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

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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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