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26 Reasons You Should Read The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

26 Reasons Why You Should Read The Priory of the Orange Tree -- The Riverside Library

If you haven't heard a thing about Samantha Shannon's new book, The Priory of the Orange Tree, consider me surprised. It's been all the rage on bookish social media for months. With everyone gushing over it, I don't blame you for wondering if it's really worth all the hype. I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Bloomsbury AU, and so, in honour of the release of The Priory of the Orange Tree on the 26th Feb, I have 26 reasons why you should pick it up and dive into this magical world.

I tried to avoid spoilers as best I could, but if you're particularly sensitive to spoiler-y content, proceed with caution.

1. Dragons

Let's be honest, that should be reason enough. Fantasy is my favourite genre, hands down, and dragons are one of those very few things that automatically make a fantasy book a thousand times better. The dragons (wyrms, wyverns etc) in The Priory of the Orange Tree are a crucial element of the tale, which makes it all the better. But, if dragons aren't your thing don't go thinking this isn't for you. The Priory of the Orange Tree is remarkable in many more ways than one. However, humour me on the dragon front for just a second longer...

2. The dragons talk

Talking dragons were my childhood dream. Every night before I'd go to bed, my mum would take me to the window that overlooked our back garden and point to the sky, telling me to make a wish on the very first star I saw. I always wished to find a talking dragon in my back garden the next day. It never happened and I was very heartbroken, but now I'm an adult and that heartbreak doesn't sting so hard, I can find my talking dragons in books, specifically, The Priory of the Orange Tree. I am a very happy wyrm-lover, thank you muchly.

3. It's perfect if you're looking to transition from YA to Adult

One of the many common questions bloggers who love fantasy receive is: ‘How do I start reading adult fantasy?’ My reply is always: ‘Try these transitional books *insert list of books here*’ From now on, The Priory of the Orange Tree will be firmly on that list. I don't blame you if you're wondering why. After all, an eight hundred and something page book surely cannot be one of the books I'm recommending to ease into adult fantasy???? But, I am. Trust me on this one - when you get into this world, when you fall in love with these characters, when you get whisked away with the plot (when you meet the talking dragons) eight hundred and forty-eight pages feel like eighty-four, and you’ll be ready to dive head first into some more epic fantasy the moment you're finished.

4. The characters

There are so many characters in this novel. I was trying to explain the plot to a friend the other day without using character's names, so I assigned each of them a letter, and I was convinced I'd run out of letters in the Roman alphabet and have to move onto the Greek. You'll be forgiven for thinking that a plethora of different characters would be confusing, and even leave some to be two-dimensional and flat, but this is Samanta Shannon we're talking about, there isn't a single two-dimensional character in sight. Some of my favourites are the next reasons you should read The Priory of the Orange Tree.

5. Ead

In the very first moments that we're introduced to Ead, we're shown that she is a total badass. Having said that, Ead doesn't let her total badassery (is that even a word?) compromise her ability to feel. All too often we see that characters - especially female - who are talented in combat and are fearlessly brave mustn't be in touch with their emotions, but Ead doesn't follow this trend in the slightest. Though fearsome with a weapon and able to slay wyrms, Ead is fiercely loyal, dedicated, caring, and passionate. Of course, she can definitely be a right frosty-knickers on occasion, but the fact that her personality is multi-faceted, and different situations bring out different aspects of who she is, makes her a very real and well-rounded character, which is an absolute delight to read.

6. Sabran

Though being somewhat closed off and distant at times, Sabran possesses an odd mix of being open-hearted and yet, somehow closed-minded. It's an interesting combination, but it is one that makes sense in her situation. Growing up in a very sheltered world closes her mind somewhat, yet her inherent open-hearted nature shines through in many of her actions. This interesting, almost contradictory personality creates a very interesting ruler, and an even more interesting arc. Throughout the story we see Sabran grow a lot more than many characters, and if Sabran's character arc isn't even the slightest bit a commentary on our current political climate, I would be shocked. It was this arc that warmed me to her character so much, and made her one of my favourite characters in the book.

7. Tané

Tané, one of our four narrators, shares many similarities to one of our other narrators, Ead. Both are dedicated, loyal, and badass, though Tané is perhaps a little less cunning than Ead. I particularly enjoyed seeing the similarities between these two characters with the rift between East and Wes. Tané's dedication and perseverance were two of my favourite things about her, and it fitted with her flaw of rash thinking incredibly well. I appreciated the consequences she had to face for her impulsiveness, which brought another level of realism to the story. There's no getting away with anything this story - if you muck up, you will pay for it. It's just like life.

8. Margaret & Loth

The banter between these two siblings and their friends is the kind of content I live for. You'll probably be seeing a trend in the qualities I enjoy in characters by now, but I must gush over the loyalty these two express towards those they love. It's the Gryffindor inside me that automatically roots for a character who is prepared to give all they can for a friend or a loved one, and you can count me a massive fan of both Margaret and Loth.

9. And all the other minor characters

Who am I kidding? Every character in The Priory of the Orange Tree is fantastic. Some characters seem to only have a few scenes - a few pages! - and yet they're some of the most morally grey characters I've ever read. There's not a single pointless character in this book, everyone mentioned has a purpose, and in some way, they're all connected to the plot.

10. The friendships

In my eyes, friendships all too often get overshadowed by romantic relationships in books, which is tragic to me. You can imagine my delight then, when I found that strong friendships in The Priory of the Orange Tree were not simply there in abundance but were also extremely important to the story. In fact, it was the friendships in this story that nearly overshadowed the romance, especially when you consider the number of strong friendships vs the number of romantic relationships. The Priory of the Orange Tree doesn't sugar coat friendships either. It explores the sacrifices you have to make to keep a strong friendship, and it also shows the value of platonic relationships. I'm such a fan.

11. Romance

Though I gushed over the friendships in this book and noted there wasn't an abundance of romance, when the romance is there, guys, the romance is there. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of romance in The Priory of the Orange Tree when I first opened the book, but I found myself hoping two particular characters would get together from the get-go. There was a brief spanner in the works at some point, when I thought my ship was sinking miserably and I had read the situation all wrong, but slowly, ever so slowly, as I eagerly turned pages to bury myself in the middle of this gigantic tome, all my wishes came true. My ship well and truly sailed.

12. Diversity

I've heard The Priory of the Orange Tree called something along the lines of 'The feminist reimagining of fantasy,' which is true, better yet, it's the intersectional feminist reimagining of fantasy, because there was representation abounds in The Priory of the Orange Tree. As I'm not a member of many of the minorities represented in The Priory of the Orange Tree I'll keep my comments to a minimum on this front, but I will say, it was a refreshing and joyful experience to read a book as diverse as this, and to me, it's exactly the way that books should be.

13. It's one of the most re-readable books I've ever read

Again, I am more than aware that this book is 848 pages, and rereading it is quite a large task, but it’s sitting on my bookshelf right now calling ‘read me, read me, read me’ and there’s so much more I want to know. I’ll bet you I’ll notice so much more about the plot, the history, the magic, the characters and the world when I reread it, and I’ll bet you again that every time I reread it after that I’ll continue to find things I didn’t notice the first time.

14. The magic

I can’t say too much about this, because I don’t want to spoil my 26threason, but I will say that most of all, I appreciated the limitations in the magic system. It wasn’t like anything that I’d come across before. Also it concerns oranges, and I love oranges, but I would love these oranges even more.

15. The writing

Samantha Shannon is a good writer. It's as simple as that. If you've read The Bone Season series, you'll be able to jump into The Priory of the Orange Tree and plough through it easily, though, if The Priory of the Orange Tree is your first foray into Shannon's work, it may take a short while to grow adjusted to the writing style. There's something about the style, though not particularly flowery or overly descriptive, which is very rich. At times, it can be slow going, packed full of worldbuilding and history, but once you grow accustomed to the style, reading Shannon's books is such a... cosy experience? I really don't know how to express it. A few years back, I listened to the audiobook of The Bone Season, the narrator had a very soft Irish accent and a quiet, calming voice, perhaps because of that, I read all of Shannon's books in the same manner. To me, reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and The Bone Season series is like being buried in a thousand fluffy blankets, sipping hot chocolate by the window while it's snowing like mad outside.

16. The pacing

For an 800-page book, I was very surprised with the ease that I sped through this. I read most of it in one day, having read the very beginning the day before and the very end the day after. So, don’t let the size fool you, there’s always something going on to keep you turning the pages. The novel has four main narrators, which I’m not always a fan of, but it works really well in The Priory of the Orange Tree. The change in narrators really helps the pacing and keeps the book easy to read.

17. The religion

Religion is an important aspect in this book – I wasn’t expecting this. One of my favourite things about the use of religion was how it was so deeply entwined with many of the character’s development. This is another thing I don't want to go too much into without spoiling things, but I enjoyed how a variety of religions were shown in the book, and at not once was I made to feel like I should side with any single religion (even though I know they were ficitional, I didn't feel like anything was being forced upon me).

18. The world

There are very few books I've read with a world like that of The Priory of the Orange Tree. Like The Lord of the Rings, this world was inspired by history. I'm not a history fanatic - I only really know the history of the country I was born in, and considering it was only colonised about a hundred and fifty or so years ago, there's not a great deal of recorded history to know about. Because of this, I can definitely say I did not appreciate the historical influences. To be quite honest, if the book didn't begin with an author's note saying 'The fictional lands of The Priory of the Orange Tree are inspired by events and legends from various parts of the world. None is intended as a faithful representation of any one country or culture at any point in history' I probably wouldn't have noticed. My history knowledge (or lack thereof) aside, the world in The Priory of the Orange Tree is nothing short of remarkable. I've read one too many fantasy books where the world is a non-entity and the characters are more like actors living on a movie set (you know, like the Sims 4 world, instead of the Sims 3), but the world is important in The Priory of the Orange Tree. Perhaps because the story takes place in many different locations, or maybe it's simply Shannon's apparent love for world building, whatever it may be, The Priory of the Orange Tree features a world that’s worth raving about.

19. The history

The history of the world is deeply intertwined with the plot of the story, which was very interesting. I enjoyed learning about the history and also the mystery that surrounded it. I rarely find myself thrown for a loop, in fact, I recall the last time this happened, I was eight years old and I read Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band for the very first time. The Priory of the Orange Tree definitely had me there for a second. There was one occasion that I did not see a plot twist coming. When it happened, I sat there stunned, just gaping at the book wondering how I hadn’t predicted it, and also just being mildly mind boggled by it. Maybe I’m saying you should read this book just for the tiny plot twist somewhere in the middle that managed to get an audible, “Wait, what?” from me.

20. The sheer scale of it all

It’s called an epic fantasy for a reason. Inside that book, there is a world than spans multiple counties, wild oceans, it’s filled dragons and magical oranges and badass people who don’t let the world’s expectations stop them from going after what is right, what they want, and what they love. If you’ve never read an epic fantasy before, pick up The Priory of the Orange Tree, but be warned, it might ruin every epic fantasy that you try to read afterwards.

21. The politics

I’m not the world biggest fan of politics, in fact I generally like to stick my head into the sand when politics are involved (don’t hate me, I’d vote if I could, but I’m ineligible). My relationship with fictional politics, however, is somewhat different. Though I can be bored and apathetic about it if I’m not invested in the story, I found myself so intrigued by The Priory of the Orange Tree that the politics of the world was one of my favourite aspects of the book.

22. It just screams 'well researched'

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a history buff but there’s something about this book that made me feel like Shannon really knew what she was talking about. I think that a world such as this - one inspired by history - wouldn’t be quite so rich or full had it not been so well-researched. Everything about the book moved like a well-oiled machine, and it seemed obvious to me that Shannon knows a lot about the various cultures, their histories and their beliefs, and that knowledge helped her create a world that respectfully used them as inspiration. I think it hit all of the right marks.

23. Guys. There are talking dragons. There are just so many beautiful complexities

It’s a long book. It’s an epic fantasy. It wouldn’t have been able to be what it is if it wasn’t filled with a complex story that ever changing, thickening and deepening. I found no sagging middle syndrome, no boring plotlines, no part of the world of the world I wasn’t eager to explore. It was beautiful. It was complex. It was everything I wanted.

24. It's just... epic

‘nuff said.

25. How can a book be nearly 900 pages and I still feel like I need more?

This is a standalone, but if it somehow got turned into a ridiculously long series that didn’t finish until I was 87 years old with glasses as thick the book itself, I wouldn’t be mad. It was so immersive that I didn’t want it to end, I might have been happier with 9000 pages. There you go! That can be my one critique – it wasn’t long enough, I needed more. Low-key convinced that Samantha Shannon is a sorceress and we should worship her? We should plant her a freakin' magical orange tree. Speaking of...

26. There is an actual Priory of the Orange Tree in this book.

I don't know why, but I was under the misguided impression that the title of the book was simply one of those slightly obscure but very interesting titles, but no. There is an actual, proper Priory of the Orange Tree. I'll forgive you if you have no idea what a Priory is, but maybe that can be our bonus 27th reason why you should read this book - to find exactly what a Priory is (granted, you could Google it, but that's not even a fraction of the fun).

The Priory of the Orange Tree is everything that fantasy should be. I gave The Priory of the Orange Tree 5 out of 5 stars.

So, how well did I do at convincing you to pick up a copy?


Blurb

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

 

Published February 26th 2019 by Bloomsbury Circus

AU RRP$32.99

REVIEW: Enchantée by Gita Trelease | BLOG TOUR

Enchanted REview -- The Riverside Library

 

Welcome to my stop on the Enchantée blog tour! Enchantée was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, and when I discovered it back in October of last year, I couldn’t stop telling everyone about this debut due for publication in Feb. I was extremely lucky to receive an advanced reader’s copy from Pan Macmillan Australia, and now I get to tell you everything I thought of this magical, fantastical, historical book. I’ve tried to keep it spoiler free, but as always, if you’re spoiler sensitive, proceed with caution.

Set both in the rich and opulent court of Versailles, and hunger ridden streets of Paris in 1789, Enchantée follows Camille as she is forced to risk everything to save her family. Just a little trigger warning: this book includes one scene of domestic violence and a lot of gambling.

Enchantee Blog Tour Banner

These Things I Loved:

My returning readers will know that I am obsessed with three things: magic, books and France (also cheese and a number of other things, but we’re not going to get into that). Enchantée combines all three of those obsessions and mixes it with an exploration of the costs of freedom, the importance of fighting for what you believe in, and characters who sometimes survive off little more than hope. Of course I was hyped for this, it sounds perfect to me.

Magic

The magic system in this book is so unique (I feel like I say that about every book that I review, but seeing as I only tend to review books I like and I really like books with unique magic systems, you’ll read this a lot). I’m not sure what I was expecting from the blurb, but I can say I wasn’t expecting what we got. The magic in this book isn’t an in-your-face style of magic, there’s no spellcasting or wand fights, it’s much subtler, yet it is intrinsically tied to the plot. Though I loved many things about the magic system, my favourite (by far) was the limitations that controlled it. In my eyes, a limited magic system is a good magic system. In Enchantée, magic cannot fix everything, in fact, instead of serving as a solution to problems, it merely acts to further complicate the situation. This increases the number of sacrifices that our protagonist, Camille, makes for her family and also adds to some of the themes that the book explores – but more on that later. First, Camille.

Camille

I am a sucker for any character willing to make sacrifices for their family, this means I am a complete sucker for Camille. She was, perhaps, my favourite character in this book, though I did really like Lazare. At some points, I wished Camille had better communication skills, but every character has their flaws. She more than made up for them with her selflessness, and her bravery. I also liked how her actions really brought up some interesting questions tied to the theme (again, more on that later).

History

Another thing that I really enjoyed in Enchantée was the history. Now, I’m no history buff, so I’m not going to claim to be an expert, (in fact, if I’m being honest, my French history knowledge is entirely from Les Misérables, the second book in the Outlander series and one crash course video I watched on YouTube when I was seventeen) but I did appreciate the historical component of this novel. Enchantée is actually the first YA historical novel I’ve ever read, and I found the world to be fully immersive. I loved the juxtaposition of the opulence of Versailles and the poverty in some parts of Paris. I enjoyed seeing the differences in class of 18thcentury France, especially when, in Paris, the different classes lived so close to one another.

I Wish There Was More of...

I wish there had been more of the villain in this novel. When the villain was present in the book, they were perfectly creepy, and I just wanted more of that. I understand that the presence of the villain was always there, that they were working their master plan the whole time and our protagonist wasn’t particularly involved in it, and I also understand how that even ties into the themes that the book explores – for, if Camille wasn’t so addicted to her life in Versailles, perhaps she would have noticed the villain’s master plan a little earlier, but I just wish the villain had more page time. I could have done with more creepiness (this is a very odd thing to wish for, I know).

My Favourite Thing

Enchantée was nearly exactly what I was expecting, but to my delight, there were themes that took me by surprise. Throughout the book, Camille struggles to leave the life she creates in glitzy Versailles and return to her reality. Gambling is a massive feature of the court, and this struggle that Camille goes through regarding when to leave Versailles really enforces that interesting topic. Whether intended or not, Enchantée really does bring up some interesting questions about gambling and addiction. Rather than jumping into the head of an established addict we see it in a much more subtle and relatable way through Camille and many other characters, including her brother and her friends. Though Enchantée is a YA historical fantasy, there are definitely deeper underlying messages in it, making it perfect for both those who want to be entertained, and those who want something a little more complex.

All in all, Enchantée was worth all of my excitement for it. I loved when the words on the page faded away and opened the doors to the streets of Paris, the top of the Notre Dame, the tempting tables of the Palais-Royal and the superficial perfection of Versailles. I definitely recommend picking up Enchantée and delving into this world. Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for gifting me with a copy of Enchantée for review.

 

AUS Cover

Enchantee Aus/UK cover -- The Riverside Library

US Cover

Enchantee US cover -- The Riverside Library


BOOK DETAILS

TITLE: Enchantée

AUTHOR: Gita Trelease

PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan/Macmillan Children’s Books

AUS PUBLICATION DATE: 26/02/2019

RRP: AU$16.99

BLURB:

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries – and magicians . . .

When smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille is left to provide for her frail sister and her volatile brother. In desperation, she survives by using the petty magic she learnt from her mother. But when her brother disappears Camille decides to pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and presents herself at the court of Versailles, where she soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying life of riches, finery and suitors. But Camille’s resentment of the rich is at odds with the allure of their glamour and excess, and she soon discovers that she’s not the only one leading a double life . . .

Want to read more reviews on Enchantée by Gita Trelease? Check out these bloggers!

Enchantee Global Graphic


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ENCHANTÉE REVIEW -- The Riverside Library

Enchantee Review -- The Riverside Library

I Tried Writing a Book in A Week and This is What Happened

Writing a Book in a Week -- The Riverside Library

In case you’re new here, or it somehow wasn’t abundantly obvious, I love to write. Naturally, I find myself frequenting writing blogs to see what tips and tricks are floating around. Most of them, I find I agree with, some are subjective and don’t fit my writing, but there are others, just a few that crop up occasionally, which are downright alarming to me. One such blog post? ‘I wrote a book in two days!’ or ‘I wrote a book in one week’ or others like ‘How to write a book FAST!’ 

I don’t come across these posts often, perhaps because most people know that writing a book generally doesn’t happen in such a short span of time, but still, there are a few posts out there encouraging newbie writers to pressure themselves into penning their novel in mere days. 

Naturally, I had to try. I’ve been writing novels since I was twelve, but I’ve never given publishing a shot, so I don’t really know my credentials here, but the writing process is familiar to me. The challenge was to write a novel in a week.

And by write a novel, I mean start from absolute scratch. From nada. Nothing. Just the smallest little bit of an idea. But because I gather those who teach or talk about how to speed write a novel are only speaking about the first draft and not the editing, I’m leaving the editing out of this one. Everyone knows editing takes an age. 

So, a simple challenge, but a big one.

I’ll spoil this now and tell you that this turned out to be the most anticlimactic challenge of my life.

Why?

I chose the busiest working week ever.

Did I pass my challenge? No. I barely cracked 10,000 words, but between working from 8am to anywhere between 6 to 11pm, writing a book is not achievable.

Did I actually think I would achieve it if I didn’t have a chaotic working week? No. No way. 

Monday was really the only time I got to work on the project, and by that I mean I had two hours in the morning in which, I planned and plotted the entire thing, and wrote a hefty chunk for such a short time. Then, the rest of the week slipped by without me even opening the document. I’m not even sure I lifted the lid of my laptop for most of that week.

I never thought this would work. Why didn't I believe in myself?

There is one key reason I thought that writing a book in a week wouldn't work for me, and a few other minor reasons too. The key reason? I didn't believe I could come up with an idea in a week that I would fall in love with enough to find the passion, and dedication to commit to writing it. Writing a book is a hefty task, and to stick with it throughout its ups and downs, you really do have to love it. I didn't love my idea I came up with on that first day enough to commit my sleeping hours to it.

The minor reasons? I do not type, think or create quickly. I'm just not that person.

What would I do differently if I did it again?

I would change the rules. I'd give myself time to formulate an idea beforehand, fall in love with it, plan it and then leave the week to just writing. As I've said, I firmly believe that 'writing a book' is more than just act of writing - it's all parts of the process. But for a challenge like this, I'd take 'writing a book' literally, and only include the actual writing in my time limit. Do I think I'd succeed if I tried it again? Nope.

Why is 'write fast' such a harming and unachievable piece of advice for newbie writers? 

Not only is it kind of unnecessary, but it sets up unrealistic expectations for young writers. As if writing a book in a week is just something that people sit down and do. As if writer's block isn’t a thing. As if words flow easily out of the brain.

They don’t.

I don’t know anyone whose brain is a coursing river, whose words flow so effortlessly and quickly out of them, that their fingers type incessantly and the result is pure gold, sentences that flow from one to the other like poetry if poetry was honey. If I had to compare a writers brain to anything, I’d compare it to rush hour. If rush hour was at midnight, and there were no lights and the thickest fog in history clung to everything, and the drivers of all the cars were frogs and the cars themselves were rocks, and frogs were stuck in the rocks, and the frogs in the rocks are our figurative words and the end of the highway is the beginning of the path out of the brain. In other words, words are hard (Unless that’s just me and I’m particularly incompetent, in which case, I’ll take that). 

My advice to newbie writers feeling the pressure to get that book finished quickly:

Writing fast isn’t important, but writing well is. I’d rather read a book that took someone thirty years than read one that took someone thirty hours. 

If writing fast is your writing process, and if that speed works for you, go for it. However, when writing an article intended to help, it doesn’t matter one's own capability, the reader matters.

So, writers, if you want to write, write.

If you want to speed through it, I’ll cheer you on.

If you want to linger in the corner of your mind with a tiny little paintbrush and embellish everything with minute detail that no one will ever see, you do that. Also, can I read your book?

Writing is art. The first rule of art is that there are no rules of art.

But if you’re a newbie writer, please don’t feel pressured to speed write. 

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

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I Tried Writing a book in a week -- The Riverside Library

Read More for Less – Your Weekly Book Deals

The Best Book Prices Right Now -- The Riverside Library

Everyone here knows I love a deal, and I bet you love a good deal too - I mean, why wouldn't you? But we don't all have the time to trawl the internet for deals on our favourite books. Luckily, it is a public holiday where I live today, and I'm confined to my bed once more with the continuation of some really weird illness, and you can bet that I spent a decent hour looking for book deals - and guys! I found some! There's no rhyme to my reason with these, I tried to go with popular books, books I'd read and enjoyed and books I think you should read, just as I think I should read them. Some of them are incredible discounts 60%+! While others are only smaller discounts 20-30%. Keep in mind, I'm based in Australia, so some of these websites are available only to Australians and New Zealanders. Also, these prices might be different to those offered in your country (book prices seem to be a little higher when you're marooned on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean like we are).

Enjoy!

The Best Deals

A Court of Thorns and Roses Cover

Crimes of Grindlewald Cover

A Court of Thorns And Roses, Sarah J Maas - Hardback, AU$10, Amazon. Find my review here!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald, J.K. Rowling - Hardback, AU$12.04, Book Depository

Books I've Read You Should Totally Pick Up

Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom - Paperback, AU$7.41, Book Depository.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell - Paperback, AU$8.25, Booktopia/ AU$10, Book Depository (if outside AU/NZ).
Find my review here!

Scythe, Neal Schusterman - Hardback, AU$17.70, Book Depository. Find my review here!

Boxed Set of The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare - Paperback Boxed Set, AU$54.48, Book Depository

Or, if you just need one or two to complete your collection, City of Ashes (#2), City of Lost Souls (#5), and City of Heavenly Fire (#6) are also on special at Book Depository.

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino - Paperback, AU$7.89, Book Depository

Popular Books You've Probably Seen Everywhere But I Haven't Read

The Maze Runner, James Dashner - Paperback, AU$9.22, Book Depository.

The Scorch Trials, James Dashner - Paperback, AU$8.75, Booktopia/ AU$10.50, Book Depository.

The Death Cure, James Dashner - Paperback, AU$9.50, Booktopia/ AU$8.89, Book Depository.

Books On My TBR, Which Should Also Be On Yours

Jonothan Strange and Mr Norell, Susanna Clarke - Paperback, AU$7.14, Book Depository.

If on a Winters Night A Traveller, Italo Calvino - Paperback, AU$8.24, Book Depository.

Wild Embers, Nikita Gill - Paperback, AU$14.95, Book Depository.

I'll have more book deals for you next week - if I can find any. I hope you found a favourite for a discounted price!

P.S. These are affiliate links, so, at no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission from any purchases made from them. Bingo! Thanks for supporting my blog!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library


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100+ Bookstagram Hashtags

100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riverside Library

UPDATED VERSION: 100+ More Bookstagram Hashtags

If you've been playing the Instagram game for a while, you'll know all about the importance of hashtags - hell, even if you're new to Instagram, you'll probably know that hashtags are one of the best ways to get exposure for your account. Instagram is well known for being a little bit sensitive with hashtags though, and there are always rumours flooding the internet that if you use the same hashtag so many times, Instagram will reduce the exposure of your content because they think you're spam, or something like that. I guess that's good? But Instagram, we don't all have a spare couple of hours to trawl the hashtag section to find new ones!

Enter me.

Bedridden this afternoon and bored as an insomniac bat in the middle of the day, I decided to put myself to use, and find a whole long list of Instagram hashtag for bookstagrammers to use.

I've heard that its best to use a mixture of popular and less popular hashtags on your posts, so, not only have I compiled a list of hashtags, I've also found the number of posts each hashtag has. The gigantic table below is organised by popularity, with the most popular at the top and least popular at the bottom. It is in two columns, because a single column was too long for a single page here on my blog, so the second column is a run-on from the first.

Not every one of these hashtags is explicitly bookish related, some were just semi-common ones I had saved in my phone for some particularly odd reason, but I've included them here in case you want to be wild, and mix your hashtag game up a little. Some are also quite specific to particular photos, but I've included them anyway out of interest. Also, this is by no means an exhaustive list, I can now think of about ten that I fogot to add when I was compiling this list (but 130-ish hashtags is enough, right?)

All stats are (mostly) correct as of 27th Jan, 2019. Unless, of course, I've transposed them wrong, which isn't impossible. I'd also like to ask you, kind souls, not to judge me too harshly if I've made any spelling mistakes. My eyes began to gloss over words around the 30th hashtag, and I'm fairly certain there are 130 on this list. So, have a giggle on me.

I put them into random, handy little groups of 27 first, so you can cut and paste them and save them in your phone, with room to add three super specific hashtags when you post. They're mixed in size, with some very popular hashtags and also some smaller ones (remember, apparently the max hashtags you can use in a single post is 30).

P.S. If you wanna buy a book from Book Depository, Booktopia or Amazon, you should totally use my affiliate link, that way, through no extra cost to you, I get a little cha-ching on the side for my hours of insta research 😉

Group 1

#bookstagram
#bookstagrammer
#verilymoment
#bookcommunity
#readmorebooks
#bookrecommendations
#avidreader
#boonook
#bookreaders
#bibliophile
#bookporn
#bookishfeatures
#booktube
#bookreader
#bookflatlay
#bookster
#readinggoals
#libraryporn
#library
#bookblogger
#thatauthenticfeeling
#yalovin
#bookrecommendation
#bookishgirl
#readingstagram
#readreadread

Group 3

#booklover
#bookshelf
#readersofinstagram
#ireadya
#ilovetoread
#readeveryday
#bookreading
#shelfiesunday
#lovetoreadbooks
#bookish
#currentlyreading
#ilovereading
#books📚 (emoji is important)
#bookaddicted
#bookishlife
#allthebooks
#bookaddiction
#librarylover
#booknerd
#ilovebooks
#lovereading
#booksarelife
#readingchallenge
#readingrainbow
#booksonbooks
#bookstagramit

Group 5

#bibliophile
#bookporn
#bookishfeatures
#booktube
#bookreader
#bookflatlay
#bookster
#readinggoals
#libraryporn
#literature
#bookstagramfeature
#bookblog
#totalbooknerd
#readingislife
#readingiscool
#fortheloveofreading
#bookmerch
#2019books
#bookaholic
#bookclub
#bookworms
#bookhoarder
#librarylove
#libraryofbookstagram
#prelovedbooks
#idratherbereading

Group 2

#bookworm
#instabook
#photosinbetween
#readmore
#booktuber
#bookalicious
#booknookstagram
#readingrocks
#featuremybooks
#library
#bookblogger
#thatauthenticfeeling
#yalovin
#bookrecommendation
#bookishgirl
#readingstagram
#readreadread
#readerproblems
#bookish
#currently
#ilovereading
#books📚 (emoji is important)
#bookaddicted
#bookishlife
#allthebooks
#bookaddiction

Group 4

#instabooks
#booksofinstagram
#readingtime
#bookobsessed
#readersofig
#mybookfeatures
#bookaholics
#bookaddicts
#aussiebibliophile (you can change this to your country)
#booknerd
#ilovebooks
#lovereading
#booksarelife
#readingchallenge
#readingrainbow
#booksonbooks
#bookstagramit
#bibliophage
#literature
#bookstagramfeature
#bookblog
#totalbooknerd
#readingislife
#readingiscool
#fortheloveofreading
#bookmerch

Group 6

#library
#bookblogger
#thatauthenticfeeling
#yalovin
#bookrecommendation
#bookishgirl
#readingstagram
#readreadread
#readerproblems
#bookaholic
#bookclub
#bookworms
#bookhoarder
#librarylove
#libraryofbookstagram
#prelovedbooks
#idratherbereading
#booktography
#reader
#booknerdigans
#epicreads
#readingisfundamental
#bookmail
#fortheloveofbooks
#bibliophilia
#readerforlife

The Entire Giant List By Popularity

Hashtags

Number of posts

Hashtags

Number of posts

#photooftheday 625,000,000 #readingislife 171,000
#Bookstagram 27,500,000 #librarylove 161,000
#Bookworm 13,300,000 #Bookmail 150,000
#booklover 9,700,000 #culturetripbooks 149,000
#instabooks 7,100,000 #readingtime📖 140,000
#Bibliophile 6,500,000 #bookstoread 138,000
#library 6,200,000 #bookrecommendations 135,000
#Bookish 5,800,000 #bookalicious 133,000
#Booknerd 5,800,000 #readeveryday 118,000
#literature 5,000,000 #mybookfeatures 112,000
#Bookaholic 3,900,000 #bookflatlay 110,000
#reader 3,500,000 #bookishgirl 107,000
#sweaterweather 3,400,000 #bookishlife 105,000
#igreads 3,200,000 #readingrainbow 97,500
#Bookphotography 3,100,000 #readingiscool 95,700
#bookstagrammer 3,000,000 #libraryofbookstagram 94,700
#instabook 3,000,000 #fortheloveofbooks 93,500
#bookshelf 2,900,000 #prettybooks 92,500
#booksofinstagram 2,500,000 #bookstafeatures 92,300
#bookporn 2,100,000 #weneeddiversebooks 90,400
#Bookblogger 2,000,000 #avidreader 90,200
#Currentlyreading 1,900,000 #Booknookstagram 89,900
#ilovebooks 1,600,000 #bookreading 89,700
#bookstagramfeature 1,500,000 #bookaholics 83,500
#bookclub 1,400,000 #bookster 82,200
#booknerdigans 1,400,000 #readstagram 80,900
#littlestoriesofmylife 1,400,000 #allthebooks 79,000
#shelfie 1,400,000 #booksonbooks 72,100
#amreading 1,300,000 #diversebooks 69,400
#verilymoment 1,200,000 #fortheloveofreading 68,100
#photosinbetween 1,100,000 #Prelovedbooks 67,500
#readersofinstagram 1,100,000 #bibliophilia 66,700
#readingtime 1,000,000 #readersgonnaread 63,500
#bookishfeatures 990,000 #readallthebooks 62,600
#thatauthenticfeeling 914,000 #bookaccount 62,400
#ilovereading 852,000 #booknook 57,200
#lovereading 760,000 #readingrocks 55,900
#bookblog 717,000 #shelfiesunday 55,200
#bookworms 608,000 #bookaddicts 52,600
#Epicreads 606,000 #readinggoals 52,200
#Bookhaul 546,000 #readreadread 51,700
#lovetoread 496,000 #Bookaddict 49,000
#booksbooksbooks 483,000 #bookadict (this isn't a spelling mistake of mine, there's literally a hashtag spelled like this with 49K posts, and I'm sure adict isn't a word?) 49,000
#bookcommunity 482,000 #bookstagramit 47,800
#readmore 460,000 #Bookmerch 44,800
#IreadYA 459,000 #idratherbereading 36,900
#bookobsessed 454,000 #readerforlife 29,500
#Booktube 421,000 #readaholic 27,500
#yalovin 332,000 #bookreadhappyhour 26,600
#books📚 326,000 #favouritebooks 25,800
#booksarelife 317,000 #Bookreaders 25,000
#totalbooknerd 313,000 #featuremybooks 20,000
#bookhoarder 297,000 #diversereads 17,500
#readingisfundamental 279,000 #lovetoreadbooks 15,000
#bookstack 270,000 #aussiebibliophile 14,900
#bookaddiction 267,000 #libraryporn 14,400
#bookfeaturepage 263,000 #readerproblems 12,900
#readmorebooks 248,000 #librarylover 12,800
#Booktuber 235,000 #bibliophage 5,685
#ilovetoread 228,000 #2019books 2455
#readersofig 218,000 #booktography 1300
#bookreader 210,000 #booksforclothes 691
#bookrecommendation 210,000 #diversereading 539
#bookaddicted 188,000
#readingcahllenge 183,000

 


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100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riversidelibrary

100+ Bookstagram Hashtags -- The Riverside Library

You Are the Owner of Your Content – So Own It

You Are the Owner of Your Content -- The Riverside Library

A short while ago I posted an article titled Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up, in which I explained my falling out of love with bookish social media. I mentioned that I wasn’t deleting this blog or my bookstagram, but I was reducing my time and effort on Goodreads. I received a lot of messages about that post – it seems that many of you are feeling the same way about bookish social media.
And I get it. It makes sense.
Since I posted that article, a few things have changed in my life – the key one being that I moved back to Australia. Since then, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to produce content to share online.  Every time I move I’m faced with this same challenge – learning how to work with a new space is never easy for me, and I find myself uneasy every time I pick up my camera to take photos. 
While in New Zealand I was staying with my sister, so the space I had was hardly mine, but it was set up in such a way that it was easy to take photos. Now, I’m staying with other family while I get ready to move to my own place, and lacking my familiar setting is difficult when it comes to taking photos for bookstagram. If you’re a follower of mine over on Instagram, you’ll likely know that I’m not a master of the flat lay, I prefer more bookish lifestyle photos. This means, more of my life and living situation get included into the photo, even when my surroundings aren’t exactly photogenic. Sometimes it takes a great lot of work to style a photo that will match my Instagram feed. Usually, that’s not a problem. Usually, I have creativity abounds, I can look at a space and figure out how to work with it, but that’s not the case right now. I’m exhausted, and that’s blocking my creativity.  
My instagram has come to a screeching halt. It’s caused me to take a long look at my account and ask myself what I want from it, what I want to share, who I want to be online, and my answer has been the same for months now, but I’ve done nothing about it – I want to be more. 
I feel limited by the hashtag bookstagram. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not leaving bookstagram. I love it too much. 
But I was sitting at the beach yesterday evening with my camera sitting on my lap, just watching the world go by, and I got to thinking about bookstagram. I didn’t have any photos to post later that day, but still, I wondered, what would I talk about if I did? I’d probably mention that I’m stubbornly refusing to let anything other than War and Peace be my first read of 2019, so I’m slowly getting through that classic tome. Then maybe I’d ask what the longest book on your TBR for 2019 is. Or maybe I’d ask if there are any classics that you want to read in 2019, but they scare the socks off your feet. That’s a semi decent caption, no problem – but then, what would I talk about the next day? Still reading War and Peace, it’s quite long, a bit dense. And the next day? War and Peace again today, how about you? And the next? 
Sure, I could talk about another bookish topic, we don’t always have to discuss our current reads, but all too often I sit there with the cursor blinking in the caption box as I wonder what to write, and end up writing nothing, not posting at all that day because I want to say something, but I don’t have any words dribbling out of my brain. Then, I think of other things, not quite so bookish things that I could say if I just had a different photo. I could talk about my favourite literary travel spots I’ve come across over the years – like the Moria Gate Arch just north of Karamea that makes me feel like I’m really in Middle Earth, or how the hills south of Auckland all look like they could house Hobbits. Or I could talk about the magical experience that is sitting down in the flax bushes by Lake Wakatipu, looking out over The Remarkables and reading whatever fantasy novel I had on me. Or I could talk about that time I pretended I was Robinson Crusoe on some island in New Caledonia when there was no one else around. Or I could recommend a list of books to take with you on a roadtrip up the Queensland coast incase you break down between Rockhampton and McKay and end up having to stay the night in a town where there’s nothing but a servo and a diner.  
I love books, but I also love more. 
In her poem, This Summer’s Day, Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Well, Mary, I’m glad you asked, because I plant to go everywhere. I plan to read everything I can. I’m going to finish War and Peace, and you can bet that it will be my first read of 2019, even though it’s the sixth of January and I’m still only 20% of the way through. I plan to visit as many of the Pacific Islands as I possibly can and not be so cagey about the fact that I was born in Polynesia and I’m head over heels in love with coconuts. One day, I’m going to rent a cabin out by Castle Hill and write a book during the nights, and forage for nonexistent fruits during the day. Another day, I’m going to roadtrip the coast of this beautiful country I’m so lucky enough to call home, in a old van that will probably need to be serviced every single time I putt into a new town. At some point, I’ll venture over to England, Ireland and Scotland to see where my ancestors came from and maybe visit a few castles pretending that I’m not quite as far removed from the royal bloodline as I actually am, and I might even find some magical standing stones? You never know. 
And I’m going to share it on the internet, even if 1% of my followers say that they prefer to see only bookish content.
And I hope you do the same, because you are the owner of your content, and I think it’s about damn time you own it. 
Thanks for reading! Wishing you the happiest New Year!

Ka kite anō!
(colloquial shorting of ka kite anō au i a koe, meaning I’ll see you again).

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

 

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined NetGalley

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined NetGalley -- The Riverside Library

When I first joined bookish social media, I was introduced to the concept of ARCs – advanced readers copies. Publishers give readers early copies of books to review and recommend before the release date. It’s not easy to attain physical arcs from publishers s a new instagrammer/blogger, so the easiest way to get ARCs is through a little website called NetGalley (there’s also Edelweiss/Above the Treeline, but I have no experience with that website, so I’ll be focussing on NetGalley). It’s easy to go on NetGalley and request everything that sounds remotely interesting, which I may or may not have done when I first joined, but there are a few things I wish I knew before I joined NetGalley.

Unless you use Kindle, the books don’t last forever

This was perhaps the main thing I didn’t realise when I requested my first galley: the books don’t last forever. I’m told that Kindle format is the exception, but I only started downloading my galleys as kindle as well as ePubs recently, so I can’t confirm or deny this. I know that I probably shouldn’t have left these books so long before I read them, but we all have to learn some things the hard way. Most galleys expire after 55 days, but you can redownload them for another 55 day period unless the publisher has archived the title. Fifty-five days is more than enough time to read a book if you actually set your mind to it, but on many occasions, I didn’t set my mind to it, and the book never got read. This put me in quite the predicament when the book was archived and I hadn’t finished it, because I don’t like giving reviews to books I didn’t finish, which brings me to the next thing I wish I knew.

Deciding not to give a review negatively impacts your score

On your NetGalley profile, a feedback ratio will be displayed in a big green box. NetGalley suggests that you maintain a feedback ratio of 80% (mine is currently 71% whoops). When you go to give feedback on a title, you can check ‘did not finish,’ and I (stupidly) thought that would count as a review, and my feedback ratio would go up accordingly. This isn’t so. Your feedback ratio remains at the level it was before you checked ‘did not finish,’ as if you hadn’t given any feedback at all (which, I guess, you didn’t). In theory, this would make you less likely to be approved for galleys in the future, which is what we want to avoid. If you want to maintain your feedback ratio, but you didn’t finish the book, you’ll have to give a review on the book without reading it in its entirety, which, as I mentioned before, is not something I personally like to do. It’s up to you how you go about this.

Publishers are sometimes restricted by region

If you’re based in the United States, dear reader, you likely won’t need to worry about this. Same goes (I think) for the United Kingdom. For the rest of us? No new news here, like many (most) things in life, publishers are often restricted by region, meaning they mightn’t be able to approve you for a book based on your location. As I said before, this isn’t anything unusual for us international folk, but it’s unfortunate. You can usually see the publisher’s region approvals in the ‘more information’ tab on their profile, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably request it anyway. Like all things, don’t take the rejection personally.
All in all, I think NetGalley is a great way to get your hands on books that you want to read and review before the release date, but if I could give you one piece of advice, I’d suggest you focus on requesting books that you’re actually genuinely planning on reading. Or suffer the ehem… not so great feedback ratio like me.

Are you a reviewer on NetGalley? What are some things you wish you knew before you joined?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up

Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up -- The Riverside Library

It’s not you, bookish social media, it’s me. Actually, no, it’s mostly you. 

When I first discovered bookish social media I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I’d known about Goodreads before, but I naively thought Facebook integration was mandatory and I could only be friends with people I actually knew (at that point only one of my friends had a Goodreads, and I had a strong book snob vibe from them). My Goodreads usage was very limited in those dark days, I would only use it to shelve classic books to be read, and read reviews of my favourite books.

Then, one day, I read an online article about local instagrammers I should follow, and featured on that list was an account that took photos solely of books. I went sleuthing, and then, I was hooked. From that moment on, I was addicted to bookstagram, book twitter and Goodreads. Flash forward to now, and I’m disheartened. With all of it. I’ve noticed a lack of enthusiasm taking photos for bookstagram, stress when considering my Goodreads goal, and absolute hatred for that little blue bird app.

I’m Not Leaving All Bookish Social Media Behind

I’m not leaving bookstagram. No way. And this blog is staying.

I’ve deleted twitter from my phone. That’s over and done with, thank the Tim Tams. Now, if I want to use Twitter, which happens occasionally, I have to log on to my computer to tweet, which is a lot more effort that tweeting from my phone, so it often dissuades me.

And I’m not deleting Goodreads. I’m just breaking up with it. We’re going to be friends from now on, nothing more, nothing closer, just friends.

And that’s what this post is about.

Why I’m Breaking Up With Goodreads

I Hardly Ever Give Star Ratings

I’ve gotten much better at this lately, but giving star ratings makes me feel awkward. There’s too much in a book to consider and reduce down into a little series of stars. I understand that star ratings are meant to accompany reviews, so you express how you feel in the review and sum it all up in a star rating, but still, it’s a challenge I’d rather not face. Of course, if I can pick a star rating, I’m still going to do it, but I’m not going to pressure myself into doing it just for the sake of it.

I Find it Really Hard to Write Reviews

“What? But you blog about books?! I’ve read your reviews!” You may be thinking. Yes, this is very true. Let’s be honest though, it’s a rare day I publish a review on this blog. I wish I could write more reviews, but the truth is, I have so few critical opinions on books that there really isn’t much of a point, also, I find that there’s little point in me writing a review of a popular book I’m reading months/years after it’s release when so many others who share the same opinions as me have written beautiful posts before (side note: maybe I should just do a review shout-out for bloggers who share the same opinion on books as me).

I’d rather stick to reviewing books that are either new releases or not well known, and I’d rather do that here on my blog.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

Some days I love that little Goodreads Challenge progress bar on the side of my home page, other days I hate it. I began the year with a goal of reading 80 books, I’ve since reduced it to reading 20 books. If you’re friends with me on Goodreads, you’ll probably wonder why this is, because as of today in December 2018, I’ve read 77 books. I surpassed that 20 book goal at the beginning of the year, and I’m three books away from the 80 book goal. Changing it doesn’t make sense, right?

Sure it does, I read for fun, setting a high goal just isn’t my idea of fun. Reading 20 books a year is an amazing accomplishment, one that most people (outside the bookish world, perhaps) would be incredibly proud of. So, I’ll be proud of that too. I’ve long since decided that twenty books a year will be my goodreads goal for every year to come.

The Feeling of Competition

Every year, usually in the middle, right when the mid-year book freak out tags are cropping up, I see a lot of people voicing their dissatisfaction with their yearly reading progress. A little message of feeling inferior, not good enough to be a bookish influencer and not well-read all too often crops up in a bookstagrammer’s Instagram story. And I hate that. It’s not something that I personally struggle with, as I consider myself a middle-of-the-range reader, my average 50 books a year is definitely not something to be ashamed of – then again, reading one book a year isn’t either.

In the bookish world, we have this strangely peculiar way of measuring our worth as a reader by the number of books we read. I know I interact with people online who constantly read upwards of 150 books a year, I know others who tend to read less than ten. Do those numbers really tell us that person one is more of a reader than person two? Before I joined the bookish world, I was under the impression that there were only ‘readers’ and ‘non-readers.’ The truth of the matter is, some people read a lot of books. Some people don’t read as much.

Your worth is not measured in the Goodreads progress bar.

Why I’m Not Kicking Goodreads Out of My Life Completely

I have two reasons why I’m not logging off Goodreads and saying ‘Bye-bye’ for good. You know, if you hadn’t read this blog post, you probably wouldn’t even notice I’m reducing my time online. 

I Use it to Find Books!

My favourite thing about Goodreads is that we’re talking about books. I love seeing what others are reading, and using that as a way to fill out my TBR. In fact, Goodreads is my favourite way to find new books to read (sorry, Bookstagram), I’m not entirely sure what I’d do if I didn’t have it. 

I Need to Keep a Track of My TBR

I haven’t the slightest clue how any of you guys keep a track of your TBR, but I use Goodreads, and nothing else. I don’t buy a lot of books that I want to read, I generally only buy books that I have already read, and absolutely loved. Because of this, I can’t use my bookshelf as a means to record my TBR, I have to use something a little less physical. Goodreads is, and has always been, the perfect solution. If I didn’t have Goodreads, I’d have to put in way more effort and record my TBR myself. I’m cringing at the thought.

How do you feel about bookish social media? Do you love it? Hate it? Hate to love it? Love to hate it? Do you use too much? Or do you somehow have fewer existential crises than me?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Dear Younger Me: Ten Writing Tips I Wish I’d Listened To

Writing Tips I Wish I Listened To -- The Riverside Library

Ah, writing tips, you and I have had a tumultuous relationship.

I’ve been writing stories my whole life, there was never a beginning moment and I hope there’ll never be an end. It’s something I’ve simply had  to do, because there is a story inside me that torments me until I get it out. It’s part of who I am. It took me longer than I’d like to admit, to realise that it’s not just about the story – it’s about the writing too. A tale can be well conveyed and … not so (spoiler alert: all of my earlier works definitely fell into the ‘not so’ category).

It was a bumpy ride through my teenage years, from the time I was twelve, when I penned my very first novel-length story featuring trolls with orange feet and pink hair and green noses (or some variation thereof). I thought it was the best piece of literature to ever grace the Earth (it most certainly was not). It wasn’t until I turned sixteen, having just finished a sci-fi dystopian that I looked back and thought perhaps it wasn’t so great – after all, I couldn’t bring myself to read a single word back.

Now that I’m 22, and I wrote my first novel-length story a decade ago, I’ve realised that some of the reasons my earlier writing was so poor was because I never listened to any writing tips at all. Sometimes I wonder what would have been different if I had listened, so here are the top ten writing tips I wish I’d listened to when I first began.

1. Edit

Would you believe that I only started editing my novels when I was seventeen? I laugh about it every time I think of that. It’s silly. Why did I ever think that a first draft was the best draft? I think I had a weird, twisted superiority complex. I’d always been the nerd, top of my class, effortlessly A+ student, and I wasn’t accustomed to producing anything but my best on the first go. Thankfully, I am no longer that person, and I know that my first draft is not my best draft, in fact, my first draft is my worst draft. That’s rock bottom, everything from there on out is up. I know sometimes it’s easy to look at editing as an arduous task, but I suggest you look at it as something exciting. You have the bones of your book, now you get to decorate it and make it look pretty. Have fun!

2. Take Your Time

Like a good wine, a tasty cheese, or most human beings, a novel gets better with age. Keep it cooking like a slow roast, fermenting like yeast or growing like a beanstalk that you planted with the sole intention of discovering if giants actually live in a secret, magical realm on the clouds (okay, but seriously, any sci-fi/fantasy writers out there? Can you write me a Jack and the Beanstalk re-telling that lends itself to historical fiction involving the first space mission piercing through the magical realm and landing in the land of giants instead of the moon? Thanking you very muchly).

3. Read Widely

When it came to this piece of advice, I was worried that the books I read were going to influence my writing style so much it was going to lend itself to imitation. The thing with read widely though, is that the operative word in the sentence is not read it’s widely.  If you read a whole bundle of different books, with different writing styles, about different things, your writing style will not become imitation, after all, how can it if everything is so different? Sure, if you read ten books with exactly the same writing style you’d probably end up with your own work that is an imitation, however if you read widely the worst you’ll get is that your writing is influenced by such authors. And if you love the authors who influence you, is that really such a bad comparison? I think not.

4. Make Your Characters Three-Dimensional

This takes me back to number 2. Take Your Time. If you don’t rush the novel process, you’ll have more time to develop more ideas. I’m not saying they’ll be better ideas, just new ones, more in depth ones, more intricate ones, and perhaps *gasp* more interesting ones. When I began writing I was always scared that thinking about things too much was going to take away the authenticity of my writing or something like that, but with experience now, I can tell it doesn’t. It adds to it.

5. Edit Again.

Rewrite if you have to! I have a bare minimum of two rounds of edits before I send my projects out to my trusted readers. The first, I fix glaring errors and plotholes, the second, I fix language issues. Then, I send it to my readers and make appropriate changes when I receive their feedback. Mostly it’s just little line edits (spelling and grammatical errors) but sometimes they’ll bring something up and I’ll have to make a substantial change because I had overlooked something, or neglected to explain something because I understood it (being the writer). The editing process can be more arduous sometimes than others, and I always find that depends on how shiny my first draft is, and if I edit as I write (which I usually do, otherwise I’ll forget something).

6. Listen to Writing Advice

My mum gave me a piece of advice once, she said ‘Always listen to any advice you’re given. You don’t have to use it, more often than not, you won’t use it, but listen to it anyway. You’ll never know, you might actually need it someday.’ I listened to that piece of advice, and I’ve used it for all its worth. Writing advice is not going to hurt you, not going to sabotage your ability or talent, and it doesn’t need to kill your ego either (actually, yes, let it do that. We don’t like egos).

7. Change Your Mind

It’s easy to get stuck in your ways while writing, especially if you feel like your original idea is locked in and permanent, but in all truth, you are the writer, and if something isn’t working, or if you’re not loving it, you can change it. Figuring that out was an empowering moment, for such a long time I’ve felt a slave to my characters as if these figments of my imagination could actually dictate what my conscious brain was doing. Well, they can’t. I can, you can, and we will.

8. Let Someone Read it

I had a myriad of reasons why people were not to read my work under any circumstances, and if I’m honest, each one was fabricated to cover the fact that I was too terrified to share my work. I also found it super hard to find people who were interested in my writing, I didn’t want to give it out to just anybody because I didn’t trust their advice. My writing, and lack of connections with other writers is a major reason why I decided to join bookstagram, I figured a book community was the best community to start making friends in, and I hoped that those friends might someday become trusted beta readers. 

9. Take a break and come back

This is one of those tips that you read in all of the how-to writing guides, but it’s definitely one I stand behind. Writing is often an emotional experience, and I know that when my emotions are high, it seems like my brain function is somewhat impaired, so I often leave my writing for a short while (especially after finishing a draft) and come back to it, to read it with a clearer head. Taking a break also works to smash through that annoying writer’s block. 

10. Be humble (and realistic)

Here’s the truth of the matter, younger me, thinking you’re the very best at something isn’t exactly conductive to learning. If you are the best, where is your drive to improve? Where is your room to grow? Stagnation should be feared above all else. Trust me, you want nothing less in life than to be stuck where you are forever. Be humble. Open your mind to more possibilities than you being the best writer out there (and don’t wait until you’re 16 to do it). Allow yourself to grow, in fact, push yourself to grow. You will be so much better if you do.

Need Extra Tips?

If you’ve followed me on social media or read my blog for a while, you’ll know that my favourite book about writing is Letters to A Young Writer by Column McCann. I highly, highly recommend it. I love it because it’s less of a how-to-write book and more of a fun pep talk. 

P.S. Never feel bad about your early writing attempts

Some notable early works of mine that stand out include the one written from a dead girl’s perspective as she tried to break through into the land of the living to save her sister from something (the mysterious threat was never revealed) aided by her sidekick who had no face, and the 300,000 word paranormal historical romance (300,000 words is rather excessive… especially when there wasn’t any plot).

Happy Writing! Let me know your favourite tips in the comments below!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

REVIEW: The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

REVIEW_ The Enchanted Sonata -- The Riverside Library

I found The Enchanted Sonata when I was busy scrolling through NetGalley looking for my most anticipated reads of 2019 (I can be very impatient when it comes to books). As soon as I discovered it was a Nutcracker retelling, I had to request it. Kindly, the publisher sent me a digital copy, and by next morning, I was cuddled up in bed, completely immersed in the snowy, magical world.

What is it about?

The Enchanted Sonata is an intriguing retelling of the Nutcracker and the Pied Piper. It follows Clara as she is whisked into a magical world that she must save with the magic of music.

My Reading Experience

I think I owe The Enchanted Sonata all the credit for getting me into the Christmas mood this year. I’m usually somewhat of a Grinch who wants to love Christmas, but just can’t. I think that might be due to the lack of Christmas books in genres I love to read (hit me up if you have any Christmas book recs), but all that has changed this year thanks to this beautiful Nutcracker retelling. I managed to read this one in a few days, and it kept me interested the entire time. The Enchanted Sonata even got me into the most Northern Christmas mood I’ve ever been in, unfortunately now I really want a winter Christmas.

Things I Loved

As I mentioned before, aside from the cover, one of the key reasons I requested this book was because it is a Nutcracker retelling, and I love the Nutcracker. Thankfully, The Enchanted Sonata is very faithful to the story that I know, so it was well and truly a delight to read. Of course, it’s not just a rehashing of the story, the inclusion of a little Pied Piper retelling made the plot very intriguing. Though I did find it slightly predictable, I never found it boring, and I was always excited to continue on when I picked it up every night. 

Another thing I really loved about The Enchanted Sonata was the pacing in the beginning. I really appreciated that the book didn’t take too terribly long to get into. I personally hate books with slow beginnings, and for some strange reason, I thought this book would have a slow beginning, but it didn’t and I was absolutely delighted. The pacing was generally good throughout the whole book. Though there were a few moments that I thought it was slightly slow, it never slowed down enough for me to be dissatisfied with it, and as I mentioned before, I was constantly excited to continue on.

Things I Didn’t Love

For some reason, I feel like this book was super short, but I just looked on Goodreads and it’s listed as 375 pages long, so it’s by no means a short book, however, for the length, I felt like the characters were quite underdeveloped. I really wanted to learn more about them, and dig deeper into their psyches. I feel like I didn’t form a really tight connection with them, and I also wish the plot was just a little bit deeper and more complex. Having said that, I understand this is probably more of a light, happy read, and a deeper plot is probably not what the author was aiming for.

My Favourite Thing

All in all, The Enchanted Sonata is an enchanting read, and that’s what I enjoyed most. The world is immersive and magical, it’s like reading a Disney movie. I wish the book would open a magical portal and suck me in, just so I could roam the snowy streets, and maybe spend an inordinate amount of time at Polichinelle’s Candy Emporium. The Enchanted Sonata is everything I could have asked for at this time of year, and I’ll probably end up rereading it closer to Christmas. But for now? I think I’ll go and get myself some candy canes and dig out that Nutcracker candle I have tucked away in a box somewhere. 

Star Rating

I gave The Enchanted Sonata four out of five stars. 

If you have any Christmas book recommendations, please drop them in the comments below. Thank you!

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

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