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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