Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Owlcrate Unboxing October 2016

Not Paid or Sponsored | Not a Collaboration

Hi!

This is now my fourth Owlcrate - it's a subscription box from America that ships monthly, and contains a hardback YA (Young Adult) book plus a ton of other bookish gifts. It's expensive, but after my first three month subscription ran out, I had no qualms in cancelling all my other subs (bar Netflix) to keep this one.

The theme this month was Once Upon a Dream. 



I have to admit, I wasn't as impressed with this box as I have been with other months. I think the main thing that took the shine off it was that I already have the book - I requested it as an ARC a few months ago after reading a sample chapter in one of the Buzz Books collections. I hadn't read it - but it was still just a little bit "oh" when I saw it.


I really like that there's a signed bookplate included every month, and a letter from the author. It makes the experience that little bit more special, I always stick the bookplates inside the front covers so they're like signed copies. There was also a tattoo this month. This particular book is a modern day fairytale set in Brooklyn, based on a Russian folktale (Vassalissa the Beautiful). It's about a young girl named Vassa who has to break a curse with the help of her talking wooden doll...



Next up this month were two wearable items - an oversized beanie hat from Whosits & Whatsits. The red feather represents Peter Pan, which I thought was pretty clever. I'm not a hat person at all, because I find them restrictive, so oversized is great and I will probably wear this walking. The bracelet is by The Geeky Cauldron (amazing name) and is based on Sleeping Beauty, with the little spinning wheel. I won't wear this, but it's a cute item and it's exclusive to this box.


Finally, we had a bookmark promoting a dystopian series, a fabric paperclip bookmark by My Heart My Tribe, an Owlcrate badge, and a "Passport to Oz" mini travel notebook by The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild.

That was it! I don't know, I think we were so spoiled last month, it was always going to be hard to live up to that epic September box.

The theme for November was revealed via a beautifully illustrated spoiler card:


I really dislike Alice in Wonderland and everything related to it. It gives me the creeps. I actually considered putting my subscription on hold and skipping the November box (for all of about ten seconds), but I know that the people at Owlcrate are really creative with their themes, so it's unlikely that it will be a complete Alice tribute box. Hopefully!

If you'd like to sign up to Owlcrate you can use the code WELCOME15 for 15% off.





Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ali Express: FAQ and Products

Not Sponsored | No Samples | Not a Collaboration

Prices listed are correct at time of publication.

Hi!

Every time I mention Ali Express I get a ton of questions, so I thought the handiest way to talk about it was on here, in a post that I can direct people to. I'll divide it up so it's easier to follow.

What is Ali Express?
It's a selling website like eBay - but it's all mainly sellers from China/Japan.

Is it safe to use?
Like any site, there are risks - I have bought several times with no problems, but I can't guarantee that it's 100% safe (no more than I could any other website). If you'd feel safer, get a prepaid credit card and use that - 3 Money do one. I will say, I find more peace of mind doing one big transaction rather than several small ones.

What kind of things do they sell?
You name it, they have it. They've got tablets, phones, clothes, toys, jewellery, gadgets - everything.

Makeup? Cool!
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Do NOT buy makeup from Ali Express. It is fake, it will burn the eyes out of your head. Korean brands? Probably okay (Sugarbox, Etude House, Tony Moly, Music Flower - all a safe enough bet). Kylie Jenner, Urban Decay, Too Faced, The Balm, MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills? NOOOOOOOOOO. Believe me, if something is sold out over here, there ain't 1000 of them sitting over in a warehouse in China for €2 a pop. Okay?

How do I use it?
Log on to www.aliexpress.com or for better value, download the app. Just search "Ali Express" in your app store.

Isn't it just for wholesale?
Nope, it's open to anyone. There are offers for people who buy in bulk, but you can buy single items from the majority of sellers.

How long does the stuff take to arrive?
Between 4 and 6 weeks - but sometimes 7, and sometimes 2. If you're interested in Christmas stuff I'd get going ASAP, forget about Halloween, it will not arrive in time.

What happens if it doesn't arrive?
Any sellers I've dealt with have been very helpful and have refunded me or offered to resend the items, often they'll throw in a discount too.

So what's good? 
Get a cup of tea.

*MAKEUP BRUSHES*

Their generic makeup brushes are pretty good. I've got a few:


* The top one is €1.00 and available here: Pro Face Oval Makeup Brush.
* I can't find the middle one but a search for "Kabuki Brush" throws up loads of similar ones (make sure they're not fake MAC or Real Techniques).
* The bottom one is €2.95 and available here: Big Makeup Brush.

Two other great brands of makeup brush to search for are Jessup and Ducare. I've used both and they're every bit as good as any expensive one I've tried.

*LIQUID LIPSTICKS*


The liquid lipsticks are excellent - similar to the NYX matte lip creams, but some have better staying power. I've a full review in this post: €1 Liquid Lipstick: Bargain or Bin? If you search for "Danimer Lip" on the site, you'll get loads of results, they're nice lipsticks.



*CHILDRENS CLOTHES*
This is hit and miss, and sizes can be funny, but there are a few gems if you know what you're looking for.

*The character hoodies are lovely - stuff you wouldn't really see here. They're very light, so they're not going to provide much warmth, but they're great for over a top or jumper. My twins are still in size 2-3 tops and I went for the size 3T - they fit great.

They were just over €8 from this seller: Mon Love Baby.


*The 3-piece Mickey Mouse set is really lovely, it's equal to Penneys or H&M in quality. I wanted this for a very young baby to grow into, so I got it in size 12m and I'd say it's equal to a 6-12m from Penneys. Plus, the hoody has ears!!

The 3-piece set was €8.17 from this seller - Lokedike Official Store. It's now €12.64 so keep an eye out for a price drop.


* It may be a little too late to order Halloween costumes for this year, but just for future reference, this is a Spiderman one I got. In terms of quality it's not perfect - there are loose threads (as seen in pic on the ends of the sleeves) and it's very, very light but it's big enough to fit over clothes and it does the job for a three year old.

I got it in size Small and it fits a 3 year old over his clothes. It was €4.72 from this seller: Anime Lover.


*ARTS AND CRAFTS*

The site has a ton of stickers, pens, planners, notebooks - I've ordered a fair bit of stuff in this category but a lot of it hasn't arrived yet, I'll update when it comes.

* I got this chocolate notebook as a fun stocking filler for a chocolate lover, it cost €2.48 from this seller: Jing Lu Trade Co., Ltd. It has blank pages inside (no lines).


* Adult Colouring Books - this set of four are softcovers with lots of different patterns. Pages are quite thin so I don't know if markers would bleed through to the other side - they're probably better used with colouring pencils. The set of 4 cost €5.27 from this seller: Fantasy Stationery. I don't think these were worth the money.


* Scratch Art Night Scene - these are available with different City pictures on them, I chose the Las Vegas one. I think they're a nice alternative to colouring. This cost €5.67 from this seller: wei ling.


* These fineliner pens are a great buy if you're a fan of the more expensive brands of fineliner pens (Stabilo in particular) - they're good quality, vibrant, and €5.36 for a set of 24 from this seller: Very7good Technology Co., Ltd.


*There are great sticker sets available, anything from single stickers up to 100 or 200. I chose a pack of 50 because the kids like stickers - I was lucky enough to get a couple of Star Wars one in my pack so one of the lads will be delighted. There were a few weird inclusions (grilled chicken, anyone) but overall the quality was good and they'll make nice stocking fillers. There are different themes available (including Pokemon). The pack of 50 cost €2.27 from this seller: LM E-Commerce Co., Ltd.


* I love Christmas cookie cutters, I know you can probably get them anywhere now, but I wanted a snowflake one specifically to make "Anna cookies" (Frozen fans). This is a lovely size, just smaller than a standard digestive biscuit. This cost €1.32 from this seller: Mszhu.


*JEWELLERY*

I've bought lots of bits before with varying success - this snowflake necklace is one of my all-time favourite Christmas items, I couldn't find it for the picture but you can have a look here:

Snowflake Necklace


* This necklace is so pretty, the picture doesn't do it justice. It cost €2.55 from this seller: most beautiful bride.



*TOYS*

I suspect this is why most of you are here - the Ali Express lego. I've seen two brands, "S World" and "Bela". I've bought both and they're always good quality, they fit with proper Lego, and the kids never know the difference.

* The minifigure sets are great value. I know some sellers include the box for an extra fee, but I don't think it's worth it. They come in loose bags, and you have to put them together. My favourite seller is fairly fast - both sets of 8 that I ordered cost €5.70 per set (they've gone up a few cent, keep an eye out for offers) from this seller: 5A Toys Top Service Provider. The one thing I would mention is that bizarrely, most of the figures seem to come equipped with some kind of gun or pistol no matter what series they are.



* I picked up this Minecraft style cushion for my eldest, it's nice quality, soft, and looks good. It was €9.70 (gone up over €10 now so watch for a price drop) from this seller: BTL'store. It's a standard cushion size, like the ones in Penneys.


* I got these Peppa and George plush toys for my lads last year - ours are missing clothes and a bit grubby at the moment so excuse the stock images, but they're really great quality. They're about the height of a sports water bottle, and they wash really well in the washing machine. They cost €3.15 from this seller: Dream factory store.


Any toys I've bought have been great quality - they do loads of dolls, characters, teddies, vehicles. If anyone likes Tsum Tsums, they do 10 packs for a tenner.

Hopefully this will help make it a bit clearer, it can be overwhelming when you log on to something like Ali and don't know where to start!

If you'd like to know anything and I've left it out, just pop it in the comments and I'll reply as soon as I can.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Books I Read in September

Not Sponsored | ARCs Clearly Defined | Review Policy Here

Hi!

If I could use one word to describe my reading in September, it would be...........Netflix. It completely took over, I got sucked in, and it destroyed my reading time. This tends to happen around this time of the year, because I do a lot of crafting for Christmas, so it's easier to watch TV and craft than it is to read and craft, plus there's really nothing on telly apart from GBBO, so..Netflix.

I finished six books in September, and thankfully, there wasn't a dud in the pile.

Review Copies


Flabyrinth by Jules Coll
I was very kindly sent a copy of this book by Jules, an Irish TV Producer. She has lost over nine stone - this is her story, focusing on her relationships with food and on finding herself and the courage to lose weight. It's a really warm, witty read, full of great Irish humour and brilliant stories (the whole Susan Boyle lookalike thing just made me smile so much). It's a lovely read, and made me want to be best friends with Jules. She has completely changed her life and her attitudes - she's a very inspirational lady to follow.

Roald Dahl Day


Matilda by Roald Dahl
In honour of Roald Dahl Day, I re-read one of my favourite Dahl books. I bought this new Puffin Classics clothbound edition recently and I love it - would you believe I've never owned a copy, I always borrowed mine from the library. I highly doubt there are many people who haven't read this - but just in case, it's the story of little Matilda Wormwood, a bookworm born into a family of TV addicts. Matilda longs to read, to learn, but having a pretty horrible family combined with a dragon Headmistress doesn't bode well for her. Until she meets her new teacher, Miss Honey, who discovers that Matilda might have something very special about her. A gorgeous book and one to pass on to the next generation.

Young Adult
I'm going to Deptcon2 in a few weeks' time, so I'm mostly reading YA at the minute to prepare for that - I read two YA books in September.


The Graces by Laure Eve
The Graces are an enigmatic and beautiful family. River is obsessed with them - she wants to befriend them, to find out their secrets, to become one of them. But what if she got her wish - would it be everything she wanted, or would it show her that the Graces really aren't what they seem? This has been likened to The Craft, and I can definitely see the similarities, but for me it was a little younger than that. Not a bad thing by any means - I enjoyed it - but I really feel like the next book will go a lot darker and I'm looking forward to that.


November 9 by Colleen Hoover
This is about two 18 year olds who meet one year on November 9. There's an instant attraction - but for various reasons, they decide not to pursue a relationship. Instead, they won't have any contact with each other except a meeting every year on November 9 and after 5 years if they still feel the same, they'll be together. It sounds like a ridiculous premise in the age of Social Media to just not even want to find out more about someone (I'd have been on Facebook like a big creep within 5 minutes of the first meeting), but it's actually a pretty emotional book in places and has some really great build-up scenes. Quite hot in parts, if you catch me. I was imagining the male lead as Pacey Witter circa his heyday and it made quite the page turner...

Other Fiction


The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
12 people have been chosen as contestants in a Survivor style reality TV show. But a few days into filming, something goes drastically wrong. How do you survive when you don't know you're the last one left? This was so clever, I loved how it was a mix of the show, the present day account of the last one left, and the message boards online describing what people at home thought. A great ending, a great premise, reminded me of Bird Box by Josh Malerman.


All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
Over the past few years, Donal Ryan has become my favourite Irish author. He's one of a very few authors who could sell me his shopping list - I'd be happy to read anything the man wrote. In this, his third novel, we meet Melody Shee, an ordinary woman in her thirties from rural Ireland who is pregnant. But her husband is not the father. We follow Melody through her pregnancy, and we learn about a nearby travelling community and how they impact on Melody's life. Excellent - some have said his best yet. I'll respectfully disagree and say that The Thing About December is a hard one to top - but as always, you can't go wrong with Donal's writing, it's magic.

And that's it! This feels like a tiny little post this month, and I suspect October may be the same, but I'm going to make a real effort to read more over October, it's always been one of my favourite reading months for horror/dark themes.

As always, you can check out my BOOKS 2016 page for clickable covers and links to full Goodreads reviews.