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We love to talk all things books, sharing reviews, features, lists, interviews and more, all penned by our team of six writers.

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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Shift | Em Bailey | Reviewed by Erin

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Shift | Em Bailey | Reviewed by Erin

shift
"As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on. Something almost . . . parasitic. Either Olive is losing her grip on reality, or Miranda Vaile is stealing Katie’s life.” Source

Described as a dark and gripping psychological thriller Shift is Australian author Em Bailey’s YA debut. It follows the life of troubled teenager Olive Corbett when a strange new student named Miranda joins her school. Olive quickly comes up with a theory that Miranda is a shapeshifter which introduces a supernatural element to the book. Shift isn’t really about shapeshifters or the supernatural though, its about real-life friendships and how toxic they can become.

Olive has recently dramatically changed her appearance and returned to school following her suicide attempt which she refers to as the 'incident'. Although she used to be extremely popular and best friends with the Regina George-esque Katie, her only friend when she returns is Ami who also plays a big part in the story. The other main characters are two new students who show up at Olive’s school around the same time; love interest Lachlan and of course potential shapeshifter Miranda.

For the first half of the book Miranda stays at a distance from Olive which made her mysterious and intriguing. In my opinion this factor made the first half of the story much stronger than the second as things did become increasingly unbelievable as the book went on. Around the halfway point, just as it began to feel as if it wasn’t headed anywhere interesting, the first of the twists was introduced. Unfortunately I had suspected this particular twist from early on as there seemed to be a lot of obvious hints along the way. For me it felt as though I was being walked straight to the answer rather than having it keep me guessing which was a real shame as I would have loved to have been surprised by it. Later in the book there are a few other twists and turns as the girls become closer and Miranda seems to take hold of Olive’s life, none of which I found shocking - the synopsis of this book actually gives quite a bit away! I did feel that it was fairly unlikely that Olive would fall for Miranda’s act after the earlier events of the book and for me that made her a less believable character altogether.

The pace of the book was reasonable although a times it felt a little conflicted over what the main storyline was as there were whole chapters which focused on everyday situations and the supernatural element seemed to be completely forgotten. The length of the story also seemed right at the time of reading but after finishing the book I felt like the ending was unsatisfying and left a lot of unanswered questions. Neither the secondary characters nor Olive’s relationship with her father were really explored in much depth because of the short length of the book which was quite disappointing. I would have also liked to have known more about Miranda’s aunt Oona as it was implied that her story was a particularly interesting one. The same goes for Lachlan’s background as I couldn’t quite buy in to his character and at times it even felt like he might have more in common with Miranda than we are led to believe.

For a book deemed a 'psychological thriller' I didn't really feel Shift lived up to it's claims but surprisingly enough I did find myself enjoying it all the same. Of course it wasn’t perfect, the predictable twists and slightly underdeveloped characters in what was meant to be a dark thriller did leave me feeling like there was something missing. It is a nice quick and easy read however right up until the last page I was hoping for a genuine surprise, a twist that would make me stop and rethink the whole story but unfortunately I didn’t find it. 3.5/5

3halfstars

This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.
Photo © Erin Elise
1 comment
Delirium | Lauren Oliver | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 26 November 2012

Delirium | Lauren Oliver | Reviewed by Ria

Another day, another Dystopian future. Welcome to my third review for Blogger's Bookshelf!
Delirium book cover
Delrirum by Lauren Oliver was a novel that has been buzzed about this year by everyone I came across on the Internet, so when my lovely Blogger's Bookshelf co-founder Erin (as well as one of my old college friends) suggested I read it...well it had to be done right?

Delirium is set 64 years after the United States declare love to be a disease (so named amor deliria nervosa) with citizens 18 and over are required to be 'cured'. The cure renders them incapable to love, basically turning the population of adults into mundane, feeling-less zombies who love their lives by the Book of Shhh (The Safety, Health & Happiness Handbook)

Lena is a young, girl who wants this life. The disease tore her family apart when her father died, her mother supposedly suffered so horrendously from it that she drove herself to insanity and was forcefully treated multiple times before killing herself. Lena now lives with 'the shame' and constant fear that she too may be susceptible to the disease. She's happy when the day she's to be cured comes around, until her examination is rudely interrupted by anti-cure protesters (and believe me you will never in a million years guess how they do this). She spots high up on the platform above her, a young boy, slightly older than herself. She promptly faints - not from the boy but from what happens during the examination, awaking in the house she shares with her aunt and cousins after her mother passed away with her cure day rescheduled because of the disruption. 

She believes seeing the boy was all a dream until she runs into him again. His name is Alex and like most boys in Dystopian novels, he turns her world upside down. Alex takes her on a journey of self discovery, teaching her that love isn't the disease she thought it was at all.
Delirium book cover1
Like most Dystopian novels Delirium is chock full of cliches in terms of characters. Lena is your typical lost soul, a little bland and boring at first, with a troublesome past. Alex is your usual pretentious rogue, hell bent on fighting the system from within. The story is very Romeo and Juliet. But that's where my criticisms have to stop.

This book was quite the surprise. The premise was a little different and though it started off a little slow, once it kicked into high gear it really kicked into high gear, especially towards the end. The world itself is rich and well built. Though we've yet to find out why love is banned, excerpts of studies, poems and mentions of scientific journals really bring the world to life. One of the things I really loved about Delirium was actually how well rounded the secondary characters were. Oliver has clearly been thorough with backstories for Lena's family and her best friend Hana (who actually has her own spin off novel).

So my verdict?
Delirium was both similar and brilliantly different to any Dystopian novel I've read. The themes lost hope, a corrupt government and self discovery are evident as with novel as any other in the genre. What will get you are the sharp u-turns Oliver takes you with the surprisingly unpredictable plot and the detailed world these characters exist it. Not to mention the fact that it's the first in a series so there's plenty more where that came from!

Reading Soundtrack:
Emergency: Paramore; Animal Love: Charlene Kaye; Turning Tables: Adele; Nowhere Left To Run: McFLY; Rules Of Attraction: Joe Brooks; This City Is Contagious: The Cab; Love Out Of Lust; Lykki Li

For lovers of...The Hunger Games, Romeo & Juliet, Divergent, and those with a thing for tragic love stories.

*all photos in this post (c) Ria Cagampang
3 comments

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Help | Kathryn Stockett | Reviewed by Lucy.

 
 
Picture from Lucy Donnan.
 
“You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”
 
The Help is set in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. The story is told from three different people’s points of view. Aibileen is looking after her seventeenth white child and trying to ignore the pain inside her from her own son’s death. Then we have Minny, a very sassy and loud mouthed woman who is the help for Hilly Holbrook, a nasty piece of work. Our final narrator is Miss Skeeter, a woman who is more passionate about having a job as a journalist instead of having a husband. Who would know that these three different people would become such good friends?
 
Skeeter is the only white girl who acts as a narrator in the book whilst the other two women work as the help for wealthy families, the women of which are Skeeter’s friends. What Skeeter doesn’t know is that her friends treat the help badly compared with how she treated her help Constantine, who has mysteriously gone missing. When Hilly Holbrook starts to talk about creating separate bathrooms for the help, Skeeter starts to see the inequality, and wants to do something about it. After talking with a publisher in New York, Skeeter is on a mission to show people what really goes on behind closed doors. But she needs Minny’s and Aibileen’s help. It’ll be a risky and dangerous task but can they do it? You’ll just have to find out!
 
I love this book so much. I read it in April of this year and could not put the book down. It was one of the most serious books I’ve read. What I mean by serious, is that it was a book that really made me think of equality and how it’s changed over the years. I know that inequality still goes on nowadays, but it’s significantly improved compared to how people were treated fifty years ago, purely because their skin colour was not white. The story line was just brilliant and I had to keep reading to know what happened next.
 
The characters in this book were brilliant. She really made the good characters, such as Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter really likeable, whereas every time I read a scene with Hilly Holbrook, I really just wanted to punch her in the face. The author mentions at the end that she had her own experiences with a maid helping around the house, so it was clear to see that this was a story from the heart.
 
Some people might not like this book, purely based on how Aiblileen’s and Minny’s chapters were written.  The author wrote these chapters based on how she believed Aibileen and Minny spoke, so there are a lot of words and phrases that are spelt differently. I personally really liked the writing styles because it made each chapter different and really highlighted how different each woman was from the other.
 
So I’m going to have to give The Help by Kathryn Stockett a massive five star rating. It wasn't something that I usually read but I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved it. I will definitely read it again and again (and again.) I really recommend all of you bookworms out there to give it a go. Add it to your Christmas list now!
 
This review was written by regular reviewer, Lucy, get to know her here
 
 
 
 

6 comments
Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Genres

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Genres

For our first group collaboration here at Blogger's Bookshelf we asked you, our readers and contributors, to tell us about your favourite book genres and to recommend us some titles. Hopefully this post will help you to discover some new books or even inspire you to venture into a different genre. These were the results...

romance

horror and post apocalyptic

fantasy

young adult

dystopian

crime

Next month we will be discussing favourite reads of 2012
We would love for as many of you to get involved as possible - all you need to do is either leave a comment on this post, tweet or email us your top five reads of the year. If you'd like to you can also include a sentence about why you enjoyed each one but please note we may not be able to include these for every book - it will depend on how many responses we receive!
We will need your answers by December 19th and the post will be live on the 22nd. And remember, they don't need to be titles released in 2012, just your favourites of the books you read throughout the year!

Contributors - Taylah, Laura, Sandra, Jess, Niina, Elle, Anjali, Lucy, Ria, Francesca, Kristina, Lulu, Cat, Erin, Jo 
We were really pleased with the response we received & would like to say a big thank you to everyone who got involved.

All book cover images sourced from Goodreads.
6 comments
The Lying Game | Sara Shepard | Reviewed by Francesca

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Lying Game | Sara Shepard | Reviewed by Francesca

  
'At least she had a clear picture of what the Lying Game was now: Girl Scouts for psychopaths.'- Sara Shepard, The Lying Game.

'The Lying Game' was the first Sara Shepard book I've ever picked up; despite the hype surrounding the TV adaptation of her 'Pretty Little Liars' series, it was never something that had particularly 'jumped out' at me whilst browsing Amazon for some new additions to my at-home library, but upon spotting the synopsis for the 'Lying Game' series on Goodreads a few months ago, I decided to give it a go.

'The Lying Game' follows seventeen year-old foster child Emma Paxton as she embarks on a journey to meet her long-lost identical twin, Sutton Mercer, having discovered her through a mysterious 'snuff film' floating around the internet; upon receiving just one text from her sister, Emma finds herself boarding a coach, nervously anticipating being reunited with the twin she never knew she had.
What Emma doesn't know, however, is that Sutton's already with her, in spirit; murdered just the day before, Sutton's disembodied spirit is bound to her twin, following her, seeing only what she sees, and being unable to communicate with Emma...even as she watches the sister she never met heading to a rendezvous with her murderer. 

Emma's soon immersed in Sutton's world, pretending to be the twin she never even met; laughing with her friends, calling her parents mum and dad, and trying to piece together the events that lead to Sutton's death - all whilst being watched by her sister's killer.

'The Lying Game' had me hooked from pretty much the first page; although it takes a chapter or two to set up the basis of the story as we're told in the synopsis, it's not long before you're hurtling along with Emma (and Sutton!) as she is forced into a situation in which she has no control, with the mystery surrounding Sutton's death seeming to grow only deeper as every page is turned.
Sara Shepard doesn't dawdle, and although it's refreshing to be thrown straight into the action, it can be a little confusing to follow, in terms of the characters, their relationships with Sutton, and the information Emma's collecting about each of them as 'suspects' - although I'd imagine this is Sara's attempt to generate a little more empathy for her narrator, and it does work, it can mean that some passages aren't as cohesive as they could be.


When I first began the 'Lying Game' series, I believed it to be complete - however, half-way through the second book, I realised there are at least two more installments to be published...which means I still don't know the extent to what happened to Sutton, or what will happen to Emma, but one thing's for sure; my decision had been solidified, after just the first book, to stick with the series until the end. If you're up for a compelling, Young-Adult, mystery-turned-thriller, this is definitely the one for you, and 'The Lying Game' will keep you guessing, right until the very end.
4 Stars

This review was written by regular reviewer Francesca, get to know her here.
Photo © Francesca Sophia.
2 comments
Guest Review | A Discovery of Witches | Deborah Harkness

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Guest Review | A Discovery of Witches | Deborah Harkness

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Image from Goodreads
 
If I had to encapsulate my feelings while I was reading A Discovery of Witches in one word, that word would be embarrassment. I felt a cringing, bordering-on-nauseous embarrassment throughout its 688 pages. It wasn’t that it was atrocious, but that it was just so very silly. Fair play to Harkness, an established US academic. She’s approached fiction like a funding proposal, identifying and then promptly filling a gap in the saturated vamp-fantasy market (i.e. fantasy for a more mature female readership than Twilight’s), earning in one fell swoop more than hallowed “tenure” will ever bring her. However, it’s just so very silly.

I had a terribly uncomfortable sensation that I was reading Harkness’s deepest fantasies while I read DiscoWitches (I can’t take credit for the amusing abbreviation used by Jenny Turner in her Guardian review[NAA1] ). This sensation was not unsupported by Harkness’s frank admission that the characters in this novel are based on elements of her own personality (not, not narcissistic at all). From the vamp-witch-daemon interfaith yoga classes, to Matthew’s drawer of Mont Blanc pencils in his French chateau, to endless descriptions of ancient impossibly expensive wines, these are the drowsy daydreams of a particular kind of academic dozing amongst her piles of manuscripts in the Bod. To be witness to them in such detail makes you feel – well, embarrassed.

If it was better-executed, I might not be quite so scornful. However, this book is not well executed. It’s hastily written and poorly edited (if I played a drinking game and downed a shot every time someone casts a “long look” at someone else I would end up in hospital with alcohol poisoning.) And, alas, the characterisation, which needs to work well in a book like this, just doesn’t.

Diana is a terribly constructed protagonist. In fact, if I taught creative writing, I would use an extract of this novel as a masterclass on how not to write a character. A character’s attributes have to come from within her, rather than being extraneously endowed upon her by other characters exclaiming her to be so. Just because everyone says Diana’s brave (indeed they marvel at it), it doesn’t mean she is. In fact, Diana’s a pretty pathetic character. Harkness desperately wanted to create a wilful, feisty, and yet innately vulnerable main character, basically, Jane Eyre+Buffy, but it didn’t quite work out. Instead you have a deeply annoying heroine who is stupid, weak and passive who every now and again refuses to do something that’s patently in her self-interest in order to demonstrate her feistiness. She is fundamentally submissive, even in her wilfulness. It’s disappointing to read such a woeful female character from an academic who must have read her feminist theory. And her Jane Eyre. Pullman’s Lyra is wilful and brave, Jane Eyre is wilful and vulnerable. Diana’s not even convincingly vulnerable, she doesn’t have enough inner life or complexity to be so.

And while Jane Eyre/Mr Rochester make up one of my all time favourite romantic literary couples, Diana and Matthew are but shadows of their passion, humour and egalitarian commitment. When Matthew calls Diana “witch” it’s a direct reference to the fond, amused way Rochester addresses Jane. But while it all works on paper, I just don’t feel the connection between these two composite, cardboard characters.

I did read its 688 pages, so some credit must be given to Harkness producing a decent pageturner. I’ll always be a bit fond of anything that lovingly describes sitting in the Bodleian library and calling up manuscripts. I did like the haunted house, the characters of Marthe and Ysabeau, and Tabitha the cat. But all in all, it must speak volumes (ha!) that I haven’t been able to stomach the prospect of its sequel, despite its Early Modern setting calling to the Shakespeare and Marlowe lover in me.

2/5 stars

Review written by guest blogger Nazneen.
3 comments
The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman | Reviewed by Niina

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman | Reviewed by Niina

thegraveyardbook
“It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.” - Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book is a story about a boy called Nobody Owens (called Bod by his friends and family). The peculiar thing about Bod (apart from his name) is that he lives in a graveyard. Why does he live in a graveyard then? Because he's adopted by two ghosts, Mr and Mrs Owens who adopted him when his whole family got murdered by a man called Jack. The Owens family and their ghost friends keep Bod in the graveyard to keep him safe from Jack who's for some reason still out to get him. 
Bod's days are filled with playing with ghost children among the graves, having conversations and getting educated by ghosts who all lived during different centuries. And then there's Silas. Bod's mentor and guardian, someone who Bod really cares about but can't quite figure out. While all this is going on Bod still feels the need to communicate and interact with humans, But while gets closer to the human community he also gets closer to danger...

The Graveyard Book is the second book I've read by Neil Gaiman. While I was pretty disappointed by Stardust I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book. The book is mainly directed to a younger audience but I think both adults and children can really appreciate this story. I really liked the fact that the story is set in a graveyard. There can't be any place that's more mystical and interesting than a graveyard? And the whole idea that Bod can communicate with ghosts who've lived through different centuries is so fascinating! Just think about all the wonderful stories Bod gets the opportunity to listen to! I almost wish I grove up in a graveyard myself. I also really found the characters in this novel really well-written and interesting. Bod is a really likable yet different kid and Silas is a really mysterious yet lovable character. And of course I loved the ghosts, because like I said before, the ghost really give the story an interesting twist. Like any good children's fantasy this story also touches a lot of important and real subjects like friendship, family, trust and identity.

The only complaint I might have is that I struggled a bit with getting into the story through the first chapters, and I kind of wish that I had gotten the opportunity to read this when I was younger because I think I would've appreciated it even more! So this is definitely a book I'm going to read for my future (hypothetical) children! And it also made me interested to read more of Gaiman's books (if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!) So, yes, I gladly give The Graveyard Book 4/5 stars.

This review was written by regular reviewer Niina, get to know her here.
8 comments

Monday, 19 November 2012

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | Lewis Carroll | Reviewed by Laura


‘I knew who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

This quote popped up somewhere on my radar years before I knew it was where it was from, when I finally discovered it’s owner and realised it was the original form of one of my favourite childhood films I added the book to my to-read list. 

I always find it hard to recommend or review classic literature because there isn't much left to say that hasn't already been said. Or If I do have something different to say it’s normally because I haven’t been gripped by a classic like I normally am. Nevertheless I shall try my best.

Most of us have watched the Alice in Wonderland Disney film and/or the more recent release with scary real life versions of the characters. So we all know to expect a reasonably crazy storyline with some of the most bizarre characters you could wish to imagine. I don’t think I can go any further with this review before I say how much I love Carroll’s writing, he writes from Alice’s young and fresh perspective and transports the reader back to their own childhood innocence.

 I won’t go into the storyline because most of us already know it, but I will say the only thing that disappointed me about this book (and knocked off a star) was the ending. A bit of an anti-climax.

I would however recommend this book to anyone who loves a good classic or longs to be lost in a magical word of fantasy.
 
4/5 stars

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
*Photo © Laura
4 comments
Remember Me? | Sophie Kinsella | Reviewed by Taylah

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Remember Me? | Sophie Kinsella | Reviewed by Taylah

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“Women need chocolate. It's a scientific fact.” source
Sophie Kinsella is best known for her Confessions of a Shopaholic series. I’m here, however, to tell you about one of her stand out, stand-alone novels. I first picked up "Remember Me?" while spending a few nights at my grandparents house. It was in my nan’s bookshelf and the bright yellow cover stood out to me amongst the other books. It took me less than a day to finish as I found myself completely absorbed.
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It’s 2004 and Lexie is a 20 something woman from England who just missed out on a bonus at the end of financial year. To drain her sorrows away, Lexie goes out for a night on the town with her girlfriends. After being stood up by her “boyfriend” Dave and being caught in the rain with no taxi, things aren't looking good for Lexie. This is when she takes a tumble and is knocked unconscious. Lexie wakes up in a hospital room only to find her life is perfect, oh and it’s 2007. It turns out Lexie went on to become a successful businesswoman who went from almost poor to super rich. It’s only when a recent knock on the head rendered her unconscious that she loses the last 3 years of her life. The last thing she remembers? Being stood up by Dave.
Lexie sets out on a path to uncover what she’s been up to in 3 years, who her almost unnaturally good-looking husband really is and why her life took such a massive change of direction. The book leaves readers constantly guessing. It becomes clear mid-way into the book that things really aren’t right in Lexie’s world. Readers are inclined to believe a massive climax is nearing, which is true. The resolution of Remember Me? ties up every loose end of Lexie’s life and we’re left with a sense of fulfilment. All the mysteries in Lexie's life are solved.

For me there was a perfect combination of mystery, humour and romance. I have a way of being completely absorbed into a mystery until it's solved. Rememeber Me? was no exception. It was hard to put this book down at all. After reading a lot more of Sophie Kinsella’s books, it’s pleasant to notice that the majority of her writings follow a similar route. Romance, Mystery and Humour. This book easily made Sophie Kinsella one of my top choices for favourite author.

Recommended For:
Any one who enjoys any books from the Chick-Lit variety would enjoy this book. This book would definitely appeal to women of a range of ages. If you’ve read any of Sophie’s other works, this is for you too. If you loved any of Sarah Dessen’s books but are looking for something slightly older as you mature, this book is for you.
I have to give Remember Me? a 5 out of 5 stars. It’s pure comical genius.

Photos TaylahJoyceThis review was written by regular reviewer Taylah, get to know her here.
6 comments

Friday, 16 November 2012

Casual Vacancy | J.K Rowling | Reviewed by Elle

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? - (source)

Now I was really excited to start this book, mainly because of the author and I just wanted to see what her take on a completely different genre of book would turn out like. This is her first book since the whole Harry Potter saga so I think everyone was expecting big things from her. Let me just say it is an adult's book which makes it all the more enjoyable and she really did deliver. 

Now sitting down to read this book and I didn't quite know what to expect, would it be just the same writing style as HP or will it be something completely different? I mean the first chapter someone dies, quite different don't you think? This books features on a variety of different characters and their points of view which I do like in a story. I do like one person narratives but when you have a story like this jam packed with people and their stories you just want to find out more.

This book mainly focuses on three main families and everyone in between who are all fighting to fill this 'Casual Vacancy' - when a local councillor dies. This book is jam packed with all the normal ways of life, junkies that live on council estates, people that think they are the very best of their town and have to get rid of the scum within and everyone else in-between. The three main families focused on is the Price, Hollison and Wall family who are all involved with the Parish council. We have to feel sorry in some ways for some of the characters, maybe the had a bad upbringing or maybe they despise everything their parents stand for?

I picked this book up purely because of the author (bad I know!) but through reading the book I grew to love it, you get to know all the characters well with all the drama and action going on, it's full of twists and turns and very angry people. Some people say that Rowling based this book on her own experiences and felt that she had to move into the adult genre.

With the main themes of politics, rape, sex and drugs you wouldn't read this to your kids as a bed time story like you would Harry Potter. However despite the slightly negative themes it's a wonderful book full of love and grief and unruly teenagers doing what they do best. I have to give this book an amazing review simply because it is, it's different and unique and about a small village where anything can happen. I really enjoyed this book and I just have to wonderful will J.K delight us with another book sometime soon?

This was post written by regular reviewer Elle, get to know her here
Photo © Elle


8 comments
Zom-B | Darren Shan | Reviewed By Erin

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Zom-B | Darren Shan | Reviewed By Erin

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"When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B Smith's racist father thinks it's a joke-- but even if it isn't, he figures, it's ok to lose a few Irish. B doesn't fully buy into Dad's racism, but figures it's easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. But when zombies attack B's school, B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors, making allegiances with anyone with enough guts to fight off their pursuers." Source 

Zom-B is the first in a new twelve book series by Irish author Darren Shan who is famous for creating YA horror novels. These are set to be fairly short books and there will only be around three months between each instalment's release with Zom-B Underground set to hit the shelves in January followed by Zom-B City in March.

The book begins with an intriguing prologue titled ‘Then’ which quite graphically details a zombie attack on a boy named Brian Barry. The book then switches to 'Now' and the real story quickly begins to explore more familiar horrors than those of a post-apocalyptic world. Although the main characters have heard reports of zombie invasions in Ireland they initially shrug them off as some sort of hoax and the zombie action doesn’t really kick in until around half way through the book. In the mean time Shan explores the everyday life of our main character B Smith.

B is extremely difficult to like, she is disrespectful, steals, fights and bullies her so-called 'friends'. However she is not the only one, there are a whole host of unlikeable characters in this book most notably B’s father who is a racist and bully who beats his family. Throughout the book B battles with her conflicted feelings towards her father and his attitude towards others. She struggles with his opinions and actions yet is unable to hate him because of course at the end of the day he is still her father. Although she knows his views are wrong B still adopts them at times and becomes a bully herself, even stating at one point that her father 'would be proud'.

The book is a quick read with an easy to follow format which I felt was aimed at younger YA readers. You won’t just find words in this book though, there are also a few illustrated pages from Warren Pleece, as shown above, which are interspersed throughout.

I really didn’t want to have to write a negative review of this book but overall I felt disappointed with Zom-B. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and unlikeable characters aside the writing style, although easy to read, wasn’t to my personal taste. Of course being the first in a twelve book series Zom-B is essentially only the initial set up to something bigger and has a twist ending, which honestly I had suspected would be the case from very early on. Admittedly the ending does make it quite tempting to read a book from B's post Zom-B point of view however even with that temptation I don’t feel like it captured my attention enough to encourage me to continue with the series.

If you are interested in reading more about Shan’s thoughts on the characters he created for Zom-B and his experience writing from their viewpoints there is an interesting article on his website which can be found here.


This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here. 
Photo © Erin Elise 

2 comments
Guest Review | Her Fearful Symmetry | Audrey Niffenegger

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Guest Review | Her Fearful Symmetry | Audrey Niffenegger

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Book Cover image from Goodreads
 
Hey everyone! My name is Anjali, and I blog over at From L&P to English Tea. I’m really excited to be guest posting today, and to be a part of this great new blog project! I’ve been doing book reviews over on my blog for a while now, but I was really pumped to be able to contribute to this one. Just a few quick things about me: I’m a New Zealander who has recently moved to England after finishing my Philosophy Degree at the end of 2011. I love books (obviously) and movies, and like to think that I am an artist, musician, photographer and occasional writer. I love DIY and am forever making things and filling up my house with bits and pieces where ever I can find room. Oh and I have a slight (okay…quite large) obsession to Harry Potter. Nice to meet you!

 Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger


I picked this book up in a charity shop about a month or so ago, and the main reason it caught my eye was that it was written by the same author who wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife. I love that book, and I seem to recall giving it a 5 out of 5 on my blog. If The Time Traveler’s Wife was anything to go on, then Her Fearful Symmetry, I thought, would be a good book. And for the most part, it was.

The book is about twin girls Julia and Valentina Poole who left their American home to move to London, England into a beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery. Their aunt, Elspeth (their mother’s twin sister), had just died and left them the flat, with a few conditions – they had to live there for a year and then they could decide whether or not to move on, and the girls’ parents were not allowed in the flat at all. Strange terms, I know, but there we have it. The story follows the girls as they arrive in a new place, meet the neighbours, explore London and figure out the Underground, and later on discovering that their Aunt actually never left the flat at all – and it becomes a ghost story.

For all of you who like a bit of the supernatural in your novels, this isn’t really your typical ghost story at all. Without giving too much away (sometimes I feel like I do that), Niffenegger writes Elspeth-the-Ghost into the story as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Much like her time-travelling man in The Time Traveler’s Wife, she has taken a supernatural element and made almost…well, natural. There is a mixture of themes/topics/issues, such as friendship, love, loss, separation, family secrets (BIG family secrets!!), a man who won’t leave his flat, and sisterhood bonding and the need for individuality.

The book is easy to read with just the right balance of description and conservation, and though I found that there were a few chapters that probably really didn’t need to be in there as they didn’t seem to add to the story at all, it was quite an enjoyable read. I also found that it was quite funny in some points, because Niffenegger writes about what the girls thought of London and England, there were many times when I thought “Yup! That’s exactly how I find it too.” For me, it was easy to relate to some of what the girls went through, because, being a ‘stranger in this land’, as my Mum puts it, there are a lot of things that I have to get used to being here, and it was the same for Julia and Valentina.

All in all, it was an easy going, makes-you-want-to-believe-in-ghosts story that, even after a slow-ish middle section, really picked up at the end with some startling events. I recommended this book for people who perhaps, don’t really like the supernatural/fantasy sort of genre, but feel they should read something in that area anyway. Does that make sense? It’s naturally supernatural, and that, I think, is something that Audrey Niffenegger does really well.

Review written by guest blogger Anjali.
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Awaken | Katie Kacvinsky | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 12 November 2012

Awaken | Katie Kacvinsky | Reviewed by Ria

Hey guys and welcome to our second round from the Blogger's Bookshelf regular reviewers, this week you'll also see a couple of our guest reviewers creeping into the posting schedule so stay tuned!
Awaken book cover
Here's my second review, 'Awaken' by Katie Kacvinsky. 

The story is set in a not to distant future America, 2060 to be precise, in a society where everything is done via computer. The people of this world simply don't interact 'IRL', they exist online as avatars and are completely comfortable with the lack of human contact. 
This virtual life was established after the invention of 'virtual schools', originally designed and created to keep children safe and away from harm. This revolutionary schooling system branched out into the wider society and turned the world into one that it glued to computer screens and online life, where people just don't leave their houses anymore. 
Maddie, the protagonist in the story was raised thinking that this is the norm thanks to her father, the founding father of the movement and creator of virtual schools. She's a bit of a loner, and seems completely comfortable with her solitary existence. Then by chance she meets Justin in an online chatroom and they agree to meet IRL - a big, big deal in this world. Justin turns out to be completely different to what she expected. He's a free spirit who lives for the moment, relishes human contact and is devastatingly good looking. He wants Maddie to wake up and experience life, and to also join his friends to set the chains of society free from this life. She falls for him, obviously, and he makes her really 'feel' for the first time. 
Awaken book cover1
I won't tell you what happens in the rest of the book...because you could probably predict what would happen after reading a couple of chapters - I know I did - which is my main niggling gripe with this book. As an ever increasingly popular genre, the dystopian future novel is one that can be hard to make original now. Kacvinsky has done a decent enough job though. This new world order is set mere decades from now and it's a little broken, the government is corrupt - or oblivious to the effect of this kind of life - and they seems to hinder freedom instead of facilitating it. But there's an air of familiarity when Maddie talks of flipbooks - notebook type computers that people are afraid to tear their eyes from *cough* iPads *cough* -, people living 'plugged in' lives and chatrooms/social networks where people can create completely altered versions of themselves. 
Maddie herself is an unusual soul, she's actually rebelled against her father before - so extremely that she's actually technically under house arrest in the book - but she deeply loves her family, especially her mother. She questions her life but does understand why they all live this way. 
Justin on the other hand is your typical charming rogue, who unfortunately does have what I like to call an 'Edward Cullen complex' - i.e. 'I'm too dangerous for you Maddie(or Bella), stay away from me...then proceeds to make out with her. The ending and even some of the events leading up to it were a little predictable having read a couple of dystopian novels. I was also left wondering whether there was actually any real danger in this world - event the police are banned from carrying 'real' guns. Basically no one seems to be hurting one another too much and that's kind of a nice world to live in. 

So my verdict?
Awaken probably won't shake the world in terms of originality but what it will do is make you think. Maddie brings up continuous questions about the difference between living online and reality, and actually made me feel a little guilty for tweeting about the book after! The world has some unnervingly similarities to our own in terms of how much is done online and for me, that's where the real power of the book lies. 
It's definitely one for those easing into the dystopian genre and a quick, easy read for those who are already accustomed to the genre. Fingers crossed the sequel (Middle Ground) won't let me down!

Reading Soundtrack: 
American Idiot: Green Day; No Light, No Life: Florence + the Machine; One Vision: Queen; Must Get Out: Maroon 5; Careful: Paramore; Feel The Sunshine: Joe Brooks; Dare You To Move: Switchfoot.

For lovers of...Dystopian novels like Divergent and Delirium and self-confessed social media addicts. 

This review was written by regular review Ria, get to know her here
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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Before I Die | Jenny Downham | Reviewed by Lucy


Photo from Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1314332.Before_I_Die

Before I Die, tells the story of a sixteen year old girl called Tessa, who has leukaemia. From the start of the book, we know that the condition is terminal as she has refused to take chemotherapy treatment for her cancer. Tessa has a list of things she wants to do before she dies. These tasks aren’t like things you’d find in your typical bucket list. Among the list is having sex, taking drugs and breaking the law. Throughout the book she meets Adam, who is her next door neighbour and lives with his mum. With the help of Adam and her best friend, Zoey, she sets out to achieve these tasks.

Guys, this book is amazing. The story is well thought through and I really couldn’t put it down at some parts. While it is a cancer story, it is completely different to The Fault in Our Stars. I was amazed at how the author went into excellent detail of all the medical names and procedures which Tessa needed during times when she blacked out or was at the hospital. It showed that a lot of research was done and a lot of effort was made into the book so I really liked that.

Jenny definitely did a great job in creating Tessa. She is very controversial and most of the time, I had no idea what was going to come out of her mouth or what she was going to do next. However, her unexpectedness is what made her an amazing character because it made me want to read more.  It’s obvious to see that she’s been through a lot of appointments and a lot of treatment before the book even starts because her attitude is very sour and depressed about her life and she sometimes thinks about things she won’t be able to do before she dies. Sometimes, I didn’t find her at all likeable because her family and friends were trying to look after her and she would shove them away and tell them to leave her alone.

As far as the other characters go, I found them all really likeable and her little brother, Cal, is so cute. Sometimes I just wanted to give him a big hug because he was going through a lot, and there were certain words and phrases he said that made me go a bit misty-eyed. Adam is amazing through this book and there is this one scene (no spoilers) where he does something so amazing it just made me want to give him the highest of the fives.

I didn’t have much of a wait to see it happen as this book was made into a movie. It’s called Now is Good. There were tiny bits that weren’t there, and they actually swapped different bits of the book, but it didn’t matter.  The movie is just as amazing as the book, but of course the book is better. So follow the wise words of Hank Green and “Read it First!”

I am rating this book a massive five stars because it was one of the best books that I have read this year and I would read it again. She's written another book called You Against Me, which is also fantastic. I would definitely recommend Before I Die to people who are over fifteen years of age and to people who like book genres such as Young Adult and Chick-lit. If you also want a quick-read, then this is your book. I am a bit of a slow reader and I read the full 336 pages in four days.

 A word of advice though: Have tissues at the ready, it is such a tear jerker.

This review was written by Lucy, get to know her here.
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Looking for Alaska | John Green | Reviewed by Francesca

Friday, 9 November 2012

Looking for Alaska | John Green | Reviewed by Francesca

'So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.'
- John Green, Looking for Alaska. 

'Looking for Alaska', being, rather fittingly, John Green's debut novel, was the first of his books I'd ever read; it follows Miles 'Pudge' Halter as he embarks upon a journey to Culver Creek Boarding School, in a bid to leave behind his seventeen dull years at home, and begin seeking the 'Great Perhaps' (the last words of François Rabelais, poet - Miles has a strange kind of love for famous last words). 
Miles gets much more than he bargained for, however, when he meets his new roommate, referred to by most only as 'The Colonel', and friends - a slightly wayward band of teenagers, intent on keeping life at Culver Creek far from boring - at the center of which, stands Alaska Young. Beautiful, destructive, unpredictable, Alaska Young - who soon steals Miles' heart.
But then, suddenly, startlingly, life at Culver Creek is turned on its head, and nothing seems as though it will be the same again. 


The story was, initially, a bit of a slow burner, for me; split into two sections, 'Looking for Alaska' invests a lot more in setting up the characters, relationships, than most similar novels, and, being a 'Young Adult' book, it's not necessarily groundbreaking for the first few chapters, as a tale of minor teenage rebellion; but, slowly, they sneak up on you, and you find yourself immersed in the world of Culver Creek, feeling part of the group, getting to know them at the pace which Miles does.
John Green has made no secret of the fact that he believes firmly that the suspense of foreshadowing trumps the shock of surprise every time, and I have to say, I was much in agreement as I began the nearing the end of the first part (ominously titled 'before'). 

The narrative is smooth, cohesive, and easy-to-follow, but it's nowhere near comprehensive; we see every event through the eyes of 'Pudge', and he is about as far from unbiased as a character can be - a teenage boy, blinded by love, telling the story of events which unfold in a disjointed, harrowingly unfair way - whilst the writing is excellent, with a plot that's painfully well-delivered, at no point, even when the book's been read, added to your bookshelf, lent out to friends, does it feel as if you know the full story of those fateful events at Culver Creek, as if you'll ever truly understand what happened, and why.
John Green really does leave the story of Miles, his love for Alaska, the friendships and hardships, loves and heartaches, humour and misery open to interpretation, and, just as the reader is left with far too many questions, it could be easy to assume that he's not too sure of the answers, himself.


'Looking for Alaska' isn't necessarily a complex book, but it is a deep one, and I firmly believe that it spans, like most of Green's books, far beyond the 'Young Adult' demographic - although it might take a while to get into, if, like me, you don't have much patience for tales of teenage rebellion, it's worth sticking with, and I honestly don't think you'll find it too difficult to reach the end with surprising speed.

4/5 stars

This review was written by regular reviewer Francesca, get to know her here.
Photo © Francesca Sophia.
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Feed | Mira Grant | Reviewed by Niina

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Feed | Mira Grant | Reviewed by Niina

review_feed

I should probably start this review with saying this; I have a pretty unhealthy relationship with zombies. Okay, maybe not zombies, but zombie stories. A lot of people even find the thought of zombies repelling (okay, I get that) and often dismiss zombie stories as gore. But let me tell you, they're so much more than that. First of all they're about survival, about people coping with a world in chaos  That's what I find interesting about these stories; what people do and how people change when their neighbors start eating each other.

So, there, I've declared my passionate love for the zombie genre. Let's move on to the actual review of Feed by Mira Grant:

Feed is about Georgia and Shaun, two bloggers who live for reporting the news in a messed up world. A world were whole cities have been taken over by zombies, a world were you're required to give a clean blood test every time you enter a building and a world were blogs are considered to be the most trustworthy form of media. Feed is not an apocalyptic novel in the sense that we get to tag along when it all goes to hell, it's about a world that has to move on in the ashes of when it all went to hell. But in this new world they still got presidential campaigns and Georgia and Shaun are the lucky bloggers that get to report live from one of the presidential candidate´s campaign tour. But they get stuck in a pretty serious conspiracy and in the end I'm not sure if they consider themselves that lucky...(yes, there's a cliffhanger for you!)

First of all! Politics, social media and zombies! It's like a mix made in heaven! (Yes, you guess it right! I'm a bit ecstatic about this book). This book gives you a whole new point of view when it comes to the zombie apocalypse and I love that! It's always a plus when a book adds something new to a genre. Some of the other things I really enjoyed about this book was the characters and the world building. The characters are all imperfect but still really likable and there's also some kind of rawness about them that makes them believable. One other thing that really impressed me is all the details in the world building, yes my friends, the zombie apocalypse feels pretty believable as well. Some might even say there's too many details (I'm not talking about blood and gore people), but I enjoy that, I enjoy getting the feeling that there' s been quite a few hours of research behind a book.

So yes, I  loved this book and I have to be true to my heart and give it 5/5 stars. And you know what!? You might actually enjoy this even if you're not a zombie fan, because like I said in the beginning, this is about so much more than gore and zombies...

This review was written by regular reviewer Niina, get to know her here


5 comments

Monday, 5 November 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Jonathan Safran Foer | Reviewed by Laura


This was not a book that started off on my ‘to-read’ list, but I am one of those people that have to read the book before watching the film. So when I saw the trailer and wanted to see the film I knew it was time to buy this book. I had no expectations as I hadn't looked at previous reviews or ratings – I didn't even read the blurb before I started (Which is unheard of!)

This book tells the tale of a 9 year old who is overwhelmed by life and his own inventing thoughts. It includes real life events which affected far too many lives, making this story both haunting and heart-warming.  I was sceptical due to the child narrative which holds most of this book (as I have previously struggled with them), however it was this narrative which helped me engage with the storyline and admire this small boy whose emotions shone through the pages due to his overwhelming reactions to what he has already been through in his short life.

Now I come onto the story structure and this is where I struggled with the book.  The events (especially as being linked to real life events) were intense and captivating; however the way that they were laid out was where I started to struggle. The shifts in narrative, empty pages, pictures and letter style writing did not connect with me well at all. I found it confusing and often had to check back and re-read to work out exactly what was happening.

When I got about half way through the book however things started to turn around, maybe because I got used to the style or because the storyline was starting to become clearer, I don’t know. But I did really find myself getting into the book and actually wanting to pick it up each night rather than forcing myself to.

As I mentioned I found the characters extremely interesting, I don’t want to give anything away – but I have never read a story with characters like these and this made them all the more intriguing. Therefore overall I did enjoy this book; I think it just took me a little while to really connect with it due to the format that it’s written in. I would recommend this book and I definitely need to see the film. 

 
3/5 stars

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
*Photo © Laura
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The Fault in Our Stars | John Green | Reviewed by Taylah

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Fault in Our Stars | John Green | Reviewed by Taylah

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The Fault in Our Stars is written by John Green and is probably one of my most favourite books ever. The hype surrounding the book's release was incredible; it was hard not to have high expectations for Green’s new book. However, after just 24 hours of reading I discovered this book was easily one of my favourite books my John Green, if not my favourite book ever.

The story follows teenager Hazel and her journey through terminal cancer. At a support group for cancer patients Hazel meets Augustus. Augustus, a recovered osteosarcoma patient, provides as a companion for Hazel throughout her Cancer journey. Their relationship continues to develop as they explore ideas such as life and death. Hazel’s struggle with the concept of her death being a “grenade” amplifies. It becomes apparent to the readers that Hazel’s tough exterior is incredibly fragile. The struggle sees her and August travelling overseas in search of a special form of closure. (I don't want to ruin it for you!)

John Green is almost famous for his smart use of metaphors and symbolism. Green is often quoted saying “Books belong to their readers”. The thing’s each individual notices and takes from this book will be completely unique. Each time I read the book I manage to pick up on something new or interpret something I already thought I understood, differently.
Genre: Coming of age, Romance, Comedy.

Overall I love this book. I’ve probably read it once every few months since I got it. The book has helped me understand more about my own life and the way to live it. I’ve highlighted, cracked the spine multiple times and basically just worn the book in from the constant reading. I’ve lent the book to so many of my friends after pestering them to read it. Almost everyone I’ve leant it to has returned it and absolutely loved it.
I give The Fault in Our Stars a 4.5/5 stars.

Recommended for:
I'd say this book is for anyone over the age of 12 and any adults. I would say young adults but I know of many young adult writers that read young adult fiction. If you deal with some sort of anxiety, depression or struggle with understanding life and death I recommend you this story as well.
If you’ve enjoyed any of Green’s other books, pick this up! I’d also recommend this to you if you enjoyed Perks of being a wallflower and 13 reasons why.
WARNING: This book is a tear-jerker.

Favourite Quote:
There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.source

Photos TaylahJoyce

This review was written by regular reviewer Taylah, get to know her here.
5 comments
His Dark Materials Trilogy | Philip Pullman | Reviewed by Elle

Friday, 2 November 2012

His Dark Materials Trilogy | Philip Pullman | Reviewed by Elle

"The first volume is set in a world like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set partly in the world we know. The third moves between many worlds. 
In The Northern Lights we meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, an orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. In Lyra's world everyone has a personal daemon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined." - (source)

I read the first book as a child and loved it but never quite finished the others. Then the film adaptation came out  in 2007 and I wanted to read the trilogy even more. The film didn't quite live up to the standards set within the book but I knew I had to read the rest of the trilogy. I soon found re-reading the first book that this trilogy wasn't quite for children with it's complex theories on 'dust'. The first book I really did enjoy, it lovely and very detailed and very much for older children. It was interesting and once I had started reading I couldn't quite put it down because I simply just needed to know if Lyra ever found Lord Asriel and what really would happen in the end?

The second book features our world but with differences you could never imagine. We meet a new character in the book by the name of Will Parry who lives in our modern-day Oxford. He is only 12-years-old however he has taken a huge weight upon his shoulders with looking after his mother but also setting out on an adventure to find his father after soon disastrous events. This book was easy to follow however it did seem to get more complex as more characters and different worlds were introduced. The story was amazing and really did intrigue you as with this book I couldn't put it down either!

Last but not least the third book brings the return of all the characters we have earlier seen however even more characters are introduced making this the most complex but powerful book of the whole trilogy. We see a painful price from Lyra as she must go somewhere were no living being has been before. We also see a mighty a fierce angel come into action and the war rages within the Kingdom of Heaven. From the beginning of the first book we final get a shocking outcome with a brutal battle which will finally reveal the secret of dust.

These were the first books I read by Philip Pullman and I absolutely adored them. The first book was a rather easy read and definitely for children but as I progressed through the trilogy I soon began to realize these books are definitely for all ages if you enjoy this sort of action. Each book is about 400 pages long so if you're like me you'll wizz through these books in a few days. Now I don't want to say much more as I really don't want to ruin the story for anyone wanting to read this.

However I will say that I would fully recommend this trilogy for anyone that wants a fresh new reading experience with books that are the most powerful and wonderful you could ever find. Also if you enjoyed the film of the first book you'll enjoy these books as they go into much more depth and you see true love and bonds formed between the wonderful characters that you grow to connect with and that you really love. Definitely a 5/5 from me.

This post was written by regular reviewer Elle, get to know her here.
All images from through a google search. 
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