Friday, October 27, 2017

Blog Tour: December Girl by Nicola Cassidy

ARC clearly defined in accordance with review policy here


Nicola Cassidy is an Irish writer, blogger and all-round good egg, so when she got in touch with me a few months ago to ask if I'd like to take part in the blog tour for her debut novel, I didn't even have to think about it. I know I enjoy her writing from following her website ( so I had every faith in her novel being brilliant.

It didn't disappoint - "December Girl" was one of those books I couldn't put down, one of those ones I carried to the toilet with me (sorry, Nicola). And I'm not just saying this because the press pack came with a little bottle of gin (but believe me, that didn't hurt).

Molly Thomas' world is turned upside down when the jealousy of a neighbour culminates in the arrest of her father, creating a series of tragic events that change Molly's life forever. As she begins to build a life for herself, the unthinkable happens - her baby is kidnapped. Can she ever find her son? And find happiness? Set between Ireland and England in the late 1800s/early 1900s, this is the story of a strong willed young woman and her struggle for survival and justice, revenge and happiness.

I don't naturally gravitate towards Historical fiction, and I'm not sure why, because I'm a sucker for anything set in Ireland around this time period. Molly, the feisty young woman born on the December Solstice, was instantly likeable. My heart broke for her during some of her most terrible experiences, and I really wanted her to find happiness. The story is sad (very sad) in parts, and it was difficult to read at times because I felt like I really knew Molly, I felt like she was a real person and couldn't bear to see her going through so much heartache. The plot itself was believable and well paced, I liked the setting and how the book was broken up into parts.

I'm a Solstice baby too (the June one) and remember going on a school tour to Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange as a child - this book made me want to go back again, to have a wander round as an adult. Anyone with even a mild interest in Irish heritage should definitely make a point of going - the peacefulness and history came across really well in the book, and it's even stronger in reality.

I'd recommend this for anyone who is looking for an engaging character-driven read, for people who like Irish Fiction, Historical Fiction, anyone with an interest in Irish heritage or anyone looking for a heartfelt read about courage, revenge, love and loss. It's not a light read by any means, but it's worth it.


December Girl is currently available wherever books are sold, and on Kindle (a steal at 99p right now). 

Thanks to Nicola and everyone at Bombshell Books for allowing me to read the book prior to publication, and for asking me to be part of the tour. You can check out the other stops below:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Halloween DIY 2017

Nothing to Disclose


Every October, I promise myself I'll make more decorations for Halloween - I make Pinterest boards, I print instructions, I buy art supplies - and it all sits there, unused, while I buy enough mass-produced Halloween stuff to open my own Euro shop. This year, I started crafting early, and I've amassed a nice little collection of homemade decorations.

I've been posting on Instagram and Facebook, but have been asked for tutorials and more information about some of the pictures, so I've put this together as best I can. If something isn't clear, just leave a comment below and I'll answer back ASAP!


You will  need: Balloons, cornflour, cold water, a saucepan, a whisk, cheesecloth, cups/bottles, newspaper/tray. To decorate: Black card, glue, tinfoil (optional).

Cheesecloth can be hard to find, so try shops that sell fabric (Guineys, Hickeys) or it can be found online fairly easily and reasonably cheap. I used a piece measuring 90cm x 90cm, that was enough for two big ghosts and two little ones.

Step One: In a saucepan, whisk 3 tablespoons of cornflour with most of the water from 500ml. Keep the heat at medium and keep whisking. If it gets too thick, add more water. When it starts to boil remove it and let it cool, then transfer to a container (a lunchbox is ideal). I followed the instructions here: Homemade Liquid Starch Glue.

Step Two: Lay a sheet of newspaper or a baking tray on a flat surface where it can stay for 24 hours. Blow up three balloons. One bigger one for the head, and two smaller ones for the arms. Place them on cups/bottles of varying heights and secure with tape if needed.

Step Three: Place the cheesecloth in the paste, roll it around to make sure it's completely covered.

Step Four: Drape the cheesecloth over the balloons and leave to dry for 24 hours.

Step Five: When the ghost is dry, you can remove from the balloons (pop if necessary) and decorate. I used black card and a glue gun for the face, and aluminum foil for the chain. Mine wouldn't stand alone, so I popped him on a kitchen roll holder.


You will need: A canvas, a picture or photo of your choice, Mod Podge or PVA glue, a paintbrush.

I bought my canvas in Mr. Price for about €3.99.

Step One: Choose a picture or photo that you'd like to transfer to the canvas. I found mine online and printed out onto plain A4 paper. Trim the edges if necessary.

Step Two: Brush the entire canvas with Mod Podge or PVA glue, then carefully lay your image ink side down, smoothing out carefully to avoid air bubbles. Leave to dry completely (about 12 hours).

Step Three: Using a damp sponge, gently dampen the paper and begin to rub the top layer of paper off gently. When I used the sponge it felt too abrasive, so I rubbed and rolled the paper off with my finger. This takes ages, but it's worth it - if you hit an air bubble, go as slowly as possible to avoid ripping the design. Blow off any debris as you go along.

Step Four: When you're finished, cover the whole image with a layer of Mod Podge or PVA glue to seal. I stained the edges of the canvas using a damp teabag to age it more.

I made this following a pattern by The Prairie Schooler called "Hocus Pocus". I found the pattern online, it's also available on Etsy. It took me about a week to complete - I worked most of the black areas first. There's no backstitch and all the sections were the same size, so it wasn't difficult. I added more orange to the moon, I wasn't keen on all the grey.

I found the frame at a second hand market for €1, it had the mount included which was handy.


You will need: A hardcover book, kitchen towel, PVA glue or Mod Podge, acrylic paint (brown, black, yellow), eyeball (or foam ball), air drying clay or Crayola Model Magic, silver paint, paintbrush.

I have wanted to make the spellbook from Hocus Pocus for years - I followed this youtube tutorial here:

I picked up a hardcover book at a market for 50c, then followed the instructions, covering it in tissue paper and securing with Mod Podge as I went. I used old fridge magnets for the clasp and got the eyeball on Etsy, but lots of Euro shops have decorations with eyeballs in them that would work, or a small piece of white clay/foam painted to look like an eye would work. I left it to dry, then painted it with cheap acrylic paint from a Euro shop. 

While the book was drying, I used Crayola Model Magic (eBay) to fashion the snakes and clasp. I found the Model Magic really difficult to work with - it seemed to stick to itself and kept springing back on me. If I was doing it again I'd use regular air dry clay. I sprayed the pieces with silver spray paint, then used a hot glue gun to stick them in place. I'm not happy with how the clasp turned out and I'll make a new one at some point, but overall I'm happy with how the book looks for a first attempt!


You will need: One long stick/length of timber, 4-5 pieces of scrap wood, printer and paper or paint, brush, Mod Podge or PVA glue, nails or screws.

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was such a great idea for an outdoor decoration!

Step One: Either print out your place names onto plain paper or draw them on the wood and paint them in. If printing, cut the individual letters out.

Step Two: Make sure the wood is clean, then coat in a layer of Mod Podge or PVA glue. Gently lay the letters in place. Brush another layer of glue on top.

Step Three: When completely dry, secure to the long post with screws or nails. Ironically, when we were putting this up, Oz blew off - so I replaced it with Halloweentown.

Mod Podge isn't weather resistant - so I'm coating mine in a layer of clear varnish just to make sure the writing stays put, and I can use this again next year.


To make the knitted pumpkin, I followed this pattern: Knit Pumpkin and Skeleton. This was the first thing I've knit in about 20 years, so it's not perfect, but I'm happy with it.

To make the pom-pom pumpkins and bats I used the old-fashioned method using wool and two card circles, if you Google "how to make a pom-pom" you'll find loads of methods. For the bat, I attached some googly eyes and cardboard wings/ears with a hot glue gun.


I made this last year, printed it out and just popped it in a frame from Dealz that I painted black (as seen in the first image in this post).

So - that's it, so far anyway! I've still got folders full of ideas, so if I get anything else done by Halloween I'll pop them up. If you've seen any cute DIY projects please let me know!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Books I Read in September

ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here
Links to buy are affiliate links. 


This post should really be called "Books I Listened to in September" because the majority of them were audiobooks (I have a post about where to get Audiobooks here). The majority were also from the library this month, despite the fact that I've been collecting books faster than the old Taylor collected enemies.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

The September choices were My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (I read and reviewed that in August) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, which I didn't finish in September so I'll pop that in next month's round up.



Copycat by Alex Lake
Sarah, a doctor in her late thirties, gets a pretty big shock (as one would) when she receives a friend request on Facebook from someone posing as her. They've got photographs and information that only Sarah should be able to access, so what's going on? I did enjoy this, but found the chapters from the perspective of the antagonist a little Disney villain-esque. A good, quick, engaging read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Lay Me to Rest by E.A. Clark
Annie is a young widow, pregnant with her late husband's baby. Her sister arranges a getaway in a remote Welsh village, but when she gets there Annie realises she may not be welcome. There's a malevolent presence (or two) at the cottage, so Annie digs deeper into local legend to see if she can bring the spirit some peace. I enjoyed this too, I didn't find it scary but I read it one evening and found it enjoyable if a little Joey-with-the-thesaurus at times.
Buy: Kindle 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman Published October 10th
A long-awaited prequel to the wonderful Practical Magic that follows the lives of Franny and Jet (the Aunts) before they were Aunts. The girls and their brother Vincent live with the Owens curse hanging over their heads, and it affects them in different ways. Set in the 1950s, this was a wonderful book and I absolutely adored it, it's perfect for this time of year and I'd recommend it to anyone who's a fan of magical realism or Alice Hoffman. One of my favourites of the year.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

I only read two physical books this month - one from the library and one I own.


No Filter by Orlagh Collins
A Young Adult book about a 16 year old teenager, Emerald, who is sent to Ireland to stay with her Grandmother while her mother is going through treatment. While in Dublin, Em meets local boy Liam Flynn and the pair forge an instant connection - but Liam is probably the one person that Em shouldn't be with. I liked this, it's nice to see a YA book set in modern Ireland that covers topics like social media pressure, recovery after the recession, and parental expectations.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository 

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
This is a collection of the five Throne of Glass novellas. I read this after reading the series up to Empire of Storms - I feel it would have had more of an impact had I read it around the second or third book, because while there were snippets of new information, it wasn't really needed when I'd read the series.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


These were all borrowed from the library via the Borrowbox app (I've a post about the Library system in Ireland here). 


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The second Mrs. DeWinter marries Maxim after a whirlwind romance. When they return to the sprawling estate of Manderley, she realises that she has a lot to live up to - the seemingly perfect Rebecca, Maxim's late wife, was quite the woman and the staff (especially Mrs. Danvers) are NOT happy with the idea of a replacement. I really enjoyed this, Anna Massey was a wonderful narrator and I got really immersed in the story.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
One of the Hogarth Shakespeare retellings, this is a modern version of The Taming of the Shrew. Kate Battista is the shrew in question - abrasive, arrogant, moody. Her father is at risk of losing his research assistant, Pyotr, because of his visa, so comes up with the wonderful notion of Kate marrying Pyotr in order to save the family. While I did enjoy the story, the narrator (Kirsten Potter) grated on me slightly and I found some of the characters (Bunny and Pyotr) incredibly annoying. It's no Ten Things I Hate About You but it's a decent retelling.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood
A young man is on trial for murder. He has sacked his legal representative, and is making his closing speech himself. We are the jury, we hear his story and decide if he's guilty or not. Narrated by Adam Deacon, who brings this to life wonderfully. I couldn't stop listening to this - it's a gripping tale of gangs, violence and loyalty set in London. I wasn't keen on the ending but I really liked this.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
This is about two sisters, Meredith and Marjorie. When they were younger, their family was the subject of a reality TV show, The Posession, because they believed Marjorie was possessed by an evil spirit. Now fifteen years on, a blogger is writing about the show, and Merry is telling her story to a writer. I absolutely adored this, I thought it was a brilliant story - if We Have Always Lived in the Castle had a baby with The Exorcist and the E! network filmed it, this would be the result.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay
This is about the vanishing of a young teenage boy while out playing in a park one night with his friends. His mother is convinced that she has started seeing apparitions of him, and when diary pages begin to appear in the house she thinks he's trying to get a message to her - but is that what's really going on? I did enjoy this, but kept zoning out while listening, always a sign that I'm losing interest. I ended up borrowing the eBook so I could concentrate on finishing it. Not as good at A Head full of Ghosts but a good book all the same.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

You Sent Me a Letter by Lucy Dawson
Sophie wakes up early on the morning of her Fortieth birthday to find a stranger in her bedroom - he knows a lot about her, and hands her a sealed letter. He threatens to harm her family if she does not stick to instructions - she must open the letter at her birthday party and read the contents aloud. I enjoyed this, I thought it was a good thriller and enjoyed the story.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
This was the final audiobook I borrowed from the library, it was a short listen (under two hours). Performed by a full cast, it was a fairytale retelling of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. All over the land, people are being affected by a curse - they're falling into a deep, unresponsive sleep. The Queen travels with her short-statured companions to a castle covered in thorns, to rescue a sleeping princess and break the curse. But is everything as it seems? I enjoyed this, I think it'd be a great atmospheric listen around Halloween. Originally published in "Rags & Bones".
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

So, that's it - as usual, I've updated the Books 2017 page so you can click on the covers to read my full Goodreads review of any book I've mentioned. I'll also be back with a Spooky Reads post soon and I've a lot of Halloween DIY coming up, plus an empties post, a couple of blog tours and some subscription box unboxings. If you've any questions about anything that I haven't covered, just shout and I'll get back to you ASAP!