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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.

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

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Vegan Cookbook: 100 Plant-Based Recipes to Inspire and Invigorate | Adele McConnell | Review


*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com

The Vegan Cookbook is a new release from Adele McConnell who is used to seeing people all over the world recreate her recipes thanks to her successful blog Vegie Head.

Through sharing her recipes McConnell wants to show readers that plant-based eating doesn’t have to be bland or boring, highlighting the huge variety of foods to be enjoyed. As well as sharing recipes she talks about her own personal journey, reasons for following a plant-based diet and the benefits. Suggestions are included for those who may be looking to make the switch themselves, including tips such as taking a step-by-step approach to ease into the new lifestyle and advice on store cupboard staples.

One of my favourite things about the book was how clearly allergens are labelled for each recipe using a simple colour-coded key, making it quick and easy to find recipes to suit different types of vegan diet. The layout of the recipes is easy to follow and colourful photographs showcase many of the finished dishes well, although unfortunately not every recipe is pictured.

Whilst a lot of the savoury recipes look delicious, I have to confess I’m most keen to try out the Raw Chocolate Torte with Salted Pecan Sauce – what's not to love?
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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lettering With Purpose | Brittany Luiz | Review


*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com

Lettering With Purpose is a brand new release from professional lettering artist and instructor Brittany Luiz, designed to teach readers how to get started with lettering and encourage them to create their own beautiful artwork.

The book takes you through all of the basics from tools and materials to compositions, different styles and even how to digitize your work using Photoshop. Once you have the basics mastered the book also shows you how to build upon these skills with tips on how to develop your own personal lettering styles using flourishes, frames and other extras. As well as basics and advice there are several full alphabet examples included which showcase different styles of lettering to help you practise and encourage you to develop your own personal style.

When you feel ready to put your new lettering skills to the test the book has some great art print project ideas using various techniques and materials such as watercolour paints and chalkboard pens. At the back of the book is the author’s favourite section, a set of 100 creative prompts complete with space to practise each one, plus a list of tips to help you find inspiration for your designs going forward.

Overall I think Lettering With Purpose is a great book for beginners, covering all of the basics needed to get you started with this art form and providing inspiration to encourage readers to create their own unique lettering styles and designs. I have my new brush pens at the ready and am looking forward to trying out all of the tips and tricks included in the book!
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Monday, 16 October 2017

The Twisted Ones | Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed Wrisley | Review


Summary:

It's been a little over a year since the events of the first book. Charlie is in college, studying engineering, and is trying to correct her father's legacy. Officer Clay shows up to ask her some questions. Apparently there's been a murder. The wounds on the body look exactly the same as the scars left by a spring lock suit. Someone, or something, is out for blood.

Review:

I said in my review of The Silver Eyes that I was buying this book because the first one was such a fun read. This sequel does not disappoint. 

This book reads so much like a 1980's B horror movie sequel. There were some scenes that I'm sure were meant to be scary but I just ended up chuckling. While the first book was conservative in its killing and scope, this one just goes over-the-top. It even scales up the scientific and paranormal aspects of the animatronics. The villain himself is so absurd that he wasn't scary at all. Just like what happens in the sequels to B horror movies! 

I'll give Cawthon and Breed-Wrisley full credit for the occasional cleverness the characters come up with. Unfortunately, while the last book had a great creepiness factor going for it, this book did not. There were no creepy scenes to help balance out the nonsensical attempts at scariness. Seriously, the scene where Charlie and John watch a zombie movie and she keeps thinking about all the things the movie got wrong was a great metaphor for the book. You don't read it for the logic, just the silliness. 

In all, I'm still glad I bought the book and that I read it in October. The authors left it open for a third book and I'm kinda hoping they follow through. If you don't take it too seriously, you'll have a fun time! 


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Friday, 13 October 2017

Features | A Halloween TBR


I've never really been very big on Halloween (I do not like being scared) but I never say no to seasonal reading and even I, a notorious hater of fear in any form, enjoy having my spine tingled by a chilling story every now and then. So, here are three books I'll be reading this month to get into the spooky Halloween spirit.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.
When Erin reviewed There's Someone Inside Your House recently she described it as 'a teen slasher movie in novel form'. Honestly, I am not a fan of teen slasher movies. Blood and gore? Not my thing. So why is this number one on my Halloween themed reading list? Well, Stephanie Perkins's other books (Anna and the French Kiss etc.) are among my favourite novels so I trust her to write something I'll enjoy, and I figure since this is a novel and not a movie, the gore can't be quite so graphic... right?

Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she's desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.
Black Cairn Point sounds suitably spooky and atmospheric with its rural Scottish setting and supernatural twist. It's one I've been meaning to read for a couple of years now and this is the year I'm finally going to get up the guts to do it! I don't think I have too much to worry about anyway. I'm already not overly fond of camping so what's it going to make me scared of? Malevolent spirits? Way ahead of you, book. Erin reviewed this one too, back in 2015, if you want to know more about it.

Do you know what lived in the ancient forests, before we walked the earth? Do you know of the giants and cannibals who came before us? Do you know the origins of the first ymbryne? These are the stories that came long before us peculiars, and that will outlive us all.
Promising tales of cannibals, ghosts, and fork-tongued princesses, Tales of the Peculiar sounds set to be every bit as strange and unsettling as the series it is companion to. If the Wights and Hollowgast of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children are anything to go by, I'm sure these short stories from the peculiar world will have plenty of chilling characters to creep me right out and keep me up way past my bedtime.

So those are the books I'll be giving myself nightmares with in the run up to Halloween. What about you? Do you have any spooky books on your TBR to get you in the spirit for All Hallows' Eve?
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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Obelisk | Stephen Baxter | Review


This year, I've been making a real effort to read more sci-fi. What's sparked this? Well I read I, Robot for the first time and really enjoyed it. When I heard about a new collection of short stories and novellas from an acclaimed sci-fi writer, I thought I would see if my new found love of the genre would continue.

Having not read much sci-fi before, I hadn't actually read anything else by Stephen Baxter but a quick google search told me that his work is highly respected in the genre. As such, Obelisk (which is packed full of stories, some of which are linked to his other work while others are entirely new) seemed like it would fill a major gap in my sci-fi education. The content of the book is varied, though each work within it is undoubtedly creative, engaging and packed full of 'what ifs'.

As I mentioned, some of the stories are linked to the worlds that Baxter explores in his other books. I was a little bit nervous that I wouldn't 'get' those ones, having not read any other work from Baxter. I needn't have worried. It was easy to dive into the world and now I am curious about his novels!

Though I enjoyed those stories, my favourites were probably the alternate histories. These imagined what the world would be like if things had gone a little differently. To say they were interesting would be an understatement and they really had me thinking long after I had finished reading them. The topics were varied, clearly well researched and very well handled. Like I said, they were the real highlight of Obelisk for me. In fact the collection seemed to move from strength to strength as I read further in the book.

There is some technical bits in many of the stories too. Even if I couldn't always follow the science, it added an air of authenticity to the narratives that was both intriguing and worrying. Many of the stories are set in the not too distant future and it's a sign of Baxter's talent that some of the situations seemed scarily realistic!

If you're a fan of sci-fi or a little intimidated by the genre, Obelisk is a great place to start.
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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Bookish Links #34


1. Library Love - we loved Michelle's recent post all about her new library membership and the reasons we should all join our local library. After reading her follow-up post we now have five more titles to add to our TBRs!

2. Unread Books - we found ourselves nodding along whilst reading Anjali's relatable post on her piles of unread books. How many unread books do you have on your shelves?

3. The Weird & The Wonderful - we loved Nihaad's list of books with wonderfully weird storylines, perfect to pick up if you're looking for a read that will keep you on your toes!

4. Life Lessons - this post from Stylist reflects on the life lessons many of us learnt from growing up with Jacqueline Wilson's novels. Which was your childhood favourite? It looks like Tracy Beaker is currently topping Stylist's poll.

5. Your Book Soulmate - find your next YA read with this quick Buzzfeed quiz!

6. On TBR Posts - we found Ali's post on why she stopped sharing monthly TBRs to be an interesting read. Do you find creating a monthly TBR list useful?

7. Bookish Podcast - if you're looking for something new to listen to on your commute this week check out new podcast The Bookcast Club for some bookish chat!

8. Kids Reads - Lauren has teamed up with Books & Pieces to share top reading picks for kids. Her post also includes a handy discount code perfect for those of us looking to do little early Christmas shopping.

9. Donating Books To Prisons - this post from Book Riot shares how much your unwanted books can help prisoners. Have you ever donated your old books to a prison?

10. Emotional Reads - we loved this post from Lauren Evie prescribing recommended reads based on different emotions, inspired by The Little Paris Bookshop and the power of words.

If you've read or written an interesting bookish article you think our readers would enjoy please let us know - it may be featured in a future post!      
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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

There's Someone Inside Your House | Stephanie Perkins | Review


*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com

"One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted." - Goodreads

Although I haven’t read any of Stephanie Perkins other popular releases as soon as I heard her latest creation was set to be a YA horror novel I decided it was one for my TBR.

There’s Someone Inside Your House is a teen slasher movie in novel form. With all of the classic ingredients from the small town setting, to gory scenes and a group of teens who run towards dangerous situations rather than away from them, the book is a fast-paced tale created for fans of the genre.

Our main character occupying the ‘final girl’ role is Makani Young, a who moved from Hawaii to Nebraska to live with her grandmother following a mysterious incident. We are also introduced to several other characters most notably Makani’s boyfriend Ollie and besties Alex and Darby.

The book strays from the usual horror structure as we don’t have to wait until the very end to find out the identity of the killer, and this element seems to have divided opinions amongst readers. Personally I found this to be an interesting idea and liked that despite the early reveal the killer's actions are not clear until later on, meaning there is still something to keep you guessing.

Whilst I enjoyed the mystery elements of the story There's Someone Inside Your House just wasn’t as scary or full of suspense as I’d hoped, leaving me slightly disappointed. Having said that, the book was an entertaining read overall and made a day of train travel fly by much quicker! I’m sure many readers will love Perkins' take on the teen slasher and am interested to see if she will explore the genre further in her future books.
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Monday, 2 October 2017

The Little Red Wolf | Amelie Flechais | Review

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

In a twist on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, a young wolf cub, who's always wearing his read hood, is sent to his grandmother's to bring her a rabbit to eat. But he has to be careful not to fall in the trap of the evil Huntsman and his daughter.

Review:

Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! This was such a beautiful read! While it's not a picture book for every kid (plenty of dark scenes) each page had such brilliant imagery. The color and font choices were so well picked and went along with the story perfectly.  I really want to get a hardcopy of this so that I can get a really good, long look at the artwork. Also, if you think the little wolf on the cover is cute, wait until you see him with his puppy-dog eyes! 

Flechais is an incredibly enchanting storyteller. I wasn't able to be distracted by anything until I had finished the book. I'm almost always a fan of a new twist on an old story and this story is spot on. I absolutely loved the change in dynamic. The characters were even given motivation for their parts in the tale. 

This book might be a bit too scary for toddler aged kids, but from about 5-6 and up, this would be an entertaining book to read to or with your child. My nephew absolutely loves wolves so I'm getting him this for Christmas. 
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Friday, 29 September 2017

Because You Love to Hate Me | Edited by Ameriie | Review


These fractured, unconventional spins on classics provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains' acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage--and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on.
No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

With prompts provided by 13 popular BookTubers, 13 writers share stories that explore what it truly means to be a villain. From Medusa, to the giant Jack finds atop the beanstalk, to Death itself, the stories in Because You Love to Hate Me take villains old and new and make them the protagonists of their own stories.

With such a variety of authors, there is, of course, variety in the stories included in this anthology. 'Gwen and Art and Lance' by Soman Chainani mixes the well known love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot with the myth of Hades and Persephone, and tells the whole thing through text messages between high school students, Art, Gwen, and Lance. 'You, You, It's All About You' by Adam Silvera is told entirely in second person, making the reader the villainous protagonist. And 'Shirley & Jim' by Susan Dennard is a letter from Shirley Holmes to her best friend Jean Watson.

With such a wide variety of genres and styles, it's obvious that not every story is going to be to every reader's taste, but it also means that there is likely something here for every YA fan. My favourites include 'Death Knell' by Victoria Schwab and 'Beautiful Venon' by Cindy Pon, two authors whose work I hadn't read before but will now certainly read again. For all the great stories, however, there are also more than a couple that I didn't enjoy as much. Some might have been better had they had more time to build, some styles simply weren't to my taste, and some just plain weren't villainous enough for me.

For a collection based around the idea of villainy, there are a few stories in here that miss that mark a little bit, presenting protagonists that just don't really feel evil, but there are also plenty of protagonists creepy enough to send chills down your spine. 'Sera' by Nicola Yoon, is a favourite in that regard.

The other element that makes this collection unique is, of course, the use of prompts from popular BookTubers. Each story is followed by a short essay from the BookTuber who prompted it, about the short story the reader has just read. Honestly, many of these feel redundant. A reader who has just finished reading a short story does not, in my opinion, need to be told what the story was about. A few of the essays are entertaining but for the most part, the anthology may have been stronger without them.

If you're looking for a collection of YA short stories that are a little different to what you might usually read, if you're looking to try out some new authors you've never read before, or if you simply love reading about villains, you will almost definitely find something to enjoy in Because You Love to Hate Me. Just don't be surprised if you don't enjoy every single story. But how often does that really happen with an anthology anyway?
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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Of Sand & Malice Made | Bradley Beaulieu | Review


Of Sand & Malice Made is an exciting and magical read. It tells the story of Çeda, a pit fighter known as the White Wolf for her ferocity. She is undefeated and quickly growing in fame. Her real identity is a secret, until the mysterious Rümayesh becomes determined to know the White Wolf's true face. Çeda finds herself in a desperate struggle to protect her identity and her way of life.

While Of Sand & Malice Made is part of a larger series, I have never read any other books by Bradley Beaulieu. I still really enjoyed this book and thought it worked brilliantly as a standalone. I didn't feel as if I was missing anything by not knowing what happened in the other books, though I am now intrigued to read Twelve Kings, for which this book is a prequel. It seems like a fascinating storyline that I would love to see developed.

The use of magic is brilliant in this book and unlike anything I have ever read before. It made this a great fantasy and really kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading. Çeda's fear at the way magic could destroy her made the danger she was in all the more palpable. I hope it's something that is expanded on in the wider series too as it was one of the most interesting parts for me.

I also really loved the ways in which storytelling is almost revered in Of Sand & Malice Made. It is crucial to the plot. It's also the job of one of my favourite characters in the book! For such a fantastical book, it is lovely to see the way in which stories adapt as they passed from person to person.  Such a focus added a rich depth to an already good story and made me excited to pick it up and finish it.

Whether or not you have read The Song of Shattered Sands series, Of Sand & Malice Made is a great fantasy book that can be enjoyed as a standalone, as I read it, or as a prequel to what I'm sure is a fascinating series. I fell in love with Çeda in this book and can't wait to read more about her adventures.
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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian | Raquel Pelzel | Review


*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com

When I first heard about this title I was intrigued by the concept of a cookbook full of recipes that can be made in just a sheet pan. I mean, who doesn’t love a meal that’s quick and easy to prepare with minimal washing up?

Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian includes 100 recipes spanning a wide variety of dishes all of which are suitable for a Vegetarian diet. In addition around half of the recipes are Vegan and similarly almost half are Gluten Free. Whilst not all of the dishes are suitable for a ‘free from’ diet, many can easily be adapted to suit different dietary needs.

‘Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or just want to get your family to eat a greener diet a few times a week, may the sheet pan help get you there.’ -Raquel Pelzel

In addition to the more traditional sheet pan ideas like nachos, pizza and burgers the book also shares more surprising dishes including several soups! There is even a whole section of dessert recipes to be found at the end of the book and tons of tips and tricks along the way. Some of the recipes I’m most looking forward to trying out are the Vegan Poutine, Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, Crispy Roasted Shallot & Lentil Mujadara and I Can’t Believe It’s Mushroom Risotto!.

In a time where most of us rely on a selection of kitchen gadgets for all sorts of different tasks Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian showcases just how versatile and exciting cooking with a simple pan can be.
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Monday, 18 September 2017

The Silver Eyes | Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley


Summary:

Six friends are meeting up for the first time in 10 years. It's also been 10 years since their childhood friend, Michael, was killed at Freddy Fazbear's Restaurant. After the group decides to go into the closed down restaurant, they awaken memories and monsters.

Review:

I fully expected this book to be another drag in the reading slump I've been in lately, but I gotta admit, this book wasn't bad! If you've never heard of the game Five Nights at Freddy's you may enjoy the book even more. The book is non-canon but that just meant the writers could have more fun with it. I read this book in just a few days because it was that entertaining!

To be fair, it often reads like a stereotypical horror movie from the 80's where you want to shout "WHY ARE YOU GOING IN THERE?!" At the same time, though, there are some genuinely funny and genuinely creepy scenes. The chase scenes probably weren't as scary as the authors intended, but when they went for "creepy" over "scary" they got it down pat! (That reminds me, if you're creeped out by dolls, DON'T read this book.) As long as you don't expect brilliant dialogue and plot, I really think you'll like this book. I didn't care for the games, except to watch Let's Plays and I really had a good time reading this. In fact, I've already bought the next one. 

The book is definitely aimed at a Young Adult audience, probably the same people who made the games such a big deal. But I still found it appealing. The fact that it was set in the early 90's helped keep today's technology from interfering. I found the characters to be enjoyable, even if they did think like the teenagers they are. They kept going when they needed to. The freak-outs were understandable and their motives were good. 

If you're looking for a creepy read, want to know more about the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise, or are even just looking for an easy read with entertaining elements, I highly recommend this book. I had a much better time with it than I expected.
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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bookish Links #33


1. Literary Tattoos - we're kicking off this month's list with something a little different; (non-permanent) literary tattoos. Which one is your favourite?

2. Books + Cafes - we enjoyed Anjali's recent post on how much she loves reading books in cafes. Let us know where you favourite place to read is in the comments section below!

3.  End Of Summer Reads - with Summer drawing to a close Autumn is just around the corner and is set to bring with it brand new seasons of some of our favourite shows. For those who love both books and TV, this post from Brit + Co suggests ten last-minute reads to pick up whilst you wait for your favourite show to return.

4. Literary London - Lauren shared some ideas for a literary themed trip to London. Have you visited any of the places on her list?

5. Books That Changed Lives - in this post, Lauren shares a roundup of books that have changed lives. We loved reading about other people's experiences and can't think of a better way to pick out our next read!

6. Star Ratings - we found Jenny's post on star ratings such an interesting read. Do you use star ratings for your books reviews, or do you feel there is a better way to rate books?

7. Saving Books - this article about a man who rescued books and used them to create a free library caught our eye recently. It's great to see so many books being saved for more readers to enjoy!

If you've read or written an interesting bookish article you think our readers would enjoy please let us know - it may be featured in a future post!     
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Friday, 15 September 2017

Features | Baking Books | Brownies for Blue


Ms Shiftlet efficiently checked the computer. "I see someone just had a birthday." 
"It was your birthday?" Noah demanded. 
Blue struggled to address the counsellor instead of Noah. "What - oh - yes." 
It had been two weeks ago. Ordinarily, Maura made sludgy brownies, but she hadn't been there. Persephone had tried her best to re-create their undercooked glory, but the brownies had accidentally turned out pretty and precise with powdered sugar dusted in lace patterns on top.
(Chapter six, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Today we're doing something a little different. I'm sharing a recipe with you from one of my favourite book series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

The Raven Cycle follows a teenage girl called Blue and her friends, four boys from the local Aglionby Academy, on their search for an ancient Welsh king. In the second book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Blue reminisces about the 'sludgy brownies' her mother usually makes for her birthday and while I can't do anything about Blue not getting the brownies she wants, I can make sure you do get them. With a little work of your own, obviously.

So here's my fail-safe, never-goes-wrong recipe for Maura's sludgy brownies, best enjoyed with a side of The Raven Boys.


Maura Sargent's Sludgy Brownies.*

Ingredients
  • 275g softened butter
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g chocolate chips
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and grease and line a large baking tray.
  • Chase the raven out of the kitchen. How did she get in here?
  • Beat the sugar and butter together before adding the other ingredients and beating until combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, spread it gently into the corners of the tin, and level the top.
  • Tell the ghost who keeps trying to eat the batter that he'll have to wait until the brownies are done like everyone else!
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the mixture is browning too much then cover it loosely with tin foil for the last 10 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into delicious sludgy brownies.
  • Pop your brownies in an airtight container and they make the perfect snack to share with friends while you're out searching for ley lines!

*Recipe from Mary Berry's Baking Bible. Mostly.


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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Features | Back to School Reads

For most of us September is synonymous with back to school season. Even now, when I’m not heading back to the land of new classes and coursework, I still have it on my mind. If you do too, you might well enjoy this back to school reading list. Forget the lists you might get for classes, this is the one that matters.




  1. This wouldn’t be a post of school themed recommendations without mentioning Harry Potter, would it? Whether you’re diving into the wizarding world for the first time or due a reread, start with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and go from there. If you really want to treat yourself, you should have a read of the illustrated editions!
  2. When it came to taking the photos for this post, I couldn’t find my copy of The School of Good and Evil anywhere so you’ll have to use your imagination for a moment. Fairytale-esque, this book focuses on two young girls who are sent to the schools of good and evil respectively but not the one they were expecting to. It’s great at challenging preconceptions and a really imaginative story!
  3. I am Malala is a fantastic book about one girl’s fight for an education. When the Taliban tries to stop girls from going to school, Malala fights back and becomes a global inspiration.
  4. If you’re looking for a book about struggling to fit in at school, I couldn’t recommend The Art of Being Normal enough. It’s a phenomenal and diverse book about friendship, personal identity and the struggle to fit in.
  5. If, like me, you’re not going back to any formal education this year, you might be looking for some non-fiction to keep you on your toes. Ice Cream for Breakfast is a brilliant book which aims to help you reconnect with your inner child and worry less. There are some very important lessons contained within this book!
  6. Maybe classics are on your mind when it comes to back to school. In that case, you should read Agnes Grey, the wonderful novel by Anne Bronte. It follows a governess and her not-so-wonderful charges.
  7. Finally, if school isn’t your favourite thing and you’re looking for some escapism, you should check out Illuminae. Put all thoughts of homework and early mornings to the back of your mind with an epic space adventure.

What would you put on your back to school reading list?


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Friday, 8 September 2017

Features | 75th Anniversary Of The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton


On September 11th, 1942 we welcomed into the world the very first of what would become a long series of 21 Famous Five books by the wonderful Enid Blyton.

I grew up reading the stories of The Adventurous Four, The Secret Seven, The Wishing Chair, The Magic Faraway Tree, and of course, The Famous Five. While I was always more into the stories of Silky, Saucepan Man and Moon-Face as they ventured in different lands at the top of the biggest tree in the forest (The Faraway Tree series), I remember reading my way through many a Famous Five story when I was younger.

The very first Famous Five book (which was published on the 11th of Sep) was Famous Five: Five on Treasure Island. It told the story of siblings Julian, Dick, and Anne, and their summer at their Uncle Quentin and Aunt Fanny's house. When they arrive they meet their cousin Georgina ('George'), and her dog Timmy. George takes her cousins to Kirrin Island, and on the way she shows them the shipwreck in the bay. Rumour has it there was gold in the ship which was never discovered, even when the divers went searching for it.

As a storm rolls in, the child take shelter on the island, but the ship gets thrown up onto the beach. From there, the story follows the Famous Five as they explore the ship, discover old relics, and suddenly get hot on the trail of exciting clues which will potentially lead them to the treasure lost to the sea. But someone else is after the treasure too, and they can't get there first.

Five on Treasure Island was the first in a long series which entertained children for decades. I, for one, am very glad that Blyton started the Famous Five series (and all her others!), as I can't imagine my childhood without them.

Happy 75th birthday, Famous Five!

Let us know your favourite childhood novels!

Image from Goodreads
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Features | Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge Update #4



It's been almost four months since my last Popsugar challenge update thanks to a combination of books that didn't fit any of the prompts and a lack of time to read as much as I'd like. My total count for the challenge is now at eighteen and with only three months left of the year I won't be able to cross all fifty-two prompts off the list. Instead I'm hoping to complete around twenty-five of the prompts before 2017 comes to a close.

A Book By An Author Who Uses A Pseudonym | Dangerous Girls, Abigail Haas (2013)

I had originally considered reading Stephen King for this prompt however in times of a reading slump I turned to one of my favourite books which also happened to fit the brief. Dangerous Girls was penned by Abby McDonald under the pseudonym Abigail Haas. It would appear that this book is becoming an annual re-read for me as this is the third year in a row I've picked it up! You can catch my review from back in 2015 here on BB.

A Book With An Unreliable Narrator | Final Girls, Riley Sager (2017)

When I first picked up this book I wasn't sure it would fit any of the prompts in this year's challenge (aside from those I'd already completed) however I quickly discovered I was wrong. The book's main character Quincy is the only survivor of an attack at Pine Cottage years earlier and does not remember anything from the night of the incident, fitting the unreliable narrator role well.

big little lies
A Book By An Author From A Country You've Never Visited | Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty (2014)

I had a few different ideas in mind for this prompt but settled on Big Little Lies by Australian author Liane Moriarty. There are so many amazing countries that I've never visited and Australia is definitely one I hope to see some day!

The First Book In A Series You Haven't Read Before | Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel (2016)

Sleeping Giants is the first book in a Science Fiction trilogy that follows the discovery of a giant metal hand. The format of the book which tells the story through interviews, journal entries, news articles, reports and logs made this one a particularly interesting read and I'm looking forward to picking up the second book in the series.

If you're taking part in the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge I'd love to hear from you. Let me know which prompts you've crossed off the list and which books you're planning to pick up next! 
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Monday, 4 September 2017

Invader Zim Comic Books Series | Jhonen Vasquez


Summary:

The comic book series picks up some time after the cartoon show ended. Long enough for Dib to become, quite literally, fused to his chair. This series continues the strange, silly and sometimes gross adventures of Zim and his attempts to conquer Earth for the Irken Empire.

Review:

This probably isn't a shock to anyone but I was a huge fan of the original cartoon show. I have the DVDs, a Gir plushie, a Gir hoodie and a Gir keychain (guess my favorite character). So when I found out about the comic books, I knew I had to get them! As it is, I've only been able to read volumes 1-3. I still need to order up volume 4, which I will because I'm just having so much fun with these books!

Saying that this series was by Jhonen Vasquez is a bit misleading. He is the creator of Invader Zim but many authors have contributed to these books and it adds a nice element to the world. It was Eric Truehart who made me feel bad for Zim because he clearly just wants the approval of The Tallest more than anything! Danielle Koenig and Jamie Smart's contributions to the possible origins of Ms. Bitters were so cool and helped sell the idea that each kid had their own story. 

The art style of the books is, for the most part, very close to the original cartoons. Be prepared for a lot of toilet humor. At the same time, though, several artists provide their own little spin that gives each book a unique feel. Each comic, each chapter of the volumes, is its own adventure into the depths of chaos these writers and illustrators find in the world of Zim. 

If you were a fan of the show, don't hesitate to pick these books up! If you have no idea what the series is, you may have a little trouble getting into the world, but I think the humor more than makes up for that. While I don't recommend it for all ages, I think it would be okay for as young as junior high, maybe middle school aged kids.
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Friday, 1 September 2017

Daughter of the Burning City | Amanda Foody | Review


Sorina's illusions are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Gomorrah Festival Freak Show, but no matter how lifelike they may seem, they are just that - illusions, and not truly real. Or so Sorina always believed... until one of them is murdered.

The traveling circus-city of Gomorrah has many inhabitants with unusual skills, but Sorina's is one of the rarest. She is the first illusion-worker to have been born in hundreds of years and as well as producing realistic illusions to entertain audiences every night, Sorina has used her skill to make herself a family of fellow cast members for her Freak Show. The members of Sorina's family each have their own personalities and skills but they are merely illusions, figments of Sorina's imagination, so she's shocked and horrified to learn that they can, after all, be killed like real people.

Sorina's father and proprietor of Gomorrah, Villiam, promises Sorina that he will help her find out who is killing her illusions, but with the members of her family slowly being murdered one by one, Sorina also chooses to take matters into her own hands. Unsatisfied with Villiam's theories, Sorina begins a separate line of enquiry to catch the murderer with an infuriating boy she has just met called Luca, who has his own unique skill. He calls himself a poison-worker and people pay to kill him.

There is a murder mystery at the heart of Daughter of the Burning City but it is not like any murder mystery novel I've ever read before. Partly, this is because the real mystery is not only who the murderer is but how it is possible for them to kill Sorina's illusions in the first place, but mostly it is because of Sorina herself. Sorina is a compelling protagonist. She has no eyes, yet she can see perfectly, and she can make other people see whatever she wants them to see. Because of both of these things she finds it difficult to make friends and so instead she uses her illusion-work to create a family of fellow 'freaks', who she loves as though they were her real family, and who she mourns that way too, even as she worries that most of the friends she has are ones she made up. Sorina is full of these kind of contradictions, which make her feel all the more real as a character. Just because her illusions aren't real, doesn't mean she won't do anything to protect them.

Sorina's illusion-work is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the novel, as is Luca's poison-work, a word he has chosen himself because he appears to be the only one. At first Luca is a little difficult to warm to. He's rude and kind of mean, but as Sorina gets to know him better, so does the reader, and the story avoids the dreaded insta-love trope. If I have one complaint about Daughter of the Burning City it's that I would have liked to have seen more of Sorina's family of illusions, but only because what we do see of them is so interesting: a girl with wings like a hawk, a tree that walks, and a boy with two heads, just a few examples. In the grand scheme of things though, this is a small complaint, as the story is so interesting, fun, and unique, with plenty of twists and surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat, and plenty of characters to enjoy spending time with.

Daughter of the Burning City is a very atmospheric read, which is perfect because Gomorrah is a very atmospheric place. Foody's description really brings the reader into this smoke covered traveling city, filled with magic and danger. It's impossible not to imagine walking through the city with Sorina and Luca, not to feel the wonder when Sorina discovers a new part of Gomorrah that she's never seen before, or the grief when she loses one of her illusions. Strange a place as it may be, I would definitely love to visit Gomorrah for real. Although I might pass on Luca's show.
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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Havergey | John Burnside | Review


Though I didn’t really know much about this book going into it, it continued to surprise with every new page. It was unusual and innovative and downright intriguing.


Havergey is a strange book but that just made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. Written by John Burnside, it tells the story of a traveller who stumbles upon the island of Havergey, a remote place that has become something of a utopia in a broken and wounded world. He arrives and is quickly placed in quarantine. There he begins to unravel the history of the unusual place, unpicking its secrets and those of the wider world too.


These records, or The Archives as they are known, were probably one of my favourite parts of this curious little novella. A found manuscript that seemingly fits in the main narrative it was an intriguing look at how exactly the world began to fall apart and how Havergey was reclaimed to make a new community.


Havergey itself remains something of a mystery throughout the novel so these snippets into the community were fascinating. They hooked me entirely and, even if I found the turns and twists a little surprising, I was still desperate to continue reading. It’s quite a difficult book to describe without giving a lot of the plot away but I can promise that it has plenty of entertaining secrets for you to discover between its pages.


Alongside this, the novella also serves to discuss environmental issues, Gaia theory and the impact humans have on the natural world. It is not something I know much about so it was good to learn a little more, especially through a more fictional lens. It did mean that there were moments when the narrator could get bogged down in some of the technical bits of such theories. Since they’re a scientist, I’ll forgive them for that, especially since the rest of Havergey is so beautifully written.


Havergey might be a little different from the fantasy I’ve been reading at the moment but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different!

Kelly
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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Group Collaboration | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

For our August group post we want to take a trip around the world, looking at novels set all over the globe! We asked you to help us build a list of amazing reads set all over the world, hoping to include as many countires as possible and you shared some great suggestions with us. Below are the responses we received over the past few weeks... If you have any books you'd love to see added to the list please let us know!

Afghanistan
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Aruba
Dangerous Girls, Abigail Haas

Australia
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
Breathing Under Water, Sophie Hardcastle
Children Of The Different, S C Flynn
Tomorrow When The War Began, John Marsden

Botswana
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

Burma
Elephant Moon, John Sweeney

China
The Crystal Ribbon, Celeste Lim

Cuba
Old Rosa, Reinalso Arenas

Denmark
The Keeper Of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen

England
Death Wish, Charlotte Wilson
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Slated, Teri Terry


France
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Germany
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Ghana
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

Iceland
I Remember You, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Iran
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

Ireland
The Accident Season, Moira Fowley-Doyle
Asking For It, Louise O'Neill

Italy
The Echoes Of Love, Hannah Fielding

Japan
Confessions, Kanae Minato
Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden


Kenya
Burning Embers, Hannah Fielding

New Zealand
I Am Not Esther, Fleur Beale
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Russia
Metro 2033, Dmitry Glukhovsky

Saudi Arabia
Girls Of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea

Scotland
Black Cairn Point, Clare McFall

Spain
The Andalucian Nights Trilogy, Hannah Fielding
Cruel Summer, Juno Dawson

Sweden
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson
Millenium Series, Stieg Larsson
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises, Fredrik Backman

Thailand
The Beach, Alex Garland

UAE
Dubai Tales, Mohammad al Murr

USA
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
The Girls, Emma Cline
The Shack, William Paul Young
The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Whilst this list has been created using suggestions we have recieved throughout the month of August, we are keen to keep adding to it! We would love this to be an ongoing resource for our bloggers and readers so we are planning to continue updating it. If you have any titles to add to the list please leave us a comment, send an email or tweet and we'll make sure your suggestion is added.

Thank you to this month's contributors including: Anjali, Utopia State Of Mind, Erin, Rachel, Ria, Charlotte, Hannah, Elena, Laura

Photos by Margo Brodowicz & Ruthie on Unsplash



Next month's collaboration topic is Favourite Literary Adaptations - to get involved email or tweet us!
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Room Love: 50 DIY Projects To Design Your Space | Heather Wutschke | Review

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Room Love: 50 DIY Projects To Design Your Space | Heather Wutschke | Review

room love

*Review copy c/o Netgalley, cover image via goodreads.com

Inspired by the fact that we each spend at least a third of our lives in our bedrooms new title Room Love shares a collection of DIY ideas to decorate and organise your space into one you truly love.

Aimed at a Middle Grade audience the book starts out by sharing tips on how to declutter, create mood boards and sketch layout designs to prepare for a room makeover. These preparation tips are followed by a series of DIY projects focused on using easy to access supplies and simple ideas that can make a huge difference to any room. Each tutorial comes complete with colour photos, in some cases including several step-by-step images or before and after shots.

Projects included range from painting up an old dresser or recycling cereal boxes as drawer dividers to the more unusual, for example using faux fur fabric to turn your desk chair into something that resembles a fluffy cat! One of my favourite projects from the selection were the room scents made using essential oils and natural ingredients like fresh herbs and fruit. Other projects that particularly caught my eye were the Driftwood Jewelry Hanger and Dream Jar.

Whilst I’m not amongst the target audience for the book myself, I believe that Room Love is a fun title full of bold ideas which will encourage young teens to use DIY as a way to make their space truly feel like their own.
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Monday, 21 August 2017

Spark | J. B. North | Review


Summary:

Ivy, who lives in a world of shape-shifters, has just turned 17. Like all others of her age, she must now go to a trial to determine what her second form is. Her second form will determine the rest of her life. When it turns out her second form is one that hasn't been seen in about two hundred years, she gets put onto a strange and dangerous course.

Review:

I was kinda worried this book would be another Red Queen and I'd end up not finishing it. I was so happy to be proven wrong! This book genuinely surprised me in good ways. The world was rather easy to get into and, while there is exposition, it's told from Ivy's perspective so we only know what she knows. This really helps the world building feel better paced. A lot of times a single line of dialogue would help explain a lot.

Ivy was easy to root for and not just because she's the main character. Going into the test she has no aspirations of greatness. She's not completely happy with the system, but she's smart enough to know when to keep her mouth shut. 
"The poor can't help but hate the system, and if we tried anything, the noblemen would have us arrested and probably flogged within an inch of our lives." 
She is strong and determined, if a bit naive at times. She is easily manipulated by others, but in her defense, she hasn't had a lot of experience with the world outside of her orphanage. She makes up for it by learning fast. Really fast.

This is a very interesting world with interesting characters. There is a lot of political drama brewing, but I'll have to read more about that in the second book of the series. If you enjoy fantasy YA with smart characters and plenty of action sequences, I do recommend this book. There is a lot of fighting but, thankfully, no love triangle, no single teenager leading a rebellion to take down the government, or anything like that. It's simply a story of a young, smart, strong girl being put into extraordinary circumstances, and trying to survive. Just with a lot of magic and fighting. 

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Friday, 18 August 2017

Did You See Melody? | Sophie Hannah | Review


Late at night, exhausted and desperate, Cara Burrows lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied by a man and a teenage girl: Melody Chapa, the most famous murder victim in the country.

Cara Burrows has left a note for her husband and two children with the date that she'll be back home. She hasn't told them that she is flying to America. She hasn't told them about the five star spa resort she has secretly booked herself into. She hasn't told them why she's gone. She just needs some time alone, to think. When she finally arrives at the resort, tired and phone-less in the middle of the night, the last thing she expects to find are two people already in her hotel room.

A simple mistake made by the resort's receptionist sees Cara soon embroiled in a situation she can hardly begin to understand, at the centre of which is America's most famous murder victim, who Cara is sure is the same girl she saw in her hotel room on that first night. Could Melody Chapa still be alive? And if she is, then how did her parents end up serving life sentences for her murder? The chances of an English tourist happening to see the supposed dead girl entirely by accident may seem pretty slim but Cara isn't the only guest who thinks she's seen Melody at Swallowtail Resort.

With a possible murder and a definitely dangerous secret at the heart of it, Did You See Melody? walks an interesting line in terms of tone. Hannah balances the suspense filled plot with unexpected humour, which at times had me snorting in front of my eReader. It's an enjoyable novel, certainly, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked from almost the very beginning. We don't begin with the mystery straight away but first take a little while to set up Cara's reasons for leaving her family to travel alone to America (something that maybe feels a bit of an overreaction as things become clearer), but once Cara begins her investigation into the famous murder of Melody Chapa the novel really gets its legs.

Cara, not being a local, doesn't know anything about the Melody Chapa case so the reader gets to discover the specifics slowly, as Cara does, through articles and TV transcripts. Some readers may find these intrusive to the story but I felt they came in at the right moments, telling Melody's story - at least, the version everyone knows of it - alongside Cara's. The only problem is that at times I began to feel as though Cara was little more than a device intended to react to Melody's story and nothing more. Until about midway through the novel anyway.

Then we begin the twists and turns that I suppose make this a psychological thriller. Personally, I didn't find much of it particularly thrilling. In my opinion the strength of this novel lies not necessarily with Cara's story, or even with Melody's, but with those of the surrounding characters: the outspoken hotel guest who involves herself in the mystery, determined to find the truth, and the famous criminal commentator who single-handedly twisted the whole of America to her way of thinking with her TV show during Melody's original murder trail. Did You See Melody? is an enjoyable read and as a funny and over-the-top take down of 'trial by media' it works. I'm just not entirely sold on the thriller part.
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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Maresi | Maria Turtschaninoff | Review

Maresi, the first book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, has been waiting on my bookshelf for far too long. Following my resolution to read some of the more neglected works in my life, I decided to get started on it. I devoured this evocative work in a day and am eagerly awaiting the chance to read the rest in the series.



This book follows Maresi, a novice at the Red Abbey. On a secluded island, young women like herself learn far more than they ever could at home. Under the tutelage of the Sisters, they learn about medicine, history, languages, architecture and any number of other things. It is a sacred place, where men are banned. And then Jai arrives, pursued by men who will stop at nothing to get her back. The abbey is suddenly under threat.


Maresi is a novel of sisterhood and female friendship, with plenty of feminism woven in it. It is a harrowing tale of survival. Throughout it, is magic and wonder, which hooks you and draws you into the tale. The fantasy elements were definitely my favourite part of the book, little gems found within the vast descriptions of everyday life at the Abbey. Between the island’s strange defences and the hidden histories of the Red Abbey, I’m far too curious about discovering the secrets in the rest of this series.

Ultimately, this was enchanting fantasy that left you thinking for a long time after you read the final page. It is one that I would wholeheartedly recommend, whether you are a fan of feminist or fantasy literature.
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Get Involved | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Get Involved | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

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Friday, 11 August 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzi Lee | Review


Image from Goodreads

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. - Goodreads

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee was seriously one of my favourite books of the year so far (and probably still will be come the end of 2017). It was such a fun read and I found myself wanting to re-read it as soon as I put it down.

Monty, Percy and Felicity are headed off around Europe for what we might call their big O.E. (overseas experience), or their gap year, and while it seems like a jolly idea, things don't go they way Monty planned.

“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with laquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.” 

Monty longs for their year-long trip to be one of bonding and exciting adventures around the Continent before Percy is shipped off to college in another country, and Monty has to start being in charge of the family estate. Felicity is meant to be stopping her trip when they get to Paris so she can begin life as a proper young lady, but all she wants to do is go to university and become a woman of medicine.

When Monty does something rash (which actually happens on most pages of the book), the trio find themselves on a wild goose chase around Europe with a stolen artefact, meeting strange people, searching for miraculous cures, being attacked by highwaymen and joining a crew of pirates.

'That can't possibly happen all in one book' you say. Well, my friends. It can. We follow book-nerd Felicity as she overcomes womanly stereotypes, Percy as he deals with issues and bouts of discrimination over his race, and Monty has he falls more and more hopelessly in love with his best friend.

Beautifully written, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is a tale of friendship, of loyalty, of love, of family, of adventures to be had, and fights to be fought. It's 18th century Europe, it's pirates and highwaymen, it's upper class pomp and prestige, it's hilarious and witty, alarming and exciting, and beautiful and sweet all rolled into one.

As you can tell, I really loved this book, and I recommended picking it up if you're into your YA novels (period, or otherwise).
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