Tuesday, June 27, 2023

#BookReview of I Love You More by Mark Mallardi

I Love You More...To Suzanne, from Mark: A Couple Battling Cancer Confronts the Sordid Reality of U.S. Cancer Care

By: Mark Mallardi
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 17, 2023
ISBN: 978-1639888917
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 26, 2023
Author Mark Mallardi recalls the love for, and loss, of his dear wife and their struggles as cancer victims, offering readers new ways to consider the American medical system and the alternatives to it, based on tough-minded and often agonizing personal experience in his memoir, I Love You More...To Suzanne, from Mark: A Couple Battling Cancer Confronts the Sordid Reality of U.S. Cancer Care.
Mallardi and his wife-to-be Suzanne met when both were mature, thoughtful adults who found they shared similar values, including enjoyment of music and an underpinning of religious faith that took them, in courtship and marriage, across the globe to visit famous sacred sites. They also shared a seemingly psychic connection, taking clues and cues from dreams and spontaneous visions. Suzanne, a real estate agent, helped the author find an appropriate home, and they would eventually share it with several beloved pets. But at a certain point, everything changed. Mallardi was diagnosed with prostate cancer – already at an advanced stage - and as he sought medical care, he began to realize that standard American cancer treatment was extremely limited, mainly involving surgery (cut), radiation (burn), and chemotherapy (poison), sadly lacking Empathy, Healing, and Hope. He began diligently investigating alternative, holistic, non-toxic approaches available in other countries. As he prepared to depart for a lengthy stay at an alternative cancer treatment center in Mexico, he had to bid a last goodbye to Suzanne, who had fallen victim to breast cancer in the interim and would pass away days after he began his new, unconventional regime at CHIPSA hospital in Mexico.
His experiences of fear, frustration, rage, and grief solidified Mallardi’s resolve to write this tenderly expressive, highly informative memoir, sharing intimate moments with his beloved Suzanne and accurately depicting their mutual sufferings. Always they were bound together by small, but moving visualizations and sensations that would ultimately lead Mallardi to conclude that, “there were no more coincidences in my life.” The path he and Suzanne had to tread was based in “Faith” – in tearful prayers and joyous insights, and in his bedrock belief that one’s purpose in life is to help others. As part of his determination to do so, he offers exploration of alternative healing options for cancer patients, many of which he himself has undergone, citing the developers of such choices and the institutions and techniques available, which include a wide variety of sources, demonstrating Mallardi’s openness to all potentially helpful, curative prospects.
Quill says: Mallardi’s well-researched, poignant observations will be appreciated by those facing, or aiding someone who faces, momentous challenges like his - as a loving, emotionally devastated spouse, cancer victim, and determined survivor.
For more information on I Love You More...To Suzanne, from Mark: A Couple Battling Cancer Confronts the Sordid Reality of U.S. Cancer Care, please visit the author's website at: https://suzanneandmark.com

#BookReview of The Bread Givers

Bread Givers

By: Anzia Yezierska
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: March 2023
ISBN: 978-0-593-51183-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 26, 2023
Anzia Yezierska’s classic novel, Bread Givers, first published in 1925, rises to the surface again in 2023, and light is shone once more on the story of Sara Smolinksy, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox rabbi.
Sara Smolinsky is approximately ten years old at the beginning of the book and one of Reb Smolinsky’s four daughters. She is resourceful and determined toward her contribution to maintain a roof over the Smolinksy family’s heads. It is the 1920s and the Smolinsky family lives in abject poverty on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Bessie, the oldest daughter is often reminded by Reb that she is well on her way to being an ‘old maid.’ Fania, second to the oldest, struggles daily to find work; yet none of the shops are hiring. Reb’s pet name for Mashah, Sara's other sister, is ‘Empty-head.' However, Mashah in unphased by his insults. She is beautiful, and that’s all that matters to her. She selfishly squanders every cent she can get her hands on to complement her beauty. Sara’s mother knows her place and responsibility in life: to serve their father hand and foot every waking moment of his life. Reb has only one love, and that is his love of the Torah and all it represents. Women in his view, are only worthy to bear children, cook and clean for their husband, and essentially worship the ground he walks on daily.
Aside from studying the Torah during his every waking moment, Reb’s mission is to marry his daughters off one by one. He reminds them daily that they are to provide for him and to support him always. He will select the husband and will do his due diligence to be sure they have the financial means to support him. It doesn’t matter if the daughter has no love for daddy’s pick. As long as they understand he has the final say, all will be right in the Smolinsky household. Bessie is enamored with Berle Bernstein, but this will not do. Reb has already decided on Zalmon, the fish peddler for her, and she is eventually married off to a life of labor in the fish market and raising the gaggle of Zalmon’s children from a previous marriage. Abe Schmukler is Reb’s pick for Fania. He is an extremely successful cloak and suit seller, and who cares if she is whisked away to the far reaches of California with her new husband? As long as the money comes back to Reb, have a good life. Masha’s beauty is barely contained by Mo Mirsky; the intended husband Reb decides to be her betrothed. He is a diamond dealer and all Masha’s father can see is dollar signs. Sadly, Mo’s riches didn’t turn out to be quite what they seemed. Lastly, there is Sara. She has hopes and dreams of making something out of her life. She wants to go to college and become a teacher. She will not acquiesce in any way to the plans Reb has for her. She is after the American Dream and to make her mark in this new world without a man by her side. What Reb was unable to see was his youngest daughter was his one apple that didn’t fall far from his tree. The road that lies ahead for both of them was one that was paved with more than a few misguided intentions.
I had never heard of this book, and when asked to read it, I was intrigued by the forward written by Deborah Feldman. Over the first handful of pages, she sets the tone of her attraction to this book, nuanced by her very succinct opinion. She was introduced to the book when she was attending Sarah Lawrence College at the age of twenty. As the forward steps to her experience after reading the book (and her personal connection upon first learning about it), she lays out her opinion of what the ‘American Dream’ means to her: "...There is a great and uncomfortable truth in Yezierska’s masterpiece that may have been willfully or unwittingly overlooked by its earlier readers: that the story of the melting pot is a lie, that the American dream is a fairy tale, which, by its own logic, would require the immigrant to completely dissolve into society. To cling to any shred of one’s identity would mean withholding oneself from this dissolution. How did I first come to believe the myth of America as the identity to encapsulate all identities, when in fact it effectively erases or stigmatizes them..." (Page xiii) This was quite a powerful observation through word placement and certainly inspired me to read on. Anzia Yezierska passed away in 1970, but I believe if she were alive today, she would have much more to write about her experience as it relates to the American dream. We live in a time today where global unrest is ever-present no matter where one might look to reflect on this premise. Bread Givers is a body of work that should be required reading in primary educational institutions. It is a phenomenally well-written account that portrays humility, reality, and most assuredly accomplished prose across its pages. There is a wealth of thought-provoking moments, and it has inspired me to go back and read some of Ms. Yezierska’s other works.
Quill says: Bread Givers is a provocative body of work that will linger within one’s soul long after the last page has been read.

Monday, June 26, 2023

#BookReview of Watch Us Dance by Leila Sliming

Watch Us Dance: A Novel

By: Leila Slimani
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: May 30, 2023
ISBN: 978-0-593-49330-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 23, 2023
Award-winning author Leila Slimani delivers a bittersweet novel based on her familial roots in Morocco. It is the second book in a trilogy series of novels based on the author's family's roots in revolutionary Morocco.
The story begins with Mathilde Belhaj reflecting upon her life’s journey thus far. She married Amine Belhaj in 1945 and is conflicted with the opulence she sees before her with a certain "...vengeance against the austerity that her husband imposed upon her in every aspect of her life..." (page 3) Her latest desire is to have a swimming pool added to their stately grounds; something their children (Selim and Aicha) would certainly enjoy. She thinks about her children. Aicha was born in 1947 and she was the pride and joy of her parents. She was accomplished in every manner of her existence and finished at the top of her class while attending the convent school. She would continue to excel in her studies and eventually become a doctor. Selim was born in 1951. Suffice it to say, not only was he the polar opposite of his brilliant sister, but terribly spoiled by his mother and, for that matter, who knew what accomplishments he would attain in his lifetime.
Mathilde’s husband Amine had grand designs for his stature in life. He was born in 1917 and was the eldest son of Kadour Belhaj, an interpreter in the colonial army. Upon Amine’s father’s death in 1939, Amine inherited Kadour’s lands but not before the Second World War broke out in Morocco. Amine felt it his duty to enroll in a Spahi Regiment and alongside his aide-de-camp Mourad, he was sent to a POW camp in Germany. It was when he managed to escape that he met Mathilde Belhaj and they were soon married thereafter at a church in Alsace, France in 1945. Even though one would think there would be happily ever after for the Belhaj family, unrest and turmoil was prevalent in Morocco. To overcome the situation, Amine devoted his life and efforts into developing the family farm into a prosperous and modern business.
I have not had the pleasure of reading the first book in this trilogy (In the Country of Others) but having just read Watch Us Dance, this is a must. The prose and beautiful crafting of this story is incredibly captivating and historically rich. Slimani is quite adept in establishing and anchoring a distinct voice and tone on the very first page! What I found to be extremely helpful before even getting into the depths of this read, was the useful guide in the very beginning titled ‘Dramatis Personae.’ Slimani provides a description and biography of each character for the readers’ use and information. It’s a tremendous guide to facilitate discerning who is who as the story unfolds. Even with the myriad of complexities in this body of work, Slimani does a phenomenal job of guiding her audience and never misses the moment to tie each component of the story into the next scene about to unfold and the relevance in doing so. There are a multitude of scenes that are powerfully written. However, there is one scene in particular where Slimani addresses something quite incestuous that occurs between character Selim and his Aunt Selma. After their encounter, Slimani writes a raw depiction of character Selim’s thoughts after an erotic encounter with his Aunt Selim: "...Later he would revisit the memories of that afternoon until they became worn and faded, until they disappeared, until he no longer knew what was true and what wasn’t. Did he pull her toward him, or was it perhaps she who stood up and pressed her cheek against his? She moved her lips closer and when he felt her tongue, cool and damp, inside his mouth, he thought he might faint or eat her alive. He wasn’t afraid. He abandoned himself to her as he abandoned himself to water and felt the same rightness and lightness as he did when swimming..." (Page 81) The nuance of forbiddance is as alive as the forbidden desire in this passage, but the sublime message has a tone of how wrong the situation was. Perhaps this is a bit too much to bear, but it’s tantamount to the depth of connection Slimani has with her creative process. I applaud her for this body of work and look forward to the next book in this series. There is a beautiful balance between human nature and historical account throughout this read. Well done!
Quill says: Watch Us Dance is a gripping novel of family dynamics set in a richly historical period of time.

#BookReview of I See You: When the Sins of the Past Don't Stay Buried!

I See You: When the Sins of the Past Don't Stay Buried!

By: Benjamin J. Burton
Publication Date: April 7, 2023
ISBN: 979-8390520765
Reviewed By: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 23, 2023
A highly-skilled sniper, ghosts from his past, and a recurring Tom Petty song set the stage for the suspenseful short story I See You.
Ronald Stansfield is a killing machine. Trained in security, wet work, espionage, hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, and even unarmed combat, his specialty is being a sniper. Working for Uncle Sam, if there was a mission that required a target "be taken out," Ronald was the man for the job. His career had taken him all over the world, from Africa to Asia, and everywhere in-between. He had seen many of his fellow Americans die, right in front of him, but he had also killed many enemies. How many exactly? It was hard to keep count and even harder to think about what he'd done while fighting with his conscience. It's better not to have a conscience.
We meet Ronald while he is in a "hide site," keeping tabs on a desert palace where a wedding will soon take place. At that wedding will be his target - the father of the bride, who is a very bad man (we never learn much about him). Because so many assassination attempts had been made against him, this "target" had decided to have his daughter's wedding at this secluded palace. That wouldn't stop Ronald, however, who had a lot of experience with taking out a target in similar situations.
While Ronald conducted a sweep of the building, waiting for his target to appear, he spotted a couple in their very fancy room having an argument. It was hard not to watch the pair as they argued. The fight continued to escalate until the husband violently slapped his wife. The wife stumbled, almost lost her balance, and then disappeared back into their bedroom. The husband turned his attention to his phone and failed to notice his wife return, and in an instant, she slit his throat with a knife. But things were about to get a lot more bizarre...
Ronald was stunned by what he'd just seen, but what happened next really freaked him out. The woman who had just killed her husband then pulled down the hood of her niqab and looked directly at Ronald. What he saw terrified him - the woman was Barbara Brenner, a woman he had killed five years ago in Austria for selling secrets to Russia. And she still had the bullet hole in the center of her head from his bullet. How was that possible?
The sniper was a good 1000 meters away from Barbara Brenner, or whoever or whatever this apparition was, and yet she was still laser-focused on him. She (it?) mouthed the words "I'll see you!" and then his phone rang and a verse from Tom Petty's song, "I Won't Stand Down," came through his phone. This was just the beginning of Ronald's nightmare...
I See You is a psychological thriller that will keep the reader guessing throughout. The story raises some interesting questions as Ronald tries to deal with his past, what he's done to others, and how he thought he was always on the side of justice Now he has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, and what happens will have you biting your nails. Right up until that airplane ride... At just over 50 pages, I See You is a quick read and can easily be done in one sitting. The only downside is that there are numerous editorial issues - from layout (some pages have very little text, with a lot of blank space) as well as misuse of quote marks and spelling errors. A clean-up of the text would go a long way with taking this story from good to great.
Quill says: I See You is a quick but intense read. With a little attention to editing, it could be a really awesome short story.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Meet Author Timothy David

Meet debut author Timothy David and learn about his first in series novel, The Imposed Path, in his new author bio page: https://featheredquill.com/author-bios-timothy-david/

Friday, June 23, 2023

#BookReview of The Alchemical Search for the Unified Field

The Alchemical Search for the Unified Field: Pythagorean, Hermetic, and Shamanic Journeys into Invisible and Ethereal Realms

By: R.E. Kretz
Publisher: Inner Traditions International, Limited
Publication Date: July 11, 2023
ISBN: 978-1644117828
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: June 22, 2023
If you are seeking esoteric wisdom that recognizes the power of the human pineal gland, that invokes the alchemical process of Freemasonry, that embraces Native American shamanism, and that touches the elusive Philosopher’s Stone, The Alchemical Search for the Unified Field, a very unique book, will guide you.
A partial map of the Degrees of Masonry, this book is structured in three parts: The Bell, The Book, The Candle. Part One, The Bell, defines the Order of Ophiuchus as a natural philosophy of metempsychosis. Part Two, The Book, discusses the Philosopher’s Stone as the elixir of immortality. Part Three, The Candle, discusses energy, vibration, and frequency and how to understand the anatomy of the Third Eye to empower inner journeying and life transformation.
This deep exploration is for those who have been curious about utilizing the ouroboros, the tetractys devised by Pythagoras, and the symbol of the High Priest of the Royal Arch Masonry not just as objects of meditation and contemplation but also as companions to refining innate human powers of knowledge, intelligence, and relatedness.
The deep dive into sacred geometry inspires awe as this book traverses the hidden wonders that are in plain sight. We probe the wisdom of thinkers from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas, from Count Michael Mier to Nickola Tesla, and many more. Contemplation of the Kabbalist Tree of Life is interwoven with the Hindu Shiva lingam. We are inspired to ask questions regarding the significance of the oblong square shape of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Lodge of the Freemasons. We grasp the deepest significance of water, salt, and carbon with their play in the glands, the spinal column, and the brain stem. Plus, we see ways all of these are conduits of energy that we can craft to harmonize body, mind, and soul with the universe. Ultimately, we can integrate esoteric knowledge and use it to convert our mind and body from lead into gold.
This is just the first book in a series that will be a map of the Order of Ophiuchus, so stay tuned for more gems to come from this master wisdom jeweler, R.E. Kretz.
Quill says: Enlightenment, meditation, and the powers of the human body and mind have never been so clearly described, illustrated, and made accessible to everyone, until now with the publication of The Alchemical Search for the Unified Field.
For more information on The Alchemical Search for the Unified Field: Pythagorean, Hermetic, and Shamanic Journeys into Invisible and Ethereal Realms, please visit the website: https://openlibrary.org/.../Alchemical_Search_for_the...

#BookReview of Find A Job That Fits Your Life

Find a Job That Fits Your Life: Land Your Dream Job With This Personalized Guide

By: Dennis Guzik
Publisher: Quail House Publishers
Publication Date: April 26, 2023
ISBN 979-8-9878783-0-9
Reviewed by: Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr.
Review Date: June 21, 2023
Since COVID-19 started, in what has been called “The Great Resignation,” thousands of employees in a variety of businesses have been quitting their jobs for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because they simply are unhappy and want to move on to something new, different, and fulfilling. Why work in a place where you are not content, even if it pays well and provides stellar benefits? Why not release yourself from what Dennis Guzik in his new self-help book Find a Job That Fits Your Life: Land Your Dream Job with This Personalized Guide calls “The Job Trap” so you can find what he additionally calls your “Sweet Spot?” This astute and timely work is a way for those looking for a fresh start to do so safely and responsibly, by taking measured approaches at switching occupations during what is currently an economically unsound time.
Guzik, a modern-day Dale Carnegie, starts his book with a very significant but simple concept: Why not have a job that fits into the life you want? In essence, the text is not about the job, which is oftentimes looked at as being an integral part of our identity. Instead, the text is about how we live our lives and whether or not we are living our best lives, which includes professional satisfaction. The way to figure that information out, however, is not to just leave and go to the next job. Guzik claims those considering new career paths need to go through the “Job Fit Process,” which means they need to make sure the job fits their wants and needs, they are good at the job they want to go into, and there is a market for what it is they want to do. Being that Guzik was in the military, he uses his training as a tool to help his readers by stating they have to be strategic, operational, and tactical in the way they go about working on their objectives. Without this sort of plan, the consequences can lead to them not getting to the next level, let alone their goals.
Much of Guzik’s book presents easy-to-use exercises for readers to help them deduce if the job they are seeking is the right one for their “Life Wants and Needs” and “Career Wants and Needs.” He claims the way to assess these wants and needs is using the SWOT method: they must think about what their strengths and weaknesses are as well as what sorts of opportunities and threats are out there for them moving forward. Leaving a job needs to be more calculated and precise; however, it also has to be done to ensure they find the “Sweet Spot” they are pining for. This process includes creating a series of lists and making sure those lists are written down, that way those attempting to change careers can see what is truly the best options for them.
Find a Job That Fits Your Life ends with some tried-and-true tips and ways to ensure a job seeker finds the perfect position for themselves, from how one presents themselves in front of a potential employer to how to write a resume and cover letter to how one knows how to accept the position. Ultimately, by the end of his work, Guzik is quite successful in presenting material that can help those in misery get into something they truly want to do.
Quill says: Find a Job That Fits Your Life is a useful and limpidly-written tool for those seeking help and joy in their professional lives.
For more information on Find a Job That Fits Your Life: Land Your Dream Job With This Personalized Guide, please visit the website

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

#BookReview of The Silent Woodsman by Cat Treadgold

The Silent Woodsman
By: Cat Treadgold
Publication Date: July 15, 2023
ISBN: 979-8-9877363-0-2
Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: June 19, 2023
The Silent Woodsman, which is book one in a new series by Cat Treadgold, is a fun, suspenseful at times and amusing at other times, romance book that looks to be the start of something really great. While this first book covers the lives of only two of the characters, there is so much woven into the storyline about other characters that it is easy to see how things can and will be continued and makes the reader crave for the next person’s story to be developed and put on paper.
The beginning of The Silent Woodsman introduces Ali Ryan, a young woman who is out in the woods searching for some peace in her life. Her twin brother, Liam, is presumed dead and Ali goes to the woods they both truly enjoyed in hopes of feeling something, as she is the one person who does not believe her brother is gone for good. Of course, life and nature intervene and Ali is stuck in the woods during a bad storm. She collapses on the porch of a small cabin, completely lost and suffering from hyperthermia. JJ, the man living in the cabin, takes her in and nurses her back to health as they spend two days learning a bit about each other. JJ is stuck in the cabin recovering from serious surgery which has left him unable to talk so our two characters have to learn what they can about each other through only writing as a form of communication. What Ali does not know at the time is that JJ is actually Joe Bob Blade, a very famous country music singer who is known to all...except, obviously, Ali. At the end of their two days, JJ sends Ali back to her own world as quickly as he can because he finds himself really falling for this girl and knows that his world is not a place for someone as caring and sweet as she is.
Now the story takes us back to reality and we find Ali trying hard to get over the feelings that she developed for her silent caretaker in such a brief period of time, as well as spending time trying to find the right job, the right place to live, and whether or not her brother is truly alive. In JJ’s case, he returns to the world and writes a song about Ali that quickly becomes an overnight hit. But is the song enough to find her and see if all of these feelings that he still has are real and possible in light of his true lifestyle? For these answers my friends, you will have to read the book.
The Silent Woodsman is a well-written story that is enjoyable on so many levels. The main characters are strong and interesting people and it is easy to fall into the story and truly care about what happens to them and route for them to come together in the end. While Ali and JJ are both excellent characters, the supporting cast is outstanding and makes the book come alive. From JJ’s overbearing mother Carrie to his on-again, off-again singing partner and girlfriend Rina to Ali’s best friend Becca and Becca’s new boyfriend, Jean-Louis, just to name a few, there are just tons of great characters and small additional storylines that make the book so much fun to read.
Cat Treadgold’s extremely descriptive writing is such a plus to the story. The way she describes the woods, the cabin, and the city make the reader feel that they are really there. In addition, the story is set in the 1990’s which is a time period where the world was much less reliant on social media and cell phones. The author’s wonderful details such as the characters reading books, listening to the radio, using an actual telephone, and picking up tabloid magazines at the supermarket help bring the story to life. For those of us who were actual adults in the 90’s, it makes it feel a bit like going home.
This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who loves a good romance that is actually a well-written and creative story, and not just a lot of fluff without a lot of substance. The Silent Woodsman is just such a book, which will be enjoyed by many fans of the genre, I am sure. Given such an interesting and enjoyable storyline in this first of the series, I cannot wait to see what this author will produce for the second book in the series.
Quill says: An excellent example of the romance genre, A Silent Woodsman, should be a must on your reading list. While the main characters are excellent and make it worth the time, a book with such an incredibly written supporting cast is one that is absolutely not to be missed.
For more information on The Silent Woodsman, please visit the author's website at: https://cattreadgold.com/

#BookReview of Zänker: Murder is Academic

Zänker: Murder is Academic
By: Peter Maeck
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: June 13, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-952439-52-0
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 18, 2023
Peter Maeck delivers an engaging, whimsical, and often humorous read in his novel, Zänker, that is also quite the ‘who done it’ mystery.
The stage is set. The story begins in the village of Glenfarne, an intimate college town nestled in the forests of northern Vermont; roughly fifty miles east of Montpelier. However, a little backstory of how Dr. Amos Loeb became the president of Ballyvaughan College needs to be explained. Dr. Loeb was born in 1927 in Leipzig, Germany. He was barely six years old when Hitler became the German Chancellor. Dr. Loeb’s parents, Asher and Ruth Loeb, detested Hitler and vehemently (and openly) opposed everything he stood for. When a plot to murder ‘der Fürer’ failed, the family went into hiding at which time Amos’ father lapsed into a dark depression and not long after, he committed suicide. On the heels of his father’s death, Loeb and his mother were captured by the Nazis and fortunately for the younger Loeb, he was "...spared from execution and thus he survived, starved and nearly frozen to death, until January 1945 when the camp was liberated by the Soviets..." (page 10). With his newfound freedom, Amos Loeb returned to Germany and attended university. He was quite successful and his travels deposited him in the United States where he went on to earn a Ph.D. in European History at Stanford, specializing in the Nazi era. And so began Dr. Loeb’s life at Ballyvaughan College; initially as a professor and in 1970 he was named Ballyvaughan’s President. However, the story is far from over at this point.
As Loeb’s career blossomed, he became famous by writing books and lecturing nationwide and worldwide on the Holocaust. Fast forward to Friday, November 1, 1988, Dr. Loeb’s day began much like any other day. Everything was routine with the exception that this day was the first day of the Autumn Inferno Weekend; the annual celebration of Ballyvaughan’s traditions. Thousands of alumni would arrive on campus to join three thousand undergrads for the festivities and undoubtedly they would all vie for the privilege of shaking the esteemed Dr. Loeb’s hand. However, there was one alum who was less than enamored with the accomplished Dr. Loeb. Thirty-eight year old Tom Dunraven, graduate of the class of ’71, was intent on making Dr. Loeb pay for being an integral part in changing the prestige of the school. Prior to 1970, the school was all male and (in Tom’s opinion) Loeb soiled its reputation by opening enrollment to females. Dunraven wouldn’t miss this celebration for anything and was on a mission to let Loeb know exactly how he felt. What Tom hadn’t planned for at the end of the bonfire celebration on that fateful Friday evening, was the fact that he would become one of the names on a list of suspects for the brutal murder of one Dr. Amos Loeb.
Peter Maeck’s pedigree speaks for itself when it comes to knowing how to pen a great novel—a novelist, poet, and playwright. He also followed the golden rule when it comes to penning the quintessential murder: deliver the body within the first handful of pages. Suffice it to say, Maeck effortlessly delivers the goods within this timeframe. There is a signature tone that resonates with intention when evaluating Maeck’s writing style. It’s a combination of Sam Spade private eye speak that is complemented with infectious humor: "...And these alums would all want to shake Dr. Loeb’s hand for bestowing such honor upon their beloved alma mater. Well, most of the alums would. A persnickety few would denounce him for ‘modernizing’ this venerable institution; for imposing a parvenu political correctness that rejected what had made the college great..." (Page 11) Maeck has nailed the ABC’s of rich character development. He describes Dr. Loeb’s wife as the devoted woman who is at his beck and call to serve whenever she is commanded to do so. I formulated an instant mental image of a somewhat milk toast of a woman given Maeck’s ability to ‘show’ versus ‘tell.’ The good professor’s character is layered and nuanced with more than an arrogant flair to his persona, yet the sublime contradiction often played out is he really isn’t ‘all that.’ Yet, in the next scene, virtually every woman on campus (and off) wants to sleep with him and it’s quite comical how each character has a unique light that sets her apart from her competition. The dialogue is beyond rich and completely relatable and the pace of this story is rife with page-turning ease. An ample amount of seeds are planted along the story’s trail to determine just exactly who murdered Dr. Loeb, yet what the reader may surmise is the obvious answer finds that same reader quickly knocked off his or her feet in the next chapter. I am a fan and applaud Maeck for writing a truly engaging and quite humorous mystery. I only have one request: may I have another, please?
Quill says: Zänker is the kind of book that effortlessly draws its audience in on page one and refuses to let go until the very last page has been read.
For more information on Zänker: Murder is Academic, please visit the author's website at: http://www.petermaeck.com/

Sunday, June 18, 2023

#BookReview of Serendipity by the Sea (The Gull Island Series, Book 1)

Serendipity by the Sea (The Gull Island Series, Book 1)

By: Jennifer Vido
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: April 12, 2023
ISBN: 978-1509247851
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 15, 2023
Author Jennifer Vido offers a dreamy setting – a small island off the coast of South Carolina – where a man and woman will meet after years of disconnection and make life-changing decisions together - and separately, in her newest book, Serendipity by the Sea, the first in her new Gull Island series.
Cate is a strong, intelligent young woman involved in a job that promises excitement with every change in the weather, as she greets and helps accommodate island visitors at Gull Island’s Guest Center. But under her vibrant customer service skills lies a broken heart and a reluctance to find someone to mend it. Then one fine day, Knox appears. He was the high school sweetheart who left Cate to find excitement and career chances in the big city. He has succeeded, becoming a photographer specializing in natural settings, making a name for himself and still seeking upward trajectories. But his favorite uncle, Charlie, a Gull Island inhabitant, is languishing in poor health and needs a caregiver, so Knox compassionately steps in. He and Cate exchange greetings and both are struck with the depth of sentiment that the cautious reunion arouses. Exploring the island, delving into its small industries and political themes, Knox begins to wonder if he’d made the right decision years before, even as his efforts to redevelop a connection with Cate are stymied by her emotional outpouring of long-nursed heart wounds. Both Cate and Knox are offered chances for a better financial future and greater prestige – will that send them soaring in different directions yet again?
The book’s author, Jennifer Vido, has a sensitivity for the delicious and sometimes derelict directions that love can take, able to breathe life into her two central characters as they experiment with reviving their youthful, seemingly lost, affections. Vido, with her writer’s gifts of dialogue, character development and description, sets the scene beautifully – as what could be more conducive to a romantic reconciliation than the Lowcountry’s Gull Island, with its “miles of sandy beaches…and the most picturesque sunsets on the East Coast”? The clouds and dark moments as Cate and Knox struggle with old memories are well contrasted with the sunny days that both know could be ahead – if the right decision is made.
Quill says: Jennifer Vido’s readers will know that she has a genuine feeling for romance in all its twists and turns, following Cate and Knox as they brave the waves and find comfort on the shores of a complicated relationship in the first book in her new Gulf Island series, Serendipity by the Sea.
For more information on Serendipity by the Sea (The Gull Island Series Book 1), please visit the author's website at: https://www.jennifervido.com/

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

#AuthorInterview with Patrick Galvan, author of Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Patrick Galvan, author of Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career.

FQ: What started your interest in Chinese film? In particular, the silent film era?

GALVAN: I must confess that while I’ve been a movie fan for as long as I can remember, Chinese cinema was something of a blind spot until my late 20s. I’d seen a handful of movies from that part of the world, but it wasn’t of particular interest to me. That changed, fittingly enough, with the actress my book is about: Ruan Lingyu. In 2018, I saw Wu Yonggang’s 1934 masterpiece The Goddess, where Ruan plays a single mother who resorts to prostitution in order to raise her son. From the moment she appeared on screen, I was enamored: with her beauty and then with her incredibly natural, gut-wrenching performance. She was one of those rare talents who made great acting look easy, and I was immediately interested in her.

I'd known, before seeing the film, that Ruan Lingyu was one of China’s major stars of the 1920s-30s and that she died—by her own hand—at the age of twenty-four. Caught in one of those moments where moviegoers briefly forget that famous people have struggles and complications, I wondered why this woman who seemingly had everything—talent, fame, success—was so unhappy with her life that she ended it. Initially wanting only to answer this question for myself, I started researching her, and in doing so inevitably learned about her industry, her colleagues, and the times in which she lived.

I’ve always loved silent movies because of their purely visual nature. And in the case of Chinese silent film, most of the surviving ones came when filmmakers took notes from Hollywood regarding narrative, montage, and cinematography. You had directors like the internationally trained Sun Yu putting together technically intricate films that addressed social issues. That’s another fascinating element to early Chinese movies. Many were shot amid great sociopolitical upheaval and thus offer a glimpse into what was happening at the time.

FQ: And of course, your interest in Japanese film? Are you also drawn to the silent era, or are you more interested in more modern Japanese films?

Author Patrick Galvin

GALVAN: I’ve been a fan of Japanese cinema considerably longer—since I saw Okawara Takao’s Godzilla 2000 as a nine-year-old. I think part of what captivated me about Godzilla, besides my affinity for monsters, was that it was set in another country. I grew up in a small town in the American Midwest (not much Asian culture), and in Godzilla movies the people looked different, the architecture looked different, the language was different. In high school, I learned the director of many early Godzilla films, Honda Ishiro, was close friends with Kurosawa Akira, renowned as one of the greatest directors of all time. I saw and was stunned by Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) and from there became obsessed with Japanese cinema.

I love the entire historical spectrum of Japanese cinema. Admittedly my favorite decades are the 1930s and the ‘50s-70s, but even lesser eras have interesting things going on. Presently, my favorite film of 2023—from any country—is one I recently saw in Tokyo: Konaka Kazuya’s Single8, about high school students inspired to make a sci-fi flick after seeing Star Wars (1977). A terrific movie about moviemaking; I hope it receives the international attention it deserves.

FQ: Have you visited Shanghai and other venues highlighted in this biography? If so, how did that travel affect your perspective?

GALVAN: Actual production on this biography began during the covid-19 pandemic. I’d been collecting information about Ruan Lingyu since 2018, and first decided to write a book about her in 2019—though I didn't start writing until autumn 2021, in the midst of the lockdowns. A book seemed like a productive way to utilize my time. International travel was riskier and more restricted then, so I didn’t visit China as part of my research.

FQ: Do you identify with any particular personage in the Chinese film world described in your book?

GALVAN: In my own very small way. I’ve never directed movies professionally, but I’ve made a few short films (indie projects in the most literal sense: with practically no money and done entirely with friends) wherein we put together something with little to no resources. In the burgeoning days of Chinese film history (late 1900s-10s), most movies were shot by entrepreneurs who’d rent equipment, transform office space into stages, and cast family members. I also spent some time on a professional film set in 2010 and through that observed the struggles that go into moviemaking.

FQ: Your book stresses women’s rights and feelings; if you could tell potential readers one thing about women’s rights in Ruan Lingyu’s time, what would it be?

GALVAN: The best way to answer this is to mention that societal mistreatment of women in China is dramatized in one of Ruan Lingyu’s surviving movies. In Cai Chusheng’s New Woman (1935), her aristocrat heroine gives up the bourgeoisie to marry a man who later abandons her. From there, she struggles to lead a successful life independent of men but is constantly used and tormented by them. She writes a novel, which a publisher rejects until discovering the author’s an attractive woman, and is sexually pursued by a man who goes above and beyond to force her into desperation.

FQ: I was amazed at the reaction to Ruan Lingyu’s death, and the women who committed suicide. Why was the reaction so intense?

GALVAN: Although we’re entering an age where the movie star’s becoming less important to the masses (at least in the United States), in Ruan’s day obsession with film celebrities was prevalent. A big reason behind her popularity was that her movies reflected struggles that women (especially lower middle-class women) knew all too well. Audiences felt a connection to her.

FQ: How long did it take to write this work, considering all the fact-gathering that must have been involved? Did you have trouble finding resources, or get discouraged at any time, given some of the material (including Husband and Wife in Name) has been lost?

GALVAN: I’d collected three years of research by the time I decided to do the book, and continued educating myself as I wrote over a period of nine months. Materials came from across the world, in three languages (English, Chinese, and French—huge thanks to my translators Zhang Le and François Coulombe). Writing about the lost movies wasn’t so difficult, as Chinese historians have done a remarkable job preserving plot synopses, reviews, and testimonies from the people who worked on them.

Of course, I’m sad many of these films no longer exist. You mentioned Ruan’s debut film, Husband and Wife In Name—obviously that’s of historical interest. I also regret we can no longer see pictures that cast her against type. The image most associated with this actress even now is proletarian suffering; in her surviving films, she almost consistently plays someone victimized by society. But as I discovered in my research, this wasn’t always the case. In Bu Wancang’s Three Modern Women (1932), Ruan played a take-charge activist resisting the exploitation of the working class. And in Sun Yu’s Spring Dream in the Old Capital (1930), she was a straight-up villainess—someone who brings suffering upon others!

I’ll add this last research story, about the occasional difficulty of locating materials. Ruan’s earliest extant film, Love and Duty (1931), is based on a novel by European author Stephanie Rosenthal, who married a Chinese, moved to his country, and wrote fiction about her adopted homeland. The novel was penned in French and later given Chinese and English editions. I knew it was a long shot given its obscurity (and that the book was nearly a hundred years old then) but hoped to track down an English copy as part of my research; I’d just about given up when I discovered one was available at a bookstore in Australia.

FQ: Do you have plans for more books of a similar nature? Another biography of someone, once famous, from a bygone era?

GALVAN: I don’t have plans for more biographies at the moment. Though if I were to do one, likely the subject would be another less-talked-about person from Asia.

FQ: Could you envision making/directing a feature-length film or film series about Ruan Lingyu? It seems like her life and career would make a fascinating movie.

GALVAN: To date, there have been several Chinese television shows about Ruan. On the film front, Stanley Kwan directed a movie in 1991 called Center Stage, which documents his personal fascination with Ruan and his efforts to create an artistic expression about her. The story consists of footage of 1) Kwan conversing with his colleagues about Ruan’s legacy 2) Kwan and his crew shooting a movie about her, and 3) the completed scenes they filmed. It’s not a true biopic, but mesmerizing in its own right.

I think it’d be fun and challenging to make a movie about Ruan. I’d absolutely need assistance—especially from people who know China and filmmaking better than me—but it’d make for an interesting experience.

Personally, I think the ideal movie about Ruan would’ve been the one her colleague Zhu Shilin attempted to make shortly after her death. Zhu wrote several of her films—and even directed a few—so he would’ve been more qualified than most to tell her story. He prepared a five-page treatment for his Ruan Lingyu biopic, though it sadly never got off the ground.

FQ: Building on my last question, in today’s cinema, what actress might play Ruan Lingyu?

GALVAN: Anyone playing Ruan Lingyu today would immediately face comparison with Maggie Cheung Man-yuk’s performance in Center Stage. That’s a tough act to follow. I would’ve been interested in seeing Gillian Chung Ka-lai tackle the part at some point, because—as I document in the book—she personally relates to some of the tribulations Ruan faced.

FQ: Your biography notes that you are part of the team that puts together the online film convention Kaiju Masterclass. Would you tell our readers a bit about it?

GALVAN: Kaiju Masterclass is another project that came about in part because of the pandemic. In 2020, when film conventions throughout the United States were shutting down, a discussion started among some friends of mine. Initially as a joke, they remarked how nice it’d be if there was a Japanese sci-fi convention that—rather than the obvious thing of toys and autographs—focused on intelligent discussion about the movies and the people who made them.

That joke quickly transformed into a serious conversation. I was asked to join a team putting together an online convention (which allowed us to interview people in Japan without the risks and expenses of travel). We scored interviews with a broad variety of people, including filmmakers (Kaneko Shusuke, Higuchi Shinji) and composers (Oshima Michiru, David Arnold, Bear McCreary). In 2021, we held another convention and got a similarly stacked list of guests—one of the big ones being composer Koroku Reijiro, who’d never been interviewed for an English platform before!

The past two Kaiju Masterclass conventions—plus the content we’ve put out since—are archived and free to watch on our YouTube channel of the same name.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

#BookReview of Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career by Patrick Galvan

Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career

By: Patrick Galvan
Publication Date: June 2, 2022
ISBN: ‎ 979-8832237268
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 12, 2023
Author Patrick Galvan sets his sights on a Chinese actress of that country’s silent film era – Ruan Lingyu, noted for her ability to bring genuine emotion to the roles she played, and, as Galvan portrays her, to experience deep feeling in her personal, often trauma-ridden private life in his debut biography, Ruan Lingyu: Her Life and Career.
Ruan Lingyu (her stage name) was the daughter of a couple whose poverty shaped her early life; her father died when she was young after working in a polluted factory for little pay and her only sister died of malnutrition. Her mother, clearly a strong character despite her cultural limitations, was determined to give her daughter a chance to succeed. She found work as a maid in a private, wealthy household, allowing for Ruan to attend a private school and learn math and language skills. Early on the little girl’s theatrical talents, as a singer and amateur actress, became apparent. Fate decreed that Ruan, an alluring teen, would become involved in an unofficial marriage with one of the rich master’s sons, who not only stole the girl’s heart but gambled away any money she would supply. A second relationship was equally denigrating, with a man who physically abused her. But her acting ability brought her to public recognition and garnered an adoring public, possibly soothing her battered heart and body for a time. Her film career began when she was in her mid-teens, in a role in a now-lost film, Husband and Wife in Name. Like many of her noted roles, the movie stressed the lowly station of women, including the one for which she was greatly acclaimed, as The Goddess – a prostitute. Her suicide at age 24 would have come as a shock to her admirers, and indeed it was reported, Galvan notes, that as many as 300,000 people followed her funeral procession and at least three female suicides took place among those in attendance.
The political and cultural background that played its own eerie, sometimes directly cataclysmic role in Ruan’s life is deftly woven into Galvan’s narrative. A well-known film journalist specializing in Japanese and early Chinese cinema, Galvan first saw Ruan Lingyu in all her delicate and emotive attractiveness in The Goddess and resolved to bring her accomplishments to the attention of a new generation.
Quill says: Galvan’s skillfully written account of this unusual, touchingly bold young woman could well be envisioned as a movie or film series, set against the dramatic backdrop of events in her nation, her professional realm, and along the rough road Ruan Lingyu had to travel as an intelligent, intuitive woman in a male-dominated society.

#BookReview of Summer in the Forest: Seasons in the Forest by Christine Copeland

Summer in the Forest: Seasons in the Forest

Written and Illustrated by: Christine Copeland
Publisher: Christine Copeland Books
Publication Date: July 4, 2023
ISBN: 979-896470368
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 12, 2023
It's a hot summer day in a beautiful forest in New England. So hot, that you might think all the animals are hiding, or perhaps napping. But the forest is alive, and in Summer in the Forest, author Christine Copeland will show readers just what that means.
The story opens as a majestic young eagle, who is perched high in a tree, is surveying his surroundings. He then takes wing, and explores the woods below him. Do you think he spots any wildlife below?
Up in those trees, just beneath where the eagle flies, is a scurry of squirrels. They run and play, and while the temperature soars, they don't let that stop their fun.
"Squirrels jump from branches in rambunctious play
high in the forest on a hot summer day."
As the story continues, readers will discover a wide array of animals, all living in that forest, exploring, feeding their young, and playing. There are so many amazing creatures to meet and learn about - the forest really is alive.
Author Christine Copeland, who lives in the woods of Massachusetts, has grown her love of the outdoors into a passion, and through her beautiful oil paintings and gentle rhymes, she has found a way to share that passion with youngsters. Summer in the Forest, the fourth book in her "Seasons in the Forest" series, is a simple story, one where you can feel the warmth of a summer's day, and the ease of relaxing in a forest as the crickets chirp and the birds sing. At the back of the book the author explains to her young readers in a way they can understand, the levels of a forest (overstory, understory, and ground floor), and that's exactly how she organized her story. We first read about an eagle high in the overstory, then we meet animals living in the understory, and finally some very cool ground floor inhabitants. It's a nice, easy way to explain a somewhat complex principle in a way very young children can understand. But they won't know they're learning because they'll be busy enjoying the story and marveling at the gorgeous illustrations that the author has created to accompany her lovely story. I can't wait to see what she has planned for her next educational story to guide readers into the delightful realm of the forest.
Quill says: Summer in the Forest is a wonderful addition to author Christine Copeland's "Seasons in the Forest" series and will make a perfect addition to your favorite young reader's library.
For more information on Summer in the Forest: Seasons in the Forest, please visit the publisher's website at: https://www.christinecopelandbooks.com/seasons-in-the-forest.html