Thursday, March 30, 2023

#BookReview of The Raven's Cry: A Winter Mystery

The Raven's Cry: A Wynter Island Mystery

By: Kim Herdman Shapiro
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
ISBN: 978-1685123031
Reviewed by: 978-1685123031
Review Date: March 30, 2023
The Raven’s Cry is the first of Author Kim Herdman Shapiro's Wynter Island Mystery series. It sparkles with a charming setting and alluring plotline that will have readers turn into amateur detectives as they join the protagonist in figuring out an incriminating murder case. Capped with all literary devices that create an interactive experience and build maximum suspense, this story's unique elements will cleverly engage readers throughout the read.
After escaping a horrific abduction in a foreign country, Kate Zoë Thomas hopes to peacefully settle in Wynter Island where she's been offered a job opportunity in a new television network under its visionary leader, Gwen Wynter. However, her long-awaited peace and stability stand threatened after a startling occurrence down at Steeltun Bay where she is taking a stroll on its pebbled beach in the hope of enjoying its gentle waves that seem to promise a soothing relaxation under its calm and inviting ambiance. Curiosity has gotten the best of her as she sinks her feet in its shockingly freezing waters that immediately remind her that things aren't always the way they appear. Her flashlight catches sight of a dark figure bobbing in the shallow waters, sending her onto a sudden emotional rollercoaster with adrenaline gushing up her spine at the sight of the familiar but lifeless face of her ex-boyfriend, Daniel.
Tables, chairs, a piece of recording equipment, and two detectives make up the holding room where Kate is being questioned regarding the distressing incident. The authority's line of questioning begs a retracing of recent memories regarding her last interaction with the deceased, where he had expressed a willingness to apologize and have the relationship continue. However, Kate can't help but wonder why Sergeant Stewart asked whether she needed a lawyer before the questioning session began. Was he insinuating her involvement because she rejected the deceased ex-boyfriend's proposal to be lovers again?
Hysteria, anxiety, and suspense are some of the themes that heavily feature in this mystery, creating an enthralling atmosphere that readers will find difficult to separate from reality. The pace at the beginning is quite slow and readers will need to delve deeper into the pages where breathtaking action is packed. One of the most gripping turns in the text is about a message disclosure in the protagonist's phone that places her in the detectives' direct sight, again confirming Shapiro's expertise in creating unique twists and experiences that will have readers reassess what they’ve been reading so far.
Quill says: The Raven’s Cry will have you on your toes after encountering cleverly imagined stakes, surprises, and tidbits by the experienced journalist and author, Kim Herdman Shapiro. It is a must-read mystery that brims with exciting cliffhangers which will adeptly build anticipation for the second part of this new series.
For more information on The Raven's Cry: A Wynter Island Mystery, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview of Inassea Chronicles: The Blighted Flame by P.A. Pena

Inassea Chronicles: The Blighted Flame

By: P.A. Peña
Publisher: P.A. Peña Publishing
Publication Date: July 12, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-736908501
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: March 28, 2023
From science fiction and fantasy author P.A. Peña comes the first installment in the Inassea Chronicles entitled The Blighted Flame. After a witch destroys his family, our protagonist Virgil Truesdale embarks on a quest for revenge. The Blighted Flame is the story of Virgil’s journey to claim his vengeance.
Virgil Truesdale belongs to an elite, well-known hunter family; yet, sadly, tragedy destroyed his family years ago, leaving Virgil broken and focused on one thing: revenge. A powerful witch named Cecelia tore his family apart, and to this day, Virgil does not know if his brother is dead or alive. He has been on the hunt for Cecelia in order to get his revenge ever since. On his travels, he comes across a member of the Alliance named Orlando who convinces him to take the Crusader’s Exam. The Crusader’s Exam is an intense test that will push his limits and force him to engage in battle against the strongest of adversaries. If Virgil were to pass the exam, he would join the prestigious Crusader’s Alliance and gain access to immense resources, which would greatly benefit him on his hunt for Cecelia.
The Crusader’s Exam is every bit as dangerous as Virgil anticipated, but he thrusts himself in headfirst, determined to make it to the end so he can join the elite ranks of the Crusaders. Along the way, although he tries to keep to himself, he finds himself making formidable enemies as well as forming a strong bond with a brother and sister, who end up becoming helpful allies. The battle that ensues at the completion of the exam is nothing short of epic, with several key players making their appearances. Virgil and his allies fight alongside each other to the bitter end, facing the toughest adversaries they have battled yet in the exam. This battle will ultimately determine if Virgil will pass the exam and be invited to join the Crusader’s Alliance, thus bringing him that much closer to his ultimate goal of finding Cecelia.
Peña has crafted a masterpiece with his fantasy thriller The Blighted Flame. From the beginning, he takes the reader on a wild ride, not wasting any time getting the action started. The story is fast-paced from the first page until the last page is turned. The epic conclusion is jam-packed with countless surprises, shocking twists and astounding events that the reader will never see coming.
The author has also achieved what is often challenging for many authors. In a story with a large cast of characters, he takes great care to meticulously develop each one so that they are all unique and bring their own distinctive set of skills and personalities to complement the narrative. None of the characters seem unnecessary or superfluous; they all offer something beneficial to the plot of the story.
It is also worth noting that the fantasy world that Peña has created is superbly described, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in the world while reading. Often, the worlds in fantasy novels leave much to the reader’s own imagination, but Peña does a brilliant job of explicitly portraying the setting for the thrilling story to take place.
Quill says: The Blighted Flame is a fantastic adventure of epic proportions. Peña has crafted a gripping tale of revenge, friendship, love, and war, all set in an amazing fantasy world.
For more information on Inassea Chronicles: The Blighted Flame, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - The Silver Coin (The Oaths of Dante, Book 1)

The Silver Coin (The Oaths of Dante, Book 1)

By: Mika Mathews
Publisher: Bookbaby
Publication Date: September 11, 2022
ISBN: 978-1667863146
Reviewed by: Trix Lee-Rainwater
Review Date: March 29, 2023

In a war-torn world full of demigods, how does one low-born non-magical orphan shape his destiny? We follow Dante and his journey in The Silver Coin by Mika Mathews.

Fifty years ago, the gods descended down to earth and brought war with them, leading to the destruction of many countries and the decimation of the population. The gods won and, as it goes, multiple demigod bloodlines were conceived over the next decades. It was in this world ravaged by perpetual wars among the different god factions that fourteen-year-old Dante woke up in a hospital after his city became collateral damage in one of these civil wars. The wars had left him an orphan and now, his foster mother was also dead. All alone, he was then sent to New Olympus as a refugee.

As a voracious reader who is now working in the Inheritance Library, Dante has access to a multitude of books, including magic books. He knows that knowledge of magic is forbidden to those without divine bloodlines or an affiliation with the gods or their priests. He also knows he is not even allowed to touch these books. The risk is great but Dante has yearned for magic for so many years - and now this is one risk he is very willing to take. His desire to learn magic leads to him picking up a book from the magic section of the library and reading a passage on The Power of Choice and Magic. His resolve to be a sorcerer grows and he calls to the Goddess Hecate with a request to help him help the world. As the Goddess of Paths and Choices, Hecate listens. Dante then receives a small silver coin with the mark of Hecate and a condition that, in a month’s time, if Dante can prove that he’s able to feel and wield magic without Hecate’s aid, he can then be a Priest in Training under the goddess.

The Silver Coin by Mika Mathews is the first book in this mythic fiction series about how an ordinary person can achieve extraordinary deeds by shaping his own destiny. Dante was endearing and easy to like. The boy had been through a lot of struggles and came out of it stronger than ever. After he lost his mother to the war, his father and stepmother abused and discarded him and yet, when faced with the choice, he still chose to help them. It was a well-written scene that showed that Dante could feel anger and resentment but still choose to be altruistic toward his abuser for the sake of others. The story mentioned a lot of mythological gods which did not have any role in the plot but the ones that do have roles were written well. I especially liked the fresh perspective on Hecate. There was also a romantic subplot that I initially thought was a bit abrupt but, at the same time, I appreciated the fact that the writer did not let the romance take the focus away from the actual plot.

Quill says: This is a mythology-based fiction about an ordinary orphan with a heart of a healer and his benefactor Hecate, Goddess of Choice and Magic, as they find their paths and shape their destinies.

For more information on The Silver Coin (The Oaths of Dante Book 1), please visit the website:

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

#BookReview of Drink Win and Be Beautiful: Short Stories

Drink Wine and Be Beautiful: Short Stories

By: Kimberly Sullivan
Publication Date: May 26, 2023
ISBN: 979-8-9868844-0-0
Reviewed By: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: March 27, 2023
Feathered Quill Reviewer’s Choice Award-winner, Kimberly Sullivan, author of In the Shadow of the Apennines impresses again, with a collection of stories displaying emotional sophistication and surprise. Female main characters struggle to live through relatable challenges, such as learning to fit in with society and culture, accommodating difficult personalities in life and at work, and confronting painful pasts. Settings come alive in this collection; whether a character is soaking in the Mediterranean sunlight, or contemplating a memory while taking in a sweeping view of Luberon Valley, the rustic and romantic scenery and settings are just as well-drawn characters in these stories as are the people. From the medieval tower of Torano to the smell of lamb skewers over flame in Santo Stefano to a train ride overlooking the Neretva River and the snow-capped mountains beyond, characters move through their world as travelers, taking readers on journeys through parts of Europe. These characters are complex, intelligent women who seek love, adventure, and success. Each different protagonist exhibits a brilliant mix of American and European sensibilities.
The first story tells of two lifelong friends: when the younger narrator, foreign, needs to learn about Italian culture, the older woman acquaints her in fashion, relationship etiquette, and language. The second story is about a couple, married for over a decade, who try to improve their marriage with couple’s therapy, attempt a romantic getaway, and figure out what is not working. There are hard lessons that force the characters to display qualities such as cowardice, sarcasm, sincerity, or honesty. Friendship and relationship struggles arise and each story’s ending leaves lasting impressions. One story starts at a hotel in Dubrvnik, begins with a critical insight into the ways tourists behave abroad, but ends with a surprising revelation about the narrator and a past lover.
This is a collection that contains sharp and tender observations of the complexities of being human. In a deeply realized emotional story about a woman named Shawna who is grieving her recently-deceased, wealthy husband, the sophisticated widow disembarks from her life in Milan. She tells her social circle she will be retreating to a quiet Abbey in the hills. Instead, she boards her late husband’s yacht. When Shawna is resting aboard Massimiliano’s yacht, she thinks of her freedom, while looking out over the Liguria coast line. The San Marino church bells echo over the hills; she sips her bellini and feels free. The moment Shawna drops her dress to go “claim” her afternoon pleasure, ah! It’s a perfect serving of sensuality, and so self-assured in sexual swagger.
And if a reader is ever searching for a book of short stories that describes the right way to enjoy Bosnian coffee, well, this is that story collection. This is a wonderful read for those who love a book that guides the imagination to foreign destinations with a feeling of being at home anywhere in the world.
Quill says: Drink Wine and Be Beautiful masterfully delivers emotional complexity in settings rich with equal parts romance and melancholy.
For more information on Drink Wine and Be Beautiful: Short Stories, please visit the author's website at:

Monday, March 27, 2023

#BookReview of Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot by Regan W.H. Macaulay

Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot

By: Regan W.H. Macaulay
Illustrated by: Wei Lu
Publisher: Mirror Publishing
Publication Date: May 2022
ISBN: 978-1612254814
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: March 24, 2023

What could have been a sad story about a misunderstood parrot, is instead an uplifting tale about a sweet parrot finding happiness with her "forever flock" in author Regan W.H. Macaulay's children's book, Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot.

Chloe is a beautiful red-masked parakeet. She's not a large bird and her new owner thought that her living requirements were minimal. A small cage set on a table near a decorative plant seemed like the perfect home for the little bird. The man who purchased her meant well, but he traveled a lot and had little time for Chloe. Like so many first-time parrot owners, he thought Chloe had everything she needed.

As time went on, Chloe grew bored and lonely. She had no toys to play with and more importantly, her owner was rarely home, so she had no one to interact with and entertain with her antics. Chloe started screaming and as her frustration grew, she began plucking out her own feathers. Soon, most of the little bird's feathers were gone. Fortunately, Chloe's owner recognized that his bird was unhappy so he contacted a parrot rescue. The Parrot Sanctuary agreed to take Chloe and find her a "forever flock."

The experts at the sanctuary allowed Chloe to settle in while they got to know her. They discovered that the red-masked parakeet was very sweet and liked to play with toys, but she could be loud and wasn't the best "snuggler." Her new owner would need to be experienced with bird ownership and accept this special bird just the way she was - almost featherless but full of love. Would Chloe ever find her special flock?

When I was offered Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot to review, I jumped at the chance. As the mom to five parrots, I know how much attention these little feathered love-bugs require. But I've never read a children's book about the challenges, and rewards, that come with parrot ownership. Author Regan W.H. Macaulay did a fantastic job of presenting the issues around parrot ownership in a sensitive and informative way. We never see the face of Chloe's original owner (he's always shown from the back), and there's no accusatory tone about his poor care of his pet parrot. He simply didn't know and when he realized there was a problem, he did the right thing and contacted a parrot rescue. We also meet several different birds at the sanctuary that are beautifully, and correctly, illustrated - children get a nice education on different parrots. If you're looking for a book for a bird-crazy child, or any child who loves animals and wants to learn more about them, I highly recommend Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot. And yes, Chloe does find her forever flock.

Quill says: Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot is an endearing tale that inspires and teaches young readers about the love parrots are capable of giving while also showing that they are not household decorations, but rather thinking, feeling creatures who deserve loving homes.

For more information on Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot, please visit the author's website at:

#MeettheAuthor - Meet Author Kim Herman Shapiro

Meet Author Kim Herman Shapiro in her new author biography page.

Friday, March 24, 2023

#AuthorInterview with N.R. Alexander, author of Go To Hell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Risah Salazar is talking with N.R. Alexander, author of Go To Hell.

FQ: As a writer, what was your aim in writing this book? Did you want your readers to consider a different interpretation of Heaven and Hell?

ALEXANDER: A friend once told me that the coolest thing about me is the way I get other people to think. I want people to challenge their own beliefs and really test their boundaries. When you do that, you naturally become more creative. Heaven and Hell were obvious targets for this exercise because those concepts are so ingrained in our culture, yet we can’t definitively say what they are actually like. My aim was also to push other boundaries. What is funny? What is offensive? What is both?

FQ: I love the title of your book, Go To Hell. It's definitely an attention-getter. Were you ever worried that some potential readers might be put off by the title or were you planning on the opposite, that readers would be drawn to the book because of the title?

ALEXANDER: Worried is an understatement. Go To Hell was a working title as I wrote the book and I soon realized that it was the perfect name. But when it was time to publish, I spent a good week or two agonizing over it. I loved the title but also wondered if Amazon would ban it or if potential readers would be offended. I decided the answer to both questions was probably. But Go To Hell is the book’s identity! It would be the equivalent of taping a tail on my cat before guests come over. Sure, he’d look like a normal, run-of-the-mill cat. But that’s not who he is. He’s a tailless cat with a droopy butt and he’s proud of that! Go To Hell likely appeals to a niche audience and I want that to be clear from the beginning.

FQ: Why make the devil a woman? It was an interesting twist on a figure that has been portrayed through time as a man.

ALEXANDER: Women are so powerful. All of the best leaders and mentors in my life are/were women. Men are often in positions of power, but oftentimes they shouldn’t be. If the devil were a man, Hell would probably go bankrupt. Lucy challenges Alex (and readers) to look at Hell with an open mind and to see it with a competent, multifaceted ruler.

FQ: If you were Alex, would you have taken the deal? Would you do anything differently?

N.R. Alexander

ALEXANDER: Oh hell no, I would not have made a deal with the devil. But that’s because I am boring. I’d have been like “What? The devil wants to make a deal with me? Sounds too complicated. I have to go home and walk my dog anyway.” I would have done everything possible to make sure nothing interesting happened. That’s why the book is about Alex, not me.

FQ: Speaking of Alex, did you pattern him after yourself? I read that you're also a marketing consultant, and your pen name, N.R. Alexander, is similar to the protagonist's name. How similar are you to Alex?

ALEXANDER: Was it that obvious? 🙂 We do have similar career experiences and have dealt with some similar relationship struggles. Alex is probably some variant of me in the multiverse who split off in like 2015. Since then, he and I have made totally different decisions. We have different motives and passions. But even though we have a similar origin and both share a love of sweet potatoes, his name actually is not related to my pen name. I had made a list of 25 names for my main character. None of the others felt right. He is 100% an Alex.

FQ: There is a lot of humor in your book, and it kept the mood upbeat (as much as a story about Hell could be upbeat!) and the story moving. How hard was it to get that humor in there, and do you think without it, the story would have gotten too dark?

ALEXANDER: I’m glad you thought it was funny. I need validation often because I worry people just think I’m some kind of deranged weirdo. The humor was actually pretty easy to fit in. Sometimes, a funny concept would pop into my mind and simply knew that I had to get it into the book so I’d write a chapter or change part of the plot to help get the story there. It sounds like putting the cart before the horse, but isn’t it all about the cart anyway? The dark parts actually came easily too. Maybe too easily (see the ‘deranged weirdo’ comment above). I’m so glad the book has both though because if there was no humor, this story would have been a gruesome downer. I’m currently working on another story that is more serious so I’ll probably tone down the gore to make sure it doesn’t get too dark. Humor, darkness, gore, etc. are all just dials that have to be carefully calibrated. If you crank them all up all the time, the result is just a lot of noise.

FQ: If you could make your own version of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, how would they look?

ALEXANDER: I’d painstakingly map them all out in spreadsheets and flowcharts but here is the summary version:

1. Hell would be that party your friend dragged you to when you were in your twenties. You don’t know anybody there so you get really drunk and then you want to leave but your friend keeps saying “in a bit.” You never leave.

2. Heaven would be a cocktail reception where all of your extended family talks about the shows they’ve been watching. Oh my god, you haven’t seen Yellowstone yet?

3. Purgatory would be a hot and stuffy subway platform in New York City at 2AM. You’re dead tired but you can’t go to sleep yet. You look at the sign and it says “Next C train in 20 mins.” Then you look at it ten minutes later and it says “Next C train in 30 mins.”

...As you might guess, I don’t want to go to any of these places. I like being alive on Earth.

FQ: Given the statement on the front page of your website, "Waste time with social media," I take it you're not a fan of social media. Would you advise other authors to skip the madness that is being pushed (Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc.) and instead focus on writing?

ALEXANDER: This is a tough one. If I could get in with a trending Book Tok or Bookstagrammer, then it’d be different. Or maybe if I could just get that one post that goes viral...It’s unlikely so I do very minimal social media. I even have a timer on all of my apps to make sure I don’t get sucked in. If it takes me more than five minutes to post, my app locks down and I can’t get back in until the next day. This helps me make sure I spend time writing and working instead of scrolling. If I had to give advice, I’d say “know exactly what you want to do before you open Instagram/TikTok. Then do that thing and only that thing. Then do something else that is important in your life.”

FQ: Might we ever see a children's book about your paleontologist cat? Perhaps more sophisticated than the crayon version you once penned, but it sounds like it could be a fun book.

ALEXANDER: Oh boy, I think that ship has sailed. Writing a children’s book would be really fun but I’ve actually heard that it’s much more difficult than writing a book for adults. Also, when I was a kid, I got carried away with the illustrations. Crayons were certainly be a part of it, but I also used to tape chicken bones to the pages to make it a multisensory picture book! I just don’t think parents would appreciate that though.

FQ: Is there going to be a sequel to Go To Hell? The ending was a good start to what could be a whole new plot.

ALEXANDER: Absolutely. Get ready for some thrillers where Alex and Nat pursue hellishly gifted villains and solve paranormal mysteries. You might even see some stories that exist in the same universe but with totally different characters and of totally different genres. Aaaand, Alex might actually publish his book someday under his name...You can get all those juicy details from my website.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

#BookReview of Go To Hell by N.R. Alexander

Go To Hell

By: N.R. Alexander
Publisher: Pixel & Moogley
Publication Date: February 25, 2023
ISBN: 979-8987868003
Reviewed by: Risah Salazar
Review Date: March 20, 2023

Alex Ometto’s dream is to be a successful writer. The problem is, he is not that great of a writer, but he is a fantastic marketing consultant - his day job. Though he is amazing at his day job, it does not really satisfy him, and leaves him feeling empty. As the days go by, he gets more and more frustrated. His girlfriend, Sara, would have been his best source of emotional support, as he does not have any close family members, but he cannot exactly remember when their conversations became strained and robotic. Plus, Sara is not particularly enticed by the stories Alex writes. It’s official - Alex’s life is completely falling apart.

One day, he receives a call from his best friend, Ernie, asking to meet. As if a blessing from the universe, Ernie eventually tells Alex that he has found the solution to everything, the key to life itself. But Ernie’s news is not philosophical or existential in nature. If it had been, Alex would have grabbed the opportunity as soon as Ernie dropped it on him. Ernie's news is completely unbelievable. As it turns out, Ernie has made a deal with the devil, and now he gets everything he wants - as simple as that. He even shows Alex some proof, but Alex is just too perplexed to accept it as truth.

Now, curiosity just won’t let Alex sleep. After some time, he traces his steps back to the tattoo parlor where Ernie confirmed the devil does her business. Wanting to “know” but not exactly “believe,” he finds himself a spot in purgatory in the afterlife. But this is not what Alex wanted; now he has to trade his soul for a spot in Hell. Actually, it’s more than a spot - he gets half ownership of Hell - if he can gather a million souls to sign up for Hell before Easter. This might be a good plot to write, but Alex does not need his writer's brain for this to work. He has to be the great marketing consultant one last time. With a special phone, a demon, another consultant, and a wrestler-turned-actor at his disposal, Alex has six months to complete this magic trick. But time slips through his fingers as he realizes this deal is not exactly what he thought it would be. Will Alex succeed and make it to Hell?

N.R. Alexander’s Go To Hell is a short but interesting read. It will take the reader to unexpected places, leaving them with confused emotions. It is fast-paced and alluring; it's too hard to put down. Though there are certain points in the plot that need justification, in general, it’s a good satirical comedy. And while the climax is questionable, the resolution is actually quite good and ties everything together.

Quill says: Go To Hell is funny and exhilarating, although the storyline could be improved for a more seamless reading experience.

For more information on Go To Hell, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview of The Merchant From Sepharad

The Merchant From Sepharad

By: James Hutson-Wiley
Published by: New Generation Publishing
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
ISBN: 978-1803696591
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: March 20, 2023
Author and scholar James Hutson-Wiley presents the third segment of his saga set in Europe and the Holy Land in the Middle Ages, fleshing out cultural and religious ambience through the eyes of a young Jewish man, Joshua Ben Elazar in his newest book, The Merchant From Sepharad.
Joshua’s tale, told in first person, begins when, at age eighteen, he is sent from Sepharad (Iberia, or Spain) by his father, a successful merchant, to start a new business in Lishbunah (Lisbon, Portugal). He is given a stash of gold ornaments to present to his contact, Essua, to form the groundwork of the enterprise. Arriving in the port city, he gets an introduction to adversities to come: because he is a Jew, the customs official seizes his gold and informs him he must pay an entry fee to reclaim his goods. Essua and others assure him that this treatment is standard for those of their religion.
The attempt to recoup his loss is the beginning of a lengthy journey that will take Joshua ever farther from home, becoming involved in what seems a justifiable killing, raising the religious and philosophical quandary of vengeance. He will see firsthand the evils of slavery, again forcing him to question some beliefs common at the time. He observes the differences that run deep between his Israelite family and those of Muslim, or Ishmaelite, faith, and begins to comprehend the beliefs of Christians as well. Joshua seems doomed to fail at commerce, but he excels in scholarly pursuits. Advised by a rabbi to study religion, he must learn Hebrew script, making a deep study of both Torah and Talmud. His travels continue, resulting in meeting a beautiful young woman named Hannah, and further entanglement in international and inter-religious intrigue. With help from allies including a giant former slave named Blazh, Joshua heads towards Yerushalayim – the Holy Land.
Hutson-Wiley pursued a career in international trade and finance that led him to many of the locales and cultures with which this book, and its predecessors, are infused. His writing combines a rich, pictorial imagination as well as diligently researched historical detail. He has appended a helpful Glossary of the many foreign names needed for the story’s authentic feel. Into his narrative he weaves such notables as the Jewish sage Maimonides, a child at the time when Joshua meets him. Joshua is a fully rounded character, berating himself for his failures as a merchant while modestly realizing aspirations as a student and teacher. Through a wide range of perils and triumphs, Hutson-Wiley’s hero remains faithful to family and spiritual vision.
Quill says: Hutson-Wiley has received awards for previous works leading to this addition to the collection, for which he is certain to garner yet more positive attention and praise.

Monday, March 20, 2023

New Award Sponsor!

We're excited to announce a new sponsor for our annual award program. Goodkindles will be sponsoring an award for the best Mystery/Suspense book, starting with our 2024 program. Nominations for the 2024 program open August 1, 2023. Check them out today!
Goodkindles Award for Best Mystery/Suspense Book - This award includes a Professional Option that allows the winner to schedule a book promotion on Goodkindles and all their social media channels, and also a Main Banner graphic advertisement on Goodkindles in the selected month. The value of the award is $165 (Professional Option - $45, Main Banner - $120).

Thursday, March 16, 2023

#BookReview - Ourman: Book 1 by Gilgamesh Uth

Ourman: Book 1

By: Gilgamesh Uth
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
ISBN: 979-8201157418
Reviewed By: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: March 14, 2023
In any culture's history, there is always a hero who seems to appear to guide others in shaping the ideas of what is best for the world they live in. In Ourman: Book 1, by Gilgamesh Uth, we meet such a hero, named Steven, and follow along on his journey.
As the book opens, we meet a young lion who is speaking to his grandfather and asks him, “Is there not one human we respect?” His grandfather proceeds to take him to another part of the jungle to speak with the leader of the Okapis. He asks this leader to tell his grandson the legend of man so that the young one knows that such a human does truly exist. There begins the story of Ourman, in this case a man named Steven. The novel explores the journey of Steven, a man who has ended up on Earth with his wife, not having any idea of why he is there or where he came from. Now these two people must find a path forward in what is their new life and reality. Of course, as in any good story, a group of events will happen that will separate these two people and send our hero on a different path where his identity is full of mystery and there is the possibility of him being destroyed completely. What will happen to our hero as he goes forward and tries to make his way? Will he ever find his wife again? Will the ups and downs of his new path bring him back home or send him further away? The reader will discover the answers as the story progresses - and it's a story I recommend you read.
Ourman: Book 1 is philosophical in its telling and the author does a very good job engaging the reader. The characters in the story all have a reason to be there and are important, not only to the main character but to the background of the entire story. Mr. Uth uses each of these characters in the best way to tell a truly enthralling story, involving legends and beliefs from other cultures as they all, in their own way, become a part of Steven’s journey to figure out his past and succeed in his future. The way that Mr. Uth writes the main character as a hero, but also shows the depth of the man beneath, is really exceptional and makes for a captivating story. In addition, the author has a talent for writing in such descriptive language that the reader feels they are truly in these places and can experience what they are like right along with the characters in the story.
If there is one criticism about the book, it would be the formatting. On some pages there are indents at the beginning of the paragraphs and on some pages there are not. In some instances there is proper spacing between paragraphs and in some instances there is no spacing between them. A proper editing of the story so that everything is the same would go far in making the book a bit easier to read. All of the differences on the pages can, at times, be very distracting.
Overall, this is a fascinating and interesting novel that will lead the reader to ask themselves a lot of questions. The story of a hero is fixed in so many different cultures and this one is told very well. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys an insightful book that will make you think. In addition, the story is left open at the end so the reader is hopeful for more adventures for Steven and the other characters as they continue forward on their path. It leaves us knowing that there is more to come and I, for one, cannot wait.
Quill says: As readers we always hear of legends such as Robin Hood or Mulan, or even Zorro - figures that come from fictional stories who exemplify what a hero should be. To the reader, they are hope for the future and I think that Ourman: Book 1 gives us just such a hero.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

#AuthorInterview with James Robinson, Jr.. author of I Injured My Foot Doing the Mashed Potato

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lily Andrews is talking with James Robinson, Jr., author of I Injured My Foot Doing the Mashed Potato: Or...I Should Have Stuck With the Twist.
FQ: Your book recounts different encounters you have had in life. What inspired you to detail them in a humor book instead of a memoir?
ROBINSON: I prefer essays to a memoir because individual essays or anecdotes are much more flexible and lend themselves to different subjects and my style of writing. With an essay, I can tackle any subject and interject my own background and feelings into that subject if I wish. For instance, I talked about a poker game in hell, but that certainly wouldn’t be a part of a memoir.
Each essay tells its own story. I have three other books that are also in anecdotal style. A memoir wouldn’t me to put out that much material and would cramp my style.
FQ: You have literally allowed readers into your world by sharing both positive and negative events. What have kind of impact do you expect these episodes to have in their lives?
ROBINSON: My main goal is humor and I get a thrill when someone tells me that they laughed out loud at a particular chapter or phrase. So, if my words brighten up their day, I’m happy.
On the other hand, there are chapters that delve more deeply into my life than others. One chapter that I seem to have gotten more feedback on is “The Fragment” which goes all the way back to my grade-school days. This essay tells readers, in satirical fashion, the big deal that was made of a simple fragment I wrote in one of my grade-school papers, how my life was affected by the fragment, and how I have taken command of the world of punctuation. It’s ironic that one fragment has had that kind of effect on me.
Another chapter, “Reel to Real,” speaks of my journey into manhood from age 12 to age 13 by tying it into the world of movies and how much scrutiny I was under getting into a movie at age 12. I was “big for my age” trying to buy a child’s ticket but looking like a 15 year old.
My hope is that readers, as they chuckle, can relate my situations. While they may not have had the same experiences, hopefully they will relate on some level.
FQ: Your book is full of humor and readers most definitely find themselves bursting into laughter here and there. Do you have any experience in standup comedy or something similar?
ROBINSON: Thank you for the compliment. No, I don’t have any experience in the world of stand-up comedy although I have often thought of routines that I might use and what it might be like to get on stage. But I know how difficult it is getting on stage by yourself and trying to make people laugh. I have also come to realize that comics have a drive to be comedians and to get on stage any way they can early in life. Eddie Murphy called around to clubs and booked his own gigs at age 15. He was a regular on SNL at 18.
Famous comics such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey, and David Letterman all flocked to the west coast at a young age simply because Johnny Carson was there. A spot on his show made their careers.
My sense of humor comes largely from Johnny Carson and Bill Cosby. I only hope Bill was behaving himself at the time I idolized him.
FQ: Were there any events that you were “on the fence” about including? If so, what was the final deciding factor to get you to write up that story?
ROBINSON: There was one chapter in the book that I fretted about putting in the book or not. The chapter, Things Change, deals with my mother agonizing over my son-in-law eating a plate of spaghetti on our couch. This is a woman whose favorite saying has always been, “There’s nothing Eternal About It.” Now suddenly at age 93, she’s bugging me about a 43-year-old man eating on the couch, a man who is very generous with his time, constantly doing little things for us around the house.
“It’s a new couch,” she keeps saying.
I kept telling her it’s not new and we got it at a discount furniture store. Let the guy eat where he wants.
“But, son, it’s spaghetti sauce,” she reiterates.
I was worried what she would think if she read it but, sadly, I realized that she doesn’t really read anymore due to senility so I left in.
FQ: Likewise, was there an event/life experience that, because of space, you had to leave out of the book? If so, would you briefly share it with our readers?
ROBINSON: I have written an essay that examines the phenomenon of people not wearing a coat in cold weather. I just don’t understand how I can be wearing a hoodie with a winter coat over it while someone else is wearing a short-sleeve shirt. It boggles my mind. Aren’t they cold? Don’t tell me you’re just going from the store parking lot to the store. It’s 30 degrees; it’s cold as hell going from the parking lot to the store.
This trend seems to be a new thing. Everyone wore a coat when I was growing up. I relate how, when I was younger, coat buying was a science. My mother bought my coats with the sleeves coming down to my fingertips so that I could “grow into it.” Unfortunately, this essay was just too long to put into this book.
FQ: I’ve heard it said many times that writing a humorous book is very difficult. Did you find this to be true, or did the words flow naturally to the paper, or more accurately, to the computer? If injecting humor did take some effort, what were some of the challenges you experienced?
ROBINSON: Actually, humor comes pretty easily to me, especially humor of the sarcastic, satiric ilk. I sketch out an idea with pencil and paper and the humorous ideas begin to come at his time. Then when I begin to flesh it out, I can sometimes hear the humor coming before I can it down. I’ll chuckle knowing what’s coming. However, writing isn’t like speaking; I can go back and punch up my lines and humorous touches as much as I want. Sometimes, if I haven’t seen a piece of work for a while, I’ll read it over, chuckle, and say, “that’s pretty funny.”
Then I’ll chastise myself. “You’re laughing at your own stuff.”
Then I’ll figure, “Well if I don’t laugh at it, who will?”
FQ: I feel that you are a very gifted humorist, and it would be great to read another similar work. Do you have any plans of doing another humor book or might you prefer to write another genre?
ROBINSON: Thank you. My wife probably wouldn’t agree. I am developing ideas for my next book; however, I have 3 books out now that are similar in nature to this one. Old Age Sucks was my last book. As the title indicates, it deals with the effects of old age and includes such chapters as: So Long Libido: It’s Been Good to Know Ya’, and Cortisone or Hell Yeah, I’ll Take a Shot. The book prior to that one was Jay Got Married which features 9 essays one of which a commentary on love and marriage in the 2020’s.
And my very first book, published in 2012, was Fighting the Effects of Gravity: A Bittersweet Journey Into Middle Life. All of these books are humorous and structured in much the same way as this one.
FQ: I am sorry for your foot condition. Did it affect you in any way while writing this book? If so, how?
ROBINSON: Thank you for your sympathies. No, my foot condition doesn’t affect me at all when I’m in a seated position, but boy when I walk down stairs or even just plain walk. I’d like to get a dog but I just couldn’t walk it.
And trying to find shoes for this right foot is crazy. My foot was a size 11 ½ in my prime of life, then it jumped to a 12 wide (which I documented in Fighting the Effects of Gravity), and now has spread out to a 14 4EEE which I pointed out in Old Age Sucks.
And I can’t try on shoes in a store. I have to order them online and play a game of send the shoes back and buy some more if they don’t fit.
FQ: What inspired you to look at your difficult moments positively?
ROBINSON: I think a lot of my positive thinking comes with age and maturity. If you’ve lived 70 years like I have and don’t have a sense of humor to be able laugh at the small stuff and the maturity to know that, as mother used to say: “There’s nothing eternal about it,” then you’re setting yourself up for an unhappy life. How are you going to handle the big issues that are inevitably going to come your way? When an every-day occurrence comes along that I’ve experienced before and that I know I worked out well in the past I simply say “this worked out well before, why get excited about it now?” Or as Abraham Lincoln was known to say: “This to shall pass.”
FQ: It is said that a positive perspective gives you an advantage in life. Your book offers a challenge to developing this crucial skill. What can you tell your readers that has not been suggested in your book about shifting their perception in order to stay satisfied and happy?
ROBINSON: Good question. I think I touched on this issue in part in question #9 but a lot of my so-called wisdom comes from the, been there, done that philosophy. I have often heard people say, “Now I’ve seen everything...or “If you live long enough you’ll see a lot of things you’ve never seen.” Well, I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve seen a lot. And one thing that I tend to ask is, “What’s the worse that can happen?”
I won’t lie. While there are some serious events in life that can test your resolve, leave you physically and mentally broken, most things that happen are of the “s**t happens” variety. Why get all “bent out of shape” when you’re late for a doctor’s appointment when the worst that can happen is they turn you away. You make another appointment and when you look back on it you wonder why you got so worked up.
What’s the worst that can happen? Sometimes, it can be bad. But most times, what’s the worst that can happen?

#AuthorInterview with Cynthia J. Bogard, author of A History of Silence

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Cynthia J. Bogard, author of A History of Silence (Book One of the Heartland Trilogy).
FQ: What a fantastic body of work you have written, and it is an honor to speak with you today. I’m going to jump right in because there are so many moving parts to this phenomenal read! There is believable life you have given to each of your characters. If you had to choose one who resonated most with you who would it be (and why)?
BOGARD: I wrote the first draft of this novel when I was 26. At that age, Jane reflected my emotions, my love of nature, and my aspirations (I hadn’t yet gone to graduate school, but like Jane, education was always a main interest of mine). When I returned to the manuscript at the end of my academic career 35 years later, it was Maddie that I related to most naturally, particularly her questions about how to be in the world and how to do the right thing. These two are united by their love of university life. When I wasn’t crying in frustration, I loved graduate school. When I wasn’t too busy to see straight, I loved being a professor.
FQ: With reference to your bio, I enjoyed your statement of "...reinventing yourself as a novelist after a successful career as a Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Hofstra University in New York..." What was your defining moment to choose this path?
BOGARD: The beginning of the pandemic lockdown. With the transition to Zoom classes, I suddenly didn’t have an hour and a half commute each way. I couldn’t travel abroad. I moved up my retirement by a year. So, I had the gift of time. I took out the manuscript I had written in the 1980s and began to revise it. In doing so, I remembered how much I liked writing fiction. I have many stories in me needing to get out. So, lots of pleasurable hours ahead!
FQ: In line with my previous question, there are deep layers to each of your characters. Without too much of a spoiler, how difficult was it to develop characters Jenny and Jane given the horrors of their respective and tragic childhood experiences?
BOGARD: Sadly, it wasn’t difficult at all. Both young women’s lives were based on friends I knew in college and their childhood experiences. For additional explication of their inner lives, I relied on detailed and lengthy interviews I conducted during my sociology career. I have interviewed many homeless women. The extent of trauma and grief that defined their lives was a notable finding of my studies. Their stories helped me immensely to get at the feelings of my characters. I owe a profound debt to both groups of women for trusting me with their stories. I hope this novel does honor to their struggles.
FQ: I was fascinated to learn about General Order Number Three and its tie-in to Juneteenth and how history ‘got it wrong’ as it were. I had never learned anything about General Order Number Three when I was in school. What is your view on public education and how accurately do you think the subject of history is being taught in today’s climate?
BOGARD: I love and hugely support public education. I was trained in educator John Dewey’s methodology of a “community education to serve democracy.” As an undergrad, I studied education as an institution at one of the best teaching colleges in the nation in the 1970s, the University of Wisconsin, Madison. My character Jenny goes to college at my first alma mater.
We have fallen so very far away from Dewey’s ideas for a well-educated citizenry. Twenty years ago, the “test prep” model of the second Bush administration debased education’s complexities. More recently, we’ve witnessed a growing effort to delete the hard topics, like our nation’s full history and gender studies. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Instead, it is a recipe for continuing to repeat our mistakes and for undermining our collective rights and freedoms.
I believe that students are stronger and more capable than some give them credit for. They can handle and grow from examining our nation’s longstanding involvement with enslavement or how gender shapes our lives. People trained in critical thinking and informed by a detailed and transparent education become citizens well equipped to take action to preserve democracy. Protecting the progress we’ve made and continuing to move toward a more just society requires grappling with our history. Some students do get that kind of education in our public schools. But a majority, especially impoverished kids, and students of color, do not. That is unconscionable in any society that aspires to remain a democracy.
FQ: In line with my previous question, I had never heard a reference toward ‘planter families’ and again, was surprised to learn its definition. While the Wharton family is your fictitious ‘planter family’ in this book, how deep did your research go and did you fashion this family after an actual ‘planter family’? If so, are you able to elaborate?
BOGARD: I’ve lived in Texas and visited former plantation mansions-turned-museums in several Southern states. Some of these museums of slavery times include the stories of the Black people that forcibly labored there. The euphemism “planter family” is probably more common in the old Confederacy states than it is elsewhere in the U.S. I heard it used somewhere along the way, possibly from a former landlady I had in Texas who may have been a descendant of a planter family. The term came up recently in the trial of Alex Murdaugh. He was described as coming from a planter family. He lived on and still owned much of the property that was once used to grow crops planted, tended, harvested, and processed by people his ancestors enslaved. Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son and will spend the rest of his life in prison. I was amazed at how similar his background, if not his life’s trajectory was, to that of my fictitious Johnny Wharton.
FQ: You reference Miss Grace’s (Roz’s mother) admiration toward First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and " she was for us colored folks, how she saw, like few white people in them days, that we were all God’s children and should all be treated with dignity..." What a beautiful sentiment. With the utmost respect to you, what is your view on the blatant division that is rampant in our country today? What do you think the ‘end-game’ is and if you were given the opportunity to make a positive impact toward unity, what would you do and how successful do you think your plan would be?
BOGARD: Maybe surprisingly, I’m optimistic about the US overcoming its racial divisions, though it will take so much longer than is good for any of us. The reason is the reality of our growing diversity. Many young people in our nation grew up with much more racial/ethnic diversity than previous generations. I have seen a huge rise in racial/ethnic mixing in friendship groups and romantic partners over the 25 years I was a university professor. We old people and our ignorant and stupid grievances are stalling progress. Yes, there will always be fearful people hating what they don’t know or understand. But I have confidence that the reality of the emerging generations will bring all of us toward a more unified position on the inherent humanity in each of us.
Whatever educators, politicians, and interested others can do to make daycare centers, schools, and neighborhoods more diverse so kids are able to easily form cross-racial bonds with one another is the ticket to us healing from these longstanding divisions. That’s why I support public education and decry using public funds for private, segregated schools like the one Jenny attended. When we work, learn, and live with people who are not like us, we are more likely to get to know each other as individuals, not stereotypes. We also, as a group, have access to more ideas, more creativity, than if we only interact with people similar to ourselves. This is why universities don’t want to give up on racial/ethnic diversity efforts. Diversity leads to superior outcomes, for individuals, for institutions, for nations, and for the world.
FQ: In your profession as Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, what is one of your most memorable teaching moments and why does this memory stand out?
BOGARD: There were so many memorable moments, as is true for every dedicated teacher. But one was very unusual as well as memorable.
An anthropology colleague of mine, Prof. Cheryl Mwaria, and I twice took Hofstra students to Togo, West Africa and twice had university students from Togo spend some time with us in New York. In New York, we visited New York City and a site, now a museum, near our university where people from West Africa were once enslaved. In Togo, we were hosted by Plan International, a non-profit development group that I have supported for several decades. We visited schools Plan had built, wells they provided to communities with no local source of fresh water, and even a radio station started by Plan, and run by kids that broadcast to the local community. We studied how microcredit programs use trust and community norms to pool funds so that impoverished rural villagers can start their own businesses. Our students learned about capacity building and the improvements it could make on village and individual lives.
The second year we also visited Ghana. Togo, a nation long run by corrupt authoritarians, had almost no paved roads and many people lived in abject poverty. When we crossed the border into democratically run Ghana, the development differences were starkly visible. Paved roads, streetlights, decent housing, and signs of relative prosperity were everywhere. Our students had a big epiphany, seeing firsthand what difference good governance could make. We ended our travels in Ghana with a visit to Cape Coast Castle, the place people were held before they embarked on the Middle Passage to become enslaved in the U.S. That was a poignant visit for all of us, Americans and Africans alike. Experiential learning is best when it can happen, because it has so many dimensions, so many senses are involved, that it sticks with you, sometimes for all your life. I thought we created that for our students on those two exchanges.
FQ: You state mid-20th century jazz is close to your heart. You are a woman after my own heart! I learned a lot about this era of music from my father and loved driving with him to one of his jobsites (he was a contractor) when I was growing up and listening to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, to name a few. If you had to pick one, who would be your number one and why?
BOGARD: I can’t answer with one – part of the reason I love jazz is the collaborative nature of it! It’s also a context where lots of productive interaction between Black and white musicians took place, and friendships were forged, even during bleak times in our country’s race relations. That’s why jazz plays a role in A History of Silence — I used jazz a as a space of productive interracial creativity and harmony. This is what the Black trumpeter Harry says to Chuck in the novel after Chuck asks if Harry would mind if the pianist he needs to hire was white. “If he can lay out some good riffs, he can be green if he wants. You know somebody?” Chuck (a white pianist) auditions and becomes a part of the group. Jazz is about inventive acumen and playing well with others. That’s it.
When I write, I mostly listen to jazz pianists (vocals are a distraction and sometimes too much complexity is, too). My favorite pianists include Red Garland, Bill Evans, and Erroll Garner. If I need cheering up, there’s no one better than Beegie Adair. But perhaps my favorite instrumentalist in all of jazz is Ben Webster, with his incredible style of tenor saxophone playing. He awes me every time I listen to him.
FQ: Thank you again for the pleasure of reading your book and your time today. When something is good, it’s great! You should be incredibly proud of your accomplishment of writing a most captivating read. I cannot wait for the next in this Heartland Trilogy and want to know if you’re working on it now. If so, are you able to give us a sneak peek of what we can expect to receive?
BOGARD: I’m actually not working on Beach of the Dead, the second book of the Heartland Trilogy. It’s already finished and back with Atmosphere Press for their wonderful cover and interior design services. I probably won’t publish it until early 2024, however, just to provide plenty of time for reviewers like Feathered Quill to weigh in sufficiently.
The second novel follows the person who murdered Johnny. Pretty much everyone in A History of Silence wanted him dead, so I’m not giving away too much by admitting that! Ironically, committing murder and becoming a fugitive is the reason why the main character ends up in paradise.
Beach of the Dead is about discovering love and self-forgiveness, about the ability of outsiders to see truths in us that we may not be able to see in ourselves. It explores the meanings of community. One of the new characters in Beach of the Dead (she’s barely mentioned in A History of Silence) becomes a central figure in Part 3, Longing for Winter. My characters have taken on such life for me that they seem to be demanding that the story go on.
These were such wonderful, thought-provoking questions. They honored me. Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to reflect on my life and work.