Book Review: Moordym Downs by Victoria Bastedo

Moordym Downs by Victoria Bastedo

A Fiction/Mystery novel published by Amazon Digital Services (06/07/2020)

Summary:

“Like the wind comes on purpose to nudge you. You look out into the expanse and you feel like that land knows mysteries you’ve been trying to understand all your life. All you have to do is go out there. Become like one of the creatures that belong to it.” (p. 101).

Every year Locke’s mother insists on going to Moordym Downs. She was always tight lipped about why she went, other than to get her yearly stipend. Locke never much bothered to get to the bottom of this mystery until she has him go in her stead. Locke will discover and uncover more than this mystery as he searches the Moordym family, Moordym Downs, and the moor beyond for answers. During his stay at the castle of Moordym Downs, Locke will uncover truths about his family, fall in love, and become entangled in the secrets of Moordym Downs and the ever present lure of the surrounding Moor.

Keywords:

Family, heritage, ancestry, relatives, mystery, intrigue, castle, father, mother, Lord of the manor, legend, adventure, travel, disappear, farm, love, choice, history, greed

My Review:

Locke wants to pave his own path but it seems fate wants to give him a choice between two predetermined paths. He has to figure out what he wants in life and if he will follow one of these paths or rebel altogether. He struggles throughout the book with these choices and his apparent lack of choice in the matter. I could feel his frustration and relate to feeling helpless to his societal and familial expectations. Though this setting is unique from our own world, I could very much relate to Locke’s anxiety and stubbornness. He just wants to live his own life and be his own master, not relegated to the role others have in store for him.

The intro of this book took a bit longer to get to the inciting incident than most books I typically read and I kept putting the book down after a few pages until the exciting first bit of action and mystery took place. After that, the pacing increased and the mystery was a whirlwind that kept me fascinated and I couldn’t put the book down. Be sure to stick through the set up.

The continual play on the ‘long corridors’ of Moordym kept making me chuckle.

I wanted much more of Sintion! He seems like a really interesting character and could have his own novel to tell his story.

Though the two intertwined mysteries in this book were not as elaborate, the novel reminded me of the movie Knives Out. Each family member had a distinct voice and personality and there were quite a few of them!

 

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 06/07/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: Flight of the Spark: Book 1 of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series by Evelyn Puerto

Flight of the Spark: Book 1 of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series by Evelyn Puerto

A YA Fantasy novel published by Open Water Books (12/03/2019)

Summary:

“Taking a risk stretches you, so you can find out what you can do, instead of being sure you cannot.” (Location 2602).

Iskra has lived in her small town her entire life. She is safe. She follows the rules. But she longs to visit the next town over and when her mother allows it, she giddily accompanies her friend on the trip. The road between towns is dangerous, full of Riskers and other barbarians. Iskra wasn’t worried before stepping outside the town’s gate, but with only the protection of the guards Iskra is plagued with worry. Even her carefree friend can’t keep her from anxious thoughts and when she misses the caravan back to town, to safety, what will Iskra risk to get back home in time? What else is Iskra willing to risk when her friend is taken because Iskra was a cowardly mushroom? The more Iskra learns how the town keeps peace and safety for all its citizens, the more Iskra is willing to risk.

Keywords:

Fantasy, Travel, Journey, Risk, Attack, Flee, Hide, Town, Secrets, Dystopian, Power, Prophecies, Rulers, Guardians, Guards, Peace, Safety, Love, Friendship

My Review:

From the moment I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. Before I had even started reading, this book contained certain elements I love in YA books: dystopian features and a female main character.

The mood is set so well, especially in the beginning. “The wind picked up, raising goose bumps on Iskra’s arms.It rocked the branches of the trees that stood behind the pines back and forth, rustling the leaves, sounding to Iskra like a thousand whispered threats.” (Location 316). The writing style was very easy to read and flowed from word to word and page to page. It was the dystopic plot, though, that really drew me in.

The story was very well set and the world building was very well done. Tension and mystery hinted at a deeper plot that both Iskra and I couldn’t help but run toward. The suspense and tension builds until the end.

I loved how much Iskra grew throughout the book. She is such a dynamic main character. As the reader, we really get to know and understand where she is coming from and how brave she is to question her surroundings and change. Those around her were fully fledged characters with backstories. The love story is well crafted and very believable and so sweet.

I can’t wait to read book two.

This novel was published by Open Water Books 12/03/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Twitter

Evelyn Puerto’s Website

Book Review: The Mere’s Crown: Anthym Quest: Book Two by Victoria Bastedo

The Mere’s Crown: Anthym Quest: Book Two by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy novel published by Amazon Digital Services (11/25/2019)

Summary:

Anthym’s quest to find the Mere and save Moonlight continues. The Otterby travels with Anthym, along with members of the Blue Guard, leaders of the town of Moonlight, their out-of-town guide and her two friends. It is still unclear why Anthym was chosen, why he was changed, and why the gate is failing. It is up to this group of travelers to find the Mere and set things right again, but their journey is full of perils along the way.

Keywords:

Fantasy, Mythical, Otherworldly, Fighting, Quest, Water, Legend, The One, Boy, Change, Family, Friendship, Soldier, Citizen, Travel, Quest, Journey, Passageway, Training, Waiting, Secrets

My Review:

It was clear to me why Anthym was changed in the first book and I thought that the characters should have also guessed what his newfound abilities would be for; however, I wasn’t completely correct in guessing what Anthym was called to do in the end. This second book focused less on Anthym and more on the group’s journey as a whole, which I enjoyed.

It took me nearly a third of the book to get really into the story, though. This second book picks up right where the first book leaves off and they are already partway through their journey to the Mere. There wasn’t enough sense of urgency until the group gets to the water. Then I couldn’t put the book down.

I really enjoyed reading more about Kye and his story. I think he grows as much as Anthym does during the Anthym Quest Books. I really loved the fantasy setting of the world outside of Moonlight as well as the creatures that roamed (not all of them friendly) in this setting.

I enjoyed this second book more than the first and recommend reading them both one after the other.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 11/25/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: Otterby’s Child (Anthym Quest: Book One) by Victoria Bastedo

Otterby’s Child (Anthym Quest: Book One) by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy novel published by Amazon Digital Services (11/22/2019)

Summary:

Moonlight must find the ninth son of the ninth son of the ninth son before it is too late. Legend tells that this prophesied child will be the one to save Moonlight. Each night the bells toll, signifying that another day has passed and the child has not been found. Yet, fourteen years later, the steadfast and determined soldier Kye finally finds the boy. As three generations approach Moonlight’s gate, the question in everyone’s mind is not whether the boy is truly the ninth of the ninth of the ninth, but whether the town is really in any peril and what such a young teenager can do to save it.

Keywords:

Fantasy, Mythical, Otherworldly, Fighting, Quest, Water, Legend, The One, Boy, Change, Family, Friendship, Soldier, Citizen

My Review:

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read epic fantasy, but you still want elements of high fantasy, then Anthym Quest may be for you. Anthym, the ninth son of the ninth son of the ninth son is mysterious, the unusual sibling and an unlikely hero who begins as a sarcastic teenager but must mature rapidly as he undergoes a fantastical change.

I really, really liked the concept of the ninth son of the ninth son of the ninth son and of a town that could be swept out to sea like in the movie Frozen. Evil is out there, somewhere. Are the Mere evil? Are the townsfolk evil? Is the possibility that the entire town could be swept under water evil?

I tend to prefer stories with a classic beginning, middle, and end story structure but Anthym Quest: Book One reads more like a prologue where the problem is described and the heroes are gathered for the journey ahead, much like the lengthy beginning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 11/22/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 3.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: Barbara and the Rage Brigade by Karen Eisenbrey

Barbara and the Rage Brigade by Karen Eisenbrey

A Young Adult novel published by Not a Pipe Publishing (11/19/2019)

Summary:

Barbara had it all at the end of high school: a band, a group of friends, and her super cool superpowers. Now, her friends have left town for college and the band can’t practice without all the members. Barbara still has her superpowers at least but she’ll have to find her confidence again to make new friends. She’ll need all the help she can get when facing a new adversary in town.

Keywords:

Music, Band, Girl Band, Punk, Rock, Teenagers, High School, Superpowers, Garage Band, Invisible, Bully, Introverted, Church, Singing, Costume, Anxiety Driving School, Relationships, Friendships, Holidays

My Review:

Like the first book in this series, I read Barbara and the Rage Brigade from start to finish in almost one sitting. It is a very engaging story with interesting characters that is written in a mesmerizing writing style. This book is, in one word, polished.

This second book was more predictable than the first, but in the best of ways. The author even managed to pull off a complete happy ending, which is hard to do when some of the characters are villainous and even downright evil. I really, really enjoy reading about positive transformations, even when it appears hopeless.

I liked how the magic of book one expanded into a larger world of magic in this second book. More people had more powers and they were very interesting and imaginative powers. I would love to see how this magic develops even further and spreads out into the world even more with the next book.

Barbara is the sole narrator in this book and she grows into her superpowers even more. I really liked Barbara as the narrator. I especially loved everything to do with the anxiety driving school. Even though Barbara is often anxious around others, she seems to meet quite a few of them in the course of this novel. Each person she meets is unique and well developed.

My only critique is for the formatting. I’m not sure what is typical for formatting texts in a novel, but I am a very fast reader and was confused and had to slow down to read the message tags so that I knew who was texting. I wish the initials had been full first names instead, akin to dialogue tags.

This novel was published by Not a Pipe Publishing 11/19/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Karen Eisenbrey’s Website

Book Review: Snow in Vietnam: A Novel by Amy M. Le

Snow in Vietnam: A Novel by Amy M. Le

A Historical Fiction novel published by Amazon Digital Services (05/24/2019)

Summary:

Snow is the youngest of seven children growing up in Vietnam during a time of war. Life isn’t always certain. The future isn’t always certain. Snow agrees to marry a Vietnamese man even though she pines for an American G.I. She gives birth to sick child with a heart problem. America could be her daughter’s chance to live and Snow’s chance for freedom. Vietnam is uncertain in times of unification but every time Snow gathers enough resources to leave, another tragedy forces her to prolong her escape.

Keywords:

Love, Family, Survival, Hope, Politics, War, Vietnam, Mother, Struggle, Historical, Women’s Fiction, Trust, Strength, Fear, Uncertainty, Freedom

My Review:

This book was gritty and raw. I didn’t always understand why Snow treated her daughter or family like she did at times, but I felt like I was looking into the life of a real person. Snow felt like a completely genuine person, flaws and all. Snow was the essence of bravery and determination. Her goal to escape with her daughter was always in her mind and always in her actions. But family and tragedy kept getting in the way. I loved how close knit family is portrayed in this book. The characters in this book would do anything for family – to honor them, to love them, to provide for them, to give them a chance for a better life.

The love story in this novel was cleverly wound around the war-torn country and its effects on Snow’s family. The mystery surrounding her G.I. will keep you guessing as to where he is. The book was sad yet compelling because Snow had the strength to continue to adapt and survive and care for her sick daughter. If she can live and prosper and love under those conditions, then anything is possible.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 05/24/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Amy M Le’s Website

Book Review: The Gospel According to St. Rage by Karen Eisenbrey

The Gospel According to St. Rage by Karen Eisenbrey

A Young Adult novel published by Not a Pipe Publishing (08/20/2019)

Summary:

Barbara Bensen doesn’t want to be invisible anymore. She’s ready to be seen. She wants to form an all-girl punk rock band but doesn’t know who to ask or how to ask them. Then she meets Jackson, charismatic and popular, and he introduces her to the first member of the future band. But Barbara isn’t the only one on the fringes outside of popularity who wants to be seen.

Keywords:

Music, Band, Girl Band, Punk, Rock, Teenagers, High School, Superpowers, Garage Band, Invisible, Bully, Introverted

My Review:

I absolutely adored Barbara’s inner commentary about herself and the world. She’s bleak and yet hopeful at the same time. She is the perfect blend of quirky and shy. She is the underdog I immediately root for. Her goal is to be seen. Her dream is to be in an all-girl rock band. I know what she wants and I’m right there with her wanting her to get everything she hopes for and more. We are all losers sometimes. Barbara’s story and her description of high school reminded me all too well of my own time as a shy girl in school.

I was at first shocked when Barbara wasn’t the only narrator in this story, but I really liked getting the perspective of the other students and members of the band. I loved how distinct each voice was and how each person had their own look, personality, and set of unique problems. I loved seeing the characters grow as the novel progressed.

I’m not a huge music person, but I really enjoyed all the nuances of starting a band and holding practices and performing. I could feel the band’s excitement when they were on stage and I was right there with them.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the supernatural element in this book as it seems to fit perfectly with Barbara and her teenage dramas, but them seems at odds with the very realistic contemporary setting. I’m not sure the story was improved by including this element of fiction, but I’m also not sure that it detracts at all from the story either. The plot was complex enough to where the fantastical element was not necessary but I’m interested to see where the author takes it in the sequel.

This novel was published by Not a Pipe Publishing 08/20/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 5.0

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Karen Eisenbrey’s Website

Book Review: Santiago’s In Trouble by Victoria Bastedo

Santiago’s In Trouble by Victoria Bastedo

A Mystery Romance novel published by Amazon Digital Services (08/08/2019)

Summary:

“Santiago is where adventure meets truth and superheroes come to the aid of the homeless. Santiago, in a way, is my life here in Seattle.”

Jacoby lives a normal life. He works the night shift as a guard. He helps out with a local Christian group. But soon his calm life will be thrown into chaos when a mysterious letter shows up claiming something about an inheritance, the lady upstairs is in trouble and needs his help, and a stranger keeps calling him racist names. What is going on and how will Jacoby respond to the accusations against his family, his upbringing, and his ethnicity?

Keywords:

Romance, Friendship, Sleuth, Mystery, Seattle, Queen Anne, Superhero, Humor, Adventure, Racism, Inheritance, Family, Brothers

My Review:

This is the ninth book I’ve ready by Victoria Bastedo and every book has been better than the last. Every book set in Seattle (Mini-Droids and Tea, Black Poodle Over Seven Hills) has been utterly enchanting. This book in particular, and the other books set in Seattle, very much reminds me of the charm, ease of reading, and mystery of Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

This book was a simple, meet-cute novel full of witty dialogue set against the lovely hills of Seattle’s Queen Anne and the surrounding neighborhoods. Santiago’s in Trouble was a charming fast read with a well-developed mystery surrounding the main character: Jacoby.

I loved the fact that Vivienne was a writer and placed herself into troubling situations in order to fully understand her female sleuth heroine: Santiago.

This book was centered more on Jacoby and his mystery and life than on Vivienne. This book also features strong Christian ties, though it works with the characters and the situations. The book itself is a sweet romance and does not go any further than gentle hinting at sex.

I absolutely enjoyed all the scenes and dialogue that included Jacoby’s cousin.

There were moments where I yelled at Jacoby for not being more interested or invested in the “mysterious inheritance.” Sometimes I wonder if there really are people out there who wouldn’t be curious about an inheritance.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 08/08/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

 

Book Review: Mixed Feelings (Empathy in the Preternatural PNW Book 1) by Olivia R. Burton

Mixed Feelings (Empathy in the Preternatural PNW Book 1) by Olivia R. Burton

An Urban Fantasy/Mystery novel published by Peacock Deceiving a Suitcase (05/31/2016)

Summary:

“As I munched irately on my tangy, chocolaty, wafery bundle of deliciousness, I considered the last week, wherein I’d been hired by fairies, bewitched by a demon, nearly seduced by a werewolf, kidnapped by a vampire, and rescued by my gun-toting best friend. All things considered, sharing pizza and wine with Mel hadn’t been the worst thing to happen, but I wasn’t going to tell Chloe that.” (Page 188).

Gwen uses her empathy ability to help her therapy clients. She’s approached by the same two characters who announced her ability weak when she was a child. This time they think she’s up for the job: of helping rescue some missing kids. Gwen, along with her best friend and admin Chloe and the horn dog werewolf PI Mel, will drop all their current clients so they can find out who’s nabbing these kids and stop some future kidnappings as well.

Keywords:

Sugar, Werewolves, Supernatural, Mystery, Kidnapping, Ability, Empathy, Friendship, Junk Food, Monster, Rescue, Secret, Sarcasm

My Review:

Gwen’s obsession with donuts, sweets, and sugar is hilarious. How can someone consume that much sugar without it adversely affecting them? I’m not sure it’s possible, but I don’t care. Gwen is not the most amazing hero and she’s helped almost every step of the way to save the kids. She herself needs saving every now and then. It is her gift that is more useful than herself at times, but her can-do and sarcastic sugar-loving attitude are hilarious to watch as she bungles along. Besides, she’s like any one of us, right?

I had a hard time getting into this book and kept putting it down until about halfway through. If you like urban fantasy, you probably won’t have this same lack of connection that I did with the plot and characters.

Not all questions were answered in the end and I’m very curious to see what happens with Chloe, the best friend, in subsequent books.

This novel was published by Peacock Deceiving a Suitcase 05/31/2016 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 3.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Olivia R Burton’s Website

Book Review: The Kiss of the Blue Howler by Victoria Bastedo

The Kiss of the Blue Howler by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy novel published by Amazon Digital Services (06/03/2017)

Summary:

“But life in a cavern was all-inclusive.” (Page 297)

Life Underneath is full of wonder. For the son of the elader of Ishtish, Xerai, life is simple. He is the Instinctive and must protect the people of Ishtish with his powers of instinct. One evening, he finds Zephyr, a mute ThoEn who can only speak through pictures she paints around her. She is lonely and afraid and doesn’t trust Xera, but when she doesn’t come with him to town before nightfall, the Blue Howlers will get her. The Blue Howlers have never been so aggressive and Xerai, along with Zephyr, will have to figure out what’s wrong before it’s too late.

Keywords:

Instincts, War, Abilities, Kingdom, Underwater, Underneath, Companionship, Friendship, Loyalty, Leader, Sacrifice, Loss, Love, Water, Visual, Creatures

My Review:

Bastedo has an ease of storytelling that is unusual in so many authors! It is so easy to read this story, even trying to understand this new world she has painted for us.

The story and the imagination just keeps growing and all the elements are interconnected in a logical way that gives the story more depth and intrigue as the novel unfolds. The conclusion tied up all loose ends and ended as magically as it began.

Though Zephyr is mute, she is able to fully communicate. I love how this apparent ‘disability’ isn’t a hindrance to Zephyr interacting with others around her. It is so awesome to have diverse characters like Zephyr.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 06/03/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

SnoValleyHobbit

Victoria Bastedo WordPress