Friday, May 26, 2017

Owlcrate May 2017: Comic Explosion

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

This month's theme was Comic Explosion and promised a range of goodies all related to the comic theme, including a full size Funko Pop figure. I almost skipped this month, but the Funko reeled me back in.



As you can see, I got the Loki Funko. The other options were (going by Instagram) - Harley Quinn, Deadpool, Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, Batman and Captain America. I would have loved Wonder Woman, but my son was delighted to add Loki to his collection.



The book choice this month is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. The cover is exclusive to Owlcrate, as will be the case for the next five boxes (at least). This is a story about a shy teenager named Eliza, who has built another world for herself online. There, she is Lady Constellation, the anonymous creator of a popular online comic. When one of the comic's superfans transfers to Eliza's school and starts to ask questions, she is afraid that everything she has built could now be at risk.

This sounds similar to Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw, which I really enjoyed. Both deal with online alter-egos and fandoms. Eliza also contains some sketches and illustrations from the comic, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

As well as the book, we received a letter from the author, a signed bookplate and an exclusive print.


The merchandise this month was....interesting.

Käfe Premium Coffee Candy
Vile. Just - beyond words. I don't know what on earth possessed whoever chose these to include them - they are coffee candies, they taste like a coffee bean. Put a teaspoon of coffee granules straight into your mouth and you'll have the same taste - just truly bizarre. This is, interestingly, the first edible item I've received since I subscribed last year (apart from flavoured teas). Even to someone who has a coffee intake that could rival a Gilmore - I hated this, truly hated it.

Ooly Comic Attack Pen
One of those cheap multicoloured pens we used to use in primary school. Somewhat handy for journalling, but not an impressive item.

Zipper Pull and Badge, both by Owlcrate
I'm building up a nice collection of badges and pins so badges are always welcome. I love the Owlcrate ones - but the zipper pull is again, a cheap plastic item akin to something you'd get in a lucky bag. I suppose it could be used as a keyring instead.

Wonder Woman Candle by Dio Candle Company
An exclusive mini candle inspired by Wonder Woman and her "tropical island home". This is cute - very small, but smells nice, if you like sweet scents. This will be the last candle for a few months due to the heat and risk of melting.


The last thing in the box apart from the little card explaining everything and the spoiler card for next month (Make it out Alive is the theme for June) was a one-chapter excerpt from an upcoming graphic novel. Afar is about a fifteen year old girl who can astral project to other planets.

Lads, I'll be honest, I adore Owlcrate but I didn't think this box was up to scratch at all. The book, funko and candle were great - but the rest was just cheap tat. Considering I pay almost €50 for this - nope. Allowing €30 for the book and Funko, I paid €20 for a pen, badge, plastic zip pull and a small bag of horribly niche sweets.

The spoiler item for next month is a bath bomb - I don't use them, but my son does so this doesn't put me off too much. I can only hope that this May box was a one-off slip in quality, considering the other boxes I've had - otherwise my love affair with this box will have to end.




Blogger Tricks

Friday, May 19, 2017

How I read so many books

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

No matter how many reviews I post, or how many book related posts I write, someone always asks "but how do you read so many books?". I thought I'd put a post together explaining how I got back into reading (because I really didn't pick up a book for about 4 years at one point) and how I make time for it now.

This is just what I do, it's not a guide, it won't suit everyone. But hopefully, if you're someone who wants to read more, something here might work for you.



  • I set aside some time every day to read.

For me, that time is 9pm-12am at night. For others, it could be an hour at lunchtime or a half hour in the morning. I try to get most of the necessary time consuming house/family stuff out of the way before the kids go to bed, so the three hours before I go to bed are mine to read, craft, or catch up on TV. It's not always three hours, but it will always be something, however small.


  •  I make lists of books I want to read.

It's not always going to work - but if I have a general idea of what I want to read next, it means I don't end up wasting precious reading time browsing books online or sat in front of my bookshelf, overwhelmed with choice.


  •  I turn the TV off.

I use Sky+ to record a few shows - namely Britain's Next Top Model (laugh all you will), Greys Anatomy, GBBO, and a few other bits. Usually I sit down on a Friday or Saturday night and watch a few episodes of Buffy or something I've recorded during the week, but in general I wouldn't watch TV for more than 5 or 6 hours a week unless I'm in a reading slump and have been bewitched by something on Netflix.


  •  I turn my phone off. 

Or at the very least, put it on Flight Mode. I adore the internet, but it's also the biggest waste of time ever invented. I can easily scroll through Facebook for an hour, not learning anything, getting sucked into drama I don't care about. If I click through to a Buzzfeed link, I'm done - I could be awake until 2am doing quizzes to find out what type of pizza I am or who my book boyfriend is.


  • I read at my own pace.

I read fairly fast - not intentionally, it's just how I read. Most of the books I read are between 200-400 pages long, with the odd exception. I read 50-100 pages an hour. That means it usually takes me anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to read an average sized book, which I could do over two nights. Sometimes, it could take me a week - it depends on how much I'm enjoying the book.


  •  I join book clubs.

It's lovely to have a safe space where you can chat about books with other voracious readers without being judged. For me, that space is the Rick O'Shea Book Club on Facebook. It's full to the brim with people who are as enthusiastic about books as I am, and there's always a new recommendation or an interesting discussion happening.


  • I joined in with a Goodreads challenge.

Goodreads is a website for book lovers - you can set a number of books to read for the year and mark them off as you go along. It spurs me on when I see that I'm a book ahead, or a few books behind. You choose the number, whether it be 100 books a year or 10 books a year. It's a great sense of achievement to complete it if you're into challenges.


  • I don't care about numbers.

I always feel a little defensive when people ask "how many books have you read so far this year" or "how many books did you read last month" because it genuinely looks like I do nothing but read - but when you break it down to pages and hours, like I did in point 5, it's not a huge deal for someone who loves reading to read 4 books a week (just like it wouldn't be a huge deal for someone who loves movies to watch 4 movies a week).


  • I have a Kindle.

I haven't actually used it in a while, but I find it great for night-time reading or taking with me if I'll be in a waiting room. I found it a lifesaver when my twins were younger and up during the night - I could read when we did night feeds without having to turn a light on.


That's it, really - there's no big secret to reading a lot. I don't have secret hours stashed away, and I don't have the luxury of reading all day - but I do promise myself those few hours every night, and it definitely keeps me sane!





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Richard & Judy Book Club Spring Review & Summer Picks

Not sponsored or paid | No affiliate links

Hi!

I find the Richard & Judy book club great for book club suggestions or books that will suit all kinds of readers. They usually have a good mix of genres, and this year is no different. There are 24 books chosen every year - the Spring picks were:


   

   

I read five of them. You can click on the covers to go to my Goodreads review.

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
A story about relationships - a couple are having difficulties, mainly due to the father's inability to connect with his son who is on the Autism Spectrum. Through the game of Minecraft, they begin to bond and understand each other. I didn't love this, I felt it verged into twee territory towards the end, but I think fans of US by David Nicholls might love it (I didn't really like that either, and the writing styles were quite similar).

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
A heatwave in England in 1976 makes for a heady, sweltering atmosphere in this novel about two childhood friends investigating the disappearance of a neighbour. Their journey takes them around an estate filled with secrets, cover-ups and lies - I really liked this, it was an easy read and would be a good book club pick.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
I was part of the blog tour when this book was released in paperback earlier this year - so you can read my thoughts in this post. It's a sharp thriller with a great cast of characters - including Lydia, the matriarch obsessed with self preservation. Liz has written a short prequel featuring Lydia - you can read that here.

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton 
A woman has been held captive for eight years, but one day her captor leaves the bolt unlocked...this, naturally, has drawn comparisons with Emma Donohue's (magnificent) book Room. It's only mildly similar - this story begins with the escape, and focuses on the family members affected. I have to say that this one wasn't for me, I didn't enjoy it - but others have given it more positive reviews.

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant
Paul's life is a shambles. In order to save face, he tells a lie one day that spirals, culminating in a group holiday to Greece with some old acquaintances, where something sinister is happening. Paul isn't quite sure who can he trust - and can we, as readers, trust Paul? I really enjoyed this, I read it in one sitting, very addictive and the perfect flight or holiday book.

The ones I didn't get to are:

I'm Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork
A Scandinavian thriller about a murder investigation, the victim a six year old girl.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
A non-fictional account of living with OCD.

The Muse by Jessie Burton
A historical thriller about two women, centuries apart, connected by a painting.

The Summer Picks are:

   

   

Conclave by Robert Harris
The Hunger Games with Cardinals. The Pope is dead - and over 72 hours, 118 Cardinals will battle it out to choose a new one.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
I read an advance copy of this a few months ago and really enjoyed it - it's a psychological thriller about a couple who attend a dinner party next door, only to return and find their baby missing.

I See You by Claire Mackintosh
A psychological thriller about a woman who sees her own photo in the classified section of a paper. This author's first book I Let You Go was one of my favourite reads last year, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen
We meet Tess and Gus in 1997, when they're teenagers. We follow them over the next 16 years, when it becomes apparent that they're destined to be together - the only problem is, they haven't really met each other yet...

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Described as "To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century", this novel explores prejudice and racism when a nurse is held responsible for the death of a baby.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Historical fiction, set in Essex and Victorian London. While a mythical serpent is mentioned, the story is about relationships, people, and love.

The Trespasser by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #6)
Detective Antoinette Conway deals with another difficult case while trying to remain calm in the face of a campaign to force her off the squad. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series so I won't be reading this one just yet.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
A man finds something out about a woman he lost contact with 20 years ago and sets off on a journey of discovery.

You can join in with the Richard & Judy Book Club discussions on their Facebook page.

Several of the book club picks are included in the current Amazon 3 for £10 promotion - Three paperbacks for £10. You can select free delivery to Ireland if you spend more than £25. Which means I always pick three sets of £10s to take it over the limit...


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Degustabox April Review and Taste Test

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

I'm a huge fan of subscription boxes (as you probably know) - there are so many that I want to try. Degustabox is a food and drink box that ships from the UK monthly. I saw a friend post about it on instagram so decided to take advantage of a discount and sign up - I received the April box yesterday. I used Address Pal for delivery to Ireland.


Myself and my three sons (12, 3 and 3) tested almost everything in the box last night, so I'll give you an idea of what we thought! I have to admit this was one of the times I really missed Snapchat, particularly during the chocolate test...

This is what was in the April box, there's an option for either an alcohol or no alcohol box, this is the non alcoholic one.



Doisy & Dam Quinoa, Smoked Tea & Vanilla Organic Milk Chocolate

Me: Really disliked the smoked tea flavour, it tasted really odd - like old farmer smell. Not that I've ever eaten an old.......moving on...
12yo: Said it tasted like the smell of slurry.
3yo #1: Said it was yummy and asked for more.
3yo #2: Also wanted more. 

Polo Mints Sugarfree

Me: They're polo mints. They're fine.
12yo: Mints are mints.
3yo #1: Said they were yucky.
3yo #2: Wanted to eat the whole packet. Did not allow this. 


Seabrook Lattice Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crisps

Me: The pepper was very strong, but texture was brilliant. Really liked these.
12yo: Loved them.
3yo #1: Said they were too spicy.
3yo #2: Licked the bag. 

Whitworths Vanilla Mac-a-Roons (pack of two)

Me: A bit like a softer version of a Bounce ball - nice texture, nice flavour, strong coconut aftertaste.
12yo: Wasn't keen on the taste.
3yo #1: Didn't like them.
3yo #2: Didn't like them.


New York Delhi VIP Nuts - Hot Chilli

Me: Taste lovely at first but then proceeded to burn the mouth off me. Like eating raw cayenne.
12yo: Said they were lovely, finished the bag, they burned the arse off him later that evening. 
3yo #1: Wouldn't allow him to taste, too spicy.
3yo #2: Wouldn't allow him to taste, too spicy.

Nothing But: Strawberry and Banana Snack, Pea and Sweetcorn Snack

Me: The pea & sweetcorn were just like ones from an uncooked pot noodle, the strawberry ones were like the bits in any cereal with red berries. Not my cup of tea but I'd add the savoury to noodles.
12yo: He liked the strawberry ones but didn't like the pea/sweetcorn.
3yo #1: Loved both flavours, especially the sweetcorn.
3yo #2: Also loved both flavours.


Garofalo Penne Ziti Rigate Wholemeal Penne

We haven't tasted this yet, but we only use wholemeal pasta so this was a very welcome addition.

Fentimann's Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water, 500ml

Me: Liked it, would be really refreshing with ice or used as a mixer. Really high in sugar. 
12yo: Really liked it, wanted to finish the bottle.
3yo #1: Hated it, said it was sour.
3yo #2: Said it was "nummy" and probably would've drank the bottle if I let him.


Dorset Cereals Machu Picchu Muesli

Me: Absolutely delicious. Full of nuts, oats, berries and with a slight hint of coffee. Really loved this.
12yo: Also loved it, ate spoonfuls of it straight out of the box.
3yo #1: Really liked it.
3yo #2: Loved it, loved the nuts in it.

Braham & Murray Hemp Seed Hearts

Me: Bland on their own but can see them fitting into baking recipes as they wouldn't affect taste.
12yo: Said they tasted like cardboard.
3yo #1: Wouldn't try them.
3yo #2: Didn't like them.

I liked the box - I'm going to get the May one as well to see what's in it, but I'm not sure if this is something I'll continue long term. I think it's a great way of trying new things and we had good fun tasting everything.

The box usually costs £12.99 a month with free delivery in the UK, but you can get £5 off your first box by using my code SHARONL-91D8 or signing up via this link (disclosure - if two people use this link I get a free box):


If you'd prefer not to use my code, you can sign up here: 


If you want to cancel your subscription after one box, you can do that - as long as you do it before the 9th of the month. Payment is taken on the 11th. 

For delivery to Ireland you can use Address Pal by An Post or Parcel Motel

Is a food subscription box something that would interest you? Also, I'd love to hear about any other non-beauty ones!






Friday, May 5, 2017

Books I Read in April

Not Sponsored or Paid | No Affiliate Links | ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

I didn't read a whole pile in April - mainly due to the recent spate of good weather and the fact that I've been crafting (I made a Giles) and binge watching things at night (Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why, Last Tango in Halifax, The Handmaid's Tale) - but I managed to finish 7 books altogether.

As always, head over to my Books 2017 page to find clickable covers for everything if you want to read my full Goodreads review.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

The April picks were Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin and this:


The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from 'Islamic State' by Samer
Samer is a pseudonym, the author's identity is hidden. This is a short book, but it packs a punch - this man was an ordinary guy, living an ordinary life, going to University, making friends, finding new love. Once. Now? His city is under Daesh rule, people are beheaded for speaking out, his friends are killed in front of him, his life is in danger - he is on the run. This is horrific and should be read by everyone, especially anyone who has ever felt compelled to leave a nasty comment under an article about asylum seekers. The horror they have seen doesn't bear thinking about.

ARCs

I'm still a little behind on my Netgalley reviews, but I finished two in April.

 

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
This is one of those strange psychological thrillers that I read, and know I quite enjoyed, but can not remember. I can't remember one thing about the plot without looking at my notes. Amber is a radio presenter, currently in a coma. She is married, she has been in an accident, and she thinks her husband is up to something. She is also a liar. Twisty, but forgettable - a perfect non-taxing holiday read.

The Stepmother by Claire Seeber
I requested this so long ago that I'd accidentally bought it on Kindle since - it's a modern take on Snow White and the Evil Stepmother trope. I enjoyed this one, it was paced well and all the characters were pretty horrible. The main character's sister breaks the literary equivalent of the fourth wall frequently, talking directly to the reader, which I found unique for this sort of book. It took a bit of getting used to but it worked here. Full of secrets and red herrings, so if you like that kind of thing I'd say you'd enjoy this one.

Series

  

I picked up the Chaos Walking trilogy last year in Charlie Byrne's (my favourite bookshop ever, nestled away in the heart of Galway City) but it only called to me recently. As an aside - does that happen to anyone else? I could be in the middle of one book and something I bought two years ago will jump out and demand to be read. In this case, I was really glad to finally get to this series.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness 
Book One in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Todd Hewitt is a twelve year old boy who lives in Prentisstown. It's not like other towns - firstly, there are no women. None. Secondly - all the men can hear what the others are thinking, due to a "noise germ". Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, due to officially become a man on his thirteenth birthday in a month. Only - something is happening, something big, and Todd needs to get out for his own safety. With the help of an unexpected companion, Todd realises that things in Prentisstown may not be what they seem... I LOVED THIS BOOK. The writing style took a while to get used to, but I really liked it and devoured it over two days.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Book Two carries on right where book one left off - not to spoil anything, but this has a dual POV in slightly different fonts which was handy, because both characters can sound alike at times. The War is coming - but it's not the one they were expecting.... this book was a more serious read, tackling subjects like feminism and genocide, as well as examining truth, conscience and loyalty. This took me longer to get finished, but it was a solid sequel and sets everything up nicely for the last book.

Young Adult


 


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I wanted to watch the series on Netflix so I decided to read the book first - I wrote a post about what I thought of the series, but I really didn't enjoy the book at all. If anything, the series was a huge improvement on a weak story. I don't agree that the series glamourizes suicide - but I think the book did. I wouldn't recommend it.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The second in a series (the first being A Court of Thorns and Roses), this was an excellent sequel. To avoid spoilers I won't go into too much detail - but I'll say that I am firmly on Team Rhysand, and I can not wait until my copy of the third book arrives! This is a young adult fantasy, set in a world of High Kings, Faeries, Magic - all the things I usually avoid like the plague unless they come from the mind of Joss Whedon - but this series is really addictive and enjoyable.

So there you have it - I've added another seven to my yearly total, and hopefully I'll be back next month with an even bigger round up.





Friday, April 21, 2017

Owlcrate April 2017: Head Over Heels

Nothing to Disclose

Hi!

I've mentioned this before, but the thing I love most about Owlcrate is how they look after their International customers. I received my box the day after I received the shipping notification - before the majority of U.S subscribers. It's a small thing, but it means so much when I'm used to having to wait and avoid spoilers from other companies. Much appreciated!

As revealed in last month's post, the theme for April is "Head Over Heels".


The contents were fantastic this month, I loved the variety.



The book this month is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. It's a YA novel about an overweight teenager, a twin, who wishes she had a boyfriend. Now at almost 34 I'm thinking I'm not the target age group for this, but I read an awful lot of YA, I was an overweight teen who wished she had a boyfriend, and as a twin Mum I'm all over anything with twins - so I'm going in with an open mind, hoping it's a light read. Also included are a letter from the author, a signed bookplate, and an emoji sticker.


There's a card print featuring a quote from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (I squealed at this, I read the book recently and adored it) - designed by Evie Bookish. There's a sampler from Umberland by Wendy Spinale, this is book 2 in a series based around a retelling of Peter Pan. There's also the theme reveal for May - the theme will be Comic Explosion, and the item previewed on the back was............a full sized Funko Pop! figure. Can.Not.Wait.


On to the merchandise - this is honestly one of my favourite selections yet. That packet up in the top left is a pack of cherry chocolate tea from The Tea Spot, inspired by Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. The candle is vanilla, from Novelly Yours, and called Park and Eleanor after the novel of the (almost) same name by Rainbow Rowell. The little keyring designed by Bookworm Boutique features a quote from Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda also written by book of the month author Becky Albertalli, and the little badge is an Owlcrate exclusive (there's a badge every month). The final item is a headband from Storiarts with quotes from Pride and Prejudice.

Here are all the books that inspired the contents of the box - click on the covers to go to the Goodreads page for each book.



I'll probably never wear the headband, but the rest of the stuff is right up my alley - flavoured tea, candles, keyrings, quote cards - all some of my favourite bookish merchandise.

I really, really loved this box - more of the same, please!

If you're interested in subscribing to Owlcrate, you can use the code WELCOME15 for 15% off your first order. That's not an affiliate code, I gain nothing from it. If you would like to help me earn a free box, this is my referral link - otherwise go directly to www.owlcrate.com and sign up there. It is expensive, it's just under €50 a month, but I put away €12 every week for it because no matter how many others I try - this is my favourite, I love it, and I look forward to it every single month. There's also a great facebook group for subscribers full of smart, intelligent book lovers of all ages and nationalities, it's a lovely place to chat.

Are you into bookish merchandise? What's your favourite type?