Life is always an interesting journey. After one week, I decided that working as a part-time receptionist in a salon was just too stressful. In some ways, I wanted to prove to myself that I still had it… which I don’t, which isn’t all bad.
I’d changed as a person. In the last few years, I’ve grown more introverted. After all, I’m a writer and a poet… maybe that is what I needed to prove to myself. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Just be YOU! Lesson learned. ❤
A talented group of teen musicians. A stateless old man living on the margins of society. What do they have in common? Humanity and sweet music.
Will, Sanchez, Song-Yi, and Stephanie attend an American international school on the island of Penang, Malaysia. But at night, they are a talented band of musicians striving to win their school’s talent show, so they can further their dreams of becoming professional musicians.
Musa “Moses” Marbun has been without a country for forty-six years. The crippled and destitute rickshaw driver pedals tourists through the quaint streets of Penang’s capital city to meet his daily needs.
One day when downtown, Song-Yi witnesses Musa being beaten on a sidewalk for a theft he didn’t commit. As she intervenes on his behalf, an unlikely friendship ensues, which puts the band on a collision course with musical destiny while Musa hopes to end his decades long journey through the wilderness by confronting his past.
Introducing the Band: Song-Yi, lead singer Will, guitarist & composer Sanchez, bass guitarist Stephanie, percussionist Moses the Singer
I’ve been a fan of Mark Sasse’s books for around six years, now. What makes his writing most memorable is how his characters often require lessons to learn and various problems to overcome before they reach redemption. Many of his stories take place in or around Penang, Malaysia where Sasse taught school, which gives his stories a unique Asian flair.
“Moses, the Singer” tells the story of a group of teen musicians who have one goal, and that is to win the school talent contest. Will, Sanchez, Song-Yi, and Stephanie are your typical musical teens with dreams of becoming professional musicians.
Each of these teen characters has well-defined personalities you will remember long after finishing the read. Will, the guitarist, is the one whose type A personality brings them all together. Sanchez, Will’s best friend, plays bass. Song-Yi steals the show with her tender heart and spectacular voice. Stephanie rounds out the group as the youngest and the drummer.
As the teen’s story unwinds, we also meet Musa “Moses” Marbun, a crippled and destitute rickshaw driver who pedals tourists through the streets of Penang’s capital city as he tries to survive.
A chance encounter brings all of them together and Song-Yi intercedes on Musa’s behalf. Little do the teens realize the impact that the old man will have on their life, and vice versa. Will’s family welcomes Musa into their home and hearts. What transpires is the story of a family who surrounds each other with love and support.
I read this YA book while in lockdown mode from the coronavirus pandemic. It was a joy to escape into a story where wonderful things happened to the underdog for a change.
Musa’s life story is heart wrenching. Sometimes the kindest of souls endures the most pain. Like Musa, I spent some time being thankful for my own life experiences and lessons.
If you’re looking for a feel-good read that will help you believe in humanity once again, make “Moses, the Singer,” that book.
Many thanks to the author and Book Sirens for the advanced reader’s copy of this book, which I received for free. I wrote this review voluntarily because I enjoyed the read.
*I follow the Amazon Rating System*
About the Author
Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub and Noisetrade, and his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia, among other places. His play “The Last Bastion” earned him the 2018 Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency in Ireland. He is also a three-time winner of the Best Script Award at the Penang Short & Sweet Theatre Festival. His plays have won multiple other awards such as Best Overall Performance and Audience Choice Award. He won the Festival Director’s Award at the 2016 festival.
Sasse’s interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – from culture and language – from history and religion, making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy a page-turning good story injected with doses of history, adventure, Asian culture, and unexpected humor.
After being an adamant standalone novel advocate, he’s changed his tune and is working on the epic Forgotten Child Trilogy, which the final book released in March 2019. He finally found the story that required more than one book, and he had a blast writing it. It’s a crazy mix of magical realism, history, and time travel.
As for his plays, he’s fond of both the short play (10 minutes or less) and full-length formats. From 2011-2017 he wrote for and directed the drama ensemble The RLT Players, a passionate group of dramatic storytellers who specialize in the short play format. In September 2016, his experimental theatre piece “How to Build a Dictator” was featured as part of Penangpac’s Black Box Experiments series. His goal is to have it go into full production somewhere in the world. Any takers?
He currently teaches drama in Saudi Arabia.
HOW DID HE FINALLY GET HIMSELF WRITING?
Sasse remembers writing his first play when he was about thirteen. It was about Queen Esther and the only person he ever showed that play to was his mother. In college, he wrote lots of poetry, even love poetry for a certain girl. But once he graduated, his writing confidence was shattered, so he gave it up for the next twenty years. He doesn’t recommend doing that! He went to China to teach English in 1992 and eventually moved to Vietnam to do the same in 1994, shortly after the U.S. lifted the embargo against their former enemy. He lived in the exotic Vietnamese culture with his family for nearly ten years. After many life-changing experiences, Sasse’s new-found taste for history sent him back to school to pick-up a second Master’s degree, this one in Humanities. This led to a shift from teaching English to history as he moved to Malaysia in 2006. Little did he know, however, that all of this was building up to another major shift which would get him back to writing.
On a whim in 2007, he embarked on a collaborative project with a group of students to write and produce a play, resulting in the original stage play “Monkey Love Potion.” It was such a fun and rewarding experience that he decided to try it again the following year. Before he knew it, he was hooked and that was the beginning of his love affair with live theatre. After writing and successfully producing four original full-length scripts, he finally got the nerve to try his hand once again at a hidden desire which had defeated him many times over the years – novel writing.
In the summer of 2011, he embarked on the journey of writing his first novel. His greatest worry was reaching the magical 50,000 word mark, so he could officially call himself a novelist. When the story, “Beauty Rising,” clocked in at over 60,000 words, he was shocked and happy. But not content. He didn’t know what to do with the novel, and he convinced himself that it would sit idle until he wrote a second novel. He hated hearing the words “one-hit wonder” echo in his head. So in the summer of 2012, he wrote “The Recluse Storyteller.”
Feeling a little more confident, he decided to focus on exposing his work to the public in order to receive some feedback. In December 2012, he independently published “Beauty Rising.” When the first review from an online book reviewer was posted and it was over-the-top positive, he was flying high, and if he never wrote another word in his life, he would have been content. But that contentment was not to be. He was now hopelessly hooked on both play writing and novel writing, and he hasn’t looked back since.
He has published eight novels. He is grateful for all the readers who have joined him on this journey of creativity.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Sasse loves to cook everything from pizza to Thai. He’s coached softball or baseball for the past ten years, and he’s been a much too loyal fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates since he was 9 years old–another item he’s hopelessly hooked on. He enjoys travelling, visiting historical sites, and sitting by the beach or other scenic spot with a laptop, an idea, and a lot of time. He has a lovely wife and three wonderful children and one really cool son-in-law – he’s Korean, keeping with the Asian theme of his life. He has an active blog (www.mwsasse.com) where he writes frequently about history, writing, culture, and life. He loves to hear from readers, so he hopes you’ll stop by his site and say “hello.”
The Complete List of Published Works by Mark W Sasse
NOVELS The African Connection (The Forgotten Child Book 2) (2018) A Man too Old for a Place too Far (The Forgotten Child Book 1) (2017) Which Half David: A Modern-day King David Story (2016) A Love Story for a Nation (2015) The Reach of the Banyan Tree (2014) The Recluse Storyteller (2013) Beauty Rising (2012)
PLAYS The Folly of Progress (2017) The Last Bastion (2017) How to Build a Dictator (2016) The Secrets of the Magic Pool (2016) Grandparents’ War (2013) Romans on the Couch (2011)
SHORT STORIES The Hundred Pitch At-Bat (2019) Jolly Old St. Hick (2018) Christmas in the Trenches, 1914 (2016) If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story (2014)
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance, Family Literature, Sagas
*I was given a pre-publication copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which follows.*
IN THE AUTHOR’S WORDS:
“Rejoin all your favourite characters in this fourth book of the popular Crater Lake series – an intergenerational saga that takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
After a sabbatical from trauma counselling, Izzy Montgomery is back to work. Her first client is the new priest at St. Bertha’s parish. Lisa-Marie is convinced that after past heartbreak, she and Justin will never be more than friends. Micah Camp gets a career counsellor, but Alison is off to an unfortunate start. All Brigit wanted when she arrived at Crater Lake was that her daughter would fit in. Now she reflects on the downside of getting her wish.
An overnight hike up the Cat’s Cradle doesn’t turn out as expected. Wedding plans go awry, a child experiences loss and a young boy embraces the sacrifice required of best friends.
Amid laughter and tears, people discover that in the search for identity, acceptance, and belonging, the compass that points true leads to the most unlikely of spots.”
The Crater Lake gang is back! This time the book mimics life and the changes and consequences of human decisions. The central message for me emphasized the idea that life isn’t simple or defined in black and white terms. No Compass to Right deals with those gray areas where lessons are learned. Meanwhile, the reader gets a sneak peek into the characters as they grow into multi-dimensional individuals, with problems to solve and learn from.
There were many storylines to follow from characters I had waited for closure on. Lisa Marie and Justin are still trying to come to grips with their feelings and emotions. Izzy and Liam have settled into raising Sophie; Lisa Marie, and Liam’s daughter. Sophie comes across as a typical young girl, blessed with the love of a large family. When the child is forced to learn the meaning of love and loss, it was a poignant moment, raw and unfiltered.
Robby and Tabby’s friendship increases and the two have become inseparable. Robby’s power to see “light” around people seems to be mounting as he grows older. I am hopeful that subsequent stories will pursue his gifts in greater detail. That boy is a story all by himself.
As with any real-life situation, Micah Camp expands to include new people into the fold. With them, they bring their stories, hopes, dreams, and issues. As with all the books in the series, the family is shown to be the guiding compass in the lives of these individuals. It made sense for that theme to resonate since Micah Camp helps troubled teens. It’s all about making connections and understanding others while realizing that forgiveness is a huge part of life.
I have read the Crater Lake Series in its entirety and feel like the characters have become my friends. Francis Guenette has once again transported me to a part of the world with descriptions so rich, you feel like you can reach out and touch the flora and fauna around Crater Lake. I know the characters have touched my heart. If you love family oriented literature, you will love all of these books.
My review of the Crater Lake Series: “Disappearing in Plain Sight, Book One,” “The Light Never Lies, Book Two,” and “Chasing Down the Night, Book Three,” can be found HERE.
Character Believability: 5
Flow and Pace: 5
Reader Engagement: 5
Reader Enrichment: 5
Reader Enjoyment: 5
Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 stars
Author, Frances Guenette
Francis Guenette has spent most of her life on the west coast of British Columbia. She finds inspiration for writing in the beauty and drama of a lakeshore cabin and garden on the Northern end of Vancouver Island. She shares an off-the-grid home that employs a combination of micro-hydro and solar power with her husband, Bruce.
Between May and September, Billy Bob the Bear drops over to graze and eat huckleberries and salal. Now and then cougar tracks are spotted meandering across the property. Life is good in the hinterlands, but Francis warns – you have to keep your eyes open and know where you are.
Francis has a daughter and a son – both happily married and pursuing interesting careers. She also has two beautiful and wildly funny granddaughters who provide her with inspiration for writing and living.
For most of her working life, Francis has been an educator. She has worked with special needs children and youth and taught at the undergrad level at the University of Victoria. She has a graduate degree in counselling psychology and very nearly completed her Ph.D. There was that pesky matter of the doctoral dissertation, but enough said on that score! She has worked as a trauma counsellor, a researcher, and a graduate student supervisor.
During her academic life, Francis published (on her own and with others) several articles that were accepted to peer-reviewed journals as well as contributing to chapters in two published books.