Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Look Fantastic Advent Calendar 2017 Review

Links are affiliate links.

Hi!

Last year, I did a post on the 2016 Look Fantastic Advent Calendar breaking it down to see if it was worth the €95 price tag, so I thought I'd do it again with the 2017 one. The theme for 2017 was "Beauty in Wonderland", and the box was once again massive - this time, it came in the form of a mini storage tower, including a lift-up mirrored compartment on the top and four decent sized pull-out drawers.


Once again, it was filled to the brim with items sold by Look Fantastic on their site.


In no particular order, here's a detailed look at what was inside:


Look Fantastic Contour Brush | Full Size | Value: €9.00

I've used both of these, the contour brush is good - it's much lighter than it looks, and it's nice and soft. I brought the cloth on a recent night away, not realising that it's recommended you run it through the wash first - it removed foundation and waterproof mascara without too much scrubbing but as with all of these cloths, my face didn't feel clean and I think it'll be living out the rest of its life as a screen wipe. 


Dr. Botanicals Moroccan Rose Superfood Facial Oil | Half Size, 15ml | Value €41.70
Balance Me Flash Cleanse Micellar Water |  Travel Size, 30ml | Value €3.15
Oskia London Renaissance Mask | Travel Size, 10ml | Value €12.80

I've been using the Facial Oil for the past few weeks - it doesn't seem to be making any kind of difference but it's a pleasant product to use. It reminds me of the Skin Chemists serum that I mentioned in my empties earlier in the month, only less tacky. I haven't used the other two yet, but I'm looking forward to trying that Oskia mask. 


Model Co Instant Brows in "Light/Medium" | Full Size | Worth €16.45
Ciaté Fierce Flicks Eyeliner in Black | Full Size | Worth €13.45

The eyeliner is lovely, really easy to use. The eyebrow pencil was too light for me, and I found the crayon a bit thick. There was a little double ended brush included with the palette but I didn't find it much use so discarded it. Here's a look at the shades: 


There's not a hope in hell that I'd recommend it for over €30, it's nice but it's no nicer than Catrice or Essence. It's just a nice neutral palette. 


Crabtree & Evelyn La Source Hand Therapy | Travel Size 25g | Worth €4.75
Bellapierre Banana Setting Powder | Full Size | Worth €15.30
Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm | Sample Size 4ml | Worth €4.25

The hand cream is lovely, but takes a little while to sink in compared to my favourite Body Shop ones. I haven't used the Banana Powder yet, and the nipple balm is fabulous. It has really helped to improve the condition of my lips, and a tiny bit goes a very long way (good job, because the sample is tiny). 


Molton Brown Gingerlily Body Wash | Travel Size 100ml | Worth €7.80
Korres Wild Rose Advanced Repair Sleeping Facial | Travel Size 16ml | Worth €12.20
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €28.20
Caudalíe Vinosource Moisturising Sorbet | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €8.60

The Molton Brown is lovely, I really like the brand and it's not something I'd buy for myself so I'm always happy to see it appear in a box or calendar. The scent wouldn't be my favourite but it's still nice. I haven't used the Korres facial yet, and both the Marine Cream and Sorbet are fine - I can never see a massive difference no matter what I use, but both products are pleasant to use and smell nice. 


This Works in transit camera close-up | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €13.30
Illamasqua Lava Lips in "Vixen" | Full Size | Worth €23.45
Doucce Maxlash Volumizer Mascara in Black | Mini Size | Worth €?

I've used this primer before, and I like it. The lipstick is fine, I think the marbled lava effect is a bit gimmicky, but this is a nice neutral very pale red/pink. The mascara - I can't find any info online (it seems to crop up a lot in beauty boxes). For me, the brush was too big - it just gave me very clumpy spidery lashes. 


Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €19.50
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream | Full Size | Worth €11.95
James Read Gradual Tan | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €5.70

The mist, to me, smells a bit Febreze-ish. I know it's popular and it's based on the first ever perfume water, but to me it's a wallop of Granny followed by nothing. Is it a perfume? Is it a facial mist? The scent doesn't last long enough for it to be perfume, but it's too scented for a facial mist. I didn't like this. The First Aid Beauty cream is gorgeous, I'm a fan of the brand anyway and I really like using this on my legs. The James Read tan is full of glitter and I wish they'd stop including it in beauty boxes, not everyone wants to a) tan, or b) be seen from Space. 


Grow Gorgeous Scalp Detox | Travel Size 50ml | Worth €9.20
Redken No Blow Dry Airy Cream for Fine Hair | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €3.70
Moroccanoil Treatment | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €9.00

I haven't used the scalp detox yet, because I'm really lazy when it comes to washing my hair and I just haven't remembered to try it. I used the Redken treatment once but as it's designed for fine hair, it didn't really seem to do much for my very thick frizzy locks. It left the ends looking slightly like wet dog, but I'll give it another go before I give up on it. I was happy with the Moroccanoil, a little goes a very long way and it's a great treatment. 


Pixi by Petra Hello Glow! Kit | Full Size | Worth €24.00

This kit contains a liquid illuminator, blusher & highlighter duo, and a glossy lip plumper. I won't use this, nor have I opened it, so if you'd like to win it I'll be giving it away on either Facebook or Instagram later this week.

The products in the 2017 calendar come to a total (approximate) value of €338.60, plus the mascara. The box cost €98 delivered. The 2016 one came in at around €350, so there's not a whole pile of difference value wise. I feel like the focus was on expensive skincare this year- which is fine, I like getting the opportunity to try brands that I wouldn't otherwise be able to try, but it leaves for a boring enough calendar if you're more interested in makeup. 

I don't  know if I'd be rushing to pre-order again this year, I think the novelty is wearing off and I'd like to try something less expensive, like the Marks & Spencer one. If you bought this too, what did you think? Or what was your favourite product from the box? 




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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Books I Read in November & December

Nothing to Disclose. ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

Every year my reading drops in November and December because it's a really busy time of year for me. This year I really wanted to try and read at least a couple of books, and I'm happy to report that I read 3 in November and 8 in December.

NON-FICTION

  

A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
This was a Kindle First pick for December. I don't usually get one, but this looked interesting on the basis that we don't really get to hear accounts from people who live in North Korea very often. It's harrowing, it's hard to read, and it's full of grief. I think it is worth a read, just to see exactly what it was like for this man over the 36 years he lived there - but it's not an easy read at all. 

Almost the Perfect Murder by Paul Williams
I can not abide Paul Williams, but I wanted to read about how the horrific murder of Elaine O'Hara was solved. When a friend lent me a copy, I read it in pretty much one sitting. I hate the title of this book, but it's fascinating to read about. Very, very graphic and very upsetting in parts. 

Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green
An account of who exactly Steve Bannon is and how he came to be involved with the election of Donald Trump. A much better book by all accounts than Fire and Fury, and very much worth a read if you have an interest in U.S. politics. 

  

How to Succeed in the Beauty Business by Ciara Allen
This is a must-read if you're in any way interested in beauty blogging or beauty as a career. Ciara has written a bible - with sections on how to start, how to make contacts, how to gain experience and much, much more. My own interest in beauty has waned significantly over the past few years but I enjoyed every second of this.

Into the Valley by Chris Clement-Green
I was a part of the blog tour for this release, so you can read my full review in that post here. This is an account of Chris' time spent as a Police Officer in London in the 80s. Anyone into Police procedurals would enjoy this, I think.

The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs
Yes, that KLF. Justified and Ancient. This is a really, really fascinating account of how the band came to be, and how they ended up burning a million pounds in cash on a small island in 1994. This is so engaging, and really witty. Even if you have no interest in the band, the chapters about shared thoughts and the existence of money are well worth the read. Great research, great book, one of my favourite reads last year.

CHRISTMAS THEMED

 

My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Winter Romances by Various, edited by Stephanie Perkins
A Young Adult anthology containing short stories by twelve different authors, all set around the theme of winter romance. My favourites were by by Kiersten White (a story about a guy who cooks food at a diner based not on what people order, but what they really need) and Stephanie Perkins (a tale about a girl meeting a boy at a Christmas tree lot). Very sweet. 

One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot (ARC)
I really like Mandy's Christmas books. This one is about a woman from Notting Hill who cares for her sister. She finds out that the company she works for are in talks to develop a Super Hotel in London, and the CEO is in town. Mandy's pop culture references and sharp wit always save her stories from becoming too twee and predictable, she's one of the first I look to when I want something sweet and romantic. 

OTHER FICTION

  

Friend Request by Laura Marshall
Louise is (understandably) shocked when she receives a friend request from someone who has died years ago. Who is pretending to be Maria? Or, is she really dead? This features two of my favourite tropes: 80s flashbacks and school reunions. It was a good read, not one of my favourites but it was a nice little thriller and a good debut.

In a Cottage In a Wood by Cass Green
Neve inherits a cottage in the strangest of ways. Expecting a peaceful retreat to help get her life back on track, she ends up in a house of horrors. Someone does not want her there - and what was the previous owner really like? I enjoyed this a lot, it was an addictive read. Recommended!

Oh My God What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen
Fans of the Facebook page will be familiar with Ais and her boyfriend, Generic John. But you don't have to be a fan to read this - everyone knows an Aisling. A country girl working in the city, with a long-term boyfriend and no sign of an engagement ring. When Ais and John attend yet another wedding, Ais decides things need to change. Warm, witty, and friendly, this book was lovely, and managed to get a few really serious issues in there too. Also recommended!

And that's it - that brings my 2017 reading to a total of 138. As always, I'll update the Books 2017 page with clickable covers, just click any one to go to my full Goodreads review. I've a shiny new Books 2018 page that I'll update as I go, thanks for staying with me throughout another great reading year!



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Empties July-December 2017

Nothing to declare, no PR samples featured.

Hi!

Last year I made a conscious effort to finish products, and I'm happy enough with how it went. This year, as part of my resolutions, I'm not buying any beauty products at all until I'm completely out of them, so my Empties will be featured again every few months.

In case people look at these and say "what the hell is this one at, showing us her rubbish?" - it's an idea that used to be popular on beauty blogs. It gives people a chance to use a product in its entirety and then give an opinion on whether or not they think it's worth a repurchase - rather than use something for a week and declare it Holy Grail.

January-March 2017 Empties
April-June 2017 Empties

BODY CARE


GLOV QUICK TREAT MICROFIBRE CLOTH
I got this in a subscription box and brought it on holiday last August. It's a tiny, tiny microfibre glove that fits on the top of your thumb - I thought it'd be completely useless, but it was a help in taking my eye makeup off.
Would I buy this again? NO
No. I'm not a fan of microfibre cloths for your face, no matter what the "experts" say - grand for the windows, not for my face. Also, anyone that claims your face is fully clean with a bit of water and a window cloth is lying to you. Use proper cleanser.

MOLTON BROWN COCO AND SANDALWOOD BODY WASH
I've used up a few shower gels but this was the only empty I kept - I was sparing this because it was so nice. I received it in last year's Look Fantastic Advent Calendar. A little goes a very long way, and the Sandalwood scent almost negates the need for perfume. It's lovely.
Would I buy this again? YES, ON SALE
It's €22 for 300ml, so I'd buy it if I was being very good to myself or if it were on sale. In that vein, if anyone knows of a cheaper (I'm talking €5) Sandalwood scented body wash, please let me know!

VASELINE INTENSIVE CARE COCOA RADIANT BODY LOTION
This is my favourite body lotion, both in this form and the spray. I'm getting slightly sick of the scent now because I've been using it for years, but it really keeps dry skin at bay and feels lovely on my skin.
Would I buy this again? MAYBE
I have a pretty good stockpile of this, and I would buy it again, but maybe in a different scent.

ORIGINAL SOURCE LIME & COCONUT BODY BUTTER
I'm a huge fan of Original Source products. This body butter smells like a Summer holiday - it's gorgeous, and wasn't greasy.
Would I buy this again? YES
Yes, I'd buy this over The Body Shop body butters. They're every bit as good, if not better, and are much cheaper and often on offer.

MASKS


PUREDERM EXFOLIATING FOOT MASK
I've featured this in my empties posts before - I use one every couple of months to get rid of dead skin on my feet. They're a pair of solution-filled plastic socks, designed to help with hard skin and callous removal.
Would I buy this again? YES
These are a staple for me now. I bulk buy them on eBay from an Irish seller, and I use them a few times a year. They're gross if you don't like peeling skin, but they really do work well.

VITAMASQUES HYDROGEL FACE MASK
I got this in a subscription box. Unusually, it comes in two pieces - one for above your nose and one for your chin. It promises 120 hours of hydration.
Would I buy this again? NO
No, personally in my case the claim was a load of bollocks. This did not make my skin feel extra hydrated for 5 days. I mean if you drink water you'll be hydrated for 5 days. This is over a tenner, and I didn't find it did anything groundbreaking, it just left my face feeling fresh the same as all other masks do.

CHARLOTTE TILBURY GODDESS SKIN CLAY FACE MASK
I received this with a Charlotte Tilbury order. It was a decent sized sample, there was enough in the sachet for a good application. This claims to give you "baby skin".
Would I buy this again? NO
In a previous empties post, I had a sample of CT magic cream. I ended up later getting the full size, and I was so disappointed. I always seem to enjoy the sample sachets more than the full sized product, so I won't be buying any more of her full sized skin products. I can barely remember using this sample so I'm presuming it didn't give my the skin of a baby (I'm fairly sure I'd have remembered that).

PENNEYS DEEP CLEANSING BUBBLE FACE MASK
I had seen people with these really weird looking bubble masks all over Instagram but could never find one. I spotted this in Penneys one day and said I'd try it (it's €1) - it foamed up really fast, it felt lovely, and it's probably one of the only face masks I've used that made my skin look (as well as feel) cleansed.
Would I buy this again? YES
Absolutely, I've picked up a few more since the first one so I have a couple to use. They're made in South Korea, which is never a bad thing when it comes to a face mask.

SCHWARZKOPF ESSENCE ULTIME OMEGA REPAIR INTENSIVE HAIR MASK
This was €2.99 in my local pharmacy, and I picked it up when I had run out of my beloved Kérastase mask. It's for damaged, depleted hair. It smells fantastic, and leaves my hair feeling beautifully soft. The pot is a great size - it's a really nice little hair product and such good value.
Would I buy this again? YES
I can say nothing bad about it - the claims, as with every other product here, are probably a bit on the generous side (aka waffle), but it's a nice hair product and felt good. The scent was lovely, and it lasted ages.

PERFUME/OIL



LANCOME LA VIE EST BELLE EDP
This was the scent I bought on Honeymoon in 2012 so it has special memories for me. I've repurchased it a few times and was lucky to be sent a bottle from the PR company a couple of years ago - this bottle was my last one, so it was used very sparingly.
Would I buy this again? YES
My husband got me a bottle of the other variation for Christmas (Légere) so I'm good for a while, but it's a perfume I'll happily repurchase.

DIOR POISON GIRL EDP
I bought this on holiday in 2016 and immediately loved the sweet, musky, grown up scent. It's the perfect going out perfume or a great one to spray on a scarf, the scent lasts for ages.
Would I buy this again? NO
I did really love it, but I don't think it's "me" enough to repurchase, if that makes sense. I wasn't bothered when I was coming to the end of it, so I did really like it but I'd try something else from Dior next time.

JESSICA PHENOMEN OIL
I'm nearly sure this was part of a competition prize that I won about 4 years ago, but I can't remember. This bottle has lasted so long - I only used it a couple of times a month to stimulate nail growth and keep cuticles from drying out, but it's supposed to be brilliant for anyone who gets gel nails regularly.
Would I buy this again? NO
It's a grand product, and if you're after something like this I'd recommend it, but personally I'm not concerned enough about my cuticles to buy a specific product, a bit of olive oil or castor oil would do me.



FACE AND LIPS


THE BODY SHOP DROPS OF YOUTH CONCENTRATE SERUM
This was my second bottle of this - I've a full review here, and I bought another bottle after that. It's a really nice, fresh facial serum to be used twice daily, and it leaves skin feeling youthful and soft. I really loved using this.
Would I buy this again? YES, ON SALE
I don't miss it enough to buy it again at full price. I liked it enough to buy it after I was sent a bottle, but I bought it on sale from the UK. It's lovely, but not €52 lovely.

LUSH SANTA BABY LIP SCRUB
A strawberry flavoured sugar scrub for lips. I bought this as part of my Christmas 2016 order and only ran out a few weeks ago. 
Would I buy this again? NO
It's messy, bits of it go everywhere, and it's just sweet sugar. An equivalent could be made at home very quickly.

SKIN CHEMISTS LONDON 24 HOUR AQUA REPAIR FACIAL SERUM
I got this in a subscription box. It's a velvety smooth facial serum that leaves skin feeling clean, hydrated, and plumped. I really liked this, some days I just used it instead of makeup. 
Would I buy this again? NO
It's far too expensive. It's £39 for that tube above - 30ml. I loved it but it wasn't as good as The Body Shop one, which is around the £25 mark in the UK. It's also heavily scented. 

VICHY AQUALIA THERMAL SOOTHING AND REPAIRING LIP BALM
I've written a whole post on this before (here) - it's one of the best lip balms I've found for chapped, sore lips. Thankfully mine weren't too bad this Winter, but this is still one of my go-to balms.
Would I buy this again? YES
It's good value (under €4), lasts ages and works well. 

VICHY LIFTACTIV NUIT MOISTURISER
I've used different Vichy moisturisers before - I usually pick up the Aqualia one, but I used this sample up over a few weeks. The pot was generous, the cream was thick and silky, and I had no complaints with it.
Would I buy this again? NO
I just didn't find it massively special, to be honest. I like the other ranges but this Liftactiv one wasn't impressive enough to go and hunt it down in a full size. I also found the scent very strong compared to some other Vichy products.

MAKEUP


MAC STUDIO SCULPT DEFINING BRONZING POWDER - "DELICATES"
This was a limited edition bronzer, and it was the perfect shade for contouring because it wasn't shimmery or too warm. It was a staple of mine for well over 18 months, and I used most of it up until I dropped it and shattered the rest.
Would I buy this again? YES
I can't, because it was limited edition, but I did buy the very similar shade from their Fruity Juicy collection last year, also called "Delicates". To my eye it's not 100% the same, but it's similar enough for me.

PS PRO ILLUMINATING PRIMER
Everyone seems to have gone mad over Penneys makeup over the past year. I don't get it - to me it's the kind of stuff you buy for kids who are just getting into makeup. I've never been overly impressed by anything I've bought there, and this was no different - hailed as a dupe for MAC's Strobe Cream, I bought it on holiday last year. My tube definitely was not a dupe, it was watery shite that made me look sweaty as opposed to dewy. 
Would I buy this again? NO
I'll stick to Penneys for socks and knickers, not makeup. 

CATRICE GLAM & DOLL FALSE LASHES MASCARA
I'm a big fan of Catrice, they're a decent brand with excellent prices. I've yet to try a bad mascara from them - this one gave lift and length, plus it was very black. 
Would I buy this again? YES
I'll always pick up a Catrice or Essence mascara over more expensive brands - I've spent a fortune on mascara over the years and it's all down to the brush, imho. Catrice do great brushes so I'd happily repurchase this (I've a waterproof one ready to go)

URBAN DECAY ALL NIGHTER SETTING SPRAY
This is something I've bought for a few years now, and I'll continue to do so. It locks your makeup in place and stops it running off - a must for nights out or fellow sweaty people.
Would I buy this again? YES
I've another bottle on the go, I have tried a few other brands but this is the one I keep coming back to.

BOURJOIS 123 PERFECT CC CREAM
My all time favourite base, I mention it in every empties post. It has become a little harder to get a hold of lately, but it's still available online at Boots and Littlewoods. It's dewy, light, and gives wonderful coverage - nothing has come close for me.
Would I buy it again? YES
I get annoyed if I haven't a new one ready to go when I use one up, I'd be devastated if it were discontinued.

BOURJOIS HEALTHY MIX FOUNDATION
I use the CC cream regularly, but if I need a foundation I'll buy Bourjois quicker than any expensive one. This one is lovely, gives medium/high coverage, and feels nice.
Would I buy it again? YES
Bourjois are my favourite brand for foundations - I prefer them to ones I've tried from MAC, Estee Lauder and Armani.

CATRICE HD LIQUID COVERAGE FOUNDATION
This was okay, but I hated the dropper. I also found the foundation really thick and heavy, like a face mask rather than foundation. The colour was fine, and it lasted ages, but I could feel it on.
Would I buy it again? NO
It was just too heavy for me and I felt like the dropper was more of a hindrance than a help.

HOURGLASS VEIL MINERAL PRIMER
Alas, it is time to say goodbye to this. I adored it - it felt like silk on my skin. It made makeup sit better, the scent was lovely, it was just an all-round gorgeous product. I made it last ages by rationing it, but it was a dream to use.
Would I buy it again? YES
It's nauseatingly expensive, but if I ever become one of those people who has a capsule collection of one decent primer, one decent blusher, etc - this will be in there. This bottle was over €60 so it won't happen any time soon, but maybe if I stick to all my resolutions I'll have saved up enough to treat myself to a new one next year!


So - that's it, I'll be back in another few months with another pile of stuff to show you - have you tried any of these? What did you think?




Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year Goals

Nothing to Disclose


New Years Resolutions - some people gag at the thought of them, others use them as an opportunity to set a list of goals for the year. I'm firmly in the latter camp - even if it only lasts until February, I love the sense of motivation that I get from a list and a new notebook.

If you are interested in setting some goals for the year but don't want the usual "lose weight, join a gym" ones, then have a read to see what I'm aiming for this year.


This is my main goal this year - to get my finances in order, and to aim to have more experiences rather than more stuff. There are a couple of ways I want to do this - a few are personal, so I won't go into them, but these are all things I'll be doing to try and spend and save money more consciously rather than flittering it away on impulse buys. Hopefully this will mean I have less crap piling up and more trips, meals out, family days, mini breaks, etc.

1. Use the Tesco Christmas Saver Scheme
I've mentioned this before, in my Budget Tips post. Essentially, it's a Christmas Saver scheme available to anyone with a Tesco Clubcard. All the details on how to get involved are here: Clubcard Christmas Savers. I don't do a big shop there anymore, but this year I'm going top my account up by €5 every single week, so I should have over €200 in vouchers by next November.

2. Buy No Non-Essential Beauty Products/Toiletries
I started this blog in 2011. Since then, I've been buying makeup and toiletries whenever something catches my eye. In recent years I've become better at not impulse buying, but I've still got 300 nail polishes under the bed, 17 different hair conditioners under the sink, various pots of clay masks, moisturisers, dozens of eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks. Enough is enough - my house is not a mansion (nor am I a millionaire), and I'm overwhelmed sometimes by the amount of "stuff" in it. I'm not buying one single beauty, hair, or skin product until I'm absolutely cleaned out of everything. Everything I have already will be used first, and everything I don't use will be cleared out. I'll be doing regular "empties" posts here as I use things up (I've one on the way).


Reading for me is like breathing - I have to read, it's just a regular part of the day for me. If you'd like to resolve to read more this year, I wrote a post on how I read so much: How I Read So Many Books. These are my book related goals for this year:

1. The Book Savings Jar
I first saw this last year when Aoife (Pretty Purple Polka Dots) mentioned it, and she had an overwhelmingly brilliant result this year. Every time you finish a book, put €1 into a jar. That's it. I did this last year until August, when I blew the lot between Charlie Byrnes and Dubray in Galway. Whether you read 100 books a year or 10, it's a great sense of achievement to save something every time you read, plus it's an incentive to read more when you know you're coming up to a nice round number.

2. Buy No More Than 10 New Books in 2018
I'm keeping my monthly Book Box Club subscription, because it's excellent value for money and it means I get a new book plus some goodies once a month. As well as that, I am really looking forward to a handful of new releases this year (Liz Nugent, Louise O'Neill, Donal Ryan, Jojo Moyes all have new books coming soon) - I made over 70 purchases on my Kindle last year, and lord knows how many physical ones I bought. This year, I'm allowing myself to buy no more than 10, instead I'll use the library more often and I'll actually read the books I own - over the past few years I seem to be just hauling books more often than I'm reading them.

3. Complete the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge
I did this a few years ago, and I discovered some great new books through it, things I'd never have picked up. This year I'm doing it with books I own already - I just went through my Kindle and bookshelves and picked out what would fit. I'll have a full post on it soon, but the prompts are at Popsugar Reading Challenge 2018 if you want to check them out.


1. Decluttering the Mind
I know, I know. But hear me out - a cluttered mind is the worst for making me feel shitty, so this year I'm going to make time for myself - even just 15 minutes a day where I can breathe, and empty my head. I'm not saying I'll be heading off up a mountain on my own but a few minutes outside, alone, breathing in fresh air, does wonders and it's something I'm already looking forward to, rain or shine.

2. Decluttering the House
Again, with the piles of shite. It seems to be breeding - everywhere I look, there's something shoved in a corner or a drawer or press that hasn't seen the light of day in months. I'm taking one section at a time, and clearing out whatever isn't used. Anything usable will be donated, anything saleable will be sold, and anything unfit for purpose or unused will be recycled or binned. I've seen a graphic going round over the past few years with a list of prompts to clear out your house - one for every day in January. Now I'm no sloth but jaysus I'm not spending every day for the next month cleaning either. Marie Kondo is a little too regimented for me, so instead I've written a list of 20 key areas I want to tackle, and I'll take one every time I'm motivated to do so.


That's about it in a nutshell, I'm looking forward to decluttering and actually using things rather than just constantly buying more. For a while there it seemed like everyone just had to have more of everything - you couldn't have one bookshelf, you needed a wall. You couldn't have a makeup drawer, you needed a makeup room. For anyone with even the remotest tendency to hoard, things can get completely out of hand and we end up with mountains of "stuff" just taking over.

Will I stick to any of it? Time will tell!

Have you made any resolutions, or signed up for any challenges?



Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Top Ten Reads of 2017

Nothing to Declare

Hi!

I didn't want to post my Top Ten reads of 2017 too soon, in case I read something really great in the last few days of the year, but I think I'm safe enough publishing this now!

Over the last twelve months, I got through 137 books (currently reading #138). I used the library more than I had in years, and I fully embraced audiobooks. This list includes a couple - I really recommend them if you've struggled to read a certain book (I had attempted Rebecca several times in print but flew through it over 3 days in audio form).

This list has changed about ten times, but I've finally narrowed it down to something I'm 100% happy with. Here are my Top Ten reads of the year (not all were released in 2017).


10. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I read this in March, just before the TV adaptation aired (I wanted to read the book before I watched it). It's a really engaging story about a group of women all linked via their children, who all attend the same pre-school. An incident on the first day is the catalyst for a series of actions that drive some of the women together - but some of them are hiding pretty big secrets.  A great book that I couldn't wait to get back to whenever I had to put it down.

09. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
I picked this up in August, while on our annual holiday in Galway. I ended up reading it in one sitting - it's a beautiful story of love, loss, and longing that starts off with a woman winning a painting of Van Gogh's Sunflowers at a raffle. The story follows her son, Ellis, and his friendship with Michael, through several decades. Fans of John Boyne's most recent offering may enjoy this, it's one that has stayed with me since I read it.


08. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This is the long-awaited prequel to Practical Magic. It follows the cursed Owens sisters, Franny and Jet (those familiar with the sequel will know them as the Aunts of Sally and Gillian) and their brother Vincent in the 1950s. It's beautiful, I wanted to start it again the minute I finished it. It almost broke my heart, but it was just stunning and I'd recommend it for people who enjoy strong characters and beautiful storytelling.

07. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
I still remember the Sunday I read this - it was really sunny, and I didn't budge from the garden chair until I had read it from cover to cover. It's about how a fifteen year old girl copes while her mother is awaiting trial for horrific crimes against children. Milly has been given a second chance - a new identity, a new family - but when Milly comes up against some trouble at school, she needs to figure something out - is she good, or is she bad? This was one of those rare books I wanted to just devour, I couldn't read it fast enough. An intelligent, tense, unsettling thriller.


06. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
As a fan of book accounts on both Instagram and Youtube, I had seen a lot about Sarah J Maas' two series - A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass. I ended up reading both series in 2017 (bar one book) - consider me a total fangirl (and 100% on #TeamRhysand). This one was my favourite of hers - it's the second book in the Thorns and Roses series, and the world building was phenomenal. Her attention to detail with both characters and setting is wonderful, it makes me feel the same as I did when I read the Harry Potter books for the first time. Sure, the sometimes insta-love and the Alpha male growling and purring stuff can be off-putting, but there's a solid story underneath and as fantasy series go, it's one I'll follow to the end. Fairies, warriors, magic, quests, war-hungry Kings hell-bent on revenge? Gimme.

05. Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling! by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
From fairies and warriors to dangly earrings and a hotel breakfast - OMGWACA, as it is lovingly known, began as a Facebook page a few years ago. I always assumed it was a group for people who were called Aisling, and when I finally joined I was completely confused by mentions of Deddeh, BGB and GJ - but slowly, it became apparent that Ireland is a special little place. Where else could you post a picture of a biscuit tin and get a debate going on whether or not it contained biscuits or a sewing kit?  Unsure how this would translate to a novel form, I bought this without really reading any reviews. It's a sweet, funny, and warm tale of Aisling, a country girl who works in the city. When her long-term boyfriend John fails to produce the much-anticipated engagement ring, Aisling decides that things need to change. I adored this, it was the absolutely perfect comfort read.


04. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
The first of two audiobooks on the list - I listened to this over a couple of days while out walking. It's about two sisters, Marjorie and Meredith. Fifteen years ago, their family was the subject of a reality TV show, called The Possession. Now, a horror blogger is writing about the show, and Meredith is telling her story to a writer. Eventually we piece together what happened during the recording - was there really a possession? I loved this, it was very enjoyable and I really liked the way it was written (or told). For me, it had echoes of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. That's never a bad thing if it's done right - and here, it's done right. I'll definitely listen to this again. 

03.  The One by John Marrs
The second audiobook on my list. This was read by a full cast, and they did such a wonderful job. Every single one of them was engaging, but I think my favourite was the lady who read Jade. This is a story about a dating agency with a difference - people are matched by DNA samples, ensuring that they end up with their true DNA soulmate. But what would happen if you were already with your soulmate and you got matched with someone else? Or if your match turned out to be a serial killer? Or on the other side of the world? Or dead? This follows five people as they're faced with five very different scenarios after taking the test. I'd highly recommend this, it's a really unique thriller and the premise is fascinating. Would you take the test?


02. The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs
Yes, THAT KLF. The band who had Tammy Wynette singing about an ice cream van. Not a band I've ever been majorly interested in, to be fair, but I had heard that this book was worth a read. It's not only worth a read, I'd go as far as to say it's essential reading if you're interested in coincidence, the origins of the illuminati, 1990s pop culture, and the most interesting, bonkers characters that you couldn't even make up. The sections about money and Ideaspace are worth it alone - just consider the fact (because it is a fact) that everything around you this very minute began as an idea in someone else's mind. Also, when I finished this book I checked my phone and it was on 23% and it absolutely MADE my evening.

01. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Ah, Cyril. I still miss him months after reading this book - this is his story. Cyril was adopted into the Avery family after his mother was banished from her parish when she became pregnant with him. This follows him through the decades of his life - one ordinary man in Ireland from the 1940s until the present day, and all the changes, friendships, and relationships that could possibly bring. It's a gorgeous book, one that left me with a book hangover for a very long time afterwards. How can you miss someone who never existed? That's real magic. The power of books!


So, there we go. What was your favourite read of the year? Or have you read any of these? I've a lot coming up here over the next few months, book posts will be more regular plus I'll be mixing it up with the lifestyle posts in between. I have my Monthly Reads next week, plus a post on the Popsugar 2018 challenge, my most anticipated reads of 2018, a brand shiny new Books 2018 page, a whole basket full of product empties, a money saving challenge and an analysis on whether or not a pricey beauty advent calendar was worth the cost this year. If there's anything else you'd like to see, please pop it in the comments!

As always, thank you so much for reading and for sticking around for another year!





Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blog Tour: Into the Valley by Chris Clement-Green

ARC clearly defined in accordance with review policy here

Hi!

I get regular emails asking if I'd be interested in reading all kinds of books. Normally, I'll have a quick glance at the summary and that's it - but with this one, it reeled me in from the first page. I'm delighted to be hosting the second stop on the blog tour for Chris Clement-Green's memoir, Into the Valley. 



PLOT
In 1984, Chris Clement was working in a bookshop when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper looking for recruits to the Thames Valley Police service. Aged 24, Chris applied - and was accepted. This is the story of her training and career - the cases that have stayed with her, the interesting characters she encountered, and her experience of working in an incredibly male dominated environment. Sexism, racism and homophobia were rife - being a woman in the force was, in itself, an obstacle. This memoir takes us through Chris' career via witty, engaging anecdotes.

THOUGHTS
I'm a fan of biographies or autobiographies, I think that every person has a unique story to tell. This book is every bit as engaging and interesting as some of the "celeb" memoirs I've read, Chris has a great way of telling a story and pulling the reader in. I flew threw this, I really enjoyed the setting. Each chapter is almost like a short story - some of the anecdotes were hilarious, others heartbreaking.


I'm also a fan of Police procedurals - I think that fellow fans of The Bill, Ashes to Ashes or Happy Valley would really enjoy this. Chris is a fascinating person and has led a really interesting life. Anyone with an interest in London in the 1980s would also like this. References to race riots, protests and the fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic remind us of how far we have come as a society (not far enough, but it's a start).

RATING


Into the Valley is published by Mirror Books and is available at Amazon

Thanks to Laura, the Mirror Books team and the author for granting me access to the book, and for having me on the tour. For author interviews, giveaways, excerpts and more you can check out the other stops here:






Sunday, November 5, 2017

Books I Read in October

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

Hi!

October was a month full of Halloween crafts and planning for me, plus I've a couple of other things on at the minute (this isn't one of these "I've something really exciting coming up but I can't tell you until 2019" things, just personal stuff) so my reading took a bit of a back seat.

That being said, I managed to finish six books - a paperback, a hardback, an eBook and three audiobooks.

AUDIOBOOKS

I finished three audiobooks in October, all borrowed from the library via the Borrowbox app.

  

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
This is about a young woman, Nicolette, who has to go back to her hometown to sort out some family matters. A young woman has gone missing - but it's not the first time. Years ago, another young woman went missing, and both were known to Nicolette. Are the two cases connected?
This is interesting because it's told backwards - we start at the end and work our way back to the start. If that sounds confusing, don't worry - it takes a little while to get used to and it's different, but it really works. It's very clever, and I really liked how little bits of information were revealed slowly.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

The One by John Marrs
Imagine a dating app that not only matched people using algorithms or interests, but through their DNA. In this book, it's a reality - thousands of people are using this service to find their true love, or to determine if their partner is their true DNA soulmate. This story follows five very, VERY different characters as they use it - it's twisty, it's brilliant, it's clever, and the ensemble cast were really enjoyable. I'd highly recommend seeking this one out in audio format. One of my favourite books of the year.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Thirst by Benjamin Warner
I'm a sucker for any kind of weather-related dystopia, so I was attracted to this because of the mysterious drought that has suddenly swept through an entire community. Unfortunately - that's the whole plot. There's a drought, and people don't know why. It's an interesting look at what people will do when they're under pressure, but it got a little far-fetched for me at times and I found it a slog to listen to. I think I would have enjoyed this more had I read it. A book with a similar premise, but a much more enjoyable read, was We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

ARC


December Girl by Nicola Cassidy
I was part of the blog tour for this, so it's reviewed in full here. It's a wonderful story about a young Irish woman and how a tragic event affects her life. Molly Thomas is distraught when her baby son is kidnapped, will she ever find him? I thought about Molly for days afterwards, I'd really recommend you check this one out.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

LIBRARY
In addition to the audiobooks, I also borrowed two physical books:

 

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
This was one of the Rick O'Shea Book Club picks over the past few months. It's not something I'd ever choose - it's about time travel, and I don't fare well with books like that. Tom Barren comes from the 2016 we were supposed to have - flying cars, no wars, total equality. But when something he's involved in goes terribly wrong, he finds himself trapped in our imperfect world. Will he want to go back? Is it even possible?
I really enjoyed this. It was different to anything else I had read, and even though some of the in-depth time travel stuff went over my head a bit, I thought it was a really good book.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
This is the story of Tom Hazard, a man with a very rare genetic condition. Tom doesn't age like the rest of us, so while he may appear to be in his forties, he is hundreds of years old. Every 8 years, Tom must move around to avoid detection - but what would happen if he found something he didn't want to give up?
I really enjoyed this, it was a sweet and heartwarming book. I did find the conclusion a bit rushed, but I'd recommend it if you're looking for something non-depressing and easy to read.
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

And that's it! It's the leanest round-up I've done so far this year, but usually when I'm busy I abandon books altogether so I'm delighted I managed to add another six to the yearly total.

Have you read any of these? Or anything good you'd like to recommend?

As always, you'll find clickable covers on my Books 2017 page if you want to read my full (non-spoiler) Goodreads review for any book mentioned.