Tuesday, November 29, 2022

#BookReview - Mind the Gap by Thomas Maurstad

Mind the Gap

By: Thomas Maurstad
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 15, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63988-538-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 25, 2022
Thomas Maurstad’s novel, Mind the Gap, is not a moment too soon when it comes to its relevance of the modern times society currently navigates.
Justin Mayhaps is a marketer extraordinaire with his advertising knowledge and expertise. It’s the perfect escape where he can lose himself to his work as he wrestles with his day-to-day chore of living beyond the tragic death of his wife. He doesn’t have to leave the confines and comfort of his home in order to perfect his web-based presence as a marketing guru, but his ever-present grief refuses to dissipate. Justin had an enviable daily commute that consisted of "...five steps, a slanting left turn, four more steps and two quick right runs later, he was taking a can of Red Bull from the refrigerator. An about-face, left turn, and four steps, and he sat down at the round plastic-veneer-and compressed-wood table on which his sleeping laptop sat. His commute to work complete..." TheCartoonJungle.com, was his first solo venture beyond the confines of his former job at the ad agency. He vaulted himself to the self-made prophesy of a branding consultant who was for hire for any company interested in having him spin their product from hay to gold. There was a movement happening. eXit was anti-establishment everything and while Justin didn’t know it at the time, he would soon be at the center of where the movement was going next.
Ellis Presley is a musician-video artist on the precipice of indie fame. Trauma was her constant companion growing up and never a day goes by that she doesn’t feel the hole in her heart it left in its wake. Ellis loathed her father. Although he was a successful Texas oil tycoon and left everything to his only child, Ellis, he was also a career alcoholic. The only lasting memory that often haunts Ellis’ memory is the day she crossed the forbidden threshold into his office and witnessed his slumped and quite dead body at his desk. Not only did his suicide leave a permanent and indelible mark on her psyche, but it wasn’t far beyond that when her mother checked out due to a psychotic break from the occurrence. It wasn’t long thereafter that she was checked into the assisted living convalescent home that she would not only never leave but would slip away a little more each day in recognizing who her only child was. How profound that the movement branded eXit would essentially join both Justin’s and Ellis’ chance meeting and the moral to this story was just beginning.
Thomas Maurstad is intentional and stays true to the premise of this novel. There is an obvious anchor set early on that focuses on a multitude of nuances toward a ‘them and us’ premise, i.e., ‘the establishment’ vs. the ‘anti-establishment.’ There is a wide array of passages to choose from to support this observation. One that comes to mind and appears within the first handful of pages: "The protest looked like a mash-up of a refugee camp and a Boy Scout jamboree. The number of new-looking tents suggested that REI had more than met this quarter’s sales projections, sprawl of bright colors and fresh nylon snapping in the breeze like a ground-bound flock of kites. People milled not so much aimlessly as offhandedly, no militarized patters, no marching-band choreography. Many held signs, laser-printed or hand-painted with that day’s chorus of absurdo-political slogans—‘Honk if You’re Homeless,’ ‘Good News, the Rich are Gluten-Free,’ ‘If you Don’t Own a Jet, You Should be Holding this Sign Not Reading It..." I enjoyed the style and layout of the author's tennis-match style from chapter to chapter that volleyed back and forth between his two main characters, Justin Mayhaps and Ellis Presley. Maurstad is purposeful when selecting from his palette of colors in breathing life and believability not only into their respective personas, but he is proficient in breaking up his scenes with credible dialogue. There is a lot going on in the initial set up of this read and the risk of a slight disconnect is present. However, I say to the reader, forge on, because the story does take off and there is a lot to relate to with the adventure that unfolds across the pages once the reader settles in.
Quill says: Mind the Gap is more than a catchy title to a great read, it’s a sublime message to the reader in many ways to ‘pay attention’ to what’s going on around you.

#BookReview of Shogun of the Heavens: The Fall of Immortals, Book One

Shogun Of The Heavens: The Fall Of Immortals, Book One

By: I.D.G. Curry
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 2, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639885299
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: November 23, 2022
From rising new fiction novelist I.D.G. Curry comes his first work of fantasy entitled Shogun Of The Heavens: The Fall Of Immortals, Book One. In this story, Curry has created a magnificent fictional world of the gods, set in the depths of the heavens, complete with war and mythological monsters.
Curry’s novel begins as an ominous phenomenon is identified that appears to be approaching the supercontinent that the gods call home. This strange sensation is enough to cause anxiety and tension among the gods, subsequently resulting in many clashes and battles. The fights that follow ultimately determine who are friends and who are foes. Friendships and relationships are put to the ultimate test, and many do not outlive the battles.
Throughout the story, there are many subplots involving various groups of gods. These subplots all flow seamlessly together to create one overall, well-integrated theme representing tension, war and conflict. While all the subplots are awe-inspiring, there is one exceptionally appalling story of deception involving Zeus, Zagreus, and Tithorea while Hera surreptitiously watches the entire encounter.
Curry’s writing is fast-paced, thrilling, and easily keeps the reader entertained throughout the story. There is truly something for everyone in this tale: war and battles, seduction and sensuality, torment and sorrow, and familial conflicts. Readers who prefer more of an action-packed story will appreciate the war and battles that the gods and monsters consistently find themselves fighting throughout the story. Conversely, readers who favor simple stories of familial or romantic love will welcome the intimate relationships that exist between the gods.
As a reader who was not familiar with the world of Greco-Roman gods, I greatly appreciated that Curry included a glossary in the back of the book. This glossary was comprised of important locations, definitions, significant objects, the rules that govern the lives of the gods, and notable gods and groups. This was extremely helpful given the sheer magnitude of details in the story, and I found myself referencing the glossary many times throughout the book.
Quill says: Curry has created what will undoubtedly become a new favorite series for fantasy genre fans with his first installment Shogun Of The Heavens: The Fall Of Immortals, Book One. This dynamic, exciting story of fantasy draws readers in and keeps a strong hold of them until the last page has been turned.
For more information on Shogun Of The Heavens: The Fall Of Immortals, Book One, please visit the website:
Home - Shogun of the Heavens
Home - Shogun of the Heavens
The website for the book series by I. D. G. Curry.

#AuthorInterview with W. Tod Newman, author of The Eyes of Gehazi

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Risah Salazar is talking with W. Tod Newman, author of The Eyes of Gehazi.

FQ: This is a very unique story - where did you get the idea/inspiration to write it?

NEWMAN: I remember reading about this person named Gehazi who had all of these things that his culture valued: a decent and very respectable job, a motivating mission, and close connection with powerful people. Yet still, when faced with a hard choice, he fell flat on his face and suffered what seems a pretty disproportionate punishment. It made me wonder why this had happened and I felt like I needed to tell his story.

The magical realism element comes from my love of the work of Garcia-Marques and Borges and the way they infuse wonder into their gritty realism in a way that their characters simply take for granted. This type of writing seemed very relevant for a story about a man who lived in a desert and worked for a Prophet six hundred or so years before the time of Christ, so I took it on.

FQ: The story is listed as historical fiction. How much of the story/events based on real events?

NEWMAN: Gehazi’s story is captured in a few different places in the Hebrew books of the Prophets (aka, the Old Testament) but it is clearly told out of order and there are lots of gaps. I spent a lot of time trying to put the snippets of history in chronological time so that I tell Gehazi’s story more completely. This allowed me to determine where in the timeline of the prophet Elisha this man Gehazi had been present. Some of this helped uncover likely motivations that led to Gehazi’s eventual fall.

FQ: Why do you think some people choose to have faith to a higher power, while some choose to create their own fate? 

Author W. Tod Newman

NEWMAN: This is a challenging question, because it’s pretty hard to get inside peoples’ heads to determine why and how their belief structures have been formed. I’m happy to give it a shot and you can see what you think! In Bayesian logic, belief is developed through the evaluation of evidence where a weaker “prior” belief is improved through evidence into a stronger “posterior” belief. Of course, this works great for machines, but people are more complex. Sometimes the strength of the evidence is exaggerated and other times, evidence that would change a prior belief is ignored. I think politics is my best example of this effect. When the choice to believe or not has more of a metaphysical edge, though, I think that the decision might be most impacted by the private state of the human at the time.

FQ: In line with the previous question, do you have a message to those two different groups of people?

NEWMAN: Not really, but I suppose that never updating one’s belief upon better evidence or never searching for better evidence is probably going to have negative impacts. Remember that the Greeks considered the Fates to actually be a higher power. Some people today associate the idea of “fate” with something more like random chance, but I don’t really think that is what people at their deepest core are truly able to believe.

FQ: Who was your intended audience for this novel and what do you hope for them to take away from reading The Eyes of Gehazi?

NEWMAN: I think that maybe I wasn’t writing for an audience when I wrote this book. I really just love telling stories about characters who struggle with decisions and their own liabilities. Because of this, Gehazi became really interesting to me. I would hope that some would find value in the book, though. I certainly think that there are people who could be positively challenged by Gehazi’s growing understanding of the darkness in his self-centered approach to life and who therefore might be able to see a personal path out of that sad world.

FQ: Could you describe your spiritual and personal relationship to your God? Are you religious?

NEWMAN: I have heard a number of trite and disappointing answers to this and I’ll try to avoid them because they’re all too small for the question. In the Christian Bible, Peter says to always be ready to share the reason for your hope. I do experience hope from my belief in a personal God who loves and is interested in humanity. In the same vein, I have been heavily influenced by writers like C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald, who often described themselves as reluctantly religious but compelled to invest their writings with images and metaphors describing a God who cares. Like them, I would hope to not be seen as a “Religous Author.” Religion, to me, describes a culture created by humans around their beliefs, and as such, is sometimes disturbing and other times is beautiful. I also believe, and I often infer in my writing, that to some degree, absolute truth exists and can be known.

FQ: Has there been a miraculous time in your life that you’d like to share?

NEWMAN: Can I get away with saying that life itself is a beautiful miracle? I don’t have any personal magical realism moments like we see in Gehazi’s story, but I truly love reading these kinds of books because they make the point about what we have lost by separating the magical and miraculous from our common experiences.

FQ: I see that you’re publishing the book a few chapters at a time/per week on your website. Why take this tactic? Do you believe it will allow more people to discover your writing? Is it a way to “spread the faith” so to speak?

NEWMAN: I suppose I don’t mind going against the grain. I love the idea that much of what we consider classics were published serially. Obviously podcasts and Netflix series have shown that humans love the tension of serial publication. I have no idea at all if this will help more people find my books, but I sure hope it will. It seems to me that there are elements in Gehazi’s story that could be compelling and useful to some people who are struggling.

FQ: One of the things you discuss on your website is the importance of research. What suggestions would you give a new author starting out on a similar project? Did your research needs ever become overwhelming?

NEWMAN: Yes, I think I’m fortunate that I love the research. I met James Michener once and the importance he placed on research was extremely challenging to me! I suspect I will never be able to approach his greatness in this area, but I find that I’m not satisfied if there are inconsistencies in my understanding of a setting or subject. This keeps me focused on getting details right.

Perhaps some of the best advice I could give a new author is to do their due diligence on research, but don’t ever assume that it will be completely done. Start writing before you think you’re fully done with your research or you may never start!

FQ: Your first several books were about pirate adventures and while they did emphasize “faith, trust, humility,” they were in a different genre. Do you see yourself returning to books in the “Pirate series” style or more historical fiction books such as The Eyes of Gehazi?

NEWMAN: The Pirate books came about by accident, and the story is fun. I had been writing for years, but had always failed to finish. Either the characters got annoying or my confidence in my knowledge of the setting began to be unconvincing to me and I would stop the book. I bet this is a common story.

The Pirate books started with bedtime stories, as one might easily be able to tell. My son, Zach, struggled more than most little boys with making good decisions, so every night he would hear stories about “the good Pirate Zach” who faced the same kinds of decisions, struggled through them, and overcame. Eventually, I realized that I needed to organize and capture the stories. The books began to be less about bedtime stories for young kids than they were telling powerful stories to older children. I compiled them into a single volume years ago. Reading the trilogy takes a reader through the ages of a child’s life in the few hours it would take to finish.

I don’t anticipate returning to these kinds of tales, but I continue to be interested in the combination of Old Testament historical fiction combined with magical realism. I’m currently working on a book that I’m calling The Prophet and the Queenthat explores the Prophet Jeremiah and his battles against the deity, Ishtar, who was in his day known as The Queen of Heaven.

#BookReview - The Eyes of Gehazi by W. Tod Newman

The Eyes of Gehazi

By: W. Tod Newman
Publisher: Desdichado Books
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Reviewed by: Risah Salazar
Review Date: November 27, 2022
Gehazi’s journey starts many thousands of years ago in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He and his family are part of the Tribe of Manasseh, one of the many tribes that live near and benefited a lot from the Jordan River. He recalls his life as one below poverty, working endlessly day in and day out, but never getting enough. The things that kept them going were the trivialities of their lives, being content despite having very little, and most importantly, their belief in their God.
Growing up, Gehazi was like any other teenager in their small village, but Eli, one of his closest friends, was not. Gehazi and Eli worked as farmers and were always proud of their honest work. Eli stood out not only because of his physique, but also because of his work ethic. Whereas other boys his age would be skinny and short, Eli had a tougher and taller build. This fact did not make the protagonist in the slightest bit jealous; in fact, Gehazi was inspired to be working side-by-side with Eli all the time. However, there was something inside him, a whisper getting louder and louder every day, that told him he might not be as popular as his friend, but he was meant for greater things.
One day, Eli came to Gehazi to reveal his purpose. He told Gehazi that his father Elijah, a renowned prophet, asked him to follow him on his journey and that soon, he would probably take up his mantle. He asked Gehazi to come with him, leave the farm, and live a prophet’s life. Needless to say, this was puzzling for Gehazi in the beginning. But realizing that his purpose, like Eli’s, was starting to get clearer, he decided to follow his friend in this arduous path.
Newman’s The Eyes of Gehazi is a slowly unfolding read that gets both interesting and tiresome, depending on where you are in the book. It has a personal and conversational tone which captures the narrative’s intent perfectly. The worldbuilding took some time to set in, but in that stretch, Newman made everything so vivid and appealing to the senses. Readers would also find that Gehazi’s story is full of surprises and life lessons. Whether you are a believer of God or not, the morals still hold true. The Eyes of Gehazi is a wonderful reminder that a purpose-filled life is not easy. One must have an excessive amount of patience and dedication to the life one has chosen to live. Also, there might even be times when it’s too late to appreciate the blessings in life because everything can be taken away in a snap.
The book’s formatting is a bit tricky, though. Some words, when they’re about to go beyond the right margin, are cut off weirdly. The dialogues also do not have quotation marks, which made the reading experience difficult. With regards to the storytelling, the plot twist came as a shock and the ending feels rushed. If this was the intention, then everything’s good. But if not, giving the readers more time for the falling action and resolution would be a good point for improvement.
Quill says: The Eyes of Gehazi felt like reading the Bible. It might not be for everyone, but those who would choose to read it would find themselves in an eye-opening adventure.
For more information on The Eyes of Gehazi, please visit the author's website at: https://todnewman.com/

Sunday, November 27, 2022

#BookReview - Connecting the Stars by Deborah Stevenson

Connecting the Stars

By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: Stella Mongodi
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
ISBN: 978-0648872399
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: November 25, 2022
Author Deborah Stevenson’s newest book literally reaches for the stars as she brings constellations to life in the beautifully illustrated and engaging book Connecting the Stars.
What child (or adult!) hasn’t looked up at the sky and wished upon a star? It’s a natural human desire to wonder about the vast, unexplored depths of space. Indeed, humans have been wondering about the stars and creating stories around the constellations for thousands of years, and this book shares, in perfect poetic form, the tales behind some of those stars.
The first several pages of Connecting the Stars introduces children to the amazing light show awaiting them when they turn their gazes to the stars.
Some with names and some unknown,
Each tiny star appears alone.
Look closer and you might unveil
a constellation’s timeless tale.
Get ready for astonishing tales of creatures big and small and stories that date back countless generations. The first constellation readers are introduced to is Corvus, the Raven, and we learn why this mysterious bird is always black. Next we meet a clever fox and then we are introduced to Drago the Dragon, a prized pet of the god Zeus:
The dragon swore he’d faithfully,
guard Zeus and Hera’s apple tree.
This wedding gift, with fruit of gold,
was coveted by young and old.
The poem goes on to tell how Heracles came to steal the tree and while Draco tried courageously to stop him, the dragon failed, and the tree was stolen. Still, to honor his attempt to protect the tree, Hera sent him up into the sky. The accompanying artwork, of a stunning dragon encircling the apple tree while a young girl rides him, goes beyond being “just” a beautiful drawing. The dragon in the drawing mirrors the constellation Draco, with the stars of the dragon brightly lit and a line connecting all the stars of the constellation together so young readers can easily make out the outline of the dragon within the stars.
Turn the page and another gorgeous illustration awaits, this time of Pavo, The Peacock. Hera, always jealous and suspecting, sent a spy to watch her husband Zeus. But what happened? And how did the peacock get all those “eyes” on its feathers? Get ready for some really cool stories on constellations that humans have been gazing at for thousands of years.
The merging of author Deborah Stevenson’s great imagination and mastery of simple poetic stories for children with the stunning artwork of Stella Maris makes Connecting the Stars a children’s book that really needs to be on every child’s bookshelf. Every page is a treat for the eyes and the poems are informative and fun! The constellations featured are not all visible from one spot on Earth, but rather, some can be seen from the northern hemisphere while others are seen from the southern hemisphere. And the children featured in the tales also, like the stories, show the diversity of the world while also showing how we are all alike. To quote the famous poet Maya Angelou (quoted in the book), "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." Bravo!
Quill says: This is definitely one of the best children’s books I’ve read all year - full of imagination and incredible artwork that will engage and educate readers.
For more information on Connecting the Stars, please visit the author's website at: http://www.frogprincebooks.net/

#BookReview of FitzDuncan's Gambit (The FitzDuncan Series Book 5)

FitzDuncan's Gambit (The FitzDuncan Series Book 5)

By: John J. Spearman
Published by: Avon Old Farms School
Publication Date: October 31, 2022
Reviewed By: Tripti Kandari
Review Date: November 25, 2022
The fifth installment of Casimir FitzDuncan's adventure series by John J. Spearman, FitzDuncan's Gambit, blends a fictional memoir of war, shenanigans, and intrigue with the escapades of its venturesome hero, Caz.
As the stigma of being the bastard son of the Earl of the March fades for Casimir "Caz" FitzDuncan, now Lord Oritur, he embarks on a new role as a leader, duty-bound to protect the people of the March. Caz is off to conduct an unprecedented initiative in response to the continuous onslaught of Nomads on March. He determines not to let the nomads control the course of the battle as he takes an aggressive approach with the former rangers and armaments men at his side. However, his anxiety soon changes course as he considers whether his success will aggravate his willowy father's anguish over his inability to rule and his mistakes from the past.
Meanwhile, the castle of Easton - the filthy and crumbling manor - undergoes a roller coaster of arduous renovations before ultimately ushering in a happy homecoming for the FitzDuncans. However, as peace and normalcy set in for Caz, his tendency to attract parlous escapades grabs hold of him. A trading agreement laced with manipulation and deception awaits him and his equally zealous collection of pals. The trouble knocks again at the door of FitzDuncan's as Dr. Flamel, the soothsayer who foretold the bestowal of Caz's birthright, prognosticates another prophecy. As the prognostication rings with peril and uncertainty, the miraculous insight of Lucy- the eccentric wife of Caz - convinces her- Caz must harness his abilities and link to the Martial Arts Gods.
The author's explorations focus on the relationship of man with their spiritual authority. We see a strong correlation between luck and efficiency, as well as God's assistance for people who strive for success, via Caz and his determination to attain his goals. As he overcomes one challenge after another, his persistence and his connection to divinity set him apart on the way to invincibility. As the story progresses from a tale of wars and intrigues to a magical realism portrayal, elements of diplomacy, adventure, and conflict are muddled together with the occult and Lucy's off-center powers.
Another characteristic of fantasy fiction that appears throughout is carnivalesque. The dissatisfaction and frustration of Caz with Aquileia's class structure lead him to defy the primitive rules of class even after his ascension to Lord Oritur. Though he still astounds at the regard he now receives against the treatment he had following his single stamp of bastard in the past, the negotiations between Caz and other subordinates set against the categories of influence. This characteristic contributes to the story's brightness by releasing the dominant style or atmosphere through humor and disorder. The narrative recounts the adventures and experiences of Caz in the guise of a fictional memoir in the story. While the point-of-view is limited to one individual, with only Caz as the narrator, the characters are all well-developed and provide a lot of insight into their distinct personalities.
Quill says: FitzDuncan's Gambit portrays a panorama of conflicts, conceits, and light-hearted concord - all engaging in a flight of fancy - as realistic and imaginative.
For more information on FitzDuncan's Gambit (The FitzDuncan Series Book 5), please visit the author's website at: https://johnjspearmanauthor.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Regina McLemore, Author of Cherokee Steel

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Regina McLemore, author of Cherokee Steel (Cherokee Passages, Book 3).

FQ: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you today. I was interested in your biography in that your books began being published in 2020, but your first magazine article was published in 2011. How challenging was it to transition from writing articles to developing a book?

McLEMORE: It wasn’t that difficult because I have always written poetry and short stories as well as nonfiction articles.

FQ: In line with my previous question, I was shocked to learn you worked on your first book for twenty-five years before it was published. I completely related to your explanation in that you were working full time and would find those coveted moments in time to ‘get back to it’ and continue with the story. Was there ever a time after you set it aside reconnected that it was difficult to reconnect? When you found the flow again, did the story take a completely new turn and write for you?

Author Regina McLemore

McLEMORE: It was always on the back burner of my mind, and I knew that I wouldn’t give up on my dream. At one point I thought I had finished it and sent out query letters, but nothing came of them. After I retired, I took another look at it and realized that Amelia needed a back story to show how she had become the person she was. That’s when the book obtained a new beginning and a new direction. When I finally connected with a publisher and editors, they helped me realize that I was trying to cover too large a time span in one book and should divide it into multiple books. My writing improved because I learned to narrow my focus and add more details.

FQ: I have an inherent love in reading books about Native American history and culture. I’ve read several works about the Sioux Nation, but am not as familiar with Cherokee cultures and history. After reading Cherokee Steel, it provided a sense of honor, pride and tradition this nation of people embrace. What resonates most with you in the Cherokee culture and why?

McLEMORE: The Cherokees have always been fighters and survivors. They fought hard to stay in their own country but lost the battle. They fought against mistreatment, the weather, sickness, hunger, and other afflictions before and after the Trail of Tears. Some of them lost that battle to Death, but those who survived effectively reconstructed their homeland in a strange, new land. Even when their nation was taken away through statehood, they never gave up their dream of sovereignty. I feel a strong connection because my Cherokee ancestors survived the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, and many other hardships while struggling to retain their tribal and cultural identity.

FQ: Back to your bio, you stated you were a full-time teacher/librarian. What subject(s) did you teach and what is one of your most memorable teaching moments? 

McLEMORE: I mainly taught language arts; although I have been called on to teach American history and general science for a couple of years.

I once had a student tell me that “I will probably fail English in your class like I did last year.” I discovered that he was a good writer, and I encouraged him all I could. He turned in to an “A” student, and when he was older, he told younger students to “be nice to her because she is a good teacher.”

I always loved sharing my love of reading both as a teacher and as a librarian.

FQ: Congratulations on your Will Rogers Medallion Award. What did the process entail in submitting for the award and did you have a strong sense going into the opportunity you would win? 

McLEMORE: My editor told me that my first book would qualify for the award because it was basically a western. He submitted it to the committee and said I should attend the awards ceremony that would be held later that year in Texas. I had high hopes that I would win first place, which would have been a gold medal, but I was still happy that I won a copper medallion for fourth place.

FQ: In line with my previous question, what was your reaction when you won and have you submitted for other awards since?

McLEMORE: I was both happy and slightly disappointed. I have won several awards in writing contests I have entered, with the latest being awards in the Ozark Writers Conference in October 2022. I am currently preparing to submit Cherokee Steel for a major state reading award.

FQ: I believe we are living in epic times...If you had to write a book about one of the current affairs that affects our nation today, what would the topic be and why would you choose this topic as your subject matter?

McLEMORE: I would write about the negative effect of technology on childhood development. I believe that children are losing their ability to use their imaginations and develop social connections because they are tied to screens at an early age.

FQ: I was thrilled to learn you were a librarian as well. With technology today, do you think libraries will eventually be ‘obsolete’ and our great grandchildren will have to rely on our stories to explain why they were (and are) so important?

McLEMORE: I don’t believe libraries will ever be obsolete, but they will have to adapt to the changing times. Audio books are becoming more and more popular. Attention spans have shortened so that a good story teller will have to be creative to catch and keep their listeners’ attention. We must make a determined effort to tell our stories to our children and grandchildren, even if they don’t seem interested. Like one of my students told me when she was an adult, “You thought I wasn’t listening, but I was.”

FQ: Reading truly is fundamental and the adventure of diving in and traveling across the pages and turning them, one-by-one also seems to be a lost art in a sense. Do you prefer to hold a book and engage in the art of turning the pages (or is your preference a reading tablet)? Please elaborate.

McLEMORE: Although I still hold and read a book occasionally and certainly scan a lot of books in research, I find myself turning to my reading tablet to read for entertainment. I have developed a habit of taking my tablet to bed with me at night and reading until I nod off. It’s also great that I can adjust the font to the size that I need at this time of my life.

FQ: There was an exchange between Granny and Bonita where Granny was giving Bonita a hard dose of reality: "...Oh, Granny, not ever’ body drinks. I never heard of Clay Stone or his Pa or his Grandpa bein’ drunk. Then there’s the preacher and his family." "And that’s why the Stones have somethin’ right now because they’re not drinkers. But how about that Ross Stone? He’s goin’ to deal his folks some misery someday because of his drinkin’. And that Michael has always been one to womanize, but his wife holds her head high like nothin’s wrong. ‘Course the Preacher and his have religion, and that’s been the savin’ of them, and I was hopin’ it might save Anderson, too, but I guess he’s just too weak to hold out when the temptation comes. But back to Ameilia Stone..." Essentially Granny was telling it like she saw it. How much of ‘Granny’ runs through your veins?

McLEMORE: “Granny” is based on stories my mother told me about her outspoken grandma who raised her when her mother died. I never got to meet Granny, but I know her because my mother painted such a vivid picture of her. I am sure that I have quite a bit of Granny in my veins and in my DNA.

FQ: Thank you for your time today. It’s been a joy to read Cherokee Steel and I look forward to your next title. Are you able to share a little about your next book?

McLEMORE: My next book is a nonfiction history book about the Cherokee Nation, beginning before the Trail of Tears and ending near the end of the Civil War. I am working to ensure that it is not just a book of dry facts but will focus on the people and events that have shaped what the Cherokee Nation is today. I have always believed that history is the story of the people who made it, and that is what I want to write.

#BookReview of A World Without Men by Randall Moore

A World Without Men

By: Randall Moore
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 11, 2022
ISBN: 9781639885848
Reviewed by: Dianne Woodman
Review Date: November 18, 2022
A World Without Men by Randall Moore is a story of an intense conflict that develops when a single-gender society of women is faced with the possibility of unheralded change.
Imagine Eleanora Duncan’s shock when she finds out that males have not been completely eliminated from society as she was led to believe her entire life. Eleanora has grown accustomed to a culture in which women’s eggs are harvested and stored for use in factories where babies are grown outside the womb. Sexual liaisons with other women are a normal part of everyday life, and women in powerful positions secretly own men for their own pleasure.
Eleanora’s life takes a dramatic turn after she meets an adult male named Peter, who is purchased in a clandestine auction by the highest bidder. Peter suffers physical abuse at the hands of his owner and retaliates, which puts his life in peril. If Peter, who is considered illegal, is discovered, he will be arrested and executed. Eleanora wants to protect Peter, and the two of them go into hiding. If Eleanora is caught, it will mean life in prison for aiding, abetting, and harboring an illegal. Things become more complicated when a report about men being available to prestigious women of wealth and a video of Peter goes viral on social media. Women in the general population are now aware that men exist.
Moore skillfully builds suspense and amps up the tension keeping readers guessing about what will happen amid the difference of opinions on whether men should be integrated into the general population. This dilemma creates feelings of anticipation and excitement for readers as events in the story unfold. The author does an outstanding job of showing the extreme lengths people will go for a cause they are convinced justifies their beliefs and actions, no matter what the repercussions might be. Subterfuge and revelations of secretive behavior that come to light play a significant role. Some leaders in government advocate that men should no longer be illegal. In contrast, other leaders are adamantly opposed to making changes to the current mindset and use extreme measures to try and ensure that men are not allowed to become part of society.
This gripping story includes technological advancements, sexual activities, special friendships, cross-dressing, hidden agendas, internment, stalking, acts of aggression, violence, chase scenes involving flying vehicles, and power struggles that have dire consequences.
A World Without Men is a novel with unexpected twists and turns in which every single scene propels the action forward and tests the characters while taking readers on a roller-coaster ride. The story is jam-packed with spectacular action sequences that lead up to an explosive climax in which readers wait with bated breath to see if the warring factions come to an agreement.
Quill says: An intriguing and fascinating story of a volatile political situation that keeps readers on pins and needles from start to finish.
For more information on A World Without Men, please visit the author's website at: https://www.randallmoorefiction.com/

#BookReview of Cherokee Steel (Cherokee Passages, Book 3)

Cherokee Steel (Cherokee Passages, Book 3)

By: Regina McLemore
Publisher: Fife Press
Publication Date: August 30, 2022
ISBN: 978-1633737822
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 8, 2022
Award-winning Regina McLemore delivers an engaging story in book number three (Cherokee Steel) of her Cherokee Passages series.
Young love is in bloom between fifteen-year-old Bonita McKindle and Ross Stone. Bonita is a good girl. She loves school, studies hard, respects her ‘Granny’ and while she is drawn to Ross, infatuation is as far as she is going to go, for now. Ross on the other hand, has other designs. He’s drawn to Bonita and his intentions run deeper than doing their favorite new dance, the jitterbug. He’s persuasive and persistent and knows all the right buttons to push Bonita in the direction he wants to go. Mr. Maxwell is the Principal of Jubilee High School and is completely intolerant of any shenanigans. When the bell rings for class and he catches Ross’ arms wrapped around Bonita, strike three is about to come raining down on Ross.
Too bad Mr. Maxwell wasn’t Bonita’s only problem. Her mother was gone, her brother Sid was a drinker and not only was her father Anderson’s health failing, but he liked his drink a bit too much as well. Bonita’s life outside of school was demanding at best. She took care of the house and was constantly monitoring Sid’s moves to make sure he didn’t convince Anderson to join him in his latest drinking binge. Tonight was Bonita’s turn for some fun. Ross invited her to a party at his home and she couldn’t wait. After convincing her brother Sid to drive her, by the time they arrive, she could hear the party was already in full swing. Amelia and Michael Stone (Ross’ parents) have a grand two-story farmhouse. The walls are adorned with generations of family photos from the mid-1800’s through the 1930’s. Susan Stone, Ross’ sister and Tommy Swimmer are newly married and have delivered the first grand baby. When Laverne Stone approaches Bonita, and insists on teaching her some new steps, Bonita is wondering where Ross is. She spends most of the night dancing with everyone but Ross. The night is winding down and it’s time for Bonita to leave and still, no Ross. Imagine her surprise when she’s about to depart and Bonita learns that Laverne isn’t really Laverne and for that matter, not even a girl!
Ms. McLemore has artfully layered a series of characters and plots throughout her storyline and while this read is engaging, there is a lot happening from one event to another. I decided to focus on Bonita and Ross as they truly are the anchor that connects the ongoing introductions of new characters and the foundational thread that runs throughout the read. Ms. McLemore does an admirable job of painting the diverse personalities of Bonita and Ross; Bonita being the good girl that has set her sights on finishing school and making a life for herself, and Ross is the bad boy that comes from a slightly privileged home and therefore pushes the envelope knowing he will not suffer egregious consequences for his misbehaviors. The subtle malcontent displayed by Amelia (Ross’ mother) the night of the party is a terrific seed the author plants that will grow into a strong theme as the story unfolds. The dialogue is strong and believable and the traditional beliefs and practices of the Cherokee Nation that ‘Granny’ imparts throughout the story are wonderful nuggets the author infuses in all the right places: "...Why are you shootin’ at them birds? They ain’t botherin’ nobody." Granny waived her arms and shouted, "Get out of here now, you old Raven Mockers." ...pulling a blanket over her flannel night gown, Bonita walked out of her room and to the front porch. "What in the world is a Raven Mocker?" "...It’s one of the Cherokee death birds. If a Raven Mocker comes to your house, someone nearby is goin’ to die."
Quill says: Cherokee Steel is steeped in Cherokee tradition and folklore and has a storyline that makes turning the pages effortless.
For more information on Cherokee Steel (Cherokee Passages, Book 3), please visit the author's website at: https://bardrmclemore.com/

Monday, November 21, 2022

#BookReview - Evolution Ended: The Next Stage of American Society by J. J. Jerome

Evolution Ended: The Next Stage of American Society

By: J.J. Jerome
Publication Date: November 20, 2022
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: October 5, 2022
In his new book Evolution Ended: The Consequences Have Just Begun, author J. J. Jerome has composed a portrait of world history focused strongly on the United States, demonstrating that survival of the fittest as a conceptual guideline for human progress is gradually giving way to a model that embraces unity, yet may soon erupt into the ultimate disunity of civil war.
Jerome begins with a picture of the US in the “cool” 1960s, with John F. Kennedy at the helm, hippies tuning in and dropping out, and a radical invention that would give ultimate control of a major human activity to all who chose to use it – birth control. Throughout humankind’s prior history, the alpha male ruled; his ability to defend himself and his family was key to significant life events – mating, warfare, and governance. Production of and survival of offspring is a basic key to evolution, but today we see an entirely different template than that which existed in the 1960s: children are not allowed to wander outdoors on their own, neighbors are reluctant to interfere in a crisis, and almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Mating is done online, without the physical cues that might affect one’s deeper sensitivities; computers and cell phones allow everyone to express conspiracy theories and cast every new leader in a shaded view.
Jerome examines the hierarchy of alpha, omega and beta personality types, the structure of the brain with the hindbrain, the most basic physical awareness, followed by the mammal or midbrain with its higher intuitive senses, and the forebrain, that brings such advances as written language. He is remarkably objective in positing the differences between America’s two main political parties and the advantages and drawbacks of both, as well as the positive and negative points of science, religion and social media. America, the first government to institute the rule of law above the rule of men, has become a nation at peace with all others, yet a place where children are not safe at school and there is a huge stockpile of privately owned weapons. Some observers predict civil war. Jerome quietly concludes that “it’s not the strongest or the smartest to survive, but the ones that adapt most quickly to their environment.” With our environment, including its climate as well as its complex social/political/technological factors, changing so rapidly, it is time for the cautious contemplation that Jerome introduces.
Quill says: Author Jerome gives readers scope to carefully consider the dangers inherent in the direction that technologies and philosophies in this age may lead us, by describing how they evolved and what they might mean for our future.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

#BookReview of The Lapone Sisters by Barry Walker

The Lapone Sisters

By: Barry Wilker
Published by: Archway Publishing
Publication Date: June 26, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-6657-2343-5
Reviewed By: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: November 15, 2022
The Lapone Sisters, the debut novel from Barry Wilker, is the story of three sisters who are incredibly different and each is trying to make their way down their own path in life. As the reader, we get to follow these paths, and it is such a beautiful, witty, and enjoyable trip that we have been welcomed on.
Each of the sisters has their own life and their own problems. Schmellda (Shell) is the oldest of the sisters and has always had a problem with being a little too heavy and a little too set in her ways. We get to follow along as she walks a path to change her image and her future. Sorina is the middle sister who has gone through life as a very beautiful woman with a severe stutter that has made her very quiet and introverted. We get to watch Sorina walk a path of discovering herself and her dreams while overcoming this speech problem. Finally there is Esmeralda (Esme) who is the baby in the family. Esme is the outspoken sister who always says what she thinks and feels regardless of the outcome. We get to watch Esme as she gets ready to leave home and start a life of her own far away from her family. Throughout the story the reader is treated to each of the sisters going through their day-to-day lives and learning and growing from each moment that happens to them. Each of these three characters is incredibly unique and presented to the reader through the girls eyes and it is a wonderful learning experience for them and for us. They are each so full of dreams, humor, and hope and it is a delight to watch them grow and learn and change. In addition, there are so many things that these girls go through that I am, and I assume many others are, able to relate to that it makes it even more interesting.
The Lapone Sisters also gifts us with a number of amazing supporting characters from the parents of these wonderful girls, to their boyfriends, to a very amusing and downright obnoxious newspaper personality, plus other amazing relatives and friends. These people become such a big part of the story and it is a very welcome addition. Throughout The Lapone Sisters each character, some main and some supporting, learn to overcome the complications they have been given in their lives as they develop their own place in the world. Even with all of the different stories going on in the book it flows along effortlessly and we are able to enjoy each moment on its own and as a whole.
Mr. Wilker has written a wonderful book that is just the perfect one to have when you want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in other peoples' lives. He is obviously a very talented and inspired writer who has given us a fabulous debut novel and I hope that he continues on his own path and brings us more. This is a heart-warming story about normal lives and there are so many positive messages to be found in the words. I have to speak directly to the author now and say how very much I “enjoyed the ride” and I thank you for that.
Quill says: The Lapone Sisters is a wonderfully written novel about the lives of three sisters and their friends and family and I would recommend it to all. I think that it would be simply wonderful (hint, hint, hint to Mr. Wilker) if we were able to reconnect with these lovely women 15-20 years down the line and see where their lives have taken them.
For more information on The Lapone Sisters, please visit the book's website at: