I Love You So Mochi Review

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*Spoiler Alert*

This book was exactly the light, romantic, cute book I was looking for. I loved that it also revolved around Japan and learning about Japanese culture–it felt like I was getting to experience some of the tourist spots and try some of the Japanese cuisine along with Kimi. And of course, the theme of family ties–lost, begun, or rekindled–were heart-warming. It was endearing to see Kimi’s grandparents get to know her and for her to get to know them. I loved seeing her bond with them! Maybe, at times, even more than I loved swooning over her budding romance with Akira.

The one thing that consistently frustrated me was how obvious Kimi’s solution was. I felt like I wanted to slap her a few times and yell it in her face. How long will it take you to see that your passion is staring you in the face?! Gah! On the other hand, I understand that the author was painting a picture of just how much Kimi was letting her mother’s dreams for her, as well as her own self-imposed guilt/need to please her mother, were blinding her and taking over her identity.

It was thrilling to watch her embrace her dream with courage. In the end I had the exact fluffy, happy feelings I wanted from a book like this!

Grief on Father’s Day

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To be honest, I’m trying to ignore the fact that it’s Father’s Day. I might have forgotten, if it weren’t for social media. 🙃

But that’s OK, because my dad also deserves to be celebrated. Besides, grief is just a side effect of loving someone in heaven, so if I also grieve today, it’s because he was an absolutely wonderful person.

When I think of my dad, I get a rush of pride that he was mine. He was humorous, strong, loving, and with an amazing heart. He was the type of guy that big, burly men (his fellow corrections officers) and inmates alike wept for when he was gone. As in, sobbed as they shook my hand at the calling hours. At the prison, a former inmate approached my family to tell us how my dad gave him hope and treated all the prisoners like humans who could turn their lives around. This man told us my dad was the reason he now worked at the prison, so he could do the same for others. One inmate painted a portrait of him in his honor. Another wrote a sweet letter to our family.

When I think of my dad, I think of his love for historical books and The Hobbit. I think about how he introduced me to Holes–of COURSE he loved that story, it joines fun “history” of the lake with boys getting second chances and humor–and Agatha Christie books. I think about his laugh and his one-of-a-kind smile. How everyone said he was always saying to “Look on the bright side.” I think about his hugs and how safe they made me feel.

OK, I’m totally not crying now. 🙃

If you’re grieving on Father’s Day, for whatever reason: you’re not alone. And if you’re missing someone in heaven, maybe take time to think about everything you love about them. Yes, it hurts, but it also might make them feel a little closer. ❤

The Wicked King Review

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*Possible spoilers ahead*

I finished 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘒𝘪𝘯𝘨 this morning, so excuse me while I pick up the pieces of my shattered heart off the floor. I can definitely see why many readers enjoyed this book more than 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘳𝘶𝘦𝘭 𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘦, and in some ways I did too. In other ways, I felt like the pace moved a little more slowly for me and I caught myself paying ahead a little now and then, asking, 𝘐𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘬 𝘶𝘱? Then, inevitably, it would. Personally, I like the intrigue and deception and plot twists within the politics, but some of the political meetings dragged for me. I lived for the moments Jude outwitted her opponents, or they would outwit her. You really never know who you can trust in this series, and that’s kind of thrilling for a reader. If you didn’t know this about me already, I live for suspense and mystery in books.

I can also understand more why so many people love Cardan and Jude together. In TCP, the bullying scenes were uncomfortable, and while I UNDERSTAND that they all showed us what most of the faeries are like–cruel tricksters who love to use or abuse or just hate mortals–they didn’t make me want to root for Jude and Cardan too much. Now I can see more of what Cardan is really like underneath the show, and that understanding makes me like him a lot more as a character.

And, honestly, we are dealing with a lot of morally grey characters here in this series, so it’s not like I expect anyone to be squeaky clean. However, I appreciate that Cardan isn’t a killer. Morally grey characters are just that–riddled with dark and light–and they have to draw the line somewhere. I enjoyed learning about this softer side of our wicked king, as well as the fact that perhaps he has been wildly underestimated… We have another clever schemer on the chessboard!

My favorite character is still probably Jude. She’s fierce and focused, brilliant at outwitting her opponents both in a fight and in a court. She may have a dark side, one that kills easily and asks questions later, one that thirsts for power, but she hasn’t totally lost her humanity. Which is also pretty incredible, giving her past and her life in Faerie.

Finally, the cliffhanger…well, that was killer. I am dying to know what is going on inside of Cardan’s head. Actually, to be honest, it would be pretty nice to get a look into a lot of the other characters’ thoughts, because it seems like everyone’s motivations are constantly changing. Or constantly obscured. I’m kind of thankful I put off starting this series until this month, so I have less than 6 months to wait for The Queen of Nothing. 

Which will still feel like an eternity, mind you.

Which book did you like more: The Cruel Prince or The Wicked King?

ROMANOV Review

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THIS BOOK. ⁣
This book made me stay up past midnight last night.⁣
This book made me cry.⁣
This book made me devour pages like a wild woman, needing to know WHAT. HAPPENED. NEXT.⁣
This book gave me all the feels. ⁣
I loved Brandes’ version of Anastasia (“Nastya”), with her courageous heart, logical mind, and sheer willpower in the face of impossible horror and obstacles. She was the kind of teen heroine you want to root for, not the kind that makes you roll your eyes or shake your head, muttering, “What are you even DOING?”
I immediately gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads after finishing it, because if a book can give me all of these feelings and keep me up late into the night, it deserves all of the stars.
This one is going to stick with me.
Thank you for the beautiful, heart-breaking, magical, hope-filled, adventurous ride, Nadine Brandes. ⁣
If you haven’t read Romanov yet, what are you waiting for?! You can check out the synopsis below, or just go ahead and buy it on Amazon here.
Book Synopsis:

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Mother’s Day Grief

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Happy Mother’s Day! ⁣

(Maybe.)⁣

For some of us, today is hard. It’s not that we don’t know mothers who deserve to be celebrated. (We do, oh, we do! And they deserve it SO, so much.) But today comes with grief. Weird mixed feelings that make it a day where you hold back tears. Maybe you feel bad that while others are celebrating and you feel you should wish them a happy day, you really just want to ignore this day altogether. Curl up into a ball, and sleep it away. Or distract yourself so you can pretend it is any other day. ⁣

(Me too.)⁣

You aren’t alone.⁣

So to the women who long to be mothers, but are not able to be: ⁣

To the women who have lost a child or children: ⁣

To those who never met their mothers or have complicated relationships with them: ⁣

To those who have lost their moms: ⁣

It’s OK if you are not OK today. It’s OK to take time to grieve. It’s OK to hurt.⁣ ⁣
It’s OK,⁣
it’s OK,⁣
it’s OK.⁣

Much love, from me. May today shower you with unexpected blessings and joy. 💙

The Power of Books

As a girl, I was in awe of books, and authors who could dream up such fantastic worlds and characters and then describe them so vividly, you could see everything playing out like a movie in your head. I’d stay up late at night turning the pages of an Agatha Christie mystery, too wired on the suspense to sleep. I’d swoon over Mr. Darcy and I’d root for Samwise Gamgee, the unlikely hero and loyal friend, facing the terrors of Mordor to save our other unlikely hero, Frodo Baggins. I even devoured Dickens’s Great Expectations, though I struggle to get through his wordy passages now.

Still, I couldn’t fully appreciate everything an author must go through to produce a single work until I finally, finally, finished Silent Kingdom. Book one was definitely the longest adventure in this series for me thus far; I was brainstorming and writing book two, Forsaken Kingdom, as I edited and revised the first, so FK progressed much faster. SK took years. I started with a terrible short story concept that grew into a far better full-length novel, and then into a series.

Agonizing over the plot, poking it here and there to try to find every possible hole? I’ve done that. Holding my breath as my writing mentor and friend and then my beta readers sent me feedback? Check. Rereading and rereading again, pulling apart sentences to rework them, only to put them back the way they originally were? You bet I’ve done that too.

But perhaps the hardest writing stage was the part where I set my book aside.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in September, I was writing my book in my spare time between the two jobs I worked…while a few miles down the road, my parents were in the accident that took their lives. Through my journey with grief, and maybe especially because I knew I’d been writing–doing something I loved as they died, which felt like the ugliest of ironies–I pushed aside books. I couldn’t read or write as I did before. I couldn’t live or be myself as I did before. Happiness, and anything that brought happiness, felt like guilt. Everything was darkness.

Then, gradually, the light started to return. I remembered how much my parents had believed in me. I remembered who I was again. I couldn’t give it up because they died or I hurt. In fact, that was the greatest reason to embrace my passion again. To make them proud. To make the most of whatever time I had left on earth, when life is so fragile.

I believe most authors have testimonies like that. Every book we write holds a piece of our hearts and souls. Each book is a journey, and it reflects our own life journeys maybe just as much as it reflects our characters’ journeys. And each reader relates to these journeys in their own ways, based on whatever they are going through.

Maybe that, most of all, is what makes books so awe-inspiring to us all.

Just 15 Minutes a Day

The problem with undertaking any big project or goal, including writing a novel, is that it feels massive. (Obviously.)

When I tell myself, “I need to write today,” it’s easy for me to have a long list of excuses…

I’m not feeling inspired right now.

I’m tired.

I don’t have time. 

Maybe later.

It’s hard trying to write books and take that passion seriously, while also working a full-time job. Right? Life gets busy, and it’s unfortunately all-too-easy to push aside what I’ve called a “hobby” for years.

But this year, I want to treat writing as another job. Because it’s not just a hobby to me–it’s a passion. And that means it needs to be a priority.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received for taking my writing seriously is to just carve out 15 minutes each day. That’s all. No matter how busy I get, it’s easy to set aside 15 minutes for something, right?

I mean, I spend more time on my phone at the end of the day, doing absolutely nothing productive. Surely I can sit down and write anything, whether it be writing my book or a blog post or whatever else comes to mind, to keep my creative juices flowing.

And you know what?

It’s totally worked. 

In fact, by giving myself a small, manageable writing goal, I’ve consistently written every day since the end of December, usually for longer periods of time than 15 minutes (because once I start, I realize I do have some ideas floating around in my brain and I do have more than 15 minutes right then to dedicate to writing.

It’s kept my momentum going with my book (Silent Kingdom # 3) and, I hope, will help me continue to strengthen my writing skills. It definitely leaves no room for the “I have writer’s block” excuse.

Because even if I write total crap, I can definitely always write something for 15 minutes, and that means…there is no writer’s block.

If you want it enough, you’ll make the time and find the motivation to do it.

What tips or tricks have helped you accomplish a big goal, writing-related or otherwise?