where our team of writers love to talk all things books, sharing reviews, features, lists, interviews and more.

Getting lost in a book is escapism at it's finest and it's what everyone who contributes here thrives on.



Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Wonder | R. J. Palacio | Review

The world has been telling me to read Wonder for a while and I have finally listened.

Wonder is the story of August, a young boy who finds himself attending school for the first time. Due to spending the first ten years of his life in and out of surgery, August has always been home schooled until his parents decided that it was time for him to attend the local school and make some new friends.

I don't want to tell you too much more about the plot because I think it would be difficult to do without any major spoilers. Just trust me that you should give this a go.

What follows is a heartwarming and uplifitng story about family, trust, loyalty and kindness. This book was so wonderful to read, even if it did make me cry. On a couple of occasions. It was an emotional rollercoaster from the first page to the last but I loved reading it the whole way through. Every time I found my heart broken, R. J. Palacio returned to the themes of friendship and kindness and made me smile all over again.

I really loved the fact that the novel was from multiple perspectives and hearing not only August's story, but that of his family and friends. It was a lovely touch to an already touching novel.

I would definitely recommend this book but it does come with a you'll-probably-cry-warning.

Kelly x

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Blogger's Bookshelf Is Now On Instagram!

After sharing reviews, features and more here on our blog for almost six years we thought it was about time we expanded Blogger's Bookshelf over to Instagram too! 

Over on our Instagram page you'll find additional content from the team, including currently reading updates, TBR piles, mini reviews and opportunities to get involved with our book club each month.

If you're interested in this additional content we'd love for you to follow us - @bloggersbookshelf

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Friday, 10 August 2018

Features | Favourite First Lines

They're the beginning, the start, the first ... they're the pull, the grip, the tug. They're the sentences that make or break that very first chapter. First lines in stories are important, and most of the time authors do a great job at hooking you from the start.

There are some first lines, however, that just stick out; ones that you read and think 'oooh, yeah! Great line, let's do this!', ones that suck you into the story you may not even be ready for. While the list of my favourite first lines below is in no way complete - I'm sure I've missed some of my most favourites! - it's a selection of brilliant lines from even better stories, written by wonderful authors.

These are some of my favourites; what are yours?

1 | "Mr. and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
As far as first liners go, this isn't actually one that captivates much imagination or a 'need to continue ready, stat' sort of feeling. But it's the beginning of the greatest series ever, and has to be my favourite opening line of all time.

2 |  "Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache."
Leigh Bardugo has written some excellent stories - if you're familiar with the Grishaverse then you'll know what I mean. This is from the first in her duology, Six of Crows.

3 |  "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Ah, Jane Austen. I'm sorry, but little needs to be said about this epic first line from Pride and Prejudice. 

4 |   "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
Out of all the Narnia Chronicles, this has to be my favourite first line, which is from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Poor Eustace. Although C.S Lewis is right, he really did almost deserve the name.

5 | "Kell wore a very particular coat."
Oh, hello V.E. Schwab. Your writing is spectacular and I will read everything you write. This first liner is from A Darker Shade of Magic, and everything about Kell's 'particular' coat is wonderful. If you haven't read this series, I highly recommend it.

6 | "My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest."
An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, has to be a favourite read of mine. It's an epic tale, with an epic beginning.

7 | "Scarlet's feelings came in colors even brighter than usual."
So I kinda cheated a little bit with this one. The actual first line of Caraval by Stephanie Garber is 'it took seven years to get the letter right", which is also a great line, but then for the next 10 or so pages it's copies of that letter. This line I've shared is beginning of the actual story, when the letters have been shared and the story of Caraval really begins. I love the idea of feelings being in colours (Inside Out anyone?), so I really enjoy the way Garber words this.

8 |  "Chapter the first, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate."
This was a funny read for me because I 'read' it via audio book. Can I suggest you not to do that? It was super hard for me to understand the format (which is very clever) when I couldn't see the actual page. This first line from The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness, is brilliant, however; what a way to begin a novel.

9 | "It's a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don't notice I'm being blackmailed."
Technically two sentences, but it would work with a semi-colon so I'll allow it (you can't stop me!). I read Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda earlier in the year and loved it, but this first line/s is the most perfect way to begin the story of Simon and Blue.

10 |  "The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea."
I love this first line from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It begins how it means to continue: wonderfully. (Read my review here, and Sophie's here.)

So there we have it. 10 of some of my favourite first lines in novels. Of course, there will be many more, and I'm sure I've missed some that would actually be bumped into my top 10, but it's a look into that list anyway.

What are some of your favourite first lines? 

Photo by Dexter Fernandes on Unsplash

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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Features | Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge Update #4

thunderhead neal shusterman

A Book With A Weather Element In The Title | Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman (2018)

I was so excited to read this book that I honestly didn't realise it would fit any of the challenge prompts until after I'd finished reading it! I was actually struggling with which title to pick up for this particular prompt so I'm happy that I managed to cross it off with a book I was already planning to read this year. I know I've said it already, but please pick up this series if you haven't yet!

A Book By Two Authors | Illuminae, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2015)

Another title that fit in with the challenge by happy accident was Illuminae, the first book in the popular Illuminae Files trilogy. Taking place in the future, this book has an interesting format with the story being told through interviews, emails, IMs and more. Whilst this kind of format is one I usually really enjoy, Illuminae just wasn't for me and sadly it's unlikely I'll be continuing with this series.

A Book You Borrowed Or That Was Given To You As A Gift | The Skeleton's Holiday, Leonora Carrington (2018)

I ended up borrowing a copy of our May book club pick The Skeleton's Holiday from a friend who was also joining in and reading along. This was an easy prompt to cross off the list and could have been one of many books!

A Book About Or Involving A Sport | Bear Town, Fredrik Backman (2016)

This is another prompt I thought I might struggle with as I'm not a sport fan at all. Luckily I realised that a book I already wanted to read would be the perfect fit! Beartown centres around a small town where hockey is a big deal and quickly became one of my favourites of the year so far. It's not an easy read as it tackles some truly difficult topics but I would highly recommend it and look forward to reading the sequel Us Against You.

A Book With Your Favourite Colour In The Title | Hannah Green & Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence, Michael Marshall Smith (2018)

Another book I didn't realise fitted a challenge prompt until I was writing up my June In Books post (this seems to be a theme with this roundup!) was Hannah Green & Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence, a Fantasy novel with some weird and wonderful elements. Overall it was an interesting book that encouraged me to temporarily step out of my comfort zone and read something a little different.

A Book Set In A Country That Fascinates You | Travelling In The Dark, Emma Timpany (2018) 

The final prompt of this roundup is one that I managed to cross of the list with my pick for our August book club. Travelling In The Dark takes place in New Zealand, a country that I would absolutely love to visit. Not only is the book based in NZ, but it also includes a lot of descriptive language about the setting, painting a vivid picture of the landscape.

If you're taking part in the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge I'd love to hear from you. Let me know which prompts you've crossed off the list and which books you're planning to pick up next!

You can catch my previous Popsugar Challenge Update here.
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Sunday, 5 August 2018

Bookish Links #45

1. Bookish FOMO? - with so many new releases it's difficult to keep up! Stacey shared a list of ten popular titles she hasn't read yet. How many of them have you read?

2. Bullet Journal - Kelly shared how she likes to utilise her bullet journal for books and blogging.

3. NYC For Book Lovers - we adored Hayley's post on NYC's amazing bookish spots complete with some beautiful photographs!

4. Pastel Pins - how cute is this little enamel bookshop pin?

5. Listen Up! - looking for a new podcast to add to your commute? Why not try Reading Glasses.

6. A Reading Roundup - Rebecca shared a roundup of recent reads, current reads and a few titles she would love to re-read. Which books would make your list?

7. Reading Challenges - in this post Amanda discusses the pros and cons of reading challenges.

8. A Recommended Read - Luchia gave Foolish Hearts a five-star review. Have you read this book yet?

9. Mini Reviews - Jaye shared five mini book reviews, along with some gorgeous photos!

10. AI - in this article YA author Neal Shusterman discusses the future of artificial intelligence.

11. Retail Therapy - we loved this roundup of affordable bookends!

From the archives: Dorothy Must Die | An Evening With Maureen Johnson | Bookish Apps

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Friday, 3 August 2018

Features | Judging Books By Their Covers

We've all heard the old saying 'don't judge a book by its cover' and we all know that really, that has nothing to do with books at all. People build their whole careers on designing covers that you can judge a book by and, whether you notice it or not, you do. We all have preferences, design choices that make us more or less likely to pick up a book, more or less likely to think a book is 'for us', but how often do you really think about why that is?

What exactly is it about certain types of book covers that makes you think the book inside is the sort of thing you'll enjoy? It's often as simple as the fact that a cover might, in some way, look like the cover of another book you've enjoyed before, like an adventure book with lots of shiny foil and monsters on the cover, or a romance book with a script font and pretty illustration of shoes and cakes. The most interesting thing, to me, is how a cover can represent the story behind it and, with certain design choices, be made to appeal to different people in different ways.

Take, for example, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, one of my favourite books and one which has had many different covers over the years. I Capture the Castle is about a young girl called Cassandra, whose family live in a crumbling old castle in the countryside in the 1930s. Cassandra's family have little money and when their castle is inherited by two young American men they worry that they will no longer be able to afford to live in it, but the young men end up affecting all of their lives in a very different way. It's the story of Cassandra's coming of age.

The very first edition of I Capture the Castle was printed with this painted cover, showing a girl walking along a country lane, towards a castle in the distance. Today, it looks dated. This looks more like something you would find on your grandmother's bookshelf, rather than something you would see in a bookshop now, but it does show you Cassandra's world exactly, and it feels appropriate to the book inside.

This later cover has a similar vibe, showing two girls running towards the castle through a field of grass. These girls look a little younger than Cassandra and her sister in the book, but again this cover seems to be suggesting a countryside innocence and simpler times, both relevant to the feel of the book, even if the visual isn't that exciting.

Then we have this. A sharp turn away from the calming greens and blues of the countryside. This is the cover of the copy that I first read, and it kept me from reading it for a long time. This cover, with its bold colour, burnt layers of images, and dreamy modern looking girl, was obviously trying to appeal to a teen demographic of the late 90s and early 2000s, but in doing that it has lost some of the feeling of the book inside, and any suggestion of the time period in which its set.

Much better examples of trying to appeal to different age groups with the same book are these two more recent editions from Vintage. The first, a beautifully illustrated cover designed to appeal to younger readers, and the second a simple photograph designed to appeal to adults. The children's version fits in with the rest of Vintage's children's books, and the adult version fits with the rest of its red spined modern classics. These covers suggest to totally different readers that this book might be for them.

This cover from Penguin is completely different to any we've seen so far. Its bold, simple design is attractive but it tells the reader very little about the story, except for a hint to the time it is set during. The clean, fun design is obviously meant to appeal to teen readers, and it's much prettier than the orange monstrosity above, but I'm just not sure who this girl is supposed to be. She certainly doesn't look like Cassandra to me.

Finally, this recent special edition, again with bold, bright colours, and a clean design, obviously intended to appeal to young adult readers, but it doesn't lose the charm of the earlier covers. This cover incorporates the castle, the countryside, Cassandra, and the pen with which she writes her diary. It's attractive and eye catching and it tells you a little about the story inside. These covers all signal different things for different people in different time periods but this is probably the one that most signifies to me that this is a book I would enjoy. What about you?

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