United We Fall Review & Email List Update

Hullo, world!

I got through my first week of uni & although I’m already getting the anti-Christian vibes in one of my classes already, most of my profs & classmates are really nice and I’m super hyped about it! 

Today, I have an exciting announcement to make…United We Fall, Bk 2 of How We Rise by Brooke Riley is coming out in 3 days!! Whoo!!! I was very privileged to ARC read her book, and here’s my review below…

United We Fall

Rating: 4/5 stars, PG13

Content: Violence, Romance, government control, thematic elements, some language

What is truth? What are lies?

It’s been two weeks since Raegan’s death. Two weeks since a big blow was dealt to the resistance. Two weeks since Peter lost his best friend and perhaps his soul mate. Now, he’s out for revenge on everyone responsible, starting with the biggest coward: Agent Specter.

Peter doesn’t care what rules he has to break to bring down those who took away the one he loved the most. When someone he never expected comes forward with information that seems too good to be true, he has to make a decision on what to do before it’s too late.

The shocking sequel to How We Rise

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My Review

I can’t wait for UWF’s upcoming release in 3 days now!!!

NOTE: I received an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰ ⋱✮⋰ ⋱♱⋰⋱

1. Theme–Again, Brooke kept her focus on family, friends, and basically relationships between people when the world is changing. It’s quite relevant with today’s political atmosphere and spoke to me. (   ˙꒳​˙   )

2. Prose–I was pleasantly surprised to find Brooke grew more into her prose. As UWF features multiple povs, I was really happy to find each character had a more distinct voice than bk1. ଘ(੭ˊ꒳​ˋ)੭✧

3. Characters–Okay, this is obviously where I have to stop because, UWF is super character-driven like you would not believe.😂 (Also, most of the character arcs are spoilers for those of you who have not read bk1, so please be warned!) Prepare for your heart to be shattered, everyone!! 。°(´∩ω∩`)°。

> Peter: First of all, I was kind of sure HWR destroyed a lot of characters and the one who got the full brunt of it was Peter. *inserts comforting words & marshmallows and anything I can think of* I loved how he struggled with coming to terms with what it would look like after such a tragic bk1 ending–which he sort of didn’t, but anyway.🤔 I think it was realistic how he grappled with grief and guilt and revenge, and how it might continue into bk3!! Gahh!!

> Spencer: I was not expecting his arc to be this good. Tbh, I don’t remember much about him in bk1 (sorry, lol) and it came as a surprise when he stepped into the tragedy to really pull people together into healing and mending…and forgiving. I think this was a big score. So many YA dystopia I’ve read was depressing because the “rebellion” was just an excuse for revenge, a circle of hate upon hate. But Spencer changed all that. Honestly, he’s probably my fav. character because of it. 🥰

> Evan: Obviously, my absolute fav. character (other than Spencer & Peter) is Evan. Okay, I was waiting for UWF just because I wanted to know where Evan was going after HWR. 🙈 And, quite naturally, I am waiting for OWA to follow him all the way to the end. *terminate rant before I spoil anything*

> Carissa: I wasn’t expecting her to grow into the sort of jarring ending from bk 1…I think she def. helped deepen the world of the HWR trilogy because I didn’t see it as clearly before. She still isn’t my fav. but towards the ending of UWF, she really expanded into herself. (*´꒳`*)

> Samantha: Another character I’ve been waiting to see where she’d go, and I was not disappointed! Although to be sure, I would have liked to see more of where she came from and where she is currently, there’s a large cast at hand, so I think it was okay…

> Jackson: Here, I’ve absolutely got to stop. *deep breath* Do you like the “traitors who mend” arc?? (As in Edmund?) Do you like dorky characters who are actually really caring on the inside?? Have you been waiting for Jackson since the ending of HWR?? If so, Jackson is totally there for you and that’s like the only incentive you should need to read this book. (   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

> Nicole, Sawyer, Noah, Stella: They were all deepened down & I was happy we got more screen time on them, although I do think they can be more fleshed out…Nicole & Sawyer’s arc was realistic and offered another way for the worldbuilding to expand. 

!!SPOILER ALERT!!

(If you want to read it, highlight the paragraph below…)

> Raegan: I debated whether or not to put her in here, but I will. Tbh, I didn’t really feel for her in HWR and then the ending shook me…

And we have UWF. 

Raegan is honestly such a resolute character that I feel bad for not seeing it earlier. She goes through such a traumatic experience but keeps her resolve, keeps moving forward. And that’s something not everyone can do. 

4. Plot–UWF reads like a contemporary dystopian, so the plot is not too convoluted but rather more straightforward. It felt flatter in terms of action. There’s certainly tension and a buildup, although it felt a little too predictable. I think I would like to see more twists in bk3!

5. Execution–Overall, I think Brooke tied together all these elements well into a solid contemporary-dystopian. I think I would have liked to see more coherence in worldbuilding and a more streamlined plot to character arcs, but that’s about it. (୨୧ᵕ̤ᴗᵕ̤)

★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰ ★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰ ★∻∹⋰⋰ ☆∻∹⋰⋰

If you like:

a) character-driven stories

b) redemption arc

c) contemporary-dystopian

This book is for you!!

AUTHOR BIO

Brooke Riley started her writing journey at fifteen when she had an idea about a world falling to ruin. Though the stories have come a long way from their original conception, she has found a refuge in writing books. A lover of literature and an avid bookworm, words have always been somewhere ingrained in her soul.

When she’s not writing, she’s dreaming up new worlds, making playlists, or hanging out with her family.

You can find her on:


Email List Update

Last week, I asked around a little about my email list. For a while, I’ve been meaning to work on it and haven’t really been able to, but from September, I want to change that. 

“Mailchimp, as you might know, takes some time to set up (even with personalised templates). And, it hasn’t felt like it conveyed my sentiments &c really well anymore …

So, from now on, my monthly email would look a little different. Since I have the monthly reflection-thing going on already on my Afternoon Tea with SJ series I will cut the redundancy of stating them here. Instead, I will focus more on the month’s starting goals, TBR, WIP goals & c.”

PERKS of joining my email list:

You’ll get…

  1. Weekly blog updates delivered straight to your inbox
  2. Monthly goal updates on reading, writing & life
  3. One aesthetic writing quote wallpaper + One aesthetic writing task wallpaper
  4. Exclusive sneak-peaks into my WIPs, character collages &c!
  5. Priority updates into my future online writing group

So, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my email list. WordPress is a good place for my blog, but for any other announcements, it isn’t the greatest. By subscribing to my email list, you can be sure to stay in the loop of where I am outside the blogosphere. 😉 

And that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading! Are you excited for Brooke’s upcoming book release, United We Fall? Have you read How We Rise? Are you subscribed to my email list (yet)?? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: How to Regain Your Love (& Motivation) to Write Again

Hullo, world!

It’s so hard to believe, but my first week at my university has ended. In this week, I got to go on campus tours, attend workshops & practise lectures/seminars as well as meeting so many new people. And although I’m kind of tired after the fact, it has been such a blessing being a part of this. I can’t thank everyone who was a part of this experience enough. 

Now, it’s my favourite day of the week–Saturday! I honestly don’t know why, but Saturdays fill me with joy whether or not I get to write (or blog) simply because it’s that kind of day that makes me smile when I wake up. And obviously, Irish cream in my coffee. That’s the only day I get the real deal 🙂

[Also, pls take some time to fill out a short survey concerning my email list: https://forms.gle/e6sxLonmVKnMWdJk7

Today, I’ll be talking about How to Regain Your Love (& Motivation) to Write Again. This summer has actually been a dry spell for my writing life where I struggled to put words down to paper. Even when I did so, it didn’t feel natural or from my heart and I ended up needing lots of breaks in between. 

Well, it’s officially September, and I’ll be going back into writing…so here’s a little fragment from that attempt. 

 A: Where are you? 

First of all, temet nosce. You need to know where you are writing-wise and life-wise. 

For example, university is starting for me in a hybrid manner–meaning, I’ll have half online classes & lectures while the other half is in-person. I don’t have a full-load yet, but I know I won’t have as much time to write. So, I’ll be setting a lower goal than I think I can do…like, half the amount I think I can manage. 

B: What is in your heart? 

For the longest time, I lost touch with the feeling of excitement with the WIPs I was working on. Obviously, not every writing day will look like hands flying, mind flashing past to awesome scenes and amazing prose leaking out. But I felt the fire inside me dying, flickering into embers that I started doubting my story. 

And so, reflect on your heart. What is the story in your heart? What’s the theme song burning just to be written? Chances are, without a solid thesis, the words you want to shout to the whole world, you won’t get through those tough writing days, the dry spells of writing. Find that ember. Find the fire to your story, the soul of everything that makes your story matter. 

C: Who are you writing to? 

This is also an essential block to writing & motivation. I talk often about my Ideal Reader, and how I’ve come to realise they’re usually me to begin with. I’m writing the book I can’t find on the bookshelf. I’m writing a blog post that will encourage me, make me smile in the future. I used to think I had to have a “proper” IR–family, friends, etc., etc.–and that put a lot of pressure on me. 

What will they think of my writing? What if they didn’t find it as enjoyable as I thought it was? What if they thought I was wasting my time? 

Well, I say Tash to all that. 

It’s absolutely inane. Even if everyone out there absolutely hates my writing, I love it. And that’s enough for now. 

D: When will you write? 

On a more practical note, ask yourself WHEN you’re going to write. 

I wrote in the mornings these past years because that was the only time in the day I had time all to myself. I used to think if I missed that slot, I wouldn’t have any time to write that day. 

*insert “Tash to all that!”*

Anyhow. From this September, I’ll be going for a more flexible writing schedule. If I write one word, one sentence a day, it’ll still be a good writing day. If I write a page or five, huzzah to me. I might be able to write in the morning, or after lectures, or even before going to bed. It’ll be a new attempt and I’ll probably still have to adjust many things (and fail a lot), but I’ll write as long as that day still exists. 

E: Why are you writing? 

And lastly, probably the most important thing to know–Why are you writing?  It’s that kind of question that makes you want to slowly edge away, saying, “Oh, this is just, um, a hobby, a side-business-y thing I do, so don’t mind me…”

Well, no. 

Writing isn’t a just, it’s definitely not some mindless thing you do. (I mean, it could be that, but for me it’s never some small thing.) You’re pouring your life and soul into this “small thing” you do on your side because you actually believe this is something that matters, something worth your time. Don’t downplay your writing. Don’t think it’s something without a mission. 

I write because even when someone stops me, there’s a story in my heart that’s screaming to be written. There’s a message that’s waiting to be heard. It might take time, it might look ugly, but as long as there’s still today and tomorrow and so on, I’ll take up my pen. And that’s the end and the beginning of the story. 

Thank you for reading! What do you think? Do you have something burning in your heart? A story that’s waiting to be written? Why do you write? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

(Also, don’t forget to fill out a short survey! https://forms.gle/Q2RdgsXKtffYzC4D8)

Summer ‘21 Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good Afternoon!

Today, I’ll be sharing my summer with you. It felt like a really long and short summer versus last year where time was like a small creek. This year was filled to brim with adventures &c, so let’s dive straight into it!

-Summer ‘21 Afternoon Tea Setting-

Location: Beachside park

Tea: Hibiscus, lime-lemon-basil, Mint-and-Grapefruit

Offered With: Muscat parfait, melon cream soda, white roll cake

I got to read a lot of books over the summer–the total being over thirty-something books–and although there were books I wanted to read anc couldn’t, I’m happy with what I did read…well, except some of the reading I did for my university syllabus. (My family would know all about it, given I ranted about the need for it to burn in the seventh circle.)

Summer Reads

  1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (fic)
  2. When We Were Orphans (lit fic)
  3. Bushido (Jpn nfic)
  4. Miura Woshin Essay (Jpn nfic)
  5. World History from Maps (Jpn nfic)
  6. Murakami Haruki’s top 100 playlist (Jpn nfic)
  7. Counting by 7s (mg)
  8. Rashomon (Jpn clsc)
  9. Good・bye (Jpn clsc)
  10. Fangirl
  11. Writer As A Vocation (Jpn nfic)
  12. The Art of Flight (nfic)
  13. The Chronicles of Narnia (clsc)
  14. Shayō (Jpn clsc)
  15. The Bacchae (uni sylb/O4)
  16. Love Does (nfic)
  17. 1Q84 v1-3 (Jpn fic)
  18. The Communist Manifesto (uni sylb)
  19. Carrie Pilby (YA)
  20. Till We Have Faces (clsc)
  21. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (uni sylb)
  22. Grettir’s Saga (uni sylb)
  23. The Prince (uni sylb/O5)
  24. Unfamiliar Fishes (uni sylb)
  25. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (uni sylb)
  26. My Brother’s Spare (YA)

Overall, I’m glad I’m almost finished reading my first term university syllabus books. 🙂 

Would you like more of the white roll cake? Or another glass of hibiscus tea? 

Anyways, I rediscovered my love for many things in this section over the summer as well since I went on a manga re-read and movie binges! 

Music 

Practising: Gurenge (Kimetsu no Yaiba op), KaiKaiKitan (Jujutsu Kaisen op1), Chopin Etude op.10 no.3

Listening to: Prokofiev piano concerto no. 2-3, Tchaikovsky Symphony 4, 5, 6, Max Richter’s Voyager

This summer’s most-listened-to playlist on Spotify

Movie 

I watched a lot of movies in July since my family was away for camping and I was sick for a week. Some of them were fantastic, some were just okay…

  1. Vancouver’s Sunrise–after the all-Japanese baseball team back in the early 20th century
  2. Honey and Thunder–based on the Naoki prize winning book about piano prodigies
  3. Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence–the classic feat. Sakamoto Ryuichi
  4. Tenet–Nolan keeps getting better
  5. Kingsman–bordering on okay and not okay
  6. The Imitation Game–I love Alan Turing and I love Benedic Cumberbatch!
  7. Kill Your Darlings–also based on a book
  8. Interstellar–my new fav!!
  9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–re-watch…Newt Scammader is simply too cute!!
  10. The Crimes of Grindewald–Newt + Theseus. Also, “Your eyes look like a salamander’s.”
  11. The Prestige–earlier Nolan work. Okay. 
  12. Memento–earliest Nolan work? Not okay…
  13. Norwegian Forest–based on the Murakami book. Stunning cinematography albeit a tad graphic
  14. Emma–re-watch. Absolutely hilariously Austen
  15. Castle in the Sky–classic Ghibli. Prob. in the top 5 list. 
  16. Nausicaa–I’m the fan of the manga, but the movie was amazing as well!!

Manga/Anime

I did a manga reading challenge and am happy to say I got through most of them!

  1. Tokyo Ghoul + Tokyo Ghoul re: (Re-read it for the third time? Gets better with every re-read.)
  2. Attack on Titan (up to vol. 33, waiting for the library to acquire vol. 34!!)
  3. Kimetsu no Yaiba (This finally arrived from Japan. I cried buckets and it’s definitely a must-read.)
  4. The Promised Neverland vol.15-19 (I am still waiting to get vol. 20…)
  5. My Hero Academia various + Anime season 1-3 (It keeps getting better and better.)
Everyone should read this manga and cry as much as I did.

(Psst! I also have a new Goodreads account solely for manga-reads. It’s at: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/138785634-iaphos)

Wow, that was long. I think I’ll have another glass of mint-grapefruit tea. The muscat parfait is absolutely gorgeous, too!

So, writing life… *insets crickets chirping*

As much as it pains me to say, I did not have a great writing life this summer. I have not been able to move up my wc since the last WIP update I did in July which has been kind of depressing to me…

However. 

In the bigger scheme of things, I got a few wc tucked between various projects, trying to sew up loose ends, brainstorm, outline, worldbuild, etc., etc. I feel a bit stand-stilled so I’m not sure how y writing will work out in September, but crossing my fingers I might be able to get back on track!

This is where things get really exciting. University is starting soon. In fact, orientation week is from Monday!!! *inserts cheers and fanfares and confettis*

For those of you who have been long SJ Barnard readers, you might remember me flailing about university and my long dream of getting there. Well, I am happy to announce to you that I am finally (and officially) enrolled in a university with first year courses of my dreams (maybe) hoarding brand-new textbooks and binge-reading syllabii. I am so excited I can just burst!!

So, cheers and onto the next topic…

Lifestyle & Living

More tea, anyone? Have you tried the melon cream soda? They’re all the rage in Japan as being Showa-aesthetic and “emoi”. (My siblings hate the word!! It means emotional, btw.)

Life has been good. I survived a five-day long camping trip to Whistler, three-day intensive karate camp (where we won the talent show with Kimetsu and GReeeN songs), one and half week illness (not Covid, thank goodness), and various online university prep workshops. That, and reading pretty much summed up my summer.

I also got my first ever MacBook. It’s MacBook Air with M1, rosegold *swoons* and works like a dream compared to my old Dell. I’ve yet to name it but I’m leaning towards Rhindon, spelt with nne-ending. (In case you’re wondering, it’s the name of Peter’s sword.) Since I bought it with student discount, I got free AirPods which makes me feel like an actual modern person! Eeep! I’m getting back into drawing more, and am thinking I’ll draw in between classes…hence I will be clad with iPad & iPencil, too! 

I usually don’t buy things at all and all of the expenditures have been dizzying to me, but why not? I’ll probably not buy things until four years later. 😉 

And that’s the grand finale to my summer break! 

Thank you for coming over! What was your summer like? What are some of the highlights and/or favourite memories? Did you travel places? Or meet new books? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!