Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined NetGalley

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

My Top Five 2019 Reading Goals

I’m going to try and refrain from marvelling at the fact that 2018 is almost over, and expressing my incredulity, because I do that every month and we all know that I can never believe that days actually pass. Wow, what a mind-blowing concept, Mikaela, time goes on. Well, I mean, depends how you look at it, timey-wimey stuff and all that, but from the standpoint of your everyday Joe Bloggs, days pass, as do months, and eventually, years do too. Now we’re teetering on the precipice of 2019, looking back at where 2018 has taken us, and looking forward to the hopes and dreams we place on 2019’s shoulders. I’m not a New Years resolution person, but over the years I’ve developed a liking for setting goals and/or challenges (call them what you will) so, here are my top five 2019 reading goals.

Read 20 Books

In 2018 I became one of these people who gets irked and mildly stressed out by reading goals. I never thought it would happen, but alas, here we are. I wrote a long-winded blog post about my feelings on Goodreads goals recently, and have decided to decrease my reading goal each year to twenty books. I see this as a minimum and will strive to read more than twenty, but without a beige coloured website breathing down my neck.

Continue Reading Agatha Christie’s Works

I’m looking forward to being back at my old library in Australia because they don’t charge me to reserve books, so I won’t be reduced to going into the library hoping that the next book I want will be on the shelf. Hopefully, this way I’ll be able to make a dent in Agatha Christie’s works, instead of just reading four like I did this year. For those of you unaware, I‘m trying to read all of Agatha Christie’s works, starting with Poirot, then Marple, and then everything else. I don’t have a finish date in mind, because I’m all about reducing the pressure I put on myself.

Finish All Sherlock Holmes stories

If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that I love Sherlock Holmes, but I haven’t read every one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (I know, *gasp*). In 2018, I reread one of the four volumes of Sherlock Holmes, and I’m going to try my best to finish the remaining three in 2019.

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays

If we’re friends on Goodreads you may have seen a lot of updates from me on your feed the other day as I added a long list of Shakespeare’s plays to my ‘Want to Read’ shelf (if we’re not friends on Goodreads, add me!). I recently realised that I have only ever read three of Shakespeare’s plays, and I’m astounded by myself. I really enjoyed reading Shakspeare when I was a young teenager, so I hope that I enjoy his works as much now. I just downloaded The Complete Works of William Shakespeare eBook from Gutenberg for free, and yes, maybe I also just put the Knickerbocker Classics Edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare on my Booktopia Wishlist. I’m ready and rearing to go!

Read More Classics

I say this every year, and I never seem to do it. It’s like that one New Years resolution that everyone sets and never sticks to, but instead of ‘exercise more’ or ‘eat healthier,’ I hope to read more classics, and then I read like, one. Granted, each one is one more than I had read before. I may have read ten before, but now I’ve read eleven, you get me? Hopefully 2019 will be the year I finally get to some of those classics I’ve been trying to read for years. Then again, probably not.

What are your 2019 reading goals?

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Dear Bookish Social Media, We Need to Break Up

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

BLOGMAS Reading Challenge

I went to the library the other day in search of a book to read before bed. I find nothing puts me to sleep like reading (in a good way, of course) but I seem to be out of reading material lately. I went in looking for one book, and I came out with eight. That night, I got a slew of emails from the library letting me know that my eBook reservations were now available and I’ve found myself with twelve books to read in the next two weeks or so before I head back to Australia. Though it may seem silly, and I know I’ll never get through this many books in such a short time, I have decided to set myself a Blogmas Reading Challenge for the next two weeks or so, to see how many books I can actually get through. The goal: hit 80 books on my Goodreads goal. The Challenge: read at least eight of the twelve books listed below.

Cat Poems

Cat Poems Cover -- The Riverside Library

by The World’s Greatest Poets

I love poems, and I love cats, so I could hardly turn this down when I found it at the library, even when I already had seven other books in my hands. It’s a super slim volume – a great way to start off this challenge and take one step closer to my goal of reading eight books. I haven’t had a look through the contents to see what poets are included yet, but I’m hoping to find some favourites.

Blurb:

Across the ages, cats have provided their adopted humans with companionship, affection, mystery, and innumerable metaphors.
Cats raise a mirror up to their beholders; cats endlessly captivate and hypnotise, frustrate and delight. To poets, in particular, these enigmatic creatures are the most delightful and beguiling of muses, as they purr, prowl, hunt, play, meow, and nap, often oblivious to their so-called masters. Cat Poems offers a litter of odes to our beloved felines by some of the greatest poets of all time.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)

Scarlet Cover -- The Riverside Library

Marissa Meyer

I read Cinder some time ago and I enjoyed it, though I didn’t love it. I didn’t have any immediate plans to continue the series, but the other day, I just felt like it. I actually went to the library specifically for this one (and walked out with an armful more), so this will be at the very top of my TBR for this reading challenge. I’ve seen a lot of really good reviews for this one, especially people saying that they enjoyed it a lot more than Cinder, so I’m quietly hopeful that I’ll really enjoy it.

Blurb:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

To Kill a Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom Cover -- The Riverside Library

Alexandra Christo

I’ve seen this book around Bokstagram quite a lot, though I’ve not heard much about it. I, uh, haven’t even read the blurb, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence, and always leads to a fun reading experience. From what I can tell, it’s got something to do with the ocean, and if you know me, you’ll know I love the ocean, but I don’t often read books set at sea, because I’m not the worlds biggest fan of pirates (this is totally a pirate book, isn’t it?) It’s one of the shortest books in my pile, so I think I’ll read it after I finish Scarlet, that way I’ll feel like I’m making some real progress in my list.

Blurb:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Star Touched Queen

The Star Touched Queen Cover -- The Riverside Library

Roshani Chokshi

Like To Kill a Kingdom, I’ve seen The Star Touched Queen on Bookstagram from time to time, but I’ve never really heard a great deal about it, so I’ve little idea what I’m in for. The cover is very beautiful though, and everyone knows I’m a lover of fantasy, so as long as this isn’t filled with trope I don’t care for, I think I’ll enjoy this just fine. 

Blurb:

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As
Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself. 

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Bells

The Belles Cover -- The Riverside Library

Dhonielle Clayton

I remember when The Belles was first released, I wasn’t keeping up with new releases, but I was vaguely aware of the premise of The Belles, and definitely intrigued by it, but like most new releases in 2018 it was placed on the back burner of my brain’s book radar, and I didn’t think much about it until I found a brand new hardcover in my library’s collection. (Side note: is it just my copy, or is the cover image quality quite low? Because this copy looks minority pixelated). The Belles sounds like such an interesting premise, I hope I love it. 

Blurb:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight Cover -- The Riverside Library

Cassandra Clare

Queen of Air and Darkness was just released so I am seeing The Dark Artifices everywhere online, and I’ve only ever read The Mortal Instruments (granted, I read a handful of pages of Clockwork Prince, but got distracted), and so many people say that The Dark Artifices are Clare’s best works, so I feel obliged, as a YA book blogger, to read these. Lucky for me, my local library had a copy smiling up at me on the shelves, so in my book bag it went. 

Blurb:

In a kingdom by the sea…
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, 
parabatai is a sacred word.
parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her 
parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil -- The Riverside Library

Emily Suvada

I don’t dislike dystopians, they’re just something I grab for first. Fantasy is. Then, non-fiction. Dystopians are probably quite high on the list of things that I grab for, but then, lets be honest, I’ll almost read anything you give me (I draw the line at horror, and it is a very distinct line, I’ll have you know). It was probably for this reason that, although on my radar, This Mortal Coil wasn’t high up on my TBR list. However, recently I discovered that the author, Emily Suvada, actually has a degree in STEM, so I’m vehemently hoping that everything I dislike about sci-fi dystopians is going to be absent from this book (because I really dislike dodgy science). (Side note: yay for women in STEM!)

Blurb:

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.
That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.
When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.
Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself? 

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling -- The Riverside Library

Erika Johannsen

I have tried to read The Queen of the Tearling so many times, but I’ve just never been in the mood for it. This time, I am determined to finish it. I will, I tell you, I will, I will, I will. I’ll do it. It sounds like such a perfect fantasy for me, everything I look for and love in a novel, so I can’t quite understand why I’ve never been able to fully get into it. I hope I love it. 

Blurb:

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of
neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Two Towers Cover -- The Riverside Library

J.R.R. Tolkien

This is low-key cheating on the reading challenge front because I’m already half way through it, but I do want to finish it before I have to return it to the library. Plus, I love Middle Earth. 

Blurb:

The Fellowship was scattered. Some were bracing hopelessly for war against the ancient evil of Sauron. Some were contending with the treachery of the wizard Saruman. Only Frodo and Sam were left to take the accursed Ring of Power to be destroyed in Mordor–the dark Kingdom where Sauron was supreme. Their guide was Gollum, deceitful and lust-filled, slave to the corruption of the Ring. Thus continues the magnificent, bestselling tale of adventure begun in The Fellowship of the Ring, which reaches its soul-stirring climax in The Return of the King.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

The Wrath and the Dawn Cover -- The Riverside Library

Renee Ahdieh

I spontaneously bought the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn when I saw it for $2.95, so I feel like I should probably read the first in the series before I plunge into my bargain by. Plus, it sounds like a super interesting book! Though I’ve never read One Thousand and One Nights, the premise really piqued my interest. Plus, I love the cover.

Blurb:

One Life to One Dawn.
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #3)

Winter Cover -- The Riverside Library

Marissa Meyer

I got this one out on a hunch that I’ll probably want to read it immediately after finishing Scarlet. Okay, maybe less of a hunch and more of a hope.

Blurb:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her
stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Add this to your shelves on Goodreads

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)

The Rose and the Dagger Cover -- The Riverside Library

Renee Ahdieh

As noted earlier, I spontaneously bought this for $2.95, so I figure I should porbably read it.

Blurb:

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.
Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is
act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.
The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

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Do you see any favourites on this list? Let me know in the comments below! And take your bet on how many you think I can get finished in the next two or so weeks! I bet, like, one. Mikaela | The Riverside Library

October Wrap Up: Books, Writing, Life + More

Long time no see, blogosphere. I missed you. You probably didn’t even notice I was gone, but that’s okay, no hard feelings. I posted a grand total of one blog post in October (oh wait, actually no, it was September) and then it was silence from me. I’ve been very busy, but I did do a bit of reading, so I have an October wrap up for you!

Books I Read in October

I had a fairly good reading month this month, especially considering how hectic it was, and I completed five books. 

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie 

My second foray into Agatha Christie’s works brought me to And Then There Were None an intriguing tale of ten deaths on a secluded island. Unfortunately I already knew the ending going into the story, but that didn’t detract from the tale for me, and I throughouly enjoyed it.

I gave the book 5 out of 5 stars.

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Agatha Christie 

Christie’s first novel, and the debut of one of her two most well-known detectives, Hercule Poirot was my second read of October. I know I mentioned that I wanted to read her works in chronological order, but I didn’t see the harm in reading And Then There Were None before The Mysterious Affair at Styles because the former doesn’t feature Poirot or Marple. Although I didn’t enjoy The Mysterious Affair at Styles quite as much as And Then There Were None I still found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I gave the book 4 out of five stars.

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The Complete Sherlock Holmes vol. 1

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I love my clothbound knickerbocker copies of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, but I’ll readily admit I’d never actually read these particular editions before, having read my Penguin Classics edition and my Barnes and Noble classics editions of Sherlock Holmes instead. I’m glad I settled down and read my Knickerbockers this time around though, because they have some of the softest pages I’ve come across. They’re quite sturdy, so they can be hard to hold open at times, but my sister surprised me with a Page Anchor (pictured above) right when I started reading Volume One and it improved my reading experience tenfold.

I’ve loved Sherlock Holmes stories since I was nine years old and nothing has changed. It was so cozy curling up in bed and reading these mystery stories, I’m glad I have three more volumes to get through.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars (for a breakdown of my star ratings for the full-length novels and story collection in volume 1, check out my goodreads).

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Kingdom of Ash

Sarah J Maas

Though Kingdom of Ash wasn’t my most anticipated read of 2018, I still pre-ordered and eagerly awaited the release of the epic finale to Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I’ll not spend much time writing about this one as it is still a fairly recent release and I don’t want to face the wrath of a spoiled Maas fans, but I did enjoy the conclusion immensley.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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How to Hygge

Signe Johansen

Ever since reading Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge a year ago, I’ve been in love with the idea of Hygge. I try not to read too many books to tarnish my sweet feelings toward the concept, but when I saw How to Hygge at my local library I had to pick it up. Though it wasn’t quite as heartwarming as The Little Book of Hygge, I did appreciate the amount of hyggelig recipes, and I can’t wait to try a few out (I’m looking at you Roast Cauliflower, Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad with Cherries and Walnuts).

I gave the book 3 – 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Books I Didn’t Manage to Finish

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll probably know I struggled to get into Frankenstein. I really really tried, but wow, I’m finding it boring. I’m determined to finish it, but I don’t know when… maybe before I’m 80. No promises.

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Dracula

Bram Stoker

I don’t know why I stopped reading Dracula, because I was actually enjoying it immensely. I think I thought my eReader was flat and I couldn’t find the charger for it (I only realised last night that it wasn’t flat at all).

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What I’m Currently Reading

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

J. R. R. Tolkien

If you’ve been reading my blog, or following my Instagram for a while, you may remember that I read The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring earlier this year and surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it. I’ve been wanting to continue the trilogy for a while, but waiting until I could find a copy at my local library. I did happen upon a copy a could weeks ago and began devouring it as soon as possible. I’m nearly halfway through, and super excited to see what happens next.

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Writing Update

I finished my major edits on WIP:S!!!!

via GIPHY

You can find a thread of my tweets, and appropriate GIFs here on Twitter. I’m giving it a short break and sending it off to beta readers, before going over and changing some minor things. 

At an obscene hour last night, I also began working on a project (let’s call is WIP:TSG) that’s been stuck in my head for about a year now, and although it’s not my NaNoWriMo Project (because Nano stressed me out and I’m not doing it), I’ll definitely be working on it in my spare time (i.e. at 2am when I can’t sleep).  

Life Update

I’m in the middle of moving counties – again – and shutting Potions Candle Co. for a little while. I’ll be starting a Kickstarter to open it back up again, I explained it a little more on my instagram post, so I’ll post an excerpt here.

…  I was wondering what you guys would think about doing a Kickstarter to help Potions get back to Australia? (I feel so awkward typing this akhdjhf🙈😂) I’ve begun to plot some exclusive, customised candles as rewards for pledges and the like, all in different sizes and quantities (if candle boxes tickle your fancy), and at heavily discounted prices – we’re talking anywhere from 30% – 50% off the regular price…

I have absolutely no idea when this will happen because I’m not certain when I’ll be moving, but once Potions sells out all the stock, I’ll be releasing my new website, and I’ll keep you updated!

So that’s about it! Hope you had a great October!

P.S. Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, this means that any purchase made with the link will earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you, so by buying books you can support my blog!

 

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Other Posts You’ll Love

5 Fantasies You Should Read this Winter

Long winter nights provide ample reading time, so I think it’s time to pick up that thick fantasy you’ve always been wanting to read and get stuck into it. If nothing else, it’s a perfect escape from those icy winter nights. Here are my top five winter recommendations!

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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This is a recent read for me, but perfect for winter with it’s Prague setting and chilly goodness. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a high-stakes love story between angels and demons. Now, I’m not one for love stories, but I adored this fantasy, with its rich setting and kick-ass protagonist.

Blurb:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

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4. Game of Thrones

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I finally read Game of Thrones back in the first half of the year, but unlike many who’ve read it, I didn’t speed through it. It took me forever to get through this book. I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to, but I can definitely see the appeal, and let’s be honest, it’ll be a classic when our children (or grandchildren) are older. So it’s kind of cementing itself on a ‘must read’ shelf. What better time to read this fantasy with winters that stretch on for years than in the winter months! Bite the bullet and pick up a copy to see what all the hype is about!

Blurb:

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

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3. Outlander

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I can’t think the word ‘Outlander’ without mentally singing the TV show’s theme song. It’s so good. The theme song, I mean. The book is fantastic too. Although slightly slow to begin with, this incredibly researched story about a time travelling WWII nurse and the man she falls in love with is addictive. Set in the wild Scottish Highlands, Outlander is a heart-pumping, steamy, and edge-of-your-seat they-have-the-worst-luck-in-the-world historical novel with romance and science-fiction that lends itself to fantasy, and adventure, and it will play with your heart and probably break it. So, you should read it. Because it’s healthy to have a book break your heart every once in a while.

Blurb:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

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2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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Lord of the Rings is another recent read for me, but it’s one I’ve been meaning to read for such a long time. I got it out from my library for the billionth time, but this time I made sure to knuckle down and read it! I’ve always found it pretty slow to start with, but I was pleasantly surprised that it truly picks up pace after the spot that I always seem to put it down. The Fellowship of the Ring‘s popularity always baffled me somewhat, but now, after reading it, I can definitely see what the fuss was about, and I still can’t shake the absolute dread that fills me every time I imagine being tracked by a black rider.

Blurb:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

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1. Harry Potter

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I don’t know about you, but all I want in winter is a big warm mug of some hot drink, candles, a blanket, and Harry Potter. It’s a winter staple. I can never put my finger on what makes Harry Potter so magical to me, but I think it’s probably the comfort that it brings. I was lucky enough to be part of the Harry Potter generation, and to grow up with the boy wizard. I was eleven years old when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, and I remember lining up for that giant book, and shutting myself in my room over the course of the next two days to read it.

Returning to Hogwarts every year is something I always make a point to do. After all, it’s my literary equivalent of a home. In my humble opinion, there’s no better way to spend winter than with Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Blurb:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason … HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!

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Let me know your top five winter fantasies in the comments below!

Classics I Want to Read Before the End of the Year

Ah, classics. I love them, but I don’t read them much. I’m making an effort to read more classics, whether or not that will work out is still up for debate, but I’ve compiled a list of classic novels I’d like to finish before New Year’s Eve rolls around and 2019 comes a-knockin’. 

That list is as follows:

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy

I’ve tried to read War and Peace so many times now, it’s not even funny. And I cannot fathom why I haven’t been able to get past the first few chapters. It’s not that I’ve found it dreadfully boring, I think other books on my TBR have tempted me more. I simply have to get around to it though, I won’t let myself rest until I do! After I make my way through the pile of library loans that I need to get done before I have to return them. Sorry Tolstoy, you’ve waited 151 years for me to read your book, you can wait a little bit longer.

Blurb:

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

A s Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving—and human—figures in world literature.

 

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Dubliners

James Joyce

I’ve googled a lot about where to start with Joyce, and although I wanted to dive in the deep end with Ulysses, I think I’ll follow what everyone else has recommended and go with Dubliners first. I have this strange obsession with reading Joyce, one that I don’t fully understand. Somewhere in the depths of my confusing, paradoxical mind, Joyce is a must-read. Almost like reading Joyce legitimizes you as a serious reader (this is totally not true, what legitimizes you as a reader is reading, and nothing else (not that we need legitimization), just saying). I feel like I need to read Joyce, to attain my ideal goal of being a totally hip indie girl that wears cute tweed skirts and lives in a studio apartment above an old bookstore and can quote James Joyce from memory. I can’t believe I just admitted that. 

Moving on.

Blurb:

This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.

 

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Agatha Christie

I’ve made a pledge to read my way through all of Agatha Christie’s novels. And I’m not ashamed (per say) to admit I’ve yet to finish the first one. I’ve read a decent portion of this book and only stopped because I had to return it to the library (story of my life). I was really enjoying it, although it’s slightly predictable (I think), and I’m eager to finish it. 

Blurb:

Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary–from the heiress’s fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the case. The key to the success of this style of detective novel, writes Elizabeth George in her Introduction, lies in how the author deals with both the clues and the red herrings, and it has to be said that no one bettered Agatha Christie at this game.

 

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

J. R. R. Tolkein

I just finished reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and I surprised myself with how much I loved it (is a majority of that love due to Samwise Gamgee? I’ll not say no). Having loved that one so much I’m now exceptionally hyped to continue the series. I have to somehow restrain myself and not loan this book from the library until I’ve finished the other twenty-five library loans I have out at the moment (yes. I loan a lot. A lot).  

Blurb:

The Fellowship was scattered. Some were bracing hopelessly for war against the ancient evil of Sauron. Some were contending with the treachery of the wizard Saruman. Only Frodo and Sam were left to take the accursed Ring of Power to be destroyed in Mordor–the dark Kingdom where Sauron was supreme. Their guide was Gollum, deceitful and lust-filled, slave to the corruption of the Ring. Thus continues the magnificent, bestselling tale of adventure begun in The Fellowship of the Ring, which reaches its soul-stirring climax in The Return of the King

 

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La Belle et la Bête (The Beauty and the Beast)

Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot De Villeneuve

I don’t speak French very well, but for some reason, I always mentally refer to The Beauty and the Beast by its original French name. It’s almost embarrassing to admit I haven’t read this one yet, especially because I’m such a fan of all the movie adaptations – I know, I know, I’ve heard the Dinsey animated classic is nothing like the original fairytale, but let me love it. I have the most beautiful edition of The Beauty and the Beast sitting on my shelves, and I think it’s terrible that I’ve never read it, so I need to rectify this (then I can contemplate the copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest that’s sitting unread beside it). 

Blurb:

In this classic French fairy tale, a young girl named Belle agrees to be imprisoned by a monstrous Beast to save her father from certain death. But is the Beast what he appears to be, or is there more to him than meets the eye. After all, who could ever learn to love a Beast?

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What are some classics you’re hoping to read before the end of the year? Are your goals as far-fetched as mine? (Joyce and Tolstoy in less than four months, I can hear you laughing at me, you know). Let me know in the comments below!

How to Write a Book Review

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to write a review, but up until recently, I’ve found them very difficult to write. Reviews are something I used to spend hours on, to only delete it because I didn’t like what I’d written. My structure never felt right, they always felt too brief or too waffly, I could never seem to get the balance right. Until, one day I sat down to write one, and it just worked. Of course, I had to sit down and write out the formula I’d used so I could replicate it in the future, and now, thanks to this layout, I have a whole pile of reviews completed on my computer.

Don’t worry, I won’t keep it all to myself, that’s not why I have a blog!

This blog review formula is super easy to follow, and it only takes me about ten to twenty minutes to write out! So, lets get straight to it!

How did you come to read it?

Although not particularly important, telling your readers how you came to read the book is a great introduction. Sometimes, if you were supplied the book for review, you’ll need to tell your readers this, and let them know that it in no way impacts your thoughts on the work, so I think starting reviews off this way is good practice to get into.

Telling your readers where you found out about the book also gives a great indication as to how popular the book is, say you picked it up because you saw it on bookstagram all the time, the reader will know that it’s well known in the reading community, and that will appeal to a lot of readers. Conversely, if a reader doesn’t like reading what everyone else is reading, or doesn’t trust the online book community, then a book you picked up at your local library because you liked the sound of the blurb, might be more appealing to them.

What is it about?

If there is one thing that my higher education in science taught me, it’s to be succinct. The point of a review is not to tell the reader what happened in the book (that’s what the blurb, and the book itself is for), but rather to express your opinions on the book so to let the reader know if it’s something they’ll like to pick up or not. Where a lot of people go wrong with reviews is that they spend most of their time talking about the book’s plot. This section of the review should not be the longest section. It should be one of the shorter ones. Try to explain the book in one or two sentences. For example I would describe Fangirl as follows “Cath is a freshman is university, and also the writer of a fairly famous fan fiction. Fangirl follows her as she navigates her first year, her first love, and a bunch of old fears.” My two sentence summary is by no means world-class literature, (in fact, it gives a new definition to the word ‘basic’) but it doesn’t have to be worthy of the Man Booker. Instead, it needs to get your point across. The two-sentence summary above tells you that the story is about a girl named Cath, it’s set at university, it focuses on writing/a writer. The second sentence hints at conflicts to do with her studies, her love life, and her past life without going into depth mentioning people like Levi, or that guy Nick or even her estranged mother.

As reviewers, it’s not our job to make people want to read the book by telling them what the book is about – that’s the publisher and authors jobs. As reviewers, it’s our job to influence people to read, or not read the book with our opinions and reactions and out of control emotions.

What was your reading experience like?

This is often more telling than anything else. Did you read the book in one sitting? Did you stay up until 2am just to finish to because you couldn’t put it down? Or did you read it on and off for a few months because it couldn’t quite hold your attention as much as others have before?

I read Obsidio in one sitting, I finished it at 1:30am and I gave it five stars, whereas I read Around the World in Eighty Days over a few months, and gave it two stars. I find that I tend to devour the books I love, whereas the books I’m not excessively keen on take me longer to complete. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, I savour some books I love, and so they can take me half a year to complete (predominantly non-fiction), and even books I love take me a long time to read when I have a hectic schedule. Use this section to tell everyone what your reading experience was like (and why), and chat about how that reflects on the book.

What did you like about the characters/plot/themes/writing style/world building etc.

If you’re just writing a quick review, it’s fine to pick and discuss one of these, or if you’re going for a more in-depth review, feel free to discuss them all. Characters, plot, themes, writing style, world building and other elements of the novel are a great thing to discuss. Tell us what made you connect to the character, what about the plot kept you turning the pages, what themes resonated with you, how the writing style read to you, if the world building made you want to pack your bags and move there.

What are the book’s flaws?

I like putting this part of my review in the middle, because I generally try to stay positive with my reviews. You may notice I’m not one to frequently give books the 1 or 2 star ratings (there are a few exceptions), and that’s purely a personal preference. A lot of reviewers find a sense of relief in giving negative reviews, but because I like talking about the books I love I’d rather not review books I didn’t love. That being said, every book has it’s flaws, because nothing is perfect, and we should always discuss them. By putting this in the middle, I like that the review doesn’t end on a low note as it would if I put it at the end, and doesn’t begin on a low note either, as it would if I put it in the very beginning. To me, chatting about these things in the middle is a way of acknowledging the parts of the book I didn’t like so much, while not letting it define the book as a whole, or take away from it’s great qualities.

What was your favourite thing?

This is super important, because we all love loving things, right? Talk about the thing you loved most of all. Like for my Obsidio review I talked about AIDAN, for my Fangirl review I talked about the story’s pacing. This is the part where you can write in sentences that are so impassioned they don’t really make much sense, but the lack of coherency is a better indication of your love than any proper sentences could be. Throw grammar out the window. Don’t even bother about properly capitalising things. Write in all caps IF YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE GETTING A POINT ACROSS.

What is your star rating?

Everyone calculates their star rating a different way. I go between rating books on how it feels and finding an average of stars from characters, plot, writing style, world building, and overall enjoyment. This is one of the many reasons that reviews are more important than star ratings – at least with a review an opinion is explained and in a way, justified, but a star rating is just a star rating, it doesn’t really tell you anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing to include to wrap up your review, and to summarize everything, but star ratings aren’t the most fabulous thing on their own. You may be thinking, “But Mikaela! Star ratings are all you’ve got on your instagram and goodreads!” Yep, that’s true, and it’s because star ratings are easy and I like to spend the majority of my time walking along the path of life that requires the least amount of effort.

And Finally

Now that I’ve given you the technical details of how I write my book reviews, it’s time to give you the one piece of advice that I think is the most important, and it’s one I only came to the realisation of a while back. It’s you. Make sure you include your unique writing voice in the piece. Remember, if you’re blogging, your writing is supposed to be informal, you don’t need to write like you’re submitting an application for the most prestigious university in the world – write like you’re chatting to a friend about this book that they absolutely hands down must read like right this second. Or the opposite. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Hey! Thanks for reading, I’d love it if you dropped me a comment to tell me what you thought of this article, or even just say Hi!

Like it? Pin it!

How to Write a Book Review -- The Riverside Library

5 Books Recommended by the Internet that I Actually Want to Read

I like to think my hours spent scrolling through Pinterest can be counted as research. I mean, it is research, right? It’s not time wasting, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I find book recommendations everywhere. Books that will make you a better person, books that will make you smarter, books that will somehow make you fit that super cute, beautiful messy bun wearing, well-cultured indie movie protagonist that lives in the cutest studio apartment above a dusty bookshop who can quote any (and every) classic book on demand, and can actually keep a plant alive.

You also get some pretty strange book recommendations too, let’s be honest. But, I’ve taken one for the team and trawled Pinterest to find some fairly interesting books to read. Now, as the faithful public servant that I am, I’m here to share them with you. You’re welcome. Let’s go!

Oh, P.S. most of these are non-fiction, because this is my blog and I am me *beams*.

How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are

How to Be Parisian -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside Library

Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas
 

I’m not in love with the idea of France because of Julie and Julia and The One Hundred Foot Journey. I am obsessed with the idea of France because of Julie and Julia and The One Hundred Foot Journey. I understand that movies are movies and my fictional idea of France is probably quite far from reality, but a girl can dream, non? I’m kind of fascinated by this book, in part because I’m not exactly sure what it means to be Parisian, but I’m pretty sure it’s not my Kiwi-Australian outdoor loving, hiking obsessed, beach bum self. I have a feeling this book is going to be quasi-pretentious and absolutely hilarious.

Blurb:

In short, frisky sections, these Parisian women give you their very original views on style, beauty, culture, attitude and men. The authors–Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas–unmarried but attached, with children–have been friends for years. Talented bohemian iconoclasts with careers in the worlds of music, film, fashion and publishing, they are untypically frank and outspoken as they debunk the myths about what it means to be a French woman today. Letting you in on their secrets and flaws, they also make fun of their complicated, often contradictory feelings and behavior. They admit to being snobs, a bit self-centered, unpredictable but not unreliable. Bossy and opinionated, they are also tender and romantic.

You will be taken on a first date, to a party, to some favorite haunts in Paris, to the countryside, and to one of their dinners at home with recipes even you could do — but to be out with them is to be in for some mischief and surprises. They will tell you how to be mysterious and sensual, look natural, make your boyfriend jealous, and how they feel about children, weddings and going to the gym. And they will share their address book in Paris for where to go: At the End of the Night, for A Birthday, for a Smart Date, for a A Hangover, for Vintage Finds and much more.

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are will make you laugh as you slip into their shoes to become bold and free and tap into your inner cool

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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryAtul Gawande 

I’ve actually tried to read this one before, and by ‘tried to read’ I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve loaned it from the library before and then proceeded to forget I loaned it and never read it. It sounds like a book that’s right up my alley, and no doubt it’s going to make me weep, as medical books usually do. But I am ready. I am ready to weep over the pages of this book that promises to deal with life and death and dying (light and happy subject matters are totally up my alley, haven’t you noticed?) I feel like this book is going to take me back to my senior university student self, obsessed with being House M.D. but nicer. I should put that on a t-shirt.

Blurb:

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryAnthony Doerr

This is another one of those books I’ve had out from the library multiple times and never got around to reading. I have no idea why though, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. The reviews all seem pretty decent, and I’ve mentally shelved it with books like The Night Circus and The Book Theif (that being the slightly unconventionally beautiful ones). I don’t usually buy into the hype of Pulitzer Prize winners, but I really want to hop on this train and see what it’s all about. I feel like this is the kind of book you’d bring up over coffee with your super bookish friend while you’re munching on the ends of fresh croissants and oozing literary sophistication (again, not in love with the idea of France, obsessed with it). Anyway, HYPE TRAIN I AM COMING FOR YOU.

Blurb:

 

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

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On Photography

On Photography -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibrarySusan Sontag

I love books. I also love taking photos (predominantly of books, I mean, #bookstagram). I’ve also been meaning to read Susan Sontag forever. I have a little Penguin Modern book of hers On Camp, but it’s glaring at me from my bedside table because I haven’t read it yet. I mean, I’m far more interested in photography than I am in camp, whatever that may be, so I think it’s probably a better idea to start with photography and move on to camp (and finally figure out if it has anything to do with camping). I’ve been putting off reading this for a while because it’s stuck in my library’s storage and they charge $3 if you want to get something transferred to your local library, which I begrudge paying because if I wanted to pay for something I’d pay for the book, not the transfer. Maybe I’m just a little bitter because at my old library everything was free and this new one charges for everything (okay so maybe you don’t have to pay to breathe air, but it feels like it sometimes), and also they call audiobooks talking books and it makes me uneasy. Aside from that, I am so excited to read this one.

Blurb:

First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of ‘transparency’. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being “In Plato’s Cave”, make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.

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The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

The Happiness Project -- Five Books Recommended by the Internet -- The Riverside LibraryGretchen Rubin

I like happiness. There are some things I don’t like about it, namely that it can be quite elusive on occasion. But for the most part, I like happiness, and I’d like to have more of it. In fact, I would like to have a whole life filled with it, so much so that it will spill over and hit everyone I meet (totally not violently though). When I saw this book on someone’s ‘Top Ten Books that Changed my Life’ list on Pinterest, I had to add it to my TBR straight away. I’m into singing in the morning and the occasional cleaning of my wardrobe, though I’m not really into fighting, I do love Aristotle and having fun. This book sounds like it’s right up my alley! I hope I can read it wearing my optimistic tinted glasses and not my super-cynical ones though. I am my own worst enemy sometimes.

Blurb:

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

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Have you read any of these books? Or are some going on to your TBR? Let me know it the comments below! I’d love to chat with you!

P.S. This post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission (with no extra cost to you) from any purchases made with my these links.

5 Non-Fiction Books that Will Get You Right in the Feels

I love non-fiction. That’s no surprise to anyone. I often get asked what my favourite kind of non-fiction books are, and it’s a surprisingly easy question to answer: as with fiction, I like my non-fiction to make me feel something. Be that sadness and injustice, or beauty and inspiration, my favourite books are those that grab my heartstrings and tug until the very last page.

I’ve compiled a list of five non-fiction books that read like fiction and are sure to get you right in the feels. Before we start, please keep in mind that some of the links on this page may be affiliate links, that means when you use the link to purchase the book I make a small commission – with no extra cost to you – so just by buying books, you support my blog and help me to keep creating! It’s a win-win situation!

Now here we go, in no particular order:

5. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books to get you in the feels - The Riverside LibraryYeonmi Park
We all know about North Korea, I mean, you’d have to pointedly ignore all forms and sources of news to be unaware of it. But it’s hard to imagine exactly what life in North Korea is like, especially what life leaving it is like. In Order to Live is a heartbreaking story of young Yeonmi and her family’s life in North Korea and ultimate defection. It follows as they struggle across the border into China, and face hardship after hardship fighting for their freedom. Throughout it all, Yeonmi’s grace and character shine through and make this an un-putdownable read.
Blurb:

Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister.

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4. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor


by Adam Kay
Jam-packed with that blunt medical humour so familiar to me after studying science, This Is Going to Hurt takes a brittle, sometimes cynical, and always real approach to telling the trails that face a Junior Doctor in the UK. It’s an eye-opener and a half, but be warned, the medical sense of humour is definitely not for everyone. I giggled, and cringed my way through the first half, and cried my way through the ending. A definite favourite of mine, for the hard-hitting, lively way it’s told. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one again.
Blurb:

Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.

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3. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


by Carlo Rovelli
I talk about this book all the time because it is one of my absolute favourite non-fiction books I’ve ever read. You might be wondering why, because it’s a physics book, but trust me, reader, it is written like poetry. Covering basic principles in physics and the history of their discovery, Seven Brief Lessons takes you on a journey through time, marvelling both at the incredible human minds that came to understand fragments of our baffling universe, but also marvelling at the beauty of the universe itself. If Seven Brief Lessons doesn’t make you fall in love with this paradoxical, unfathomable vast expanse of sheer cosmic awesomeness that we’ve found ourselves in, then I don’t know what will. Read it, please.
Blurb:

In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides readers with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already a major bestseller in Italy, explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes. This is a book about the joy of discovery. It takes readers to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back to the origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds. “Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world,” Rovelli writes. “And it’s breathtaking.”

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2. When Breath Becomes Air

5 Non-Fiction Books to Get you in the Feels- The Riverside LibraryPaul Kalanithi

The second book written by a doctor that features on my list, When Breath Becomes Air takes a more philosophical and less humorous take on the lives and times of doctors. Dr Kalanithi deals with human mortality every day, but he’s forced to come to terms with his far before his time. When Breath Becomes Air is a heartbreaking, and humbling look into what makes us human, and what makes our lives worth living. My heart hurt with this one from the very beginning, and I loved every minute of it, though I was reduced to a sobbing mess. Despite the sadness of the events, When Breath Becomes Air has an incredible tone of hope to it, for even when death comes knocking prematurely at one’s door, life must go on.

Blurb:

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.'” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

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1. Tuesdays With Morrie

Tuesdays With MorrieMitch Albom
I have read this book a total of two times. Both at incredibly important times of my life. The first was in my final term of high school, as I was preparing to enter university as a pre-med major with a particular interest in Motor Neuron Disease. It was required reading for our class, and I’m sure I was the only person who liked it, but I couldn’t fathom why. Morrie spoke to my heart. In particular, I’m rather fond of the story about the little wave, happily bobbing along one day until he sees the waves ahead of him crashing into shore. He grows upset thinking that soon he will end until another wave comes along to tell him not to worry, for he is not a wave – he is part of the ocean. My heart always swells at that.
The second time I read Tuesdays with Morrie was not long after I’d graduated university. It was just as heartwarming the second time around. Morrie dies with such grace, such joy, and such hope, I couldn’t help but find it infectious. I do find, however, that I read this book for Morrie, and I often skim over the Mitch parts. But that’s just me, reader. I hope you love it too.
Blurb:

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.
Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you?
Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of ALS – or motor neurone disease – Mitch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.

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Drop me a comment with your favourite non-fiction reads!