Friday, April 21, 2017

Owlcrate April 2017: Head Over Heels

Nothing to Disclose


I've mentioned this before, but the thing I love most about Owlcrate is how they look after their International customers. I received my box the day after I received the shipping notification - before the majority of U.S subscribers. It's a small thing, but it means so much when I'm used to having to wait and avoid spoilers from other companies. Much appreciated!

As revealed in last month's post, the theme for April is "Head Over Heels".

The contents were fantastic this month, I loved the variety.

The book this month is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. It's a YA novel about an overweight teenager, a twin, who wishes she had a boyfriend. Now at almost 34 I'm thinking I'm not the target age group for this, but I read an awful lot of YA, I was an overweight teen who wished she had a boyfriend, and as a twin Mum I'm all over anything with twins - so I'm going in with an open mind, hoping it's a light read. Also included are a letter from the author, a signed bookplate, and an emoji sticker.

There's a card print featuring a quote from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (I squealed at this, I read the book recently and adored it) - designed by Evie Bookish. There's a sampler from Umberland by Wendy Spinale, this is book 2 in a series based around a retelling of Peter Pan. There's also the theme reveal for May - the theme will be Comic Explosion, and the item previewed on the back was............a full sized Funko Pop! figure. Can.Not.Wait.

On to the merchandise - this is honestly one of my favourite selections yet. That packet up in the top left is a pack of cherry chocolate tea from The Tea Spot, inspired by Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. The candle is vanilla, from Novelly Yours, and called Park and Eleanor after the novel of the (almost) same name by Rainbow Rowell. The little keyring designed by Bookworm Boutique features a quote from Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda also written by book of the month author Becky Albertalli, and the little badge is an Owlcrate exclusive (there's a badge every month). The final item is a headband from Storiarts with quotes from Pride and Prejudice.

Here are all the books that inspired the contents of the box - click on the covers to go to the Goodreads page for each book.

I'll probably never wear the headband, but the rest of the stuff is right up my alley - flavoured tea, candles, keyrings, quote cards - all some of my favourite bookish merchandise.

I really, really loved this box - more of the same, please!

If you're interested in subscribing to Owlcrate, you can use the code WELCOME15 for 15% off your first order. That's not an affiliate code, I gain nothing from it. If you would like to help me earn a free box, this is my referral link - otherwise go directly to and sign up there. It is expensive, it's just under €50 a month, but I put away €12 every week for it because no matter how many others I try - this is my favourite, I love it, and I look forward to it every single month. There's also a great facebook group for subscribers full of smart, intelligent book lovers of all ages and nationalities, it's a lovely place to chat.

Are you into bookish merchandise? What's your favourite type? 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

13 Thoughts about 13 Reasons Why [Contains Major Spoilers]

Nothing to Disclose


I've had the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher on my Kindle for a few years, but had never been tempted to read it until the recent buzz about the new Netflix adaptation. I read the book and watched the series over the past week, so I wanted to share my thoughts on it here. The book is very different to the series, but for the purposes of this I'll stick to the events in the series.

Copyright - Netflix

1. Assholes v Bitches
In the series, Hannah says "boys are assholes, girls are evil". This is a terrible message to give out - in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, she says "If we see something often enough, it becomes the norm. If we do something often enough, it becomes the norm." By making the athletes macho assholes and the cheerleaders bitches, isn't this just perpetuating stereotypes? If the cheerleaders are expected to be bitches, and athletes are expected to be assholes, how does this help change anything? Where are all the "in-between" kids? There are a huge group of people who are struggling through school who aren't on a team or don't know the popular kids. Where were they in this series?

2. Self Harm
A character, Skye, says that she self-harms because "it's what you do instead of suicide, suicide is for the weak". Skye is the only "alternative" girl in the show, with a unique style (tattoos, piercings, wears a lot of black). She's also the only non-cheerleader apart from Hannah. By calling suicide "weak", she sends the message that self-harm is a valid escape without the finality of suicide. This is so dangerous and isn't addressed more than once.

3. What About Jessica?
I'm really conscious of not crossing over into victim-blaming territory here, but Hannah sat in a room and watched Bryce rape Jessica while she was almost unconscious. Justin also knew what was happening. They both then continued to hang out in a group that included both Jessica and Bryce, all the while knowing what had happened. WHO DOES THIS. Who watches their friend being sexually assaulted and does nothing? Who still hangs round with their best friend when they know he is a rapist - not just a rapist, but your girlfriend's rapist?

4. The Blame Game
Hannah takes her life because she feels there's no other option. She feels like she isn't good enough for Clay, that she is a disappointment to her parents, that she is a laughing stock with a bad reputation and that things will never get better. She lays all of that on Mr. Porter - saying "I decided to give it one final shot". The discussion doesn't go the way she wants, and she carries out her plan. She said she began to feel like she could do this, she could get through it - what could Mr. Porter have said to change her mind about the suicide, then? What could he have done? Or, was this a red herring, and would his response have made things better until the next time Hannah felt she had upset someone or something else had happened to her? Was she a ticking time bomb all along? Was she always going to take her life, regardless of what was happening around her?

5. What the hell IS Tony
At the start, I thought he might be some kind of guardian angel from the 1950s. He constantly pushes Clay to keep listening to the tapes, knowing that Clay didn't do anything bad - but instead of letting him know that it was okay to keep listening, he says "yes" when Clay asks if Tony thinks Clay killed Hannah - what?! "Listen to the tapes, Clay" - Fuck OFF, TONY. Also - okay. The first tapes are full of stuff that could send people to jail. Rape, assault, stalking, dangerous driving - why would Tony continue to do what Hannah wanted instead of handing the tapes straight over to Hannah's parents (or the police) - Hannah was already dead, he was in control of both sets of tapes, if he felt that guilty why engage in ridiculous chain letter behaviour, why leave her parents in limbo, why risk someone not passing the tapes on - who the hell is he to play God?

6. While we're on the subject of Clay's tape...
Hannah left him until number 11? She knew he loved her. She knew he was a good person. She knew he would blame himself. So she makes him sit through 10 tapes, listening to all the bad stuff that ever happened to her, before she lets him off the hook? Really cruel. Really fucking cruel. Tony got a letter - but Clay didn't? I understand why Clay was on there, and why she wanted him to hear what happened to her, but I think it was cruel to leave him waiting so long.

7. Hannah's Parents
In the book, they're pretty non existent, so I was glad to see Hannah's parents in the series and watch them deal with the aftermath (as awful as that sounds). I was also glad to see them in Hannah's life - they were busy, and they did get annoyed with her (any parent would be annoyed if their kid lost hundreds of dollars) - but they didn't get a tape. They didn't get a letter. Hannah didn't confide in them. She left tapes to her rapist, her stalker, her tormentors - but nothing to her parents. This terrified me as a parent - the notion that you can do all you can for your child and they still won't tell you when something's wrong.

8. Peeping Tom
You know what you do if you catch someone taking photographs of you? A) Close the curtains, B) Report the fucker. Call the police. In the book, Courtney and Hannah deliberately pose seductively knowing that Tyler's outside taking photographs. It's Courtney who turns on Hannah, joking about the contents of her bedroom drawer with others at a party. In the series, Courtney is gay and comes on to Hannah - then they catch Tyler taking photographs. Tyler then turns on Hannah after she rejects him and releases a "blurry photograph that nobody could identify" (only if you have eyes) - Tyler is walking round with a camera, photographing whomever and whatever he wants, AND NOBODY REPORTS HIM???!!!! Clay later stalks him right back and spreads round a naked picture of him - a really dick move that makes Clay seem petty.

9. The School
When I was in Secondary School (maybe 14/15), one of my friends started saying that I fancied the caretaker (old enough to be my Dad). I actually became so paranoid about it that I didn't want to go to school, and I certainly didn't want to go past him - "there's your boyfriend, Sharon" - I was MORTIFIED. Like Alex's "list", that kind of crap went on all the time and I suspect will go on until the end of time. This show doesn't teach people how to deal with that. This is stuff that goes on in every school in the country - it's happening to kids today. Teenagers will come home tonight and cry because of something stupid that was said, or something that was laughed at. This show tells us that there are two ways to deal with that - 1) suicide, or 2) self harm.

10. Abandon all hope ye who enter here
There's no hopeful message in this. None. I'm not one for branding things "triggering" but I can't imagine watching this if I was still in Secondary School. There's no message of hope, no message that it's going to get better. Should there always be a message of hope? Maybe not, maybe that's not reality, but those few last years of Secondary School can be really, really shit and IT DOES GET BETTER. I swear to god it does. Yes, you'll always come up against toxic people, and toxic environments, but you'll learn skills to deal with them. You'll grow in confidence. The noise won't matter so much. It gets better. Do you hear me?

11. Where are all the phones?
There were three pictures circulated. That's it. No online bullying, no Facebook page, no group chats, no forums - one of the major differences between when I was a teenager and now, is the internet. I find it really weird that in 2017, the only mention of technology or phones was to circulate the three pictures.

12. Was the suicide scene necessary?
I watched through my fingers. Hannah's voice, her pain, the sight of it - I couldn't watch it, I felt it was too far. We don't need to see that. It has been argued that we do need to see it - we need to see what suicide looks like, and what rape looks like - but I disagree. I think it was graphic for the sake of being graphic. They showed her getting a specific type of blade and dragging it across her wrists, while shouting in pain - it's one of the most horrifying things I've ever watched. I felt that the scene where Hannah's parents found her was far more effective at showing the horror and shock of suicide.

13. Rapists are untouchable... if they're athletes
After she witnesses him raping Jessica, Hannah then goes to a party at Bryce's house, where he rapes her. We watch him get away with Jessica's rape so he's free to do it to Hannah as well (and lord knows how many others, given his "every girl at that school wants to be fucked" speech) In Louise O'Neills Asking for it, we also see a young woman raped by an athlete. In reality, we saw a Stanford rapist get a measly sentence after he raped a girl, and we saw him described in the majority of reports as "Stanford swimmer". The notion that athletes are untouchable needs to change - had the tapes not been passed to Clay, it's possible that nothing would have been done about Bryce. Had Clay followed Hannah's preferred order, Bryce would have received the tapes next - did Hannah really believe that having heard everything, Bryce would have handed them over to Mr. Porter? Yeah right?! Bryce raped Jessica, there were witnesses, nobody did anything. Justin convinced Jessica that Hannah was lying and that Jessica wasn't raped. HIS OWN GIRLFRIEND. Hannah told Mr. Porter about her rape, he said "name him or get over it" (paraphrasing here, but that was the gist of it). That's an appalling message to send out to young teenagers. So many young women already don't come forward - but when you see, on a screen, nobody doing anything to help? That was a huge missed opportunity to let young women know that this doesn't have to be the norm anymore.

The main issue I have with this is that Hannah was a bright, articulate, friendly, beautiful woman who felt so alone and lost that she felt suicide was her only option. Is that not enough, without the elaborate set up? So often we don't get closure or answers when someone dies. We don't get tapes. We don't get reasons. We are told to be careful what we say or do to others, because we don't know how it will affect them. We're told to be kind - there were people here who were kind and it made no difference. Clay was kind. Tony was kind. I came away from watching this absolutely terrified about parenting through teenage years - I appreciate that is has opened up discussion, but unfortunately the biggest thing it has done is create a new meme - "welcome to your tape". In saying all of this - the series is a hundred times better than the book (which was a hot mess).

We really didn't see enough of Hannah's headspace - mental health is a huge factor in suicide, and we didn't get enough of an insight into how Hannah really felt. The emotional wellbeing of our teenagers is at risk here - every day we see more and more young people dealing with their emotions, trying to cope with the pressure of being a teenager in a digital age where everything's scrutinized and judged, trying to work out their place in the world, trying to fit in, trying to overcome anxiety, depression - trying to get through the day.

In my humble opinion, we got 13 reasons, but we still don't know why.

So how do we help?

We talk.

If you're a young person and you're experiencing bullying, sexual abuse, or suicidal thoughts, you can contact:

Youth Suicide Prevention Ireland (for people aged 12-22): Even if you have no credit, you can text HELP to 50015.
Childline (for young people up to age 18): You can call 1800 666666 or contact teentext by texting CHAT, or if you're experiencing bullying, BULLY to 50101. have a helpful article here ( about how to identify sexual assault and what to do if you've been assaulted. You can also contact the National 24 Helpline for anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse at 1800 778888. 

You're also free to contact me if you want to. I'm not a counsellor or therapist but if you're reading this and you don't have anyone to talk to, you can talk to me.

Friday, April 14, 2017

March 2017 Reads

Not sponsored or paid | ARCs clearly defined


Somehow, I thought I had already done this post, so apologies for the lateness.

In March, I read 11 books.

Rick O'Shea Book Club

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I had never read anything by John Boyne before, so I didn't know what to expect with this. What I got was an engaging, warm, witty journey through one man's life. Cyril Avery was adopted as a child into an eccentric Dublin family - this is his story. There are moments of real sadness, heartbreak and loss - but there are also laugh-out-loud parts and really touching exchanges. I adored it.

I didn't fare as well with the other pick (A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume) - it's a very introspective look at a woman coping with depression and I just wasn't in the right headspace for it, but I will pick it up again at some stage.


I got all three of these from Netgalley - actually, if you'd like a post explaining what Netgalley is and how to use it, please let me know and I'll do one. It's a resource available to all reviewers, some publishers require you to have a blog, others don't.


Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey
This is part of a series - and I didn't know that before I requested it. It's about a newly promoted Sergeant, Maeve Kerrigan, and her investigation of a murder with a difference: there's no body. This was enjoyable enough, but I felt I missed out by not having much of a backstory on the Police characters and I also felt there were too many subplots.

Buzz Books 2017 Young Adult Spring/Summer 
I keep mentioning these because they're fantastic - and free. Publisher's Lunch publish a couple of these every year, and they have extracts of upcoming Young Adult releases. There's an adult version too. This has 18 previews, from fantasy and contemporary to non-fiction.

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown
Set in 1645 and based on the life of Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, this is the fictional story of Matthew's sister Alice. Alice has fallen on hard times and returns to her homeplace to live with Matthew, who has started a crusade to condemn people as witches and have them hanged. Alice is horrified and tries to make Matthew see sense - but will he pay attention to her? Or does she need to tread carefully? I really enjoyed this, I liked Alice and I thought it panned out well. Really atmospheric.

Young Adult


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
It has taken me so long to read this series but with the release of the third book in May, I said I'd give it a go. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this is about a young huntress named Feyre who accidentally kills a Faerie. A beastly creature arrives at her home one night and demands she return to his kingdom with him to amend for taking a life - so the adventure begins. I did like it a lot, even though this wouldn't be my usual read. I moved straight on to book 2, and adored that, but that'll be in next month's wrap up.

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Having previously read One by the same author, I tried this - it's a story about a young teenager named Appollinia (Apple), who has been raised by her Grandmother after her mother left over eleven years ago. When Apple's mother arrives back on the scene promising Apple the world, what will happen? This was good, slightly younger than I thought, but deals with sensitive issues well. That mother though.........

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
This was in an Owlcrate a few months ago. It's the story of three sisters, each born with a unique gift. Only one can take the throne - so they must fight to the death for it. I like books about sisters, but I was a little wary about the whole pitting them against each other thing - it actually works well here, it was quite slow but picked up toward the end leaving room for more action in the sequel as opposed to so much world building.



We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A short novel based on a talk the author gave in 2012. It's a basic introduction to understanding feminism and why it's as important for young men as well as young women. So often, feminists are called "angry" - as the author says, we should be angry. A really great read.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred (literally Of Fred) is a Handmaid - one of a group of women in a society that only values men. The role of the Handmaids is strictly to procreate - to provide the men they're assigned to with children. Offred contemplates suicide regularly, and dreams of her former life as a mother and partner. This was always going to be an unsettling read, particularly in a world where President Trump is a reality - but it just didn't have the impact on me that it might have had if I'd read it a few years ago.

TV/Movie Adaptations


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The TV adaptation is showing on Sky Atlantic at the moment - I really wanted to read the book before watching the series. It's a sharp, clever story about the lives of three women that are all connected in some way. Madeline is worried that she's losing her daughter to her ex-husband's new wife; Celeste is hiding something about her seemingly perfect marriage; and Jane has moved to the area to escape something in her past - but is it catching up to her? A really engrossing read.

Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright
Originally published as Tony and Susan, this is a novel within a novel. A woman receives a manuscript from her estranged ex husband and reads it in three sittings, wondering what it means to her. Unfortunately, I didn't really get along with this - I felt that nothing really happened.

And that's it - that takes my total up to 31 for the first three months of the year, which I'm pretty happy with. As always, the books will be added to my Books 2017 page so you can click through for longer reviews or more information.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Empties January-March 2017

Not Sponsored or Paid. Samples clearly defined. 


"Empties" posts were really popular on blogs a couple of years ago. I personally loved them because they gave a great insight into products - anything can look lovely once or twice, but how does it hold up if you use it all? I've been gathering up my empties since January and been making an effort to use things up instead of hoarding. I'll have one of these every 3 months or so, when I gather enough empties to do another post. I'll give you a quick run down of each product and whether or not I'd buy it again.


Dermalogica Daily Cleansing Shampoo & Daily Conditioning Rinse PR Sample
I was sent this shampoo and conditioner duo back in November 2016, and began using them in January. I didn't use them daily, but I did use them on average of about twice a week. The shampoo doesn't lather, both products are paraben and sulfate free. They're very gentle, they were lovely to use, and they left my hair feeling clean and not loaded with product.

Would I buy again? 
I would, yes. They're not cheap - a quick Google suggests a starting price of about €17, but they lasted ages and they're still not as pricey as my all time fave Kérastase range.


Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar
I first received a sample of this oil-free moisturiser in a beauty box last year. I bought the full size because I loved everything about it - especially the way it made my skin feel silky and moisturised. I also really like the fragrance.

Would I buy again?
It's €45 in Boots at the minute - so no. It's very lovely, but I couldn't justify that price again.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Moisturiser
This is a really lightweight moisturiser that smells a bit like oranges - it left my skin feeling refreshed every morning, I didn't really use it much at night. The pot lasted ages.

Would I buy again?
Yes, but I'd buy on the UK site via Address Pal (£16 vs €25.50)

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme (Dry to Very Dry Skin)
This was a sample in some beauty box - there are two versions of this cream available, I got the one for dry skin. It's a thick moisturiser, one I used mainly at night after cleansing, and it made my skin feel plump and hydrated.

Would I buy again?
Yes, this is the one I'll be repurchasing when I've used up all my other moisturisers. It's really thick and makes my skin feel fantastic. It's currently around the €25 mark for the full sized product, great value considering the little sample pot lasted me for about a month.


Ole Henriksen Clean Truth Cleansing Cloths
This was one of the items in the Look Fantastic advent calendar. It contained 10 "quilted clothes" - wipes. They're fancy wipes. They smelled like citrus, they did the job well, and my skin did feel clean - but they're still just wipes. 

Would I buy again?
No. I've owned (and enjoyed) an Ole Henriksen melting cleanser before that I would buy again, but I didn't find these wipes particularly unique or different enough to warrant paying more than a few euro for them (this pack is €7). 

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser
This is a repurchase - the 100ml bottle lasts a really long time. It's a gentle non-foaming cleanser, it does the job really well, and it's quick and easy. I have yet to find a makeup item that it can't remove, plus it leaves my skin feeling very clean and soft. 

Would I buy again?
I've a new one ready to go - this is one of the things I always save my Boots points for. 


Wet n Wild Megaglo Contouring Palette - Dulce De Leche
As you can see, it's completely gone. This was a powder duo - containing a darker shade to contour with and a lighter shade to highlight/set. It's cheap as chips (€5.99) and lasts months even with everyday use. I think this is the first time I've ever completely finished a powder! The powder doesn't cake on me and the contour isn't orange - winner all round. 

Would I buy again?
Absolutely, this has overtaken much more expensive brands as a part of my makeup routine. I had a new one ready to use even before this one was finished. 

Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream - Ivory
This is my favourite base for every day wear - it gives the coverage of foundation but it's incredibly lightweight. It contains pigments to combat redness, SPF 15 and it doesn't cake or go patchy, I find that it gives a nice glow and can be used with one of those illuminating primers to look even more dewy. Love it.

Would I buy again?
I stockpile this all the time - whenever Bourjois are on offer in Boots (like now) I buy multiple tubes of it, I'd be lost without it. I'd say I've easily bought this 15 times at this stage, I love it. 


Michael Kors Rose Radiant Gold EDP 30ml
This was a Christmas present from me to me in 2015 - I've used it mainly during Autumn/Winter. It's a heavy, woody fragrance with musk and florals. It's lovely, but it's most definitely not a Spring/Summer scent. It has great lasting powder, and it's a lovely scarf perfume - one to spray on a scarf if you want the warm, musky scent to last longer. 

Would I buy again?
No. There are very few perfumes I repurchase because I love to try new ones all the time - I liked this a lot but it's not special enough for me to want to own again. I also don't like the packaging - as lovely as it looks, I can't see how much perfume is left and that drives me mad. 

Impulse Into Glamour Body Fragrance
I was very much an Impulse teenager - I went through a can every week or two (remember the limited edition Spice Girls one?). I picked this up when I ran out of deodorant, but this is really just a scented spray - it doesn't do anything to combat sweatiness. I ended up just using it in lieu of perfume some days.

Would I buy again?

The Body Shop British Rose Instant Glow Body Butter
This was part of a trio that I got at Christmas when I ordered from the UK site. It smells gorgeous - the Body Shop really are superior when it comes to creating scents. It genuinely does smell like fresh roses. As with all their body butters, this was smooth, creamy, thick - it felt gorgeous and my skin felt (and smelled) fantastic after using it. I'm not entirely sure that I had a "glow" but I felt moisturised.

Would I buy again?
Absolutely, but again - not in Ireland. I'll wait until the UK site are having a sale and pick it up via Address Pal or Parcel Motel. 

So - that's it. Overall I finished up 12 products in the first three months of the year. I found myself making much more of an effort to use things up instead of having loads of half-used products lying round, and I'll continue to do that over the next three months. 

Have you tried any of these products? Do you find you never finish anything, or are you someone who finishes something before moving on to the next product?