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!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

China Glaze Holiday 2015 - Cheers Mini Mixers

Not Sponsored/No Samples


I don't really pay as much attention to new nail polish releases as I did a few years ago - I tend to keep an eye on what Essie are doing but I'm not up to date with the rest. However, I always look up the Holiday collections to see what's around for Christmas. This year, the 12 piece Cheers! collection from China Glaze caught my eye.

Obviously I didn't buy all 12 (mind you, stranger things have happened) - so I opted for the 6 piece mini collection, Mini Mixers.

I bought them on eBay from my usual seller, Beautyzone2007. They cost me just over €11 including tracked postage, and took about 10 days to arrive. Each mini has a decent 3.5ml in the bottle, which is more than enough, making them much better value than minis from some other nail polish brands.

I Soiree I Didn't Do It

Firstly, I think this name is ridiculous, but the colour itself is pretty. This was two coats - you'd get a quicker result with a green basecoat, but it built up quicker than I thought it would.

Mix and Mingle 

A purple creme that applied well, was opaque in one coat but still showed a bit of the nail underneath so I added a second coat. Nice glossy finish.

Better Not Pout

A gorgeous pinky purple, this is just one coat. It's glossy, it's pretty, but I'm not 100% sure it really suits my skintone.

Son of a Nutcracker

A fiery orange coral, this was the one polish I was sure I'd hate. I love the name so much (huge fan of ELF) but I thought that a colour like this would be awful. I couldn't have been more wrong - it's one of my favourites out of the six, it's almost lit from within. While it's not the most Christmassy colour in the world, it's really unique and I don't own anything like it. Swatch shows two coats.

Peppermint to Be

This was my least favourite of the bunch, mainly because I've seen it a million times before and it's not a colour that suits me. It's a red sparkle that takes a couple of coats to build up - swatches show two coats, but you could keep going to build it up. It's not my type of colour at all, but I can see why they included a red glitter in a Christmas collection, it's almost a given.

Don't Get Elfed Up

This is a dense, glossy glitter with blue, green and purple particles in a dark navy base. It's a pretty colour, it reminds me of a polish I used to own by Wet n Wild called The Parking Meteor Expired.

My favourites of the bunch are Son of a Nutcracker, Mix and Mingle  and Better Not Pout. I had no application or removal issues with any of the polishes. I'd have liked another glitter in the minis, and I think the collection could have done with a nice gold, but overall it's a nice collection and I'd recommend China Glaze.

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....

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Netflix - What I Watched in November

Not Sponsored


I recently subscribed to Netflix - I'm probably one of the last people in the country to do so, but my data package was terrible up until this Summer, when I fought tooth and nail for a decent increase. I got it, and now that I have a decent allowance, I can finally indulge in some good old fashioned binging!

Here's what I watched in November.

The True Cost (Documentary)

I put this off for so long, it's a documentary about the true price paid for 'fast fashion' - cheap clothes from cheap shops with a high turnover. The social, economic, and health implications are all covered and it doesn't make for pretty viewing - it definitely made me think about the number of mindless cheap clothing hauls I make for no reason other than boredom or a desire to spend money, so it's something I have definitely cut down on, I used to go to Penneys on a weekly basis.

Food, Inc. (Documentary)

This was scary! It's about how a very small number of big multinational companies control the entire food industry, and the effects that has on the quality of food, the health of the people eating the food and the lives of farmers. There's such a high demand now for convenience food that drastic measures are being taken, from growing supersized chickens to creating genetically modified food-like substances.

Happy Christmas (Movie)

Anna Kendrick! Melanie Lynskey! Christmas! What could be more fun? I thought this would be a cute, festive affair with two great female leads, but in reality it was a very low-budget, unpolished, mostly unscripted indie movie about a pot-smoking heavy-drinking sister (Kendrick) who moves in with her brother's family to help lighten the load for her sister-in-law, who is trying to raise a child and have a writing career from home. It was fine, the low-key, improvised, almost-documentary style acting was great etc, it's just not my type of film. Lena Dunham also stars (I'm not a fan).

American Horror Story Season One: Murder House (Series)

I've never seen any of American Horror Story, so I was delighted to find it on Netflix. I've been recording the new series (Hotel) on TV but I haven't watched any of it yet because I like to save up a whole series' worth of stuff before I binge - I watched the first season (Murder House) over a weekend, and I LOVED it. Jessica Lange is unbelievable! In case you haven't seen it, it's about a therapist, Ben Harmon, who is caught cheating on his wife Vivien. Together with their daughter Violet, they move across country to 'The Murder House' - a house with a lot of strange forces at work. It was creepy and atmospheric and I couldn't stop once I started. Brilliant!

American Horror Story Season Two: Asylum (Series)

Naturally, I moved on to the second series right away. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it, I found it too dark (literally, I had to keep tilting the laptop screen) and pretty gory. I don't mind gore, but I felt some of it was just gratuitous and leant nothing much to the story. It's the story of a group of 'inmates' at an asylum with a lot of gory crap going on. I have to say, Chloe Sevigny was amazing in it but I'm a huge fan of hers anyway. I stopped watching about 6 episodes in, but my husband finished the series and preferred it to Murder House.

American Horror Story Season Three: Coven (Series)

The third series, Coven, was by far my favourite so far. Jessica Lange plays Fiona Goode, a Supreme Witch who is in charge of a coven but facing increasing threat from both inside and outside of her circle. Lots of Supernatural stuff, lots of Fleetwood Mac and proof that Angela Bassett has been drinking from the Jared Leto Fountain of Youth because the woman HAS NOT AGED.

Burlesque (Movie)

The movie 'Burlesque' was released in 2010, I have no idea why I haven't seen it. It's essentially Coyote Ugly if Violet had self confidence and Maria Bello was Cher. Christina Aguilera (who has inexplicable hair) plays Ali, a smalltown girl who wants to be on stage. She moves to L.A. where she finds a Burlesque club ran by Tess (Cher) and sings her way to a job. The club is in danger of closing, there's a bit of romantic drama thrown in, a lot of amazing Burlesque numbers, and I LOVED IT.

How to Get Away With Murder: Season One (Series)

Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating, a Professor who teaches a class called 'How to Get Away With Murder'. Every year she chooses a number of promising students to come and work with her at her law firm. There are different cases to solve, but there are also two storylines running through the series - the disappearance and murder of a student, and the murder of Annalise's husband. I'm a big fan of anything Shonda Rimes does, and I was happy that this didn't disappoint. It was recommended to me on Snapchat, so thank you!

Jessica Jones (Series)

A Netflix exclusive, Jessica Jones is a character from the Marvel universe and this is a 13 part series about her trying to get rid of a baddie from her past. Starring Krysten Ritter as Jessica, a former Superhero turned Private Investigator and David Tennant as mind-control baddie Kilgrave, I really enjoyed this series. It was recommended to me by Sinéad from Minnie Mélange and it was brilliant, I especially loved Jessica's former child star friend Trish (played by Rachael Walker). It is dark though, very dark.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Movie)

I prefer Home Alone 2 to Home Alone by a mile. I think it's because I was much the same age as Kevin in the movie when it was released, so I remember it better - but also because of the beauty of New York City in it. I'm pretty sure this contributed with my obsession for all things American as a child - who didn't want to go and see the city at Christmas? I've actually no idea why I watched this online when I own it on DVD and Video, but anyway.... watch it! It's brilliant.

And that's it! A ridiculous amount of programming to get through in a month, but that's what happens when you give me a better data package. Can't wait to dig through the site for December and see what I find!

Any recommendations? I'm not into anything involving drug cartels or politicians.