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

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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

 

Maple Valley Days 6th Year Follow-up

This was my 7th year volunteering behind the scenes of the event and FreeValley Publishing’s 6th year having a booth at the festival. Wow! I love being involved with this event and I learn something every year. I get to watch conflict resolution and large event planning. It is amazing how much detail and effort goes into putting on this festival and I’m glad I’ve been a part of it.

Local Event Alert: Maple Valley Days! This Weekend

You can find FVP and some great books by local authors at Maple Valley Days near the info booth! This is our sixth year at Maple Valley Days and we have some new books since last year.

And Happy National Donut Day!

http://www.maplevalleydays.com/

Check out our 2017 Maple Valley Days

Check out our 2016 Maple Valley Days

Check out our 2015 Maple Valley Days

Check out our 2014 Maple Valley Days

LAKE WILDERNESS PARK
23601 224th Ave SE
Maple Valley, WA 98038
 
FESTIVAL HOURS
Friday: 3pm – 8pm – Carnival  stays open until 10.
Saturday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 10am – 5pm
 
For more information, visit the official website HERE or visit the new Facebook page HERE

Norwescon! This Thursday through Sunday in Seattle

Catch books by local authors Sheri J. Kennedy, Rachel Barnard, Victoria Bastedo, Kennedy J. Quinn, and Jeffrey Cook at Norwescon later this week.

Norwescon.org

I’ll be wandering around in my costume.. See if you can spot me…

And don’t forget your towel!

Wine & Words – A Fun Time

     

It was such fun to read from my new book “Seize the Donut” for the first time and to walk the audience through instructions on using chopsticks! Steven made me laugh with his short piece from the prompt of a funeral and jealousy. The cinnamon bun and stratta, as always, were very delicious.

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

Maple Valley Days 4th Year Follow-up

 

Next year I resolve to take more pictures! I absolutely love Maple Valley Days. I spent 32 hours volunteering in the park for the festival and quite a few prior helping to organize. Even though I spent about 10 minutes total inside our booth (and was able to help sell a book while I was in the tent whoop whoop), as a volunteer I interact with almost every other vendor (over 100) and always talk up the local writer’s booth!

Here are all the pictures I took.

I was thrilled to see all the corgis (not pictured). At least 3 tri-colored corgis and one 16-week old puppy corgi that was such a cuddler!