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Friday, 30 June 2017

American Gods | Neil Gaiman | Review

Image from Goodreads
“Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. 
Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.” – Goodreads

While this book has an overall 4.11 stars on Goodreads and has won many awards, I just couldn’t quite get into it. I did finish it but with reluctance and the thought I could be doing something else with my time.

Shadow is released from prison and follows Wednesday around America doing odd-jobs and trying to keep out of trouble. The people and gods he meets along the way are so interesting and full of character. The old golds from mythology around the world are banding together to fight the modern gods of Media and Money etc. Shadow is pulled into the middle of it all, so much more so than he originally thought he would. Throw in some coin tricks, a ghost-like wife, a town full of secrets and some creepy happenings and you have yourself a novel of epic proportions.

The whole thing sounded magical and my type of book – I love mythology and road trips and even the idea of old and new gods battling it out intrigued me. Buuut it just didn’t do it for me and I hate that it didn’t.

Despite all these awesome aspects being pulled together, I feel like there were way too many interruptions to the story, as it sort of leaped from following Shadow to other people throughout. It could have been cut down easily by 100 pages or so, and perhaps the size is part of the reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as I feel I should have. My copy was 722 pages, although that included a novella and an interview with Neil Gaiman. The story is still a whopping 600ish pages, and that’s way too long in my books (pun intended?).

However! I pulled it up from 1 star to 2 stars because a) the characters were awesome, b) I loved the concept and c) I can see that it was a good book, it just wasn't for me.

American Gods has been recently made into a show, which was one of the reasons I read the book. I think I’ll enjoy the show more (*gasp!* Can you say that? On a book blog?!).

If you have read the book and seen the show, what did you think? 
Do you think the adaptation was a good one, and true to the story? 
If you’ve seen the show but not read the book – did you enjoy it? 
And if you’ve read the book, do you plan on watching the series? 
Let us know in the comments!
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Monday, 26 June 2017

The Rebirths of Tao | Wesley Chu | Review


Summary:

The Prophus struggle for survival never seems to end. This book follows three Prophus agents struggling to not only reduce the Genjix threat, but keep off the IXTF's radar, the international task force created to take down all aliens. To make matters worse, one of the agents is a 16 year old boy whose parents are both high on the Genjix target list. 

Review:

A while ago I reviewed Rise of Io by Chu and promised myself I would go back and read the trilogy that came before it in that world. With this, I have kept my promise and it was a very easy and rewarding promise to keep. Despite ultimately knowing how things would turn out, I was still on the edge of my seat and heavily emotionally invested. 

This book, in particular, was such a wonderful blend of just about every emotion. As per usual, Chu does kill a character that I wanted so badly to live. However, true to form, he makes it a good death that leaves you feeling like they were truly the hero you knew them to be. I'm not gonna lie, I was almost in tears. At the same time, there were so many points in the book where I was moved to tears because I was laughing so hard. Seriously, Marco and Roen's spats were the stuff of legends and I LOVED it! Heck, I'm not usually one for teenage hormone driven over-dramatics, but Chu made it so much more tolerable to read. 

Of course, no story is truly great without a truly great villain. This entire trilogy has had villains that are more than just top notch chess players. They are almost impossibly intelligent and ruthless. They are the kind of villains that you love to hate, but recognize how much better, stronger, faster they are than the good guys. The Genjix do a wonderful job of making the Prophus struggle feel so much greater. 

This book was a wonderful end to a truly engaging trilogy. I cannot praise it enough. If you are at all interested in books that are a combination of real life, military, and sci-fi, you won't regret picking up these books. 
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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Group Collaboration | BB's Summer Reading List

We received a varied selection of suggestions for our ultimate summer reading list so decided it might be fun to create our very own Blogger's Bookshelf mini challenge! The printable checklist below features our top picks for the summer as well as a couple of mini challenges complete with recommended reads. Click here to print out your own copy and join in to see how many titles you can cross off the list over the next ten weeks... and beyond of course!

If you decide to join in and have a go at reading some (or all) of the titles on our list we'd love to follow your progress. Use the hashtag #BBSummerReads on Twitter and Instagram to share your 'currently reading' and TBR updates with us!


Thank you to this month's contributors: Cat, Lili, Anjali, Kate, Ria, Erin

Next month's group post topic is Why YA Is Important! If you'd like to get involved email us bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com or keep an eye out on our Twitter page for more information.
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Friday, 23 June 2017

Features | Comfort Reading


In this culture of GoodReads challenges and booktube wrap ups a lot of importance is put on reading new books, finding new authors, and expanding our reading horizons. These are, of course, all great things, but sometimes it can be a little daunting, a little tiring, to always be racing on to the next thing. Sometimes you just aren't in the mood for the next thing. Something may be happening in your own life, or the news may be too upsetting, or the world might just get too much, and you don't want to escape into a new world but an old one. One that is familiar and comforting. Sometimes you need the novel equivalent of your favourite meal eaten by a warm fire on a cold night.

We all have those books, right? The ones we've read a hundred times already but every time is like being welcomed home again. We already know every beat of the story, every twist and every turn, and that's part of what makes it so comforting. You know you aren't in for any surprises and you can just enjoy visiting those characters again in a way that feels safe and revitalising. That's the true joy of comfort reading.

For a lot of people the Harry Potter books fill that role, for others it will be classics like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, or a favourite Agatha Christie mystery, or a contemporary love story you just can't get enough of. You may not even realise you have one. You may have one or two books you read over and over again because they give you this sort of feeling, even though you've never really tried to put that feeling into words. But if you're book lover, which I'm sure you are if you're reading this, then you will almost certainly have at least one book whose cover is looking a little worse for wear for all the times you've reached for it to comfort you. You might even have three or four.

For me, the Harry Potter books are always a contender, but a few weeks ago, when I needed something comforting, I found myself reaching for a different series. I love the Wizarding World with all my heart but the fact is every single one of those books makes me cry, and at that moment I really didn't want to cry. I wanted to curl up and laugh and feel at home and when I really thought about what book might give me that I didn't have to think that much at all. For me, then, it was The Princess Diaries. Right now, what would it be for you?
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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Way Back Home | Allan Stratton | Review

The other day I found myself with a free afternoon and a desperate desire to read something, just for fun. I took my time perusing my bookshelf, not quite sure what I fancied picking up. And then an exceptionally bright and colourful cover caught my eye: The Way Back Home by Allan Stratton.

It’s a little different from the books I usually read but I had won it in a competition a little while ago. A quick read over the back cover had me convinced to give it a go and I’m so glad that I did! It was the perfect read for a summer afternoon.



The Way Back Home follows Zoe Bird, who spends her time avoiding her cousin, fighting with her parents and hanging out with her granny, her truest friend. But granny has Alzheimer’s and it’s getting worse. Zoe and her granny decided to run away and find the long lost uncle Teddy to see if he can help. Along the way, Zoe realises that there are things she doesn’t yet know and that things are rarely as simple as they seem.

Zoe was a truly relatable character, with a kind heart that made it easy to understand her misguided decisions. Despite everything, you can tell she is genuinely trying to help, even if her idea of the right thing to do leads to a series of misadventures. I was really rooting for her throughout and desperately raced ahead to find out how things worked out for her. Of course, there were a great cast of secondary characters along the way from the mischievous granny herself to Madi, her conniving cousin, who truly deserves the title of mean queen. Watching Zoe interact with them had me smiling and sighing in equal measure.

This book doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and reading it was a real emotional rollercoaster. It chipped away at my heart in places, before patching it back together with a little bit of hope. When I finished the book, there was a relaxed smile on my face and I felt uplifted.

In short, The Way Back Home was a great book novel to devour on a lazy afternoon with some tea and biscuits. It made me want to race through it and left me with a warm happiness that lasted throughout the day. Don’t you just love it when books do that?
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Monday, 19 June 2017

Allies and Enemies: Fallen | Amy J. Murphy | Review


Summary:

Commander Sela Tyron is a member of the Eugenes race, a lower class member who was bred and raised for the sole purpose of being a soldier. For her entire life she's been loyal to the Council of First and the teachings of Decca. Then her commanding officer, Captain Jovenlish Veradin gets arrested with no chance of a trial before his execution. Sela makes the not-so-easy decision to abandon everything and go save him. The conspiracy behind Veradin's execution order takes them through the galaxy and puts them on the run.

Review:

My favorite part about this book is that it shows the different ways a person can be strong. Sela is bred and trained to be strong physically and mentally while shunting down anything emotional. At a couple points her obvious strengths are complimented. At the same time, Erelah is obviously of frail build and naive, yet she has the mental endurance and strength to do whatever it takes to shut out Tristic, one of the most powerful mental influences. Sela's sergeant, Valen, has the strength of will to look out for the less fortunate, even while severely injured. The point is, you don't have to be muscular or be a bully in order to be strong. There are many ways you can show strength and this book does a good job of showing those.

I also greatly appreciated the mythology/theology Murphy included in this world. It's easy to draw a some parallels to myths we have on Earth, but it still different enough that it really adds another layer to the world.

Overall, this was an entertaining read. It wasn't a great book, I'll admit that, but for $.99 it was a good grab. The world is well built and the characters even more so. There is a love story, but also a lot of action and spaceships. Definitely an entertaining read for a sci-fi fan.


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Friday, 16 June 2017

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Review


Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. 
But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship - the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. - Goodreads
Told from fifteen-year-old Aristotle's point of view, this book was a beautiful story of friendship, love, of figuring out who you are, of being someone you don't even realise until the last minute. Aristotle and Dante meet at the swimming pool one summer, and as Dante starts teaching Ari to swim, their friendship grows. While they're at different schools, they spend a lot of time together, hanging out at each other's homes, meeting the families, talking about how Mexican they are (or aren't).

One day, Dante announces that he has to leave with his family for a year. Ari is obviously upset by this change - he's losing his best friend, after all - but after a year away, Dante comes back. Without giving too much away, things change after a certain event occurs, and things aren't really the same after that.

“I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand.”

Despite aforementioned event, the book actually has very little plot. It was more of a day-in-the-life rather than plot-focused, if that makes sense. It was the little things throughout the story that happened that really led to the ending. It seemed to me to be almost more accurate of life than a lot of young adult books these days.

We have our Divergents, and even our Paper Towns, all with big events or disasters or road trips or what have you, but I haven't read too much in the way of just teens being teens. They're literally just living their life. Nothing really happens. There's no big drama, there's no Government trying to overthrow anyone; just two boys, going through high school and navigating their way through life. It really was a beautiful thing.

It's wonderfully written, too. I actually read this in 2 sittings, the second of which I read about 80% of the book and accidentally stayed up until 1am reading it. Sáenz definitely pulls you in with his writing, and I couldn't put it down.

You can find this book and others on Anastasia's list of LGBT books to read if you're interested in books with similar themes.

Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe?

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Friday, 9 June 2017

Features | Changing My Mind


I like to think that I can admit when I have been wrong and that is what I am here to do today. Nearly two years ago now, on this very blog, I spoke about book series I probably would never finish and the very first series on that list was Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments. It's safe to say I hated the first book, City of Bones, and at the time I felt extremely confident in saying that I would probably not ever be picking up the rest of the series. 

Except that I recently finished the third book.

Why did I give the series a second chance if I hated the first book so much? One word: Shadowhunters. I somehow got convinced to watch the TV series based on the books and I enjoyed the show so much that I got curious. I have a lot of friends who really love these books and I clearly enjoyed the world so why not give the second book a go? And then the third one?

I still have my issues with the series. I still can't help but roll my eyes at some of Cassandra Clare's writing choices. But I liked the second book better than the first, and I liked the third book better than both of them, and two years after declaring that I had no interest in finishing this series I am here to say that I was wrong. I now have every intention of finishing this series.

I gave the books a second chance and I can see now what everyone else sees in them. They may not be my favourite books in the whole world (yet. I've been wrong about these books once, I could be again) but it turns out that, first book aside, I do really enjoy reading them. Now I can't help but wonder if there are other series out there that I'm missing out on because I didn't like the first book?

I mean, I still have no intention of giving any of the other series on my first list a second chance but you know, I'll keep this in mind for the future. Maybe.

Have you ever written off a series after the first book only to completely change your mind about it later on? What great series could we all be missing out on because the first book isn't quite up to scratch?
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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Features | Falling in love with reading again


If there’s anything that can test your love of reading, it’s a degree that relies pretty heavily on it. Trust me, I’ve just about wrapped up four years studying Classical Studies and English. Across the years, that has equalled a lot of books and not all of them were enjoyable reading experiences.

It’s also a very different kind of reading, as you constantly need to be ‘switched on’. You keep your eyes peeled for literary techniques, making notes and annotating as you go. Then you start to rip things apart to get into analysis and before you know it you're noticing all the things that don’t work in a text, rather than looking for the good stuff. It’s hardly enjoyable escapism. Still, it’s not all bad and I’d do it all again if I got the chance. It just changed the way I approached reading. If I did get the time to read, I found myself sticking to poetry and short stories as I didn’t have the brain power or commitment for a novel.

For the last few weeks however, I’ve noticed a change.

I’m desperate to read again and am finally relishing working through some of the books I’ve ignored for a while. I’m having a real fantasy moment, especially YA novels in that genre, and have been loving discovering from some new wordy worlds. After so long avoiding them, it feels good to be adventuring again, especially since I can do it from my own home.

I’m not sure how long this reading flurry will last. It could just be a knee-jerk reaction, designed to help me revel in the sheer joy of my reading freedom. I could wake up tomorrow and be right back in a slump. Either way, I’m going to make the most of it.


And if you don’t believe me that I’m falling in love with reading again? I just started a 1008 page novel. Not bad commitment for someone who mainly reads short stories, is it?
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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Bookish Links #31


1. Read Women Month 2017 - we're kicking off this roundup with a post from team BB writer Anastasia who is hosting her annual Read Women Month throughout June. It's definitely not too late to join in and you can find out more over on her blog!

2. A Song For Tomorrow - we enjoyed Josie's review of Alice Peterson's book, including her personal connection to the story and thoughts on how accurately it portrays CF.

3. Beach Reads - if you're on the lookout for the best summer reads this post has some great ideas. Also, keep an eye out for our group post this month as we'll be talking about our top picks!

4. Who Are Your Favourites? - are your favourite YA characters the same as everyone elses? This Buzzfeed poll post looks at the most popular characters from Harry Potter, The Lunar Chronicles, Divergent and more.

5. One For The Horror Fans - we love The Black Tapes Podcast so can't wait to check out some of the books on this list from Riveted Lit whilst we wait for season 3. Have you read any of these titles?

6. Aussie YA - on the lookout for an anthology? In this post Jess talks all about Begin End Begin a collection from popular Australian YA authors. We think it sounds like a great read (and how beautiful is that cover?!).

7. Best Audiobooks - looking for a way to improve your daily commute? Check out this list of ten audiobooks guaranteed to beat the boredom.

8. Flash Fiction - if you enjoy flash fiction you'll love Sonya Cheney's writing blog. Do you write your own flash fiction? Let us know in the comments!

9. Love A Good Mystery? - Goodreads recently shared a list of the top 10 YA mysteries on the site. What are your favourite YA mystery titles?

10. Tackling TBR Guilt - our final link of the month comes from Kelly, the newest member of team BB, who recently wrote about her reasons for no longer feeling guilty about her TBR pile. Keep an eye out for Kelly's first post here next week!

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, 2 June 2017

The Chemist | Stephanie Meyer | Review


"An ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. 
Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon. 
When her former handler offers her a way out, she realises it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.
Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of." - Goodreads

I was really looking forward to this book, but I couldn't quite get into it, unfortunately.

Perhaps it was because I was expecting more Twilight or The Host from another Stephanie Meyer book, but it was definitely a whole new genre. Thriller, spy, crime novel, over supernatural, fantasy, young adult. Which is all fine and good, but I wasn't quite expecting it to be so grown-up, for want of a better phrase.

I didn't really care for Juliana (who goes by Alex most of the book), and thought her relationship with Daniel was highly unlikely. In a story you want it to be at last a little bit plausible, right? At the beginning of the book, Alex tortures Daniel and then days after he falls in love with her. I'm sorry. But what? It's all very masochistic, and I didn't get it. It was very inst-love, and the lack of other female characters was almost concerning.

However, I liked the idea behind the story line and the way the plot clipped along. The fact that Juliana/Alex is super smart and a chemical genius was a really fun aspect, and made it an interesting read from that perspective.

If you're a fan of thriller and spy books with a female protagonist who can kill you a thousand ways with various liquids, then do pick up a copy of The Chemist. Just don't expect it to be anything along the lines of Meyer's previous books.

Have you read The Chemist? What did you think? 




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Get Involved | The Ultimate Summer Reading List

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Get Involved | The Ultimate Summer Reading List

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