Book Review: The Alien in the Backseat by Phillip Scott

The Alien in the Backseat by Phillip Scott

A Science Fiction/Satire Fiction novel published by Independently published (10/16/2020)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

Jake doesn’t necessarily lead a boring life, but he has his routine. Hang out with his girlfriend, have a beer at the local bar with his best friend, and go to work. Then the inevitable happens and his girlfriend breaks up with him. Jake still has routine nights with his friend and a locally crafted beer as well as the usual at work. Jake accepts his life for what it is, until he discovers the alien in the backseat of his car. Upsetting his typical day, Jake decides to seize this opportunity and take a road trip with the alien. It should be simple to drive from North Carolina to Florida, except this trip is anything but routine. Jake already took a leap of faith when he agreed to bring the alien to Florida, but he’ll start to doubt his decision and the alien when he finds out more than just the feds are in pursuit.

Keywords:

Satire, Science Fiction, Aliens, Road Trip, North Carolina, Florida, Federal Agents, Destruction, Fireworks, Friendship

My Review:

The Alien in the Backseat is a delightful space comedy/road trip that takes place almost entirely between North Carolina and Florida. The writing is concise and the plot is straightforward and fun. This story is told by several characters, but the main character is Jake Whitman. He continuously tells the reader that he likes his routine and isn’t one to take chances or put himself out there, yet his actions speak differently. Jake wants to break out of his routine life. He wants to have an adventure, but he’s never really pushed himself before. The alien that randomly chooses his car to take a nap in is just the push Jake needs to let go of his daily habits. He already lost his girlfriend, so what else does he have to lose? Jake keeps telling us that he’s uncomfortable in the situations this road trip keeps thrusting him into, but he does seem to handle disaster and aliens quite well. I enjoyed the contrast between how Jake viewed himself and how he acted. Some chapters featured other characters’ points of view, like the reporter who is also stuck in a dead-end job, a federal agent, and an alien. These chapters helped to create more tension and elevated the humor present in the back and forth between characters.

The writing style immediately caught my attention. From the first page, I was hooked by the witty use of words and phrases. The prose was delightfully entertaining. The first chapter was the perfect starting point to the narrative. The narrative style and the presence of aliens reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Science is not at the forefront of this science fiction novel, but instead, the novel focuses on a fun story and the humor in the situations and between the characters. Sometimes the deadpan delivery was so surprising that I had to laugh. If you enjoyed the humor and the outrageous aliens in the Men in Black series, you will surely appreciate this book’s humor.

Jake (and by extension the author) express themselves in a blend of sarcasm and wit that comes across naturally and not at all in a pretentious manner. When we meet the alien and he does come across as pretentious, it is all the more hilarious. The alien is so aggressively outgoing and is written perfectly. The author is able to write the perfect blend of detailed descriptions with dialogue and action. The subtle continuity between chapters was simple yet ingenious. The ending was well set up, made sense to include Jake and his friends, and was wholly satisfying to read.

This novel was published by Independently published 10/16/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Phillip Knight Scott’s Website

 

Book Review: Flintelf (Exili’s Excellent Elucidation Services, #1) by Victoria Bastedo

Flintelf (Exili’s Excellent Elucidation Services, #1) by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy/Cozy Mystery novel published by Amazon Digital Services (10/13/2020)

Summary:

“What made the pure elves in the past great, or their bloodline desirable, if it wasn’t the quality of their souls, and their actions?”

Exili has started his own business of elucidation. His clients are also victims. Potential victims, if he can convince them to pay him to prevent their murder, that is. Exili’s next potential client happens to also be a previous school mate. Exili and Goodall hadn’t spoken since school when they had a falling out. Exili doesn’t want his client to die, but he’s also annoyed that he’s got to convince Goodall to hire him. Why couldn’t it be someone else stalked by a murderer?

Keywords:

Caste, Elves, Mystery, Murder, Murder Prevention, Entrepreneur, Friendship, Bad Blood, Pure, High Born, Feet

My Review:

Quirky Fantasy. Fantasy with a foot focus…

I don’t often read fantasy so I was delighted that this book was part fantasy, part cozy mystery, part supernatural. I also really liked that I couldn’t guess the ending until the end and that the mystery the main character Exili has to solve is part of a larger plot that is revealed slowly over time.

I loved the quirky fantasy element that the author creates with her idea of ‘elucidation.’ I especially enjoyed the fact that Exili elucidates… with his feet! He must actually touch items with his feet to elucidate as accurately as possible and the scene where he must touch a bunch of things with his feet was particularly hilarious.

I’m not sure how I feel about the caste system and the various people groups’ placement in society based on ‘true blood’ that Bastedo describes in this world. This would be a great discussion for a book club, especially the fact that features and skin color were ascribed to certain people groups. I liked the term ‘people groups’ as well. There are humans (as I call myself) as a people group. There are the Flintelfs and the Farris people groups.

Like other Bastedo books, this one features a feel-good message and a happy ending.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services 10/13/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

FreeValleyPublishing

Victoria Bastedo WordPress

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: 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: 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: 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

 

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!

Book Review: The Time Mechanic by Victoria Bastedo

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The Time Mechanic by Victoria Bastedo

A Fantasy Novel published by Amazon Digital Services Inc. (07/16/2018)

Summary:

“I’m the new Time Mechanic. I was chosen, just like you, to take on an important mission. We’ll journey, risk our lives, and perhaps never return. But we’ll save this present time from encountering wreckage so catastrophic that history is shattered here. We’ll save many lives.”

Jeremy lives a simple life. He works hard in an honest job and saves as much of his income as he can. That all changes when he gets the urge to buy a new coat. His life changes don’t end there with the coat. Jeremy must soon deal with an ex-fiancee and confront an old friend before everything he knows and counts on changes. Life as the new Time Mechanic is chaotic and dangerous. Still, Jeremy will find new friends and form a team. Together they will fight new enemies on their new adventures together.

Keywords:

Simple Times, Action, Adventure, Thievery, Ordinary, Secrets, Gifts, Fighting, Capture, Rules, Friendship, Family, Steam, Mechanics, Engineering

My Review:

Jeremy may be simple and plain, but he reveals himself to be smart, levelheaded (most of the time), honest, and caring. Though “it’s from ordinary friends that Time Mechanics are made” Jeremy is not ordinary. His life may be ordinary before he encounters the mysterious steam that changes his life forever, but he is a larger than life character who embodies the characteristics of a do-gooder. He picks up the mantle of savior and Time Mechanic naturally, though he continually questions his own role and and choice as the Time Mechanic.

I liked how the book was grounded in the relationships between Jeremy and his team and the plot that unfolds as the evil plans of the bad guys are slowly revealed. Jeremy is granted special powers as the Time Mechanic and the book is set in some undefined time period in a fictional place called Tonturin where there are no cars and life appears to operate on a much simpler plane of existence. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fantasy book that was grounded in the characters’ reality.

Jeremy takes on the responsibilities as Time Mechanic, but he does so willingly and with full knowledge of the rules and potential dangers. I liked how the rules of the Time Mechanic were revealed immediately, but the mystery surrounding how Time Mechanics came to be is revealed slowly. I especially liked rule 2 – “accept the help and company of others who are so compelled.” The way those “compelled” people resisted at first was very entertaining.

This book was grounded in some alternate past and the way women were viewed (by the narrator Jeremy) as more delicate and needing to be protected threw me off even though Kannikey and Ffefferpip both proved more able and crafty than Jeremy and Miles at times.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services Inc. 07/16/2018 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

On the web

Victoria Bastedo blog

Bard & Starlet Aftermath – Best Community Event of the Year

Didn’t get a chance to come out? Here’s the video of the first scene and the one I wrote and starred in!

The Black Dog is one of my favorite local restaurants – they have the absolute best Fritata! I love the staff and the homey feel of the building. The stage and all the great community events are awesome! It’s great that there are enough actors/actresses in the North Bend/Snoqualmie area to lend their voices to this event every year (this is the third Bard & Starlet) and they did an awesome job!