Opposite of Always – Book Review by Justin A. Reynolds

Looking for a heartfelt YA contemporary with a little time travel thrown in?

Opposite of Always has you covered.

What is the Opposite of Always about?

Meet Jack and Kate. They meet a party and know that there’s something special about the bond forming between them. Love founded on a mutal love of Fruit Loops, movies and watching sunrises together.

Soon Kate is a major part of Jack’s life. His friends and family love her almost as much as he does.

When Kate dies, that should be the end of the story.

But it’s not.

When Kate dies, Jack is sent back in time to that party. To the moment he met Kate. He relives those first few months in their relationship. Over and Over again. Can he save Kate? Or are some things just destined to end?

Opposite of Always book cover with an orange typewriter.

What I liked about Opposite of Always?

The character development in Opposite of Always is spectacular. Jack is adorkable (yep dorky and adorable) and through his relationships in the book develops.

As beautiful as the romance between Kate and Jack is, Opposite of Always shines in its secondary characters. I love a good secondary character.

Yes, they should primarily support the main characters development, but can’t they have their own story too? Yes. They can, and it makes for a richer reading experience.

I was worried that the time travel elements of the story, which run along similar lines to Groundhog Day would become irritating. I must admit to not being a big fan of that cult classic.

It wasn’t the case with Opposite of Always. The line between repetition and fresh story was toed with finesse. A truly enjoyable read.

What I didn’t like about Opposite of Always?

While there was much to like about Opposite of Always, I found myself slightly disappointed by the lack of explanation regarding the time-travel components of the story.

Though disappointed, I understand the choice and think that it’s actually okay in the genre of the book.

Opposite of Always isn’t science-fiction. It is primarily a Young Adult contemporary fiction. A coming of age story and a romance. The time travel isn’t the main focus, nor does it need to be…

But still, my curious mind demands answers. Oh well.

Where can I get a copy of Opposite of Always?

Request a copy at your local bookstore, or buy online from The Book Depository.

Final Thoughts

This is a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it. There is some mild swearing, that younger readers (or parents) may wish to be aware of.

Buy it or borrow it. It’s excellent, and isn’t the cover cute?

Justin A. Reynolds has another book, Early Departures coming out in September that I am excited to check out.

If you’d like to connect with Justin A. Reynolds visit his website or Goodreads.

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Tips To Read More – Why Reading Diversely Matters

One of my most popular posts on my blog has been 5 Tips For How To Read More. Today’s post revisits the ideas from that post and encourages us to not just read more, but to read broadly.

Prompted by the world events in recent times, and the Black Lives Matter movement I took a long look at my shelves and I saw a problem.

I have been reading books by authors from a similar cultural and ethnic background to myself. I had been unintentionally excluding other authors from my shelves. That is a problem.

Why is it a problem? Because books are reflections of ideas, and real world realities.

Yes even fiction.

By reading only authors from one particular background I was missing out on exposing myself to new ideas, experiences and approaches to life. Missing out on experiencing new writing styles and great story-telling

Humanity is richly diverse, and I am a believer in equality. In justice and love. So why haven’t the books on my shelf reflected this?

I had identified an area of my life I hadn’t considered deeply before. My reading habits.

In today’s post I’ll be encouraging you to join with me and look at your reading habits. Let’s think about how we can broaden our literary horizon.

Maybe you’ve done better than me. Maybe your shelf is a nice mix of authors from all backgrounds. If that’s the case, keep up the good work.

I’ll be sharing book recommendations as well as tools you can use to equip yourselves to broaden your book horizons.

This reflection on our reading habits is relevant not just for right now, but always.

An image of 'Opposite of Always' by Justin A Reynolds.

I’ve decided to ensure I am representing all authors with my blog, so you can expect to see a more diverse range of books reviewed at stephhuddleston.com.

Use Social Media

At the moment there is a flood of book recommendations on social media. Take some time to look on your social media for recommendations of books by black or other under represented authors.

Book’s I’ve recently been recommended on Social Media that I can’t wait to check out?

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. This book is a fresh take on the Cinderella Story. Sounds perfect for fans of Kiera Cass’s The Selection series.

A new release, A Song Of Wraith’s and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. Ancient magic, enemies to lovers and an intriguing plot of royal intrigue? Sound great to me.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. This sci-fi adventure follows a book loving human and an alien breaking all the rules. Intrigued? Me too!

Consider who you’re following on social media. Consider following people who read different genres or authors to those you are familiar with. Follow black authors online to keep up with their latest releases.

Recent times has shone a light on many areas of society that need improvement. One of those is the publishing industry. If you followed the #whattheypaidme hashtag on twitter, it’s clear that black and other minority authors need readers support.

Find some new favourite authors, enjoy their books and support them. This will have a flow on effect with more black authors being brought into white dominated traditional publishing. If you’d like to read more about this, The Guardian has an article you can read here.

Ask For Recommendations

Ask friends, family, those online for recommendations of books they enjoyed written by black authors. Follow reviewers who will suggest books by authors from all backgrounds.

Around the internet it’s easy to find compilation lists recommending books written by black authors.

Here’s a few good ones to check out!

43 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime

20 YA Books You Need to Read

25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors

8 books by Indigenous Australian Authors

Be Intentional

Changing habits doesn’t happen quickly. But reading diversely is important, particularly for fiction genres. These authors have so much storytelling talent to offer, but unless they are supported by readers it’s hard to break into publishing.

I’ve decided to read at least one black or minority authored book a month as a starting place. Will you join me in intentionally diversifying your shelves?

Does this mean I’m stopping reading my favourite white authors? No. I will continue to support those authors. However, I want to ensure I am exposed to great stories, from all backgrounds.

This month I’ve picked up Beloved by Toni Morrison and Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. Both are proving to be harrowing and excellent reads.

An image of the cover of 'Beloved' by author Toni Morrison

Request Books From Your Library

While it’s always great to support authors by purchasing their books, don’t forget about libraries. These book sales are counted by publishing houses too.

Libraries are wonderful resources, and many have been making great efforts to ensure they have a diverse range of books in their collection.

Help them out by requesting particular titles from black authors to be added to the collection.

Final Thoughts

‘I’ve always loved reading. But there aren’t a lot of books about kids like me. And I just think every kid deserves a book that looks like them.’

Opposite of Always – Justin A. Reynolds

The above quote comes from Opposite of Always and is spoken by the main character. The Opposite of Always is a YA Romance featuring time travel. It’s not explicitly about race. But this is just one example of a story that can influence race discussions for the better.

This leads to my final reason reading diversely is important.

Because it reminds me of the privileges I have for no other reason than my skin colour.

I have never felt as though I have been lacking representations of me in books, TV and movies.

I have many characters I can relate to.

Reading Opposite Of Always was a reminder that for many out there, that’s simply not their experience. That is awful.

I want to do my best at supporting authors who are sharing their stories. Those stories are important, whether it’s realized or not. I want to partner with these authors and attempt to make the world of literature a more inclusive and representative space.

Will you partner with me and other allies in reading diversely?

If you have recommendations for fiction books written by black authors, please comment them below. Have you read any of the books on today’s list? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments.

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Haze Book Review – Rebecca Crunden

A paranormal mystery romance filled with heart and tragedy.
Today I’m partnering with Rebecca Crunden to review her standalone book Haze.

What is Haze about?

Eliza Owens is happy. She’s just gotten engaged to Erik, her best friend and love of her life.


That night, Eliza receives a warning call from Erik’s dead ex-girlfriend Paige. Her sister Sam questions her decision to marry the boy she loves based on what Paige has told her.


Their lives change forever from that night on. Erik leaves town and Eliza is left holding the broken pieces of what was once her life.


Five years later and Erik is back. Bringing with him the pain of that night, and all the unanswered questions they both still have. Including who really called Eliza that night? And why?


Haze follows Eliza and Erik as they try and piece back together the broken shards of their lives.

What I liked about Haze?

This was a great read!


Crunden weaves a tragic story of family loss, abuse and broken hearts. Through beautiful prose, she shows the wide ripples of the impact of grief. How it can affect people in different ways, breaking them apart.
The mystery was well done, and intriguing. I honestly wasn’t expecting the twists that occurred which is always refreshing!


The supernatural events that occur within the book are tasteful. These elements add to the plot rather than distract from the mystery. Crunden’s approach to particular elements of the supernatural is spectacular (Sorry, no spoilers! You’ll just have to read it to find out!).


I appreciated that Crunden’s characters are deeply flawed and struggling. Even as they strive to work together. Real life isn’t clean. So I appreciate characters who reflect this messiness, particularly after experiencing trauma.


The tale of Haze is engrossing and tragic. I flew through this book! While it does touch on the ‘star-crossed lovers’ trope, it isn’t overdone. Eliza and Erik are wonderful characters. You can’t help but fall in love with their beautiful, messy, and complex relationship.
If you’re a fan of the show

Riverdale you’ll really enjoy Haze!Haze features a small town with a dark side and mysterious happenings.

What I didn’t like about Haze?

There wasn’t much I disliked about Haze. It ticked a lot of boxes for me. Great pacing, character development and unique supernatural elements made this a great read.


A word of warning, this book contains references to drug use and sexual assault. Neither topic is described in graphic or gratuitous detail, but it is present as a plot feature. There is some coarse language. I didn’t feel this was problematic. Yet, it’s worth mentioning for readers who may be sensitive to these topics.

My recommendation?

Read this book. Fans of mystery and the paranormal genres will both be intrigued by this book. Romance fans, there’s plenty for you too. Haze delivers a satisfying story with a soulful blend of tragedy and romance.

About the author?

Rebecca Crunden is a self-published author of ten titles across several genres. These include fantasy, romance, dystopian, and mystery. If you’re interested in finding out more about her writing visit her website or Goodreads.

Where can I get a copy of Haze?

Haze is available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback. Buy a copy here.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading today’s review! I hope you end up getting a copy of Haze and enjoying it as much as I did. What was the last paranormal or mystery book you read?


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5 Tips for Creating a Bespoke Biography

Often when we think of biography we think of the rich and famous. But biographies can be a meaningful way for people to leave a lasting legacy for loved ones. If you’ve been thinking of beginning a biography project, here are a few helpful tips for navigating your biography project.

I offer a number of bespoke biography packages to assist individuals and families in recording the moments that matter in life. I’ll be sharing a little more about this throughout this post.

1. Consider The Goals of The Project

The purpose and motivation which inspires us to create a project, ultimately influences the end result.

As you begin a biography project it’s important to assess your own personal goals you may have for this project. If you are related to the person who’s biography you’re writing this is particularly useful.

Next, consult and discuss the goals of the person whose biography you are writing. This is very important. A few questions you might like to ask your subject to aid this discussion are:

  1. Who would you like to read your biography?
  2. Why have you chosen now to begin your biography project?
  3. How do you want to be remembered?

Asking these questions will help you to identify the direction of your project. You may find that the person provides answers you did not anticipate.

Perhaps you want to write a full-length book memoir featuring your subject, whereas your subject would rather have greater emphasis on photography and thanking those who have influenced their life thus far.

Differences in goals, when not properly resolved can result in tension during the project. It’s important that you show respect to your subject by placing their goals for the project above your own. This is after all, their biography.

2. Decide on a budget and timeframe for the project

Determining a budget and timeframe from the get go can be helpful as you begin a biography project. What is the subject, or yourself willing to spend on the project? How long do you have to complete this project within?

The answer to those questions will give you guidance for the style of project you might to begin. Longer book biographies will typically take longer to produce and be more costly in the production stages.

Your budget in particular will help you determine whether you’d like to outsource any elements of the biography project. Bringing on a writer or a cover designer can add professionalism and quality to the project, but does incur a fee.

Timeframe of the project is a particular consideration for subjects with a life-threatening illness, wishing to complete a biography. Discuss with your subject how long they’d like to spend on this project. This can be helpful in determining the number of interview sessions, and cost of the project.

3. What Style of Biography will you create?

When most people hear ‘biography’ they tend to think of a full length book. While this makes up a great number of biographies, there are other styles which may be better suited to your project.

This is why I call my service ‘Bespoke Biography’ no two people are the same, so neither will their biographies be. The style and content of the biography should be tailored to the individual it shares the story of.

I offer a number of biography styles including:

Children’s books – A great option for parents or grandparents wishing to leave a special message for the children they love. Artistically gifted subjects may enjoy considering the illustration components of this project, or it can be outsourced.

Memory Books – Memory books blend photography and storytelling. This can be one of the most accessible styles, as it allows subjects to share memories as prompted by photography from across their life.

Hybrid Book – Thanks to technology we have many more story-telling options. This style blends traditional print biography with audio and visual components, enabling voice or video of subjects to become a part of the biography.

Full length Book – This is the traditional method of biography for a reason. Typically following a chronological account of the subjects life, these can vary in length.

Once a style has been suggested I work with people to offer them a bespoke, unique biography, tailoring the project to their individual needs and goals.

4. Set up Parameters for your sessions

Determine a day, time and duration of interview sessions for your biography project. This will help you stay on task during these sessions, and meet the end goal of a completed project.

Use this time to seek your subjects permission to either take notes during your time together, or record your conversation to take notes later.

You may find it useful to outline with the subject the boundaries of your discussions. In particular, as to your desire to understand them better, but also as it relates to some subject matter.

There may be some topics your subject wishes to discuss with you that make you uncomfortable. Depending on what these are, it is wise to flag them initially with your subject in one of your first sessions.

Decide ahead of time what you will do if a disclosure is made to you that is distressing because it relates to committed crimes or intended harm. Though this circumstance is uncommon, if it does arrive you will be prepared to respond appropriately.

5. Be Sensitive

Recording a life is often a joyful, wonderful thing and a time of healing through sharing. At other times the process is harder.

You must remain aware that the process can be painful for your subject at times and can bring up unpleasant emotions at times.

All lives have their moments of struggle and pain, so remain sensitive and kind at all times. If your subject does not want to discuss a particular topic, do not pressure them to do so.

If they decide to return to the subject at a later date, it may then be appropriate to discuss it then.

On a similar note, apply discretion when writing. If a particularly sensitive topic is shared with you, ask permission before incorporating it into the final project. It may be your subject was caught up in the flow of sharing and does not intend for some topics to be recorded in their lasting biography.

As a biographer, you also need to be sensitive to your own emotions and take care of yourself. Sometimes your subject may share a story which is distressing to you personally (though not always to them). Strategies to cope with this may include, discussing this with the person, distancing yourself from the person (for a time), or possibly even engaging in counselling.

The past pain of those we create a biography for can be easy to take upon ourselves. Try and refrain from doing so by determining strategies, in advance, to look after the needs of yourself and your subject.

Though the biography process is often a therapeutic process, remember your role and skills lie not in counselling (unless you are a trained counsellor). There may be times when it is appropriate and necessary to refer the person onto additional services.

Final Thoughts

The process of creating a biography is a unique journey for each individual person. The finished biography is a reflection of the life of a person, so no two will ever be the same.

I hope as you have found this post helpful, whether you’re a biographer yourself or considering having someone document your own story.

Life is filled with moments that matter. I feel honoured to hear these stories and work alongside people to help craft their biography.

If you’d like to learn more about my biography packages or book a free consultation to discuss your project, contact me using the button below.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

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5 Reasons to Read Aurora Burning

Squad 312 is back! In the action packed intersteller adventure Aurora Burning. If you haven’t already added this book to your TBR, here’s 5 reasons why you should…

  1. Space elves
  2. Romance
  3. Found Family
  4. Popular culture references
  5. That ending.

Intrigued? Great! You should be. But before we get into more detail…

What is Aurora Burning about?

The YA sci-fi has quickly risen to #1 YA book in Australia, and it’s easy to see why!

Aurora Burning is the second book in the Aurora Cycle series and follows directly from the events of the first book, Aurora Rising.

The series follows squad 312, a band of unique individuals and members of the Aurora Legion, the inter-stellar peacekeeping corporation. The team must work together to defeat an ancient evil, protect Aurora the girl out of time and save the galaxy.

When the ship that was carrying Aurora turns up the squad believes that the answers they’ve been seeking to what happened to her may be contained within the colony ship’s black box.

In Aurora Burning we see our favourite characters face new challenges that will result the squad’s bond being tested like never before.

If you’re still unsure what it’s all about, or you can’t remember all the events of Aurora Rising, don’t worry! At the start of Aurora Burning there’s a handy little recap from the authors.

But that’s enough context, let’s get into reasons why you should read Aurora Burning

1. Space Elves

Yes, that’s correct. Space elves.

If you’re a fan of Lord Of The Rings or other fantasy series featuring our pointy eared friends, this series is a must read.

Gracing the front cover of Aurora Burning is the favourite character of many fans, Kalis Idraban Gilwraeth. More fondly known as Kal.

Kal is a Syldrathi of the warrior caste.

Kal is an excellent brooder. Honestly, he could brood at a professional level. He has dreamy violet eyes, olive skin and long silver hair. Don’t even get me started on his cheek bones.

Magellan – Aurora Burning, Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.

Kal won over many fans in Aurora Rising for his gradual softening as a character. This is continued in Aurora Burning as we gain insight to Kal’s culture and personal history.

The inclusion of a new character in Kal’s long-lost sister makes for an entertaining revelation and shift in the dynamics of the squad.

Kal is not the only character we learn more about in this sequel, the character of Zila is given much more depth and personal background in Aurora Burning.

2. Romance

Aurora Burning offers up some entertaining and beautifully romantic scenes between characters. For the romantic, this series has plenty to offer!

I would love to provide more details, but alas that would possibly veer into spoiler territory.

3. Found Family

One of my favourite aspects of this series is the way it touches on the concept of family. Family can be more than those we are related to by blood, and offers us a sense of belonging in the world.

Squad 312 has found this with one another, and in Aurora Burning we see those fledgling bonds tested immensely through their circumstances.

The dedications in this series are among my favourites for the way they reach out to the loneliness that young (or not) readers experience at different times.

This one is for squad 312. Every single one of you.

Aurora Burning – Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Aurora Burning‘s dedication includes the reader in this journey, welcomes them in from the very first page.

4. Popular Culture References

Star Trek, Lord of The Rings fans, where are you? This series will be greatly appreciated by you for it’s scattering of subtle nods to these series.

My husband is a big Star Trek fan, and as such I’ve watched and enjoyed many seasons of Star Trek. I was squealed in excitement to see some of my favourite concepts or details from the show carried over.

Yet this series is not knock-off Star Trek. While both Kaufman and Kristoff are Trekkies, they have still created a unique and diverse universe of their own making different from the Star Trek universe.

Think of pop culture details as sprinkles on top of an ice cream, they’re not really necessary details but they make the dessert for fun for being there.

That Ending.

I want to rant and rave.

If you’ve been keeping your eye on Aurora Burning‘s reception across the internet, you may have already seen a fair amount of ranting and raving…

I can remain calm. I can.

I just need book three as soon as possible.

Please read Aurora Burning, and once you have feel free to contact me to rant and rave.

Final Thoughts

Aurora Burning is a satisfying second book in the Aurora Cycle series. It does a great job of following on from the first book, maintaining the tension between resolution and new problems for characters to face.

In some cases, I find the second book in a series to be a form of filler between the first and third book. This isn’t the case for Aurora Burning.

The introduction of new characters and an action filled plot enables the book to stand on its own.

Where can I get a copy?

Aurora Burning is available from bookstores. Consider supporting your local bookstore by ordering online through them.

*If that’s not possible, pick up a copy of Aurora Burning from Amazon.

*Should you choose to make your purchase using the link above I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to yourself. Please bear in mind that I only link to products and companies that I personally believe will benefit my readers. Thank you for your support! If you’d like more information about affiliate marketing please visit my disclosure page.

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Should You Get Rid Of Your Books?

Stuck in lockdown and thinking of clearing things out? Bookcases groaning under the weight of tomes both loved and…not? It may be time to look at weeding your books. Today’s post offers some top tips from the experts when it comes to moving on books.

But first…

What is book weeding?

Book weeding refers to the systematic removal of titles from a collection based on those titles meeting specific criteria. Getting rid of books. This is what we’ll be talking about today.

But why?! You cry. Weeding is a necessary and common practice in libraries across the world. Shelves only have so much space and there are many books in the world. Unfortunately, this means from time to time, a clear out is necessary.

Book Weeding was an unfamiliar concept to me until I listened to episode 354 of the 99 Percent Invisible podcast titled Weeding Is Fundamental. (If you haven’t listened to any of the 99PI podcast, I highly recommend you do).

I was intrigued by the whole idea, having struggled with parting with books in the past (though at times it is necessary) so I decided to look into the idea further. I wanted to see what different systems are around that may help us part with titles.

Why get rid of books?

This can be a touchy topic for many readers, and I am by no means suggesting you clear out all your books. BUT! There’s some good reasons for why you may need to clear out books…

  1. You’ve run out of room! – Libraries, including our own personal collection of books only have so much space. If we keep bringing in titles we may eventually have no where to store them well.
  2. You own more unread books than you can ever read. The book buying ban isn’t going so well and the pressure is causing you stress!

These are the two main reasons that most people find themselves needing to clear out some books. How do we do that? Let’s look at tips from the expert.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

The Marie Kondo Method

How could I address this topic without raising the queen of tidying herself?

Marie Kondo has faced a lot of backlash from the reading community because of her stance that the maximum number of books a person should own is thirty.

Kondo suggests clearing out titles that you don’t like, won’t be rereading and don’t spark joy in you.

Whilst I appreciate the minimalistic approach that this method suggests, I can see why it simply won’t work well for many book lovers.

I’m unsure if this approach takes into consideration book series, some of which can be quite lengthy.

If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre you’re in trouble… Harry Potter and the Game of Thrones series alone will take out over half of your allocated amount.

M.U.S.T.Y

This set of guidelines is used by libraries around the world to guide them in their book weeding. I think some of the principles can apply well to our own personal collection.

M – Misleading. Books, in particular non-fiction that are inaccurate in the information they are providing isn’t particularly useful.

U – Ugly. Books that are damaged or tatty beyond repair.

S – Superseded by a new edition or a better book. Libraries tend to give priority to titles that are the most up-to date…there’s a reason your library probably doesn’t have the 1995 Microsoft Windows manual on hand.

T – Trivial.

Y – Your-Collection-Has-No-Need-For-This-Book.

The difficulty of these considerations, is that they rely on the subjective opinion of the weeder. What one reader finds trivial another may find extremely valuable and entertaining.

Photo by Emil Widlund 

Other helpful methods used by Librarians

I’m fortunate enough to have a few librarian friends, who I was able to chat about book weeding with. They gave a few extra considerations beyond M.U.S.T.Y for us to think about.

  1. When was the book last checked out? If it was more than two years ago, it suggests that perhaps the book no longer holds interest for readers and it’s time to retire it.

My librarian friends also gave examples of factors that may save a book, even if it meets one of the other criteria for getting rid of it.

  1. The book is rare or significant in heritage.
  2. The book tells an important story for a specific group of people (LGBTQI+, first Australians etc.)
  3. A replacement copy of the book cannot be easily sourced.

What happens to the books that get weeded?

Whilst some books are disposed of, many you’ll be pleased to hear go on to new homes.

Quite often libraries set books out on a table for visitors to take home, or purchase and add to their home collection.

My suggestions for weeding your personal collection

While some of the weeding principles libraries use are appropriate for clearing space on our own shelves, some are not.

You may have a worn and tattered book from childhood that has sentimental value to you. You don’t need to part with it if you don’t want to.

Therefore, here’s a few suggestions I have if you’ve decided it’s time to clear some space on your shelves.

  1. Did you enjoy the book when you read it? If not, and you’re like me you’re probably not likely to reread it. If you enjoyed the book, you may like to hang onto it in case of a reread in years to come.
  2. How long have you owned the book? This pairs with the suggestion above. If you read the book less than a year ago and didn’t like it, you might decide to hang on to it bit longer. Sometimes opinions on books can change in time. If you disliked the book so much that you haven’t touched it in the last three years…it’s time to say goodbye.
  3. Does the book have sentimental value? Some books were gifted to us by relatives, or have special inscriptions inside that make them dear to us. They belong on your shelf.
  4. Do you have multiple copies of the same book? While I know some book lovers enjoy collecting cover variations of their favourite books, this refers more to books that are identical. The exception to this may be if you have a favourite book where you’ve purchased another copy to be your ‘lendy’ to hand out to friends.
Photo by Annie Spratt

What should I do with the books I’m getting rid of?

Take a leaf out of your local library and see if any friends or family want them. My mother collects cook books and regularly clears them out to the benefit of those in her family.

Donate your books to a charity, or second hand book subscription service like Relove Print. (Unless your books are damaged to the point where charities will be unable to sell them).

Make a craft! Pinterest has some wonderful book upcycling projects. If you have an upcoming event you could use some of the pages of books to make buntings.

Final Thoughts.

Books are special and wonderful things. Life is short, so try not to bind yourself up feeling guilty that you have too many books, or that you’re getting rid of books.

Practically, clearing out some books gives you literal room in your life for the new titles you’re going to discover. How exciting!

Special thanks for todays post goes to the wonderful people at 99PI podcast and to my librarian friends, Katie and Helen.

If you enjoyed this insight into library life, check out my post Interview With A Librarian.

Thank you for reading today’s post! Do you use any of these tips to clear out books? Let me know in the comments.

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Last Memoria Book Review – Rachel Emma Shaw

Filled with dark fantasy, morally grey characters and beautiful storytelling Last Memoria is one to add to your ‘To Be Read’ pile.

Special thanks to the author, Rachel Emma Shaw for reaching out to me and providing me with a free copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

What is Last Memoria about?

Last Memoria is a young adult fantasy novel following the main characters Sarilla and Falon.

Sarilla is a memory thief, who hates what her gift allows her to do. She can take the memories of those she encounters with a single touch.

Sarilla is forced by the king to wield her gift and keep his subjects in line. When the opportunity to run away arises Sarilla relishes the freedom. That is until she runs into Falon. The man she once loved, who doesn’t remember her.

Falon knows he has a six month gap in his memories. The absence of those memories, what they may contain plagues him. He’ll do anything to get them back. Including use the woman who once loved him.

What I liked about Last Memoria?

Rachel Emma Shaw weaves a beautifully dark world in Last Memoria. The world building and complexity of the magic system is well executed.

I could picture the dark and hunted world the characters moved through.

The complexity of characters, and their motivations was intriguing. LGBTQ representation of characters is present and considered in this book.

Throughout the reading of Last Memoria the idea of memory and its connection to our identity is explored. I found this fascinating to consider.Are our memories what makes us who we are? What if we lost them, who are we then?

Another concept that is well developed throughout Last Memoria is the idea of monsters, of good versus evil. How are monsters made?

The morality of characters is often blurred with shifts in narration leaving you unsettled in the best kind of way as you strive to sort through your feelings towards a character.

I particularly liked the way the physical appearance of characters changed as they encountered different elements of the world. This was often connected back to that idea of good versus evil.

This is paired with the redemption arc trope that is common across many genres, but in particular fantasy it seems. My expectations were subverted and I honestly was unsure how characters would develop. This was refreshing and kept me turning the pages!

What I didn’t like about Last Memoria?

On occasion, particularly in the third act of the book, I found myself overwhelmed by information and exposition. Though this was necessary for the final climax of the book I would have loved some of this information earlier on in the novel.

I personally don’t enjoy the love triangle trope, but that is down to personal preference of the reader. You might really enjoy love triangles! I still enjoyed Last Memoria as the focus is not primarily on the love triangle.

Overall this was a wonderful book and I think Rachel Emma Shaw has done a fantastic job!

I found the ending of Last Memoria very satisfying, yet Last Memoria is a part of a duology. I’m curious and excited to see where the story goes next.

My Recommendation?

Last Memoria is a young adult dark fantasy with plenty of romance and intrigue. It’s a fast read with a unique premise so I recommend it for fans of fantasy and young adult fiction.

Where can I get a copy of Last Memoria?

Last Memoria publishes on May 10th. Be sure to grab a copy of this book then!

Due to COVID-19 Rachel Emma Shaw has very kindly made the audiobook available now, for free! Isn’t that nice of her?

If you’d like to listen to Last Memoria for free right now, you can listen on Youtube, iTunes or Spotify

After May 10th you can pick up a copy of Last Memoria from Amazon here:

*Buy Last Memoria on Amazon

*Should you choose to make your purchase using the link above I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to yourself. Please bear in mind that I only link to products and companies that I personally believe will benefit my readers. Thank you for your support! If you’d like more information about affiliate marketing please visit my disclosure page.

If you’d like to learn more about Rachel Emma Shaw and her books visit her website or say hi to her on social media @rachel_emma_shaw.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading today’s review. If you have any fantasy novel recommendations for me, leave them in the comments on this post!

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Better On The Page or The Screen? Pride and Prejudice

You’ve probably heard it before out of the lips of some well-meaning bookworm: “The book was better”. But is it always?

Today’s post will offer up a book to film adaptation and consider which is actually better… the book or the film. To give us some consistency and help determine whether the film or the book was better I will be using a method Rory Gilmore would be proud of. The humble pro/con list (any Gilmore Girls fans out there?)

I will also be attempting to determine which of the films and TV shows is the best.

Prepare for the controversy and weigh in at the end of the post by leaving a comment!

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Let’s get right into the heart of it with some adapted eighteenth century romance. When I was preparing for this blog post this was one of the books I thought of that seems to have been adapted many times over.

I won’t be going into every film adaptation, as there’s too many! I will be touching on a few favourites and some you may wish to explore if you haven’t seen them already. Enjoy!

Thank you to those who follow me on instagram who helped me make these pro/cons for each of these films, tv shows and of course our dear book.

The Book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Published 1813

Pro
  • Austen’s creation of the couple arguably to thank for the enemies to lovers trope in Romance.
  • Witty prose.
  • Questioned the patriarchy and political situation of her day.
  • One of the most dramatic proposal scenes created.
  • The book has now been printed in hundreds of editions. There’s a book cover to suit most tastes!
  • Romantic.
Con
  • Language used is different to that used in modern literature.
  • Classic books are intimidating.
  • Can be difficult to read without referring to the various adaptions.
  • No kissing. Limited physical affection generally.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Mister Darcy Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Whilst not everyone finds the language and style of Pride and Prejudice off putting, it’s certainly something that can make the book less approachable for many readers. From those I’ve spoken with, many pick up the book after seeing one of the screen adaptations and therefore have different expectations. While this isn’t Austen’s fault, it changes how we interact as readers with the story.

While Austen was a fan of dramatic declarations of love, don’t go into the book of Pride and Prejudice expecting any kiss scenes! Physical affection is absent entirely or very restrained between characters.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC – TV.

While there were several adaptations of Pride and Prejudice that were made for film and television prior to this, the BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice is perhaps one of the most well known.

Pro

  • Colin Firth stars as Mister Darcy
  • Jennifer Elhe as Elizabeth Bennet
  • The famed ‘lake scene’ which definitely doesn’t appear in Austen’s work.
  • Faithful to the plot of the original novel.

Con

  • This is a long series. Each episode goes for nearly an hour each.
  • Casting?
  • The famed ‘lake scene’ wouldn’t be Austen approved.

As is often the case when bringing books to the screen, casting is controversial. It is impossible for casting to please everyone, as when reading a book we build up our own imagination of what the characters must look like. For me, those in the BBC version look the most like those in the book. This may be partially due to experiencing the show before I read the book.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – Film.

Pro

  • Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet.
  • Matthew MacFadyan as Mister Darcy
  • Visually striking cinematography
  • Musical score.
  • Mister Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have a romantic tryst in the rain.
  • Some characters such as Mister Bennet and Misses Bennet vastly different to the novel

Con

  • The Bennet Family is depicted as more obviously poor in costuming and set choices.
  • Leaves some scenes from the book out.
  • It’s a modern day take of the story.
  • Casting?

What is it with adapting Mister Darcy to film? He has to be doused in water at some stage. Following the 1995 Pride and Prejudice the lake scene has been commonly referenced in other adaptations. Getting caught in the rain in the 2005 adaptation seems to be their take on it.

Lost In Austen (2008) – TV.

Pro

  • A modern take on the classic story
  • Beautiful set and costuming
  • Comedic value
  • Eliot Cowan as Mister Darcy
  • Gemma Arteton as Elizabeth Bennet
  • New characters. Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price
  • Romantic

Con

  • Alters the storyline from Austen’s original
  • Casting (?) and the invention of new characters.

If you want a show that verbalises many of the thoughts and emotions you may have when reading Pride and Prejudice this is it. Amanda Price is a woman from modern day London who has accidentally swapped places with Elizabeth Bennet. Her efforts to restore order to the world and story she’s found herself in go awry when Mister Darcy begins to fall in love with her.

Guy Henry’s portrayal of Mister Collins is one of the best of all the adaptations I have seen. The score for the show is wonderful and the show feels like some fantastically romantic fever dream. Whilst many fans of the original book find the show to be too far from the original, I think it’s a unique story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) – Film.

Pro

  • A fresh take on the classic story
  • Zombies
  • Casting -Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet
  • Action packed
  • Romantic
  • Retains some of the iconic dialogue.
  • Cinematography
  • Scoring

Con

  • Zombies
  • Doesn’t interact with many of Austen’s original ideas
  • Cuts out much of the original novel

A relative newcomer on the block when it comes to Pride and Prejudice adaptations this action packed film is one of the most entertaining adaptations I’ve come across.

If you find yourself wishing your regency romance had a few more fight scenes and a bit more gore this is the adaptation for you! This amusing film changes much from the original novel, but I enjoyed the fresh take. This film is actually an adaptation of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith which is adapted from Austen’s novel.

So which is the best?

Ah, now the hard part. Picking between these stories feels difficult! My pro/con lists have helped me sort out some of my feelings and thoughts regarding Pride and Prejudice.

I think that the best overall has to still be the novel, without which none of the adaptations would exist. Jane Austen’s wit, romance and politically nuanced ideas are carried across in part by several of these adaptions but none of them capture it in its entirety.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that these films don’t capture the entirety of the book. Afterall, what works in a book doesn’t always translate well onto screen.

No, I think it’s great many of these adaptations have used Austen’s work as a launching place to bring the story of Pride and Prejudice to new audiences.

Enough stalling. Which is best adaptation?

When it comes to accuracy and capturing the book closely: Pride and Prejudice (1995) is the closest to Austen’s work. If you can’t be bothered (or struggle) to read the book, this is the adaptation you should check out.

Whilst Pride and Prejudice (2005) has a lot going for it, the variations in character and story let it down as a faithful rendition of Austen’s story. It is however a beautiful film in its own right and well worth watching.

Both Lost in Austen and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are fresh variations of Austen’s story. They both offer comedic value, great acting and are vastly different from one another. I like these adaptations because they feel like true adaptations, rather than translations of the story onto film. They’re not a ‘reboot’ of Austen’s story, but offer a new angle for a new audience. I appreciate the creativity that went into both of these projects.

Here’s my verdict – take it or leave it. No offence intended to any Austen fans who may disagree with me…

In my humble opinion the best Pride and Prejudice adaption is…

Pride and Prejudice (2005) this is easily the best film from the list we’ve discussed today. The acting, cinematography and score are what ultimately edges it above the other adaptations. It is a true adaptation, not just a mere repetition of the same story in a new art form.

Runner up?

Sorry Pride and Prejudice (1995) but Lost in Austen (2008) is the next best adaption. It interacts with the ideas and cultural phenomenon that Pride and Prejudice has become. It changes Austen’s story to something modern audiences can easily relate to. Anyone who has dreamed of falling into one of Austen’s novel will appreciate this adaption. It offers a sense of humour that I think Austen would have appreciated, as the wit of the author is lost in many of the other adaptations. The casting for many of the characters is phenomenal.

Honourable mentions

There are too many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice for me to mention in one post, so here are a few of those I didn’t get to but are still worth a watch:

  • Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001) – bonus points for the return of Colin Firth
  • Bride and Prejudice (2004) – A bollywood musical adaptation.
  • Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) – A murder mystery set on the grounds of Mister Darcy’s home? Yes please.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading today’s post, I hope you enjoyed it! Comment on this post to share what is your favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptation and why.

Today’s post featured some fun Austen themed gifs. While this isn’t something I regularly include in my posts, I hope you were amused by these little moments.

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The Diary Of A Bookseller Book Review – Shaun Bythell

At the moment, staying home is one of the best things we can do to protect public health. However, if you find yourself missing your local bookstore The Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell is the next best thing.

What is The Diary Of A Bookseller about?

The Diary Of A Bookseller is a memoir of a year in the life of Shaun Bythell, owner and manager of The Book Shop in Wigtown, Scotland. The Book Shop is the largest second-hand book store in Scotland.

In The Diary Of A Bookseller Bythell shares anecdotes from his day in The Book Shop, including his many varied experiences with customers both kind and rude. Till takings, online orders and the occasional photograph all offer the reader insight into the life of a bookseller.

What did I like about The Diary Of A Bookseller?

This book is one of my first foray’s into the memoir genre. I found it a delightful experience!

Bythell shares sharp insights on not only The Book Shop but also the humans that surround them. Upon reading his reflections on the railway section in the book shop and those that frequent it, I laughed out loud.

Despite the popular perception that books about trains are extremely dull (the reputation of trainspotters as banana-sandwich-eating, anorak-wearing bores is likely responsible for this), they are among the best-selling books in the shop. Invariably it is men who buy them, and more often than not they sport beards. They are generally among the most good natured of the shops customers, possibly because they’re delighted when they see the size of the railway section…

The Diary of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

The above quote was immediately shared with my father, who also found it entertaining, he himself being among the beard sporting railway fanatics. He and my mother now intend to visit Wigtown for The Book Shop in the hopes of browsing the railway section.

The Diary of A Bookseller is a joy to read.

What I didn’t like about The Diary Of A Bookseller?

Some readers may find Bythell’s comments around some of his customers to be rude. I personally did not find any comments particularly troublesome.

Often, as customers we feel it is in our rights to complain about unsatisfactory treatment within a store. Why should a bookseller or other retailer not have the right to complain when they themselves are unfairly treated?

Regardless, the Bythell doesn’t provide any details that might identify any of his rude customers, merely giving an account of their behavior in his shop.

I find his honest perspective refreshing!

My Recommendation

If you enjoy a quick, light and entertaining read The Diary of A Bookseller is one to check out. If you find yourself missing visiting the bookstore to select your books, order yourself a copy of The Diary of A Bookseller

Final Thoughts

The Diary of A Bookseller and it’s sequel Confessions Of A Bookseller have been picked up for development into a television series. I look forward to seeing The Diary of A Bookseller come to life on the screen.

Bythell is heavily involved in The Wigtown Book Festival which I now have a deep desire to attend, having read about it in The Diary of A Bookseller. If you want to find out more about the festival, head to their website here. This year the festival has needed to adapt due to the global pandemic. Nonetheless, the organizers have set up some fantastic online events you can check out.

If you want to see what The Book Shop, Wigtown looks like, head to their instagram @bookshopwigtown. Their website: https://www.the-bookshop.com/ or their Facebook page.

As all good book shops should, The Book Shop has a resident cat. His name is Captain, and he’s a bit on the rotund size, but adorable. If you need more evidence of this, just look at this photo from his own Instagram @captainthebookshopcat

Where can I get a copy of The Diary of a Bookseller?

This is the portion of the blog where I usually refer you to a link where you can buy this book online… in some store that rhymes with Shamazon. But considering Bythell’s total and utter disdain for that online retailer, I won’t do so today.

Instead, buy your book from an independent bookseller. Lots of independent booksellers have online options where you can order your books and support small business. If we want charming little bookstores to stay open we must try and support them where we can.

Here’s a link if you’d like to purchase some books online from The Bookshop, Wigtown.

I confess, I did borrow my digital copy from the library (as you may notice from the banner photo attached to the top of this blog) but having enjoyed the book so much I shall buy a physical copy.

Until Next Time

Tell me about a book shop you enjoy visiting in today’s comments. One of my favourites is Paradise Books in Daylesford.

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Six Productivity Hacks For The At Home Worker

With the Coronavirus pandemic changing how we currently live our lives, many of us find ourselves spending more time at home than ever. Today’s post will give you some productivity hacks to make the most out of your work from home.

First, lets give a productivity definition, according to the Cambridge dictionary.

Productivity: The rate at which a person, company or country does useful work.

By that definition, you can be productive when you’re working, cleaning your home or being creative. It’s about doing useful work at an increased rate. So whether you’re working from home, or trying to entertain the kids, or do at home school these productivity tips are for you!

This post includes links to a number of other awesome sites with more information on the science behind each of the hacks listed. I don’t receive compensation for sending you to these sites, I just think the extra information is interesting and wanted to share with you!

1.Get Dressed

Photo by Alyssa Strohmann 

This one may seem a little obvious, but if you’ve been self-isolating or working from home for a while the temptation to stay in your pjs all day is strong.

However, wearing clothes that you don’t usually work in, will not boost your productivity. Dress with intention, to achieve the work you want to.

Your clothes often represent your mindset, so dress to work. If you wouldn’t show up to the office in your bunny slippers and fuzzy PJ top – don’t show up to your home office like that.

You’ll likely be too relaxed, and less likely to do your best work. Help your brain get into work mode by dressing similar to how you do for work.

If that’s a button down top for you, get it ironed and fresh. You’ll feel better and ready to start the day if you’re dressed. Most people don’t conquer the world in yesterdays tracksuit.

2. Find a Space

Photo by Michael Soledad 

Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have a home office you can shut yourself away in. If that’s the case, do it! Go get to work.

If you have a home office and it’s not a space you want to be in, try rearranging the furniture. The ‘change of scenery’ may be just what you need to freshen up your mind and boost your productivity.

I did this last week, rotating my work desk so my husband and I could both use it at the same time if needed and I’ve been amazed at how much more I want to be in the space now I’ve arranged things differently.

If you live in a smaller place with no home office, set yourself up one, even if it’s just at the dining room table. Make sure you have all the pens and chargers you might need, before you begin, to prevent unnecessary excuses to get up and do something else.

If you have to share your space with other people come up with a strategy for minimising distractions. Wear headphones, or put up a little ‘do not disturb’ sign in front of you.

Those with small children trying to work at home during this time, I salute you. You have a challenge!

3. Limit Distractions

Photo by William Iven 

The wormhole of social media is easy to get sucked into at the best of times, but now you may find it even harder to avoid.

When I’m writing I like to sit my phone somewhere I can’t see it. Behind my laptop works well. The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is really true for this one.

If you have pets, they can be the best cuddly co-workers but they can also be a huge distraction. It’s way easier to go ‘awww’ over your dog napping in the sun, then actually get work done.

I shut my cats out of my writing space when I’m in there, otherwise they attack my fingers as I’m typing which for obvious reasons isn’t ideal.

Limiting distractions allows you to focus on what you’re trying to achieve and ultimately, be more productive.

4. Set a Routine

Photo by Content Pixie 

This is the productivity hack I struggle with the most. I love a good sleep in, and as the weather gets colder in Australia it’s way more tempting to stay in bed than get up and face the day. Can you relate?

However, I know that I work the best in the morning, so sleeping in isn’t really helpful in the long run.

Set yourself a ‘work day‘ and stick to it. Plan in a lunch break and snacks so that you can work when you’re most productive. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same hours as you would usually work when you go to your workplace, but that may be a good place to start.

You can also use timers to help you stick to your routine. Set the timer and work for an hour on your set task. Allow yourself a short break and get some fresh air in your backyard or balcony. Grab a drink of water. Then get back to it.

A routine is helpful for your mental health too, as in this world that is mostly out of our control, our routine is something we can control for the most part.

Knowing you have a set time can really help you to keep going, and work towards that brief break.

5. Eat Well and Eat Cleverly

Photo by Jared Subia

Whilst you’re working at home, or social distancing you may be less active than usual. Because of this I encourage you to choose snacks that will help you feel better and stay healthy. Fruit is a great snack, especially paired with a glass of water. Eating well will benefit your overall health, as well as the quality of your work.

When I stay eat cleverly I mean, don’t choose snacks that are going to mess up your laptop or work area. Not only is it not terribly hygienic, It’s really hard to be productive on a laptop that has Dorito crumbs jamming your keyboard.

6. Take a Break

Whaat? you say, eyes wide, gleaming with the possibilities You mean I don’t have to stay at my desk all day?

That’s right! Taking a short break is one of the best productivity hacks. Stand up from your desk every now and again and stretch. Go get a glass of water or a cup of coffee. If you can, go for a walk outside, even if it’s just to your yard.

The momentary break will give your brain a breather so that when you do return to your work you’re refreshed and ready to go.

Final Thoughts

What are your best productivity hacks? Share them by commenting on this blog.

This time is a difficult one for many, so I’d like to share my best wishes for health with you all. We’re all in this together. Stay safe.

If you, or someone you know is struggling at the moment here’s a few resources you might find helpful:

Beyond Blue call 1300 22 4636 or visit their site. This site has a bunch of fantastic resources and helpline numbers.

Thank you for reading today’s post. I hope you found some useful productivity hacks to help you work from home better!

Thank you to all the amazing photographers who allowed me to use their photos. You can click on their names under the photo to view more of their work on unsplash.com

If you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button below. Share this article with a friend, family member or coworker you think may find it useful!

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