Monday, 28 September 2015

A Travel Bucket List

Travel is probably one of the things I most look forward to every year. I know that there's no chance I'll be able to see every country that I desire but for now these are the places on my definitive must-see list:

Greece :: Sun, sailing and the prospect of eating Greek food and a Medeterranean diet all day every day while on holiday is just something I can't resist.

Costa Rica :: This amazing country is rich in diverse wildlife and the thought of ziplining through the jungle is pretty high up on my want-to-do list.

Japan :: Up until a few months ago travelling to Japan wasn't really on my radar. But, it's the combination of a fascinating cultural past and an amazing technologically advanced cities that really appeals to me. Also, snow monkeys are pretty high on the agenda too as is Japanese make-up hauling.

Germany :: Who doesn't want to enjoy drinking beer in one of the most efficient countries in the world?

Spain :: Having already travelled through the north of Spain I really want my next trip to take in the provinces in the south.

Scotland :: I have a deep love of all things Scottish probably thanks to my families Scotch heritage. Top of my must do's is a visit to Edinburgh and to enjoy watching the Edinburgh tattoo!

Yellowstone :: On our trip to Botswana two years ago I met a man who had travelled through 26 countries in the world and his favourite place was Yellowstone National Park. That's really saying something and as a fan of wildlife of all shapes and sizes, coupled with the beautiful landscapes Yellowstone has plenty of appeal.

Vanuatu :: I've never been to any of the Pacific islands yet so this trip will probably be one to do when we move back to New Zealand. The scenery coupled with what are supposedly the nicest people in the pacific is pretty hard to top.

Regardless of whether I actually make it to any of these places, just thinking about taking off to farflung parts of the world makes me feel instantly happy. What places are on your travel bucket list?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Bedside Table Stack #11

Things have been a little bit quiet around these parts this last month because, ironically I have been taking some time out to read rather than spending time online. But now that I've had a mini break I'm really looking forward to getting back into the habit of regular postings. I also have a little something exciting coming up in the next few weeks which may or may not be in video form....

Now, here's my current bedside table stack that I've been loving lately:

Paper Towns by John Green. I've finally read my first John Green book, motivated by the fact that I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first. Regardless of not seeing the movie I couldn't get Cara Delevingne's face out of my head as the main character Margo.

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Perhaps it was because I had a bad cold last month or the warmer weather coming in but I really wanted to read easy, funny books this month. Killing Monica follows the story of PJ Wallis, whose book character has become more famous than it's author. PJ sets out to destroy Monica once and for all.

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes. It's been so long since I've read anything from this author who used to be a firm favourite of mine. After a rare disease leaves Stella Sweeney hospitalised for a year her published memoirs give her a shot at true stardom. With an ex-husband going off the rails, a teenage son more interested in yoga than rebellion the path to success will be anything but easy for Stella.

What have you been reading this month?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Book Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Things have been a little quiet around these parts, more so than usual, because to be honest I've been spending quite a bit of time reading and just enjoying time away from the laptop. But, all this time out has left me with a few reviews to write and I thought I'd start with my most recently enjoyed book. A while ago I made a resolve to reach for more Young Adult fiction and the next time I wandered through my library I picked up Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. Kinsella being a predominantly adult and chick-lit writer, had me intrigued to read a book of hers aimed at a younger audience.

Finding Audrey centres around the life of Audrey and her eccentric family. A recent incident at Audrey's high school has left her with severe social anxiety, an inability to leave the house and a penchant for wearing sunglasses during the daytime. Throw in a mother who spends too much time turning to the Daily Mail for answers on how to raise her family, a brother obsessed with video games and a father who doesn't quite know what is going on and you've got yourself a scenario for a whole bunch of crazy family dynamics. Audrey has been making steady but slow progress with her shrink Dr Sarah but it's an introduction to her brothers friend Linus that sparks something alive in Audrey.

This book was filled with lovable and relateable characters despite their charms and quirks. Kinsella's characters slowly revealed themselves to be quite a caring and close-knit bunch in the end and I really enjoyed that she allowed those deeper characteristics to be revealed. Although the book addresses mental health issues it's light tone and Kinsella's charming writing style make it a very easily digested read without treating Audrey's illness as something trivial or easily fixed. I did wonder if the Linus-Audrey first-love story would turn out to be a 'love cures all' scenario but it was their friendship which gave Audrey something to focus on while her family were all trying to deal with her illness in their own way.

I thought the character development in this book was pretty spot on actually. As not only were the family trying to deal with Audrey's illness but I enjoyed that Kinsella explored how Audrey's illness was really taken on by the whole family. It's a serious top but this charming and funny book shows sometimes a light hand can go a long way to giving a story serious impact.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

An Updated Beauty Wishlist

Spring is here which means as well as lighter mornings, blue skies and barbecues being on the horizon so too is the need to shake off my winter routines and embrace lighter, dewier makeup and delicious smelling skincare products. I've updated my current beauty wishlist for the things I'm lusting over most for the coming Spring/Summer months!

Origins Original Skin Re-texturising Mask and Re-newing Serum: I'm often on the lookout for skincare aimed at mid-twenties skin and this clay mask and serum are screaming out to me for their smoothing and calming properties are right up my street.

Glasshouse Candle No4 Les Baies: Oooh la la, everything about this candle makes me a little bit giddy. From the lux geometric packaging to the promise of wild berry scent I think this will be my favourite scent for warming summer days.

St Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan: Spring is on the horizon which means bare legs are also making a comeback. Gradual tanners are much more appealing to me these days than the orange-sheet staining options of years gone past, and are such an easy lazy girls way of topping up an existing tan.

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara: It's not often that a high end mascara makes me take notice but the skinny wand plus often raved about formula of this Too Faced offering have certainly caught my eye.

Clinique Anti Blemish Solutions Foundation: Lately I've been finding that my sheer foundations just aren't cutting it whenever my skin has a breakout session so rather I'm looking to add a preventative measure into my base.

REN Clarifying Toner: Toners are still a rather mysterious skincare step for me but REN have such a good reputation for skincare that works that I can't wait to add this clarifying lotion to my nightly routine.

NARS Lipstick in Niagara: Despite my attempts at swatching every peachy pink lipstick I can find in the pharmacy, it's a hard colour to nail at a cheap price. I love the corally-peach tones of this NARS number and so far I've never met a NARS product I didn't like.

Monday, 7 September 2015

September New Release Faves

September is delivering some of the most waited for books of the year. Take a look at what I'm looking forward to dropping this month.

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Rutter. Why I've still not managed to pick up the first book in this series is completely beyond me and I better get a move on before I've got even more catching up to do. Set in 1892 private detective Jackaby returns to investigate the supernatural, this time as an unidentified beast starts attacking innocent people.

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent. Metzger's Menagerie travelling carnival is full of wondrous and grotesque creatures on exhibition for the world to marvel over. When Delilah Marlow visits she discovers a creature within herself and is captured to perform night after night in towns across the country.

After You (Me Before You #2) by Jojo Moyes. Lou returns in this sequel to the wonderful novel Me Before You and I for one cannot wait to read this follow up novel but is there life after Will Traynor for Lou?

The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz, Stieg Larsson. Is it just me or is September the month of hotly anticipated sequels. I've actually already bought a copy of the fourth book in the series and cannot wait to follow along with Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist.

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray. I'm going to sneakily place this in my September pile as it wasn't released until the end of August and I totally forgot to talk about it, which is insane considering how much I've been looking forward to reading this sequel! Evie O'Neill and her divining friends return to fight the paranormal and this time Evie has become a media darling. But, not everyone is accepting of the Diviners abilities putting Evie and her friends in danger once again.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Humans by Matt Haig

You know those movies you watch because they leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy and picking you up from a down mood, well Matt Haig's The Human's is a definitely a feel-good book in much the same way. It's delightfully quirky, witty and laugh-out-loud chuckly throughout so if you're feeling a bit blue this could be just the book to lighten your mood.

Professor Andrew Martin of the University of Cambridge has just solved one of the most complex and important mathematical problems in the history of the universe. But when the following day, he is found wandering the motorway in the nude it's apparent that he's not quite right. That's because he's not. Extra terrestrial non-Earthen aliens have discovered his mathematical breakthrough and plan to put a stop to it being published. When a lifeform takes the place of Professor Andrew he does so as an outsider to Earth who views Humans with the utmost disgust and loathing.

It's truly hilarious. Matt Haig has managed to sum up all that is quirky, horrible and downright silly about the human race quite aptly from the point of view of an alien invader. "Magazines are very popular despite no human ever feeling better for having read them. Indeed their chief purpose is to generate an inferiority in the reader that consequently leads to them needing to buy something, which they do, and then feel even worse..."

But he also manages to sum up all that is great and beautiful and wonderful about us too. "Sentimentality is another human flaw. A distortion. Another twisted by-product of love, serving no rational purpose. And yet, there was a force behind it as authentic as any other." 

To love and to laugh and create and be moved is to be human in the best possible way and The Humans is surely a book to be read when you're feeling a wee bit down about the world as it will make you feel immediately better.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

It's not usual that a romance novel catches my eye but The Fortune Hunter being a historically set novel as well really piqued my interest and I'm really glad I took a chance on it. Set in 1875, the Empress of Austria Sisi visits England on a hunting trip. Exceptionally beautiful, witty and smart, Sisi has everything a woman of her position could ever ask for, except happiness. When Captain Bay Middleton is piloted to the Empress during the hunting season, Sisi sees in him the passion and charm lacking in her own marriage, and despite Bay's engagment to his devoted fiance Charlotte, the attraction is more than mutual.

Despite this definitely being a love story and a love triangle at that between Sisi, the dashing Bay and his sweet and young bride to be Charlotte, I really felt invested in the story due to my love for the characters. I have to say I really liked both Charlotte and Bay straight from the beginning as Charlotte's love for the new art of photography set her apart from other young women of her age. She actually reminded me a little bit of Elizabeth Bennett, except not quite as headstrong, for her refusal to care what others think of her quirks. Charlotte's fortune, gifted to her when her mother passed away, has set her up for a life of comfort, which also means she doesn't have to marry for money.
When she meets the dashing young Captain, Charlotte is warned against his cadish nature, which soon emerges when the Empress becomes quite taken with him.

Throughtout the novel the standout element to me was the characters of Sisi, Bay and Charlotte. I loved seeing Charlotte develop into a woman who was prepared to fight for what she wanted and the historical element of a woman's role in marriage - especially if she holds the riches - was really fascinating to read about. Fans of historical fiction or just straight up romance novels are probably going to enjoy this a lot. There was a lot of 'will they won't they' going on between Charlotte and Bay but by the end of the novel Charlotte's transformation into knowing what she wanted left me even more satisfied than any romantic ending.
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