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.
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