Category Archives: Blog Posts

YallStayHome Book Festival Recap

The YallWest virtual book festival took place this past weekend! Typically held each spring in Santa Monica, California, things looked a little different this year (#Covid-19), and the YallWest team decided to move the festivities and panels online. The event was dubbed “Yall Stay Home” (clever, right?!). 

I’m incredibly impressed with the way the YallWest team was able to turn things around at such short notice. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, the team pulled out all the stops to maintain the spirit of the event and provide a virtual platform for authors and readers to connect, with “giveaways, contests, signed book deliveries, and two full days of panels with more than 70 bestselling and award-winning authors.” 

This was especially exciting for me, as I would not have been able to attend had the event not been virtual (I live on the east coast!). Of course, I understand why the change in plans may have been disappointing for the people who were looking forward to gathering together in-person and meeting authors and fellow book-lovers face-to-face. But it’s really inspiring to me how so many industries – publishing & the reading community included – have stepped up to adapt. 

So, thank you YallWest! Well done. Each of the panels I attended were awesome. Today I’m sharing my notes and takeaways from the panels I joined. Hope it’s helpful to you! *I believe the panels were recorded, and will be made available at a later date if you missed one or would like to rewatch. 😉 

Continue reading

How to Challenge Yourself in 2017

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on all that I learned and accomplished in 2016, and about my approach for continued growth in 2017. New Year, new resolutions, etc. I love the idea of taking time to look back on the successes / challenges of the previous year in order to move forward.

So today, I thought I’d write about goal setting for the new year, and, more specifically, how to challenge yourself to be better in a variety of ways.

In 2016, I really pushed myself outside my comfort zone – moving overseas to study abroad in London for 4 months, taking on my first summer internship at a magazine, taking an adult ballet class with a friend. And I’m really proud of myself for doing all those things. Best of all, I loved each of those experiences. 2016 was an awesome year.

I’m the type of person that’s always striving to be better – to continue learning and growing in all things. I’m very driven. But at the same time, I appreciate routine and will sometimes only do the things that make me feel comfortable.

I think it’s probably safe to assume that nobody enjoys – much less seeks out – situations that make them uncomfortable.

But, looking back, I’ve realized that it was precisely those uncomfortable situations that caused me to grow as a person. And I’m currently really happy with where I am today.

Something else you might be able to relate to is that feeling of pressure to “top” your previous successes. It’s difficult for me to think about where I was this time last year – in London! How could anything I do in 2017 be more exciting than that?!

It’s true – my study abroad experience was a pretty big deal, but largely because it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And just because I may not have another “once-in-a-lifetime” experience in 2017, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to learn and grow. I can absolutely continue to move forward, but I’ll be moving in new directions, and that’s exciting in and of itself.

So I’ve asked myself recently, What can I do in 2017 to push myself outside of my comfort zone?

Continue reading

Where Have I Been? 2015 / 2016 Recap Post

I couldn’t believe it when I realized it’s been over a year and a half since I last posted on the blog. What?! Where have I been? Did I drop off the face of the earth? I think it’s only fair to give you a very, very condensed / simplified recap of my life since last Aug, and attempt to explain why I neglected the blog during that time period. Also, discuss the direction of the blog moving forward and all my fabulous new plans. (I hope it’s fabulous…? It is only Jan 4 – the New Year high of optimism and motivation is through the roof.)

First things first… when I left you in August of 2015, I was beginning my sophomore year of college. And, more importantly, I was preparing for a trip across the pond. Because in spring of 2016 (exactly one year ago! ah! craziness!), I studied abroad in London, England for the semester.

At that time, I thought I’d be starting a new blog to chronicle my study abroad adventures and to write how-to posts about travel and all-things college related. I’ll give you a hint – the new site didn’t get off the ground. I registered a domain name and picked a WordPress theme and designed a logo, and then I ran out of steam, probably because I realized it’s pretty difficult starting from scratch and I had a whole lot of other things on my mind.

Anyway, I journaled in London every single day and took lots and lots of pictures and put together a scrapbook. So I kept a really thorough record of memories for myself, but unfortunately not for the blogosphere. And when I came home in May 2016, I struggled to decide whether or not to jump back into Brooke Reviews or attempt to work on the new blog, and I did neither. BUT I’ve done loads of other stuff, so I’ll share some of that with you now…

Continue reading

Back To School Blog Hiatus

Hi everyone,

I can’t even believe summer vacation is drawing to a close. I go back to school on the 24th – I’d like to take the next week and a half to prepare for classes and to think about the focus/direction of the blog.

Although I won’t be posting during this hiatus, feel free to reach out to me via email or social media!


Brooke H 🙂

Top 10 Tuesday: Fairytale Retellings


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

AH, retellings! My new obsession. 😉 And I’m loving how diverse retellings are becoming – diverse characters, diverse genres. It’s no longer the same-old same-old (modern-day Cinderella, Snow White, etc.) It’s exciting. So I’ve listed five fairytale retellings I’ve read, and five retellings I’ve added to my TBR. Enjoy!



*Can we take a moment to admire how fantastic these covers look side by side?

1. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas – retelling of Beauty and the Beast

3. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis – sci-fi retelling of Snow White

4. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Beauty and the Beast

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Cinderella (followed by sci-fi retellings of Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel)



6. Winter by Marissa Meyer – sci-fi retelling of Snow White

7. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston – retelling of A Thousand and One Nights

8. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – retelling of Red Riding Hood

9. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas – retelling of Cinderella

10. Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis – retelling of The Wild Swans



Top 10 Tuesday: Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I have actually just returned home from a three week vacation – it’s good to be back! I thought, naively, that I’d be able to keep up with my posting schedule while I was away, but unfortunately that was not the case. So I apologize for disappearing from the blog without any advance warning or explanation! Anyhow, I’m excited to be jumping back in with this fun TTT. It melts our book nerd hearts when we read about fellow bookworms. We remember these characters because, hello, they are our people. 😉


“Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forget the world again.” – Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace


“I love a book that makes me cry.” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery


“What are you doing with all those books anyway?” Ron asked.
“Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,” said Hermione. “When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.”
“Oh, of course,” said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


“It’s almost like…”
“The library,” Liz said, and immediately I knew that she was right. It was exactly like the library at the Gallagher Academy, from the position of the fireplace to the tall windows that overlooked the grounds.
“How do you know?” Zach asked.
Liz looked totally insulted. “Because…uh…library.”
“Okay.” Zach threw up his hands. “Point taken.” – Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter



“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.” – Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


“Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.” – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


“Sydney had been horrified to discover my home library consisted of a bartending dictionary and an old copy of Esquire, and at her pleading, I’d promised to read something more substantial. I was trying to think deep thoughts as I read Gatsby, but mostly I wanted to throw some parties.” – The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead


“Her salary as King’s Champion was considerable, and Celaena spent every last copper of it. Shoes, hats, tunics, dresses, jewelry, weapons, baubles for her hair, and books. Books and books and books. So many books that Philippa had to bring up another bookcase for her room.” – Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

10. GIGI

“In fiction, I searched for my favorite authors, women I have trusted to reassure me that not all teenage guys are total ditwads, that the archetype of the noble cute hero who devotes himself to the girl he loves has not gone the way of the rotary phone.” – Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer


Have you read these books?? Who are your favorite book nerd characters? Share your thoughts! Give me recommendations! 

Top 10 Tuesday: Hyped Books I’ve Never Read


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish



1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

2. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

3. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

5. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken



6. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

7. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

8. The Jewel by Amy Ewing

9. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

10. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Top 10 Tuesday: Best I’ve Read So Far in 2015


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’m excited about this week’s prompt because it gives me a chance to brag about the incredible books I’ve read in the past several months. It’s been a pretty great reading year so far! Books are listed in the order I read them.


1. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

2. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

3. Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas

4. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

5. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White


6. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

7. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

8. The Heir by Kiera Cass

9. The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

10. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh


Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Top 10 Topics


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Happy 5th anniversary to Top 10 Tuesday! Very exciting. I discovered TTT last May and have participating ever since. It’s a great weekly meme which connects book bloggers and gives us a chance to highlight our favorite books and make super fun lists. What’s not to love?! Today I’m listing my favorite “top ten” topics of the TTTs I’ve personally participated in. (It would have been too difficult to pick only ten topics from the archives! I do not envy those of you who have been participating all five years!)


1. Books as movies/TV shows (June 2) – This was too much fun! I love imagining my favorite books and characters coming to life on the screen.

2. Authors I’d love to meet (May 12) – Author love!

3. Peeking in on characters’ lives (April 7) – This was such a great prompt because I’ve often wondered ‘what happened next?’ This goes for all books without epilogues. Did the guy and the girl stay together? 

4. Books from childhood (March 24) – Your favorite childhood books really leave an impact – they shape you! I enjoyed giving appreciation to my childhood reads.

5. Favorite heroines (Feb 24) – Girl power.

6. Likes/dislikes about bookish romance (Feb 10) – I am such a sucker for a good romance. This TTT gave me a chance to outline my favorite (and least favorite!) aspects of bookish romance.


7. Places I want to be (Oct 14) – The top 10 places books have made me want to visit – as an avid traveler, this topic spoke to me.

8. Characters on a deserted island (July 22) – I tried to be logical about this topic, but I think I was too excited about being stranded with my favorite book boyfriends. 😛

9. Cover trends I like/dislike (June 24) – Let’s be honest – judging books by their covers is totally permissible.

10. Book covers I’d frame as art (May 6) – I love cover art, and enjoyed letting it shine in this TTT.

*FUN FACT: I tallied the number of times certain books/characters/authors were mentioned across the ten TTTs I chose for this post. The frontrunners included The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (7!), Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (6), Graceling by Kristin Cashore (6), Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (5), and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (5).

Looking forward to future TTTs! What were your favorite TTT topics? Feel free to link to your fave TTT posts in the comments below so I can check them out. 🙂

What writing with more emotion does for your draft


This is the seventh installment of my New Novel blog series. Last week I wrote about making an unlikable protagonist sympathetic. 

I’ve been slowly but surely plodding along on this first draft of my new novel. I feel comfortable with my character’s voice and I enjoy writing from her POV. My supporting characters are interesting. The story is always on my mind. All good things, #amiright?

So I recently shared an important scene with my writers group because I needed some feedback. Something didn’t feel right but I didn’t know how to fix it. Long story short, their advice was to add more emotion to the scene.

When I revised the scene with their advice in mind, I was super excited about the result. *I don’t typically revise as I’m drafting, because I think it’s important to just keep writing and to keep moving forward. But adding to this scene was necessary to regaining my momentum.

Let me tell you what emotion is NOT. Emotion is not melodrama. If your character is angry or upset, he/she does not need to sob or fall weak-kneed to the floor in order for you to get this across.

So what is emotion? It’s what your character is thinking/feeling at any given moment. It’s your character’s reaction to being fired from his/her job, or meeting a new friend, or losing a loved one. Reaction is key.

WHY is the emotional aspect important? WHY should we give the reaction more attention/emphasis? I’ll give you 3 reasons.


If your reader does not feel connected to your protagonist, if they could care less about your protagonist’s situation, they’re likely to stop reading. This is especially important for me to remember because my protagonist, Gwen, is somewhat unlikable at the beginning. (I wrote about this predicament last week!)

So when I shared the latest scene with my group, they told me Gwen wasn’t really internalizing her feelings. Readers want to know what your POV character is thinking and feeling, and internalization is key.

They pointed out a few strategic places where I could amp up Gwen’s emotional reaction. For example, they were interested to know what was going on in Gwen’s head when she began interacting with another character.


The scene was important to me because it directly followed the inciting incident of Act 1. Therefore, this scene is largely about Gwen’s reaction to the inciting incident (the event that sets the story in motion!).

I received this comment from one of my group members: “Let 1st impression/reaction [to character x] show how things have changed.”

While writing the scene, I’d forgotten that everything Gwen is experiencing should be colored by the events of the inciting incident. She has a new perspective on her situation and the other characters. Therefore, she’ll make different decisions based on new information. She’ll be asking new questions. And as Gwen is processing her emotions, I have to tie it all back to the plot.


You don’t want to tell your reader that your protagonist is angry or upset or excited. Rather, show your character reacting emotionally.

In the scene, my protagonist Gwen is exhausted and annoyed. She’s still reacting to the inciting incident of the story, and she isn’t given much time to process it before she’s thrust into another surprising situation. So now she’s angry. In my head, I could visualize Gwen’s anger/anxiety and her resulting facial expressions. But it was difficult translating this into words.

My writers group recommended The Emotion Thesaurus. The thesaurus lists the physical signals, internal sensations, and mental responses associated with 75 separate emotions. For example, the book reminded me that someone who is angry might be sweating, cracking their knuckles, glaring, breathing noisily, or baring their teeth. Internal sensations include grinding one’s teeth, quivering muscles, a speeding pulse. I could then choose the “tells” that made sense for my character.

Hope this helps! Have you faced similar challenges? Please share your thoughts! As always, feel free to contact me if you have a question. 🙂