smoke in the sun by renee ahdieh, a review

34818921_656760461337893_6792604178645516288_n-1SMOKE IN THE SUN by Renee Ahdieh had a book birthday on June 5th! To tell you I was waiting on this sequel with so much anticipation would not do it justice. Almost exactly a year ago I did a review on the first book in this duology, FLAME IN THE MIST.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire

This sequel did not disappoint. I was so excited when Amazon accidentally? sent this to me a few days early so I got a head start on reading it. I had missed spending time with Mariko and Okami, and this book brought me right back into their beautiful word.

I enjoyed getting to know new characters, but much like with the The Wrath & The Dawn duology, I was every-so-slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to know these characters as deeply as the others. At times the book felt a little rushed, and a little unfinished, with the additions. However, I was very, very thankful for the epilogue- because without it I’m not sure I would have loved this book as much as the first. Just being honest, here!

Needless to say, overall, I am waiting to see what Renee Ahdieh has next. I am a huge fan.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, Renee will be in Tempe next Wednesday! I personally can’t wait to go. This will be my first reading/book signing- can you believe it? If you’re there, please make sure to say hi (if you like, of course)!

read across america week

28279245_598121117201828_7012762352416247332_nIt’s READ ACROSS AMERICA WEEK!

Or, at least, I’m making it such in my household. I know Friday (March 2nd) is the official Read Across America DAY. Why? Because that’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday, of course!

Dr. Seuss has always been my go-to for inspiration. Not because his words always ring true (even though they do) or because he’s a favorite (which he is)- but because he persevered as an author.

There are many authors out there who did. J.K. Rowling. Kathryn Stockett. John Grisham. They don’t even skim the surface. But Seuss was one of the first statistics I ever heard that I clung to. He was rejected 27 times. 27. Originally I heard 52, but these days if you google it, it says 27.

STILL.

DR. SEUSS.

THE Dr. Seuss was rejected twenty-seven times before someone finally decided to get his genius out there. Can you imagine having that on your gravestone?

“Here lies John Smith, he rejected Dr. Seuss”

No thanks.

But this week isn’t just about Dr. Seuss. It’s about the importance of reading. My last post was about how books can change and grow with you, and maybe the meaning changes when you re-read them as an adult or as you get older in general.

This is why it is so important to start reading young. Reading to your kids, your friends’ kids, heck- volunteering to visit a classroom or library and read. Kids aren’t going to develop a love of the written word if they are never truly introduced. They will never experience that amazing feeling of being transported into another world, another life- no matter how temporary.

If for some reason you haven’t picked up a book in a while, use this as an excuse to start reading again. Go. NOW. Stop reading this post and pick up a book that you’ve wanted to read but “just haven’t gotten to” and start now.

Reading is so important, even if you’re not a writer. Reading helps you have a longer attention span, it helps you learn, it helps your imagination continue to grow. Reading is amazing.

And if you say you don’t have time to read, tell me you haven’t binge-watched a Netflix show or watched a movie in the last week, month, months. It’s not the same, I get it. Sometimes you need TV to take your mind off things and not have to “work for it.” But… all the time?

I’ll just leave it there so I don’t get some hateful comments or anything. In all seriousness, though, go read! Even if you just pick up your favorite Dr. Seuss book this Friday– that’s still something.

Happy 114th birthday, Dr. Seuss. Your words will forever be timeless.

 

reading books then & now

31527F6E-4D80-4417-B79C-38E6F7F51364There aren’t enough days in the years to read all the books that I wish I could. To enjoy them and then read them again, and again, and again to absorb them. So many books, so little time.

I recently was rereading A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich. An older book, I read it when I was a teenager and it didn’t really stick with me. Reading it now, though, as a mother of three- it stuck.

This is the way with books, I think. As we grow and learn and live, they change with us. Whether they are more or less applicable depends, but the pieces of your soul which they stick to can shift. It’s a beautiful, wondrous thing.

But I wonder, if because there are so many books and so little time, if we all take the time we do have to do this with the books that matter. To reread them, learn from them, understand them better. If we are only reading the new, new, new… if we only read books that are meant for younger readers when we are older or older readers when we are younger, are we benefitting from all the reading?

Yes, I would say. Don’t worry.

We always benefit from reading, but I think if we took more time we could benefit even more. Books help us through things, remind us of others, and help us escape. Every book has a different purpose.

If I hadn’t reread A LANTERN IN HER HAND, I would have missed the heartache of Abbie Deal. When I was younger I was more distracted by the idea of her not chasing her dreams and the fact that the book was very wordy and descriptive (less dialogue). Now, though, I understand and appreciate her sacrifice more than can be explained.

Rereading the HARRY POTTER books, for instance, or THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, with my oldest son- I am picking up on things that I have missed. (This is moreso with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, because I’ve reread HARRY POTTER far too many times.) But each time, the books change for the good and the bad.

I think this proves the (subjective) quality of books. If they stand the test of time, change and yet mean something extraordinary to the reader, they are well worth the time to reread.

What do you think? Do you have any books you have reread that changed with time, or ones you hope/plan to reread?

Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

The Madwoman Upstairs, a review

If you’re a fan of the Bronte sisters, you need to read this book.

[end scene]

 

 

But really. More than anything I want to go and read all of the Bronte works, something I have truthfully not done, in order to study them as much as Catherine Lowell, the author of this book, clearly had to.

However, in particular, if you are a fan of Jane Eyre, as I am– you, more than anyone, need to read this. It makes your mind run with ideas and possibilities, all the while following Samantha and her professor through this journey.

In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she’s rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë’s literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that’s never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn’t exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world’s greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë’s own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

This book took me a little longer to read than my usual speed. One, because I just had a baby, but two because there was so much academia in it and theories that I had to take the time to process it. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily slow you down– but it makes your mind want to pause and truly think it out.

I loved this book for that. And its characters.

The only downfall, I think, with this book is I had a little trouble connecting with Samantha. It wasn’t that she wasn’t likable or she didn’t have human attributes that made you want to connect, it was that I just had a hard time thinking the way she did as she came across on the page.

Regardless, I wish to get to know the Brontes…and then read this book again. You should, too.

 

flame in the mist by renee ahdieh, a review

IMG_9142If you’ve read my reviews of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, you know I’m a big Renee Ahdieh fan. Her use of history and periods of time, with a fantastical twist, are beautifully done to the point that I’m not always sure I’m ready a version of fantasy. She weaves her worlds and characters in a way that suck you in immediately, so I was more than excited when I found out she was writing another series.

I finished Flame In The Mist in a mere 32 hours, and I’ll forever be grateful for that because it was right before my new little man came into the world. Here’s the Goodreads description:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I loved this book because it threw me for a few loops I wasn’t expecting, something her previous duology did as well. Mariko was a very strong character, and initially I thought her love interest might be someone who it didn’t turn out to be. I loved how torn she was between her blood-relatives and, in the end, a new found family.

If you loved Renee Ahdieh’s previous works, I highly recommend this new read. An interest in Japanese culture is also a plus, as this weaves in some very beautiful peaces of dress, food, honor, and more.

Go read it!

 

 

month of me- in review (nonfiction)

IMG_7876I’m so sorry it’s been two Tuesdays without a blog post, y’all. I’m in the final countdown of baby #3 showing up, plus we just had family visiting for my husband’s graduation, and there was soooo much going on! I thought I planned ahead, but goodness I guess not.

How have y’all been? I’m backtracking a little bit today.

For the month of April I decided to take a leap and break from my norm.  Before last month, I couldn’t tell you when the last time was that I truly read a nonfiction book. Maybe around two years ago? I really couldn’t be sure.

I don’t always adore nonfiction. I really appreciate encouraging books that help relate to you when you’re in a tough spot, or books that are refreshing to read to remind you of what’s important or… you know what I mean? But beyond that, I’m not a nonfiction guru. I’ve read a biography or two, but nothing too serious. I tend to stick to fiction.

April was going to be different. I realized that my list of nonfiction reads (mostly relating to motherhood) had  become exceptionally long, but they always seemed to get pushed to the bottom of my list. Instead of continuing to put them off, I knew it was time that I read at least one– two max– that gave me some of the vibes and spiritual guidance I needed in that part of my life.

(I understand that this might not relate to many of you, so if you’re still reading– thanks for sticking with me!)

The two books I chose were: Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist and Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly.

While these two were pretty similar, they were wildly different. I loved them both so very much, but the one I related to the most right now was Present Over Perfect. I don’t get super personal on this space all the time; it’s mostly for writing and reading adventures. However, this book was pretty personal, so hang on if you wish to keep reading!

In this day and age it’s really hard to be a professional of any kind that requires marketing. (See previous posts on marketing as an author.) You need a platform, social media skills, and so much more. And the thing is, lots of that work needs to be put in before you even have a book (business, blog, site, etc.) out there. So, a lot of the time, you’re putting in A LOT of work that you’re not really being paid for. Sometimes it might not seem like work to others, and sometimes it might feel more like a burden than blessing to you.

This book really brought that to the forefront. While there’s so much more to it, it was about being present. I tend to look at my to-do list of a clean house, blog post, IG post, a few tweets, lessons, and activities– and forget to just enjoy the moments that are presented to me.

I hate to admit it, but this book made me realize just how addicted I am to social media… and a lot of time, that social media isn’t worth the moments I’m missing.

Sure, social media is a great way to connect, learn, and grow in many ways. I love connecting with other authors and book-lovers and so forth– but I don’t have to be doing it all the time, to the point that I miss other important things.

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life.”

The other thing it can do is give us all a complex. If you don’t have as many followers or likes or consistency, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Is it a waste of time? Do you need to invest more time so you have an account equivalent to that other writer? Does this mean you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing?

“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, you don’t get the pen back. Not easily, anyway.”

When it comes down to it, we all have to prioritize and really take the time to slow down and enjoy the world that is closest to us. Maybe this isn’t a popular opinion, but it really is what radiated from the pages of this book to me.

This is why I might have missed the last two blog posts, and why my trackback thursdays haven’t been present as of late–because in the end it came more important to sit with family I hadn’t seen in almost two years than to worry about making a self-made deadline.

But don’t take that the wrong way. I love you guys. I’m getting back on track with it all. Thanks for your patience.

I highly recommend this book. Take some time for you and sloooooow down!

 

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.

Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

Dream Eater book review

IMG_5575Happy book birthday to K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater! I did a cover reveal for this book a few months ago, hosted a post from the very author, and now I finally get to share my review with y’all!

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact–a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee–transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I read through this book pretty quickly when I received it. I was very excited about the Japanese folklore inside, as I have little to no knowledge of it and was eager to learn and explore alongside the characters. Koi quickly drew me in with her hermit-like tendencies and desire to not touch anyone. It was easy to get sucked into what was going on, fast.

Kept entertained through the book, I only had trouble following sometimes as it was hard to figure out what was going on with Koi and the dream fragments from time to time. Once more, I also really wanted more character development from her sister, her father, and even Koi herself. Thankfully I know this is the first in a series, so I’m hoping more comes to life through more books!

My favorite part of this book was the descriptiveness. It was so easy to see Koi, the other characters, and the surroundings.

As Koi drew closer to accepting who she was and interacting more with those around her, it grew harder and harder for me to put the book down. Needless to say, I will definitely be looking forward to the rest of the series!