Saturday, February 9, 2013

Interview with Author Sarah-Ann Smith

Please Welcome

Sarah-Ann Smith, Author of Trang Sen

Your career has been on a high professional level in diplomacy. What led you to decide to write a novel, and particularly a novel about wartime Vietnam?

My Foreign Service assignment during the last two years of the war was in the Indochina section of the State Department. In that position I was deeply aware of the way the war, and its ending, tore apart people’s lives, both American and Vietnamese. And there were many refugees, or émigrés really, in and around Washington, and I got intrigued by what their lives must be like here, after starting over. I started thinking, they would make an interesting story.

Had you been to Vietnam when you started the book?

No, but as soon as travel bans imposed by our government were lifted, around 1988, about thirteen years after the war ended, I did go to Ho Chi Minh city and environs, wandering the streets, keeping a journal and describing places that I thought would be where scenes in the novel might have taken place.

How did you manage to connect places in wartime Saigon with what was there a decade and more later?

Actually, it wasn’t as hard as one might think. Vietnam at that time had not begun to develop economically, so there hadn’t been much physical change, modernizing and so forth. Saigon was like a ghost city full of people, the remnants of American service stations with the American signs, rusted but still hanging; American-style signal lights at the intersections, most of which were no longer working. The highest buildings on the skyline were American-built, so that the place looked much like a mid-1960s Midwestern city, with the older French buildings and small Asian storefronts mixed in.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

I wrote it in fits and starts, beginning back in the mid-1980s. Other things, such as family illness, kept getting in the way. When I finally did have something I thought was worth sending to agents, the response was very discouraging, and I would periodically get stymied. But gradually it took shape, and the final version – before the copy-editing and publishing process took place – was done about four years ago.

Do you speak Vietnamese?

No. I did try to learn such things as names people give their children, forms of address – Miss, Mr., etc. And I do speak Chinese, so Asian-language tonalities and speech patterns weren’t completely unfamiliar to me.

How did you go about writing the novel? Did you do a great deal of research?

I had some background to start with, from my academic studies, which focused on East and Southeast Asia, and from my Foreign Service experience, though I never actually served in Vietnam. When I began working on the book, I started with the story, then tried to be sure it was as historically and culturally accurate as I could make it. That isn’t the way all authors work, it’s just my way. Some writers do it the other way around, doing lots of research, then writing the book.

Did you particularly identify with one or more of the characters, Trang Sen, for instance? Are there others that you dislike?

To a certain extent, particularly as the characters were being developed, I identified with each of them. I don’t think I could create a character that I disliked from the word go. Once the book was in editing stage, I liked some better than others – I’m not going to say which ones.

How would you describe the focus of the book?

I originally intended it as a coming-of-age story about a young woman with conflicting desires and ambitions. And it is a coming-of-age novel, but I’ve been surprised that readers see it as a way of understanding certain things about the Vietnam war that they never understood before. So I’ve come to see that it really is both, and perhaps other things as well.

How accurate is your description of the issues faced by Vietnamese immigrants when they arrived in the U.S.?

In my own personal experience, which is reflected in more objective studies, it was terribly difficult for many of them. Refugees who were highly trained professionals found themselves in menial jobs as the only way to make a living – that’s very humiliating for an educated person. Some committed suicide. Teen-agers were also adrift, and some went terribly astray.

Did you know any couples like the one you describe?

Working in the State Department – and because of the personal stories that went around at the end of the war – I was aware that there were many relationships, and many kinds of relationships, between American men and Vietnamese women. Some of them were quite good and ended in marriage, but many were little better than the kind of liaison between a G.I. and what I refer to in the book as Tea Girls.

Will there be a sequel?

A lot of people have asked me that. I think everyone who reads the book ends up wondering what will happen to Trang Sen in her new life. But given that this book took so long to write, I don’t know that I’d want to undertake that commitment right now.

About Trang Sen

  Set in the Vietnam War era, Sarah Ann Smith's novel "Trang Sen" touches numerous genres—historical novel, coming of age, love story, political analysis—but at heart it is simply a riveting story of fascinating people caught up in the turmoil of their time and place, and told in the spare style of a true master of the language. Trang Sen is "White Lotus," a young Vietnamese girl caught up in the chaos and heartbreak of civil war, international conflict, and the disintegration of her family. At last, in a new life far from her homeland, she finds deep within herself the brave woman she has always longed to be. 

BUY Trang Sen

Trang Sen is Available at

Friday, February 8, 2013

Guest Post: What Writing is to Me by Author Kersten L. Kelly

Please welcome Kersten L. Kelly, author of Paper Airplane. Today she will be sharing with us, what writing is to her. Below you will also find information on her new book, Paper Airplane.

Writing To Me Is… 

By Author Kersten L. Kelly

Writing has become a therapeutic way for me to 
reflect back on my thoughts and rethink the world around me. Aside from being an author, I work full time as a corporate salesperson. Many times I am on the road for days at a time, and I don’t get much time for rest and relaxation. I spend ample hours treating clients to late dinners, traveling from various hotels to the airport, and preparing presentations for meetings that land us a few million dollars’ worth of business. Although I enjoy my job, I always welcome a relaxing escape from it.

Taking time out of my day to write allows me to disconnect for a few minutes (or sometimes hours) from my normal routine. I get to lose myself in some of the most interesting subjects where I can create a detailed account of my imagination on paper. Once my book came to fruition, it was astounding to receive feedback on it. I never imagined publishing material that other people would read and enjoy. I remember the first (and many of the following) reviews that I received on my book. I was simply thrilled to think that someone actually read the book and had something to say about it. It was an adrenaline rush like I got from skydiving the first time. I was so excited.

Writing can have that effect on people. It’s not just words on a page, it is much more than that. I know for everyone it is different, but for me it is an experience in itself. I am taken into a different mindset and I enjoy every minute of it.

Connect with Kersten L. Kelly

About Paper Airplane

In this tumultuous, distinctive memoir, Kersten L. Kelly looks back on the most influential individuals that she encountered while flying through the clouds. Confined in a small vestibule for hours, Kelly identified an opportunity for learning and growth by chatting with the fellow passengers around her. After a few life changing conversations and unforgettable emergencies, she put the in-flight magazines to rest and never looked back.

She recalls life lessons from perfect strangers about love, family, perseverance of dreams, and humility through a series of brief anecdotes all taking place on airplanes. Selfless philanthropy was discovered, long-term friendships bonded, and talents unveiled. The book proves the phrase “you never know what you will learn on an airplane” over and over again.

Every chapter will capture the mind and sometimes the heart of anyone who jumps into this collection of humanity at its best. The personalities present in this book assimilate with the intrinsic characteristics all readers can relate to. With a raw authenticity stemming from old notes in a ragged journal, Kelly delivers a personal reflection of unique tales from a mile high.

BUY Paper Airplane Online at

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Giveaway & Review: The Plan by W. Charlene Ammons

Welcome to the book tour and giveaway of 
The Plan, by W. Charlene Ammons 
presented by Beyond Words Book Tours.
Be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY at the bottom for a chance to win a paperback copy along with some awesome book swag!

About The Plan

Omega, Alabama in 1941 was a place that only storytellers could dream of. Times were hard and faith was wandering; until Mode Lee entered the picture. The handsome preacher brought what appeared to be miracle after miracle to the tight knit community. However, evil things lurked in the wake of the arrival of this “Man of God”. 

It would take a frightened, mentally unstable child; the mother of the county sheriff; and a wild natured redhead to bring the truth to light. Everyone claims to have a plan. Only One is The Plan.

Stephanie's Review of The Plan

I actually got the chance to read The Plan, by W. Charlene Ammons, quite some time ago. I purchased the book shortly after it was published, but thought I would offer my review for the tour. I have to say, if you haven't read The Plan then you are missing out! 

It is FANTASTIC! So much so, that I purchased the 2nd book in The Honeysuckle Chronicles - The Lesson, and as soon as the 3rd book- The Bloodline is released I will be the proud owner of that one, too. 

You all know that I am a sucker for a good romance but this one doesn't fall in that genre. It lies somewhere among fantasy, mystery and suspense with a touch of romance. While the story isn't based on the romance, the wicked Mode Lee  and darling Lola strike up a fling which only adds to this wonderful story. However, that romance isn't what it seems... neither is Mode Lea, the preacher man. 

I especially enjoyed the way the scenes and themes were written. Whether it was a dusty dirt road, the cemetery or in the middle of town square, you could picture yourself right there in the 1940's with accurate visions of what it must have looked like.  

While you could read this book as a stand alone book, I can assure you that once you have read the first- you will be running for the second. The Plan has a complete ending with no strings left untied, but once you start reading about the Omega and this dreaded Mode Lee, you will want to know what could possibly happen next!  I know, I know, I'm reviewing The Plan and not the entire series, but I think it is worth mentioning.

Overall, this is one of my all-time favorite books! Regardless of what type of genre you prefer, I am sure you will enjoy this one. There aren't any vampires but there are plenty of mysteries, suspense, romance and thrills throughout the story! 

Where BUY The Plan

The Plan Book Trailer


  Enter to win a paperback copy of The Plan along with a some awesome book swag! Winner will chosen via Rafflecopter on the final day of the tour!

Connect with Author W. Charlene Ammons

Follow the Rest of The Tour

  You can follow the rest of the tour for more chances to enter, more reviews and guest posts and interviews with author W. Charlene Ammons! View the complete schedule, including the Meet & Greet date at Beyond Words Book Tours.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

COVER REVEALED!!! Entwined With You by Sylvia Day

Has anyone noticed that the cover has 
officially been revealed for 
Entwined With You by Sylvia Day? 

I just noticed it on today! :) 

I like the idea that she continued on with a simple cover. I'm not sure that I'm crazy about the green but I think that's probably because I was expecting a blue cover after seeing the 'blank' cover listed on Amazon after all these months. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the Crossfire Novel Series, Entwined with You is the 3rd book in this awesome, erotic romance series by Sylvia Day. It's listed on many Top Books Like Fifty Shades of Grey Lists and is very similar, but not too similar. If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you have to read the Crossfire Series! 
The UK cover is also beautiful! 

QUESTION: Does anyone know why authors do different covers for different countries/readers? I would think it would be the same attraction to all the readers regardless of their location. If anyone has any insight on this I would love to hear it! 

What are your thoughts on the new covers?

I Think We've All Been There

Review: Stories In the Key of Read by Ryan Pak

A memoir based on a young man's love for music. 

Stories In the Key of Read, by Ryan Pak

Stories in the Key of Read follows Ryan Pak through his music-devoted 20s in a series of transparently-penned nonfiction shorts. Fans of David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman, and anyone who has survived young adulthood can appreciate the humor and heartbreak--from the death of record stores to relationships and the perils of living paycheck to paycheck--that come together in this sheet music to the cacophony that is life. 

{Blurb from}

Stephanie's Review of Stories In the Key of Read

Stories In the Key of Read is a memoir of fun filled adventures of Ryan Pak- the music guru! I was recently sent a copy of his musical memoir to review and can honestly say  that I enjoyed it very much. While I'm not a huge fan of memoirs,  reading the different music related adventures was fun, comical and full of life. 

From his very first concert to a relationship with his girlfriend, it's all packed in this little book.

To Give you an idea of what is included in the book and the type of music that Ryan writes about, I will give you a few titles of the stories. As you can see, each story relates to a particular group, album or song...

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light 2011
Jay-Z, The Black Album 
Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

I really liked how each story was something totally different from the last.Whether it was an excitement, a trial or a triumph, he was able to overcome it with music.Usually with a simple album from one of his favorite groups. 

 If you enjoy reading a memoirs  personal stories or enjoy music, you will love Stories In the Key of Read, by Ryan Pak. 

As I mentioned before, I don't care to read most memoirs. With that said, as far as memoirs are concerned, this book deserves 5 stars! 

Where to Buy Stories In the Key of Read by Ryan Pak

Paperback and ecopies available at


 DISCLOSURE:I received a copy of  Stories In the Key of Read by the author, Ryan Pak, in exchange for my review. The review listed above is of my own opinion and have not been asked nor compensated to provide a good review. Stephanie {Stephanie's Book Shelf} is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Barnes & Noble Affiliate Program. These types are affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winner Announced for My Little Texas Tornado GIVEAWAY!!!

My Little Texas Tornado GIVEAWAY!!!

A couple days ago I hosted the My Little Texas Tornado Tour by Ruby Vines. Up for grabs was an ecopy of her book for one lucky commentor...

And the winner is...

(*insert drum roll here...*)


Congrats Loren! I will get your email forwarded so that you receive your copy ASAP! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mailbox Monday #5

Oh what a week! I received 7 books this week, which I know- is not a lot, but there were some very interesting ones that I can't wait to read. One of the books sounded so good I had to skip the TBR pile and start on it almost immediately (review to follow shortly). Another was more of a rarity  The book itself as in the story and title was not a rarity, but more so the edition that I received. :) 

The only problem with having so many good books to choose from ... is well, having so many to choose from! I can't decide which one to go to next. At first I tried to stick to the rule of 'first come first serve'. That didn't work out so well and I found that those I were most interested would find there way to the top. But with so many interesting books how do you narrow it down then? 

Feel free to post your comments below on how YOU prioritize your TBR.

So what did Mrs. Mail Lady bring? 

Let's start with the one I had to read almost immediately...



  I received a request to review Bride By Mistake and Daddy With a Deadline by Marilyn Shank and published by Montlake. 

  As soon as I heard about them I was interested and even more so when I got them in! Bride By Mistake has an intriguing cover, as you can see from the photo. It's simple, yet leaves a lot to be imagined... which is always a good thing for me since I act on impulse when it comes to book covers!

  Another one of my favorites from this week as First Thing I See.

First Thing I See By Vi Keeland
PROOF Edition
Only available in ecopy format

 I have seen it popping up here and there and heard that it's supposed to be an erotic romance along the lines of Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't put much thought into purchasing it due to my huge TBR, but I have been wanting to read it.

 Well, low and behold, Vi Keeland contacted me and asked me to review it. Ha- worked out perfect. Except for one little thing- it's only available in eBook format and I don't prefer to review eBooks. It's one of the few ways I manage to keep my TBR pile at about 20 vs 200, at any given day of the week. However, Mrs. Keeland offered to send me her PROOF copy. As you can see from my image of all the books, it has a white/blank spine. The print is very large- probably about a 20-22 size font, the back cover is blank and it has a HUGE proof stamp in the back of the book. 

I am aware that receiving a proof copy is NOT worthy of a CNN new flash, I did find it rather neat. I mean after all, how often do you manage to get your hands on a proof edition of a book that is intended for ecopies only? Not an ARC but an actual PROOF! 

Okay... let's go on shall we? I received 4 other great books that I am excited to read, as well.  Those books included:

Wings of Glass By Gina Holmes

To Honor and Trust By Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller

The Seven Year Itch By S. D. Skye
Stay tuned for a guest post by S. D. Skye along with an review! 

Honour's Debt By Joan Vincent
1st book in the Honour Series

With that said... what did you get? Feel free to share your books or post a link to your post of what you received last week- whether it be IMM or Mailbox Monday... or whatever you like to call it. :)

Now, what to read next? I have SOOOO many to choose from for the last month and also an ecopy of Desert Flower! Ahhhh too much to choose from!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

GIVEAWAY: My Little Texas Tornado By Ruby Vines

My Little Texas Tornado 
Guest Post & GIVEAWAY!!!

Be sure to check out the awesome recipe included in the guest post! Yummy!

My Little Texas Tornado By Ruby Vines

  Colt Daniels is a Texas rancher known for his award winning steaks. The king rancher has known his good neighbor and vintner, Mr. Moon for years. In fact, he recommends the Moon Wines as the ideal label paired with his mouth watering steaks. When Mr. Moon dies and leaves the vineyard to his long lost niece, Savannah Moon, Colt offers to show her the ropes since the California girl is clueless, not only about Texas but about wine. Even his Southern Charm is lost on the snob who doesn't even have the decency to thank him for saving her life her first day in town.

  Thing is, he ain't cut out to train someone he can't stand, even if Mr. Moon was like a grandfather to him. But there's no denying it, the Moons know how to grow ' and women. Savannah isn't a woman he can easily forget. Bitchy or not, he finds reasons to teach her about grapes, among other things. And while
he's finding reasons to stomp the grapes with his new neighbor, a plan is brewing to bring the wine heiress down.

BUY My Little Texas Tornado

eBook On Sale Now For $0.99 at 

Guest Post By Author Ruby Vines

Colt Daniels' Cowboy Steaks


1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup brewed Columbian Coffee (THE SECRET INGREDIENT)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cumin
Good grinding black pepper (or crushed chili to taste)


Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Spoon marinade over steaks. Cover and refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight (but even 1/2 hour will do). Grill over hickory wood for best cowboy flavor!

Goes Great with Savannah Moon’s Red Wine!!

Enjoy your sexy Colt Daniels’ Steak and Savannah Moon’s wine by candlelight and the song by Tracy Lawrence that inspired me to write the book!


One lucky winner from my blog stop will win an ecopy of My Little Texas Tornado by Ruby Vines. 
To enter simply leave a comment with your thoughts and include your email! 

Connect With Author Ruby Vines

Also known as Alisha Paige.