Mini-reviews: Too many to name because I am an absentee blogger

OMG HI, HELLO.

Seriously, I am such a hypocrite. Not that long ago I wrote a pretty fun post about making my blogging better and more consistent in 2017 and here I am, nearly 6 months into this glorious year and I’ve barely blogged for the last eight weeks. Looks like I’m pretty rubbish at taking my own advice, right?

Anyway, I’ve got about ninety billion half-written book reviews lurking about in my drafts, so we better get going!


I Have No Secrets, Penny Joelson

*I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley. If you’d like to read my review policy, you can fill your boots here.*

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Jemma is fourteen years old. She loves reading crime novels, painting her nails and her favourite band: Glowlight. Jemma also has Cerebral Palsy, which makes it pretty difficult to communicate with her family, or anyone else around her. Even when things get dangerous, which all of a sudden, they have.

Because of her disability, people around Jemma find her to be a pretty good listener, often confiding their secrets and innermost thoughts in her, which must get both pretty irritating and extremely boring. One day her carer’s boyfriend, Dan, confides something in Jemma that leaves her reeling: he says he’s committed a shocking and violent crime. How can Jemma warn the people that she loves that Dan is not the man everyone thinks he is, and how can she possibly protect herself from Dan in a world where she doesn’t have a voice?

A solid blend of contemporary and mystery, I Have No Secrets is a clever and eye-opening book. With the current political and social landscape as bleak as it is for people living with disabilities in the UK, this book provides an insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with a disability, as well as commentary on the way that able-bodied people can often view disabilities. I don’t identify as disabled, so I can’t speak from an own voices point of view, but I felt as if the representation was realistic without being bleak, and uplifting without being saccharine.

Although it was pretty obvious who had done the deed from the beginning of the book, Jemma’s voice and her journey to being able to communicate are what makes the book compelling. I felt like the book leaned a little more towards the lower end of the young adult spectrum in terms of age suitability (possibly even middle grade in some places), but ultimately, this is a well-written mystery with a strong narrative voice and an uplifting and hopeful story line.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Electric Monkey
  • Pages: 336

Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll

Cast as a kind of Manhattan Gone Girl (aren’t all thrillers with a female protagonist,

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now?), Luckiest Girl Alive tries so hard to match the bone-sharp writing and sly characterisation of Gillian Flynn’s modern classic but falls flat on its perfectly made-up face at nearly every hurdle.

TiffAni Fanelli (really?!) is not a likable character with flaws, but a truly unlikable character because of her flaws. In fact, no one in this book is likable, and I felt like the author spent far too long trying to make everyone seem as if they had hidden depths and sharp societal observations to make that it ended up being a caricature of itself.

The pacing is OK, but the writing isn’t pretty. You can tell that Knoll is desperately trying to recreate that famous Amy Dunne’s ‘Cool Girl’ speech with nearly everything Tiff says, but the prose and dialogue is heavy-handed and pithy. Luckiest Girl lacks all of Flynn’s finesse and unsettling insight into 21st century women. Unfortunately, for me, Luckiest Girl Alive misses both the boat and the point.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 2/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Pages: 352

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

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Saving the best until last, Illuminae is one of only two five-star reads that I’ve come across for quite some time (Lord of Shadows is the other one, in case you were wondering. More on that another time, promise!).

The rumours are true: you do not, I repeat, do not, need to be a fully fledged sci-fi fan to fall for this one. This is the kind of clever, witty little book that proves that sci-fi can be poignant and emotional as well as action-packed and futuristic.

The mixed media elements of this book are a kind of love/hate thing, and I personally have planted myself firmly in the ‘love’ camp. The interview transcripts, illustrations and words scattered like galaxies and shooting stars over pages really lent themselves to the pace of the story and complexity of the plot, adding a layer of both intrigue and depth that took this from a fun book to a special book.

I loved the characters: Kady’s sharp mind and sarcastic nature made her an engaging and spunky heroine, and Ezra’s self-deprecating sense of humour and soft jellybaby heart made him the perfect antidote. The writing is tip-top, building suspense and factoring in great doses of humour just when you think everything is getting too dark.

A sweeping, intergalactic romp through the stars featuring teen angst, conspiracy theories, fighter pilots, airborne zombie diseases and Shakespeare references. I am in love.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 5/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Pages: 599

That’s all for now, folks! What have you all been keeping yourselves busy reading recently? Catch me up in the comments! ❤

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Interview with a Book Blogger: Dee from Deelightful Days

One of the best things about blogging is the ability it gives you to connect with other people who love reading as much as you do. I’ve met some brilliant people from across the globe since I started my blog, and it’s always lovely when you strike up a conversation with someone who you’d otherwise never meet.

I’ve been blogging for over a year on Bookshelves and Biros now, and I’ve been privileged enough (I legit have no idea how) to have built a pretty decent readership, many of whom I’m lucky enough to call friends! The book blogging community has never been anything but incredibly helpful, utterly supportive and totally brilliant since I started WordPress-ing as a newbie in 2016, and I want to help other new bloggers to feel as welcome as I did.

In typical haphazard fashion, I’ve decided to extend an open invite for collaborations, guest posts, link-ups and other fun stuff to all of the booknerds out there who are new to blogging (or any of you oldies, y’all are always welcome here!) and want to connect with other bloggers. First up to bat is the lovely Dee from Deelightful Days, who I have been lucky enough to interview. Please do check out Dee’s answers below and then head straight over to her blog (which is v.pretty, I gotta say) to check out what she’s been up to!

If you’re reading this, and you fancy working on something cool together (Potter collaborations are always most welcome!) then drop me a line on bookshelvesandbiros@gmail.com or tweet me @booksandbiros.

Over to you, Dee!


Hello readers! I’m terrible when it comes to introductions, but here goes nothing. dee-deeightful-daysI’m Dee, book blogger over at Deelightful Days. I’m a junior in college, studying Creative Writing and History in hopes of one day fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author. When I’m not drowning in schoolwork, I like to read, write, binge-watch Netflix shows, and peruse YouTube. Thanks for reading! xx

Why did you decide to start blogging?
I’m a big fan of YouTube. I started watching beauty bloggers when I was a freshman in high school, but one of the girls I watched had a second channel where she posted book reviews. I noticed that those were the videos I most looked forward to, but at this time Booktube hadn’t really taken off. Once I realized that there were entire channels devoted to reading and books, I knew that this was something that I could do. However, the idea of sitting in front of a camera and posting videos of myself talking scared me (although I still think about starting a channel everyday) so I decided that I would start a blog of my own. Writing was always my forte, anyway. 😉

Do you have any super helpful websites, blogging resources or reading tricks that everyone should know about?
That’s a tough one. I’ve found that what works for other people does not always work for me in terms of scheduling and just how I work/plan/organize. Pinterest is a good way to find different methods and tips in terms of blogging, so I’d start there with some general searches and integrate them in a way that works for you. Anything that I’ve learned or incorporated into my life as a blogger has come from Pinterest. I have a whole board dedicated to blogging, and I recommend that every blogger regardless of what content he or she posts, should have a board dedicated to tips and tricks. As far as reading tricks, if you want to get yourself into a schedule, dedicate a short period of time (30 minutes to 1 hour) to reading everyday. I do this just because my life can get rather busy sometimes, so rewarding myself with that time to read is something I can look forward to. However, don’t force yourself to read if you don’t want to. The last thing you want is to have reading feel like a chore. I’d also think about reading multiple books at one time and in different mediums (i.e. audiobook, e-book, etc.) I’m almost always reading an actual book and listening to an audiobook. I like this because I can still engross myself in a story even when I have to be doing other things like walking to class, driving, or cleaning.

What’s been your favourite part of being a blogger so far?
Internet friends! Haha, but in all seriousness, I love the online book community! It’s great to have people to talk to about what you’re currently reading or what your next read should be. I never have a problem with finding a book to read because I’m constantly checking out what other people are reading. Receiving ARCs is really awesome, too, especially when you get a book that you’re really looking forward to!

Most anticipated books of 2017?
Ooh, I actually just wrote a blog post about this, but I’ll name a few. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. You can read my full list here.

What’s do you think is the best post you’ve created for your blog (your favourite)?
I think my favorite post that I’ve ever done is the Narnia tag! I’m a huge fan of tags—it’s so fun to read other bloggers’ answers and to spend time coming up with my own answers to the questions. Narnia is also one of my favorite book series, so that made it all the better.

What’s your Patronus (if you’ve done the test!)?
Of course I’ve done the test! I actually can’t remember off the top of my head–I’ll need to check. *logs onto Pottermore* Ah, an Irish Wolfhound. I forget if they provided a brief explanation of each Patrnous, but I can’t seem to find one at the moment.

Do you have any hobbies or things that keep you busy outside of blogging?
I’m currently a full-time student, so when I’m not blogging I’m in class or working on homework, papers, and projects. I’m a Creative Writing major, however, so luckily my work usually consists of hours of reading and/or writing, which I obviously don’t mind. 😉 After getting an apartment of my own, I’ve found that I really enjoy cooking (not a big fan of dishes, though). It’s a simple task, but it gives me an hour where I can just concentrate on what I’m doing and not have to think about anything that’s currently stressing me out. Plus, I usually listen to an Audiobook while making dinner, so it’s also a small sliver of time that I also get to read something that isn’t school-related.

Any blog goals or wishes for 2017?
I think my main goal is to create more content and perhaps get into a posting schedule. This tends to be a bit more difficult now with going back to school, but I’m slowly finding ways to dedicate time to blog posts and reading. I’d also like to interact with more bloggers in the book community!

Give me one of your favourite bookish quotes!
I recently read Unfiltered by Lily Collins and found myself identifying with the book in its entirety. My favorite quote, however, has to be “I am whole just as I am. I am defined not by my life experiences but by how I let them affect me and how I handle myself in each situation.”

What’s your favourite genre and why?
The majority of what I read is YA Fiction. Recently I’ve been most interested in science fiction/fantasy, although there are some contemporary writers that I enjoy such as Sarah Dessen, John Green, and Jennifer Niven. I’m a big fan of historical fiction as well, and that’s typically the only genre that I’ll read if it isn’t YA. I’m trying to branch out in terms of genres because I think it’s a good idea to expose yourself to a variety of topics/issues, so I’ll read memoirs/biographies from time to time!

You can find Dee’s blog at https://deelightfuldays.com/


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ARC Review: Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book via NetGalley from the publisher. If you’d like to read my Review Policy, click here.*


Goodreads Synopsis

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…


Review

I’ve only read C.J. Skuse’s YA work before (The Deviants is mind-numbingly awesome, btw) but this is definitely, resolutely, ABSOLUTELY an adult book. Crude in places, laugh out loud black comedy in others; it’s a read that will divide the masses and shock those of a more sensitive disposition.

As you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m a pretty big fan of crime fiction and psychological thrillers, my general rule of thumb being: the more disturbing, the better. When I read crime, thriller or psychological horror books, I want to be shocked, I want to be challenged and I want to be creeped out. Sweetpea hits all of these notes, but in a totally refreshing and completely different fashion to anything I can remember reading recently.

Sweetpea is the inner monologue of aspiring journalist Rhiannon, a twenty-something who writes minor articles for a small town newspaper publicly and lists of all the people she’d like to kill privately. As I’ve come to expect from Skuse, the writing is tip-top and the characterisation is on point. I loved the inwardly focused narration style and I couldn’t help but identify with Rhiannon on some levels despite her clear and absolute lack of empathy and psycopathic tendancies, which is a feat of achievement in itself.

The first person perspective and intensely private narration style makes for a claustrophobic ride, and Rhiannon’s narcissistic personality will have people either squirming uncomfortably or laughing along with a character who, whilst clearly a psychopath, is darkly comic and sharply satirical. That’s the thing about this book, y’know. I started it expecting something that was going to make me scared to turn off my bedside lamp at night, and although it did do a little bit of that, what it did more was make me laugh. For anyone who has been stuck in a job that they hate, for anyone who has been in a relationship that has gone stale, for anyone who feels like they just need a little bit more, this unconventional book will rensonate in unexpected ways. 

The book reads as half monologue and half mystery, with the reader wondering where indeed the story is heading. When the twist comes at around 75% of the way through, it’s well judged and entertaining in its mad genius, but it does take a bit of slogging to get there. The diary entry narrative style lends itself to the vibe of the story and the development of the central character perfectly, but the book could easily be one hundred pages or so shorter and much punchier for it. Personally, I would have liked to see slightly more action and slightly less detail of Rhi’s day-to-day life after reaching the second half of the book.

Sweetpea is a bold, self-deprecating take on the crime genre. It’s strange and funny, dark and crude, and nothing less than I’d expect from a fearless author like Skuse. For the right reasons or the wrong ones, this is a character and a book that will stick with you long after turning the last page.


Summary

Stars out of five:

4-stars

  • Publisher: HQ
  • Pages: 384
  • Publication Date: 20th April 2017
  • For fans of: thriller/crime/psychological novels and books that have surprises on every page.

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