Spoiler-Free Review: “Wave Me Goodbye” by Jacqueline Wilson

If you’re British and you like books, it’s likely you’ve heard of Jacqueline Wilson. This much-loved children’s writer has written over 100 books now and is famous for characters like Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather.

I was one of the kids who had some of the book sets when I was little. I had books like The Lottie Project, Double Act, The Suitcase Kid, Vicky Angel, Girls in Love, The Story of Tracy Beaker, and The Bed and Breakfast Star. She often writes books about girls around ten years old who are going through some kind of drama or tragedy, such as their parents’ divorce, poverty, bullying, and the like.

I actually hadn’t read any of Wilson’s books since the 2000s, unless you count re-reading The Illustrated Mum on Kindle a few months back.

It was cool to see that Wilson is still writing, and my dad bought me her 2017 novel Wave Me Goodbye, about a girl who is sent to the countryside right before World War II breaks out in 1939.


“September, 1939. As the Second World War begins, ten-year-old Shirley is sent away on a train with her schoolmates. She doesn’t know where she’s going, or what’s going to happen to her when she gets there. All she has been told is that she’s going on ‘a little holiday’.

Shirley is billeted in the country, with two boys from East End London, Kevin and Archie – and their experiences living in the strange, half-empty Red House, with the mysterious and reclusive Mrs Waverley, will change their lives for ever.”

A lot of Jacqueline Wilson’s characters are very similar: around ten years old, female, timid, introverted, and often don’t have many friends due to moving around a lot or being considered “weird.” They’re usually creative and good at imagining things. Shirley Louise Smith wasn’t much different. I was more interested in the time in which the story was told; we hear a lot about soldiers’ experiences in World War II, but I hadn’t come across anything from a London child’s perspective before (I’m not saying that this book is the first of its kind, but that it was an interesting change written by one of my favourite authors).

Shirley is sent away on “a little holiday” to the countryside. I found her mother to be an interesting character; strict, strong-minded, and at first, slightly narcissistic, and unwilling to tell Shirley at first that she (the mother) won’t be travelling with her. She gets exasperated with Shirley’s love for reading and wishes to be more “posh.”

I often felt very sorry for Shirley. She considers herself ugly and hates her short hair. She loves to read and often pretends the girls from her favourite book, Ballet Shoes, are around her. She has trouble making friends and is bullied by others. On top of that, she misses her parents terribly when she is billeted. It makes us appreciate how tough it was for the children during the war as well as everyone else.

I loved the characters Kevin and Archie; in my opinion, they made the book’s story stronger. I enjoyed following Shirley on her adventure and was interested in the background of the family they were staying with.

Wilson did a great job of making Shirley relatable. Shirley loves books which are appropriate for 1939 but are also understandable by today’s children, such as old fairy tales like Cinderella, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland. The language seemed fairly appropriate for the time “cor blimey”/”bally” but I wasn’t completely convinced with Archie; he was supposed to be around three or four years old but he often spoke in longer sentences that I imagine a toddler would usually struggle with. Nevertheless, he was an incredibly cute character.

All in all, I was impressed with Wave Me Goodbye. The ending was nice, although it left a lot of questions open such as the fate of her father. That being said, it was a story about Shirley, not about the war itself.

Overall I give Wave Me Goodbye four stars out of five, although I would rather give it 4.5 as I remained entertained the whole way through and will probably read it again sometime in the future. Nice job, Wilson!


Get Wave Me Goodbye on Amazon UK
Get Wave Me Goodbye on Amazon US


6 Video Games That Changed My Life

For a lot of people, video games were a big part of our childhood and our adult lives, too. Games are fairly inexpensive, fun, and provide hours and hours of entertainment. We got a Nintendo 64 in around 1998, and my brother and I would spend our afternoons and weekends killing monsters, going on adventures, and making amazing memories.

If you’re like me, you have a few games that are not only rooted in your memory forever, but sorted of shaped who you are. Connections to places and characters can alter your perspective and make you see the world differently. It doesn’t matter that they’re fictional!

Let me share with you six video games that seriously changed my life.

1. Pokémon Fire Red

I never had one of the original Game Boys, but my cousin did, and he sometimes let me play the original Pokémon Yellow on his device. It seemed awesome, and when I got a bit older I finally got a Game Boy Advance and Pokémon Fire Red.

I have a tendency to get really, really into games, just like some people get really into books, movies, and TV shows. Fire Red sucked me right in. I fought Team Rocket, explored the exciting Kanto region, developed close bonds with my Pokémon buddies and became World Champion. I was completely in love with Fire Red and its story. This was around 2005, so I was about twelve years old.

I cared so much for my Charizard, Dragonair, and other Pokémon I had. Like a lot of ’90s kids, I remember watching the anime on TV and always remained biased that the first generation of Pokémon were the best. My little avatar was eventually so strong and I got super emotional when I finally managed to win the Pokemon league.

Because I didn’t have the wires or stuff to trade Pokémon, the last part of the game was inaccessible to me. If I can’t 100% a game for whatever reason, it always seems even more mysterious and exciting.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I know I’m not alone on this one. Ocarina of Time is still the best Zelda game in my opinion. With a great story, an explorable world, really cool temples, this was another game I spent hours and hours of my childhood on this game, really cared about Epona, Saria, Malon, Zelda, Ruto and, of course, Link himself.

This was the first ever game I played and I still love love love it to this day.

3. Dragon Age: Origins

I have my brother to thank for introducing me to what was probably the best roleplaying fantasy game of the 2010s (though Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion comes a close second). As a teenager who loved fantasy (still do), I lost myself from the very beginning in the rich land of Fereldan and its story.

I love games where you create your own character (2000s-2010s Sims games, anyone?) and immediately chose to be a Dalish Elf. I, like many other girls around the world, fell in actual real love with Alistair, one of the characters, and changed my own character halfway through so that I could be a human noble and marry him at the end.

Though there are some quests that are a pain, the game is truly gorgeous with a rich story and unforgettable characters. I cared about Alistair more than I cared about a lot of real people and even now he makes me give a dreamy sigh. Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third of the DA series, is also absolutely fantastic, but Origins has that special place in my heart.

4. Fallout 3

I didn’t think Fallout 3 would really be my kind of game. I wasn’t keen on post-apocalyptic style games since I found them to be depressing. However, I gave it a try.

I could make my own character again! Similarly to Dragon Age, I could choose dialogue options and either be nice or cruel. I explored the world, completed missions, and saw a glimpse of what the world (or Washington DC, at least) could be like after a nuclear war. It was sobering as it was thrilling.

This game got me more interested in the united states and although I’m not American, I felt a sort of patriotic rush of sadness at the sight of the ruined city.

5. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon

Another Pokémon game makes this list with Mystery Dungeon, which was released in 2005. I probably played it in around 2006 or 2007 on Game Boy Advance.

This game is unlike the usual “become a trainer, capture Pokémon, and become Champion” playthrough. In Mystery Dungeon you’re transformed into a Pokémon (which one you become depends on your answers to the quiz at the beginning) and you help out other Pokémon with problems like getting lost in caves or getting separated from their friends. The game has no human people in it at all and provides insight into a completely different side of the Pokémon world.

I got really attached to your best friend in the game, whom you are always with. He even stays by your side when you are blamed for something you didn’t do and you go through a lot together. I cried my eyes out at the end and thoroughly enjoyed the game and all the adventures you go through. I was 14 years old when I played it and it touched my heart.

6. Final Fantasy X-2

(Still one of the cooliest openings to any game, ever).

I had never played any Final Fantasy games before. We always had Nintendo consoles and didn’t get a PlayStation until what felt like way after everyone else. I remember my brother’s friend came over and played Final Fantasy X-2 and I was just besotted.

As an eleven-year-old, I thought the pretty, crazy-dressed fighter girls were the coolest I had ever seen. I particularly loved Paine, with her gothic-style look and giant sword. I hadn’t played X, so I didn’t know who Yuna was talking about when she mentioned Tidas from the first game. To me, he was mysterious and I wanted to know so much more about him. Yuna’s song 1000 Words still makes me cry.

This was before the time when I could just pull my phone out my pocket and search. I didn’t know who this man was or if Yuna would ever see him again. I was just the right age where I thought the three female characters were the coolest girls ever. It was something of a unique experience.

The game itself has horrible gameplay and awkward as hell animation but I think there are many people out there like me who think of FFX-2 as a guilty pleasure.

We all have memories we hold dear from our days of being kids. Whether it’s a memory of a place or person, TV show, movie, or game, we love to hold onto the unique feeling we got from the experience. Have you ever played a video game that changed your life?

Guys I Just Had Ramen That Blew My Mind

Today I was craving ramen, and my boyfriend can never say no to ramen. So we found this place near our house.

It’s called Mame-kin Gyoza and it serves Chinese noodles. They had a spicy hotpot with which you can have gyoza (dumplings), or tsukemen (that you can dip into the hot soup.)

I chose both, naturally. The picture had five little pictures of peppers and wooooo it was spicy indeed.

The hotpot thing had vegetables, pork, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, and even some fish ball stuff that you find in oden.

It was super hot and spicy and tasty. I chucked in the cold noodles and gobbled them all up. The gyoza dumplings had also soaked up all that lovely soup.

The waiter put two small bowls down so my boyfriend and I could share but he underestimated my power. I shoved all that in my belly and it was D E L I S H.

If you like ramen, visit Mame-kin Gyoza for yummy spicy tsukemen noodles! ❤️

Top 8 Experiences in Ishigaki, Okinawa

I’ve been on a social media hiatus the past week or so, and it’s been quite refreshing. Tied in with that was my three-night stay on Ishigaki, the westernmost island of Okinawa, Japan. It was exactly what I needed to get rid of the stress that has been building up lately. If you’re stressed and you can afford it, an island holiday is a great pick-up.

I never really thought of myself as a tropical island person. I like mountains, rivers, and cities. But I loved Ishigaki. The contrast between the rather cold Tokyo and the open friendliness of the island people was surprising and refreshing. Despite it being February, Ishigaki’s weather lingered between 20-25 degrees Celsius. And there was so much space. So few people.

I won’t bore you with every single detail, but here are the best things I did in Ishigaki and the surrounding islands.

1. The Limestone Cave


What I was expecting to be a touristy and highly commercialized spot was surprisingly awesome. We followed a path to admire some stalactites and stalagmites that had formed over thousands of years, sometimes taking on amusing shapes such as Totoro, the famous Studio Ghibli character.

It was only a ten-minute drive away from the port and there was also a souvenir shop. We also saw some funky cocoons and a creepy-looking crab. It’s worth visiting when you’re in Ishigaki.

2. Trying Wagyu Beef

When you talk about high-quality beef from Japan, most people think of Kobe beef. Ishigaki wagyu is made from the black cows of the local area (whereas Kobe beef is made from the cows in Kobe), and we were hoping to try this high-grade stuff while we were here. A taxi driver recommended a place called Kingyuu, which means gold beef.


It was just delightful. I’ve never had meat so marbled and tender, and now I finally understand what people mean by “melt in your mouth.” It was a fantastic experience. Kingyuu is just one of the many recommended places to try Ishigaki beef. If you want to go, make reservations.

3. Visiting Hateruma Island

We went to Hateruma Island for the day, which is an hour away by ferry from Ishigaki port. The island is the southernmost part of Japan and was so peaceful. The others on the ferry seemed to melt away and during our time cycling around the island, we didn’t see many other people at all. Just goats and sugar cane fields. It was gorgeous.

I took a photo of some farm workers, who were among the few people we spotted here.


You can see the southernmost point of Japan if you cycle down to the south coast of Hateruma.


4. The Beach

I’m not really one for the beach; when I was a kid, “beach” meant big coats, throwing rocks into the sea, and hot flasks of coffee. You wouldn’t really see me relaxing with a bikini and a book. However, we came across this lovely white sand beach on Haterumaand just had to take off our shoes and socks to play.


There were a few other people there, as well as a guy who seemed to be living there – he had his clothes hung up and was relaxing on a towel with a beer! I felt it would be rude to take a picture of him, but it was a pretty unusual sight.

I didn’t see anyone paddling or writing in the sand, but what’s the point in going to the beach if you’re not going to do those things?

5. Visiting Taketomi Island

Taketomi Island is so nice, but it had a lot more tourists on it than Hateruma had. That being said, there are a lot of experiences you can enjoy here, such as seeing fish from a glass bottom boat and riding a wagon pulled by a water buffalo.


I had my reservations about the buffalo part (I hadn’t booked it; I’d left all that to Ken), but the animals are strong and get fed well and showered every few steps of the tour. I think they were happy… but I really don’t know. They’re fed and washed and taken care of, so I suppose they’re as happy as buffalos can be.


Taketomi is full of charming houses, fields of cows, and pretty flowers even in winter. It’s also only a ten-minute ferry ride from Ishigaki, so it’s easily accessible for a half-day trip.

6. A Free Shamisen Show

As part of the water buffalo tour, the man who guided us, a local of Taketomi, played this cute song on the shamisen. It’s unusual and exotic and was an unexpected treat.

#shamisen #music #Japan #Taketomi #竹富島 #しゃみせん

A post shared by Poppy Reid (@poppyinjapan) on

7. The Food

Wagyu beef isn’t the only food you can try in Ishigaki. On our last night, we had tempura, maguro (tuna meat) katsu, sashimi, tofu (which tastes a hundred times better here), and thick chunks of pork. The vegetables here are fresh and the mango, in particular, is much better than on the mainland.

8. Swimming in the Pool

The Japanese like to keep by the rules. The pool is generally closed in winter, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Ken asked if we could take a dip anyway, and to my surprise, they said yes. No one else was hanging around the pool (25 degrees is hot for me, but I suppose not to everyone), so the pool was empty.


This was a particularly special moment; my boyfriend asking the hotel staff if we could swim, and for us to be alone there, taking in the sea view and having a really refreshing dip before dinner.


Almost the entire trip was fantastic, but these eight things were definitely the highlights. Getting away from the stress of the city was completely refreshing. I adore Tokyo, but I’d suffered from writer’s block and anxiety and didn’t realise how much I was feeling it until I had this very relaxing three-day trip to Okinawa. If you’re thinking of visiting this tropical prefecture, I highly recommend Ishigaki.

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Queen’s Rising” by Rebecca Ross

Hi, everyone. I just got back from Ishigaki in Okinawa, and it was a few days’ rest I desperately needed. Keep an eye out for photos and blog posts.

While on my trip, I read a book I’d been waiting to read for a while. I’d seen it on Twitter and immediately fell in love with the cover. It was a debut fantasy novel by American writer Rebecca Ross, someone I’ve come to admire deeply. I bought it and read it any spare minute that I wasn’t playing about on the beach or sampling the delicious Okinawan food.


“Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—she is left without a patron. 

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

And now, with war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to: passion or blood.”

I felt a pull to this book immediately, and from the first page, I knew I’d made the right choice. Ross writes with flair and explains details flawlessly, using sights and smells, especially, to really suck me into the world without going overboard on description. Brienna was sort of the anti-Mary-Sue; it was refreshing to come across a character who struggled with her pursuits. She was not gifted with art or music like her patron sisters, and eventually chose to passion in knowledge, working hard to catch up to her classmate. This book also defied stereotypes, and things which I thought I saw coming a mile away turned out to be entirely different than I expected. There were also twists that made me audibly gasp, which I think annoyed some of the surrounding travellers.

Some reviewers so far have complained that there was no action until later in the book, but I genuinely enjoyed exploring the world that Ross created, with its scents and beautifully described Magnalia House, the school in which Brienna studied. I don’t believe that all books should have brushes with death to hook you in from the first page, and I was gently seduced into the story. Ross’ prose is just gorgeous. I felt aching in my heart reading this book, an inspiring envy, and was captivated by the story she told.

I recommend this gorgeously crafted novel to any lover of fantasy, who enjoys discovering new worlds and learning rich and unique histories. Although there were several questions left unanswered at the end of the story, this is a fantastic stand-alone tale that I hope every book lover reads. I give The Queen’s Rising five stars out of five.


Get The Queen’s Rising on Amazon US
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Today’s My Birthday

Hi, everyone. Today’s my birthday. I got a cake to prove it!

A lot of my friends are older than me, and by writing this article I can almost feel the “Oh, shut up, you’re still young!” But hear me out.

25 is when you stop being a young adult and become an adult adult. There is no excuse for not being able to do things anymore. You’re expected to know how to change a baby’s diaper. Drive a car. Fill out your tax returns.

25 is where your life begins.

Not that it’ll feel any different, probably; things will just hurt more and hangovers will last longer. I’m fairly happy with life so far, so it’ll be good to see where the second half of my twenties take me.

What Do You Do When You Have Writer’s Block?

The last few months of 2017 and January 2018 were fantastic for me, writing-wise. I pumped out dozens of articles for various websites and finished a novelette. I wrote every day. I even made some money.

But every day of February so far has been a disaster. I’ve got a quarter of the way through articles before dismissing them as trash. Two unfinished fictional projects poke the back of my mind all day when I’m working or cooking, but as soon as I sit down to write, my mind goes blank.

Am I burned out? Or is it just writer’s block?


I’m pretty upset about it. Today’s a national holiday, which means I’m not at the office and it should be a day of working on the final of my fantasy trilogy. I just quit my job to be a full-time writer, for pity’s sake. Now I can’t even manage a five-hundred-word article and the idea of writing fiction would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

What do you do when you’re suffering from writer’s block? I’ve been reading a lot. I love to read anyway, but I’ve already demolished several novels in 2018 alone. I’ve also been playing video games. I’ve been writing for this blog, but that to me doesn’t really count as “writing.” I want to finish my trilogy! I want to start working on a new project!

So how do you beat writer’s block? A quick Google search takes you to a few articles. I just found this one on GoinsWriter, which suggests music, walking, coffee, reading, and even freewriting. Writers Digest says you should write when everyone else is asleep, clear your desk, exercise, and work on other creative projects.

This slump suuuuuuuuuuuuucks. What do you do when you have writer’s block?

Peach Coca-Cola in Japan: Gross or Great?

I’d heard a bit about peach cola floating around in Japan. It’s just one of the many experimental flavours of drinks and the like that pop up now and then in the country. You’ll see crazy varieties of crisps, chocolate, alcohol, and soft drinks. I saw a bottle of peach cola in Daiso and grabbed a bottle.

Peach is quite a common flavour. You can get peace juice, peach soda, peach alcoholic drinks. What would peach cola be like?

I usually don’t drink cola unless it has whiskey in it, but I took a swig. At first it just tastes like regular cola, but the peach flavour comes afterward, at the top of your mouth. There is also a peachy aftertaste mixing with the usual slightly acidic sensation of coke.

I personally don’t think it’s that special. If you’re old enough to drink, you can get very similar peachy flavours with better drinks, such as peach horoyoi (3% alcohol). Though I suppose if you’re a huge fan of cola, it might be worth a try.

Basically, it tastes pretty much how you’d expect. Quite tasty, but nothing groundbreaking.

Yakiniku (Korean Barbecue) in Japan

It’s the weekend, and a national holiday on Monday! I’m getting geared up to spend the next three days killing dragons, hunting monsters, and reading books. Not necessarily in that order.

We had yakiniku for dinner, which is the local word for Korean barbecue. You get a grill at your table and order stuff to put on the fire. The meat is all cut thinly so that it cooks after just a minute or so.

Restaurants usually offer a tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) course, but you generally don’t need it. The tabehoudai was around 3,400 yen but they had a set for two people for just 2,500 yen and it was more than enough.

They also had nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) set, but you could only get it if you already ordered the tabehoudai. Therefore, we got just one bottle of sake and then ordered soft drinks to make our own mixed drinks. Forbidden? No. Cheeky? Maybe.

The set was ginormous, have a look. Please forgive the vertical shot though; I am not a clever man.

We also got a big bowl of rice, some sausages, and some kimchi, which is spicy Korean cabbage and one of my favourite foods ever. I remember going mental when I saw kimchi featured in an episode of QI.

It’s pretty much a meat lover’s dream. We had grilled kalbi beef and sausages and rice and kimchi and onion and carrot and pumpkin until we were full to burst. I also had juice with too much sake in and left the restaurant a little merry.

If you visit Japan, definitely be sure to try out “yakiniku.” It’s one of the best not-Japanese-but-kind-of-Japanese styles of eating you don’t want to miss 😀

Spoiler-Free Review: “Angst” by David J. Pedersen

Day 39

I’ve just finished reading a fantasy novel called Angst, written by David J. Pedersen.

“When Angst turned 40, he knew it was over. Angst had longed to be a knight of Unsel, to make his mark in history, to be remembered for heroic deeds and wondrous acts. He grew up knowing he was destined for something great, but now it is too late. Not only is 40 far too old to become a knight, Angst is one of the few able to wield “the magics”.”

Most protagonists in fantasy novels are young and gifted, destined from birth to be the hero and saviour of the story – often not relatable at all. One of the first things that draws readers to David Pedersen’s Angst is the fact that the main character is the exact opposite of this stereotype.

Angst is the perfect name for this character: he is unsatisfied with his life, a gift that should have been cherished makes him an outcast, and he spends his life in skull-numbing boredom. After turning forty, he believes his dreams of becoming a knight, and subsequent hero, are over. That is until he draws a sword that has been unmovable for as long as anyone can remember. It just might be up to Angst to get to the bottom of the problems plaguing Unsel… once his back stops hurting.

Angst is just an adorable character. Pedersen cleverly captures the mid-life crisis, urge to become something bigger and better, and the fearless, cheeky flirting of a forty-year-old. It was really interesting how these elements fit nicely into a fantasy story.

The story itself was incredibly creative and I’ll have a hard time forgetting many different aspects of the world of Ehrde, including places, beasts, and the concept of the Vex’kvette. I found that I was carrying the book around with me so I could read it on the train and during my lunch breaks.

There were a few things I wasn’t sure about. Something we find out about Heather, Angst’s wife, could have been foreshadowed, along with several other things. I also couldn’t bring myself to like the character Rose, although that is personal preference because I’ve heard she’s a very popular character. Nevertheless, this was a fun story to read and I look forward to reading the next one! I give this book four stars out of five.

Get Angst on Amazon US
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