Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

I love a good dystopian story, and A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes did not disappoint. Every time I picked up the book to read another chapter, I thought to myself, “I’m going on an adventure!” (In Bilbo Baggins’s voice, of course.) And that’s exactly how I would describe this story. As an adventure.


Brandes takes the reader into a dystopian world where Clocks determine how long you live. The heroine, Parvin, doesn’t want to die with “empty numbers”. She wants her life to matter. And I think that’s something that resonates with everyone. We all want to have a voice. We all want to make a difference. And that’s why Parvin is immediately likable—because she does something about it. The reader is taken across the Wall, through a pack of wolves (the most vivid scene in my memory of the book), and through some primitive colonies. She drags us through the endless dregs, and finally leads us to a futuristic city of tightropes and some cool technology.

Parvin’s relationship with her family was quirky and realistic. This being a dystopian book, it wasn’t overly violent. As a Christian book, it wasn’t overly preachy. I think even non-christians can identify with the need to find “shalom”, or peace— the way things were intended to be.

As a hopeless romantic, I would have liked the romance to be taken up a notch, but that’s just a personal preference. ;)

There were a couple scenes where Parvin was placed into simulations to face her fears, and they were a *bit* too much like Divergent. BUT they were short and few, and still had original elements.

For the most part, the story had good pacing, but there were a few parts seemed to drag. After she passed the wolves and was traveling away from the Wall, for example. And then there were the Dregs. I kept wondering, “When are we going to get out of here?!” But maybe it was necessary for the reader to experience what Parvin was going through (since she was the one traveling it).

The book was amazing, with a good, strong (and shocking) ending. An exciting, page-turning piece of fabulousness. Nadine Brandes is a master plot weaver, and her three-dimensional characters and original story-world will stick with you long after you’ve finished the book. I will definitely read the sequel.

Ambrosia & Blood

It begins when I’m cleaning my son’s room. The heavy breathing. The phlegmy cough. The cravings. I grab another handful of M&M’s and stuff them into my mouth, but they don’t quench the insatiable gnawing in my stomach.

Falling to my knees, I pick up a plastic dump truck and shove it into the toy box. Why are my hands trembling? Is it the flu? Dehydration? I try to stand… but can’t. Legs are too weak. Tingly.

Over-exhaustion does this to people. I think. It’s part of parenthood. The sleepless nights, toddler waking before dawn, baby nursing all night, and more toys on the floor and the light is too bright and I wish the ringing in my ears would just stop.

Another cough. The movement wracks my lungs, my back, my body… everything. Fall on my side until the convulsions stop. Getting harder to breathe. Where are my M&M’s? Left them on the shelf, too high to reach.

Another cough.

More phlegm.

I try to cover my mouth, but my hand doesn’t quite make it before the cough ends. Ah well. Try to get more sleep tonight.


Crack an eyelid open. My five-year-old stands in my line of vision, a terrified look in his eyes.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

“Sw––-sweety.” Why is it so hard to push the words out? “Get…” Water. 

He doesn’t seem to hear that last part as he kneels beside me. My thirst intensifies until it’s almost painful.


His voice sounds somewhere in the back of my mind, echoing through the buzzing and ringing and fog and thirst and hunger and there’s food HERE. Right in front of me. If I could just… get the energy to… and taste…

Something warm and thick fills my mouth. Heavenly. Ambrosia.

Another taste.

So good. That sound, though. Like screaming. A screaming child. What’s a child?

So hungry.


Must eat.

Must… eat…


Blisters On Our Souls

As I type this, I’m struggling with the D and E keys. Why? Because my middle finger has a giant blister on the tip. After five years of not playing guitar, I finally picked it up and played for an hour straight. Now, I’m not a musician in any way. The reason I haven’t played guitar in five years is because, frankly, I’m not very good. And it’s sort of a humbling experience to hear how bad I am.


So why did I do it?

Because, for a fleeting moment, I missed playing. I missed getting lost in the music created by ME. I ignored how bad I was. I skipped the chords I didn’t know very well. I belted the words out in my hoarse, strangled voice that comes with having a cold. I strummed the heck out of that thing until my fingers, quite literally, bled.

And it felt good.

Because the passion I felt transcended any pain. When I sang, when I focused on the chords and the melody and the lyrics, I didn’t even notice my numb fingers or the blister that was slowly growing.

And can’t we all relate? Artist or not, when we really want something, no matter how silly or unrealistic or difficult, we do everything in our power to get it. We forget our pain. We ignore our fear. We keep our eyes on one target and little else. And we fight and fight and fight past our doubts, and we strive and strive and strive towards that goal, until there’s nothing but blisters on our souls and the delicious feeling of victory.

Finding Time to Write

Finding time to write.

It’s almost impossible, isn’t it? With a full-time job, kids, school, it’s hard to carve out time for something that may not seem as important to anyone else but you. Before I had kids, I went through an hour long process just to PREPARE myself to write. I mean, I would put on my comfy clothes, make coffee, grab a snack, spend a few minutes on social media, look over what I wrote the day before… AND THEN write.


After having kids? I don’t have that luxury. (Hence, the lack of blog-posts this past year.) I’m lucky to get ten minutes of actual writing done between managing household chores, wiping snot off my toddler’s nose, and nursing my three-month-old.

Finding time to write almost seems like a hassle.

Finding time to write almost doesn’t seem worth it.

Why bother?

Well, when you want something badly enough, you do everything in your power to get it. I want to finish my books. I want to get them published so I can share them with the world. I want to start making money (no matter how small the paycheck) for all this work I’ve put into my writing. But I have to write, rewrite, and edit my books several times before I get to that point. And I have to have TIME to write, rewrite, and edit.

But how?

Little sacrifices. Tiny increments.

The Little Sacrifice:

I value my sleep. Since I have to wake up every few hours to nurse my baby, and since my toddler has this nasty habit of waking up before 6 a.m., then I look forward to crawling under the sheets and passing out as soon as possible. Every second of sleep is precious. And if I forego the bed, I’m tempted to just sit and stare at the t.v. like some sort of zombie until sleep claims me. It’s just the way life is with kids. Exhausting. Mind-numbing.

But if I want to get any writing done, I have to sacrifice my sleep. I have to use this time––these wee hours in the night when everyone is asleep––to do what won’t get done otherwise. I have to force myself out of zombie mode, snap my brain to attention, open up my computer… and write. I have to… you get the idea.

The Tiny Increments:

Like I said before, I’m squeezing these words between other chores. I write a sentence, the baby starts crying and I’m up to tend to her. After calming her down, I sit to write another sentence––or, Lord willing––another paragraph, and here my toddler is right now, handing me a stack of important papers that probably shouldn’t have been within reach. Oh, and now he’s throwing cashews on the floor. And now he’s rummaging through the utility drawer.

See? I’m still getting some writing done, even through all the chaos going on around me. ;)

What about you? How do you find time to write in them midst of a busy life?

Seasonal Reading

I am currently reading Dreamers by Angela Hunt. Why? Well, because it’s Fall, of course.
photo 2 Let me explain. I have a book I read for every season. Actually, I have multiple. Every Spring, for example, I read the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. (Well, at least the first two books.) Come Summer, I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Legend by Marie Lu. When Summer ends and the leaves begin to turn, I start thinking about this series by Angela Hunt called Legacies of the Ancient River. In the fall I read Dreamers and Brothers, and come Christmas, it’s time to read the third book, Journey.

Granted, I might not read ALL of these books EVERY year, but when the seasons change, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the stories of that season. I think it has something to do with that season being the first time I read those books.

I read The Hungers Games in May, and now whenever the weather gets warm, I have flashbacks to District 12 and the Games. Journey has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. In fact, the story takes place in a hot desert. But the first time I read it was during Christmas break in high school. I curled up on the couch by the fire, with Christmas music playing in the background and a cinnamon candle lit nearby. And now whenever I hear Christmas music, I think of a prince who lives in the desert, preparing to lead his people back to their homeland.

Books to me are like music. There’s a genre for every season. (Country for Summer, mellow for Fall, and of course, Christmas for the first half of Winter.) I guess it helps me transition with the seasons.

What about you? Do you have any special books/music you reserve for each season?

The Hunt Excerpt

I just had my second flash fiction story published this past weekend!! WOOHOO!!! So if you like dinosaurs, adventure, or just life in general, you might want to check out my story, The Hunt, in Havok Magazine issue 1.3.

If you’re interested, you can purchase Havok 1.3 issue here:

Or subscribe to Havok Magazine here:

Just to tickle your fancy, here’s an excerpt from the story!

The Hunt

Breaking The Ice

ice-brakerBeginning a new book is the hardest part of writing. Like meeting a new person, you don’t know where you stand until you spend time with them, get to know them, or in this case, get to know the characters in your story. It sometimes takes me 5,000 words to get into my newest writing project, but once I’m in it, I’m in for the long haul.

I just started Book Two of my Black Tiger dystopian series. I submitted the first book to some indie publishers, and while I wait for feedback, decided to begin the next book. It was hard. It’s taken me a week, yes, SEVEN DAYS, to get three-thousand words down. I used to be able to get that many words written in a day. I kept getting distracted, finding excuses not to write. But when I don’t write, I get depressed. So this was one roadblock I was either going to have to cross or go around. (by “go around”, I mean set aside and start a new story).

So I decided to take the bull by the horns (please excuse the cliche), and write. I plowed through my writer’s block. Because that’s the only way to get to know your story. That’s the only way you’re going to get excited about it, and by the excitement, find the drive to write every day.