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2013 Reading Challenge Update #2

Tuesday 25 June 2013

2013 Reading Challenge Update #2

challenge update 2

Back in January we set ourselves some reading goals for the year - five books or series we vowed to read in 2013 and a total number of books to be read over the year as well.

Welcome to our second progress update....!

Ria... 20/30 books read, 3/5 books vowed to read
I'm quite proudly powering through my reading goals, with only 10 more books till I hit my target! I also finished Brave New World and Farenheit 451, both of which I happily enjoyed, albeit they were both rather weird books. I've now bought, started and am loving Harry: A History and hope to finish/review it soon in time for LeakyCon in about 2 months. City of Bones is still on my to be read list, though I've heard some pretty rough reviews for it so forgive me if I seem a little reluctant to start...The Casual Vacancy and The Resistance are both still sat on my shelf but I'm having far too much fun discovering new authors and finding more bargain books in charity shops to care too much!

Niina... 12/35 books read
I'm doing pretty good with my reading challenge but I've only given out one 5 star rating so far, to Ashfall by Mike Mullin. Other books that I've really enjoyed this year are Love Is The Higher Law by David Levithan and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. My biggest disappointment so far this year is probably Blackbirds by Chuck Wending. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, but I thought I would enjoy it so much more!

Anjali... 26/40 books read, 2/5 books vowed to read
I'm feeling really pleased with my 26 books read so far! Not so pleased that only 2 of those are ones I vowed back in January to read, but nevertheless, I'm having a grand time! Last Reading Challenge Update I had already read Daughter of Smoke and Bone from my 'vow to read' list, but since then I've also read Feedback, by Robison Wells, which was on that same list. I really enjoyed the first in that series, Variant, so it was exciting to read the sequel. Sequels can often be a hit and miss I find, but Feedback was just as amazing as Variant. 5 stars, Robison, 5 stars. Despite only having read 2 out of 5, I have actually just started another from that list: The Twelve, by Justin Cronin, the sequel to The Passage. The first one was amazing, so I'm excited that I'm diving into another one of Cronin's adventures. In regards to other, non 'vow-list' books, I loved Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Owen. Ultraviolet, and it's sequel, Quicksilver, by R.J. Anderson were both really great too (you can read about my trip to the Quicksilver book launch here). And All Over the Place, by Serena Clarke was very good too! I haven't been sleeping as much as I should lately because of all these books...I've diagnosed myself with Just-One-More-Chapter-Itis.

Laura... 14/25 books read, 3/5 books vowed to read
I've read 14 out of 25 books so far! And have managed to read 3 book from my 5 to read list, I have now read: Miranda Hart - Is It Just Me? Sophia Kinsella - I've Got Your Number and Matthew Quick - The Silver Linings Playbook. I've actually managed to read one of those without realising it was on my list of books I vowed to read! The Sophia Kinsella book however I did purposely pre-order and waited weeks for, although I'm glad I did because I loved it! I'll be honest and say I pretty much forgot about how many books I was supposed to read this year but the number keeps steadily increasing as I delve through my 'to-read' shelf. So far I've enjoyed all the books I've finished and Goodreads says i'm 5 books ahead of schedule. - woo!

Lucy... 9/25 books read, 1/5 books vowed to read
I have read 9 books now which is slightly better but I truly believe that I will not get 37 books read by the end of the year. I've changed my goal number of books to 25 because I believe it's a slightly more achievable target. I have purchased Sever but apart from that, my vow to read books haven't been read yet. There is still six months left of the year though so hopefully, they will all be read by then. The books I have read have been brilliant however. Some of the more notable ones include Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace. I'm also starting Game of Thrones and I am loving it so far!!! 

Erin... 31/52 books read, 1/5 books vowed to read
Even though I did hit a bit of a reading slump not too long ago I’ve still managed to pass the halfway mark. Notable favourites since our last challenge update would definitely have to be Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (review here) and Club Monstrosity (review here) although I still haven’t given out any 5 star ratings this year! Amongst the 31 books total I have crossed another one off of my ‘books we vow to read’ list. Fractured by Teri Terry was one of the sequels that I was really looking forward to this year but sadly I felt it was disappointing compared to the previous book (Slated). I’m currently working on Lord Of The Flies which was also in my five choices.

What are your reading goals for 2013?

Post by Erin / Images via Goodreads

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The Looking Glass Wars | Frank Beddor | Review

Monday 24 June 2013

The Looking Glass Wars | Frank Beddor | Review

In Victorian England, Lewis Carrol publishes the story of little Alice and her adventures in the magical world of Wonderland. The story, so he says, is based on the tale told to him by a young girl named Alice Liddel. But this is not the true story of Wonderland - Alice’s name isn’t even spelt right. 

The Looking Glass Wars is the true story of Alyss Heart, a mischievous, gifted princess and heir to the Wonderland throne. Alyss’ life is thrown into chaos when her outcast Aunt Redd storms her family’s castle and murders her parents. She’s forced to flee through the Pool of Tears with Royal Bodyguard, the strong and stoic Hatter Madigan. Suddenly separated in the void, Alyss lands alone and vulnerable in the middle of Victorian London. There she befriends a lowly author Reverend Charles Dodgson in the hope that he will tell her story to help Hatter find. Hatter on the other hand has landed miles away from Alyss but he’s willing to walk the earth to find the lost Princess and return her Wonderland to claim her rightful place at the throne from her bloodthirsty aunt. 

The Looking Glass Wars aims to challenge everything we know and love about the original story of mad tea parties, talking flowers and late-running rabbits with pocket watches. Instead it’s a story of blood cold murder, political power struggles and a fantastical battle over the power of Imagination. 

So what’s my verdict? 

At the beginning of the book Beddor warns those of “a more sensitive disposition might prefer reading Lewis Carrol’s classic fairytale…” and this is certainly not a pretty story. Beddor creates a world completely different to the original tale, turning the innocent Alice into Alyss the lost, warrior princess; the Mad Hatter into the silent but deadly Hatter Madigan; and even the grinning Cheshire Cat into The Cat, Redd’s cruel assassin. He does, however, manage to keep some of the more warped elements of Wonderland and there’s still an element of magic in the story. 

Alyss Heart’s tale is fast paced and, at times, confusing. There were many points I had to go back and try to figure out what just happened. In fact the most captivating parts of the story weren’t the action packed and trilling, but the moments in the real world as Alyss and Hatter struggle to both adjust to life without Imagination as well as desperately trying to find each other to return home. 

Some may find this a sacrilege to take Carrol’s work and distort the original story, but I found the whole concept and change in characters refreshing. Alyss herself is quite a cliche character and it really the colourful cast of supporting characters make the tale come alive. It’s young adult fiction at it’s simplest and some may find the plot a little juvenile but as a fan of reworked stories I personally loved Beddor’s creativity with both the plot and characters.

Reading Soundtrack: 

Alice (Underground): Avril Lavigne; Breath of Life: Florence + The Machine; People Are Strange: The Doors; Broken Crown: Mumford & Sons; Rebellion (Lies): Arcade Fire; Closer To The Edge: 30 Seconds To Mars; White Rabbit: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

For lovers of

The original Alice in Wonderland stories, Wicked, the ‘Once Upon A Time…’ series

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.
*image (c)Ria Cagampang
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World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War | Max Brooks | Review

Wednesday 19 June 2013

World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War | Max Brooks | Review

"They say great times make great men. I don't buy it. I saw a lot of weakness, a lot of filth. People who should have risen to the challenge and either couldn't or wouldn't. Greed, fear, stupidity and hate. I saw it before the war, I see it today. [...] I don't know if great times make great men, but I know they can kill them.” - Max Brooks, Word War Z
If you have read a few of my posts here at Blogger's Bookshelf you know that I'm a big zombie fan. I want you to keep that in mind because I'm pretty sure that is going to reflect this review. But now when you're aware of that, let's roll...

World War Z has a really interesting concept. It's written like a documentary book even if it's obviously based on fiction (there hasn't been a world war against Zombies that I know of). The book consists of interviews with people that in different ways played an important role in the World War Z (yes, that was the world war against zombies that I just talked about). That pretty much concludes what the books is all about.

This is not my favorite zombie novel, but it's one of the most interesting ones I've read. Max Brooks truly knows his zombies and the details in this books is massively impressive. If you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse you would love to have Max Brooks number, because he would know what to do! Max Brook's sense of detail is amazing. This man have thought about everything! It gives you the feeling that you're reading about something that have actually happened. It's kind of scary sometimes... I really found many of the chapters really intriguing and interesting and I had to discuss many of the scenarios with anyone who was around to listen. It really gets your head spinning and that my friends, that's always a good thing!

But even if I'm a die hard zombie fan I have to confess that there was a few things that I struggled with while I read this book. The book is divided into so many different chapters and every chapter is an interview with a new person. That makes the characters a bit alienated from you. You never get to know them and you never start caring about them (there's a few exceptions though, there was a few stories that actually touched my heart on a more personal level). And in the same way as I found many of the interviews interesting I also struggled with quite a few. Not having any interest in anything that has to do with the military I found the chapters that were full of military terms and strategy quite boring and hard to get through.

Over all I really enjoyed many aspects about this book and I really admire Max Brooks for his work. This is a must read for every zombie fan! But there was also too many parts that I actually struggled with to give it a 5 star rating. So I give World War Z 4/5 stars.

And by the way, I'm really excited to see the movie that's based on this book and that's coming out this summer. I've been excited about it since I first saw the trailer a few months ago. You can go and watch the trailer here.

This post was written by regular reviewer Niina, get to know her here.
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Guest Review | The Luxe | Anna Godbersen

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Guest Review | The Luxe | Anna Godbersen

the luxe

Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan’s social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City’s elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone—from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud—threatens Elizabeth’s and Diana’s golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city’s gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan’s most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives.

What I have to say

To be honest, when I started reading The Luxe I was a bit disappointed. I thought I'd got tricked and lured in by a beautiful cover once again (umm because hellohuuu, have you seen that cover? Yeah. And it's even nicer in real life!). It begins with a prologue - the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, one of the main protagonists and then the story skips back couple of weeks earlier (so it's not like that was a spoiler).

Anyway, the first few chapters are pretty much about introducing the characters properly, as there are multiple third-person povs, and creating atmosphere which took a bit too long for me but in hindsight it might have been useful because I do feel like I got to know the character's personalities and motivations and even though they are kind of stereotypical, they have depth.

About the stereotypes: I think I wouldn't have noticed this as much if The Luxe hadn't been praised as the Gossip Girl of 1899, but obviously I paid more attention to parallels and stuff after noticing that reference several times. Anyone else thinks Penelope is just so Blair?

Apart from the stereotypes and lifestyle though I missed the Gossip-Girl-everything-is-twisted-and-full-of-schemes part, however, halfway through that kind of changed! Also, let me just say that I absolutely enjoyed reading the many descriptions of the beautiful dresses the girls got to wear, especially loved Elizabeth's little sister Diana's wardrobe!

Diana was my favourite character anyway, bookish and full of mischief; her scenes were never boring! Also, the little romance going on between her and a certain male was probably my favourite in the book, I'm rooting for them in the series! Oh another observation of mine: sometimes this actually reminded me even more of the British reality show Made in Chelsea than Gossip Girl, anyone else thought about that?!

The ending with it's kind-of-cliffhanger surprised me at first but I saw certain things coming, nevertheless I'm looking forward to continuing this series soon and I can really recommend this to anyone who would like to get started in the historical young adult genre without wanting to read something really difficult to understand due to old words as Anna Godbersen kept it rather glamorous yet simple.

This review was written by guest blogger Lulu (find her blog here).
Don't forget to check out our interview with Lulu here!
Photo c/o Lulu
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I've Got Your Number | Sophie Kinsella | Review

Monday 17 June 2013

I've Got Your Number | Sophie Kinsella | Review

Not only does Poppy loose her engagement ring but she also looses her phone. Talk about having a bad day! No things start to look up when she finds someone else's phone in a bin - working completely fine. So finders keepers as the saying goes. Now as she's desperately searching for her ring, the owner of the phone desperately wants it back. Could this be the start of an interesting friendship?!

Now this book was on my list of books I vowed to read this year, and I was extremely eager I pre ordered it from Amazon and as soon as it arrived I started reading it. I was immediately hooked!

Poppy is a brilliant character who made me laugh so much through this book. She however is not the only interesting character in to pop up. Poppy is engaged to Marcus who was a character I loved to hate. Whilst on the other end of the phone is Sam who from very first contact I was both interested and intrigued by. The conversations between characters were realistic and amusing and much like conversations I have between my own friends.

The story continues, the chaos carries on and the relationships tangle. Like many chic-lit stories there is two guys and one girl and the whole way through the reader is left thinking, who is she going to end up in? I won't give it away - don't worry. However what I will say is that it was a brilliant way to make a decision!

Now if you've read a Sophie Kinsella book before this is definitely one for you, and if you haven't.... where have you been!?!?! Go and get this one, download it or whatever because I'll definitely be reading it again in the near future.

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
Image from Goodreads
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Sunday 16 June 2013

Alone | Robert J.Crane | Review

Since getting my Kindle a few months ago, I've downloaded a good dozen or so free books. Free books are the best. However, sometimes free books are a bit of a hit and miss. And Alone, by Robert J. Crane, has me confused as to whether or not it was one of those hit and misses. You'll see what I mean...

We first meet 17 year old Sienna Nealon, the main character, in her house, slightly freaking out because her mother has vanished and her home is being broken into by ruffians. In the first chapter, we learn that Sienna is no ordinary girl - she has lived alone with her mother in their small house all her life, never leaving it, never having contact with the outside world, trying to follow all the rules that her mother had drilled into her head for so long. Basically, Sienna is a prisoner in her own house. Escaping the house, Sienna is on the run. As the story goes on, she discovers that the ridiculously huge man pursuing her is named Wolfe, that there's a agency called the Directorate who want her to join them, that her mother wasn't the person Sienna thought she was, and Sienna knows very little about everything, including herself.

I was really drawn into it just by the first page, but then I found myself drifting into the 'meh' and the 'whatever' zones, for some reason. I can't really put my finger on it, but there was something about it that suddenly changed and I didn't like it as much as the first chapter or so. Nevertheless, it was a nice short read that had some good parts in it, and some fun characters. Sienna herself is an interesting character, and although we're probably supposed to cheer for her and want her to do well etc, I found myself almost shocked at some of the things she said and the character in her that emerged more and more as the story went on. Perhaps it was because I didn't really know what I was expecting in the story (or from the characters), that I found it difficult to keep reading at points, and I found it hard not be annoyed by Sienna and her actions.

It's written in first person, which was actually perfect for the story, I think, as there were things we didn't realise/didn't find out about until deep into the book, simply because Sienna hadn't revealed it to us, or to any of the other characters. So that put an interesting spin on things. Overall, I think I would give it a two and a half stars (couldn't figure out how to take half a star off up there). I liked the original idea (or rather, what I thought it was going to be about - I think I expected something like that movie Hanna, but it ended up sort of like X-Men or something similar, which was fine, but not what I was thinking), but then it got a little bit 'samey' near the end. 'Samey' as in the same, or similar, to a lot of other ideas out there. I might, however, read the next one and see where it goes. But it won't moving up to the top of my 'to-read' list.

Image from Goodreads
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 Blogger’s Bookshelf Review Round Up #8

Saturday 15 June 2013

Blogger’s Bookshelf Review Round Up #8

19 5 - 14 6 review
*all images via GoodReads
Another month over, check out what you missed below…

Lulu Frances joined the ranks of those we’ve interviewed as part of our ‘Being A Book Blogger’ series, check out the post here.
Our bloggers also talked about our favourite book protagonists and main characters in our June Group Collaboration Post! Let us know who your faves are too!

And don’t forget to get involved in our next Group Collaboration topic! 
Summer is here and we’re craving a getaway with our ‘Wish You Were Where?’ post! 
So let us know if you could visit any place from a book, real or fictional, where would you choose and why? From Middle-Earth to Hogwarts, New York to Paris, we want to know your ideal holiday destination! 
Let us know you opinions by email, tweet us or on our GoodReads page!
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Friday 14 June 2013

All Over the Place | Serena Clarke | Discussion from Laura and Anjali

How (if at all) did the plot surprise you, or stand out to you?

When we were approached to review All Over the Place, I was hesitant to say yes because I thought I couldn’t really give much input, as I don’t really read chick-lit. But at the same time, I was drawn to it and really wanted to read it because it pretty much sounded like my life (except the whole mysterious man on a train thing…or the having to flee the country in embarrassment thing…or…). I don’t actually read a lot of chick-lit, but I do watch a lot of chick-flicks, so that’s what I had to go on when I read this story. I really liked the story line, and though it was an almost ‘typical’ chick-flick-lit (a phrase I’m positive is going to catch on…) with a love triangle and ‘argh, who should I choose!?’ type of vibe to it, it was atypical in that it incorporated elements like a TV show in New Zealand, a bunch of dead rock stars, a hair salon in London and a mother on the look out for someone new. I guess the random elements like that surprised me (in a good way) and the whole plot stood out to me because Livi has connections with New Zealand, and England…much like I do…I think I just need to ride the subway more to find me a handsome man…

This is tough to answer without giving too much away! Yes and no. I will simply say that I was rooting for one person and they didn’t win. However that did not surprise me as if you read between the lines a little, the clues were there.

Did you find the characters realistic, and if so, how?

In a word, yes. I especially loved the main character in this story and I think that it mainly due to the events which occurred prior to the start of the story. Livi has taken some knocks, she’s had troubles and most of it has been in the limelight, however she’s got back up and battled on. Other characters in the book are also relatable and I almost felt like I could spot the different personalities of my own friends being represented through various characters.

I found that there were a lot of characters, but even so, I thought that Clarke did a good job at writing them so, even if they were just a face in a sea of other faces, they still had their own personalities and their own way of being. One or two of the characters made me think ‘really?’ on occasion, but perhaps it’s because I haven’t really met anyone like them in real life to know if they are realistic or not…if that makes sense. At the same time, I found myself often thinking ‘that’s what I would have said!’ or ‘yup. I would have done the same thing!’, so overall, I think the characters were pretty life-like from the way their mannerisms are describe, the things they said and the way their personalities came through.

How did you find the writing style? Do you think it fits in well with the chick-lit genre in general? Why?

All Over the Place is written in first person, and it’s done in such as way that is very easy to read and very…flowy, for want of a better word. I never used to like first person novels, but over the years I’ve grown used to them and now even enjoy it. I don’t think this book would have worked very well if it were told from any other perspective. I can’t really comment on how it compares or fits in to the chick-lit genre (or even romance genre), but as an ‘outsider’ to these types of stories, I can tell you that it was great to be able to just sit down and read, knowing I didn’t have to think too hard, or get my head around big confusing words.

I read this book over around about 5 days, and although I enjoyed the book I don’t think that, that was the only reason I sped through it. The writing style can have a big impact of whether I connect with a book. I found this one very easy and quite relaxing to read, it didn’t challenge me and it didn’t matter if I was tired and not giving it 100% focus because the words flowed in such an easy style. That is one of the reasons I love the chic-lit genre, it’s easy to read and therefore I do think that this book fitted in well, a mixture of its writing style, characters and plot all suited this genre well.

Was there any aspect of the story, or perhaps a character, that you felt was missing from the story? Why?

I don’t think there was anything missing as far as plot was concerned. If I could pick anything, I’d say I wish I could of got to know Cam (Livi’s best friend) as character a little bit more although I do understand that, that is a little tricky when the story is based in London and Cam’s character lives in New Zealand.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it appears to be a bit hard for me to think of much. Perhaps it’s because I’m not that familiar with what usually goes in a chick-lit/romance type book. But perhaps the fact that I’m struggling to find anything, means there isn’t anything that was missing. Having said that, in the vast list of characters, there were a few people missing – a supportive already-married couple, a baby, any children at all…We all know these people in our lives, so I wonder why Livi didn’t? But perhaps I’m just being silly, and they weren’t actually needed at all.

What is your over all verdict? Why?

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t read a lot of chick-lit, I’m more of a fantasy/adventure type girl. Because of this, I don’t have many books (other than, perhaps, Jane Austen) to compare All Over the Place to. But I really did enjoy the story. It was a good length, and it was fun and quirky with just the right amount of ‘ooo! What’s going to happen next?’ to make it a fast paced book that was easily a ‘just one more chapter’ story. I’ve given it four stars, and would recommend it to people who like a bit or romance and chick-lit in their lives. Even those of you who don’t really read chick-lit or romance – it was nice to read something completely different for once and you should give it a go.

I did really enjoy All Over the Place; I would not have read a book in 5 days if I didn’t have a connection with it. I enjoyed reading about the characters and going on Livi’s journey with her. I would definitely recommend this to other chic-lit lovers, as it fills the category perfectly and I imagine most readers will instantly adore Livi.

All Over the Place was sent to Laura and Anjali by the author for review. However, both their opinions have not been influenced and are 100% their own. A big thanks to Serena Clarke for allowing us to review your book!

This was reviewed by regular reveiwers Larua and Anjali. Get to know them here.
Book description and cover from Goodreads.
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Insomnia | J. R. Johansson | Review

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Insomnia | J. R. Johansson | Review

Image via Goodreads (side note - how horrible is that cover?!)

Insomnia tells the story of Parker Chipp, a teen who hasn’t sleep properly in four years but no one other than him knows why. Instead of falling asleep and dreaming like everyone else, Parker is a Watcher which means he views the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with that day. The dreams he sees range from the completely obscure and surreal to those that are real memories rather than fiction but no matter what secrets he finds he can’t share them with anyone, not even when he witnesses a man’s memory of murdering his wife. Since he can’t share the truth at the risk of being labelled insane Parker’s mother, unable to understand the deterioration in his looks and health believes that he is taking drugs putting an extra strain on their relationship. On top of all that Parker has discovers the worst possible news, his sleep-deprivation is slowly killing him. When new girl in town Mia starts receiving threatening emails that she believes are from Parker the story takes on a dark twist and becomes a mystery thriller.

The novel set off to a promising start with it’s intriguing and unique premise we are introduced to the idea of Watchers and just how this ability has affected Parker’s life. When the main mystery element was introduced initially it made the story even more intriguing however it quickly became quite predictable. There were of course some plot holes, more appearing as the story progressed and became more complicated, which were difficult to forgive and I personally found it difficult to believe that nothing like this would have happened to Parker before seeing as he has already been dealing with his insomnia for so long. When nearing the end of the story things suddenly became very dramatic which although led to the conclusion of the main mystery also left a handful of unanswered questions to be explored in the next book of the Night Walkers series.

As with many Young Adult protagonists Parker isn’t the most likable character in the world although he can perhaps be forgiven for some of his actions considering the circumstances – I mean, no sleep for four years, how is he even still alive?! Best friends, sibling duo Finn and Addie were much more likable although both also played fairly typical roles in the story. As Mia suspects Parker of being her threatening stalker she spends a lot of the novel avoiding him and therefore we don’t really get to learn as much about her as the others, something I hope will be fixed in the sequel.

Despite my complaints the dream concept was definitely clever and there was enough within the plot to keep me interested throughout the book but still something was missing. I will most likely continue with the Night Walkers series with an interest to see where the author plans to take Parker’s journey next and a hope for answers to some of the questions I’m left with.
This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.
*Review of an eARC c/o Netgalley
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Billy & Me | Giovanna Fletcher | Review

Monday 10 June 2013

Billy & Me | Giovanna Fletcher | Review

Billy & Me cover

Billy & Me is the story of Sophie May, a young girl from the English countryside who lives a quiet life with her mother. It’s a quiet life but Sophie’s happy enough. A buzz soon spreads around the sleepy village that Hollywood will be paying a visit to film an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, complete with hot teen idol as the film’s lead. Not that Sophie cares much, she too busy helping run Tea On The Hill, a small cosy tea shop owned by an ever loveable old lady named Molly. In stumbles a boy named Billy Buskin. He’s tall, dark, handsome, utterly charming and of course sweeps Sophie up her feet. Turns out this Billy kid is none other than that teen heartthrob everyone is talking about.

It’s not only Sophie who’s swept up in this small town romance; Billy is quite taken with Sophie and decides to whisk her away from the calm of her country town to the bright lights of the big city of London. Every girl’s dream right? But Sophie’s apprehensive, there’s a little dark in her past that she’s not quite ready to let go of or let the world know about yet.

The rest of the story takes you Sophie coping with the harsh realities of being in the public eye, being away from her family and friends and the strain it takes on her relationship with Billy. A shock to the system wraps up the ending, testing Sophie’s inner strength and pushing her emotions to the limit.

Bily & Me spine

So what’s my verdict?

Billy & Me was gooey and fluffy to the core, full of love-y moments between Sophie and Billy right from the beginning. If I was being honest the first half of the book is very cliché, girl meets boy, they fall in love etc. Things turn a little when Sophie and Billy head into London. It’s not all happy endings, especially when Billy’s career takes off. He’s never home, there’s other girls getting in the way and the malicious reporters. The situation gets worse and worse for Sophie and it’s not until the last few chapters that she really has to step up and take control of her life again.

Like a lot of the chick-lit I read I find myself in two minds about our two leads. Sophie is your typical Mary-Sue-shy-gal-with-a-troubled-backstory kinda heroine, Billy your also typical charming hero. They feel a little two-dimensional at the start, with their romance being the main driver than their common traits. Sophie’s also likes to moan, which would perhaps be acceptable in a young adult novel with a teenage protagonist but Sophie is in her mid-twenties. Sure the situations she’s put in are difficult but not rectifiable or unmanageable if she used her head.

The last few chapters do make you understand why she is the way she is, however, the secret revealed isn’t as shocking as the blurb like to make out though – it’s not a nice secret but it’s not a huge surprise if you read carefully between the lines. There’s a bigger plot twist that definitely made me cry – but I’m a crier – and Sophie’s transformation into something stronger is uplifting. And like most books like this I fell head over heels for the supporting characters, namely the home-y grandmother figure Molly.

All in all, Billy & Me is a light and lovely read for debut author Giovanna Fletcher. Probably best known as the other half of McFLY’s Tom Fletcher, I can imagine some of the finer details of the constant judgement of being the spotlight was drawn from some of her own experiences. The story is much like Sophie herself, simple, sweet, occasionally angsty but heartfelt. For a debut it's awesome and I look forward to seeing more for Giovanna in the future!

Reading Soundtrack:

Rainbow: Colbie Caillat; All About You: McFLY; Everything Has Changed: Taylor Swift ft Ed Sheeran; Paparazzi: Lady Gaga; The Nicest Thing: Kate Nash; Summer Is Over: Jon McLaughlin ft Sara Barielles; Skyscraper: Demi Lovato

For lovers of

Sophie Kinsella, Jill Mansell, Jennifer E. Smith and other such wonderful romantic fluff ^_^
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Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Protagonists & Main Characters

Saturday 8 June 2013

Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Protagonists & Main Characters

Last month we asked you to tell us about your favourite main characters/protagonists and why you love them so much. Here's what you had to say...

fave mcs ria

fave mcs lucy

fave mcs erine

fave mcs lulu

fave mcs laura

fave mcs cat

fave mcs anjali

Don't forget to let us know who your favourites are in the comments!

Next month we have an exciting summer holiday themed topic titled 'Wish You Were Where?'
If you could visit any place from a book, real or fictional, where would you choose and why? From Middle-Earth to Hogwarts, New York to Paris, we want to know your ideal holiday destination!

Email your answers to, tweet us @blog_bookshelf or leave a comment on either our Facebook wall or Goodreads group to be featured in the post.

Contributors: Cat, Lucy, Ria, Lulu, Laura, Anjali, Erin
Post by Erin
Font used: Cuteness via
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Songs For The Missing | Stewart O'Nan | Review

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Songs For The Missing | Stewart O'Nan | Review

“She had a vision of the two of them trapped on a tiny raft surrounded by miles of open water. It would be a kind of test, like surviving on a desert island--but that's what a marriage was, wasn't it? They would have to help each other or die.” - O'Nan Stewart, Songs For The Missing

Songs For The Missing by Stewart O'Nan is a story about Kim Larsen, a popular and pretty teenage girl who goes missing. But it's not really Kim's story. It's Kim's mother's, father's, sister's, boyfriend's and best friend's story. Because this novel's more about how Kim's loved ones cope during the time after her disappearance than it's about the disappearance itself.

I have really mixed feelings about Songs For The Missing. I did find it to be a pretty interesting book that went into a lot of detail on what happens when a teenager goes missing. Or at least what happened when Kim went missing, but even if this is a fictional story it feels believable and well-researched to me. So, yes the novel i pretty well-written, feels believable and you can see that Stewart O'Nan has put a lot of time end effort into the story-line. But then there's one little detail, or it's probably not just a little detail because I don't feel ANYTHING for the characters in this book. The story itself feels believable, but not the characters. They feel blank and a bit cold. I have no idea how people react when their kids go missing, but Kim's family are so collected an put together that it feels a bit strange. Sure, there is a few tears but never a real breakdown or something even close to it. The only character that I connect with in any way is the father. He at least feels a bit sympathetic compared to the sister and mother.

I also kind of wish that Kim's boyfriend and friends got some more room in this story. As a reader I get a bit curious about how they actually feel, and what they think. I understand that the focus of the book is on Kim's family. But I wish there was some more depth to the boyfriend's and friend's story as well.

That being said, I didn't think Songs For The Missing was a bad book. Like I said i the beginning I thought that it was pretty interesting and I also really like how Stewart O'Nan described the surroundings, I really felt like I was in small town america. I also liked the details and the general story-line. But in the end Songs For The Missing was bit of an disappointment for me. I was excepting more warmth and heart in this story. I wanted to feel something when I read it. I wouldn't tell anyone to not read the book but I probably wouldn't tell anyone to read it either. Songs For The Missing gets 2,5/5 stars.

This post was written by regular reviewer Niina, get to know her here.
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Safe Haven | Nicholas Sparks | Review

Monday 3 June 2013

Safe Haven | Nicholas Sparks | Review

A young woman named Katie turns up in a small North Carolina town having been on an adventure. Nobody knows exactly where she’s from, what her past entails or how long she intends to stay but one things is for sure – she’ll never forget her past. Alex a loving, kind-hearted store owner plays a huge part in breaking down barriers as he delves into her past, bringing back memories she wishes she could forget.

Finally a Nicholas Sparks book that I managed to read before watching the film (purposely! The film was sat staring at me for weeks waiting for me to finish this book!) This was quite the lovely dovey romantic Nicholas Sparks book that I expect. There is a much deeper, darker side to this story which kept me gripped the whole way through.

I immediately connected with Katie as the main character, she was vulnerable, scared and shy, she instantly drew me in and I was desperate to find out what had happened to make her this way. What was her secret that she was hiding? Would she get over it? Would it come back with vengeance? Would the new relationships she’d built survive it? All these questions were what spurred me on to read this book through, every spare moment I had, I found myself reaching for the book to read more – even if I only had 2 minutes 2 read 2 pages!

So it’s safe to say that I enjoyed this book, I would definitely recommend it whether your Sparks fan or not. Now after I finished reading it was time to watch the film. I umm’d and ahh’d for a couple of weeks, avoiding watching it because I was worried how it would be adapted and whether I would hate. You know when you love a book so much and you’ve created your own imagery for certain scenes and someone else’s comes along and adapts the films and ruins your visions – I didn’t want that to happen.

I did enjoy the film (surprised myself!), there were new scenes and adaptations of old ones. But most importantly the darker, scarier side to this story was still there, still raw and still captivating.

If you’ve never read a Sparks book before, this definitely one to pick up.

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
Image from Goodreads
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Sunday 2 June 2013

Carter Beats the Devil | Glen David Gold | Review

Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold, was one that was recommended to me by a work colleague. She described the book to me and a bit about the characters, and I knew I had to read it. Rather than just getting it from the library, I bought it. I don’t normally just buy books based on other people’s opinions, but I think I had a ‘ah, what the heck’ moment and just went for it. I’m so glad I did. This one will be one I re-read at some point, for sure.

Set in the early 1900s, Carter Beats the Devil tells the story of Charles Carter, a magician, and his journey through the ups and downs of trying to make it in the magic business. I found that there were two sort of key events in the book.  The book starts off at a similar time to when it finishes, and then jumps way back in time and continues from there. If that makes sense... The first chapter tells the reader two things: 1) Carter has bet the devil in his final performance of the night and 2) the President was found dead, just hours after seeing Charles Carter’s show.

After these key points are established and the questions are raised (did Carter kill the President? How does he beat the devil? etc), the story splits into sections. Some chapters are from Carter’s perspective; some are from that of the detective investigating the President’s death. The language used is very fun to read, and though it’s long, the words used and the descriptions of things are such that it doesn't really feel as long as it actually is. That probably doesn't make sense…just go with it.

With mysteries and questions, a lion called Baby, a disappearing elephant, a skeptical brother, a woman called Sarah, and a whole lot of magic, Carter Beats the Devil is great read. The characters were fun – and some, of course, were horrible – and there was a good amount of humour as well as the serious stuff. There were a few chapters near the beginning that I didn't think were all that necessary – details about Carter’s life when he was very small, that I didn't really seem to link with the future/present Carter – but overall it was very clever, captivating and extremely well thought out.

I think I will definitely be paying attention to more of the books my colleague suggests in the future.

Image from Goodreads

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