Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Owlcrate Unboxing August 2016

Not Sponsored or Paid | No Samples | Not a Collaboration


Last month, I received my first Owlcrate box from a three-month subscription. I was delighted with it, but also a little apprehensive that the next box wouldn't be as good - I needn't have worried.

The theme for the August box was "Fast Times at YA High" - a nod to this cult 80s flick starring Sean Penn. It was packed full of goodies:

The book for this month was P.S. I Like You by Kasie West - a YA romance story about a girl and boy who converse via notes and letters (so very old school, eh?). Also included was a letter from the author, and a signed bookplate. There was a signed bookplate with last month's choice too - I just stuck it to the inside of the book, I did the same with this one.

The Harry Potter side of things was covered with this gorgeous print by Susanne Draws - created exclusively for this box. This is crying out for a frame! There was a badge too, created by Taryn Knight.

There was a large adult colouring book included, along with a packet of colouring pencils. I have to admit that even though I was a huge fan of colouring growing up, I lost interest when it became "a thing". I don't find mandala patterns really relaxing, I find them stressful because I hate fiddly things - but I do have a Harry Potter colouring book that I really like and I have a willing recipient for this one.

There was a second badge, and a great little notebook made from recycled materials:

Finally, there was an exclusive piece of jewellery made by the folks at Owlcrate. It's based on the YA favourite Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and it's very, very cute.

Lastly, there was a cute information card for this box and a spoiler for next month... do you want to see?

The theme of the September box will be "Darkness", and it will contain a "spooky and peculiar" item from Out of Print, something related to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.


I adore this box. I've already ended three other subscriptions so that I can afford it again when my current sub runs out in October, I think it's well worth the €40 odd a month (recently published hardback books are nearly €20, never mind the other stuff). There's a discount code too - use WELCOME15 for 15% off your first order at www.owlcrate.com.

Can I just say too, that I love the way Owlcrate treat their International customers. I got a shipping notice yesterday and received my box today. From America! I love how we're not left waiting for weeks, it makes a huge difference to be able to join in the unboxing fun at the same time as everyone else (or in some cases, even before).

Bring on September!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Books I Read in July 2016

Not Sponsored or Paid | ARCs clearly defined, review policy here


So, this month was a great reading month - mostly due to Booktube-a-thon and not feeling like a complete weirdo for reading a book a day - and overall I read 24 books this month. I've given up TV/Netflix altogether except for a nightly episode of Buffy, meaning that I get to read from 8:30pm-12:30am every night after the kids go to bed. I completely credit it with my sanity - my house is mental during the day so I relish the quiet time. I do want to watch Stranger Things on Netflix at some stage though, so I may take a hiatus from Buffy after Season 6 to do that.

As always, you can head to the BOOKS 2016 page to access clickable covers for every book I read, they'll take you directly to my more in-depth reviews on Goodreads.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

The picks for July were Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf and Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. I had already read (and loved) Lying in Wait - I highly recommend it, my full review is here.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
A gently story about two elderly people who find comfort and solace in each other. I found this a bit....bland. There weren't any quotation marks, which is a pet hate of mine. I found it less engaging than I had hoped and I didn't particularly love it. You may like it if you like slow, sweet tales about unconventional romances.


Just one this month:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Genuinely one of the best audiobooks I've listened to. Stephen King has a great voice - it's full of character while still being quite droll and sarcastic. In this, his non-fiction work, he talks about what inspires him, about how he got started, how he writes, where he gets inspiration from, battling his demons, and he gives tips to any would-be authors. Really enjoyable.

More Stephen King

I finished the Bill Hodges Trilogy - I had been meaning to read Finders, Keepers for ages and took into it one Saturday night. I read End of Watch a few days later in case I'd forget about it for months again. I'm looking forward to returning to some of his older stuff now.

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges #2)
This was the follow up to Mr. Mercedes. As a standalone book, it was good, but as part of a trilogy, the connection to the first was loose until about 2/3 of the way through. It's about a young guy who tries to help his family out after the Dad was injured by Brady Hartsfield (our Big Bad from the first book) at a job fair. In doing so, the kid gets himself into danger, and it's up to our trio (Bill, Holly, Jerome) to put things right. Enjoyed it but felt it was more filler between the first and third than actually lending anything to the main story.

End of Watch (Bill Hodges #3)
Back to Brady here - our trio are investigating a series of suicides that all have one thing in common - some kind of video game. Meanwhile, Brady may be out of action, but is he really? This story went down a route that King has gone down before quite early in his career, but I found it less believable here. A lot of it went over my head - but it wrapped up well.

Psychological Thrillers

14 Days to Die by A.B. Whelan
Sarah and Mike appear to be happily married, but Sarah is feeling woefully underappreciated in her role as a stay-at-home parent. When she gets a phone call telling her something about Mike, she is shocked - and she's determined to take matters into her own hands. This surprised me, I didn't like the characters but I couldn't put it down, I read it in one sitting. Nice pace, good if you want a thriller that packs a punch without sucking up days of your time.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I discovered this author when actress Reese Witherspoon mentioned her on instagram - Ruth's first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood was very enjoyable, so I was looking forward to this. It's set on a cruise ship, and our protagonist isn't the most reliable - she's had a scare, and is feeling very overwhelmed. When she witnesses a crime in the cabin next door, she raises the alarm - and is informed that there was never anyone in that room. Is she going mad, or is she trapped on board a ship with a dangerous criminal? Ending was a bit mad for me but overall I enjoyed the book.

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Another thriller set on board a ship - but this one was far more enjoyable. Adam and Sarah live in Cork, and are happy. Sarah goes on a work trip - and never returns. Adam launches a search, but does Sarah want to be found? And what does a cruise ship have to do with it? A brilliant thriller, one of my favourite reads of the year. I set a reminder for 5am so I could finish this before the kids got up just so I wouldn't have to wait to read it that night. Highly recommended!

Buzz Books

The Buzz Books are a free resource, available to everyone. You can access the current editions here - they contain extracts from upcoming books and in some cases, links to request the full book on NetGalley or pre-approved links for members.

Buzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter
Contains extracts from 40 upcoming books. Divided into fiction, debut fiction, and non-fiction - I ended up requesting about 10 on NetGalley, including Mara Wilson's upcoming autobiography (Where Am I Now?) and some fiction - this really does have something for everyone, there's lots of War fiction if you're into that - plus thrillers, crime, comedy, history. A great resource.

Buzz Books 2016: Romance
Contains extracts from 20 upcoming romance books. The main thing I learned from this was that contemporary romance is not really for me - I used to read a lot of it, but it has become predictable and in some cases, inappropriate. One story in this centre around a violent ex-con who is determined to make a young woman "pay" by getting her back. He was terrifying, she was terrified - not romantic, folks. Unless I'm getting the definition wrong. Apart from that there were a few historical romances and some more traditional boy-meets-girl/crisis happens/everything works out ones.


I'm popping the Mary Downing Hahn one in here because even though something written in 1986 may not be a classic, I think this one definitely counts - it's probably her best known.

The Beetle by Richard Marsh
Written in 1897 and a direct competitor of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the time, I think this deserves a little more attention. A creepy, atmospheric story about an ancient egyptian entity who wages a war of revenge on a British MP, this was really enjoyable and easy to read. It's in the public domain now too, which means it's free to read in digital format.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Published in 1957, this inspired the film The Village of the Damned in 1960 (and all subsequent versions). It's about a man and his wife who return to their small village to find out that they can no longer enter - a strange object is in the sky, and when it leaves - all the women in the village are pregnant. The children are otherworldly, and have strange powers. A great read, if a little slow in the middle.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
I had intended to read this last Halloween but didn't get round to it. A brother and sister are concerned about their stepsister Heather, who is 7 and convinced that she has a new friend. Heather is trying to overcome a traumatic event and the other kids are trying their best with her but she's having none of it - she wants rid of her new family and her new friend is going to help her... This is a children's story but it was good, it was creepy and a quick read.

Young Adult

I read (and bought) a lot of Young Adult (YA) books this month - I find them easy to read, quick, and they're for the most part, my favourite non-thriller fiction to read. I like them because when I'm in the mood for a book binge I can usually finish one YA book in an evening.

Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger
I saw a review of this on Goodreads and it intrigued me. The main character is a young girl who has started acting differently, she has changed - but why has she changed? It's set in the near future and I went into it blind - I'd recommend not looking up reviews. But it's great, really was one of my favourites this month.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
This was aimed at much younger readers (the main character was 11) and it was a fantasy book. I didn't love it - it dragged for me. It was about a girl who felt like she wasn't herself, and she had to go on a kind of adventure to try to save herself. I didn't enjoy it. You might, if you like otherworldly adventures, there was no insta-love here either which was nice. It was just about two sisters going on a quest.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
A tale about Frankie, a 17 year old girl who attends a prestigious boarding school. Frankie can't understand why she isn't allowed access to the all-male secret society, especially after she finds out her boyfriend is involved. This is a nice introduction to feminism and boasts a strong, independent female character. Recommended.

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne
Bree wants to be a writer. She's 17, and she is offended when her English teacher tells her she needs to live a more interesting life in order for her writing to improve. She decides to infiltrate the gang of popular girls, becoming everything they are and embracing their lifestyle. This was okay, I thought the "romance" was wholly inappropriate but I enjoy Holly Bourne's writing and the issues she tackles.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
A book about what it's like to live in a world of monsters and vampires when you aren't a chosen one, and your friends aren't the Scooby Gang. Mikey just wants to graduate and tell his crush he loves her - and leave the Indie Kids to deal with all the danger. The start of every chapter tells us briefly what's going on outside the normal kids circle - it's part satire, part homage to fantasy books. I enjoyed this a lot but it appears to be very much a marmite book going by reviews.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Six five-year-olds go missing. 11 years later, five return. Where were they? Why can't they remember? Where's the sixth child? Told from the POV of three people (a female who came back, a male who came back, and the sister of the one who didn't), this was far-fetched but a different type of story than anything I'd read recently. Enjoyable enough.

The List by Siobhan Vivian
Every September, a list is posted at Mount Washington High school. Two girls are picked from each year - one the prettiest, one the ugliest. How do the girls cope, who's in charge of the list, and what happens when you don't make the cut? Too many characters for me (literally everyone on the list got a few chapters so there were 8 girls to keep track of - along with their families, friends, etc). I liked Danielle's chapters best, she seemed to have a unique voice. The rest seemed to merge. A quick read, though.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
This is the second book by Morgan Matson that I've read (the first being Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, which I really enjoyed). It's about the daughter of a prominent politician who has plans for the Summer that don't involve getting wrapped up in a scandal involving her Dad. She has to change her plans, and ends up taking a job as a dog walker, where she meets some people who will help her find herself. Really enjoyed this, quite summery and not as childish as some YA, even if the friend drama was a bit much at times.


Birds' Nest Soup by Hanna Greally
At the age of 19, Hanna Greally was signed into St. Loman's Mental Hospital, Mullingar, Westmeath, by her mother 'for a rest'. Hanna had been a nurse in London during the Blitz and had returned to her home country traumatised. Her father had also passed and she was overwhelmed - her mother signed her in, and there she remained for the next 20 years. Her story is sad, but it's sadly not uncommon. Ireland doesn't have the best history when it comes to dealing with mental health - and this wasn't a million years ago, this was less than 60 years ago. This is Hanna's account of her time at St. Loman's. It ends abruptly - so I want to find the follow-up books she wrote.

Just one this month - I was granted a few requests on NetGalley but haven't gotten to them yet. This is one I was initially refused for - but I loved the premise so much that I contacted the Publisher to ask how I could improve my profile in order to be considered for future releases. The lovely lady I spoke to sent me a digital copy for review, which was incredibly nice of her.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti - published Jan 03, 2017
Lizzie Lovett is a High School student who has disappeared without a trace. Classmate Hawthorn Creely (there's a name and a half) has a theory - but nobody will listen to her. Mainly because her theory is bizarre. Hawthorn decides that the only way to make people listen is to prove it - and to do that, she's going to have to delve deeper into Lizzie's life. This goes a lot deeper than it looks - on the surface, it's about a girl who comes up with a silly idea. On the next level, it's about the pressure of being a teenager, secret struggles with depression, coping mechanisms, facing grief, and finding solace. Really enjoyed it.


This was one I read for Booktube-a-thon, we had to read a book and then watch the movie adaptation. Mermaids is one of my favourite films, so I was interested to see how it started out.

Mermaids by Patty Dann
Set in 1963. Mrs. Flax has two daughters, Charlotte (14) and Kate (7). Kate is a champion swimmer and obsessed with all things water-related, while Charlotte is obsessed with the lives of Saints and becoming pure (if she can stop lying and falling in love). Mrs. Flax moves around a lot - the latest move takes them to a small home near a convent and a studly caretaker named Joe. In the movie, Joe is a God - he was one of my first teen (or pre-teen) crushes. In the book, he is WEIRD. Just read it for yourself, then come back and tell me there's nothing wrong with him. Seriously. Odd. I still prefer the film but I'm glad I read this.

Short Story/Anthology
I've seen this around on several different BookTube accounts, so I put my name down at the library. It arrived the other day and I read it over two evenings, most of the stories were under 50 pages so it was great to dip and out of.

Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
A collection of 12 YA short stories all themed around Summer/Romance, edited by author Stephanie Perkins. My favourites were the ones from Leigh Bardugo (magical realism about a girl and boy who can only meet during Summer); Cassandra Clare (a dark carnival and a young girl trying to find out what happened to her father) and Lev Grossman (a kinda Groundhog Day for YA about a boy living the same day over and over, thinking he's the only one...until he meets a girl). Lots of diversity, lots of serious issues addressed (Autism, Racial Tension, Depression), a nice little collection with only a few duds.

And that's it! On the reading list for August are some more ARCs, the book I got from Owlcrate, the books I bought for my Birthday, the books I borrowed from the library, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Rick O'Shea picks for August, and whatever else crops up unexpectedly....

See you for the next round-up in September!