Thursday, April 12, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #5: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Nothing to Disclose.

Hi!

This week almost didn't happen because Polyvore shut down without warning and took all my outfit sets with it - if you also used it, you can retrieve your data before May 28th by signing in to your account here: https://account-update.polyvore.com/cgi/data-tool.

We're up to Book Five - and it's the turn of California girl Dawn Schafer.


The book starts with a little recap of who everyone is, and what has happened so far. Dawn has recently moved to Stoneybrook with her little brother Jeff and their mother, Sharon (a former flame of Richard Spier, Mary-Anne's Dad). Dawn is a super-healthy avocado-loving all-natural girl that would be bang on trend in 2018 - I'm fairly sure this was my first introduction to tofu. And probably avocados. 

Mary-Anne has become a new woman since Book 4 - her Dad has now relaxed a little and let her stay out later, plus she has contact lenses and JEANS. Jeans! The ever-stylish Claudia Kishi and Stacey McGill have a discussion in this book about using egg rinse and lemon in their hair to keep it shiny - I too used lemon in my hair at school, because one of my friends told me it'd lighten it. See also: household bleach, Sun-In....none of which worked on my hair (thankfully). The more I read these books the more I realise how much of an impact they had on me as a child - I remember buying a pair of dice earrings purely because I knew they were the type of thing Claudia would have worn. 

Anyway - I'm rambling. Back to the plot of this book. Dawn books a job sitting for the Barrett kids. Their mother is a young, really stylish woman - I've included her iconic outfit in this weeks collage - but their house is an absolute shit hole. Here's what Dawn encounters when she first walks in:

I noticed that Suzi's jumper was coming unbuttoned, and that Mamie's diapers were drooping and the hem was falling out of her overalls. A grubby bandage was wrapped around one of Buddy's fingers. All three kids needed to have their hair brushed.
I looked in the living room. It was a sight. Newspapers and toys were scattered everywhere. A plateful of crumbs sat under a lamp. Something red had been spilled on the coffee table and was never wiped up. Our house might have been disorganized, but the Barretts' house was a pigsty.
I dared to glance in the kitchen. What a mistake. The sink was overflowing with pots and dishes, napkins and Popsicle wrappers, and about a million TV dinner trays. The breakfast dishes were still on the table. I could tell exactly what Mrs. Barrett had served because the remains were in plain view. Soft-boiled eggs (the yolks, now crusty, glued to the plates); orange juice (dried pulp in the glasses), bananas (peels on the table), and Pop-Tarts (crusts stuck in a glass).
Yick. Ew, ew, ew.

Dawn sorts the house and the kids, Mrs. Barrett is delighted, and then comes to rely a little too much on Dawn (WHO IS TWELVE) to keep doing it. And not only the cleaning and childminding - fielding calls from her ex-husband and landing her in the middle of a fairly toxic custody situation. Dawn puts her foot down, says no, and makes Mrs. Barrett realise how unfair she is being. 

Speaking of unfair, Kristy is being a wagon as per because Mary-Anne and Dawn are becoming close friends, and Kristy is jealous. When is she ever not jealous?

Here are the notable outfits: 


Stacey: A simple pink t-shirt under a baggy jumpsuit with big pink and red flowers all over it.
Dawn: Blue jean shorts and a white t-shirt that said 'genius inside'.
Mrs. Barrett: A silk blouse, sleek linen suit, brown heels and gold jewellery.

The special mention this week goes to Puff, the Magic Dragon - not actually a song about marijuana, but a really bloody sad tune about the end of childhood. I cried.



Gummi Worms hidden in her desk drawer
How does Claudia have any teeth left? Gummi worms are gelatin-based worm shaped jellies made almost entirely from sugar. 

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Monthly Reads: March 2018

Links under books are Affiliate links. ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

I read 12 books in March (some were much shorter than others), so as always I'll dive right in.

The covers below are all clickable and should take you directly to my longer review on Goodreads. 

Books I Recieved for Review

  

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (Published June 14th)
Described as "Sarah J Maas meets Game of Thrones", this is a YA fantasy about a young woman who has been denied her rightful title, Queen of Astrea. She has a decision to make - will she escape in search of a better life, or will she stay and try to get her throne back from the inside? I really enjoyed this, I'm almost gutted that I read it so early because I've over a year to wait until the next installment. 
Pre-Order: Kindle | Book Depository

Elefant by Martin Suter (Published May 31st)
Originally published in German, this is a really unique story about a homeless man living in Zurich. Naturally, when he sees a tiny glowing pink elephant in the cave where he sleeps, he thinks it's down to the alcohol he consumes regularly. In fact, she's the result of genetic engineering and a guy determined to gain infamy as the creator of "pets for people who have everything". Sweet, engaging, and unlike anything I've read before. Loved it. 
Pre-Order: Kindle | Book Depository 

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne (Published June 14th)
Holly's first adult novel follows Tori Bailey, a woman who has become successful by telling women they don't need to have it all. She has a perfect relationship, she has a great life, she has scores of fans online - but could she do with taking some of her own advice? I've read most of Holly's YA books and enjoyed them, but I think this is my favourite of hers so far. Fans of Dawn O'Porter would enjoy, this is witty and sharp and fresh. 
Pre-Order: Kindle | Book Depository 

 

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill (Available Now)
This is Louise's first book aimed at adults. It's about how an obsessive relationship can change and form you as a person, having an impact on all future relationships. This wasn't what I expected (nothing Louise writes ever is) - it made me feel uncomfortable and shaken. It's very realistic and sad, like both of Louise's other books. I received a copy of this from Netgalley but I had already bought one myself. This was also a ROSBC pick for March.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Dead Ex by Jane Corry (Published June 21st)
I'll have a full review of this book nearer to publication. Vicki, the main character, is a really interesting one - her ex husband is missing, presumed dead. Vicki has a condition that means she may not be 100% reliable about events, and we also have chapters from a very troubled young girl in foster care in 2007. If you like a very twisty, dark novel you may like this one.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Books I Borrowed


Ireland's Arctic Siege: The Big Freeze of 1947 by Kevin C. Kearns
I saw this mentioned somewhere around the time of Storm Emma so requested it at the library to learn a little more about one of our most talked about weather events. Unfortunately this book was almost entirely focused on the Dublin area - I wouldn't have requested it had I known that. For Dubliners, this will be a nostalgic visit to a city from times long gone - from mentions of the Adelphi and Switzers to anecdotes from people who still remember the freeze. Other counties are very briefly mentioned but I lost interest fairly soon after I realised it was mainly centered around the capital.

Novellas

  

Clean Break by Tammy Cohen
I did a blog post about the 2018 Quick Reads - they're specially commissioned every year and aimed at people who feel intimidated by longer books or those who haven't as much time as they'd like. This one was good, it was a domestic thriller about a couple who are divorcing, but one of them is not going to give up easily. 

The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton
This features a very famous actor who walks off set and ends up in a small, quiet Cornish town. I didn't enjoy this, I felt the use of a real actor cheesy and rather than add to the enjoyment of the story, I felt like I was reading fan fiction. Which is fine if that's what you're into - I'm not.

Thrillers

 

The Baby Sitter by Sheryl Browne
I had pre-ordered this and forgotten about it. It's about a woman who suddenly becomes a huge part of the life of a family when she agrees to be their babysitter in return for letting her stay with them after her home is damaged in a fire. It was a quick read, nothing spectacular, I found a lot of the situations a little unbelievable. It might make a good holiday read unless you're saturated by books with "gripping psychological thriller" - I think I'm reaching my limit, unfortunately.

The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard
Having read and loved this authors previous book Distress Signals, I was really looking forward to the release of this book. A decade ago, Alison left Ireland after her boyfriend confessed to a series of grim murders. Now, there are crimes happening that bear remarkable similarities to the ones Will committed - and he may know something. Unfortunately, the only person he'll talk to is Alison, who has made a new life for herself in the Netherlands. I really liked this - there was only one character I was a little iffy about, but overall this was fast paced, full of action, and had a great story. Loved it. 

Others

 

A Cowboy to Remember by Barbara Ankrum
This was free for Kindle via the Bookbub daily email - I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for a few different cheesy romance tropes, especially "The Childhood Pact". Olivia and Jake were High School sweethearts that drifted apart. But will sparks fly when they see each other after so long? This was predictable, cheesy, saccharin, and exactly what I needed in between thrillers. I really liked the characters, they had a little more depth than I expected.
Buy: Kindle

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
I'm always a bit wary of approaching books about alcohol, having grown up with someone dealing (or not dealing) with an addiction. This was a Rick O'Shea Book Club pick (for February, I think) so I said I'd give it a go - it's Catherine Grays own story, in her own words, about how she came to stop drinking alcohol. It's not preachy, it's not clinical, it's warm and witty and has great life advice. I took a lot from it and I'm glad I read it, if only to take a closer look at my own relationship with alcohol and why/when I choose to have a drink. 
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Have you read anything good lately that you'd like to share? Let me know!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day

Nothing to Declare

Hi!

We're up to book four, and it's Mary Anne Spier's turn.


Mary Anne lives alone with her overprotective Dad, Richard. Her mother died when Mary Anne was very young, and her Dad has some incredibly strict rules. Mary Anne must wear her hair in braids (okay, Richard), dress very conservatively (penny loafers, sweater vests and corduroy skirts) and be home at 6pm sharp. She can't stay out as late as the others when she's babysitting, and she is forbidden to wear trousers to school because........I have no idea. Luckily, she's close to Claudia's Grandmother, Mimi, who is teaching her how to knit.

Mary Anne feels like her Dad is infanilizing her, to the point where her bedroom still looks like a nursery, with pink ruffles everywhere and childish pictures on the wall. All she wants is to paint her walls navy and yellow and hang posters of kittens and New York, dammit Richard!! At one point she does stand up to him and call him "her jailer", which doesn't go down too well.

As a kid, I'm sure I just detested Richard and had no interest in his uber-conservative ways, but in this one, we get a LOT of back story. He's an overworked lawyer, he's a single parent, his wife died from cancer over a decade ago, and he wrote poetry to his high school girlfriend who had awfully disapproving parents. I'm gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.

In this book, we are introduced to Dawn Schafer, California girl. Dawn has recently moved to the neighbourhood with her mother Sharon, and becomes friendly with Mary Anne after the BSC have a massive falling out with each other. With the girls not speaking, Dawn proves to be a godsend - least of all when Mary Anne has an emergency while babysitting little Jenny Prezzioso. The way Mary Anne deals with Jenny convinces her father to loosen the reins a little, plus his old high school girlfriend may be closer than he thinks...

The main outfit mention in this book goes to the one Mary Anne says she'd love to wear if she had control over her own clothing choices - I also had to put Stacey's "one is a dog and one is a bone" earrings in there too.

"Just once, I'd like to go to school wearing skintight turquoise pants, Stacey's "island" shirt with the flamingos and toucans all over it, and maybe bright red, high-top sneakers." 




A special mention to the extra-juvenile/absolute dire unprofessionalism of going to Jamie Newton's 5th birthday party and spilling punch on each other, stepping on each others toes, and throwing wet paper towels at each other. Yes, girls, yes. Please, mind my newborn child. How Mrs. Newton didn't throw them all out is beyond me.



Ring-Dings hidden in a pajama bag.
Ring-Dings appear to be some kind of hybrid between a tea cake and a wagon wheel. They're now called Ding-Dongs. I don't know what a pajama bag is. I presume some kind of bag to put your pajamas in but - why?!






Thursday, March 29, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #3: The Truth About Stacey

Nothing to Declare 

Hi!

Continuing on with the recaps of my favourite childhood series, we have one from Stacey.


Stacey McGill has only been in Connecticut for a few months - before, she and her parents lived in New York in a building that overlooked Central Park. They left for a few reasons, one being Stacey's diagnosis with diabetes.

Stacey's parents are always looking for new discoveries that may help their daughter, so when they hear about a holistic doctor that specialises in experimental treatment, they think it will cure Stacey. Only - Stacey mentions him to the mother of one of the kids she babysits, who just so happens to be a doctor, and she's not impressed - he doesn't have a great track record. So, what's Stacey to do?

I'd wager that I had never even heard of diabetes before reading this. It gives a really great insight into what a 12 year old might go through - from struggling with having to watch what she eats and injecting her medication, to worrying about how it will affect her friendships. It's a really sensitive look at how a pre-teen deals with an illness, and it definitely made me more aware of what other people may be going through.

The wider issue going on here has Kristy absolutely FUMING - there's a new babysitting crew in town. They're older, they're cheaper, and they can stay out later. Kristy will stop at nothing to take them down - even if it means booking them for fake jobs to get information, or making the other girls wear sandwich boards around school advertising the club. There's also a mention of a poster with the slogan "YOUNGER IS BETTER" on it, but I'll leave that one there.....

This book mentions something that will be instantly recognisable to anyone who pays attention to phone numbers in books or films - a telephone number beginning with KL. In this book, Kristy gives her number as "KL5-2321". The Washington Post did an article last year about these numbers, I'll link it for fellow pop culture nerds to read (I found it really interesting) - A Directory for Klondike 5 - The Most Famous Telephone Exchange in the World.

Unfortunately, there were no real outfits to speak of, but Stacey did talk about some of her favourite accessories:

"Dinosaur brooch on a beret, red sneakers covered with beads and glitter, leg warmers covered in footprints, and plastic butterflies in my hair"




My favourite quote, however, is this one, referring to a woman who had given birth a few weeks before:

"I was surprised to see that Mrs. Newton still looked, well, fat. Not pregnant, exactly, but not the way I'd thought she would look after the baby was born."

THANK YOU, Ann M. Martin, for not squeezing poor Mrs. Newton into a pair of skintight jeggings.


A roll of Life-Savers hidden in a shoebox under her bed.
Life-Savers are pretty much identical to Polo Mints. As an aside, can you still get Polo Fruits?! I loved Polo Fruits......also, I found out while searching this that there are 23 mints in a standard roll of Polos. There's one for your next table quiz, fellow middle-agers.

A bag of Gumdrops and a packet of Saltines from under the cushion of her armchair.
Do we have gumdrops in Europe?! They look like they taste of the cheap fruity pastilles that come in Easter Eggs or Gingerbread House kits. Saltines are small square plain salted crackers.





Monday, March 26, 2018

Book Box Club 2018: January, February, March

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

I've been a regular member of Book Box Club for almost a year now and although I post monthly unboxings on Instagram, I thought it'd be nice to do a blog post on them too. I'll do a round up every three months, so you can get a better idea of what it's like as opposed to looking at just one box.

Book Box Club are a UK company, and specialise in Young Adult books. Every month they send out a book (either signed or including a signed bookplate), an invitation to their exclusive online Clubhouse (discussion forum) and a host of goodies. They champion small suppliers and cater to a wide variety of fandoms. They also have a membership option called "Purely Books", for those who want the book but not the goodies. Me? I want the goodies.

I use Address Pal to avail of the free UK postage, but they also post worldwide. One of the reasons I keep my subscription is because the women behind the company, Kate and Libby, are genuinely lovely people. They are always incredibly helpful and accommodating. The other is because this is a box that has gotten consistently better and better - I was a regular subscriber to a different box in the U.S, but cancelled because the quality varied so much between boxes. One box would be amazing, the next would be full of cheap or odd items. With this one, every item fits in with the monthly theme and they include fandoms that you wouldn't necessarily see in other boxes (there's going to be a Buffy item in the April box!!).


January 2018 - Geeks Unite





The January theme was "Geeks, Unite", based around The Fandom by Anna Day.

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are Comic-Con. They can't wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they're not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world - for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands....


The box included:

* A copy of The Fandom by Anna Day & a signed bookplate.
* A Brains are the New Black tote bag by Newton and the Apple.
* A magnet by Book Box Club featuring a Cassandra Clare quote.
* Boom Pow comic book nail wraps from Dinkibelle.
* Fangirling candle by Bookworm Candles and Crafts.
* A calendar by Book Box Club featuring fandom art by12 independent artists.


February 2018 - Into Dystopia 



The February box was themed Into Dystopia and featured Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw.

Set in an England in the near future, Outwalkers follows a gang of kids and their perilous journey to make it through a country where the government is tracking everyone and their every move is analyzed and controlled. They must live on their wits, and must work together to survive and escape. 


The box included:

* Hardback copy of Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw & a signed bookplate.
* Handmaid's Tale bangle by Beautifully Bookish.
* Lemon & Ginger Dauntless Tea by Craft Tea Company.
* Orange Zest dark chocolate bar by Gnaw.
Supplies to Stay Alive notepad by Bread and Jam.
* Hunger Games arrow pen by Book Box Club.
* Promo postcards & Bookmarks from Penguin Random House, Usborne Books & Gollancz.


March 2018 - Under the Sea 



The March theme Under the Sea was built around the book The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.

They were accused of witchery and of seduction. They were sentenced to death by drowning. Now every year, the Swan sisters haunt the sleepy coastal town of Sparrow, seeking revenge. They will inhabit the bodies of young girls. They will drag innocent boys into the depths of the sea. Can anyone break the curse and set Sparrow - and the sisters - free at last? 


The box included: 

* A copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw & a signed bookplate. 
* I Am Not Afraid of Storms pendant by Oh Panda.
* A Siren Song bath bomb by Ascent Bath and Body.
* Mermaid water bottle by Book Box Club. 
* Mermaid Kisses lip balm by Bliss Botanicals UK. 
* Swan Sisters bookmark kit by Kimcarlika. 
* Postcards and The Children of Blood and Bone sampler from Hot Key Books, Macmillan & Scholastic. 
* * BONUS ITEM** 
I received a Book Box Club pin because I've been subscribed for 10 boxes or more. 

Every box also contains an invitation to join an online discussion/ Q&A with the author of that month's books. 

There are also a few discount codes available, if you search the #BookBoxClub tag on Instagram you'll find Club Reps who are given 5% or 10% codes. 

Does something like this interest you? Or do you subscribe to anything you'd like to tell me about? Let me know!






Thursday, March 22, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Nothing to Declare 

Hi!

Back in 2014, I decided I was going to re-read Ann M. Martin's beloved series about four 12 year old girls in Connecticut who babysat the neighbourhood children. Those of us of a certain vintage who love books seem to have started out with the BSC - I've no idea why I didn't continue the series at the time, but from now on I'll endeavour to bring you a new recap every week.

The first post is here:

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #1: Kirsty's Big Idea

On to the second one!


Every book is written from the POV of the character mentioned in the title, so this one is focused mainly on snack-smuggler/fashionista Claudia Kishi.

As always, there's a personal issue and a wider issue at play. The personal is that Claudia feels a bit down about her school work. She's allowed to babysit only if she does well in school, and must be supervised by a family member when she's doing homework so that she doesn't slack off. She finds it all very boring, and it's a sore point between her and her genius sister Janine.

The wider issue is that there's a prank caller on the loose - someone is making prank calls to homes that are later robbed. This happens a few times when the girls are babysitting, and they become increasingly freaked out, but - gasp - it's okay, it's just two boys who have crushes on Claudia and Kristy who have been ringing them and hanging up. Because......they're twelve year old boys and find this hilarious. Kristy and Claudia then have a really problematic discussion about boys that I'm sure 12-year-old me just lapped up:

K: Well, it's just that Alan finally proved something my mother's been telling me for years. Only I didn't believe her until now.
C: What's that?
K: That boys tease you because they like you.

Claudia's fashion, as always, is on point - with the only notable outfit in this book being:


"Purple pants that stop just below my knees, held up with suspenders. White tights with clocks on them, a purple plaid shirt, matching hat, high-top sneakers and earrings with lobsters on them."


Special mentions to go to the school dance (the Halloween Hop), Kristy threatening the little children she's watching ("One false move and I'll punch your lights out") and this kid, who I really hope shows up in future books:

"Ordinarily, I might have tried to sneak in line with her, but she was standing right next to this kid, Alexander Kurtzman, who carries a briefcase and wears a jacket and tie, and lives to obey rules. One of his favourites is 'no frontsies, no backsies' so there was really no point in trying to butt in."

Same, Alexander. Same.


Licorice Whips hidden in her desk.
We have these too, they're licorice laces here I think.

A bag of Root Beer Barrels under her mattress.
Root Beer Barrels are barrel-shaped hard candies flavoured like root beer, which is a non-alcoholic soft drink. I've never seen it here, but I assume it's similar to ginger ale. This may be a good time to tell you about the cans of Shandy my Nana let me buy in the early 1990s, Club made them - they came in a brown can and had something like 0.1% alcohol in them, I used to feel terribly grown up altogether.

A gigantic chocolate bar in her notebook.
Yes, IN her notebook.

Saltwater Taffy in her pencil jar. 
I only know what that is because of Phoebe Buffay's reaction to it, but I just found out this second that a piece of taffy is called a chew here. So think chewits, starburst, chewy toffee, etc.




Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Monthly Reads: Februrary 2018

Links under books are Affiliate links. ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

I read 10 books in February, so I'll get straight to them!

All of the covers below are clickable, and should take you to my longer review on Goodreads. Add me as a friend there if you use it! 

Books I Received for Review

I didn't receive any physical books in February, but I did read three from Netgalley:

  

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan (Published March 22nd)
Donal Ryan's fourth full-length book follows the stories of three very different men who are all connected in some way. Farouk, along with his wife and child, is trying to escape his war-torn homeland. Lampy feels like he's getting left behind while all his friends move on in their lives. John is coming towards the end of his life and looking back over his regrets. I always feel, when reading anything by Donal Ryan, like someone has welcomed me in, given me a big blanket and a cup of tea, then snuck up behind me to rip my soul out. This is no different - it's gripping, haunting, and addictive.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Fear by C.L. Taylor (Published March 22nd)
Louise Wandsworth was in the news aged 14 when her karate instructor, Mike, groomed and abducted her. Now years later, Louise is back in her hometown - and she thinks Mike is grooming another young girl. I enjoyed this a lot, I'm a fan of this author anyway but this was one of her better ones.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
As luck would have it, I was approved for this less than 24 hours after I bought it. It's a modern day fairytale about a young woman who, along with her mother, has been trying to outrun bad luck for as long as she can remember. All Alice knows about her mysterious grandmother Althea Prosperine is that she's a reclusive author, but when word arrives that Althea has died, Alice is thrown into a dangerous world that will question everything she thought she knew about her family. I enjoyed this, though I  liked the first half more than the second. Fans of Caraval may enjoy.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Books I Borrowed

I made good use of the library in February, and borrowed four books:

   

Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell
This was a Rick O'Shea Book Club pick for February. Incidentally, there are now four monthly picks over at the ROSBC (you'll find them all on my Books 2018 page). I'm trying to read as many as possible this year, because they are usually books I wouldn't choose for myself. 
This is one I definitely wouldn't have picked - it's a sort of Lethal Weapon-esque romp around Dublin set in 1999, based around Detective Bunny McGarry and his squad. There's gangland criminals, a woman with a dangerous past, nuns, and....hurling. I enjoyed it, and I really didn't think I would. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Another ROSBC pick. This is a story about one day in the life of Ivan, a prisoner in a Gulag in the 1950s. Although Ivan is fictional, the author himself spent 8 years imprisoned in a similar labour camp for political crimes, so there's a very raw realness about it. 

 

Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary
A third ROSBC pick that I managed to get my hands on in February (they fly out of the library when they're announced every month) - this is a beautiful debut novel about an unconventional relationship. Set in Dublin in the 80s, Sonny is a young teenager who always seems to be in trouble. Vera is a glamorous, unattainable, older English woman. Secrets, solace, and a nod to Sonny Knowles. Magic. 

My Story by Joanne Hayes
When Joanne Hayes and the "Kerry Babies" tragedy came to the forefront of the news again recently, I requested this. It's her story, in her own words, about what happened. It doesn't make for easy or pleasant reading - mainly because of the subject matter and the utter contempt with which Joanne and her family were treated with - but also because parts of it are still applicable in 2018. We've come far as a country in some ways, but in others - not nearly far enough. This is out of print, but is available to request at the library. 

Books I Bought

Two of these were free, via the BookBub daily email.

  

Promise to Marry by Jessica Wood
I have a few favourite "guilty pleasure" (if  you use that term, I make no apologies whatsoever for liking what I like) tropes that I can't resist: Boarding School Drama, High School Reunion, The Childhood Pact, The Body Swap and The Fake Girlfriend. This came under The Childhood Pact umbrella (and it was free): Jax and Chloe made a pact as kids that if they weren't married by the age of 30, they'd marry each other. Roll on to Chloe's 30th and she is no longer speaking to Jax, her boyfriend is a dick, and she's not in a good place. This is a short novella, book one in a trilogy. I've no desire to continue because the ending was just ridiculous, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read. That award goes to.....


Three Nights With a Rock Star by Amber Lin and Shari Slade
Sometimes I look at reviews and think - surely, it couldn't be THAT bad, could it? This was free, and while I saw an awful lot of poor reviews, my curiosity was peaked enough to click. Chloe is pregnant after a summer working on tour with a rock band, Half Life. She does not want to tell the father. So, instead of, oh maybe - trusting Chloe to make her own judgements, her older sister/guardian Hailey up and leaves. Dressed as a "rock chick", Sunday School teacher Hailey abandons her moral compass and crashes a hotel party where she knows the band will be. She isn't there too long before she's banging the worlds angriest horniest man up against a window after signing a pact agreeing to be "his" for a weekend in order to gain access to his crew to ask about Chloe's Baby Daddy. There's a very, very weird threesome with a bandmate, some family drama, and Chloe's story running alongside. Just...........no. I needed a wash after it. I'm still trying to locate my eyeballs after they rolled away. 
Buy (at your own peril): Kindle 

Still Me by JojoMoyes
Thank heavens for Louisa Clark - this was by far my most enjoyable read of February. I adored Me Before You, I disliked After You, and I was nervous about this one. Would it be worse? Would it redeem the whole series? I needn't have worried, it's a return to form and a return to the old Louisa we all know and love. She's working in New York City for a family that are worlds apart from the Traynors. Her love of fashion is back, her love of life is back, and Will's presence is done just perfectly - not overdone, not cheese, just right. I absolutely loved it (could have done without the predictable Katie arc, though, to be honest) and I didn't want it to end. I got some Devil Wears Prada vibes off this one too, I'd be interested to know if anyone else felt the same. 

I ticked three prompts off my Popsugar Reading Challenge list:

* A novel based on a real person: Joanne Hayes, My Story.
* A book set in a country that fascinates you: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 
* The next book in a series you started: Jojo Moyes, Still Me.