Review: Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers


Truest left me a twitching pile of emotions on the floor. I can’t believe how powerful every page of it was, making me want to laugh and cry…sometimes at the same time.

Westlin Beck is going through a time of change, during which her eyes are opening; she realizes there’s more to life than her small community. By the end of the book she’s ventured so far from her former routine that there is no turning back. She’s a changed person; we get to laugh with her, cry with her, and face tough choices every step of the way.

West’s outlook changed fairly quickly after meeting Silas. It felt like her world expanded, like only then had she begun to breathe. She grew up a pastor’s daughter, thus carrying the obligation to set an example for everyone in town. I was so proud when she broke away to be her own person.

The writing style constantly took my breath away. Sometimes I’d find one sentence, a simple gem that made me stop, close the book, and try to memorize. References to the legend of the swan song–that the most beautiful song a swan sings is the one before it dies–kept the mood melancholy.

There was always this sensation of waiting for something to break, and when the big break finally happens, we hurt with the characters. I couldn’t pin anyone as a villain–they all had a struggle that made us feel for them. This book is an emotional punch, one of the few contemporaries I’ve read this year that I’d quickly recommend to everyone.

Truest offers insight on life when you’re under pressure. It dares you to do the opposite of what you’re expected for the sake of growth and maturity. It reminds us that we’ll never know how vast the world is if we don’t break out of society’s boxes, and look.


Introducing The Autumn Prince (Coming October!)

I’m very excited–and extremely proud–to be trying a serial story on October. Here on the blog, I’m going to post a bit of it every weekday; it is a short story called The Autumn Prince, some of which is already written, but some of which I’ll be writing as I go.

I felt like harnessing the magic of Halloween for something different. You see, October is my favorite month; I feel so much power in the air when people are choosing their costumes. I love that buzz that we feel while telling ghost stories, I look forward to going door-to-door for candy.

Here is the premise of The Autumn Prince:

Nameless and lonely, the Autumn Prince reigns over a golden part of the year. He watches leaves fall from the trees, making a carpet of most exquisite beauty. But what he likes best about autumn is Halloween, his only chance to find a princess without being gawked at.

In a race against time with winter approaching, he meets a girl with a brave heart and vivid imagination. If Kelsea agrees to be his princess, she’d only see him for weeks every year. The Prince must decide if it’s worth hurting the girl he loves for a few weeks of companionship.

Should he beg her to stay in a cold, frozen love–or let her walk away?

Each segment I release will be 500-600 words long, the length of a regular blog post. I’ll post from Monday to Friday every week, and Halloween will be the grand finale. This is a long shot–I don’t know how many people will want to check this blog every day for 500 more words–but for the sake of experience, I’m eager to do this.

It’s teaching me to divide segments so they all have a hook, making the reader want to learn more. It’s forcing me to squint at the paragraphs, pretending it’s like a television series where the viewer needs the next episode now.

There won’t be any personal blog posts here on October. I’ve worked hard to schedule the entire month and see what I can do with my writing.

Are you interested in reading The Autumn Prince? 


Advice for the Struggling Novelist

Sometimes it’s hard to write–oh, fine. It’s always hard to write. We lack motivation, ideas, or support from fellow writers; when that happens, it’s tempting to draw a blank and give up.

That’s when we need pep talks to motivate us; it hurts when our passion becomes a challenge. I’m sure you’ve asked at some point in a moment of frustration, Who cares about my story? The short answer is that you do and your soul needs to hear it; however, that answer can’t always beat Writer’s Block.

I’d like to share with you some truths I whisper to myself when I feel like giving up.

  1. You have a story. No one can tell it like you will. It may seem that only you care about the story, but speak up. You might impress a listener so much that they’ll need to read the book, which then becomes a motivator for you to write!
  2. Every story has an audience. Some people might think your idea bizarre, but if you’re brave and stand by it, sooner or later you’ll meet your first fan. It’s true that some stories have larger audiences than others, but having a small audience is not a bad thing. It becomes a strength when your audience is small but devoted.
  3. It’s worth the effort. Sitting down to write a chapter takes tremendous discipline–no one wants to stare at a blank page. But once you’ve finished for the day, you’ll be glad you set an hour aside to write. It might amount to barely a page–but it’s a page more than you had!
  4. Every page counts. They might seem unimpressive when seen on their own, but pages make a book. Write a page a day, gain momentum, and in a month you’ll have made great progress! The idea of spending years on a draft isn’t appealing, but one day you’ll be proud of every moment you invested.
  5. With practice, it gets better. There’s always room for improvement–most days I want to chuck my draft out the window. The only way to improve as a writer is to keep practicing. You’ve got to work hard so a reader closes the book feeling that their time was well spent.

These are things I tell myself when I’m stuck in a rut. Since I’m young, I know there’ll be more of these pep talks to come, and I’ll share them.

I know you have a story to tell, so keep going. Anyone can write; however, to be a good writer you need patience and discipline. Patience because it can be years before you finish, and discipline because it’s hard. If you love your story enough, you’ll find it worth the effort.

Tell that story like only you can.

P.S. I’ll be coming back to this blog post often. I’m human and need reminders of these things as well.

How Travel Improves Your Writing

So you want to write a book? That’s great! Get out your pen and paper, but I feel the need to ask you have you had an adventure? Have you left your comfort zone?

Many underestimate the importance of travel when it comes to writing. The solitary author bent over her desk is nothing but a stereotype. To have a story, you must live where the wild plot bunnies are–even if that means venturing across the street.

Everything you see and do could turn into a story. It’s fun to sit at home and read, but don’t forget to experience things first-hand. I used to think differently, but now I say you can’t live life to its fullest hiding behind a book! It’s a tragic mistake to make if you want to write a novel.

Learning the craft involves feeling wind in your hair and the ocean underfoot–even the sunburn you’ll get later!

A novel always has some form of the author between the lines. It happened by accident, but Dissonance became a mirror. In it I see myself, subtle but present. The story wouldn’t have existed if I never left the house, because most of it was inspired by the ocean.

Some might argue that life is boring and there’s nowhere to have an adventure–but that’s not true. Take a new route the next time you go for a walk, or visit a different coffee shop. There’s always somewhere new to go, a different way to see the world.

If you want to write a book, you need to witness people at their best and worst. You can’t barricade yourself where the Muse will have trouble finding you. It’s hard contacting your Muse in the first place, so don’t complicate things more!

When’s the last time you had a new experience that brought forth a story? Do you have a memory from a vacation you’d like to share?

Review: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult


I probably should have waited before reading Off the Page; I only learned after devouring half the book that it was a sequel, and I was missing out on a great deal of the story. Fortunately, this fact didn’t keep me from enjoying the book; I finished it in love with the characters and settings.

Off the Page chronicles Delilah’s life after she gets her storybook prince out of the book. It isn’t a traditional happily ever after; it’s not simple and it isn’t always pretty. She has to teach her overly polite boyfriend how to survive in a world where people aren’t polite; he gets into a lot of trouble at school. There is an amusing scene where he makes a mess trying to use the washer.

The story was well thought out, but some of the transitions to scenes within the storybook felt cheesy and abrupt. At times they didn’t mesh together well. However, it only took some adjusting before I could get back to enjoying the read.

This book was the perfect read for my California trip. I devoured it during the long drives from place to place, making it part of my own fairy tale. It helped set the mood as I wandered a city so different from my own.

Off the Page will make you smile and question what matters in life, fairy tale or not. It also drills in the importance of readers for the survival of a book. Without readers, a book doesn’t come alive; it sits dusty on a shelf.

I recommend Off the Page, but I need to go back and read Between the Lines. Then I can fully appreciate the story told and how it began–when a reader fell in love with a character.

In California

While on a trip, you find yourself encountering new plot bunnies. Even when you’re back at home, they aren’t finished; they make themselves known at bedtime, steal your attention from everyday duties, distract you.

They’re cute, cuddly, and insistent–you can’t send them off. You don’t want to, either. The more time you spend in a different place (in my case, California) the more bunnies you pick up.

Since arriving, I’ve been to the beach, Disneyland, and San Diego; we’re going to see the Queen Mary today. It’s surprising how far everything is. We’ve spent a lot of the time in the car driving places–back and forth. I marvel at how roads here wind and dip below each other.

My Instagram is full of pictures (look for the #SerenadeCalifornia hashtag) because each day goes by too quickly for me to keep a journal. I’ll have to reflect on my trip when I get home; at the moment, I’m too busy living it.

I got sunburned. I met Ariel. We found the USS Midway by accident driving along the coast–it crept up on us.

There remains some time for adventure…and more bunnies.

Let them come–all of them.