Tuesday, February 27, 2024

#Bookreview of Louis Mie and the Trial of Hautefaye

Louis Mie and the Trial of Hautefaye

By: L.M. Twist
Publisher: Books & Hooves Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: January 1, 2024
ISBN: 978-8-9892182-1-9
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 26, 2024
Louis Mie and the Trial of Hautefaye is a richly historical account set in 1870 Post-Napoleonic France that depicts the violent conflicts of war and murder that is nuanced with the allure of class, patriotism, and pride.
A new French Republic is born, and a man places his honor and marriage at risk in a personal battle between his idealism and ambition. It is August 16, 1870, in Hautefaye, France. The furthest thing on any of the townspeople’s minds was the thought of torturing and murdering their neighbors that day. However, shortly after noon on this stifling hot day, Alain de Monéys is bludgeoned to death. What began as hearty banter among the patronage in the pub digressed into a heated discussion that quickly faltered into deadly force. "...Emperor Napoleon is menaced, it’s our duty as patriots to help. Look at us, lucky enough to live in a time when another Bonaparte rules the country… Now the dirty Prussians have invaded and we can’t even do our small part to help him?...I’m just saying I can’t eat patriotism…What are you, a spy? Trying to poison us against the Emperor?..." (pg. 4) There is more to the blatant murder of Alain de Monéys and the introduction of Louis Mie (a republican lawyer) will find himself thrown into a spaghetti ball of political turmoil and moral challenge when he is the one to defend one of the murderers, Leonard Piarrouty.
As the evidence and investigation of the day in question mounts, Louis Mie comes to the realization that defending Piarrouty is much more complicated than he could have fathomed. Mie’s entire life is on the brink of falling apart and he has become more than obsessed with his task at hand. His marriage and essentially anything that does not involve this case are on the precipice of ruin. Mie is on a trajectory of time that is rapidly running out. He is faced with fine lines that divide justice and loyalty solely for the price of exposing the truth; a truth that nefarious men will kill to protect. Mie is at the crossroads of his resolve: save his client or his family?
L.M. Twist demonstrates an exceptional ability to play out the many facets of obsession in this fantastic account based on a true story. Twist challenges the reader to consider public and political situations in one scenario; only to pit this concept against personal convictions and work ethic in the next. There is a superbly written plot that has a formula that can be applied in today’s world issues: violent conflict of war, patriotism, civic duty...to name a few. This is a captivating read that has a fantastic fiction overlay that focuses on an iconic (and factual) time in history.
Quill says: Louis Mie and the Trial of Hautefaye is a wonderful journey into history, politics, mob mentality, and obsessions that will have sparks flying off the turn of every page.
For more information on Louis Mie and the Trial of Hautefaye, please visit the author's website at: https://lmtwist.wordpress.com/

Monday, February 26, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Mark Cheverton, author of Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Mark Cheverton, author of Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths: A Battle of Anxiety vs. Trust (The Order of the Stones Book 2).

FQ: This is book two in your Order of the Stones series. It is rather unique not only with its cast of monsters and demons, but also that the main character struggles with anxiety. Can you explain where you derived the inspiration behind this series? 

CHEVERTON: I wrote the Order of the Stones series because of the challenges my son faced with anxiety. It hit him when he was in 2nd grade and only grew worse over the years. We tried everything to help him, but noting seemed to work, so we pulled him out of school, I quit my job, and I homeschooled him. Today, he is thriving, studying computer science in college. A few years ago, I asked him what the daily panic attacks felt like to him, in his head and in his body. What he explained to me, the level of dread and hopelessness, was shocking. I knew I had to share this so other kids wouldn’t feel alone.

FQ: Your background is in teaching and research. What prompted you to make the shift from academia to writing novels?

CHEVERTON: As an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, I foolishly decided one day to write a novel, though I knew nothing of the craft of writing. I wrote for science fiction novels and received hundreds of rejections from literary agents. I was ready to give up when my son was cyberbullied while playing Minecraft. To teach him that it wasn’t his fault, I wrote my first Minecraft novel, Invasion of the Overworld. When it was finished, we read it at bedtime, and he got it: the bullying wasn’t about him, it was about these kids needing to feel powerful at another’s expense. I self-published Invasion of the Overworld on Amazon just for fun. I didn’t expect it to sell, after all, I’d written four novels that were catastrophic failures. To my surprise, it sold 50,000 that year and made it to #29 on Amazon’s top 100...wow! Now, I had a publisher and agent approaching me to traditionally publish my books. I ended up writing 24 Minecraft-inspired novels with Sky Pony Press.

FQ: To date, you have published 28 books, which have been published in 31 countries. Can you explain how the process was for you when you realized that your book(s) were impactful, and how has this changed your professional life? Do you still teach or conduct any research?

Author Mark Cheverton

CHEVERTON: It has truly been a remarkable experience. Everyone of my books has a theme to it, be it bullying, facing fears, sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, being the real you...and I’d receive countless emails from kids telling me how my books have helped them. It’s been fantastic. I was lucky enough to write full time for a while, just cranking out the Minecraft books - that was a lot of fun. But I found sitting at home, alone, writing all week very isolating. I eventually returned to my engineering job after COVID just to be around people. Now, I work 1/2 time as an engineer and write the rest of the time.

FQ: Having written that many books, are you able to claim one as your favorite, either based on the story itself, or how it was to write for you?

CHEVERTON: I think my favorite, without a doubt, is Book 1 in the Order of the Stones series, Facing the Beast Within: The Anxiety of Cameron Stone. This was the book that I wrote because of my son’s anxiety, and I feel it is my best writing to date. It is a fun and exciting fantasy story with a main character that you can’t help to root for because of his anxiety, with a battle scene at the end of the story that would make Tom Clancy proud, and a final chapter that will bring a tear to your eye. When I finished Facing the Beast Within, I gave it to a team of child psychologists. They read the book, then gave me all of their anxiety coping strategies, breathing exercises, and terminologies they use with their patients. I wove all these strategies throughout the story. When a child with anxiety reads the book, they’ll not only see practical coping strategies modeled by the main character, but also hear the teachings of their therapists echoed from the pages. I feel like I got that story right and said what I needed to say, hoping it will help kids who also struggle with anxiety.

FQ: Book three in the Order of the Stones series, Cameron and the Gargoyles’ Revenge, will be released in 2025. What can you share with your readers about the adventures you have in store for Cameron and his friends in this story?

CHEVERTON: Cameron’s enemy, the Demon Lord of Agartha, Malphas, will finally escape the Void and he has plans for his revenge against Cameron and humanity. Cameron and his friends must travel to New York City to stop Malphas before he can start another invasion of mythical creatures. But what Cameron doesn’t know is there’s a gargoyle army waiting for Malphas, and has been waiting for their freedom on the campus of the City College of New York for over a century. Check out their website and you can see all the gargoyles on their campus, they’re spectacular. But before the army of gargoyles is unleashed, Malphas plans to go back in time to destroy Cameron when he was a baby. How can Cameron save his baby-self when his lack of confidence and inner Beast makes it impossible to use his Earth-magic. I think it’s over for Cameron...or is it?

FQ: In your professional life, you have taught high school physics and math, researched planetary atmospherics, and worked as an engineer before beginning your journey of writing novels. Which one of these careers have you enjoyed the most, and which one would say has brought you the most challenges? 

CHEVERTON: I’ve loved all of these careers. When I taught high school physics, I lived education. I created materials, developed hands-on experiments, and grew programs. But teaching is a hard job to sustain. To do a good job, you spend a lot of hours for not a lot of money. After earning a Master’s Degree in Physics, I decided I wanted a new challenge, and moved into engineering. This gave me a different challenge. Instead of trying to motivate kids, I had to find clever solutions to difficult technical problems. I loved that part of my life, and started writing while still working as an engineer. I applied many of the skills I developed while doing research to my books in how I outline the story, outline the character plots, develop the settings and themes. I think all of these careers have been equally has challenge and enriching, though writing was certainly filled with more rejection than the others. Querying agents with a new book is not fun!!!

FQ: What advice can you give to a young reader of yours who is interested in one day writing and publishing a book?

CHEVERTON: The one piece of advice I’d give a young writer is - commit to learning the craft. The rejections I received on my first four novels sucked, but I kept writing. With every book, my writing became better and better. After every rejected novel, I bought more books on writing and read, read, read. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and Save the Catby Blake Snyder were by far my favorites, but I read dozens of these pedagogical books. In my opinion, this is a necessary step to learning in learning the craft of writing. Write...query...if rejected, start a new book!

FQ: The settings and the monsters in your stories are quite specific and described so vividly. How do you develop such interesting and unique attributes in your narratives and subsequently bring them to life so well for your readers?

CHEVERTON: I spend a lot of time outlining the plot, character arc, characters, and settings. I make it a point to inject a lot of sensory details into the story, to draw the reader in so they feel like they’re actually in the story with the characters. I’ve put together some mini-tutorials for young writers, showing how I do this. You can find them on my website here: markcheverton.com/writing-tips-from-mark/. I try to write my stories with as much visual imagery as I can create to make the story feel immersive, and the detailed description of specific characteristics of the monsters and characters helps me do this. If you want to see a great example of visual imagery, go read Melissa Alberts fantastic novel, The Hazel Wood. I guess this is a long answer to the question, the short answer is...outline everything in more detail than you would use in the story, then pick the good stuff and use it.

FQ: It is obvious that you have done research into strategies for dealing with anxiety, which you incorporated into the story whenever Cameron’s anxiety would peak. What advice would you give to a reader who is struggling with anxiety and has never sought help for it before?

CHEVERTON: I know there is a terrible stigma around anxiety, and those who suffer from anxiety don’t want to ask for help because they think they’ll look weak, or will be shamed, or ??? I can only tell you this, when we found the solution for our son, which was homeschooling, it was remarkable to see the difference in him. He would smile again. He could relax. He could be him. If you’re struggling with anxiety, know that people want to help, but they don’t know how. You need to teach them how to help, because people who don’t have anxiety cannot understand. You must teach them. Pick one person you trust, and just tell that one person so you won’t be alone. It’s impossible to confront anxiety by yourself; you need others at your side to lean on. In Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths, there is a saying amongst: “In the Order of the Stones, no one walks alone.” In the story, that means people help each other, but it meant to mean more. If you have anxiety, you shouldn’t walk alone. You need someone at your side who understands, so find that person, confide in them, and teach them how they can help you. You’ll be surprised how much your friends want to help you if you let them in.

FQ: You are very clearly the epitome of a successful author. Can you share with your readers one aspect of being an author that you love, as well as one aspect of it that you don’t love quite as much? 

CHEVERTON: I can say with absolute certainty that querying agents is a terrible process. You get a lot of rejections with no feedback on what you could do to make your story or query letter better. It’s just a very polite and respectful “no” or you just get crickets...no response. I also found, as I mentioned above, that being a full time author is very lonely and isolating. I got to know the servers at my local Panera Bread very well, because I’d go there to write every day, but you’re still alone. I don’t know how the big authors, like Robert Dugani or David Baldacci do it. They’re certainly making lots of money, as they should; they’re great writers. But you’re still sitting alone in your corner table at Panera or in your office or at home, alone...I found this difficult to sustain. The best part are the comments from the readers. I’ve received hundred and hundreds of emails from kids telling me how much they like my books. Right now, I’m sorta getting 2nd generation emails; kids who are graduating from high school or entering college are emailing me, telling me the impact my books had on them during their childhood. It can be very heartwarming and make me feel like I did something that’ll keep helping kids...what’s better than that?

Sunday, February 25, 2024

#AuthorInterview with TG Hardy, author of Where the Sabiá Bird Sings

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lily Andrews is talking with TG Hardy, author of Where the Sabiá Bird Sings.
FQ: I love the title of the book. How did it come about?
HARDY: My brother suggested it and it was the only title that anyone in my circle thought appropriate after the last five years of major changes. The Sabiá bird is a Brazilian thrush, though I prefer to describe it as a tropical mockingbird. A Sabiá bird appears, trilling, on page 17 of the book, in a scene where Pé is spying on the knife sharpener’s daughter from high in a mango tree. Where the Sabiá Bird Sings is the last line of the chorus of Brazil’s national poem “Song of Exile,” which is the subject of a campfire discussion between Chico and Pé on page 32.
FQ: You lived in the Brazilian settings and during the periods described in the novel, and I believe these places and times are near and dear to you. Would you tell our readers a bit about why those times/places hold such fond memories for you?
HARDY: My family lived in Rio in the 1950’s in a beachfront apartment in Ipanema, and my brother and I rode street cars to and from the American school, avoiding paying by clinging to the outside of the trolleys alongside street urchins, and saving our fare money to place bets after school with the crowds on the infield of the Jockey Club. Those years were idyllic, but then things got rough. We moved to a city in the interior and our parents thought we would benefit from attending a large, and apparently strict, parochial school a block from our house. We were not welcomed at the school, not by the students and even less by the priests and lay teachers, who looked the other way when we were beaten by classmates during the half-dozen coffee breaks each day in the central courtyard. We were fair-haired, foreign, taller than the other students, and Protestant, and to those boys that last bit translated to protestors. Whenever we could, we made sure our parents saw our cuts and bruises, but our father wouldn’t relent. Then, within months, all but a few tired of hating us. An abiding empathy was our gift from the experience. That, and a lesson in perseverance.
Later, during the early 1980s, I returned to Rio de Janeiro with my family for a three-year management assignment, during which I got to know the rest of the country including the Cocoa Coast setting I used for Jean-Pierre’s youth. Sharing Brazil with my family was a wonderful experience.
FQ: Given that the landscape and time periods covered in the story are so familiar to you, is the plot purely fictional, or was it inspired by real events? Ex., while the town of Penedo was fictional, it was based on a real town. Were there any characters in your novel that were based on people you knew/know?
HARDY: Penedo is an existing municipality, and also a river port, in a state further north than Bahia state, and one where the colonial architecture has been far better preserved than in the city of Maraú on the Cocoa Coast (which is the setting for all of chapter two). I used Penedo as a model for imaging the scenes in Maraú, and renamed it Penedo, because many readers these days research exotic settings on the web and if they were to check out Maraú they would see photos of newly-dilapidated, cinderblock buildings in the place of the lovely Portuguese colonial-era buildings that were there in the 1960’s.
The characters are entirely fictional except for my wife Pam, who appears briefly as a PanAm flight attendant (which she was) on page 109, and Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon who are mentioned in the final chapter as weekend browsers (which they were) at the independent bookstore in Kent, Connecticut.
FQ: Why did you choose to go for a character-driven narrative rather than a plot-driven tale? I think it was a smart decision but would love to know your thoughts on the matter.
HARDY: While I gravitate toward novels that are both plot and character driven, I savor those that are more character-driven, because they are not as plentiful (they don’t sell well), and because I find them more thought-provoking (and I’m a bit of a navel-gazer). Examples of the latter include: Crossing to Safety (by Wallace Stegner); The Pacific, and Other Stories (by Mark Helprin); The Tender Bar (by JR Moehringer); The Orchard (by Peter Heller). And it was Any Human Heart (by William Boyd) that gave me the idea of having the protagonist write an episodic family saga in memoir-style.
FQ: I believe, from your telling, that you adore your protagonist, Jean-Pierre. What fascinates you most about him?
HARDY: That he became, in his mid-thirties, as much tested and wise as I was, when, at twice his age, I began putting the finishing touches on this manuscript. For if anything remains in the final version that is autobiographical, it would be my take-aways from what I experienced or carefully observed during my lifetime, and the related emotions that are seared in my memory. I tried to create a character with a distinctive, gentle, and humorous voice that would quickly engage the reader. Same with Papa, whose old-school civility, honor, humility, selflessness, and tolerance eventually rubbed off on Jean-Pierre -- qualities that I want to believe are still universally prevalent, but drowned out by the din surrounding glitz, entitlement, tribalism, and sanctimony.
FQ: Your manuscript has received in-depth professional critiques, as revealed at the end of the read. Which are some of the most impactful remarks that you would say have had the greatest impact on your writing career?
HARDY: Critiques – writing workshops, early readers, and one-on-one coaching – were vitally important for me in learning the craft of writing. And there is a huge element of craft to it. I started out thinking that my imagination and way-with-words would carry me, but they didn’t. This is not jet-skiing; think about writing as a skill sport, like gymnastics, where you’re not going to the Olympics simply because you were born with an uncanny sense of balance and a low center of gravity. So you need coaching, and you must be coachable.
And having your opus pilloried in a workshop is going to be devastating at first, but if you can hang in there, you’ll see the value in much of the feedback. You’ll develop a thicker skin, but your work can always be improved, so the criticism won’t cease altogether and will sting, but perhaps for a matter of hours, not days. Even best-selling authors need tough-love, and if you’re disappointed reading their third book, it might be because they’ve gotten smug, or their alpha readers are cowed and blowing smoke up their backside.
As to remarks that stand out: Perhaps when one workshop leader told me that he was going to be tough on me, perhaps at times brutally tough, because my writing was polished and well-structured, but that I was shallow, cinematic, and that he felt like a fly on the wall watching stony, soulless, characters, having to guess how they felt. You need to work on interiority, he said. And we did, for several years.
FQ: What are some of the lessons that you intend your audience to learn from Where the Sabiá Bird Sings? Do you think that today’s youth have a tendency to want to indulge like Jean-Pierre?
HARDY: I’m not sure the youth today, though more coddled, are all that indulgent compared to my generation. I think that the period after World War II marks the beginning of that shift. Jean-Pierre’s grandparents were never in danger of being caught in the inertia of the shallow, stress-free, high-life that J-P crafted for himself as a talent agent in a city as intoxicating as Rio de Janeiro in the mid-seventies.
As to life lessons, this narrative is replete with them, but overall it was the overcoming of that high-life inertia, and how the introduction of uncertainty, stress, and hardship into J-P’s life brought him to a point where, in his mid-thirties, he found the purpose that was missing, a place in a larger community, and the prospect of fulfilling his long-standing yearning to have a big, boisterous, and loving family.
FQ: Was it hard to return to that long-ago, set-aside novel and bring it to life? How much time did you spend re-working the novel before Where the Sabiá Bird Sings was born? Would you share with our readers a few things you changed/updated? Was the time-period changed? Characters’ motivations altered?
HARDY: Not hard at all. I needed, as I’ve said, to learn and polish my craft, and I thought about how I might repot the novel for the three or four years I experimented with short prose. During that period, I worked especially on interiority and read all the character-driven novels that I could find.
The original manuscript was contemporary, set exclusively in high-life Rio, and it was auto-biographical and therefore boring. And the protagonist’s problem was that his marriage was failing because he was obsessed with his work and surfing – a totally mundane situation if you substitute golf and suburban Connecticut. So, as you know, I set the novel back a half century, still mainly in Rio but now including the slums and other less cosmopolitan areas of Brazil and included North America and Europe. The protagonist is entirely fictional and more sympathetic; his problem needs to be pointed out to him and is complicated and not readily fixed, certainly not on his own.
The original manuscript was plot-driven, and the novel you read is, of course, character-driven.
FQ: In your biography, you mention writing short prose and that you have had works published in numerous publications. What made you decide to give the genre a try after setting that first novel aside, and how do you find writing short prose vs. a novel? Do you prefer one over the other?
HARDY: I switched to writing short prose because I needed to learn the craft, and the short form is ideally suited to workshop review and allows maximum opportunity to experiment quickly with alternative points-of-view, tenses, and narrative voices.
I like the challenge of creating spare and memorable short stories, especially love stories, and I’m eager to get back to that, with an eye to adding, say seven, to the three published ones I’m happy with. With ten keepers, I could self-publish a collection. You can read my three favorites in the SELECTED WORK section of my author website https://www.tghardy.net/

Saturday, February 24, 2024

#Bookreview of Loved: A Mother's Celebration by Raven Howell

Loved: A Mother's Celebration

By: Raven Howell
Illustrated by: Pamela C. Rice
Publisher: AcuteByDesign Publishing
Publication Date: September 1, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-943515-50-9
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: February 23, 2024
From award-winning author and poet Raven Howell comes Loved: A Mother’s Celebration, a story celebrating the love between a parent and a child. This joyful story is brought to life through illustrations by Pamela C. Rice.
Howell writes this story in rhyme, as she explores the meaningful connection between a parent and a child. The story delves into how parents will love their child even when she’s mad, offering hugs to make her feel better, being there to tend to her when she’s sick, holding her, playing together and being silly together, singing and dancing together; and ultimately, always keeping their child close.
A unique aspect of this story is that each page not only offers a beautifully phrased example of how the parent will connect with the child but also relates the action to a different color for each activity. For example, the author references the “brightest orange sunrise blaze,” “blackest cloud,” “purple play,” and “white turtledove.” To align with this color theme, the illustrations also match the descriptions on each page.
Loved: A Mother’s Celebration is the ultimate bedtime snuggle story for parents to share with their young children. This narrative lovingly reflects just some of the ways in which parents are there for their children, regardless of whether they are happy, mad, sick, healthy, playful, or upset. This story also reassures young kids that they can always depend on their parents, no matter the situation or mood they may be in.
The illustrations by Pamela C. Rice complement Howell’s rhyming story perfectly. They depict loving scenes of parents with their children: playing, cuddling, singing, dancing, and hugging, all while incorporating the color scheme mentioned previously on each page within the text.
Quill says: Author Howell and illustrator Rice have come together to create a timeless bedtime story for young readers with Loved: A Mother’s Celebration. It is a beautiful commemoration of the loving relationship that exists between parent and child, which young readers and caregivers alike are sure to appreciate.
For more information on Loved: A Mother's Celebration, please visit the author's website at: http://ravenhowell.com/

#Bookreview of 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors

10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors
By: PrimeLife Wellness
Publisher: PrimeLife Wellness
Publication Date: January 20, 2024
ISBN: 978-1915710512
Reviewed by: Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr.
Review Date: February 22, 2024
10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors is a practical and easy-to-use guide to help senior citizens with an issue that affects millions of them yearly: falling. The work begins with a hair-raising statistic from the CDC that claims about 36 million falls are reported each year, 32,000 of which result in a senior’s death. In other words, falling is an epidemic, according to PrimeLife Wellness, the company producing this clearly written how-to book, that needs to be paid more attention to; and to do that is to know the reasons why this is happening: a lack of flexibility and balance. This new work provides comprehensive definitions of the different types of balance (static and dynamic) and systems (visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular) human beings use to maintain their balance, even when they are aging; hurting; losing their cognitive functioning; dealing with environmental hazards; or having emotional breakdowns when experiencing social and economic troubles. Primelife Wellness’s book also speaks to the importance of preventing falls and the solutions that ensure this dangerous life-event does not take place in more homes around the globe.
The book claims senior citizens need to improve on their muscle strength, stability, coordination, and confidence; and, to accomplish these goals, they need to come up with an exercise regiment that fits their lifestyles. To do that, they first have to test their balance, which has several components associated with it: posture, stability, coordination, recovery, focus, and adaptability. The tests themselves are not difficult; however, it takes tenacity, training, warm-up and cool-down periods, good exercise equipment, and repetition to get a comprehensive understanding of what those tests are going to prove, as it pertains to a senior’s level of flexibility and balance. Once flexibility and a level of balance are determined, seniors can choose what sorts of exercises are most comfortable for them. Most of the book provides short instructions for each exercise and a rudimentary but instructional illustration for seniors to use to help them figure out what is most necessary for their respective needs. The types of exercises presented are seated, standing, walking, floor, core, and vestibular; the most intriguing being vestibular, which deals with eye and head movement, eye-hand coordination, and gaze stabilization.
The head and the body have to work as one, and for this company to speak about what is generally an “undervalued component of our sensory apparatus,” brings 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors to another level. The vestibular system is “nestled” in the inner ear and gives human beings their equilibrium, their spatial navigation, and their stability. If the vestibular system is not functioning properly, anyone can become dizzy and off-balance; and, if seniors have medical issues such as vertigo and/or dizziness along with brittle bones and deteriorating muscle mass, they can easily fall and do serious damage to their entire body. This work, in a direct and simple way, speaks in-depth about how the mind, the senses, and the body coincide and connect with each other; and, if one of those things is dysfunctional, it is up to those having these issues to find ways to rehabilitate themselves, so all three can again work as one.
Along with the illustrations, 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors smartly provides resources such as QR codes that lead to more exercise assistance, beginner planners and planners for those who want more of a challenge, exercise trackers, and others to assist those that may need more motivation or direction. For example, in the vestibular systems chapter, a small amount of information is provided about how The Brain and Spine Foundation can be of assistance in case the book does not provide enough to help with the rehabilitation of said system. These tips present seniors and readers with an honest assessment of the situation. Yes, these exercises can help but they may not be a panacea. Seniors can plan, strengthen their muscles, gain more confidence, rehabilitate their vestibular system and yet still fall and either hurt or kill themselves. There are no guarantees, but this work provides at least some steps to making sure a steady foundation can be created for those that are shaky and frail. In other words, this book is a step in the right direction for one to take a literal step in the right direction. 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors, ultimately, is a logical and uncomplicated book that gives readers a better sense as to what they need to stay flexible and balanced.
Quill says: 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors is a substantive and informative how-to about a dangerous issue that rightfully needs addressing.
For more information on 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors, please visit the author's website: https://primelife-wellness.com/

#Bookreview of Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths by Mark Cheverton

Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths: A Battle of Anxiety vs. Trust (The Order of the Stones Book 2)

By: Mark Cheverton
Publisher: Gameknight Publishing
Publication Date: April 15, 2024
ISBN: 979-8989835508
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: February 22, 2024

Mark Cheverton

From New York Times bestselling author Mark Cheverton comes the second book in his Order of the Stones series, Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths: A Battle of Anxiety vs. Trust. This book resumes a year after book one concluded, with Cameron having defeated the Demon Lord Malphas, thus saving New Orleans.

Our protagonist, Cameron Poole, has recently discovered that he possesses magic, which enables him to fight against the shadow-wraiths that have come to Earth. This time, one of Cameron’s friends has been abducted by them, which forces him to stand up to the anxiety that often overtakes him in order to save his friend.

Cameron, along with his friends Elisa, Karl, Leonard, and Bobby, embark on a mission to close the Void so the Demon Lord Malphas can never escape while also rescuing their friends who have been taken by the demon along the way. What is especially significant is that this story is not simply a battle of good versus evil. Cameron also has to fight his what-ifs and automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) during the battle. What is even more noteworthy is that the monsters that Cameron and his friends are fighting know about his anxiety, and use this to their advantage as they are able to get inside his head and produce this negative self-talk. Essentially, Cameron has to fight two kinds of monsters in this story—physical ones and psychological ones.

Cheverton has crafted a thrilling story of fantasy complete with monsters, battles, and magic, yet, he keeps his tale relatable to young readers by developing a protagonist with real characteristics: a middle schooler who struggles with anxiety and confidence. When writing a fantasy novel, it is easy to focus solely on the imaginary aspect of the story and allow that to overtake the narrative itself. However, Cheverton expertly walks this fine line, perfectly balancing the fantasy and made-up portions of the story while still developing real, relatable characters that readers will come to know, love, and root for during the course of the narrative.

Cheverton’s target audience is preteens, but this book could easily be enjoyed by adults as well. The focus on Cameron’s anxiety and how he copes could be utilized by a reader who might be struggling with something similar. Reading about a reluctant hero who overcomes anxiety and finds his confidence may be the motivation a struggling child needs to take a first step in his own life. Obviously, this should always be closely overseen by the child’s parents.

Quill says: With Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths: A Battle of Anxiety vs. Trust, Cheverton has continued the success of the first book in his Order of the Stones series. This book has something for everyone: suspense, fight scenes, monsters, friendship, overcoming obstacles, and the important life lesson of believing in yourself.

For more information on Cameron and the Shadow-wraiths: A Battle of Anxiety vs. Trust (The Order of the Stones Book 2), please visit the author's website at: https://markcheverton.com

Thursday, February 22, 2024

#Bookreview of Belle and Chloe: Reflections in the Mirror

Belle and Chloe: Reflections In The Mirror

By: Isabela Sardas
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Publication Date: July 10, 2023
ISBN: 978-1665741545
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 20, 2024
A story that teaches young readers how to deal with trauma and coping with all the resultant issues – the pain of recovery, lowered self-esteem, and relationships is waiting within the pages of Belle and Chloe: Reflections in the Mirror.
Belle and Chloe are twins and also best friends. They play together, go to school together, and even have matching dogs, Muffin and Waffles. Both girls also love helping their mother make dinner, and that’s where our story begins....
One night, while Belle was helping her mother cook dinner, she reached for the hot pot of soup that was on the stove. The stove tipped forward, and the hot soup spilled all over Belle. The heat from the hot soup caused Belle to cry out in pain. Her mother acted swiftly, calling 911 and wrapping her daughter in a sheet. Belle was rushed to the hospital, where she was assessed and found to have third-degree burns over the upper parts of her body. Belle’s parents were told that their daughter would need to stay at the hospital for a few months and would also need numerous surgeries.
Eventually, Belle was able to come home from the hospital. She had gone through countless painful treatments, but the transition back to home life wasn’t easy. Belle needed lots of help from her mother, which made Chloe feel forgotten; Belle was afraid to be alone, she didn't want to go to the bathroom by herself, and she was even hesitant to leave her room; and then there were the nightmares...would they ever stop?
The author of Belle and Chloe: Reflections in the Mirror, Dr. Isabela Sardas, is a licensed clinical psychologist with many years of experience treating psychiatric disorders in youngsters. Her expertise shines through on the pages of this story where the reader sees Belle struggle with the various issues she must deal with - not just as her painful burns are treated, but also after she has returned home. Beyond the pain of the burns, Belle doesn’t want to look at her burns when the bandages are removed, and later, she’s convinced that her scars make her different. These are all real issues that both children and their parents may struggle with and they are discussed in a sensitive way so that readers will better understand what they may face. Through the author's expertise in presenting a relatable story, children who may be struggling with issues surrounding trauma will see themselves in the struggles of Belle and understand that they are not alone. In the story, Belle and her family go to a therapist and through their experience, we can see that it's not a scary thing but rather a very helpful activity to help begin the process of healing. These and so many other things are discussed in Belle and Chloe: Reflections in the Mirror, and it's definitely a book you should consider if a child you know is dealing with similar issues.
Quill says: Belle and Chloe: Reflections in the Mirror is a sensitive, caring story to help both children and their caregivers work through the many challenges that come with trauma. It is an excellent book to read together and is highly recommended to help children work through the many issues they face after a serious injury.
For more information on Belle and Chloe: Reflections In The Mirror, please visit the book's Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/belleandchloebook/

Friday, February 16, 2024

#Bookreview of The Things I Love by Christina M. Carroll

The Things I Love

By: Christina M. Carroll
Illustrated by: Jenny Slife
Publisher: The Orange Chair, LLC
Publication Date: June 1, 2024
ISBN: 979-8889740001
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 15, 2024
The love between parent and child is at the heart of The Things I Love, and I guarantee you will love reading this book to your child.
The story opens with a delightful picture of a mother and her son. The young boy is sitting up in bed, with a favorite book in his lap, while his mom lovingly shares the book with him. It’s quite apparent that both are absolutely enjoying the moment. The only text on the page appears at the bottom and is just two simple words, “At 10...” Turn the page and...
On the next page, we learn what the young boy liked to do when he was ten:
I loved experiments,
to play defense,
and camp in tents.
At the bottom of the page, we again have two simple words. This time, we’re told, “At 9The Things I Love
By: Christina M. Carroll
Illustrated by: Jenny Slife
Publisher: The Orange Chair, LLC
Publication Date: June 1, 2024
ISBN: 979-8889740001
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 15, 2024
The love between parent and child is at the heart of The Things I Love, and I guarantee you will love reading this book to your child.
The story opens with a delightful picture of a mother and her son. The young boy is sitting up in bed, with a favorite book in his lap, while his mom lovingly shares the book with him. It’s quite apparent that both are absolutely enjoying the moment. The only text on the page appears at the bottom and is just two simple words, “At 10...” Turn the page and...
On the next page, we learn what the young boy liked to do when he was ten:
I loved experiments,
to play defense,
and camp in tents.
At the bottom of the page, we again have two simple words. This time, we’re told, “At 9...” And so the story continues, with a countdown of each year, going backward from 10 to 1 of what the young protagonist likes to do. We see him camping, playing basketball, making a cake with his grandmother, and even digging for bugs. A delightful surprise awaits on the last page of what the young protagonist loves most. And it’s something that I guarantee will make the reader, both young and old, really appreciate as they nod in agreement.
The Things I Love is a simple book with limited text that makes it perfect as a bedtime story for very young children. We never learn the protagonist’s name, which works well for this story because his name isn’t important; it’s the love he shares with his mother and the adventures he shares with the reader that are the focus of the book. The artwork is delightful, detailed, and playful, and it’s clear that the author worked closely with the illustrator to bring to life a vision of a happy childhood full of love. The Things I Love is a fantastic debut book for author Christina M. Carroll and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for future books.
Quill says: The Things I Love is such a sweet book, one that will make you smile on every page and one you’ll want to read snuggled up with your child at bedtime, each and every night. ” And so the story continues, with a countdown of each year, going backward from 10 to 1 of what the young protagonist likes to do. We see him camping, playing basketball, making a cake with his grandmother, and even digging for bugs. A delightful surprise awaits on the last page of what the young protagonist loves most. And it’s something that I guarantee will make the reader, both young and old, really appreciate as they nod in agreement.
The Things I Love is a simple book with limited text that makes it perfect as a bedtime story for very young children. We never learn the protagonist’s name, which works well for this story because his name isn’t important; it’s the love he shares with his mother and the adventures he shares with the reader that are the focus of the book. The artwork is delightful, detailed, and playful, and it’s clear that the author worked closely with the illustrator to bring to life a vision of a happy childhood full of love. The Things I Love is a fantastic debut book for author Christina M. Carroll and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for future books.
Quill says: The Things I Love is such a sweet book, one that will make you smile on every page and one you’ll want to read snuggled up with your child at bedtime, each and every night.
For more information on The Things I Love, please visit the author's website at : https://theorangechair.com/

Thursday, February 15, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Cynthia J. Bogard, author of Beach of the Dead

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Cynthia J. Bogard, author of Beach of the Dead (The Heartland Trilogy, Book Two).
FQ: What a treat it was to read your second book in the Heartland Trilogy, Beach of the Dead. I would like to start with where the story was set: Zipolite, Mexico. Why was Zipolite, Mexico the place for Ana (formerly ‘Jane Meyer’) to escape to?
BOGARD: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I chose Zipolite because I wanted a place that was stripped down to the essentials, close to nature, a simple, open society, so that the novel could focus on Jane/Ana’s inner life and struggles. For Jane, Zipolite was more of a desperate choice – she simply set out for the only obscure place in Mexico she’d heard about from a trusted source (her professor, Maddie).
FQ: In line with my previous question, you write so vividly of this paradise in Mexico, it makes me wonder if you have personally spent time there. Have you, and if so, what is your most memorable experience while there? If not, is it on your bucket list of places to visit?
BOGARD: Yes, I spent the winter season there many years ago, when it truly was a simple stick hut village with no running water or electricity. Zipolite back then did have all the wonderful natural amenities that Ana experiences — and, sadly, the daily sea turtle truck. One unforgettable moment of my time there was recreated as the scene where Ana first encounters the pool and waterfall. I was a novice traveler that season and living in Zipolite was my first close encounter with a culture not my own. That winter started a passion for travel that’s never left me.
FQ: There are two distinct considerations in your story line: the acceptance toward gay or lesbian and the ‘paving’ of raw beauty with ‘progress.’ If you were given a platform to address a community on what acceptance means, what would be your mission statement to encourage attendance? Similar question toward ‘progress’ - what would your mission statement be that would strike a balance in how progress can have a positive impact to a community?
Author Cynthia Bogard
BOGARD: Our human community is enriched by embracing, not merely tolerating, or accepting, a wide array of individuals. I personally witnessed this as the university I worked for greatly increased its diversity (race, sexual orientation, ability status, ethnicity, religion) during my quarter century there. Our classroom discussions were enhanced, there were more creative ideas generated in departments ranging from medicine to drama, student friendship groups and organizations became more diverse, as students sought out people different from themselves for friends and colleagues. Eventually, students told us they were interested in coming to our university because its diversity represented the society at large better than many others and therefore prepared them for “real life” better than a more insular community. I learned so much from students who came from perspectives different from mine, and it was so much fun hearing about their experiences and backgrounds. We are an incredibly diverse species and the more we embrace that about ourselves, the more creatively we can live on our planet. In Beach of the Dead, the life of the community was much enhanced by listening to Thorpe’s wisdom about how to organize themselves more equitably and by her poker skills!
Progress is a slippery term – what might be progress for some can be profound loss and destruction for others. When a natural space becomes developed for human use, habitat, and lives of the creatures who had inhabited that space are destroyed. But people get places to live and work. For too long, we humans have mostly privileged our own progress (or what seems in the moment like progress) over respect for and caring for the natural world. That’s coming back to haunt us now in the form of climate chaos. We didn’t consider the impact of our use of fossil fuels on our planet’s atmosphere and climate. At first, that was because of ignorance; now, it is because almost all of the human world is addicted to fossil fuels and it’s hard to give it up. In Beach of the Dead, José thought his job killing sea turtles was progress — and, indeed, compared to working in the smelly factory or being in prison, it was, for him. But when he enlarged his perspective, he came to see that killing sea turtles took an unsustainable toll, on the turtles of course, but also on him as a moral being. The questions José asked himself are those we all should ask when confronted with decisions about “progress.” Are we thinking about the big picture? The future? What will be lost? Do we compromise ourselves morally by engaging in this type of progress? There are no easy answers to these questions.
FQ: Back to your credentials for a moment...Having been a Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, you referenced in your first interview how characters Jenny and Jane were developed as a result of: "...friends you knew in college and their childhood experiences..." You were incredibly respectful in your response, and I have to ask if you are still in touch with them both today?
BOGARD: Sadly, I’m not sure what happened to either of them. I had my own struggles during the time I knew them and then I left the US and lived abroad for a number of years. When I returned, I moved to another part of the country. One of them I did have contact with years later and learned that she had become highly successful in her field (the Jenny character). The other woman changed her name to something very common (it was part of her healing process) and disappeared from my life. I am indebted to both of them for their friendship and for modeling the courage to continue after experiencing trauma.
FQ: In line with my previous question, are there 'real' people who were the inspirations for the fictional characters in Beach of the Dead and if so, what in the story resonated with them?
BOGARD: I have been privileged to know some excellent people in my life, people who have inspired me, who demonstrated the type of moral courage I tried to portray in Beach of the Dead. But most of those in this book are part of my younger life and probably will never know how they influenced the development of my characters. But they have shaped me, and I hope I’m honoring them by representing them in fiction.
FQ: I enjoyed the homage you played to how precious the ecosystem is and the turtle refuge outside of Zipolite, where Ana finds work. How close is this to real work and studies being done in the region today?
BOGARD: When I looked up modern-day Zipolite on a map, I saw that in neighboring Mazunte there is now the National Mexican Turtle Center, a small museum to make tourists and others aware of the work needed to protect sea turtles. It was a welcome discovery for me — as I sadly witnessed the sea turtle slaughter of decades ago. I thought linking this actual transformation to what José experiences was a way to exemplify the reshaping that some of us have done in our attitudes towards nature — from exploiter to protector. Nathan Nelson followed the old model of progress, “improving” nature to make it “civilized.” These contrasting attitudes remain a huge source of tension. Ironic, but typical, the only way José could pursue his vision of turtle saving was to work for Nelson.
FQ: Toward the end of the story, there is a bittersweet ‘tying up of loose ends’ that you captured beautifully: "...When we drew closer, I saw that the huge yellow machines used to build roads had arrived in Zipolite. Nothing much had happened there yet, but the implications for the future were clear. There would someday be a road that reached from Puerto Escondido through Mazunte, through Zipolite, to Puerto Angel. This spot of paradise that had protected and nurtured me would be forever changed..." How does this relate to something you have personally experienced in terms of what was once ‘paradise’ is lost forever now?
BOGARD: Change happens. Our childhood homes burn or become homeless shelters (both happened to me). Our treasured streams and fields become culverts and suburbs (also part of my history). We leave old selves behind, too. Thorpe’s attitude on this mirrors mine. “Nature does change things up unexpectedly and life must adapt. And does.” (p. 261) My current hometown, Montpelier, Vermont, recently experienced a devasting flood — the entire downtown business district was wiped out. While it is so very sad, our only choice now is to adapt and go forward. The past can only live on in our memories. The past cannot be restored because the very nature of reality is that it evolves, changes. We must fight to preserve what is worth saving in its pristine state, such as our national parks. But when nature (now assisted by our insistence on using fossil fuels) is experienced as floods, fires, tsunamis, tornadoes, and hurricanes, we humans have no choice but to adapt. Hopefully, we will relearn (as many ancient peoples knew) to work with the natural world instead of thinking we can conquer it.
FQ: You didn’t touch too much on the character Thorpe’s work, but it was clear she is a research scientist of some sort. You alluded to her studies in the Rain Forest and something she had discovered that could be tied to the pharmaceutical industry. Is this a seed that has been planted and something we can anticipate being further developed in book three of this series? A miraculous (and potential cure) to some egregious disease?
BOGARD: I’m glad you noticed that! Most definitely, Thorpe’s discovery will be a feature of a subsequent book.
FQ: I want to thank you for your time today and once again express how very much I enjoyed reading Beach of the Dead. You have an innate gift for storytelling, and I cannot wait to settle into book three. When can we expect it (and are you able to shine a light on what we can expect)?
BOGARD: I’m about a third of the way into the next story featuring some of these characters. I’m still deciding whether there needs to be a sequel and a prequel to the stories I’ve already told, or if they are best combined into a dual timeline novel. Both parts of the new narrative, the part that takes place in the 60s and 70s and the story that grows out of the 1980s timeline from the first two books, explore how women are shaped by the larger social forces around them. Because I’ve studied social movements in my career as a sociologist, readers can expect to see some of these important shapers of lives and society show up in my next stories. As to when the next book might be released, I’m hoping for 2025.
Much appreciation for these great questions. They made me reflect on my craft and my life, and for that, I’m thankful to you.