Image Map

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!