Sunday, 26 January 2014

Book of the Week: It

"Boys say they don't mind how you get your hair done. But then they leave you for someone with really great standard girl hair and the next thing you know you're alone with a masculine crop, crying into your granola."

I'll be honest, this feels like a bit of a cop-out, as every blogger and their nan seems to own this book, but I was trying to go for a bit of variation, and I actually found It by Alexa Chung really fun to read!

It's a very quick, effortless kind of book; nobody would call it challenging and you could whizz through the whole thing in about half an hour, and for that reason, I'm going to keep this review simple and to the point. There's not really much critiquing to be done with this quirky little volume. Presented beautifully, it is full of interesting anecdotes and humorous insights, and I dare you not to have a little smile whilst perusing the pages. A particular favourite moment of mine is when Wednesday Adams is listed as one of Alexa's many style icons - you would have never considered it before would you, but Wednesday actually has pretty spot on fashion sense, with her collars and her gothic chic. So thanks for that, Alexa. 

As for Miss Chung herself, I've always been a little jealous of her effortless coolness and off beat sense of humour, and this book has done little for me in the way of alleviating said envy. She is no more relatable, and still just as cool as she was before I picked up the book. I particularly resent her knack for the perfect eyeliner flick - I'm not as blessed in the liner department as she, and I dwell on it way more than I should. But hey, that's neither here nor there - I still love her, and will continue to love to hate her, no matter how many times I will inevitably leaf through this unconventional ode to the many lifestyle and fashion influencers of Alexa Chung.

Have you read It? What do you think? Let me know! 


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Skin Saviours

I'm usually quite lucky with my skin and, although always leaning towards the dry side, I never really have any problems with it. However, every now and then, whether it be due to diet, stress, or time of year, it needs a little nurturing. Here are the three products I reach for most when I want some extra help.
For Breakouts//Alpha H Liquid Gold

This stuff, quite frankly, is a good skin day in a bottle. If ever I have a bit of a spotty day, I wipe a little of this on my visage before bedtime, reassured by the promise that I will wake up with clearer, brighter, plumped up skin, feeling fantastic and ready to take on whatever the day might have to throw at me. It does sting a little when you apply it, which I actually quite like as I know it's working. Also, it smells a bit like a shot (not selling it too well am I?) but the fact that it's not packed with perfume is an attribute I also really like. It's a bit on the pricey side, but it works, and is definitely a product worth investing in. It really is 'like having a facial in your sleep.'
For Congested Skin//Origins Clear Improvement

If ever my pores are feeling a little on the clogged side, I reach for this Origins offering, as I know I'll be left with a fresher feeling complexion after I use it. A charcoal mask that I use about once a week, it's gentle enough that I can use it all over my face, whilst still packing quite a punch and clearing my pores considerably. I've tried other charcoal masks, all of which tend to leave me quite red without making an awful lot of difference, so Origins really comes out on top for me. 

When my skin needs an extra kick of moisture, which is most of the time, I turn to Jurlique's face oil. I much prefer oils, particularly at this time of year when I really dislike applying cold creams to my person, and Jurlique are, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. I apply a few drops of this to my face every night before bed, pushing it into my skin, and wake up with softer, silkier feeling skin, which is substantially less dry than when I tucked myself in.  

And there you have it. A little insight into how I deal with my skin when it starts to misbehave. What are your go to products for when your skin starts to pose a problem? Do you like any of the same brands as I do? Let me know!


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Book of the Week: The Cuckoo's Calling

"The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them."

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (*cough* J. K. Rowling *cough*) is a book I've been excited to read for a while now and, upon finishing it earlier in the week, I can confirm that it's just as good as I hoped it would be. Not my usual genre, I was one of the many pulled in by the allure of another Rowling masterpiece, and I couldn't get enough! If you're not one of the horde of Rowling lovers like me, I urge you to read it anyway, as I truly believe that it's a fantastic read in it's own right.

The novel tells the tale of Cormoran Strike, war veteran turned private detective, and his new assistant, Robin, who are hired to reinvestigate the supposed suicide of renowned supermodel, Lula Landry. At first Strike, desperate for the commission, doesn't believe it could have been any more than suicide, and that this will all just be an exercise in entertaining her brother's grief driven fantasy. But with a series of new leads, and evidence the police have overlooked, Strike comes to think that there might be more to this case than the authorities ever realised. With Veronica Mars being one of the favourite TV shows of my teens, this kind of story seemed rather familiar to me, pleasantly reminding me of simpler times. And with pithy dialogue, brilliantly devised characters, and plot twists galore, I can tell you that this is one of the most consuming stories I have read in a long while.

The story itself is quite linear, particularly in the opening chapters, where the setting and the characters don't really change at all, but, surprisingly, I really like this quality. I found it equally riveting to revisit the suicide (or murder! Who knows?!) from different points of view, unearthing new clues and trying to get to the bottom of what really happened, as I would if it was packed full of dramatic action scenes and a plethora of personalities. I actually think I might even prefer it, something I never would have anticipated.

As a self confessed Harry Potter obsessive, it's no surprise that I love the writing style of the book. Rowling has such a way with dialogue in particular (although I also love her descriptive talents) that she is able to effortlessly created detailed, complicated, yet very entertaining relationships between characters, in a way that I've yet to see another author come close to. Well, for me anyway. This is particularly paramount in a story that features only two main characters and not a lot in the way of diverse scenery, so it's a good job she's so darn great at it! 

The book is perfectly paced, with just the right amount of twists to keep you on tenterhooks - any more and it would lose its novelty, any less and the book would never pick up momentum. As I'm relatively new to crime novels (I say relatively, I'm not sure I've ever read one before), I couldn't tell you how it fares within the genre, but as a standalone tome, I think it holds a fantastic pace. And the ending? Oh the ending! I had a lot of different scenarios in my mind, and I was a bit smug in thinking I was one step ahead and at least one of my theories would be right, but no! It was such a shocker, and I absolutely loved it! 

Rowling's offering has definitely impressed me, and she's proved to the world that, although she will never replicate the success of her Potter phenomenon, she is far from a one trick pony. As I stated before, this is my first foray into crime fiction, but I feel that this dabble may turn into a dive. I've well and truly caught the crime bug, so please, if you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them. As for this book, it's definitely worth a read, whether you're a diehard Rowling fan or not. 

Did you enjoy reading The Cuckoo's Calling? Did you figure out the ending or were you as stunned as I was? Let me know!


Friday, 17 January 2014

Sumptuous Scarlets: My Favourite Red Lipsticks

Revlon/YSL/Tom Ford/Rimmel/MAC
There's something really glamorous and sophisticated about a red lip. Although I always tend to gravitate towards a bronzy smokey eye, I love experimenting with red lipsticks, and here are some of my absolute favourite colours for creating that beautiful scarlet pout.
This gorgeous matte, almost neon looking, orangey red gets the most use from me in the summer. I love how chic it looks, and I think it's really reminiscent of a 50s Hollywood starlet. At least that's what I feel like when I have it on. I like to wear it with floral dresses and huge sunglasses; the epitome of summertime sophistication.
This glossy little number is the perfect Christmas red for me. Bright and shiny, I love to pair it with a gold eye for a pretty festive look. As is the case for all YSL lip products, the packaging is so beautiful, an added bonus. And it smells like cherries. Delicious. The only thing I find is that the glossy finish doesn't last very long unless paired with a lip liner, but as I use one most of the time anyway, it isn't an issue for me. 
This long lasting lipstick is about as dark as I can go before I start looking a bit gothic (it's a lot darker than it's shown up on camera). It's the most burgundy colour in my collection and, despite being the cheapest, I find this to be the lipstick with the longest wear. It's become my go to red if I know I'm going for a boozy dinner with friends, as I know I can go all evening without reapplying and still have perfect peckers at the end of the night! 
This is the best true red I've found, and the first red that got me really excited about lipsticks. Claiming to be matte, it's definitely not as much so as Lady Danger, giving a more velvet finish, but I find this to be perfect for more dry lips. Anything too matte has my lips flaking like nobodies business. I also find this lipstick to be the one that transfers the least. Rarely do I find it printed on the rim of glasses when I'm out and about.
The newest addition to my lipstick collection, I got this beauty for Christmas and I was so excited when I unwrapped it!  There's something so opulent about Tom Ford, and this is absolutely going to be my lipstick of choice for special occasions. I haven't had the chance to properly wear it out yet, so I can't testify to it's longevity, but it feels very silky and luxurious and is super hydrating, giving a luminous but not quite glossy finish. A lot brighter on my lips than it looks in the bullet, a quality I love, I feel like a superstar when I'm sporting this beautiful creamy lip product, even if I am just swanning about the house in my dressing gown.

So there you are. My favourite red lippies. All slightly different, all beautiful products. What are your favourite red lipsticks? Have you tried any of mine? Let me know!


Monday, 13 January 2014

Book of the Week: The Book Thief

"The only thing worse than a boy who hates you. A boy who loves you."

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the first book I read this year, and I’m already certain that it will be one of my favourite reads of 2014, and of all time. It's a bit upsetting to know that I've peaked this early but you know what, I don't regret it. Here's a little insight into why:

The Book Thief follows the tale of Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl raised by foster parents in one of the poorest villages in Nazi Germany. At first, she isn't even able to read, but as her relationships with her new family and friends develop, she grows to love words, stealing them back from a world that has snatched so much from her. When her family begins hiding a Jew in their basement, they become the closest friends, reading and writing become their solace. It is at this point that Liesel begins to write down her story; the story of the book thief.

Liesel's tale is narrated by Death, who is intrigued by the girl who has danced with him so many times. He picks up her diary when she discards it on one of her darkest days, and he has kept it with him ever since, leafing through the pages so many times that it is starting to fade. The Book Thief paints a very different picture Death, and one that I'm very fond of. He isn't evil or cold hearted; he is just doing his job, and even seems reluctant to do so sometimes. He puts it very succinctly himself. He says something along the lines of people assume that Death and War go hand in hand, but we should actually imagine War being the horrifically demanding boss, asking Death for the impossible, and when Death succeeds, he just demands more. I don't know about you, but I thought that was a really profound way to look at it.  It seems quite morbid to have Death narrate your story, but actually, he is one of the more uplifting, light hearted aspects of the tome. Indeed, his observations on human behaviour are laugh out loud on occasion. It's definitely worth having a read just to hear the perspective of this unconventional storyteller.
One of Death's chilling observations - one of my favourite things about the book.
One thing that really struck me about the book was that Death has a very different way of storytelling. He doesn't believe in suspense or mystery like us mere mortals, and he explains to us that it's not what happens, but how we get there. As a result, there are some rather ominous passages in the book, in which we hear about the deaths and heartache to come. There's something quite striking about suddenly being told that a character will die some day soon, when you are engrossed in one of their happiest moments. I admit, this technique could have really backfired, but it actually worked as an unexpected vehicle for building suspense, like ripping off a plaster. You know the pain is coming, but you're powerless to stop it and, in some odd way, eager for it to happen. For it to be over. Also, for me, it had the really significant effect of making me value life. Bit cheesy I know, but when reading, you are constantly reminded that the characters don't know what's waiting round the corner for them, and they are unaware that these will be the happiest moments of their lives. This is true of all of us - we don't know what will happen, so we should cherish every moment. 

And on that rather depressing note, lets move on, shall we? Another element of the book which I found rather intriguing was seeing Nazi Germany through the eyes of a German girl.  So often in war time novels, we are given the perspective of English soldiers, or Jewish victims, in which Germany is the villainous background entity, constantly looming but never really getting a part. This book takes the position that not every German was a Nazi sympathiser, and some still lived in poverty and fear, They were people too, and I think that is often overlooked. It's an obvious fact when you think about it, but one seldom considered by English writers.

This is the first story that's reduced me to tears in a very long time and I would be lying if I told you that this is a feel good book. It's not. You'll be horrified and heartbroken on occasion. But you will also read some of the most poignant, heartwarming pages that I have encountered in a long time. It showcases the terrible side of human nature, but also the good. It's wonderful to read what some people are capable of in the face of so much horror and poverty, and I found myself visibly angry about the fact that life can be so cruel and unfair to those who deserve so much joy, but are dealt so much pain. So if you want a happy book, maybe slide this one back onto the shelf, but if what you seek is an beautifully emotional tale that really resonates in so many ways, then open this one up. Never has a tale affected me more than the story of The Book Thief

Have you read The Book Thief? Did you enjoy it? How did it affect you? Let me know!


P.s. Apologies that this didn't go up yesterday. I had a bit of  mishap with scheduling. Great start to the year.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Best of Beauty 2013

There's been a fair few posts like this one floating around since the rather too hasty arrival of the New Year, and I personally love perusing the products that have seen fellow beauty junkies through the past four seasons. So I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and try to narrow down my beauty favourites to five items that I couldn't have lived without in 2013.
I'm a huge fan of bronze and gold eyeshadows, as they bring out the best in my baby blues. Top of the polls for me is NARS' eyeshadow duo in Isolde. A beautiful antique gold and the perfect bronze shade, this pretty pairing is a dream to blend, has great colour pay off, and has lasted forever! I wear them on pretty much a daily basis, and I'm still not even close to hitting pan! I find them equally wonderful for creating that bronzy summer effect, and the perfect golden Christmassy look. I really don't know what I would have done without this delectable duo for the past year. 
This may seem like a bit of a boring favourite but I'm struggling to remember a time when it wasn't in my make up bag. A product that I never switch out of my daily routine, I use it through my brows, to define my crease and, oh so occasionally, as an actual eyeshadow. Again, not the most exciting of colours but definitely a staple for me.
I don't know what it is about this highlighter, but I just cannot get enough. It has a gorgeous mother of pearl sheen to it, and is subtle enough that I use it every day. When applied liberally, however, it's the perfect product for creating an amped up glowing complexion. J'adore.

For me, this is the ultimate foundation. I discovered it a couple of years ago and, whatever new bases I try, I always end up running back to this one. I have rather dry skin, and I rarely find liquid foundations I like that don't emphasise that, but this gives me the perfect amount of coverage without sticking to any dry patches. With it, I can achieve the very natural, dewy looking skin that I love, and it also has the added bonus of an SPF which, for pale gals like me, is a must. Appealing to my fellow porcelains, this foundation comes in a light enough shade for me. Rejoice! Granted, I do have to go for the lightest shade in their range, but still - it's a rare find, no?
This one just happens to be the one I'm coveting at the moment, but I'd settle for anything from the MaxFactor False Lash Effect range. I favour volume over length when it comes to lashes, and I've yet to find another mascara, high end or otherwise, that plumps up my lash line like these babies do.

It actually proved extremely difficult to pick just five products that I couldn't have gone without last year. I agonised over what deserved a spot, what the criteria should be, and there were a number  of products that I absolutely love that didn't quite make the cut. I'm happy with my pick though, and you never know, some of the runners up might elbow their way into a top five in 2014. But that's one for another year. 

What are your favourite products of 2013? Do they match any of mine? Let me know! 


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Book of the Week: A Song of Ice and Fire

"Before he had lost his sight, the maester had loved books as much as Samwell Tarly did. He understood the way that you could sometimes fall right into them, as if each page was a hole into another world."

This book of the week is actually more a series of the week. It might end up slightly larger than usual, but what better way to kick off the year than with a bumper review like this one, eh? Bit sad of me to admit it, but one of my biggest achievements of 2013 was finishing the entire published collection of A Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. It almost defeated me, but I'm glad I powered through, as it has definitely earned itself a place on the bookshelf of my favourite series'. I'm now comfily tucked away watching in HBO's Game of Thrones, with no immediate plans to resurface, and I thought that, as I reviewed the first of the series earlier in 2013, there was no better way to begin the new year than by rounding off the last.

There are many aspects of the series that I loved, and, although just by sheer probability in a series of this size, I should have a few issues with it, I'm struggling to think of any! There were a few characters that I wasn't so keen on, but you can't really call that a fault - it would be dull if you loved them all. If you've been living under a rock and have no idea what the series entails, go and have a quick read of my Game Of Thrones review for a very brief synopsis, but here I'm just going to delve straight into it and tell you all the things I loved about the books. Here goes.

My first love of the books, which has remained the same from the outset, is my favourite character: Tyrion Lannister. Others have held the title only fleetingly, and at the moment I'm particularly partial to Jon Snow, but I think that might have more to do with the fact that I've started watching the TV series than anything he actually does in the books. Hello Kit Harington... However, for me and, I suspect, for many others, I will always have a soft spot for good old Tyrion. It's a combination of his wit and the fact that he is seen as a monster by his family (the most ruthless, manipulative and horrid I have ever encountered on the written page) that does it. As an underdog, he's very easy to sympathise with and, rather contradictory to his Lannister roots, he has a conscience, making him rather difficult not to love. If you've read it, I'm sure you'll know exactly what I mean.

A touch that I really enjoyed as the books progressed was the introduction of chapters from new characters, some new to the story altogether, others present throughout, but to hear their viewpoints was a breath of fresh air. For example, the Lannisters were nothing more than an evil entity throughout the first books, seemingly there for the sole purpose of thwarting the 'good guys' out of spite and enjoyment. However, with the new insight into their motives, a more interesting layer was added, and I found myself less inclined to hate them. I mean, I did still hate them, I was never going to warm to Cersei, but now at least I feel a little bit bad about it. The fact that Martin had chosen to establish the chapters in this way, at first, seemed a little odd, but as the books ventured forward, this division not into numbers but into points of view was definitely a fantastic vehicle in making sure that the material never became stale. I have a feeling he was planning that the whole time, so bravo George, bravo. 

Another aspect I particularly liked was the fact that as the books grew, so did the world in which they inhabited. With each passing tome, the characters were scattered further afield, introducing us to more far off and exotic places than we had seen yet. This was particularly, and perhaps most obviously, present in the chapters of Daenerys, whose voyage back to Westeros takes her to the most unusual places. Other more surprising characters make their own journeys and often cross paths without even realising it, another thrill of excitement for me (bit sad, I know). I won't comment on who leaves Westeros and who remains, might ruin it a bit for some, but trust me, it's brilliant. Through delving into other lands, layers of intrigue are added to the story, and the different backdrops allow for a number of situations which ensure the pages of this epic tome don't lose momentum, which, let's be honest, they were in danger of doing on occasion. The amount of thought and effort put into all of the intrinsic details of the world is astounding to me. As the story unravels, it is clear just how much planning has gone into even the smallest of events. They all fit together, like pieces of a mammoth puzzle, and it takes a very dedicated, special kind of author to provide a world like that for his readers. But actually, despite the exploration of all these new and diverse places, Bravos in particular becoming a prominent and intriguing new location, my favourite setting was actually the bleakest place in the books; The Wall. Go figure!

I'm so happy that I've managed to conquer this gargantuan series, at least the portion of which that is available thus far. It seemed a bit of a task when I started out, but as I got more and more engrossed, the time positively flew by and I was drinking in the last few pages before I knew it. Granted, it did hit a bit of a lull around the fourth book, but mark my words, as soon as you find yourself losing focus, Martin smacks you with a shocking plot twist that leaves you reeling and hungry for an explanation. The final published book has left me desperate for the next instalment, The Winds of Winter, which does not yet have a publication date (wahh!!). Supposedly this will be the first of the final two instalments of the series, the latter being A Dream of Spring, and I think I'll feel rather lost when I reach it's final chapter. That being said, the books were originally meant to be a trilogy, so you never can tell!

Have you read the Song Of Ice And Fire series? Did you also struggle to tear your eyes away?! What were a few of your favourite things about it? Let me know!


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

This is just a little post to say, I'm back!

The end of 2013 was a bit manic for me. I had a lot going on, what with interning and holding a coordinator position for another job, I really didn't have a lot of free time. And with every free minute becoming a precious moment to cram in drinks with friends or some coveted family time, my little blog was becoming a bit of a chore, which is the last thing it should be. Sadly, I lost my beloved Nan in November and that was my breaking point. So I decided to take a bit of time for myself and start blogging fresh in the New Year. So here I am, ready to launch into blogging with some newfound gusto. As it's the 1st of January, I thought it would be fitting (and slightly boring) to post my New Years Resolutions. Well, partly because it's fitting, partly because if I write them down, I'm far more likely to succeed. So here they are; my New Years Resolutions:

1. To make more time for friends, and try harder to keep in contact (this one's the same every year, and my closest friends are constantly berating me for being notoriously crap at calling them back. Sorry guys, this year it WILL change)

2. To move out (I've been saving for this one for a while now, so I'm confident it'll happen. I'm also hoping that having my own place closer to my friends will help me with resolution number 1. Fingers crossed!)

3. To get a job in the industry that I'm passionate about (not that there's anything wrong with waitressing - it's just not for me I'm afraid)

My resolutions are more goals than lifestyle changes, but I think that's OK. I have a really good feeling about this year, so here's hoping that it's a cracker. So here's to a productive, happy and wonderful 2014. I hope you are successful in all of your endeavours and have the best year yet!

I'd love to know what your New Years Resolutions are! Do you have anything special planned for the year ahead? Let me know!


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