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.


Friday 30 March 2018

Renegades | Marissa Meyer | Review

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

After years of chaos and anarchy, The Renegades, a team of heroes with extraordinary abilities, have worked hard to reestablish law and order in Gatlon City and give hope to the city's residents. The Anarchists, who were once one of the most powerful villain groups in the city, now greatly reduced in numbers, have been banished to the city's underground subway system, and The Renegades no longer see them as the serious threat they once were, but now simply a nuisance to be kept in their place. 

Nova once believed in The Renegades too, but when she needed the heroes' help most, it was The Anarchists who saved her. Now, as a villain called Nightmare, Nova shares The Anarchists' vision of a city free from The Renegades' control, and although the Anarchists no longer pose much of a threat to The Renegades, Nova has a plan, to infiltrate The Renegades and take them down from the inside.

Adrian is a Renegade through and through, but although The Renegades are his family, there is one thing they can't give him: answers. He wants to know who killed his mother and how the mysterious new villain, Nightmare, may have been involved. But Adrian has secrets of his own, and if any of The Renegades find out the truth, he could find himself in deep trouble.

Renegades is a fun and fascinating study in the difference between how someone comes to be perceived as a hero or as a villain. In Nova's mind, The Anarchists are the heroes trying to free the city from the rule of the corrupt, unelected Renegades. To Adrian, The Anarchists are evil, violent murderers. But The Renegades are simply trying to help the city, and, in a very different way, so are The Anarchists. Nova's plan to take down The Renegades requires her to first become one of them, and as she starts to see the other side of the story, that The Renegades maybe aren't all as bad as she previously thought, her loyalties and her beliefs start to be tested in ways she hadn't anticipated, especially once she gets to know Adrian and his team. Adrian, on the other hand, has his own battles to fight, that mean he must grapple with his morality in a very different way.

Renegades is full of interesting characters, my favourites being Nova's small band of Anarchist friends, and set in an interesting world, in a city home to many Prodigies (people with superpowers) who are permitted to audition for The Renegades, but only accepted if their powers are deemed useful enough, and even more people with no powers who must rely on The Renegades for safety whether they want to or not. The questions of who deserves power, who gets to be a hero, and who decides are present throughout the book, and as Nova becomes deeper embroiled in the world of The Renegades, the lines between good and evil become further and further blurred.

Of course, being a book about superheroes and villains, there is plenty of fighting, double-crossing, and secret-keeping, and enough twists and turns to keep the story entertaining through all 500+ pages. Combined with the questions of morality that the story explores and, of course, the budding relationship slowly forming between Nova and Adrian, Renegades is full of story and intrigue and is definitely worth a read for any fan of superheroes, science fiction, or just really good young adult novels in general.
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Thursday 29 March 2018

Features | My TBR pile for April - Four books I want to get through

I'm currently reading, and loving, Ready Player One before I hit the cinemas to see the movie but these are some of the books on my to be read pile that I should be getting to next!

We Own The Sky* by Luke Allnutt

"Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness."

This is next in my TBR pile after I've finished the books I'm currently reading. It doesn't really seem like the sort of book I'm usually into so I'm kind of excited to see what it's like, from reading the blurb it almost reminds me of Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks.

A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise."

I love the Shades of Magic series and I've slightly been putting off reading this book so I don't finish the series. It's actually been quite a while since I read the other two that I feel like I may possibly have to reread them before reading this one so I understand what's going on. Yes that may mean I take a bit longer to get to this one than the others in this post but I've got to understand what's going on right? I just really enjoy Kell and Lila and even more so Kell's ever changing jacket so I can't wait to get stuck in!

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

"When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts."

I can't remember where I saw this recommendation but it's been on my Goodreads TBR shelf for quite a while and I've finally got around to it. Let's hope I can get my hands on a copy from the library! This sort of era of historical fiction is really my cup of tea and combining that and cute zoo animals really intrigued me, I'm looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds and praying that none of the animals get in the middle of any battles.

A Year At Hotel Gondola* by Nicky Pellegrino

"Kat has never wanted to live a small, everyday sort of life. She's an adventurer, a food writer who travels the world visiting far-flung places and eating unusual fare. Now she is about to embark on her biggest adventure yet - a relationship. She has fallen in love with an Italian man and is moving to live with him in Venice where she will help him run his small guesthouse, Hotel Gondola. Kat has lined up a book deal and will write about the first year of her new adventure."

Nicky Pellegrino is one of my favourite authors, and just so happens to be from New Zealand, I love her cheesy European romance getaway novels and I can't wait to read the latest installment. While this sort of sounds like a similar vibe as her past novels there's something that gives me the idea that it'll be totally different and I'm really keen to get stuck in and basically feel like I'm in Italy for a few days!

I'm really bad at sticking with my TBR pile order and some of these will probably get pushed down the list when I discover other books I desperately want to read. You all know what I mean!?

* These are copies sent for review from the publishers, opinions are all my own
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Tuesday 27 March 2018

Books for Living | Will Schwalbe | Review

I don't read that much non-fiction anymore. I think it's a bit of a non-fiction hangover from university but it has been such a long time since I read any.

When I was sent a copy of Books for Living by Will Schwalbe, I knew it was time to change that. If a book about books couldn't cure my fear of non-fiction, I didn't know what could. I can happily say that my plan worked: I loved this book.

Books for Living: A Reader's Guide to Life is a collection of reflections on the power of books and how they can shape our lives. There are recommendations for specific books that have affected Will Schwalbe and his thoughts on how reading has changed his life. I came away from this book wanting to read so many of the books that were mentioned that I think my TBR has grown again. It also pointed out some things about books that I have read that I hadn't thought about before, which is one of my favourite things about books.

This book went so far beyond that though. It was funny, and heartbreaking, and incredibly powerful. It felt like sitting down with an old friend, and finding out their stories. It made me want to share my stories too.

Beyond that, it was a brilliant reminder of just how much of an impact that books can have and have had on my life.

What's not to love about that?

Kelly x
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Monday 26 March 2018

BB Book Club | April's Book is...

As soon as I was told the prompt for the BB Book Club, I knew what I would be picking. It is one of my favourite shorter books and one that I am constantly trying to get people to read. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to carry on that cheerleading...

This book will be a little different from the other ones that we have read for the BB Book Club so far but I don't think that will be a bad thing. A little variety is always good, right? And I think this is a book that will inspire some discussion, which is one of my favourite things about sharing books that I have enjoyed. You might not think the same about me but it's a very rich book so I think you'll have something to say about it.

The book in question?

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

Technically a novella rather than a short story, this is a dark Gothic tale about love, obsession and the supernatural.  When Laura and her father take a young woman named Carmilla into their home, their idyllic peace is disturbed. Despite the strange occurrences, the friendship between Laura and Carmilla grows, beyond what anyone thought. It is menacing and mesmerising in equal measure.

I first stumbled upon this book when I was studying Gothic literature and I've been a little bit in love with it ever since. For such a small book, it packs a lot in. As you can see from all the sticky tabs, it is a book that I have spent a lot of time reading, working with and thinking about it. It will haunt you long after you finish the final page...

Being a classic, Carmilla is widely available on both Amazon UK and iBooks. I also managed to pick up a lovely edition of it in a bookstore. If you do read it, use the hashtag #bookshelfbookclub to let us know your thoughts and complete this Google Form by 20th April.

We hope that you're excited to read our April selection but don't worry if it doesn't sound like your thing - check back next month to find out more about our next book club pick! 
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Sunday 25 March 2018

BB Book Club | March 2018 Roundup | Broadcast

This year we decided to launch our very own online book club, with a new book for you to join us in reading every month. Chosen by Erin, our third BB book club read was Sci-Fi title Broadcast by Liam Brown. Here's our March infographic to tell you a little bit more...

Reader's comments and favourite quotes:

“Somehow it looks even bluer on the screen. Even realer” 

"The book tackles the interesting subject of social media/vlogging and living our lives online. I found it to be an enjoyable, thought-provoking short read." - Erin @ A Natural Detour 

"That ending! What!" - Anjali @ This Splendid Shambles

“I still can’t get used to the idea of no one being interested in my life anymore. After all, if nobody’s there to watch me, what’s the point in doing anything in the first place?”

"It was obvious that the book was going to have negative views of social media being very much a Black Mirror sort of plotline. I wouldn't personally use MindCast if it was a thing but it's not stopping me from sharing what I currently share with the world.
Yes [I would recommend the book], but I would probably be more likely to recommend the Black Mirror series over this." - Sophie @ Sofilly

"It's so short and snappy to read. It's definitely unique in the ideas it brings to the table." - Anjali @ This Splendid Shambles

"People read to be entertained. To pass the time on those rare occasions when their battery's dead or they can't get a WiFi signal. But the main reason, I believe, or at least the most important reason people still read, is because books are the only opportunity we ever get to experience true empathy with another human being. To see the world through their eyes. To walk in their shoes."

"I finished the book, and the idea of MindCast is interesting, but it could have been explored in greater depth. I think that due to the length of the book you weren’t able to really get to know, or care about, the characters." - Anon

"I liked when David was just learning how MindCast worked and learning all the features and developments." - Sophie @ Sofilly

"My kingdom for a search engine."

Thank you to everyone who read along with us this month! If you would like to get involved with next month's BB Book Club check back here tomorrow where Kelly will be introducing her selection for April.

You can also sign up to our mailing list to make sure you don't miss out on any future book club updates!

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Friday 23 March 2018

Features | The Pros and Cons of Binge-Reading a Series

binge read
1. When you get so engrossed in a book that you read it in one sitting - Urban Dictionary

Ah, binge-reading. That potentially joyous time of reading where you get sucked into a world of make-believe with little hope that you'll make it out the other side the same as when you began. Thanks to Urban Dictionary we have a definition of binge-read, however I'd like to take it one step further and talk about binge-reading an entire series, not just one book.

When you binge-read a series, I'm talking reading books 1 - 6 straight after one another, and not reading anything in between. It'll take you longer than the definition's 'one sitting', for sure, but it's binging all the same.

This year I've semi binge-read the Falling Kindgoms series by Morgan Rhodes, and by 'semi' I mean that there were some which I read with books in between, and a couple which I read one after the another. I'm still waiting book 6 from the library, so did I really binge-read the series? I don't know, you can make that call. But it got me thinking about it, and how there are many pros and cons to binge-reading an entire series in one go.

In true Blogger's Bookshelf style, I've made an infographic list for you. You'll notice I've included one item on both lists, as I truly couldn't decide if it were a pro or a con - perhaps it's dependant on what's happening around you at the time.

The pros and cons of binge reading a series - Blogger's Bookshelf Features

So what do you think? What have I missed off this list? Let us know in the comments! 

Shout out to Sophie and Aimee who Tweeted me a few of these ideas! Speaking of Tweeting, follow Blogger's Bookshelf for up-to-date posts, news and other bookish goodies!

Book element in infographic designed by Freepik
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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Far From The Tree | Robin Benway | Review

far from the tree robin benway book blog

Far From The Tree tells the story of three siblings, meeting for the first time after growing up separately, and follows them on their journey as they get to know one another and search for their birth mother.

The first sibling we are introduced to is teenager Grace, who is going through a tough time. Having fallen pregnant and with no support from her ex-boyfriend, Grace makes the decision to give her baby up for adoption. Adopted as a baby herself, this difficult choice inspires Grace to find out more about her own birth parents and after being raised as an only child she is surprised to discover that she has a younger sister living close by.

Maya, who was also adopted, is already aware that she has a sibling, but having grown up with a sister she doesn’t always see eye to eye with (her parents biological daughter) she isn’t exactly in a rush to find Grace. Maya hasn’t had an easy ride herself and has always felt like the odd one out in her family, standing out in all of their family photos - the dark haired girl in a family of redheads. After Grace gets in contact to introduce herself, the pair also decide to track down their older half-brother Joaquin.

Joaquin has not had a similar experience to his sisters. Growing up in the foster system, he has been bounced around various different homes but has finally found a kind, supportive couple who he gets along well with and want to adopt him. Although Joaquin is happy in his current home there’s something holding him back from saying yes to officially becoming a family.

The chapters alternate between the three characters allowing readers to get to know each of them as individuals, as well as watching their relationship grow together as siblings. I loved following their journey as they got to know each other, noticed all of their similarities despite their different upbringings, and developed a close bond. To me, each of the characters felt very distinct and real and I believe this is one of the elements that makes the book such a success.

Whilst I find it difficult to review a book that I enjoyed this much I felt like I had to talk about this one - it's not very often I rate a book 5 stars! Whilst I didn’t know anything much about the book going in, I remembered the author’s name from her previous novel Emmy & Oliver which I also really enjoyed and I’m glad I decided to pick up this one too. With lovable, relatable characters at it’s centre, the story is heartwarming and enjoyable, even through the more difficult events and I would highly recommend adding it to your 2018 TBR. ★★★★★

Cover image via Goodreads

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Sunday 18 March 2018

Send Us Your Thoughts On Our March BB Book Club Pick!

broadcast liam brown book club
The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me - within a few months you'll be the most talked about person on the planet. 
After your positive feedback on our short story collection picks we really hope you're also enjoying BB book club's first short novel selection! We can't wait to hear your thoughts, but be sure to send us your feedback ASAP as there's only a week left until we share this month's book club infographic!

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Friday 16 March 2018

In Search of Us | Ava Dellaira | Review

To seventeen-year-old Angie, who is mixed-race, Marilyn is her hardworking, devoted, white single mother. But Marilyn was once young, too. When Marilyn was seventeen, she fell in love with Angie's father.

In Search of Us tells two parallel stories, of a mother and daughter, and of love and trauma that span generations. The first story follows Angie, a seventeen-year-old, mixed-race girl who has always believed that her father, James, died before she was born. Until she finds out that her mother, Marilyn, lied about James's brother also being dead. With the news that Angie's uncle is still alive and living in LA, Angie doesn't know if she can believe what Marilyn tells her anymore, so she enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend, Sam, to drive her to LA so she can find out the truth about her family, and possibly find the father she never got to meet.

The second story follows Angie's mother, Marilyn, before she was Angie's mother, when she was seventeen, and her own mother, so determined for Marilyn to succeed, moved the two of them in with Marilyn's uncle in LA. All Marilyn wants is to get out of LA and leave her acting career and her alcoholic uncle behind. Until she becomes friends with the boy who lives in the apartment below her uncle's, James, Angie's dad. Marilyn falls in love, not only with James, but with his whole family, who make her feel at home in a way her own family never has, and over one summer Marilyn falls in love and begins to set out and choose her own path.

In alternate chapters we see Angie desperately search for the uncle who might lead her to the father she no longer believes is dead, and learn why Marilyn kept the summer she spent with James a secret from her daughter. Both girls are searching for different things. Angie, for a father who she can talk to about her African-American heritage in a way she can't with Marilyn and who can alleviate the difficulties she faces as the black daughter of a white woman. Marilyn, simply for an escape from her controlling mother, trying to live her dreams through her daughter at Marilyn's expense, and her volatile uncle who tries to forbid her from seeing James.

Angie and Marilyn's stories are both full of longing and desperation, one looking to get away from a family and the other looking to find one. Although the two stories are different, they weave together to eventually reveal the truth of what happened to James, and for both girls to learn what they need to carry on. The writing is vivid and beautiful, bringing to life both the LA setting and the characters' emotions in a way that is easy to get lost in. Personally, I thought James and Marilyn's love story was the most engrossing of the two, but neither story can really exist without the other, just as Marilyn and Angie would not exist as they are without each other. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about the things we unwittingly pass down through generations, and I highly recommend it.
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Thursday 15 March 2018

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

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz flatlay

I have so many mixed feelings about this book. It was one of those books that you take forever to get into, to the point where I almost put it down and stopped reading for good. But then once you get past a certain chapter it's super enjoyable and really easy to fly through, where I practically took 2 weeks to read the first half and a few hours to read the second half.

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.

I did, however, really enjoy how it was laid out in mini-chapters, some being only a page or two long. This may have added to the fact that it was easy to put down as I usually like to finish a chapter before putting it down but with small chapters I could read like 5 pages a night and which meant it took forever to get through it. 

The problem I now have with YA, being an almost 24-year-old, is that it's been a while since I was 15 years old and sometimes it takes a while for me to connect with the characters this age. Does anyone feel the same way? That being said, once I'd connected with my wee 15-year-old self, I really enjoyed the characters of Ari and Dante, I related so much to some of the loneliness and the fear of being needy. The story didn't have one major plot, but instead lots of mini storylines that all got tied up in the end (sort of like a happily ever after, but not really) so the story followed how the two boys developed. Their friendship, their relationship with their families, their coming of age and learning about themselves. I won't go into too much detail as it will spoil the book, and we don't want that, so I'll just leave you with this; if you feel like you're not enjoying it - push through! Also, the wee doggie, legs, is wonderful! 

Have you read this? What did you think?

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Tuesday 13 March 2018

The Extinction Trials | S. M Wilson | Review

Stormchaser and Lincoln are doing what they can to forge a life in a ruined world. There is not enough food, not enough space, not enough time... When a new competition to explore an uninhabitable continent is announced, the two jump at the chance. For Lincoln, the potential prizes could answer his prayers. For Stormchaser, the trip might just answer her questions. Before that, they will have no choice but to face unimaginable dangers in a land where nothing is certain.

With a plot like that, it is probably of no surprise to you that The Extinction Trials is fast paced and exciting. It is truly an adventure tale, and one that had me wanting to bite my nails in excitement.

I know that a lot of people have been comparing this to Jurassic Park and loving it as a result but since I've never seen that (I know!), I can't comment on it. However, I did love the inclusion of the dinosaurs, as it made for a really unique YA novel for me. It was like The Hunger Games, but with higher stakes and more chances of being ripped apart or squished. S.M Wilson didn't shy away from putting their characters in real, palatable danger, which meant that I was utterly hooked by the novel from the moment Stormchaser and Lincoln began their journey to the new continent until I finally turned the final page.

This is a brutal and heartwarming book, in all of the best ways. Like many pieces of dystopian fiction, it really questions what happens when a society is running out of options. I'm certainly excited to see what will happen in the upcoming sequel...

Kelly x
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Monday 12 March 2018

Scythe | Neal Shusterman | Discussion

scythe neal shusterman review blogger's bookshelf
Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. - Goodreads 

First things first, what made you decide to pick up Scythe?

Anjali: I’ve only read Unwind by Neal Shusterman, but when I saw this book was coming out I knew I really wanted to read it. The themes and the ideas in the story really interested me, and it did not fail to live up the hype I had read around it either.

Erin: If you've read our Meet The Team bios you may already know that Neal Shusterman's Unwind series is one of my all-time favourites (I've also enjoyed a couple of his other books too!). I love his writing style and enjoy that he often tackles topics and themes that really make the reader think. The blurb for Scythe was super intriguing with a unique utopian concept so I automatically added it to my TBR.

Were there any characters you wanted to get to know better or that you hope to learn more about in the sequel?

Anjali: While we did get a little bit of Scythe Faraday’s story towards the end of the book, I’d like to know more about his past. I’d also be super keen to read about another junior Scythe who is a little older than Citra and Rowan, and what their experiences were like, looking back a few years on.

Erin: The character I found the most interesting was Scythe Faraday and in the sequel I would love to hear more about his story as well as Scythe Curie's. In the first book we learn that they are both well-known scythes and have been alive for a very long time so I think they must have a lot of fascinating stories to tell. If we don't get to explore their past lives further in Thunderhead, I think they could possibly make great companion novellas to the series.

Hypothetically, if this were to happen in real life, do you think the Scythedom would be a feasible solution?

Anjali: Stepping back from the story, and just looking at the idea of conquering death and how you’d deal with that as a society, hypothetically, I don’t think there would be a solution, feasible or not.

Even if rules or regulations like the Scythedom (people being selected for death to avoid overpopulation), or stopping people having kids, or capping the amount of times that people can ‘turn the corner’ to go back to a younger age, there would always be problems. Someone would get upset, someone would want to change the system, someone would think they could do it better. Humans, as great as we might think we are, are flawed. We’re incredible, complex beings, but we are flawed. Our birth and death are the bookends of our life, and without the stopper of death at the end of the shelf all the books fall off and create a big mess. Such would it be with ‘conquering’ death; a big mess, unlikely to have any real solutions.

Erin: The simple answer to this question is no. There are so many reasons - including some of those that Anjali has shared her thoughts on - why a Scythedom wouldn't work as a solution. I can't really ever see an idea like this being successful but as with any basis for a utopian world, even if there was a chance the concept worked for a length of time it certainly wouldn't be a feasible long-term solution.

Do you have a favourite quote from the book?

Anjali: There were many fantastic quotes throughout Scythe, but this is up there in the top 5:

“Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator.”

Erin: If I had been able to get my highlighters on this book the pages would have been full of colour, but sadly I didn't think the library would appreciate my annotation! I also forgot to keep track of any quotes that stood out as I read because I was enjoying the book so much. I think I'll have to add a copy to my collection and re-read it, highlighters in hand, in the future.

Any final thoughts on Scythe?

Anjali: I loved this book. A lot. Few books I’ve read these days have really got me thinking, and, if my answer to question 3 is anything to go by (and I did chop it down to this paragraph!), Scythe really did. There were so many hints and nods to things in real life throughout the book, and of course, the whole concept of ‘conquering’ death that made me stop and think multiple times throughout the story. I really also enjoy Shusterman’s storytelling, and the characters he creates. Really looking forward to picking up Thunderhead. Would definitely recommend. 5 stars.

Erin: I found the whole concept of Scythe so interesting and thought-provoking which made the novel such an enjoyable read. Seeing how varied the scythes attitudes towards their job were was a particularly interesting aspect and I felt the diary entry snippets included throughout were a great addition to the story. Similarly to Anjali, I also rated the book five stars and can't wait to read the sequel!

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Friday 9 March 2018

The Cruel Prince | Holly Black | Review

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black - Blogger's Bookshelf Book review
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. - Goodreads

I tried to write a synopsis of The Cruel Prince but I found myself unable to quite put into words the number of things that are going on in this story, and the detail in which Black so beautifully writes the world it's set in.

What I can say is that I loved this book. Holly Black, as Victoria Aveyard rightly puts on the back cover, truly is the Faerie Queen. The plot of  flows so wonderfully and I never found myself feeling bored or distracted away from the story. 

Jude, as a protagonist, was brilliant, and I really enjoyed her character, her fire, and her resilience. It was nice reading a character who had siblings who were still very much involved with the story, rather than being an MC who was a lonely orphan or who had one sibling with whom they were estranged (not that those books aren't good in their own way, just that it was a nice change from what I had been reading previously). The Princes in the story - of whom there were many - were all cruel in their own ways, and so I did spend a lot of the book trying to figure out if it was Cardan that the title was referring to, or if it was literally everyone. I'll let you decide. 

The land of Elfhame where our story takes place was stunning. Obviously I haven't been there (oh to step into a fictional world), but the map in the front of the book was so creatively drawn and you could really put together the descriptions of the land with the places on the maps. Boy, do I love a good book map. 

Somehow Holly Black pulls you into her worlds with poetic and captivating prose and sharp dialogue that entertains, catches your breath, and I love everything about it. My friend asked me once if I read every single world when I'm reading a book. I don't actually think I do (it's more that my eyes go over a sentence, pick out the main words to the get the main point and move on to the next one - I have yet to test my theory and wouldn't know where to start. Any ideas?), but I found myself reading all the words, all of the time with The Cruel Prince. If you've read any of Black's other books, then you might know what I mean. 

On Goodreads I've given 5/5 stars, it was that good. If you're into your Young Adult or fairytales, then do head down to your local bookshop, library or pop onto Book Depository to grab yourself a copy. 

Have you read The Cruel Prince? What did you think? 

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Wednesday 7 March 2018

BB Book Club | Links Inspired By Broadcast

broadcast liam brown

As we announced last week, this month's BB book club pick is Liam Brown's Broadcast, a novel which explores the topics of social media and living our lives online. The book follows popular vlogger David, who is presented with a unique opportunity to expand his audience and be the first star of a new show called MindCast where his every thought, feeling and memory is live-streamed to the world.

Whilst we may not all be YouTube stars like David, most of us have and regularly use at least one social media account - it's just a part of modern life, right? We know that many of our readers are fellow bloggers used to sharing snippets of their lives online whether it be opinions on books or more personal posts but how much more are we sharing without even realising?
"We're talking about creating a limitless universe inside each and every person's head. A truly inclusive utopia for all. A virtual heaven, right here on Earth." - Broadcast, p178
Perhaps at first the ideas explored in Broadcast seem far-fetched, and luckily no one is asking us to undergo surgery to implant microchips into our brains... yet. However advances in technology mean it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a balance between the online and offline worlds and many elements of David's story feel unsettlingly close to reality.

As an additional post for this month's book club I thought it might be interesting to create a Bookish Links style roundup with a bit of a Broadcast-inspired twist. Instead of sharing all things bookish, today's post is full of links related to the subjects and themes explored in our March book club pick.

broadcast liam brown

To Read...

1. In this post Sali Hughes shares her experience of realising she was addicted to her smartphone and how she's tackled the problem.

2. This discussion explores the idea of privacy in the modern world and how we're sharing much more online than we may believe. There's also links included which will take you straight to the related TED talks from those contributing to the article.

3. If you've ever settled in for a relaxing evening with a good book only to be distracted by your phone you'll find Janine's post incredibly relatable.

4. Fitness tracker style bands feature in the novel and this article has some interesting information on the future of wearables.

5. Teen Vogue shared an article looking at the link between social media and anxiety.

6. For a longer read take a look at this article from The Guardian which discusses smartphone addiction, how tech companies can keep us hooked on social media and what all of this may mean for the future.

To Watch...

1. In this TED talk Zeynep Tufekci discusses algorithms, the data social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube are collecting and how this is used to influence the ads we see online.

2. Another TED talk to add to your watch list is Sherry Turkle's 2012 talk about her changing opinion on the internet and how we are both connected and alone all at once.

3. As the book's cover suggests, the story will appeal to fans of the anthology series Black Mirror (available to watch on Netflix). Season 1's Fifteen Million Merits and season 3's Nosedive in particular explore similar themes.

To Listen To...

1. Manipulation is a TED Radio Hour episode which includes a section from Tristan Harris that explores the idea of our devices controlling our lives.

2. Technology has come a long way since the 90's when Jennifer Ringley set up a website uploading a black and white webcam image from her apartment every fifteen minutes, allowing the whole world to watch her every move. In this early epsiode of Reply All Alex talks to her about the experience.

3. In the book all of David's thoughts are broadcast live to the world. This episode of Invisiblia titled The Secret History Of Thoughts looks at dark thoughts in particular - what do they really mean and how much control do we have over them?

4. The final link of this roundup is a podcast episode from Stuff They Don't Want You To Know which looks at how much the internet really knows about us and what happens when you 'delete' things online.

If you're reading our March book club pick don't forget to send us your feedback on the book via this Google form by 23rd March.

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Tuesday 6 March 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda | Becky Albertalli | Review

Simon Vs Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

“People really are like house with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it's a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.” 

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. - Goodreads

A few weeks ago I picked up the award-winning novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, just in time for the highly anticipated film adaptation, Love, Simon. While it had been on my radar for some time, I don't know why I never picked it up: it was so good.

The characters in this story are brilliant; Simon is so realistic it's like you know him in real life, he's funny and clever, and I really enjoyed his love of drama and performance. Simon's references to Harry Potter were absolutely fantastic and so relatable, as were the other pop-culture remarks (the dog is called Bieber!), the amount of Oreos*, and the fact that the whole drama begins with a secret Tumblr page.

“He talked about the ocean between people. 
And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.”

The identity of Blue remained a mystery until right near the end, as one would expect, but I called who Blue was probably around half way. Simon's thought processes, reasoning and logic around who Blue was brilliantly written, and a lot of fun to read.

That's what this book was: fun. It was a fun, sweet, story, but at the same time tells a very important tale, which feels incredibly real. It's definitely a story I plan to re-read, and while the movie trailer looks like the film will be a bit different, I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Have you read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? What did you think? 

*So many Oreos. Check out this fantastic Simon Spier's Guide To Whether You Should Eat An Oreo infographic from Epic Reads. 

Post script: Yes I was reading Simon in my lunch break at work, hence the cup of tea in the 'coolest boss' mug (which isn't mine) and the apple.
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Monday 5 March 2018

Features | On March's TBR

Since last month's TBR ended up working out pretty well for me I thought I'd share another one here for March. This time I've only picked out a few titles, leaving room for me to hopefully squeeze in a couple more along the way, although I've just started a new job and whilst my commute is set to potentially be great reading time, I haven't settled in to a new routine yet!

Scythe, Neal Shusterman (2017)

I feel like I've been waiting to read this book for such a long time! I'm sure you've already heard a lot about Scythe as it's been all over blogs and booktube but if you've missed the hype the basics are that the book takes place in a 'perfect' world with no war, hunger, disease or misery, where scythes are in charge of keeping the population under control.

I added the book to my TBR as soon as I heard about it as I loved Shusterman's Unwind series (please go and read this if you haven't yet!). Whilst I usually find myself disappointed by books that have such a big hype surrounding them, in this case I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this series as much as everyone else! I'm also planning to team up with Anjali to review the book so keep an eye out here if you want to hear our thoughts.

Always & Forever Lara Jean, Jenny Han (2017)

The final instalment in Jenny Han's YA Contemporary 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' series catches up with Lara Jean as she gets ready to head off to college. Similarly to Scythe, this book was on my 2017 TBR but at the end of last year I was still sitting patiently in the library queue so ended up adding it to my 2018 sequels challenge instead. My friend recently lent me her copy so this month I'm planning to finally finish the series.

Clean, Juno Dawson (2018)

Juno Dawson's latest novel Clean focuses on Lexi, who finds herself in rehab for drug addiction. The book is due for release in April and I was lucky enough to be auto-approved for a copy through Netgalley, so of course I jumped at the chance to read it. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this one (including Ria's 5 star rating) and have really enjoyed many of Juno's other books so I can't wait to find out more about Lexi's story.

Pretty Monsters, Kelly Link (2005)

Another book that's received the stamp of approval from a member of team BB is Pretty Monsters, a short story collection, which made Stasia's 2017 favourites list. The collection is described as 'weird, wicked, spooky and delicious' and it sounds set to be a completely unique read. At this rate I'll be reading at least one short story collection per month this year...!

Which books are on your TBR this month?
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Sunday 4 March 2018

Bookish Links #40

1. Illustrated Reads - we loved Katie's recommendations for illustration books. All of her picks look gorgeous but we've got our eye on Home in particular.

2. Wanderlust - if travel is high on your to-do list this year check out Heather's post all about Culture Smart travel guides!

3. For The Bookworms - we enjoyed this post featuring some bookish invention ideas. If you could invent a product perfect for bookworms what would it be?

4. Peaks & Pages - one of our favourite new bookstagram discoveries is Amanda's page full of beautiful bookish photos!

5. Share Your Book Photos - speaking of bookstagram, if you're looking to start your own you'll love Brittney's top tips!

6. A-Z Must-Reads - we loved this idea from Carolanne's blog where she shared a full A-Z of book recommendations. Which books would make your list?

7. Feel Inspired - we adored Lucy's post all about writing her first novel. It will definitely leave you feeling inspired if you're dreaming of getting published!

8. Meet Cute - if you're looking for an adorable selection of YA tales we think you'll love Meet Cute. Check out this review for more info on each of the stories included in the book!

9. All The Audiobooks - we loved Jannsen's list of amazing audiobook recommendations. Are you a fan of audiobooks?

10. Step Into The Spotlight - we think you'll love this list from Bustle which showcases secondary characters who definitely deserve to be the stars of their own novels! Who would make your list?

11. Magazine - we love this online magazine from Stay Bookish. Make sure you check out the latest issue for a bunch of great bookish articles!

12. 2018 Debuts - this list from Epic Reads is definitely one to bookmark!
Links From The BB Archives... The Strange Library, Haruki Murakami | Sneaky Bookshops | The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman

For a little extra dose of bookish links every month, make sure you're subscribed to our monthly newsletter.

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Friday 2 March 2018

The Exact Opposite of Okay | Laura Steven | Review

Izzy O'Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that's what the malicious website flying round the school says.

As far as Izzy is convinced, she is a normal teenage girl. She lives with her grandmother, spends most of her time with her two best friends, and yes, sometimes she goes to parties. Sometimes she drinks. Sometimes she has sex with two guys in one night, one of whom happens to be the son of a Republican senator. Izzy isn't ashamed of that and she knows no one else has the right to shame her for it. Except someone at school doesn't agree. Someone has made a website, detailing all the ways in which Izzy O'Neill is a "world-class whore", including details that no one else should know. Including a picture of Izzy and the senator's son having sex on a bench at a party.

Dealing with the entire town knowing all about her sex-ploits is hard enough, but suddenly Izzy's oldest friend, Danny, is acting weird too, like maybe-he-likes-her weird, and although Izzy tries to let him down easy, Danny doesn't seem to be taking 'no' for an answer. The only things keeping Izzy sane are the screenwriting competition one of her teachers encouraged her to enter, and her best friend Ajita, and even those things aren't beyond screwing up.

Told through blog posts, The Exact Opposite of Okay reads as a feminist manifesto for the digital age. Slut-shaming, revenge porn, and the friend-zone all get a thorough examination through Izzy's story and from the very start Izzy knows exactly who is in the wrong in every case, and it isn't her. Although it can feel at times as though the reader is getting hit over the head with a very specific message, these are important messages to tell and it's great to see a female teenage character who is so confident in herself and her own decisions. 

Of course, as Izzy begins to see the negative effects from the website, and as her friendship with Danny begins to slide rapidly downhill thanks to his ever growing Nice Guy routine, her confidence and strength begin to waver, but it would have been unrealistic if they hadn't. The invasion of her privacy and the subsequent reactions from those around her really knock Izzy for six in a way that is crushingly realistic and important to see, but the real heartache comes when Izzy fears she may have accidentally hurt her best friend, Ajita, or embarrassed her grandmother, who supports her unconditionally. These are the things that truly break Izzy's heart, and her sense of humour is such an integral part of both the story and her personality that it is hard not to feel heartbroken too when her devastation breaks through.

Refreshingly for a teen protagonist, Izzy has no real desire to go to college. It's only her and her grandmother at home and, like plenty of real life teenagers, she knows they would never be able to afford a college education for her, and so she throws herself into writing her screenplay instead, hoping that this passion for comedy might be a better way of making a living one day, and in the mean time, it will be something fun to do while she works, and if it's never any more than that, then that's fine too. Izzy is down to earth and realistic but she is also smart and hilarious and if a film written by her was as funny as her blog posts, then I'd watch it in a heartbeat. The messages in this book are certainly important, but the real enjoyment of it comes from that sense of humour and I defy anyone to read The Exact Opposite of Okay and not laugh out loud at least once.
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Thursday 1 March 2018

To All The Boys I've Loved Before | Jenny Han | Review

I finished reading To All The Boys I've Loved Before at the start of February and I flew through it. There are a lot of mixed reviews floating around about this book but I personally really enjoyed it! It’s a fluffy YA novel and if you can’t accept that then, of course, you won’t like it, but if you’re happy to settle down for a few hours and distract your mind with some cheesy romance then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Warning there are some tiny spoilers but nothing that will spoil the plot/storyline for you!

Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from Jenny Han. What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them...all at once? Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved--five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

I really enjoyed how the characters were written and developed. Lara Jean was half Korean and her mother died when she was young, in other YA books either one of these would be the main part of her personality let alone both. The entire book would focus on how she developed from her mother dying being the reason for everything, to acceptance that her mother’s gone. “Oh yes I couldn’t complete that assignment as my mum died years and years ago” “Oh yes feel sorry for Lara Jean because she has no mum” BUT THIS ISNT LIKE THAT! Being half Korean raised by her dad adds to her personality but it doesn’t revolve around it. Not only that but being a quiet person, she wasn’t written as boring and ordinary like most quiet people are usually. Nor does she suddenly come out of her shell and become this super extrovert character. I mean I could go on for a fair while about all the things about her personality that was so much better than usual fluffy YA’s but I’ll stop here.

I really enjoyed it, and how it wasn't just like your regular love story I mean it sort of was but it also wasn't. Her older sister, Margo, I didn't like. Seriously she was way too controlling, I know she was written as a mother figure but I just wanted to punch her a lot of the time. The same with her boyfriend/sometimes ex-boyfriend Josh. I could not stand the way he handled the whole letter situation and basically shoved himself onto Lara Jean because he apparently wanted her all along. THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU ASK HER OUT AND NOT HER SISTER! Argh, those two belong together the idiots.

Anyway, I said I liked this book right? The demon couple aside, it was just a good easy read YA. I can't really say much more about it other than it's fluffy and will make you cry and the ending makes you want to read more as it's kinda an average ending. But hey there are two more books in the series so let's read them too!
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