Unboxing | Books & Charms March Box


This months box is probably my favourite so far. I can’t wait to try out the bath salts and have a relaxing cup of tea with my book after.

ELAINE10 for 10% discount on your order

Books & Charms https://www.booksandcharms.ie/

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Books and Charms March Box

The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin

The Heather Blazing

The sea is slowly eating into the land and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Toibin reconstructs the history of Eamon’s relationships – with his father, his first “girl, ” his wife, and the children who barely know him. He gives us a family as minutely realized as any of John McGahern’s, and he writes about Eamon’s affection for the landscape of his childhood on the east coast of Ireland with such skill that the land itself becomes a character. The result is a novel that ensnares us with its emotional intensity and dazzles with its crystalline prose. In The Heather Blazing, Colm Toibin displays once again the gifts that illuminated The South, a book described by Don DeLillo as “a grand achievement, ” and by John Banville as “a daring imaginative feat…a splendid first novel.”

The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse

A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

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Synopsis and book cover from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_

Irish Myths and Legends | The Irish Readathon

Ireland has a rich history of storytelling. We’re known for myths, legends, fairytales and folklore. A lot of the mythology from here has inspired TV shows, movies and books we see now. The Banshee (I was terrified of this auld bag as a child) has featured in the shows Charmed and Supernatural as well as being a character in X-Men. There’s also a series of books by Rachel Vincent that centres around banshees called Soul Screamers (I haven’t read it yet but it’s on the list….along with about 600 other books).

For the Irish Readathon, I wanted to share some of my favourite elements of Irish mythology with you.

Tir na nOg

The story of Oisin and Tir na nOg follows poor Oisin after he meets Niamh of the Golden Hair and goes to Tir na nOg (Land of the Young) with her. This is basically a fairy realm where you don’t age or die and Oisin was very happy there for 300 years when he began to miss Ireland. He decides to visit his home but is warned that if he touches the ground he will not be able to return. Of course, he does touch the land and instantly ages to an old man and dies soon after.

I really think Niamh could have given him a stronger warning here instead of just “you won’t be able to return”! Anyway, this is one of my favourites because I was fascinated by the idea of a magical realm that you could travel to on horseback. You just had to run into a fairy to bring you there.

The Children of Lir

I’ve always loved this story though I’m not sure why because it is not remotely pleasant. The story follows a group of siblings (Lir’s children 😉) who have been turned into swans by their father’s new wife because she was jealous of them. They remain as swans for hundreds and hundreds of years enduring unending torment and sorrow (mostly at the hands of the weather which is what Irish people complain about a lot even though our weather is generally quite mild). After 900 years the spell on them ends and they turn into very old people. They are found by a monk who baptises them just before they die and he buries them together.

The only thing I don’t like about this story is the rush towards Christianity at the end. This story must have been circulating around the time the island was being converted.

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Loftus Hall

Loftus Hall is apparently the most haunted house in Ireland. It’s a mansion house in County Wexford close to Hook Head. The area is actually quite beautiful and I recommend visiting even if you don’t want to see the haunted house. There has been a resident on the site since 1170 when a Norman man built a castle there and it has gone through several changes and families over the years to become the mansion house it is now.

So what makes it a haunted house? It’s said to have been visited by the devil. The legend goes that a sailor showed up at the house seeking refuge during a storm. He was invited to stay by the family and they later sat down to a game of cards. The daughter of the house discovered the man had hoofed feet when she dropped a card under the table. When the man realised she’d seen his feet he shot through the roof in a ball of flames. The girl went insane and her family locked her away in one of the rooms of the house for the rest of her life.

The Banshee

The Banshee (or the auld bag as I like to call her) genuinely terrified me as a child. I’m not sure if she’s a demon or fairy or some kind of ghost but her shtick is to scream if a member of your family is going to die. As a child, I’d heard as well that if you saw her it meant that you were going to die. I grew up in the countryside with foxes and all sorts running around outside my window at night time. Any little squeal of a sound would have me terrified I’d heard the banshee and someone in my family was about to bite the dust. No one ever did though and I soon learned to recognise animal sounds.

Fairy Mounds

Fairy mounds both frightened and captivated me. There was one in one of the lower fields by my house and my grandad told me to stay away from it because the fairies would come after me. Which to a child is like a scary thing and an exciting thing at the same time. It could have been my chance to get to Tir na nOg!!!

I’m pretty sure the one at my house was just a lump of earth my grandad decided to tell me stories about and not what people usually refer to as fairy forts/rings which are the remains of circular homes from the iron age. It was still pretty magical to me though.

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Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole Review

Dead of Winter (The Arcana Chronicles, #3)

Title: Dead of Winter

Series: The Arcana Chronicles #3

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy

Synopsis:  Can Evie convince her rival loves to work together? Their survival depends on it in this third book of #1 New York Timesbestselling author Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, a nonstop action tale of rescue, redemption, and a revenge most wicked.

Heartbreaking decisions 

Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, The Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory 

Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on the Lovers. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned 
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first…?

Format: ebook

Pages/Hours: 286 pages

Ownership: Own

My Rating: ★★★★★

Themes: Love Triangle

Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole
Instagram @elainehowlin_

Review:  The love triangle gets very annoying in this one. I wanted to grab them and tell them to get over it! But the story makes up for all the angst here. We get a lot of expansion with the Arcana and the game. Jack’s character grows greatly as well and we now have a really solid world that the characters impact on.

Get the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis and book cover from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_

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Book Haul | February & March 2019

This year I really want to stop buying books and focus on reading the ones I have already (because it’s a lot, people!). Despite this though I did pick up a few books in February and March (I managed not to buy anything in Jan though!).

Two of the books I got came in my Books and Charms box but I did buy three. They were second hand and I had a €5 voucher so it’s not so bad.

First off let’s take a look at the books that came in my Books and Charms box. Books and Charms is an Irish book subscription box service. You can order a one-time box or a subscription and they have some other cool bookish stuff on their site too.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook (The Notebook, #1)

How far can love endure?

Noah Calhoun has just returned from World War Two. Attempting to escape the ghosts of battle, he tries to concentrate on restoring an old plantation home to its former glory. And yet he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met there fourteen years before, a girl who captured his heart like no other.

But when these distant memories begin to slide into reality, the passion that had lain still is ignited once more. Though so much is in their way, the miraculous force of their love refuses to fade.

Double Wedding by Patricia Scanlan

Double Wedding

Jessica and Carol, two childhood friends, are both engaged to be married. Secretly afraid her fiance is going to chicken out, Carol is insisting on a double wedding.

Jessica is appalled at the idea: she doesn’t want to share the happiest day of her life with whining Carol and her womanising boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, she has a very soft heart and is easily persuaded to agree.

Carol’s parents are separated and at loggerheads. Neither wants the other to be there. Who will win that war? Nadine, Carol’s younger sister, is wild and disruptive and drinks like a fish – hardly the ideal wedding guest.

Will Carol’s family come to blows? Will her fiance do a runner? Will they make it to the altar? And can Jessica and Carol’s friendship survive a Double Wedding?

Now let’s take a look at the books I bought. I got them in Vibes and Scribes second-hand shop in Cork. They have a second-hand books shop, a new books shop and an amazing arts and crafts shop across the bridge. They’re my favourite retailers in town!

I picked up three books by Irish writers (also all female but this wasn’t a goal) for the Irish Readathon in March. The Dolocher I picked up based on a review by Aoife from Fred Weasley Died Laughing on YouTube.

The Dolocher by Caroline Barry

The Dolocher

Victorian London had Jack the Ripper. Georgian Dublin had the Dolocher…

The Dolocher is stalking the alleyways of Dublin. Half man, half pig, this terrifying creature has unleashed panic on the streets. Can it really be the evil spirit of a murderer who has cheated the hangman’s noose by taking his own life in his prison cell, depriving the mob of their rightful revenge? Or is there some other strange supernatural explanation?

This terror has come at the perfect time for down-at-heel writer Solomon Fish. With his new broadsheet reporting ever more gruesome stories of the mysterious Dolocher, sales are growing daily and fuelling the city’s fear. But when the Dolocher starts killing and Solomon himself is set upon, he realises that there’s more to the story than he could ever have imagined.

With the help of his fearless landlady, ship’s surgeon-turned-apothecary Merriment O’Grady, Solomon goes after the Dolocher. Torn between reason and superstition, they must hold their nerve as everyone around them loses theirs. But are they hunting the Dolocher or is the Dolocher hunting them?

The Husband by Deirdre Purcell

The Husband

When city girl Marian falls for the charms of Dermot, she falls hard. So much so that she finds herself upping sticks and moving with him from Chicago to rural Ireland, the country of his origin, where he plans to take over his father’s GP practice. 
But tragedy strikes unexpectedly and Marian finds herself facing early widowhood, alone and devastated, in a strange land. As she tries to makes sense of it all, throwing herself into community activity in a bid to cope with her grief, she begins to receive menacing anonymous notes that concern her enough to bring them to the attention of local garda Jack Cantwell, who investigates.
Nothing can prepare Marian for the discovery that Dermot, the husband she loved, was not the man she thought she knew. But, as greater questions take shape – such as what she will do with the rest of her life – she must face her demons head on, if she is ever to move on and learn to trust again. 
After all, the Irish village of Glanmillish may be small, but there is plenty going on…

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

The Little Red Chairs

The much-anticipated new novel from the literary world’s master of storytelling, Edna O’Brien.

A woman discovers that the foreigner she thinks will redeem her life is a notorious war criminal.

Vlad, a stranger from Eastern Europe masquerading as a healer, settles in a small Irish village where the locals fall under his spell. One woman, Fidelma McBride, becomes so enamored that she begs him for a child. All that world is shattered when Vlad is arrested, and his identity as a war criminal is revealed.

Fidelma, disgraced, flees to England and seeks work among the other migrants displaced by wars and persecution. But it is not until she confronts him-her nemesis-at the tribunal in The Hague, that her physical and emotional journey reaches its breathtaking climax.

THE LITTLE RED CHAIRS is a book about love, and the endless search for it. It is also a book about mankind’s fascination with evil, and how long, how crooked, is the road towards Home.

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Synopsis and book cover from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_

The Irish Readathon Challenges Recs

The Irish Readathon is a readathon (or reading challenge) running for the whole month of March. The main goal is to read at least one form of Irish literature but we have some challenges that you can do as well if you want.

This year I am co-hosting the readathon with Aoife (Fred Weasley Died Laughing) and Leanne Rose who very kindly asked me to join them.

 The Challenges

  • Read a book with a green cover
  • Read a book by a female Irish author
  • Read a book by one of the hosts favourite Irish authors; Louise O’Neill, Marian Keyes, Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Read a book that isn’t a novel
  • Read a book older than you are

☘ Challenge 1: Read a Book with a Green Cover

This one doesn’t necessarily need to be an Irish book, it just needs to have a green cover but it would be better if you picked an Irish book for it 😉

Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes

Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married

What happens when a psychic tells Lucy that she’ll be getting married within the year? Her roommates panic! What is going to happen to their blissful existence of eating take-out, drinking too much wine, bringing men home, and never vacuuming?

Lucy reassures her friends that she’s far too busy arguing with her mother and taking care of her irresponsible father to get married. And then there’s the small matter of not even having a boyfriend.

But then Lucy meets gorgeous, unreliable Gus. Could he be the future Mr. Lucy Sullivan? Or could it be handsome Chuck? Or Daniel, the world’s biggest flirt? Or even cute Jed, the new guy at work?

Maybe her friends have something to worry about after all….

The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People

From the bestselling author of the multi-award-winning Burial Rites

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.

The fires on the hills smouldered orange as the women left, pockets charged with ashes to guard them from the night. Watching them fade into the grey fall of snow, Nance thought she could hear Maggie’s voice. A whisper in the dark.

“Some folk are born different, Nance. They are born on the outside of things, with a skin a little thinner, eyes a little keener to what goes unnoticed by most. Their hearts swallow more blood than ordinary hearts; the river runs differently for them.”

Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken…

☘ Challenge 2: Read a Book by a Female Irish Author

It’s a real shame that the male authors (Joyce, Wilde, Yeats, etc.) are usually the ones people think of when they think of Irish literature. We have some amazing contemporary female authors but classics can be very hard to find.

Falling for a Dancer by Deirdre Purcell

Falling for a Dancer

If the bus hadn’t broken down that August afternoon on the road between Dublin and Cork, Elizabeth Sullivan would never have met George Gallaher, a travelling actor of infinite charm and fatal weakness. She would not have been forced to marry, nor found herself trapped in an alien landscape.

(If you can find it 2nd hand I highly recommend this book. It’s out of print and there isn’t an ebook)

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

☘ Challenge 3: Read a Book by One of the Hosts Favourite Irish Authors

Louise O’Neill, Marian Keyes and Sarah Rees Brennan I chose Marian Keyes for my favourite author because she’s the first author whose books I automatically bought and got really excited about reading. I was a teenager at the time though and I haven’t read much of her recent work but I still love her. She posts regular chatty vlogs on YouTube and her pure Irishness is just fantastic.

Asking for It by Lousie O’Neill

Asking For It

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. 

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. 

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met… a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

The Break by Marian Keyes

The Break

‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only.

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.

He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .

However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.

For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?

Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?

The Break isn’t a story about falling in love but about staying in love. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

☘ Challenge 4: Read a Book that isn’t a Novel

So this could be a play, poetry or non-fiction. Just something that isn’t a novel.

Wild Irish Women by Marian Broderick Elaine Howlin Literary Blog

Wild Irish Women by Marian Broderick

Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives from History

Writers, killers, nuns, patriots, artists, healers, pirates, politicians, entertainers, saints, courtesans, leaders, revolutionaries, lovers, warriors, witches, record-breakers, and eccentrics are among the eclectic roster of Irishwomen resurrected from the dustbins of history by this “rollicking read” (according to Books Ireland).
In times when women were expected to marry and have children, they traveled the world and sought out adventures. In times when women were expected to be seen and not heard, they spoke out against oppression and used every creative means available to express their ideas and beliefs. Editor and writer Marian Broderick provides us with a series of lively portraits of seventy-five unorthodox Irishwomen. In these pages you will meet women you will never forget: Maria Edworth, Lady Jane Wilde, Lady Augusta Gregory, Peig Sayers, Nora Barnacle, Kitty Kiernan, Anne Bonny, Anne Devlin, Mother Jones, Countess Constance Markievicz, Hanna Sheey Skeffington, Fanny and Anna Parnell, Maud Gonne, St. Brighid, Margaret Leeson, Lady Betty, Queen Maeve of Connacht, Molly Brown, Kathleen Behan, Lola Monez, Daisy Bates, Greer Garson, Lilly and Lolly Yeats, and many more.

Old Ways, Old Secrets: Pagan Ireland by Jo Kerrigan

Old Ways, Old Secrets: Pagan Ireland: Myth * Landscape * Tradition

In a land like ours, the old beliefs bring pleasure and wisdom…

Exploring the legends, special places and treasured practices of old, Jo Kerrigan reveals a rich world beneath Ireland’s modern layers.

So many of today’s Irish traditions reach back to our ancient past, to the natural world: climbing to the summit of a mountain at harvest time; circling a revered site three, seven or nine times in a sun-wise direction; hanging offerings on a thorn tree; bringing the ailing and infirm to a sacred well.

Old Ways, Old Secrets shows us how to uncover the wisdom of the past, as fresh as it is ancient.

☘ Challenge 5: Read a Book Older than You are

This one basically means read a classic. I think when people think of Irish literature the classics are probably what comes to mind first. Yeats or Wilde would be perfect for this one and you could double up and use them for this and challenge 4.

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales by W.B. Yeats

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

— Nobel Prize winning writer and poet W.B. Yeats included almost every sort of Irish folk in this marvelous compendium of fairy tales and songs that he collected and edited for publication in 1892.
— Yeats was fascinated by Irish myths and folklore, and joined forces with the writers of the Irish Literary Revival. He studied Irish folk tales and chose to reintroduce the glory and significance of Ireland’s past through this unique literature.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde’s brilliant play makes fun of the English upper classes with light-hearted satire and dazzling humour. It is 1890’s England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn. While across town Algernon Montecrieff decides to take the name Earnest, when visiting Worthing’s young ward Cecily. The real fun and confusion begins when the two end up together and their deceptions are in danger of being revealed.

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So those are just some of the books you could read for The Irish Readathon. Most of these I have already read but some are books that I might read for the readathon. I had never heard of Sarah Rees Brennan before this and her series seems to be quite popular so I will have to check out her books.

You could also read something by Nora Roberts. She’s American but bases a lot of her books in Ireland or with Irish characters.

What books by Irish authors or set in Ireland have you read?

Synopsis and book cover from Goodreads. Photos from my Instagram @elainehowlin_