Book Review: Destination Azurah by Victoria Bastedo

Destination Azurah by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy/Romance novel published by Amazon Digital Services (09/17/2020)

Summary:

Romiya is determined to uncover the secret to her uncle’s mysterious and amazing sandcastle builder. After his sudden disappearance years ago, Romiya has been determined to uncover its secret and perhaps learn what actually happened to her uncle. Suddenly Romiya gets a breakthrough when she sees a sinister face stamped into the sand, but the other scientists don’t believe her. It will take much more physical evidence to convince them of what she saw overtaking every single grain of sand. Her bodyguard couldn’t protect her from the face’s attack, but he’ll help to whisk her away from the beach and the desert while she figures out her next move. When he resigns, Romiya will also see him in a different light.

Keywords:

Romance, Fantasy, Sand, Portal, Scientist, Female Scientist, Attack, War, Evil, Power, Sandcastles, Friendship

My Review:

I loved, loved, loved that every time someone refers to Romiya as a, “girl” she corrected him! This is such a pet peeve of mine in books and real life. Romiya even explains that if Ruedolf is no longer referred to as a “boy” then she should not be referred to as a “girl.” Thank you, Romiya!

The fantasy element – sand and time and alternate worlds was well described and very interesting to read. Every time that Bastedo dips into fantasy/science fiction, I’m captivated. Much like her novel The Kiss of the Blue Howler, this book is full of imagination and a new perspective. I was mesmerized by her descriptions of sand and memory and loved how she integrated that into a thoughtful and well developed romance/action story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mashup of romance and fantasy. It was a fun, easy read with an adorable romance, a hint of mystery, and a strong female STEM leading the way!

(READ ON FOR VAGUE SPOILERS)

The plot was well paced and there was the perfect amount of action. However, I did find fault with the characters in the alt-world for letting the newcomers walk into evil hands! This was most likely on purpose to push through more drama, but it felt at times unrealistic (just like many blockbuster action movies). I also felt like the nighttime romance scene was out of place.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 09/17/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

Book Review: Exile (Forbidden Things Book 2) and Apostate (Forbidden Things Book 3) by Nikki McCormack

Exile (Forbidden Things Book 2) and Apostate(Forbidden Things Book 3) by Nikki McCormack

Fantasy Novels published by Elysium Books (12/15/15 and 04/16/16)

Summary:

Back in Caithin, Indigo continues training with Serivar and the Order. She is starting to find her place again when Yiloch is accused of the murder of the King. She knows he didn’t do it, right? In a desperate attempt to protect him from those who wish him dead, she strands Yiloch in a desert South of Lyra. Not only does Caithin want Yiloch to answer for his crimes, but a new enemy marches on Lyra.

Travel back to Lyra takes its toll on Yiloch. He is also burdened with rage for what Indigo did. Meanwhile, Indigo rushes to meet Yiloch in the desert, meeting a potential army on the way. It will take more than an army to face Lyra’s new threat because they wield magic in force. Indigo must decide who she is and where she belongs with all her Ascard power. Only one other person rival’s her strength in wielding magic, and he’s sworn vengeance on both Yiloch and Indigo.

Keywords:

Power, Control, Magic, Inner Strength, Inner Aspect, Travel, War, Fighting, Struggle, Talent, Healing, Abuse, Love, Lies, Hidden, Horses, Torment, Destruction, Crime, Murder, Revenge

My Review:

It has been quite some time since I read such a strong middle book in a trilogy. It was just as exciting as reading the first book in the series. It held up the action and continued to endear me to the characters I’d grown to know and love in the first book.

This series continues to build a great and compelling balance between romance, fantasy and plot. I was pulled in by Indigo’s struggles to find herself and her place in this world. The plot made sense in book two and in the larger sense of the trilogy. The romance felt so strong and real – the emotions and reactions of the characters for their relationships was so riveting.

Indigo is a role model for female characters. She’s strong, not in relation to man, but in relation to her enemies and her friends. Even those around her acknowledge her strength and her power. She is respected and feared and loathed. I really felt like I had a better grasp on Myac and his motivations but also couldn’t understand the evil inside him at all. He was a phenomenally crafted villain and I really, really wanted him to have a moment of redemption. Would it even be possible? Could he even live in a world where he had committed his previous actions?

I really appreciated the different perspectives of the characters as different chapters are told by these different narrators, even from the perspective of the invading enemies.

I absolutely loved the climax in the third novel and wished for the mini extra climax to have been a fourth book. The setup was there for an additional novel…

These Fantasy Novels were published by Elysium Books (12/15/15 and 04/16/16) and are available on Amazon here and Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads Book 2

Goodreads Book 3

Twitter

Nikki McCormack’s Website

Painted Rock Hobby – Hiding Painted Rocks

Rock painting… I saw some of my friends doing it on social media and I thought to try it out. I reached out to my BuyNothing group on FB and found a starter set with simple paints, one brush, and 4 dark river rocks. I googled rock painting and found some fun images! I tried out a minion and a ladybug for my first two and then picked a chicken and a pennyfarthing to paint for my grandparents. I really liked painting the rocks! Because the surface is uneven and the pictures are often rudimentary, my simple skills were sufficient. All I needed were more rocks…

I bought this set of paint pens and painted more rocks! What fun.

Now I started hiding them. I hid my first set of four the facility where my Grandparents live. I hid rocks near the little free libraries. I hid them with other rocks. Can you spot all the places I hid my rocks?

  

Finally, I started sending rocks to friends and family and leaving them when I did my cat sitting gigs. 🙂

Eventually I even received a rock response!

2020 Q3 Goals – Accountability, Check in, and Biking

Financial Independence Goals for 2020 Q3 snapshot

  1. Max out my Roth IRA, 401k and HSA contributions = monthly deductions mean this happens automatically!
  2. Build up my emergency savings to 6 months/~$18,000 = $12,300 in current emergency savings and $7600 in savings for car/computer/travel/phone
  3. Save 50% of my income = less than 50% of my gross income and about 67% of my net income (only one month so far this year under 50% net income not including business income)
  4. Don’t renew housing lease end of July (no rent spending 8/1 onwards = change of plans. We have renewed our rent with our current house as travel and house sitting is not a good option right now. I will continue to use house sitting as an option for potential low-cost travel. I love looking for new listings weekly on Trusted Housesitters. You can use this link to get 25% off a membership at Trusted Housesitters: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/refer/RAF286731/

I’ve readjusted my budgeting for the next three months based on my 2020 goals and my past spending for the year. No surprises that I’ve already maxed out my groceries category for the year as my ‘goal’ was too tight and not realistic for my current lifestyle. I’ve increased my budget for gifts, groceries, household and clothing, and misc while decreasing my budget for health, fitness, education, and transportation. My budget categories of eating out, travel, entertainment, housing, phone, and charity remain the same.

Notable spending:

  1. I bought a TV for the first time in my life! Our old one (that I got for free) was slowly dying and it was time to replace it.
  2. I paid to have my taxes prepared this quarter. It was completed towards the end of the extended deadline.
  3. We received nearly one month’s credit for this billing cycle for our auto insurance.
  4. We took a mini vacation to stay in a tiny home for the weekend!
  5. I bought clothing for the first time all year (2 shirts for me, 1 for my partner, and 1 for my Dad).
  6. I got my first haircut/highlights since March. I’ve since added thinning shears to my hair tools so I can better upkeep my short hairstyle between professional visits.

Fitness

Here are my fitness stats for Q3 of 2020:

  1. Biking: 334.8 miles
  2. Pole classes: 13
  3. Other activities: Gardening, Beach Body Workouts!

Health goals 2020
1. Full P90X for 90 days! We did it! woot woot.
2. Lose 3% body fat (I went from 26% to 29% using the BodyScan measurement 01/19 to 06/20). Nailed it! I am down to 26.5% bodyfat
3. 5+ pull-ups any format (I purchased a secondhand pull-up freestanding bar) and can currently do 4 chin ups, 3 pull-ups, 1 wide grip pull-up, 3 narrow pull-ups. I have done 9 chin ups, 6 pull-ups, 3 wide grip pull-ups, 5 narrow pull-ups and have plans to get to 10 chin ups!

New Health goals 2020/2021:

  1. 10 chin-ups in a row
  2. 30 push-ups in a row
  3. 10 narrow push-ups in a row with top form
  4. 2 pole classes/week
  5. Pass intermediate inversions test by my birthday (1/22)
  6. Finish floorwork series by end of 2021 (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  7. Improved pike/splits stretches
  8. Handstand?

Writing Goals for 2020:

  1. Deplete my physical book inventory = Since there aren’t opportunities for in-person events, I’ve been running giveaways each quarter.
  2. Break even on Ataxia and At One’s Beast = I met this goal in Q1!
  3. Revamp my website = I haven’t made any substantial changes to my website yet
  4. Write 4 short stories = I wrote 2 short stories thus far for two separate anthologies. The second story was published in the The Lost Train: An FVP Books Anthology
  5. Send out 4 newsletters = I’ve sent out 2 newsletters so far this year and will send out my third shortly.
  6. Publish a new coloring book = Haven’t made any progress on this goal yet. I’m still deciding on the subject material.
  7. NEW GOAL: Finish outlining my new novel “Two for Tiny” and begin writing.

Deception Pass Day Trip with one of my favorite masks

Local author Ksenia Anske’s long awaited book she started writing on the Amtrak!

Physical copies of my books are still available at the Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds


What are your goals and how are you meeting them?

Book Review: Around Seattle in 80 Dates: An Online Dating Journey by Renata M. Lubinsky

Around Seattle in 80 Dates: An Online Dating Journey by Renata M. Lubinsky

A Memoir Novel published by Renata M. Lubinsky (02/10/18)

 

Summary:

Suddenly divorced, forty-something Renata is suddenly entering the world of dating. Living in Issaquah and then Seattle, this Israeli woman is a mother of two. Renata joins several online dating sites. This book is a memoir of the 80 “Mikes” that she dated.

Keywords:

Dating, Seattle, Issaquah, Relationship, Mother, Family, Online Dating, Funny, Entertaining, Restaurants, Wine, Entertainment, Dancing

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised that this memoir was so easy and fun to read. I went into it with the expectation that it was a memoir of a middle aged woman in Seattle and her experiences with online dating. And the book delivered on that expectation.

The narrative isn’t sequential, but rather jumps around between the Mikes, spending more time describing some and less on others. I enjoyed the way Lubinsky narrates these stories. She has an easy-to-read narrative style; however, as some have pointed out, a final copy edit would have been great to polish up the story. English is, as Lubinsky herself points out, her third language. Since she was born outside the US, she really brought an interesting perspective to dating.

I really liked how I was able to read the story and set it down without losing the flow of the story as it was broken up into pieces of her dating past.

This novel was published by Renata M. Lubinsky 02/10/2018.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Amazon

What I Ate in ~3 Months – P90X review – 6/15/20 – 9/21/20

I finished! My partner and I successfully completed the P90X exercise program! Though we may not have completed every workout and we may have skipped some days here and there, we have gone all the way through the 90 day program. I feel accomplished! At times it became repetitive but there was also a comfort to knowing what each exercise entailed. My partner knows so many Tony Horton phrases now…

But what is P90X and what did I really think about it?

P90X is a fitness program, part of the BeachBodyonDemand website of workout programs. You can follow their schedule and work out to their videos and follow along with their nutrition plan. The workouts are repetitions of the same workout for 3 weeks with a ‘recover’ week in between each set of 3 weeks. The workouts are 6-7 days a week and the workouts are typically 45-55 minutes (with the abs workout 3x/week for an additional 16 minutes). The workouts became long and repetitive at times. I prefer shorter workouts with more diverse sets of moves. Sometimes, especially towards the end of the program, as soon as my partner was done with the workout, I was glad to quit working too. We kind of just got bored of the program and were tired of an hour a day almost every day of the week devoted to P90X!

I tend to eat gluten free and dairy free >50% of the time, so we followed our own nutrition plan. We attempted to eat low carb on days where we didn’t have a cardio workout and then more ‘cheat’ type meals on the weekends. We both did a BodyScan at the beginning of the program and at the end.

I decreased my fat tissue by 3 lbs. and increased my lean tissue by 4 lbs. in just these three months! Total weight change according to the BodyScan was +1.2 lbs., but as you can see from my home scale data below, I lost 2.2 lbs. initially and then slowly gained a few lbs. back. My home scale tells me that I ultimately ‘lost’ 0.4 lbs. but the BodyScan tells me that I converted 3 lbs. of fat to muscle and added on an additional pound of muscle! Woot woot! Interestingly enough, my VAT is the lowest of my three measurements (taken 1/4/19, 6/16/20, and 9/22/20).

 

Data Time! 14 weeks’ total

14 weeks: 6/15 – 9/20
386 total miles biked
5231 minutes/87 hours worked out total
Average resting heart rate: 67.3
Average ounces of water/day: 62
Days without gluten: 65/126
Days without dairy: 35/126
Total Body Fat change: 29.2% to 26.5%

Month one: 6/15 – 7/12
145 total miles biked
2044 minutes/34 hours worked out total
Average resting heart rate: 65.2
Average ounces of water/day: 62.3
Days without gluten: 26/28
Days without dairy: 22/28
Weight change from home scale: – 2.2lbs

Month two: 7/13 – 8/9
89 total miles biked
1212 minutes/20.2 hours worked out total
Average resting heart rate: 68
Average ounces of water/day: 62
Days without gluten: 20/28
Days without dairy: 10/28
Weight change from home scale: +1.2lbs

Month three: 8/10 – 9/6
150 total miles biked
1310 minutes/22 hours worked out total
Average resting heart rate: 66
Average ounces of water/day: 60
Days without gluten: 11/28
Days without dairy: 2/28
Weight change from home scale: +0.6 lbs

Month four (2 weeks): 9/7 – 9/20
2 total miles biked
665 minutes/11hours worked out total
Average resting heart rate: 70
Average ounces of water/day: 64
Days without gluten: 8/14
Days without dairy: 1/14
Total Body Fat: 26.5%

Food Pictures! Not all meals/snacks are pictured… Not everything pictured was eaten by me…

Book Review: Tube by Ksenia Anske

Tube by Ksenia Anske

A Magical Realism Novel published by Ksenia Anske (07/06/20)

 

Summary:

“The most protected secrets had the longest lives.”

Olesya is a ballet dancer. She’s about to turn 21. She is riding the train with her ballet cohorts and dancing partner Dima. After being told she’s like a doll, not enough emotion to be principal, Olesya decides to have sex with Dima. When Dima undresses, Olesya discovers her childhood toy engine TUBE between his legs. What happened to TUBE and why can’t Olesya remember it? Why is she like a doll now? What really happened when she was 5? Olesya will have to travel to the haunted train car, open all the compartments of her childhood trauma and uncover the truth.

Keywords:

Ghost Story, Magical Realism, Train, Russia, Ballerina, Dancing, Family, Father, Horror, Trauma, Survival, Violence, Childhood, Struggle, Pain, Past,Surreal

My Review:

I read the first half of the book in one sitting, marveling at the starkness of the descriptions and wondering what the inevitable ending was going to be. Then I put the book down and didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up immediately. Though stripped down to bare bones, this book still felt heavy in its second half. Maybe I was having a harder time reading, knowing that I wasn’t going to like the conclusion. Knowing how terrible the reveal was going to be.

The setting was very lifelike and I could almost feel the motions of the train, even though I was not familiar with all the vocabulary of train travel and trains in general.

My favorite part about the book was the natural dialogue and dialogue tags. The conversations felt so natural, I could picture the characters speaking to each other.

This book was both light and playful and heavy and dark.

This novel was published by Ksenia Anske July 6th, 2020 and is available on Ksenia Anske’s Website here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Ksenia Anske’s Website

Goodreads

Amazon

DIY Garden 2020 – Partial Shade PNW Zone 8b/9a – 3 Months Progress Report – Summer’s Ending…

It is now exactly three months out from my original garden post which you can view here!

Front yard – my ‘orchard’ – We have ripe tomatoes! Not a lot but they’re slowly coming to fruition…

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

8/2/2020 – My lemon tree is growing baby green lemons!

9/2/2020 Bigger babies ~10

The side yard – my ‘berries’ – I’m ready to give away my blueberry and huckleberry bushes and let the salmon berry take over the box. Anybody want some fresh Parsley?

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

The backyard – ‘greenhouse’ – The cover is off! No zucchinis… I’m ready to bulldoze this bed and winterize or plant fall seeds…

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020 The mint has somewhat recovered

*Baby bird update* One morning my roommate walked outside to discover that the pot had been knocked over and the nest was empty 😦

The backyard raised bed garden – the big ‘project’ – three raised garden beds with potato planted in front and thimbleberry bush start and a raspberry bush start off to the side. These beds continue to forest out. The only success so far are the green beans! They are delicious but slowing down on producing

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020 Potatoes are wilting 😦

6/2/2020

7/2/2020

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

Our backyard harvest! I have picked a few more green beans but didn’t take pictures. The zucchini was fabulous!

The beds have the following planted in them:

Bush Beans
Carrots Nantes
Bush Beans
Carrots Nantes
Bush Beans
Carrots Short ‘n Sweet
Bush Beans
Carrots Short ‘n Sweet

Spinach
Spinach
Chard
Chard
6 cucumber mounds

4 rows of corn
6 zucchini starter mounds
1 row of mounds of cauliflower seeds

 

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

Our second planting of Mesclun lettuce is thriving and tastes delicious! Also – much less dirt all over than when it was planted in the raised bed. I really like this setup for the lettuce. Our third basil plant has completely died but our second plant has ginormous leaves (not that tasty but they look gargantuan!)

8/2/2020

9/2/2020

The rhubarb I planted out front looks even more meh. I know they have a long growing cycle – but now there are only two leaves :’)

Not pictured – 2 avocado seedlings now! Mango seed seems like a dud.

My future projects include the following:

  1. Build a trellis and grow loofah!
  2. Build a seed library and place it near my Pea Patch if I get permission (source an outside viable medicine cabinet and DIY it into a seed library)
  3. Plan for a winter crop and next year (less variety and more spacing between plants)
  4. Finish using the free pallet wood and build a long planter box and small square raised garden boxes
  5. Giveaway the rest of the project wood pieces

Book Review: Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary YA Romance Novel published by Laurie Boris (11/18/13)

Summary:

Daniel is a mid-thirties art teacher with a terminal illness. He is passionate about teaching, art, and maintaining his privacy. He has lived for years in an upstairs apartment to his downstairs landlady and her daughter, Caitlin. Caitlin grew up with concern for Daniel that has grown from protectiveness into her first real crush. Daniel starts teaching art to Caitlin, even giving her private lessons. As time goes on, Caitlin’s feelings for him grow stronger, even as Daniel’s condition worsens and he starts a relationship with a lonely married woman.

Keywords:

Coming of Age, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickness, Suffering, Art, Teacher, Painting, Love, Loss, Passion, Emotion, Coughing, Breathing, Pain, Infatuation, Protective, Family

My Review:

The world needs more books like this. Books with characters who have a terminal illness but are living their lives. Books where the terminal illness is a large part of who the character is and how it has molded them but also where the illness is not the main story line.

The way Boris describes breathing in this book brought me back to the days when I tripped my asthma and couldn’t draw enough oxygen. When the tendrils of panic would take hold. Maybe other readers who have never felt short of breath, short of oxygen, will also be able to sympathize and not just empathize with Daniel through these vivid descriptions.

The story itself was very interesting and I enjoyed both Daniel’s and Caitlin’s perspectives in their relationship.

The ending was very well written. It was truthful and abrupt. It was emotional yet inevitable.

This novel was published by Laurie Boris on 11/18/13 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

The Lost Train – An Anthology by Local Authors from FreeValley Publishing with Art from North Bend Art & Industry

THE LOST TRAIN Anthology will be Released September 1st. 
Limited signed copies available through NBAI’s Silent Auction starting August 24th. Copies available through NBAI & Amazon.com  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FXC28WC

 

An anthology by local authors and artists presenting a diversity of visions, ideas and genres interpreted in seven short stories and ten works of art. Created for enjoyment by all ages, on the theme: The Lost Train. A cooperative collection from FVP Books Authors and NBA&I Artists. Proceeds benefit non-profit Arts organization: North Bend Arts & Industry.

The project rallied artists to work together online while isolated during the lockdown and continues to support and inspire them through this time of social separation and change. They are excited to share these stories and artworks to encourage and entertain the community around them as well.

~An old train lost on an abandoned stretch of tracks inspires teens to imagine haunting train whistles in the night and other RAILWAY TALES. By Jeffrey Cook * Paired Artist: Lesia Tiongson.

~A tale of a mysterious gold heist follows a lost train of the past into the forest to find THE SHANGHAIED TRAIN. By David S. Moore * Paired Artist: Leslie Kreher.

~A young woman finds herself AT A LOSS when her train of thought careens through modern life and a state of ‘great collective trauma’. By Casondra Brewster * Paired Artist: Gayll Morrison.

~A remarkable coffee shop turned intergalactic train, offers escape from a dystopic earth. An eclectic mix of vibrant souls seek tracks to a more hopeful future on THE L.O.S.T. TRAIN. By Tommia Wright * Paired Artist: Madison Wachter.

~A child’s whim nearly causes the loss of his best train-friend, Folio. Captain Spyglass keeps watch as FOLIO THE BRAVE ventures into the perils of Dreamland to keep Anatole from growing up too soon. By Victoria Bastedo * Paired Artist: Pepper Allphin.

~Thoughts run OFF THE RAILS into dementia and alternate reality. Love stories run parallel through tests of time. Can a steam train break through space-time into dimensions of the mind? Is it true, all you need is love? By Sheri J. Kennedy & Kennedy J. Quinn * Paired Artists: Kristin Tetuán and Cameron Tower & Ellen Rowan.

~The theft of an Airbnb train car triggers feelings of lost stability, financial independence, and freedom. It takes a village to solve the mystery and SAVOUR the moment. By Rachel Barnard * Paired Artist: Stefanie Allison