Call It What You Want Review

4.5 Stars

*I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher. This is my honest review.*

**I tried to keep this review SPOILER-FREE**

This is only my second Brigid Kemmerer book, and I think it has solidly placed her among my favorite authors.

I loved the way she dealt with grey areas and controversial topics with grace and compassion. This story covered a variety of characters in a variety of situations and struggles. None of the main characters were fully innocent, but they were all relatable and all people you wanted to root for.

Characters like Rob and Maegan are held accountable for their mistakes, but they also have second chances to make things right. All of the topics Kemmerer covered, she handled well by showing that there are always two sides to every story. She didn’t skim over difficult topics or problems real teens might have to wrestle with. Instead, she faced them head-on. It was refreshing to see her characters address them with honesty and always work to pursue what was right.

We see consequences for bad choices and we see realistic struggles even for good choices made. I will say that I saw one of the big plot twists coming, but it didn’t really seem to take away from the book overall, so I only took off a half star. (Because personally, I like to be surprised.)

I look forward to reading more of Kemmerer’s work!

The Big 2-9!

It’s the first day of summer! And it’s my birthday! 🎊🎂☀️⁣
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To be honest, I’ve kind of dreaded turning 29 for most of this year. Maybe some of last year. If I’m being honest. 😉 (One of the books in this photo seems to be telling me I should be.) ⁣
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I expected to be somewhere more “settled” by now. After all, aren’t your twenties the years you’re expected to be figuring life out and progressing to the stages of marriage, successful career, home ownership, and parenthood? I have accomplished one of those things, and I’m pushing toward my thirties. ⁣
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Oops.⁣
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But then I stopped to think about everything that I actually have accomplished. I may be struggling to figure out my career, to settle into a new state, and to chase my dreams, but I’m doing it. My husband and I moved across the country to start over and pursue a better life for ourselves. A better chance at some of those other things on that above list. ⁣
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I’ve survived trauma and loss, picking out my parents’ coffins at an age when most of my peers were picking out their wedding colors. It was awful, but I 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥. I helped my baby brother graduate homeschooled high school when Mom and Dad were no longer there to teach and encourage him. (He worked so hard and I am incredibly proud of the courageous young man he is!) I ran a marathon before I turned 26. (My boss best friend was beside me the whole way.) I recovered from the anxiety induced by a car accident that broke my leg, and continued to drive. (Who knew driving could be an act of bravery?) I’ve published 2 novels and a children’s book, and I’m working on my third novel. ⁣
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This is not meant to be me bragging…I just want to remind myself (and others) that sometimes success isn’t the cookie cutter look we make it out to be. (Seriously. Make a list of the amazing things YOU have accomplished, if you are feeling a little “behind” like me. Also note that none of those things I accomplished were done on my own. TEAM EFFORT, always.) For me, I have spent my 20s loving even when it hurt, pursuing hope even when I didn’t think I wanted to be alive anymore, and fighting for my family. Now I’m entering a period where I get to fight for my dreams.⁣
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I am privileged to have experienced so much wonderful love in my life. I am privileged to have the chance to start over, even at age 29. I am privileged to be able to read and write books, to enjoy the bookstagram community, to be breathing today. To know my Mom and Dad loved and still love me more than I can comprehend, and instilled the strength I need to survive whatever life throws at me. To have a God who carved stories in my heart and gifted me with passion and hope and joy. To have a husband who holds me when I grieve and rejoice. To have a close-knit family who united to overcome pain together, and to have friends who are as dear as family and who have walked with me through my best and worst days. ⁣
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Yes, 29 may feel like an age when I should have a beautiful house or a thriving career. But I think what I have is much bigger than a pretty home or a fancy job. 💕 ⁣What are some amazing things you have accomplished that might fall outside the “expected” milestones for your age? And which amazing people were there for you along the way?

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. ⁣
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This book made me stay up past midnight last night.⁣
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This book made me cry.⁣
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This book made me devour pages like a wild woman, needing to know WHAT. HAPPENED. NEXT.⁣
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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?”
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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.
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Thank you for the beautiful, heart-breaking, magical, hope-filled, adventurous ride, Nadine Brandes. ⁣
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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! ⁣
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(Maybe.)⁣
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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. ⁣
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(Me too.)⁣
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You aren’t alone.⁣
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So to the women who long to be mothers, but are not able to be: ⁣
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To the women who have lost a child or children: ⁣
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To those who never met their mothers or have complicated relationships with them: ⁣
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To those who have lost their moms: ⁣
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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.⁣
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Much love, from me. May today shower you with unexpected blessings and joy. 💙⁣