What I Learned Reading The Lord Of The Rings in 2020

Today’s book review is a little bit different. As some of you may know, The Lord of The Rings has been one of my bucket-list books. I started it in January of 2020, and little did I know, this would be the year I needed to read this book.

I’m a believer that books can impact us differently depending on the season of life we’re in. This year reinforced that for me. I had no idea when picking up The Lord of the Rings in January, what the rest of this year would hold!

So here’s a few reflections from my reading journey this year.

1. You never know what the journey ahead holds.

Yes, I knew this one in my head. But sometimes, the heart takes a while to catch up.

In January, The Mister and I were headed across to the South Island of New Zealand for a two week adventure. As I was picking my reading material for our trip, I spied my copy of Lord of The Rings on the shelf.

I’d been a fan of the movies, and had a copy of the book for a long time. Unfortunately, when I first picked up the book I was a much younger reader. I started and finished with the introduction, Concerning Hobbits, and other matters.

So it was with mixed feelings that I threw my copy into my carry on. I was travelling to the home of the films, surely there couldn’t be a better time to pick up the source material for the franchise.

I was right. Reading about Frodo setting off into middle earth, when in the midst of New Zealand’s incredible scenery is a delightfully bookish moment I wont soon forget. I finished off The Fellowship of the Rings while we were away, and started Two Towers.

Then I returned home… and the rest of 2020 happened. COVID-19 was just some distant virus that people were starting to chatter about, but it didn’t personally impact me.

I carried on in my 9-5 job, while continuing to freelance write part time.

Then things got worse. Global pandemic worse.

My country went into it’s first lockdown of 2020 (We’ve just cautiously reopened from our second lockdown as I write this) and I ended up working full time from home. I resigned my retail job and was fortunate enough to have a big enough client base to take my writing and editing career full time.

I was both excited and terrified. So around March, when I got around to picking up Two Towers again, I could relate to Frodo more than I could before. The sense of responsibility, of feeling like a situation is more overwhelming than you can handle, was something myself and many others were beginning to experience.

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

The Lord of The Rings p. 50

This wasn’t the year I’d planned to take my writing career full time. It wasn’t the year I thought I’d say goodbye to colleagues, or be restricted from visiting friends and family in person. This year has taken an emotional toll at time, seeing the suffering of those in my local and global community. That’s when I found my second lesson.

2. We all need our Sams.

Samwise Gamgee is the true MVP of The Lord of the Rings. His faithfulness, courage and good heart has cemented him as one of my favourite literary characters.

Frodo couldn’t have gotten far without Sam. Likewise, I couldn’t have gotten far this year without my own personal Samwise Gamgees. I’m fortunate to have more than one.

No, these aren’t people who literally have the name Sam (though they may be for you). This year I’ve felt grateful for the people in my life who have encouraged me. Who have reminded me what’s important, and helped me refocus and continue on – even when it’s hard. I don’t think I would have had the courage to take this writing and editing gig full-time if it weren’t for my wonderful husband (and best friend) and the other friends who’ve cheered me on.

‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.’

The Lord of The Rings p.919

This year has been difficult for many. I hope you’ve had some people around you who’ve made carrying your own personal burdens a bit easier.

For me, thank you to my Sam’s who sent me biscuits. Who did zoom board game nights, who sent cards and kind texts. For the Sam’s who watched Netflix parties and made FaceTime calls. You’re all amazing, this year has reminded me just how much.

3. Sometimes it’s not about us.

As I finished The Return of The King in October, my state was still in lockdown. I hadn’t seen friends and family in person for months. But the message of hope and sacrifice at the end of the book (don’t worry I wont spoil) has reminded me that sometimes – we don’t do things for ourselves.

Yes, many of us might be “okay” if we get COVID. But there are those that won’t be. To a certain extent, wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing good hygiene and getting tested are all acts of selflessness. They protect those we know and love, as well as strangers. I’ve been generally encouraged in my immediate community to see people unified to protect the vulnerable.

Yes, this year has shown some terrible examples of separation. Of pain and suffering. But it’s also been a time when neighbours have come together in an era where that’s not always guaranteed. We’ve adapted and gotten creative in how we connect with our community (thanks zoom!).

‘It must often be so…when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’

The Lord of The Rings – p.1006

The Return of the King wasn’t an easy read. There’s pain and loss and sacrifice. But also hope.

And as 2020 draws to a close over the next two months – I’ve been thinking back to where I was at the start of this year. When I was sitting in a Jucy van, at the foot of fox glacier, my husband and I reading. I couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would mean for us. The challenges it would hold. Nor could Frodo, as he stepped out of the shire.

I’m thankful for the hopeful message of The Lord of The Rings and thankful that this was the year I finally read the book. It a powerful experience, and encouraged me far more than I ever could have foreseen. Tolkien’s faith and storytelling is something I’m grateful to have engaged with this year.

Final Thoughts

Have you read The Lord of The Rings?

What’s something you’ve learnt in 2020?

Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading today’s post. It was a bit of a different review! But in sum, I absolutely recommend The Lord of The Rings.

If you’d like to read more about my travels in New Zealand earlier this year you can check out my post Adventures in Middle Earth.

If you liked today’s post feel free to share it on your social media – and subscribe for more bookish content!

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

Book Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People offers uncanny insight into what it means to be an anxious human. A must read for 2020.

Thank you to Penguin and Impulse Gamer who provided me with a free copy of Anxious People in exchange for an honest review.

What Is Anxious People About?

We’re all faced with bad days and bad ideas from time to time. Some of us have very bad ideas. So when a bank robber fails to rob a bank, but instead accidentally takes hostage an apartment full of people, chaos ensues.

The fear of the hostages quickly turns into confusion, and then concern as they realise that perhaps their bank robber may be in greater need of rescue than themselves.  Seven strangers bond and share through what is definitely a strange situation.

Read My Full Book Review

Today’s review is short and sweet, if you’d like to check out the full review, visit Impulse Gamer or click here.

Final Thoughts

Anxious People manages to strike at the heart of people’s anxieties but does so with delicacy. Backman delivers a book that makes readers see their own vulnerability, and not fear it. Rather, through a blend of charming prose and whimsical plot, we’re encouraged to find the humour in even the bleakest of situations.

Readers should be aware that Anxious People addresses topics that may distress some readers. Suicide and depression are predominant amongst these.

It’s a joy when a book manages to sweep you away and truly surprise you. Anxious People is a timely read, for who doesn’t feel overwhelmed and a little bit anxious in 2020?  A must-read from Backman and highly recommended

Thanks for Reading!

If you love books, consider subscribing to this blog for book reviews and other bookish content.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

Book Review: Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

From the author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes Cilka’s Journey. The much anticipated sequel, a testament to human survival.

What is Cilka’s Journey About?

Cilka’s Journey focuses on Cilka Klein, a character present but not explored in depth in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. This book shares what happened to her after she was liberated from Auschwitz.

Charged as a collaborator to the nazis by the Russians, Cilka is sent to a prison camp in Siberia. It is here, inside Vortuka, that Cilka once more finds herself imprisoned.

What I liked about Cilka’s Journey?

As when I reviewed The Tattooist of Auschwitz I found myself reflecting that this is not a book created for enjoyment. It’s primary purpose is to engage and educate the reader.

It does that very well.

Heather Morris bases her book on what is known of Cilka Klein’s, and from the testimonies of other women held within Siberian prison camps. This was an element of history that I previous did not know much about.

I appreciate that fact melds with fiction, to create a story around these places and events. Too often history can be perceived as distant and dry. That’s a shame. But Heather Morris has used her platform as an author to return a level of humanity back to these individuals.

Morris has balanced maintaining the authenticity of emotion, with historical accuracy. I appreciate her acknowledgement that in some areas she has blended history and fiction. Doing so allows us to recognise that this book is not intended to be a historical documentation.

Rather, the book attempts to convey a sense of the loss, struggle and pain endured by those held in Siberian prison camps. Those like Cilka, who had already endured through the horrors of Auschwitz.

I had to keep reading this book, it gripped me and held on. It was a beautiful story.

What I didn’t like about Cilka’s Journey?

Initially, when I finished Cilka’s Journey my sense of closure was not as great upon finishing this book. I think I felt uneasy, I wanted all the information about her happily ever after – as we get somewhat in the first book.

Upon further reflection, this makes sense. Much of the research about Cilka Klein seemed inconclusive, and in some cases, completely contradictory. An ending that is more open ended and has some questions is a reflection of this.

Can I read Cilka’s Journey if I haven’t read The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

If you haven’t read the Tattooist of Auschwitz, you can still read Cilka’s Journey. Though a sequel, the books largely stand apart from one another and I believe that both have merit on their own.

Final Thoughts

In November of 2019 I was fortunate enough to go to a book signing event for Cilka’s Journey. Heather Morris spoke about this book, and also The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

It was an incredible event, hosted by the wonderful team at Collins Croydon. At the event, I was impacted by Morris sharing about the personal challenge it was to record these stories. Listening to and recording traumatic stories takes a toll, so she emphasised the importance of self-care as an author.

She shared some wisdom that someone once gave her – that the pain of others is not ours to carry when it comes to trauma.

I think this is a valid point, especially as we come to engage with texts that share traumatic lived experiences. We cannot truly understand what it is like to have lived that experience. Our role is to listen and learn, not to try and fix or make up for the traumas another person experienced. In many cases, such as for the case of survivors of horrific events (including the holocaust) it is impossible to do so.

Where can I get a copy?

Cilka’s Journey is available from all major booksellers and online. If you’d like to support local – give Collins Croydon a call, they’re amazing!

If you enjoyed today’s review, please consider subscribing to this blog or sharing it with a friend.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

Book review: In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Carlton

Would you fit in for love – or speak out for what’s right?

A timely, young adult romance that examines religion, race and fitting in. In The Neighborhood of True is a beautiful and thought-provoking read.

Thank you to Susan Carlton and Algonquin Books for sending me an e-book of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What is In The Neighborhood of True about?

It’s the summer of 1958 and Ruth Robb’s father has recently died. With her mother and younger sister, Ruth relocates from New York to Atlanta.

Debutante balls, sweet tea, coca-cola, dimple faced boys rival for Ruth’s attention. But as she adjusts to life in the South, it becomes clear who she is may not fit right here. She’s a Jew, and to her new found friends in the ‘pastel-posse’ and the boy she’s falling for, that’s a big deal.

Against the backdrop of racial and religious tensions and the Klu Klux clan, Ruth must navigate what it means to be true. Discovering the truth isn’t always easy.

Book cover for In The Neighborhood of True

What I liked about In The Neighborhood of True?

In The Neighborhood of True has a gripping opening.

Carlton balances this tension with excellent momentum throughout the novel. I was held to the pages, wanting to know what would happen next.

The character development was exceptional, with the main character displaying that exquisite angst that it seems all teens have around fitting in. This is a common theme in young adult novels, the desire to fit in and be accepted by peers is vital. Readers will relate to those feelings of self-doubt and anxiety around social mis-steps.

The Neighborhood of True‘s triumph is in how it goes beyond the typical ‘fitting in’ concerns to discuss deep and complex issues.

Ruth’s is a Jew, and a member of a synagogue with a passion for racial equality. It was moving to witness the characters struggle with these issues and how they relate to her identity.

The conversation of how to be an ally to those facing racial oppression is one that is ongoing and important. In recent months it’s been occurring more often.

In The Neighborhood of True is a useful way for younger readers to engage with this conversation. Ruth must struggle with her own role, and her place in speaking up against the actions of others.

Many young adult books skim the surface of right and wrong, without challenging readers to consider the real world implications of their own actions.

In The Neighborhood of True with its historical fiction setting is positioned well to challenge, and engage readers in this dialogue.

It’s easy to sit back, to omit truths about ourselves or those around us. To convince ourselves its someone elses fight, not our problem. This book shrinks the distancing, and forces the main character, and readers to confront their own discomfort.

What I didn’t like about The Neighborhood of True?

This was an excellent read. It engaged with a historical time period and culture that I am largely unfamilar with.

That being said, it should be noted that this book, does not have many significant characters who are black. Race is an issue that occurs as a backdrop to the exploration of the character’s identity and struggles around acceptance.

Some may critique this book along similar lines to how The Help has been critiqued. It’s important to remember when black lives are being spoken about, rather than with. In these situations, representation can become a major issue.

In The Neighborhood of True is primarily about the main character’s journey with her own identity. This has merit, and is explored intentionally and with clear efforts made by the author for sensitivity.

The conclusions the book draws around prejudice and hatred is one which has merit. This book does not try to speak on behalf of black people. That is an important distinction between The Neighborhood of True and The Help.

Where can I get a copy?

In The Neighbourhood of True is available from The Book Depository here.

Final thoughts

This is a captivating read! Definitely one to check out.

Readers should be aware that this book does discuss the Klu Klux Klan and some descriptions of violence that are distressing. For that reason, I wouldn’t suggest this book for young readers, unless reading with the supervision of an adult they can discuss the issues raised in the book.

This would make a fantastic book club pick, as there’s so many interesting elements in the book to discuss! You’ll just have to read it.

Thank you for reading today’s review. This blog updates weekly with book reviews, writing tips and other bookish content on a weekly basis. If you enjoyed this review – subscribe at the bottom of the page!

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

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.

Thanks for reading today’s review! If you enjoyed it please consider subscribing using that lovely yellow button at the end of the page.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

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?


If you enjoyed this review, please click the subscribe button at the bottom of this page. Get weekly bookish content delivered straight to your inbox.

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.

Enjoyed this review?

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this review please subscribe for more bookish content every week using the link below. Or, if you already subscribe, share this blog with a friend!

What sci-fi books have you enjoyed? Let me know by commenting on this post.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

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!

If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe or share this post with a friend.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

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.

If you enjoyed today’s review click that subscribe button below for more bookish content.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

Sorcery Of Thorns Book Review – Margaret Rogerson

If Hermione was your favourite character from Harry Potter you’ve got to check out Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.

Published in June 2019, I have been seeing this book all over social media for the last few months. I’ve been eyeing it warily as post after post popped up claiming this book was wonderful, was it worth the hype?

I usually prefer fantasy books that are in series so I was skeptical of Sorcery of Thorns largely because it is a standalone novel.

How could a stand alone novel capture the wonder of a fantasy adventure adequately? How could the world building be completed in such a short timeframe?

I was pleasantly surprised by what Sorcery of Thorns delivered. Read on for a spoiler free review.

What is Sorcery of Thorns about?

Sorcery of Thorns follows Elizabeth Scrivener, a foundling raised in the confines of one of the Great Libraries of Austermeer. This is no ordinary library, and this is no ordinary kingdom.

The great libraries are filled with magical books, grimoires, their pages are forbidden to be read by all except the sorcerers who live in the kingdom. If provoked these magical books transform into hideous monsters of leather and ink.

Elizabeth hopes that she will one day be trained and become a warden of the Great Libraries, charged with the protection of the grimoires and the secrets within them. Yet when an act of sabotage takes place at her library Elizabeth is forced to act in ways she would never have dreamt possible, even working with a sorcerer.

The sorcerers are evil, Elizabeth has known this for as long as she has lived. But Nathanial Thorn and his demonic servant Silas are the only hope she has of catching the saboteur.

Throughout this adventure Elizabeth will have to question everything she knows, and everything she’s been taught.

What I liked about Sorcery of Thorns?

As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, Sorcery of Thorns is a standalone fantasy novel. It has no sequel and isn’t a part of a larger series. This was refreshing.

Fantasy as a genre tends to attract book series, with the story unfolding across several books. It’s epic and intense and I love it.

Sorcery of Thorns still achieved a high level of ‘epic’ for being a stand alone novel. It was nice to know that once I finished the book I was getting the whole story. I wouldn’t have to wait around for the sequel or track down the next book.

The world building in Sorcery of Thorns is wonderful and unique. I loved the premise of a girl who was raised in the libraries becoming its ultimate champion.

Rogerson’s descriptions of the books and libraries were vivid and enchanting. I especially enjoyed how the author crafted physical characteristics to match a book based on its title or story content.

Elizabeth Scrivener was a wonderful hero, strong without having to forgo her femininity I loved her passion and cleverness. She reminded me of Hermione with her passion for books.

The dialogue was witty, the pacing well done and the characters were charming and intriguing. All loose ends were satisfyingly tied up, with just enough magic to keep your mind lingering in the story after closing the cover of the book.

What I didn’t like about Sorcery of Thorns?

There isn’t much honestly that I didn’t enjoy about this novel.

Occasionally there was a few little hints of character background, that were never fully explained and I would have liked to know the full story.

However as much as I’d like to know absolutely everything about these characters I think that’s a part of this book being a standalone. We get a snippet of them, for a window of time.

Some mystery isn’t a bad thing, as it’s left me with small curiosities about the story that have left it lingering in my mind. I appreciate that, as its a sign of good storytelling that doesn’t need a cliffhanger ending or three sequels.

My Recommendation

Book lovers, fantasy lovers, anyone who wants to dip their toes into a fantasy book without the commitment of a series…this book is for you.

This book is young adult, and is appropriate for ages as young as thirteen. Sorcery of Thorns has some romance, but it’s age appropriate.

Where can I get a copy?

*Pick up a copy of Sorcery of Thorns from Amazon here or from your local bookseller.

*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.

Final Thoughts

This was a great read! Fun, unique and adventerous. Just what I love from a fantasy book. Have you, or will you be reading Sorcery of Thorns?

Thank you for reading! If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this blog using the button below or share this review with a friend you think would love Sorcery of Thorns!

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.