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.


Monday 30 April 2018

BB Book Club | May's Book Is...

the skeletons holiday leonora carrington penguin modern classics
Ring for your maid, and when she comes in we'll pounce upon her and tear off her face. I'll wear her face tonight instead of mine.
Chosen by Ria, our May book club selection is a wonderfully surreal collection of seven short stories. Part of the Penguin Modern Classics series, The Skeleton's Holiday by Leonora Carrington stands at just 48 pages and is available for the grand total of £1!

If you'd like to join in and read along with team BB you can pick up a copy of the book online, at your local bookshop or library. We'd love to hear from you if you are reading the book over the next few weeks so please do remember to use the hashtag #bookshelfbookclub to share any updates, photos or comments with us.

To send us your feedback on the book (which may be featured in our May roundup infographic) please complete this Google form by 25th May.

bloggers bookshelf book club

We hope that you're excited to read our May selection but don't worry if it doesn't sound like your thing - check back next month for Sophie's first BB book club pick! 
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Friday 27 April 2018

Features | Does Fanfiction Count?

Many of the bookworms among us love to keep track of the books we read. Whether it's through GoodReads challenges, spreadsheets, pages in bullet journals, or just a vague recollection of the books we've read most recently. But there's one question I've seen pop up a few times now: does fanfiction count? I think the real question is, why wouldn't it?

The lines between fanfiction and literature have become increasingly blurred with the advancement of technology. Nowadays there are as many self-published books as there are traditionally published. A lot of them are only available as ebooks and plenty are available for free, so it isn't the absence of a physical book or the backing of a publisher that makes people question the validity of fanfiction, unless they also question the validity of these self-published ebooks. Many fic writers spend months crafting intricate, novel-length plots, just like writers of original fiction. Many fics go through a process of editing too, with the help of beta readers, just like self-published and traditionally published novels. So is the difference only that the characters in fanfiction are borrowed?

What about Death Comes to Pemberly and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? What about the countless further tales of Sherlock Holmes? These can be traditionally published because the original stories that inspired them are now in the public domain, and their authors no longer need to be protected from plagiarism, but when you put aside those all important copyright laws are they really any different to the 80,000+ word Harry Potter fanfiction you can find online? These books are fanfiction too, and it isn't anything new.

For as long as humans have been writing things down, and even before that, they've been adapting stories they heard before. You only need to look at the literally endless versions of the tales of King Arthur. Even the earliest written stories of King Arthur are adaptations of the stories that people used to tell each other face to face. Fairytale retellings aren't going away because they've always been here. The Brothers Grimm didn't write Cinderella, they just wrote down their own version of it. As long as people have told stories, they've been writing fanfiction, changing the endings of fairytales, adding their own characters, making up continued adventures for their favourite heroes. Maybe it is time to start counting fanfiction because, whether we know it or not, we already are.
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Thursday 26 April 2018

We Own The Sky | Luke Allnutt | Review

I have very mixed feelings about We Own The Sky*. On one hand the story was really meaningful and definitely kicked you in the feels a lot, but on the other hand, it also felt rather cheesy which kind of ruined the meaningful storyline.

Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London townhouse 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.

Having gone through an experience similar to this book in recent years (minus the jet-setting off to Prague) I try not to pick up books that revolve around the cancer story. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that would be the case with this book as the blurb doesn’t really give much away. So sorry if that comes as spoilers to you but it’s hinted at in the first chapter and mentioned properly in the first few chapters of the book anyway and I couldn’t really form much of a review on it if I didn’t mention the fact.

Rob and Anna go through very different paths when it comes to dealing with wee Jack’s condition. I think it’s rather nice to see something true to real life rather than the whole ‘let’s make the most of it’ stories you tend to get in teenage cancer stories. Rob wants to do everything in his being to try cure Jack to the point where he’d happily remortgage or sell his house for treatments. Whereas Anna sees the analytical side, which sometimes is viewed as a rather cold perspective and often Anna is seen as being rather cold even when dealing with her dying little boy.

After the fact they follow the regular path parents take from losing many a child, they fight and then they split. But then the third section of the book they come back together and finally have this magical cheesy I forgive you please come back to me type sequence which I found was rather unnecessary. The book could definitely be ended at the end of section two.

I didn’t hate the book, I just found it hard to get into. There were a few minor storylines that were unnecessary and frankly the storyline that linked with the title didn’t really add much - it just added that cheesy happy ending. That aside, there were definitely very important meaningful parts of this book that are worth reading, especially if you haven’t gone through something like this. Everyone mourns in different ways so it’s nice to see that shown in at least 5 different ways throughout the novel, from the main story of Rob and Anna, the storyline of Nev and Josh, and the storyline of both Rob’s dad and Anna’s mum after losing their partners as well.

3/5 stars

* I was given this book for review purposes but all opinions are my own. 
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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Orphan Monster Spy | Matt Killeen | Review

I am having a real historical fiction moment right now. I just can't get enough of it, which is particularly surprising considering the fact that I don't think I've even picked up a historical fiction book over the last few years. Whatever the reason, I'm more than happy to indulge this fancy because it has led me to some fantastic books.

One such book is Orphan Monster Spy, the debut novel from Matt Killeen. I actually heard Matt speak at the Northern YA Literary Festival and decided right there and then that I needed to read his book and pronto!

Orphan Monster Spy is all about Sarah, a Jewish teenager. Her life takes a strange turn when she meets an even stranger man, who convinces her to infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school. There, she must use her skills to get close to one specific pupil, whose father just happens to be a Nazi scientist and owner of the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy everything. Sarah agrees and finds herself in considerable danger, fighting to survive a cut-throat school in a brutal world.

If you couldn't tell from that synopsis, Orphan Monster Spy is a fast-paced thriller that had me desperately turning the pages and devouring the story. I was completely and utterly hooked from the first few pages. It was so unpredictable that I could physically feel the tension - every time I thought things were safe, something new would be thrown into the mix!

This might sound like a lot but I thought that it really worked. A mahoosive part of this is the character of Sarah. Without giving too much away, Sarah's background is not only harrowing but also has given her the chance to develop the skills she needs to walk into a new life as a spy. Every time she is challenged, I was not only rooting for her but knew she had the experience necessary to give her a fighting chance. She was well constructed, believable and really rather amazing! If I get the chance to read more about Sarah, I will be a very happy reader.

Kelly x
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Sunday 22 April 2018

BB Book Club | April 2018 Roundup | Carmilla

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. April saw us read our first Classic Horror title Carmilla which was selected by Kelly. Here's our April infographic to tell you a little bit more...

bb book club april 2018 carmilla

Reader's comments and favourite quotes:

[On how the book compares to Dracula] "The old European setting, the aristocratic vampire, the wooing of the victim - there's plenty there!"

[On why the story appeals to a modern day audience] "I think it tells us a lot about who, or what, we fear."  - Kelly @ This Northern Gal

“Do you think,” I said at length, “That you will ever confide fully in me?” She turned round smiling, but made no answer, only continued to smile on me. “You won’t answer that?” I said. “You can’t answer pleasantly; I ought not to have asked you”

"I think the book appeals to the modern audience, I found the language used in the book accessible and easy to follow. I would recommend [Carmilla], I like a gothic mystery kind of story." - Cat

You, who live in towns, can have no idea how great an event the introduction of a new friend is, in such a solitude as surrounded us.

"Vampire stories aren't generally my thing so I wasn't sure what to expect from the book. I ended up enjoying Carmilla more than I had expected to and I'm glad Kelly chose it for the book club." - Erin @ A Natural Detour

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 Ria will be introducing her selection for May.

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 20 April 2018

Reign of the Fallen | Sarah Glenn Marsh | Review

“Those finished with life crave it less over time.” 
Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised--the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa's necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer's magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees? - Goodreads

I have to begin just by saying that the concept of this story is so unique. A necromancer main character who works for the Royal Family, bringing back the King time and time again so he can continue to rule ... who thinks of these things? Genius.

Reign of the Fallen was such a creative story. The main premise is that Odessa is a necromancer, someone who can walk between the land of the living and the land of the dead, bringing them through the veil into life once more. There's a catch though: once someone is dead, no living thing can see them. They have to wear a shroud all the time, because if someone sees even the smallest glimpse of their dead selves, the dead turn into Shades, uncontrollable monsters (kind of like zombies?).  Odsssa's job, as well a the other necromancers like her lover Evander, is to make sure the dead in the real world don't go mad; they have to kill them before they deteriorate beyond help, travel to the Deadlands to find them, then bring them back so they keep on 'living'.

A little complicated perhaps, but fascinating all the same.

The characters in this book were amazing; each one so beautifully created and left me wanting a whole story just for each of them. There's the squad of necromancers who work in sets of two - Odessa and Evander, Jax and Simeon - then there's Valoria the princess of Karthia, Meredy the sister of Evander and also a beast master (who has a bear as a companion), Danial who is a healer and is boyfriend to Simeon, and Kasmira who is like a weather-controlling pirate.

The villain in this story was a bit predictable, but it was a good plot all the same. There were definitely things I didn't enjoy about it, but on the whole I really liked it. If you're after a fantasy or young adult novel with a bisexual main character and a heap lot of dead people walking around like they're living, then this is the book for you!

Have you read Reign of the Fallen? What did you think? 
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Wednesday 18 April 2018

Features | Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge Update #2

blogger's bookshelf the last star

The Next Book In A Series You Started | The Last Star, Rick Yancey (2016) 

If you caught my post earlier this year on the sequels I'd added to my 2018 TBR you may remember that The Last Star, the final book in the 5th Wave trilogy, was on the list. I have to admit I did struggle a little bit with this one as it had been over three years (!) since I read the second book and as it turns out I didn't remember it very well at all.

A Book You Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To | Always & Forever Lara Jean, Jenny Han (2017)

Another book on my sequels list and a 2017 'vow to read' book I failed to pick up was Always & Forever Lara Jean, the third and final book in the To All The Boys I've Loved Before trilogy (which Sophie recently reviewed). This book follows the central character Lara Jean as she graduates high school and gets ready to set off for college.

A Book That's Published In 2018 | Clean, Juno Dawson (2018)

There are obviously a lot of books I could have chosen for this prompt but I'm a fan of Juno Dawson's writing and couldn't resist snapping up a copy of her latest release through Netgalley earlier this year. The book tackles some tough subjects, focusing on socialite Lexi who finds herself at an exclusive island rehab facility after almost overdosing. You can find out more about Clean in my recent collab post with Ria.

the strange library murakami blogger's bookshelf

A Book That Involves A Bookstore Or Library | The Strange Library, Haruki Murakami (2005) 

I'm so glad I landed on The Strange Library as my pick for this prompt as it was such a unique and quirky story which made for a fun read with a dark twist running throughout. Shared alongside the story were various illustrations from the London Library which added extra enjoyment for me.

A Book About Death Or Grief | Scythe, Neal Shusterman (2017)

Neal Shusterman's latest series takes place in a utopian world, where war, hunger, disease and misery simply don't exist and 'scythes' are tasked with controlling the population. Like most of the book blogging world, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and can't wait to read the sequel Thunderhead. If you missed my recent collab post with Anjali where we discussed the book you can catch it here.

A Book With Characters Who Are Twins | Here We Are Now, Jasmine Warga (2017)

Here We Are Now tells the story of teenager Taliah meeting rock star Julian Oliver... who just happens to be her father. Taking place over just a few days, the book follows her journey to his hometown to meet his half of her family for the first time - including her twin cousins!

If you're taking part in the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge I'd love to hear from you. Let me know which prompts you've crossed off the list and which books you're planning to pick up next!
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Monday 16 April 2018

Features | 7 Things I Highlighted Whilst Reading Challenger Deep

1. "It was a problem with empty space that led me to art. I see an empty box, and I have to fill it. I see a blank page, and I can't leave it like that." - p.29

2. "I close my eyes and feel, pushing my thoughts through the soles of my feet." - p.18

challenger deep

3. "What is a permanent record? When does it stop following you? Will I have to spend my life looking over my shoulder for my permanent record?" - p.76

4. "Their laughter feels so far away it's as if there's cotton in my ears." - p.49

5. "I think it's outrageously cruel to keep a puzzle that they know is missing a single piece." - p.302

challenger deep

6. "We want all things in life packed into boxes that we can label. But just because we have the ability to label it, doesn't mean we really know what's in the box." - p.298

7. "How do you trust a therapist when even the plant in his waiting room is a lie?" - p.111
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Sunday 15 April 2018

Send Us Your Thoughts On Our April Book Club Pick!

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.
We really hope you're enjoying our fourth BB book club pick Carmilla and can't wait to hear your thoughts! There's just under a week left to make sure your opinions are featured in our April roundup and infographic - click this link to complete the Google form.

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Friday 13 April 2018

Features | Books Set in Cornwall

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing is a new collection of bright and atmospheric stories that celebrate Cornwall, its landscapes, and its people... and I just happen to have a story included in it. To celebrate the release of this varied and inspiring collection of short stories, poetry, and beautiful woodcut illustrations, (and my first published work) set amongst the famous Cornish beaches and countryside, I have five recommendations for you of books set in that very same county.

For more short stories, Diving Belles by Lucy Wood is a collection of magical tales that draws inspiration from the coastlines of Cornwall and from local myths and legends. Wood masterfully weaves these influences together into an enchanting collection of stories that reveal magic in the every day and the every day in magic.

Monsters by Emerald Fennell, on the other hand, could not be more different. A darkly comic story for middle grade readers of two children who meet in a hotel in Fowey and bond over the darkness they both share. They obsess over local murders, investigating and re-inacting the grisly acts for fun. Monsters is a more disturbing take on seaside life.

A poetic and lyrical story, again rich with magic, A Year of Marvellous Ways tells the story of a ninety-year-old woman, living alone in a remote Cornish creek, until a young soldier washes up on her shore. This is one I haven't read yet but I've heard so many positive things about how beautiful and evocative the writing is that I can't wait to get to it.

Not Forgetting the Whale tells the story of the small village of St Piran, disrupted when a young man washes ashore on the beach, naked. The villagers all rush to help but the spotting of a whale at the same moment is seen as an omen of things to come. This is another book still on my TBR, which promises to be a funny and heartwarming read.

And, of course, how could I write a list of books set in Cornwall without mentioning perhaps the most famous one of all? Ross Poldark, the first in Winston Graham's extremely successful Poldark series, paints a picture both romantic and slightly more realistic of life along the Cornish coast during the late 18th century, and if you're one of the many people who enjoy the TV series, the book is certainly worth a read.

So many stories have been inspired by Cornwall, including many of Daphne du Maurier's works, to name just one very famous author I've missed out here. If you know of any more novels or short story collections set among these famous moors and coastlines, let me know in the comments! I'm always on the lookout for stories that celebrate my beautiful home county. And tell me about any books set where you live too! It's always interesting how stories set in places we're so familiar with can make us think differently of our own surroundings.
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Thursday 12 April 2018

The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas | Review

THUG The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book review
I had heard so many great reviews about this book but whenever I'd look up the blurb I was really doubtful I'd feel the same. However, because of all the great reviews I still had it sitting there on my TBR list and finally, one day when I got some extra pay I thought "screw it" and ordered the damn thing. Lucky I did because like everyone else I really enjoyed it!

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Now as I was doubtful I did go into it with quite a different mindset than other books and frankly I was reading the first few pages going "Oh he's gonna be shot", "No it's gonna be her", "Actually her" until the incident happened (FYI, not a spoiler, it's in the blurb). But once it finally happened I got drawn in on the suspense and thrill of it all, eager for the idiot white man to be brought to justice!

I really enjoyed the way the story was told, through the eyes of Starr because it really gets you involved and tangles your feelings in a knot. Some stories are told in a way where you feel like a fly on the wall but this one you're Starr, you feel everything she feels and yes I even cried. It's such an important topic and very much related to what's happening at the current time. It's so realistic even to the point of the family dynamics and everyday life which makes it incredibly believable so it was great to see a topic as important as this told in a way that teens would understand and take note of - and even do something about. It may be told in a fictional way but events like these do happen so telling the story in a real and relatable way is key.

If you haven't read this yet, pick it up and make it your next read because not only will you enjoy it, you'll probably learn something too!

"What's the point of having a voice is you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?"

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Tuesday 10 April 2018

State of Sorrow | Melinda Salisbury | Review

When I heard that Melinda Salisbury had a new book coming out, I was so excited that I actually pre-ordered it. I never pre-order books. But something about State of Sorrow had caught my attention and I impatiently waited for it.

All I knew about this book when I went into it was that it was about a young woman who lives in a land of sadness. Such a simple statement doesn't do it justice. This book centres on Sorrow, who was born and subsequently named during a time of absolute tragedy for her family and country. Since that day all she has known is mourning as her country grieves for the brother that died the day she was born.

Sorrow wants more.

I loved Sorrow as a character. She was strong, and confused, and determined, and fierce,  and flawed and utterly wonderful. She had so much life packed into her that it made the setting even more claustrophobic. I wanted her to succeed. She is the reason that I am desperately waiting for the sequel, even though I know it is going to be a long time before I am lucky enough to get to read that. I loved the development of Sorrow from page 1 to page 452 so I can only imagine how the rest of her arc will go in book two.

The world that Sorrow inhabits is also fantastic, from the mundane despair of Sorrow's home to the more vibrant places that she visits. You could really feel Melinda Salisbury stretching her creative muscles and showing off her talent.

Speaking of developing, I'm so excited for each new thing that Salisbury writes as she gets stronger with each one. I liked her first series but I love this one - what's next for this writer?

Kelly x
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Sunday 8 April 2018

Bookish Links #41

1. Book Shopping - Katie's list of her top five independent bookshops in Liverpool has us itching to visit the city!

2. Hermione-Approved Reads - this list from Bustle shares 18 titles our favourite Hogwarts witch would be sure to recommend.

3. Do You TBR? - Marie shared a post discussing the reasons she doesn't do TBRs. Do you like to stick to a monthly TBR? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

4. Sharing The Love - we always love to share recommendations with you and Amy has three great ones in this post over at Call Me Amy.

5.  Fictional Food - we love the idea behind Rebecca's series of recipes inspired by books. This 'Wild' tomato soup looks like the perfect dish to cook up a batch of this weekend.

6. Poetry Review - if you're interested in finding out more about the work of popular poet Rupi Kaur, this is the post for you! Over on her blog Charlotte reviewed both Milk & Honey and The Sun And Her Flowers.

7. How To Read More - if one of your 2018 goals is to read more books, this list of tips from Novel Ink may help you to achieve your target.

8. Vegan Eats - we enjoyed this review of Katy Beskow's 15 Minute Vegan over on Charley's Health and the dishes look incredible!

9. Tracking Your Reads - if you're looking to keep track of your reads via bullet journal you may find this notebook review handy.

10. Belletrist Must-Reads - we loved this Anthropologie list featuring five top picks from the Belletrist book club. Have you read any of these titles?

Links From The BB Archives... Book Spine Poetry | Author Spotlight: Morgan Matson | The Darkest Part Of The Forest, Holly Black

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

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Saturday 7 April 2018

Clean | Juno Dawson | Discussion

*Review copies c/o Netgalley

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom. She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all. It's a dirty business getting clean...  - Goodreads


What made you want to read Clean?

Erin: I've really enjoyed many of the author's other YA novels so I'm always excited to hear what her next new release will be. Honestly, I'm not sure whether I would have picked up a copy of Clean based on the premise alone, but I enjoy reading Juno's work and love the way she is always able to create such memorable characters, so when I saw the book pop up on Netgalley I couldn't resist!

Ria: I adore Juno's writing and have really enjoyed her previous novels, so I'm always looking out for her next release! It also helps that the premise and tone of Clean was pitched as a cross between Gossip Girl and Girl Interrupted - both films/books I love too.

What did you think about the characters? Did they feel realistic?

Erin: I loved that there was a diverse range of characters in the book, each with dealing different issues. At first, our main character Lexi felt very unlikable and unrelatable but I still found her to be an interesting guide through this particular journey and enjoyed seeing her growth over the course of the novel.

Ria: The characters in Clean definitely feel larger than life and yet there are little snippets of their personalities that do feel very much human. They all have flaws, they all make mistakes, and none of them are perfect, and I kind of love them all for it. Lexi, in particular, is obviously the living embodiment of this. There are so many moments where she is frustratingly dislikable, but she's young and she's learning.

What was your favourite thing about the book? And was there anything you didn't like?

Erin: As I've already mentioned, I liked that there was a diverse cast of characters and I also thought the opening scene of the novel was very intriguing. If I'm being completely honest I wasn't crazy about the ending, or the romance element in general, but this didn't take away from the way Juno explored such interesting yet tough topics and I love that she wasn't afraid to tackle these.

Ria: I really enjoyed how diverse the book felt without it being too forced. It as great to see such a range of different issues explored, as well as the inherent messiness of recovery and therapy. As always Dawson's humour and writing style is fantastic, she always manages to capture this age of character so well. Like Erin, I wasn't so keen on the ending but seeing Lexi's character grow and change throughout the novel was really satisfying.

Would you recommend this book?

Erin: Whilst I think most fans of Juno's work will enjoy Clean, it won't be to everyone's taste. The book and Lexi's story feel very raw and intense, so at times it can be a difficult read but it tackles some really important topics. Personally I found it to be an interesting read overall and as always I look forward to seeing what Juno will come up with next!

Ria: Yes! Whilst it may not be for everyone, I do think the stories within Clean are really important and it's rare to see a YA novel explore these issues in such an unfiltered way.

No comments

Friday 6 April 2018

The Falling Kingdom Series | Morgan Rhodes | Review

Pictured: Books 2 - 4
In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed... and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It's the eve of war.... Choose your side. - Goodreads

Having read all six books in the Falling Kingdoms series over the past few months, I can say with confidence that I still don't know whose side I'm on.

What I can tell you is that while I started off not loving the series, it definitely grew on me, so much so that I binge read the series over the course of a few weeks. Somehow the story got to me, and I couldn't stop reading it. Until, that is, I reached book five, and realised that book six wasn't at the library yet, and my hold-place in line was far, far, away. It was a long wait.

Instead of reviewing each of the books on Blogger's Bookshelf, I thought I'd review the entire series, without giving spoilers.

The plot of Falling Kingdoms

The main idea in this series is that there are magical stones/orbs/crystals which each hold one of the main elements (or elementia magic, as they call it): air, water, earth and fire. These four elements created the world, but after a series of events were lost, their powers no longer sustaining the earth. Without them, both the world that Magnus, Lucia, Jonas and Cleo live in, and the Sanctuary where the immortal Watchers live, are falling apart. Once found, the crystals will either heal the world, or destroy it, depending on those wielding its magic.

As the books progress through the series, the plot follows each of the four main characters through their highs and lows. After the first book ends, their stories interweave more and more, and they find themselves with similar agendas, or, as in a lot of cases, opposing ones. Alliances are formed, others broken, there are betrayals, there's love and loss, and a touch of teenage angst.

Book 2: Rebel Spring

The characters

Speaking of teenage angst, there isn't too much of it in this series, but at the same time there was enough silly behaviour and 'really?' moments that it was definitely why none of the books were a 5 star read for me.When I first started reading Falling Kingdoms (book one), I didn't really enjoy many of the main characters, but eventually I realised that my favourite characters were actually the minor ones.

A warning, but not a spoiler: don't get too attached to anyone if you can help it. Rather Game-of-Thrones-esque, they seem to die at unexpected times and in rather unexpected ways. I don't think there was a single death in this series that I was prepared for or saw coming. You've been warned.

The setting

The land of Mytica is divided into three kingdoms: Limeros in the north, Paelsia in the middle, and Auranos in the south. The north is cold, with harsh winters; the central area is perfect for grape growing and wine production; the south is warm, with hot summers. All the main characters come from different kingdoms, making it difficult, once again, to pick a favourite.

When you reach book 4 you'll discover that there's more to the world than just Mytica; the Kraeshan Empire stretches far beyond the shores of the kingdom that you'll get to know, making it look tiny in comparison. That's the other thing: maps! Each book has a map so you can easily reference where you are as the characters move around. I do love a good book map.

The verdict

As I mentioned, I did really get into these books. There were things I didn't enjoy, like all books, but overall, quite excellent. They're a light, easy-to-read fantasy series, with enough twists and turns (and surprise deaths) to keep you turning the pages late into the night.

While none of the books go a 5 starts from me, overall I'd give the series a 4 stars. If you end up picking up Falling Kingdoms, do let us know what you think of it. If you've already read, let us know if you enjoyed it!
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Wednesday 4 April 2018

The Moth | Catherine Burns | Review

the moth catherine burns book blog review

Released in 2013, The Moth is the first story collection published by the non-profit organisation of the same name, which hosts live storytelling events, also shared through their weekly podcast. The book contains fifty true tales told by a variety of storytellers, ranging from heartwarming to heartbreaking and everything in between.

The stories selected for the book are split into seven different sections - Innocents Abroad, In The Trenches, Coming Home, Generations, Shot Through The Heart, Carpe Diem and Save Me - mirroring the fact that the live events each have a theme. Each story has been transcribed from the organisation’s live storytelling events across the US and has it’s own distinctive, chatty tone, often as if you’re listening to a friend. Having only dabbled in listening to the podcast, I can understand how some of the stories would be best heard spoken by the storyteller’s own voices, however I do think the book’s editor Catherine Burns did a great job of recreating this feeling on the page. 

We strive to make every Moth night feel like an intimate dinner party, each storyteller a guest holding the attention of the table for a moment with a spellbinding tale. - Catherine Burns

With each story lasting only a few pages the book is easy to dip in and out of, however I found myself finishing the whole thing in just a few days as I was enjoying variety of stories and voices so much. Of course, some of the tales were more memorable than others but each one was interesting in it’s own way and there were very few that I didn’t find myself invested in.

For me, The Moth was a great reading experience and certainly delivered on it’s promise of '50 extraordinary true stories'. I look forward to reading 2017 release All These Wonders and would love to see more editions in future, perhaps featuring storytellers from live events around the world. ★★★★

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Monday 2 April 2018

Features | On April's TBR

books april tbr

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman (2017)

Top of my April TBR is a book that everyone has been talking about; Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. After weeks of sitting at 120-something in the library queue I decided I was too impatient to wait any longer and picked up my very own copy of the book when I spotted it for just £3.99 at the supermarket. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this one so I can't wait to finally read it!

The End We Start From, Megan Hunter (2017)

I first heard about The End We Start From when it was featured as part of the Belletrist book club last year and it's been sitting on my Goodreads TBR ever since. Initially I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and intriguing premise but thanks to the short page count it's also been sitting on my list of potential BB book club reads too!

Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel (2017)

This month I'm planning to try and cross another sequel off the list I shared back in January. Waking Gods is the follow up to Sleeping Giants and the second book in the Themis Files series. Whilst my local library doesn't have a physical copy of the book, they do have the CD audiobook version so I've decided to try that instead. One of my favourite things about the first book was actually the format which included journal entries, interviews, news articles and more so I think it will be interesting to see how well this translates into the audiobook format.

The Gender Games, Juno Dawson (2017)

Although I've read and enjoyed all of Juno's fiction titles I haven't yet picked up any of her non-fiction releases. I also haven't managed to squeeze in any non-fiction books since January so I'm really looking forward to reading The Gender Games this month. Again, I've heard so many great things about this book and I think it's going to be an interesting read.
Carmilla, J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)

The final title making it on to my list this month, and the only one not published in 2017, is of course our April book club title which was chosen by Kelly. I have to admit, I hadn't previously heard of this novella and it's not one I think I would have picked up if it weren't for the book club, so I'm looking forward to reading something a little different!

Which books are on your TBR this month?
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