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Wednesday 27 January 2016

Audiovisual Favourites of 2015!

I somehow didn't write any 'Best of 2015' posts this year but that was not for want of ideas. I had loads of products and books I loved last year but my brain was all fluey when everyone else was posting great articles on their favourites so now I'm doing the same but for a slight difference, here's my audiovisual favourites, of which there are many.
I've learned a couple of things from concocting this; I'm a podcast convert and I apparently watch far too much Netflix, mainly. 
Hopefully my favourites for 2016 will be a bit more 'fresh air, jogging etc' and less of this lot:

A sneak peek inside my bedroom..except that my hair is never that swishy, nor am I that doe-eyed.

(In no particular order)

1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
How could you not love Kimmy? Look at how bright and cheerful she is, in spite of having been kept underground in a doomsday cult for the last 15 years with three other women by a fake prophet (an actor who features elsewhere on this list in another TV show..)
And that's the thing about Kimmy; determined to be seen as herself and not a victim, she travels to New York with just her positivity and a plan to start a new life. There she meets and moves in with Titus Andromedan, a struggling actor with about a gazzilon hilarious lines. She gets a job as a nanny for an insanely out-of-touch socialite and slowly starts to get used to the world as it is now, with lots of brilliant pop culture references. One of my favourites:
Kimmy: You ARE gong to sing at the Grammy's with Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson!
Titus: Bad examples, but YES!
Love it. It's penned by the glorious Tina Fey and if that's not enough there's that extremely catchy theme tune (females are strong as hell…) and of course, Peeno Noir (or Pinot Noir, where the reference comes from), an ode to Black Penis. Amazing. 

2. Mad Max: Fury Road.
I have vague recollections of seeing 80's Mad Max and those recollections aren't super great but this updated version with Tom Hardy as the eponymous character blew away all that came before it. Set in a blistering dystopian desert landscape, Max finds himself captured by cult leader Immortan Joe and whilst trying to escape, ends up joining forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), also escaping but with auld Joe's prized possessions; his harem of beautiful young women he keeps to impregnate. Delightful.
Luckily for Max, Furiosa is amazing at everything and is possibly the greatest female action hero that ever there lived. At the time of its release, lots of MRA's (that's Men's Rights Activists, in case you've been lucky enough to avoid them up to now) went on sad little rants about how Max was emasculated by Furiosa and what a disgrace it was that this film was ostensibly a feminist masterpiece, an opinion Tom Hardy memorably ridiculed during a press conference. I have yet to re-watch it to see if it holds up as well on a smaller screen, I doubt it will be as much of an assault on the senses as it was in the cinema but I'm sure it's still as thrilling as it was on first viewing.

3. Serial, series 1.
I got to this particular party very late but last Summer I listened to podcast series, Serial and quickly got hooked on the true story of murdered teenager Hae Min Lee and her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed who was convicted for her murder, with only the testimony of his best friend used as evidence against him.
As the story wore on, I, like everyone else went through all of the same thoughts "he's innocent!", "err, that sounds really dodgy. Maybe he is guilty?" etc. There's no real conclusion to the end of the first series so I was really hoping for a second instalment of Adnan's case, unfortunately the second series is about an entirely different crime. Boo. 

4. Daredevil
Netflix have produced some really great series over the last couple of years, including Daredevil, based on the Marvel graphic novels. Matt Murdock is Daredevil, a blind lawyer-by-day and a crime stopping super hero by night, on the streets of New York. In particular he finds himself fighting against the exploits of baddie Wilson Fisk with the help of his work buddies Foggy and Karen and super nurse Claire who pops around to stitch him back up after his particularly bad spats. The fight scenes are pretty incredible; there's a whole scene conducted in a hallway that's a continuous shot lasting five and a half minutes..unreal! Series two, coming soon!

5. Master of None
Another great Netflix original series, Master of None is the product of the genius that is Aziz Ansari. I love this man's style, his book Modern Romance was brilliant as was his role in Parks and Rec and his stand up comedy so I was very excited about this series which he co-wrote and stars in. He plays Dev, an actor living in New York and tackling all the big life issues; having kids, love, living with someone, racism in show business, racism in everything, family (in particular, the sacrifices our parents made for us that we have zero understanding or comprehension of), feminism and how women's everyday experiences of life differ to men because of the actions of men. Overall it was a thought-provoking series but intertwined with a perfect balance of honesty and humour. I just found it really enjoyable, so much so that we decided after only one episode that we had to ration the series so we would savour it, rather than tear through it like we normally do!

6. Catastrophe
Now just finished its second series, Catastrophe follows Sharon and Rob (Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney) on their journey through impending parenthood following a one night (more like a week) stand. Nothing is off bounds and sometimes the humour veers towards the very rude and the very cringe but both of the main actors and all of the supporting cast are brilliant; it's a clever and warm show in spite of the intended crassness it sometimes produces. 

7. No Offence
This was towards the start of the year and so I almost forgot about it. In fact, I couldn't remember the name except to say "what was that brilliant cop drama/comedy on Channel4 that we loved called?"
Set in Manchester and featuring the city's police force as they track down a serial murderer of girls with Down Syndrome, it sounds like horrendous viewing but somehow the use of dark humour made it one of the best made shows we watched all year. It's very clever and absolutely addictive viewing plus the three main characters are all strong but flawed women, each with very different personalities who all add something separate to the unfolding drama. Prepare for a big twist in the tale as the killer is revealed towards the end of its run! It's already been commissioned for a second series and I cannot wait. 

8. It Follows
This is a super creepy horror with a difference. The premise here is that there is a sexually transmitted curse that takes the form of a very disturbing looking person following you. It could be anyone but you'll know they're following you because they're coming straight for you and will destroy you in the most violent way possible. No one else can see this person, just you and they are always after you. They can get in anywhere and find you anywhere; you can try and put distance between you but they will catch up. You can try passing the curse on by having sex with other people but that's only delaying the inevitable. Once the person you had sex with is killed, they're coming for you again.
The main character here, Jay, finds out she has this curse after she sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time. He was trying to pass it on so now she has to find a way to get rid of it with the help of her friends and her sister, without having to give the curse to some other poor unsuspecting person.
There are so many jumpy moments in this film, I was beyond freaked out. Its beauty lies in the fact that you never know when the next scare is coming and visually it's quite mesmerising too. Every scene has a somewhat hazy quality to it and overall it feels quite dreamlike- the film features things like a clamshell e-reader, 50's style cars, and an 80's synth soundtrack, all designed to confuse you so you can't tell what era it's taking place in. The cinematography is also quite startling and overall, you're left a bit discombobulated by the entire film. It's a horror but not as we know it. If you're sick and tired of torture porn, this new breed of clever horror is definitely for you. 

9. The Irish Times Women's Podcast
I don't know how I didn't know about these podcasts until this past year but I've made up for it since. Featuring interviewees like Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), DJ Alison Curtis, Tara Flynn and Roisin Ingle discussing the impact of telling their abortion stories, authors Anne Enright, Pauline McLynn, Marian Keyes and Louise O'Neill and journalists and activists like Una Mullally and Ailbhe Smyth, there really was a wide variety of female perspectives explored. Personally I drew inspiration form a conversation with Marian Keyes, Aisling McDermott and Laura Kennedy about the power of make-up, HERE

10. Macbeth.
Possibly the most visually arresting imagery from the whole year (on a par with Mad Max), Macbeth maintained the Shakespearean language and the rough and raw energy of the original play but added in vast swathes of colour; yellows and reds that subsumed the entire cinema screen and gritty performances from Michael Fassbender and Marian Cotillard that at times felt intolerably grim (that bonfire scene, for instance). I previously had read the play but as I hadn't studied it in school, I had never had as deep a connection to it as I had King Lear or Romeo & Juliet so it almost felt like a new discovery seeing this on the big screen. It is a stunning film and easy to follow in spite of the aforementioned Shakespearean dialect. 

11. Jessica Jones.
Another Marvel superhero adaptation on Netflix. Similar to Daredevil, this was a slightly darker take on the graphic novel with Kristen Ritter playing the Jessica Jones to David Tennant's really very bad baddie, Kilgrave. Jones has super-strength and uses her powers mostly for good…she does drink a lot and treats herself terribly though. She's a private investigator and is generally pretty successful as she can more than hold her own but she gets a bit derailed when her arch nemesis Kilgrave starts showing up. After being a victim of his mind control, she's determined to put a stop to him for good. How do you stop someone who can control your every movement though? That's basically what she spends the series trying to figure out, with the help of her friend and kind of sister, Trish (who is also very capable) and her sometimes lover, Luke Cage (also a superhero and also getting his own series. He's pretty cool too so that should be interesting!)
 It was great to see a female-led superhero show that was as cool as anything the menz could do cause let's face it, Supergirl was pretty awful. 

12. Mad Men, final series.
I loved Mad Men. I remember when we first started watching it; himself and I had only recently started going out and it was the first series we binge-watched together (the romance). We very quickly grew addicted to the clever and sometimes very poignant story lines, the complicated characters (there's no point in me listing them, ALL of them were multi-layered and could be hated one minute and yet loved the next) and of course the perfect vintage styling, set pieces, real-life ad campaigns (Kodak carousel, anyone? Sniff..), real historical moments like the assassination of JFK and the first man on the moon, which somehow gave you a strong sense of nostalgia for a time you weren't even alive for! Phew!
It was just such a well made and brilliant show.
We finally caught up a few months after the finale first aired and although the final series was about a million miles away from where the show first started, I was touched by how it ended- it felt like it was all going down a very depressing road when it was pulled back at the last minute and they gave us the most gloriously triumphant Don Draper-esque ending that we could ever have hoped for. I had an actual beaming smile on my face for that last scene.
It still makes me a little bit emotional when I think about it..I know that's silly but that's eight years of my TV life right there, people!*

*need to get out more*

13. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Amy and Woman In Gold i.e films I watched and cried loudly to on the plane to and from America.
Yeah, I cry at everything anyway, but put me on a long flight, possibly with a mini gin & tonic and then give  me ALL the films with which I could possibly cry over and you my friend, have a sodden Chloe-mess on your hands.

I hadn't read the book that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was based on but I would no doubt have cried at the ending of that too. The main character, Greg is forced by his mother to befriend her friends daughter who has just been diagnosed with cancer. They quickly become firm buddies and he becomes a constant in her life- he's there every day, regardless of chemo, depression, happy or sad times and soon he and his other friend Earl are tasked with making her one of their unique home-made indie films. Obviously I made a complete show of myself on the plane when this was on because it was sweet and funny and sad all at the same time.
Amy is the docu-film made about the life of tragic singer, Amy Winehouse and although I knew the story it was almost shocking to see the timeline of her downfall reduced to film-length. I had forgotten all about her absolute waster of a husband and her father, both of whom seemed to add to her issues rather than help her. Overall it's just a very sad look at an extremely talented woman, let down by those closest to her. Worth a watch for fans of hers and just fans of music and pop culture alike.
Woman In Gold was one we both watched on the plane on the way over. Helen Mirren plays a Jewish survivor of WW2, now living in America and running a fashion boutique. She finds out that the government of Austria, where she is from, have a painting of her aunt on display as belonging to Austria. This was a famous painting by Klimt which was stolen from her family by the Nazis in Vienna in WW2. Because this is the last link she has to her aunt, she sets out with her small-town lawyer (played by Ryan Reynolds) to get her painting back. A seemingly impossible task, you might think!
At one stage himself turned to me and was all: "are you crying again?!"
Me: "blub...the nazis..her family..blub" etc.

14. Star Wars; The Force Awakens
So, I have of course seen all of the original Star Wars films and the (terrible) prequels. God, not even Ewan McGregor could save them but The Force Awakens was most excellent. Some have argued that the reason why it's so loved is because it has a fair old whack of nostalgia and references to the original films from the 70's and to be fair it does feature the return of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and Mark Hamill but it also has Rey and Finn, two brilliant new characters (pictured above) who were badly needed to shake up the usual Star Wars style.
Rey is a scavenger who becomes part of the Resistance; she's tough and can fight better than most of the men, she clearly has "the force" and more than holds her own against baddie Kilo Ren. If she's that good now, wait 'til she's been properly trained by a Jedi! For the first time in my life I understand Star Wars fever and I am so on board for the next instalment!!

15. Making A Murderer.
You'll surely have heard of this hit Netflix documentary by now but just in case; Stephen Avery, a man from small town Wisconsin with little intelligence and possibly a learning disability, was originally convicted of a crime he didn't commit and went to prison for 18 years. He eventually won his freedom but fell on the wrong side of the law again whilst fighting for compensation he rightfully deserved. The documentary follows his case from the beginning and looks at his family (all of whom are suspicious, if you ask me) and those involved with the case; the extremely dodgy local police force, the prosecutors, investigators and of course, the defence lawyers who are all kinds of amazing. If you haven't seen it yet, go now! You'll be immediately hooked!

And lastly, I've added in a 16th, just cause..

16. Grace and Frankie.
I know, more Netflix. Netflix is great thought guys, seriously*.
Anyway, Grace and Frankie are middle-aged women with grown up kids who find themselves thrown together when their husbands reveal they are in love and have been having a secret affair for most of their lives. The first series follows their new lives now the two women have moved in together and are trying to date again for the first time in years and get used to no longer being married. This series was very funny and you honestly won't do any better than Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda together; two amazing actors!!

What were your audiovisual favourites of 2015?

*I promise I was not paid by Netflix for this post!

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Cosmic Beauty Advent Calendar 2015: Worth The Price?

I hadn't planned on getting a beauty advent calendar last year but I found myself stuck in hospital over November and the first week of December and realised I was very regretful that I hadn't bought myself a daily treat for the run-up to Christmas. Step in my rather lovely husband who dropped this into my sick bed when I needed it most (I was practically climbing the walls at that stage).
I'd previously never tried the Lancome advent calendar and when I snapchatted/tweeted/instagrammed etc about it, it seemed lots of you hadn't either so I thought I'd review it here in case you're considering it for next year. A long way off, I know but time goes fast and you can check back on this in 11 months time!

Cosmic Beauty Advent Calendar 2015

The details:
Unlike some advent calendars (looking at you Charlotte Tilbury), there are 24 doors to open here so you feel like you're getting a bit more for your money, which in this case was €120. 
The CT by comparison was €195, which I felt was too steep for what amounted to mini samples and half of the amount at that. 
This fella featured brands such as YSL, Viktor & Rolf, Kiehls and the aforementioned L'ancôme.

What exactly was in there?
What wasn't in there, am I right?!

L'ancôme Rénergie Multi-Lift Crème with SPF 15 15ml. 
L'ancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate, 7ml.
L'ancôme Visionaire Advanced Multi-Correcting Cream, 15ml.
L'ancôme Visionnaire Yeux Perfecting Corrector, 5ml. 
L'ancôme Gentle Softening Cleansing Fluid for Face & Eyes, 50ml.
L'ancôme Softening Hydrating Toner, 50ml.
L'ancôme Sensitive Eye Instant Cleanser, 30ml.
L'ancôme Absolue Premium Regenerating & Replenishing Care SPF 15, 15ml.
L'ancôme Hypnôse Mascara, 2ml.
L'ancôme Hypnôse Noir Hypnotic Mascara, 2ml. 
L'ancôme Rouge In Love Lipstick

Cosmic Beauty Advent Calendar 2015

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser, 30mls.
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate (Can't remember ow much was in this but it was a sachet style container that went everywhere- annoying as I love this stuff but the packaging was not appropriate).
Kiehl's Creme de Corps, 30mls.
Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate, 5mls.

YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer, 10mls.
YSL Forever Youth Liberator Serum, 7mls. 

Shu Uemura Skin Purifier Ultimate8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil, 15mls.

Urban Decay Primer Potion

Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb, 7ml.
Emporio Armani Diamonds, 7ml
L'ancôme La Vie Est Belle, 4ml.
Giorgio Armani Sì, 7ml.
YSL Black Opium, 7ml. 

Would I recommend?
I definitely would. It was a wonderful treat to open up a door every day to really decent sized minis, in particular the super cute baby bottles of perfume, which will be very handy for travel and just to line up on my bedside table to help me feel like a giant. 
I can't count the amount of times I opened a door and excitedly went to tell himself about the fab new gift for that day to hear him say "that really was a great buy". 
We were both delighted to be honest. Me, to get to try all the fab skincare and perfume and himself for such successful present buying! In comparison to other advent calendars I've had in the past, this was easily my favourite.

Favourite products?
So far (because I actually haven't tried everything yet);

Cosmic Beauty Advent Calendar 2015

All of the perfumes! Black Opium is one of my all time favourites. I have a full size but it's great having a smaller version to pop in my bag. Same goes for Flowerbomb, I love it but I currently don't have a full size so this is great! 
I also love La Vie Est Belle, I'm using a rollerball of it at the minute but these small versions last ages too so it's another great one to have on the go. 
I've previously owned and liked Diamonds and although is new to me, I'm loving it; it's fresh and delicately sweet and will be perfect for Summer. 

L'ancôme Absolue is a gorgeous daily moisturiser; it sinks in easily, feels luxurious and contains an SPF 15. A 20ml size would set you back €80 and so far this is lasting really well so I'm feeling quite smug about that. 
I also have been loving the Visionnaire Eye Perfecting Cream; it's light and feels lovely and soothing on the under-eye area. 

I was delighted about the YSL Blur Primer because I had tried it on at a YSL counter and really liked it but couldn't justify the price at the time (full size is €38 for 30ml) so this is great to try and again, the sample size goes a long way. I also love the YSL Youth Serum, which feels incredibly silky and softening on the skin.

Cosmic Beauty Advent Calendar 2015

I'm a big fan of Kiehl's and so it's great to have a mini size of the Creme de Corps and I'm delighted with the size of the Facial Cleanser, which I previously hadn't tried. 

All of the Lancôme cleanser, toner and eye make-up remover minis are ideal too for travel and the eye make-up remover from them is actually my all time favourite. Score!

I'm also really pleased with the eyeshadow primer potion from Urban Decay; it's been years since I used this one and a good while since I used any eye make-up primer so I've been using this lately and have been really impressed at the difference in durability of my eyeshadow. I do remember that the tube of primer would be gone off before I'd get a chance to finish it so the mini size will actually work in my favour here I think.

So far those are my favourites, but as I said, I have yet to try everything!

Did you get a beauty advent calendar this year? Would you get this one do you think?

Thursday 21 January 2016

Christmas Book Haul!

This was delayed in reaching you purely because of laziness but I received some truly beautiful books for Christmas so better late than never!

So many lovely new reads.

I'll look at the top three there in a minute but I'm loving the feminist theme to the bottom three; Suffragette and Gráinne Mhaol are both graphic novels about strong women while Women Will Save The World (we can thank the Dalai Lama for that title by the way!) is ideal for anyone interested in gender studies (points to myself) and what I particularly like about this one is that it has quite a positive vibe to it. Often, feminist non-fiction text can be a bit depressing but I feel like this book is the opposite! 

Keeping with a feminist theme, The Long Gazeback is an anthology of Irish women writers including Anne Enright, Kate O' Brien, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Anne Devlin, to name a few.

Choupette and Irish Bitches Be Crazy were bought as light hearted reads, the latter is supposedly very funny while the former is only going to fuel my adoration for that super spoiled Chanel cat to be honest. 

Here are those super gorgeous books I mentioned:

And of course, this dreamy edition of Little Women that I first spotted in a small town in Maine but had no room in my luggage home for. 
Himself remembered it and bought it for me alongside Good Behaviour and A Christmas Carol

I hugged this when I opened it. I know. You have to understand though how often I re-read Little Women as a little woman myself and of course the sheer beauty of this edition. 

I've heard so much about Joyce Carol Oates so I'm delighted to now have Carthage, a thriller about the disappearance of a young girl. 
You Should Have Known is about a woman forced to look at her idyllic life with horror after her husband's mysterious disappearance while After The Crash is a mystery surrounding a plane crash, spanning 18 years. I'm very partial to a good thriller/mystery so I can't wait to read these!

Shotgun Lovesongs is about four young men coming of age in a small American town and has been described as "the kind of book that restores your faith in humanity". Ah, yes please!

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group and has written this book on re-evaluating what it means to be successful in today's world following an injury brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As someone who has also had to re-evaluate what success means for me, I'm interested to read what conclusions Arianna came to. 

I read one of Dawn French's books last year and either laughed out loud or wept quietly throughout the entire book so I really can't wait to get stuck in to According To Yes

Very much next on my to-read list from this lot though?

I read an excerpt from this memoir by Drew Barrymore last year and it left me eager for more plus I find her a fascinating person. 
That aside, what a stunning looking book, am I right?!

Lastly and also along the same vein of "what a beautiful looking book but also one I really want to read" is The Hive. I've seen a good bit about this book which looks at the Mean Girls world (for mums) of the school gates and has been described as 'clever and witty', with 'just the right mix of satire and affection'. Sounds good, eh?!

Have you read any of these?
Did you get any lovely books for Christmas?

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cream | Review

This was one of my many recent Sephora purchases and a successful one at that! It was on my to-buy list before we went to New York after reading lots of great reviews. 
Kate Somerville is the founder of a Skin Health Experts Clinic and the owner of a range of clinic-developed and tested products, loved by celebrities. Made with the highest quality ingredients, not tested on animals and winners of several prestigious awards, this is a super fancy brand but is it worth its hefty price tag?

Kate Somerville Goat Milk

Obviously, there's a huge range of products, for different skin types and ailments but I'm all about the dry skin solutions so I was immediately drawn to the Goat's Milk cream. This is a restorative moisturiser to soothe dry or damaged skin and costs a princely $65. 

The primary ingredients are the aforementioned Goat Milk which is rich in natural lactose to soothe and moisturise. Grape Seed Extract is a natural antioxidant, designed to neutralise free radicals.
Naturally soothing Aloe is there to calm the skin and finally, Jojoba and Avocado to hydrate, condition and smooth.

Recommended use is twice a day on clean skin. On first use I was a bit confused, the consistency feels quite light and initial application is almost like putting moisturiser onto wet skin. I was all "HOW is this going to absorb?" and yet after just five seconds of massaging, there it was, my skin was soft and the cream was as one with my skin, as if by magic. 

Yes, it is witchcraft, sure look at the packaging!

Kate Somerville Goat Milk

My skin has been super happy with this since I've been using it (almost two months now). It feels like a fancy version of a dermatologist-created moisturiser; as in, it's good quality but isn't just for show like a lot of skincare from big cosmetic brands. There's no heavy, cloying scent and it's comforting whilst being effective. For me, I'll always mix and match my skincare, it's kind of my thing, so I'll happily spend more and also less to find the best products out there. 

Big thumbs up for Kate Somerville, only problem now is that I want several other products from the brand. 

Thursday 14 January 2016

The Manizer Sisters AKA The Luminizers Palette | Review

Ok, beauty blogger confession time; I (until now) have owned none of the Luminizer highlighters. Surprising, as the majority of beauty obsessed peeps I know have at least one of the three highlighters, usually Mary-Lou Manizer.
I could never decide between Mary or Cindy-Lou and now I don't have to as I have all three, Betty-Lou being the third. And here they are in all their pretty glory, in this handy new palette from The Balm:

The Manizer Sisters AKA The Luminizers Palette
The Manizer Sisters AKA The Luminizers Palette

Mary-Lou is described as a honey-hued luminizer although I'd probably describe it as more of a golden champagne. It's a fairly dramatic highlighter but there's no glitter in it; it's smooth and flattering and I would say it's on a par with the Charlotte Tilbury highlighter (in the Filmstar Bronze & glow palette) that I already love except that Mary-Lou is a good bit brighter in tone.

Cindy-Lou on the other hand is a peachy-pink, light-reflecting pressed powder that can be used as a subtle highlighter, an eyeshadow or a warming blusher. I can't imagine using this as an eyeshadow as I'm averse to the bunny-eyed pink look but it definitely works as a blush, although I generally prefer a matte blush. It is also pretty as a highlighter though and I think it gives a nice understated glow. Mary-Lou is definitely more in your face and Cindy is her more chill sister.

Finally there's Betty-Lou, the bronzed babe of the trio. This is also recommended as a 3-in-1 and unlike Cindy, is kind of an ideal eyeshadow as well as being a great bronzer. You can't use this one for contouring, as it's shimmery and personally I think it's too much bronze to use as a highlighter for those with very pale skin, such as myself but it does give a lovely warm glow and would work well as a bronzer and to highlight darker skin tones.

I love the pigmentation in these; they're finely milled and are very pretty on. All three of these are €20.50 for the individual full sizes whereas the trio costs €28.00. For me, this is the perfect palette as I'm getting to try them all and even though they are smaller sizes, it's very unlike me to be able to finish a full highlighter, so this will work out economically for the better! 
And that, ladies and gents, is how you justify an unnecessary purchase. 

You can find the Manizer Sisters palette HERE from Cloud 10 Beauty.

Have you tried any of these lovely highlighters? Which is your favourite?

Wednesday 13 January 2016

New Releases From No.7 & Botanics

January really is the worst, isn't it? We're all supposed to be getting started on our New Years resolutions; getting fit, eating well, abstaining from alcohol and meanwhile there's a nasty flu-like bug going around and it's freezing cold and dark outside.
Permanently cold and dark, or so it seems. It almost feels like punishment to be looking after ourselves when all I really want to do is pull the quilt over my head and eat ALL the carbs. One small step I am going to take for the moment is to look after my skin a bit better. 
So, current situation is this; I have dehydrated skin generally but it's also a bit dry at the moment. The heat is on full blast, I have said aforementioned flu-like bug and so my skin is in bits. 
Step forward, new releases from No.7 and Botanics. I've been a long time fan of both skincare brands (HERE and HERE) and always greatly anticipate new products from both.

I have previously never tried anything from the Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced range so I'm really looking forward to trying the Moisturising Body Serum (€34.50 for 200ml). The idea behind this is that generally, we focus on our face when it comes to anti-ageing skincare, often neglecting our poor bodies. Since I turned 30 I have been more aware of looking after my neck and décolletage but really, I haven't done much other than every so often try and remember to bring my moisturiser down onto my neck. This serum is designed to smooth the texture of your skin to visibly improve signs of ageing on the body, so that you hopefully won't have to do anything else! Plus it contains hyaluronic acid and argan oil so it'll help sort out your dry skin. For the lazy person (i.e me), that sounds pretty ideal! I think body serums are going to be big this year so I'm delighted to have a head start!

Not skincare but I'm happy to see there's also a new mascara out. I really like No.7 mascaras and Velvet Lash (18.50) looks lovely. It's designed to leave your lashes soft and voluminous but also defined so that they appear natural but glamorous.

Given my love for the Botanics Cleansing Balm, I'm pleased to see there's a new Botanics cleanser; Hydration Burst Dual Action Cleanser (€8.29). Containing active plant extract, Clary Sage, which is rich in flavenoids known to hydrate and soothe, this whole range sounds like a big glass of water for your skin and I am very much on board with that! 
This applies as a gel but transforms into an oil. It easily removes make-up with when you wash off and it's ideal for sensitive and dehydrated skin. 
There's three other new products in this range, including a 3 in 1 Micellar cleanser, a day cream and a day lotion.

I also have the Hydrating Burst Day Cream ( €10.99) to try out. I've only tried this on the back of my hand so far but it feels light and non-greasy and left that little patch of skin feeling nice and soft. It's designed to provide 24 hours of hydration and leave your skin smooth.

I will try all of these and report back but for the moment are there any of the new releases you're going to be treating yourself to for the new year? I'm particularly looking forward to trying the body serum and the gel cleanser!

*This is not a sponsored post but products featured in this post were provided for review. All opinions my own, as always!

Monday 11 January 2016

Recently Read: November & December

The last of my book reviews from 2015 and this means that I've reached my Goodreads target of 50 books to read throughout the year. Yay! Technically, I'm just over that with 51 books…but that's just being persnickety. I read more than that the year before and have set more targets for myself for the year ahead too (HERE).
That sounds pretty stringent but if I don't set a goal, I won't read as many books as I'd like to, or as many different genres.
Anyway, for now here's what I've just read:

Woman In The Making: A Memoir by Rory O'Neill
This was the most recent book choice for my book club and as a long time admirer of Panti, I really enjoyed this look at the life of one of Ireland's biggest advocates for LGBTQ rights. 
Starting from Rory O' Neills idyllic childhood in the 1970's in Mayo through to his stay in Japan and the birth of Panti during club nights where he first learnt the art of drag, to being diagnosed with HIV, right up to his role in the fight for marriage equality last year. I really enjoyed this memoir, Rory has had a really interesting life so far and strikes me as an intelligent and humorous person. If you're looking for an absorbing autobiography, this is a good place to start.

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
I'd class Louise O'Neill's second novel as the book of the year for 2015, even though it took me a while to get to it! Emma is the queen bee of her social circle; teen girls in a small suburb of Dublin. The somewhat-friends are in their final year of school and attend a house party one weekend where a lot of alcohol and some drugs are taken in large quantities. Before Emma passes out she's behaved pretty poorly and treated her friends quite badly- there's something under the surface of their friendships from the start of the book and it's this that's one of the most clever elements to Asking For It. Emma isn't a likeable character by any means; you're not rooting for her and you spend the first half of the book wishing she would treat people a little better. What works well about this is that O'Neill is making the point that you very much do not have to be the "perfect" victim; anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, regardless of how good or bad they are. 
Emma wakes up the next day, having been tossed from a car into her parents front garden and is horrified to find that a Facebook page has been created to showcase graphic photos of her sexual assault at the hands of male friends of hers, all well-respected in the area. She remembers none of what happened and it's from there that the real nightmare begins. O'Neill has managed to accurately capture how our society treats female rape victims, especially where young women are concerned and indeed, young male perpetrators who were deemed to be "upstanding citizens". It's probably one of the most devastating books I've ever read; when I finished it I cried angry tears and it took a while before I stopped thinking about Emma. I'd recommend everyone read this and furthermore, it should be required reading for all teenagers.

The Call of the Wild: Travels in American Subcultures by Louis Theroux
I've been a long time fan of BBC documentary maker, Louis Theroux. This book is a culmination of all of his "weird weekend" shows where he stayed with the likes of alien hunters, porn-film makers, neo-Nazis and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. The idea behind this book is to see what has become of these people since, how they feel about Louis since the documentaries aired and what it is that attracts Louis to the weirder elements out there. 
I got this on Audible, which definitely added a lot to it. Louis reads it himself and bizarrely, does a whole range of American accents too. At times it is really interesting and funny but overall, I found it a little bit lacklustre. I'd probably have preferred to have just watched the documentaries again if I'm honest; I didn't learn a whole lot more about these people than I already knew and I found myself tuning out often, which is unusual for me when listening to audiobooks. 

The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie
I bought this for my kindle for when I was in hospital as I obviously wasn't feeling great and wanted to have a book on standby that wouldn't be super hard to get into. The 13 problems involves thirteen different short stories all involving Miss Marple and a group of friends, all of whom seem to have had at least one bizarre mystery in their lives, involving an unexplained death. Sure enough, Miss Marple solves each case where no one else can, cause she's great. Either that or she somehow killed all of those people, as I suspect she has in every other Marple book too. 
Herself and Jessica Fletcher, always up to no good. 
Anyway, this one was grand, not the best Marple but entertaining nonetheless. 

The Book of You by Claire Kendal
I had read loads of reviews of this last year that described it as a really gripping thriller. It's mostly a novel about stalking and is incredibly dark at times. Clarissa is relieved to be called for jury duty as it means she'll have potentially weeks away from Rafe, a work colleague who has insidiously wormed his way into her life. Everywhere she turns, he's there. He sends her unnerving 'gifts' and disturbing letters and won't take no for an answer. As the trial progresses and the details of what happened to the victim are revealed, Clarissa starts to see similarities between herself and this woman and realises she can't go on like she is but will she manage to stop Rafe before it's too late? 
As it turned out, this was a very gripping read but probably one I could have done without if I'm honest. It was very graphic at times and seemed to be unnecessarily salacious when it came to detailing sexual assaults. It's definitely a good thriller; I was on the edge of my seat for most of it but I don't know if I'd recommend this one.

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon
I requested a copy of this on NetGalley and although it wasn't the most seasonally appropriate book to read, I still enjoyed it. The story starts with 30-something year old Helen, working in a book shop and living above it, she seems to have a solitary life that was blighted by something in her past. As she starts to reminisce, she takes us back to her sixteen year old self and the Summer the Dover family moved in next door to her and her recently separated father (her mother having left the family home). Up to this she had been lonely and alone but Victoria and her siblings bring a whole new world of colour and adventure into her life. There are ups and downs and secrets are revealed until finally a tragedy occurs that will change all of their lives forever. Back to the present day and Helen is still struggling with her memories of that Summer, she can't recall what actually happened to have caused such a grim turn in her life but she's determined to find out. I loved how atmospheric this book is- it transported me back to hazy Summer days from my youth where each day stretched out miles in front of you and it felt like anything was possible. That aside, I felt that in establishing the background of that Summer that it became almost too dragged out and took too long to get to the crux of the story. 

Nightingales at War and Nightingales Under the Mistletoe by Donna Douglas
These were numbers 6 and 7 in the series about nurses in England in the 1940's. It's now full on WW2 and the crew of the Nightingale keep calm and carry on for as long as possible until there's just one too many air raid attacks and they have to up sticks and move to a country hospital. There's all sorts of shenanigans now that most of the eastend is struggling to get used to country life, we meet new nurses and doctors and old ones are reintroduced too. As usual, these aren't going to be winning the Pulitzer any time soon but they're entertaining in a comfort-blanket kind of way. 

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
I wanted to read a couple of festive book this year and there's something very seasonally appropriate about a vintage style old country house murder mystery (especially if you saw And Then There Were None this year, am I right?) and so I snapped up this Agatha Christie inspired novel. Mordecai Tremaine (his name is mentioned about a million times throughout the book) is an amateur detective who has, along with a whole slew of people, been invited to spend Christmas at the home of Benedict Grame in the small sleepy village of Sherbroome. He doesn't really know why he's been asked to attend but he goes anyway, probably because he's a weirdo. Sure enough, someone is murdered; Santa is found dead under the tree, but who's in the suit and how and why were they killed? I found this intolerably slow moving, it felt like I was wading through the book version of treacle at times and when the killer was finally revealed it was less shocking and more of a major relief to be honest.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I also finally completed the Harry Potter series. I had a goal to read them all in 2014 and for the most part, I did. I got stuck on the final book last Christmas and ended up having so much going on that I never finished it. Then I thought I'd read it last January but I had a mental block at that stage; Harry Potter was 2014 and it was now 2015. So I left the second half of this 'til December because Harry Potter is really more of a Christmas thing, for me anyway. 
Loads happens in the Deathly Hallows, but mostly, Harry, Ron and Hermione really grow up. They leave school and for most of the book, are separated from their family and friends, relying only on each other, leading at times to fractions within their tightly knit group. There are many deaths and many tears (cheers for that J.K. Nothing says 'Christmas' like weeping heavily) and a final throw down between Harry, Voldemort and, well, everyone that makes for very exciting reading. I loved this series and am so glad I finally read it, years and years after everyone else!

Have you read any of these?
What are you currently reading?

Sunday 3 January 2016

New Years Reading Resolutions!

I have all of the usual New Years plans to get fit and healthy, travel further afield and see friends more but I thought the book worms amongst you would be interested in my reading goals for 2016. Last year I felt I was a bit lax on the reading front; I read only 51 books, the year before I managed 72. 
So this year I've set my Goodreads aim at 80. I love reading so this won't be a chore, the difficulty lies in finding the time and reading a greater variety of novels too. 
Print Available HERE.

Here's my cunning plan to read more this year:

1. Read in bed.
Myself and Himself have gotten into a bad habit of watching TV at night but he got a Kindle for Christmas so now we're both on the same page, if you will. Ha. I'm gas altogether. 
I think this will help me nod off a bit quicker as well; TV, phones, computers etc are all supposed to aid insomnia whereas reading helps calm the mind! 
We started our new nightly reading plan last night; I got stuck into the first book in the Richard & Judy Book Club for Spring 2016 and I'm loving it (pictured below)!

Speaking of which...

2. Join more Book Clubs.
As well as my own real life book club, I've recently joined the Rick O'Shea and the Richard & Judy book clubs on Facebook. For me, this is a great way of reading books that I might not have approached otherwise and being able to discuss them afterwards with others online is a big bonus. Have a look at Sharon's post HERE about the books she read last year from both book clubs.  

Print Available HERE.

3. Work my way through my T-B-R (to be read) Shelves.
I can't even count the amount of books I own that I haven't read but sure look, better I spend money on books than crystal meth, right?

(This one's no longer available to buy unfortunately!)

4. Work my way through Stephen King's back catalogue.
This is an annual goal at this stage and I usually will have read a few of his books per year but they all tend to be huge and fairly time consuming so I'm getting there, slowly but surely. This also isn't a chore, I love his books but I may never get through all 60 or so novels. 
I'm reading 11/22/63 at the minute. It's brilliant!

5. A Reading Challenge.
I'm still considering this one but I'm not sure if it'll be too much pressure what with all the book clubs as well. These two from Pop Sugar and the Book Riot Read Harder challenges look great though.

Print Available HERE.

That's that for the moment. I have a full kindle, a local library and my own shelves are bursting at the seams. I think it's going to be a good reading year! 

Print Available HERE.

Have you any reading resolutions for 2016?