Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Great Big Book Round Up of 2015

Not Sponsored/No Samples. 14 out of 150 books were Advance Copies requested on Netgalley.


I hope this isn't too long, but I wanted to fit everything in one big post - except my "Books I Read in December" post, that'll come in January because it's still December, and, well....I'm still reading. So that's on the way! So far I'm on my 151st book of the year.

I've broken this down into sections, and I'll try my best not to waffle! I'm not going into individual reviews here, if you go to my Books 2015 page you'll see a clickable book cover for every book I've read in 2015, that will take you to my Goodreads review for that book.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club
This is a Facebook based book club, you can request to join here. It's a lovely group for book lovers, there's no snobbery or fighting, everyone respects the reading choices of others. Started by 2fm DJ Rick O'Shea, the book club is now going into its 18th month, with 32 books chosen so far. Of the 25 chosen in 2015, I read 18 (I had already read Only Ever Yours and attempted The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August in 2014). I finished all 18 except The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks. I have most or all of the other choices bought, so I'm looking forward to reading them in 2016.

Out of all the Book Club choices, I think Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was definitely my favourite. It was atmospheric, it was sad, it was beautiful, and it stayed with me. Surprisingly, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick pops into my head every so often too, and it's something I would never have read of my own accord. 

The Richard and Judy Book Club

This was less successful for me - out of 24 books, I bought almost all of them but only read 6. It souns much more impressive if I say I read a quarter of all the books chosen, doesn't it? Here are the ones I read:

I Let You Go was by far the best thriller I read in 2015. It was just fantastic, I haven't gasped out loud at a book in a very long time but this one made me do so several times. Fantastic. 

The Popsugar Reading Challenge
I did it!! I completed the challenge on December 28th by reading a Graphic Novel. Here are the books I read for it. The prompts for the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2016 have been released, you can find the list here.

A BOOK WITH MORE THAN 500 PAGES: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
A CLASSIC ROMANCE: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (yes it is a classic. IT IS.)
A BOOK PUBLISHED THIS YEAR: I Was Here by Gayle Forman
A BOOK WITH A NUMBER IN THE TITLE: The Number 8 by Joel Arcanjo
A BOOK WRITTEN BY SOMEONE UNDER 30: Popular by Maya Von Wagonen
A BOOK WITH NON-HUMAN CHARACTERS: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johann Harstad
A FUNNY BOOK: Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris
A BOOK BY A FEMALE AUTHOR: Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither by Sara Baume
A MYSTERY OR THRILLER: The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

A BOOK WITH A ONE-WORD TITLE: Room by Emma Donoghue
A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES: Ghost Stories by M.R. James
A NON-FICTION BOOK: Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes
A POPULAR AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
A BOOK A FRIEND RECOMMENDED: So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
A PULITZER-PRIZE WINNING BOOK: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A BOOK BASED ON A TRUE STORY: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
A BOOK AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR TBR LIST: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

A BOOK YOUR MUM LOVES: The Secret Island by Enid Blyton
A BOOK THAT SCARED YOU: The Book of You by Claire Kendal
A BOOK MORE THAN 100 YEARS OLD: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A BOOK BASED ENTIRELY ON ITS COVER: The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson
A MEMOIR: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton
A BOOK YOU CAN FINISH IN A DAY: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
A BOOK WITH ANTONYMS IN THE TITLE: Together Apart by Natalie Martin
A BOOK THAT CAME OUT THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN: Sweet Valley High #01: Double Love by Francine Pascal

A BOOK WITH BAD REVIEWS: Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine
A BOOK FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD: Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon McKenna
A TRILOGY: Wool, Shift and Dust by Hugh Howey
A BOOK WITH A LOVE TRIANGLE: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
A BOOK SET IN THE FUTURE: Date With a Rockstar by Sarah Gagnon
A BOOK WITH A COLOUR IN THE TITLE: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton
A BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
A BOOK WITH MAGIC: Half Bad by Sally Green
A GRAPHIC NOVEL: Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet

A BOOK BY AN AUTHOR YOU'VE NEVER READ BEFORE: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
A BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVE NEVER READ: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A BOOK SET DURING CHRISTMAS: Bella's Christmas Bake-Off by Sue Watson
A BANNED BOOK: Dubliners by James Joyce
A PLAY: Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley
A BOOK BASED ON OR TURNED INTO A TV SHOW: The Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch
A BOOK YOU STARTED BUT NEVER FINISHED: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (started years ago, finally finished in October)

My Favourite Reads of 2015
These are my ten favourite reads of the year - some have been published for a very, very long time but I've only read them for the first time this year. In no particular order:

My Least Favourite Reads of 2015

For one reason or another, these books left me either angry at the time I had wasted or annoyed at falling for hype. Again, in no particular order:

"I Wish I Had All That Free Time"
This really riles me up something shocking and I've lost time of the amount of times I've heard it this year. I DON'T have an abnormal amount of "free" time. I see people talking about binge-watching series all the time and they never, ever get asked "but where do you find the time to watch 12 episodes in three days?" I read so much because I have been an avid reader since I was four or five years old and I love books. Reading time isn't "free time", it's not like I read because I have nothing else to do, I build it in to my day the way other people make time for the gym. Granted, it's not doing anything to help the size of my arse, but it's time well spent all the same.

I have the same 24 hours a day as anyone else, I have a house to look after, and three kids, and a husband, and a blog, and social media, and other hobbies, and cooking, and walking, and cross stitch, and makeup and Netflix - I read so much because it's something I need to do. I'd go mad if I didn't read every day. I'm up early, I read when the kids are playing, I read quickly, I read in the morning, I read at night, I don't watch very much TV, I record stuff I want to watch and then either binge it or delete it. I don't follow soaps. I love Netflix, but again it's very much a binge situation - I don't watch TV every day. I can do a book a day or every 2 days - always have done, hopefully always will do.

So please, PLEASE don't ask where I find the time, or tell me you wish you had all that time - I would find it alien to watch 2 hours of telly of an evening, others would find it alien to read for 2 hours. It's the same 2 hours! I'm a huge believer in doing what makes you happy, and just because you may have other responsibilities doesn't mean you should lose a part of yourself. Books are a part of me, so even if I had ten kids and four houses and eleven blogs, I'd still make time to read. 

So what does a year in reading look like? Glorious!!

2016 Goals
I'd love if everyone reading this would try and read 5 books in 2016. There are so many amazing Irish authors out there waiting to be discovered - this year I found Belinda McKeon, Sara Baume, Lisa McInerney, and was reacquainted with Donal Ryan and Louise O'Neill. I want to finish the Harry Potter series in 2016, and I'd love to try for 150 books again - if it doesn't happen, so be it. I want to use the library more, because I've spent too much on Amazon. I want to make books a bigger part of the blog, maybe a twice-monthly thing instead of a monthly thing, or a spotlight post every weekend about a book I'm enjoying or a book I recommend. I want to clear my Netgalley shelf and stop requesting stuff until I've all my current ARCs read, and I want to read more book blogs.

See you in January for the "Books I Read in December" roundup!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Books I Read in November

Not Sponsored, ARCs included


This happens every November - my book count goes way down because I get so caught up in Christmas prep. In November, I read 7 - but a few of them were short stories or novellas. The Rick O'Shea Book Club books for the month were One by Sarah Crossan and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I downloaded A Little Life but I didn't get to it. I had already read One, you can find my Goodreads review here.

Review Copies
I still have a couple of books left on my Netgalley shelves that I'd like to clear by January at the latest, but I got through three in November.

The Mince Pie Mix-Up by Jennifer Joyce
A Christmas themed body-swap story in which a wife and husband get to live each other's lives for two weeks to see just how easy the other one really has it. A short book, under 200 pages, forgettable but nice for an afternoon.

Bella's Christmas Bake-Off by Sue Watson
Amy and Bella used to be childhood friends, but they fell out of touch. Bella now has her own Nigella-style cookery show, but when Amy discovers that Bella has been plagiarising Amy's mothers recipes for a new book, she vows to confront her and wins a competition to spend Christmas with her. Took a while to get going but a nice festive read.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Three year old identical twin Coco Jackson went missing during the weekend of her property mogul father's 50th Birthday celebrations. The book goes back and forth between that weekend and the weekend of Sean Jackson's funeral, and slowly reveals the truth about what happened to Coco. If you haven't read any of Alex's books, please do yourself a favour and get at least one - she's a fantastic crime/thriller writer.

Other Christmas Themed Books
I read three other Christmas themed books in November.

What Happens at Christmas by T.A. Williams
Holly Brice finds herself in a sleepy Dartmoor village a few weeks before Christmas to sort out her estranged father's estate when he dies. Holly wants to find out more about him, but ends up making some new friends too. An easy read, not perfect, but enjoyable enough. More of a journey of discovery than a Christmassy fiction.

The Christmas Bake-Off by Abby Clements
I had read a few of Abby's books before, and I found this short story for free on Amazon. It's a very quick read about a bake-off in a local village hall, including celeb judges and sabotage.

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan
This was my first Jenny Colgan read and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I assumed it would be a relaxing, easy read but it had an enormous number of characters and several different arcs from an old man reliving his past to an accident to family coming for Christmas - I just found it hard to concentrate on and it didn't have a great flow. At nearly 400 pages it felt like a chore at times.

Other Fiction

After You by Jojo Moyes
I really love  Jojo Moyes and I was delighted to hear that she was writing a sequel to a book I love very much, Me Before You. In this book, we revisit Louisa and discover that she's not getting on very well after losing Will. I found this to be a very sensitive, honest portrayal of grief and was probably crying about ten pages in. It does contain one of my most hated story arcs of all time (I don't want to ruin it but it's about her 'visitor' - ugh), but when I was able to get past that I enjoyed it.

That's it! December isn't looking great for reading either, but I'll soldier on and I'll update challenge info at the end of the year! I'm currently at a total of 138 books for 2015, will I make it to 150? Who knows....

Monday, November 30, 2015

Books for Christmas

Not Sponsored/No Samples


I'm going to get straight into this without waffling, because books are one of my favourite parts of Christmas and I want to squeeze as many into this post as I can.

On My Christmas List

Truth be told, I have ordered or bought most of these for myself for Christmas already - I love having a pile of new books on Christmas morning.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
This is King's sixth collection of short stories, and features 20 previously published/reworked stories from 2009 onwards, with two previously unpublished.

Counting My Blessings by Francis Brennan
Francis Brennan is one of my favourite television personalities, and this guide to how he stays happy is definitely on my Christmas list. He's currently touring around Ireland promoting it and doing signings, I was gutted to miss my local one but I'm still really looking forward to reading the book.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling & Jim Kay
I've wanted this since I first heard about it - it's a beautiful, big coffee table book that features amazing illustrations by Jim Kay. Unless this is a one-off, this collection is going to end up absolutely robbing me because I'll want them all!

Everyday Superfood by Jamie Oliver
I'm not a huge fan of watching Jamie, but I love his cookbooks. His recipes are easy to follow and easy to adapt, so I'm looking forward to reading this one.

The Nation's Favourite Healthy Food by Neven Maguire
I enjoy Neven's cookery programmes, so I was delighted to find a signed edition of this in Eason last week. He has simple recipes that everyone would enjoy, and I'm glad to see a healthy eating version.

A Slanting of the Sun by Donal Ryan
Donal is one of my favourite authors - he writes post-boom rural Ireland and begrudgery like nobody else. His books are some of my favourites, I would especially recommend you look him up if you live in a small town or village. He's just a fantastic writer, he has an amazing way with words. This is a collection of short stories that follow on in the same vein from The Thing About December and The Spinning Heart.

About Face by Aisling McDermott  with Laura Kennedy
If you enjoyed Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes, you'll love this. Aisling is incredibly well respected among the Irish beauty community, having been responsible for the creation of Beaut.ie along with her sister Kirstie (now editor of Stellar magazine). Apart from being a gorgeous looking book, it's full of skincare and makeup advice, product recommendations, and focuses on what will work for individual skin types.

Me & My Mate Jeffrey by Niall Breslin
Bressie's first book is an honest account of coping with his anxiety and depression. It's such an important subject and there seem to be a plethora of books by females on the subject, but hardly any by men - for such a prominent public figure to come out and talk about it so frankly is fantastic, and it's a book I'll be keeping to pass on to my own sons when they're old enough to deal with the subject matter.

Christmas Themed Books

I don't know about anyone else, but I love nothing more than a bit of light, fluffy Christmas fiction to keep my festive spirits up during November/December. There are so many Christmas themed books - but how do you know which ones are any good? I like to switch my brain off and just enjoy them for what they are, if you like the Christmas movies on Christmas24 then you'll enjoy all these.

Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson
Bella Bradley and Amy Lane were friends once. Now, they're worlds apart - Bella is the star of her very own Nigella-esque cooking show, while Amy is struggling after her husband has left her. When Amy realises that Bella's new book is full of her mother's recipes, the gloves are off - Amy enters (and wins) a competition to spend the perfect Christmas with Bella.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot
Single Mum Hayley Walker is taking her nine-year-old daughter Angel to spend Christmas with Hayley's brother in Manhattan. She has every intention of trying to find Angel's birth father, but when she meets a handsome stressed workaholic Oliver, her plans are thrown into disarray.

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson
Maggie is spending Christmas on her own, with only a ready meal for company. Until she (literally) crashes into 6-foot-American-hunk Marco. Suddenly, her Christmas is looking up! But you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper, do you? Really sweet and funny.

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Abby Clements
A The Holiday-esque romcom about a London career woman and a Yorkshire woman worried about her marriage deciding to swap houses.

This is a Film Too

I love Christmas films, so I'm always interested when I find out that something was either based on a film, or released to tie in with the film. I read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham last year (it later became Christmas With the Kranks) and I was horrified, it was a horrible book. Thankfully, here are four that live up to the movies:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I read this years ago, but I plan to re-read it this year. The much-reproduced original Christmas story is one that we all know - mean old Ebenezeer Scrooge (I keep going to type Ebeneezer Goode - child of the 90s right there) is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
I love Dr. Seuss books because they're so much fun to read aloud. Even a child with little interest in reading will have great fun - The Grinch is a heartwarming tale with great illustrations and a nice fun festive story for all ages to enjoy.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
One of my favourite Christmas films, this is the story of little Susan Walker, her workaholic Mum, and an old man who believes he is Santa Clause. Released in 1947 to tie-in with the original Natalie Wood film. This is another re-read for me this year.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A beautiful children's book that later inspired the magical animated film starring Tom Hanks - this is the story of The Polar Express, a magical train that takes children who have lost the magic of Christmas to the North Pole. Warning - I cry at this book. And the film. And most things, to be fair - but this book is stunning and very much worth seeking out the special editions with the little bell free.

Sporting Books

There are a number of new books out this year written by Sports personalities - I haven't read any of these, but I thought I'd let you know about them anyway.

The Autobiography by Henry Shefflin
Widely regarded as one of the best hurling players of all time, Henry Shefflin talks about his life and career including revelations on injuries, rivalries, and pressures.

Until Victory, Always: A Memoir by Jim McGuiness
Described as "an account of achievement in the face of incredible adversity", this is McGuinness' account of taking over as manager of the Donegal senior football team in 2010. At the time, they had been dismissed - but four years later, they had completely turned things around.

The Last Line: My Autobiography by Packie Bonner
The story of one of our greats - Packie shares stories from his International football career, including the performance at Italia '90 that turned him into a national treasure and the one at 1994 that a lot of us would rather forget..

Twelve Feet Tall: The Autobiography by Tony Ward
Rugby fans who followed Ireland in the '70s and '80s will welcome this book by Irish sporting legend Tony Ward - who still holds the record for the Lion scoring the most points in a test (18). He talks about leading the Munster team to victory against the All-Blacks in 1978, about his career, his life, and what he thinks of Irish rugby today. I might actually pick this one up for myself...

Books for Children Aged 10+

My own son is 11, and these are the books that I've bought him for Christmas:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney
Book 10 in the series. Greg's town voluntarily goes electronics-free, so how will he and his family cope without the conveniences of modern life? My son loves these books.

War Horse by Michael Murpurgo
Released in 2006 and spawning a Spielberg movie, this is the story of a horse who sees WWI from both sides of the trenches. My son borrowed this from the library and begged for his own copy.

Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams
The latest from surprisingly good children's author David Walliams focuses on Grandpa, who still thinks he's a pilot in the war. He plans a great escape from his nursing home but needs the help of his Grandson. David Walliams' books are all dog-eared in our house, they've been read and re-read multiple times.

Moone Boy: The Fish Detective by Chris O'Dowd & Nick V. Murphy
Martin's family are having a budget Christmas, so Martin decides to get a job and buy his own presents. He starts working at a butcher's shop, but the local fish shop across the road is taking business. Martin decides to infiltrate the fish shop but with surprising results.

Books for Younger Children

You can't go wrong with the aforementioned Dr. Seuss - but here are some more ideas for younger children. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
If your little ones don't have this book, please get it. It's the best fun to read, and there are little finger holes in the pages too (you'll understand why when you read it).

That's Not My Santa by Fiona Watt
A nice Christmas story for young toddlers with touchy-feely parts for sensory play.

Farmyard Tales Lift-the-Flap Christmas by Heather Amery & Stephen Cartwright
A 24-page hardback book with 30 flaps to lift and enjoy alongside the story of the Boot family preparing for Christmas.

Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr
Now available in a board book, this is the story of forgetful cat Mog exploring her house at Christmas.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
There are many, many versions of this book available, but I'd urge you to buy one for Christmas. It's a lovely tradition to read it at night in the week coming up to Christmas, or even on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Books I Read in October

Not Sponsored, One Book Received via Netgalley


So, this is the conclusion of Halloween month on the blog - I did enjoy all the Halloween themed posts, but I do have lots of other bits and pieces to show you and to talk about so I'm glad to get back to normal again.

During October, I stuck exclusively to spooky/horror/creepy books. I picked a lot of shorter ones, some days I read two little ones, but overall I'm glad I stuck to the theme and really glad to have checked 18 more books off my to-read list throughout the month.

As always with these reviews, I'll add all books to my Books 2015 page where you can click on any individual cover to go to my more detailed Goodreads review for that book.

Rick O'Shea Book Club

If you're still not a member of Rick O'Shea's Book Club on Facebook, I'd really recommend it. I've discovered some brilliant books over the past 14 months because of the club - some I'd never have picked up. There's a great group of people over there and they're all massive book addicts who are happy to have a chat about any type of book, no snobbery involved. This month, I read both choices.

Ghost Stories by M.R. James
A classic collection of ghost stories written in the early 1900s, this is very much old-school "horror". It's not scary at all, it's not creepy, but it's a nice example of its genre. To be fair, it's probably the first example of its genre - known as "antiquarian" ghost stories.  The stories were quite formulaic and there were no major shocks - I couldn't read this all in one sitting.

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
When I read that one of the short stories in this collection had made people faint when they heard it being read aloud by the author, I was worried. When I read said story and cried laughing, I was more worried. For myself. This is a collection of extremely gross, disgusting, graphic, horrible stories. Some more interesting than others, all very gross and very un-PC. Not for those with a weak stomach.

Childrens/Young Adult

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The tale of a young boy, with a sick mother, visited by a large monster in the form of a yew tree. Absolutely bawled at this one, which I wasn't expecting! It's a really nice book. Not remotely scary, though.

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
A young girl, full of attitude, has to figure out what to do when she finds out that her younger sister has been possessed. A bit young for me, but it was an okay read. There are two follow-up books, but I don't think I'd be bothered with them.

Closed For The Season by Mary Downing Hahn
I mistakenly picked this up thinking it was a horror, but it says "a mystery story" on the front so it was my own fault. This swayed me because it was centred around an old amusement park. It was alright, reminiscent of something from the early 90s despite being written in 2009. I have another of Mary's books to read, Wait Til Helen Comes is currently in post-production and will be released as a movie next year.

Liked the Movie? Read the Book!

Halloween by Curtis Richards
Unusually for a book/movie crossover, this was written after the John Carpenter movie version. This stays pretty faithful to the movie, but we find out much more about what makes Michael Myers tick. I really enjoyed this, it was a nice companion to the movie. Apparently the paperback is very hard to track down, so if you see it - grab it!

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman can be hit and miss for me. I did enjoy this, but I think I only enjoyed it because I have such a fondness for the movie version starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, so I was picturing them in my head as I read it. This is grittier, the plot is slightly different, but I liked it.

Psycho by Robert Bloch
I'm sure this was terrifying when it was released and people had no idea what was going to happen, but some of the suspense is definitely gone when you've heard the story or seen the movie. I haven't seen the movie (shockingly), but I've seen "the scene" several times on those Top 100 Movie Countdown things. A good read, recommended moreso if you aren't familiar with the story of Norman Bates.

Ring by Koji Suzuki
Again, I'm a big fan of The Ring starring Naomi Watts. I've also seen the original Japanese movie, Ringu, and found it terrifying. This book - not so much. I feel that something may have been lost in translation, but the reasoning behind why Sadako (Samara in the movie) did what she did was ridiculous to me. Also, one of the main characters is particularly horrible.

Netgalley Reviews

Only one of my Netgalley books fit in with my October theme -

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson
Gloria lives next door to a former school, nicknamed "The Child Garden". It's now a run-down care home, where her son Nicky lives. One night, someone from Gloria's past knocks on her front door and drags her into a mystery involving the home. I didn't enjoy this - too many nicknames, too many twists, too many red herrings and too many characters. It wasn't scary or creepy either (to be fair, I'm not sure if it was intended to be either).


Salem's Lot by Stephen King
I was delighted to be able to fit this in - it was King's second published novel (after Carrie) and it still reads every bit as good as it did when I first discovered it 20 years ago. It's his "vampire novel", and it's everything I wanted Dracula to be. Creepy, tense, scary - King at his best. Brilliant.


Bird Box by Josh Malerman
This was recommended by a lady in the Rick O'Shea Book Club when I asked for contemporary horror recommendations. It's brilliant - all over the world, people are "seeing something" that makes them lose their minds, turning on each other and eventually taking their own lives in gruesome ways. The only way to avoid this fate is to stay inside, in the dark, or if you do venture out - stay blindfolded, keep your eyes closed. Malorie is pregnant when the darkness first begins, but now five years on, she must save herself and her children - she must go outside and she needs to open her eyes. Couldn't put it down!

Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell
This was a recommendation from my friend Breige of Rare Opal - I was looking for more books set in Salem. This one focuses on Lois, who has just travelled to New England from Old England after a family tragedy. Gradually, people begin to turn against Lois, and eventually accuse her of witchcraft. This was a short read, but I'll never tire of books on this subject - it's still unbelievable to me that stories like this were based on true events.


Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Every October, he appears. "The October Boy", with a pumpkin head and the body of a scarecrow, rises from a crop field and must make his way to the town church before being caught by one of the town's teenage boys. An annual ritual, there's a dark town secret hidden here - and when one teenager is close to figuring it out, those in charge will do anything they can to stop him. Really enjoyed this, the whole small-town-gone-bad thing is one of my favourite genres.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I had previously read We Have Always Lived in the Castle and loved it, so I had high expectations from this classic - I was disappointed. It's about a group of three people who go to Hill House to spend some time there with a Doctor investigating paranormal goings-on there. Except there wasn't really much going on there. It was alright but I wanted it to be better.

Irish Ghost Stories by Pauric O'Farrell
A collection of ghost stories told to the author by people all over Ireland. There's one in here from the next town to me - I had never heard it before, so that was a nice surprise. Some parts of this are a little muddled, as if the author just thought of random conversations and stuck them in here and there, but it was nice to read unpublished stories and hear about experiences from ordinary everyday people.

The Bad Seed by William March
Little Rhoda Penmark is 8 years old. Adored by adults, abhorred by her peers, Rhoda will do anything to get her own way. When her mother becomes increasingly concerned about Rhoda and some incidents that happen, she begins to pay more attention and digs deeper to discover a terrible family secret. Really enjoyed this, it was well written and wasn't dated at all.

Your House is on Fire, Your Children all Gone by Stefan Kiesbye
This was a weird little book! A group of friends have shared strange experiences in their small village as children. Now, they are reunited for a friend's funeral, and they all share their own stories in different chapters. Some of them are just downright weird, others disgusting, but all are creepy. A very, very strange little book, but for the most part I enjoyed it.

And that's it! I'm looking forward to getting back to lighter reads, I have a lot of Christmas ones ready to get lost in.

Have you read any of these?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halloween Book Ideas for Adults and Children

Not Sponsored/No Samples


It's that time of the year again - last year I set myself huge reading challenges for Halloween, but it didn't work out as planned (the second half of Dracula made me lose the will to read). This year is faring much better - I'm on book 12 of the month (my Sky+ planner is full to the gills of stuff I haven't watched) and hope to get through a few more that I've been saving up for this time of the year. I'm going to give you some adult suggestions along with a couple of young adult and children's books, hopefully there will be something here to suit everyone, and you might find a book you'd like to read for Halloween!

Stephen King

Stephen King - my favourite horror writer. He's not perfect, but I love that he reads as much as he writes. He just lives and breathes books - there are many of us who started reading his books way too young, but I feel like I've grown up with him. I can personally recommend The Shining, Carrie, Misery, IT, and Revival. Any or all would be a great choice this October, although none mention Halloween in particular. The Shining is one of my favourite books of all time. If you've already read it, check out Doctor Sleep, in which we revisit Danny as an adult. Sometimes I forget that others aren't familiar with King's books, so here's a brief idea of what each book is about:

  • The Shining: A writer and his family move to a remote hotel for the winter where he takes up the position of Caretaker, but finds himself slowly going insane with a little help from some former residents. 
  • Carrie: A young girl with a very religious mother has the power of Telekinesis - she is subjected to horrible bullying incidents at school, but she gets her own back..
  • Misery: Writer Paul Sheldon has just written the conclusion for his very popular book series when he is involved in a car accident and rescued by his biggest fan Annie Wilkes. But Annie is not quite ready for her favourite series to be finished, or for Paul to leave her. 
  • It: An epic 1,000 page plus novel about growing up in a small town inhabited by pure evil, and a group of friends coming together one last time to defeat it once and for all. 
  • Revival: A boy keeps coming into contact with a Preacher at various stages of his life. Their lives intertwine until a final, terrifying conclusion is revealed. A story about addiction and obsession. 

Shirley Jackson

Shirley is someone I only discovered a year or two ago. In The Lottery, a short story just a few pages long, she delves into the concept of The Chosen One and turns it on its ear (a concept reproduced many, many times since). If you've seen the horrible movie version, you'll know this story - but it's definitely worth a read. I haven't read any of the other stories in that collection yet but hope to get to them this year. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we meet two sisters, one of whom has been declared insane by the villagers after an incident she was blamed for. When a cousin turns up and threatens the girls' way of living, it's up to eldest sister Merricat to get rid of him.

Young Adult

Horror is a genre that has always been popular in the YA world - how many of us cut our fangs on R.L. Stine's Goosebumps or Point Horror series? Goosebumps is still popular (in this house anyway), car boot sales and charity shops are goldmines. There are a number of Point Horror books available on Kindle, but in my opinion it's worth tracking down the old paper version, it just doesn't feel the same on a Kindle. Some other YA horror that I enjoyed are:

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender: a story about a 15 year old girl full of attitude trying to help her younger sister after she is possessed by an evil spirit.

The Doll by JC Martin: a short story about a creepy (and real) Mexican island that worships dolls, and what would happen if one left the island.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - a young boy suffers a terrible family tragedy and ends up in a small, strange Welsh village where he encounters strange children in an even stranger building. Littered with amazing vintage photographs, they're creepy and definitely worth a look.

This is a Film Too

I love reading books that were later turned into films - or in some cases, books that were written to tie in with films. Here are a couple of books-to-movies that would work great for Halloween

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson: I was a bit disappointed that this story of the legendary 1975 Amityville haunting wasn't scarier, but some of you might enjoy it more. How much of it is true? Well, the names are the same, but I would approach with an open mind!

Halloween by Curtis Richards: Written after the movie, this expands on the history of Michael Myers and gives us a better insight into his character. The paperback of this is very hard to find, so if you see it anywhere, pick it up! It's very easy to find a digital copy online, give me a shout for the link.

Rosemarys Baby by Ira Levin follows a young New York couple as they move into their dream home and become involved with some very scary people. When Rosemary find out the truth, it's already too late.

If you enjoy a horror movie, have a look and see if you can find a book. Nine times out of Ten, the book came first - The Omen, Psycho, Ring, The Exorcist, The Other, Children of the Corn, The Haunting, Frankenstein, Dracula - all books.

Halloween Books for Children

Demon Dentist by David Walliams - for children 10 and up, this is a favourite with my 11 year old. It's about a demon masquerading as a dentist in order to pull teeth from the mouths of children, leaving them grotesque 'presents' under their pillows instead. Approach with caution - some events may upset young or sensitive children.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman - a story about a young girl who finds an alternate reality in her home, including an alternate set of parents. But is the grass always greener? Talking cat alert! Readers 8-12 would be well able for it.

Meg and Mog  by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski - suitable for toddlers and up, Meg and Mog (written in 1975!) is the story of witch Meg and her cat, Mog. They intend on going to a great Halloween party, until Meg's spell goes wrong and turns all the other witches to mice. Great fun to read aloud.

The Witches by Roald Dahl - I read this around age 7 or 8, but it's up to parents if they think their children are old enough for it, it could be scary for younger readers (I always found the Quentin Blake illustrations scarier than the actual story). This story of a boy who infiltrates a convention of witches is still one of my own personal favourites.

And Finally...

A couple of other books I enjoyed -

The Crucible by Arthur Miller - originally a play, this is set during the Salem Witch Trials and draws on true events to create a story of paranoia, hysteria, and injustice. The book is great - but for the love of god, avoid the terrible film version.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman - a dystopian thriller/horror about a young woman who finds herself all alone with her two children five years after a terrible unknown event in Russia spread worldwide - people see something, then they go insane, killing each other and themselves. The only way to avoid it is to remain blindfolded. Now the woman has to make a decision - in order to escape to safety, she must leave her home with her children and go outside where she knows 'they' watch her. A really good psychological horror, the baddies are as scary as your imagination can make them.

Hopefully I've covered a wide range here, and that you can find something to enjoy over the rest of October and get you in a Halloweeny mood!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black Cats and Witches and Stuff - An Ode to Hocus Pocus

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To really kick off my Halloween theme here on the blog, I decided to have a ramble about my all-time favourite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus.

Released in 1993, it wasn't supposed to be a big hit. It was intended to be a Disney Channel Original Movie and was a box office flop - but became a cult hit through home video. I first saw it around 1995/1996 on video. It was one of the first films I ever remember crying at (the end where Binx whispers in Dani's ear) and I have been in love with it ever since. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have seen it at least 50 times. At least.

Sarah Jessica Parker

The cast is just perfect. There isn't one dud. Not one. Thora Birch is fantastic as the slightly bratty Dani, Omri Katz was a huge crush of mine as a child after seeing him on Eerie, Indiana, and the three sisters couldn't have been played by anyone else. Sarah Jessica Parker irritates me in nearly everything she is in, but she is my absolute favourite Sanderson Sister. The movie could have been very different - Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Max to do What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Rosie O'Donnell turned down the role of Mary as she "wasn't comfortable playing a character who killed children."

The Best Mondegreen of All Time

Everyone can sing along with I Put a Spell On You - "I say, it's a pie, up and baby, up and die!" - right? Nope. Here's what she's really singing:

Ah say ento pi alpha mabi upendi
Ah say ento pi alpha mabi upendi
In comma coriyama
In comma coriyama

So that solves the mystery of why a song about babies and pie would make people dance until they died. 

It Started as a Bedtime Story

If you're a fan of the movie at all, watch this video. It's just under a half hour long, and it's a panel discussion held for the 20th Anniversary featuring Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw, Kathy Najimy, Thora Birth, Doug Jones and David Kirschner, who came up with the idea from a bedtime story he told his daughters.


See those moths flying out of Billy's mouth? They were real moths. Actor Doug Jones couldn't swallow them because of a type of mouth guard. Gross, yes? Also - no need to feel like a weirdo if you thought Billy was probably once a little bit hot. He was supposed to be. He also ad-libbed his famous "Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed mop-riding firefly from hell!" line. All he was originally supposed to say was "Bitch!" but he deemed it unsuitable for a Disney movie.

The Four Things That Still Annoy Me

This doesn't ruin my viewing - I can literally recite the entire film dialogue when watching it - but these four things still occasionally WRECK my head.

- How does the tub of salt last that long?
- At the start, the teacher tells the entire story and THEN says "so, the Sanderson sisters were HANGED!" but we had already seen them be hanged.
- How does anyone know that Binx was turned into a cat? The only people who witnessed it were the Sanderson sisters, so who knew he was a cat??! Why didn't he talk to his father?!
- When Dani meets Allison at her house, she says "There's a museum about 'em?" and then in the same conversation says "Max, I'm not going up there, my friends at school told me about that place" - why didn't she tell Allison that instead of pretending she didn't know?!

I'm pedantic. I know. It's a disease.

Was Venetian Princess Emily Binx? (NO)

This is like that Marilyn Manson in The Wonder Years rumour was - it will not die. Even IMDB credits the role of Emily Binx with Amanda Shepherd, said to be youtube star Venetian Princess' (now Ariella Grace) acting name - she has cleared it up multiple times, but still.......nobody listens.

There is NO Sequel

Sorry folks, it's not happening. Not yet, anyway. However, Sony ARE remaking The Craft, which I am disgusted about.

These Nails

This nail art by Madam Luck Nails is the best Hocus Pocus art I've ever seen - I made my own stab at it but it pales in comparison, this is just my absolute dream Halloween nail art. 

Satan and Medusa

Remember these? They have what is probably my favourite exchange in the whole film:

Satan: They call me master!
Medusa: Wait 'til you see what I'm gonna call you...

Well, they're brother and sister in real life. Penny and Garry Marshall. Garry was the director of both Princess Diaries movies, Pretty Woman, and Beaches (among others). 

I'll Just Leave This Here

Really genuinely going to watch it right now.