Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blog Tour: Into the Valley by Chris Clement-Green

ARC clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

I get regular emails asking if I'd be interested in reading all kinds of books. Normally, I'll have a quick glance at the summary and that's it - but with this one, it reeled me in from the first page. I'm delighted to be hosting the second stop on the blog tour for Chris Clement-Green's memoir, Into the Valley. 



PLOT
In 1984, Chris Clement was working in a bookshop when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper looking for recruits to the Thames Valley Police service. Aged 24, Chris applied - and was accepted. This is the story of her training and career - the cases that have stayed with her, the interesting characters she encountered, and her experience of working in an incredibly male dominated environment. Sexism, racism and homophobia were rife - being a woman in the force was, in itself, an obstacle. This memoir takes us through Chris' career via witty, engaging anecdotes.

THOUGHTS
I'm a fan of biographies or autobiographies, I think that every person has a unique story to tell. This book is every bit as engaging and interesting as some of the "celeb" memoirs I've read, Chris has a great way of telling a story and pulling the reader in. I flew threw this, I really enjoyed the setting. Each chapter is almost like a short story - some of the anecdotes were hilarious, others heartbreaking.


I'm also a fan of Police procedurals - I think that fellow fans of The Bill, Ashes to Ashes or Happy Valley would really enjoy this. Chris is a fascinating person and has led a really interesting life. Anyone with an interest in London in the 1980s would also like this. References to race riots, protests and the fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic remind us of how far we have come as a society (not far enough, but it's a start).

RATING


Into the Valley is published by Mirror Books and is available at Amazon

Thanks to Laura, the Mirror Books team and the author for granting me access to the book, and for having me on the tour. For author interviews, giveaways, excerpts and more you can check out the other stops here:






Blogger Tricks

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Books I Read in October

ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here
Links to buy are affiliate links.

Hi!

October was a month full of Halloween crafts and planning for me, plus I've a couple of other things on at the minute (this isn't one of these "I've something really exciting coming up but I can't tell you until 2019" things, just personal stuff) so my reading took a bit of a back seat.

That being said, I managed to finish six books - a paperback, a hardback, an eBook and three audiobooks.

AUDIOBOOKS

I finished three audiobooks in October, all borrowed from the library via the Borrowbox app.

  

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
This is about a young woman, Nicolette, who has to go back to her hometown to sort out some family matters. A young woman has gone missing - but it's not the first time. Years ago, another young woman went missing, and both were known to Nicolette. Are the two cases connected?
This is interesting because it's told backwards - we start at the end and work our way back to the start. If that sounds confusing, don't worry - it takes a little while to get used to and it's different, but it really works. It's very clever, and I really liked how little bits of information were revealed slowly.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

The One by John Marrs
Imagine a dating app that not only matched people using algorithms or interests, but through their DNA. In this book, it's a reality - thousands of people are using this service to find their true love, or to determine if their partner is their true DNA soulmate. This story follows five very, VERY different characters as they use it - it's twisty, it's brilliant, it's clever, and the ensemble cast were really enjoyable. I'd highly recommend seeking this one out in audio format. One of my favourite books of the year.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Thirst by Benjamin Warner
I'm a sucker for any kind of weather-related dystopia, so I was attracted to this because of the mysterious drought that has suddenly swept through an entire community. Unfortunately - that's the whole plot. There's a drought, and people don't know why. It's an interesting look at what people will do when they're under pressure, but it got a little far-fetched for me at times and I found it a slog to listen to. I think I would have enjoyed this more had I read it. A book with a similar premise, but a much more enjoyable read, was We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

ARC


December Girl by Nicola Cassidy
I was part of the blog tour for this, so it's reviewed in full here. It's a wonderful story about a young Irish woman and how a tragic event affects her life. Molly Thomas is distraught when her baby son is kidnapped, will she ever find him? I thought about Molly for days afterwards, I'd really recommend you check this one out.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

LIBRARY
In addition to the audiobooks, I also borrowed two physical books:

 

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
This was one of the Rick O'Shea Book Club picks over the past few months. It's not something I'd ever choose - it's about time travel, and I don't fare well with books like that. Tom Barren comes from the 2016 we were supposed to have - flying cars, no wars, total equality. But when something he's involved in goes terribly wrong, he finds himself trapped in our imperfect world. Will he want to go back? Is it even possible?
I really enjoyed this. It was different to anything else I had read, and even though some of the in-depth time travel stuff went over my head a bit, I thought it was a really good book.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
This is the story of Tom Hazard, a man with a very rare genetic condition. Tom doesn't age like the rest of us, so while he may appear to be in his forties, he is hundreds of years old. Every 8 years, Tom must move around to avoid detection - but what would happen if he found something he didn't want to give up?
I really enjoyed this, it was a sweet and heartwarming book. I did find the conclusion a bit rushed, but I'd recommend it if you're looking for something non-depressing and easy to read.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

And that's it! It's the leanest round-up I've done so far this year, but usually when I'm busy I abandon books altogether so I'm delighted I managed to add another six to the yearly total.

Have you read any of these? Or anything good you'd like to recommend?

As always, you'll find clickable covers on my Books 2017 page if you want to read my full (non-spoiler) Goodreads review for any book mentioned.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Blog Tour: December Girl by Nicola Cassidy

ARC clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

Nicola Cassidy is an Irish writer, blogger and all-round good egg, so when she got in touch with me a few months ago to ask if I'd like to take part in the blog tour for her debut novel, I didn't even have to think about it. I know I enjoy her writing from following her website (www.ladynicci.com) so I had every faith in her novel being brilliant.

It didn't disappoint - "December Girl" was one of those books I couldn't put down, one of those ones I carried to the toilet with me (sorry, Nicola). And I'm not just saying this because the press pack came with a little bottle of gin (but believe me, that didn't hurt).


PLOT
Molly Thomas' world is turned upside down when the jealousy of a neighbour culminates in the arrest of her father, creating a series of tragic events that change Molly's life forever. As she begins to build a life for herself, the unthinkable happens - her baby is kidnapped. Can she ever find her son? And find happiness? Set between Ireland and England in the late 1800s/early 1900s, this is the story of a strong willed young woman and her struggle for survival and justice, revenge and happiness.

THOUGHTS
I don't naturally gravitate towards Historical fiction, and I'm not sure why, because I'm a sucker for anything set in Ireland around this time period. Molly, the feisty young woman born on the December Solstice, was instantly likeable. My heart broke for her during some of her most terrible experiences, and I really wanted her to find happiness. The story is sad (very sad) in parts, and it was difficult to read at times because I felt like I really knew Molly, I felt like she was a real person and couldn't bear to see her going through so much heartache. The plot itself was believable and well paced, I liked the setting and how the book was broken up into parts.

I'm a Solstice baby too (the June one) and remember going on a school tour to Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange as a child - this book made me want to go back again, to have a wander round as an adult. Anyone with even a mild interest in Irish heritage should definitely make a point of going - the peacefulness and history came across really well in the book, and it's even stronger in reality.


I'd recommend this for anyone who is looking for an engaging character-driven read, for people who like Irish Fiction, Historical Fiction, anyone with an interest in Irish heritage or anyone looking for a heartfelt read about courage, revenge, love and loss. It's not a light read by any means, but it's worth it.

RATING



December Girl is currently available wherever books are sold, and on Kindle (a steal at 99p right now). 

Thanks to Nicola and everyone at Bombshell Books for allowing me to read the book prior to publication, and for asking me to be part of the tour. You can check out the other stops below:




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Halloween DIY 2017

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

Every October, I promise myself I'll make more decorations for Halloween - I make Pinterest boards, I print instructions, I buy art supplies - and it all sits there, unused, while I buy enough mass-produced Halloween stuff to open my own Euro shop. This year, I started crafting early, and I've amassed a nice little collection of homemade decorations.



I've been posting on Instagram and Facebook, but have been asked for tutorials and more information about some of the pictures, so I've put this together as best I can. If something isn't clear, just leave a comment below and I'll answer back ASAP!

FLOATING GHOST

You will  need: Balloons, cornflour, cold water, a saucepan, a whisk, cheesecloth, cups/bottles, newspaper/tray. To decorate: Black card, glue, tinfoil (optional).

Cheesecloth can be hard to find, so try shops that sell fabric (Guineys, Hickeys) or it can be found online fairly easily and reasonably cheap. I used a piece measuring 90cm x 90cm, that was enough for two big ghosts and two little ones.

Step One: In a saucepan, whisk 3 tablespoons of cornflour with most of the water from 500ml. Keep the heat at medium and keep whisking. If it gets too thick, add more water. When it starts to boil remove it and let it cool, then transfer to a container (a lunchbox is ideal). I followed the instructions here: Homemade Liquid Starch Glue.

Step Two: Lay a sheet of newspaper or a baking tray on a flat surface where it can stay for 24 hours. Blow up three balloons. One bigger one for the head, and two smaller ones for the arms. Place them on cups/bottles of varying heights and secure with tape if needed.


Step Three: Place the cheesecloth in the paste, roll it around to make sure it's completely covered.

Step Four: Drape the cheesecloth over the balloons and leave to dry for 24 hours.

Step Five: When the ghost is dry, you can remove from the balloons (pop if necessary) and decorate. I used black card and a glue gun for the face, and aluminum foil for the chain. Mine wouldn't stand alone, so I popped him on a kitchen roll holder.


ANCIENT CANVAS PICTURE

You will need: A canvas, a picture or photo of your choice, Mod Podge or PVA glue, a paintbrush.

I bought my canvas in Mr. Price for about €3.99.

Step One: Choose a picture or photo that you'd like to transfer to the canvas. I found mine online and printed out onto plain A4 paper. Trim the edges if necessary.

Step Two: Brush the entire canvas with Mod Podge or PVA glue, then carefully lay your image ink side down, smoothing out carefully to avoid air bubbles. Leave to dry completely (about 12 hours).


Step Three: Using a damp sponge, gently dampen the paper and begin to rub the top layer of paper off gently. When I used the sponge it felt too abrasive, so I rubbed and rolled the paper off with my finger. This takes ages, but it's worth it - if you hit an air bubble, go as slowly as possible to avoid ripping the design. Blow off any debris as you go along.


Step Four: When you're finished, cover the whole image with a layer of Mod Podge or PVA glue to seal. I stained the edges of the canvas using a damp teabag to age it more.


MAGICAL CROSS STITCH 
I made this following a pattern by The Prairie Schooler called "Hocus Pocus". I found the pattern online, it's also available on Etsy. It took me about a week to complete - I worked most of the black areas first. There's no backstitch and all the sections were the same size, so it wasn't difficult. I added more orange to the moon, I wasn't keen on all the grey.


I found the frame at a second hand market for €1, it had the mount included which was handy.



WINIFRED SANDERSON'S SPELLBOOK

You will need: A hardcover book, kitchen towel, PVA glue or Mod Podge, acrylic paint (brown, black, yellow), eyeball (or foam ball), air drying clay or Crayola Model Magic, silver paint, paintbrush.

I have wanted to make the spellbook from Hocus Pocus for years - I followed this youtube tutorial here:


I picked up a hardcover book at a market for 50c, then followed the instructions, covering it in tissue paper and securing with Mod Podge as I went. I used old fridge magnets for the clasp and got the eyeball on Etsy, but lots of Euro shops have decorations with eyeballs in them that would work, or a small piece of white clay/foam painted to look like an eye would work. I left it to dry, then painted it with cheap acrylic paint from a Euro shop. 


While the book was drying, I used Crayola Model Magic (eBay) to fashion the snakes and clasp. I found the Model Magic really difficult to work with - it seemed to stick to itself and kept springing back on me. If I was doing it again I'd use regular air dry clay. I sprayed the pieces with silver spray paint, then used a hot glue gun to stick them in place. I'm not happy with how the clasp turned out and I'll make a new one at some point, but overall I'm happy with how the book looks for a first attempt!


SPOOKY PLACES SIGNPOST

You will need: One long stick/length of timber, 4-5 pieces of scrap wood, printer and paper or paint, brush, Mod Podge or PVA glue, nails or screws.

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was such a great idea for an outdoor decoration!

Step One: Either print out your place names onto plain paper or draw them on the wood and paint them in. If printing, cut the individual letters out.


Step Two: Make sure the wood is clean, then coat in a layer of Mod Podge or PVA glue. Gently lay the letters in place. Brush another layer of glue on top.


Step Three: When completely dry, secure to the long post with screws or nails. Ironically, when we were putting this up, Oz blew off - so I replaced it with Halloweentown.


Mod Podge isn't weather resistant - so I'm coating mine in a layer of clear varnish just to make sure the writing stays put, and I can use this again next year.


KNITTED PUMPKIN AND POM-POMS

To make the knitted pumpkin, I followed this pattern: Knit Pumpkin and Skeleton. This was the first thing I've knit in about 20 years, so it's not perfect, but I'm happy with it.


To make the pom-pom pumpkins and bats I used the old-fashioned method using wool and two card circles, if you Google "how to make a pom-pom" you'll find loads of methods. For the bat, I attached some googly eyes and cardboard wings/ears with a hot glue gun.

HOCUS POCUS SUBWAY ART


I made this last year, printed it out and just popped it in a frame from Dealz that I painted black (as seen in the first image in this post).

So - that's it, so far anyway! I've still got folders full of ideas, so if I get anything else done by Halloween I'll pop them up. If you've seen any cute DIY projects please let me know!





Thursday, October 5, 2017

Books I Read in September

ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here
Links to buy are affiliate links. 

Hi!

This post should really be called "Books I Listened to in September" because the majority of them were audiobooks (I have a post about where to get Audiobooks here). The majority were also from the library this month, despite the fact that I've been collecting books faster than the old Taylor collected enemies.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

The September choices were My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (I read and reviewed that in August) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, which I didn't finish in September so I'll pop that in next month's round up.

ARCs


  

Copycat by Alex Lake
Sarah, a doctor in her late thirties, gets a pretty big shock (as one would) when she receives a friend request on Facebook from someone posing as her. They've got photographs and information that only Sarah should be able to access, so what's going on? I did enjoy this, but found the chapters from the perspective of the antagonist a little Disney villain-esque. A good, quick, engaging read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Lay Me to Rest by E.A. Clark
Annie is a young widow, pregnant with her late husband's baby. Her sister arranges a getaway in a remote Welsh village, but when she gets there Annie realises she may not be welcome. There's a malevolent presence (or two) at the cottage, so Annie digs deeper into local legend to see if she can bring the spirit some peace. I enjoyed this too, I didn't find it scary but I read it one evening and found it enjoyable if a little Joey-with-the-thesaurus at times.
Buy: Kindle 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman Published October 10th
A long-awaited prequel to the wonderful Practical Magic that follows the lives of Franny and Jet (the Aunts) before they were Aunts. The girls and their brother Vincent live with the Owens curse hanging over their heads, and it affects them in different ways. Set in the 1950s, this was a wonderful book and I absolutely adored it, it's perfect for this time of year and I'd recommend it to anyone who's a fan of magical realism or Alice Hoffman. One of my favourites of the year.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository
Paperbacks

I only read two physical books this month - one from the library and one I own.

 

No Filter by Orlagh Collins
A Young Adult book about a 16 year old teenager, Emerald, who is sent to Ireland to stay with her Grandmother while her mother is going through treatment. While in Dublin, Em meets local boy Liam Flynn and the pair forge an instant connection - but Liam is probably the one person that Em shouldn't be with. I liked this, it's nice to see a YA book set in modern Ireland that covers topics like social media pressure, recovery after the recession, and parental expectations.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository 

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
This is a collection of the five Throne of Glass novellas. I read this after reading the series up to Empire of Storms - I feel it would have had more of an impact had I read it around the second or third book, because while there were snippets of new information, it wasn't really needed when I'd read the series.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


Audiobooks

These were all borrowed from the library via the Borrowbox app (I've a post about the Library system in Ireland here). 

  

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The second Mrs. DeWinter marries Maxim after a whirlwind romance. When they return to the sprawling estate of Manderley, she realises that she has a lot to live up to - the seemingly perfect Rebecca, Maxim's late wife, was quite the woman and the staff (especially Mrs. Danvers) are NOT happy with the idea of a replacement. I really enjoyed this, Anna Massey was a wonderful narrator and I got really immersed in the story.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
One of the Hogarth Shakespeare retellings, this is a modern version of The Taming of the Shrew. Kate Battista is the shrew in question - abrasive, arrogant, moody. Her father is at risk of losing his research assistant, Pyotr, because of his visa, so comes up with the wonderful notion of Kate marrying Pyotr in order to save the family. While I did enjoy the story, the narrator (Kirsten Potter) grated on me slightly and I found some of the characters (Bunny and Pyotr) incredibly annoying. It's no Ten Things I Hate About You but it's a decent retelling.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood
A young man is on trial for murder. He has sacked his legal representative, and is making his closing speech himself. We are the jury, we hear his story and decide if he's guilty or not. Narrated by Adam Deacon, who brings this to life wonderfully. I couldn't stop listening to this - it's a gripping tale of gangs, violence and loyalty set in London. I wasn't keen on the ending but I really liked this.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

  

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
This is about two sisters, Meredith and Marjorie. When they were younger, their family was the subject of a reality TV show, The Posession, because they believed Marjorie was possessed by an evil spirit. Now fifteen years on, a blogger is writing about the show, and Merry is telling her story to a writer. I absolutely adored this, I thought it was a brilliant story - if We Have Always Lived in the Castle had a baby with The Exorcist and the E! network filmed it, this would be the result.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay
This is about the vanishing of a young teenage boy while out playing in a park one night with his friends. His mother is convinced that she has started seeing apparitions of him, and when diary pages begin to appear in the house she thinks he's trying to get a message to her - but is that what's really going on? I did enjoy this, but kept zoning out while listening, always a sign that I'm losing interest. I ended up borrowing the eBook so I could concentrate on finishing it. Not as good at A Head full of Ghosts but a good book all the same.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

You Sent Me a Letter by Lucy Dawson
Sophie wakes up early on the morning of her Fortieth birthday to find a stranger in her bedroom - he knows a lot about her, and hands her a sealed letter. He threatens to harm her family if she does not stick to instructions - she must open the letter at her birthday party and read the contents aloud. I enjoyed this, I thought it was a good thriller and enjoyed the story.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository



The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
This was the final audiobook I borrowed from the library, it was a short listen (under two hours). Performed by a full cast, it was a fairytale retelling of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. All over the land, people are being affected by a curse - they're falling into a deep, unresponsive sleep. The Queen travels with her short-statured companions to a castle covered in thorns, to rescue a sleeping princess and break the curse. But is everything as it seems? I enjoyed this, I think it'd be a great atmospheric listen around Halloween. Originally published in "Rags & Bones".
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


So, that's it - as usual, I've updated the Books 2017 page so you can click on the covers to read my full Goodreads review of any book I've mentioned. I'll also be back with a Spooky Reads post soon and I've a lot of Halloween DIY coming up, plus an empties post, a couple of blog tours and some subscription box unboxings. If you've any questions about anything that I haven't covered, just shout and I'll get back to you ASAP!




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Audiobooks: A Beginners Guide

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

I've always been a little bit wary of Audiobooks. I mean - why would I want to listen to someone reading a book when I could just read it myself?

Every year, my reading drops off a bit from September onwards. This is for a number of reasons - mainly due to Halloween/Christmas prep. This is my favourite time of the year, and I get a lot of crafting done, but I hate that I have to sacrifice reading in order to do it. Enter audiobooks.


What's an Audiobook?
It's a book, read aloud by a narrator. It's a file that you can send to any compatible device. You can download it and listen at any time offline.

Where do I get one?
The most well known source is probably Audible, because it's an Amazon company. Audiobooks are also available to borrow from the library for free via the Borrowbox app.

Who narrates the books?
This varies. In most cases, a professional narrator will do it. In some (mainly autobiographies), they're read by the author. Sometimes, well known celebrities will narrate books written by other people - for example, Anne Hathaway narrates The Princess Diaries; Alan Cumming narrates Macbeth: A Novel.

How long does it take to listen to one?
This also varies, depending on the length of the book. I've found that most standard psychological thrillers tend to run about 6-8 hours, while something like "IT" by Stephen King is over 44 hours long.

I'm on a limited Internet plan. Will this use up loads of my data?
The only time it uses data or wifi is when you're downloading a book. When you're playing a book, it doesn't use any data or wifi, or require any kind of internet connection. Books average a couple of hundred megabytes to download - the largest I've come across is, again, "IT", which was over 600mb (but it's also a beast of a book physically, over 1,000 pages).

What's the point?
If you want to read more books, or you enjoy reading but don't have the time, you can use listen to Audiobooks while you're doing something else. I let them play while I'm doing housework, or out walking, or at night. This means that I can get through an extra couple of books a week even if I'm busy doing something else. I know other people also listen to them on a commute, on lunch breaks, or in the car. People with certain learning difficulties may also find it easier to listen rather than read. They could be useful for people with arthritis or injuries that make it difficult to hold a book or turn pages.

What apps do I need? 
I use the free Audible app, and the free Borrowbox app to listen.

Tell me more about Audible.
- It's owned by Amazon. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, using your Amazon account, and choose any book.
- You will need to download the free Audible app to listen.
- If you cancel your free trial, you can keep the book.
- If you decide to keep your subscription, it costs £7.99 per month.
- Every month you are given one "credit" - you can cash this in for a book of your choice.
- If you don't like it, you can return it and pick another one.
- All of the books you get using credits are yours to keep indefinitely.
- If you want more than one book a month, you'll have to pay for it on top of your membership fee.
- If you buy a book on Kindle, you'll sometimes be offered the eBook at a reduced rate.
- There are free books available, but it's quite hard to find them.
- You can listen to a 3-5 minute sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Tell me more about Borrowbox.
- It's used by all libraries in Ireland to provide eBooks and Audiobooks.
- You will need to download the free Borrowbox app and join your local library for free.
- You can borrow a number of Audiobooks at once, return as you read, then borrow more.
- If you are not finished a book before the return date, you can renew it provided no other member has reserved it.
- New releases get snapped up very quickly, so check the site regularly.
- You can reserve a book if it's already checked out by someone else.
- You can listen to a sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Which is better, Audible or Borrowbox?
There are pros and cons to both. I really love that I can borrow from the library, but I find the selection can be very limited. I love the selection on Audible, and the fact that I can keep every book I buy, but some of the books are woefully expensive (Hannah Hart's biography is over £17 and under 6 hours long?!). I would prefer something like the Kindle Unlimited scheme for Audiobooks - where you pay a flat monthly fee and are able to borrow and return as much as you wish.

I usually use my monthly credit on Audible to pick something new or popular that I'd have to wait months for at the library. Then I use the library in the meantime to catch up with books I may have missed, or even sometimes books I already own but haven't got time to physically read.

Some of my favourite listens so far have been:

Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (read by Stephen King)
Alan Cumming - Not My Father's Son (read by Alan Cumming)
Stephen King - IT (read by Stephen Weber)
Sue Perkins - Spectacles (read by Sue Perkins)
Amy Poehler - Yes, Please (read by Amy Poehler)

I'd absolutely recommend that you give Audiobooks a go - especially if you'd like to read more but find that time is an issue.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, just shout!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Books I Read in August

ARCs clearly defined in accordance with Review Policy here.
The links to buy are affiliate links. These are explained here


Hi!

August was a good reading month for me, I read 18 books.

THE RICK O'SHEA BOOK CLUB

I read both choices for August:

 

Tin Man by Sarah Winman 
This is a stunning little book about friendship, love and loss. The relationships are gentle and moving. The writing is engaging, and though it's melancholy at times, it's a beautiful story. One of my favourites of the year so far, if you liked The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne you may like this.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Room Little Darker by June Caldwell
A book of short stories with a uniquely Irish voice. June's writing is dark - and this collection is not for the faint of heart. Some of the stories went over my head a little, but my personal favourites were "SOMAT" (told from the point of view of a fetus inside a braindead woman - see? DARK) and "Natterbean" set on Dublin city streets (Natterbean as in "Natterbean down the clinic" - get it? It took me a while...). I did find elements of comedy in here too, it's a very strange but worthwhile read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

SERIES 

I started the Throne of Glass series in July, reading the first two books. I continued it in August and read the other three - they're beasts of books, over 600 pages each, but I devoured them. I'm all ready now for the sixth installment, Tower of Dawn.


  

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #3)
Celaena is in Wendlyn, and is carrying a lot of guilt about events in the previous books. She meets ancient warrior Rowan Whitethorn, and agrees to train with him. I liked this book, I thought it did a good job of setting the scene for the next few books.


Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #4)
We're back in Rifthold for this one, and there's a LOT going on. There are some old friends to visit, and there are things that must be done to ensure the survival of the people. This one was my favourite up to this point, I liked the pacing and the character development.


Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #5)
My absolute favourite of the series, and it KILLS me that we have to wait a year to continue this main story arc. Tower of Dawn features a character that wasn't present in this book, and I could care less about them - but supposedly it's important because we find out new information that affects the rest of the story. There were a few very, very cringe scenes in EoS (bet you can't guess what "velvet-wrapped steel" is), but the story more than made up for it - we learned a lot of new information about how the world will be saved, and the sacrifices that must be made.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

REVIEW COPIES

I've been trying to get through my Netgalley pile (I say this every month, then I get excited and greedy and request more). I managed to read six in August.

  

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda (Published September 7th)
This is a thriller about a man who plans to kill his wife. It's written from his point of view, so while I didn't particularly enjoy his egotistical ramblings, it has been getting favourable reviews from people who liked You by Caroline Kepnes (I didn't). I found it a bit Scooby-Doo (zoinks!) towards the end, but it's around a Euro on Kindle at the minute so it's worth a go if it sounds like something you'd read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Sneak Peeks & Previews by Electric Monkey
Funnily enough, most of the previews included are for books that are already published, but this did give me an introduction to some authors I hadn't read before (like Michael Grant and Kevin Brooks). I've added one or two to my wishlist - I love these preview editions, I wish more publishing houses would do them.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard
I was part of the blog tour for this book (my full post is here). I enjoyed it a lot, it's about a young woman on the Autism spectrum who has to fend for herself when her mother is taken into a home after an accident. Elvira needs rules and regulations to live by, but up until now she didn't realise that she could be the one to make them. Plus, she's obsessed with biscuits and discovers a family mystery - what's not to love?
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

  

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
This is a quirky mystery/crime book about a woman who works in a bookstore. One night while locking up, she finds a regular customer who has taken his life. In his hand is something very personal to the woman - so begins a mystery that will make her face a traumatic event in her past, and bring her into contact with people she has been deliberately avoiding. I liked this one a lot.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Where to even start with this one - I'm a sucker for anything recommended by Stephen King, so I was intrigued by this one. I think it's best to go in blind, but be aware that it's heavy, and it won't be for everyone. It's about a 14 year old girl, Julia "Turtle" Alveston, and her very, VERY dysfunctional relationship with her brute of a father. Julia is determined to survive at all costs - but what if the cost is too high? Highly recommended for those who have the stomach for it.

The Break by Marian Keyes (Published September 7th)
Marian Keyes is someone I really like as a human, and she was probably my introduction to proper "grown-up" novels that weren't horror. For whatever reason I hadn't been keeping up with her books, and half expected to be turned down when I requested this one - but I got it, and I was so happy I did. It's warm, funny, and easy to read. It's the story of how a woman copes when her husband decides he wants a "break" from their marriage to go and "find himself" on the other side of the world. Full of Keyes' trademark charm and wit, I really enjoyed it and now want to re-read all the earlier ones. This is standalone, not a Walsh family novel.

BORROWED FROM LIBRARY

Did you know that if you have a library membership (free) that you can borrow from any library in Ireland, and return books to any library in Ireland? It's an amazing service and I think every child in the country should be given a library card when they're born. This month I've been requesting and reading like a mad thing, I read these in August:

  

Paper Girls Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn
I read the first volume of this Eighties graphic novel during the Booktube-a-thon in July, so ordered the second volume from the library. It continues where the last volume left off, with our paper-delivering heroes unsure of what the hell is going on. I won't pretend to understand exactly what's going on either, but I really enjoyed it and I've ordered my own copy to keep.

The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner
This is a joy of a book, the author debunks what he calls "Nutribollocks" - detoxing, fad diets, clean eating, wellness, going gluten free when you don't have to, and the nonsense peddled to us to make us buy more things. Some of the analogies used are hilarious (seeing an Easter bunny beside a pile of eggs and assuming it laid them) It's full of very sound advice - probably not the best recommendation for a Gwyneth Paltrow fan (actually I take that back - if Goop is your bible, you need to read this). Recommended.

The Other Side of the Wall by Andrea Mara
I borrowed this from the library at the start of August and brought it on holiday with me (the sense of responsibility was outrageous, never bringing a library book on holiday ever again). It's a well written, engaging thriller about a woman who suspects strange goings-on next door - but with the stress of a mess at work, a new baby and a toddler, is her mind playing tricks on her? Or is someone in danger? Really, really liked this (fans of the Office Mum blog may recognise the author). 

GIFTED FROM THE AUTHOR

This very rarely happens, but I was lucky to have it happen twice in August. 

 

A Fire in the Dark by Philomena Barry
I've known Phil since I was in Primary School, so to see her achieve her dream of being a published author is amazing. It's really nice to see someone you know works hard doing well - this is her first published work, I know she has written some mystery/crime novels too. This is a book of her poetry - now, I'm not a huge fan of poetry. I like mine very dark - and this fits the bill. It's not all sunshine and lollipops - it's dark, angsty, deep observances on life. Easy to read, not pretentious, a great poetry book for those who don't like poetry!
Buy: Directly from Philomena via her Facebook page (also available at the library).

One Bad Turn by Sinéad Crowley
Sinéad very kindly sent me a copy of this, her latest book, a few weeks ago. It's the third book featuring DS. Claire Boyle, but it can be read as a standalone. This one focuses on a friendship over a couple of decades and how a terrible event changes it for generations to come. Really good read, very enjoyable (as are the other two previous books).
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

BOOKBUB

If you're a Kindle user, and you haven't yet signed up for the BookBub daily emails, I'd recommend it. Granted, most of the time it's full of obscure romance or horror, but sometimes they have really good books reduced to €1/€2 - and there are usually a few free options too. If you're into light romance, this could be great - I requested this particular book because the synopsis sounded good and it was free.


The Day We Met by Barbara Bretton
Judge not lest ye be judged - I saw that cover, I thought "ooh!" and I got it. Alas, 'twas not to be - that cover is WOEFULLY misleading. All wasn't lost, though - although this was written in the nineties and comes across quite dated at times, it's actually a pleasant enough read if you want something light and easy. I like books like this after something difficult, so I was perfectly happy to read about two people in their mid-thirties/early forties trying to deal with a new romance and the pressure of family life. I could've done without the words "mound" and "succulent", mind. 
Buy: Kindle

YOUNG ADULT


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige
This is a young adult fantasy novel based on The Snow Queen. Snow has spent a large portion of her life at Whittaker Psychiatric Hospital in New York. One night, she encounters a young man who calls her 'Princess' (haven't we all) - she follows this young man and ends up in a snow-covered world, surrounded by people who seem to believe that Snow is the key to an ancient prophecy. This was lacklustre - the world building wasn't great, and while I enjoyed the part set in the hospital, the rest was a bit of a let-down for me.


So - that's it. August was the month I completed my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books in 2017, I've gone passed that now and I'm delighted, because it's almost crafting season for me and my reading will suffer (I think I read about four books between November and January last year).

Anything catching your eye this month? Or are you reading anything good that you'd like to recommend?