House of Salt and Sorrows Review

It’s been a little while since I read a book in only a day, but I did devour this one super quickly. I started it September 1st, but without much time to read, I only made it a few chapters in, here and there, until today, when I consumed this book! ⁣⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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I just could not put it down! It was just the right amount of creepy and mysterious and suspenseful. I loved the gloomy but opulent atmosphere, the touches of the fantastic, the gods and tricksters, the sisterly bonds yet mounting tension from stress and grief, and the way I was constantly guessing and being surprised. It was dark and shocking, but with hope and light too. Basically, it was exactly what I was hoping for and more, and definitely a 5-star read. I’m glad this highly anticipated book was not a disappointment for me. 😍⁣⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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I’m not super familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale to know much about how this retelling compares to the original. I’m curious to read the Grimm version and compare them now.

If this sounds like a book you would love, definitely check it out!

Four Dead Queens Review

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 *SPOILER ALERT*

SYNOPSIS

Four dead queens. Three days to catch a killer. Two forbidden romances.
One shocking twist you won’t see coming.

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

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First off, I enjoyed the mystery and atmosphere of this book. From the layered culture that felt like a fun blend of fantasy and sci-fi–kings and queens and carriages mixed alongside holograms and futuristic suits formed from microorganisms that regulate your body temperature, help you heal, etc.–to the murder mystery added into the mix, I was immediately drawn into the concept. After all, fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery are all genres I love to read!

The plot kept me guessing, too. For someone who grew up on Agatha Christie and her ability to ceaselessly shock readers with her books, the ending definitely surprised me. I kept suspecting the inspector, to be honest. At first, I was a little disappointed when Arebella came into the picture…it felt, too obvious. Of course it is Marguerite’s missing daughter! However, I thought the sci-fi-tech twist of Mackiel using Keralie to commit the murders was pretty clever. The clues were all there, and even I failed to see them.

There were, however, a few places where the plot was fuzzy or boring for me. In the beginning, many of the queens’ narratives were slow-paced, because they told rather than showed a lot. There were a few info dumps to explain Quadara’s history, and those dragged for me. A few times I was tempted even to skip the queens’ POV chapters (I didn’t). Then more queens began to die and I was dragged in, wanting to know what was happening and half-hoping one of them would manage to survive.

Another aspect that bothered me was the way time was handled at the end of the story. I found myself a little confused about the passage of time when Keralie and Varin were in the palace–four days passed? It felt like less time. What did they eat? How often did they sleep? It felt a little garbled to me. I understand, now that I’ve read the ending and know what was happening to Keralie, that that was at least partially intentional on the author’s part, but these issues pulled me out of the story a little. It was hard to focus on the action when I was wondering, Where the heck have they gotten food while they’ve been hiding in the palace for four days?

One final thing that really nagged at me was the moment when they overheard the inspector, and he later revealed he’d known they were there. I thought it was weird that he knew but didn’t try to capture and question them sooner. He admitted he thought they were suspicious, but did nothing about it while queens were continuing to die? It was because of things like this that I spent so much time suspecting this guy!

In the end, I found myself desperately wanting Keralie to succeed in her mission to save the queens. It was a bit of a relief to see at least one of them survive, because after it all I felt a little bit more connected to the queens and wanted them to survive. I liked that twist as well, since it gave Marguerite the opportunity to confront her daughter. The plot twists shocked me. I enjoyed watching Keralie’s character develop, and I thought she and Varin were cute together, adding in just enough romance to give us some swoon-worthy moments. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, with a unique genre mash-up that I would like to see more of in books, and I’m interested to see what Astrid Scholte writes next.

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!

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!

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.

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.

Fear. In Life, in Books.

I will not bow to fear.”

-Rachel L. Schade, SILENT KINGDOM Book 3

Yep. I just quoted myself. Because I can. 😉

And I also wanted to give you a sneak peek into what I’m up to in my little writing world.

I’m drafting book three in the SILENT KINGDOM series, and this quote will be featured in it. For sure.

Facing and overcoming fear is a huge part of my main character Halia’s journey, and a big theme of the series.

It’s also a huge part of my own life journey, which is probably why I find I need to write words like this. “I will not bow to fear” needs to be my mantra too. In the hard times of life. In the seasons of change or uncertainty. In the moments where I must choose whether I will step outside of my comfort zone, or settle for mediocrity and less-than.

If you write, do you find–even in fictional pieces–that you write about personal things, or even messages that maybe you need to hear and remember?