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 May 2019

Features | A Trip to Powells Books - Largest Independent Bookstore in the World

Walking to Powells Books is like walking to bibliophile heaven.

Back in 2017 I went on a trip to Oregon for two weeks with my mum, and one of the things I had to do while I was in the area was visit Powells Books. I ended up going twice. Just this past month I returned to Oregon for a shorter trip, but a trip that involved Powells all the same. 

So what exactly is Powells Books? 

Powell's Books is an independent bookseller serving Portland, Oregon, since 1971. We've grown to employ over 530 people across five Portland-area stores and, and our book inventory exceeds two million volumes. In spite of our substantial size and reach, we remain grounded by our company's core values, which have guided us through the ups and downs of the bookselling industry. Each and every employee's love of books drives us forward. - Webiste
That already sounds impressive, right? Right. But there's more. Powells Books takes up an entire city block in Portland, and has multiple stories, some of which are split level. Each genre is divided up into a different room, and each room is assigned a colour. For example, the Young Adult and Childrens books were in the Rose Room, the fantasy in the Gold Room etc etc. Then each aisle has a number, so if you've searched for something on the computer you can find the shelf that the book will be on very easily. They even have a fascinating Rare Books rooms which you can go and check out for free. There are some beautiful old books in there!

Alongside the new books, they also sell used books, and if you're lucky, you may just find a signed copy. I managed to score myself a paperback copy of Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch for just USD $5 because it was used, but the quality was like-new. I also discovered a signed copy of In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (signed by Doctorow).

In between the books there are other fun items such as board games, stationery, cards, mugs, scarves, Powells memorabilia, and so much more! You could spend hours and hours in among the shelves at Powells and never want to leave. Alas, we could only afford to spend about 1.5 hours in there but we managed to walk away with way too many books (is there such a thing?!) and the slight worry that we'd have to somehow get them all back to New Zealand with only 23kg luggage allowance each (spoiler: it ended up being a-okay!).

If you're ever even in Oregon somewhere (heck, if you're in nearby Washington State!),  you have to go to Powells. It's truly incredible and I can't wait to go back!
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Book Club | May 2019 Roundup

Our book club theme for May was 'Penguin Moderns', a series of 50 brilliant short books priced at just £1 each.

Thank you to those who shared photos and mini reviews over on social media throughout the month. Below are a selection of our favourites...

Fame by Andy Warhol

"Legendary pop artist Andy Warhol shares vignettes and aphorisms on love, fame and beauty. They're short and snappy - some only a sentence or two - and there's a lot of truth and 'oh yeah, I've never thought of that' moments throughout. While the synopsis of the book declares it to be 'hilarious', I didn't find it to be so. However I did enjoy reading it, especially the section on fame and his thoughts on both the wonderful aspects for being a celebrity and those that are deemed by him to be ridiculous." - Anjali

Notes on 'Camp' by Susan Sontag

"Rather appropriate considering this year's Met Gala theme! I really loved the breakdown of the social, political, and historical origins of 'camp' as a fashion trend but a whole philosophy and lifestyle. Highly recommend - especially if you had no idea why Lady Gaga rocked up in four different outfits on the Met Gala red carpet." - Ria

This month for the @bloggersbookshelf book club we’re reading stories from the Penguin Modern series and I chose The Breakthrough by Daphne du Maurier. The Breakthrough is an unsettling, atmospheric science fiction tale about a secret government experiment, looking for the truth of what happens after we die. The story is eerie and uncomfortable but thanks in part to its brevity and even more to du Maurier’s ability to draw the reader fully into even a story as short as this, I devoured it in no time at all, barely pausing for breath. - Next month’s book club theme is books ‘translated into your native language’ so I’ll be attempting to finally read Chrétien de Troyes’s Arthurian Romances! - #bloggersbookshelf #bookshelfbookclub #bookstagram #bookbloggers #currentlyreading #instabooks #reading #books #bookworm #booklove #bookcovers #prettybooks #beautifulbooks #instabooks #bibliophile #vsco #vscocam #vscobooks #igreads #booklover #penguinmodern #daphnedumaurier #thebreakthrough #tea #teastagram #cupoftea #acupoftea #teatime #timefortea #abookandacupoftea #acupofteaandabook
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We'll be introducing June'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 24 May 2019

Features | 3 Books to Fill the Game of Thrones Shaped Hole in Your Heart

Are you already missing Game of Thrones as much as I am? Have you, unlike me, already read all the Song of Ice and Fire books currently available, and now you're just looking for something to fill the big dragon shaped void in your week? If so, you've come to the right place. Here are three suggestions for novels to give you your fix of magical creatures and fighting for the throne, at least until George finishes those last few books.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns is the story of three triplet sisters, all equal heirs to the crown and all in possession of a different type of magic, but only one sister can be queen and the only way to win is to be the last one still alive. You can read Anjali's full review of this book here.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy tome, which tells the story of four narrators in a world of magic and courtly politics, where dragons may be revered or feared but are most definitely real, a queen must conceive a daughter to protect her realm, and a great threat looms over all.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands is the story of a young woman raised in a desert town where real life is all too real and mythical beasts and magical beings roam at the outskirts of normality. When she finally manages to escape her back-country town, it isn't just freedom waiting for her, but a rebellion.
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Thursday 23 May 2019

A Dream of Italy | Nicky Pellegrino | Review

Nicky is one of my favourite authors, and a bonus is she's from New Zealand! While I haven't read every book of hers yet, I'll always pick up one if I see it in a second-hand store or I get a chance at a review copy.

If you love romance, Italy, and a whole lot of food I totally recommend any Nicky Pellegrino book but this one was the second best I've read so far!

For sale: historic building in the picturesque town of Montenello, southern Italy. Asking price: 1 Euro

Cloudless skies, sun-soaked countryside, delicious food... In the drowsy heat of an Italian summer, four strangers arrive in a beautiful town nestled in the mountains of Basilicata, dreaming of a new adventure. An innovative scheme by the town's Mayor has given them the chance to buy a crumbling historic building for a single Euro - on the condition that they renovate their home within three years, and help to bring new life to the close-knit local community.

Elise is desperate to get on the property ladder. Edward wants to escape a life he feels suffocated by. Mimi is determined to start afresh after her divorce. And there's one new arrival whose true motives are yet to be revealed...

It's really hard to go wrong with a Nicky Pellegrino book I find. You're not expecting a super intense thriller or super thought out plot, you're expecting food, wine, and probably romance - and this does not disappoint. The idea of buying a property for a euro really had me intrigued, boy do I wish I could buy a house for euro, even one that needed doing up as much as these.

Doing up derelict houses you do assume things will go wrong but these characters they do not quit. You fall in love with all of them and just want to scoop them up and wish all their problems away, which usually happens in the next chapter or two because everyone gets happy endings in her books. It sounds like a spoiler but really if you've ever read any of Nicky's books you'll know they're always happy endings, no matter how bad it gets in the middle everyone is laughing and smiling at the end usually eating a whole lot of Italian food!

Full of the usual romance, excellent food descriptions and cute Italian scenes that make you want to book a holiday and eat everything so what more can I say? If you have the urge to spend your savings on a spontaneous trip to Italy and eat all the Italian food read this instead!
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Friday 17 May 2019

Love Lie Repeat | Catherine Greer | Review

Three girls, loyal to each other - that never happens. All the groups of three implode eventually. Two in, one out. Change. Betrayal. Again. And again.

But not us. I make sure of it. I make Ash and Ruby see that our power is in our three-ness. We can do what no other trio can.

Together, we’re strong.

Thick, thin, boys, mothers, divorce, other girls, secrets, lies, all of it.

I'll keep us together.

Watch me. - Goodreads

I gave this book a three-stars which sort of feels like a cop-out for me not deciding how I really felt about it. It was good, but not excellent. It was intense, but not thrilling. It was complicated, but at the same time simple. It was everything a three-star book could be.

The story follows Annie, a troubled teen who has a tense relationship (or lack-there-of) with a father who left her family and now has a young pregnant wife; a weird power-heavy relationship with her two 'best friends' (who are 100% more like frenemies the whole book); and an almost controlling relationship with Trip, the eventual love-interest.

As the story unfolds, we follow Annie through these relationships as she gives us hints and clues as to what this hidden secret is on the fringes of each interaction. There's something she's hiding, something in her past which has shaped her and thoroughly influenced who she is today, and we get these bits of information every now and then so we can try and piece together what's going on.

The characters in this story weren't enjoyable ones (though perhaps that's the point). They're grappling with ridiculous troubles 16-year-olds shouldn't have to be grappling with, they're vindictive, scheming little so-and-sos, and I didn't really care for any of them.

Yet somehow the story was gripping, and I read this book in one sitting. As you can probably tell, I'm torn about this book. Was it good? Sure, it was a decent story and I liked reading it. Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I read another book by Greer? Yeah! Sure would. This was her debut novel, and for a first book it's pretty good.

Have you read Love Lie Repeat? What did you think? 
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Thursday 9 May 2019

Features | 5 Books on the Top of My Wish List

If you don't already know I've put myself on a book buying ban for 2019 and boy has it actually been way easier than I thought. I haven't been perfect, I may have bought 4 kindle books for a total of $22 this entire year so far. The problem I'm finding though is I'm mostly ignoring what books are coming out/have come out so today I've scrolled through Book Depository and my Goodreads wishlist to come up with 5 books that I really want to buy but are avoiding and will probably borrow from the library once it's back open again. (Our city library is currently indefinitely closed due to earthquake damage cry). Some of these totally haven't come out recently oops!

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (Out Oct 2018)

Love The Book Thief so totally want to try Markus' new book!

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Things Are What You Make Of Them by Adam J. Kurtz (out 2017 oops)

Adam has some of the best advice for creatives so can't wait to get stuck into this.

From the creative mind and heart of Adam J. Kurtz comes this quirky, upbeat rallying cry for creators of all stripes. Expanding on a series of popular guides he's created for Design*Sponge, this handwritten and heartfelt little book shares wisdom and empathy from one working artist to others. The advice is organized by topic, including: (How to) Get Over Comparing Yourself to Other Creatives, Seeking & Accepting Help from Others, How to Get Over Common Creative Fears (Maybe), How to Be Happy (or Just Happier). As wry and cheeky as it is empathic and empowering, this deceptively simple, vibrantly full-color book will be a touchstone for writers, illustrators, designers, and anyone else who wants to be more creative--even when it would be easier to give up act normal. 

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt (Out 2017 again oops)

I swear this was to do with a comic con (hence unCONventional) but according to the blurb it doesn't seem like it, I guess I'll find out!

Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing...until author Aidan Green - messy haired and annoyingly arrogant - arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi's life is thrown into disarray. In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can't be planned. Things like falling in love...

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman (Out 2017 I give up)

Can't deny another historical fiction novel, and this one includes a zoo!?

When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes. With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell (out August 2019 woo)

A comic by Rainbow Rowell what more needs to be said?

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1. But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye. Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . . What if their last shift was an adventure?

If you have any recommendations of new books let me know, not that I can buy them but I sure can borrow them from the library!

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Friday 3 May 2019

One of Us is Lying | Karen M. McManus | Review

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. - Goodreads

Earlier in the year, Sophie and I were given a Penguin Turning Pages box, which had a bunch of bookish goodies in it, a book (Invisibly Breathing, by Eileen Merriman) and the 2019 Penguin Teen Superproof. The Superproof had the first few chapters of 10 upcoming Penguin titles hitting the shelves this year, and one of them was Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen M. McManus. The first few chapters intrigued me, so I added it to the TBR list and then discovered that she had written One of Us is Lying. While they're not connected stories, as we wondered they were, I still wanted to read One of Us is Lying before reading Two Can Keep a Secret, just in case. You know how it is.

I really enjoyed this book! Goodreads says it's a combination of Pretty Little Liars and the Breakfast Club, and I couldn't agree more. The whole story alternates between the four main characters' perspectives (obviously not Simon, because he dies in the first chapter), as they try and unravel what might have happened to Simon. Everyone is a suspect, everyone has secrets, and no one knows what's really going on.

It's a murder mystery, come teen drama, and I read it in about two sittings. I would have given it higher star rating (I went with 3.5/4 ish stars), but I called 'who done it' long before the characters figured it out, so it was less shocking when I got to the reveal. However! Still really enjoyable, and I can now read Two Can Keep a Secret knowing that if they were at all connected (still don't think they are), then it's all good and safe to read.

Rumour has it there actually will be a One of Us is Lying sequel, called One of Us is Next and it's due for publication in 2020.

Have you read One of Us is Lying? What did you think? 
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Wednesday 1 May 2019

Book Club | May 2019 - From The Penguin Modern Series

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 May is... From The Penguin Modern Series

The Penguin Modern series consists of 50 small books that are priced at just £1 each. You can find a full list of the titles over on their website.

What we'll be reading...

Ria's Pick: The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House by Audre Lorde

"Audre Lorde's writing is prolific and I'm surprised I haven't delved into one of her most famous essays about the intersection between race and feminism. I've seen entire quotes emblazoned on the internet, so it'll be great to read the context around them."

Anjali's Pick: Fame by Andy Warhol

"Broken up into three sections - love, beauty and fame - this little Penguin Modern is a collection of vignettes by pop artist Andy Warhol. I have no idea what to expect but when I saw that Warhol was the author I was taken back to high school art days. Literally my only reason for picking it up, so we'll see how it goes!"

Erin's Pick: The Cracked Looking-Glass by Katherine Anne Porter

"After picking up The Skeleton's Holiday (Leonora Carrington) for our book club last year, I've been looking forward to reading another Penguin Modern as part of our 2019 prompts. The Cracked Looking-Glass (Katherine Anne Porter) became part of my collection last summer along with The Missing Girl (Shirley Jackson) when I had a couple of pounds left to use up a gift card and decided to spend them on more Penguin Moderns. I really enjoyed The Missing Girl - I'd highly recommend it if you're unsure which title to go for this month - and hope I'll love this one just as much."

Other suggested reads...

- The Skeleton's Holiday (Leonora Carrington) - 2018 book club roundup
- The Missing Girl (Shirley Jackson)

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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