Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review - My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

Not Sponsored or Paid | Book Received as an ARC from the Publisher. Review Policy here

Hi!

A few weeks ago, I was offered a copy of this debut psychological thriller by author Jane Corry. I didn't get much information, just that the author had spent some time working in a maximum security prison and had been inspired to write this story afterwards. I accepted, and read it yesterday.


Genre | Fiction, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Published | Paperback August 2016, Available on Kindle now
Page Count | 528 Pages

PLOT

Tuesday 20 October 2015. 
The artist Ed Macdonald has been found stabbed to death in his home. It is thought that...

So begins our story. In order to find out more about the victim, we go back in time fifteen years, to when Ed and Lily were married. Lily is a newly qualified solicitor, specialising in criminal law. She agrees to take on a particularly difficult case, and it almost immediately begins to consume her. Ed, meanwhile, is a struggling artist. His paintings aren't as successful as he'd like - until he finds a muse in the form of ten-year-old neighbour Carla Cavoletti. Carla lives with her mother, a fiesty Italian woman who is struggling to keep herself and Carla afloat. Carla just wants to be like all the other children at school - whatever it takes, she will do.

I don't want to go much further into the plot - I will tell you that the story is told by Lily and Carla in alternating chapters. It spans over fifteen years, and is as much a portrait of a marriage as it is a thriller. It's also a study in human behaviour - what motivates us, what drives us to succeed, how far we will go to get what we want, and the lengths we will go to in order to protect the ones we love.

THOUGHTS

It's hard to discuss without giving much away - I can't particularly say I liked any character, but I (maybe surprisingly) enjoyed the character of Joe Thomas - I found him menacing, intelligent, and liked seeing how his mind worked. Both Lily and Carla are very calculating, determined characters - but they're driven by different things. One by ambition, one by guilt.

The book reeled me in with the first hundred pages - I was determined to finish it in one day. Even though I had received a physical proof copy, I actually bought the book on Kindle as well so I could continue reading in bed.

I think this is a good choice for a holiday book this year. For me, the latter 20% fell down a little compared to the rest of the book - I just thought Lily began to unravel - but overall I'd recommend it, it's an accomplished debut. There are enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned reader interested.

RATING





Friday, May 27, 2016

€1 Liquid Lipstick from eBay - Bargain or Bin?

Not Sponsored or Paid

Hi!

Liquid lipstick has been around for years, but since the rise in popularity of the formula, there are new variations popping up all over the place. One glance at eBay, AliExpress or Wish and you'll see ads tempting you with "Anastasia Beverly Hills", "NYX" or "Lime Crime" - I put those in quotation marks because when buying from those sites, if you're paying a very low price, chances are - they're counterfeit copies. Dangerous counterfeit copies. I've done posts on counterfeit makeup before:

How to Spot Fake Mary Lou-Manizer by The Balm
How to Spot Fake Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette

I'm a hoor for a badly-packaged bargain from the other end of the world, but not when it has the potential to poison me. If buying makeup from China or Hong Kong, I buy the cheap brands available in those countries - their version of MUA or Makeup Revolution, for want of a better description. One such brand are Danimer (other brands you can buy safely are Music Flower, Sugarbox, MeNow, Etude House, Nature Republic, Inisfree, Skinfood, Tony Moly) . The Danimer liquid lipsticks have been the subject of many a YouTube haul video, and they're cheap as chips. I'm guessing they're a private label brand, because they're pretty much the same as the brand MeNow, which you can have a better look at over on Total Makeup Addict.

I bought mine HERE, the day I bought them there was a "Buy Two Get One Free" offer, which made them a huge bargain. I ended up with 7 for under $5, making them around €0.64 each.




The applicator is a standard doe foot. The formula isn't too thick, it's not overly gloopy but it's not runny either, and just enough comes out on the applicator.


Here's a look at the shades:



With the exception of #18 and #13, none of them looked really dry on. Some of them dried matte, others didn't - but they didn't have that stickiness that I remember from the MeNow ones I tried before. I got 3-4 hours out of some of them - #22 in particular is a great long lasting shade.

Overall, would I recommend them? Absolutely. There are some great on-trend mauve shades, I didn't buy them because I have the MeNow ones in the same numbers and thought they'd be the same again. For the price, they're great quality and I'm happy to add them to my stash. They come in some really vibrant colours too - green, orange, purple - I'd definitely add them to my kit if I did more adventurous looks.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Libraries Ireland - How to Borrow eBooks and Audiobooks

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not written in association with any organisation mentioned.

Hi!

As a child, Friday evening was the best time of the week. After school, I'd go down town in Mohill and head into the library. I'd be allowed pick 6 (or sometimes more) books and devour them over the weekend.

I'm still a library fiend - but sometimes I don't get the time to read physical books as much anymore so it takes me much longer to read, leaving me a bit daunted by the prospect of having to return them within a few weeks. I find it faster and easier to use the Kindle - especially as I can use it at night without disturbing anyone else.

A few months ago I discovered that not only do my library offer a huge range of eBooks to borrow online, but that I can also place requests, automatically renew books, borrow Audiobooks, and access a huge range of magazines.


For the purposes of this post, I'm not going to go through every County in Ireland - just Google your County and find out where your local library is - but I'll use my local one as an example to show you what's available. For free. Yep - membership of all public libraries in Ireland is now free. 

Longford County Library



This is the Umbrella for  6 libraries in Longford - Longford Town, Edgeworthstown, Drumlish, Ballymahon, Granard, Lanesborough. You can go in and join any of these libraries for free, then you'll be issued with a library card. Ask for a PIN to be set up on your account so you can access the Longford County Library site online, then you're all set. If you're already a member, just ask for your PIN to be activated. Should you need to, you can reset your PIN here.

eBooks and Audiobooks

Longford County Library uses the BorrowBox app, which is available on iOS and Android. You can install this for free on your Apple or Android device. I ran into a problem trying to get it on my Kindle Fire - but there's a step-by-step guide right here. Once you have the app, you can log in to the online library and start borrowing. Log on to your County Library website and find the eBook section. The online libraries are all on Bolinda Digital - the Longford one is at http://library.bolindadigital.com/longford. You're allowed a maximum number of Audiobooks and eBooks at a time (this varies - e.g. Longford allows you to borrow 5 of each, Galway 4 of each). You can borrow instantly and access your content through the app, or you can reserve books that are currently on loan (these count towards your total). You will not be able to borrow anything without a library card and PIN. There are adult, young adult, reference, childrens, cookery - the same selection as you'd get in a physical library. When you click borrow, you'll be given a return date (I think about 3 weeks). Once the date is coming near, you'll get an email to remind you that your time is almost up, then you can either return or renew by clicking the "return" button beside your book or "renew" provided no other member has reserved it.


You can check at the Libraries Ireland homepage here to see if your County library currently offers eBook or Audiobook services. By County library I mean the entire library network in your county - e.g. joining the library in Raheny would give you access to the entire Dublin City online catalogue, joining the library in Granard gives me access to the entire Longford County online catalogue. 

Magazines

Also available are magazines via Zinio. You can join here - Zinio. You'll need your library card number. Zinio is currently available to members of Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork City, Cork County, Donegal, Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown, Fingal, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick City and County, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, South Dublin, Tipperary, Waterford City & County, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow libraries.

With Zinio, you can download a free app (iPad, iPhone, Kindle HD/HDX, Android) to read magazines offline, or you can read online. Just scroll to the bottom of the page on the site (here) and you'll see the links to download.


There's an enormous range of current and back issues available - everything from All About Soap magazine to Top Gear, Cosmopolitan, Weight Watchers US, Cross Stitcher, Teen Vogue. You can tick a box to receive an email when the next issue is available.


Newspapers

Newspapers are provided online by Proquest. You can find a link to your County here. When you click the link, you'll get this screen:


Enter your library card number to access the site. There's a huge archive of newspapers, magazines and trade journals from all over the world, available to read instantly (1,109 at last look). You can browse through publications or search for something specific.

When you click on a title, you can choose what year, then what month, week, etc you want to look at. The articles will then be shown and you can click through them - e.g. this is an article from the May 20th issue of the North Shore Times (Sydney) about Wi-Fi - you can see that it says "7 of 55" - meaning there are 55 articles to view from that issue. This could be a lovely way to keep up with local news from home if you don't have access to newspapers from where you grew up.


Hopefully this was easy to understand - I would love if more people joined the library and encouraged their children to join too. Books have been a comfort to me throughout every stage of my life, no matter what was going on at the time - so even if you're not a reader it would be such a great thing to introduce your children (or younger relatives) to!





Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Glasses from Specsavers + Service Review

Not paid or sponsored | Red or Dead glasses purchased using a gift voucher provided by PR company, other glasses purchased by me.

Hi!



If you follow me on Snapchat [sharonleavy], you may remember a few Fridays ago when I spoke about a very generous gift voucher I had been sent. I was asked if I'd like a voucher to choose a new pair of glasses and because I'm not an eejit, I accepted. The PR company sent me an incredibly generous voucher to go and pick out a pair of glasses, so I did just that. I went to my local branch in Longford.

Because I'm already a Specsavers customer and my eye examinations are up to date, I didn't need an eye test this time. I've visited Specsavers 3 times over the past 6 months, so I thought I'd tell you about all those visits in case you were curious.

Top: Beulah | Middle: Specsavers Sun RX 72 | Bottom: Red or Dead 103

November 2015 - two days before the epic Bridie Brunch, one of the lads snapped the leg off my glasses, meaning that I attended said Brunch with them Jack Duckworth-ed to within an inch of their lives. Despite having attempted to superglue the leg back on and using an acre of black insulation tape to keep the leg on, Specsavers were able to remove the lenses, pop them into a pair of brand new frames, within an hour, for €40.

February 2015 - when I applied for my Learner's Permit, I had to get an eye test. I went to the GP but the form came back to me, so I went to Specsavers for a more in-depth eye exam. The optician (also called Sharon) was lovely, so relaxed and calm, and explained everything as she was doing it. It's non-invasive, and she didn't rush it. I found out that legally, I'm not allowed drive without my glasses (I never would've known that if I had just gone to the GP). I had a Sunday appointment and I was seen at my appointment time. The fee for that was €20.

May 2015 - I rang and explained that I had a gift voucher, and was told that I could just pop in any time because I wasn't due for an eye examination yet. I went in one Friday morning and the girls were really nice. The voucher I received didn't allow any special offers or two-for-one deals, and I was told that the UltraClear lenses would cost €45 on top of the given price of any frames. With this in mind I wanted to stay with the €149 range so I could get the UltraClear lenses too. Specsavers also carry a range of €189 frames (Karl Lagerfeld, Karen Millen, etc). Prices include standard lenses and there are 2 for 1 offers availble. I could also have chosen a pair of sunglasses, but I wanted to pick something for every day instead of something I'd only need for a few weeks out of the year. I spent a few minutes trying on frames but fell in love with the Red or Dead ones the minute I saw them [RedorDead103]. I chose them, and they were sent off to the lab. When I went back in to pick them up, the fit was checked for me and any adjustments would have been made there and then. They fit great and I could most definitely notice a difference between my old lenses and the UltraClear ones. I do seem to need to clean them a lot more but I am removing them several times a day to put sunglasses on, so I'd say that has something to do with it. Fortunately, they came with a case and a great cleaning cloth. I've also used Specsavers lens cleaning spray before and not only is it great for glasses, it's great for smartphone screens and tablet screens too.


Overall I'm happy with Specsavers and the services they provide, and would have especially recommended the Longford branch even if I never had a voucher. Sharon, Denise, Monica, Tanita - everyone I dealt with was very professional and helpful without being pushy. There's little or no waiting for an appointment which is a huge plus for me - if you're told 10am, you won't still be sitting there waiting at 10.15am. If they tell you they'll call you, they'll call you. They cater for PRSI and Medical Card customers too, and they have regular offers - currently there's a €5 eye test promotion running. Keep an eye on specsavers.ie for the offers.

Glasses can make such a difference to your face - here's  look at my old ones compared to my new ones. I've always been afraid of larger frames because my face is round, I thought they'd make my face look bigger, but I think the opposite is true - my old ones did nothing for me. In this picture, you can also see the difference with the UltraClear lenses - my old ones reflect the window, the UltraClear ones don't.


Thank you to Ogilvy and Specsavers for my new glasses, I'm delighted with them and very grateful for the opportunity to pick out something just for me.







Wednesday, May 11, 2016

9 Quick Slimming World Friendly Lunches

Not Sponsored or Paid | Not Affiliated with Slimming World, I am a Paying Member 

Hi!

Sometimes it's lunches that can undo all the good work during the day - people don't know what to have so they leave it, or they stick to the old reliable soup/sandwich combo. It's really easy to throw a tasty lunch together, each one of these lunches need minimal prep time (a couple of them depend on leftovers) and all can be made in advance and put into tupperware (maybe not the last one).

Lunch #1: Chicken, Salad, and Fruit


I used iceberg lettuce, cucumber, tomato, spring onions, yellow pepper, and pickled onions for the salad. I used a Birds Eye Original Chargrill (3 Syns) because it was quick - I threw it in the Airfryer for 10 minutes (you can oven cook or grill them too). The chicken is lovely hot or cold - you can use whatever you like, a packet of chicken pieces would be great too. Served with strawberries.

Lunch #2: Open Bacon Sandwich with a Fruit Pot
Uses Healthy Extra B 


I make these fruit pots in advance, a sealed box keeps about 4-5 days in the fridge (berries won't keep - I use melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes. The pots are from Dealz). Use your Healthy Extra B for 2 slices of Wholemeal bread (check the app to make sure your brand is listed, this is Brennan's Be Good). Top with brown sauce or extra light mayonnaise, or even mustard (any of those need to be Synned), iceberg lettuce, and leftover lean boiled ham (sometimes I boil a ham on a Sunday for picking at over the next few days).

Lunch #3: Ryvita with Mashed Avocado/Egg with Fruit Salad
Uses Healthy Extra B


For this one, I used 4 Original Ryvita (Healthy Extra B) and topped with 50g mashed avocado (5 Syns). It's entirely up to you if you Syn your Avocado or not - if you're sticking to plan 100%, you need to Syn it due to the high fat content. Some people don't - it's up to you to decide. Personally I'm of the opinion that avocados are not responsible for my obesity and they're too beneficial to omit from my diet so I'll happily use the Syns on them but equally, I'm happy to have one whether I have Syns left or not. I topped that with two eggs mashed with some extra light mayonnaise (synned), spring onion, and served with green tea and a strawberry/pear fruit salad.

Lunch #4: Wholemeal Bagel topped with Lettuce and a Chicken Chargrill
Uses Healthy Extra B


The Wholemeal Bagel Slims (120kcal) from Country Kitchens (Tesco, Dunnes, Super Valu) count as a Healthy Extra B choice. I toasted one, then topped it with some extra light mayonnaise (Synned) and iceberg lettuce,onion, and a Birds Eye Original Chargrill (butterfly and cut in half, 3 Syns). I had this with a couple of easy peeler oranges.

Lunch #5: Egg and Ham Salad with Butternut Squash Soup
Uses half of Healthy Extra A


For the salad I used iceberg lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, beetroot, a few slices of lean ham chopped up (I love Denny Fire & Smoke, it's Syn free), an egg chopped up, and some cheddar cheese cubes - Low Low Cheddar is a Healthy Extra A for 40g, so I used 20g and saved the other half of my HeXA for milk in coffee. I made the Butternut Squash soup in advance using this recipe - it keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days or you can freeze it in portions and defrost the night before, then heat it up when you need it.


Lunch #6: Salmon and Beetroot Salad


This was a very quick post-shopping lunch - I used half a bag of mixed leaves, beetroot, and a fillet of cooked salmon from Lidl (they're in the fridge near the salads, they're Syn free). I added an easy peeler for extra speed. This was ready in seconds and was really tasty.

Lunch #7: Eggy Bagel with Salad and Crunchy Potato
Uses Healthy Extra B and half of Healthy Extra A


I toasted a wholemeal bagel slim (Healthy Extra B) and topped with mashed egg/spring onion and extra light mayonnaise (Synned). The salad is romaine lettuce, beetroot, pickled onions, cherry tomatoes, and 20g grated cheddar (half Healthy Extra A). The potato was left over from dinner the previous night, just spray it with frylight and either throw in Airfryer or fry it off on the pan until golden.

Lunch #8: Leftover Bolognese with Salad and Baked Potato


I topped iceberg lettuce and beetroot with leftover bolognese from the night before. I did the potato in the microwave - 4.5 minutes on high will cook a medium potato. Here's the bolognese recipe, you could make this at the weekend and freeze until needed.


Lunch #9: All-Day Open Breakfast Sandwich
Uses Healthy Extra B


I used two slices of Brennan's Be Good Wholemeal bread (Healthy Extra B), topped with two eggs fried in frylight, and two Mallon's sausages (the gluten free low fat ones are Syn free), cut down the middle. I left the eggs slightly runny so I wouldn't need extra sauce. Served with green tea and chopped melon.

Hopefully this will give you a few new ideas on how to make quick, tasty lunches! If you'd like a similar post for breakfast, dinner, or desserts, just let me know in the comments.

I post most of my food on my Slimming World Instagram account, which you can find here. SharonLeavySW




Monday, May 9, 2016

My Five Favourite Summer Perfumes

Not Sponsored  or Paid | No Samples | No Affiliate Links

Hi!

Every year, I buy new perfume during the Summer and at Christmas - resulting in a drawer full of half-used fragrances. This year I decided not to buy anything new, and instead shopped my stash for some fresh, clean perfumes that work well at this time of year.





Roberto Cavalli - Paradiso



This was released in February 2015. Cavalli's fragrances are sensual, woody, sexy - this is no exception. This opens with a citrussy Jasmine smell, and fades into a warm pine/wood/slightly spiced smell after a few hours. If you don't like Jasmine, stay away from this - but otherwise, it's a really pretty Summer perfume, perfect for holidays. €47 for 30ml EDP.

Lacoste - Eau de Lacoste


I first blogged about this scent back in 2013 when I received a trial size from a promotional offer. I finally bought the full size at the end of last year, but it smelled awful on me during the Winter - thankfully, now that Summer has come around again, it's working well on my skin - it's a crisp, sharp, fresh, clean fragrance, with notes of pineapple and vanilla. This may be a bit synthetic for some. €28.50 for 30ml EDP.

Roger & Gallet - Fleur de Figuier


This is my second bottle of this fragrance - I love Roger & Gallet as a brand, their scents seem much more authentic than other brands. This is fruity and woody - with notes of fig and fig leaf, grapefruit and a base of cedar and musk. It lasts a few hours on me, this is a great perfume to spray on a light scarf. It's perfect for this time of year and inoffensive enough to be worn daily. This is also available in EDP form but I've never tried it. €19.90 for 30ml



Jo Malone - Wood Sage & Sea Salt



This was my absolute favourite scent of last Summer and I had to stop using it around August just so I'd have some left for this year. It's exactly what it says on the tin - wood sage, sea salt. It's a really fresh marine type scent, very daytime friendly, not heavy, lasts for hours, and dries down to a very warm, comforting smell. It's gorgeous. The downside is the price - but if I get two Summers out of one 30ml bottle, I'm a happy bunny. €52 for 30ml Cologne.

Elie Saab - L'Eau Couture



I received a tiny sample of this in a Beauty Box last year, and sought out the full size on eBay. It's another fresh Spring scent, with notes of almond, vanilla and orange. It's soft, floral, and there's definitely patchouli in there somewhere. It's one of the longest lasting fragrances I own and it's perfect for this time of year. €43 for 30ml EDT.

What perfume are you wearing at the moment?




Thursday, May 5, 2016

Recent Penneys Buys and Wishlist

Not sponsored or paid


Hi!

Over the past month or so I've picked up a few bits in Penneys, so I thought I'd show you what's in store at the minute. I also spotted a few things I want to get, so I popped those in too.

Pastel Checked Throw €4 | Paisley Double Duvet/Pillowcase Set €20 | Fluffy Cushion €4
The pastel throw is gorgeous, it suits Irish weather perfectly because it's bright and fresh, yet warm and cosy. The cushion was a steal at €4, and the paisley duvet/pillowcase set is a great way to change the look of your bed without spending a fortune - here's a more detailed image of the set:

Image [Primark]

Moroccan Amber Candle, €3 | Clear Toiletry Bag, €3 | Flat Foundation Brush, €2.50 | Necklace, €6 | Initial Necklaces, €2
The moroccan amber scent on the candle is lovely - but it's no Yankee. You can't smell it throughout the house (or even the room) when it's lit but it is a lovely pleasing smell. I got the little clear bag because we're going to a wedding soon and I wanted something small to pop mini toiletries in, this is rose gold with polka dots and it's the perfect size. The flat foundation brush is fantastic for applying face masks, the necklace was for my son's Confirmation, and the little initial necklaces are really cute - I've been asked about them a few times and nobody could believe they were only €2 each. I got E, D, and S (my boys' initials).

Notebooks, €3 each
Y'all know I'm a sucker for a good notebook, I'm currently using the Frozen one as a food diary, I haven't decided what to use the other one yet. I was thinking about doing a post featuring all my notebooks, is that something people would be interested in?

T-Shirts, €1.90 each
€1.90 each

These t-shirts are for the twins, they were just €1.90 each - an absolute bargain. I think Penneys have improved of late for their children's clothes - the sizes seem to be more generous with this range too. The t-shirts go from 2-3 right up to teenage sizes, so they're really handy for holidays or for Summer until they get demoted to pyjamas.

T-Shirt, €6 | Plate/Bowl/Cup set, €4
I got both of these Star Wars items for my older (by two minutes) twin Edward, who is Star Wars obsessed. No idea why, none of the rest of us like it, but he's just Star Wars mad. The t-shirt was €6, but they have others in store at the minute with the Star Wars logo for €4.50, they also have shorts. The plate/bowl/cup I thought was fantastic, it was great value at €4 and he loves using them. They do this set with Mickey/Minnie mouse too.

Superman Cap, €5
The last things I bought were this Superman cap, €5 and one featuring Spiderman. They were a fiver each but unfortunately they're a little big on my boys - they'd be a much better fit on a 3-4 year old. I've put them away for next year.

Now for the fun part! My current Penneys wishlist looks a bit like this:


The striped canvas pumps are €4 and I think they'd be lovely for Summer with jeans or shorts.
The grey lightweight wrap knit is €14 and I love that it's long, so I will more than likely get this.
The Hogwarts shoe liners are €3 for the set of 3 and I've been searching for them but can't find them :(
The round necklace is €4 and I think it'd look gorgeous with that jumper.
The earrings are €4 and I also think they'd look gorgeous with the jumper, or to fancy up a plain dress.
The notebooks are €3 (pink) and €3.50 (Tokidoki) - notebook fiend, right here.
The sports socks are €3.50 for the 5 pairs, I love these with Skechers (incidentally - the Penneys Skechers knock-offs? MILES BETTER than the originals).
The to-do list and pen is €1.50. I do love a good list.
The toasted marshmallow candle is €4 and I've a sneaky suspicion that it may be close to my all time favourite Yankee, Fireside Treats.....

So there we go. Were I to go instore tomorrow and pick up that little lot, it'd set me back €44.50.

Carefree me says "do it!" (Reckless me says invent an excuse to go over this minute and do it), alas responsible me says "you do not need any more crap" and she is right. Except for that jumper. And the candle. And the to-do list. And one of the notebooks.