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Thursday 29 December 2016

Top 16 Books of 2016

I read lots of great books this year. I kept track of them all over on Goodreads and although I didn't meet my target of 80 (I read 55), I did read different genres, audiobooks, ebooks and reintroduced myself to the library; one of my favourite places. I also utilised two online book clubs, Richard & Judy's and Rick O' Shea's as well as my own in real life club which met once monthly so I had plenty to choose from. I'll probably set a slightly easier target for the new year ahead but more of that in an another post. For now, these are my favourites from the last year of reading:

 Although I read all of these in the last year, not all were published in 2016. Some of these have yet to be reviewed but for the ones that have, I'll link them in pink. The others will be reviewed soon! 

I started the year with The Versions Of Us and it was a great way to kick off a new year of reading. I plan to do the same this year- start with a whole new pile of books and any that I haven't finished from last year all just have to wait. It seems cleaner somehow! Anyway, this had me completely hooked for the first few chapters and by the end I was loath to put it down- I wanted to keep following their lives!

The Miniaturist was a quirky little read and almost felt like a soap told through a historical fiction lens. 

11/22/63 took me about two months to get through (on audio) and I loved every minute of it. It's not your typical King horror, but it does have some spine-tingling moments. I envy anyone getting to read it for the first time. 

All The Light We Cannot See is a beautifully written tale of two kids on very different sides of WW2. Quite bleak at times but also so lovely.

A Man Called Ove had me in floods and was slow in parts but is overall the perfect feel-good book.

I loved Lindy's look back on her life as a Shrill woman and her tales of feminism.

The Light Between Oceans was probably one of the most loved reads in my book club this year- it's romantic, dramatic and gets you thinking.

The Glorious Heresies is a a darkly comic look at gangsters in Cork. It's brilliant. Read it before the sequel comes out in April!

Mr Mercedes is the first in a trilogy from Stephen King and I loved it. It's about a retired detective turned private-investigator, hunting down a serial killer. Gripping!

The Invention Of Wings is about two girls- one the privileged daughter of a wealthy family of slave owners in the deep South. The other, her slave. 

Skagboys and Trainspotting kept me entertained for about a month. Yes, it's about drug abuse in a socially deprived area of Edinburgh but it's brilliantly written and very humorous!

I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman was the first Nora Ephron book I've read but I'll be picking up more for sure. It's a collection of sharply observed essays from the writer of film screenplays like When Harry Met Sally. It's brilliant.

A Head Full Of Ghosts was read over Halloween and although it's a weird mix of reality TV and exorcisms, it's not so much scary as it is shocking and quite sad at times. I also loved all of the horror movie/books/pop culture references. 

Although I read Lying In Wait first, I actually preferred Unravelling Oliver which was more of a Why'd He Do It rather than a Who Done it. 

Holding is Norton's first non-fiction book and he's actually a brilliant writer. This is a mystery set in small town Cork, where all the locals are hiding something. 

What were your favourite reads of the year? 
Did any of these make the cut? 

Thursday 22 December 2016

Christmas in Bruges!

At the start of December, we jetted off to Brussels for a weekend of festive fun. We stayed there from a Thursday night to a Sunday morning and did every possible touristy thing we could, including their very large Christmas market. While we enjoyed that, we both felt the day we spent in Medieval Bruges (only an hour by train from Brussels) was, although smaller, more special and more atmospheric. 

The Christmas market by night

The town is only a short stroll from the train station and although you can hire a horse and cart, it's an absolutely beautiful place to walk around. In fact, I think the word picturesque may well have been coined with Bruges in mind. 

Pretty idyllic, eh? The streets themselves are suitably old-school and a joy to walk through. All of the chocolate shops in Belgium seem to be located right here and yes, we did buy much chocolate-y treats. 

By the time we'd walked through the streets of Bruges and got to the main square where the market was on, the sun was about to set and it looked even more Disney-esque than before:

There was also a relatively small ice-skating rink, which we didn't partake in cause I'm clumsy AF and manage to injure myself in my sleep, so instead we got alcoholic hot beverages and watched others enjoy the winter wonderland-ness of it all:

And of course, it's beautiful by nighttime:

Above is the tower featured in the Colin Farrell movie, In Bruges, that (SPOILER-the film is really old so it's your own fault if you haven't seen it and this spoils it for you) Brendan Gleeson falls to his death from. Again, SPOILER
You can pay to go to the top but it involves many steep and windy stairs, so we gave it a miss.

There's lots of arts and crafts, gifts, knitted hats and scarves, Christmas tree decorations etc to buy but personally I'm all about the gluhwein, hotdogs, frites and churros and they were there in abundance. 

The Bruges Christmas market is running until the 1st of January this year, if you've any days free between now and then and are super keen to go travelling!

Have you been to Bruges? 
Is it on your travel hit-list?
To the comments!

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Recently Read: August & September

Clearly this isn't that recent and apologies that this is so very late. I actually have to get my October/November reads up too. Gaaaah.
*early New Years resolution- be more organised!*

Not included is the Stephen King trilogy I wrote about HERE because I felt they deserved their own post.

Fat Chance: My Life In Ups, Downs and Crisp Sandwiches by Louise McSharry
This was a book club read and had mixed reviews from us. Louise McSharry has had an interesting life so far, to say the least. The first part of the book details her childhood, where she had to learn quickly how to deal with her mother's mood swings- she suffered with bipolar disorder and so Louise became a mother to her younger brother also. Obviously this was a difficult start for her but Louise seems to have had many other obstacles in her life, including being adopted by relatives after her mother failed to care for her, to being diagnosed with cancer in her twenties. I thought the way she wrote this section was so well done and I can only imagine how helpful this must be for anyone in a similar situation. I had watched her Fuck Cancer documentary on RTE earlier in the year and genuinely, my heart had gone out to her so I felt like I had a good grounding on what the book would be like. As well as the details of her cancer battle, there was also discussion about getting the career you want and her fertility issues post chemo, which again I think would be very helpful for women in a similar situation. At the time of reading it, I enjoyed most of it but felt that the inclusion of some of her columns from Buzzfeed were a bit unnecessary, purely because I've actually read them online before I ever picked up the book. That's not going to be the case for everyone however, although several of the girls in the book club felt the same as I did. All that said, it's an interesting memoir and different from your usual, run-of-the-mill celebrity fare. It's also really great to read a book about an Irish woman overcoming many setbacks to find such success.

Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West is an American journalist, feminist and writer whom I love. I've followed her on twitter and read her articles for The Guardian for a long time now and so I jumped at the chance to see her in conversation with our own Louise O'Neill a while back. She was talking about this book, which comes in the form of essays about her life and what she has learnt over the years. Honestly, she's just so witty and smart that I spend most of it either completely fascinated or chuckling away to myself. There was a whole section on the men who spent their time abusing her online that really spoke to me, as well as respecting your body, regardless of your size. I highly recommend this one, I think everyone should read it but particularly the budding feminists in your life. 

What We Didn't Say by Rory Dunlop
This was a NetGalley read (thanks guys!) which I was drawn to because it's recommended for those who loved The Versions of Us and One Day, both of which I really enjoyed. This takes a look at a marriage in crisis, told from both sides, in a heartbreaking but darkly humorous way. Jack and Laura have separated and Jack thinks it's time to tell Laura why it's all her fault. So he writes it down and sends it to her. She reads through it and makes corrections as she goes, teacher style and replies with her version of events. I thought this book just flowed perfectly. I never put it down in exasperation and I loved how realistic it was- they both remembered everything that had happened between them completely differently and I spent a lot of it shouting at the two of them to sort it out but still wanting to know what would happen! The format of the book was so different to anything else I'd read too that although it drew the aforementioned comparisons, it still felt fresh and new. 

The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly
Over the years I've read most of, if not all of Erin Kelly's books but The Sick Rose (also known as The Dark Rose in some countries) was more of a miss than a hit for me. The timeline of this jumps all over the place and because I was listening to it on audio, I found it quite confusing. So Paul, as a child is lead into a life of crime by Daniel, his protector from bullying and local tough guy. He's with him one night when Daniel kills someone in a burglary gone wrong. To avoid prison, 19 year old Paul agrees to testify against him and is moved to a witness-protection facility where he meets gardener, Louisa. She has her own secrets, including an ex-boyfriend whom she was deeply infatuated with and who she has hoped to never see again following her dangerous actions. Unfortunately, Paul is the spitting image of her ex and so they start a relationship. Somehow, both of their pasts end of catching up with them, to disastrous consequences. This was probably a much better physical read but on audio, it was a mess. I finished it not caring what happened to any of them and I'm not sure I could even tell you what did in fact happen to them in the end. 

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This was a book club choice a few months back and we all loved it. Set just after the end of WW1, ex-serviceman Tom returns to his life in Australia and takes up a foreboding position as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an isolated island that takes half a day to reach from the mainland. After a couple of trips back he ends up marrying Isabelle and brings her with him to live and work on the island. Their otherwise happy marriage is marred by a series of traumatic stillbirths and miscarriages until the day a boat containing a baby washes up on the island. Grief-stricken from her losses, Isabelle convinces Tom to keep the baby girl and they fall in love with her quickly. Although their lives seem idyllic after the arrival of Lucy, they soon learn that their decision has had serious consequences back on the mainland. This is a beautifully written book- the description of the nature surrounding them, the love Tom and Isabelle have for each other and for Lucy and the affectionately written accounts of the technical work that Tom does in the lighthouse all sing from the pages. The characters are all really well developed too and I genuinely found myself sympathising with them while sometimes also being shocked and angered by their actions.
Honestly, this is one of the best books I've read this year- go get it!

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
This is the sequel to If I Stay, a YA novel about a teenage girl who has the misfortune to be involved in a horrific car crash with her family and has to decide (from her coma), whether or not to come back to life and to her boyfriend or to die. In Where She Went, the narrator shifts from Mia, coma girl, to Adam, her boyfriend, who is now struggling with the huge success he has as part of a rock band, while Mia is attending Julliard and is getting on with her life, without him. Firstly, I'll say that when I read If I Stay, I was a sodden mess. I read it in one night and wept throughout most of it. Big, dirty, ugly tears. Himself was like: "Who did this to you?! I'll kill them!" Me *through sobs*: "the book..her brother..I can't.." etc. That did not happen with Where She Went. I was glad of the opportunity to keep reading about their lives but it felt a lot flatter than its predecessor and I'm not sure if I'd bother reading the next one to be honest. 

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
I wanted to read these before the second Trainspotting film comes out in January, unfortunately I haven't read the third book yet that the film is based on, but that's my plan for early in the new Year! I'm a fan of Irvine Welsh's writing anyway but he's really at his best with the Trainspotting series. In case you don't know, the story follows Leith (dodgy part of Edinburgh) based lads Mark Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie, Spud and Tommy and their downslide into drug addiction and general misery. You might be thinking why that would be entertaining but the writing is perfect- so dark but equally hilarious. This was written well after the huge success of Trainspotting and is a prequel so if you want to know how someone like Mark, who actually had a lot going for him, became a heroine addict then this is the place to start. I actually preferred this to Trainspotting because it gives so much background to characters that I've completely fallen in love with. I'd happily read about their exploits for the rest of my life.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The storyline is pretty in-keeping with the film adaptation but there are some noticeable differences and again, the characters are much more developed in the books and the writing is so entertaining that it's really worth reading these yourself. Obviously it is also incredibly grim so if reading about people injecting heroine into their penises in lieu of an appropriate vein elsewhere* is too disturbing for you, then maybe don't read these.

*Happy Christmas, everyone!

And that's the lot for now! What are you currently reading? 
Anything I need to add to the book pile?

Sunday 11 December 2016

Christmas Book Gift Guide 2016

You still have plenty of time till Christmas so don't panic! If you are already panicking, then let me remind you that books make for great presents and luckily they're readily available and pretty much don't sell out.
I've either read most of these or have bought them as gifts for others so this is a fairly exhaustive list of what's what on this years book shop shelves. 
I was also at the Irish Book Awards (IBA) this year so I've selected a few of the nominees and winners here too!


This year I read Liz's first book, Unravelling Oliver and also her second, Lying in Wait (the winner of the people's choice genre at this years IBA's) and while I loved them both, I probably preferred the first one. That said, Lying In Wait is a really well written thriller with a very unexpected (if not very grim) ending.
I've read and loved all of Tana French's books so I'd definitely recommend this one, even though I've yet to actually finish it! The Trespasser won in the crime genre at this years IBA's.
Holding is Graham Norton's first work of fiction and it's one of the best books that I've read all year. He was also a winner at the IBA's and if you're thinking of buying anyone a book this year- pick this, it's a good'un!
Lastly, is a dark thriller set in Cork from another Irish writer (they're all Irish in this category, woop!). Distress Signals and indeed Catherine Ryan Howard could easily compete with any of the bigger, more well known crime writers out there- she's one to keep an eye on.


Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) has been big news this year. It's a Danish word for a way of living; basically being super cosy. That involves lots of reading by firesides, warm socks, burning nice candles and petting soft dogs etc. Or so I understand, I've yet to read it but it sounds rather lovely.
Estée Lalonde is probably one of the few Youtubers I actually watch anymore and because I quite like her lifestyle videos (walking her pet greyhound, making nice dinners with her boyfriend, Aslan, travelling, reading, beauty etc), I feel like this would be an interesting, lengthier look at her life.
Sali Hughes is a beauty journalist for the Guardian, amongst others. Last year I read and loved her first book, Pretty Honest and I think that Pretty Iconic looks equally great. This one is a compilation of Sali's favourite ever beauty products- the ones she recommends. This woman knows the beauty industry so look no further for beauty advice!
I reviewed Pippa O Connor's first book HERE and I think it'll be a great gift for fans of hers and anyone who enjoys beauty/fashion/lifestyle blogs. Keep an eye on my blog Facebook page because I'll be giving away a copy later on today!


I really enjoy Indy Power's blog, The Little Green Spoon. She's an Irish food blogger with a particular interest in healthy, vegan meals, some of which I've tried out and loved.
The Happy Pear make amazing salads amongst other things and this is their second recipe book, written from their hugely successful cafe/shop in Greystones.
Brother Hubbard is another Dublin-based restaurant that is generally always packed full of people (especially for weekend brunches) and this is their first cookbook, featuring some of their most popular dishes.
Lastly is a cook book I first read about a couple of months ago. Sophie White suffered from a complete mental breakdown after taking recreational drugs at Electric Picnic a few years ago. Amongst other things, she used cooking to help heal herself, so I think this is an interesting concept for a recipe book.

Memoirs/Non Fiction

Carrie Fisher has written a few books at this stage but I think this one, primarily about her time making the Star Wars films, sounds really interesting (and, let's face it, juicy).
Paul O' Connell won for best sports writer at the IBA's and apart from being a lovely fella and a clearly awesome rugby player, I think his memoirs would be enjoyed by everyone, not just rugby fans. I love Lindy West, feminist and journalist for The Guardian. I saw her in conversation with author Louise O' Neill earlier in the year and fell for her a little more. She's super smart and witty and apart from laughing out loud whilst reading this collection of essays, I was also left riled up and more informed. This was a great read.
I've yet to get my hands on Marian's latest, "Making It Up As I Go Along", but it's a similar format to her other previous non-fiction works, all of which I liked too. Marian Keyes is such a sharp and funny writer and I love reading about her life.

Kids/Young Adult

Kathleen Watkins originally wrote the Pigín of Howth stories for her (and Gay Byrne's) grandkids and decided it was worth turning into a book, along with lovely illustrations from Margaret Anne Suggs. This would be a lovely book for the little'uns in your life.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a J.K. Rowling Harry Potter off-shoot and so being, is already massively successful with a movie adaptation, currently in cinemas.
Knights of the Borrowed Dark also won at the IBA's and is in the sic-fi bracket for teens. Listening to Dave Rudden describe it, I was honestly really intrigued myself!
Lastly, is Flawed, a young adult novel from Cecelia Ahern, this sounds quite dystopian to me, which is generally a winner with that age group.

And that is the end of my suggestions! 
Have you bought any books as presents this year? 
Have you your eye on any yourself?
To the comments!

Sunday 4 December 2016

Bath & Body Works Candles

It had been high on my list to get to a Bath & Body Works while we were in the States. Mostly I wanted some of their famed Hand Hygiene gels (once a nurse, always a nurse) and of course, their Autumnal candles. As it turned out, I wasn't overawed by Sweater Weather or Autumn Leaves, the two I had planned on getting and instead I let my overriding love of sugar draw me to these:

Bath & Body Works Candles

(shout-out to the advent calendar in the background)

Warm Apple Pie 100% smells like I am actively baking an apple pie. I'm not really sure what wizardry went into this but it makes my mouth water every time I sniff it (which is on the regular). If you can imagine a delightfully buttery crust with the sweet scent of caramelised apples, this is what you get. Plus, it's calorie-free! 
I'm a bit obsessed with cinnamon of late and have found myself adding it to everything- coffee, porridge, my usually cinnamon-free Banana Bread recipe. So it was probably unsurprising that Cinnamon Sugared Doughnut would be coming home with me too. Yes, it does indeed smell like a warm doughnut with that sugary, cinnamon-y hit. 

Anyone else absolutely STARVING right now??


Bath & Body Works Candles

And, three wicks each for a more even burn!

I got these (and my all important hand gels) in an outlet version of B&BW so they were a lot cheaper than usual but I think they're normally around the $22 mark each. I was lucky that we also had enough of a weight allowance on the way home that these weren't a problem in their glass jars and I was even luckier still that Himself masterfully rolled these up carefully in his jeans, so no breakages!

I think these can be shipped from the states but probably at an extortionate price.
These are definitely one to add to your shopping list if you're planning a trip stateside any time soon!

Have you tried any of the Bath & Body Works candles?
Any favourites?

Thursday 1 December 2016

Marks & Spencer Beauty Advent Calendar 2016!

It has become tradition now for me to get a beauty advent calendar for the run up to Christmas. Usually Himself gets me one (see HERE for last years L'ancome/YSL/Kiehls one) but this year I spotted this fella from Marks with a special offer I could not pass up. 
I had been at a fashion show where I fell in love with a pair of shoes from M&S, which I promptly bought the following day for €42. Handily, when you spend €40, you can then buy the calendar for another €40. Let me tell you how good a deal this is; unlike some calendars, you get the full 25 days. 
Benefit is 12 days for €46, while Charlotte Tilbury is 12 days for €195 and Asos, €66.67 for 24 days. So, you're getting a bargain, is what I'm saying. This post will be up on the 1st of December so it'll be worth checking M&S to see if they have any left as they may well reduce them in price after the 1st!

So what's in this then you ask? Well, *SPOILER*, obviously but these are what I'm most excited by:

  • Alpha H Liquid Gold
  • Eyeko liquid liner
  • Rodial Super Acids X-Treme Acid Rush Peel (although the word 'acid' used twice there is a little worrying)
  • Nails Inc Nail Polish in Picadilly Court
  • Burts Bees lip balm with Peppermint & Vitamin E
  • Pür Correcting Primer Prep & Perfect
  • Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
  • Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream
  • Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse
  • Ren Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream
That's only 10 out of 25 and there's so much more in there that I'm really eager to try.

Sure lookit, I know these are frivolous and no doubt plenty of people think they're a terrible waste of money but I'm still using the excellent skincare and perfume that were in last years one and it means I've been able to try products that would ordinarily be out of my price range in their full size. 
I'll be doing daily reveals over on my snapchat, @ Chloe M (nursefancypants) except for days 2 & 3 where I'll be showing you the Christmas markets of Bruges and Brussels instead (there will be a catch up on day 4 though!).

Have you bought a beauty advent calendar this year? Are you planning to get one at the last minute?!
To the comments!

Tuesday 29 November 2016

U.S Drugstore Buys

So we were in the states over Halloween and I of course had to stop at both a Sephora and several pharmacies for make-up. Drugstores over there (CVS, Walgreens etc) are not like our own; they sell everything from painkillers to ice cream with children's toys and random touristy crap in between.
There are also, of course, several make-up brands that we don't have in Ireland and ones that we do but with products we can't get here. 
Hence, a little splurge:

U.S Drugstore haul

I had plenty of other things on my to-buy list, including the It Cosmetics CC cream, as recommended by the lovely @AinePrendo (on Snapchat) but I couldn't find a nearby Ulta so that was out. I did get plenty of other things however, including this super pretty Milani Rose Powder Blush.

Milani rose blush

I haven't tried anything from Milani but I knew I had to get a blush- what they're best known for. I had a baked blush in my basket but then I saw this beauty and sure it was too aesthetically pleasing to leave behind. I got the shade Tea Rose and it really is the perfect pink hue. It's ideal for pale Irish skin tones, although I will admit to being tempted by Coral Cove, also lovely but way too bright for me. This was around the $7 mark.

Katy Perry covergirl lipsticks

I had originally put a couple of Milani lipsticks into the basket but then I saw this Katy Perry collaboration with CoverGirl and I had to try them out.

Katy Perry covergirl lipsticks

While I'm not the biggest Katy fan in the world, I have danced my socks off to plenty of her hits and I enjoyed her movie on Netflix, especially the part where we were introduced to her cat; Kitty Purry. Granted, that is, somewhat egomaniacal but it's also quite cute so obviously I got that shade, which is a mauve and Cat Call, a brighter pop of coral
These are matte, which is good news for me as that's my current favourite type of lipstick finish.

Katy Perry covergirl lipsticks

These were, strangely also $7 each (I swear I didn't just buy things that were $7. My Sephora receipt will attest to that) but I thought these were great value for the price.

Physicians formula cc cream

This was also an Áine/snapchat recommendation and although I've yet to try it, I am excited by the concept of a product that contains moisturiser, primer, foundation, SPF, colour correction and pore blurring. I'll be honest, I always thought that last one was pure nonsense but apparently, my pores don't agree with me. I know we have Physicians Formula in Ireland now but to be honest, I can never find a stand and if I do it's been ravaged by youths. 

maybelline master primer

This was an @SkinnyDoll (again, snapchat!) recommendation and I'm loving it! There were actually three variations in the Maybelline Master Primer range- one for oily skin and a colour corrector I think but I have dry skin and tend to always go for the illuminating primers. This fella also has that blurring property and an SPF 30. This works. My foundation has a healthy glow-from-within look to it with this underneath and it provides a nice base. I'd liken this to Benefit's That Gal except that this is way cheaper, obvs. This was $9.

kylie sinful colours

These Kylie for Sinful Colours polishes were only $1.49 each, so I couldn't leave them behind. The cobalt blue shade, Kosmos (bloody K's everywhere) and the pale blue, Magik Touch are both colours I love and Sinful Colours are generally great quality so I could get over the Kardashian-isation for that alone.

U.S. Drugstore haul

This lot are far less exciting but due to our bags not arriving from JFK to New Orleans with us, we had to pick up a few essentials. I can't shower and not apply moisturiser afterwards so this massive yoke of Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe lotion was a must and worked well in the stifling heat. I couldn't have imagined lashing on a body butter in that humidity so this was ideal. Back in an Irish Winter however, and this loses some of its attraction so I'll be bringing it out again next Summer instead. 

Speaking of heat, SPF was a must and this one from Banana Boat was super handy; it sprays on clear and absorbs practically instantly plus it's factor 50. Perfect!

The Burt's Bees Ultimate Care Body Lotion for Very Dry Skin was purchased towards the end of the holiday. I love this brand and couldn't resist browsing the shelves for them at a slightly reduced price! I'm hoping this particular product is available here cause I am nearly finished and I love it! Containing Baobab Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil and Green Tea extract, this both smells incredible and leaves my super parched skin softer than anything I've used before. Big thumbs up!

As I didn't have any hair products for a couple of days, I had to get the smart girls best friend; dry shampoo. I didn't know much about a lot of the brands they had on this shelf so I went for Pantene; ye olde reliable. Anyway, this works grand. It smells pleasant enough and does the job. Having said that, my scalp felt slightly itchy (not sure if that was down to the glaring sun also) and I think we have better options on this side of the water.

Lastly then is a packet of Burt's Bees Cucumber Face Wipes
I know, I know. Face wipes; the devils own beauty spawn but needs must and these worked a treat for the couple of days. After that I ended up using them up for perfecting our Day of the Dead face paint for Halloween. These were surprisingly non-abrasive on my skin.

And that is the lot!
I will go into further detail about my Sephora purchases at a later date but for now, have you tried any of these?
Anything there that you'd like to see a more in-depth review on?
To the comments!

Saturday 19 November 2016

Stephen King Bill Hodges Trilogy | Review

Do I need to do the whole "I'm a big Stephen King fan" thing again here? Probably not but sure look, I love his books. He's a mighty fine horror writer but not many people know how well he also writes thrillers, crime novels and just plain old drama.

I've been meaning to read his recent trilogy that begins just after Detective Bill Hodges has retired from the police force. This takes place in Mr Mercedes after the frankly shocking introduction where a car-wielding maniac kills his first victims. I was honestly completely hooked on the first book after only a few pages in. Prepare to give up your valuable conversing time with others, you will be reading this book instead (sorry to Himself). 

Bill has had to retire with the knowledge that the "Mercedes Killer", as he's been branded, is still on the loose with absolutely no leads. Bill is struggling with his retirement- at home on his own, watching daytime TV and contemplating taking his own life with his old service revolver, he feels completely at a loss now that he's a "det ret"(retired detective). That is until he receives a communication from the killer himself, luring him into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. There are some really brilliant characters in this; warm, funny, smart, unusual, evil, disturbed and dangerous. The chapters are alternately written from the viewpoint of Bill and the killer (Brady Hartsfield), so I felt like we got a really well rounded feel for the story. I thought Brady was a brilliant bad guy- he's a high functioning sociopath and also a horrific person so it really adds to the tension and I loved the friendship between Bill and his friends and helpers, Jerome and Holly who become his partners in attempting to stop Mr Mercedes, before it's too late.

Finders Keepers picks up some months after the ending of the fist novel. We now find Bill working away as a private detective of sorts, with Holly acting as his side-kick and in-house computer genius. Again, in this book the chapters are narrated in turn between the baddie (now an ex-con trying to track down the manuscript of a famous author he murdered years before in order to get his last known, unpublished work for himself) and the victim (a teenage boy, who unwittingly finds the manuscript in the house his family have moved to) and then, later on, Bill, once he and Holly are on the case. I struggled a bit with this one if I'm honest. Firstly, there are several instances where the killer recalls times he was raped in prison that I could really have done without listening to (I got this one on audio). We get it Steve, he was brutalised and now has nothing left other then the determination to get back to the manuscript. I also missed that relationship between Bill, Holly and Jerome. Jerome has moved away at this stage and although he pops back a few times, it's not really the same. I couldn't really warm to any of the characters in this bar Bill and Holly and they weren't really in it enough for my liking.

Lastly then, is End of Watch and I was so excited for this one because guess who's back you guys? Brady Hartsfield! He's now in a practically catatonic state following the ending of the first book and although he's deemed to be incapable of virtually the slightest activity, Bill is keeping a close eye on him. Especially as victims of the car attack in Mr Mercedes start taking their own lives in very similar circumstances. This book takes a turn for the supernatural, which although not unusual for King, is unexpected in this particular series. Having said that, it did work in the context of this book but I guess the series was good enough on it's own to not need that added element. That aside, I definitely enjoyed this one more than Finders Keepers and there is a definite ending to this so it won't leave you frustrated but I feel like King takes away with one hand and gives with the other sometimes. There's both a happy and a sad ending to this one.

Overall, I enjoyed the series and I think it shows more than ever that King can write thrillers and crime novels equally as well as he does horror so it's worth picking these up. You could also happily just read the first in the series though and not need to carry on with the other two- Mr Mercedes is pretty perfect on its own!

Have you read any of the Bill Hodges trilogy?
What are you reading right now?
To the comments!

Thursday 3 November 2016

Top Picks: The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Here's a beauty backstory for you to start your day off right! 
My eldest sister worked in The Body Shop in London during the 80's and with her staff discount, she often bought us the little animal soaps, shower gel for our bubble baths and of course, strawberry lip balms. And we loved them. I grew up with a fondness for the store and have always considered their body butters to be in my 'holy grail' list of beauty products. In the last few years I feel like The Body Shop has grown up with me though and it's now a highly coveted beauty/skincare destination. 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Every Christmas I eagerly await their new releases because they always bring it. 
This year is no different and so I popped along to their Christmas gifts launch a couple of weeks ago. They've loads of great ideas for men, women and children so everyone is covered but for reasons including time and space, I won't be going through them all!
Instead, these are my top picks:

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

First up; anything from the Oils of Life range. These are skin-replenshing oils and this particular set (Ultimate Skincare Collection) comes with an Intensely Revitalising Cream, essence lotion, facial oil and sleeping cream (I'm mad into overnight masks these days) and a twin ball massager to get the most out of the facial oil. This is €140 but is particularly good value for all full size products in a great presentation box. 

I'm guilty of buying candles as gifts a lot but they are an ideal present- sure who doesn't like a candle?! These are paraffin-free with an unbleached cotton wick and a blend of essential oils. 
Japanese Camelia or Meditteranean Sea Salt get my vote.

These face masks have been big best sellers for The Body Shop over the last year and you can get two of the most popular ones (Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask and British Rose Fresh Plumping mask) in a beautiful presentation box for only €42.50. Given that these are €25 each on their own, that's a good saving. The idea with that box set is you use the two together- the charcoal on your t-zone and the rose on your cheeks, tapping nicely into the multi-masking trend that's so big at the minute. 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Every year The Body Shop has three fragrance ranges in everything from body scrubs, lotion, body butter, lip balm, hand cream etc. This year we have Frosted berries, Vanilla Chai and Spiced Apple. While all three are lovely, I'd recommend Vanilla Chai; it's surprisingly festive but also mild enough that you won't smell like a walking Christmas tree and you could definitely wear this one well into the new year and beyond. 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Alternatively, you could also just get this set of all three of the body butter, for the perpetually indecisive person! 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Make-up wise there's a whole limited edition collection of vegan/vegetarian friendly cosmetics out for Christmas. I'm gonna need most of this to be honest. On the left are matte liquid lipsticks, again, these have been huge this year and look set to continue as the preferred lipstick finish. These are €13.50 while the matte tube lipsticks on the right are €15.95. The lipsticks are Vegetarian friendly, rather than vegan (the only product in this particular range that isn't vegan also) and are packed with coconut oil so they won't be drying the way matte lipsticks often are. Bonus!

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!
The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Also in the limited edition range are eyeshadow palettes, you can choose from three different quads at €13.50 each. There's a set of cruelty free brushes at €50 and this larger palette (above).
Lastly from the make-up range are these Eye Colour Sticks, €13.50 each. I had a bit of a play with these on the night and honestly, these do not budge once they're on the skin. I washed my hands with soap and water several times and those swatches were still there the next day. You'll need an oil based make-up remover for these, which is great for those of us who put their make-up on at the crack of dawn before work and pray it'll stay put till the end of the day! I have the palest gold but will be going back for the bronze shade for sure- that's an all round winner for every eye colour and looks like you've gone to a lot more effort than you actually have. 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

The piece de resistance however, is as always the advent calendar. This year there's a few different ones depending on your budget, as well as a gift box of the Body Shop's bestsellers from over the last 40 years. That's The Iconic Collection- the full size of €140 for 11 full size products, while The Iconic Collection Mini is €65 for 7 products, all full sizes bar one. I think either of those would be a great introduction to the brand. 

The Body Shop Christmas Gifts 2016!

Back to the deluxe advent calendar though! This has 24 days of treats to open, and at €135 you're doing really well price wise considering how much you're getting. These tend to sell out pretty fast so if you're hoping to get one this year, start dropping hints now!
Alternatively, you could also just treat yo'self!

And that's my lot! As I said there's loads more gifts in store so it's worth popping in yourself to check them out.
Anything here catching your eye? 
Is poor auld Santa gonna have the back broken from carrying all of your Body Shop gift sets?!
To the comments!

*This is not a paid or sponsored post and all opinions are my own, as always!

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Halloween Reads 2016

I've got a whole rake of books on the go at the minute, including my New Orleans reads, but at this time of year I always compile a list of horrors to stack up and this year is no different. I may not get through these but it's worth the old college try!

Stephen King's It
I'm listening to this on Audible and at the time of writing this, I'm just over halfway through. That's a minor achievement right there as this is well over a thousand pages long which translates to just over 44 hours on tape. Pray for me. 
I've been working my way through King's back catalogue for a few years now but I've always held off on 'It' because the film version scared the bejeezus out of me as a little'un and I've never looked at clowns in the same way since. Anyway, the setting is small town Maine, jumping between a group of kids growing up in the 60's, being terrified by an evil that appears as their worst fears and tries to lure them to their deaths and the 80's, where they're now all adults and have to return home to fight the evil again. There are some genuinely horrifying moments in this book that have literally stopped me in my tracks (I listen to it walking on my way to and from work) and I can imagine it's only going to get worse.

Sing Me To Sleep by C R Simms
A young couple move into an isolated cottage in the peak district. All is going well until Laura begins to hear strange sounds. She thinks she's developing tinnitus but her doctor can find nothing wrong. An archaeological dig on a nearby hill uncovers some disturbing finds and things start to get scary for Laura shortly after that. I've had this one on my kindle for a while and I'm finally going to read it!

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward
This is the first in a series of books from blogger Sarah Ward that have been well received. It starts in 1978 when two schoolgirls are walking home. Both are kidnapped but only one is found unharmed and unable to remember anything except that her kidnapper was a woman. Flash forward thirty years later and the mother of the still missing Sophie has killed herself. This event reopens the case, revealing some very dark secrets. This may be more of a thriller than a horror but no harm in mixing things up a bit!

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories
This is a 1983 collection of ghost stories, gathered by the late, great Roald Dahl. As per the man himself, ghost stories should "give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts". Bring it on, Roald!

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
This is a play about the Salem witch trials in the seventeenth century. Based on these events and actual people from the time, Miller's drama has been described as a "searing portrait of a community engulfed in hysteria". We went to Salem last year and did a historical tour that covered all of the witch trials and aside from finding it horrifying, it was also really interesting. I've wanted to read up on it since but have yet to do so…until now!

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Set in suburban New England, a family is distraught to learn that their fourteen year old daughter Marjorie has begun to show signs of acute schizophrenia. Things get worse when the doctors looking after her are unable to treat her apparent mental health problems and driven to despair, her parents approach a local priest for help. He decides an exorcism is the only way forward and contacts a television production company looking for stars of their new reality show, 'The Posession'. With mounting medical bills the family have no choice but to let the cameras into their house of horrors. Fifteen years later Marjorie's little sister is interviewed by a best selling author about this time in their lives. This has been described as a "mind bending psychological horror", but I'm mostly drawn to what a unique concept it is for a book! I'll report back!

That's the lot for now but I may still throw in a Point Horror for old times sake!
What's on your Halloween book list? Have you read any of these?
To the comments!

Friday 21 October 2016

New Orleans Themed Reads!

I like to read books that are based in the places I'm visiting and we're off to N'awlans very soon! I read Breakfast at Tiffany's in New York, Stephen King in Maine and I planned to read Burial Rites while in Iceland but we did so much trekking about glaciers that that didn't happen. Good intentions and all that. 
So I'm going to try again with some New Orleans based reads. I'm limiting it to three because I don't plan on spending all my time reading but do let me know if I've missed anything hugely obvious here that I need to download pre-flight!

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice.
I attempted to read this as a child when the film came out in the 90's but for some reason I didn't get into it and never finished it. I'm sure we've all seen the aforementioned film version of this where both Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are rides so you probably know the gist of the plot but basically this was a whole series from Anne Rice about the vampire Lestat and his immortal chums/enemies, with New Orleans as a primary backdrop. That seems like an ideal setting for a tale about the undead what with NOLA's connection with voodoo etc. 

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Obviously I've seen the film of the same name and I've read some other works by Tennessee Williams so it's really about time that I read Streetcar. Blanche DuBois, having money troubles, travels to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and her husband, Stanley. Tensions arise when Blanche complains about the shabbiness of their home and Blanche and Stanley share a mutual dislike. Things go from bad to worse for both women, mostly at the hands of Stanley. I can't really say anymore there without giving away the plot!

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This was published posthumously and won the Pulitzer prize. Ignatius is the main character, living with his mother in uptown New Orleans in the 1960's. He's described as 'eccentric, idealistic and creative- almost to the point of delusion' and hates all things modern or related to popular culture. He loves his home city and constantly bores his friends with the tale of his abortive attempt to leave. Sounds like an interesting fella!

So those are my three. Have I left out any glaringly obvious choices? Let me know in the comments, or if you've read any of these!

Sunday 16 October 2016

New England Road Trip: Salem.

I am at last getting around to blogging about this part of our New England road trip (read more of that HERE). It's been a year now as we were there in September and October of 2015 but sure better late than never. I mostly wanted to keep Salem til now as it's coming up to Halloween and is the perfect time to reflect on our experience there. You should know in advance that I am a major lover of all things Autumn and Halloween so this was basically Chloe heaven. America is big on Halloween at the best of times and Salem was like that but on speed. And we were there two weeks before the actual event itself so that should tell you something. 


Where To Stay
Really, you can stay wherever you like as there's plenty of options but we stayed in a fab B&B that I felt was worth sharing. The owners of The Stepping Stone Inn were so friendly and really helpful when it came to advising us on where to eat and what tour to go on etc. Plus we loved the historical house and the decor was very cool. 

The stepping stone inn salem
the stepping stone inn salem

It was also really close to the centre of town so we were able to walk everywhere, which was super handy.

Where To Eat
We found a great deli that do the best sandwiches. We stopped into Scratch Kitchen on our last day for lunch and were served bacon dusted popcorn (amazing) while we waited for our Reuben's. Well worth a stop in!


Where To Shop
Salem is a beautiful place to walk around and window shop. There's lots of great book stores, tourist gift shops and witch/Hocus Pocus related stops plus, street stalls! 
I particularly loved a vintage style shop, Modern Millie, where I fell hard for the Dickens book clutch (below), that I sadly had no room for in my suitcase. There were also lots of cool 50's style dresses. Swoon. 

bewitched in salem

Bewitched In Salem is a good shop to go to for all things spooky; horror books, t-shirts, post cards, collectibles, figurines etc. Our tour also left from this spot, see more of that below. 

What Tour To Go On (cause you NEED to do a tour. Salem is history central).
Right. So there's loads of tours you can do but the Bewitched In Salem tour is widely considered to be the best and most historically accurate. Our tour guide started by saying that there would be no amateur dramatics because the real history of the town and the Salem witch trials were scarier than anything you could make up and he was so right. 

bewitched in salem tour

He took us through exactly what happened and brought us to all of the places where these horrific events took place. The tour was at night which added to the atmosphere but was chilly, so wear layers and wrap up! It's also worth booking in advance for this because it tends to get full up fast. 


We went back the following day to see the graveyard as it's illegal to go in there at night.
Our guide had told us which gravestones to look out for, including the worst judge of all that ordered the most amount of executions. Scary stuff. A lot of it was quite sad too so be prepared to feel a bit shaken after it.


This is the Salem monument to the victims of the witch trials; all of the stones around the green represent a victim and how they were killed. 
If you're wondering what "pressed to death" involves, just know that it's extremely grim. 

On a much lighter note, there's different Halloween events on every year with lots of delicious food stalls and fun things to do, like making a show of ourselves:


Then there's the specific witch related popular culture things to do, like visiting shoot locations from Hocus Pocus (the town hall where they filmed the enchanted all-night Halloween party for example, below) and the Samantha from Bewitched statue. It's illegal to not stand beside it and pose like a fool. No, really. Start practising your nose twitch now.


Salem was one of my favourite stops on our trip. We were only there for one night but we made the most of it and did as much as we could and cause of that, we got a really good feel for the place. I'd go back in a heartbeat. It was a really atmospheric place and that aside, it's also a very aesthetically pleasing town with lots to see and do. It's one hell of a history lesson to get too! 


Have you been to Salem? 
Where's next on your travel lust list?!