Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Most Memorable Titles of 2014

With the new year right around the corner I always find it fun to take a look back on the year that was and have a little reminisce. So it's time to get comfy and take a trip down 2014 memory lane to explore the most memorable books of the year (or as I remember it anyway). These titles might not have been the biggest selling but have all made their mark in my mind for some reason or another during 2014.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart. Fans of Donna Tart rejoiced as The Goldfinch was released in 2013, but it was winning a Pulitzer Prize that brought it to the attention of the masses this year. A whopping 800 plus page tome about a stolen painting and one man's descent into the murky underworld of art dealing. I really liked this book but struggled with the pace at around 600 pages in (you've come this far, don't give up now!!) a beautifully written narrative that certainly makes me want to read more from this author.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Any book that takes ten years to write probably deserves a round of applause, and a strong drink at that. Doerr's work obviously has paid off as his novel has been hailed as a 'masterpiece'.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. It seems like Youtubers and book deals were pretty dominant in 2014 and no more so than Zoella. Her debut book became the fastest selling title for 2014. This YA fiction mixes Youtube life with a cute love story that takes place in New York city.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Published in 2012, John Green's novel hit the big time this year as it's movie version hit the big screen. What do you even say about one of the biggest Young Adult fiction novels that spawned its own movie and made people the world over sob at two teenagers sad romance? Well played John Green, well played.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell. The people's choice award winner in Goodreads survey certainly deserves a special mention (particularly because I bought it and am super excited to read it).

What titles have grabbed your attention in 2014?


Sunday, 28 December 2014

L'Oreal Perfecting Skincare Range: A Three Product Review

I've always thought of L'Oreal as more of a makeup brand than a skincare one but there's no denying they have a pretty impressive range of the latter as well. I picked up three products from their Skin Perfection range which is aimed at women in their 20s and 30s. The not-so-nice thing about being in your twenties and having skin issues is that pimples and the first signs of ageing can both be a reality.

L'Oreal Perfection Serum
I have been loving using this serum as it is so lightweight on my skin and feels very plumping and moisturising on any dry patches. The only thing that gets me is the claim to be 'perfecting' as I honestly can't see a difference in my skin before or after use. I had quite a few breakouts in the first few days before I started using it, but to my eyes I couldn't see a lick of difference in the appearance of my redness/blemishes that this is supposed to help 'perfect.' All in all it is a wonderful serum though, the consistency is quite light which I really like and my skin feels really smooth after use.

L'Oreal Correcting Day Moisturiser
Another real winner for me the correcting day moisturiser is a great consistency for my combination skin. In summer I suffer from more dry patches then usual and this is wonderful for being light and sinking into the skin while giving a great boost of hydration. Again I'm just not sold on the 'correcting' thing. My redness and blemishes don't look any different after use so I can't help but think this part isn't delivering on the results.

L'Oreal BB Cream
In the past I've tried BB Creams that are nothing more than tinted moisturisers and I have to say that the L'Oreal 5-in1 perfecting BB Cream falls into this category. I found mixed results with the formula of this cream as well, as some days it felt great on my skin and others I felt like an oil slick had appeared over my forehead and cheeks. This is a tinted BB cream and as far as I can tell the only 'perfecting' qualities come from the fact that the tint disguises my redness and blemishes rather than any amazing ingredient properties. I really think BB Creams are just something the western market are failing at in general and this was overall a fairly disappointing product.

So there you go, two wins and a loss from the L'Oreal Perfecting range which isn't too bad. Despite the fact that the serum and moistuiser don't seem to have any perfecting qualities that I can visibly see results from they are great products in other ways. There's also a L'Oreal Blur perfecting cream which I haven't tried out but if you have let me know what you thought!


Thursday, 25 December 2014

What Does Your Book Collection Say About You?


If a stranger were to look at your collection of books do you think they could gain an insight into your personality or your life a little? I think sometimes the books we read can say a lot about a person when you really think about. When I look at the titles that grace my shelves I always seem to find a lot of similarities between the books I'm really drawn to and want to keep and similarities in my life or personality.

I read a lot for escapism so I really love reading books that are set with elements of magic to them. That's why you'll find all the Harry Potter books and titles like Night Circus on my shelves. There's something that takes me back to being a child and wanting to believe in magic (and Casper the ghost, for some reason I remember wishing that was real). I guess it's different to being into full on fantasy or alternate worlds as magic realism still has that element of truth to it.

I'm a huge history buff but more than being interested in the events and dates of significant events I find it fascinating to learn about how people lived. This is something that history classes never covered that deeply and why I'm always partial to picking up a historical novel. Phillipa Gregory, Dennis Lehane's The Given Day and Jennifer Donnelly are all authors whose novels bring the past to life so well.

I love to travel both physically and vicariously through novels. Not only can books set in different countries really bring them to life, the culture, food, sights and sounds - i love the feeling of wanderlust I get when reading about parts of the world I want to travel to. I also love revisiting the feeling of a place I've been. After travelling to Africa last year I read one of Tom Parks novels and it was exhilirating to have all of the senses and feelings of being in Africa come to life on the page.

I do love a good laugh and whether it's sarcastic, dark, crude or off-beat books that can get me chuckling are always ones that I want to reach for again and again. Authors like Marian Keyes, Helen Feilding and Nick Hornby are some of my favourites who know how to bring the LOLs.

So, what do you think your book collection says about you? 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Sassy Stationary for 2015

There's nothing better than looking like a really organised and on-the-ball type of person by whipping out a pretty notebook or personal diary when inspiration strikes. December is the perfect time to grab a new notebook or diary to start 2015 off on the right foot. Behold my picks of the sassiest stationary around:

Kate Spade Spiral Notebook from The Iconic $17
Kate Spade Wit & Wisdom Journal from The Iconic $31.47
Kikki-K Inspire Diary from Kikki-K $26.95
Mi Goals 2015 Hard Cover Diary from The Iconic $29.95
Kikki-k A5 Feature Notebook in Cute Dots from Kikki-k $19.95
2015 Luxury Diary from Typo $29.95
2015 Is My Year Planner from Typo $19.95

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Book Blogger TMI Tag

I've never done a book blogger tag before but they seem really fun to join in on so here we go. I've edited it to only include the most book-related questions as the whole thing was quite long! If you're reading and want to join in make sure to let me know in the comments or tweet me so I can see your tag.

How old are you?
Ugh, really? Maybe this isn't that fun after all. Jokes, I'm 26.

What book are you reading?
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I can only read one book at a time otherwise the story lines get confused in my memory and I start combining events from one into the other.

What are you wearing?
Denim shorts, a grey tee and a navy cardigan. This is an oddly pervy question but I guess it's a TMI tag so I should just be happy I'm actually wearing clothes.

In New Zealand (where I'm from) this is shorthand for 'on the piss' meaning to get drunk (because we're classy like that). I'm pretty sure this isn't what is implied here but I'm going to say no as it's only 3pm on a Monday afternoon as I'm writing this.

Blogger or Wordpress?
Blogger, I definitely don't have the technical knowledge for Wordpress and I don't have too many complaints about Blogger so far.

Going outside and being active or reading inside?
I like reading both outside and inside, or being active outside if it's fun and not a torturous activity. At the moment I'm sitting outside in the shade with my legs in the sun and my toes are getting a teensy bit burnt.

What is the last book you read?
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I didn't actually enjoy that much.

What is the book you are going to read next?
Oooh it's a tough one because I've just bought Landline by Rainbow Rowell and Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes, but I might read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty as she is a new-to-me author that I'm keen to check out.

ebooks yes or no?
I would say no but then I'm always the sucker at the airport stuffing my heavy book into my handbag while my boyfriend has half a dozen reads on his Kindle. They both have a time and place.

Where do you prefer to read?
On my bed as it has a pretty view of our mulberry tree outside or just outside if it's sunny.

Whos blog did you last look at?
Ummm...I spent a lot of time reading my Bloglovin' feed this morning so it was probably a beauty blog but I can't remember!

Who is your favourite blogger?
I'm massively into beauty blogs at the moment and it would have to be a toss up between Alix from I Covet Thee and Anna from Vivianna Does Makeup. I love Alix's tutorials and Anna is pretty much just the queen of blogging, her voice is so unique and funny it always puts a smile on my face and I love that they both make the world of makeup so accessible.

Who is your favourite booktuber?
Books and Quills. I love her short and snappy way of reviewing books.

What do you say when someone says that reading is boring?
Has anyone actually ever said that?

Who is your favourite author?
All-time favourite would have to be Cormac McCarthy because his books are so beautifully written, bleak and yet always have that shimmer of hope which usually gets dashed when he kills off my favourite character.

What's your favourite book to movie adaptation?
This is a hard one but two books that I love the movies to just as much would have to be One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and High Fidelity. Oh and Bridget Jones. There's three.

How many bookshelves/bookcases do you have?
None *hangs head in shame*. Mainly because I moved countries so I have a lot of books in storage and then the books I do own are all stored in a banana box waiting for me to buy a bookshelf. We've moved that many times that I hate having too many 'things' but I do like my books to be on display and feel kinda bad for them.

What is the last song you listened to?
No idea! It might have been by Angus and Julia Stone.

Positive or Negative reviews?
I prefer a well-thought out review rather than any particular kind. If people can justify why they like or hate a book then I think that's good enough for me and honesty is key.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

The hardest thing about book reviewing is the novels you devote time to and are left with a very distinct feeling of 'meh' at the end of. It's easy to sing the praises or sleight a book for being fantastic or terrible, but when a book leaves you feeling a bit blah the words just don't come as easy. That is kinda how I've felt about One Hundred Names, it's not a terrible book but it's not going to set your world on fire either.

One Hundred Names is the story of Kitty Logan, a journalist who has in many ways lost her way. After a major professional lapse in judgement Kitty's career, relationships and personal life are left in tatters. When her mentor and boss Constance sadly passes away, Kitty is left with a list of 100 names - the beginnings of a wonderful story that Constance had an idea for and never got to pursue. As a distraction and possibly her last hope at regaining her journalistic integrity Kitty tries to work out what the story is that ties these 100 names together.

I will say that I loved the idea behind the 100 names that Kitty is investigating. It was a really interesting twist in the book and one that kept me guessing and more importantly engaged in the story. As Kitty investigates the 100 names on her list she meets some remarkable people who make her re-evaluate her life which has been pretty self-centred.

The thing about this book is the Kitty just isn't a very likeable person. Selfish and stubborn she certainly starts off as someone who needs to pull her head out, but despite their being some character development even at the end I never really felt much sympathy or support for her. I felt as I was reading that if Kitty were to all of a sudden be hit by bus, I wouldn't actually be that sad. Horrible, I know, but therein lies the problem. I don't usually have a need to relate to or love the character but in this case I felt that Kitty didn't seem to learn much from her experiences.

Despite this, One Hundred Names is a cute and easy read and there was plenty to enjoy despite Kitty's lack of character growth. I'm keen to read more of Cecelia Ahern's books as she has written some pretty cracking best sellers. I'd recommend this as an easy beach read or to borrow from the library if you fancy the sound of the story. Have you read anything by Cecelia Ahern?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Bedside Table Stack #3

I'm getting pretty good at making these Bedside Table stacks into a bi-monthly habit. This months roundup of books come from an often-read author and two newbys who I am excited to try out.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Jodi Picoult's novels are known for being utterly absorbing and I think Nineteen Minutes will be no exception. I am already hooked on this story despite being only about 50 pages in. This novel focuses on the aftermath of a horrific high school shooting, the relationships around the shooter and his victims and the themes of justice, power and what it means to be different. I can't wait to review this as I think it's going to be a really thought-provoking and powerful read.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Liane Moriarty is an Australian author who I have only just discovered for myself. Alice awakes to discover she has had an accident in the gym and her most recent memories are from a life long ago. Her thoughts immediately turn to her unborn baby and her husband - except that Alice is no longer pregnant and her husband is actually divorcing her. The life she remembers happened ten years ago. As memories of her past drift back into Alice's consciousness she is forced to deal with some uncomfortable truths.

Temple by Matthew Riley. I haven't read any of Matthew Riley's books despite seeing them around all of the time so this one is really intriguing to me and was recommended by a friend of mine, as it is a stand alone novel rather than one of Riley's series. Temple sounds a bit like an adventurous Dan Brown novel crossed with Indiana Jones. Set in the Peruvian jungle, Professor William Race is guiding the US Army in finding a legendary Incan idol.

Have you read any of these books? I'd love to know what's on your reading list at the moment.



Sunday, 14 December 2014

December New Release Books

Whether you are looking for potential present ideas for the readers in your life or just fancy picking up somthing new and noteworthy this month, here are some new release titles for December that I am looking forward to catching up on.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. A coming of age novel about family, friends and feminism set in Boston in the early twentieth century. Eighty-five year old Addie Baum tells her granddaughter her life's story, growing up in 1900 as the daughter of immigrant parents. Addie recalls her adventures as a young and curious girl growing up in a changing world, one about to embrace new and exciting opportunities for women.

Saving Grace by Jane Green. Ted and Grace Chapman are the ultimate literary golden couple. On the outside their relationship appears to be perfect. They are stylish, intelligent and powerful people in the literary world but behind closed doors their relationship is about to crumble. When Ted's longterm assistant leaves his moodswings and rages leave Grace vulnerable. When a new assistant, Beth walks through the door, her calm efficiency seems just what the couple need, but Grace soon discovers Beth herself may be more of a threat than a saviour.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. The follow up novel to The Rosie Project, which I absolutely adored and you can read my review here. With his wife project complete Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York and Rosie is pregnant. Don takes on the challenge of learning the protocols of fatherhood but only gets himself in trouble with the law while his best friend Gene has left his wife and has moved in with Don and Rosie which can only spell trouble.

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen. At 49, Tess Blessing is diagnosed with breast cancer, a health scare that sends her on a mission to complete her to-do bucket list before what she thinks is her impending death. It's no small task considering she wants to mend her relationship with her estranged sister, reignite the spark in her marriage, save her daughter from an eating disorder and help her son navigate the difficulties of being an adolescent.

The Devil in Montmatre by Gary Inbinder. A historical novel with a mysterious and thrilling story line. Set in 1889 in the hubbub of the Paris Universal Exposition the body of a well known Moulin Rouge can-can dancer is found in a sewer. Rumours that the notorious killer known as Jack the Ripper has crossed the channel send the public into a hysterical frenzy. Inspector Achille Lefebvre infiltrates the Parisian underworld to catch a killer before he strikes again.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Awesome Books to Gift This Christmas

Books are always high on my list of things to receive at Christmas, or any time of year really, so I've put together a little list of guaranteed crowd pleasers that will be sure to bring a genuine smile to your loved ones face this Christmas.

For the person who likes a laugh: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys light-hearted or humorous books and is a good option for people who aren't big readers. It's short and sweet and there's also a sequel for when you get stuck on buying them a birthday present.

For the makeup obsessive: Pretty Honest by Sally Hughes. This has already made its way into my shopping bag and I can't wait to read it. Sally Hughes is beauty guru as well as a veteran journalist and brings some practical and useful advice to a genre that's usually stuffed with lots of pretty pictures but falls short on take-home advice.

For anyone who has not yet read it: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Seriously you need to remedy that. One of the best books I've read in a long time and one that will keep you guessing until the very end.

For the book snob: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. A great option for those high brow readers who probably have a library full of literary fiction and a study that smells of rich mahogany (and who  probably don't get your Anchorman jokes).

For the teens: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Even I'm intrigued to read this and I'm not eleven. A cute story that mixes Youtube with New York and young love. One for the nieces who will think you are the coolest aunt ever.

For the non non-Fiction reader: #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. Straight talking Sophia lets us in on her secrets of success and how she became the sassy CEO of Nasty Gal. Totally inspiring for any young woman who wants to be her own boss.

Let me know what books you are looking forward to gifting (or receiving) these holidays.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is not a book I would usually pick up but having had it recommended as a good read I thought I would give it a go. Harold Fry is an unremarkable man. Recently retired he lives in the south of England in a small village with his wife who seems endlessly annoyed with everything he does. One morning a letter arrives for Harold from an old friend. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and has written to Harold to say goodbye. On the way to post his reply letter Harold has an encounter with a young woman about the power of hope and is inspired to walk the length of England to deliver his letter in person and ultimately help save Queenie's life.

As Harold is walking the length of the country he has many opportunities to reflect on his life and the relationships that have not panned out quite as he would like. Harold's marriage to Maureen has disintegrated and he has a lot of regrets about raising their son David. What I found at the heart of this book was the power of hope and of self belief, two things that to begin with Harold is very much lacking.

The thing about this book is that like Harold Fry it was a little bit unremarkable. Not the actual story line but there were times where I definitely felt a bit bored by both Harold and the encounters on his journey. I neither loved nor hated it which makes thinking about any sort of emotional response somewhat difficult. I think a story like this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea as it does have great reviews elsewhere. It wasn't until I got about three quarters of the way through that I found invested in the storyline, mainly to see how Harold's relationship with his wife would develop. There were also hints at the man that Harold used to be, during the days when he worked with Queenie and the relationship with his son David is not explained in full until the very end.

I guess in a lot of ways I would describe this as a subtle book and a small story. It's not going to set your world on fire but I'm sure some people will enjoy Harold's journey of hope. It did remind me a little bit of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand which also features a man in retirement taking on a new lease of life. If you enjoyed that than definitely give Harold Fry's journey a go but unfortunately for me I just wasn't fussed.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Best Books of 2014?

Goodreads have released the results of their fan-voted survey to find the top books of each genre for 2014. I do love a good book list and there are lots of books still on my want to read list that were voted top of their genre. I love seeing what other reads top peoples 'best of' list as it always leaves me with a list as long as my arm of titles to check out. What did you think of the results?

Best Fiction - Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Well this makes me very happy indeed as this may have made its way into my shopping basket last week. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that this has nabbed the top spot!

Best Business Book - #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. You can read my review of this book here but *spoiler* its pretty kick arse. It's great to read a business book written by a young successful woman (and one who didn't take a very traditional path to success) offering practical and brutally honest advice.

Best Historical Fiction - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This has been on my want to read list since I started my blog (and was mentioned in my very first post which you can peruse here). It took ten years for Doerr to craft this novel, so it was obviously worth the wait!

Best Humour - Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I'm not usually a big fan autobiography or celebrity written books but there have been quite a few funny ladies releasing books lately and Poehler is up there with the best of them. I adore her sense of humour (loved her in Baby Mama and in Parks and Recreation) so this book is definitely one I'm going to check out.

Best History & Biography - The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. A few years ago I read The Mitford Girls, a biography on the five Mitford daughters and it was such a fascinating read. Having always had a love of history and historical novels this book certainly has me intrigued. The daughters of Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra were the most photographed of their time and were at the inner circle of a fascinating period of history.

You can see the full list of best books here. What has been your top book of 2014?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Glasshouse Christmas Candles

It's December which means that it is officially okay to start bombarding the interwebs with articles about Christmas! Happy days. Actually I don't have many plans to turn this space into an ode to Old Saint Nicholas, but when I found out Glasshouse candles were releasing special Chrsitmas candles and miniature trio packages I may have given a tiny squeal of excitment.

At around half the price of their fancier cousins Dyptque and Jo Malone I thoroughly recommend picking up any of the range for girls who like to have a beautiful scented candle or two on rotate in their homes but can't quite part with *that* much cash. As the temps are starting to skyrocket in Australia I'm not sure how often I'll actually be burning my candles this month but these triple scented bad boys do release a beautiful scent just by leaving the glass lid off. Plus, how good is that couture inspired packaging?

Glasshouse Christmas candles come in three scents - Night Before Christmas, inspired by plum puddings, White Christmas, which smells of cedar leaf and fruity clove and Winter Wonderland a scent infused with citrus and mossy wood.

The smaller sized jars are perfect as a stocking filler or as a very chic secret santa gift, or the larger jars for a gift for someone special (or yourself if you are a one-for-you one-for-me type present buyer).

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Longbourn by Jo Baker

I'm just going to say right now that I loved reading this book. Longbourn House is the residence of Mrs & Mrs Bennet of Pride & Prejudice fame, and this novel takes us back into the lives of the inhabiants of  Longbourn but this time the focus is on the servants rather than the Bennets.

Before reading Longbourn I had my doubts about this book. There are plenty of Pride & Prejudice fan fiction type novels out there that reimagine or keep alive the story of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but I much prefer reading the original book. The success of Longbourn is that the characters of Pride & Prejudice are only glimpsed from time to time throughout its pages. Much as the servants were only background characters in Jane Austen's book, here we see the Bennet girls as the servants wait on them but for the most part we get to follow the lives of the help and see an altogether different take on the Bennet household.

If you haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice definitly pick it up before you give Longbourn a go as part of the charm of this book is how spot on Baker gets the characters. I had to laugh at the way she presents Jane Austen's much loved characters as they really do feel like the characters from Jane Austen's novel have come to visit on the pages of Longbourne.

This is a very clever story the way Baker has woven the servants story around the events that take place in Pride & Prejudice as both stories take place at the same time. We are introduced to Mrs Hill, the Bennet's housekeeper, their maids, Sarah and Polly and Mr Hill, when on a blustery day a new footman arrives into service bringing with him secrets that will change the household below stairs forever.

Longbourn is a fascinating take on how hard life was for the servants while the upper classes live a life of such ease and comfort. It's not a prerequesite to read Austen's Pride and Prejudice but I can only say that it adds greatly to the enjoyment of reading Longbourn. The story that takes place stands strongly on its own however I think fans of Austen will really get a kick out of how authentic Baker's vision is.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Healthy(ish) Brownie Recipe

I do love me a good slice of brownie and ever since I discovered this recipe from Healthy Food Guide it has been pretty high on my list of things to bake. Not only is it super easy to throw together, the recipe doesn't contain any butter so is a little bit better for you than your standard recipe. Bonus, it's pretty much foolproof to make, if like me you end up substituting ingredients all the time.

Rather than use walnuts like the recipe states this time I used mixed berries, but I will say - keep the berry proportions to half a cup as I've been overly generous in the past and the recipe turns into more of a mushy pudding than a brownie that is able to be eaten with your hands. Either way it is still blimmin' delicious and the apple puree gives it a nice flavour that is sweet without being too sickly.

1 cup unsweetened apple puree or sauce
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar (I like to use brown or raw caster sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cups walnuts (or 1/2 cup mixed berries)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175 degrees and lightly spray or line a 20cm x 20cm baking dish.

Step 2: Place puree into a medium sized bowl. Sift in your cocoa, flour and baking soda. Add sugar and salt. Mix until just combined. Throw in the chocolate chips, walnuts or berries and gently fold into the mixture.

Step 3: Transfer mixture into a baking dish and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Step 4: Allow to cool for 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar and slicing. Enjoy!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I am a serial re-reader of books. Sometimes I feel like revisiting a novel that I know makes me smile or feel something for the characters long after  have stopped reading and for that reason I picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog for the second time. This is such a charming and yet unexpected book. The first time I was reading it I thought I knew exactly how it was going to end and then the ending completely suprised me.

Renee is the concierge of a very wealthy Parisian apartment building and from the outside she is probably like any other concierege - 'tolerable' rather than likeable, she introduces herself as old and fat and the owner of an oversized cat who likes to take long naps on embroidered cushions. Or at least, Renee has lived her life convincing her neighbours that she is like any other concierge.

But beneath her cover she is a lover of art and history, knowledgable about many ideas than any of her well-to-do neighbours. 12-year-old Paloma lives in Renee's apartment building. She is a precocious, highly intelligent child and on her 13th birthday she plans to set fire to the apartment building and commit suicide. When one of the inhabitants of number 7 Rue de Grenelle passes away the new owner, a Japanese businessman moves in. His friendship will change both their lives forever.

The book is told in chapter's alternating between Renee and Palomas lives throughout the story. What I loved most about this book is that yes, it is a cute story of unlikely friendship but reading Renee an Palomas thoughts, they really are people who see the world for all that it is. I love Paloma's witty take on the dull people her family associates with and the fact that Renee is always trying to hide her passion for arts and culture from the residents. Paloma is entertaining with her chapters detailing her profound thoughts - usually involving the stupidity of those around her.

Witty and intelligent, the Elegance of the Hedgehog is heartwarming and yet an unpredictable read. Have you read it?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Favourites Bookshelf

It's about time I did a round up of my favourite books . Choosing a favourite book is such a toughie as I find, like music, it really depends what kind of mood I am in and whether I feel like reading something to inspire, entertain or get lost into. I chose this selection of books because they are all titles that I can re-read multiple times and I still feel the same sense of emotion on the tenth read as I did on the first.

Bridget Jones' Diary. Bridget Jones never ceases to make me laugh. I absolutely love reading this book and in general it's the type of thing you can read to make you feel better about your own foibles.

Harry Potter 1-7. I adore all of the Harry Potter books and have read the whole series multiple times. I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite of the series. As well as obviously being a cracking good read I love the banter between Harry and Ron, and that Harry goes through the moody teenage years just like any other kid.

One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest. This is one of the books from my Dad's collection that I just love to re-read. McMurphy, a tough drinking rebelious gambler treats his stint in a mental institution like a prolonged holiday. But his rebellion against Nurse Ratched turns into a dangerous game. Nurse Ratched has to be one of my most hated characters of all time and this book is at turns funny, shocking and sad.

Catch-22. I remember the first time I read Catch-22 and just being utterly perplexed at the entire plot. It's the kind of book that every time I read it again I pick something else up that I never quite got before. Yossarian, a WW2 bombadier is constantly coming up with schemes to get him out of flying more missions before he gets himself killed. Fans of dark humour will love this book.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird has to be one of my favourite characters of all time. There is such a complex range of emotions that this book brings out and despite it's heavy topic of justice in the segregated south Scout's character adds an element of humour and childhood innocence to the story.

High Fidelity. Even though I was only a child in the 90s this book has a real sense of nostalgia to it that only books about music can. Whe record store owner and music-obsessed Rob is left by his girlfriend he is left re-evaluating his life and past failed relationships. Rob is a seriously flawed and ultimately an anti-hero character. He's not even a nice guy and yet with the backdrop of great 90s music and a great sense of humour this book never fails to disappoint. A must read for anyone who loves a good laugh and doesn't take books to seriously or has a thing for 90s music.

Girl with a Pearl Earring. I have a deep love for historical fiction novels, mainly because I'm a history nerd at heart. I think the fact that Girl with a Pearl Earring is based upon such a famous real life painting the story has a realistic element to it that I can really get into. I love the way that Tracy Chevalier brings to life the relationship between artist and muse.

Have you read any of these titles? I'd love to know what are your favourite books!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Moreish Organic Skincare Review

You know that dreaded moment when multiple skincare products run out at the same time, and an online order that costs an arm and a leg is just something you don't want to do? This time rather than waiting I decided to opt for something I could pick up from the pharmacy that wouldn't cost me half my pay check but would still deliver results.

My usual mooch around the aisles of Priceline lead me to discover a new brand to me: Moreish skincare and let me tell you it ticks a lot of the boxes. Organic, natural skincare at a reasonable price. I picked up the Moreish Cream Cleanser, Exfoliator and Clay Mask to add to my stash and have been using them in conjunction with my usual moisturisers and serums.

First impressions: The Cream Cleanser smells amazing, kind of citrus-like but not in a synthetic way and it feels really gentle and leaves my skin feeling soft afterward. I've actually never used an exfoliator before but this one is so gentle. The exfoliating beads are very small and feel like tiny granules of sand as I buff it into my skin. The Clay Mask smells the same as the cleanser and after applying and washing it off my face my skin feels soft after use.

Week 1: Since using the Clay Mask the right side of my face has broken out in blemishes majorly. I literally have about eight pimples that have come to the surface and there are more blemishes that look like they want to rear their heads.

Week 2:  The blemishes have cleared as quickly as they appeared (about 2-3 days). I've been using the Clay Mask once a week and the exfoliator 2-3 times a week. Skin is clearer this week and the texture of my skin is smoother than usual.

Week 3: This last week I've only been wearing tinted moisturiser and concealer as my skin has been pretty good. I definately find that im getting smaller breakouts and less large spots that exist under the skin for a long time.

Verdict: Overall I have noticed the difference using an exfoliator and clay mask has made to my skin. Blemishes seem to appear and heal a lot quicker than before and my skin's texture is smoother in general. I think if you already use an exfoliator and clay mask and they work for you then these products aren't going to make much of a difference but if you are looking for an affordable, organic skincare brand Moreish certainly deliver on clean and fresh feeling skin.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Authors to Note: Joanne Harris

A few years ago now, a little book by the name of Chocolat was released and set the world alight for Joanne Harris. Chocolat would have to be my standout pick of her work but there is also plenty more on offer from this author who made us fall in love with chocolate and gave the world the gift that was Johnny Depp playing Roux in the film version. (If you are wondering I think the while the film is brilliant the book is even better.) If you haven't read Chocolat - a new visitor to a small French town Vianne Rocher causes a stir when she opens a chocolate shop in the town during the lead up to lent. It's a beautifully written story that mixes magic realism with drool worthy confectionary descriptions.

Five Quarters of the Orange, Blackberry Wine, Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes (also known as The Girl with No Shadow, it's the follow up to Chocolat) are all standouts. A lot of Harris' books are set in small villages in France and being half French half English herself, perhaps that is where her love of food comes from.

Defintely books to check out if like me you love reading about food. Harris has the ability to weave a touching story around the lives of her idyllic villagers all the while having you hungering for something to eat.

Have you read any of Joanne Harris' books?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Books on business have never really been my thing. I remember at my old job my boss sent around an email containing the 'top 100 business books of all time'. The only one I had read was Dr Seuss' 'Oh The Places You Go,' which I'm pretty sure was only included to show that the editors had a sense of humour.

If, like me, you've never considered reading the likes of Warren Buffet then perhaps #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso is more your jam. I think what drew me to this book in the first instance, apart from the fact that it has been pretty popular on the blogosphere, is that it is essentially a business book for young women written by a young woman, and one who has had to figure out a hella lot of the business world on her own.

For those of you who are unfimilair - Sophia Amoruso is the CEO and Creative Director of Nasty Gal, an online e-retailer worth about $28million. With no college degree or experience in running a business she built Nasty Gal from an eBay store into a multi million dollar business in about seven years, all without borrowing a dime. Yeah, so she's kinda worth listening to.

Business on her own terms is really where Sophia Amoruso shines, and more than anything #Girlboss is a testiment to being successful in your own way. I've never had dreams of being a business owner yet I still found the majority of what Amoruso talks about inspiring. With gems like 'You are not a special snowflake' and 'Money looks better in the bank than on your feet,' Sophia's advice is grounded in the real world.

At under 250 pages (and its big type) this is not a very big book yet its filled with bite sized snippets of Sophia's journey and advice that she has picked up along the way. I think this is the type of book ill be picking up again and again to read through anytime I feel like I need a bit of a pep talk from someone who has a lot of sound advice to offer.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Beauty & Skincare Wishlist

I am partial to making wishlists on any and all types of online shopping retailers so I thought I would do a roundup of beauty and skincare goodies that have been on my radar as of late. They are all products I've never used before so if you have let me know if you would recommend them!

Stila Blusher. I have the shades Peony and Lilium on my wishlist on Beauty Bay just waiting for the day when I have some spare cash to make them mine. I've not got any cream blushers in my makeup bag so this is a new type of blusher I'm interested in trying out.

Moreish Cleanser. I have been looking for an organic skincare brand that delivers results but isn't as expensive as the likes of Antipodes. Moreish are available at Priceline pharmacies so they are definitely on my list of easy accessible skincare to try out very soon.

Philosophy Cinnamon Buns Shower Gel. With Christmas steadily edging closer this shower gel would make a sweet gift. I love the smell of cinnamon and it's a nice scent to use in summer as well as winter.

NARS Creamy Concealer. Nars are one of my favourite make up brands, their products are such good quality and they have so many covet worthy items. I know concealers aren't the most exciting thing in the world but Im yet to find a pharmacy brand concealer that actually works well at concealing.

NARS Lipstick in Shiap. Every time Youtuber Alix from I Covet Thee wears this lipstick in one of her videos I always find myself reading through the description bar to find out what it is. A punchy berry colour perfect for summer, Shiap is such a flattering 'notice me' shade.

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel. Another cleanser (but hey, you always know they are going to get used) on the list has to be the much raved about Oskia cleansing gel.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder. These beautiful highlighting powders have been raved about on many a beauty blog. The main thing that has put me off buying them (apart from the rather high pricetag attached to Hourglass products) is that many people have commented on getting the shades colour matched to your skin tone. Without a Mecca near me it's probably not going to happen but I still this powder is wishlist worthy if only to look at.

REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask. I'm all about adding radiance boosting products to my skincare regime. My skin can be a touch sensitive so this is a product I would probably approach with caution but I think masks used occasionally can make a big difference to the overall appearance of your skin.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Bedside Table Stack #2

In my last 'Bedside Table Stack' post I said that I rarely have a collection of books waiting to go but apparently I've gone and done it again. Currently my bedside table hoarding of books, looks a little something like this;

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. I loved this book, it took all of about two days to read but is stuffed with all the stuff you want to know and none of the crap you don't. I will have a proper review of this up next week I think but Sophie Amoruso's story is nothing if not inspiring, and proof that hard work and a good idea is all it takes to succeed.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. I'm not entirely sure why I picked this up as from the outset the story sounds a tad morose but I do like to mix things up a little. The Shock of the Fall introduces us to Matthew, who is mentally ill. Matthew recalls the death of his brother Simon, a death he thinks he is responsible for and struggles to come to terms with.

Longbourn by Jo Baker. A retelling of Pride of Prejudice from the servant's perspective. This is a really intriguing book to me, it has had a few positive reviews so I'm excited to see what all the fuss is about. Usually I'm not down for 'Pride and Prejudice' reimaginings as they can sometimes read a little, well I'm not sure if desperate is the right word? But imagining the stark contrast of life below stairs is an altogether different take.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. This was on the bestseller list about a year ago and my mum mentioned it as a cute read the other day so I thought I would pick it up. Harold Fry lives a very routine life until one day he receives a letter from a dear friend of his who is in the hospice. On writing his reply to his friend Harold starts his urgent journey to deliver his letter in person some six hundred kilometres away on foot.

So there you go! Hopefully there will be full book reviews coming up around these parts over the next few months. I'd love to know, what are you reading at the moment?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Have You Read These Authors?

I'm always on the lookout for new authors to explore. There's nothing better than discovering a great book and knowing there is plenty more on offer from the author who wrote it. Here are some authors new to me who I am excited about getting into over the next few months and hope their offerings are as good as they sound!

John Green
I don't read a lot of Young Adult fiction, mainly because im in my mid twenties so just never really think to explore it much but this genre has just exploded in recent years with top-quality writing. The Fault in Our Stars is an obvious one to have on my must-read list but I'm also looking forward to reading Looking for Alaska.

Rainbow Rowell
First of all with a name like Rainbow Rowell it kind of makes me happy just thinking that someone with that moniker is writing books. Fangirl has been on my to-read list for yonks, but an author that also dabbles in books for adults as well as YA really intrigues me. Landline, Attachments and Eleanor and Park all appeal.

Jonas Jonasson
Jonas' quirky story lines and standout titles have become a hit in his native Sweden and I do love an unusual storyline. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden are titles to check out.

Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty's latest book Big Little Lies is something I have been wanting to read for a while but added to that is her books The Husband's Secret and What Alice Forgot are family-drama type books that sound really engaging and thought provoking.

If you have any recommendations of authors who have a few great titles to check out I'd love to know!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

New November Book Releases

It's November, which means it's time to talk about the new release books being published this month. I've rounded up some popular titles to get you inspired for the month to come. This November bookshelf includes time travel, the debut novel from a YouTube sensation and a couple of historical novels thrown in for good measure.

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes. The latest offerings from one of my favourite easy to read authors. Stella Sweeney has an ordinary life, working for her sister in a beauty salon and is married with kids. An ordinary life that no-one would be interested in stealing. But Stella's life is about to undergo a chain of events that will change everything. 

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Whether or not you're a fan of the Youtube sensation, Zoe's debut novel is due to be released this month and it's already topping the charts for record pre-sales figures. A cute story about about the life of a girl online who is trying to cope with her newfound fame and keeping her identity a secret.

What The Lady Wants by Renee Rosen. Late 19th Century Chicago and Marshall Field has made his fortune in the retail business and wins the heart of socialite Delia Spencer. As the Great Fire rips through Chicago, seventeen-year-old Delia watches as the flames destroy Chicago. Delia's world is about to change. As Marshall rebuilds his store after the great fire into an opulent deparment store, the likes of which the world has never seen before, Delia and Marshall will face tougher challenges than just what the fire can throw at them.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. Ben Elton is one of those authors I've heard so much about but never gotten around to reading anything by him. I love the premise of this book - if you had one chance to change history, where would you go, what would you do, who would you kill? That's the question facing Hugh Stanton. It's 1914 and Europe is on the outbreak of war and Stanton must prevent history from happening.

The Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall. A tragic encounter with an orphaned girl leaves Isabella Berotti forced to protect the young girl and pry open the secrets of her own past to protect her. Set in Mussolin's Italy Isabella is about to discover some secrets are dangerous to discover. 

The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman. A cute story about single-mum and undomestic goddess Lottie, who steps in to help save her Aunt Kate's Bed & Breakfast. With Kate in hosptial, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter must deal with a picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

What new release books are you anticipating this November?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

The story of Frog Music takes us to San Francisco in the scorching hot summer of 1876. Smallpox has ripped through the city where we are introduced to  Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dance who dances her way into mens' hearts and pockets at the House of Mirrors. On an ordinary walk home from her night dancing Blanche is bowled down by a woman dressed in men's clothing riding a Pennyfarthing and so begins the start of Blanche and Jenny's unusual friendship.

Jenny is a rebel dressed in men's clothes and a free spirit with no home of her own to lay her head. Jenny talks as she pleases but her free-thinking ways soon have Blanche questioning the life that Arthur and her have set up in San Francisco

The book opens on the night of Jenny's murder. Fleeing from Blanche's lover Arthur, a former circus performer and his companion Ernest, Jenny and Blanche have taken refuge in a railroad saloon when Jenny is murdered. Throughout the course of the book Blanche tries to piece together the murder, convinced that her ex-lover is responsible.

Donoghue brings the boom town era of San Francisco to life in vibrant colour but it is her creation of Jenny and Blanche as characters that is the stand out in this book. Blanche and Jenny are both written in such a way that despite not finding either of them the most warm or likeable characters, I can sure as imagine them both as real people.

For me the first half of this book was a little bit stagnant, I read on enjoying the scenes and general commotion that Jenny (told in backstory) causes in Blanche's life but it wasn't until I was a good halfway through the book that I found the plot really started to draw me in and Blanche's fighting spirit gave me something to root for.

As Blanche beings to dig deeper into the past of her murdered friend she soon starts to discover the she never really knew her friend Jenny. Blanche is a resilient woman and a strong character to boot who holds her own throughout the novel. Donoghue's set out to recreate not only a captivating time in history but her own take on true-life murder will leave you feeling suprised and satisfied. I even think Blanche could do with another book on the next chapter of her life.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Reds For Spring/Summer

One month into Spring and I've been craving something a little more punchy than the usual pastels and soft pinks that get whipped out at this time of year. Enter my picks of two vibrant reds for lips and nails to get excited about - Essie's 'Really Red' nail lacquer and L'Oreal Color Riche lipstick in '115 Rouge Coral.' Both are pretty true reds neither being overly orange or pinky in tone, which I think makes them the perfect bright reds for warmer weather.

I've never tried a L'Oreal lipstick before but the pigmentation is actually pretty good with those one - managing to stay on through both dinner and drinks without coming off. It is a little bit smudgy though and doesn't dry down onto the lips. For those looking for a moisturising lipstick this is pretty much your man right here - the formula is not drying at all and just feels quite nice on the lips once applied. For dry lips its actually really nourishing although I'm thinking a touch of lip liner wouldn't go astray to help keep things in place.

I've always thought of true reds colours as being quite an old fashioned choice on nails but the Essie Really Red has a vibrancy to it that makes it stand out from its counterparts.Its really opaque with only one coat really needed (but two for luck). By day four things are getting a little chippy and I'm going to need a re-do but I think that's more down to the fact that my Essie Topcoat isn't the best.

Both these shades are so pretty and vibrant that even if you're not entering into the summer months they would add a nice pop of colour for the autumn/winter months leading up to Christmas! What are your favourite reds of the moment?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Halloween Bookshelf

We don't really do Halloween in Australia in the same way it's marked in other countries. But, with All Hallows Eve just around the corner I thought a Halloween inspired bookshelf was in order. I should point out that I have enough of an over-active, paranoid imagination as it is so you're not going to find any Stephen King's It level of horror or creepiness here. These books are creepy but not enough to give me actual nightmares or cause you to sleep with the lights on even after you've checked the wardrobe and under the bed for monsters. Happy Halloween!!

The Gates by John Connelly. When Samuel Johnson sets of trick-or-treating three days early he witnesses some bizarre behaviour in his neighbourhood. As it turns out, Samuels neighbours have accidentally summoned the devil, causing a gap in the universe and revealing the gates of hell. Cute and funny and bursting with imagination,  

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you haven't yet read Gone Girl, please crawl out from under that rock and go and find a copy. Literally one of the best books I've read all year Gone Girl is a brilliant, tightly woven story that will surprise you until the very end.

In The Woods by Tana French. As a child Rob Ryan survived a traumatic attack, which left two of his friends dead. When police responded to the scene in the woods, Rob was found alive, but with no recollection of what happened. Twenty years later he has buried his past and now works as a police detective. When a 12-year old girl is found murdered in the same woods, the case is chillingly similar to the unsolved case of his childhood. 

You by Caroline Kepnes. When Joe meets Guinevere Beck he knows he's found the perfect girl for him, and Beck cant believe her luck in finding a guy who's just so perfectly made for her. But Joe has a dark secret and his obsession could have deadly consequences.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Girls by Ransom Riggs. When Jacob discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children he sets out exploring the empty rooms and hallways. But the children may have been more than just peculiar and they may still be alive.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. Shutter Island is the perfect location for a hospital for the criminally insane. Isolated, rough and inhospitable US Marshal's Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck are investigating the disappearance of a dangerous patient, but their investigation reveals nothing on Shutter Island is quite what it seems.

The Son by Jo Nesbo. A complex and twisty tale, Sonny Lofthus has been serving time for crimes he didn't commit. His payoff comes in the form of copious amounts of free drugs, drugs he has turned to since his corrupt-cop father committed suicide. When Sonny discovers some long hidden truths about his father he takes it on himself to seek revenge.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Real Techniques v Sigma Brushes

When it comes to makeup brushes there are so many options ranging from the very high end to the low. I've had my Sigma brushes for well over a year now and having recently picked up some additonal brushes from Real Technique I thought I would do a comparison of the two low-end brands to see how they fare against each other.

There are a tonne of great brushes on offer from both of these affordable brands and while I haven't tried all of them out there was definitely some clear winners in my beauty brush stash.

Applying foundation for the first time with the Real Techniques Buffing Brush it was pretty obvious what the hype surrounding these brushes was for. For buffing in and moving product around the face the Real Techniques brush is miles better. It really buffs product into the skin to leave a flawless complexion and makes a small amount of product go a long way. I have a couple of problems with the Sigma Round Kabuki brush, the main one being how much product it absorbs during application. Because of this it's also a bi-atch to clean and takes roughly three times as long as any of my other brushes, and a million years to dry. Although the Real Techniques brush is only available in the Core Collection kit which comes with four brushes in total, it's well worth the price as the other brushes are all pretty good too.

I picked up the Real Techniques Blush brush and originally thought that because of its massive size I would only use it for applying bronzer around my face. In fact it's such a soft and lightweight brush that it deposits powder really well on the cheeks, much better than my Sigma contour brush. I always find with the Sigma one I need to give it quite a few taps to remove excess product first and even then on first application I can be left with a rather rosy looking dot on my face where the colour goes on but isn't blended out that well.

I haven't tried any Real Techniques brushes for the eyes but the Sigma brushes do really standout in this category. While they aren't as soft for blending as something a bit more expensive from MAC or Napoleon, they do what they say on the tin, applying eyeshadow with no fallout to the lids, blending and generally just being well worth the $10-$15 pricetag I've paid for them.

As far as face brushes go Real Techniques have come up trumps. I didn't mention how soft they are either, they are the softest brushes I've ever used and yet are completely cruelty free and synthetically made which is a huge plus!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton introduces us to a young newly wed bride, Nella Oortman. At 18 years old, Nella has married a wealthy but older merchant Johannes Brandt and on her arrival in Amsterdam she is introduced to the inhabitants of the Brandt household. Her sister-in-law Marin, is a strict and pious lady who quickly makes Nella feel unwelcome in her new home, the maid Cornelia is abrupt and over-confident, not something Nella has ever encountered in a servant before and Otto the manservant, has skin so dark Nella often catches herself in embarrassment looking at his foreign complexion.

Nella's excitement as a new bride and lady of her own home quickly dissipates as her husband Johannes is scarcely at home, and Marin takes to running Nella's home as if she had never arrived. After her first week in the Brandt household Johanne presents Nella with an extra-ordinary gift - a miniature replica of their home. At first the gift seems absurd and a little insulting to Nella, after all she is not a child. But, as Marin expresses her dislike of the present Nella takes it as an opportunity to assert herself.

Nella employs the skills of a miniaturist to make her furnishings for the miniature cabinet. As Nella receives pieces from the skilled artisan, including objects she had never ordered that are exact replicas of the items in her home, the pieces start to influence happenings in the Brandt household.

I had pegged 'The Miniaturist' to be a sort of magical and enchanting story a bit like 'Night Circus' which I absolutely adore. It's not, but don't let my pre-emptive conclusions cloud your judgment as 'The Miniaturist' certainly was a great read but in more unexpected ways. I really found this book to be more about the relationships between Nella and her unusual household, the secrets they hold and the dangers that being different could bring to their home. There were certainly a few twists in the plot that I didn't fathom coming and most were actually unrelated to The Miniaturist and it's influence on the household.

The Miniaturist was a book full of surprises, and I did enjoy the character Nella and how she grows to become a woman of her own home during the year this book is set. Burton paints a clear picture of the riches and wealth of Dutch society set against the equally oppressive religious forces who control Amsterdam and city where being different is a dangerous thing.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Words to Live By

Scrolling through my Pinterest feed the other day I noticed for the umpteenth time how many 'words of inspiration' type pins were about and it got me thinking. Now I love a good pinable quote as much as the next girl but there really are only a few quotes that I actually take to heart and have influenced me in some way throughout my life, whether they are reminders to keep my chin-up when times are tough or just good old fashioned advice I thought I would share some of my favourites that I actually have been moved by.

"Always be financially independent." If I had a dollar for every time my mum used to say this when me and my sisters were growing up I would have been a teenage millionaire. Despite the amount of eye-rolls we used to throw at her every time she said it, I really think it's been a huge influence on my approach to saving money and wanting to stand on my own two feet.

"Everything in moderation, including moderation." This is classic Dad advice right here and somewhat annoyingly it seems I was actually listening all those times he said it. I think more than anything this is just a reminder that happiness is all in the balance.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." I started doing Pop Pilates about a year ago via YouTube and pilates instructor Cassey Ho always says this and I love it. I think it's so true that we can get caught up in comparing our own progress to other people's. Whether it be in fitness class, work promotions or comparing your blog to other people's we are not all dealt the same cards in life and this is a reminder to focus on yourself rather than other people.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." One of the many pearls of wisdom from Dr Seuss. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what other people think because those that really care about you don't mind.

What are your favourite words to live by?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Authors to Note: Cormac McCarthy

Beautiful, brutal, tender, and sometimes bleak, I don't know many writers who can elicit such a range of emotions in one book and yet, for all of these emotions that Cormac McCarthy infuses into his novels there is a real subtlety to how he tells his stories, a quiet sense of something much stronger that lurks into your subconscious long after reading. I was blown away by the beauty of All the Pretty Horses, the story of John Grady Cole, a young Texan rancher who rides across the boarder into Mexico with his younger brother. There is something timeless about this book, the landscape of the Mexican border is as much a character as John Grady and his brother and with little to reference to anything other than the land and other people and villages they pass there is very little to suggest the time that they inhibit.

I think my favourite thing about reading a Cormac McCarthy novel is they way he writes dialect. No punctuation, his Southern talkin' drawlin' characters come right off the page, it almost feels like reading a screenplay or a script, I can hear the character saying their lines. This is like the antithesis to every flowery overly-wordy descriptive novel ever written and it adds such a realness to the characters coming alive.

In No Country For Old Men, Llewellyn Moss comes across a drug deal gone wrong. With dead bodies littering the scene, a pickup filled with heroin and $2million unclaimed, Llewelllyn takes the money and heads on the run. Violent, unpredictable and utterly thrilling.

Cormac McCarthy is an author who isn't afraid to throw something unexpected at his audience. All I can say is try not to get too attached to any characters, as there isn't always a happy ending. The harsh landscapes of Southern Texas, where most of his novels are set is reflected within his characters. A harsh climate breeds a harsh life and McCarthy doesn't seem to have a lot of sentimentality in keeping his characters alive just to satisfy a happy ending. But in a landscape where life is hard, hope is also a strong element.

Have you read any novels by Cormac McCarthy?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

How to Be A Woman By Caitlin Moran

Part autobiography part feminist rant, How to be a Woman is an unashamedly frank look at feminism and womanhood through the eyes of columnist and all-around bad ass Caitlin Moran. There isn't a topic too off-limits or embarrassing for Caitlin to tackle, everything from sex, love, fashion, hair-removal, pornography, weddings, babies and abortion gets a look in. And, unflinchingly Caitlin lays her experiences with all of these things bare. Raw, funny, heartbreaking and hilarious in turns, How to Be A Woman is an unapologetic look at what it means to be a modern woman.

This is surely one of the funniest feminist books and more approachable to the modern girl than anything I've read before. If one thing is for sure it is that Caitlin has had her fair share of experiences to justify writing such a book. I jest in saying that this book is part feminist rant, because it really doesn't read like one.

What I loved about reading How to be a Woman is that Caitlin takes a funny and intelligent look things that as woman we often just don't think about or have become so ingrained in our society we often don't give them a second thought. What is this fascination with women and torturous and uncomfortable shoes? why do women's magazines always preach the importance of owning a designer handbag? and am I still sane for not thinking my wedding day will be the greatest day of my life?

Intelligently put together, witty and with some of the best quotes I've ever snorted coffee over this is definitely a must read. If you have ever felt like you are failing at being a woman, How to be a Woman will set you straight.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Things I've Learnt From...Beauty Blogs

If there is one thing that I read more than books it would have to be blogs. I read a lot of blogs but one of my favourite topics to read about would have to be beauty. Here are ten things I have been introduced to through my love of beauty blogs.

The importance of the Pre-Cleanse. Ever since I have started removing makeup before cleansing I have noticed a marked improvement in the way my skin looks and feels at night. Cleaner, fresher, less gunkier, if you are wearing makeup either pre-cleanse or double cleanse for a truly clean face.

Bioderma is a miracle worker. And my weapon of choice for the pre-cleanse would have to be Bioderma. I wasn't expecting to even be able to find this easily in Australia considering how elusive it seems to be in English stores. Low and behold my local pharmacy stocks bottles of the stuff and it's been a staple on my bathroom shelf ever since. Not only is it ah-may-zing at removing stubborn eye make-up like nuthin' else, I like to pack a bottle of this if I'm going camping or staying overnight somewhere but don't want to pack my whole stash of cleansing products.

High and low is where it's at. I will admit to being a makeup product snob before blogs pointed me in the direction of the best in pharmacy brands. It's no suprise that my makeup bag was previously always in dire need of something when shelling out $40-60 for bronzers, foundations, blushers and the like are always running out. Now I have a nice balance of high and low brands giving what every girl really wants in her stash, options and ones that don't break the bank.

Contouring. I wouldn't say I can now contour like a Kardashian but my bronzer cheek-defining skills have definitely improved tenfold, to the point where I actually look like I have some cheekbone action going on.

Bronze, blush, highlight. My approach to 'doing' my face with anything after foundation used to consist of me just swirling brushes haphazardly around my cheeks until I either looked over-blushed to the point of looking sunburnt or deeply deeply tanned. Since then I've learnt where to bronze, blush and highlight and the importance of a light hand in application.

Bourjois. My holy grail of pharmacy brands, I had actually never even heard of Bourjois before I read beauty blogs. Now they make some of my favourite products and I've discovered that pharmacy brand foundations aren't as scary as they used to be.

The importance of a skincare routine. I'm still working on actually getting a few options together for when my skin is more breakout prone, dryer or oilier but for the first time in my life I actually have a good range of products that I know how to apply in the right order and my skin has noticable improved since following a consistent routine.

Dehydration and oily skin. Having learnt that most people have deydrated skin, even if your skin is oily has been something of a revelation. Enter hydrating products into my skincare routine a marked improvement in the plumping factor of my face.

Concealer after foundation. Well I don't know where this blatant and confusing lie regarding concealer application before foundation comes from but all I know is that I'm now doing it right.

The importance of eyebrows. Okay well this one has been known to me for a while. Having a makeup artist for a sister meant she was always preaching the importance of having a well defined brow but just how much they enhance your face and really make you look pulled together, now you're preachin' to the converted.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The October Bookshelf

October is here and with it brings a load of new release titles. Check out my roundup of the new releases I'm most looking forward to this month (and a few sneaky September releases I missed out on last time).

Gray Mountain by John Grisham. When Wall Street lawyer Samantha Kofer’s loses her job during the recession she is offered a job working in a legal aid clinic for a year, unpaid. Moving from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, Samantha discovers this small coal mining town holds some dark secrets.

Yes Please by Amy Pohler. Funny lady Amy Pohler offers up some helpful (and not so helpful) advice on life, love and living in this hilarious and charming book.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain. Riley MacPherson was told that her older sister committed suicide as a teenager. Twenty years after her sisters death, as her father passes away, she finds in his possession evidence that her sister is alive and living under a new identity. Secrets new and old are revealed.

Half the World in Winter by Maggie Joel. London, 1880, as the Jarmyn family mourn the death of their youngest daughter in different ways, a train accident on the railway Lucas Jarmyn owns claims the life of a young girl. As the girls father, Thomas travels to London seeking justice his fate and that of the Jarmyn family hinge on a series of strange events. 

The Lodger by Louisa Treger. Set amid the personal dramas of Dorothy Richardson's affair with the author H G Wells (who is also her friend's husband) and the suffragette movement, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver. The lives of the living and dead intertwine in this novel as an estranged family arrive at a country house ready for their inheritance. But Richard Walker's family are not alone as the houses long-dead residents make their presence known.

Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes. A refreshingly frank beauty book that relies less on glossy pictures and more on straight forward explanations and beauty tips and advice.

The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worley. From Ripper to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, Worley explores the fascination and influence that murder has had, inspiring novels, plays and prose.

What titles are you most looking forward to being released this month?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

It's hard to describe just how much I adored The Rosie Project. It's the type of story words like 'gorgeous' were made for describing. As I came closer to finishing its final pages I at least felt happy in the knowledge that there is already a follow up novel The Rosie Effect to put on my must read list.

Professor of genetics Don Tillman lives an efficient and highly organised life. Despite being good looking and highly intelligent, Don is also socially awkward and oblivious to many social 'norms', which is probably why he is still single. After one too many dates that end in disaster Don creates The Wife Project; a 16 page questionnaire designed to help him find the most compatible partner who will hopefully become his wife.

While Don is busy implementing The Wife Project he meets the beautiful Rosie - who is on a mission of her own to find her biological father. Rosie is smoker, almost vegetarian and never on time, three traits that alone have her failing Don's perfect partner test - but there are some problems that science alone cannot solve and love is one of them.    

Don is both hilarious, awkward, adorable, charming and infuriating in turns. With Don as the narrator we get an insight into his oddly rational way of thinking, but that is what really makes this book a stand-out. Getting inside his mind reveals him to be a complex, caring person who on the outside is very much an oddball, but on the inside has a lot of heart. Despite the fact that he is an oddball, Simsion has managed to create a very real and endearing character in Don Tillman.

A gorgeously odd, heartwarming and utterly charming novel. If you fancy reading something that makes you smile I can't recommend The Rosie Project enough. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Bedside Table Stack

September seemed to be the month of book hoarding for me if a look at my bedside table is anything to go by. Take a sneaky peak at what I've got lined up in the Book Review department as I make my way through these titles:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I'm currently reading this and it's probably the funniest thing I've read all year. Adorable, gorgeous, funny and charming, this one will definately be a rave review.

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. Ahhhh Caitlin, I have been a massive fan of her ever since I discovered her hilarious columns for The Times. Part autobiography part feminist manifesto, one thing's for sure is that this is going to be seriously funny read.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. This was on my first New Release Bookshelf so I'm excited to have a copy close to hand.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I've actually read this before but it is one of the most heartwarming and adorable books I've ever read and I'm a sucker for re-reading all my favourite books!

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Another pick from my New Release Bookshelf roundup that I can't wait to get started on for its original and historically set story.

How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Aherm. I first read one of Ahern's books last year and while I actually wasn't a big fan of the main character (which kind of put me off the story), her books are really easy to read and I wanted to have another go at a title from this popular author.

What titles have you got on your bedside table?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Candyfloss Nails & Mattifying Primers

Primers are just one of those things aren't they? You never knew you needed one in your makeup stash until you try one and suddenly realise they are the glue that holds everything together. I have been on the lookout for something more cheap and cheerful to be the answer to my face-bace woes and am happy to say I've found it. Enter the Stay Matte Primer from Rimmel. When I first swatched this on my hand it left a weird white residue that had me thinking firstly 'ewww' and secondly 'damn, why didn't I swatch the tester before I bought this?' Happily once applied to the face it leaves a beautiful feeling to the skin, both soft and smooth to the touch. Although I can feel it once applied to my face it just feels lovely and light and perfectly matte. I do like a bit of glow in my foundation so the matte texture underneath is perfect for controlling shine. I've even been wearing it on its own with no foundation over top as it feels like some sort of barrier between my skin and shininess.

I've never been much of a nail polish wearer but in the last few months I have really become a convert with nudey hues gracing my fingers and bolder brights on my toes on a regular basis. I picked up Essie's Vanity Fairest the other day which is a beautiful candyfloss pink with a subtle amount of shimmer running through. It's actually very close to the natural pink of my nails but just gives them that extra bit of tidyness, hiding all manner of imperfections. I really think nude and neutrals are the way to go if like me you hate the actual application process of painting your fingers. The forumla of Essie is brilliant and the colour is like a quick pick-me up for your hands.
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