Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Books I Read in April

Not Sponsored or Paid, ARCs clearly defined.

Hi!

Please excuse my recent absence - a combination of incredibly poor wifi, lack of inspiration, several handcrafted presents to make and a possibly insane decision to rewatch both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed from the beginning have all meant that blogging time has been non-existent lately. But much like Arnie and Eminem, I'm back (back again), and I'll be sticking around.

I've been reading at night in bed, mostly, but a weekend-long book binge at the start of the month meant that I got to add another 16 to my yearly total.

YA = Young Adult, A= Adult.

Library Books
As is always the case with the library, I got excited, overborrowed, and several of them were returned before I got round to them - but here are the ones I finished:


Dare Me by Megan Abbot (YA)
Addy and her cheerleading squad are getting on just fine until the arrival of a new coach. Colette French immediately throws the girls into a strenuous routine, proving that cheering is more than shaking your pom-poms - the girls are exhausted. They're pushed to improve their physical appearance and stamina, but there are dark secrets here - ones that could destroy lives if revealed.

This is no Bring it On. This is hardcore, bitchy, girls stabbing each other in the back, secrets, lies, obsession - I think I gave it 2/5, it just didn't suck me in.

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbo (A)
This is the first Jo Nesbo book I've picked up. It's also my first ever foray into the much loved genre of Scandinavian crime. A mother has disappeared, and there's a sinister snowman found at the scene. As Detective Harry Hole is put on the case, it happens again and again - and always when the first snow falls. It's up to Harry and his colleagues to find out who the Snowman is and stop him before he kills again.

This was well written, I had no issues with the story or plot, but it felt much, much longer than the 383 pages Goodreads says it is. I liked Harry Hole as a character and will read more.

Triptych (Will Trent #1) by Karin Slaughter (A)
I decided to go back to the start of the Will Trent series and read them all in order. In this first book of the series, Atlanta police detective Michael Ormewood is put on the case of a prostitute who has been violently murdered. Special Agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is called in to lend a hand. Meanwhile, we get an arc about a man who spent time in prison for the murder of a young girl. His recent release makes him prime suspect #1.

When this starts to click, my god is it good. Karin Slaughter is a master of her craft, she just knows how to suck people in and grab them by the gut. Really well written, and thoroughly enjoyable - not perfect, but a solid 4/5.

Review Copies



The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA) Published 2 June (Kindle) 9 June (Paperback)
I requested this on Netgalley. This is about teenager Timothy Mason, a High School dropout and recovering alcoholic. His friend Jason Garrett lets Tim stay in the family garage when Tim's father gives him a limit of a few months to turn his life around before he is cut off. Tim has history with Jason's sister Alice, who has issues of her own. When an old flame of Tim's turns up unannounced, it means complications for everyone.

This really dragged for me, I didn't find Alice or Tim particularly likeable and I wasn't rooting for them. I didn't like how dismissive Tim was of his "ex", nor did I like how judgemental he was about others. I just didn't enjoy it - but I'm in the minority going by Goodreads reviews so if you like Contemporary YA, give it a go.

Audiobooks
Would you believe that at almost 33 years old I had never listened to an audiobook before? I took the plunge this month and found it a fantastic way of getting another book in over a few days while cooking or cleaning.




Spectacles by Sue Perkins (A)
If you're of a certain vintage you'll remember Sue from Naked Lunch, but she's obviously better known for her role on The Great British Bake Off. This is her autobiography, and the audiobook was read by Sue. She tells her story in a warm, friendly way - she's naturally very funny and makes even the most mundane experiences sound hilarious. Parts of it are also very touching. If you like her at all I'd highly recommend this and I'd recommend you listen to it as opposed to read it.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (A)
Ye gads. This was supposed to be a story about a woman who had a couple of really bad experiences (a loss, a marriage breakdown) and found herself again while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Instead, it's a choppy, far-fetched tale of a woman doing a bit of hiking, a lot of bragging, and a lot of shagging. At one point I went off into another room to get something and my husband came in asking me why I was listening to porn in front of the kids. Seriously. The narrator grated on me and the book was just......it irritated me and I didn't like it, I also didn't think Cheryl "found herself" at all.

Short Stories


Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
A short story written by Rowell for World Book Day. Elena is Star Wars obsessed - so much so that she's never even seen the prequels (it's okay I promise it makes sense). She joins a line outside the cinema for the showing of the newest movie, hoping for lots of instagram-worthy crowd shots, but instead is met by just two people - one of whom will teach her about acceptance and being true to yourself. This was alright, it was a quick read, a nice palate cleanser in between people chopping each other up.

Sweet Home by Carys Bray (A)
A collection of 17 short stories all based on the themes of parenting and/or family. This was a real surprise for me - gloriously odd and quirky in places, desperately sad and upsetting in others. This veers into very dark territory more than once, so it's not for the faint hearted, but it's well worth a read. Stand-outs include the fantasy "The Ice Baby", in which a man carves a baby from ice for his wife, "The Countdown", about a man worrying about his first child, and "Love: Terms and Conditions" about a woman who vows to not repeat the mistakes made by her parents. Highly recommended.

The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett (A)
TV/film writer/actor Alan Benentt tells the tale of the old lady who lived in his garden for 15 years in a series of ratty old vans during the 1970s/1980s. This is the short story of how they tolerated each other and of the delicious eccentricities of Miss Shephard. It's not some saccharin sweet tale - but it's witty and funny and an interesting look at one of those real characters we don't come across too often anymore.


Young Adult

I read a couple of other YA books in April, most had been sitting on my kindle for a very long time - I find it a great genre to get me out of a reading slump.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
Eleanor and Park are very different - she marches to the beat of her own drum, but her flaming red hair and "interesting" style hide a lot of insecurities. He has a happy home life, but does he really know who he is? This is set in the 80s against a backdrop of the best music, over one school year. I didn't love it - it was okay for me, I found Eleanor's home life very upsetting to read about - but I know that others adore the book and the couple. It's being made into a film, one I'd definitely watch.

Every Day by David Levithan (YA)
Every day, A wakes up in a different body. Sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, always a different person and never more than 24 hours. A can't  (or shouldn't) change or meddle, they are just a visitor - until A meets Rhiannon and feels an instant connection. Suddenly, everything A does is about Rhiannon - and if someone were to find out what's going on, A would be in serious danger.

Despite the insta love I enjoyed this, I liked that A was neither male or female, it was a great idea, and I'm a fan of body-switching things anyway. I didn't like that the angle of the Reverend wasn't fully explored, there seemed to be a story there that just dropped off. Overall a good read, there are prequels and sort-of sequels but I wouldn't bother with them. This was solid as a standalone.

Monster by C.J Skuse (YA)
Bathory is an exclusive Boarding School for girls. Not unlike Hogwarts, there are 4 houses in this big school full of secrets. Out in the middle of nowhere, Natasha (Nash) finds her battle to be Head Girl the least of her worries when her beloved brother Sebastian is reported missing. Add to that a mythical beast that may not be so mythical, some creepy rumours of murders, and a snowstorm that means some of the girls are stranded at Bathory, and you have an atmospheric teenage whodunnit with an element of dark humour that was really enjoyable in a kinda "Point Horror v2.0" way. I seriously laughed my arse off at the last name of the teacher, Slash fans will get it instantly. Great fun, recommended.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (YA)
David and Rachel are no strangers to working with each other - this is one in a number of books they've co-written ( see also: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Naomi and Ely's No-Kiss List). Nick is playing with his band when his ex Tris walks in with another boy. To avoid looking like a loser in front of Tris, Nick turns to the nearest girl and asks her to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. The girl turns out to be super cool Manic Pixie Dream Girl Norah. What ensues is a night of debauchery in Manhattan, with Nick and Norah learning about each other. I have written "boring as f*ck" in my notes for this one, and I can't remember much about it, except a feeling of utter boredom and annoyance at the use of slang.

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw (YA)
Scarlett is a proud member of the Lycanthrope High fandom - it's her favourite TV show and she is fully immersed in online forums devoted to it. When it is cancelled, Scarlett begins to write fan fiction but draws (a little too heavily) on those she knows in reality - her crush Gideon, his evil girlfriend Ashley, and her friend Avery. If anyone were to read Scarlett's online ramblings they'd find out exactly what she thought of those people but that's not likely to happen...........right? Scarlett's elderly neighbour Ruth is a brilliant character too, and it's nice to see the dynamic between the two generations.

This was witty (you can tell the author is well acquainted with the Whedonverse), warm, funny, and Scarlett was a really great main character. A fantastic debut and I'd happily recommend this to anyone looking for a new YA book to read.

Other Fiction



In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward (A)
Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins were 8 years old when they were kidnapped. Rachel got away - Sophie didn't. Roll on to the present day when Rachel is now a family historian, still living in her home village of Bampton. Sophie's mother unexpectedly takes her own life - leading the local police to re-examine the original case. This was okay - it had a bit of a Happy Valley vibe but there were unnecessary elements (the nervous Groom) and we didn't need to be told repeatedly that Rachel, as a size 14, was heavy/thick/overweight/large etc. I could see this being a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, it's the type of book I'd recommend for a bit of midweek reading but it won't be one that will stay with you - I'd put it on the same shelf as The Bones of You by Debbie Howells or Beside Myself by Ann Morgan so if you enjoyed either of those, give this a go.

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as Unknown) (A or YA)
This is a classic - the story of a teenager named Alice who goes to a party, takes drugs, and begins a downward spiral resulting in the destruction of her life. Originally marketed as a diary, a true story, this was later revealed to be the fictional work of Mormon Youth Counsellor Beatrice Sparks, who also fabricated other supposedly true stories. This is really boring to read - everything is great! great! great! and it's obviously not written by a teenager. This is it in two lines:

"Wheel of morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn"
Don't ever try drugs, you will die.

I can imagine it was shocking at the time and it's worth a read even just to say you've read it - but it's beyond boring.

That's it! Hopefully you'll find something interesting to read, favourites this month were Sweet Home, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here and Spectacles.

At this point I'd also like to give a shout out to a new Irish book blog started by Sara from Where is My Mind Gone? - it's called Not Another Book Blogger and you can find the blog here, the facebook here, and the instagram here. It's always a great thing to see more book blogs, especially Irish based ones - the online book community is huge and in general one of the nicer communities to be a part of.


As always, I'm a glutton for punishment and my TBR pile won't be big enough until it needs its own entry on the Register of Electors, so hit me with your recommendations in the comments.





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Friday, April 8, 2016

Books I Read in March

Not Sponsored or paid, ARCs from Netgalley featured. 

Hi!

The beginning of March was slow for me, reading wise, but I found my mojo again towards the middle of the month and got through 12 books. As always, full reviews are posted on Goodreads and you can find those by going to my Books 2016 page and clicking on any book cover.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club

There was one pick this month:


Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard
A famous cult leader has gone missing in the middle East - several people saw him die, but his body cannot be found - leading people to presume he's still alive. One by one, his followers are being killed off in gruesome ways in an attempt to lure him out. Oh, and the leader is Jesus Christ.
Interesting, great idea, but not my thing, didn't enjoy it.

Review Copies
Anyone can join Netgalley and request books to review. 



The Good Mother by A.L. Bird - Published April 4th
Susan wakes up and has no idea where she is - she has been abducted, and soon realises that her Captor, a man she finds oddly familiar, has also abducted her teenage daughter Cara and is keeping her in the room next door. But what does he want with Susan and Cara? Can they work together to get out? Promising but a huge let down for me, it tried too hard to shock and the last few chapters were messy.

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal - Expected Publication June 6th
Leon is almost nine years old. He has the most perfect baby brother in the whole world, Jake. He looks after Jake because their Mum isn't able to, but when the boys are sent to live with a nice lady with fuzzy red hair, Maureen, a new family want to take Jake. They don't want Leon because he isn't white. Leon is determined to get his brother back - sometimes taking his anger and frustration out on those around him - and meanwhile meets some people who make him remember that everything isn't so bad. 

I had to put this book down halfway through because I was sobbing - full on snotty sobbing. It was so, so emotional. At one point, the words 'baby dinners' made me weep. I highly recommend it - it's set in England in the late 70s/early 80s, against a backdrop of the Royal Wedding, racial tension and social issues. A fantastic debut. 

Library
I have a separate post coming about libraries and the services offered, but for now - here are the books I borrowed from the library in March.


Fallen by Lia Mills
Set in Dublin during Easter week 1916, this is the fictional account of how the Rising and the events leading up to and after it affect one Dublin girl and her twin brother. I enjoyed the book, it gave me a good idea of how the Rising must have been for ordinary everyday citizens.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Now a film starring Saoirse Ronan (pronounced seer-sha), this is the story of Eilis Lacey (pronounced eye-lish), a young girl from Enniscorthy in Wexford and her emigration to America in the 1950s. It follows her through her first job, her first love in America, and a tough decision. I enjoyed the setting, but I didn't like Eilis as a main character, I found her dull and overall the book bored me, unfortunately.

Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas
Six young graduates answer an ad in a newspaper looking for "Bright Young Things" for a secret project. They go for an audition then wake up on an island, with no idea of how they got there or what's going on. While the plot is alright, the best part of this 1999 novel for me were the multiple pop culture references. The author describes it as a "time capsule" and I loved it, references to things that were popular at the time had me grinning ("She's a Joey, but she wishes she were a Jen" - YESSSS!!).

Young Adult
I'm a big fan of Young Adult (YA) novels, I don't think you're ever too old to stop reading them. I read two this month.


The Storm (The Rain #2) by Virginia Bergin
In The Rain, teenager Ruby Morris was caught up in a pretty big crisis, torrential rain that makes people destroy themselves. I loved it because Ruby was gloriously normal and worried about mundane things that we don't usually seen teen heroines worry about. In this sequel, it's still raining on and off, and Ruby is searching for some people. I didn't like this as much - I felt like it was a bit muddled and tried to go a few different directions instead of just picking one and sticking with it. I also didn't like the direction Ruby's character went in. But I'd recommend the first book!

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dumplin' Dickson is a teenager who works part time at a fast food place with a very hot boy named Bo. Her mother is in charge of the annual Beauty Pageant, and is disappointed that Willowdean is overweight. Willowdean decides to call her mother's bluff and enter the Pageant, bringing a group of misfit friends with her. This was sold as a body positive empowering book - sadly I didn't feel that. I felt that Willowdean was incredibly insecure, selfish, and mean about others. It's a shame, because there aren't many YA books with overweight characters where it's not an issue - but throw in an unlikely love triangle and it wasn't enough to hold my interest. I finished it, but only just.

Non-Fiction


Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming
When Scottish actor Alan Cumming got the chance to participate in Geneology show Who Do You Think You Are?, he thought it would be a great opportunity to solve a family mystery on his mother's side. Instead, his strained relationship with his father became the focus as some previously uknown information was shared. Part memoir, part mystery, this read like a novel and is definitely one of the better memoirs I've read. Highly recommeded. I'm also blaming Alan for my renewed interest in finding out about past generations of my family!

Fiction


Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bee's mother, Bernadette, has gone missing days before they were due to go on a family trip to Antarctica. Through the medium of email and letters, Bee tries to piece together her mothers life to try and find out what happened. This is darkly comic in parts, I loved the parts with the snobbish school mothers. However, about 2/3 of the way through I lost interest and didn't really buy the conclusion.

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
Clara and her sister Marin were brought to Aunt Verity as babies - Clara by a stork, Marin inside a conch shell. As the girls grow, it becomes apparent that Marin is slowly becoming a mermaid and needs to be returned to the sea. Aunt Verity is bound to her mountain home by a curse, so it's up to Clara and her childhood friend O'Neill to get Marin to safety. Predictably, things don't go as smoothly as that - there's a very fantasy carnival kind of atmosphere to this. It was just okay for me, parts of it felt like a lesson in morality.

The Green Road by Anne Enright
A mother in rural Co. Clare has requested that her four children join her at the family home for one last Christmas before she sells the house. They all have their own issues and stories, and we get to know them before the Christmas meeting. I loved this, really enjoyable and I'll definitely read Anne's other works.

So that's it - quite a 'meh' reading month, but three fantastic reads (Alan Cumming, Anne Enright and Kit de Waal). Have you read anything interesting lately? I'm always on the lookout for suggestions, but I can feel myself getting into a kind of YA mood so if you've read any interesting Young Adult novels lately, please let me know.






Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Real Techniques Deep Cleansing Gel

Not sponsored or paid, no PR samples featured

Hi!

Around Christmas time, I spotted this in my local chemist. At nearly €10 it wasn't the cheapest of impulse buys, but I bought it regardless just so I could see if it could live up to my beloved Holy Grail brush cleaner [Daiso].



The ingredients are mostly water, fragrance, foaming agents, preservatives, and parabens. It essentially has the same ingredients as cheap shampoo. It doesn't contain alcohol. It claims to "Improve Brush Performance" - well that's the least you'd expect from a clean brush, of course a clean brush will perform better than a dirty one?!

I found the texture really weird - like a thick jelly rather than a gel, it was actually quite hard to get out of the bottle - it sucked itself back in unelss I squeezed it really hard. It also has a strange sweet smell. I tried it on a Jessup kabuki brush and it didn't shift any of the foundation off it. I tried it again with a Blank Canvas brush - same thing. So I tried it with a Real Techniques brush.


Surprisingly, it worked on the RT brush.


Overall

This isn't what it says it is. There's a video explaining how to use it [here] and the girls say that it's for a deep clean, not a spot clean - I'd argue the opposite. I think it works as a spot clean on brushes that have only been used once or twice. This won't shift cream or liquid foundation, nor liquid eyeliner. Really disappointing, not a patch on Daiso, and not worth the money. It doesn't do what it claims to do - Avoid.




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Slimming World Friendly Chorizo and Prawn Paella

Not sponsored by or affiliated with Slimming World, I am a paying member

Hi!

I've made this a few times now on Snapchat - it's pretty much my go-to comfort dinner, and I always get asked about it. I think the recipe was in a Slimming World magazine last year or the year before, but I tweak it a bit to suit me. Don't be afraid to tweak recipes - if you don't like prawns, you can substitute chicken, turkey or pork in this recipe. You could add vegetables, swap vegetables, or just use whatever you have to hand.

My recipe is 2 Syns per portion - that's using 25g of Tesco Finest Chorizo. If you use a different brand and are counting Syns, double check your own brand.

Chorizo and Prawn Paella
Serves 2 | Ready in under 30 mins |

INGREDIENTS


* 200g dried paella rice
* 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 700ml boiling water
* 1 onion, diced
* 2 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 spring onions, chopped
* 100g cooked prawns, diced (or 100g diced cooked chicken)
* 25g chorizo, finely diced
* 100g green beans, broccoli, or whatever green veg you like, chopped up.
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1 teaspoon turmeric

METHOD

* If using frozen green beans or frozen prawns, defrost both in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Chop the green beans into 2-3 pieces. If using broccoli, separate into small florets.
* Spray a large saucepan or wok with frylight, turn on a medium heat.
* Add the diced onion, chorizo and garlic to the wok. Stir fry until the onion is softened.
* Add the turmeric and paprika, stir for a minute, add the dry paella rice, stir until everything is coated in spice.


* Add the stock slowly. Don't worry if it looks sloppy - it will evaporate.
* Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes - stir often. If you need to add more liquid, do.
* Add the prawns, spring onion, and green beans, simmer until rice is cooked through.


* Serve with broccoli, asparagus, or whatever veg you like.


This keeps really well in an airtight container in the fridge and tastes even nicer the next day.

Note #1: I buy Tesco brand Paella Rice (€1.55). It's not with the other rice and pasta - it's with the oriental ingredients, on the same aisle as the oils and spices. The Chorizo I buy is from the Tesco Finest range (€4), I cut it into 25g chunks and use as I need it (it will keep for over a month in the fridge and I think you can freeze it too). 25g - 4 Syns. Here are the packets in case you want to look for them yourself:



Note #2: I tried to make this with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and it definitely lost some of the flavour, I wouldn't recommend it.




Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Ten Favourite Films on Netflix Right Now!

Not sponsored, not affiliated with Netflix, I am a monthly subscriber.

Hi!

I go through phases with Netflix. Sometimes I go for weeks without even logging on, other times I can't get enough and I'll devour a series over a few nights.

Last weekend, I logged on and found a few new movies - and when searching last night, I realised that loads of my favourites are there - so I thought I'd do a post in case you haven't seen any of these in a while (or ever - lucky you getting to see them for the first time!!). All images are grabbed from Netflix.

In no particular order:



Hocus Pocus




Year: 1993
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch
Plot: A skepical teenage boy lights a candle on Halloween night in Salem, bringing three evil witches back from the dead. They need the lives of children to survive - but they've only got until dawn.

Why I Love It: This is one of my all time favourite films - I would be 100% confident that I could quote the majority of it from start to finish. I adore everything about it - the cast, the score, the musical number, the humour, the setting - just because it's March doesn't mean you can't embrace a little bit of Halloween!

A Night at the Roxbury


Year: 1998
Starring: Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Molly Shannon
Plot: Two brothers have a shared dream to open their own Nightclub despite still living at home and working in their father's flower shop.

Why I Love It: This is just a fantastic feel good film - the soundtrack album is one of my favourites (Haddaway, anyone?), and it's a really funny, witty film. It's based on a recurring Saturday Night Live skit featuring the cast members. If you're a fan of Will Ferrell's type of humour, please give it a watch!

Desperately Seeking Susan



Year: 1985
Starring: Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn
Plot: A bored suburban housewife becomes obsessed with a couple who leave messages for each other in the personal ads section of the newspaper. When she has an accident and suffers amnesia, she gets caught up in their wild lives.

Why I Love It: I ADORE Rosanna Arquette in this. Interestingly, she wasn't considered the lead female in this film - they wanted to market it as a Madonna thing, especially as she used a new song, Into the Groove, just for the film. The fashion is amazing, Aidan Quinn is just gorgeous, and Rosanna is adorable. Love it!

Mermaids


Year: 1990
Starring: Winona Ryder, Cher, Christina Ricci, Bob Hoskins
Plot: A mother moves her two daughters to a new area everytime things get tough. This time, they end up in a small town where a shoe salesman becomes besotted with the mother. Meanwhile, the eldest daughter Charlotte is having a crisis of faith, trying to discover who she is while lusting after hunky bus driver Joe. It's set in 1963.

Why I Love It: I had such a crush on the guy who played Joe for years (Michael Schoeffling - also played Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles, John Hughes fans), it's not even funny - it goes without saying that the cast are all fantastic here, especially a very young Christina Ricci. Winona is a star, she completely owns the film (not an easy job when your acting alongside Cher).


Return to Oz


Year: 1985
Starring: Fairuza Balk, Jean Marsh, Piper Laurie
Plot: In a sequel of sorts to the original, this 80s film takes a decidedly darker look at the mysterious world of Oz. After returning from Oz and not being able to stop talking about it, Dorothy is undergoing electric shock treatment when she gets the opportunity to return to Oz, meeting some new friends and some terrifying adversaries on the way.

Why I Love It: This film stayed with me for a very long time when I first saw it - the sight of a headless Mombi screaming "Dorothy GAAALLLLEE" has been embedded in my brain since I first saw it years ago. Fairuza Balk is fantastic as Dorothy, and I like that this film is a lot darker and more twisted than the first one.

Where the Heart is



Year: 2000
Starring: Natalie Portman, Stockard Channing, Ashley Judd, Joan Cusack
Plot: A young pregnant girl becomes notorious when she gives birth in a local Wal-Mart store. A kind stranger takes her in where she makes a new life for herself and learns how family doesn't always have to mean blood.

Why I Love It: I stumbled upon this film late one night on telly and was delighted to find it again on Netflix. Natalie Portman is a fantastic actress and her portrayal of teenager Novalee is so believable, it's a great story and Stockard Channing is brilliant as always. It's just a really hopeful film (despite some tragedy) and all the characters are warm and lovely.

Summer Magic


Year: 1963
Starring: Hayley Mills, Burl Ives, Dorothy McGuire
Plot: The Carey family are forced to move to a new home when they run into financial difficulty. Widow Carey and her children move to a big run-down house in the country. They're beginning to find their feet when glamorous cousin Julia arrives and throws a spanner in the works for hard-working eldest daughter Nancy.

Why I Love It: This was one of my favourite childhood films. I think we taped it off the telly years ago and watched it repeatedly - it's a great musical, I still remember the words to some of the numbers. Hayley Mills is brilliant in it but I always wanted to be the cousin, she was so elegant! Do give it a watch if old-school musicals are your thing.

Clueless




Year: 1995
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd
Plot: A rich young student takes a new girl under her wing and gives her a makeover to fit in, all the while trying to impress a boy in her class.

Why I Love It: I know, I know - we've all probably seen it a million times, but not everyone knows it's on Netflix. It's endlessly quotable (way harsh, Tai), Cher's wardrobe is iconic, and who hasn't tried to put the word 'sporadic' into a sentence?

Kevin and Perry Go Large


Year: 2000
Starring: Harry Enfield, Kathy Burke, Rhys Ifans
Plot: Incompetent teenagers Kevin and Perry go on holiday to Ibiza with Kevin's parents. While there, they try to get the attention of DJ Eyeball Paul so they can get him to play their mix and become world famous DJS. They'd also like to lose their virginity.

Why I Love It: This isn't to everyone's taste but I love it, I love Harry Enfield and Kathy Burke in general, I've always been a fan of both. The music in this will bring waves of nostalgia back to anyone who was of Ibiza-going age in 2000, and while I could do without the whole spot-bursting scene, I still think it's worth a watch if you're into that type of comedy.

Girl, Interrupted


Year: 2000
Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg
Plot: A young woman who wants to be a writer is incarcerated in a mental institution after a suspected suicide attempt. Adamant that there is nothing wrong with her, she finds it hard to adjust until she meets rebellious free spirit Lisa, who takes her down a dangerous road. Set in the 1960s.

Why I Love It: This is one of my favourite films and definitely my favourite Angelina Jolie performance. She is excellent and believable as Lisa, a tough character who is actually quite sad. There's a hilarious ice-cream shop scene, and a great turn from Brittany Murphy as a tragic young patient. Based on the book by Susannah Kaysen, about her own experiences as a teenager. I recommend the book too, but bear in mind that both the book and film could be triggering for anyone with self-harm, depression, or eating disorder history. I recently watched it for the first time since Brittany Murphy passed away and it was quite upsetting in parts, but it's a fantastic film.

Honorable mentions go to Spice World, Burlesque, Drop Dead Fred and Footloose (the remake) which was actually fairly decent as remakes go (but Dennis Quaid is no John Lithgow, and there's a sentence I never thought I'd write).

So that's it! Am I missing anything great? Have you stumbled upon anything good on Netflix lately? I'm always open to suggestions, but I don't have time to commit to a series right now so I'd love documentary or film recommendations please!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Books I Read in February

Not sponsored or paid, no ARCs featured

Hi!

Wow, this post is late - usually I try to get the book posts up earlier in the month, so apologies. In February, I mostly read this:


I read and re-read it until I was seeing road signs in my sleep, so I didn't really have time for a lot of other books. It paid off - I passed the theory test - but it meant that my book total for the year came to a bit of a standstill.

I managed to fit in four other books in February, two fiction and two non-fiction.


Me and My Mate Jeffrey by Niall Breslin
Niall Breslin, better known as Bressie, is an Irish musician and TV judge on Ireland's version of singing show 'The Voice'. In this book, he is very open about his battles with depression and anxiety. I liked this book because it helped me understand more about those who do have anxiety - he also has some great advice without being preachy, and points out where he went wrong and admits that some of his decisions weren't the right ones. I think it's great for young men to have a book like this so that they can realise that it's not just women who battle their demons - but I wouldn't give it to anyone under 15 due to some of the content related to self-harm.


Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
When Peggy Hillcoat is 8 years old, her survivalist father takes her on a trip to the woods with every intention of them staying there for good. He tells Peggy that the rest of the world has been destroyed, and that they are the only two people left in the world. The book jumps between the time Peggy spends in the woods and the present day, where she's back with her mother - but what happened out there? The overwhelming feeling I had reading this was one of sadness, it's a sad book. It's essentially a look at a man's unravelling, and it's uncomfortable in parts, but it was a different type of read and one that has stayed with me. This was one of Richard & Judy's picks for Spring.


Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Leah Remini is an actress. This is the story of how she and her family were introduced to the world of Scientology by her mother's then boyfriend. She spills the beans on some inner goings-on at the church - including some not-too-flattering tales about Tom Cruise and his supporters. It's an interesting read, mainly because Leah doesn't hold back at all - about the church or about herself and the mistakes she has made.


Viral by Helen Fitzgerald
I'm a big fan of Helen Fitzgerald's writing style, her characters are usually razor sharp and full of life. In this latest offering, Su Oliphant Brotheridge and her sister Leah go on holiday with a group of friends to Magaluf after their A-Levels. Something happens out there that turns Su into a viral phenomenon - and she's afraid to come home. Her mother, a Family Court Judge, is determined to punish those responsible and get Su back where she belongs. This is not for you if you don't like foul language - even the opening line packs a wallop. I wasn't mad about the book, being honest, the mother seemed completely unhinged to me. There was also a family incident that I felt unrealistic and just thrown in there for handiness - but overall I'd recommend Helen Fitzgerald if you like something gritty and darkly comic.

So that's it - I'm totally counting that theory test book towards my yearly reads because it was a book and I read it.

Hopefully I'll be able to add a few more to the pile throughout the last few days of March!






Monday, March 14, 2016

The Body Shop Drops of Youth - Review after 6 Weeks

Not sponsored or paid, Product samples included. 

Hi!

I was sent three products from the latest "Drops of Youth" range by The Body Shop 6 weeks ago. I wanted to give them a proper review, so I have been using just these products every morning and night after cleansing. Except on the nights where I forget to take off my makeup....


I was sent the Youth Essence-Lotion (160ml), the Youth Concentrate (50ml) and the Youth Cream (50ml).


Youth Essence-Lotion - €23.95
Like the other products in the range, this contains Plant Stem Cells from "Edelweiss from the Italian Alps, Sea Holly & Criste Marine from the Brittany Coast" - not to be rude, but that means nothing to me, I don't even know what Criste Marine is. All I know is that this is the first step in the routine, it's a hybrid water/gel product that's supposed to be used after cleansing and before serum or moisturiser.

I couldn't see if it was doing anything and I didn't feel it doing anything for me. It claims to "trigger visibly fresh, youthful-looking skin at the surface. Skin feels replenished with moisture, pores look refined." - I coudn't see any difference really. If anything it felt a little sticky or tacky when I was waiting for it to dry. I stopped using it after about two weeks because I felt it was an unnecessary step.


Youth Concentrate - €52.50
Again, this contains the same Plant Stem Cells, and this is a serum that makes claims that "skin appears fresher, smoother and more supple. Pores look refined, lines appear smoothed, skin unveils a healthy luminosity and a youthful bounce"

I love this serum. Absolutely love it. I can't say I have pore or line issues but my skin definitely did feel brighter and more refreshed - and more importantly, on the couple of days I missed, I noticed the difference. I have had people on Snapchat asking what I use on my skin since I started using these products, and I'd almost guarantee that's down to the serum. A little goes a very long way - I've used this almost every day for nearly two months now and you can see the usage in the picture. It dries into the skin, doesn't look greasy, but leaves it hydrated and plumped. It's pricey, but I reckon I'll get another 6-8 months from it.


Youth Cream - €35
Also contains the same Plant Stem Cells, and makes the same claims as the serum - luminosity, bounce, pores and lines minimised. It was a nice, smooth moisturiser, but whereas the fragrance of the range didn't bother me with the serum and lotion, it bothered me a little with the moisturiser. I just felt that as the last step of skincare, it was a little too heavily scented for me - I put this on before bedtime and it's just a little too 'fresh' for me, it's not the type of comforting scent you'd imagine using before bed. It's perfect for morning, when you need a kickstart to the day.


Overall 

The fragrance is a fresh, almost grass-like smell that screams Spring. It's less noticeable in the liquid products, but quite strong in the moisturiser.

The Youth Cream - if you're looking for a nice moisturiser, the Body Shop ones are lovely, and would make decent presents. This is the second one now I've tried (I won the first in a giveaway - the Vitamin C one, and again, the smell was the only issue I had) and it's a nice, decent, good moisturiser. Will I buy it again? €35 for a moisturiser is a little steep for me, unfortunately. If I were in the UK or up North, I'd have no problem paying £20 for it. You can see from the usage that I'm not going to get much longer out of the pot.

The Lotion, I could do without. I don't really see the need for a step in between cleansing and serum, so I wouldn't buy this myself. If you like to make sure your face is REALLY clean after cleansing, then you might like this.

The Serum - I was doing sums last night to try and work out when I was going to run out of it and if I could wangle a trip to Athlone before September to buy another one. Genuinely one of the nicest skincare products I own at the minute, and I would dearly miss it if I ran out - the star of the three products in my humble opinion. If you want a serum that gives noticeably plumper, more youthful skin, this is your man.

I wish The Body Shop would listen to their Irish customers and give us a proper online store, with proper exchange rates (£25 is not €52.50), but until then you can order over the phone (016713725), when I ordered over the phone last year, the girls were most helpful and my order arrived quickly and well packed. Thanks to Revolve PR for sending me out the three products to test.