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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.

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Elegance | Kathleen Tessaro | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 29 April 2013

Elegance | Kathleen Tessaro | Reviewed by Ria

Elegance-cover
Louise Canova is stuck in a rut. 30-year-old Louise is sick of her dull marriage, sick of being fat, sick of her wardrobe and sick of her life. On the brink of a mid-life existential crisis, she finds a book, not just any book…a book that may solve all of her problems.
That book is an encyclopaedia, written by French fashion expert Madame Dariaux, called 'Elegance' and it becomes Louise’s manual for transformation into the Audrey Hepburn/Jackie O/Grace Kelly figure she always wanted to be.
Through the A-Z pages we follow Louise’s ‘transformation’, flashing back to significant moments in her life, her struggles to follow the guide and the consequences and price of changing everything about herself.

So what’s my verdict?
It’s no surprise that I picked up this book. The premise of someone transforming themselves by improving their style and pose is something I’m a sucker for no matter what the medium. But Louise’s transformation certainly isn’t easy. She hurts both herself and those around herself, yet still stands by the book and everything it preaches. She does come to her senses towards the end and like every good chick-lit, there’s a happy-ish ending for all.  ‘Elegance’ taps into that insecurity within each of us through Louise and with the moral of the ‘be careful what you wish for’ attitude.
The book itself won’t change the literary world but I definitely enjoyed reading it. Louise is bumbling – certainly not the most poised person in the world – and her antics are certainly cringe-worthy. It was ‘Elegance’ itself that really fascinated me though. The book Louise picks up is a real A-Z written over 40 years ago by Madame Dariaux herself and after reading Tessaro’s story I was tempted to pick it up for myself. Tessaro manages the mix of both humour and drama, much in the same way Kinsella and Wiesberger, and I’d say this is a much read for any fashion blogger like myself!
Elegance-inside

Reading soundtrack:
Foundations: Kate Nash; A Change Would Do You Good:  Sheryl Crow; Dress You Up: Madonna; Puttin’ On The Ritz: Fred Astaire; Grace Kelly: Mika; Change: Taylor Swift

For lovers of…Sophie Kinsella, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Devil Wears Prada and the sartorially inclined.

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.

*all images (c) Ria Cagampang
No comments

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lucy's World Book Night Experience and Haul!!!

Hello everyone!

As most of you bookworms know, it was World Book Night on Tuesday 23rd April. For those who are unaware, World Book Night gives "Givers" the chance to share one of their favourite books with people who don't usually read that much in the hope that it will get them into reading. And the best part is, it's FREE!

What you may not know however, is that this year was my first year as a Giver! I had seen people in America via Youtube or Twitter talking about World Book Night, but it wasn't until one December evening when I realised that it was a U.K event as well. As soon as I found out, I immediately signed myself  up and in February, I received an e-mail saying that yes, I was going to be a Giver for World Book Night.

My top three choices. 
In the sign up process, they give you three books to choose from the long list of books available for giving.
My top three choices were:

  1. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. This has already been reviewed by fellow BB blogger Anjali and you can click here to see her fantastic review! 
  2. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. (Here's the link for my review!)
  3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. 

Like Anjali, I loved The Knife of Never Letting Go because of the amazing storyline, the interesting world created by the author and the way the book was written was very engaging and gripping. It is a brilliant start to a brilliant series and I seriously recommend it as well as Anjali. Whenever I got the e-mail saying that I was going to be giving copies of my first choice away, I was absolutely thrilled. 

On Saturday 20th April, I went down to the Waterstones in Belfast to collect my free 20 books and the picture above shows the amazing new cover that was released especially for the night. On the inside of the book, the left page shows all of the other books that were available for giving. I thought this was a brilliant idea because it gives the recipient of the book a lot of choices on what to read next, especially if they are only new to reading. On the right page was a book plate which gave me the opportunity to fill in my name and where I collected it from. Below this gave links to the World Book Night's website where they could leave feedback if they wanted to. 

World Book Night. 
By the time World Book Night had arrived, I had already given out four books to friends and family. These people didn't really like to read but when I told them a bit more of what the book was about, they said they would give it a go. I had also given a book to a person I work with who was delighted to receive a new story. This now left me with fifteen books to give to strangers on the streets of Belfast. 

As soon as I had finished my shift at work on Tuesday, I was on the train to Belfast with the books in my bag and five thousand butterflies in my stomach. Whilst on the train I had given three books away already. This had built up my confidence, especially after getting such a good response from a girl on the train. She was so delighted with a free book and told me that I had made her day. When I had entered the train station, my dad had told me that he had given four other books to people who work with him. I hadn't even left the station and already I had only eight books to give away. 

Whilst on the main streets of Belfast, I was so surprised to find that there was barely a soul about. It was about six o'clock in the evening and all of the main shops had closed. Most of the people that  I tried to give books to were in a hurry to get the bus or train home. I was fortunate to give a few  books away to people sitting outside coffee shops and who seemed not to be in too much of a hurry. 

Then I was victim to a lot of rejection. People had headphones on or they were talking on their phones so they didn't want to pay attention to a crazy girl trying to get them to take a free book. After a lot of running around, I met two lovely people who were so delighted with their books that they tried to give me something back in return! Someone who had overheard the conversation came up to me and said, "I would like a book too!" My last person who I gave a book away to was actually from America and she was travelling around Europe. She was thrilled with the idea of a new book to read on the plane. It makes me happy to think that a book that I have given is going to see all these interesting places! I was even more happy to see that I had given all the books away and I had fulfilled my mission to give out a book which is very close to my heart. 

When all of the books were given out, I went to the Waterstones in Belfast as there was an event taking place there. I couldn't stay for too long but I did get the chance to take a few free books. Some of the books were books that had been given out last year as well as a few from this year.


From left to right the books which I got for free were: 
  1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (World Book Night 2012)
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (World Book Night 2012)
  3. The Reader by Bernard Schlink (World Book Night 2013)
  4. Damage by Josephine Hart (World Book Night 2013)
If you have read any of these books, let me know! I'd love to hear what you thought of them. 


To conclude, I thoroughly loved the World Book Night experience! I am so pleased that I managed to give out all of the books sent to me and it seems to me that the books I gave out are all going to well loved homes! I'd love to do it again next year but this time I'd make sure I would be giving them in an area where there would be more people about.

Thank you to World Book Night and to Patrick Ness for letting me share this amazing story with people. And thank you for reading this blog post!

Lucy xo

This post was created by regular reviewer Lucy, get to know her here! 

Photos taken by Lucy. 
3 comments
Inside Out | Maria V. Snyder | Reviewed by Niina

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Inside Out | Maria V. Snyder | Reviewed by Niina

insideout

“Exactly. You can shoulder all the blame and become a martyr. Provided anyone knows what or who you're martyring for. Or you can accept that some things are important enough to fight for and realize there will be sacrifices along the way.” - Maria V. Snyder - Inside Out

Trella lives in a dystopian world where she's a scrub. That means that she's a nobody (as she puts it) keeping things clean for those who live on the Upper levels. Trella's life consist of doing her job and trying to keep out of trouble. But that all changes when she without asking for it finds herself being the leader of a secret and dangerous rebellion.

So let's start this review with talking about the characters in Inside Out. Or let's at least talk about the main character Trella. I think she makes a pretty decent main character. I never fall in love with her, but she's interesting enough for me to care. I think that's a pretty good because you can't expect to fall in love with every character that comes your way. But I just have one question; What is it with the dystopian heroines and their issues with showing emotions? Just saying, could someone give me a suggestion of a dystopian novel with an emotional wreck as the heroine? That would be pretty darn exciting! 

The world-building in Inside Out is also pretty satisfying. I really appreciate the detail and work that Maria V. Snyder has put into building this dystopian world. But there's one thing I just don't seem to get my head around and that is the way they calculate birthdays. I never seem to get how old anyone is. But it might just be me, I've never been that good with numbers. I also want to give the author some credit for the ending! I didn't expect that at all! I have to say that I'm usually not that easily surprised, but you got me Maria! Well done!

Good characters and good world-building? That kind of sounds like a done deal? No, it's not that easy my friends. I did truly enjoy this book and appreciated Maria V. Snyder's writing. But I didn't love it and I didn't find it amazing. To be honest, I'm not sure why I feel this way, but I can make a decent guess. Even though I think Snyder made a great job with the world-building it's not really a world that I personally feel drawn into. I felt a bit claustrophobic and I guess that's the whole point with this book but I still missed the trees, the streets and the sky! Oh gosh, I'm starting to sound a bit too romantic over here but I guess you get my point. 


That being said I think this is a good book and I really recommend it to fans of young adult dystopians! It's a well-written, fast paced and fun read! Inside Out easily gets 3,5/5 stars (if there would've been a few more trees and if Trella would've been a bit more emotional I would've given it 4 stars). 

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


3halfstars


2 comments

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Book of Tomorrow | Cecelia Ahern | Reviewed by Laura



I picked this book up when it was first released and read it in 2 sit in’s. Forget everything else I had to do on those days, they didn't matter because all I cared about was being completely lost and utterly engrossed in this story and finding out where it was going to take me next. Since then I’ve gone back to this book on numerous occasions and each time found I could lose myself in the story over and over again.

In an unexpected twist this is actually a book written about a book. There is also obviously a main character, she is a young, selfish and spoilt teen who moves in which her Aunt and Uncle, being forced to get used to the simple things in life and forget about her fancy holidays, big house and expensive clothes.  She ends up with a book from the travelling library, yet all of its pages are blank… however it does not take long for the pages to magically become filled with details…

This book is magical, mysterious, heart-warming, funny and unique, there is not a book that I have come across that is anything like this one. The touch of magical which appears in many of Ahern’s book is what makes me go back to them time and time again. She makes the ordinary, exciting and the chic-lit storylines become fascinating and captivating.

If you like books which take you away from reality (but not too far) and have an open mind this book is definitely for you.


5/5 stars

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

1 comment

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ultraviolet | R.J. Anderson | Reviewed by Anjali




Just a quick note or two before I get into this awesome book. If you hang out with me on my own blog, you may have seen this review already. For that, I apologise. I wouldn't normally put the same review on both blogs, but in this case, I'm making an exception.

Short story: I read this book last week and loved it. I posted the review about it on my blog, and then posted the link on Twitter, where R.J. Anderson herself tweeted me saying thank you for the lovely review. I was so excited! We got talking a bit, and it turns out that, even though she is from (and based in) Canada, she was doing a book launch in Oxford, England, for the sequel to Ultraviolet. Oxford is only about 40mins drive from me, so I excitedly made plans to go to the launch. That's happening this coming Tuesday, so I thought that it would be something cool to write about when I get back from that. So! To lead up to that book launch post, I thought I'd re-post this review so you guys know a little about the book, so when it comes to reading about the book launch, you won't be so much in the dark that you can't see. Sound okay? Let's do this!

*****

I believe I stumbled across this book while browsing on Good Reads one day, and added it to my to-read list...like you do. A few weeks ago I reserved it from the library, but didn't read it until about a week ago. And then I couldn't stop. When I got it out of the library I couldn't really remember what I had read about it (blurb etc). All I had to go with was the back, which read 'Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her'. What!? Okay. So I started reading...

I didn't really know what to expect, and after the first chapter I was wondering what I had gotten myself in to. But after another chapter or two I was hooked. Alison Jefferies has been involuntarily thrown into a mental institution after an extreme psychotic outbreak and screams of 'I killed her'. But when we meet Alison, she doesn't really know why she is there, or where 'there' is. Eventually she realises what's going on. Ever since she was very small, Alison has always been different. She would talk about the colours she saw and the sounds she tasted (you read correctly), and her mother would tell her to stop being silly. As she grew, Alison learnt to keep her experiences to herself. Only when she is in the hospital does she learn that what she has - what she's always had - is Synaesthesia. She hears colour, tastes words, sees numbers as colours, hears the stars as a song, and she can also see the colours on the ultraviolet spectrum.

She has been put into the mental institution because, as I mentioned, she claimed to have seen Tori Beaugrand disintegrate right in front her, and because she can't remember what happened, she assumes that she killed her. But as the story goes on, and Alison learns more about herself and her synaesthesia, she realises that she can't have killed Tori. Doctor Sebastian Faraday teaches her about her condition and life begins to make sense. But, like all good stories, things start to unravel when Alison discovers that Doctor Faraday isn't all that he seems. Amazing twist/genre change - and now it's suddenly about aliens. I mean, what? What is going on!? You'll have to read it.

Ultraviolet is written in first person and R.J. Anderson has done a great job at writing Alison and the way she experiences everything around her. It's quite incredible to read. It was nice to read a book that was labelled 'teen', but without the silly love triangles and teenage drama drama drama. With crazy people (literally) in the institution ward with her, a mother who doesn't understand her, a best friend her doesn't visit her, a Doctor who doesn't believe her and a horrific weight upon her shoulders, it doesn't really sound like a calming, relaxing, happy-clappy book. And it's not. But it's full of wonderful characters, and amazing sensory descriptions, singing stars, a loving father, a worried friend, and answers to a lot of questions...and my goodness, you won't be able to get it out of your head for at least 2 days after you've finished reading it. I've started my next book and I'm still thinking about this one.



This review was written by regular reviewer Anjali, get to know her here
Image from GoodReads


2 comments
Blogger's Bookshelf Review Round Up #6

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Blogger's Bookshelf Review Round Up #6

24 3 - 19 4 review
 Has it been a month already? Gear up for another review round up and read up on any reviews you missed…
We’ve also had two new additions to our ‘Being a Booktuber/blogger’ series and interviewed Marie from BookswithMarie and Maria from I Believe In Story.

Our contributors also tickled our funny bones with out April LoL Literature group collaboration post! Check out their favourite funny books, quotes, characters and more here.

Don’t forget to get involved in our next group collaboration post. In May we’ll be debating again and asking…
should we judge a book by it’s cover? 
Let us know you opinions by email, tweet us or on our GoodReads page!
No comments
Darkly Dreaming Dexter | Jeff Lindsay | Reviewed by Erin

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Darkly Dreaming Dexter | Jeff Lindsay | Reviewed by Erin

17231
 Image via Goodreads

'Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep's clothing. He's handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He's a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened -- of himself or some other fiend.' Source

As a fan of the Showtime adaptation I became interested in exploring the original Dexter story through the novels written by Jeff Lindsay. The first series of the tv show quite closely follows the plot of Darkly Dreamer Dexter although the ending has a quite dramatically different twist. Of course, knowing the general outline of the plot and who the ‘ice truck killer’ was did make what could have been a gripping and exciting read a little less enjoyable. I believe that after the first couple of seasons the show does veer away from the plot of the books so I will definitely continue on with the novels to see how things differ. 

Sadly after getting to know the characters through the actors who play them onscreen I didn’t feel that the book had the same witty humour that the show is loved for. On-screen Dexter is a much more lovable character (promotionally labelled the ‘loveable serial killer’) and I don’t feel that I gained any extra insight into the character by reading the book – perhaps the sign of a well-done adaptation? Also disappointing was the representation of the female characters within the book who are all much smarter and have more depth on screen. In the book they seem to be painted as fairly stupid, in particular Deb & LaGuerta, who seem to be all over the place and not able to do their own jobs properly. 

Overall I would have to agree with popular opinion, whilst Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a fairly quick and quite enjoyable read which doesn’t tell a bad story it’s adaptation definitely tells a better one 3/5


3stars


This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here. 
4 comments
Brave New World | Aldous Huxley | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 15 April 2013

Brave New World | Aldous Huxley | Reviewed by Ria

Brave New World inside
“...reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays....”
Set in a far, distant future Brave New World catapults you into the newly created, ideal society within it first chapter. Science, technology and genetics have been perfected to the point where babies are literally churned out and raised in labs. Foetus’ are biologically conditioned from the moment of fertilisation to fit into the new social hierarchy. Infants are then psychologically conditioned to serve their purpose in the world – whether that be as a higher ranking Alpha-Plus or lower ranked Epsilon-Minus.
The result is a social order supposedly free of suffering, pain or fear of death itself, its inhabitants are free from the burden of becoming parents (the word ‘mother’ even seen as a disgusting term), consumption is encouraged, as is promiscuity, inviduality frowned upon, and if you’re feeling low? Take a holiday with some Soma pills; your mind will float into a blissful trance. 
The book introduces two main characters: Bernard Marx, the introverted intellectual, who feels nothing but distaste for this way of living; Lenina Crowne, a girl very much brought up on the values of this Industrialist society. 
The two agree to visit a ‘Savage Reservation’ in New Mexico, a place cut off from the ‘civilised society’. There they meet a young man named John, a ‘savage’ born and raised in the reservation by a woman who ran away from Bernard and Lenina’s world, and they decide to bring him back to London for the world to see. 
Brave New World cover
So what’s my verdict?
Brave New World is a wholly complex novel to explain, in fact apart from Never Let Me Go this one was probably one of the hardest I’ve had to summarise. 
First off this is is definitely not the type of Dystopian/Uptopian you’d pick up in the YA section of Waterstones. The first chapter sets the tone of the novel, detailing the genetic process of the creation and conditioning of babies and children. It’s completely clinical, almost like a scientific textbook, and definitely unnerving from the way that the students learning about this process flinch at the use of the word ‘mother’ to the lacklustre way The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning explains the use of shocking tactics to modify children’s behaviour. 
It’s the conversations between John ‘the Savage’ and Mustapha Mond (One of 10 men who run the World State) about this ‘Brave New World’, the absence of religion and God was especially capturing, leaving the reader to question their own views and beliefs. 
Huxley’s manipulation of language and voice in this is nothing like I’ve read before. It was cold at times but fitted with the theme. The contrast in the beliefs and thoughts of Bernard, Lenina and even John are stark and well voiced. 
I personally found the novel compelling and thought provoking, with my advice to those who are interested in reading it to keep an open mind when approaching the subject matter. This is not your typical boy/girl rebellion against society, the ending is particularly hard-hitting and a little morbid, but is a must read for those who want to read the grandfather of all modern day dystopian fiction. 

Reading soundtrack:
One Engine: The Decemberists; Bittersweet Symphony: The Verve; Fantasy: The XX; Madness: Muse; Build God, Then We'll Talk: Panic! at the Disco

For lovers of…Huxley’s other work, 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, Utopian fiction (Oliver’s Delirium and Kackvinsky’s Awaken in particular)

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.

*all images (c)Ria Cagampang
1 comment
The Understudy | David Nicholls | Reviewed by Lucy

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Understudy | David Nicholls | Reviewed by Lucy

The Understudy

The Understudy tells the story of Stephen C McQueen. Ever since he was young, he has wanted to be an actor and to be famous. He's in his forties now and he is still waiting for his Big Break. Having to do children's shows and play victims in mystery programmes is not what he expected, but now, he's the understudy to the twelfth sexiest man in the world - Josh Harper. Josh has everything that Steve hasn't; a BAFTA award, a gorgeous wife Nora and an amazing house but most importantly, fame. And as Stephen starts to fall in love with Nora, things get even more difficult.

If you didn't know already, I am a massive David Nicholls fan. This is the third book of his I've read following One Day and Starter For Ten. I really love his writing style and way with words. However, with things being busy in the real world it took me over a month to read. This meant I had to go a few days without reading at all and then when I did have time to read, I found it hard to get back into the story. If I had some more free time, I would have got it read much quicker as the storyline was really good and during the bits where I was really engaged, I kept flicking the pages to find out what would happen next.

I also loved the characters, especially our protagonist Stephen. I felt so sorry for him because throughout the book, he does things which have bizarre and horrible consequences and he seems to have bad luck all the time. Nora was an interesting character because she was American, however since I'm from the U.K, it was weirdly difficult for me to imagine her voice as so American when the book is very British and has a lot of British people in it. But maybe that's just me.

So what's the old rating Lucy?

I give The Understudy by David Nicholls a  four star rating. If I had more time to read then it could have been a five star rating but I remember the whole process as being very long and hard to get through. I definitely do recommend it though. This book is chick-lit but it's also not. It is a love story but I think it would be more fitting in the "Humour" genre as I had many a laugh out loud moment. If you haven't heard of David Nicholls and want to try out his stuff, this is the book you should start off with!

This book was reviewed by regular reviewer Lucy, get to know her here!

Photo from Goodreads!
No comments
Group Collaboration | Laugh Out Loud Literature

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Group Collaboration | Laugh Out Loud Literature

lol lit 10 
The beginning of the month saw another April Fool's Day so we asked you to tell us about your favourite funny books, comedic characters and laugh out loud quotes. Here are the results...
 
lol lit 3 lol lit 9 lol lit 4 lol lit 6 lol lit 5 lol lit 8 lol lit 2 lol lit 1 lol lit 7


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
Next month we're holding another debate... should we judge a book by it's cover? 
If you have an opinion on the subject we'd love for you to share it with us.
For more information on the reqirements and how to get involved just email bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com

Post contributors: Cat, Anjali, Lulu, Ria, Emily, Amy
Graphics/post by Erin
Font used for graphics: KBSoThinteresting, book cover images via goodreads.com
3 comments
Skinny Bi**h | Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin | Reviewed by Francesca

Friday, 12 April 2013

Skinny Bi**h | Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin | Reviewed by Francesca

 'And when all feels hopeless, remember that you are in charge of what goes into your body, you don't answer to anyone, and you are allowed to eat anything you want. Often just knowing we can eat whatever we want is enough to keep us from eating whatever we want. We're so rebellious.'
- Rory Freedman, Skinny B***h.

'Skinny Bi**h' is arguably one of the most well-known 'diet books' to have hit shelves in the past decade or so; famed for being a 'no-nonsense wake up call' for women everywhere, the 'Skinny Bi**h' franchise has expanded so much since the initial release in 2005, with titles that now include a cookery book, a guide for new mothers, and a men's book, it's impossible not to be drawn in by the hype that surrounds each of Rory Freedman's releases, and, being on my new-found healthy, clean-eating kick, I decided now would be the perfect time to finally find out what the fuss was all about. 

'Skinny Bi**h' is definitely not what I expected it to be - it's not your stereotypical 'diet book' - there are no real rules, no special techniques or exercise plans, just...well, common sense and some worrying facts about the US food industry (a lot of which applies to the UK market, too)...and essentially, preaches, somewhat, on the behalf of veganism.
Just for the record, I'm a pescetarian (meaning I eat fish and seafood, but no meat), and try to eat clean at least 80% of the time (meaning no processed or fast food), so, in hindsight, I'm not 100% sure if I'm the real 'target market' or not, as its primary focus is cutting meat out of your diet, but I still found it to be an interesting read, regardless. 

Honestly, I think 'Skinny Bi**h' is going to be one of those books you'll either love or hate - if you have an open mind about changing your eating habits, or want to know more about the food industry generally, it's seriously worth giving it a read. If, however, you don't like being made to feel you're being told what's 'right' and 'wrong' when it comes to your diet, this might be one to skip.

3/5 stars

This review was written by regular reviewer Francesca, get to know her here.
Photo © goodreads, available here.
1 comment
Being A Book Blogger | Interview With Maria aka I Believe In Story

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Being A Book Blogger | Interview With Maria aka I Believe In Story

Since interviewing a couple of booktubers I thought it would also be nice to feature some fellow book bloggers! Today I'm talking to Maria who writes a lovely blog named I Believe In Story - here's what she had to say...

BBPic

BB: For those who aren't regular readers of 'I Believe In Story' could you tell us a little bit about the girl behind the blog?

Sure! My name is Maria and I am a literary agent intern. I also offer freelance copy editing and design services (mariavicente.com).

I Believe In Story is my literary/lifestyle blog. The blog features a variety of posts that are somehow inspired by the world of literature. I also have an Etsy store of the same name (etsy.com/shop/ibelieveinstory) with literary prints and vintage books.

I'm a proud Canadian, currently living in Ottawa. I'm addicted to coffee and spend most of my spare time searching thrift stores for vintage books, fairy tale collections, and unicorn figurines.

BB: Where does your passion for reading come from and how did you get into reviewing?

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't passionate about reading. I'm an only child, so I've spent many hours at home alone with a book. English was always my favourite class in elementary and secondary school and I went on to study English literature in University. I also have a teaching degree. I've always been serious about sharing my love of reading with others.

Reviewing books comes naturally to me. I've always kept track of the books I've read (I'm one of those people who write in the margins) and it seemed like the right time to start sharing my thoughts online.

BB: I love reading your 'The Sunday News' posts where you share a variety of literary links each week, but what are your favourite posts to work on/write?

The Sunday News is fun because I get to collect the articles/videos/whatever throughout the week. I enjoy reading them just like everyone else! My literary fashion posts are really visual and fun to put together and it seems to be a well-liked series. I also love writing a review after reading a book that I truly loved.

BB: Which three underrated authors would you recommend for our readers to check out?
This is a really difficult question! I've chosen three at random and have also included a recommended book by each author.
1. Ivan E. Coyote (Loose End)
2. Tricia Dower (Stony River)
3. Erick Setiawan (Of Bees and Mist)

mariav4

BB: What are your favourite reads of 2013 so far?

For books published this year: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is absolutely wonderful.

A couple other favourites that I've read in the past three months (but were published in previous years): A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

BB: If you could be best friends with any fictional character who would you chose and why?

Elphaba! Always. Elphaba (from Gregory Maguire's Wicked) is a fictional character very important to me. I think she's incredibly complex and intelligent. She's also extremely loyal to the ones she loves.

BB: Lastly, which fellow book blogs would you recommend that our readers subscribe to?

I'm a big fan of My Pen, My Voice (mypenmyvoice.com). Vanessa has a great review style that makes you think about issues beyond the books she's talking about.

I also love The Book Chat, a weekly link-up hosted by Jessica at Sweet Green Tangerine (sweet-green-tangerine.blogspot.ca). It's a great way to find new blogs, discover new books, and talk about all things bookish.


You can find Maria's blog here & Goodreads page here

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I'd like to say a huge thank you from all of us here at BB to Maria for taking part in this interview.
If you are a booktuber or book blogger and would like to be featured in a similar post we'd love to hear from you - just email us at bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com for information!

Interview & post by Erin  
Book cover images from goodreads.com
2 comments
The First Days | Rhiannon Frater | Reviewed by Niina

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The First Days | Rhiannon Frater | Reviewed by Niina

thefirstdays

“Well," Jenni said with a wry smile, "at least we live in Texas, where people actually own guns and hunt.” - Rhiannaon Frater, The First Days

The First Days (As The World Dies) by Rhiannon Frater is the first book in the As The Wold Dies series. Yes, that's a pretty dramatic title right there...as the world dies. In this book we get to know Katie and Jenni, two totally different women who end up in the same car fleeing from a city infested by zombies. It's a pretty classic zombie roadtrip  about Katie's and Jenni's journey to find safety and a new life in a pretty messed up world. The main theme like in most zombie novels is survival but it's also a story about a friendship that probably would never exist under different circumstances. 

Well, you all know me (you probably don't, but lets pretend), I love my apocalyptic zombie stories. I've always just been a bit too fascinated about how people get on when the world falls apart (especially if the falling apart part contains some flesh eating people). And yes, The First Days did fulfill my need of action, excitement and apocalyptic survival. This is a pretty classic zombie novel. Some people in a car who has to learn to use dangerous weapons and raid supermarkets (I just always enjoy the parts in apocalyptic stories when they get to raid a supermarket). I would say that it reminded me a lot of The Walking Dead (and that's a good thing because I'm a The Walking Dead fan, no surprises there).

But...Yes, there is a but, there was something missing for me to completely fall in love with this book. I never felt the urge to run home from work just to read another page. I think my main concern was that I never really cared that much for any of the characters.  I guess I found the characters a bit too stereotypical for my taste. The author made some desperate tries to make them original and surprising, but they never really surprised me. My other concern with this book was that I didn't find the story original enough. Yes, there's a few key elements that a zombie story has to consist of and they were all there but I also like a zombie novel to consist of something new. An original twist, a surprising fact or something that throws me off my feet and this book doesn't really have that. 

So my final verdict is that The First Days gives you that exciting and action filled ride you expect from a zombie story and it does that part pretty good, but that's pretty much it. I just wish there was something different or that the characters had more depth to them or...because I did enjoy this story and it had a lot of potential and I will most probably give the sequel a go sometime in the future. So, I give The First Days by Rhiannon Frater 3/5 stars.

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


3stars
2 comments

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Rough Guide To Europe On A Budget | Rough Guides | Reviewed by Laura


A couple of years ago I was on the hunt for a good travel guide, as I knew we were planning on doing a few trips to different places in Europe. I wanted to be able to just buy one which was pretty much guaranteed to cover any of the places we were going to visit, rather than buying one each time.  I took a chance on this one, I flicked through it and it had lots of places I was interested in so I decided to give it a go.

Now a few years on I’ve used this for 3 different trips to different places in Europe. It is slowly becoming one of my most used books.

Now what I really love about this guide book is that it covers basically everything, how to get there (airports, train stations, coach stations, driving), where to go, what to see, where to eat, where to stay, currency, medical information, emergency information, culture and etiquette, phrases, maps, shopping and entertainment. There is so much information it’s almost like talking to someone who has lived in that place for years. This guide seems to answer all of my questions and isn’t just useful for finding out about where you’re going but has helped me decide on where I want to go too.  You know when you’re at that point where you can’t decide between place A or place B – I turn to this guide for aid.

The only issue I have is the size, which I know I shouldn’t complain about because it has to be that big to fit in 35 countries. It might be practical for at home when you’re researching and planning but not for when you’re actually on your trip (I don’t want that weighing down my luggage when I have more clothes to fit in!)

I’d recommend this guide to anyone who wanted to find out some information of the places around Europe before they jet off on a holiday, as there is so much useful information you’ll forget what the internet is!

4/5 stars

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

1 comment

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Jenny Pox | J.L. Bryan | Reviewed by Anjali



Recently, I purchased a Kindle. This isn't a post about that, don't worry. But ever since I got it, I've been downloading free e-books like a maniac. Jenny Pox, by J.L. Bryan, was one of those books. Because it was slightly a 'oh-hey-look-a-free-book-that-has-a-weird-title' book, I didn't really know what it was about, or even what genre it was. All I knew was it was free. Sad right?

Turns out it was actually a good book! It follows the story of Jenny Morton, a teenage girl living in Southern America who has a secret: one touch from her, and you will die. She has 'Jenny Pox', a nick name so given to her by her own hate-club, Ashleigh, the school head cheerleader and all around horrible person. Jenny and Ashleigh had an encounter when they were little, and Ashleigh, though people said she made it all up, hasn't forgotten about it. If Jenny touches someone, blisters and boils and all things puss-ridden cover them and quickly eat away their flesh. If she doesn't control it, people die. Turns out it's kind of a horror story. Jenny barely gets through each day of torment at school, being bullied and called names because of the gloves she always wears to ensure she doesn't touch anyone and kill them (it's actually quite considerate, really). She can't even touch her own father, who has to cover up completely to give her a hug. Basically, her life is void of all human contact and has been since the day she was born.

That is, until, she discovers there is someone she can touch: cue boy and love-interest of the story. Seth is the only person Jenny can touch without killing...and it's because, he too, has a secret. Dun dun dun! I won't tell you what it is, but the story follows Jenny and Seth trying to be together and staying away from Ashleigh (who was actually Seth's ex-girlfriend). As well as this seemingly normal love story element, Jenny Pox is a bit of a supernatural-horror-fantasy sort of genre, but at the same time, I'm finding it a bit difficult to pin down one specific genre. Some people around the internet have said it's YA...but I would be hesitant to label it as so. It's probably not really suitable for readers under 18, though...but then again, I don't know what people are reading these days.

Written in third person, but jumping between the three main characters' perspectives, it's well written and Bryan has done a good job creating a crazy world that is hard to get out of. With supernatural/paranormal powers, evil and manipulative characters, a three-legged dog (or is he?), a loving father, a couple of sex scenes that probably weren't needed (and were a bit explicit for me...be wary if this isn't your thing!), a town full of highly religious southerners and an ending that I did not expect, Jenny Pox was a quick read and an un-put-down-able one. I read it in about 3 hours, and am really looking forward to the next three books (all of which are under £4 on the Kindle store and I've already bought). 

I haven't read much horror or paranormal novels, so I can't think of novels that are similar, but if you like a bit of supernatural-romance, or paranormal with blood and guts and a bit of love, then you'll probably enjoy this!




This review was written by regular reviewer Anjali, get to know her here
Image from GoodReads

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Battle Royale | Koushun Takami | Reviewed by Erin

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Battle Royale | Koushun Takami | Reviewed by Erin

battle royale book review
"Battle Royale, a high-octane thriller about senseless youth violence, is one of Japan's best-selling and most controversial novels. As part of a ruthless program by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one "winner" remains." Source


This week I’m discussing another book with a concept often compared to that of The Hunger Games centred around the controversial theme of kids killing kids. Of course the difference is in this case is that it was The Hunger Games that was labelled a ‘rip-off’ of the Japanese novel published nine years earlier, now deemed ‘the original survival game’.

Battle Royale tells the story of the 42 students of Third Year Class B from Shiroiwa Junior High who are forced to participate in ‘the Program’, an experiment put in place by the Japanese government where the teens must fight until there is only one survivor. The class are unaware that they have been selected to take part in the program and are gassed whilst on route to a school trip. They awake in a classroom of an unfamiliar school located on a deserted island with metal collars fixed around their necks and are greeted by Sakamochi who proves that this really is no joke by revealing the dead body of former Class B teacher Mr Hayashida. With the first four students killed within the next 30 pages, this definitely isn’t the book for anyone who can’t stand reading gore or violence!

The students are released one by one out onto the island with a basic map and a mystery weapon. From then on its all about the action as we follow the students on each of their journeys to survive either emerging as the winner or possibly the lucky ones who beat the system and find a way to escape. Of course there are varying approaches with some students teaming up, some hiding out and others even turning on their so-called friends. Alongside this, interesting information about their backgrounds unfolds through conversations and flashbacks adding in details here and there and helping the reader get to know the students.

Back when I first watched the film adaptation I found the whole idea fascinating even though the thought that something like this could really happen is truly terrifying. The film was visually striking and as those of you who have seen it will know it sticks with you for a long time afterwards. This is in fact what led me to pick up the original novel in the first place as I wanted to explore how a film that’s success relies fairly heavily on visuals to portray the action and violence was created from the words and how descriptive those words had to have been. My main issue with the novel which is unfortunately an unavoidable one is that at times the text felt a little disjointed and didn’t flow properly. I do believe this is down to the fact that it is a translation rather than being a reflection on Takami’s writing style but it was still slightly disappointing. When it comes to the content the fact that there are 42 students in Class B means there are clearly a lot of names to keep up with and I did get a little confused trying to remember who was who at times. Aside from that I can’t find much to fault Battle Royale on, sure there were a few things here and there that didn’t make sense to me and I did find the ‘last wishes’ of some students implausible and repetitive but overall the good outweighed the bad.

Clearly this novel isn’t for everyone, with the controversial ideas played out through violence and gore it has been widely criticised however it is certainly an interesting and action-packed gripping read with a fitting ending.

4stars

If you are in the UK and are interested in the film adaptation of Battle Royale it is available to watch on Netflix. 

This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here. 
Photo © Erin Elise
3 comments
Being A Booktuber | Interview With Marie aka BookswithMarie

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Being A Booktuber | Interview With Marie aka BookswithMarie

Welcome to another installment of 'Being A Booktuber'! After interviewing Heather of Bookables last month, I decided this would be great to introduce as a regular feature here at BB.
Today I'm talking to a lovely Norweigan booktuber named Marie who has a fairly new channel, BookswithMarie - here's what she had to say about being a booktuber...


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BB: For those of our readers who aren't subscribed to your YouTube channel could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Marie and I am a 25 years sold. I come from Norway, I love to read and I drink too much coffee;) On my channel, BookswithMarie, you can watch Book hauls, Tags, reviews and other book related videos. I also will be doing a book shelf tour very soon;)

BB: You're quite new to the world of booktube, how did you get started on YouTube and were you nervous to post your first video?

I just started my channel in February. I have another channel on YouTube as well, so I am used to making videos, but it was a bit scary to suddenly talk about books. The thing is that booktubers are really welcoming and nice, so I felt like home from my first video!

BB: What are your favourite kind of book videos to make and to watch?

Book hauls is my guilty pleasure. I can sit for hours and hours and watch book hauls. That is a fun way to discover new books that you never heard of, and to see that there are a lot of crazy book-buyers out there like me. Then I don't feel so bad;)
I also enjoy book reviews. I have not done many of those myself, but I am planning to do a lot of them in the future!

BB: We're always looking for new books to read, could you give us 5 books you recommend everyone should read?

If you were late like I was and have not read Divergent yet, then do it now;) Also if you would like to try out an Norwegian writer then you should read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. Then try something from Kate Morton, and if you really would like a page turner then pic up the first book of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I love those books! 

BB: Which 2013 releases are you most looking forward to?

There has been so many releases this year already! But these are the ones that I was most exited about when 2013 started: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Prodigy by Marie Lu, The Elite by Kiera Cass, Shades of Earth by Beth Revis, and the last book in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

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BB: If you could swap lives for the day with any fictional character who would it be and why?

Actually, I would swap lives with Tris from the book Divergent By Veronica Roth. I just hope that I could choose one of the days at the beginning of the book when she gets to know the faction that she has chosen because I would love to have one wild day like that... And to meet Four, that would really be something;)

BB: Finally, who are your favourite booktubers to watch and book blogs to read?

I love everyone. But I have to say that I like to watch these the most: Katytastic, booksandquills, polandbananasBOOKS, KimberleysBookNook and marlinelina.


You can find Marie's YouTube channel here & Goodreads page here

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I'd like to say a huge thank you from all of us here at BB to Marie for taking part in this interview.
If you are a booktuber or book blogger and would like to be featured in a similar post we'd love to hear from you - just email us at bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com for information!

Interview & post by Erin  
Book cover images from goodreads.com
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Never Let Me Go | Kazuo Ishiguro | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 1 April 2013

Never Let Me Go | Kazuo Ishiguro | Reviewed by Ria

Never Let Me Go cover
“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.” 

Never Let Me Go is set in a re-imagined version of England with the idyllic English countryside the backdrop to the novel.
Kathy is a 30 year old woman who's quiet adult life is interrupted by her past, in the form of her two friends from school, Ruth and Tommy. The three grew up in Hailsham, a sheltered private school cut off from the outside world. On the surface Hailsham students are brought up to be well rounded and happy, lead to believe their perfect childhood and health will one day be of service to society.
As Kathy rekindles her friendship with Ruth, she reflects on her life at Hailsham and beyond, questioning the meaning behind her own life and purpose, and her confusing relationship with Tommy. Her memory starts in the Hailsham classrooms with the rest of the school's special children, where creativity and health are encouraged. The children are isolated but seem content enough to live their lives in this way - in fact the outside world both excites and terrifies them at times.
The world only get more confusing at the Hailsham children enter young adulthood and leave the confines of the school, before accepting their inevitable fate to 'service society'.

Never Let Me Go spine
So what's my verdict?
I realised whilst writing this review that Never Let Me Go is probably one of the hardest novels to describe without it sounding a) like it's a cheesy romantic drama and b) a weird school version of Stepford wives. In reality, the story and tone of Never Let Me Go is so unique that it simply doesn't fit into perfect genre box.
Kathy's passive narrative style allows the sci-fi elements of the story to blend quietly into the background, whilst the reader concentrates on the purely human side of the story. Her relationships with both Tommy and Ruth are so uniquely different to each other, yet the three are inexplicably tied together right until the very end.
This is a very simple novel but Ishiguro manages to tie in themes of death, betrayal, friendship and love, all the while exploring the meaning of life and the idea of souls with the story getting more and more complex the closer you look.

Reading Soundtrack:
Never Let Me Go: Florence + the Machine; Sunshine & City Lights: Greyson Chance; Always You: Ingrid Michaelson; Secrets: One Republic; Seeing Other People: Belle & Sebastian; Everything Has Changed: Taylor Swift ft Ed Sheeran; Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley

For lovers of...the movie adaptation of Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro's work, Huxley's Brave New World and Lowry's The Giver.

The review was written by Ria, find out more about her here!

*all images (c) Ria Cagampang
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