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

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


Tuesday 30 April 2019

Book Club | April 2019 Roundup

Our book club theme for April was 'non-fiction' and once again we saw a huge variety of selections from the BB community.

Thank you to everyone who shared photos and mini reviews over on social media throughout the month. We loved seeing your selections and finding new titles for our TBRs. Below are a selection of our favourite images and mini reviews shared over on Instagram.

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Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

"I have to be honest and tell you guys I didn't finish this book. Not because I wasn't enjoying, but just because I started it too late in the month. But the parts that I have read so far have been really great. Hollis breaks up the book in three sections: Part One - Excuses to Let Go Of; Part Two - Behaviours to Adopt; and Part Three - Skills to Acquire. In short, the book is full of stories from Hollis' life, and how she (and in turn, we) can better take hold of our lives and embrace the dreams and goals we have, no matter how big they are." -@anjalikay

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We’ve been reading non-fiction for this month’s @bloggersbookshelf Book Club and I’ve been reading about Gerald Durrell’s childhood adventures with the wildlife of Corfu. Gerald Durrell’s easy, humorous writing style makes even the story about his accidentally causing the kitchen to be covered in baby scorpions fun to read, although I have to admit, I found the gecko fighting a little more difficult. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next two books in Durrell’s Corfu series. - Next month we’re choosing from the Penguin Modern series for our book club choices and I already have Daphne Du Maurier’s The Breakthrough ready to go! - #bloggersbookshelf #bookshelfbookclub #bookstagram #bookbloggers #currentlyreading #instabooks #reading #books #bookworm #booklove #bookcovers #prettybooks #beautifulbooks #instabooks #bibliophile #vsco #vscocam #vscobooks #igreads #booklover #myfamilyandotheranimals #geralddurrell
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The People V. O. J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

"It's been a pretty busy month so unfortunately I haven't quite found time to read all of my April book club pick (or do a huge amount of reading at all!). So far I've found the book to be an interesting read and am hoping to finish it soon." - Erin

Has anyone else got the Monday feels today although it's Tuesday? If so, you're not alone, I'm right there with you! - I finished Unnatural causes today and my gosh did it hit me in all the feels! Such a human journey through the life of a forensic pathologist and the stories of the dead he's been able to tell. Can't wait to type up my review! - I'm attempting to read only non-fiction this month, which is April's prompt from @bloggersbookshelf. Next on my pile is War Doctor by David Nott. I was gifted this read from @picadorbooks via the Swansea Bloggers Collective. It tells the true story of a front-line trauma surgeon. I have been hugely looking forward to reading this one and can't wait to share my thoughts with you all! - . . . . . #davidnotts #wardoctor #sbcollective #swanseawaterstones #gifted #nonfictionapril #bloggersbookshelf #proof #picadorbooks #picador #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #booksandcoffee #coffeestop #caffieneaddict #amreading #currentlyreading #currentread #tbr #costabreaks #reading #paperback #aprilreads #februaryrelease
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We'll be introducing May's book club tomorrow so don't forget to check back!
Use the hashtag #bookshelfbookclub and tag @bloggersbookshelf to share your photos and mini reviews with us throughout the month.
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Friday 26 April 2019

Romanov | Nadine Brandes | Review

The history books say I died. They don't know the half of it.

Following the revolution that forced her father's abdication, Anastasia 'Nastya' Romanov and her family, under the watchful eye of Bolshevik soldiers, are exiled to Siberia to await their fate, but Nastya has a secret that just might save them all. With the spell master, Rasputin dead and all other spell masters either working for the Bolsheviks or hiding from them, Nastya is the only one able to use the spells Rasputin taught her to ease her brother's pain, which is why Nastya's father trusts her with their family's final hope - a matryoshka doll given to them by the greatest spell master in Russia. When she needs it most, the doll will reveal a spell to Nastya, but until then she must keep it hidden from the Bolshevik guards.

Nastya knows she can't trust any of the soldiers, even the ones who seem to be kind. She especially can't risk any of them finding out about the matryoshka doll or the spells she uses to help her brother, but there is one guard who does not always act like the others, who sometimes seems as though he might not be the loyal Bolshevik soldier he acts like. Zash has secrets of his own, including a hidden bottle of spell ink and the way he sometimes looks at Nastya. Nastya harbours hope that Zash will prove to be a friend, or perhaps even something more, despite his Bolshevik uniform, but when the firing squad come for Nastya and her family, Nastya is crushed to see Zash holding one of the guns.

The exile and execution of the Romanov family, and the persisting rumours of Anastasia's survival, have been the subject of many stories over the years since the real life event. What Brandes's interpretation brings to this well trodden story is the addition of magic and romance in the young Anastasia's life. Anastasia, or Nastya, as she is known throughout the novel, is, in Brandes's hands, a feisty and stubborn young woman, who cares for her family above everything else. The entire Romanov family are presented in this story as a close-knit and loving family, one who any reader would sympathise with, which makes it all the more upsetting when the inevitable happens, and Nastya and her family must face their execution.

Romanov is a fantastical mix of history and magic, combining a realistic interpretation of the Romanov family's exile with a wild story of spells and spell masters. It feels, upon reading, as though Brandes has done a lot of research into the Romanov family's final weeks, which is perhaps why the first half of this story, which is more heavily based on real events, feels like a slightly different novel than the second half, which definitely takes a turn away from the realistic. This is not a bad thing, it is simply one way in which the two sides of this story play together to present a story for Anastasia Romanov that feels as though it could be true, provided, of course, one accepts that Rasputin really was a spell master and that he taught the young Anastasia a few tricks of his trade before his own execution. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Friday 19 April 2019

Features | An Evening with Sarah J Maas

Sarah J Maas ended her Kingdom of Ash tour here in Auckland, New Zealand.

I headed along to the one-hour event (way to short a time, I have to say!), and gathered together with about 200 others. This was definitely the biggest author event I've ever been to (hearing Justin Cronin a few years back happened in a library and there were about 50 people, and going to Oxford and hearing R.J. Anderson was about 50 as well), but it was such a fun feeling being surrounded by so many who loved the worlds that Maas has created.

She chatted most about her Throne of Glass series, as the tour was for the final book in this series, Kingdom of Ash, but did also throw in some bits and pieces about her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

One of the most amusing and interesting things she talked about right at the beginning was the drama that happened just two days before the book went to the printers last year: there were too many pages (coming in at over 1000!) and the glue they were going to be using to bind it all up wasn't strong enough! All the editing had already been long finished, and there was nothing that could really be easily cut out to lower the page numbers. Instead, they had to figure out ways to lose about 10 pages by making the font smaller, and narrowing the margins. It now comes in at just under 1000 pages, but it had never occurred to me that gluing a book would have any issues!

Sarah also talked about the importance of strong, kick-ass female characters, something her books are full of. As a child she would love watching movies like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and always pretend she was Indiana or Luke running around doing cool things. When she got older and discovered things like Buffy and Sailor Moon she learnt the importance of strong female characters leading the way, and now writes some of the strongest female characters in YA.

As well as some questions from Kiran Dass, who was chairing the event, there was time at the end for just a few questions from the audience. One of them was 'If all your characters were in the Hunger Games, who would win?' Sarah thought about it for a minute or so and then grouped some of her characters together from each series, and then made super groups of characters crossing over into each series (some from one joining forces with some from the other), and some characters she said wouldn't even make it through and would be the first to die. Ha!

In January 2020 Maas is releasing her first 'adult' genre book, called House of Earth and Blood, the first in a new series called Crescent City. While it's labelled 'adult', it's on a similar maturity level as ACOTAR, so, she explained, didn't really feel like she was branching out into another age group. But adult or young adult, I'm looking forward to seeing what that book will bring.

Now just to actually finish both the Throne of Glass and ACOTAR series... eek!
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The Hobbit | J.R.R. Tolkien | BBC Radio 4 | Dramatised Audiobook | Review

Listening to dramatised audiobooks seems to be becoming a habit.

This is the third BBC Radio 4 dramatised production* of an audiobook I've 'read' now, and, much like the others, it didn't cease to entertain.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favourite books; I remember being read it as a child of probably 8 or 9, going on to re-read it for myself, then having it as an English book one year in high school (I got all high marks for my assignments because I both loved the book and knew it so well already). Since the high school reading, I've probably read it once more, but have been meaning to re-read it for the past few years. When I spotted this BBC Radio 4 dramatised version of the audiobook at the library, I thought it would be a fun way of 'reading' it once more.

This audiobook was a joy to listen to; while there aren't as many voices as there are characters (there are 13 dwarves for goodness sake! That would be a huge cast!), it's done in such a way that you don't really notice it at all. There's a narrator, of sorts, and Bilbo does all his thinking out loud for the benefit for the listeners. Dramatised versions, if you're not familiar, also include things like sound effects and music to fill in some of the scenes when written descriptions or visual aid would normally be used. This means it's basically like watching a movie version, just without the visual aspects.

There were some parts which were a bit odd to me - like some of the pronunciation of names - and some voices which didn't seem quite right, however, on the whole it was a very enjoyable production, once again, from the BBC Radio 4 team.

The dramatised version is abridged, so it's shorter than the 'normal' audiobook, coming in at just 3hours 42minutes, so you can easily get through it in a day.

You can actually listen to the full production for free online, or check out your local library to see if they have a copy on CD or Overdrive.

Have you listened to The Hobbit? 

*Check out Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and also Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. 
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Wednesday 17 April 2019

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo | Taylor Jenkins Reid | Review

the seven husbands of evelyn hugo taylor jenkins reid

The internet was right, The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is a great read.

After opening with a New York Tribune clipping announcing that famous Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo will be auctioning off some of her most famous gowns to raise money for breast cancer research, we are introduced to magazine reporter Monique who, much to the surprise of both herself and her boss, is personally asked for by Evelyn to cover the event. As it turns out Evelyn has an ulterior motive; she wants Monique to write her life story and share it with the world.

The book spans several decades of Evelyn’s life, following her rise to fame and all of the heartbreak along the way, with each section relating to one of her seven famous marriages which were the subject of many newspaper headlines. By the end of the novel we also find out why Evelyn was so set on Monique being the one to tell her mysterious life story; an extra little twist that provides added intrigue throughout.

My favourite thing about the book would have to be how real the characters felt. This is something I know many people have noted about Evelyn in particular, as well as the characters of the author's latest release Daisy Jones and the Six (which I'm currently twenty-something in the library queue for, but am looking forward to reading!).

Whilst Historical Fiction is not usually a genre I reach for, I found that I really enjoyed the old Hollywood setting. The book tackles a range of important topics in an interesting way and is an immersive and addictive read. With complex and intriguing characters, the journey through Evelyn's life really makes this novel special.
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Monday 15 April 2019

Features | A Storytelling Podcast

 "Sit back, let go and imagine your life."

Today I wanted to talk about something a little different but hopefully still relevant to our readers who of course, love a good story!

Not too long ago I stumbled upon an immersive storytelling podcast called Imagined Life which launched in late 2018. Each episode tells a unique tale of the pre-fame days of someone who has gone on to become a household name, addressing the listener as if it is your life story that is being told. At the beginning of each episode you are not told who 'you' are but as you progress through the episode there are clues along the way to help you try and figure out your identity.

The stories generally share the lives of these people before they became famous, and often beyond, ranging from heartbreaking to inspiring and everything in between. Each person featured is a recognisable name and every one of them has a unique tale of how they became to be so well-known. I won't give any specific examples here, as that would definitely take away the enjoyment of guessing if you're planning to listen to the podcast, but it's safe to say they will all (or, almost all) be names you're familiar with.

Whilst I generally tend to enjoy chatty podcasts or those telling stories through interviews, I've become a little obsessed with the storytelling style of Imagined Life and have loved the guessing game element... although there have been a few that have had me stumped until the last 5 minutes or so! Of course, the episodes are scripted dramatisations and can't be 100% accurate to the real events but each episode is clearly well-researched. Each of the stories would be an interesting tale if simply told in a more traditional way however they are all the more enjoyable thanks to the immersive storytelling style.

I've definitely learnt a lot of interesting facts through listening to this podcast, particularly about people who I would recognise but have never researched further. Not only have I enjoyed listening to the episodes, but it has also inspired me to go on to read more about some of the people featured after becoming aware of their fascinating backgrounds and unique roads to fame.

You can find out more about the podcast and listen to episodes over on the Wondery website.
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Friday 12 April 2019

The Furies | Katie Lowe | Review

1998. A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing. No known cause of death.

After the death of her father and sister in a car crash from which she was the only survivor, Valerie is starting over at Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls' school with a mysterious past. The history of Elm Hollow intertwines with 17th century witch trials and, far more recently, the disappearance of a student who was part of a secret society that Violet now finds herself invited to. Along with her new friends, Robin, Alex, and Grace, Violet meets their teacher, Annabel, in a secret part of the school each week to learn about women of art, literature, and history, including the school's own rumoured history of witchcraft that Annabel swears isn't real.

As Violet becomes entangled with her new friends, she starts to wonder about the girl they knew before, the one who went missing, who was Robin's best friend before Violet, and who apparently even looked a little like Violet. Robin envelopes Violet in her world of drinking, taking drugs, and spending time with older, university boys, and when this new world turns on Violet, Robin promises to make it right, using one of the rituals Annabel swore would never work. Violet falls further into the dark world that her new friends inhabit, tumbling deeper and deeper into the darkness, folding herself more and more into their group, until a body is found. Then, suddenly, Violet finds herself jealous of a dead girl, and unsure whether she can trust the friends she has become so linked to, after all.

The Furies is a dark, chilling tale of the intense friendships teenage girls can form and how that intensity can go horribly wrong. Annabel's lessons are meant to help the girls find a kind of power, but the power they try to harness is not the kind that Annabel intended. The novel is told from the perspective of Violet, older, looking back on the events of her teenage years, and it starts with the image of a dead girl on a swing. This vein of horror and decay permeates throughout the story, in the descriptions of the rundown seaside town surrounding Elm Hollow, in Violet's own home, where her mother has left her sister's bedroom exactly as it was the day she died, and even in Violet's interactions with her friends, shrouded in the smoke of cigarettes and pot, and flooded with wine.

This is a slow burn of a book, things take their time to come to fruition, but this works to give the sense of unease time to truly build. The girls' exploration into witchcraft and the myth of The Furies of ancient Greece being summoned to the school weave seamlessly into the almost claustrophobic friendship between the four girls, and make it all the more powerful that the true horrors in the story are not fantastical at all, but very human, and very real. Lowe's writing is extremely atmospheric, her descriptions enough to make anyone's skin crawl. The Furies is a dark and obsessive novel, perfect for fans of The Graces by Laure Eve, but who want something even darker than that.

An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions expressed are the reviewer's own.
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Friday 5 April 2019

Girl, Wash Your Face | Rachel Hollis | Review

Girl, Wash Your Face | Rachel Hollis | Review

I don't tend to read non-fiction books. 

Like at all. It's not that they don't interest me, or that I don't think they're worth the time; it's mostly due to the fact that I love fiction too much, and why would I spend my hours reading non-fiction when I could be reading about dragons? It's that kind of feeling.

But when I picked up Girl, Wash Your Face and flipped to the front page to check it out, I started reading and couldn't really stop. I had ordered it from the Book Depository for our April book club theme (a non-fiction title) but I semi forgot that I had done that so when it arrived and I opened the cover, I just kept reading. Which means when April rolled around I didn't have a book ready to go for the theme. Oops.

In Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis (founder of The Chic Site, and author of The Girls series) goes through a bunch of lies that she used to believe, the stories behind them, and how she overcame and worked through them. While I haven't, like I said, read many non-fiction books at all (I could probably count them on my fingers ... on one hand), I know that the majority of what she writes is nothing new; it's all fantastic, empowering stuff, that really makes you think, but if you're a connoisseur of the self-help or motivational non-fiction genre, then you may find yourself thinking you've heard all this before. And that's totally fine. The Goodreads reviews are really all over the place - some love it, others hate it - but I found it to be really helpful, and I'm passing it around my friend group.

The way Hollis tells her stories is funny and engaging, and she interweaves faith, relationships, family trauma, and life lessons throughout the whole book. With punchy one-liners, funny anecdotes, and a heap of tough-love, Girl, Wash Your Face was a great read (and that's coming from someone who doesn't read non-fiction!).

Her second book, Girl, Stop Apologising, has recently been released, and I know I'll be picking up a copy for this month's Non-Fiction theme.

Have you read Girl, Wash Your Face? 
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Thursday 4 April 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz | Heather Morris | Review

If you recall back in January the team at Bloggers Bookshelf brought you our Vow To Read selections for this year. I'm actually doing pretty well at my list and after finishing The Tattooist of Auschwitz near the start of March made it 3/5 read, and it's only the beginning of April!! Just watch me go downhill from here... the other two are sitting on my TBR pile staring at me every time I pick up another book instead of them. I can't help it if I have a review copy I need to read before a certain date, they'll always be more books I suppose. I should get around to them, but until then here's what I thought about The Tattooist and whether or not it met my expectations...

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Before starting I'd heard a lot of good things and a few bad things so I went in with a lot of expectations, especially as my Mum had marked it 5 stars on Goodreads, and turns out they were met pretty well. I didn't realise until finishing that Heather Morris is actually a New Zealander, although now living in Australia, I assumed naively that she must be from Europe. I also discovered it was initially written as a screenplay which actually makes a lot of sense.

The writing style was rather different from what I've read in the past, especially historical fiction, and that must have been because of its screenplay heritage. The dialogue flowed the scenes and there were a smaller amount of scenic descriptions than you'd usually expect in a historical fiction novel. This actually made for easy reading and allowed you to flow from scene to scene easily even if there was an abrupt change of time or place.

The story was lovely although it was not that historically accurate as some lovely people on Twitter harassed me enough to let me know it wasn't after I posted my innocent one sentence review tweet. I didn't really mind that it wasn't historically accurate as it was the retelling of Lale's story from his memories. It's historical fiction, not a textbook about the happenings at Auschwitz.

I think the main thing that surprised me was what Lale was actually tattooing. I, again naively, thought he was some 'under the table tattooist' doing body art to the other prisoners without the guards knowing. A sort of last attempt at freely choosing what happened to their bodies, when in actual fact he tattooed the numbers onto each prisoner - the number that replaced their name. That didn't even cross my mind, so while it's not accurate down to the exact fact it definitely made me think differently about what happened during World War II and the Holocaust which I think was the general idea. 

I definitely do recommend it if you're into historical fiction, if you liked The Diary of Anne Frank and like to see a different perspective, or just want to learn more about what happened during that time.

Have you read it? What did you think?

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Monday 1 April 2019

Book Club | April 2019 - A Non-Fiction Title

For our 2019 BB Book Club we've put together a printable list of twelve different prompts. On the 1st day of each month, we'll be introducing you to the month's prompt and the books team members each plan to read, along with some other suggested reads we think you'll love. Of course, these are just ideas so please feel free to interpret the prompts however you wish!

We're also inviting you to share photos and mini reviews of your book club picks on social media using #bookshelfbookclub and tag @bloggersbookshelf on Instagram.

Our prompt for April is... A Non-Fiction Title

What we'll be reading...

Anjali's Pick: Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis

"I'm not good at reading non-fiction books, but about a month or so a go I read Hollis' book Girl, Wash Your Face, and really enjoyed it. When I saw that she had another book (just recently out!) I knew I had to get my hands on it. I've heard good things about this, despite it only being out for a week weeks now, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it."

Erin's Pick: The People V. O. J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

"I settled on True Crime for my non-fiction pick and The People V. O.J. Simpson is a title I've been meaning to read for a couple of years now. It comes highly recommended by a friend who was just as fascinated by the 2016 TV adaptation as I was so I'm hoping it'll be a good choice."

Ria's Pick: Becoming by Michelle Obama

"Michelle Obama is one of my biggest inspirations and publicly she exudes such an air of confidence, charisma and intelligence that I aspire to have. And yet, despite her public persona, I feel like there's so much more to her. So you can imagine I've been pretty excited to start on my non-fiction book club pick since I got it for Christmas!"

Other suggested reads...

- Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops (Jen Campbell) - review
- The Moth (Catherine Burns) - review
- This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries Of A Junior Doctor (Adam Kay)
- The Gender Games (Juno Dawson)
- This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare (Gabourey Sidibe)

Use the hashtag #bookshelfbookclub and tag @bloggersbookshelf on Instagram to share your photos and mini reviews with us throughout the month!
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