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 31 August 2018

Dear Mrs Bird | AJ Pearce | Review

When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird.

Set in London during World War II, Dear Mrs Bird follows Emmy, a plucky young woman who dreams of reporting on the war from the front lines as a Lady War Correspondent. She knows that she will have to work her way up to such an important job, but all she needs to begin with is a foot through the door into the world of journalism. She is so overjoyed to discover an advertisement for a job at one of the top newspapers in the city that she doesn't even stop to find out exactly what the job will entail, until she turns up for her first day of work and discovers that, far from reporting on the fighting at the front lines, Emmy now works at a somewhat declining lady's magazine, for Mrs Bird, an extremely old fashioned agony aunt.

Determined to take advantage of the opportunity she's been given, even if it isn't quite the one she thought she was getting, Emmy sets to work sorting through all of the letters Mrs Bird receives every day, asking for her help. Mrs Bird has a very strict set of rules regarding the letters and Emmy's job is to sort out the suitable from the unsuitable, typing up the ones Mrs Bird will answer and throwing away any that she won't. Emmy very quickly begins to feel that Mrs Bird's rules aren't entirely fair, and that the women Mrs Bird refuses to answer are often the ones who need the most help, so she comes up with a solution. Emmy begins writing back to them, in secret, giving her own advice, but signing Mrs Bird's name.

Pearce's writing is charming and funny but she also doesn't flinch away from the reality of life during the Second World War. Many of the letters that Emmy answers talk of extremely difficult problems that people had to deal with while they were already dealing with the war, and Emmy herself volunteers as a telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Services at night. Emmy and her best friend Bunty live together in London during the height of the blitz, and although Emmy worries about her job, she also worries about the fate of her boyfriend who is away fighting, and about Bunty's boyfriend who volunteers for the Auxiliary Fire Services too, putting out fires and rescuing people from bombed out buildings nearly every night.

However, despite these difficult scenes, this novel, much like the people who really lived through this time, finds the light in it too. Emmy is a funny and extremely endearing protagonist, and she is surrounded by characters who are lively and fun too. At the heart of Emmy's story is her desire to do good, to help the war effort by helping the women Mrs Bird won't. Of course, Emmy realises that her efforts will get her into a lot of trouble if she is found out, but she simply can't sit by and let these women be ignored by Mrs Bird. This slightly misguided way of thinking runs deep in Emmy's character, and, of course, causes many of the problems she encounters, but she is never mean spirited in her actions, which, along with the humour in the novel, makes her a delightful character to follow, and has the reader routing for her to fix the mistakes she inevitably makes.

Dear Mrs Bird is a heartwarming and heartbreaking look at the lives and roles of women during the Second World War, and Emmy and Bunty's strong friendship is as important to the story as anything else. When Emmy begins to reply to Mrs Bird's letters, she fears not only Mrs Bird's wrath if she is caught out, but Bunty's disapproval too. I have heard that Pearce intends to write many more novels about Emmy and Bunty and I for one will stick with these characters until the end. If you are looking for a funny, female friendship focused story, showing a different side of the Second World War, look no further.
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Tuesday 28 August 2018

Bone Surfers | David Massey | Review

It's time for a very belated book review! I was gifted Bone Surfers quite a while ago but have only just gotten round to reading it because it isn't my usual cup of tea. I'm glad that I picked it up when the mood for something creepy struck though as it was wonderfully unsettling...

Bone Surfers is set in Paris with frequent trips to the depths of the catacombs underneath the city. If that setting along wasn't creepy enough, Fellin's visit to the city seems to have coincided with some grisly deaths.

It wasn't what she was expecting to happen when she headed to France on an exchange trip. The plan had been to improve her grasp of the language and discover a little more about her heritage. Instead, she finds herself caught up in murder investigations and facing dangers that she had never anticipated.

I'm not usually a crime or thriller reader but this was a brilliantly original plot that had me hooked. I loved the references to France's history and gothic literature that were woven through the text. It made Bone Surfers incredibly rich and detailed. I did wince at some of the attempted humour (especially those around having to learn to be 'a girl' just because a character previously chose not to wear makeup) but I was impressed by how well thought out the rest of the plot was. I even thought I might have figured it out at one point only to be proven wrong as the various threads of the novel began to come together.

Straying from my usual genres seems to have worked in my favour here and I enjoyed reading something a little bit different! Perhaps I'll feel the need for some more creepy and grisly books soon, especially with October lurking just around the corner...

Kelly x
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Sunday 26 August 2018

BB Book Club | August 2018 Roundup | Travelling In The Dark

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. Our August title was Travelling In The Dark, a contemporary novella from the new Fairlight Moderns collection which was chosen by Erin. Here's our August infographic to tell you a little bit more...

book club travelling in the dark emma timpany

Reader's comments & favourite quotes:

"At first I found [the fact that the child's name is not used] a little distracting but quickly got used to this character being referred to as 'the child' rather than by his name. I liked that the name was revealed near the end of the story, although I had correctly guessed it."

The snow fields that peculiar unearthly white, except where rock falls track across their faces like trails of dirty tears. 

"I found this book captivating, with such interesting themes. You really did feel as though you were making the journey through Sarah’s past."

Twenty-two penguins. More than the Belgians.

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 September.

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 24 August 2018

Features | Reading My First Ever Comic Book

As well as creating a Vow to Read list at the beginning of 2018, one of the things I wanted to do this year was try and branch out and read things I don't normally. Thankfully our Blogger's Bookshelf Book Club theme this year is Short Stories, which means we've been reading a lot of books under 200 pages, and anthologies of tales by multiple authors, neither of which I would probably read otherwise. It's been really great and if you haven't been following along, then I highly recommend it.

In my 'branching out', I also wanted to try my hand/eye at graphic novels and comics. I picked up The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, earlier in the year and really enjoyed that (can now tick 'graphic novel' from my list). In a bout of impulse book buying on the Book Depository I popped Rainbow Rowell's Runaways into my basket and proceeded to check out. But then I realised that I should probably read the original comics from the 2000s before it arrived. Enter the wonderful people at Auckland Libraries. I managed to put 10 volumes of Runaways on hold, and collected them all at the same time, while concurrently realising that that was probably a bad idea as I didn't even know if I liked them or not.

Thankfully, I did.

Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy (comics #1 - #6 bind up, by Brian K. Vaughan) was my first ever comic read. Yes, I've flipped through them before, yes I've often thought 'I should really check these out', and yes I would love to be that person who goes to comic book store and devours titles for days on end. But this was my first actual sit-down-and-read. And, guys, it was pretty epic.

A little about Runaways: Pride & Joy

If you're unfamiliar with the Runaways comic (as I was, despite being a Marvel fan), it tells the story of 6 kids who discover their parents are actually living double lives as supervillians (with code names, costumes and the whole shebang!). Obviously shocked by this discovery, the kids decide to runaway, but not before they're framed for kidnapping and murder. 

I haven't read the full series yet, but that's the main premise.

Some of the things I thought while reading Pride & Joy

"Okay here it goes. Comic book time."

"Oooh, so many pretty pictures."

"So whispers are indicated by text which is lower in opacity, bold words are emphasized speech, and huge colourful writing is shouting."

"It's amazing how the artist keeps the characters looking the same from frame to frame. Even my stick figures look different..."

"Klick, fwish, shunk, hssss, krak, klang, skreech, fwooom ... I wonder if I can use these words in day-to-day life for my own sound effects..."

Comic Book Verdict

So after that comic-book-gathering saga, was it worth it? Did I actually enjoy reading a comic book?

Yes, yes I did.

There are some things that didn't come that easily to me but I'm sure by the time I read more it'll be fine and dandy. For example, I really need to remember to actually look at the pictures. They're there for a reason and pretty much the whole point of a comic book. I found myself just jumping to the speech bubbles from frame to frame and not paying too much attention to the wonderfully drawn images. That needs to change. I think I'm so used to painting a world in my head when I'm reading just words that the jump to "here's a pre-made world we've created so you don't have to" was a little jarring.

Having less to read, too, was a challenge. Even if you had a book with the same amount of pages - around 150 for a bind up of 6 issues - there's still a bucket load more words. It's definitely a different way of engrossing yourself in a story. The words the writers choose all have to be relevant and worthwhile, because there's only so much you can fit on a 4 - 6 frame page of images and speech bubbles.

And just to leave you with a practical question to aid me in my cataloguing of these: what do you think about adding these to the Goodreads Reading Challenge? I've been adding them as I've read them (as a whole bind up of e.g. Volume 1 which is single issues #1 - #6), but I've noticed there's a Deluxe Version, which is a bind up of Vol 1 - 4, and single issues #1 - #18. I'd love to get your opinion as to whether I should delete all 10 of the Runaways books on Goodreads, and replace hem with the 4 deluxe bind up versions. I know it's a bit trivial, but I'd love to know your thoughts!

Do you read comic books?
 Have you read Runaways
Can you suggest any that I could try out? 

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Wednesday 22 August 2018

Features | Revisiting My 2018 Sequels Challenge

Always and Forever Lara Jean

On the 20th July I tapped through to the last page of Sidekick Returns on my Kindle and completed my 2018 Sequels Challenge! Whilst I didn't exactly love all of the books - more on this below - overall I'm really glad I decided to take on this extra reading challenge and would definitely consider doing the same thing in future.

Always & Forever Lara Jean, Jenny Han (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #3)

While Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind. - Goodreads

This series is such a popular one within the book blogging community and whilst it's not necessarily my usual kind of read I enjoyed the first two books and was curious to find out how Lara Jean's story would wrap up. For me the last part of the book felt a little rushed however overall I thought it was a good ending to the series and I'm glad I added it into my TBR list and sequels challenge for this year. I also really enjoyed the recent Netflix adaptation of the first book To All The Boys I've Loved Before and hope to see them bring the sequels to life on screen too.

The Last Star, Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave #3)

We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart. - Goodreads

The third book in the popular 5th Wave series made it's way onto my list despite my mixed feelings about the previous two books as I was hoping for an ending that would pleasantly surprise me. Sadly I wasn't crazy about the series finale and whilst I do think this was partly to do with the fact it had been so long since I'd read the previous books, I also didn't feel as invested in the story and the characters journey as I'd hoped to.

Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #2)

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force. - Goodreads

After really enjoying the concept and format of Sleeping Giants, the first book in the series, I was excited to find out where the story would go next. As my local library didn't have a physical copy of Waking Gods I opted for the CD audiobook version instead but unfortunately this turned out to be a mistake. Much to my disappointment I wasn't a huge fan of this particular story told in this way and I truly believe I would have enjoyed the experience more in a written format. As this is only the second instalment in the series, it's likely I'll revisit it in the future but if I do I'll be sticking to the printed version.

Sidekick Returns, Auralee Wallace (Sidekick In The City #2)

Fresh off thwarting the crime of the century, Bremy St. James is back and more determined than ever to fight by the side of the city's top superhero, Dark Ryder. There's just one problem: Dark Ryder's disappeared.To make matters worse, Bremy's evil billionaire father, Atticus, is taking her lack of family loyalty very personally, and Bremy's last tie to her old life, her reason behind her choices–her sister–is distancing herself as well. - Goodreads

Following my five-star review of Sidekick back in 2014 I wasn't surprised to find that I had a lot of fun revisiting the world of Bremy St James. Similarly to the first book I enjoyed the unique cast of supporting characters and the second instalment definitely took some unexpected twists and turns that made for an interesting read. I'm only sorry that it took me so long to get around to read it!

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Sunday 19 August 2018

Send Us Your Thoughts On Our August Book Club Pick!

We really hope you're enjoying reading Travelling In The Dark along with us this month! There's just under a week left to send us your opinions to be featured in our August roundup and infographic so don't forget to submit your thoughts and opinions via our Google form if you would like them to be included.

You can also tweet us a mini review instead, or leave a comment on our Instagram with your favoruite quote or moment from the book.

If you haven't had time to read this month's book don't worry, Ria will be sharing her pick for September on Monday 27th August.

travelling in the dark emma timpany

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Friday 17 August 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post | Emily M. Danforth | Review

The night Cameron Post's parents died, her first emotion was relief. Relief that they would never know that hours earlier, she'd been kissing a girl.

Told in three parts, Cameron Post's story begins when she is twelve years old, with a kiss shared between her and her best friend, Irene, and, later, with the news that her parents have both died. Cameron's aunt Ruth, a devout born-again Christian, and her grandma both move in to take care of Cameron, Irene moves away to boarding school, and Cameron silently wonders if maybe her kiss with Irene is the reason her parents are dead.

The next part sees Cameron a few years older, with new friends, and still exploring her identity, this time with the complication of a new best friend, Coley, who Cameron falls in love with almost immediately, and who already has a boyfriend. Things only get more complicated for Cameron and when her aunt eventually finds out the secret Cameron has been keeping from her, we arrive at the next part of the Cameron's story: God's Promise, a Christian school that promises to 'correct' Cameron's 'sinful desires'.

Danforth's descriptions of Miles City, where Cameron lives, and the rural surrounding areas, in the early 1990s when this book takes place, manage to paint a picture of an area that is at once breath-takingly beautiful and quietly suffocating. Cameron's summers are filled with heat, movies, lake swimming, and romances that are forbidden in the most literal sense of the word, promise always just around the corner. Thanks to the vivid descriptions of Cameron's world and the place her feelings have in that world, Cameron's story feels incredibly real, and there is a wistful beauty to it too, which makes the difficult parts all the more upsetting to read. Cameron's story is one worth telling, and definitely worth reading, but it is not an easy one to read by any stretch of the imagination.

The beauty of the wide open lakes, fields, and mountains that surround Cameron's life juxtapose painfully with the closed in feeling that follows Cameron around, especially when she finds herself at God's Promise, the Christian school that promises to bring Cameron and her fellow disciples closer to God and further from their 'unnatural desires'. This novel is full of juxtapositions like this, including the members of God's Promise itself, the teachers who truly believe that they're helping these teenagers, even in the painful face of the damage they're causing. One of the subtle protests of this novel is that it does not demonise these people, only shows the harm they do in what they believe is their duty, quietly condemning them through their own words and actions.

This isn't a short story, quick or easy to read. It's a story that takes its time, perhaps a little bit too much to build up Cameron's story. Over half of the novel seems to lead up to Cameron's time at God's Promise, and the friends she makes there, and then we spend so little time examining this place, so little time with these new friends, before an ending that feels altogether abrupt and a little unsatisfying. Characters who seemed so important in Cameron's life before are never heard from again, story lines are abandoned untied, but perhaps that is the point. Cameron has not finished growing or discovering herself at the end of this novel, and so her story doesn't end, it just stops. It's an ending that definitely leaves the reader wanting more, from a story that sorely needs to be told.
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Thursday 16 August 2018

Some Books I Couldn't Finish | Feature

I used to be one of those people who pushed through books no matter what to finish them. I thought people would judge me for not finishing books, I thought it was wrong. More recently I've realised that no one is judging as much as I thought and I was just putting myself through something I didn't need to go through. I was just causing book slumps from books that weren't my thing instead of reading books I enjoyed! Sometimes books have to be read at a certain time of your life, sometimes you have to be feeling a certain way, and sometimes you're just too old for that YA novel...

If you don't like a book, don't finish it! Here are a few books that I never finished, feel free to try and convince me to try again if one of these is your favourite.

The Sun Is Also A Star 

I'm going to start with one that I don't know why I didn't like it. Unfair I know. I loved Nicola Yoon's previous book Everything Everything so I thought I would love this too. But I just didn't. Maybe it was the characters or the storyline, I don't know.

Inside Out 

I have tried this book too many times to count as I know it's just like all the other dystopian type books I love like Divergent, The Hunger Games, and The Darkest Minds etc. I just could not get past the first few chapters, it pained me to read it and I just could not enjoy it. I think it was most likely the writing style as like I mentioned I usually gobble up this type of book. I'm unsure whether I'll try it again, but if you think I should definitely tell me why!


I know I'm going to insult a lot of people saying that I didn't like this book. Everyone and their dog loves this book so I'm definitely going to try again at some point in the future but at the time I tried reading it, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I know I'm going to love it though as this is the very sort of storyline and air of fantasy I love about books, it just wasn't the right time.

From Twinkle, With Love

I just could not get into this book, it bored me. It actually made me question whether I was too old for YA but I think (I hope) it was just this book. I read two chapters and I could already tell exactly what was going to happen in the entire book, it was a novel full of cliche's and overdone storylines and I just wasn't having a bar of it.

Game of Thrones 

I'm adding this one in because I've tried to read it several times and only recently was in the right mindset to get all the way through it (and through the second book). This is also a great example of those few novels that I actually need to watch the movie or TV series first before I manage to get through it. Usually, that's because they're rather dense with a lot of characters to learn. After watching the first few series of GoT I learnt the main characters names, had an understanding of the world and very vaguely remembered the storyline of the first series. All of that was enough to get me through it on what was probably my fourth try.

What's a novel you couldn't finish but everyone else loves? 

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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Wonder | R. J. Palacio | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly x

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Monday 13 August 2018

Blogger's Bookshelf Is Now On Instagram!

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

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

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

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Friday 10 August 2018

Features | Favourite First Lines

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

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

These are some of my favourites; what are yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your favourite first lines? 

Photo by Dexter Fernandes on Unsplash

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Wednesday 8 August 2018

Features | Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge Update #4

thunderhead neal shusterman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bookish Links #45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday 3 August 2018

Features | Judging Books By Their Covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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