Paulette Monot series from seasoned author Bruce Woods.
When last glimpsed (in Woods’ Royal Blood), Paulette explored Africa at the behest of, among others, her patron Lady Ellen Terry, who shares her taste for blood. Following those events, we learn that Monot has taken the earnings from her stint in southern climes and set up housekeeping in Washington, DC, but then is called back to London by Terry. Based on her success in her previous assignment, she is being sent to China, a land of great mystery to all but a few Westerners who are now being expelled or killed in the escalating Boxer Rebellion. The “boxers,” men skilled in martial arts, seek to rid their land of foreigners and their leader, Empress Cixi, of her throne if necessary. Monot will join the Red Lanterns, a coterie of rebellious women who have gained their own prominence after being excluded from the ranks of the boxers. 
To take on her assignment –- meeting with Cixi and supporting her in maintaining relationships with the wider world -- Monot will need new hair, eyes and skin. Here Woods steps in with another of the fascinating steam punk touches that infuse his series, introducing his heroine to the newly invented contact lenses that will give her pale eyes the illusion of darkness. Hair dye and herbal baths will complete her new look. 
Fortuitously, the first Asian woman she meets on her trek to China, Li-hua, clues her in on hair and makeup conventions so she won’t be considered a courtesan. Li-hua will guide Monot in numerous ways as they enter the chaos of a country in the midst of revolution. She will even spring Monot from jail where the conflicted and harassed empress has consigned her after their initial encounter. But Monot will need more help as she confronts the many human players in the crossfire, including an international spy. With him, as with Li-hua, Monot also makes time for sensual dalliance. But danger is never far away, and she will soon find herself in the clutches of a fire spitting spirit who would gloat to see Cixi’s empire collapse, and will witness this demonic being doing battle with the country’s ancient mythical guardian—the dragon. 
Monot is an alluring character despite her self-admitted moody, at times capricious ways. She is quite able, if need be, to kill an adversary by sucking his body dry of blood. But at times she chooses instead to sip a man’s blood while locking him in an erotic embrace, leaving him dazed, weakened, but alive. She will save the Christian missionaries who are fleeing the savage rebel bands, but will also deign to spit on a cross to prove her lack of loyalty to the religious establishment that has absolutely condemned her and her vampire “kin.” Though she can’t help her blood lust, Monot works for the general good of the world as she knows it. She is liberated in almost every way and has finer feelings for the human race she must live among for romance and companionship—and live on for sustenance. Readers will undoubtedly want more of this multi-faceted female. 
Quill says: Bruce Woods is a skilled wordsmith who has scored a second triumph with the further exploits of his unconventional heroine. With Dragon Blood, he will doubtless gather an increased following for Paulette Monot and for fans of the steam punk genre, which adds the weight of technological and historical savvy to his well-constructed stories. 
For more information on Dragon Blood: A Paulette Monot History (Book 2), please visit the author's Facebook page at: www.facebook/

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Micheal Okon @iammichaelokon

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Michael Okon, the author of Witches Protection Program
FQ: Monsterland was incredible, and so was Witches Protection Program. As a movie-buff in life, are there any films you can name that had a direct effect on your books?
OKON: Thank you for the kudos! All of my books have been influenced in some way or another by films. Monsterland was my version of Jurassic Park and The GooniesWitches Protection Program has elements of Men in Black and Hellboy, two of my favs.
FQ: Along those same lines, is there a movie that you feel inspired you to first delve into writing? If so, what would that be and what about that film sparked the desire to entertain one and all? 
OKON: Back to the Future and The Goonies were the two movies that did it for me. I still watch them today and get choked up when certain lines are said. Those two films were so impactful on my life and how I tell stories. Everything I do story-wise today is based on these two films.
FQ: Will this be a standalone book, or will the world be able to follow The Witches Protection Program and their “assignments” once again?
OKON: I don’t do standalones. I have a hard time saying goodbye to characters so rest assured there will be plenty more adventures of Wes and the WPP crew.
FQ: You use the one-and-only NYC as your canvas. In what ways does setting enhance narrative – and how does this placement suit the story you wanted to tell?
OKON: Great question. I’ve grown up my entire life in New York. The North Shore of Long Island specifically. Nearly every Wednesday during the school year, my mom would take my brother and me into Manhattan and we would see a Broadway show. On long weekends like Thanksgiving and Labor Day, my family and I would pop into the city for lunch and a museum. 
To me, New York City is the capital of the world, so when the Martians land, I'm sure they'll be meeting the diplomats there.
New York has everything. Literally everything. And a city that has everything, has the greatest assortment of characters to feed a young writer’s imagination. I have been to Manhattan a thousand times, maybe more. Every single time I’ve been there, I have studied the people walking the streets. I love the diversity of the city, the Halal vendors next to crepe trucks. Watch the police directing traffic, or delivery people racing by on bikes. I close my eyes and invent backstories. In fact, we did that as kids on the train. Do you think that lady is a spy? My mom would ask. What do you think that person is doing here with that suitcase? Ransome? And that my friends make EXCELLENT storytelling. 
There was no other city in the world I could have written Witches but New York City. The city was the third major character in the story, much like Amity was in Jaws. I don't think it could have worked in another city. 
New York City is full of powerful people. I took the idea of a makeup firm and planted it right where L’Oreal or Liz Cairborne could be. I thought it was the perfect place to demystify witches, so they could blend in with society and no one would ever know. 
I’ve driven over the Manhattan bridge and always wondered if an actual secret government organization was hidden in Brooklyn. 
These ideas have percolated in my mind for over three decades. It wasn’t until I started writing the Witches Protection Program that I saw New York City as a primary character. 
All of these characters are from New York. Wes is from Astoria. Bernadette and Morgan are born and raised in NYC. Gabby is from Brooklyn. Alastair is a New Yorker at heart, and I won’t say where he’s from exactly – that’s in the sequel. They have this certain attitude that every New Yorker has. It was extraordinarily easy to write Witches because I knew every character and what they were going to say, or how they think.
FQ: Throughout, is there one character in the series that found a larger part or took on a larger role than you first assumed they would? If so, who would that be?
OKON: Junie. In the original screenplay (that is being shopped around now to all the studios by my agent), Junie dies in the first 15 minutes. It propels Wes to take the job in the WPP. But in the book, Junie is a rockstar and fairy godmother mixed together
She is central to the story. Without her, there would be no victory at the end. I won’t spoil much, but Junie’s character really knows how to make a potion.
FQ: What is your plotting process like? Also, more generally, what do you believe are the keys to building/maintaining suspense? 
OKON: Another great question. All my stories are mapped out and arced out. I cannot write a story on a blank page. I know where every character is going.
I create a spreadsheet for all my characters, both good and bad, and I plot out their most important points in the story. The keys to building suspense are pulling back the curtain one inch at a time throughout each chapter. You can’t reveal anything in the first chapter. It has to be peeled back slowly. All of my stories have twists, I couldn’t write them any other way.
FQ: Does the humor come easily for you when putting together a book; and, is there a genre you have not yet touched that you wish to in the future?
OKON: I am generally a very funny person, but my wife doesn’t think so. Humor must be in every part of my book.
The reader is reading through the protagonists eyes so going into something that has never existed has to be funny.
Getting reassigned to the WPP, yeah right, as if things like that could be real. 
There is humor to his thought process because the idea of a government organization that protects witches sounds so far-fetched.
FQ: Leave us with a teaser: What comes next? ?
OKON: Oh boy, I have A LOT in the pipeline. Monsterland 3 is nearly finished. WPP 2 is already being beat out. I have 3 new manuscripts I’m giving to my agent soon. Dragged Down Deep – think the Creature From the Black Lagoon meets Indiana Jones. Whillpower – a group of students on the spectrum are enlisted into a superhero high school. And Inheritance – a poor millennial is invited to read her dead uncle’s will at his haunted mansion with her dysfunctional family. And there is plenty more where that came from!

#BookReview - Witches Protection Program @iammichaelokon

Witches Protection Program

By: Michael Okon
Publisher: WordFire Press, LLC
Publication Date: June 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-61475-994-2
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: July 22, 2019
It’s about time that the world was made aware of all those good witches out there (in this book, referred to as the “Davinas”), and how desperately they need protection from their bad brethren (named the “Willa”). And here, they are offered help from none other than a law enforcement agency. This is the plot of Witches Protection Program, a story that I truly enjoyed more than many I’ve read this year.
Our law officer “star” in Witches Protection Program is someone you want to root for right off the bat. His name is Wes Rockefeller and although he fell into the “disgraced” category because he failed to bring an elderly woman to jail, when it comes to his career, he does have a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. Even though he has lost his father’s respect for his error, he is given another chance (most likely the last one he will ever receive) when he’s assigned to a different branch of the law: a secret government organization. But this is no agency that you’ve heard of before in other books. No, this happens to be an agency that has been in business for 200+ years and places Wes in the role of working in “The Witches Protection Program.” Even better than the name and premise of the organization is his very first assignment.
The Davina introduced into the story is Morgan Pendragon. She’s not exactly thrilled about her role, but she accepts that she’s a Davina regardless. Morgan, however, has come across a family problem that upsets her. Bernadette, her aunt, has created a new cosmetic – a face cream that she wants Pendragon Cosmetics to sell. Morgan wants to stop this particular item from ever hitting store shelves; she doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the stuff, but her aunt is acting extremely odd and secretive about the whole thing. She gets so angry about her niece’s meddling, in fact, that she demands Morgan give up her voting rights in the corporation. Morgan doesn’t sign anything, but what she does do is cast a spell in order to escape and leaves the company, racing to her best friend Gabby’s apartment. 
Oddly enough, Wes’s assignment is to uncover this diabolical cosmetic company plan, and when he shows up at the address he is given, he is basically...shocked. A man who has his feet firmly on the ground is now suddenly thrust into a world of magic, trolls, witches—things Wes most definitely does not believe in. 
Wes not only has to uncover this plan and somehow stop a world takeover that witches are planning on, but he also finds himself trying to protect Morgan from the evil aunt. In addition, Morgan now has people who wish to take her out before she can stop the “witches world domination” through dark, evil magic. Add to this the fact that Wes has also been given a partner – Alastair Verne – who has actually been a witch protector for many decades, and you have a story that is one part thriller, one part suspense, one part adventure, and so many other parts that include fun, cool, and incredibly memorable.
For those who have not read Okon’s Monsterland books, you are in for a true treat. And when you’re done reading this one, head back to get those as well. Books set in NYC are always fun, but this one truly brings the City to life as witches come out from the darkness to wreak havoc on the fastest-moving, most colorful streets in America. 
Quill says: Okon, just like his characters, places you under his spell and leads you on a journey you’ll absolutely love!
For more information on Witches Protection Program, please visit the author's website at:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

#BookReview - Days to the Gallows

Days to the Gallows: A Novel of the Hartford Witch Panic

By: Katherine Spada Basto
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: December 2016
ISBN: 978-1536978043
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 2019
Katherine Spada Basto shines a light on a chilling portion of Connecticut’s history in Days to the Gallows.
Life in Connecticut Colony takes a turn for the worse while Governor Winthrop is away over the course of a year, negotiating a charter with the King of England. In his stead are Captain John Mason and Marshal Gilbert. The latter controls the colony with an iron fist, warning the town folk that punishment is imminent if they veer away from righteousness.
Two friends, Hester Hosmer and Ann Cole, sneak out one night to investigate the pagan goings-on in the South Wood. They look on warily, knowing full well that the traditions of England—the very things that Marshal Gilbert talks about—go against Puritan religion. While the event is unnerving to the two older teens, strange happenings occur after they witness the mysterious death of eight-year-old Betty Kelly.
Ann is particularly troubled by the little girl’s untimely death and seeks revenge by pinpointing various town folk. She also feels that these same people are the reason she is unable to find a husband. Jealousy arises when she learns that Hester has a suitor, a peddler by the name of Tom Flagg.
Hester begins to distance herself from Ann when her histrionic displays during church meetings reveal witchery among specific individuals. Mary Sanford’s quiet hanging on Gallows Hill is the first of many to come. When Hester speaks out in defense of one of her neighbors accused of witchery, Ann begins to target her. Now fearful for her life, Hester has no idea how she will be able to escape the gallows.
First-time author Katherine Spada Basto draws readers into an ugly time of American Colonialism: the Hartford Witch Panic of 1662. A well-balanced mix of fiction with fact brings this turbulent event to life. Unique to Basto’s narrative is the cast, which mainly consists of historical figures. Only a handful of characters are fictional, such as Tom Flagg and his father. In the case of Hester and Ann, they were indeed friends and lived across the street from one another.
Other features make this tale engaging as well. At the forefront is Hester’s narration set in Elizabethan speech, which offers authentication to the story. The first-person presentation, as told through Hester’s perspective, is a perfect vehicle for Basto to provide readers with a glimpse of how a spark of revenge can turn everything dark. Indeed, Ann’s choice to go down that road not only costs her Hester’s friendship but also the lives of innocent people. Irony quickly steps into play as both static characters, Hester and Ann, head in opposite directions: Hester (the protagonist) becomes emboldened to do what is right while Ann (the antagonist) chooses to buy into the self-subscribed form of “righteousness” of the Puritan leaders.
Kudos to Basto for a stellar job recreating a horrific period in American Colonial history. Well-written and researched, Days to the Gallows is a riveting and chilling story from beginning to end.
Quill says: Days to the Gallows is nothing less than a must-add book for American Colonial history buffs.
For more information on Days to the Gallows, please visit the author's website at:

Friday, July 5, 2019

#BookReview - Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Story

By: Ellen Feld
Photographed by: John Cebula
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing
Publication Date: June 2019
ISBN: 978-1733767408
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 1, 2019

Donkey-Donk is at it again! This time she's going to a horse show and she'd like you to come along.

We first met Donkey-Donk (she insists you call her "Donk") in What Can I Do? A Donkey-Donk Story.In that adventure, Donk moved to a new farm, and try as she might, she just couldn't do any of the jobs that the other horses and ponies did. The story had a happy ending and was chock-full of delightful photographs of Donk as she tried her best. To capitalize on the popularity of that book, author Ellen Feld and photographer John Cebula captured another delightful adventure of Donk's as she prepares to go to a horse show. 
Hopeful that she might win a blue ribbon, Donk is very excited about the upcoming horse show. But she quickly realizes, when she tries to go over a jump, and can't, that she better practice before the show. The reader "rides" along as Donk tries several obstacles and realizing each time that she is unable to perform the needed task, she decides, "I better practice..." She then returns after practicing and, each time, successfully completes the obstacle. Once at the horse show, Donk is met by a group of very big horses. Will she be able to perform all the obstacles at the show and maybe, perhaps, win a blue ribbon?
Like the first book in this series, Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk Storyis told through simple text and fantastic photographs of the adorable Donkey-Donk doing what she does best - entertain. And the cuteness quota in these photos is high. The author uses simple words to convey her message and readers will learn several action words too. For example, Donk tells her readers that she is going in a trail class where "...I will have to go over, under, or through different obstacles." This text is accompanied by three photos - one each of Donk going "over," "under," or "through," and with the appropriate word underneath each photo. Like the first book in the series, this story conveys an important message (if you have trouble, practice, practice, practice) and has a happy ending. Overall, a great story combined with wonderful photographs make Donk's second book a winner.
Quill says: A joyful gigglefest that also teaches a valuable lesson.  Young readers will love Donkey-Donk’s adventure.
For more information on Horse Show! A Donkey-Donk story,please visit the publisher's website at: