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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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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Havergey | John Burnside | Review


Though I didn’t really know much about this book going into it, it continued to surprise with every new page. It was unusual and innovative and downright intriguing.


Havergey is a strange book but that just made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. Written by John Burnside, it tells the story of a traveller who stumbles upon the island of Havergey, a remote place that has become something of a utopia in a broken and wounded world. He arrives and is quickly placed in quarantine. There he begins to unravel the history of the unusual place, unpicking its secrets and those of the wider world too.


These records, or The Archives as they are known, were probably one of my favourite parts of this curious little novella. A found manuscript that seemingly fits in the main narrative it was an intriguing look at how exactly the world began to fall apart and how Havergey was reclaimed to make a new community.


Havergey itself remains something of a mystery throughout the novel so these snippets into the community were fascinating. They hooked me entirely and, even if I found the turns and twists a little surprising, I was still desperate to continue reading. It’s quite a difficult book to describe without giving a lot of the plot away but I can promise that it has plenty of entertaining secrets for you to discover between its pages.


Alongside this, the novella also serves to discuss environmental issues, Gaia theory and the impact humans have on the natural world. It is not something I know much about so it was good to learn a little more, especially through a more fictional lens. It did mean that there were moments when the narrator could get bogged down in some of the technical bits of such theories. Since they’re a scientist, I’ll forgive them for that, especially since the rest of Havergey is so beautifully written.


Havergey might be a little different from the fantasy I’ve been reading at the moment but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different!

Kelly
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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Group Collaboration | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

For our August group post we want to take a trip around the world, looking at novels set all over the globe! We asked you to help us build a list of amazing reads set all over the world, hoping to include as many countires as possible and you shared some great suggestions with us. Below are the responses we received over the past few weeks... If you have any books you'd love to see added to the list please let us know!

Afghanistan
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Aruba
Dangerous Girls, Abigail Haas

Australia
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
Breathing Under Water, Sophie Hardcastle
Children Of The Different, S C Flynn
Tomorrow When The War Began, John Marsden

Botswana
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

Burma
Elephant Moon, John Sweeney

China
The Crystal Ribbon, Celeste Lim

Cuba
Old Rosa, Reinalso Arenas

Denmark
The Keeper Of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen

England
Death Wish, Charlotte Wilson
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Slated, Teri Terry


France
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Germany
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Ghana
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

Iceland
I Remember You, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Iran
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

Ireland
The Accident Season, Moira Fowley-Doyle
Asking For It, Louise O'Neill

Italy
The Echoes Of Love, Hannah Fielding

Japan
Confessions, Kanae Minato
Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden


Kenya
Burning Embers, Hannah Fielding

New Zealand
I Am Not Esther, Fleur Beale
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Russia
Metro 2033, Dmitry Glukhovsky

Saudi Arabia
Girls Of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea

Scotland
Black Cairn Point, Clare McFall

Spain
The Andalucian Nights Trilogy, Hannah Fielding
Cruel Summer, Juno Dawson

Sweden
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson
Millenium Series, Stieg Larsson
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises, Fredrik Backman

Thailand
The Beach, Alex Garland

UAE
Dubai Tales, Mohammad al Murr

USA
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
The Girls, Emma Cline
The Shack, William Paul Young
The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Whilst this list has been created using suggestions we have recieved throughout the month of August, we are keen to keep adding to it! We would love this to be an ongoing resource for our bloggers and readers so we are planning to continue updating it. If you have any titles to add to the list please leave us a comment, send an email or tweet and we'll make sure your suggestion is added.

Thank you to this month's contributors including: Anjali, Utopia State Of Mind, Erin, Rachel, Ria, Charlotte, Hannah, Elena, Laura

Photos by Margo Brodowicz & Ruthie on Unsplash



Next month's collaboration topic is Favourite Literary Adaptations - to get involved email or tweet us!
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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Room Love: 50 DIY Projects To Design Your Space | Heather Wutschke | Review


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

Inspired by the fact that we each spend at least a third of our lives in our bedrooms new title Room Love shares a collection of DIY ideas to decorate and organise your space into one you truly love.

Aimed at a Middle Grade audience the book starts out by sharing tips on how to declutter, create mood boards and sketch layout designs to prepare for a room makeover. These preparation tips are followed by a series of DIY projects focused on using easy to access supplies and simple ideas that can make a huge difference to any room. Each tutorial comes complete with colour photos, in some cases including several step-by-step images or before and after shots.

Projects included range from painting up an old dresser or recycling cereal boxes as drawer dividers to the more unusual, for example using faux fur fabric to turn your desk chair into something that resembles a fluffy cat! One of my favourite projects from the selection were the room scents made using essential oils and natural ingredients like fresh herbs and fruit. Other projects that particularly caught my eye were the Driftwood Jewelry Hanger and Dream Jar.

Whilst I’m not amongst the target audience for the book myself, I believe that Room Love is a fun title full of bold ideas which will encourage young teens to use DIY as a way to make their space truly feel like their own.
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Monday, 21 August 2017

Spark | J. B. North | Review


Summary:

Ivy, who lives in a world of shape-shifters, has just turned 17. Like all others of her age, she must now go to a trial to determine what her second form is. Her second form will determine the rest of her life. When it turns out her second form is one that hasn't been seen in about two hundred years, she gets put onto a strange and dangerous course.

Review:

I was kinda worried this book would be another Red Queen and I'd end up not finishing it. I was so happy to be proven wrong! This book genuinely surprised me in good ways. The world was rather easy to get into and, while there is exposition, it's told from Ivy's perspective so we only know what she knows. This really helps the world building feel better paced. A lot of times a single line of dialogue would help explain a lot.

Ivy was easy to root for and not just because she's the main character. Going into the test she has no aspirations of greatness. She's not completely happy with the system, but she's smart enough to know when to keep her mouth shut. 
"The poor can't help but hate the system, and if we tried anything, the noblemen would have us arrested and probably flogged within an inch of our lives." 
She is strong and determined, if a bit naive at times. She is easily manipulated by others, but in her defense, she hasn't had a lot of experience with the world outside of her orphanage. She makes up for it by learning fast. Really fast.

This is a very interesting world with interesting characters. There is a lot of political drama brewing, but I'll have to read more about that in the second book of the series. If you enjoy fantasy YA with smart characters and plenty of action sequences, I do recommend this book. There is a lot of fighting but, thankfully, no love triangle, no single teenager leading a rebellion to take down the government, or anything like that. It's simply a story of a young, smart, strong girl being put into extraordinary circumstances, and trying to survive. Just with a lot of magic and fighting. 

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Friday, 18 August 2017

Did You See Melody? | Sophie Hannah | Review


Late at night, exhausted and desperate, Cara Burrows lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied by a man and a teenage girl: Melody Chapa, the most famous murder victim in the country.

Cara Burrows has left a note for her husband and two children with the date that she'll be back home. She hasn't told them that she is flying to America. She hasn't told them about the five star spa resort she has secretly booked herself into. She hasn't told them why she's gone. She just needs some time alone, to think. When she finally arrives at the resort, tired and phone-less in the middle of the night, the last thing she expects to find are two people already in her hotel room.

A simple mistake made by the resort's receptionist sees Cara soon embroiled in a situation she can hardly begin to understand, at the centre of which is America's most famous murder victim, who Cara is sure is the same girl she saw in her hotel room on that first night. Could Melody Chapa still be alive? And if she is, then how did her parents end up serving life sentences for her murder? The chances of an English tourist happening to see the supposed dead girl entirely by accident may seem pretty slim but Cara isn't the only guest who thinks she's seen Melody at Swallowtail Resort.

With a possible murder and a definitely dangerous secret at the heart of it, Did You See Melody? walks an interesting line in terms of tone. Hannah balances the suspense filled plot with unexpected humour, which at times had me snorting in front of my eReader. It's an enjoyable novel, certainly, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked from almost the very beginning. We don't begin with the mystery straight away but first take a little while to set up Cara's reasons for leaving her family to travel alone to America (something that maybe feels a bit of an overreaction as things become clearer), but once Cara begins her investigation into the famous murder of Melody Chapa the novel really gets its legs.

Cara, not being a local, doesn't know anything about the Melody Chapa case so the reader gets to discover the specifics slowly, as Cara does, through articles and TV transcripts. Some readers may find these intrusive to the story but I felt they came in at the right moments, telling Melody's story - at least, the version everyone knows of it - alongside Cara's. The only problem is that at times I began to feel as though Cara was little more than a device intended to react to Melody's story and nothing more. Until about midway through the novel anyway.

Then we begin the twists and turns that I suppose make this a psychological thriller. Personally, I didn't find much of it particularly thrilling. In my opinion the strength of this novel lies not necessarily with Cara's story, or even with Melody's, but with those of the surrounding characters: the outspoken hotel guest who involves herself in the mystery, determined to find the truth, and the famous criminal commentator who single-handedly twisted the whole of America to her way of thinking with her TV show during Melody's original murder trail. Did You See Melody? is an enjoyable read and as a funny and over-the-top take down of 'trial by media' it works. I'm just not entirely sold on the thriller part.
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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Maresi | Maria Turtschaninoff | Review

Maresi, the first book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, has been waiting on my bookshelf for far too long. Following my resolution to read some of the more neglected works in my life, I decided to get started on it. I devoured this evocative work in a day and am eagerly awaiting the chance to read the rest in the series.



This book follows Maresi, a novice at the Red Abbey. On a secluded island, young women like herself learn far more than they ever could at home. Under the tutelage of the Sisters, they learn about medicine, history, languages, architecture and any number of other things. It is a sacred place, where men are banned. And then Jai arrives, pursued by men who will stop at nothing to get her back. The abbey is suddenly under threat.


Maresi is a novel of sisterhood and female friendship, with plenty of feminism woven in it. It is a harrowing tale of survival. Throughout it, is magic and wonder, which hooks you and draws you into the tale. The fantasy elements were definitely my favourite part of the book, little gems found within the vast descriptions of everyday life at the Abbey. Between the island’s strange defences and the hidden histories of the Red Abbey, I’m far too curious about discovering the secrets in the rest of this series.

Ultimately, this was enchanting fantasy that left you thinking for a long time after you read the final page. It is one that I would wholeheartedly recommend, whether you are a fan of feminist or fantasy literature.
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Get Involved | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Get Involved | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

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Friday, 11 August 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzi Lee | Review


Image from Goodreads

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. - Goodreads

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee was seriously one of my favourite books of the year so far (and probably still will be come the end of 2017). It was such a fun read and I found myself wanting to re-read it as soon as I put it down.

Monty, Percy and Felicity are headed off around Europe for what we might call their big O.E. (overseas experience), or their gap year, and while it seems like a jolly idea, things don't go they way Monty planned.

“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with laquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.” 

Monty longs for their year-long trip to be one of bonding and exciting adventures around the Continent before Percy is shipped off to college in another country, and Monty has to start being in charge of the family estate. Felicity is meant to be stopping her trip when they get to Paris so she can begin life as a proper young lady, but all she wants to do is go to university and become a woman of medicine.

When Monty does something rash (which actually happens on most pages of the book), the trio find themselves on a wild goose chase around Europe with a stolen artefact, meeting strange people, searching for miraculous cures, being attacked by highwaymen and joining a crew of pirates.

'That can't possibly happen all in one book' you say. Well, my friends. It can. We follow book-nerd Felicity as she overcomes womanly stereotypes, Percy as he deals with issues and bouts of discrimination over his race, and Monty has he falls more and more hopelessly in love with his best friend.

Beautifully written, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is a tale of friendship, of loyalty, of love, of family, of adventures to be had, and fights to be fought. It's 18th century Europe, it's pirates and highwaymen, it's upper class pomp and prestige, it's hilarious and witty, alarming and exciting, and beautiful and sweet all rolled into one.

As you can tell, I really loved this book, and I recommended picking it up if you're into your YA novels (period, or otherwise).
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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Bookish Links #32


1. Summer Reads - we recently shared some of our top summer reads but of course you can never have enough good books to read. We loved this post from Alice & Lois with some great recommendations!

2. ...& Even More Summer Reads! - Estee also shared an amazing list of recommendations for the summer months with even more titles to add to your TBR!

3. Your Very Own Book Club - we loved Beth's post sharing her top book club picks inspired by WHSmith's Zoella book club. Which books would you choose for your own book club?

4. One For The Potterheads - if you feel like treating yourself or your favourite Harry Potter fan to something special check out Anjali's roundup of Potter-themed subscription boxes - so many great options!

5. Library Wanderlust - this post is full of ten incredibly beautiful libraries dotted across the globe. Which one would you most like to visit?

6. Best Of Booktube - over at Book Riot Christina shared a list of amazing booktubers we should all be subscribed to. If you have any favourites to add to the list please share them with us in the comments section below!

7. Fancy A Little DIY? - how pretty is this ombre bookshelf DIY from Brit + Co? We think this could be the perfect weekend project!

8. Illustrated Books - for our final link this month we wanted to share Ella's series of beautiful illustrations based on the books shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Which one is your favourite?

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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Monday, 7 August 2017

Skyfarer | Joseph Brassey | Review

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Aimee de Laurent is a freshly graduated apprentice from the Academy of Mystic Sciences and she's signed up to learn under Harkon Bright, despite rumors about his unusual ship, the Elysium, and her crew. When her very first attempt to send the ship to their destination goes wrong, the crew finds themselves going up against The Eternal Order and one if its star knights, Lord Azrael, in a race to find a jewel that can show you where whatever treasure you're looking for can be found.

Review:

This book was a delightful experience. The cast of characters are my kind of do-good rogues (they'll do good things, but they'll take payment for doing so). Every character is a character and that's why they work so well together. I'll admit, I'm looking forward to more books in this series so I can get to know them better. I really appreciated that Brassey didn't throw in a love story. This book was all about setting up the world and its characters and he did a great job of it.

The story was predictable, but it was still quite charming. There were a lot of things the you could see coming, but the characters were still worth investing in and the full story was a fun ride. What's more is the world this book takes place in. So many possibilities, so many new and interesting things to learn about (seriously, one world has dragons!) and, most intriguingly, potentially a new species of sentient, evil beings. 

That reminds me, there were a couple of scenes that were a little too much for me, violence wise. Nothing strongly graphic in its description or presentation but still, be a little wary.

Another reason I'm looking forward to the next book is to learn more about this amazing world where magic and technology work together almost seamlessly. One of the reasons I love science fiction so much is the technology. This fantasy book has given me a look at some new, wonderful mechanics that are magic based and I want to know more! 

I really think this would be a good book for sci-fi fans who are interested in dipping their toe into fantasy. Or for fans of space fantasy who are fans of rogue-like characters.



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Friday, 4 August 2017

The Graces | Laure Eve | Review


Everyone said the Graces were witches.

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?

River is the new girl in her small seaside town. She spends her lunchtimes alone in the library, and has yet to make any friends at her new school, but she doesn't care. The only friends she wants are the Graces. The whole town is obsessed with the beautiful, rich, mysterious family. The rumour is that they're all witches, after all. Everyone at school longs to be friends with Summer, Fenrin, and Thalia but River is determined she will be. She finds it a little hard to believe when it works, Summer Grace choosing her of all people to spend her time with, and Summer's brother and sister following suit. 

Before long River finds herself in the envied position of being the only outsider in the Graces' inner circle. But there are reasons the Graces keep their distance from everyone else in the town. The stronger their friendship becomes, the deeper River falls in love with the Grace children and they with her, the more fragile River's place in their world starts to feel. After all, River is hiding a few secrets of her own and friendship isn't the only thing River wants from the Graces...

Mysterious, witchy, and deliciously dark, The Graces is a story about friendship, self discovery, and obsession. 

Teenage friendships are often build on a small kind of obsession: wanting to spend time only with each other, texting 24/7, feeling like a limb has been cut off any time your best friend misses a day of school. The very nature of teenage friendship tends to involve a sort of clinging onto each other for dear life, just to make being a teenager more bearable. Laure Eve takes that a step further with River and the Graces, showing the reader a relationship between teenagers who absolutely love each other, but who know in a very real way there is an underlying possibility of darkness to that sort of need and how quickly it can turn into desperation.

River worships the Graces, her obsession always an undercurrent in her relationship with them. Above all she has a desire to prove that she is like them, that they share something mysterious and different, that they need each other. It's a story that starts with a crush and a desire to fit in on River's own terms but slowly becomes something more unsettling, full of secrets and magic. River needs to know if the Graces really are witches, if the rumours around the town are true. But what does it mean for her if the rumours are true? What does it mean for their friendship if they aren't?

Even in the moments where River and the Graces are just being teenagers, enjoying each other's company, having the kind of evenings we cherish from our youth if we had them, or wish that we had had if we didn't, Eve's prose feels charged with potential for things to go horribly wrong and a burning necessity for them not to. This is a story that will make your stomach twist and your heart stop. It will absorb you and obsess you. From the very first page, every moment I wasn't reading The Graces I was thinking about it. There is magic of more than one kind in this book.
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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Features | I met my Goodreads goal - what's next?


This year, I decided to try a Goodreads challenge for the first time. I’d seen plenty about them on Twitter but always thought that I wouldn’t have time to balance a reading challenge and a degree. 2017, however, would be different, I promised myself.

I set myself the challenge of reading 26 books this year. Since I was in the midst of the final year of my degree, that sounded fair. I would need to average a book every two weeks, which seemed doable, even with deadlines and exams to wrangle. It would still be a challenge, but one I could hopefully meet.

It seems that I severely underestimated myself.

As of July 2017, I have read 48 books this year, according to my Goodreads account. That’s almost twice what I thought I would struggle to achieve in a year. Some of them are novellas or poetry or things I had to read for class but it still counts. I more than achieved my reading challenge for the year in just after six months.

So what next?

Of course I could just extend that goal. I could see if I could hit 60 or 70 books. Maybe even 100. But I think I’m just curious to see how many I would naturally read in a year, rather than pushing myself to hit a number just because. Clearly, my guesses about how much I read are wildly off.

Instead, I’ve set myself a few mini goals to focus on in the months ahead. I’m not sure if I’ll hit them all but I’m looking forward to having something to guide my reading with:

  1. Stop buying books. Seriously, I need to ease up on this for a little while. For the sake of both my bookshelves AND my bank balance, I’m going to try to rein in my book buying for a couple of months.
  2. Read books I already have. Linked to the first goal, I need to start reading some of the books I already own. I’ve just moved house and all my books are finally in one place again, which means that I can see just how many are sitting unread right now. I’m almost ashamed, if I wasn’t quite so excited to read them!
  3. Re-read the Harry Potter series. It’s time.
  4. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings series. I’ve only read book one, but I’m keen to finish this series as soon as I can.
  5. Focus on non-fiction. I could barely manage to read non-fiction during my degree which means that there are quite a few sitting pretty on my shelves waiting for me to dive in.
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