Friday, September 30, 2016

Owlcrate Unboxing September 2016

Not Sponsored | No Samples | Not a Collaboration

Hi!

This was my third and final box of a three month subscription, and the one that would decide whether or not I would resubscribe. The theme, as revealed in the August box, was "Darkness".




This box was absolutely wedged - I think this is the most we've gotten in a box over the past three months.


First up - the book. The choice for September was Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. This is about three queens, triplets, equal heirs to the throne on the island of Fennbirn. One can spark flames at will, one has the power to poison, and the third can control nature. The night the sisters turn sixteen - the life-or-death battle for the crown begins.

It's not my usual genre, but as with all other Owlcrate books, I'll happily read it and report back in the October round-up. Also included with the book was a paper fortune teller, a signed bookplate (I bloody love these) and a letter from the author.


The spoiler last month told us that we'd be receiving an item from Out of Print inspired by Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and here it is - a gorgeous black canvas print featuring a quote from the book. The bag contained a card with a $5 discount code for the site.

The spoiler card for September is a fabulous owl print, and we got a badge to match. We also got badges last month, it makes me wish I still had all my badges and bottletops from the 90s!


Next up are two great little items - the fortune telling bath bomb by Da Bomb Fizzers is a cute addition, and what makes it cuter is the story behind it - the company was set up by two young sisters who loved bath bombs. Every bomb has a surprise inside - in this instance, it's a yes/no, so you can treat it like a one-off fizzy magic eight ball!

The candle, named "Celaena's Cake" is by The Melting Library and it's inspired by the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. This was created exclusively for Owlcrate and smells unbelievable - like cake, caramel, cookies - really sweet and sickly in the best of ways.


We got some bonus reading material this month - the 36 page first installment of a new weekly serial. There will be 15 episodes, it's a dystopian series about teenagers left to save the world. A number of different authors are involved, this one is written by Matthew Cody.

The bookmark is inspired by Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, exclusively created by Evie Bookish

The little 'passport' is very cute, it's actually an excerpt from the upcoming book Moon Chosen by P.C Cast.

The last thing in the box was the spoiler card for the October theme, and it will be.............*drumroll*


Once Upon a Time! The box will contain an item from Whosits and Whatsits. They've got a Hocus Pocus item on the front page of their site, so YAY.


So - the big question. Did I resubscribe?



Abso-bloody-lutely. This is the best subscription box I've tried to date. By a mile.


If you want to sign up, they offer a 15% discount for new subs - use WELCOME15 on the website to avail of it.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next three months bring.






Blogger Tricks

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review - DuCare 8 Piece Brush Set

Not Sponsored or Paid | Brushes Received for Review

Hi!

In August, I received an email from a company called DuCare, who have manufactured makeup brushes in China for over 30 years. They provide brush sets for sale on sites like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress. I've done a post about eBay/AliExpress brushes before (here) but I'd never tried DuCare, so I accepted their offer to try the 8-piece Brush Set.



The brushes arrived in a white brush roll, it's strong (it took me a few minutes to open), then that was packaged in a cardboard box so it would make a nice present. Inside, the brushes were individually wrapped in plastic pockets with a rose print.


As with other brushes I've bought from China, there was a strong synthetic smell when I took the brushes out. This does go away quickly - but if you're concerned just give them a wash before use. The Jessup ones have the same smell, so you'll know what I mean if you've bought them.

The 8 piece set consists of three face brushes, four eye brushes, and one retractable lip brush. The brushes are made with synthetic hair and there are a range of sets available.



FACE BRUSHES


L-R: Large Powder Brush, Blush/Contour Brush, Flat Foundation Brush

My favourite of these is the large powder brush - sometimes I find powder brushes too massive, this one is great for powder or bronzer. I haven't used the middle one as much, but it's a nice shape for contouring, if maybe a little large. The third one is perfect for applying face masks evenly, I don't use that type of brush to apply foundation at all but for masks - invaluable.

EYE BRUSHES


L-R: Blending Brush, Flat Shadow Brush, Angled Eyeliner/Brow Brush, Spoolie

The blending brush is great, just the right size for blending. I haven't used the flat one as much, but it looks like it'd be good for applying pigments. The angled one is brilliant, really sharp and gives great detail. The spoolie is always a handy one to have around, does the job.

LIP BRUSH


I've never really used lip brushes (that might change after the recent Toddlers VS Charlotte Tilbury disaster you'll have seen if you follow me on Snapchat), so I don't really have anything to compare this one to - but as with the others, it's nice, and unlike the one I have from Jessup, the cap shuts tightly which is great for keeping it clean in your bag.

Overall, I really like the brushes. They're soft, they do the job, and they're pretty to look at. They're cheap too, without being cheap looking. Most of the sets are under €20, some under €10, and they're available on Amazon, AliExpress and eBay.

DuCare have kindly given me a 20% discount to share with you if you buy from Doremi-Beauty on Amazon:

ZUVNOS84

That seller doesn't ship to Ireland, though, so you'll need to use Parcel Motel or Address Pal.

What I would do, personally, is head for Ali Express - the sellers all ship to Ireland and the sets are cheaper than on Amazon, they're sold direct from DuCare.

This 8 Piece Set is currently just over €16 on AliExpress with free postage.
The other Sets are all available, all or most with free postage - there are other 8 Piece Sets there for under €9.

I think they'd make a nice present, especially for teens who are just starting to experiment with makeup or anyone who wants to start building a brush collection but doesn't want to shell out a fortune.




Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Autumn Ninja Book Swap is Open! (International)

Not Sponsored or Paid

Hi!

One part of being fairly active online that I adore is the concept of swaps - they're incredibly common, and I've taken part in a few - I've done makeup swaps, secret santas, pen pal swaps, nail polish swaps - they're a lot of fun. I love choosing gifts and presents for people, doing the whole online-stalking thing (in a non-creepy way) to see what they like, and scouring shops to find the perfect thing for them.

The Ninja Book Swap is something that has been running for a few years now, it happens three times a year - Spring, Summer, and Autumn. The Autumn one is now open to people who want to get involved - I've never been involved with this before, but I've just signed up and I am GIDDY with excitement.



WHAT IS IT?
It's an international book/goodie swap, overseen and organised by Bex from Ninja Book Swap and An Armchair By The Sea (an excellent book blog to follow if you like to be kept up to date with challenges and readathons). Sign up is now open until October 2nd.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
When you sign up, you add a list of likes/dislikes. You also link your wishlist - it can be anywhere online (just make sure it's public) - make sure you have a good selection of books on it and do NOT buy any of them before the swap - then you'll be matched with a person, and you'll get their details. The person who gets you will buy you one (or maybe two) books from your wishlist and a few other goodies based on your likes. You'll do the same for your person. Then you post your package by Monday October 17th and email proof of postage or tracking info to Bex. When you receive your package, thank the person who sent to you and join in with the unboxing/excitement by using the #NinjaBookSwap tags on Twitter or Instagram, writing a blog post, or sharing in some way.

There's a second book swap running, the Trick or Treat one, that's a little different, but all details are in the post here.

HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
Firstly, introduce yourself! You can get involved by tweeting Bex (@NinjaBookSwap), or sending her an email (ninjabookswap[at]gmail[dot]com) to say hello. This is necessary because unfortunately people can take advantage of swaps - it happened to me with a Beauty Blogger swap last Christmas and it was gutting, I enjoyed sending my person her package and she was so grateful, but whoever got me just didn't bother. Meanie. In my experience, the online book community are some of the soundest people I've ever come across, and the risk is minimal - but please, please don't commit unless you are 100% going to take part and send a package.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?
All the information you need, along with the sign up form, is here in this blog post: Autumn Ninja Book Swap Sign Up is Open, there are also FAQ and HOW IT WORKS pages on the website.

I really hope some of my fellow book lovers get involved, this is a great way to get in touch with new people and join in with some great bookish fun!



Friday, September 16, 2016

Boxcitement Wanderlust Box July 2016

Not Sponsored or Paid | No Samples | Not a Collaboration

Hi!

Boxcitement are a company that I came across while googling for non-beauty subscription boxes. They contain craft, jewellery, and stationery items. You can get a monthly subscription, or you can order a one-off box. After having a look at some of their past boxes and deciding they were suitably quirky, I ordered one. I used Address Pal to avail of free UK postage, the box cost £20. It goes down to £17 if you sign up for a monthly subscription.

Firstly, I was surprised at how slim it was. It would fit through a letterbox (for scale, it's about the size of a standard box of Milk Tray).



There's a different theme every month. For July, the theme was Wanderlust.


It was absolutely wedged - I'm still not entirely sure how they got everything in there!


The little touches were gorgeous - from the tiny map confetti to the sticker on the earring box, the little organza pouch and the packaging on the memory kit.


The box contained:

A colourful map of the world so you can pin the countries you've been to (or use it as wrapping)
A clear plastic pouch to keep liquids in
An "Adventure Journal" kit that includes journal cards and a leather binding strap
Two greetings cards and envelopes ("Aloha" and "Bonjour")
A pair of handcrafted earrings
A tin of heart shaped mints
A laser cut luggage tag
A keyring mirror
Handmade soap



So - would I get it again? Maybe. They don't release the themes in advance, so it's pot luck. I would not have chosen this theme for myself - I haven't been abroad in 13 years and I'm not a huge fan of travelling, so it's not something that I can really identify with. I was a little disappointed with the theme, but I'm sure there are people who absolutely loved it - I can see this really suiting someone like Kathleen from Squidgy Moments.

In saying that, I think the earrings are cute and the plastic pouch is something that will never go to waste - the theme just didn't suit me. I can't fault the contents, they've put serious effort into making sure everything fits in (and again, how the hell did they get it all in the box), and the graphics and designs are beautiful. There's a great mix of stuff, but I think it's on the expensive end of things for £20.

Where I think this comes into its own is as a gift - I can't think of any other company that offer one-off boxes that will fit through a letterbox. If you're willing to take a gamble on the theme, I think this could be a fantastic present for someone, it would really cheer them up. I'm also very tempted to get my name down for the October box as I have a feeling it may be something spooky... but I could be way off! The October boxes will be available from September 23rd.

Do you prefer to know what's in a box in advance, or would you rather it remain a surprise?



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Books I Read in August

Not Sponsored or Paid | ARCs Clearly Defined | Review Policy Here

Hi!

This month started off great, but slowly went into a decline when I went on holiday for a week and only read one book, then I came home and rediscovered Netflix. I watched Stranger Things (loved it so much I might do a post on it) and the first season of Gilmore Girls for about the eleventh time. That guitar man still wrecks my head (Babette comes a close second). Anyway - I've started my Christmas crafting (fellow crafters know that Christmas season begins in August) so that means my reading has to take a back seat, but rest assured I'm still getting through my books before they take over the entire house.

In August, I read 12 books, 1 short story, and abandoned a book for the first time in ages.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

The choices for August were Solar Bones by Mike McCormack and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein.


Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
This was a real treat - fans of Donal Ryan, Eimear McBride, or Sara Baume may enjoy. It's essentially a 200+ page sentence - there are no full stops in here - but it just works. It's about a man, an engineer from Co. Mayo, sitting at his kitchen table reminiscing about key moments in his life. I still don't know how the author managed to cover an entire life without a full stop, but he did, it's beautiful, and it works. There's a little too much info on the back cover for me, but it was still incredibly enjoyable nonetheless, I ached for it when it was over.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein
Ahh, the one I abandoned. I'm all for a bit of discussion on climate change, on what we can do to help and what we can do to ensure that our planet will still exist for future generations, but this book just made me feel like it's too late - capitalism took over, greed took over, money took over, and we destroyed our planet. We haven't met targets, we haven't done enough, and we haven't put the planet first. We're screwed, basically. Every chapter was another example of how screwed we are. I got about half way through and couldn't read it anymore, it was making me miserable (which I suppose is the point, to be fair). A bit too academic for me.

Short Story

Kindle Singles are small eBooks that are very cheap to buy. Most of them are under €1, and there are a huge range available, from essays to classics, novellas and tie-ins. You can check the full range out here.



Guns by Stephen King
King is one of those authors who sucks me in no matter what the subject, so I wanted to see what he thinks of America and guns. It's only a few pages long (25) - it's just an essay on what he believes would improve the current situation. He's a gun owner himself, so he's not proposing an outright ban - but what he says makes a lot of sense. He also talks about the decision to pull the Richard Bachman story Rage from publication.

Owlcrate

I've blogged about Owlcrate before, and in August I received my second book. I also read the book that was sent in the July box.


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Young Adult. A fantasy story about Good v Evil, and two teens who find themselves on opposite ends of the scale. But how do they know that the good side is really good, and who are the evil ones? Enjoyed this, even moreso because a boy and girl were able to work together without the inevitable insta-love clichés.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Young Adult. Pure escapism - a teenage girl writes some song lyrics on her desk at school and is astonished when she sits down the next day and finds a reply - so begins a pen-pal type relationship with a mystery person. It's obvious and it's predictable but it was a lovely escape for a few hours and very sweet.

Young Adult

I tend to read a lot of Young Adult books, especially in the Summer. I decided to give Cassandra Clare a go after enjoying the short story from the Stephanie Perkins collection last month, so I chose The Mortal Instruments series.


City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1 by Cassandra Clare
Enjoyable fantasy tale about a girl named Clary Fray who is dragged into a world of demons, shadowhunters, and vampires. A bit childish in places but enjoyable.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I thought this was a gay story about two teenage boys who find solace in each other - instead it focused on one whiny teenage boy who makes a connection with another but tries to hide it. I understand that this may be something that many teens identify with, but at its core nothing happens. One of the characters is interesting, funny, kind, spirited - unfortunately, he's not the one we hear most from. Disappointing.

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessey
I love seeing Young Adult books by Irish authors, more please! This one is about a girl named Annabel who has died. In order to be granted a request, Annabel must take on a charge - but she gets stuck with an overweight girl. The horror. Annabel had serious issues with food during her life so she assumes that her job is to make the girl lose weight, but as time progresses she realises that she may not be right, and that she may need to face up to a few things. Enjoyable, easy to read.


Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
I saw this sitting by the counter at Charlie Byrne's bookshop on a recent trip to Galway and I had to get it - I hadn't read it in years. It's a charming, heartwarming children's book about a boy named Tom who goes to stay with his Aunt and Uncle for a Summer, and discovers a magical garden that nobody else can see. I adored it and I remembered why I repeatedly borrowed it from the library as a child, it could have actually been one of the first books that ever made me cry!

Trouble by Non Pratt
Hannah is a fifteen year old girl who is popular with boys for the wrong reasons. She has a bad reputation - so nobody is really surprised when she ends up pregnant. New boy Aaron has transferred from his old school but he's hiding something, he agrees to pose as the Dad of Hannah's baby to help her and help him feel like he's doing something worthwhile. I enjoyed this, I liked Hannah's sense of wit and I liked the portrayal of teen pregnancy as awkward and gritty, not glam and attractive.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (Received as an ARC via NetGalley)
The reason I requested this on NetGalley was because I had heard that it drew comparisons with Girl, Interrupted by Susannah Kaysen, one of my favourite books as a teenager. There were similarities, but they're completely different books and deal with somewhat different themes. The main character is struggling with self-harm, and this was graphic and hard to read in places. This took me over a week to read, which is unusual for me. It was only okay, I thought.

Non-Fiction


Fat Chance: My Life in Ups, Downs, and Crisp Sandwiches by Louise McSharry
Louise McSharry is probably best known in Ireland as a radio DJ, and has come to the attention of the media over the past few years after her experience with cancer - this book is all about her childhood, her teen years, her career, her experience with that damn disease, and her life to date. It's a funny, warm, touching memoir and I want Louise to move in with me so we can eat pizza and play with makeup. Her outlook on life is refreshing and her confidence and attitude are inspiring. Loved it.

Harry Potter


Harry Potter and The Cursed Child: Parts I and II by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, & J.K Rowling


And there it is...
Hogwarts. Never seen this view of it before.
Still get a tingle, don't you? When you see it? 

I pre-ordered, like so many others. I even used Address Pal so that it'd get here on publication day. I had a countdown on my diary. I wondered if I should save it until I finished reading the original Potter books but I couldn't help it - I lashed into it.

It's in play format, which is fine, but it completely lacked the magic that J.K Rowling brings with her descriptions. I wasn't keen on the storyline, I wasn't keen on the relationships between the older characters, and I hate what they did to Ron. He was never going to rule the world, but he's practically a parody of himself in this. Massively disappointing, but my expectations on this one were always going to be enormous and I'm not sure if anything would have lived up to what I wanted. It was nice to revisit certain characters but I'm not counting it as part of the series, to me it reads like Fan Fiction.

And that's it!

I'm not sure if September will be a great reading month, but we'll play it by ear (it's the 8th today and I haven't finished one book yet). See you for the October round up!





Thursday, September 1, 2016

Roald Dahl Day is On The Way!

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not a Collaboration 

Hi!

When you ask a bookworm what their favourite Childhood books were, they're bound to mention at least one Roald Dahl book. More than likely Matilda - but the others crop up frequently too. For me, I have three favourites, ones that I borrowed from the library over and over again:


The Witches was the first book that I ever remember getting a bit scared at - mainly due to the Quentin Blake illustrations, it has to be said. That picture, the one where you first see the Witches in their true form - *shudder*.

I loved George's Marvelous Medicine because it was just full of life and fun - here was this mean old lady getting her comeuppance at the hands of a small boy. Glorious! Roald Dahl wrote the best villains.

Matilda - there's not much I can say about it that hasn't been said a thousand times over. Matilda is us. She's the reader, the bookworm, the original book addict. I hold the film version very close to my heart as well, but the book is one I have read inside out dozens and dozens of times, and will read again. It's actually included in the gorgeous Puffin Classics collection (don't Google them, you'll want them all) in hardback form:


Roald Dahl was born on September 13th 1916 - he would have been a hundred years old this year. Every year, the 13th is celebrated as "Roald Dahl Day", but considering this year is a little special, there are huge things happening.


If you go to  www.roalddahl.com/party, you can register (it takes seconds) and get instant access to a free downloadable party pack so you can join in celebrations on September 13th.


I just printed mine off this morning. It's 27 pages but so worth it - there are so many fun things included. There are invitations, placemats, games, puzzles, bunting, party hats, colouring sheets - it's a really lovely little pack.

If you're a teacher, this would be an amazing way to get children excited about reading. Schools can register a class, and at 2pm on the 13th there will be a special webshow from Puffin: Virtually Live. You can register here: http://puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/author/RoaldDahlDay2016 - it looks like it's going to be really good fun, there will be a performance from the cast of Matilda: The Musical, behind the scenes of The BFG movie, learning to draw with Quentin Blake, and lots more. I registered as an individual, so that's an option too if you just want to join in at home.

I'm really looking forward to joining in the fun, which is why I said I'd write a post on it, maybe let your Primary School know that this is happening so that they could get the children involved? Or just join in at home like I'll be doing, re-reading old favourites and raising a glass to a man who made children love books.





Saturday, August 20, 2016

Glossybox August 2016 - Rae Feather Edition

Not Sponsored or Paid | No Samples | Not a Collaboration

Hi!

I wrote about Glossybox recently, and mentioned that I had renewed my subscription for another three months. I think this will be it for me, I've sacrificed a few subscriptions in order to keep getting Owlcrate, and I'm getting to the stage where I have *gasp* enough make-up. I know, I know.

In the meantime, I've three Glossyboxes left to receive, this being the first.

This month marked Glossybox's fifth birthday with a special edition box designed by Rae Feather.

[www.raefeather.com]
I had never heard of this brand before, but a quick look at the designer's website shows that a monogrammed canvas clutch will set you back £170, so presumably it's quite a big deal to have a Rae Feather item in this Glossybox.




Inside, were five items including the exclusive Rae Feather pouch.


We got a pouch in Glossybox before, and I was complaining that it was one of the main items and not an extra - but in fairness it's probably the one thing I've gotten the most use out of from any Glossybox, I use it to store threads whenever I'm doing a cross stitch project. (Also LOL at me in that post from last year "I'm done with subscription boxes" - yeah okay Sharon)

Rae Feather Monogrammed Pochette

Exclusive Item | Not for Sale | Valued at £20/€23

This is a "pochette" apparently - is that just a fancy pouch? Who knows. I have a few canvas pouches but they tend to get grubby when I use them for makeup so I'll probably put this one in the craft drawer along with the plastic one we got last July. 

MUA "Glitter Ball" Eyeshadow Palette

Full Size | £4/€4.62 from muastore.co.uk

We were given the opportunity to choose from four different MUA palettes so that we wouldn't receive one we didn't like. I didn't choose this one at all, but I got an email from Glossybox to say that the one I chose would be in my September box as an extra item. I've said it before, Glossybox have some of the best customer service I've ever come across. I've used MUA eyeshadows before - they're cheap as chips, but they're nice quality. I didn't swatch this because they're not colours I'd use, so I'll be passing it on - but there are hundreds of swatches on Google.

Mudmasky Mud Mask


Mini Size | Worth €23 from www.mudmasky.com 

Or, Mudmasky Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask, to give it it's full title. This is a decent 20ml tube, enough for a couple of applications. I love mud masks so I was delighted to receive this, it's made with Moroccan Clay.

Cowshed Wild Cow Invigorating Body Lotion

Mini Size | Worth £2/€2.30 from http://www.cowshedonline.com

The full 300ml size of this body lotion comes in at a cool £20, so this 30ml sample is worth £2. It's a non-greasy heavily fragranced lotion, with a strong smell of ginger. Apparently there's lemongrass and rosemary in there too, but on me it's just pure ginger. It's warming and relaxing, and I do like it a lot so I'll be saving this for those dark dull days when all you want is a scented candle and a big grey jumper!

Spa to You Deep Pore Facial Cleansing Brush

Full Size | Worth £6.99/€8 from www.spatoyou.com

This is a facial cleansing brush that contains some weird blue jelly type yokes in the middle of the head (silicone cushions, apparently). I've never used any type of cleansing brush before, so this feels a little rough to me, I don't really want to put it near my face. 


So that was it - if you take the value of the pouch as £20, the total value of the August box was £53/€61. I'll use the pouch, body lotion and mask, but I won't use the brush or palette. It was a nice box overall, I know other people seem to be delighted with it.

I'm really excited about the September box, because it will contain a sample of Too Faced Better than Sex mascara - something I've wanted to try for a long time. The September box will be edited by RED magazine's beauty team, so it should be a good one.

Thoughts?