Friday, July 29, 2016

Booktube-a-thon 2016 Wrap up and Reflection

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So, Booktube-a-thon 2016 is over. It was a fantastic week - the sense of community was amazing. Just check the #booktubeathon hashtag on any social media platform and you'll see hundreds of people encourage each other - it was beautiful.

This year I participated in nearly all of the twitter sprints (except the ones that happened at 3am my time) and almost all of the instagram challenges. Here were my instagram entries for six of the contests:

You may remember from this post that there were seven challenges this year. Here were the prompts:

Originally, I had chosen:

* The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker
* Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
* Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger
* Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
* The Beetle by Richard Marsh
* Mermaids by Patty Dann
* A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This changed a bit towards the end of the week. I wasn't in the humour for The End of the World Running Club, so I swapped it out for a Patrick Ness book. I also realised that with visitors on Saturday, a party on Saturday night and a day out on Sunday, I wasn't going to be able to fit in the Karin Slaughter - so I swapped that out for an audiobook by Stephen King. I didn't fancy A Man Called Ove either, so I changed that for a smaller book, by Mary Downing Hahn. Overall, I managed 6 (and a bit) books this year, which is better than last year! I didn't watch Mermaids in movie form, I know it off by heart at this stage and had intended to watch it again but completely forgot.

My favourite parts of the readathon this year were the daily twitter sprints, I loved the feeling of communal reading. We were scattered all over the world, we were in different time zones, we were reading different books in different languages, but we were all reading together at the same time.

I really loved the Instagram challenges too, I've found some gorgeous new accounts to follow. The YouTube entries were great, so creative!

I loved this week, and I can't wait for the next one. Well done to Ariel and everyone involved, and thank you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Owlcrate July 2016 - Team Good!

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Y'all know how much I love books. That's a given. It's probably not a secret that I'm a big fan of monthly boxes either, I've tried a few different kinds now - Glossybox, Latest in Beauty, Look Fantastic, Boxcitement (review on that soon) - but there was one I really, really wanted to try.

Owlcrate is a box focused on YA (Young Adult) books. Every month, it ships from the United States to different countries all over the world. It contains one YA book, plus some book related memorobilia and some cool bookish accessories. Every Summer, I buy one "big treat" - last year I placed a Sephora order, this year I took out a 3 month subscription with Owlcrate. I'll get the cost issue out of the way right now - it's expensive if you're an International customer. The boxes are $29.99 each, and shipping to Ireland is $19.99 per box. That's about €45 to have one box delivered - scary, but when I realised I was spending more than that per month on digital subscriptions I rarely use anymore (Slimming World, Spotify, Audible, Netflix) I reckon it's doable if I really, really wanted it and was willing to give up some other subs. I'll make that decision that at the end of the three boxes - for now, here's the July one.

For July, the theme was "Good VS Evil". Half the boxes sent out were Team Good, the other half were Team Evil. My box was shipped from the U.S. on July 14th and it arrived on July 18th via An Post. I actually got my box before some U.S customers.

I was on Team Good! Here's what was in my box:

  • An owlcrate comic card detailing everything in the box.
  • A hardback copy of This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.
  • A bookplate signed by Victoria Schwab.
  • A letter from Victoria Schwab talking about the book.
  • A YA Covers to Color colouring book featuring popular YA covers.
  • A promotional bookmark for an upcoming YA book. 
  • A vinyl sticker featuring a quote from the YA book Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, designed by Drop and Give Me Nerdy
  • A full sized Funko Pop figure - I got Luna Lovegood.
  • A Millennium Falcon necklace from Vector Engraving
  • A magnetic Alice in Wonderland bookmark by Jane's Tiny Things
  • A spoiler card that reveals the August box theme and a preview of one item. 

I wasn't disappointed with anything in this box - I had only recently bought my first ever Funko Pop figure (Willow Rosenberg) so I was delighted to receive Luna. Other people who got the "Good" box received a Dobby figure. Those on Team Bad received either Draco Malfoy or a Dementor, a different vinyl sticker, a different Alice bookmark, and a Deathstar necklace instead of the Millennium Falcon. The book was the same for both boxes and everyone received the other paper bits and pieces. Here's the Goodreads blurb:

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives. 

I'm a bit afraid that the next two boxes will be just as lovely and I'll want to keep this up forever - but as I said, if I look at my monthly subs more carefully and weed out those ones I could live without (and stay out of bloody Penneys), I'd be more than happy to pay €45 to have this pop through my door every month. I was impressed with the delivery speed, the packaging, and the contents. The book alone retails for over €15 at Book Depository, the necklace sells for just under €15 and the Funko Pop figures are anywhere from €12 up. I'm a huge fan of quirky little handmade things so I was really delighted to see that Owlcrate include items from Etsy sellers.

The only similar thing I know of on this side of the pond is the Nerdy Bookworm Box, and that comes in at £30/€35 with free UK shipping (use Parcel Motel or Address Pal to avail of that in Ireland) - but that focuses specifically on the fantasy or sci-fi genre, whereas Owlcrate have a wider range of themes.

If you want to see what past boxes looked like, check this page out - - I WANT THEM ALL.

I think this is the beginning of a very, very beautiful friendship.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Booktube-a-thon 2016 Information & TBR

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Booktube-a-thon is one of my favourite things of the whole year. Seriously, I think about it from January on - it's an annual celebration of books and reading, created and hosted by Ariel Bissett - it's just a lovely week where everyone tries to read more, interact with other readers, and share lots of book love. This year, it's running from July 18th - 24th.

For information on what Booktube-a-thon is, have a look at this years information video.

Even though the week is predominantly based around YouTube, you do NOT have to be a Booktuber to take part. You don't even have to blog. You just have to love books and reading. Every year this gets bigger and bigger, and I would love to see more people from Ireland and the UK taking part.

Every year, there are seven challenges. I really love the challenge prompts this year!

Here are my choices:

A book with yellow on the cover - The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker
A book that must only be read after sunset - Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
A book I discovered through BookTube - Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger (discovered this via Emily May's Goodreads but she does YouTube too so that totally counts)
A book by one of my favourite authors - Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
A book older than me - The Beetle by John Marsh (written 1897)
A book and movie - Mermaids by Patty Dann, movie starring Cher & Winona Ryder
A seventh book - A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Will I manage seven books this Booktube-a-thon? I definitely didn't manage to complete it last year, but I went over the year before. The worst thing that could happen is that I get stuck on something boring and it takes my reading mojo with it (exactly what happened last year) but keep an eye on the Booktube-a-thon YouTube or Twitter if you want to participate with challenges and readalongs!

Please let me know if you're taking part this year and I'll update the post to include links if you post about it!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Books I Read in June

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This month, I've had a bit of blogger's block, but thankfully not reader's block - I abandoned the TV altogether in June (apart from a nightly episode of Buffy) and managed to get 19 books finished.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

This month, there were two choices - Conor O'Callaghan's debut novel Nothing on Earth, and the Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I had already read the Conor O'Callaghan one, I bought the other but didn't get to it.

Nothing on Earth by Conor O'Callaghan
Set on a ghost estate in Ireland in modern times. Our narrator is cagey, only giving us tidbits of information at a time, but eventually we hear the story of a family who gradually go missing one by one - culminating in a knock on a door one late Summer evening. Really tense, creepy, and disturbing. In a "read it now" kinda way.


Last year, I went on a Netgalley requesting binge and I still had some of those sitting on my dashboard so I tried to get through most of them this month.

Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter by Publishers Lunch (available now)
These books are such a great resource for readers - you can download this and the adult one for free at the Publishers Lunch website here. This one contains extracts from 20 upcoming Young Adult reads coming up in the latter half of the year. Standouts for me included The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (published August 23)
Anne and Marco are married and have a 6 month old baby. One night they go next door for a party with their neighbours, but when they return home, the baby is gone. A good twisty thriller, believable characters, I couldn't put it down. Really enjoyed it.

Don't You Forget About Me by Liz Tipping (available now)
The Breakfast Club obsessed Cara works in a video shop that's due to close soon. She wants to save the shop, but doesn't know how - meanwhile, there's a school reunion coming up. Could this be Cara's chance to pull off her own perfect John Hughes prom moment? Full of 80s movie references and a quick read, this was a nice light summer choice. I'm a sucker for a school reunion book.

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (available now)
Post-apocalyptic, set in California after a major drought. Liz is a former model who was used as the poster child for the drought - but now she's all grown up and trying to find her way to a safer place along with her boyfriend Ray. A bit hipster-y for me - I found it boring, I didn't enjoy it.

Himself by Jess Kidd (published October 27)
Handsome stranger Mahony comes to the little Irish village of Mulderrig under a cloud of suspicion - the villagers don't like people poking around asking questions. Especially when they ask questions about Orla Sweeney, a notorious hellraiser who vanished from the village 26 years ago with her baby. Mahony finds unlikely allies as the village begins to get tangled in its own web of lies - a really enjoyable, witty, story with a wicked sense of humour. Recommended.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman (published September 6)
Maribeth Klein is so busy with work and parenting that she doesn't even realise she has had a heart attack. Stressed out and under pressure from several angles, she decides to walk out of her life and go find her birth mother in Pittsburgh. I didn't enjoy this, I thought the main character was selfish and her decisions were inexplicable. I also thought the supporting characters weren't well developed and seemed to just slot in with whatever mood the main character was in at a particular time.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (published July 14)
"My husband didn't mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it". So goes the opening line - the husband in question is a high profile Judge with a loving wife and son. When he kills the aforementioned Annie Doyle, the family members go in different directions. One goes into shock, the other goes into survival mode, and the third becomes obsessed with the victim. Set in Dublin in the 1980s, this is one of my favourites of the year so far.

Those Summer Nights by Mandy Baggot (available now)
Imogen is disgusted when her wreckless brother Harry buys a restaurant in Corfu. Harry wants Immy to help him set it up and run it - but Immy is happy working as a waitress in the UK as she waits to see if her dream job interview was successful. She goes to Greece with Harry to try and dissuade him from the idea, but when she gets there and meets the former owner and their family, will she want to come home? Summer romance, predictable, but with a sharper wit than many others in the genre.

The Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant (available now)
Millie Hopkin comes to the small village of Honeybourne to take over a rundown bakery and renovate it. Millie has some secrets that are fast catching up with her, can she outrun them? Meanwhile, Jasmine Green reaches out to Millie but is her own family in trouble? A quick, easy read. Not actually much baking/bakery involved despite the title and cover, the bakery is just a side plot.

Other Fiction

My Map of You by Isabelle Broom
Recommended to me by Aoife (Pretty Purple Polka Dots), this is another Greek holiday story that's an easy Summer read. Holly finds out that she's now the owner of a property in Greece and leaves London behind to go and find out more about her family and what happened in Greece. Set on Zanthe, really Summery and a fairly good story.

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Having read and kind-of enjoyed Horrorstor by the same author last year, I picked this up. It's set in the 80s, and centres around two best friends - Gretchen and Abby. The girls experiment with drugs at a party and one of them will never be the same again - is she possessed, and what can the other one do about it? Equal parts satire and homage, I enjoyed this a lot even if it did venture into completely weird gory territory more than once.

Fellside by M.R Carey
Because I loved The Girl With All the Gifts, I picked this up blind. Big mistake. Big. Huge. This isn't at all like the author's first book (why should it be? Totally my fault for making assumptions) - this is a gritty female prison drama with a hint of the Supernatural. It reminded me a lot of Bad Girls and had a lot of stereotypes - the grass, the butch one, the liar, etc. Took a while to get through, it was okay.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
Carmel Summer Wakeford is  8 years old and has a history of wandering off. When Carmel gets lost again at a Children's Literary Festival, her mother is beside herself - where has she gone? This is told from the POV of both "gifted child" Carmel and her mother, so we do find out what happened. This was okay - it was a bit weird and repetitive toward the middle, I wasn't mad keen on the religion element, and I felt Carmel's voice too adult at times, but it was fine.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
A good-girl-gone-bad tale about Hannah Dexter, transformed into "Dex" by popular bad girl Lacey. Contains a lot of mature content including sex, drugs, satanism, ritual abuse - really didn't like this and felt like I'd seen Lacey a million times before. I didn't feel there was much in the way of plot and what was there seemed to want to shock rather than tell a story.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
1918, off the coast of Australia, a lighthouse. Tom Sherbourne is a former soldier who takes the isolated job as lighthouse keeper. 1926 - Tom is now married to Isobel. They long for a family of their own but sadly, tragedy strikes multiple times. When a boat washes ashore one day containing the dead body of a man and a very much alive baby, the couple have to make a heartbreaking decision. Will they phone the authorities, or will they raise the child as their own? What if doing the right thing isn't always the right thing to do? Adored this book.

The Girls by Emma Cline
Influenced by the activities of the infamous Charles Manson cult, this follows Evie Boyd in the 60s in California and in the present day. Evie spots beautiful, enigmatic girls in the local park when she is 14. Desperate to be like them and to be noticed, Evie gets involved in the dark world of Russell, a cult leader. Hard to stomach in places, but a good read nonetheless. Very evocative and sixties - the 60s chapters were much more engaging than the 00s ones.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016, this is a tale translated from Korean about a woman, Yeong-hye, who makes the decision to become vegan (not vegetarian) after a dream. Her husband and family are shocked, this is far outside the cultural and social norm. Told in three sections, this is a very weird, gory little book that uses veganism as the vehicle for a story about mental illness and obsession. I don't know if I loved it or hated it, but it has stayed with me since I read it.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward
A YA story about two girls, one a Princess, the other an Alchemist. When the Princess accidentally curses herself with a love potion meant for someone else, a Wilde Hunt is called - several Alchemists are summoned to go on a trek to try to find the ingredients to make an antidote. Among them, Samantha Kemi, who wants to win so she can use the money for her family. Quite juvenile but I'd probably read the sequel if I wanted something light and airy between thrillers.

That was it - no non-fiction and no audiobooks this month, which surprised me when writing this round-up. July is Booktube-a-thon month - very excited!! This year it runs from July 18-24. If you're a book blogger, youtuber or just an avid reader and you want to get involved, keep an eye the Booktube-a-thon twitter account here.