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.


Wednesday 31 July 2019

Book Club | July 2019 Roundup


It's time for another book club roundup! Our theme for July 2019 was '5-word titles' which includes a huge variety of books and genres. Here are some of those shared on social media...

A post shared by Anjali -This Splendid Shambles (@anjalikay) on

Ghosts Of The Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare

"I really enjoyed Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare. While it was a huge book, these short stories were set around one of my favourite characters from her Shadowhunter world. It was really neat to be able to read about his life after we left him at the end of a prior series. Clare also managed to set a few things up for future books, too." - Anjali

Always And Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

"Always and Forever, Lara Jean was really good! A great ending to a great series, and I would say better than the second book though it was a little predictable. Totally worth reading the entire series if you’ve already done To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before cuz of the hype!" - Sophie

A Darker Shade Of Magic by V E Schwab

"When I started reading A Darker Shade Of Magic I was a little disappointed that I didn't feel instantly invested in the story as I know it's very popular with other members of Team BB, however I definitely enjoyed it more as I read on thanks to Schwab's writing style. YA Fantasy isn't my usual go-to genre but I'm glad I picked up this book for something a little different." - Erin

We'll be introducing August'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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Wednesday 24 July 2019

Features | My Favourite Reads Of The Year So Far

Whilst I'd been hoping to squeeze in a mid-year update I was still a little busy in June, but hopefully it's not too late to check in and share some of my favourite reads of the year so far. Instead of simply listing my top 5 reads, I'm switching things up a little and have come up with a selection of categories, sharing my top pick for each one.

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

No surprises here, right? Thanks to The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six, everyone has been talking about Taylor Jenkins Reid. Evelyn Hugo is the only book I've given a five-star rating to this year after I read the whole thing in one weekend; I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait to find out if Daisy Jones will be another five-star read for me too.

I also recently read Maybe In Another Life, one of Taylor Jenkins Reid's earlier releases, which tells the story of Hannah, who moves home to California and goes on a night out with some friends. At the party Hannah bumps into her ex boyfriend and has to choose whether to head home with her friends or stay out with Ethan. From then on the chapters alternate between the two timelines, exploring how this one decision could change her whole life, with a few interesting turns along the way. It may not be as well-loved as the author's most recent releases but I think it's definitely one to add to your TBR.

Series: Truly Devious (Maureen Johnson)

I first heard about Truly Devious from Ria last year, when she raved about the first book in the series. Set in a famous private school, this YA series follows true-crime obsessive Stevie who takes it upon herself to try and solve the mystery of what happened to the wife and daughter of the school's founder and the identity of 'Truly Devious'. I flew through the first two titles in the series (The Vanishing Stair was the reason I signed up to use the digital services at my local library!) and I'm really looking forward to finding out what will happen in the third instalment The Hand On The Wall, which is due out in January.

Cover: The Last (Hanna Jameson)

Whilst bright red isn't my favourite colour, I love the simple and striking design of The Last's cover. We're always told we're not supposed to judge books by them, but it's definitely one of the things that first drew me to this book.

Non-Fiction: Becoming (Michelle Obama)

My top non-fiction pick of the year so far has to be Becoming, and I'm sure it would make many other reader's lists too. I had wanted to listen to the audiobook version, read by the author herself, however it's reserved at my library all the way through until early 2020, so I opted for the ebook instead. Going into the book I didn't know much about Michelle Obama's background or life before becoming the FLOTUS and I found this section to be equally as fascinating as her stories from her time in the White House.

Sequel: Us Against You (Fredrik Backman)

Beartown was one of my favourite reads of 2018 so it's no surprise that I loved Us Against You almost as much. The series deals with some difficult topics but both the town and residents Backman has created feel very realistic, leaving readers wanting to know more about their stories.

Audiobook: Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding)

This year, thanks to Borrow Box, I've been making a real effort to make audiobooks part of my reading routine. Podcasts have always been a feature on my bus journey to work and lunch break walks, but it's been nice to switch things up with audiobooks too. Whilst I'm now pretty sure that Sci-Fi audiobooks aren't for me, I've had more success with this format for titles within the Women's Fiction and YA genres. In particular, I recently enjoyed listening to Bridget Jones's Diary read by Imogen Church as I felt like she really captured the personality of Bridget and the diary format worked well for me. Although I was familiar with the character and story through the film adaptation, I hadn't actually ever read the book before. Whilst there were parts I wasn't a huge fan of (including Bridget's constant calorie counting) I'd really recommend this story as an audiobook - I'm currently listening to the sequel!

Re-Read: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Another way I'm keen to use audiobooks is for re-reading, and that's how I found myself listening to The Hunger Games earlier this month. With the announcement of a fourth book set within this world and Netflix UK adding all four films back into their catalogue, I decided it was about time I revisited the book I credit with getting me back into reading seven years ago - there would be no BB without it! I had originally planned to listen to the special edition, narrated by Orphan Black actress Tatiana Maslany, but there was a fairly long queue for this through my library so I picked up the original version read by Carolyn McCormick instead. I also have Catching Fire on hold but sadly it's not available until October so I have a bit of a wait before I can revisit the series again.

Which books would make your list?
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Friday 19 July 2019

The Devouring Gray | Christine Lynn Herman | Review

Branches and stones, daggers and bones, they locked the Beast away.

Four Paths is a town steeped in secrecy, where the families of the four town founders are both revered as gods and expected to protect the rest of the town from the beast their ancestors trapped in the Gray, a dark dimension made to imprison it. In order to help them with their duties, each member of the founding families must undergo a ritual, which, when passed successfully, allows them to access and control special powers passed down through their families, powers meant to keep the beast and the Gray under control. 

When Violet Saunders and her mother, Juniper, move to Juniper's childhood hometown, following the death of Violet's sister, Rosie, Violet knows nothing about Four Paths, least of all that she is a member of one of those founding families. Nevertheless, now that she is in Four Paths, Violet's powers begin to manifest themselves in ways that may cause more harm than good. It is vital that Violet complete her family's ritual and gain control of her powers before something truly terrible happens, but the rituals are kept a secret, known only by the individual families, and, although Violet's new friends promise to help her figure out what her ritual is, neither Juniper or Violet's aunt, the only other Saunders left in Four Paths, remember anything about it. While Violet tries to figure out the secret to controlling her powers, the beast in the Gray is getting stronger, and Violet may be the only one who can stop it.

The Devouring Gray is told from multiple points of view. The first, of course, is Violet, who finds more secrets than she ever could have expected in Four Paths. Next is Justin, the town's golden boy, who has to keep a huge secret for the sake of his family's image. Then Harper, who was Justin's best friend until she failed her ritual, resulting in days spent lost in the Gray and the loss of an arm from the elbow down. Finally, we have Isaac, the angry son of the fourth founding family, and the last one left in Four Paths after a tragic accident occurred during his own ritual. All four teenagers provide a different view of Four Paths and the many secrets it keeps, and the different sides of what it means to be part of a founding family, which weave together to present an intriguing whole.

The Devouring Gray has been compared to a few TV shows, Stranger Things and Riverdale to name just two, and much of this is thanks to the atmosphere Herman creates and the large cast of characters. Personally, I would compare it to the show Teen Wolf, but with less romance. In fact, unusually for these sort of stories, the threat ever present in the town does not leave much time for any romance at all, although it is hinted at, and I expect there is more to come. This is an enjoyable contemporary fantasy, with a lot to recommend it, but I found myself wanting more of everything. More of the history of Four Paths, more of the threat the beast poses, more of each of the main group of characters. As this is the first in a planned series, there likely will be more of all of these things, but it is a shame there wasn't more room for them here. Even so, if you're looking for a slightly spooky, fast-paced, paranormal story, this one is certainly worth a read. I'll definitely be picking up the next in the series when it comes out.
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Friday 12 July 2019

In Real Life | Cory Doctorow + Jen Wang | Review

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.

When I went to Portland, Oregon, I visited Powell's Books (the greatest place on earth), and one of the books I picked up was this super cute graphic novel, In Real Life by Cory Doctorow (illustrated by Jen Wang). I haven't read that many graphic novels before, but I had seen this one around the internet and decided to give it a go.

Thanks to the Goodreads description above, you have a pretty good idea as to what it's about, but in short, Anda starts playing Coursegold Online and part of her role in this new guild she's a part of is to track down gold farmers and get rid of them. But what she soon realises is that these gold farmers are actual players and not bots, and the conditions they're living and playing in are anything but healthy.

“This life is real too. We're communicating aren't we?”  

Not only was this a really sweet story about an online friendship through this massively multiplayer online game, but it's also about economics, work places environments, and human rights.

It's just a wee book, and will only take you an hour, perhaps, to read, but it's well worth picking up. Jen Wang's illustrations are so sweet and the story line is fun, quirky, and important.

Have you read In Real Life?
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Tuesday 9 July 2019

Bookish Links #50

1. Do you go back and re-rate books on Goodreads? Amy shared an interesting post on some of the books she has re-rated.

2. If you're not sure where to start with poetry you'll love this handy list.

3. Love V E Schwab? This one's for you.

4. Our friend Lucy has taken on a challenge to visit every Waterstones store! Head on over to her Instagram page to follow along.

5.  If you need a new bookmark in your life, you'll love this simple DIY.

6. Anjali shared a roundup of re-tellings she has read and enjoyed. Which books would you add to the list?

7. Even though it sounds like this novel is still in it's early stages, we can't wait to read it!

8. We love this idea!

9. Are you looking forward to revisiting Panem?

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Friday 5 July 2019

The Kingdom | Jess Rothenberg | Review

Welcome to The Kingdom... where 'Happily Ever After' isn't just a promise, but a rule.

The Kingdom is a place where dreams come true. A futuristic fantasy theme park where extinct animals are brought back to life and the park's Fantasists, seven beautiful, lifelike, android princesses, are programmed with only one goal in mind: to ensure the happiness of the park's guests. Ana and her Fantasist sisters know all about how terrible the world outside The Kingdom is, so they understand how important their role is in brightening the lives of those who visit them in the safety of The Kingdom, but things are starting to go wrong. Some of Ana's sisters are starting to malfunction, and before long Ana begins to wonder if she is too. Ana starts to feel things she hasn't been programmed to feel. In particular, she thinks she may be falling in love with Owen, one of the park's human employees.

So how is it that Ana comes to be accused of Owen's murder? As the trial unfolds, Ana is not the only person being judged. Can Ana be guilty of murder if she is only able to do what she is programmed to do? How much responsibility does The Kingdom hold if it has created girls who can murder of their own free will? Were Ana's sisters malfunctioning at all, or did they simply understand something that Ana didn't? And can dreams really come true in a place that hides so many dark secrets?

The Kingdom tells Ana's story non-chronologically, skipping between transcripts from Ana's trial, news reports, and Ana's memories of the events leading to her alleged killing of Owen. At times, this method can be a little confusing. As Rothenberg saves all of the important details to be unfolded and revealed at precise moments, it does mean that it takes a while for enough of the details to fall into place so that the reader can actually figure out what's going on. However, it also means that details can be saved until the exact moment when they will have the most impact, and in that regard Rothenberg absolutely nails it. More than once I found myself wide-eyed as another piece of Ana's puzzle slotted into place.

The layers of this story perfectly match the layers of mystery and deceit at the heart of The Kingdom, and Rothenberg definitely takes the reader on a theme-park-worthy journey through Ana's story. As Ana starts to peel back the layers of lies and cruelty that she and her sisters have been exposed to, often without their knowledge, it is almost impossible not to feel those betrayals as a reader too. Ana is an interesting protagonist, not least because her very existence raises the question of what it means to be human. This is the story of Ana discovering the world and not only the darkness hidden from her, but the light too. First, she falls in love with Owen, even against her programming, as he helps her to understand the truth around her. Then, as she uncovers these truths, Ana must face the idea that Owen has been hiding things from her too. In the end the question is, did betrayal make Ana a killer or did The Kingdom make her everything that she is, whatever that may be?

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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Monday 1 July 2019

Book Club | July 2019 - With A 5-Word 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 July is... With A 5-Word Title

What we'll be reading...

Erin's Pick: A Darker Shade Of Magic by V E Schwab

"Although I wouldn't say I'm a huge Fantasy reader I've heard so many great things about this book but it's been sitting unread on my Kindle for a little while now. I've actually never read anything by V E Schwab before so I'm looking forward to reading this highly recommended author."

Ria's Pick: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

"Time travel. Lady scientists being awesome. A dash of diversity and LGBTQ characters. Murder mystery plot. Was this book brewed in a lab especially for me? I'd seen this one plenty of times over the past year in various bookshops and finally picked it up - luckily it fits perfectly with this month's 5 Word Title challenge too!"

Anjali's Pick: Ghosts Of The Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare

"Ghosts of the Shadow Market is the latest book set in Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter world. It's a collection of short stories with characters we're familiar with from the other series (and, I assume, some new ones), as they come and go from the Shadow Market. I'm looking forward to reading this!"

Other suggested reads...

- The Name Of The Star (Maureen Johnson) - review
- Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged (Ayisha Malik) - review
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Gayle Honeyman)
- Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)
- You Had Me At Hello (Mhairi McFarlane) - review
- The Universe Versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence) - review
- The Fault In Our Stars (John Green) - review
- The Name Of The Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) - review
- Daughter Of The Pirate King (Tricia Levenseller) - review
- A Shadow Bright & Burning (Jessica Cluess)
- And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
- Daisy Jones And The Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

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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