Friday, May 27, 2016

€1 Liquid Lipstick from eBay - Bargain or Bin?

Not Sponsored or Paid


Liquid lipstick has been around for years, but since the rise in popularity of the formula, there are new variations popping up all over the place. One glance at eBay, AliExpress or Wish and you'll see ads tempting you with "Anastasia Beverly Hills", "NYX" or "Lime Crime" - I put those in quotation marks because when buying from those sites, if you're paying a very low price, chances are - they're counterfeit copies. Dangerous counterfeit copies. I've done posts on counterfeit makeup before:

How to Spot Fake Mary Lou-Manizer by The Balm
How to Spot Fake Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette

I'm a hoor for a badly-packaged bargain from the other end of the world, but not when it has the potential to poison me. If buying makeup from China or Hong Kong, I buy the cheap brands available in those countries - their version of MUA or Makeup Revolution, for want of a better description. One such brand are Danimer (other brands you can buy safely are Music Flower, Sugarbox, MeNow, Etude House, Nature Republic, Inisfree, Skinfood, Tony Moly) . The Danimer liquid lipsticks have been the subject of many a YouTube haul video, and they're cheap as chips. I'm guessing they're a private label brand, because they're pretty much the same as the brand MeNow, which you can have a better look at over on Total Makeup Addict.

I bought mine HERE, the day I bought them there was a "Buy Two Get One Free" offer, which made them a huge bargain. I ended up with 7 for under $5, making them around €0.64 each.

The applicator is a standard doe foot. The formula isn't too thick, it's not overly gloopy but it's not runny either, and just enough comes out on the applicator.

Here's a look at the shades:

With the exception of #18 and #13, none of them looked really dry on. Some of them dried matte, others didn't - but they didn't have that stickiness that I remember from the MeNow ones I tried before. I got 3-4 hours out of some of them - #22 in particular is a great long lasting shade.

Overall, would I recommend them? Absolutely. There are some great on-trend mauve shades, I didn't buy them because I have the MeNow ones in the same numbers and thought they'd be the same again. For the price, they're great quality and I'm happy to add them to my stash. They come in some really vibrant colours too - green, orange, purple - I'd definitely add them to my kit if I did more adventurous looks.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Libraries Ireland - How to Borrow eBooks and Audiobooks

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not written in association with any organisation mentioned.


As a child, Friday evening was the best time of the week. After school, I'd go down town in Mohill and head into the library. I'd be allowed pick 6 (or sometimes more) books and devour them over the weekend.

I'm still a library fiend - but sometimes I don't get the time to read physical books as much anymore so it takes me much longer to read, leaving me a bit daunted by the prospect of having to return them within a few weeks. I find it faster and easier to use the Kindle - especially as I can use it at night without disturbing anyone else.

A few months ago I discovered that not only do my library offer a huge range of eBooks to borrow online, but that I can also place requests, automatically renew books, borrow Audiobooks, and access a huge range of magazines.

For the purposes of this post, I'm not going to go through every County in Ireland - just google your County and find out where your local library is - but I'll use my local one as an example to show you what's available. For free. Yep - membership of all public libraries in Ireland is now free. 

Longford County Library

This is the Umbrella for  6 libraries in Longford - Longford Town, Edgeworthstown, Drumlish, Ballymahon, Granard, Lanesborough. You can go in and join any of these libraries for free, then you'll be issued with a library card. Ask for a PIN to be set up on your account so you can access the Longford County Library site online, then you're all set. If you're already a member, just ask for your PIN to be activated. Should you need to, you can reset your PIN here.

eBooks and Audiobooks

Longford County Library uses the BorrowBox app, which is available on iOS and Android. You can install this for free on your Apple or Android device. I ran into a problem trying to get it on my Kindle Fire - but there's a step-by-step guide right here. Once you have the app, you can log in to the online library and start borrowing. Log on to your County Library website and find the eBook section. The online libraries are all on Bolinda Digital - the Longford one is at You're allowed a maximum number of Audiobooks and eBooks at a time (this varies - e.g. Longford allows you to borrow 5 of each, Galway 4 of each). You can borrow instantly and access your content through the app, or you can reserve books that are currently on loan (these count towards your total). You will not be able to borrow anything without a library card and PIN. There are adult, young adult, reference, childrens, cookery - the same selection as you'd get in a physical library. When you click borrow, you'll be given a return date (I think about 3 weeks). Once the date is coming near, you'll get an email to remind you that your time is almost up, then you can either return or renew by clicking the "return" button beside your book or "renew" provided no other member has reserved it.

You can check at the Libraries Ireland homepage here to see if your County library currently offers eBook or Audiobook services. By County library I mean the entire library network in your county - e.g. joining the library in Raheny would give you access to the entire Dublin City online catalogue, joining the library in Granard gives me access to the entire Longford County online catalogue. 


Also available are magazines via Zinio. You can join here - Zinio. You'll need your library card number. Zinio is currently available to members of Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork City, Cork County, Donegal, Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown, Fingal, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick City and County, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, South Dublin, Tipperary, Waterford City & County, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow libraries.

With Zinio, you can download a free app (iPad, iPhone, Kindle HD/HDX, Android) to read magazines offline, or you can read online. Just scroll to the bottom of the page on the site (here) and you'll see the links to download.

There's an enormous range of current and back issues available - everything from All About Soap magazine to Top Gear, Cosmopolitan, Weight Watchers US, Cross Stitcher, Teen Vogue. You can tick a box to receive an email when the next issue is available.


Newspapers are provided online by Proquest. You can find a link to your County here. When you click the link, you'll get this screen:

Enter your library card number to access the site. There's a huge archive of newspapers, magazines and trade journals from all over the world, available to read instantly (1,109 at last look). You can browse through publications or search for something specific.

When you click on a title, you can choose what year, then what month, week, etc you want to look at. The articles will then be shown and you can click through them - e.g. this is an article from the May 20th issue of the North Shore Times (Sydney) about Wi-Fi - you can see that it says "7 of 55" - meaning there are 55 articles to view from that issue. This could be a lovely way to keep up with local news from home if you don't have access to newspapers from where you grew up.

Hopefully this was easy to understand - I would love if more people joined the library and encouraged their children to join too. Books have been a comfort to me throughout every stage of my life, no matter what was going on at the time - so even if you're not a reader it would be such a great thing to introduce your children (or younger relatives) to!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Glasses from Specsavers + Service Review

Not paid or sponsored | Red or Dead glasses purchased using a gift voucher provided by PR company, other glasses purchased by me.


If you follow me on Snapchat [sharonleavy], you may remember a few Fridays ago when I spoke about a very generous gift voucher I had been sent. I was asked if I'd like a voucher to choose a new pair of glasses and because I'm not an eejit, I accepted. The PR company sent me an incredibly generous voucher to go and pick out a pair of glasses, so I did just that. I went to my local branch in Longford.

Because I'm already a Specsavers customer and my eye examinations are up to date, I didn't need an eye test this time. I've visited Specsavers 3 times over the past 6 months, so I thought I'd tell you about all those visits in case you were curious.

Top: Beulah | Middle: Specsavers Sun RX 72 | Bottom: Red or Dead 103

November 2015 - two days before the epic Bridie Brunch, one of the lads snapped the leg off my glasses, meaning that I attended said Brunch with them Jack Duckworth-ed to within an inch of their lives. Despite having attempted to superglue the leg back on and using an acre of black insulation tape to keep the leg on, Specsavers were able to remove the lenses, pop them into a pair of brand new frames, within an hour, for €40.

February 2015 - when I applied for my Learner's Permit, I had to get an eye test. I went to the GP but the form came back to me, so I went to Specsavers for a more in-depth eye exam. The optician (also called Sharon) was lovely, so relaxed and calm, and explained everything as she was doing it. It's non-invasive, and she didn't rush it. I found out that legally, I'm not allowed drive without my glasses (I never would've known that if I had just gone to the GP). I had a Sunday appointment and I was seen at my appointment time. The fee for that was €20.

May 2015 - I rang and explained that I had a gift voucher, and was told that I could just pop in any time because I wasn't due for an eye examination yet. I went in one Friday morning and the girls were really nice. The voucher I received didn't allow any special offers or two-for-one deals, and I was told that the UltraClear lenses would cost €45 on top of the given price of any frames. With this in mind I wanted to stay with the €149 range so I could get the UltraClear lenses too. Specsavers also carry a range of €189 frames (Karl Lagerfeld, Karen Millen, etc). Prices include standard lenses and there are 2 for 1 offers availble. I could also have chosen a pair of sunglasses, but I wanted to pick something for every day instead of something I'd only need for a few weeks out of the year. I spent a few minutes trying on frames but fell in love with the Red or Dead ones the minute I saw them [RedorDead103]. I chose them, and they were sent off to the lab. When I went back in to pick them up, the fit was checked for me and any adjustments would have been made there and then. They fit great and I could most definitely notice a difference between my old lenses and the UltraClear ones. I do seem to need to clean them a lot more but I am removing them several times a day to put sunglasses on, so I'd say that has something to do with it. Fortunately, they came with a case and a great cleaning cloth. I've also used Specsavers lens cleaning spray before and not only is it great for glasses, it's great for smartphone screens and tablet screens too.

Overall I'm happy with Specsavers and the services they provide, and would have especially recommended the Longford branch even if I never had a voucher. Sharon, Denise, Monica, Tanita - everyone I dealt with was very professional and helpful without being pushy. There's little or no waiting for an appointment which is a huge plus for me - if you're told 10am, you won't still be sitting there waiting at 10.15am. If they tell you they'll call you, they'll call you. They cater for PRSI and Medical Card customers too, and they have regular offers - currently there's a €5 eye test promotion running. Keep an eye on for the offers.

Glasses can make such a difference to your face - here's  look at my old ones compared to my new ones. I've always been afraid of larger frames because my face is round, I thought they'd make my face look bigger, but I think the opposite is true - my old ones did nothing for me. In this picture, you can also see the difference with the UltraClear lenses - my old ones reflect the window, the UltraClear ones don't.

Thank you to Ogilvy and Specsavers for my new glasses, I'm delighted with them and very grateful for the opportunity to pick out something just for me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

9 Quick Slimming World Friendly Lunches

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not Affiliated with Slimming World, I am a Paying Member 


Sometimes it's lunches that can undo all the good work during the day - people don't know what to have so they leave it, or they stick to the old reliable soup/sandwich combo. It's really easy to throw a tasty lunch together, each one of these lunches need minimal prep time (a couple of them depend on leftovers) and all can be made in advance and put into tupperware (maybe not the last one).

Lunch #1: Chicken, Salad, and Fruit

I used iceberg lettuce, cucumber, tomato, spring onions, yellow pepper, and pickled onions for the salad. I used a Birds Eye Original Chargrill (3 Syns) because it was quick - I threw it in the Airfryer for 10 minutes (you can oven cook or grill them too). The chicken is lovely hot or cold - you can use whatever you like, a packet of chicken pieces would be great too. Served with strawberries.

Lunch #2: Open Bacon Sandwich with a Fruit Pot
Uses Healthy Extra B 

I make these fruit pots in advance, a sealed box keeps about 4-5 days in the fridge (berries won't keep - I use melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes. The pots are from Dealz). Use your Healthy Extra B for 2 slices of Wholemeal bread (check the app to make sure your brand is listed, this is Brennan's Be Good). Top with brown sauce or extra light mayonnaise, or even mustard (any of those need to be Synned), iceberg lettuce, and leftover lean boiled ham (sometimes I boil a ham on a Sunday for picking at over the next few days).

Lunch #3: Ryvita with Mashed Avocado/Egg with Fruit Salad
Uses Healthy Extra B

For this one, I used 4 Original Ryvita (Healthy Extra B) and topped with 50g mashed avocado (5 Syns). It's entirely up to you if you Syn your Avocado or not - if you're sticking to plan 100%, you need to Syn it due to the high fat content. Some people don't - it's up to you to decide. Personally I'm of the opinion that avocados are not responsible for my obesity and they're too beneficial to omit from my diet so I'll happily use the Syns on them but equally, I'm happy to have one whether I have Syns left or not. I topped that with two eggs mashed with some extra light mayonnaise (synned), spring onion, and served with green tea and a strawberry/pear fruit salad.

Lunch #4: Wholemeal Bagel topped with Lettuce and a Chicken Chargrill
Uses Healthy Extra B

The Wholemeal Bagel Slims (120kcal) from Country Kitchens (Tesco, Dunnes, Super Valu) count as a Healthy Extra B choice. I toasted one, then topped it with some extra light mayonnaise (Synned) and iceberg lettuce,onion, and a Birds Eye Original Chargrill (butterfly and cut in half, 3 Syns). I had this with a couple of easy peeler oranges.

Lunch #5: Egg and Ham Salad with Butternut Squash Soup
Uses half of Healthy Extra A

For the salad I used iceberg lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, beetroot, a few slices of lean ham chopped up (I love Denny Fire & Smoke, it's Syn free), an egg chopped up, and some cheddar cheese cubes - Low Low Cheddar is a Healthy Extra A for 40g, so I used 20g and saved the other half of my HeXA for milk in coffee. I made the Butternut Squash soup in advance using this recipe - it keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days or you can freeze it in portions and defrost the night before, then heat it up when you need it.

Lunch #6: Salmon and Beetroot Salad

This was a very quick post-shopping lunch - I used half a bag of mixed leaves, beetroot, and a fillet of cooked salmon from Lidl (they're in the fridge near the salads, they're Syn free). I added an easy peeler for extra speed. This was ready in seconds and was really tasty.

Lunch #7: Eggy Bagel with Salad and Crunchy Potato
Uses Healthy Extra B and half of Healthy Extra A

I toasted a wholemeal bagel slim (Healthy Extra B) and topped with mashed egg/spring onion and extra light mayonnaise (Synned). The salad is romaine lettuce, beetroot, pickled onions, cherry tomatoes, and 20g grated cheddar (half Healthy Extra A). The potato was left over from dinner the previous night, just spray it with frylight and either throw in Airfryer or fry it off on the pan until golden.

Lunch #8: Leftover Bolognese with Salad and Baked Potato

I topped iceberg lettuce and beetroot with leftover bolognese from the night before. I did the potato in the microwave - 4.5 minutes on high will cook a medium potato. Here's the bolognese recipe, you could make this at the weekend and freeze until needed.

Lunch #9: All-Day Open Breakfast Sandwich
Uses Healthy Extra B

I used two slices of Brennan's Be Good Wholemeal bread (Healthy Extra B), topped with two eggs fried in frylight, and two Mallon's sausages (the gluten free low fat ones are Syn free), cut down the middle. I left the eggs slightly runny so I wouldn't need extra sauce. Served with green tea and chopped melon.

Hopefully this will give you a few new ideas on how to make quick, tasty lunches! If you'd like a similar post for breakfast, dinner, or desserts, just let me know in the comments.

I post most of my food on my Slimming World Instagram account, which you can find here. SharonLeavySW

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Five Favourite Summer Perfumes

Not Sponsored  or Paid | No Samples | No Affiliate Links


Every year, I buy new perfume during the Summer and at Christmas - resulting in a drawer full of half-used fragrances. This year I decided not to buy anything new, and instead shopped my stash for some fresh, clean perfumes that work well at this time of year.

Roberto Cavalli - Paradiso

This was released in February 2015. Cavalli's fragrances are sensual, woody, sexy - this is no exception. This opens with a citrussy Jasmine smell, and fades into a warm pine/wood/slightly spiced smell after a few hours. If you don't like Jasmine, stay away from this - but otherwise, it's a really pretty Summer perfume, perfect for holidays. €47 for 30ml EDP.

Lacoste - Eau de Lacoste

I first blogged about this scent back in 2013 when I received a trial size from a promotional offer. I finally bought the full size at the end of last year, but it smelled awful on me during the Winter - thankfully, now that Summer has come around again, it's working well on my skin - it's a crisp, sharp, fresh, clean fragrance, with notes of pineapple and vanilla. This may be a bit synthetic for some. €28.50 for 30ml EDP.

Roger & Gallet - Fleur de Figuier

This is my second bottle of this fragrance - I love Roger & Gallet as a brand, their scents seem much more authentic than other brands. This is fruity and woody - with notes of fig and fig leaf, grapefruit and a base of cedar and musk. It lasts a few hours on me, this is a great perfume to spray on a light scarf. It's perfect for this time of year and inoffensive enough to be worn daily. This is also available in EDP form but I've never tried it. €19.90 for 30ml

Jo Malone - Wood Sage & Sea Salt

This was my absolute favourite scent of last Summer and I had to stop using it around August just so I'd have some left for this year. It's exactly what it says on the tin - wood sage, sea salt. It's a really fresh marine type scent, very daytime friendly, not heavy, lasts for hours, and dries down to a very warm, comforting smell. It's gorgeous. The downside is the price - but if I get two Summers out of one 30ml bottle, I'm a happy bunny. €52 for 30ml Cologne.

Elie Saab - L'Eau Couture

I received a tiny sample of this in a Beauty Box last year, and sought out the full size on eBay. It's another fresh Spring scent, with notes of almond, vanilla and orange. It's soft, floral, and there's definitely patchouli in there somewhere. It's one of the longest lasting fragrances I own and it's perfect for this time of year. €43 for 30ml EDT.

What perfume are you wearing at the moment?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Recent Penneys Buys and Wishlist

Not sponsored or paid


Over the past month or so I've picked up a few bits in Penneys, so I thought I'd show you what's in store at the minute. I also spotted a few things I want to get, so I popped those in too.

Pastel Checked Throw €4 | Paisley Double Duvet/Pillowcase Set €20 | Fluffy Cushion €4
The pastel throw is gorgeous, it suits Irish weather perfectly because it's bright and fresh, yet warm and cosy. The cushion was a steal at €4, and the paisley duvet/pillowcase set is a great way to change the look of your bed without spending a fortune - here's a more detailed image of the set:

Image [Primark]

Moroccan Amber Candle, €3 | Clear Toiletry Bag, €3 | Flat Foundation Brush, €2.50 | Necklace, €6 | Initial Necklaces, €2
The moroccan amber scent on the candle is lovely - but it's no Yankee. You can't smell it throughout the house (or even the room) when it's lit but it is a lovely pleasing smell. I got the little clear bag because we're going to a wedding soon and I wanted something small to pop mini toiletries in, this is rose gold with polka dots and it's the perfect size. The flat foundation brush is fantastic for applying face masks, the necklace was for my son's Confirmation, and the little initial necklaces are really cute - I've been asked about them a few times and nobody could believe they were only €2 each. I got E, D, and S (my boys' initials).

Notebooks, €3 each
Y'all know I'm a sucker for a good notebook, I'm currently using the Frozen one as a food diary, I haven't decided what to use the other one yet. I was thinking about doing a post featuring all my notebooks, is that something people would be interested in?

T-Shirts, €1.90 each
€1.90 each

These t-shirts are for the twins, they were just €1.90 each - an absolute bargain. I think Penneys have improved of late for their children's clothes - the sizes seem to be more generous with this range too. The t-shirts go from 2-3 right up to teenage sizes, so they're really handy for holidays or for Summer until they get demoted to pyjamas.

T-Shirt, €6 | Plate/Bowl/Cup set, €4
I got both of these Star Wars items for my older (by two minutes) twin Edward, who is Star Wars obsessed. No idea why, none of the rest of us like it, but he's just Star Wars mad. The t-shirt was €6, but they have others in store at the minute with the Star Wars logo for €4.50, they also have shorts. The plate/bowl/cup I thought was fantastic, it was great value at €4 and he loves using them. They do this set with Mickey/Minnie mouse too.

Superman Cap, €5
The last things I bought were this Superman cap, €5 and one featuring Spiderman. They were a fiver each but unfortunately they're a little big on my boys - they'd be a much better fit on a 3-4 year old. I've put them away for next year.

Now for the fun part! My current Penneys wishlist looks a bit like this:

The striped canvas pumps are €4 and I think they'd be lovely for Summer with jeans or shorts.
The grey lightweight wrap knit is €14 and I love that it's long, so I will more than likely get this.
The Hogwarts shoe liners are €3 for the set of 3 and I've been searching for them but can't find them :(
The round necklace is €4 and I think it'd look gorgeous with that jumper.
The earrings are €4 and I also think they'd look gorgeous with the jumper, or to fancy up a plain dress.
The notebooks are €3 (pink) and €3.50 (Tokidoki) - notebook fiend, right here.
The sports socks are €3.50 for the 5 pairs, I love these with Skechers (incidentally - the Penneys Skechers knock-offs? MILES BETTER than the originals).
The to-do list and pen is €1.50. I do love a good list.
The toasted marshmallow candle is €4 and I've a sneaky suspicion that it may be close to my all time favourite Yankee, Fireside Treats.....

So there we go. Were I to go instore tomorrow and pick up that little lot, it'd set me back €44.50.

Carefree me says "do it!" (Reckless me says invent an excuse to go over this minute and do it), alas responsible me says "you do not need any more crap" and she is right. Except for that jumper. And the candle. And the to-do list. And one of the notebooks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Books I Read in April

Not Sponsored or Paid, ARCs clearly defined.


Please excuse my recent absence - a combination of incredibly poor wifi, lack of inspiration, several handcrafted presents to make and a possibly insane decision to rewatch both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed from the beginning have all meant that blogging time has been non-existent lately. But much like Arnie and Eminem, I'm back (back again), and I'll be sticking around.

I've been reading at night in bed, mostly, but a weekend-long book binge at the start of the month meant that I got to add another 16 to my yearly total.

YA = Young Adult, A= Adult.

Library Books
As is always the case with the library, I got excited, overborrowed, and several of them were returned before I got round to them - but here are the ones I finished:

Dare Me by Megan Abbot (YA)
Addy and her cheerleading squad are getting on just fine until the arrival of a new coach. Colette French immediately throws the girls into a strenuous routine, proving that cheering is more than shaking your pom-poms - the girls are exhausted. They're pushed to improve their physical appearance and stamina, but there are dark secrets here - ones that could destroy lives if revealed.

This is no Bring it On. This is hardcore, bitchy, girls stabbing each other in the back, secrets, lies, obsession - I think I gave it 2/5, it just didn't suck me in.

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbo (A)
This is the first Jo Nesbo book I've picked up. It's also my first ever foray into the much loved genre of Scandinavian crime. A mother has disappeared, and there's a sinister snowman found at the scene. As Detective Harry Hole is put on the case, it happens again and again - and always when the first snow falls. It's up to Harry and his colleagues to find out who the Snowman is and stop him before he kills again.

This was well written, I had no issues with the story or plot, but it felt much, much longer than the 383 pages Goodreads says it is. I liked Harry Hole as a character and will read more.

Triptych (Will Trent #1) by Karin Slaughter (A)
I decided to go back to the start of the Will Trent series and read them all in order. In this first book of the series, Atlanta police detective Michael Ormewood is put on the case of a prostitute who has been violently murdered. Special Agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is called in to lend a hand. Meanwhile, we get an arc about a man who spent time in prison for the murder of a young girl. His recent release makes him prime suspect #1.

When this starts to click, my god is it good. Karin Slaughter is a master of her craft, she just knows how to suck people in and grab them by the gut. Really well written, and thoroughly enjoyable - not perfect, but a solid 4/5.

Review Copies

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA) Published 2 June (Kindle) 9 June (Paperback)
I requested this on Netgalley. This is about teenager Timothy Mason, a High School dropout and recovering alcoholic. His friend Jason Garrett lets Tim stay in the family garage when Tim's father gives him a limit of a few months to turn his life around before he is cut off. Tim has history with Jason's sister Alice, who has issues of her own. When an old flame of Tim's turns up unannounced, it means complications for everyone.

This really dragged for me, I didn't find Alice or Tim particularly likeable and I wasn't rooting for them. I didn't like how dismissive Tim was of his "ex", nor did I like how judgemental he was about others. I just didn't enjoy it - but I'm in the minority going by Goodreads reviews so if you like Contemporary YA, give it a go.

Would you believe that at almost 33 years old I had never listened to an audiobook before? I took the plunge this month and found it a fantastic way of getting another book in over a few days while cooking or cleaning.

Spectacles by Sue Perkins (A)
If you're of a certain vintage you'll remember Sue from Naked Lunch, but she's obviously better known for her role on The Great British Bake Off. This is her autobiography, and the audiobook was read by Sue. She tells her story in a warm, friendly way - she's naturally very funny and makes even the most mundane experiences sound hilarious. Parts of it are also very touching. If you like her at all I'd highly recommend this and I'd recommend you listen to it as opposed to read it.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (A)
Ye gads. This was supposed to be a story about a woman who had a couple of really bad experiences (a loss, a marriage breakdown) and found herself again while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Instead, it's a choppy, far-fetched tale of a woman doing a bit of hiking, a lot of bragging, and a lot of shagging. At one point I went off into another room to get something and my husband came in asking me why I was listening to porn in front of the kids. Seriously. The narrator grated on me and the book was irritated me and I didn't like it, I also didn't think Cheryl "found herself" at all.

Short Stories

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
A short story written by Rowell for World Book Day. Elena is Star Wars obsessed - so much so that she's never even seen the prequels (it's okay I promise it makes sense). She joins a line outside the cinema for the showing of the newest movie, hoping for lots of instagram-worthy crowd shots, but instead is met by just two people - one of whom will teach her about acceptance and being true to yourself. This was alright, it was a quick read, a nice palate cleanser in between people chopping each other up.

Sweet Home by Carys Bray (A)
A collection of 17 short stories all based on the themes of parenting and/or family. This was a real surprise for me - gloriously odd and quirky in places, desperately sad and upsetting in others. This veers into very dark territory more than once, so it's not for the faint hearted, but it's well worth a read. Stand-outs include the fantasy "The Ice Baby", in which a man carves a baby from ice for his wife, "The Countdown", about a man worrying about his first child, and "Love: Terms and Conditions" about a woman who vows to not repeat the mistakes made by her parents. Highly recommended.

The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett (A)
TV/film writer/actor Alan Benentt tells the tale of the old lady who lived in his garden for 15 years in a series of ratty old vans during the 1970s/1980s. This is the short story of how they tolerated each other and of the delicious eccentricities of Miss Shephard. It's not some saccharin sweet tale - but it's witty and funny and an interesting look at one of those real characters we don't come across too often anymore.

Young Adult

I read a couple of other YA books in April, most had been sitting on my kindle for a very long time - I find it a great genre to get me out of a reading slump.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
Eleanor and Park are very different - she marches to the beat of her own drum, but her flaming red hair and "interesting" style hide a lot of insecurities. He has a happy home life, but does he really know who he is? This is set in the 80s against a backdrop of the best music, over one school year. I didn't love it - it was okay for me, I found Eleanor's home life very upsetting to read about - but I know that others adore the book and the couple. It's being made into a film, one I'd definitely watch.

Every Day by David Levithan (YA)
Every day, A wakes up in a different body. Sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, always a different person and never more than 24 hours. A can't  (or shouldn't) change or meddle, they are just a visitor - until A meets Rhiannon and feels an instant connection. Suddenly, everything A does is about Rhiannon - and if someone were to find out what's going on, A would be in serious danger.

Despite the insta love I enjoyed this, I liked that A was neither male or female, it was a great idea, and I'm a fan of body-switching things anyway. I didn't like that the angle of the Reverend wasn't fully explored, there seemed to be a story there that just dropped off. Overall a good read, there are prequels and sort-of sequels but I wouldn't bother with them. This was solid as a standalone.

Monster by C.J Skuse (YA)
Bathory is an exclusive Boarding School for girls. Not unlike Hogwarts, there are 4 houses in this big school full of secrets. Out in the middle of nowhere, Natasha (Nash) finds her battle to be Head Girl the least of her worries when her beloved brother Sebastian is reported missing. Add to that a mythical beast that may not be so mythical, some creepy rumours of murders, and a snowstorm that means some of the girls are stranded at Bathory, and you have an atmospheric teenage whodunnit with an element of dark humour that was really enjoyable in a kinda "Point Horror v2.0" way. I seriously laughed my arse off at the last name of the teacher, Slash fans will get it instantly. Great fun, recommended.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (YA)
David and Rachel are no strangers to working with each other - this is one in a number of books they've co-written ( see also: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Naomi and Ely's No-Kiss List). Nick is playing with his band when his ex Tris walks in with another boy. To avoid looking like a loser in front of Tris, Nick turns to the nearest girl and asks her to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. The girl turns out to be super cool Manic Pixie Dream Girl Norah. What ensues is a night of debauchery in Manhattan, with Nick and Norah learning about each other. I have written "boring as f*ck" in my notes for this one, and I can't remember much about it, except a feeling of utter boredom and annoyance at the use of slang.

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw (YA)
Scarlett is a proud member of the Lycanthrope High fandom - it's her favourite TV show and she is fully immersed in online forums devoted to it. When it is cancelled, Scarlett begins to write fan fiction but draws (a little too heavily) on those she knows in reality - her crush Gideon, his evil girlfriend Ashley, and her friend Avery. If anyone were to read Scarlett's online ramblings they'd find out exactly what she thought of those people but that's not likely to happen...........right? Scarlett's elderly neighbour Ruth is a brilliant character too, and it's nice to see the dynamic between the two generations.

This was witty (you can tell the author is well acquainted with the Whedonverse), warm, funny, and Scarlett was a really great main character. A fantastic debut and I'd happily recommend this to anyone looking for a new YA book to read.

Other Fiction

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward (A)
Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins were 8 years old when they were kidnapped. Rachel got away - Sophie didn't. Roll on to the present day when Rachel is now a family historian, still living in her home village of Bampton. Sophie's mother unexpectedly takes her own life - leading the local police to re-examine the original case. This was okay - it had a bit of a Happy Valley vibe but there were unnecessary elements (the nervous Groom) and we didn't need to be told repeatedly that Rachel, as a size 14, was heavy/thick/overweight/large etc. I could see this being a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, it's the type of book I'd recommend for a bit of midweek reading but it won't be one that will stay with you - I'd put it on the same shelf as The Bones of You by Debbie Howells or Beside Myself by Ann Morgan so if you enjoyed either of those, give this a go.

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as Unknown) (A or YA)
This is a classic - the story of a teenager named Alice who goes to a party, takes drugs, and begins a downward spiral resulting in the destruction of her life. Originally marketed as a diary, a true story, this was later revealed to be the fictional work of Mormon Youth Counsellor Beatrice Sparks, who also fabricated other supposedly true stories. This is really boring to read - everything is great! great! great! and it's obviously not written by a teenager. This is it in two lines:

"Wheel of morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn"
Don't ever try drugs, you will die.

I can imagine it was shocking at the time and it's worth a read even just to say you've read it - but it's beyond boring.

That's it! Hopefully you'll find something interesting to read, favourites this month were Sweet Home, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here and Spectacles.

At this point I'd also like to give a shout out to a new Irish book blog started by Sara from Where is My Mind Gone? - it's called Not Another Book Blogger and you can find the blog here, the facebook here, and the instagram here. It's always a great thing to see more book blogs, especially Irish based ones - the online book community is huge and in general one of the nicer communities to be a part of.

As always, I'm a glutton for punishment and my TBR pile won't be big enough until it needs its own entry on the Register of Electors, so hit me with your recommendations in the comments.