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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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Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Reading Challenge | Final Update


For our final post of the year we wanted to share one last update on our 2016 reading goals. How many books did we read this year? And who managed to complete their 'vow to read' challenges? Find out below...

Ria... 21/30 books read | 2/5 books vowed to read
I've had a bit of a bad reading year in 2016 and majorly hit a slump around Summer which I've not quite recovered from. I did manage to hit 21 books though, which is still an achievement and I have really enjoyed the books I have read this year. I've also ticked off two of my books I vowed to read (Remix and How To Be A Heroine).

Rachel...
I've read 28000 pages this year and about 100 books (depends on if you count graphic novels). 


Erin... 3/5 books vowed to read
Unfortunately I only managed to read three (and a bit!) of the five titles on my 'vow to read' list this year - my favourite of the bunch was Do No Harm by Henry Marsh!

Cat... 5/5 books vowed to read
This is the first year since I joined BB that I have actually read all my vowed to read books! I would highly recommend all of them, and in particular I absolutely loved 'Amy and Roger's Epic Detour' and also 'A God in Ruins', the latter took two attempts to get into it but perseverance paid off. 

Image via unsplash.com

Thank you to everyone who shared their goals with us this year, and to all of our readers - see you in 2017!
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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Features | Revisiting My 2016 Reading Goals

Back in January I shared a post all titled 'My 2016 Reading Goals', which included four small challenges I aimed to accomplish over the year. With only a few days left in the year it's time to take a look back at these additional goals and see how I did...

#1 Re-Read More!
Looking back over all of the titles I've read this year I didn't do so well with this particular challenge. Although I kicked off the year with three re-reads, I haven't found the time for anymore since then so perhaps this will be a goal to revisit for 2017.

#2 Take Part In A Set Challenge... 
For my 'set challenge' challenge I chose the Popsugar 2016 Reading Challenge which included 40 mini goals such as 'a book you can finish in a day' and 'a book based on a fairytale'. As I expected I didn't manage to cross off every goal, however my final total was 19 which I'm fairly pleased with.


#3 & A Readathon! 
This is one goal I can definitely cross off the list! Back at the end of February I joined in with the #5books7days readathon and whilst I didn't quite manage to complete five reads I achieved my goal of joining in with a readathon and would definitely do this again in future.

#4 Make Time For Non-Fiction
My final goal for the year was to include more non-fiction titles and I even chose five of them for my BB challenge. Unfortunately whilst I didn't read all five specifically chosen titles, around twenty percent of the fifty-ish books I read in full over the year were non-fiction, and as always I added a bunch more recipe and DIY books to my collection.

Did you manage to complete all of your 2016 reading goals?
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Monday, 26 December 2016

Ninefox Gambit | Yoon Ha Lee | Review


Summary:

Cheris, a captain in the Kel faction, is being pulled from the front lines and brought into working with the Shuos and Nirai factions in an effort to use her intelligence to defeat the heretical faction. She would prefer to stay on the front lines with her fellow Kel, but with mathematical skills like her, others believe she is wasted there. She ends up reawakening an old "tool" to defeat the heretics that has her struggling to hold on to her sanity.

Review:

The world of Ninefox Gambit isn't the easiest to get into or visualize. The concept technology that only works because of a belief in calendrical mathematics (not a typo) is somewhat difficult to wrap my head around. Having a faction be rebellious because they believe in and use a different calendar and base their mathematics on it is actually more thought provoking than anything else in the book. The use of mathematics and algorithms to create the most effective of formations makes sense, though with how quickly Cheris comes up with them, it's clearly not a task for everyone.

Despite some initial hesitation, I did end up getting into the story, learning about the world through its characters. I actually really enjoyed Cheris' dialogues with Jedao. Some of his lessons on tactics and looking from another perspective really challenged my brain in a good way. I'll probably never be a master tactician but, as Jedao puts it, "I wasn't born a tactician. I had to learn like everyone else." It makes sense, you get good at these things through practice.

The Servitors were a delightful, regular distraction, along with Cheris' love of bad romantic comedies with ridiculously bad dueling. I really enjoyed Cheris' interactions with the Servitors and their own appreciation of her treating them as allies instead of mindless drones.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. It has a lot of death, and I do mean a lot. Joining the Kel is considered to be a suicidal move and there are many battles and heart-wrenching situations. For all it's death, though, there are moments so full of humanity that it carries you through the entire book. If you're okay with reading about major wars and have any interest in using mathematics as the basis of a culture, I highly recommend this book. Not for everyone, but still a nice mental workout. 
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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Reads Of 2016

It's that time of the year again! We can't quite believe that 2016 is almost over, but with the end of the year comes our huge list of book recommendations for you to kick off 2017 with! As always we asked Team BB and our Twitter followers to let us know which books would make their top 5 reads of the year. Here are the results...
2016favanjali
2016favelena
2016favria
2016favlili
2016favkatie
2016favrachel

2016favanastasia
2016faverin
2016favcat

Book cover images all sourced from goodreads.com
Thank you to all of this month's contributors: Anjali, Elena, Katie, Ria, Rachel, Lili, Anastasia, Cat, Erin

Happy holidays!

As always, January's group post will be all about our reading goals for the year ahead! Let us know which five books you 'vow to read' in 2017 by email or tweet us (@blog_bookshelf) to be included in the post.
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Friday, 23 December 2016

Features | A Winter TBR


As far as I'm concerned there is just no point in going outside during the winter months. It's cold and dark and mysteriously always wet, even when you're sure it hasn't actually been raining. So of course the only thing to do is to stay indoors until spring comes, and the best thing to do while you're keeping warm indoors? Read. Here are a few of the books I plan to read this winter.

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: 'A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.'
A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare por Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out... (x) 
There is no better time for a good old fashioned murder mystery than these long, dreary, winter nights, and as everyone knows, Christie is the queen of murder mysteries. Having only read one other of Christie's works, Murder on the Orient Express, I'm definitely looking forward to reading another this winter and A Murder is Announced sounds completely fascinating!

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
When Lyra's friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.
The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies - and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.
Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her - something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights... (x)
Everything I've heard about this novel over the many years since I first got this copy makes it sound like the perfect winter read. Even just the description! What is more wintery than armoured bears and frozen skies? Nothing I know about. Hopefully this will finally be the winter when I actually read this children's classic.

The Graces by Laure Eve
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on? (x)
It's seems as though every other book blogger on the internet has already read The Graces this year, apart from me. I don't actually know a whole lot about the story but I think maybe that's for the best. It adds to the mystery of it! All I do know is that there are witches involved, and a little bit of spooky magic is just the right thing for a dark winter's night.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... (x)
Another book that everyone else on the internet seems to have already read, apart from me. I'm actually hoping to read both Six of Crows and the sequel Crooked Kingdom this winter, hopefully back to back so I can really get as much of that fantasy adventure vibe as humanly possible.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever. (x)
Yet another book that I seem to be the last person in the world who hasn't read it. There's a theme here. The Secret History sounds suitably dark and a little bleak. Perfect for the misery of winter weather. Definitely one I'm excited about getting to.

What books are on your winter TBR?
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Features | Bookish Apps

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Features | Bookish Apps

I think that almost every reader has a folder of apps on their phone labelled Books. I went through and organised mine when trying to work out a good topic for this blog post, and then I realised that I've tried various bookish apps, so I thought I'd write a blog post about some apps that are out and about right now that booklovers may enjoy!

Just as a sidenote, you might not find all these apps useful. It's really up to you to find out which apps work for you, but if I have missed any, let me know!

  1. Kindle 
The Kindle app almost seems like a must have. I own a Kindle and admittedly I do read the majority of ebooks on my Kindle. However, there are times where this app has proved a necessity. Situations where you can't take your Kindle but want to keep reading the book, you can download the ebook to your phone and you can stay in sync so you'll pick up right where you left off on every device. 

     2. Litsy

I found out about Litsy from other book bloggers ironically on Twitter. It's essentially a social network for readers. After creating an account and following people (I'm joshandabook, hint hint), you'll get a feed of quotes, recommendations, pictures, reviews, and you get to post them too. Plus, you can update what book you're reading on your profile and keep track of them. It's now one of the apps I do go onto regularly, though I do need to post more! I think you should give it a try! 

    3. Goodreads

Goodreads is the app that every booklover has heard of, but we all use it for different reasons. I primarily use it to organise books that I've read and for doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge. But people post reviews on the site, some people are part of groups, it's really up to you how you want to use it if you do use it. 

Of course, there are tons of apps that booklovers can use, and there's also no requirement for you to use any apps too. These are just some of the apps I use, and I have found new apps I'd like to check out too, so perhaps there will be a new list in a few weeks time! 

Happy reading, and have a great Christmas! 
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Friday, 16 December 2016

Adulthood Is a Myth - A Sarah Scribbles Collection | Sarah Anderson | Review



Are you a special snowflake? 

Do you enjoy networking to advance your career? 

Is adulthood an exciting new challenge for which you feel fully prepared? 

Ugh. Please go away.

If you've spent anytime at all on the internet then you have probably come across Sarah Scribbles (aka Sarah Anderson). She's an artist who draws fantastically relatable content in cartoon strip form, and nearly all of them are 'so true' moments.

I recently bought this book for my friend as a gift, and it is fantastic.

Sarah's drawing bring out the real life in every situation. They're not cute and fluffy (although there are bunnies!), nor are they of dreams being fulfilled by people who have their lives together, but they all of us. They perfectly depict the young adult (and perhaps older!) and the real life struggles that 'adulting' bring.

Each strip documents things like what you could do when the WiFi is down, about social media and the internet, how one reacts to reading and books, what's socially acceptable ... and on and on it goes. Sarah so accurately depicts life as a young adult and the things that a) we don't know, b) the things we thought we knew, c) the things we never knew, and d) the things we will never understand.

If you're looking for a fun gift for your favourite young adult (or teen who gets to be one soon enough! Or middle-ager who wonders what it's like being in your 20s in 2016), then this is a goodie.

Here is one of my favourites from the book (which you can pick up on Book Depository and Amazon), which definitely is me every time I cook something:
Source

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Heartless | Marissa Meyer | Review

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Heartless | Marissa Meyer | Review

*Review copy c/o Netgalley, image via goodreads.com

Whether you’ve read the book or seen one of the adaptations you’ll probably remember the Queen Of Hearts as the villain from Alice’s epic Wonderland adventure. In her latest take on a classic tale Marissa Meyer (author of The Lunar Chronicles series) sets out to explore just what happened to this young woman to turn her into the evil Queen perhaps best known for exclaiming “off with their heads!”.

In the novel we are introduced to Catherine, a keen baker living in the kingdom of Hearts with dreams of one day opening her own bakery full of sweet treats. Cath’s parents however are completely unaware of her ambitions and the Marchioness’ dreams involve something quite different; marrying off her only daughter to the King. In Meyer’s version of events, Cath will do anything in her power to avoid becoming Queen and meeting mysterious court joker Jest only makes her more determined to escape her destiny. Following her heart, Cath enters a secret courtship with Jest, attending tea parties with Hatta and fleeing Jabberwock attacks in a tale that takes inspiration from many Alice elements fans of Wonderland will love.

This unique novel sheds a new light on the Queen and Meyer’s descriptions throughout paint a magical picture perfect for this setting. As the book is an imagined backstory for the famous Queen Of Hearts, we know that our leading lady will become Queen by the end of the novel, but it’s Meyer’s vision of how she gets there that makes Heartless such an enjoyable read.
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Monday, 12 December 2016

City of Weird | Gigi Little

*Book and cover provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

This book is a collection of short stories about weird creatures, people, books, and places with one thing in common: the city of Portland. 

Review:

Portland is one of the cities that's been on my "To Visit" list for a few years now. As the headquarters of Dark Horse Comics and Powell's Books, I was really happy to read more stories about the city, even if they are fiction, they show more about the heart of Portland. Each story definitely reflected the charm one would expect from a city that prides itself on being strange. It's certainly reinforced my interest in visiting.

The book is separated into categories based on the type of strangeness: water creatures, from the skies, strange books, etc. Some of the stories felt a little out of place, but that didn't hurt how enjoyable they were to read. There was a wonderful blend of scary, funny and thought provoking stories. If you are at all interested in supernatural short stories or the spirit of Portland, you will like this book. It's a great introduction to a number of Portland based authors! 

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Bookish Links #25


Welcome to our final Bookish Links roundup of 2016. We'll be back with more links for you to check out in January, but for now here are our final picks of the year...enjoy!

1. Shorter Reads - one of the top tips from our recent group collaboration post on reading slumps was to pick up shorter reads. Bethan's awesome list of books under 250 pages gave us a few more ideas to add to our slump TBRs!

2. Morning Reads - we loved this post all about reading in the mornings. Do you like to read first thing? Let us know in the comments!

3. Last-minute Gifts - if you're looking to pick up any last minute YA bookish gifts this Buzzfeed post has you covered. If not, well there's lots of books to treat yourself to!

4. Fickle Reviews? - we really enjoyed Kate's post of how she is a 'fickle book reviewer'. Do you ever change your mind about books and review ratings? We'd love to know!

5. Reading = Happiness - we loved this Bustle post featuring 10 reasons why reading makes us feel happier.

6. Inspiring Women - Liv recently shared a selection of some of her favourite reads all written by kick-ass female authors. We're looking forward to checking out these titles!

7. Speaking Of... - whilst we're on the subject of awesome female authors, we also enjoyed this recent interview with lovely ladies Rainbow Rowell & Leigh Bardugo.

8. How To Control Your TBR - overwhelming TBR pile? Why not kick off 2017 by getting your 'to be read' list under control with Cait's top tips!

9. Read Like A Gilmore - we're big Gilmore Girls fans here at BB so we couldn't resist sharing this list of all the books mentioned in the revival... if you haven't watched the episodes yet beware of spoilers!

If you've read or written an interesting bookish article you think our readers would enjoy please let us know - it may be featured in a future post!   
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Friday, 9 December 2016

Features | More Holiday Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

It's that time of year again! Time to find presents for all those people in your life who you love dearly, but who, let's face it, are a little bit of a pain to buy for. Well, I'm here to help! At least, if they're book people, I'm here to help. I'm afraid I'm not much good for non-book people. I don't get those people...

Around this time last year, I recommended some books that would make nice gifts, but this year I'm sticking mostly to book-related items instead because I know the pain of trying to find a present for a bookish friend when you have absolutely no idea what books they already own! Now, let's get on with it!

Literary Listography (£12.99 from Book Depository) | Personal Library Kit (£10.99 from Book Depository)

For your very organised book loving friends there is Literary Listography: a journal full of prompts for lists from 'books that made me cry' to 'fictional crimes I've witnessed'. Or, for the friend who is always lending out their books, a Personal Library Kit complete with checkout cards and a stamp to let everyone know when their book is due for return.

Readers Gonna Read Enamel Pin (£7.50 from Literary Emporium)

If you want something a little cuter, this Readers Gonna Read Enamel Pin, with its adorable starry design, is pretty out of this world.

Fantasy Mini Magnetic Bookmarks (£6.07 from Craftedvan on Etsy) | William Shakespeare Magnetic Bookmark (£3.95 from Craftedvan on Etsy)

For a reader, you can never go wrong with a bookmark! These magnetic bookmarks from Craftedvan are super adorable, especially this Fantasy Mini Bookmarks set. Or try a cartoon version of William Shakespeare himself if you know a particular fan of the bard.

Lady Macbeth's Guest Soap (£3.50 from The Literary Gift Company)

Speaking of the bard, nothing says clean like Lady Macbeth's Guest Soap. This one in particular would be perfect for any English Literature students/graduates you know. It's exactly our kind of humour. Trust me.

Bookstore Soy Candle ($18 from Frostbeard Studio) Christmas at the Burrow Soy Candle ($18 from Frostbeard Studio)

If you know anything about bookstagram, you'll know book lovers love candles. I guess it's something to do with being cosy? Anyway, who wouldn't want their room to smell like a Bookstore? Or, for that matter, like Christmas at the Burrow?

Paperback Cologne (£15 from The Library of Fragrance)

And if you just don't think making their room smell like a bookstore will be enough, why not buy something that will enable your friend to take that paperback smell with them wherever they go? The Library of Scent's Paperback Cologne is the perfect scent for that library lurker who loves the smell of old books.

Lannister Charm Bracelet (£1.59 from Sonicincendio on Etsy) | Katniss Everdeen Charm Bracelet (£1.59 from Sonicincendio on Etsy)

If your budget is a little smaller or your looking for some cute stocking fillers, Sonicincendio on Etsy sells a lot of very cute handmade friendship bracelets for just £1.95 each from fandoms such as Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and The Mortal Instruments, among many many more.


For the refined, adult book lover, how about Tequila Mockingbird? A book full of recipes for literary inspired cocktails with the most amazingly puntastic names. The Last of the Mojitos? Yes, please.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes Mug (£8.99 from Penguin Shop) | Pride and Prejudice Tote Bag (£12.95 from Penguin Shop)

And last but by no means least, the classic Penguin Classics mug or tote bag. Penguin have a wide selection of both items with many of their most popular classic titles. Find your friend's favourite classic book in either item and you can't go wrong.
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Monday, 5 December 2016

Make In A Day: Pompom Crafts | Victoria Hudgins | Review

*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com


Make In A Day: Pompom Crafts is cute new craft book containing fifteen quick and easy projects all including pompoms! Penned by blogger Victoria Hudgins, the projects range from homeware updates such as cushions and tea towels, to party decorations and even office supplies!

Ideas like the Pompoms for Pillows (as shown on the cover) could be perfect if you’re looking to create some last-minute handmade Christmas gifts this year, and the Pompom Party Garland would look great in festive colours if you want to have a go at making some thrifty decorations! I also think that projects such as the Pompom Bunnies could be great for kids to get involved in making too.

Throughout the book there are large colour photographs of the finished products as well as clear step-by-step images. The clean layout makes the tutorials very easy to follow and you don’t need to be an experienced crafter to create any of the projects in the book, making it perfect for beginners.

If you’re looking for quick and fun projects to try out Make In A Day: Pompom Crafts may be a nice little addition to your bookshelf.
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Features | Christmas Books

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Features | Christmas Books

Christmas is just a few weeks away now, and on top of the food, celebrations, parties and trying to find the time to breathe, there's definitely something else you need to be thinking of too; Christmas reading material.

Over the last few weeks there's been lots of Christmassy reads published, and it's now getting closer to the height of the festive season. So if you want festive reading material, I thought that today I'd round up a few Christmas books that are out and ready for your reading!

  1. ...And A Happy New Year? By Holly Bourne. This is the novella that concludes the Spinster Club series from Holly, featuring the stories of Lottie, Amber and Evie. The rest of the series is great, by the way, but this book is themed around all the girls meeting up for New Year's for the first time since they left college. It's a really good read, and whilst it might not make too much sense if you haven't read at least one of the other books in the series, perhaps this book will give you the excuse to go and buy the others in this series!
  2. I'll Be Home For Christmas. This is a collection of short stories published by Stripes featuring authors like Juno Dawson, Katy Cannon, Non Pratt, Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne and many more, along with Tracy Darnton who won Stripes' YA Short Story Prize earlier this year. Plus, the book is being sold in aid of Crisis, a charity in the UK which helps the homeless, so you get a good book and also support charity too!
  3. A Boy Called Christmas AND The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig. Matt Haig is a phenomenal writer, and this year he has two kids books out for Christmas, both taking a focus on 'impossible things.' There are plenty of good things being said about these two at the moment, so again they're more books that are definitely worth your time!

Those are just some of the Christmas reads available to choose from this year. In terms of books in general, this year has been very good anyway for publications, so if you need books, there is no shortage of fantastic ones available. 
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