Monday, November 30, 2015

Books for Christmas

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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of short stories, and features 20 previously published/reworked stories from 2009 onwards, with two previously unpublished.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 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?