Thursday, March 29, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #3: The Truth About Stacey

Nothing to Declare 


Continuing on with the recaps of my favourite childhood series, we have one from Stacey.

Stacey McGill has only been in Connecticut for a few months - before, she and her parents lived in New York in a building that overlooked Central Park. They left for a few reasons, one being Stacey's diagnosis with diabetes.

Stacey's parents are always looking for new discoveries that may help their daughter, so when they hear about a holistic doctor that specialises in experimental treatment, they think it will cure Stacey. Only - Stacey mentions him to the mother of one of the kids she babysits, who just so happens to be a doctor, and she's not impressed - he doesn't have a great track record. So, what's Stacey to do?

I'd wager that I had never even heard of diabetes before reading this. It gives a really great insight into what a 12 year old might go through - from struggling with having to watch what she eats and injecting her medication, to worrying about how it will affect her friendships. It's a really sensitive look at how a pre-teen deals with an illness, and it definitely made me more aware of what other people may be going through.

The wider issue going on here has Kristy absolutely FUMING - there's a new babysitting crew in town. They're older, they're cheaper, and they can stay out later. Kristy will stop at nothing to take them down - even if it means booking them for fake jobs to get information, or making the other girls wear sandwich boards around school advertising the club. There's also a mention of a poster with the slogan "YOUNGER IS BETTER" on it. Absolutely no comment.

This book mentions something that will be instantly recognisable to anyone who pays attention to phone numbers in books or films - a telephone number beginning with KL. In this book, Kristy gives her number as "KL5-2321". The Washington Post did an article last year about these numbers, I'll link it for fellow pop culture nerds to read (I found it really interesting) - A Directory for Klondike 5 - The Most Famous Telephone Exchange in the World.

Unfortunately, there were no real outfits to speak of, but Stacey did talk about some of her favourite accessories:

"Dinosaur brooch on a beret, red sneakers covered with beads and glitter, leg warmers covered in footprints, and plastic butterflies in my hair"

My favourite quote, however, is this one, referring to a woman who had given birth a few weeks before:

"I was surprised to see that Mrs. Newton still looked, well, fat. Not pregnant, exactly, but not the way I'd thought she would look after the baby was born."

THANK YOU, Ann M. Martin, for not squeezing poor Mrs. Newton into a pair of skintight jeggings.

A roll of Life-Savers hidden in a shoebox under her bed.
Life-Savers are pretty much identical to Polo Mints. As an aside, can you still get Polo Fruits?! I loved Polo Fruits......also, I found out while searching this that there are 23 mints in a standard roll of Polos. There's one for your next table quiz, fellow middle-agers.

A bag of Gumdrops and a packet of Saltines from under the cushion of her armchair.
Do we have gumdrops in Europe?! They look like they taste of the cheap fruity pastilles that come in Easter Eggs or Gingerbread House kits. Saltines are small square plain salted crackers.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Book Box Club 2018: January, February, March

Nothing to Disclose


I've been a regular member of Book Box Club for almost a year now and although I post monthly unboxings on Instagram, I thought it'd be nice to do a blog post on them too. I'll do a round up every three months, so you can get a better idea of what it's like as opposed to looking at just one box.

Book Box Club are a UK company, and specialise in Young Adult books. Every month they send out a book (either signed or including a signed bookplate), an invitation to their exclusive online Clubhouse (discussion forum) and a host of goodies. They champion small suppliers and cater to a wide variety of fandoms. They also have a membership option called "Purely Books", for those who want the book but not the goodies. Me? I want the goodies.

I use Address Pal to avail of the free UK postage, but they also post worldwide. One of the reasons I keep my subscription is because the women behind the company, Kate and Libby, are genuinely lovely people. They are always incredibly helpful and accommodating. The other is because this is a box that has gotten consistently better and better - I was a regular subscriber to a different box in the U.S, but cancelled because the quality varied so much between boxes. One box would be amazing, the next would be full of cheap or odd items. With this one, every item fits in with the monthly theme and they include fandoms that you wouldn't necessarily see in other boxes (there's going to be a Buffy item in the April box!!).

January 2018 - Geeks Unite

The January theme was "Geeks, Unite", based around The Fandom by Anna Day.

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are Comic-Con. They can't wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they're not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world - for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands....

The box included:

* A copy of The Fandom by Anna Day & a signed bookplate.
* A Brains are the New Black tote bag by Newton and the Apple.
* A magnet by Book Box Club featuring a Cassandra Clare quote.
* Boom Pow comic book nail wraps from Dinkibelle.
* Fangirling candle by Bookworm Candles and Crafts.
* A calendar by Book Box Club featuring fandom art by12 independent artists.

February 2018 - Into Dystopia 

The February box was themed Into Dystopia and featured Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw.

Set in an England in the near future, Outwalkers follows a gang of kids and their perilous journey to make it through a country where the government is tracking everyone and their every move is analyzed and controlled. They must live on their wits, and must work together to survive and escape. 

The box included:

* Hardback copy of Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw & a signed bookplate.
* Handmaid's Tale bangle by Beautifully Bookish.
* Lemon & Ginger Dauntless Tea by Craft Tea Company.
* Orange Zest dark chocolate bar by Gnaw.
Supplies to Stay Alive notepad by Bread and Jam.
* Hunger Games arrow pen by Book Box Club.
* Promo postcards & Bookmarks from Penguin Random House, Usborne Books & Gollancz.

March 2018 - Under the Sea 

The March theme Under the Sea was built around the book The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.

They were accused of witchery and of seduction. They were sentenced to death by drowning. Now every year, the Swan sisters haunt the sleepy coastal town of Sparrow, seeking revenge. They will inhabit the bodies of young girls. They will drag innocent boys into the depths of the sea. Can anyone break the curse and set Sparrow - and the sisters - free at last? 

The box included: 

* A copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw & a signed bookplate. 
* I Am Not Afraid of Storms pendant by Oh Panda.
* A Siren Song bath bomb by Ascent Bath and Body.
* Mermaid water bottle by Book Box Club. 
* Mermaid Kisses lip balm by Bliss Botanicals UK. 
* Swan Sisters bookmark kit by Kimcarlika. 
* Postcards and The Children of Blood and Bone sampler from Hot Key Books, Macmillan & Scholastic. 
I received a Book Box Club pin because I've been subscribed for 10 boxes or more. 

Every box also contains an invitation to join an online discussion/ Q&A with the author of that month's books. 

There are also a few discount codes available, if you search the #BookBoxClub tag on Instagram you'll find Club Reps who are given 5% or 10% codes. 

Does something like this interest you? Or do you subscribe to anything you'd like to tell me about? Let me know!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Nothing to Declare 


Back in 2014, I decided I was going to re-read Ann M. Martin's beloved series about four 12 year old girls in Connecticut who babysat the neighbourhood children. Those of us of a certain vintage who love books seem to have started out with the BSC - I've no idea why I didn't continue the series at the time, but from now on I'll endeavour to bring you a new recap every week.

The first post is here:

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #1: Kirsty's Big Idea

On to the second one!

Every book is written from the POV of the character mentioned in the title, so this one is focused mainly on snack-smuggler/fashionista Claudia Kishi.

As always, there's a personal issue and a wider issue at play. The personal is that Claudia feels a bit down about her school work. She's allowed to babysit only if she does well in school, and must be supervised by a family member when she's doing homework so that she doesn't slack off. She finds it all very boring, and it's a sore point between her and her genius sister Janine.

The wider issue is that there's a prank caller on the loose - someone is making prank calls to homes that are later robbed. This happens a few times when the girls are babysitting, and they become increasingly freaked out, but - gasp - it's okay, it's just two boys who have crushes on Claudia and Kristy who have been ringing them and hanging up. Because......they're twelve year old boys and find this hilarious. Kristy and Claudia then have a really problematic discussion about boys that I'm sure 12-year-old me just lapped up:

K: Well, it's just that Alan finally proved something my mother's been telling me for years. Only I didn't believe her until now.
C: What's that?
K: That boys tease you because they like you.

Claudia's fashion, as always, is on point - with the only notable outfit in this book being:

"Purple pants that stop just below my knees, held up with suspenders. White tights with clocks on them, a purple plaid shirt, matching hat, high-top sneakers and earrings with lobsters on them."

Special mentions to go to the school dance (the Halloween Hop), Kristy threatening the little children she's watching ("One false move and I'll punch your lights out") and this kid, who I really hope shows up in future books:

"Ordinarily, I might have tried to sneak in line with her, but she was standing right next to this kid, Alexander Kurtzman, who carries a briefcase and wears a jacket and tie, and lives to obey rules. One of his favourites is 'no frontsies, no backsies' so there was really no point in trying to butt in."

Same, Alexander. Same.

Licorice Whips hidden in her desk.
We have these too, they're licorice laces here I think.

A bag of Root Beer Barrels under her mattress.
Root Beer Barrels are barrel-shaped hard candies flavoured like root beer, which is a non-alcoholic soft drink. I've never seen it here, but I assume it's similar to ginger ale. This may be a good time to tell you about the cans of Shandy my Nana let me buy in the early 1990s, Club made them - they came in a brown can and had something like 0.1% alcohol in them, I used to feel terribly grown up altogether.

A gigantic chocolate bar in her notebook.
Yes, IN her notebook.

Saltwater Taffy in her pencil jar. 
I only know what that is because of Phoebe Buffay's reaction to it, but I just found out this second that a piece of taffy is called a chew here. So think chewits, starburst, chewy toffee, etc.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Monthly Reads: Februrary 2018

Links under books are Affiliate links. ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here


I read 10 books in February, so I'll get straight to them!

All of the covers below are clickable, and should take you to my longer review on Goodreads. Add me as a friend there if you use it! 

Books I Received for Review

I didn't receive any physical books in February, but I did read three from Netgalley:


From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan (Published March 22nd)
Donal Ryan's fourth full-length book follows the stories of three very different men who are all connected in some way. Farouk, along with his wife and child, is trying to escape his war-torn homeland. Lampy feels like he's getting left behind while all his friends move on in their lives. John is coming towards the end of his life and looking back over his regrets. I always feel, when reading anything by Donal Ryan, like someone has welcomed me in, given me a big blanket and a cup of tea, then snuck up behind me to rip my soul out. This is no different - it's gripping, haunting, and addictive.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Fear by C.L. Taylor (Published March 22nd)
Louise Wandsworth was in the news aged 14 when her karate instructor, Mike, groomed and abducted her. Now years later, Louise is back in her hometown - and she thinks Mike is grooming another young girl. I enjoyed this a lot, I'm a fan of this author anyway but this was one of her better ones.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
As luck would have it, I was approved for this less than 24 hours after I bought it. It's a modern day fairytale about a young woman who, along with her mother, has been trying to outrun bad luck for as long as she can remember. All Alice knows about her mysterious grandmother Althea Prosperine is that she's a reclusive author, but when word arrives that Althea has died, Alice is thrown into a dangerous world that will question everything she thought she knew about her family. I enjoyed this, though I  liked the first half more than the second. Fans of Caraval may enjoy.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Books I Borrowed

I made good use of the library in February, and borrowed four books:


Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell
This was a Rick O'Shea Book Club pick for February. Incidentally, there are now four monthly picks over at the ROSBC (you'll find them all on my Books 2018 page). I'm trying to read as many as possible this year, because they are usually books I wouldn't choose for myself. 
This is one I definitely wouldn't have picked - it's a sort of Lethal Weapon-esque romp around Dublin set in 1999, based around Detective Bunny McGarry and his squad. There's gangland criminals, a woman with a dangerous past, nuns, and....hurling. I enjoyed it, and I really didn't think I would. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Another ROSBC pick. This is a story about one day in the life of Ivan, a prisoner in a Gulag in the 1950s. Although Ivan is fictional, the author himself spent 8 years imprisoned in a similar labour camp for political crimes, so there's a very raw realness about it. 


Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary
A third ROSBC pick that I managed to get my hands on in February (they fly out of the library when they're announced every month) - this is a beautiful debut novel about an unconventional relationship. Set in Dublin in the 80s, Sonny is a young teenager who always seems to be in trouble. Vera is a glamorous, unattainable, older English woman. Secrets, solace, and a nod to Sonny Knowles. Magic. 

My Story by Joanne Hayes
When Joanne Hayes and the "Kerry Babies" tragedy came to the forefront of the news again recently, I requested this. It's her story, in her own words, about what happened. It doesn't make for easy or pleasant reading - mainly because of the subject matter and the utter contempt with which Joanne and her family were treated with - but also because parts of it are still applicable in 2018. We've come far as a country in some ways, but in others - not nearly far enough. This is out of print, but is available to request at the library. 

Books I Bought

Two of these were free, via the BookBub daily email.


Promise to Marry by Jessica Wood
I have a few favourite "guilty pleasure" (if  you use that term, I make no apologies whatsoever for liking what I like) tropes that I can't resist: Boarding School Drama, High School Reunion, The Childhood Pact, The Body Swap and The Fake Girlfriend. This came under The Childhood Pact umbrella (and it was free): Jax and Chloe made a pact as kids that if they weren't married by the age of 30, they'd marry each other. Roll on to Chloe's 30th and she is no longer speaking to Jax, her boyfriend is a dick, and she's not in a good place. This is a short novella, book one in a trilogy. I've no desire to continue because the ending was just ridiculous, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read. That award goes to.....

Three Nights With a Rock Star by Amber Lin and Shari Slade
Sometimes I look at reviews and think - surely, it couldn't be THAT bad, could it? This was free, and while I saw an awful lot of poor reviews, my curiosity was peaked enough to click. Chloe is pregnant after a summer working on tour with a rock band, Half Life. She does not want to tell the father. So, instead of, oh maybe - trusting Chloe to make her own judgements, her older sister/guardian Hailey up and leaves. Dressed as a "rock chick", Sunday School teacher Hailey abandons her moral compass and crashes a hotel party where she knows the band will be. She isn't there too long before she's banging the worlds angriest horniest man up against a window after signing a pact agreeing to be "his" for a weekend in order to gain access to his crew to ask about Chloe's Baby Daddy. There's a very, very weird threesome with a bandmate, some family drama, and Chloe's story running alongside. I needed a wash after it. I'm still trying to locate my eyeballs after they rolled away. 
Buy (at your own peril): Kindle 

Still Me by JojoMoyes
Thank heavens for Louisa Clark - this was by far my most enjoyable read of February. I adored Me Before You, I disliked After You, and I was nervous about this one. Would it be worse? Would it redeem the whole series? I needn't have worried, it's a return to form and a return to the old Louisa we all know and love. She's working in New York City for a family that are worlds apart from the Traynors. Her love of fashion is back, her love of life is back, and Will's presence is done just perfectly - not overdone, not cheese, just right. I absolutely loved it (could have done without the predictable Katie arc, though, to be honest) and I didn't want it to end. I got some Devil Wears Prada vibes off this one too, I'd be interested to know if anyone else felt the same. 

I ticked three prompts off my Popsugar Reading Challenge list:

* A novel based on a real person: Joanne Hayes, My Story.
* A book set in a country that fascinates you: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 
* The next book in a series you started: Jojo Moyes, Still Me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Reading Agency Quick Reads 2018

Nothing to Disclose


I was browsing Amazon recently and came across a book marked "Quick Read" and priced at £1. I had a search and discovered that it's something that started in 2006, with six titles released by The Reading Agency every year.

Quick Reads are aimed at less confident adult readers who may find themselves intimidated by a longer book. According to The Reading Agency, one in three adults in the UK does not read for pleasure. I know several adults (reader, I married one) who would never pick up a book in their free time.

I think that as well as being a way for a less confident reader to enjoy a book, the quick reads would be brilliant for people who like a good story but don't have the time to commit to a tome. I lurk around a lot of different reading communities - from Bookstagram to Goodreads to online Book Clubs - and I see the same comment again and again: "I'd love to read more but I just haven't the time or the concentration to read a full book right now".

The titles are commissioned specially, with a wide range of genres included. The ones for 2018 are:

Clean Break by Tammy Cohen (128 pages)
What happens when one spouse wants a divorce, but the other doesn't? Kate wants out, but Jack isn't prepared to let her go. Especially when he finds out she hasn't been altogether honest with him.

Cut Off by Mark Billingham (112 pages)
We all know the panic of losing our phone. But for Louise, the nightmare starts when someone gets in touch claiming they've found it... 

A million dollar car is missing from a garage in Mumbai. Inspector Chopra has just two days to find it, or the criminal who owns it won't be happy. 

Six Foot Six by Kit De Waal (80 pages)
On the day of his twenty-first birthday, Timothy Flowers (who is six foot six inches tall) is asked to do a favour, one that will change his life. 

The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (112 pages)
Tessa's daughter Nia is due to get married at a beautiful beach resort. But for Tessa, the beach holds some bad memories, and she's not sure that it bodes well for Nia...

The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton (102 pages)
A very famous Hollywood actor ends up in a small Cornish village after walking off a movie set. 

I've bought them all, so I'll include them in my next round up later this week. 

If you're an adult who struggles with reading, NALA (National Adult Literacy Agency) have a number of ways to help you. You can contact them by phoning 1800 20 20 65, by texting LEARN to 50050, or by filling out their online contact form here:

If you have any other quick read or novella suggestions, please do leave them below!

Sharon x