Monday, April 22, 2024

#Bookreview of 10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors

10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors: Simple Illustrated Workout Guide for Core Strength, Balance, and Flexibility to Prevent Injuries and Lose Weight in Under 30 Days

Publisher: PrimeLife Wellness
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
ISBN: 978-1915710598
Reviewed by: Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr.
Review Date: April 15, 2024
10- Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors, published by PrimeLife Wellness and written by lead author, James Evans, is an informative follow-up to 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors, published earlier this year (2024). This newest text, however, is more about keeping our elderly population limber to ensure they stay fit during their golden years, and to do so in a manageable and economically viable way. As we age, so does our body and, as Evans astutely points out, much of the body’s breakdown happens because of a lack of exercise. Evans writes that “your body adapts to whatever demands you regularly place on it,” (pg. 5) so if we do not work at keeping active, an inevitable dwindling of muscle mass will occur. Thus, these chair exercises are meant to help readers build back muscle without the “purchase [of] expensive gym equipment or [a commitment] to regularly commuting to a public gym.” (pg. 6)
The introduction to 10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors sets the pace for the rest of the work, which is well-organized and easy to read. There is a positive and persuasive tone to Evans’s content, which came about with the help of multiple professional fitness experts and has simple instructions to ensure the person performing the exercise does not get hurt. Evans spends time on the human body’s adaptability, even if that body is not in shape; on what chair exercises are; and on why chair exercises should be performed. He also writes about PrimeLife Wellness, which provides readers with some insight into what the company’s goal is: for the elderly to do five-to-ten minutes of exercise a day to prolong life, help prevent heart attacks and unexpected falls, and “increase your balance, coordination, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and muscular power.” (pg. 😎
Evans establishes that the exercising elderly must prepare their bodies and equipment before they begin their regiment. First, they need a stationary, sturdy chair that is able to take the weight of the person exercising. Then the reader is given further details about the type of chair as well as other elements that might provide assistance. Evans et al. show in their first chapters they are strong critical thinkers, presenting multiple scenarios that may lead to issues that need immediate problem-solving. They understand mistakes can seriously hurt, maim, and kill those seeking their help. For obvious reasons, the writers take every possible precaution before they delve into the exercises for comfort and safety, and even writing about the exercise environment, which should be free of tripping hazards; close by to water sources and healthy snacks; and, accessible to breathable clothing and sensible footwear. In providing extensive instructions, which include breathing exercises, warm-up and cool-down regiments, and body awareness conversations, it shows PrimeLife Wellness cares for their constituency.
The next several chapters are devoted to cardio and muscular endurance; working the core, and lower/upper body; and, stretching and flexibility. Most fascinating about these chapters is the number of exercises Evans et al. presents to their readers. Having such a vast variety allows for those doing those exercises an opportunity to switch the plan whenever they wish, which in turn takes away any possible issues surrounding redundancy and complacency. Similar to 10-Minute Balance Exercises for Seniors, 10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors has limpid instructions and simple drawings to help those who may not stay focused, or those who may need a visual to better understand; and, a QR code and video are also available, making these exercises accessible to those who are either allistic or neurodiverse. Evans et al. made this book inclusive by including multiple forms of learning within the text, whether tech savvy or not.
By the end of the text, Evans et al. lays out a firm foundation for their aged readers. They provide the ten-minute plan, a weekly plan, and opportunities within the plan to modify. Some of these plans are at the beginning stages of the reader’s fitness journey while other plans are devoted to the more adventurous; but they leave the plan up to the people doing the exercises. They have autonomy and, ultimately, PrimeLife Wellness wants the elderly to feel more accomplished. The company recognizes how essential our elderly are. The aged should be healthy, hearty, and happy citizens, who live with the knowledge that they can be around for their families and friends, without pain and discomfort.
Quill says: 10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors is a strong pseudo-sequel that is more focused than its predecessor, but equally as effective in its execution.
For more information on 10-Minute Chair Exercises for Seniors: Simple Illustrated Workout Guide for Core Strength, Balance, and Flexibility to Prevent Injuries and Lose Weight in Under 30 Days, please visit the publisher's website at: https://primelife-wellness.com/

Friday, April 19, 2024

#Bookreview of What Lies Buried by Leslie Iain


What Lies Buried
By: Leslie Kain
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: May 14, 2024
ISBN: 979-8891321816
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
What Lies Buried by Leslie Kain is a fascinating psychological thriller with rich character development and a riveting storyline. It takes the reader on a journey of understanding the crippling effects of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) while unpacking the complexities of this egregious disorder.
In the beginning, life was a storybook fairytale for Gavin and Katie DiMasi and their sweet baby girl, Maggie. They lived on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Kauai where the Ono Kulok restaurant was their pride and joy. Gavin was its accomplished chef and quite a successful owner...and just like that, life was about to deliver some crushing blows. The DiMasi’s perfect family was on the precipice of disaster and derailment. Gavin was struggling. He was the sole remaining member alive from his extended family—his father was shot (taking a bullet that was meant for his brother, Devin). His mother is dead (a tragic fall down the stairs in his childhood home). Then there was the death of his identical twin brother Devin (who hanged himself, only to be discovered by Gavin). The death (and discovery) of his brother throws Gavin into an altered world of desperation and denial. He doesn’t trust...anyone. He has night tremors and spirals into fits of anger followed by crippling paranoia. His lifelong curse of guilt over his inability to save his twin from self-destruction consumes him. If not for the strength and support of his loving wife, Katie, and his perfect princess of a daughter, Maggie, he may have already begun his departure from sanity on a direct course to his bottomless pit of no return. However, how much longer can Katie be the strength to bring Gavin back?
As Gavin stares into the imaginary abyss of his thoughts in his perfect home, Katie brings him back to earth when she hands him an envelope. It’s from Levine, McDermott & Lombardi, LLP. Lombardi was his father’s attorney. Reluctant to read its contents, Katie explains she already has. It would seem they are reaching out to have Gavin return to his childhood Boston home to settle his father’s estate. To ease the tension, Katie encourages Gavin to think about taking his brother’s ashes back to Boston to put him to final rest with his deceased parents. Gavin is angry and thinks back to his brother’s death... "Now the weight of his brother’s suicide…seeing him hanging there...in front of the taunting message he left...comes crashing down on him all over again, after he thought he’d finally put it behind him..." (pg. 6) It angered him when he thought about the countless times his father berated him; often reminding him of his inability to succeed at anything. Yet, Devin was the one always getting into trouble. Gavin was the honors student, the track and field star, and the Culinary Institute graduate. It was time—time to face his final reckoning in hopes that putting this last tragedy behind him would heal him. What Katie and Gavin couldn’t possibly know was this would be the crossroads; neither of them could have ever anticipated the actual outcome.
Leslie Kain writes with impressive conviction and soul in a phenomenal way. It is clear from the onset of this book that she wanted to deliver a memory. Her research on the crippling disorder of C-PTSD is fascinating, given the connectivity between her research and how the knowledge was used toward character development. Katie DiMasi (Gavin’s wife) is a pinnacle of strength and is portrayed as the woman who will stand by her man no matter what. Gavin is broken in every aspect of the definition of broken, and the debilitating effects that surface due to his sever C-PTSD are moments that grasp the reader and take him/her on a journey of trepidation toward what could possibly happen next? Is Gavin happy today? Angry? Paranoid? Hopeless? With the cacophony of ups and downs throughout this book, there is never a question that the reader's desire to keep turning the pages will be maintained until the last page. I applaud Ms. Kain for how nurturing and caring she was to expose the emotions and feelings of not only the afflicted (Gavin) but also the damage and destruction C-PTSD causes in what (at times) is an endless nightmare of anxiety held together with a very fragile thread of hope...somewhere. Bravo, Ms. Kain! I cannot wait to read your next book!
Quill says: What Lies Buried is a must-read that reminds the reader of how very complex (and fragile) the human psyche is.
For more information about What Lies Buried, please visit the author's website at: https://lesliekain-psychfiction.com/

Monday, April 15, 2024

#Bookreview of The Horseman Who Came From the Sea by Jeff Turner


The Horseman Who Came from the Sea

By: Jeff Turner
Publisher: Page Publishing
Publication Date: January 24, 2024
ISBN: 978-8-89157-581-3
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: April 8, 2024
From veteran author Jeff Turner comes The Horseman Who Came From the Sea, the third book chronicling the story of Henry Cameron. This tale follows Henry, a young man who finds a place for himself working with horses on a Vermont horse farm.
The beginning of The Horseman Who Came From the Sea picks up where Turner’s previous novel, A Rescued Soul, concluded. Henry’s mentor and the father he never had, Lieutenant Cooper, has recently died from the Spanish flu. Prior to his death, he appointed himself as Henry’s legal guardian and taught Henry everything he knows. After Lieutenant Cooper passed away, Henry was shocked to learn that the Lieutenant had left his entire inheritance to Henry, including all monetary holdings and the entire farm, as well as its land. Henry is honored that the Lieutenant chose him to bequeath his legacy to, while at the same time, Henry realizes what a massive responsibility has just been placed upon his shoulders. He wishes to respect the Lieutenant’s memory by preserving the reputation and good image that the Cooper farm has been proud to sustain for many years.
In order to keep the farm in good order, Henry knows he must bring in some additional workhands to assist with chores, especially because he wishes to purchase some additional horses. He begins by offering a job to his old bunkmate and friend, Mickey Parker. Mickey and Henry were both enrolled at Camp Dewey, which prepared teenagers for service in the navy or merchant marines. During the war, Mickey found himself injured when an artillery shell exploded near him, resulting in the loss of his left hand and forearm, along with facial burns. At first, Mickey is resistant to Henry’s job offer, arguing that he cannot work since he is a cripple. It does not take long, however, for Henry to convince Mickey that there is lots he can offer, and he accepts Henry’s invitation, and they leave together to drive to the horse farm in Vermont.
As Henry begins to rebuild the horse farm, he enlists the help of a gifted horse trainer, a young and eager-to-work set of twins, along with the protective caretakers who worked for Lieutenant Cooper. During Henry’s journey, he also encounters some unsavory individuals that he must deal with, including a crooked sheriff and his own resentful uncle, who is after Henry’s inheritance. As Henry builds his farm family, he witnesses his friends partner up as they find love amongst each other, and while he is happy for them, this brings to the surface the pain of a love he lost years ago. He finds himself wondering if love will ever find him again.
I had the pleasure of reading Turner’s previous novel, A Rescued Soul, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that book, I can honestly say that The Horseman Who Came From The Sea was simply magnificent. Throughout the entire story, we see Henry go from building camaraderie and companionship to forming a close-knit family that can count on each other. He offers jobs to those who have fallen on hard times and really need the work and the money. Above all, what is most admirable about Henry is the lesson he can teach us about forgiveness. It is a touching lesson about kindness and forgiveness that we could all use a reminder about in today’s world.
Turner has a true gift for writing that appeals to the human side of his readers, making his stories real and relatable and creating characters that his readers sincerely come to care about over the course of the narrative. What is unique in Turner’s books is that not only does he create loveable, relatable human characters, but he also adds significant characters in the horses that play an important role in the progression of the stories. As a reader, it is impossible not to form an attachment with the horses that help shape the emotional narrative.
Quill says: With The Horseman Who Came From The Sea, Turner has penned a heartwarming, genuine, feel-good story about a young man who was once a runaway, but ends up finding his passion working with horses and creating a close-knit family to finally call his own.

#AuthorInterview with Patrick Galvin, 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 Galvan

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.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

#Bookreview of In$urance to Die For: A John Smith Mystery


In$urance to Die For: A John Smith Mystery
By: Charlotte Stuart
Publisher: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2024
ASIN: B0CZND56PB
Reviewed by: Diana Coyle

CCharlotte Stuart
When John Smith took the Claims Adjuster position for Universal Heartland Liability and Casualty Assurance Company of America, he never thought he might be involved in trying to solve a murder case, along with a high-value art and jewelry case, but that's just what happens in In$urance To Die For by Charlotte Stuart, book 2 in the John Smith mystery series.
John is just an average guy trying to do his job and stay employed, especially since he seems to annoy his office manager, Emma, all the time. They seem to not get along no matter how hard John tries. When he goes out on a routine art appraisal job it seems like things should be cut and dry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When a client asks for an appraisal of her artwork and jewelry, things get out of control fairly quickly for John. Then he finds out that a young gentleman by the name of Lonnie, who is an avid drone hobbyist, is found dead, and there are connections coming back to John’s clients. He now finds himself in deeper than he could ever imagine. Does John find out what’s going on with all the snags he’s experiencing with his art appraisal clients? What exactly can John do to fix these major issues? Can he save his job while trying to get to the bottom of this crazy mess? Why was Lonnie killed?
This murder mystery will have readers eagerly turning the pages to discover what happens next for John. This poor, average guy just wants to go to work and keep a low profile, and it seems the more he tries, the more he finds himself deeper into not only a murder investigation, but a high-priced art and jewelry investigation that Lonnie may have been involved in. When John starts seeing things aren’t matching up on his appraisal claims, he reaches out to his best friend, Sergeant Bruno McGinty, who is an officer in the local precinct. As Bruno discusses the strange details of these cases with John, Bruno realizes that John may be more involved in these cases than his friend should be...
This reviewer found In$urance To Die For to be a mystery that had plenty of intrigue, along with numerous twists and turns that would keep any mystery reader riveted to their seats. Stuart portrayed John to be an average guy, trying to get by in his day-to-day life. The ironic part was that no matter how John tried laying low, trouble always seemed to find him. Readers will feel empathy for John, especially since it was obvious he did have a bit of a self-esteem issue. He seemed like an odd character, but not in a bad way.
Another thing that stood out was the author’s dry, but hilarious sense of humor. While the whole story was written with an air of seriousness to the mystery, the crazy things John experienced daily gave this reader plenty to laugh at throughout the entire book. From John, who lived on a houseboat, going through the daily attack and harassment from a murder of crows that just seemed to have a vendetta against him, to his nosey mother constantly meddling into John’s business because he remained a middle-aged man who wasn’t married, this story had plenty of things that would give any reader pause for some good laughs amongst the seriousness of the rest of the story. Readers will laugh out loud on numerous occasions because John just always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time throughout the story. It was nice to see toward the end of the novel that he gained some respect from his friends and fellow colleagues.
Quill says: This reviewer highly recommends In$urance to Die For: A John Smith Mystery! Readers are sure to enjoy this heart-pounding, while also amusingly funny, mystery. Well done, Ms. Stuart!
To learn more about In$urance to Die For: A John Smith Mystery, please visit the author’s website at: https://charlottestuart.com/

Monday, April 8, 2024

#Bookreview of Journey of Awakening and Higher Consciousness

Journey of Awakening and Higher Consciousness

By: Jane Kim Yu
Publisher: Absolute Author Publishing House
Publication Date: November 3, 2023
ISBN: 978-1649539113
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: April 6, 2024
Journey of Awakening and Higher Consciousness expounds a powerful journey that begins with one woman’s realization of enlightened consciousness that unfolds into a wish-fulfilling jewel, making the journey to fulfillment available to everyone.
At a young age, Jane Kim Yu suffered an affliction—she was allergic to the sun. Every summer, she broke out in a scaly, painful rash that immobilized her. She lived a solitary, bedridden existence as a child when healthy children could run and play outdoors. She felt unlovable and unworthy. By the time Yu reached college, her condition eased somewhat, and she learned how to live with it. One clear spring day, she was passing beneath some trees on her college campus, and she was struck by a profound and deep sense of love, beauty, and enlightenment.
Wisdom of the Ages coursed through Yu and made her aware that every living being’s true nature is a constant flow of Love and Peace. She remained in this state of profound bliss and connection for six months. Her thinking mind totally shut down, and her ability to feel the flow of essential love through every being and every experience sensitized her to divine benevolence that exists here and now.
After she tells her own story, Yu uses the rest of the book to offer inspirational messages to anyone who enjoys encouragement. She is not proselytizing any particular path, religion, or spiritual practice. Instead, Yu is confidently proclaiming that everyone has a heart that is capable of higher knowingness; every soul feels a burn of passion from within, and it is anyone’s faith in their unique soul’s purpose that will manifest a person’s dreams into reality. She goes on the explain that the journey is about expressing our authentic selves. Release critical judgment of ourselves and others, and spend quality time listening to our unique hearts sing about our personal passions, joys, loves, interests, and curiosities. She explains how to heed the callings that speak to us.
This is a friendly, personable, accessible, and satisfying read for anyone looking for encouragement through any of life’s challenges. It’s a book a reader can keep and grab from the shelf when there is any need to be reminded—no matter what life throws our way, we can handle it. Love and peace have our backs while we are walking each other home.
Quill says: Journey of Awakening and Higher Consciousness is an inspirational read. It is like having a personal life coach cheering us on and believing in us, so we can focus on keeping our soul’s fire burning.
For more information on Journey of Awakening and Higher Consciousness, please visit the author's website at: https://www.janekimyu.com/

#Bookreview of Snoodles on the Loose! A Tashi Non-Stop Adventure

Snoodles on the Loose!: A Tashi Non-Stop Adventure

By: Natasha Hanina and Houston Howard
Illustrated by: Anhelina Van Gogh
Publication Date: February 9, 2024
ISBN: 979-8864785775
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: March 4, 2024
How can an imaginary friend compete for a boy's attention against all the digital fun offered by a brand-new phone? It’s a quandary that is resolved in a wonderful way in Snoodles on the Loose!
Lucas is a young boy who is happy, playful, and a fantastic student. He lives in Borington, a small town where not much happens. Fortunately, Lucas has an amazing best friend:
“Lucas had the greatest friend.
They met in the library.
His name was Snoodles,
He loved chocolate noodles,
And – gasp – he was imaginary!”
Snoodles and Lucas played every day and had loads of fun. They pretended to be knights and had sword battles and hid in forts. And the best part? Snoodles could change his shape and color all the time. There was so much to do and the only limit to their adventures was Lucas’s imagination. But that all changed one day when Lucas was given a phone.
Poor little Snoodles did not understand the attraction of the electronic device that Lucas seemed hypnotized by. The boy slouched in his chair as he stared at the phone, playing games and downloading apps. Snoodles attempted to play with his friend, showing him toys that they could take outside and play with, but Lucas ignored his playmate. Snoodles tried and tried to entice Lucas away from the phone, but eventually he realized he was now alone. Lucas would not pull his eyes away from the phone. It was time for Snoodles to leave...
Snoodles wandered around town, not sure where to go. Unfortunately, wherever he went, children were playing with their electronic devices. A tear fell from Snoodles' eye – he was so sad.
Eventually, Snoodles stumbled upon a treehouse, with a banner that announced, “The Super Secret Non-Stop Imagination Club for Kids.” It sounded like a great place and when a nice girl, Tashi, invited him to come in and play, he happily agreed. Snoodles soon discovered that it was, indeed, a really, really fun place. He loved spending time there, but he still missed Lucas. Would they ever be reunited?
The authors of Snoodles on the Loose!, Natasha Hanina and Houston Howard, have done a fantastic job of writing a creative, entertaining story that really shows how letting your imagination run wild is such a great alternative to sitting inside all day, staring at a screen. Snoodles is an adorable imaginary friend and it was easy to see how sad he was when Lucas lost interest in playing with him. The story does have a happy ending, with a treehouse that encourages everyone’s creativity to blossom. At the back of the book is a page of questions to discuss with your child; a QR code that will take the reader to a free activity packet that is loaded with drawings to colors, a maze, a crossword puzzle, and crafts; information on streaming a musical adventure featuring Tashi and her treehouse; and finally, a QR code that will take the reader to the YouTube channel Tashi Non-Stop. That’s a lot of fun packed into one little book – Don’t miss it!
Quill says: Snoodles on the Loose! is a fun rhyming story that teaches young children that there is so much more to do than stare at a screen all day. The power of imagination is a fantastic tool to learn about yourself and the world around you and this book shows youngsters how to do just that.
For more information on Snoodles on the Loose!: A Tashi Non-Stop Adventure, please visit the author's website at: https://tashinonstop.com/

#Bookreview of The Loon's Song: A Wynter Island Mystery

The Loon's Song: A Wynter Island Mystery

By: Kim Herdman Shapiro
Publisher: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 12, 2024
ASIN: B0CW1KRY8Y
Reviewed by: Lily Andrews
Review Date: April 3, 2024
Kim Herdman Shapiro
The Loon's Song: A Wynter Island Mystery by Kim Herdman Shapiro is an intriguing mystery that centers on a celebrity whose troubles began when she confessed her desire to change her ways and make amends with her former adversaries. The ramifications of this decision are the main focus of this gripping tale.
At CWYN, the new community television station, the station manager Kate Zoë Thomas, station owner Gwen Wynter, and program host Selesia were all taken aback when popular actress Rose Morgan, also known as Rosalie Morgann, insisted on being interviewed first rather than their planned guest for their upcoming television show, Vox Pop. Superb beauty, unimaginable wealth, and global recognition characterized Rosalie, a local girl turned Hollywood celebrity. Instead of asking nicely for an interview, she demanded the interview and even went so far as to send out a press release announcing herself as the first guest on Vox Pop to all of the main media websites in Southwest British Columbia.
Rosalie is remembered by most islanders as a troubled young woman who lost her parents when she was a young girl. She fled the island when she was a teenager, having managed to end many marriages in an apparent attempt to exact revenge for not being helped out of her situation. Nobody knew where she lived until they saw her in a soap opera on television. Selesia was Rosalie's close friend at the time, but the latter had tricked her with falsehoods and dishonesty about her then-fiancee, Rick, which led to the dissolution of their union. After all that agony, one can easily guess that Selesia would never want to interview her, right?
Finally the day of the show Vox Pop's debut arrives, but something unexpected and tragic was about to unfold. Something that Selesia could never have anticipated happening on her debut show. Within seconds of her fervently desired interview, the well-known star was on the verge of dying. Was Rosalie unwell before she walked in, or did someone at the station poison her for whatever purpose, as the inquiry headed by Staff Sergeant Singh appeared to indicate?
This book does a great job of giving curious readers a background of historical information on living at Wynter Island, British Columbia, which will help them look for likely reasons for the disastrous occurrence that was caught on live television. In the first few chapters, the author presents a high-stakes quandary that eventually puts the decent characters in danger at the expense of genuinely selfish individuals. As the plot develops, she skillfully twists things up by bringing in a new character who knows the very likable protagonist extremely well and who reveals a shocking episode that would probably make readers begin to question her morals.
This well-written, tightly-plotted mystery novel will intrigue readers with how much is packed into just a few hundred pages. The cast of well-developed and diverse characters includes the austere Staff Sergeant Singh and the mysterious sponsor who threatens to dash the protagonist's hopes for success in her career. The nicely rendered insights from the Buddhist philosophy will enthrall readers, as will the exquisitely rendered settings.
Quill says: This book's real power is the tension it manages to build. The build-up is powerful, like a little campfire that progressively intensifies into a conflagration that threatens to consume the forest.
For more information on The Loon's Song: A Wynter Island Mystery, please visit the author's website at: https://www.kimhshapiro.com/

#BookReview of Death of a Shrinking Violet: Nice Guys Finish First


Death of a Shrinking Violet: Nice Guys Finish First

By: James Robinson, Jr.
Publisher: Amazon Kindle Direct
Publication Date: March 1, 2024
ISBN: 979-8875593482
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 1, 2024
James Robinson, Jr. delivers a bevy of humor and food for thought in his latest body of work, Death of a Shrinking Violet, Nice Guys Finish First.
In his first chapter titled ‘Take the Shot,’ Robinson shines the light on the issue of: "...What movie could I watch anytime..." This challenging notion came to him after having read this premise in the entertainment section of a Pittsburgh newspaper. Apparently, this was a question that stuck with him for quite some time until he decided it was time to get down to the nuts and bolts of it all and pick a (or some of) his personal favorite(s). He transcends decades of what he perceived to be ‘favorites’ and decided upon: The Godfather, Forest Gump, The American President, Unforgiven, Tootsie, Scrooged, Shawshank Redemption and The Cider House Rules. It isn’t until he adds 27 Dresses to his list, that I dug a little deeper into his assessments. He dissects a particular scene: "...there’s the scene with Ms. Heigl and all of the bridesmaid dresses—all 27 of them—that she has worn throughout her life. What in the world would keep dragging me back to this picture show? Every time I run across it on the cable movie guide I unwittingly pull the trigger..." (pg. 2) After exhausting his fascination with this particular film, he moves on to a new chapter, but not before penning his final: "...Quiet on the set! Turn off those cell phones! Take One! Action!...’ (pg. 5)
As the chapters grow in number, he fine-tunes his ‘Siskel and Ebert-like’ skillset for the next five chapters filled with vignettes devoted to more movies: Fatal Attraction, Jaws, and Ali. We arrive at Chapter 5 and he changes direction and enlightens the reader on how he donned the name ‘Pap’ as his right of passage into grand fatherhood. He changes direction again in the next chapter and focuses on the proverbial cocktail party and the almighty question from strangers: "...So, what do you do?..." There is a wonderful cadence of humor that is complemented by witty sarcasm that lends way for a quick and entertaining read from beginning to end.
I applaud Mr. Robinson for staying true to his craft from the onset of this book to the very end. His style has a clear anchor of knowing his audience in that he naturally entertains through artful word placement and does it in such a way that the reader wants more because there is no predictability of where Robinson will take him/her at the turn of each page. I was particularly drawn to his view on forgiveness: "...Forgiveness is a gift both for the forgiver and the forgiven. But I haven’t totally mastered the art..." (pg. 149) There’s a lot to unpack in this blissfully direct sentiment! His take on marriage is equally thought-provoking: "...Marriage is not about convention; it’s about strength of character, love, honesty, and endurance—dealing with one another when the wedding bells have long since stopped ringing. Weddings are nice but they can’t help you at crunch time..." (pg. 75) Simply put, truer words have never been spoken. This is a must-read for a diverse audience because, in my opinion, it’s the greatest example of ‘keeping it real’ that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a very long time. Well done Mr. Robinson! May I have another?
Quill says: Death of a Shrinking Violet: Nice Guys Finish First is a fantastic rendition of life and embracing it for what it is without judgment!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

April's Book Giveaway Contest


Have you entered this month's book giveaway contest yet? This month's book is "Copper and His Rescue Friends" by Pam Atherstone. It's a super cute book for pre-teens about rescue dogs and cats that received a 5-star review from Feathered Quill (and you can read a review of the book on our website).

To enter, just go to our main page and scroll to the bottom where you'll see the submission form:

https://featheredquill.com

Monday, April 1, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Christina Maraziotis, author of Ghost


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christina Maraziotis, author of Ghost: A Novel (Loveletting, Book 3).


https://www.facebook.com/groups/lovelettingseries

FQ: I don’t want to gush ad nauseam, but I have to say, your Loveletting series is superb! With each release, the depths and the unpredictable journey that continues to evolve is incredible. I know we have discussed the lengths of each book (700+ pages) in past interviews, but there is something about this series that warrants each volume to have a voluminous girth! How spent are you after completing each novel in this series?

MARAZIOTIS: Thank you so very much for your kind words. I do really appreciate that immensely. And I truly love that question! Personally, I write with no set limit in mind, but somehow I always sense when I’m nearing the 700 page mark, and right at 650 or so, I begin to sculpt the ending of the book (or rather, the beloved cliffhanger) haha. Once I’m finished with it all, I’m swiftly onto the next prologue. I can say with honesty that I do not feel spent at all. I love it. I absolutely am so passionate about this series, the characters; the whole story, and I wish for it to continue and eventually complete before I’m literally spent.

I will say however, what tires me is the third round of editing I may do. I get very critical over every single sentence, and if it doesn’t flow a certain way, then I have to redo a whole paragraph. I do enjoy planting lots of easter eggs here and there, and I’m compulsive when it comes down to plot holes. So far, I believe there are none, but that is very tiring to think about. Writing itself? It’s freeing and cathartic.

FQ: Once again, I was drawn to the lyric by After Forever you chose to anchor this novel, "...I know I’m alone, but somebody’s watching me... Follows me everywhere I go... A cold flow surprised me again, I shiver..." There is a part of me that wonders if you experienced that ‘aha’ moment in selecting this passage because you discovered the tone you wanted to set, and it was your inspiration to set off on your next journey in the writing of this series.

MARAZIOTIS: I’m happy that you were drawn to this! It is a very meaningful lyric for me personally. Usually, when I choose such passages for each book, it is after I’ve already written them. That being said, I listened to that particular song (Beyond me by After Forever) incessantly as I wrote the book. Music is a very big part of my life, dark music especially, so it definitely helps set the tone as I write. There are particular songs that I choose for each character, as well as when I feel like waxing lyrical. Sapphire from Alcest inspires me so much, all the fluffy words seemingly come out in an instant; I don’t even have to think about it. It is the strangest thing!

FQ: This is a fantastic portrayal of good versus evil, and I wonder how you approach the analytics of this concept in your own life. Where is the balance between the two, and what would be your input toward how one can navigate both spectrums in order to remain relatively ‘sane’?

Author Christina Maraziotis

MARAZIOTIS: What a fantastic question! This is certainly something James himself would ask me, haha, and I appreciate such deep-rooted thoughts so much. To start with, we would need to decide what the definition of good and evil really is. Is there good and evil? Or are these simply subjective human labels? And can a balance be defined there, if we cannot define each spectrum with absolution.


I certainly don’t have an answer to that, and nor do I think anyone else does. But the closest conclusion I would come to on this, is to understand our own moral character. Reflect upon it from time to time, and really be open to change, if we, or others, sense there is room for it. I do think we are all good, and evil, at the same time. Some lean more to one side than others, but both elements are there. It is a very complicated subject however, for oftentimes evil is not something people truly contemplate about themselves; either due to denial, or complete ignorance. And what one perceives as evil, another may perceive as good, and vice versa.

Now, as someone who has always behaved “too good” with people, and ended up as a tarnished carpet beneath their feet, I will say there can be reason for such a person to lean more towards “evil” behavior to balance things out, and perhaps this is how society still stands, somehow. If there was only evil, or only good, perhaps we wouldn’t have a society right now.

I would like to add here a fairly unique fact when it comes to "evil" individuals like Mac. (Which, again, is he evil? If you break down his character, there arise many questions that could counteract that statement.) But let’s say now, that he is utterly evil. A psychopath. Well, in battle, which man would be more likely to be brave and fight like there was nothing to lose? And such a man, who then survives, could possibly pass on this trait into society more successfully. Meaning, is there a place for evil after all? There are some interesting studies on why this tendency towards psychopathy persists (and even thrives) in our modern world, having survived due to its usefulness through more barbaric times in our history.

Of course, I do not condone evil, whatever evil may be. But without evil, can good be?

FQ: I emphatically believe humankind is faced with battles of good versus evil. In your opinion, what do you think encourages a soul to seek the ‘evil’ over the ‘good’?

MARAZIOTIS: There are many factors that could contribute to a soul seeking evil. Of course, one of the most common ones is the manner in which one was raised. Childhood trauma can greatly impact brain development, and morph the structure and function of it, as well as the regulation of emotions. (Mac is a prime example of that, which also makes him not a born psychopath, but why would someone like James seek evil?)

There’s also genetics that wire someone’s brain differently. But if we take out the genetics, and childhood trauma, there’s still a yearning; a compulsion, for perhaps...power? As we saw with Sven, who is very focused on that aspect of life. We see that example with politics, war, and even corporations who become more powerful than the countries who govern them. Oftentimes people who do evil try to justify it, in some form or another, so it no longer appears to be an evil.

But there’s also people like James, who know evil, but are convinced they need to seek it in order to come close to something invaluable to them; and that alone justifies his actions as far as he is concerned. Then there’s people (like “the man” in association with James) that do it for sheer, sadistic pleasure.

Overall however, I would positively hope and suggest that the world as a whole is on the correct trajectory to become a less violent place; the more we educate ourselves, and the more we don’t forget the past...but it's still inherent to our world that battles of good and evil will exist.

FQ: Without creating a spoiler, how difficult was it to temper the balance between reconnecting (or not) characters Charlotte Browning and Mac Kinnon?

MARAZIOTIS: It wasn’t really difficult, unless I think of the way it made me feel. There was a lot of tension that I had to work with, also happiness and excitement, for I had kept these two apart for more than a whole book. It wasn’t easy, it was actually rather tempting to reconnect them in Curse. But I’m glad that it happened in Ghost, for I think it made it even more impactful. As far as the actual behavior between them, it came out naturally for me to write. I could just envision them both around the fireplace, feel what they felt, think what they thought. The little awkward and shy grimaces, the nature of their movements; I really enjoyed writing that part. It’s those small moments that make a book for me. The feelings, and the tension, and all the words left unsaid.

FQ: In line with my previous question, there are certain ‘truths’ that are withheld from Charlotte when it comes to Mac Kinnon. Has there ever been a time in your life when the ‘truth’ was withheld from you, and when you learned this, how did you handle the outcome?

MARAZIOTIS: Interesting question! I have to really think about that one. I’m sure there have been truths withheld from me in the past, but, at different stages of my life and maturity, I'm certain I'd have reacted differently than I would react now. I cannot think of a truth that would be major enough to compare to Mac’s, however. And thankfully, I haven’t needed to deal with that, yet. However, to give you a proper answer: if I was in Charlotte’s shoes, I would probably be very confused and disappointed — for Mac essentially allowed her to take another path, one she was now faithfully committed to.

FQ: You have a gift in your writing style in that you actively engage the reader with brilliant nuances. On one hand, there is a surreal element where the reader thinks he/she has it all figured out, and on the next page, you plant a seed of doubt and ‘predictability’ is non-existent. What is your guide to doing this so naturally? Do you spend hours among strangers mentally building a story of their life in your mind for use in a future chapter?

MARAZIOTIS: I really appreciate that. That is truly sweet, and it means a lot to me. This is all still very new to me, so that feedback is very valuable. To answer your question, not exactly; I don’t build up a story to use for a future chapter, nor do I plant those seeds ahead of time. I truly like creating characters with flaws, and allow those flaws to flourish and unravel, and usually that’s all it takes with vulnerable or fervent characters that are deeply developed. There’s many ways that a situation can change just by the individual’s perception; and there’s not always just one perception, or one reaction, but I think that is the key: provide the recipe for something chaotic to happen, and let the chips fall where they may.

FQ: To expand further on my previous question, when is your most fruitful time to write where your imagination is completely in charge? What makes this time the best time for you to write?

MARAZIOTIS: It usually is early in the morning, right after I wake up, when my mind is sharp and not distracted yet by what is yet to follow in a day, or, when it’s past midnight, and I’m extremely exhausted — this is when the lyrical writing happens most of the time — as well as all the dark chapters, of course. Hehe.

FQ: There are moments throughout this story when I had to take a moment to collect myself. Most of those occurred when you were writing a scene devoted to James Miller’s character. Did you ever have to set your pen down and take a moment to regroup after such times? "...There’s evil...her eyes shot at him, but she could scarcely find his, as though buried deep within a sheet of blackness. There was flesh, beneath that perished skin, stretched taut in solid thickness. But his look, it was from a man that had hungered for life, only to be adorned by the face of death itself..." (pg. 341)

MARAZIOTIS: Yes, indeed Ghost is very graphic, and I do apologize for any discomfort. James is definitely a very twisted character that will startle a reader, because he is so unpredictable with his thoughts and emotions. When I write him, the difficulty is to get "into" that personality, in order to write him. I think that is mostly the challenge when creating such a character, or any character that is so sinister; like an actor, in order to achieve realism with characters, you have to get under their skin and stay there a while.

That being said, I don’t take moments to regroup when it comes to him — however, that statement applies to writing Ghost. It actually gets a lot worse later on in the series, and in that regard there have been many times where I had to stop for a few breaths. There is a particular scene in the upcoming books that took me three whole days to write, stopping and starting again, purely because it was so very emotional and really devastating to experience even behind the keyboard...especially with the characters involved.

FQ: I want to thank you again for delivering an amazing read. I am honored to have had the opportunity to review another body of your work. The cliffhangers you pen at the end of each novel are fantastic as much as frustrating, which leads me to ask: When is the next book (Slave) due to release and are you able to provide a little something we can look forward to experiencing?

MARAZIOTIS: I want to thank you in turn for delivering such comprehensive and compelling questions! It is always a joy and an honor to answer them. I’m glad to hear the cliffhangers stir your curiosity for what’s to come next, and I will give a few hints. The reader is going to experience the way work was for a woman in the late 19th century, but of course, with a...very unique, and dark twist. It was very interesting to implement a few historical notes in Slave, studying certain details that really transported me back to that era, and I hope the reader will feel the same way. There will be new important characters, and different settings again within Mon Louis. Part of that will also be a rather dramatic court case that takes place in the city, and I am very curious how readers will react to that. Last, there will be a deeper backstory unraveled regarding Mac, and not in the manner of simple narration.

Slave will be completely different, again, than Ghost — which is my goal with every book. It will be a new adventure, for both the characters and readers. As for the release date? It is planned by Summer 2024...and, hopefully, you will approve of it again. Haha.

I would like to add that I have completely updated Haunt and Curse as of 2024, and included a few bonus chapters that sink into Mac’s past with his family. After my recent time spent in the rural regions of Ireland (which was solely for the purpose of enhancing the story; to understand traditional Irish culture, language, and its people more, so that I can deliver it more accurately) I have decided to include Irish Gaelic into the books, working alongside a professor and a teacher who both grew up speaking this endangered language that was far more common in the 19th century than it is today. I found it adds a new layer of textured depth to Mac’s past, and I hope my readers will enjoy the extra effort to improve the historical immersion.

Thank you so much, Diane! It's been such a pleasure, as always.