Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Ideas for Christmas

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I thought I'd throw together a few ideas for books for Christmas.

All or most books should be available on the likes of Amazon, Book Depository, Book Station, Dubray, Eason, Kennys, Tesco, Asda - but please try to support your local Booksellers too. I'm sure if you see something here that you can't find, many would be happy to order it in for you, just ask. Personally I wouldn't order anything online from Book Depository at this point if it's for Christmas, you might be okay with Amazon Prime.

Autobiographies and Memoirs

I love a good autobiography or memoir. My four favourites this year were:


Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming
This was a brilliant, dramatic story. It read like a novel, and I have heard it's even better in audio format. It's Alan's story of how making the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? lead to several discoveries about himself.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Whether you're familiar with Leah or not, this is a really interesting look into the weird world of Scientology. It's packed with celebrity scientology gossip and gives a real insight into one of the more closed-off groups in society.

Fat Chance: My Life in Ups, Downs, and Crisp Sandwiches by Louise McSharry
2fm DJ Louise has written a heartwarming book that documents her life so far - from a fairly rocky start to her current life. She has been through a lot of downs but has maintained a great outlook on life, this was a really good read and would make a great gift.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Stephen King makes writing look effortless. He is full of tips and tricks about how to be a writer, and how to write well - this isn't a how-to guide, but it is a really interesting read about how he does things, peppered with little anecdotes about his life and relationships. I listened to this on audio and his dry, droll voice really made it a very entertaining listen.

Also Recommended:


On My Christmas List:


Adult Fiction 

My four favourite adult fiction books this year were:


All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
At this stage I can firmly say that Donal Ryan is one of my all time favourite authors. He writes rural Ireland in a way like no other - this is a novel about a married woman who has an affair with a young member of the travelling community.

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
A guy from Cork waves his girlfriend goodbye when she goes overseas for work.........but never hears from her again. So begins a mystery and a journey to find her, it's a brilliant thriller and one I happily set an alarm for so I could finish it early one morning.

Himself by Jess Kidd
Set in Ireland in the 1950s and 1970s, this is about a small town turning on itself and letting all its secrets spill out when the arrival of a handsome stranger sets tongues wagging. It's atmospheric, it's full of dark humour, and it's hard to believe it's a debut.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
This is about a prominent Dublin Judge and his family. What happens when they suddenly find themselves in the position of needing to dispose of a body? A really brilliant crime, a brilliant thriller, and Laurence is probably one of my favourite characters of all time.

Also Recommended


On My Christmas List: 


Young Adult Fiction

So often this genre is dismissed or overlooked - give it a go, you might be surprised! Here are my four favourite YA reads this year:


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
I liked this a lot - it would make for a great introduction to feminism for teenagers. It's set in a boarding school (one of my personal favourite settings) and focuses on Frankie, a teenager who will be damned before she lets an all-male secret society be in charge.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Have you ever watched Buffy and wondered what the non-Scoobies think? Do they know all the stuff that goes on around them, do they wish they were 'chosen' too? This is written for them, by them.

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw
A razor-sharp, witty story about a teenager who decides to draw on reality to write fan fiction after her favourite TV show is cancelled. Everything I wanted Fangirl to be.

Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger
I don't want to give too much away here because I went in blind - but it's essentially a story set in the modern future that poses the question: Would you give yourself up to save yourself? Loved it.

Also Recommended


On My Christmas List:


Books for Toddlers

My twins are 3 and they love books, some of their favourites are:


The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
A very funny book - with no pictures. Just pages of words that have to be read in the silliest voices possible, nonsensical words and sentences. This one takes a few pages to get really into it but it's hilarious once you let go and embrace the madness!

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
I'd pretty much recommend any Dr. Seuss book - but this one about a mischevious cat who wreaks havoc with two small children is a firm favourite. I find that the twins especially love this one because of "Thing One" and "Thing Two".

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is a short story about a hungry caterpillar who is stocking up on food before he becomes a butterfly. It's lovely to read with toddlers, it has bright child-friendly drawings and it's fun.

Also Recommended


On Our Christmas List:

Books For Older Children (8+)

My 12 year old will pretty much read anything, but he enjoyed these a lot over the past few years:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
This is a series of books written in cartoon style. They focus on misfit Greg and his experiences with family and school.

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
David Walliams is like a modern day Roald Dahl - he is fond of using words like boobs and bum though, so that's something to be mindful if that concerns you (for the record it doesn't concern me, I was reading Stephen King at 11 so I don't believe in censoring children - but for very young children maybe just have a quick read through yourself first and see what you think). This one is about a boy who is sent to live with his very eccentric Granny.

Moone Boy by Chris O'Dowd
Based on the popular TV series, this is the story of Martin and his imaginary friend. There's a follow up, too (The Fish Detective) which my son also enjoyed.

Also Recommended:

On Our Christmas List:

Hopefully that gives you some kind of ideas for a bookish present for someone! Remember - if in doubt, go for something you enjoyed yourself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Owlcrate Unboxing October 2016

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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.