This Isn’t Rush Hour – a REview of Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

We’ve been doing a lot of re-views lately, haven’t we? HOWEVER something new did come out of this.

A book I loved and thought I was devoted to wound up disappointing me.

When her aunt’s diner shuts down, Hope Yancey moves with her to a diner needing a pick-me-up in Wisconsin. A few days after the two of them start working there they discover that the owner, G.T., decided to run for mayor once he discovered he had cancer. Hope then gets swept up in a whirlwind with the other teens of the town to campaign against the corrupt mayor and help the town out financially in as many ways as possible. But when your mayor is a corrupt moneybags giant, you bet they have ways to stiffen morale.

Back when I read this I was 14, got intrigued by the title and bought this at the book fair. I think I was reading this during an election period myself? Regardless, this was a very touching and heartwarming book that nearly made me cry towards the end, seeing Hope find a family instead of wishing for her own to find her again.

Clearly back then I didn’t know what good storytelling was.

The plot itself was great, very compelling and hit me in the right places again on the second read. It was very interesting to see the twists, turns and processes mentioned in the election campaign and you the corrupt mayor fought back. That side of things made for a very interesting plot in spite of its simplicity.

But then we get to problems I didn’t see back when I was 14. First off, it was rushed. Crazy rushed. That made a lot of those moments last not nearly as long as I wanted them to. How dare. And this was more rushed than in other novels, which is surprising. I should’ve known based on how thin the book was, but I’ve read novels with same page number and yet bigger font sizes that had more cohesively paced stories than this.

Second, I don’t get why it was told from Hope’s point of view. Not only is she a Mary Sue in this novel, but she has no agency relating directly to the plot. I think only one problem in this novel relating to the main plot was solved by her. And when she said she found her family and people to care for her at the end of the novel, I was struggling to find the moments that claimed so.

The other characters weren’t greater either. Not only did this include love-interest-exists-only-to-make-the-lead-feel-horny syndrome, but none of the other characters aside from the villain had any personal and clear goals except for maybe one of the other waitresses at the diner. Even the main character, as mentioned before. The entire town was full of plot vessels. Terrible storytelling.

So I think I had my head in the clouds. And this book which I have kept for eight years will find a new home at a charity thrift shop.

Hope Was Here gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a story that took place in such a boring town before.

Yours in writing



Do You Want To Save The Planet? – a review of The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler

I never had a desire to read sci fi. Proper sci fi, more than just the dystopian novels I’ve read that border on the genre. But this book seemed simple and intriguing enough for my little brain, so I gave it a go.

With Earth’s ecosystem on the brink of collapse, Jo and her family have trained for years to settle onto another habitable planet. But after an accident that killed Jo’s brother and gave her high blood pressure, Jo is no longer fit to live her dream on this new world and pilot ships of colonists. Without a purpose in her life, Jo soon finds one as she discovers the company that runs the colonisation lied. On what was thought to be a planet with no known alien civilizations, Jo discovers two at war. This blows things out of proportions that could threaten the new planet they boarded to ecologically collapse just as Earth is about to.

Mediocre characters were brought down even further by tedious dialogue. Every character was defined by a single trait, maybe two if they were lucky – including the love interest just there to make sure a romance exists even though the chemistry was clunky. This was especially sickening in the prologue when the dialogue was full of whacky quips that are exposition in the world’s worst disguise. This continued to an awkward level throughout the rest of the novel – the aliens talking in very formal English, the smart one using long words and sentences, the love interest making a “quirky” nickname for the girl he has a crush on. This made out like tween movie dialogue.

While the world was beautiful, the worldbuilding was ugly. This was in spite of things being very well explained and easy to read. A lot of stuff didn’t make sense – like why the alien cultures on the planet were written so oriental, the intentions of certain characters and why they were blind to certain things, why certain people were trusted and not others. This made the stunning and unique world that the story was placed on feels like rhinestones instead of diamonds.

However, the plot was one that kept you on your toes. Information found in unexpected yet sensible places, plot developments I didn’t quite see coming and a linear form that made sense. It was very easy to read and follow along with as a result and definitely the strongest part of this novel. That was because it didn’t rely on fancy sci fi jargon or features to tell a decent story, and this novel being my first dive into science fiction I am thankful for that.

But it’s ultimate falling point is the number of cliches featured. Alien cultures being framed orientally was the big one, but every personality in this novel felt like a cliche. The colonization tropes were cliches, including the whole thing about Earth’s ecosystem being destroyed. It’s a truth I’m sick of, apparently. But the biggest cliche of all was how infatuated everyone was with NASA. So many people with NASA shirts that it felt like an ad. Thank god NASA wasn’t on the cover.

In conclusion, this wasn’t what I hoped my first proper dive into sci fi novels was going to be. I’ll see you in a few reviews time to see if it gets better.

The Pioneer gets a score of 2.5/5. No wonder Earth died – all of its former inhabitants have no personality for the planet to care for it back.

Yours in writing



An Expert Balancing Act – a review of All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers

Being an indie author myself, it shocked me to realise that I hadn’t read a lot of books by other indie authors. I can count the number on one hand. Yikes. And so I set to read my fifth book by an indie author – one who I recently discovered is a fellow Authortuber!

And it’s a banger, you guys! What a book to review as my last one of 2021! (Happy New Years Eve, by the way).

Azanthea is ruled by a God-king, and in this novel we follow six people deemed his traitors. A young teen in recent possession of a Godstone, and a brother protecting him. An orphan fugitive seeking somewhere to be safe, and a soldier fighting between the safety of his wife and his daughter. An heir seeking to overthrow the God-King, and one forced to prove her loyalty to him to survive. These six seek not only the powers they hold, but that of the God-King. His political sway, his array of powers and what may ultimately defeat him. Each of these six may hold a key to defeat him.

Instantly, the magic system and worldbuilding hooked me in. Godstones are wielded by the first person to touch them, manipulating the elements around them. And they came about at the end of the first version of humanity. Firstly, this is one of my favourite kinds of fantasy, where magic is the primary function within the world. And Rivers creates such a unique take on the typical elemental-style casting. The rules surrounding the magic system and the world as a whole are perfectly written, without the need to reference any appendixes or look back and forth between pages. All of it is understandable and totally memorable.

Rivers is further an expert of her novel’s balancing act when it comes to her characters. Six characters with POVs are in this novel and each are explored expertly. In their arcs, in their relevances and in their depth she excels. Writing a large cast of POV characters, and in fact reading, intimidates me. There is too much to keep track of and too little time to understand these characters well. In contrast, this book was an ease to read, keep track of everyone and explore their minds. Each of their charms and motives were very easy to explore and there wasn’t a single character I wasn’t invested in.

Narrative was another aspect used very well. Tension and exploration was very well balanced, and in spite of the many characters everything was revealed with poise and at just the right time for the story to appear cohesive. Tense scenes bunched up together expertly. When characters’ paths converged, the perspectives were used so appropriately that it was uncanny. This book indeed feels perfectly written and I have no complaints whatsoever.

Actually I do have one; I wish book two was out already!

All the King’s Traitors gets a score of 5/5. Expect big things from this series.

Yours in writing



Only Humans – a review of The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak has written my favourite book of all time, The Book Thief. I have read one of his other works prior, Bridge of Clay, and wasn’t amazed admittedly. This made me wonder if the Book Thief was the sole place where Zusak peaked.

After reading The Messenger, I decided he is just that good of an author.

Ed Kennedy wants to be more than an underage taxi driver, but he has never found the chance to do so. However, after he stops a bank robbery – albeit a pathetic one – everything changes. His week of fame ends with a single envelope address to him appearing in his letterbox; the ace of clubs with three addresses written on it. With nothing better to do, Ed decides to visit these addresses. And so he spirals into an obsession with these cards and unhealthy selflessness.

Zusak always masters narrative voice in his works, and Ed is no exception. What is most noticeable in The Messenger, however, is the evolution of the voice with the character. As the story went on, so did the depth of Ed’s thoughts and the sheer poetry of what was going on around him. It is very natural for narrative voice to evolve as a story goes on, as an author’s style is very literally improving with each paragraph. But Zusak goes a step further with distinguishable ways that Ed changes in the novel. It makes the words really feel like his thoughts. Zusak flourishes his perfection of writing in first person.

His mastery of characters expands even further to the wide cast in this book. It is very literally showing the characters changing and opening up as Ed takes each of them on different character arcs. It is quite a mission to connect so many short stories so expertly as Ed changes the lives of twelve different people and their families. They were all raw. They were all real. They were all relatable. I felt like I collected their hearts and tenderly loved them all.

But what I especially loved was how it was all laced together. The card game. Well, as it is on the surface. Contemporary stories can be unusual for me, because they focus on very regular things in life and either oversell or undersell what goes on. This was a story about people making do in a small Australian town and not reaching their goals or dreams. And all it took was one person to connect them to their needs. It is a story that truly showed the human condition and how that small thing connects us and is how we evolve. Just by needing that small push, that agent to guide you on the right path. To make yourself.

If you don’t read it, you won’t understand what I’m on about. Pick up a copy right now. You’ll regret it if you don’t. This book was a lucky find in a second hand shop that is worth gold.

The Messenger gets a score of 5/5. Markus Zusak again makes a favourite of mine.

Yours in writing



Easy A made me do it- a review of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

My first inclination that this novel existed was back in Year 10 of high school in which our class watched the acclaimed teen comedy Easy A. It was an enjoyable movie, and when I found this piece of classic literature again on my Nintendo DS game I suddenly became interested in the material this film was inspired off of.

In the Puritan New England, Hester Prynne has been marked with the letter “A” for adultery after giving birth to a daughter of unknown parentage, facing public humiliation in her town for what she has done. She can only be freed from this humiliation is she reveals the child’s father, but her husband refuses to let her speak of it for he will also be punished. What follows is a life of ostracization for Hester and her daughter Pearl, as they both embrace and resent the reputation the Scarlet Letter brings to them. However, they may not be the only ones facing such burden…

I liked this novel for how it told of the roles played by man, women and child – just to name a handful – in such a society. Each was subject to alienation – by self, by society and by birth respectively. Just to see how each of these characters reacted to such things was intriguing. Father Dimmesdale going mad, Hester taking her’s in stride, and young Pearl oblivious to it.

The narrative was viewed through one valuable and terrifying lens – manipulation. Blackmail. Something so universally terrifying from even so long ago. The balance between righteousness and security. Though I experience it from a very modern perspective, I related to this theme a fair amount. I feel guilty for doing things that offer me security but ultimately feel wrong. And the symbolism of the novel really showcased this, powerful imagery that left me spooked.

However, there were times where I was unsure what was happening. This may have largely been to the writing style and how Hawthorne would add detail to certain routines, occasional backstory and heavy internal monologue. This can be a big turn off for me at times, often what makes me finish a book or rate it under average. Luckily I was able to work out the plot of the novel towards its end and connect the various dots. The fact that I could still understand the story as a result proved to be a very valuable part of finishing this novel in the end, especially during a year where there were novels that didn’t make sense at any time. I very much merit the Scarlet Letter for that.

I look forward to connecting the dots and seeing the greater value of the story when I reread it. Maybe then I may rate the novel higher, but we shall see.

The Scarlet Letter gets a score of 3/5. I’m willing to give this book a second try in a couple of years time, but for now I am satisfied.

Yours in writing



Slice of Life – a review of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Amy Rosenfeldt’s reading the classics now? Indeed I am! After find I had Nintendo’s version of a Kindle stored in my wardrobe (a DS game cartridge filled with nothing but classical literature) I’ve decided it was time I read more that the four-or-so books that I wound up finishing when I was 14.

Starting off with Little Women. Over the course of a year waiting for their father to return home from the Civil War, sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March devout the year to self improvement. Meg pledges to lose her fancifulness, Jo to keep control of her temper and sharp mouth, Beth to remove her envy and Amy to be more selfless. In the year of their quest shouldering these burdens, they are finally acquainted with their neighbour Laurie. Together, their kinship develops as they together come of age.

This is a very modern perspective, obviously, on classical literature. This will be a learning curve to discover the tropes and such within the classics.

The characters were very much a strength in this novel. Each of the March sisters and their friends felt very well rounded, and at times mature for their age and the way that they thought. They were self aware of flaws they had, which were developed along with flaws invisible to them. It was fascinating to see the different paths each sister wanted to take during that time, maybe a reflection of the possibilities of what women were capable of then. I’d imagine Alcott to be a feminist of her time, as I feel modern authors struggle to display females in such a light today. Yes, I’m willing to throw that shade.

I have no idea if this is a trope within classical literature, but a lot more story was told through dialogue than anything else. That’s a little bit on the nose when major writing advice I have heard is “show don’t tell” and dialogue is the primary way to do so in this novel. Instead of seeing certain events through the perspective of the characters in real time, those events were at times melo-dramatised in dialogue. It really made me gloss over such retellings. Lengthy dialogue is very off putting for me, and it made me gloss over what may have been very important details.

The chapters felt very episodic, and I’m very neutral about this. The great thing was that each chapter had a mini narrative with each chapter having a development and purpose – the ideal way for chapters to be written. It definitely felt like things were happening. At the same time, many of the chapters up until the final five or so chapters felt more like short stories taking place in the same world. So I couldn’t tell when a chapter felt particularly necessary. That’s not to say they weren’t bad. Each was wholesomely enjoyable. I just wish I knew how they led up to the grand scheme of things.

My main verdict for this novel would be that I can see what makes it appealing and how it stood the test of time to still be a very loved piece of fiction. But of course I have my biases being less acquainted with classical literature. A score in the middle range means I could keep it or not, and I think I will keep this story. It was very pleasant indeed.

Little Women gets a score of 3/5. A very pleasant first dive into classic literature.

Yours in writing



…What? – a review of Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

In recent years of reviewing and reading historical fiction books I’ve found that a writing style can make or break a book. It can make me fall in love with it like the Book Thief or I will end up hating how confusing it made the story like with Catch 22.

Warlight’s writing style just made me confused.

14-year-old Nathaniel’s parents have left him and his older sister in the care of a man they named the Moth in the wake of World War II. During this time where Nathaniel comes of age and begins to define himself, he learns that his upbringing and what he envisioned of his family was built upon lies.

The truth is… I don’t know. You can already guess that the writing style contributed to it, but let’s cover a little bit more first.

This novel was framed to be a solid narrative and to have a conclusion, and while I was given the pieces to put the puzzle together I was unable to solve it. And with this being a semi-mystery, you’d at least expect that answer to be spat in your face. I more so know what happened in Nathaniel’s mother’s past, but I still don’t know who she is or the conclusions made after those events in her past were revealed. I didn’t even sound like Nathaniel himself, who was studying his mother’s history, was happy with the outcome or got the full picture. I got a better outcome from this with Catch-22, one of my most hated books of all time, because of how unreadable it was and how often I didn’t know what was going on. And yet, it was easier to follow than Warlight.

And yet this book I don’t hate as much as Catch-22. The writing style and prose was very beautiful and often individual chapters felt very mesmerising to read. Single scenes or chapters were mesmerizing and the inner thoughts and observations of Nathaniel were great to explore in the moment. The moments he spent in his affair were among my favourites and the moments where the story felt the most relatable. This is the one redeeming quality of this novel.

I simply cannot express my confusion more! It was more than the plot that made me think this. Were any of the characters visually described in any way? No. Did the plot match the blurb and what I expected from the novel? No. Was the direction the story was going in clear at any point? No. I am convinced the author was literally piecing together random bits of poetic prose and moments into some form of an underdeveloped narrative barely worthy of the title. I for the life of me do not know what was going on in this whole novel. The writing style mase it a great hassle to read behind flowery prose.

And again, its nonlinear nature wasn’t the problem! Why the hell don’t nonlinear narratives state more clearly the order that everything is going in, clear definitions of whether the chapter is taking place in the past or the future? In or out of the narrative? So far half the books I have read with a non-linear narrative are near impossible to read.

And now I ask is that too much to ask for?

Warlight gets a score of 2/5. Did this book make it onto Sparknotes for me to get a grasp of? I’m not gonna read them anyway. Just curious.

Yours in writing



Knock-off fantasy Star Wars – a review of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I love me a good urban fantasy. It’s these kind of books that made me fall in love with storytelling, from the light and fluffy Rainbow Magic middle grade series to Percy Jackson and Brigid Kemmerer’s Elementals series. Those last two novels even got me into my love writing and motivated me to become an author!

So I decided to take on the next big young adult urban fantasy series of our time. And honestly, I am very confused after reading that first book.

City of Bones takes place in New York, in which young Clarissa “Clary” Fray has recently starting seeing things going on. Fae, lycanthropes, demons. And the Shadowhunters, a group meant to keep the nastiest of them from wreaking havoc on the mortal realm. After her mum gets abducted from such demons, Clary discovers her hidden lineage and connection the Shadowhunters and must unlock her inner potential to save her.

Except, she doesn’t. Everyone in the book says she goes out and does stuff, crediting her for four times as much as what she actually does. For the protagonist of this series, I’d assume, Clary doesn’t do shit! She spends more time looking at her crush Jace defend her than she actually does trying to help out. She claims she is so desperate to help her mother out, but not desperate enough to stop spectating and actually do something. Furthermore, she would be considered a Mary Sue if it weren’t for her sharp tongue, grudges and hypocritical help-outs. Otherwise, she is barely considered a personality. I couldn’t tell you anything about her except her barely touched on hobbies of reading and drawing.

I don’t think the plot helped her out either. It seemed to rely on other people doing things for her – information from this warlock here, having these celestials help her out there, making sure Jace is always protecting her… Some of the things this plot did felt very bizzare in terms of narrative, and boy I have a big one. They literally pulled a Star Wars. What part of it? Well, that’s spoiler territory, but if you read it then you know what I mean. When this happened in the book, when the “Star Wars” was revealed, I literally laughed out loud. This was supposed to be one of the most dramatic parts in the book, apparently, and I burst into giggles behind my mask on the bus. It literally felt like a joke and Clare took it so seriously!

But one thing it sort of had going, maybe the novel’s only redeeming quality, was the worldbuilding. You could tell this was where the most attention was put into, the careful thoughts about which areas and cultures of New York would feature which kind of magical creatures living in plain site. Even the creatures themselves had potential. I really enjoyed seeing how each parts connected, the mundane with the magical. And they featured very interesting takes for sure.

Too bad it was hidden behind a mediocre writing style. It was laced with filler words, pop culture references that will date it, and poor attempts at picking apart Clary’s mind deep enough. The style just doesn’t feel like it’s making an effort enough. It is such a shame because I know this works! I’ve seen concepts of this nature done really well, and City of Bones is in its shadow because its writing style among other more terrible things let it down. Dimension 20’s D&D campaign, The Unsleeping City, shares similar vibes with City of Bones and yet outdoes it in all aspects. If you want fairies and demons in New York, just go watch that. It is very easy to watch even for people new to D&D.

Apparently the rest of the books in the Shadowhunters series are far better, but book one has left me completely unmotivated. I am left genuinely wondering how this series got so loved from such a poor start.

City of Bones gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a more average book than this to date. And then Star Wars happened.

Yours in writing



Colorfully Moral Grey – A review of Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Dystopia, science fiction in general, has never been a great point of interest for me. The Hunger Games never appealed to me, I found the first book in the Divergent series solid but not captivating and I grew up with a dad who had an unhealthy Star Wars obsession. If I would pick up a science fiction book, it would more likely be a dystopian.

Why? I find it the most insightful within the science fiction sub genre. In books such as those we learn far better about the human condition than a space opera, for example, and I find great value in that.

Therefore, Scythe is worth its mass in gold.

Humanity has achieved a state of immortality and perfection, aside from one aspect. Population growth. Nobody dies of old age or disease or accidents anymore. Only the Scythes have control over who dies, a group of specially trained humans who statistically cull the population to meet the demands of resources and match the statistics of the A.I. the Thunderhead. Two teens are taken under the apprenticeship of a Scythe, and Citra and Rowan soon learn of the responsibility and the moral grounds held by these people. But these beliefs are not shared, as the two soon find corruption within the Scythedom that threatens a seemingly perfect balance. And soon, they are put under a fate no Scythe’s apprentice has ever gone through before. One apprentice may become a Scythe, but the other shall live no longer.

From the very first page this was filled with insights deeper than oceans. I was so here for it! Shusterman perfectly captured concepts and insights surrounding suffering, mortality and privilege in this world to the point where this future version of Earth was so alien and yet so familiar. These comparisons being made really emphasised it, sometimes a bit too on the nose but in a young adult novel that is just fine. It was especially fascinating to see such varying perceptions of death and how it compares to a very linear perspective today – they use statistics, religion and sympathy in the Scythedom variously to determine how one in “gleaned”. In a world like that in Scythe, it really puts into perspective how much weight we put on death today in all that we do. Fascinating stuff.

Let’s talk about our main characters, Rowan and Citra. They were clearly written as Everyman characters – ones with personalities easy enough to relate to everyone while still able to be described. Like Luke Skywalker. I was fascinated at how my perceptions on them shifted over time, how I favoured Rowan over Citra initially but by the end of it I favoured Citra more. I think it was because I liked Rowan’s character more but Citra’s arc and journey better. I was glad to experience both of my favourite character experiences in one book – liking a character the moment they’re introduced and falling in love with a character by how they grow. This is what I love to read!

I also enjoyed how far this novel strays from the typical sci-fi and dystopia that brought along its popularity in the early 2010s. This isn’t about teens overthrowing an unfair system, but teens working and learning to make the system fair from the inside. At least that’s what the conclusion lead me to believe. I’m not saying I will be mad if this turns into another government overthrow narrative, because I know that Shusterman will make it work. His main focus and theme in this novel surrounds morality, but the spectrum of it instead of a right and wrong. I think that’s what makes this novel appeal to me so much. I may be cutting this review short, but I think I can summarise all the is complex and valuable in this book in such a short few paragraphs without spoilers.

And as soon as I finished reading this book, I bought the rest of the series. I am looking forward to 2022 solely from the fact that I will be reading the other two books Thunderhead and The Toll. The hype is real!

Scythe gets a score of 5/5. Nothing better explores the human condition than death.

Yours in writing



Harmonious End – A review of Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer

I’ve never finished a novel within a week. That’s either indicative of a short page count or a really good read, especially when my average for a really good book is two weeks.

So how did finishing Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer within a week fair up?

In the final installment of the Elementals series we focus on the oldest brother of the Merrick family, Michael. With the Guides seeking to exterminate his family and his allies and their presence looming ever closer, his concern of keeping everyone safe has him losing sleep. But as his entire street is set on fire by the Guides, his girlfriend Hannah is put at risk and Michael himself is suspected of arson. He must choose whether him and his loved ones should run and hide or stand up against the Guides before the entire county gets subject to a warped perspective of the greater good.

This would be the first book in the series to go outside of a high school and the formal classed “young adult” perspective, instead being classed more as an adult perspective as the audience grew up. But it was an interesting adult perspective, as the two main characters, Mike and Hannah, became adults and acting parents arguably too soon. This really highlighted and heightened the stakes when each of them had so much at risk. From the get go I was thoroughly engaged with what was present because I knew the stakes from the first word. This made for very action packed and harrowing moments. It really felt like the final book of the series as a result.

Kemmerer continues to succeed with her characters and their relationships, even without the typical narrative of finding love but instead having a preexisting relationship be explored. There is something really relatable and incredible about a story of losing everything you’ve built up, as a reality or as a threat. The inner thoughts of each characters’ POV were very insightful and engaging, especially seeing their respective struggles.

In terms of the plot, this plot was probably the best of the whole series. As mentioned before, the stakes felt so real here. I also liked how various plot points from the rest of the series were tied in to this – the arsonry from Book 2, Hunter’s family involvement from Book 3, Adam and Tyler from Book 4, and of course the grounds based in Book 1. I would have hoped that the partners of the main brothers were a bit more involved with the plot rather than some of them being supportive and this book being the big finale – especially Becca, being a Fifth herself. But I was still very pleased with how it ended and won’t complain about that.

In fact, I don’t think I have any complaints. This is rare. Other 5 star books on my site would have very minor complaints, but my only complaints as seen previously is minor squared. It is rarely that a final installment in a series would go so right. But this one did.

Sacrifice gets a score of 5/5. I couldn’t think of a better end to this series which I literally grew up through high school and university with.

Now we gotta rate the whole series! You’ll also catch my reviews of the first 2 books which I read before my blogging journey, albeit short.

Storm – 5/5, loved the characters, loved the plot. A breath of fresh fantasy air for 17 year old me.

Spark – 4/5, characters started to lack a little bit, but this plotline was something else.

Spirit – 4/5, absolutely incredible until the climax was rushed.

Secret – 3.5/5, an amazing blossoming romance that sadly wasn’t tied with the overarching plotline.

Sacrifice – 5/5, brand new and mature takes on pre existing elements to conclude the series.

If you want romance with high stakes set in a contemporary fantasy environment, this is the series for you. Kemmerer expertly portrays romances with deep connections in high risk settings across all books in this series. She understands her characters well, even greater when they have connections to their powers and how they are personified. While the plots get mixed up in places, the stakes are always very real. Even for it being a fantasy, it feel so damn real. This will definitely be one of my favourite series of all time. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Elementals series gets a score of 4/5. This one’s a keeper.

Yours in writing


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The 5 Worst Things I’ve Seen in Books

So I’ve read a lot. Maybe not as much as other people, but at least this year so far I’ve read one book every three weeks on average. I’m expecting to read three more books this year than I’ve set for my reading goals!

That being said, there is good, bad and ugly in books. Today we’re covering the ugly. The worst things I’ve read in books ever. Ones that turned 4 star reads to 1 or 2 star reads. And I’ve got five of them.

The Pointless Journey

We all know about the Macguffin quest. The quest to obtain a certain object that will grant the wielder a valuable power in completing their goals. Most of the plot of the book revolves around finding this item, and by the time they get it we have the climax.

But what if there was no object?

I read a book in which the plotline was about winding up in a magical realm while in their home realm a war occurred which the main characters had to return to to stop. It would’ve been fine if it developed into a Macguffin quest, in which their hardships earned them an item in the magical world key to stopping the war, but they got nothing out of it. Basically my time was thoroughly wasted.

More so, the novel got 4 stars on Goodreads when I only gave it one star. How the hell did people still like such a pointless journey?

The One-Chapter climax

A novel is typically made or broken during its climax. This is where everything comes together in a long, heartfelt quest or battle to right the wrongs and conquer all there is to conquer. It’s edge-of-your-seat territory.

I read a book where the climax was over in one chapter about ten pages long. Hardly a twentieth of the novel.

I was really disappointed by this because I loved the book so much! It didn’t quite make the victory feel earned as barely any struggle could be made in such a short amount of time and page numbers! A climax should make you question things and doubt things.

All I asked was “surely there’s more to this…”

Hero Monologue

If you don’t know what is wrong with the villain monologue trope, allow me to explain.

You meet the Big Bad Evil Guy, right? His threatening presence is only shown by how much he talks. It’s so frightening and powerful that when it comes to actually fighting him, it becomes an easy defeat.

Now let’s subvert that trope and have the heroes do it to the all powerful, genuinely threatening villain.

Spoiler alert: it’s a bad case of subversion. It almost felt comedic when the literal heroes of this one book defeated the villain by talking to him. I think some under nine-year-old targeted kids movie called saying they want their defining trope back.

Communication is hardly a struggle in a fantasy setting and fight. At least save a monologue for after the villain has been defeated and they are truly at their lowest point, for the love of all things holy!

The Backstory Chapter

Chapter two of a book that I was reading literally had this happen in it; a woman sends off her animal companions to track someone. No, I’m serious. That was it.

Because the rest of the chapter was devoted to explaining how these companions meant so much to her, the meaning of her piercings and tattoos on her body and the way her house looked. It was a chapter 95% full of irrelevant backstory and 5% plot progression.

The number one rule of writing a novel is that a significant progression in the story must be made every chapter. And chapters like these made up half of the actual chapters I read before I erased the title and author of that book from my memory.

And somehow that isn’t the biggest book sin I’ve seen.


I’ve seen this happen in to books I’ve read. Not one, but two! One I DNF’ed, the other I gave a two star rating to.

If all I can say about your main character to describe them is their looks and hobbies they undertake, ya done goofed. I know more people without hobbies yet with a vibrant personality than I do people with hobbies and no personality. Hint: I know zero people like the latter.

What peeves me even more is that this is always done to female main characters. I’ve seen both male and female authors do this to their characters too. Why is the only gender bias towards the gender being written?

And look, I know the Everyman trope exists – a person with a personality that is easy to relate to – but even they can be described by adjectives instead of hobbies.

So please don’t make these mistakes too guys.

Yours in writing


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Finding and using Inspiration

People claim that inspiration gets them going when writing and that they cannot create when their brain isn’t buzzing.

So how does that buzz come about?

Many people have their stimulants for inspiration, so to speak, and they can come in a variety of forms. But the difficulty can be finding out how to take those stimulants of inspiration and be productive with them. It’s good to have them, but better to put inspiration to use than to go down a rabbit hole.

So I’ve got some tips for your inspiration to take action, whether in music, picture or film form.

Passively Collect

This is the biggest part where people get it wrong. This is the white rabbit you follow down the rabbit hole. Might I suggest taking photos of the rabbit instead?

You don’t need to go out to find inspiration like you’re researching your final thesis. If I were to compare passive collecting to anything, it’d be like checking your social medias. Minus the addiction.

If you happen to pass by inspiration, then add it to your collection of inspiration. Take the channels that you already collect things you like from and find it from what you already know. For if you search actively for inspiration it becomes hollow. Find and consume media and aesthetics for your own personal pleasure only. And then your inspiration piles can follow.

Make it present

Inspiration was never made to collect dust in boxes at the back of your wardrobe.

But how’s an easy way to keep it present? Take it wisely, like prescriptions. Avoid indulging in your inspiration and make it a backdrop for your life as a way to remind you of what you’re working on and why. You could make your desktop background your aesthetic pictures from pinterest, regularly listen to your music playlists on commutes or read books in similar genres.

Basically think about how you take in the things you love when it’s not for writing inspiration. You need to do that just the same.

Pre-writing routines

This can be helpful for those writers who struggle to dive right into their manuscript. A naturally forced inspiration, if you will.

Many writers have a ritual or routine they undergo before they start writing, and this is often using a stimulant to get them inspired once again. Reading a chapter of a book before they started writing, listening to their playlists to get pumped, whipping out their Pinterest board for their assignment… everyone has their strategies.

But remember your priority is to start your writing from it. If you have a habit of slipping into rabbit holes, set aside a timer. You shouldn’t spend any more than 10 minutes getting inspired for a 1 hour writing session. Or longer. Do not take that as a ratio.

Don’t Rely on it

We gotta get real now.

Inspiration is your crutch, but only for when you are creatively injured and if you absolutely need it. Some writers rely on it too much that without it they’ve hit a wall. Do not keep pushing.

If your normal stimulants for inspiration fail you, do not keep consuming them. It won’t be the problem. There is more to not being able to write than just a lack of inspiration. Something may genuinely be wrong with your story, you may be burnt out or have other external factors get in the way. Analyse what may be wrong instead.

Because inspiration is valuable, but not worth its weight in gold. It has no mass.

Yours in writing


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The Magic System of Aster’s Coda

One of my favourite tropes of all time is magic connected to emotion, especially when it’s rage induced. So yes, I am a big fan of the Wild Magic Barbarian in 5e. This trope is also seen in RWBY and Brigid Kemmerer’s Elementals series. Comment any other media you’ve spotted this trope in!

If you commented my book, Aster’s Coda: Exposure, you are a psychic.

Magic, or casting as it is referred to in my series, I find to be reflective of the character wielding the power. I wanted to create a magic system that reflected this, in part inspired by how magic works in Dungeons and Dragons. I have characters based off of Sorcerers, Druids and Wizards in my novel, just to name a few. Additionally, with my novel taking place between Three Worlds I wanted the magic between each world to have a particular distinctness while still being versatile.

Let’s explore.

Each caster has a particular source or domain from which they get their power from, and while it seems to limit what they can do it leaves room for the magic to be more versatile in each domain. Across the Three Worlds power can be drawn from the elements, nature, sources from energy and even cosmic concepts. The integration between the Three Worlds has even enabled variations and amalgamations on casting.

Let’s start with Faetos. The main power to come from this world is Myst, pure energy which has enabled the Three Worlds to connect in a chain. Casters from here use sorcery, which is defined by being born with the ability to cast in a certain domain and harnessing inner power to put their source to use. Because of this, casting a spell too powerful can be taxing on the user and injury can further weaken the strength of their power. Sorcery is the most malleable casting type and users can forge exact effects from their energy, but the domains they control are typically limited. It is rare in Faetos to not be born with sorcery abilities, but it is mainly used in mundane and daily life. Pure casters usually require many years study of their own abilities and would typically only use their casting in battle.

Corryn is different. They use derivation, which involves drawing power from an external source, most commonly nature. While in proximity of their domain, be it water or the earth, they can control or absorb the element for their use when casting. Similar to the use of spell slots in D&D, this power is expended like pouring water from a bucket. Any derivation caster can store the same amount of energy, but inexperienced casters expelled their power far more inefficiently. Casting in Corryn is typically dependent on the species, but those who can’t cast have the ability to wield Powerstones, which work in a similar fashion and can cast force, necrotic, radiant, lightning and psychic damage. Derivation users can also draw energy from powerstones.

That leaves Earth. Nobody native to Earth is born with the ability to cast, but connections to the Three Worlds have left many deities interested in the lives of people on Earth. Therefore, the only way to cast if you’re human is through bargaining. Deals can be made through deities, malevolent and benevolent, to gain the ability to cast based on the domain of the deity. Similarly to derivation, their power is also a well but it can grow with the bond to a deity. Still, few humans have gotten the ability to bargain for magic. Less than 0.5% of Earth’s population have had the chance. However, bargaining is also of interest to Faetos and Corryn for either the power hungry or those in service of deities specific to those realms.

Woah, bit of an info dump, but more will come to light when reading Exposure and the rest of the series. Check it out next week when it releases, and be sure to pop into the livestream on July 22nd!

Yours in writing


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Free Snippet of Aster’s Coda: Exposure!

It’s release month! Woohoo!

Because you guys are eager, and if not, then this will get you, I have now got a free snippet available for you to check out here! In these chapters, we get introduced to Abby Tacker, Beauclark high and a few more key characters twisting around the fingers of her fate.

Once you’re done, you can go here to preorder a copy – now in paperback too! It comes out July 22nd!

Want to join the hype on release day? At noon NZT – that’s 8pm EST or 5pm PST – I’m doing a release day livestream! We got an hour of chatting, games and more in honour of my book baby!

Hope to see you there

Yours in writing


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Rotorua – the Setting of Aster’s Coda: Exposure

People underestimate the power and importance of a setting within a novel, film or any story. Most people think it is just a backdrop for a story to be set upon, a stage to perform on. I digress.

You won’t be able to tell a story the same when it is set elsewhere. The backdrop may be quiet, but it speaks volumes when you ask about it.

And the main setting of my novel coming out in 3 weeks, Aster’s Coda: Exposure, I found to be subtly crucial in the way I told my tale.

I wanted my novel to be set close to home, partly because literally every contemporary and urban fantasy takes place in America and I didn’t want that. But I wasn’t going to use my hometown in spite of my ties to South Auckland. I found a location I liked much more and made much more significant to the story of Abby Tacker.

Rotorua. Located in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, it is a total tourist hotspot. I’ve visited there three times and always want to go back. If only my bank account would give me a break…

There were three key things that made me chose Rotorua over some other place in New Zealand or even the world; culture, nature and adventure. Funny enough, they are three roots to the Aster’s Coda series. Let’s explore that, shall we?


As I said in last week’s post, culture and diversity is one of the many things I always consider writing and building my worlds around. I love books that take place in new societies, unexplored or underrepresented cultures as inspiration for fantasy settings. I grew up surrounded by many cultures, so it is only fair I represent them in my works.

And I don’t think anywhere in New Zealand features its culture better than Rotorua. Two of the three times I went there I visited sites showcasing the rich culture of our natives, the Maori people. These sites were villages of days past and ones that still exist today, like Whakarewarewa. It gives an insight and educational experience into the culture of the local iwi (tribes) and significances of their many customs. My personal favourite has always been going inside their local Marae via karakia, that moment alone always gives me chills.

So how does this translate to Exposure? Not in a very explicit way, but some of these cultural aspects are evident. Beauclark High, the fictional school my main character goes to, features a diverse and culturally rich makeup of students. Additionally, themes present in Maori culture are evident in my novel, including genealogy, power and prestige.


Nature speaks volumes about how a world may look to me. Much can be said about a location simply describing how the trees look. Weather is a particularly underrated aspect of storytelling here.

Rotorua’s nature is almost otherworldly in of itself, most defined by the smell the moment you enter the region – the smell of mud and sulphur. Rotorua is the geothermal hotspot of New Zealand, with a big tourist attraction being the hot mud pools and geysers. I wouldn’t recommend getting close to any of them, some people have died by falling into the mud pools. Spas have made use of this location with the mineral streams too. Another place equally out of a fantasy world is their Redwood forest. I remember first stepping into there and instantly feeling like I had stepped into a high fantasy world.

Nature is key to the surroundings of the world and the casting that people in the Three Worlds do – being beautiful, natural and yet volatile.


Adventure and action is a frequently used trope or subgenre in fantasy books, like in mine. High octane fights and bloodshed await!

Well, not quite in Rotorua. I’m not even a thrill seeker myself, but I know that Rotorua is one place you can get some action. Bush walks, a luge track, zorb balls… and this is just to name the more common! There’s plenty to do indoors and out to get your blood pumping!

And with all the highly regarded fights present in my novel, need I say more?

So maybe once this lockdown is over, this can be one place you can visit! See if you can spot locations mentioned in my novel!

Yours in writing