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2020, A Time for Changes – Three Things I’ve Learned in My Years Blogging

3 Things I've Learned About Blogging -- The riverside Librarypng

It’s the seventh week of 2020, and I’m sitting down to write a post about my ~feelings~, so obviously, the year is off to a great start.
This URL expires in a few weeks, I’ll renew it, but it’s made me reflect on this blog a lot.
If you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll know that I haven’t posted a lot lately. Not to this blog, nor to my Instagram. Last year was a busy year, but more than that, 2019 was chaotic inside my head. It was so heavy on my shoulders that by October it had crushed me. That left little time for anything, least of all blogging.
Now that I’m feeling better, I can return to the part of my brain that thinks of books, reading, and this blog, and contemplate the future of it, while also reflecting on the past. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been blogging for (and frankly I don’t really care to know), but I’ve learnt a lot of lessons. Here are my top three.

1. When You Have a Business and a Semi-Public Life, Don’t Combine Them

I was quite public about my business (Potions Candle Co) on my bookstagram account, and vice versa. At first, I thought it was a great way to open my business up to more customers, but I never realised that it would come back to bite me.
Having customers follow both my accounts brought about an interesting predicament. Though no one mentioned anything, I felt immensely guilty posting anything to my bookstagram account when I had orders I needed to process, make or pack. I didn’t want to share that I was reading a book, in case it upset someone who was waiting on their order. Granted I think most people would understand that I had more than one order to do, and it simply wasn’t healthy to be working at 10 pm at night when I was reading, but I still felt guilty.
Not only did this reduce the amount of content I was producing for my bookstagram, it also fostered a strange sense of resentment toward Potions, for encroaching on my personal life in every way possible.
I still own Potions (which is Potions Illustration now), and most of my lovely followers are kind enough to follow me on both of my accounts, but because I take on very little client work, and my products are downloadable, there’s not the same pressure to be always working as there once was.
From now on, any other public venture I do, I probably won’t share on my bookstagram account, just for… you know, my own sanity.

2. Some Things Are Meant For Fun, Not For Success

Like this blog, for example.
When you’re searching for blogging tips and tricks (I often looked up something along the lines of: ‘how do I make the words come easier??!??!?!?!’) it’s easy to be sucked in my those million articles promising that you could get rich QUICK with just your blog, even if you never actually wanted to do it to make money.
So, you end up signing up to a handful of affiliate programs, get kicked off one for being too small, and make a whopping sum of $1.
Then, you sign up to AdSense before realising you hate having ads on your blog, so you install an ad blocker and completely forget that your blog still has ads, which, may I add, make you another whopping $1.
Finally, you start angling for some sponsored posts that never happen because you know deep down inside that your heart isn’t in it.
Then, you pull your head out of your a** of the sand and realise that you’ve misplaced the joy of blogging somewhere along the way. It fell out of your arms around the time you picked up SEO and those three hundred ‘How to Find Success on Pinterest’ articles that state the same thing in forty-two different font sizes (often all in the same post. My eyes. Halp).
Turns out, in the end, you sold the fun of your blog for $2 that you never actually got because you didn’t meet the payment threshold. Good job, kiddo.

3. Only You Can Decide The Direction of Your Happiness

How many times have I posted a poll on Instagram asking everyone what kind of content they’d like to see from me? Far too many. Why? I couldn’t tell you.
Perhaps it went something like this:

I run a book blog, and I couldn’t very well post anything other than books, could I?
I couldn’t have a mish-mash blog. That was what those Pinterest articles said. But maybe my followers thought something different?
Maybe they’d still read if I just rambled on about my ~feelings~.
Maybe they’d be interested in my favourite eco-friendly fashion brands.
Maybe they’d like an in-depth comparison of the quality of paper used by major notebook companies.
Best ask.
Oh, they’re fine with it.
But the Pinterest gurus…… they still say no. Better not. It’s a book blog after all.

Well, however it went, it’s no longer that way. I’ve realised (for the seven-billionth time) that I pave my own path to happiness, and no one can do it for me. It’s my choice to pick what materials I use for the path, what colour said materials are, if the path is windy, straight or uphill, it’s my choice where it starts and goes and ends.
I’m not giving the joy of my blog to Pinterest gurus anymore, nor am I selling it for $2 I never get. I’m just going to write stuff. Don’t know what. Probably book stuff. I like books. Maybe writing because that’s cool too. You never know, this might turn into my humble little place of self-rediscovery because we can’t all just go to Italy and eat pasta like that lady from Eat, Pray, Love.
Whatever 2020 brings for The Riverside Library, I’m going to enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s just a waste.
I hope my learning the hard way turns into the easy way for you! Happy blogging my friends!

REVIEW: Page Anchor – Is It Worth It?

Page Anchor Review-- The riverside Library-2

The one question I get most of all from my followers on Instagram is: 'Do you actually use your Page Anchor?' So, today I'm coming at you with my ling awaited Page Anchor review. I'm about to give you the brutally honest truth (which I can say because they totally unfollowed me on Instagram 😉🤣 )

Also, big shout out to my big sister for getting me my Page Anchor! Thanks a million.

Now, let's dive right into my Page Anchor review.

What is a Page Anchor?

A Page Anchor is a gorgeous looking bookish accessory designed to hold your book open while you read (or take photographs).

How Do You Use It?

The Page Anchor is simple to use. You slot the two pins between the pages of your novel, and slide the anchor down. When it's time to turn the page, you push the anchor up (not the whole way so it falls out), turn the page, and side it back down again. Does that get annoying? Sure, sometimes it does.

How Often Do I Use It?

I use my Page Anchor whenever I'm writing in my diary or reading a tightly bound book (i.e. my Knickerbocker Sherlock Holmes books). I generally don't reach for my Page Anchor for any ordinary book because I don't have an issue holding it open. I try to buy floppy books that will lie flat in my hand or on my bed, so I don't have to struggle to hold them.

Would I Recommend It?

Sure! As I mentioned above, the Page Anchor is a great accessory, so if you have the spare money and want one, definitely go for it! However, it's by no means a necessity for reading, nor does it elevate your status in the bookstagram community (as I've seen a few people theorise). It's simply a great way to hold your book open, and a very pretty accessory to have.

You can get your own Page Anchor here + see a video of how it works.

Page Anchor Review 2 -- The Riverside Library

100+ Bookstagram Hashtags by Post Type

100+ More bookstagram hashtags by post type -- The riverside Library-3

It's probably no surprise that one of my most popular blog posts to date is 100+ Bookstagram Hashtags. Having posted that one quite some time ago, I've had a while to consider how to improve it, and help you readers out some more with your hashtag game on bookstagram. In this post, I've grouped hashtags by post type (ie. bookshelves, library loans etc), and included some new, specific hashtags for you to use.

A Little Bookstagram Hashtag Tip

One of the best tips I've ever received is to save my hashtags as a keyboard shortcut in my phone. To do this on an iPhone, simply go to settings > general > keyboard >text replacement then paste the hashtags in 'phrase' and create a unique shortcut. Then, when it comes time to posting your Instagram photo, you can simply type in your unique shortcut and your phone will replace that with your hashtags!

Quick things to remember: Instagram will only allow you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. Also, I've tried my best to proof read this (and count), but forgive me if there are spelling errors. It really hurts your head to stare at hashtags for so long!


General Bookish

All General (28)

#photooftheday #bookstagram #bookworm #booklover #instabooks #bibliophile #bookish #booknerd #literature #bookaholic #reader #igreads #bookphotography #bookstagrammer #instabook #booksofinstagram #bookporn #ilovebooks #readersofinstagram #bookworms #booksbooksbooks #bookcommunity #readmore #bookobsessed #booksarelife #totalbooknerd #bookaddiction #readmorebooks

Half general (so you can mix it up with more specific ones) (15)

#readersofig #bookreader #bookaddicted #bookalicious #bookishgirl #bookish life #bookaholics #bookster #allthebooks #fortheloveofreading #bibliophilia #bookaccount #bookaddict #bookstagramit


For when you’re reading (28)

#amreading #currentlyreading #readersofinstagram #readingtime #ilovereading #lovereading #lovetoread #readingisfundamental #readmorebooks #ilovetoread #readersofig #bookrecommendation #lovetoreadbooks #bookreaders #readaholic #idratherbereading #readreadread #readingrocks #readallthebooks #fortheloveofreading #readstagram #bookreading #avidreader #readingiscool #readeveryday #readingtime #bookstoread #readingislife


When you’re showing your library love (23)

#library #libraryloans #librarylover #libraryporn #librarylove #publiclibrary #loveyourlibrary #publiclibraries #borrowedbooks #librariesrock #libraryphotography #librariesofinstagram #librarybook #librarygirl #libraryofinstagram #librarybooks #librarygram #libraryshelfie #libraryhaul #librarycard #librarygoals #libraryofbookstagram #librarytime


Shot of a bookshelf (30)

#bookshelf #shelfie #shelfiesunday #shelfies #shelfielicious #shelfiesaturday #shelfiegoals #shelfiedecor #shelfiestyling #shelfielovethursday #shelfielove #shelfielust #shelfietime #shelfieinspo #shelfiemagazine #shelfieday #shelfiestyle #shelfiefreak #shelfiemonday #shelfieselfie #shelfiesnotselfies #shelfiequeen #shelfielife #bookshelves #bookshelfstyling #bookshelfie #bookshelfporn #bookshelfgoals #bookshelflove


Bookstagram Features (27)

(If you're trying to get reposted by a feature account, check their bio first for instructions, and make sure you're following them. I've always found I have better success by tagging them in my photo, rather than simply using their hashtag).

#bookstagramfeatures #bookstagramfeature #bookstagramfeaturepage #bookstagramfeaturess #bookfeatured #bookfeaturepage #bookfeatures #bookfeaturereads #bookwormsfeature #mybookfeatures #bookishfeatures #bookfeaturefriday #booknerdfeature #bookfeaturespage #bookstafeatures #booksofinstagramfeature #bookfeaturefeed #bookwormfeatire #wildbookishfeature #mybookishfeatures #bookfeaturepages #bookfeaturedpage #featuremybooks #mybooksfeature #featuredbooklovers


Book Blog (17)

#bookblog #bookblogger #bookblogging #bookbloggers #bookbloggerlife #bookbloggersofig #bookblogs #bookbloggersofinstagram #bookbloggerbooks #bookbloggerpost #bookbloggerslife #bookbloggteam #bookbloggersunite #bookreviewblog #bookblogginglife #bookstagramblogger #bookblogfeatures


Book Haul/ Book Mail (16)

#bookhaul #bookmail #newbooks #bookaddict #ilovebookmail #bookmailisthebestmail #happybookmail #bookishmail #bookmailisthebest #snailmailbook #surprosebookmail #bookmailbox #booksbymail #newbookmail #bookhauls #bookhauler


Book stack (9)

#bookstack #bookstacks #bookstacksaturday #bookstackchallenge #bookstacksunday #bookstacking #bookstackattack #stacksofbooks #stacksofbookslife


Fantasy (8)

#fantasybooks #fantasybook  #fantasybookseries #fantasybooklover #fantasybooksrus #fantasybookcollector #fantasybookworm #amreadingfantasy


YA (7)

#iloveya #ireadya #yabooks #yabookstagram #yabookseries #yabookstagrammer #yabookworm

Don’t forget to include what YA subgenre your book is #yafantasy #yacontemporary #yaromance #yascifi


Romance (7)

#ireadromance #romancebook #romancebooks #readromance #gottareadromance #romancereaders #amreadingromance


So there you have it! Don't forget to check out my Instagram @riversidelibrary, and drop me a comment or send me a DM if this helped you! I love to chat!

 


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QUICK REVIEW: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora Risisng Review -- The Riverside Library

Welcome to the newest segment on my blog: Quick Reviews. The aim of this segment is to write helpful reviews in 200 words or less, with a read time of 2 minutes or less. You'll be able to find all the reviews here: Quick Reviews.

Let's give this thing a go.

Quick Review

Big thanks to one of my bookstagram MVPs Catherine (@catherinerosegunther & catherinerosegunther.com) for sending me an ARC of Aurora Rising. As a huge fan of Illuminae, I was super excited (and a little nervous) to pick up Aurora Rising.

Aurora Rising is jam-packed with action from the get-go, and I can safely say I have never enjoyed dual perspectives like this before. I was excited when a new character’s POV came along, because I actually liked them all.

Though the novel was around 400 pages, I felt like I didn’t get to know the characters as well as I would have liked, but this being a series, I’m not overly concerned about that. I can get to know them later.

The plot and concepts are incredible, complex and interesting. I feel like the only element that brings them squarely into the YA domain is the dialogue and teenage love. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but it did slight diminish my enjoyment of the novel. Having said that, this is a YA novel, so props to the authors for that.

Great if you love:

Multiple POVs

Plot-driven novels

YA Sci-fi

Sassy characters (though a little too over the top sassy for me)

Would I Read the Sequel?

Hells to the yes on that one.

Star Rating


Book details

Title: Aurora Rising

Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Aus Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $19.99

Aus Publication Date: May 2019

Blurb:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

Aurora Rising Cover

 

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


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Quick Review Aurora Rising-- The Riverside Library

You Need to Start a Commonplace Book, and Here’s Why

You Need to Start A Commonplace Book and Here's Why -- The Riverside Library

How often have you come across a line while reading a book, and felt a sudden surge of… something?

Something that makes your heart pulse a little more fervently, something that heats your chest, something that sparks a little fire in your soul. How often do you turn to whatever journal, book, or writing device you have nearby just to write it down, to remember it because it meant something to you?

Odds are, particularly if you’re a creative type, that’s happened quite a bit. It’s been a commonplace thing for many creatives throughout history, so much so, there’s even a name for the style of journaling. It’s called a commonplace book, and you should totally start one.

What is a commonplace book?

Simply put, a commonplace book is a journal in which phrases of note are copied or recorded for one's own personal use. This could be passages from books, quotes seen on Pinterest, things overheard, and even things you've thought.

 

How do you start a commonplace book?

Starting a commonplace book is simple. All you need is a journal, a pen/pencil, and a bunch of things you want to record.

Five tips for your commonplace book

Starting any kind of creative task can be daunting, so here are my tips for compiling your commonplace book.

1. Ignore the temptation to strive for perfection

A commonplace book isn't designed to be a beautiful thing placed on display. It's simply a place to record things you love. You can, of course, work hard to make it aesthetically pleasing, or filled with adorable drawings, but don't let the idea of creating something perfect stop you from starting. A messy commonplace book is better than none at all.

2. Don't worry about having things in order

Fill your commonplace book with passages as you find them. You don't have to work out a table of contents before you begin and proceed to categorise your work as you go. That will simply take time and cause confusion. The theme of this book is 'Things that Inspire Me,' resist the temptation to further divide that into subcategories.

3. Allow yourself creative free reign

Your commonplace book doesn't have to be solely reserved for quotes, or other written media. Mix things up a little with drawings, doodles, photographs, magazine cut-outs, or even pressed flowers. You can even write passages on different papers and glue or sellotape them into your book.

4. Make the experience an event

I understand that sometimes you don't have a spare moment to sit down and artistically add something to a notebook, but sitting down and recording things you love is such a relaxing experience. When I come across a passage I want to add to my commonplace book, I take note of it on my phone. Then, once I've compiled quite a list of things, I'll make myself some tea, sit in the sunlight, or cosy up with a blanket and a crackling candle on a rainy day, grab my pen or pencil and have a calm moment or two while I write. It's a form of self-care. Enjoy it.

5. Find inspiration everywhere

I have a list of things on my phone that inspire me. Strange things that I probably shouldn't reveal. Things like ants, climbing the gaps in cobblestones while carrying a crumb twice their size. Include strange little lists like these in your commonplace book, and seek inspiration everywhere you go. You can find it in nature, in books, in lyrics of songs, dialogue of movies, words of your best friend. If it inspires you, include it.

Stationary I love to use

I use a little journal for my commonplace book, which allows me to put it in my handbag and take it with me if I feel like I'm going to wind up somewhere that I'll be able to write. I picked up this blank book by seeso graphics at TK Maxx, in the discount section for around $2. If you're looking for something bigger, I thoroughly recommend Rhodia journals - their pages are some of the softest I've ever felt. As for writing utensils, I either use pencil (the pages in my journal are fairy see-through), or in my Rhodia journal, I use nothing but Stabilo Fineliners. I somehow scored a pack of 30 for $10, so keep your eyes peeled for discounts.

Thanks for reading! Happy commonplacing!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

 


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The One Journal Every Creative Needs to Start Right Now -- The Riverside Library
The One Journal Every Creative Needs to Start Right Now -- The Riverside Library

You Need to Start a Common Place Book, and Here's Why -- The Riverside Library

REVIEW: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Review The Flatshare -- The Riverside Library

Of all the books I’ve come across in recent years, The Flatshare would have to have one of the most interesting premises. I was incredibly lucky to receive a review copy from Hachette Australia, and (this may just spoil the whole review for you) it was the complete highlight of my month.

The Flatshare follows Tiffy and Leon – two strangers who share a bed. How? While Leon works nights, Tiffy sleeps, and vice versa. It’s perfect – and they never have to meet. But what if that one person who you never meet, is actually someone you should? That’s the exact question The Flatshare asks.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that contemporaries are definitely a genre I try to stay away from, although, you’ll also know I like to challenge my reading tastes. It was that particular hobby and the unique premise of this book that inspired me to pick this one up. Once I did, trust me, there was no putting it down and I may have already read it twice.

What I liked

This book is sunshine. Complete and utter sunshine. There were so many things that I loved about the book, so I'll have to narrow it down to just a few for brevity's sake.

I adored both of our lead characters. Tiffy and Leon both had flaws but they weren’t painted in a negative light, in fact, I'd be more inclined to call them quirks instead of flaws. The Flatshare makes you love these characters even when Leon would be incredibly difficult to crack in real life, and Tiffy might be too much to handle. I felt like this book had some kind of gentle magic that made me love these two real, quirky, and flawed characters.

Another thing I appreciated for a heartwarming contemporary was that The Flatshare didn’t shy away from difficult subject matters. Seeing Tiffy’s journey throughout the book was not something I expected, but it honestly made the book so much more enjoyable for me. This was a classic case of something I never knew I needed until it was in my hands, going into my brain. It also added an element of unpredictability for me, possibly because I wasn't expecting the storyline, there were elements in there that really took me by surprise.

What I didn’t like

It feels so strange trying to talk about something I didn't like in a book where I genuinely enjoyed everything.

If I had to pick out one thing that might turn readers away, it would be that Leon’s POV writing took a little to get used to. Coming from a science background, I was kind of used to the succinct, to the point sentences. I also absolutely adored how the writing style subtly changed as the book went on and Leon found himself in a different place emotionally.

You know it's a truly special book when my 'What I Didn't Like' section turns into talking about more things I adored.

My favourite thing

Can I just say everything? I genuinely adore this book, and I think I may have said that enough now to get my point across. I even bought the eBook, so when I'm travelling I will always have a copy (read: ray of sunshine) with me. I can't urge you enough to go out and get yourself a copy, and also, please, take a leaf out of Tiffy's book, and go about life being unapologetically yourself.

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Book details:

Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth O'Leary
Australian Publisher: Hachette
Australian Publication Date: May 2019
RRP: AU$32.99

Blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met...

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they're crazy, but it's the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy's at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven't met yet, they're about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window...

 


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The Flatshare -- The Riverside Library

REVIEW: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Somehow, We Hunt the Flame managed to fly right under my radar as I conducted my extensive research into my most anticipated reads of 2019. I ended up hearing about it a few months before release, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for a review.
I’m a huge mood reader, and I’m not sure if I can blame my mood for this, or if the book starts too slowly for me, but We Hunt The Flame took quite a while for me to get into. It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of slow-paced fantasy, after all, it took me a whopping three years to get past the first handful of chapters in The Fellowship of the Ring. However, once I was past the first third-or-so, I found the story a lot more intriguing.


Blurb

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.


Things I Loved:

It’s obvious to any reader that the world in this book has been lovingly crafted, and almost as if every single word was painstakingly deliberated over before it made the final cut, which, oftentimes can be slightly too much, but surely served to add to the world’s richness in We Hunt the Flame. It’s always a joy to read something that’s evidently loved by the author, and Faizal’s unique talent of incorporating that into her work was a surprising delight that added to the story’s charm.
The rich, slow writing style in this novel reminds me of adult fantasy. In some ways, We Hunt the Flame would make a good transitional read, if you’re feeling near the end of your love affair with YA, and adult fiction is calling your name from the infinite TBR stacks.
Also – this novel has a quest, guys! You know, I am all for a quest novel. It’s hands down one of my favourite types of stories, and I admire anyone who can write one. Imagine, you have to somehow make the story of a person walking from one place to another actually interesting. It’s a feat. Truly. Simply the presence of a quest in the novel is a huge thumbs up for me and if the quest is in hopes of restoring magic? Sign me up! 

Things I Didn’t Love

As I mentioned above, We Hunt the Flame was extremely hard for me to get into. Again, whether this is purely because of my reading mood, or perhaps because of the book’s pacing, I’m undecided.
Having said that, the book was definitely on the slower side pacing wise, I felt as though the book wanted the plot to happen as much as I did, but something kept holding it off right up until that third of the way through when I really got sucked in.
I think the writing style could definitely be the cause of the story’s speed.
As I mentioned above, the writing style was really beautiful, but in some parts, I did find it too descriptive – to the point, I became disoriented, not entirely sure where the characters were or what was happening. This is possibly a personal quirk, my imagination sometimes likes to shut down when there’s too much description and the characters exist in a black void.
Finally, something I find increasingly common in recent releases is the inclusion of wildly popular tropes that I really dislike. One of my least favourite romance tropes is enemies to lovers – a hugely unpopular opinion, I know. If you’re a sucker for that type of thing, the romance in We Hunt the Flame will definitely be for you.

My final thoughts

If you’re a fan of YA Fantasy, We Hunt the Flame is definitely something you should pick up, and you’ll likely devour it. Unfortunately, We Hunt the Flame and I just didn’t connect in the way I thought we would, and the book really wasn’t for me. I have quite the inkling that I am in the absolute minority with this opinion (let’s be honest, this happens a solid 76% of the time), however, and I encourage you to pick up a copy and dive into this beautiful fantasy world.
Thanks so much to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy for review!
Mikaela | The Riverside Library


BOOK DETAILS


TITLE: We Hunt the Flame
AUTHOR: Hafsah Faizal
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan/Farrar Straus Girox BYR
AUS PUBLICATION DATE: 14/05/2019
RRP: AU$18.99


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My Top Five Favourite Illustration & Digital Art Apps

I spend a great deal of my time drawing digital art on my iPad, usually, it's label art for Potions Candle Co, or just doodling until inspiration hits.

Over the past two years drawing digitally, I've tried a fair few apps available on the Apple and Android App stores, and I have my favourites. I can’t say that I’ve tried every one available, and I definitely haven’t used each one to its full capacity, but I do get asked about this quite often, so here are my top five digital art apps.

MediBang Paint


Price: Free!



MediBang Paint is a powerful free app that I wish I knew about at the beginning of my digital art journey. I don't have a lot of experience using this one, but from the short time I have spent on it, I was very impressed, especially considering it's free.

The reason this one isn’t higher on my list is due to the ease of use. I’ve always found it particularly difficult to find my way around this app. The interface has a lot of features, and it may be more familiar to people with more experience with other (perhaps desktop?) drawing apps, but for me, I like my canvas to take up most of the room on the app, not for all the bells and whistles to get in the way.

Though, I must say, the variety of brushes available is definitely a major plus. It also has pressure sensitivity with the Apple Pencil (I’m not certain about any other brands of stylus). In my perusing of the interwebs, MediBang Paint seems to be the free app of choice of many experienced digital artists and graphic designers.

Pros: Powerful, Free


Cons: It looks a little cluttered to me, and I find that quite distracting.



Adobe Sketch


Price: Free!


Adobe Sketch was the second digital art app that I ever used, and I loved its artistic brushes. The fact that I could use a watercolour brush on a digital interface just blew my mind. You don’t need to pick up a paintbrush, but if you hit print, it looks like you actually did some traditional art. Obviously, that’s not a perk of the app itself, because any app that has paint style brushes can accomplish that, but still, I was blown away.

Sketch has five brushes plus an eraser, pressure sensitivity is available with the Apple Pencil (I’m not sure about other brands of stylus, though I’m 90% certain it should work with the adobe draw stylus). I like the way that Adobe Sketch is presented, the interface is clean, and the canvas takes up most of the screen.

I didn’t use Adobe Sketch a lot, purely because it wasn’t suited to the style of art I was productions at the time I used it, but when I did spend time playing around with the app, I really enjoyed it.


Pros: Interesting artsy brushes

Cons: Limited number of brushes



Autodesk Sketchbook


Price: Free!



Autodesk Sketchbook is another app I found a lot later than the Adobe apps. I haven’t used it an awful lot, because I found my number 1 app shortly after, but I’d say that Autodesk Sketchbook is my second most used drawing app nowadays, and that’s all for one feature - it is the only app on this list that has a text feature.

Sometimes you just can’t hand letter everything. I use this app exclusively for that feature now, but when I first tried to use the app for illustration it was hard to find a brush that I actually liked. Don’t get me wrong, they have a great selection, but none of them were what I wanted. There was always just something off. Of course, you can adjust them in settings but I could never tweak them to be exactly what I wanted, hence why I don’t have a great lot of experience using it.

Pros: Wide array of brushes, text option, easy to use

Cons: Brushes are unusual, and I never managed to find one I loved

Adobe Draw


Price: Free!



For the first two years of my digital art journey, this was the app I loved. I was quite happy to use it forever, it did everything I needed at that point.

The app has a heap of great features, including shape templates and a ruler, the interface is clean and easy to use. It’s limitations were what pushed me to find a new app. Like Adobe Sketch, there are only five brushes available, plus an eraser. On top of this, your drawings can only have twenty layers. The brush limitations didn’t other me an awful lot, because I generally only used one (my drawings were very basic), but the limited number of layers were definitely an issue.

Having layers is hands down one of my favourite aspects of digital art. I love being able to change a lower layer without it affecting the top layer - imagine doing that in traditional art! Being limited to twenty was very difficult in some of my more complex drawings, especially when I had to merge some and then I wanted to go back and change something I’d merged.

Having said that, I definitely think Adobe Draw is a fantastic app and I enjoyed the two years I used it.


Pros: Easy to use

Cons: Limited brushes

Procreate


Price: AU$14.99



Procreate is the only app I have ever paid for. I ummed and ahhed about it for so long after seeing that it was the app of choice for artists and illustrators all over the internet. I begrudged paying the $14.99, especially having not trialled it first, but one day I bit the bullet, and reader, I'm so glad I did.

Procreate is a game changer. It is hands down my absolute favourite digital art app.

It took a while for me to get the hang of it, and for the first few months of having Procreate, I still favoured Adobe Draw, but slowly I found myself opening Procreate a lot more than I opened Adobe Draw, especially when I got my Apple Pencil.

Honestly, I’m yet to find something that Procreate can’t do. I don’t want to count the amount of brushes available, but if you find you need something that you don’t have, someone online has probably made one and made it available for free, so you can simply download it and use it.

You can even edit photos in Procreate.

If I’m being completely honest, there’s nothing about Procreate that I don’t like. If I ever find a shortcoming, I google it and discover a way around it. No ruler? No worries, just draw a line and don’t release it. It’ll come straight. Keep holding the line and press another finger on the screen and the line will move about in forty-five-degree increments. Want a circle? Draw one and don’t let go, it’ll form a perfect circle. Procreate is now the only app I use for my illustrations, and labels.

Pros: Everything


Cons: Only available on the Apple App Store

Do you create digital art? What is your favourite app?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


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My Top 5 Digital Art Apps -- The Riverside Library

How I Manage My Book Buying Budget

Every time I go to an Airbnb and there’s a bookshelf, I spend an exorbitant amount of time perusing them. This is in part, because the only bookshelf I ever really get to see is my own. When I stand there looking over the creased spines, reading the titles I’m always reminded of that John Waters quote. You know the one, “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t *ahem* them.”

After a little perusing the internet, I found a full version, which I do prefer: “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** them. Don’t let them explore you until they’ve explored the secret universes of books. Don’t let them connect with you until they’ve walked between the lines on the pages. Books are cool, if you have to withhold yourself from someone for a bit in order for them to realize this then do so.” But, I digress.

I don’t necessarily agree with this, I mean, if you go home with someone and they have walls and walls of bookshelves filled with crime novels, true crime books, and books on how to commit crime, maybe run the other way as fast as you can?

The books we own can say a lot about us as people - people with shelves lining their walls evidently enjoy collecting books, those with few are perhaps more selective, a person with a heap of nonfiction may love learning, and someone with a bunch of fantasy probably enjoys escapism.

I like to think my shelves have meaning. For me, that meaning is also a means to keep my book spending to a minimum. I use my library a lot, (like, a lot, a lot) and that’s a massive way that I can read widely without busting the budget. I buy very few books. Yes, sometimes it’s very difficult to resist temptation. Yes, I enjoy perusing bookstores. Yes, sometimes I cave, sometimes I break the rules. But I do have rules, they are what help me maintain my book buying budget.

Firstly though, you should know, I’m a naturally frugal person. I don’t like having stuff. It panics me. Too many books and I feel like they’re going to crush me. This could be, in part, due to living between two countries and having to fit everything I own into a medium sized suitcase. It could also be due to growing up in an earthquake prone area that succumbed to disaster in 2011, where you really couldn’t have bookshelves, because they would crush you if the books all fell out. I refuse to own any piece of furniture that is taller than me. But this isn’t a counselling session, so let’s move on. Now you know a thing or two about me, these rules might make a little more sense.

The Rules of the Shelf

The rules of my bookshelf revolve around the goal of my bookshelf, they are determined by what kind of collector I am, and what I want my bookshelf to say about me. I’m a story person, and I want my bookshelf to tell a story. The books upon my shelf are all books that I have found a piece of myself in. I’m not saying that reading helped me on a path of self-discovery, instead, it was much more that while reading these books I had that, ‘omg! Me too’ sensation, where something the author said or had characters do really clicked with me. Connected with me. Those are the books that fit into the first of three golden rules:

1. If You’ve Read it Twice, and Want to Read it for a Third time, Get It

Truth is, I generally really only reread books I absolutely love. I definitely only reread them more than twice if I really connect with them. If I read a book from the library and spend the next few months after returning it, wishing I had a copy to delve back into, then I’ll buy one. Usually, I’ll splurge to get a really nice copy. Sometimes I’ll wait for it to be discounted, which I don’t mind, because I’m not an impatient person.

I could list every book I own if you really wanted me to, because they all mean something to me, granted, I own about 50 books, so it’s really not a feat. I guess the poetic side of me likes to think that anyone could go to my shelf and read the titles, trying to find the bits I related to, trying to piece the puzzle of me together by the books on my shelf.

If you want to save money on books, I recommend borrowing the ones you want to read and buying the ones you love. Or, if you want to buy all the books, sell them if you don’t want to keep them, and come up with a poetic puzzle to your own bookshelf, something to tell people about, or something to keep close to your heart, like an inside joke between you and your bookshelf.

2. If You Want it and it’s Under $5, Get it

This rule was designed with two facts about me in mind: I like good deals, and I am human. Sometimes I cannot resist the temptation to purchase books. It’s not often that I go to a bookstore and have to have something. I’m good at leaving when I want something really bad but I a) know I don’t need it and b) can imagine it falling off my shelf and crushing me. Having said that, I often buy a handful of Wordsworth classics when they’re on special for under $5, because I like to annotate my classics, and I don’t like writing on expensive books. Sometimes I even push the $5 to $10 if it’s a book I’ve wanted to read for an age but the Library copy is really grotty, and I can’t get into it as an eBook. Honestly, I only own two books that I purchased on a whim for under $5, one that I purchased for over $5, and three that are Wordsworth Classics, which means I've used this rule a grand total of five times.

3. If You No Longer Love it, Get Rid of It

I love getting rid of things. I purge my wardrobe every few months and always manage to get rid of something (having said that, I’m really getting low on clothes), and I purge my bookshelf at least once a year, usually selling and sometimes donating. I un-hauled my entire set of Throne of Glass last year, not because I didn’t like it, but because I knew I didn’t want to reread it anymore. The year before I un-hauled my entire collection of Twilight. Selling books frees up money to buy new books. It’s a very good cycle. Besides, getting rid of things is very liberating, especially if you don’t like stuff like me.  

The Exceptions: There have to be exceptions to every rule, right? Otherwise, they’re not rules at all. On my bookshelf, I make exceptions for gifts. They’re allowed to live upon the shelf even if I haven’t read them, in part, to throw a curveball at a prospective peruses, and also because I adore being gifted books. It’s not something my family or close friends do, they say they can never pick out books for me and know I generally only want books I love, and I already have them, so what’s the point? I do have a handful of good friends in the book world that do know what books to get me, and the others I’ve been gifted were from publishers.

So there it is, the simple way that I manage my book buying budget. Do you guys have a book buying budget? How do you manage them? Or, do you have a poetic mysterious secret that explains your entire collection while perfectly representing your personality? Sound of in the comments, I'm excited to hear!

As always, thanks for reading!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


 


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10 Epic Features of Public Libraries

I don’t know about you, but I love my local library. I don’t have a massive book budget to fill my shelves with every book that I’ve ever wanted to read, but lucky for me, my library seemingly does (I’ll admit, I don’t know the extent of their budget, but they buy me five books a month, so it’s larger than mine). Though there are a lot of people who use the library, I feel like there aren’t enough. Maybe it’s my divine purpose on this planet to make people realise what a good thing we’ve got, so here you have my top ten epic features of public libraries.

Books

Of course, books are my first reason. The amount of books you can loan will depend on your library, and the length will too. My local library allows thirty books for thirty days. Yes, I often max that out and hit the renew button like it’s a lifesaver, but if you’ve got better time management than me and you can read a book a day, the library will hook you up with 360 books a year. My Goodreads history will tell you that’s more than I’ve ever read, so you’ll be set if you want to really challenge yourself.
If you’re one of those folks who only like to read new releases, you’d be surprised at how quickly the library gets them in. The key to it, is to know of the release well in advance so you can place a reservation before all of the other bookworms in your area.
As for one of the main deterrents that stop people from borrowing from their libraries, sure, some of the copies are a little beat up and dirty, but if the book has been protected with clear contact, you can easily just wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe. It may still look a little yuck, but you won’t catch any nasties.

Wifi

My town is all over free wifi. We have it down Main Street, we have it on the beach, in most cafes, and in all our malls, but my favourite place to sit and use the free wifi is in the library (see number 3 and 6 for my reasons why) Sure, it mightn’t be the fastest internet on the planet, but if you’re from Australia and you’ve been suffering through private NBN recently, you probably won’t notice much difference.
Sure, there are limitations to what you can do on public wifi (no illegal business, sorry folks, but you know you shouldn’t be doing that anyway), and if you didn’t bring your own device, the public computers often have time limits and a lot of websites blocked, and on top of that, there are things you probably shouldn’t do on public computers and wifi, for your own safety and security (leave the online banking for home), but for scrolling Instagram, jotting down blog posts, updating your Pinterest, finishing assignments, and even gaming, YouTube or streaming services, the local library’s wifi is definitely a massive perk, and something I’ll be eternally grateful for.

Air-con/ heating

I live in the subtropics, south of the equator, where summer spans December to February and Winter is just some strange concept or an old memory from living in another place. It’s March as I write this, and the temperature hit about 35 degrees yesterday (about 95 for you Fahrenheit folks) so air con is a must, especially in the humidity. Thankfully my library cranks that air con right down to a lovely cold temperature and places a good amount of seats in the sun, so you can bask in that beautiful light (protected from the UV, and the ozone hole by the glass) while staying at a comfortable temperature. Of course, the free wifi and cold air con do make the library very crowded during summer holidays, and it’s not always the quietest space, but from a reprieve from the heat, I’ll take it.

Requesting titles

One of my favourite hobbies is to spend my local library’s money. It’s their fault for offering this service and putting it on the homepage of their website. Granted, it’s in tiny letters, but I’m fairly good at finding things on the internet. So, you can bet that I fill out that purchase request form a great many times, and thankfully my library always obliges me, and orders in the books I’d like to read. It’s a service to them too, though, because the books always end up with a thousand reservations on them (credit to the internet book world for hooking me up with the hottest new reads, you make me feel popular *insert Glenda, WICKED gif*), also I’d just like to quickly apologise to anyone living in my region who reserves a book that I’ve requested because I always forget to return them quickly, I know, I know - I’m working on it.

Inter-library loans

Sometimes, if I’ve drained my library’s bank account for the month and they don’t have any spare money to let me buy stuff with, they’ll bring in books from other libraries (likely ones with fewer book bloggers spending all their money, but that’s just speculation). The best part about this, is that you have the option of paying for an inter-library loan, or requesting one for free. We all like free things, no? So, don’t worry if your library doesn’t show a particular book in their catalogue, scour their website for small little options to request a book for purchase or interlibrary loan, and if you can’t find that option (likely written in very small letters) pop in and have a chat with one of the friendly, bookworm librarians and they might be able to find it for you.

Reading nooks

It's about 10am as I write this and it’s just hit 31 degrees, but I’m pretty sure the air con is on 20, and this sun is the only thing that’s keeping me from grabbing my cardigan. I love the seats I'm sitting in right now, they’re perfect for curling up in and reading whatever book I can grab. I have sat in these chairs for hours and hours some weekends and read multiple books from cover to cover. I’ve also spent hours annoying everyone within hearing range with my very loud keyboard as I write posts. They’re one of my favourite things, and I’m always a little upset when they’re not available. I know not every library has spots like these, and I’m always grateful my library does. Scour your local library for somewhere warm or cool to sit and read or work. Bring some headphones (or earplugs) if you don’t want to listen to the usual noise of the place. Some Ibrahim’s are quiet, but mine, unfortunately, is not.

Music

My library has a lot of ways that you can listen to all the hip new music, sure, with streaming services like Spotify, I definitely don’t use these services as much as I used to, but I’m grateful they exist. My library allows free loaning of CDs, and you can also download five free music titles a week from their website. We love a cheap Queen.

Movies

My library also has a giant range of DVDs available for loan, both movies and TV shows. Online, you can also watch a lot of indie and local film and TV for free with their unusual streaming services.

Ebooks

So the grotty old library books really got you down? Never fear! The ebook collection is here! My library has two book catalogues, Overdrive (compatible with Kindle eReaders in the United States only), and Wheelers. Both are compatible with Kobo eReaders, like the Kobo H2O I own. Overdrive and wheelers also have apps in the App Store and Google play for mobile devices. The ebook catalogues are way bigger than I thought they were, and requesting a title for purchase is super easy too!

Audiobooks

I don’t use audiobooks half as much as I should. My local library offers audiobook downloads across three apps, Overdrive, Bolinda Borrow Box and RB digital, each site/app have different books on their catalogue, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. I'm not a big audiobook listener, but one thing I really like about having access to free audiobooks is that I can slowly ease myself into listening to them, without feeling as though I'm wasting money by having a subscription to an audiobook service and not using it.

Bonus: Educational resources.

Along with a massive non-fiction catalogue, my library also offers free subscriptions to sites like Mango languages, perfect if you want to learn a new language or brush up your skills. My library also offers free seminars and talks about interesting topics, everything I know about photography I learned from one of these free talks. I'd definitely recommend checking out their events calendar to see if its something they offer.

What are some of your favourite features of your local library?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


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