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We love to talk all things books, sharing reviews, features, lists, interviews and more, all penned by our team of six writers.

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Monday, 31 December 2012

Fantastic Mr Fox | Roald Dahl | Reviewed by Laura



I read this book when I was younger, but when the Roald Dahl collection arrived I decided it was time to re-read one of my old favourites. I always enjoyed this book as a child and have more recently watched the film (although I found this not quite so enjoyable), but it was time to see if the book appealed in the same way to an adult reader.

Roald Dahl has such a great appeal to children, mention ‘The Twits’ or ‘The BFG’ and there is an instant recognition of such great stories.  Fantastic Mr Fox is another instant hit, detailing the lives of a family of foxes who steal food from 3 local farmers. But these are no ordinary farmers, all 3 are set up to entertain and amuse with the description of their physical appearance and personalities. These 3 obscure farmers decide to take revenge and try to hunt down the fox family.

This may be a children’s book, but it has a certain magic which allows for enjoyment still to be found when reading this book as an adult. Lots of us remember reading them as children and are desperate to read them to our children (an excuse because we want to re-read our childhood favourites). It is the adventurous story lines, magical events and humorous characters which keep us entertained throughout the whole book.

I would recommend this book to any Roald Dahl fan, child or parents – this is not a Roald Dahl book to be missed.

5/5 stars

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
*Photo © Laura


Happy New Year from everyone at Blogger's Bookshelf

1 comment
Go Ask Alice | Anonymous | Reviewed by Taylah

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Go Ask Alice | Anonymous | Reviewed by Taylah

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“I really am only one infinitely small part of an aching humanity.”
  I had a problem when I sat down to write this review. I planned to review The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer for you all. Unfortunately, no matter how late I stay up, I just haven't managed to finish it. So it's with massive apologies I change the topic of this review to a book I've read enough times to give you an honest review. Go Ask Alice was a book my mum read when she was younger, she handed it to me when I was 12 and I read it too. The book focuses on the effects of recreational drugs via the journal entries of a young girl, Alice.

Go Ask Alice follows Alice, a young girl with a promising future, as she is introduced into the world of drugs. At first it's through no fault of her own, a spiked drink at a party. Slowly Alice begins to fall into a dark spiral. She becomes addicted, moves away from home and watches, via her journal, as her life falls apart. Alice's journal entries are extremely heart breaking and it almost hurts to watch her go through her issues alone.

Go Ask Alice was rumored to be a journal of a real girl, Anonymous, who used drugs, it even states it on the blurb. However, over the years it has become more and more clearer that the person who actually wrote the book was a lady by the name of Beatrice Sparks. Beatrice is also well known for her story Jay's Journal.
The journal entries are a great way to set out a book, it's interesting to hear the stories from a single point of view. I especially like the way that the journal entries are periodic, there's no set time interval between entries. Listening to Alice recall months at a time in a single journal entry is sad, and then we watch as Alice loses her journal and continues to write on sheets of paper and junk she finds on the streets.
Reviews on this book are always extremely different. People either hate or love this book and I think you can understand why, being such a controversial topic. Whether you believe if the book is fiction or not, the themes and story are still relevant.

I think the reason my mum handed me such a controversial book at such a young age was to deter me. The life experiences of Alice as a result of her drug use is shocking, none of which you'd wish upon your worst enemy. The book acts as shock value, scaring readers into living a life free of drugs.
Go Ask Alice provides for a short, captivating read with a prominent message. The book is timeless, regardless of being published in the early 70's, the themes are relevant for generations to come.

Recommended for:
This book is yet another coming of age story, however I find the themes are that little more darker than your traditional coming of age book or self discovery book. If you enjoyed Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, and even The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
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This post was written by regular reviewer Taylah, get to know her here.
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Blogger's Bookshelf Review Round Up #2

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Blogger's Bookshelf Review Round Up #2

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Hello everyone, hope you all had a lovely Christmas and welcome to our second review round up post!
We also had an abundance of guest posts and mini collabs this month:

And of course this month's group collaboration post on our Favourite Reads of 2012. Don't forget to start sending your answers to our next group collaboration post on your Top 5 books/series you vow to read in 2013. Just send us a tweet or email us which 5 books or series' you want to read and why.

On a final note, everyone on the Blogger's Bookshelf team would like to wish you all a Happy New Year!
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Candor | Pam Bachorz | Reviewed by Erin

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Candor | Pam Bachorz | Reviewed by Erin

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“Oscar Banks lives in the pristine town of Candor. Son of the mayor, he is good-looking, smart and popular. And he knows something he’s not supposed to – he knows about the brainwashing Messages embedded in the music that plays all over the town.” Source

Candor is described as a YA psychological thriller and was inspired by author Pam Bachorz time spent in a real life model town in Florida.

Our main character is teen Oscar Banks who has spent years working on counter-messages to keep those that are played around Candor from entering his own mind whilst also running a secret business helping other teens to escape before it’s too late (in exchange for a substantial amount of money!). In order to keep his secret and ensure his father continues to believe he is the perfect son Oscar pretends to be just that and so far the whole town has fallen for his act. Overall Oscar is a relatively likeable character despite some of his comments and I think he is a pretty perfect protagonist for this story in particular. Very early on in the book we are also introduced to Nia, a new resident of Candor who quickly becomes an important part of Oscar’s story when shortly after meeting they defy the messages “Keep Candor Beautiful” and “Vandalism is wrong. Never deface someone else’s property” by spray painting graffiti on the otherwise perfect streets. Nia is your typical rebellious teen with a sketchy past which in true YA style catches Oscar’s attention. Of course Oscar’s father is also an important character within the book; mayor of Candor and creator of the message system that controls its’ residents, although not the main focus of the story he is a dark and intriguing presence throughout.

The beginning of the book was fairly interesting with quite a lot of questions being raised about the unusual town of Candor and it’s residents. When I was approaching the halfway point of the book I began to wonder just where the story was going, nothing dramatic or shocking had happened so far and I was starting to question when the ‘deeply chilling’ story promised by the book cover was going to kick in. Towards the end of the story some parts felt quite rushed and for me this did slightly unbalance the book overall. The final chapter, although predictable, is somehow captivating at the same time and definitely leaves you wanting to find out what happened next.

I found the Stepford-esque town of Candor an interesting place to explore and overall it was a good read. Despite there being no particularly surprising events and some elements feeling rather unbelievable, even for such a town, I found the subjects of surveillance and in particular brainwashing interesting and a nice variation from the other dystopian settings that are currently popular in YA.

3halfstars

 If you are interested in Candor there is a real website for the fictional town complete with resident interviews and property listings which you can find here. Pam Bachorz’ website also has links to a podcast series spoken from the point of view of Oscar’s father and mayor of Candor, Campbell Banks.


This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.

P.S - From myself and all of us here at Blogger's Bookshelf, we hope you are enjoying the holidays!
2 comments
How The Grinch Stole Christmas | Dr Suess | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 24 December 2012

How The Grinch Stole Christmas | Dr Suess | Reviewed by Ria

Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve! How excited is everybody right now?
I thought I'd give you a little review filled with festive cheer in the form of my favourite Christmas tale of all time...'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' by Dr. Suess.
It's a tale known by many of the Scrooge-like Grinch, who's lived in a cave on a mountain overlooking the little Whos in the idyllic Whoville. With his tiny cold heart (that was two sizes too small) the Grinch is sick of the Whos and their noisy holiday preparation and even louder and cheerier singing voices, so he's decided he's had enough. He's putting an end to Christmas and stealing all of the Christmas cheer away right from under the Whos noses on Christmas Eve, dressed as Santa Claus himself accompanied by his trusty companion Max.

We all know the ending here...

And the whole message of the book can be summarised with just one line
"What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
It's a message of goodwill to all and that all the material possessions and presents and fanciful feasts are really nothing compared to spending Christmas with the people you really care about =) Not to mention the fact that it's never too late to let your heart grow for Christmas day. 

Reading Soundtrack: You're A Mean One Mr Grinch: Glee Cast; Winter Wonderland: Michael Buble; Where Are You  Christmas: Faith Hill; All I Want For Christmas Is You: Mariah Carey; Welcome Christmas: How The Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack; 

For lovers of...CHRISTMAS! of course :) How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie and for any of you Christmas Scrooges out there!

And on a final note!

Everyone here on the Blogger's Bookshelf team would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


This review was written by Ria, find out more about her here.
Image via GoodReads & design by Ria
No comments

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Book of Lost Things | John Connolly | Reviewed by Lucy.



This story follows David, a young boy who is mourning the loss of his dead mother. As a result of this, he starts to have unexplainable fits and seizures which result in him going to see a therapist. The books in his life are also starting to talk to him, telling him of what stories they hide. Things don't help much when Rose appears. After capturing his father's attention, Rose soon becomes David's stepmother and has a baby boy of her own called Georgie. David is determined to hate these newcomers as no one can replace his mother and he believes it's entirely wrong to move on with life so soon after his mother's death.

Then even weirder things happen. David spots what can only be described as The Crooked Man sitting at his bedroom window and a voice which is not unlike his mother's starts talking to him. Overcome with curiosity, he is drawn to where the voice seems to be coming from - a crack in the wall of their garden. As a German bomber plane starts to crash in his garden, David hides in the crack and immediately finds himself in a new world. A world with wolves pretending to be men, a world with a broken King leading it and a world where David's mother could be alive.

After meeting The Woodsman, David must find the king and hope that he will find his way home through The Book of Lost Things. But will he survive?

This was the second time I had read this book.  When I sat down to read this book, I remembered a few bits but was totally amazed to realise I had forgotten half of what the story was only after five years since I had first read it.

What makes this book so amazing for me is there are a lot of fairytales in here that are completely twisted to be told in a totally different way. Most of the fairytales are from the Grimm Brothers. Some of these Grimm stories were completely new to me but there is a huge bit at the end where the author talks about these fairytales which inspired him to write this book and actually includes the fairytale so you know how the actual story goes. This entire section is more than 100 pages long making the book look a whole lot bigger. The story itself is 348 pages long but it's 512 with this extra material. The author has got all of these fairytales and with the addition of a character and a story, he has weaved all these fairytales to make his own. There are popular characters as you have never seen them before, making the likeable unlikeable. I would say vice versa but I'd be telling a lie.

I really think this book does not get enough credit and that people should definitely read it, including you, yes you! I first borrowed this book so I didn't have my own copy. John Connolly actually came to my city but I thought he was only signing his new book (which I can't remember as it's not important.) After he had gone and I went to my bookshop, I saw a copy with the glorious "Signed" sticker on it. Therefore I had to buy it and the picture you see below is my very own copy!

I love this book so much that it is now tied first with The Book Thief. I honestly didn't remember how excellent it was. Therefore, I'm giving it five stars, it was that amazing.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy and, like me, is a big fan of the Once Upon a Time TV show. If you love fairytales or just want to try something new, then I can say wholeheartedly that this is the book for you.

 
Photos by Lucy Donnan :)
 
This review was written by regular reviewer Lucy. Get to know her here!

6 comments
Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Reads Of 2012

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Group Collaboration | Our Favourite Reads Of 2012

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As we are now fast approaching the end of the year this month's group post is all about the books we've read and loved in 2012. We asked you to tell us your top 5 books read throughout the year and these were the results...
erintop5
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, About A Boy by Nick Hornby, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
cattop5 
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Catching Fire & The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

taylahtop5 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Genesis by Lara Morgan, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Across The Universe by Beth Revis, A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
lulutop5
Girl Perfect by Jennifer Strickland, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Legend by Marie Lu, Stolen by Lucy Christophher, Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
 
niinatop5 Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Feed by Mira Grant, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
lauratop5 
 Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell 
 
 
riatop5 Virals by Kathy Reichs, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, The Help by Kathryn Stockett 
 
kristinatop5 
 Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, City Of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, An Abundance Of Katherines by John Green
 lucystop5 
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, The Help by Kathryn Stockett 
 
 emilystop5 
 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad, No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay, A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham, The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
 
 
 francescatop5 
Looking For Alaska by John Green, Freakonomics by Stephen D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, One Day by David Nicholls 
 
 
elletop5 
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Salem's Lot by Stephen King, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice 
amytop5 
 The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Delirium by Lauren Oliver
 
 
 anjalitop5
The Passage by Justin Cronin, Divergent & Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Variant by Robison Wells, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Next month's post will be all about the books we vow to read in 2013! If you'd like to get involved please email bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com for details.
 
 
Contributors - Cat, Taylah, Ria, Elle, Francesca, Lucy, Laura, Lulu, Kristina, Emily, Niina, Anjali, Amy & Erin

All book cover images sourced from goodreads.com
4 comments
Jellicoe Road | Melina Marchetta | Reviewed by Niina

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Jellicoe Road | Melina Marchetta | Reviewed by Niina


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“He stops and looks at me. 'I'm here because of you. You're my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don't think that will be happening in my lifetime.”  - Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road 

Jellicoe Road is narrated by Taylor. Taylor has been abandoned by her mother and lives at the boarding school on the Jellicoe Road. This is Taylor story. A story about her search for her past. But it's also a story about a car accident that happened on the Jellicoe Road twenty years earlier. And let's not forget that it's a story about life, love and growing up. And most of all it's a story about true friendship. 

I did read this book right after I finished reading Looking for Alaska by John Green. Not that they're exactly the same but I can't help to compare them because there's quite a few similarities. They're both young adult novels about a group of teenagers going to a boarding school and they're both excellent coming of age stories. But I still have to say I enjoyed Jellicoe Road a bit more. Okay, let's be honest here, I didn't just enjoy Jellicoe Road, I loved it! I got so caught up in the story that I couldn't stop reading it (which wasn't the case with Looking for Alaska even if it's an excellent book as well)! I stayed up reading this book way too late two nights in a row!

So why did I love this story so much? First of all; I really liked the characters! I might even say I loved them (and that's true to every single one of them). They all have a lot of depth to them and feel honest and true without being predictable (I hate predictable characters). I could really relate to them and I really enjoyed seeing them grow through the story. I also loved how the relationships between the characters felt really believable and honest. Melina Marchetta didn't make the relationships too easy or uncomplicated and I like that because that's how human relationships play out. They're never that simple no matter if it's about love, friendship or family. And I have to say that this is one of the few books that I really got caught in from the first page. It usually takes me a good while to get into a story. But not this one! There's a lot of excitement, mystery and interesting characters that keeps you intrigued through the whole book...

I also really like Melina Marchetta's writting style. The story feels almost magical (like a fairy tale) even if it's a pretty realistic story . Melina Marchetta is truly great story teller! So, no I don't really have anything negative to say about the Jellicoe Road. This was truly a wonderful read from the first to the last page. So I guess you know where I'm going with my rating!? There's no doubt about it! This is a 5 star book so it naturally gets 5 stars/5 stars!



5stars



So, now when you've read this review; Go and get your hands on a copy of the Jellicoe Road! You can thank me later! 


This review was written by regular reviewer Niina, get to know her here
1 comment

Monday, 17 December 2012

This Charming Man| Marian Keyes | Reviewed by Laura


This book has been sat on my bookshelf desperate to be read for months, the main reason for not reading it was… its length. Starting to read a book with a hefty 800 + pages (Although according to goodreads it’s only 704…) is quite daunting and what if I don’t like it? I’m one of these people who have to finish a book no matter what, and if I hated it, it would probably take me months to get through.

Having read some of Keyes previous books however I finally decided to give this one a go as I had always enjoyed her previous work. Although this book comes under the chic-lit heading I do feel that this is quite a serious book for this genre. Yes it has amusing aspects, is clearly written for the female audience and tackles romance and shoes; it does however take on the more serious issue of domestic violence.

It is written around the lives of 4 women who are all linked by one man. You meet each woman one by one and learn about their lives. I always find that when books are written in this way that I always like one storyline better, and would rather skip pages just so you get back to that one quicker. I can however honestly say I enjoyed all the characters and their stories which made this book extremely enjoyable although sometimes difficult (due to the delicate issue) to read.

I did however have one issue with this book. When reading from one of the main characters viewpoint it switches into a diary style of writing which normally I do not mind. However when it switches it also stopped being written in extended sentences. So for example ‘Drive to Knockavoy. Planned to pack up and return to Dublin. Suddenly keen to get it done.’ These are the short sharp sentences which make up most of this characters chapters. I found it frustrating to read as it left me longing for full sentences and details.  This is however the only aspect of the book which I can fault!

I would recommend this book to any chic-lit fan although if you’re not fan longer books this probably isn’t for you.

4/5 stars

This post was written by regular reviewer Laura, get to know her here.
*Photo © Laura
1 comment
A Christmas Carol | Charles Dickens | Reviewed by Taylah

Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Christmas Carol | Charles Dickens | Reviewed by Taylah

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“God bless us, every one!”
As it's Christmas I decided it was the perfect time to review A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Usually I wouldn't have read this book, I've never read a Charles Dickens book before and even thought Christmas is my favourite time of the year, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge never excited me. I read this book as apart of my final year of high school, I've analyzed, highlighted, bent and basically worn in this book like no other. I think it's become one of my most favourite books ever.

Ebenezer Scrooge is an old man. He's cold, he senile and he's tight when it comes to money. It's only when on Christmas Eve Ebenezer is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Marley, that he becomes even remotely aware of his hostility. Marley warns him that he will be visited by three ghosts, Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. It's the visits by these ghosts to Scrooge's past, present and future that Scrooge's eyes are opened to the world of the lower class.

The book itself was written by Dickens in an attempt to convince, or better yet scare, the upper class in the 1800's to be more charitable members of society. The gothic theme and the use of ghosts was a smart tactic used by Dickens. Religion was highly present when A Christmas Carol was written, the threat of a lifetime haunted by ghosts and an afterlife of suffering was a terrifying thought.
An even more smarter tactic was the fact that only members of high society could afford books and the education to read, thus allowing Dickens' to pinpoint his audience.

I really enjoyed the story. The charitable message paired with the spirit of Christmas made for a heart warming tale. I think it's important to recognize the message being told in A Christmas Carol not just during the holidays, but the whole year round. The book can be quite difficult to read in some parts, written in Standard English, it's hard to form a mental picture in some parts. Saying that, I really enjoyed the eloquent language used by Dickens throughout the story.

Recommended For:
As I've never read a book like this, I can't really compare it to other books. If you like moral tales, mild ghost stories or Christmas themes you may enjoy this book. The writing to me almost seems like a more mature version of Lemony Snicketts.
No comments
Mini Collab Post | NaNoWriMo 2012 Experiences

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mini Collab Post | NaNoWriMo 2012 Experiences

Nano 2012 header
We're all book lovers here at Blogger's Bookshelf but did you know some of us are also writers too? 

This November writers, both amateur and professional, gather round on November 1st and aim to write a novel of at least 50,000 words by midnight on the 30th November, all for National Novel Writing Month - also lovingly called NaNoWriMo
The types of novels written reach every single genre, they can be deadly serious books - ready to be edited into professional manuscripts - or utterly silly stories, people even write fanfiction. And the novel can be written on anything too...notebooks, ipads, napkins, emails, in blood - well maybe not in blood... - as long as you can tot up your word count at the end of the day it doesn't matter. 
So why do people choose to do a challenge like this? Well, we'll let some of this year's competing 'WriMo's share their experiences....

I had no idea how I was going to do in Nanowrimo, this being my first year. However, by the first day I had written nearly two thousand words. I kept writing and making the deadlines and everything was going well. Then came a week where it just fell apart and I wasn’t motivated to write.
By 30th November, I had written 26,487 words in total, just making it over halfway. Even though I failed Nanowrimo, I really enjoyed the writing process. My story was about five girls and their mum going through life, coping with the loss of their father. Each girl goes through a problem which they don’t know how to deal with. Instead of talking about them, they write letters and send them to their sisters/ mother via a custom made post-box. It’s a story which I’m very passionate about and has made me very determined to finish it. I have started writing again and the story’s going really well. Overall, I loved doing Nanowrimo and I am very excited for next November so I can do it all over again! 

Nano 2012 Kath
I've done NaNo every November for four years, and Camp NaNo (both months) for the last two years – so it was devastating when I realised I wasn’t sure if I was able to do it this year. It’s my third year at University and well, it’s hard. And NaNoWriMo is hard. Excruciatingly hard. Exhilarating and exciting but so so hard. 
But I’m competitive, and any challenge is a good one. So I did it anyway. I decided to be realistic, and set my goal at 25,000. The first night of NaNo, I wrote 5,000 words in three hours. My word count kept growing and I ended up finishing somewhere in the thirty thousands. 
For me, writing is a rush like none other. The best thing about coming home after an 8am-7pm day in the Uni library working on my dissertation is that I got to come home and lose myself in the world that only I knew about. 
NaNo is not all about making the 50,000. Not for me anyway. NaNoWriMo is about laughing at your friends faces when you tell them you can’t go to the SU tonight because you've got to write a god damn novel in a month; about staying up all night eating your body weight in biscuits trying to finish that chapter; making friends all around the world... but most of all? NaNo is fun.

This was only my second year competing in Nanowrimo and I have to admit I was quietly confident. Despite losing Camp Nano in the Summer, I had won my first Nanowrimo challenge last year and hit just over 50k. But I knew I'd be busy this month so I set myself a lower target of 25k...easy for someone who'd already written 50k right? Oh boy, oh boy was I wrong. I had a total lifestyle flip this year. No longer subject to free hours at Uni that was easily filled with writing for my, terrible, terrible, novel, I now had to cope with working 6 days a week (at my professional work placement and part-time retail job), plus managing blog and social life, not to mention starting Blogger's Bookshelf with Erin - what was I thinking?!
I knew I'd never be reaching the top tiers of Nano counts to blocked any mention of 50k out my brain. But as the month went on I found myself floundering to write. I went in this year with no plan but had a story that had been sitting in my head for the past 4/5 years. I wanted to get it out and Nano was the perfect catalyst to do so. But it was hard! My main character turned into a bit of a Mary Sue, I couldn't remember some of the place names I'd made up and the plot wasn't really going anywhere. My body and brain were telling me go to sleep I forced myself to write something, anything, even ten words would become an achievement most days. My other problem with completing the challenge this time was...time. I had none. I had no energy. I had no motivation because I had no energy. 
I hit a modest 20k in the end but I'm not too disappointed. Winning the challenge isn't about hitting that heavenly 50k...it's all about the writing. It doesn't matter that my novel will need complete re-editing because I wrote something. And that's always a start as an amateur writer.
And as I said on twitter "It's not the word count that counts....it's the fact you actually wrote something."....plus there's always next year, right?

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Find out more about National Novel Writing Month here

This post written by regular reviewers Lucy & Ria (find out more about them here), and guest blogger Kath.
5 comments

Friday, 14 December 2012

Girl, Interrupted | Susanna Kaysen | Reviewed By Elle

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital to be treated for depression. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital renowned for its famous clientele - Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor and Ray Charles. - source
 
This book is based on true events which happened in the author’s life. Originally I had seen the film of the book before I even got my hands on the book and it just blew my mind. At first with the film I thought it was rather interesting and very organised. With the book it was much different, it was slightly broken and unorganised, and it would jump between the story. The book and film are the same story but are told in different ways because the books is the authors true life experiences, almost like an autobiography which makes everything much personal.

 
With this book we get an insight to the mental hospitals in the 1960's and some of the horrors they contained. One of my favourite characters, the most well known apart from Susanna herself would have to be Lisa, her wicked nature and her love of her condition really did interest me. Overall I feel as if the book is more than just fiction, it gives us insight and information to true life experiences that would never have been seen before. I really enjoyed this book as it was detailed with what happened and everything was clear and easy to understand. Obviously the author had done her homework. We meet the main character; Susanna herself after she has tried to kill herself and we witness her life within the asylum from here onwards. We meet friends she made inside and also her daily routine and the rules of the hospital.
 
 The book gripped me, once I started reading I couldn't stop as I was that interested. For anyone wanting an odd but really interesting read I would fully recommend this book as it is emotional and loving as well as odd and full of life. You feel connected to the characters as you listen to their stories and towards the end you feel sad to let them go as Susanna did. I would give it a full rating for both the film and book due to the quality of the writing but also the courage of the author for publishing her life while 'imprisoned'.
 
This review was written by regular reviwer Elle, learn more about her here.
Photo credit to Elle.
 

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Guest Review | The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson | Stephanie Burgis

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Guest Review | The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson | Stephanie Burgis

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A Most Improper Magick, A Tangle of Magicks, A Reckless Magick (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson Series 1-3), Stephanie Burgis

Sometimes, you know you’ll love a book even before you’ve opened the cover. I’m not talking about the illustration on the front – but a certain combination of “ingredients” that make that book call out to you in particular. For me, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathon Norrell and Mr Strange was that book – a book which is stitched together from dark fantasy, alt history, dry wit and loving Austen parody. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it truly is mine. So much so that I continually search the web to see what Clark’s up to, if another book is in the pipeline, and I also continually search for a book that might combine those ingredients again in such a ravishing way.

The Kat Stephenson series in some respects a “young adult” version of Clarke’s rather more refined and mature project. Stephanie Burgis too is engaged in writing magic into the Regency period, whilst gently parodying and lampooning the social mores of the time. Ostensibly, it has “me” written all over it – particularly as I actually prefer young adult fantasy to adult fantasy (to me it seems more creative and the writing is often so much more engaging).   
 
However, whilst the fact that I have read all three books published so far in the series should say something about how much I enjoy them, I think the books are not without problems. whilst Burgis has achieved her aim of creating a spunky, adventurous heroine who defies gender restrictions at every turn, I don’t find Kat’s voice, or indeed, the general tone and atmosphere of the novels, rings historically true. Simply having Kat’s older brother repeatedly utter “DASH IT!” does not a historical novel make (however alt that history might be). Especially when Kat immediately “rolls her eyes” or “squirms” or does other completely anachronistic things. A bit of research and some time crafting the voice would really have enriched these novels no end – and would have considerably expanded its appeal beyond an 11-13 “I have seen all the Austen films/television serials but am too young to quite appreciate the books yet” market. And indeed, it would have given that market something slightly more substantial to get their teeth into.

Additionally, Burgis falls into a trap that many series-novelists seem to do, in terms of tediously recapping what’s happened in the previous book. I always find this irritating and mostly unnecessary – how many readers actually start with the second or third book of a series? And if you assume that a reader is following you in the correct succession but has just completely forgotten what she has read before, that doesn’t suggest you have a very good opinion of your own writing, or of your reader. It’s annoying to read pages and pages of explanatory asides, and I confess to having skipped several chunks of the second and third books because of this. There are, of course, ways to remind a reader of previous developments that may be important – but you need to be a clever writer and be able to craft a novel for that.

But, by golly, can the woman make you turn the page. My reading experiences with these three novels was very reminiscent of reading Harry Potter – I was left breathless by the action, willing the engaging, sympathetic protagonist to win out, and whilst I could almost anticipate the next plot development, it didn’t stop me from wanting to travel with the characters and get there with them. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how the novels – again, much like Harry Potter – track the growth and development of a group of characters, all of whom I’m getting very fond of, and not just the protagonist. I think the books are also getting stronger – the most recent is the most intricately plotted and action-packed to date.

These novels are a lot of fun -  they don’t demand much of you, they’re not cerebral in the slightest, and they only take a few hours to read, but they’re a lot of fun.

So, I’m going to disregard the anachronistic tone, and gleefully await the instalment, as I can’t wait to see what Kat Stephenson gets up to next.

4/5 stars

Review written by guest blogger Nazneen. 
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Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops | Jen Campbell | Reviewed by Erin

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops | Jen Campbell | Reviewed by Erin

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“A John Cleese Twitter question ['What is your pet peeve?'], first sparked the 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' blog, which grew over three years into one bookseller's collection of ridiculous conversations on the shop floor. From 'Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?' to the hunt for a paperback which could forecast the next year's weather; and from 'I've forgotten my glasses, please read me the first chapter' to 'Excuse me... is this book edible?'" Source

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops is a collection of ridiculous real life conversations between customers and booksellers which provides light entertainment and many laugh out loud moments. The book is a real eye-opener about working in a bookshop and the customer queries featured range from the slightly strange to the completely unbelievable and the just plain rude.

The book is set out in three sections the first is made up of stories from The Edinburgh Bookshop, the second Ripping Yarns in London and the final section covers various other bookshops from across the globe. Illustrations from the brothers McLeod are also interspersed between the weird and wonderful text which whilst not essential I thought was a nice touch that in some cases added a little extra humour to the quotes by bringing them to life in cartoon form.

It is a super quick and easy read with only 119 pages which took me around 45 minutes to get through. I wasn’t planning on reading it when I did, I picked it up to take a quick look and ended up reading the whole thing! As this is only a very brief review I have decided to include a few of the conversations and comments taken directly from the pages, hopefully they will tempt you to pick up this book for yourselves.

CUSTOMER: Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It’s called ‘Lionel Ritchie and the Wardrobe.’

CUSTOMER: Where do you keep your maps?
BOOKSELLER: Over here, what kind of map are you looking for? A county, the UK, Europe, a world map?
CUSTOMER: I want a map of the sun.

CUSTOMER: Do you have a copy of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason? I can’t see it on the shelf.
BOOKSELLER: I’m afraid we don’t, but I can order it for you, and it’ll be here in the next forty eight hours. We could even post it to you if you’d like?
CUSTOMER: I don’t trust the Royal Mail. Could you fax it instead?

CUSTOMER: Doesn’t it bother you, being surrounded by books all day? I think I’d be paranoid they were all going to jump off the shelves and kill me.

I think this coffee table book is an entertaining and at times laugh-out-loud read which would be a great addition to any collection. I've personally got my fingers crossed that Campbell will decide to turn this one-off into a series and release more books like it in the future. If you’re looking for stocking-fillers or a fun last minute gift it would make a great present for friends and family this Christmas. 5/5

  5stars


This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.
Photo © Erin Elise
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky | Reviewed by Ria

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky | Reviewed by Ria

"So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be." 
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I feel really privileged to be reviewing The Perks of Being a Wallflower here on Blogger's Bookshelf, as I'll whole-heartedly admit it's one of my favourite books of all time. 

'Perks' follows the story of an introverted and awkward freshman called Charlie as he grows up in the early 90's, starting high school and navigating life in general. He meets Patrick, an out and proud senior at a football game along with his equally vivacious sister, Sam, and they lead him into a life of teen dating, drugs and drama. But don't let this premise fool you into thinking this is some flippy chick-lit. Charlie's story is real and complex, full of complicated questions and the confusing time of growing up. It deals with issues of sexuality, friendships, suicide, mental illnesses and family secrets. Told through the medium of anonymously addressed letters the book gives the impression that Charlie is talking directly to you and by the end you feel as if you know him as his 'Dear Friend'. 
There are many reasons why I love this book. The characters themselves are sharp and quick witted and lovable, but desperately vulnerable and human at many points in the story. The setting itself evokes a feeling of nostalgia, harking to a time pre-Internet and social networks, leaving the reader to simply concentrate on the characters themselves. 
Then there's the writing. Chbosky, writing as Charlie is steeped in philosophical questions, beautiful metaphors and imagery. The whole book has been pulled apart for it's memorable quotes, some of the most famous being, "And in that moment, I swear we were infinite." and "we accept the love we think we deserve." - the use of these in particular have been rather annoyingly saturated since the movie came out *le sigh* - but are none the less memorable moments in the novel. 
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So my verdict?
Having read this before the film came out I'm admittedly quite biased about liking this book. Though I haven't gone through everything Charlie has, the feeling of being an introvert in a world that expects you to shun being a wallflower at every turn is something that I found I could relate to. The writing is beautiful and I definitely have a soft spot of Patrick - my favourite character in the book. The letter format can be jarring at times, especially during the more harrowing parts of the novel, and it's sometimes unclear to decipher who Charlie really is. But when you take into account his age, his disturbing back story and the whole idea that this is a coming of age novel, it's not supposed to be clear and flowing. Your teenage years and life rarely is and that's what I feel this book captures. 

Reading Soundtrack:
Asleep: The Smiths; Gypsy: Suzanne Vega; Come As You Are: Nirvana; Something: The Beatles; I'm Going Home: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Landslide: Fleetwood Mac; Cough Syrup: Young The Giant

For lovers of...coming of age novels, The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie, and anything on Charlie's book list.

*all photos in this post (c) Ria Cagampang

This review was written by regular reviewer Ria. Get to know her here!
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An Abundance of Katherines | John Green | Reviewed by Lucy.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

An Abundance of Katherines | John Green | Reviewed by Lucy.

An Abundance of Katherines
 
His single consolation was that one day, he would matter.
 
Colin Singleton - child prodigy - only likes one type of girl. Girls who are named Katherine. Not Kitty or Catherine or Cat or Rhynn. K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E. Colin may like Katherines but you could say that Katherines don't necessarily like Colin back. After being dumped for the nineteenth time by a Katherine, Colin's heart is broken and he wonders if he is ever going to fall in love again. With his best friend Hassan, Colin swiftly finds himself behind the wheel of his own car embarking on an amazing road trip, miles from home. All the while, Colin is on a mission to formularise his past relationships which will help him to predict his future ones. Who will he meet on his travels? What adventures await him? And will Colin finally meet the girl of his dreams?
 
As a Nerdfighter, I was more than excited to read this book. I was not disappointed. John Green has again written a brilliant adventure which leaves you so captivated that you really can't put the book down until there are no more words to read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as John Green is one of my favourite authors. I think it's because his writing style is so unique and brilliant. Also, he always injects little bursts of humour which makes you laugh out loud. I love the characters as well, it is so hard not to want different characters as one of your friends. I don't know how many quotes I took down from this book, but it was a lot. Not only does he tell you a story, it's like he's reflecting on things that we as humans think and see all the time which makes the story relatable to the person reading it.
  
All that being said, I did have a small problem with this book. A teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy problem. The only problem I had personally was the maths. The book is about finding a formula to predict how long a relationship with someone lasts. Now I like maths, and I remember doing algebra in school. But I don't remember learning advanced formulae for my exams. So it was a little bit hard to follow, I must admit. But that I swear, is the only thing I found wrong with it.
 
Overall I will give this book four and a half out of five! It was brilliant. I recommend to anybody who loves Young Adult/ Teen genre. I recommend it to everyone really. I think John Green is going to be one of the names which will still be used in many generations to come. His books are timeless and amazing and if this is the first time you have ever heard of John Green, then I seriously suggest you go and pick up one of his books right now! They also make great Christmas presents, speaking from experience so treat someone or yourself with a John Green book. I guarantee you won't regret it.
 
This review was written by regular reviewer Lucy. Get to know her here!
 
 
Photo from Goodreads
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Mini Collab | Favourite Book To Film Adaptations

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Mini Collab | Favourite Book To Film Adaptations

Today’s post, our first ever Mini Collaboration here at Blogger’s Bookshelf, comes from regular reviewer Erin & guest reviewer Cat. We have been friends since we met at University where we bonded over our love of watching, and more importantly, criticising films. Since films have been a big part of our friendship we have decided to collaborate on a post all about our favourite book to film (and television!) adaptations. We hope you enjoy it!


starter.JPG_effected-001 Cat's No. 3: Starter for 10, David Nicholls (2003) – Starter for 10, Tom Vaughan (2006)

I shall begin with my one of my favourite books, Starter for 10 by David Nicholls. For years I have reread this book at least five times a year and so the film had a lot to live up to! I have to say that the adaptation was surprisingly better than I expected, I think the casting is marvellous; with James McAvoy as the right sort of embarrassing geek and Rebecca Hall who manages to exude an air of political righteousness. I was impressed that David Nicholls actually wrote the screenplay, and so felt comfortable in the knowledge that book was in safe hands for its adaptation. Of course there were subtle changes to certain conversations and scenes, however I imagine that this does have to happen in some cases so that the film can appeal to a wider audience, and the small things were no great loss to the narrative. However my favourite element to the film is the soundtrack; there are plenty of Kate Bush and The Cure songs to set the scene of the 80s and you can quite happily immerse yourself into the story.

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Erin's No. 3: Fight Club, Chuck Palaniuk 1996 – Fight Club, David Fincher 1999

My first choice is Fight Club, written back in 1996 by Chuck Palaniuk, and arguably a cult classic of both the book and film worlds. In this case I actually saw the film several years before I read the book but right from the first line of both you’re left wanting to know more about Tyler Durden. The film has an impressive cast led by Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter and was directed beautifully by the very talented David Fincher. It seems in the majority of cases that audiences prefer the original books to their film adaptations however with Fight Club opinion is very divided. Despite the fact that the plot differs quite a lot and although the film didn’t do as well as expected at the box office both formats are highly praised by audiences and critics alike. Even the author of the book, Chuck Palaniuk, reportedly stated that he preferred the film adaptation to his own work! Thanks to the vision of Fincher the direction of the film reflects the style of the book perfectly and is more of a companion to it’s novel roots than a rival. Five years have now passed since I first read Fight Club and scanning through it to write for this post has made me realise how much I definitely want to re-read it in 2013!

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Cat's No. 2: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (1811) – Sense and Sensibility, John Alexander (2008)

Ok, so I know the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility cannot technically be called a film as it was made for television, however I felt it necessary to include in this post, as I absolutely adore it. Out of the two Jane Austen novels I have read (Pride and Prejudice being the other), I much prefer actually reading Sense and Sensibility as I find the narrative more engaging. I was excited when I heard this was being shown over the Christmas holidays a few years ago as I am a BIG fan of Andrew Davies’ screenplays for Jane Austen novels (BBC Pride and Prejudice being one of my all time favourites). The programme, although three hours long, is wonderfully engaging and the cinematography beautiful, I would highly recommend the book and adaptation.

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Erin's No. 2: Memento, Christopher Nolan 2000 - Memento Mori, John Nolan 2002
Book pictured: The Making of Memento, James Mottram 2002

Some people may class my second choice as cheating because of the complicated way short story Memento Mori and screenplay for Memento came to be. The two were written simultaneously after Christopher came up with the idea to present his brother John’s idea backwards in film format. Memento Mori is only around 5500 words and was not published until it appeared in a 2002 issue of Esquire magazine, two years after the film’s release. Everything about the film is genius right from the opening credits where we get to watch a Polaroid photograph develop backwards. The film is made up of two sequences; the black & white scenes are shown in chronological order and those in colour play out in reverse which when cleverly edited together fits the main theme of memory perfectly. I could write a whole post on how fascinating the making of this film is but today I’m supposed to be talking about books, so let’s get back to that! The book pictured above is all about the making of the film but includes a copy of Memento Mori as an appendix and is where I first read the original story. The making of book itself is also a really interesting read especially if you’re a fan of the film or like me you have an interest in how films are made. The short story does differ from the film but is a quick and engaging stand-alone read. It can be found to read online free here.

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Cat's No. 1: Atonement, Ian McEwan (2001) – Atonement, Joe Wright (2007)

And lastly, my favourite film adaptation would be Joe Wright’s Atonement. The cinematography is astonishing, the tones and colours are completely on target, and the direction is amazing. The film stays as true to the book as you could imagine. The book and film narrate three major sections of Briony’s life, however it is not until the pivotal end scene where the truth becomes clear. I do feel that without a written narrative, Briony’s thought process behind blaming Robbie is slightly unclear to those who have not read the book before hand, but adding this to the film would have ruined the tone completely. Having said that, the acting is extremely believable and well played out. The musicality is also astonishing, the use of typewriter sounds create atmosphere and urgency to the early scenes, tying in with Robbie’s letter writing, everything is so well thought out and aesthetically pleasing. I love this film, the book was a little tough to get into (I read it in preparation of heading to the cinema) I think that overall, I prefer the film to the book. This is one amazing story.

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Erin's No. 1: About A Boy, Nick Hornby 1996 – About A Boy, Paul & Chris Weitz 2002

My third choice and favourite book to film adaptation is About A Boy which was also the first book I reviewed here at Blogger’s Bookshelf. As a huge fan of the film since it’s cinematic release back when I was just thirteen, this year I set out to finally read Hornby’s original novel. Luckily I enjoyed reading the story just as much as watching it and even though the film ending differs quite dramatically from the book it still manages to do the text justice as both conclusions of the story are satisfying in their own way. The light-hearted and sarcastic humour that manages to lift even the most difficult of topics is executed perfectly in both the book and the film, a factor I believe was key to the success of the adaptation. As adaptations go, similarly to Fight Club, this one has been highly praised and actually received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay although it lost out to The Pianist. I won’t say anymore as I have already written a full review but if you are interested in About A Boy you can find my post here.

What are your favourite book to film adaptations? 

This post was written by Erin (@sawyerandscout) & Cat (@cococat88)
Photographs © Erin / Cat
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