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where our team of writers love to talk all things books, sharing reviews, features, lists, interviews and more.

Getting lost in a book is escapism at it's finest and it's what everyone who contributes here thrives on.

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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Features | Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge Update #1

beginning of the world in the middle of the night jen campbell books review reading

Another year, another Popsugar Reading Challenge! Similarly to last year I'll be sharing updates here every so often over the next twelve months as I attempt to cross off as many of the 2018 prompts as possible - wish me luck!

Surprisingly I managed to make a good start on the challenge this year, crossing off three prompts within the first week of January, and have done a little more planning when it comes to picking out my reads for the rest of 2018 so I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Today I thought I would share a little bit more about the first six prompts I've completed.

A Book With A Time Of Day In The Title | The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night, Jen Campbell (2017)

This short story collection was top of my 2018 TBR so I decided to pick up a copy in January. The books contains a really unique selection of tales and as with most collections I enjoyed some more than others. The ones that stood out to me as particularly memorable were Animals, Human Satellites and Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel.

A Book That's Mentioned In Another Book | Tales Of The Peculiar, Ransom Riggs (2016)

Our January book club pick was this collection of illustrated short stories, a companion to the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I understand that these tales are mentioned several times through the books although I have to confess I haven't yet read them, but if the stories in this collection are anything to go by that will change soon! Overall I really enjoyed the book and it has given me high hopes for the rest of our 2018 book club reads.

A Book With A LGBTQ+ Protagonist | Far From The Tree, Robin Benway (2017)

Far From The Tree tells the story of three siblings meeting for the first time. After two were adopted by different families and the third grew up in the foster system, the three teens are brought together and the novel follows their journey as they learn more about each other and themselves. I didn't choose to read the book with a challenge prompt in mind (I just really enjoyed the author's previous novel) but I really loved this one and would highly recommend it! Keep an eye out for my full review here on BB next month.

popsugar reading challenge update books 2018

A Past Goodreads Choice Award Winner | Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng (2017)

There were so many titles to choose from for this prompt but the one that was already highest on my TBR list was Little Fires Everywhere; 2017's 'Best Fiction' winner and the book everyone has been talking about for the past few months. From the writing style to the characters, I really loved everything about this one and it certainly lives up to the hype. If you haven't picked up a copy yet it's definitely one to add to your 2018 TBRs!

A Book From A Celebrity Book Club | Marlena, Julie Buntin (2017)  

There are quite a few celebrity book clubs out there to choose from but I've been closely following the selections over at Belletrist, created by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss. There were several Belletrist book club picks on my TBR, but I had already picked up a Kindle copy of Marlena, last May's pick. Narrated by Cat, the book explores her short-lived teenage friendship with Marlena and the affect her death has had on Cat's life. Overall it was an interesting read, but sadly not one of my favourites.

A Book With An Animal In The Title | The Moth, Catherine Burns (2013)

As you can see I've really been enjoying short story collections lately! This collection of fifty true stories transcribed from the organisation's live storytelling events is full of fascinating and unique tales that range from heartwarming to heartbreaking and everything in between. I'd definitely recommend picking this one up, or subscribing to the podcast if you'd prefer to hear the voices behind the stories.

If you're taking part in the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge I'd love to hear from you. Let me know which prompts you've crossed off the list and which books you're planning to pick up next!

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Monday, 19 February 2018

Send Us Your Thoughts On Our February Book Club Pick!

a tyranny of petticoats book club
Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell. - Goodreads
We really hope you've been enjoying reading our February book club selection and can't wait to hear your thoughts. This is just a little reminder that you only have until this Friday (23rd) to submit your feedback - click here to join in!

Don't forget to use the hashtag #bookshelfbookclub on social media to share your photos of A Tyranny Of Petticoats with us.

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Friday, 16 February 2018

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night | Jen Campbell | Review


Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is an enchanting and often dark mixture of fairy tales in the modern world. There are hearts purchased online, children who grow vines in their hair, and a mysterious new planet. There is also a young boy just trying to understand his family, a soldier who walks into a stranger's kitchen, and a couple who spend the night discussing how the world began. In other words, when reading The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night you never know exactly what to expect.

Each story in this collection contains its own little world, and while some of these worlds are stranger than others, each one feels as though it could exist within our own somehow. There is a sense of fairy tale influence in all of the stories but they each vary in how much or how little they depend upon this, and each story does feel very much as though the world within it exists on its own, drawing you into something different and new for a few pages before spitting you out again. The only complaint this draws is that some of the stories are very short, and the best ones leave a longing for them to be just a bit longer, so that more time might be spent getting to know these unique and fascinating worlds

As with any short story collection, readers will connect with some stories more than others. Personally, my favourites were 'Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel' about a girl and her aunt who run a hotel on an island, where guests can rent a coffin to sleep in for a night, and 'Little Deaths' about a world in which ghosts are caught, bought, and sold in jars. I would have loved for both of these to have been a little longer so that I could have learnt more about those worlds and the people in them. There were, of course, some stories that I didn't like so much, but while I didn't quite connect with 'Jacob' or 'Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee. Purple Monster' I am certain that there will be plenty of other readers who will find those to be their favourite stories in the collection.

If you're a particular lover of dark, whimsical, fairy tale inspired short stories, then you definitely won't regret picking up The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night and with such a variety of different story telling techniques and subjects displayed, there is bound to be something here for any short story lover.
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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Passenger and Wayfarer | Alexandra Bracken | Review

I literally just, say, 20 minutes ago finished the second book and I still slightly have tears in my eyes, so let's get on with the show!


Passenger

I took a little while to get into this book, I wasn’t really sure what it was about apart from the fact that lots of booktuber’s raved about it, so when it started I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Then Etta was introduced and her violin performance drew me in, and the magic started. It initially reminded me of A Darker Shade of Magic, just with Nicholas and Etta instead of Kell and Lilah. But obviously the more the story evolved the more I saw it wasn’t that.

When I told people it was about time travel they assumed a science fiction type book, however, this feels more realistic and fantasy at the same time. Obviously, time travel is fantasy but the way the story is told you legitimately feel like it could be happening now in real life, it’s described so effortlessly and not totally absurd that you wouldn’t believe it.

I really enjoyed the story, however, I felt the pacing was off. The beginning was too slow and it, therefore, took a while to get into the story. The middle was perfect, everything ran nicely and gave you enough time to take in all the details and understand what was going on. Then the end was a mess, I was 40 or so pages from the end and nothing 'end like' had even happened, I didn’t understand how they were going to end it with that few number of pages. But, then everything happened and it just felt rushed and nothing like the rest of the book. Seriously a disappointment.

Wayfarer

Pretty much the exact same thing happened with Wayfarer, I'm not sure if it's just Alexandra's writing as I've read The Darkest Minds, the first in her other series, before but I'm not sure if I remember if the pacing was an issue with that. I planned to post this review back at the beginning of January but I just could not get into this book. It took me so long to get through the first 100 pages and finally get stuck in with the plot that over a month had flown by. I wouldn't blame you if you'd picked up these books before and not bothered reading further than the first few chapters. Even with the cliffhanger left at the end of Passenger the first 100 pages of Wayfarer was a chore.

Once past that, I got stuck in and got through the rest in a couple of days. Again the ending had way too much of a lead up to then be over in a few pages. But I will say there's a lot more minor action going on in Wayfarer than Passenger as it's more about the war of the families and less about Nick and Etta's relationship.

Speaking of Nick and Etta's relationship, yes I did cry near the end when the big reveal happens (I won't go into it any more than that as spoilers) I shed maybe a few more tears than I care to admit. Bracken's character writing is definitely much better than her environment and action writing. You really connect with the characters, not just Nick and Etta but some, if not most, of the minor characters as well. It's definitely the lack of descriptions that let down the story. These characters are travelling through time, to different areas of the world and history and it's sometimes hard to even imagine where they are, especially without any prior knowledge of the time and place. There were moments where I lost track of the story because of the lack of descriptions, I thought they were on a boat but then a character climbed out of the window into a tree as they were suddenly back in the house.

While this all may sound like a lot of negatives, I definitely enjoyed both the stories and do recommend them. I just feel they could both lose a 100 pages each to be that little bit better. I rated them both 3.5 stars (rounding up to 4 stars on Goodreads) so ya know, they're not top of the TBR pile but they're worth being in it. Plus, their gorgeous covers are worth a slot on your bookshelves even if you don't read them for ages!
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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Call | Peadar O'Guilin | Review



Some books are just so deliciously dark that you are immediately in their power. They keep you close while they shock you, upset you and make you fall completely and utterly in love with them. The Call is one such book.

This is set in a world where every teenager will be taken to another land without warning, where they will have to face a terrible hunt. And with only one in ten of them making it, their chances of survival are slim. Nessa has been training since she was a child, determined to prove the people that don't think she will survive wrong. As more and more of her friends are taken, The Call seems even more dangerous.

The Call is a brutal and fast paced novel that will keep you on the edge of your seats. I was so on Team Nessa that it hurt and I was basically biting my nails as she struggled to survive in dark and dangerous times.

It isn't a book that holds back so if you want a light adventure story, this probably isn't the book for you. It revels in the uneasy and the nasty, while managing to maintain the delicate balance between imaginative and being gory for the sake of it. If you are a fan of grimdark or YA dystopian, this is definitely a book that you should check out.

Just make sure that you leave a light on afterwards....
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Friday, 9 February 2018

A History of Magic | Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the British Library | Review



Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the brilliant curators of the British Library. It promises to take readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from Alchemy and Potions classes through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.
I can say with assurance that it does just that; it really is a fascinating journey.



What I loved about this book (created by Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the British Library for the 20th anniversary in 2017) is that it combines everything Harry Potter and the world we all know and love, with the very real world we actually live in.



Chapters are dedicated to various subjects - Defence Against the Dark Arts, Divination, Charms etc - and they tell of real artifacts from the British museum that have been used for similar reasons. In the Divination chapter, for example, there are real charts of tea leaves and how to read them, as created and read by real people, not just Professor Trelawney.



There is information about mandrakes, dragon's blood, centaurs, broomsticks and cauldrons. The images are a mixture of photographs from the artifacts in the museum, illustrations from both Jim Kay and Olivia Lomenech Gill and their illustrated copies of Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. There's also manuscripts from Rowling's drafts of the stories, and images she sketched out herself.



I learnt a lot when I read this book, about the incredible pieces in the museum, and how people actually used things like star charts and the study of plants in their actual lives. It's a fantastic combination of fiction and reality.

Have you had a look at A History of Magic? What did you think? 

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