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Wednesday 20 December 2017

The Body Shop | Spa Of The World Firming Ritual

Last minute Christmas-shoppers, I'm here to help! 
Here is the perfect set for the environmentally conscious gal in your life who also happens to like having smooth and soft skin (there are many of us!).
The Body Shop has done it again with a covetable and properly useful Christmas gift; behold, the Spa of the World Firming Ritual.

Inside a lovely presentation box you have; a full 350ml size of both French Grape Seed Body Scrub and Ethiopian Coffee Body Cream

The Spa of the World range is one of the more popular and luxurious from the brand so if you're looking for a sure-fire people pleaser, this is it. Both products are organic and 100% vegan and contain Fair Trade ingredients. 

The scrub is packed with grape seed powder from France and Community Trade organic sugar from Paraguay. This fella will invigorate, exfoliate and refine your skin plus the gorgeous fresh scent will wake you right up in the shower! 

The body cream is enriched with caffeine, hand harvested from the Kaffa region, known as the home of coffee. Caffeine is known for its stimulating properties, while Community Trade olive oil from Italy softens leaves your skin, leaving it feeling firmer and smoother

One 350ml tub on its own costs €39.00 so the fact this set is €59.50 for the set is great value. Both tubs feel really large in real life so they'll last you for ages and they both smell incredible as well as being effective, which is a win-win. 

You can find the set online, HERE or in store now if you're in town frantically hunting for a Christmas present over the next few days!

Sunday 10 December 2017

(Not So) Recently Read; August & September

I know. It's December and I am very late with this but I promise I'll be better next year!*
By now I'm well on my way to reaching this years reading goal of 60 books read but for the last couple of months, I did step it up a gear. One of the things I'm trying to do at the minute is actually finish the books I've started. Sometimes I'll start a book, like it, but end up starting another and it gets forgotten about. I've also gotten back into audiobooks and I've kept up my library borrowing too. Use your library, folks! I can't say it enough!


Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
I had a £10 voucher for Audible and spotted this, within the budget and went for it. Well, was that a good move on my part! I figured this would be your average thriller but it was way better than that! Gina Royal is a Midwestern housewife with two kids, a husband and a seeming normal and idyllic life. That's all shattered however when her husband is revealed to be an active serial killer and has been using their garage to torture and murder women. The book shifts from that reality to another- now known as Gwen, Gina and her two kids have had to change their names innumerable times and move from place to place when there's been any hint that someone might find out who they are. They're being hunted by Internet trolls who believe that Gina knew what her husband was doing and was even his accomplice. Now they're settled at Stillhouse Lake and all is going well until the body of a woman is found near their home, and it appears that she was murdered in a strikingly similar fashion to Gina's husband's victims. Gina/Gwen is such a great character. She's strong and fierce and the story is absolutely gripping from start to finish. The sequel is out soon which I cannot wait to read!

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Another great thriller and surprisingly, my first ever Karin Slaughter book! Samantha and Charlotte Quinn are estranged sisters. Charlotte, now known as Charlie still lives in their home town and works with her father, Rusty. He's known as the "lawyer for the damned" because he will represent anyone- drug dealers, murderers, rapists. Charlie is also a lawyer now with a failing marriage and several traumatic miscarriages in her past. She becomes embroiled in a school shooting in the town and immediately her father chooses to represent the shooter, a vulnerable young girl. Her dad too becomes a target for this choice, as he has before and Charlie is forced to contact her sister Sam to come home. Sam hasn't been home since they were teenagers when a violent incident changed all of their lives forever. It left her with many physical scars and Charlie with mental ones. Their past is about to get dragged up again in the worst possible way. This was a non-putdownable gripper of a thriller! I loved Charlie and Sam's characters and although the story was disturbing at times, it was really well written and atmospheric. If you like thrillers, you'll enjoy this. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
This was the second book from Paula Hawkins, after Girl On The Train was a big bestseller last year. I read that one too and didn't love it but I was in the minority there so I said I'd give this a go. Jules's estranged sister Nel has just killed herself and Jules now has to look after her niece.
There's loads of flashbacks to when Jules and Nel were teenagers and hated each other cause Nel was a terrible person. Nel's daughter also seems awful. There's a police investigation going on in the book and the female detective is the only vaguely interesting character, even though she doesn't get a backstory, at least not up to where I read anyway. If that all sounds incredibly vague it's cause I stopped reading it about halfway through and returned it. Because it was going nowhere and I didn't care about any of them.

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
I love Rebecca Solnit, whenever I see a new essay by her I get really excited; I really enjoy her style of writing. This is a collection of essays, kicking off with Men Explain Things To Me, which was how the term "mansplaining" came into use. All the essays have an element of feminist thinking to them so are really interesting if that's your thing too. I started this one ages ago and just dipped in and out of it whenever I felt like it- something I love about essay collections. I've two more of her books on my to-be-read shelf, waiting to go! Next years books are already looking good!

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay
This goes into my favourite books of the whole year, maybe of all time. A collection of fictional stories, this was my first Roxanne Gay book but most certainly won't be my last. Every story has a woman as its protagonist and they're all full, rounded people with flaws and secrets, good and bad traits. I was crying by the end of the first story while others left me completely bereft and others, fuming with anger. I still think about some of the women's stories from time to time. This for me was one of those times when you come across something so new and so different that it floors you a little bit- I'm still not quite recovered. Trigger warning for rape/child abuse if you are thinking of reading it. 

Dear Ijeawle, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
I love Chimamanda! This is a list of suggestions for her friend on how to raise her newborn daughter in a feminist way. Some are obvious but others, I hadn't thought of. I'd be intrigued to see would she write the same or something similar for a baby boy? Well worth a (quick) read for anyone, regardless of your parent status!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
It's been several years since I read a Jodi Picoult book and my lasting impression from then was that her novels tend to focus on ethical or moral dilemmas that forces the protagonists into an impossible situation, which in turn asks us to think what would we do ourselves in that position? Small Great Things is no different to that but while you could at times describe her writing as formulaic, I felt there was so much research and depth to this book that it really stood out from her other work. Ruth is a labour and delivery nurse (midwife to you and I ) working in a maternity hospital in Connecticut, where she's worked for over twenty years. On a regular day she takes over the care of a mother, her husband and their new baby but is horrified when they demand she be removed as their nurse- they're white supremacists and Ruth is black. Things go from bad to worse when the baby becomes unwell and laden down with grief, the couple take their wrath out on Ruth, bringing her to court for negligence.
The book examines racism in America and not just the extremely obvious situation that Ruth finds herself in but the everyday inequalities that Ruth and her sister must live through that us, and Ruth's lawyer in the book, as white people of privilege have no real concept of.  One of my main issues with this book is that it really feels throughout that it's been written for white people to learn about their privilege- its a book about rather than for people of colour. This comes across pretty heavy handedly at times, especially in her note at the end where she basically says...examine your privilege, all you middle class white people who are reading this. Her intention here seems to be coming from a good place but I feel a little uneasy about a white woman writing about racism from the perspective of a black woman..maybe that's just me. It is still an intriguing and well written story, if you can look past those issues, which isn't always easy. 

The Break by Marian Keyes
I got this on Audible as soon as it came out; if there's a new Marian Keyes out then you best believe I'll be reading it. In this case, listening to it. Amy and Hugh are a married couple with teenage daughters, living in Dublin. She think they're happily married until Hugh announces that he's off travelling the world for 6 months or longer and that she's not coming with him. He wants to go on A Break and he's planning on being with other women while he's at it. This means that Amy will now have to juggle a full time job, three teenagers (one of whom is a blossoming Youtube star), a father with dementia and a mother who is struggling with caring for him. Add to that the realisation that she has to go back into the world of dating after a fairly lengthy gap. Lads, I loved Amy. It was a joy to listen to her. She's loveable and strong and vulnerable all rolled up into a big realistic package. I looked forward to listening to this- when I had to make myself leave the house to go to Pilates I'd entice myself to go by remembering I had Amy to listen to on the way there and back. I know some have said that they felt it was slightly long in places; I see where they're coming from but honesty, I just really enjoyed all of Amy's trials and tribulations. A great read for sure. You'll also find it in my Book Gift Guide 2017, HERE

Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling, the Novel by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
In case you were unaware, there is a whole "Aisling"movement on Facebook that came before this book. Aisling is your classic Irish country girl; she wears runners to work and carries her heels in a Brown Thomas bag, she brings her lunch with her too cause those Dublin prices are mental. She's against anything that could seem like "notions", enjoys a night out at home in the local disco like nothing else and she never wastes the opportunity to get up for a hotel breakfast, no matter how drunk she is. We all know an Aisling, is what the basic gist of the book is and you know, I do! I also know lots of the other characters in the book; Sadbh and Majella for sure, as well as Aisling's Mammy and Daddy. Aisling has been with her fella for a few years now and as everyone they know is getting married and settling down, she assumes the same thing is on the cards for them. Unfortunately, he has other ideas and so Aisling is forced to reevaluate her plans. She moves in with cool new housemates, up to the Big Smoke and starts seeing someone new..but is she being true to herself?
I loved this one too, it's a really fun, enjoyable read, although it did make me bawl at one stage. We passed this around in work and everyone who read it loved it (and knew an Aisling) so you've got lots of recommendations for this one!

Paper Girls Vol.2 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is the second in the series of graphic novels about four young girls on Halloween night in the 80's, doing their usual newspaper round and somehow finding themselves thrown into a post apocalyptic world full of creatures they must fight while at the same time trying to come to terms with time travel and meeting their future selves. If it sounds a bit weird, it's cause it is but it's so much nerdy sci-fi fun. It's also beautifully drawn and I love the colours, dialogue and general kick-assery. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The film version of The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films of all time. I'm seen it far too much and it was really about time I read the book. Himself bought this for me a few Christmas's ago but unfortunately this is one of those books I started reading and put down and forgot to go back to until recently. I'm annoyed that I didn't continue with it at the time because I absolutely loved this. So it's written by William Goldman but the book is actually his version of S. Morgenstern's original book...or so I was led to believe. I'll say no more but one important thing I will say is; read the epilogues!! If you think you've seen the film and you don't need to read the book, you're so wrong! There's loads of great extra bits in here missing from the film and it has all the same humour, adventure and romance as the movie does but in book format- which is almost better, I haven't decided yet! I also think this would be a great one to read to little'uns, just like in the film!

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
It's 1981, Leon is an 8 year old boy who loves The Dukes of Hazard and his newborn baby brother, Jake. We learn most things from his perspective, including all the conversations her overhears. Unfortunately for the family, Leon's mum has postnatal depression and can no longer look after him and his brother, so they're taken to stay with a lovely foster lady until they can be adopted. Almost straight away, a young couple start to visit Jake, with a view to adopting him, but not Leon. Because Leon is black and his baby brother is white. Now with an influx of anger and frustration in his life, Leon struggles to cope with all the changes that don't make sense to him. Thankfully there are some things that van still make him happy; getting a new bike and riding it really fast, learning how to grow a garden, as taught by a kind black man in the local allotment, the love of his foster mum and his plan to save enough money to go and rescue his baby brother...which may or may not go all that well. This was a difficult read. I felt so sad for Leon and his family. At times it was hard to keep reading as it felt like things were never really going to get better for him, especially if he grew up holding on to that anger. It's an interesting perspective to read from though and a dramatic time in history with the race riots in the UK as the background story in the book. 

The Child In time by Ian McEwan
I'm a big Ian McEwan fan but somehow had never read this one until it was recommended to me on Twitter. Stephen Lewis is a successful writer of children's books. His life is going well until the day he brings his three year old daughter Kate to the supermarket, where she is snatched without a trace. This massive trauma sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on devastating paths, separate from each other. Stephen's life unravels, essentially. This book is devastating, I don't have children but I could so intensely feel his distress that it made it a very difficult read and several times, I wanted to just put the book down. I love McEwan's writing though, as I've mentioned, so I ploughed on. The ending is beautiful and did bring some solace but honestly, I'm not sure I can recommend this one!

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson
This was an audio book produced exclusively for Audible. I'm not sure if you can actually get this in paper/Ebook format but it would seem unlikely as this is mostly interviews with people and Jon Ronson talking in his languid voice (which I love). Jon Ronson is a journalist, he has written a good few books now, exploring lots of unusual topics. This time he's looking at the butterfly effect that took place following the availability of free pornography online. A "butterfly effect" in case you're wondering, is the knock-on effect that can take place from even the smallest of actions, like the beating of a butterfly's wings. Here, Ronson interviews those involved in making porn available for free and those involved in the making of it and how porn is now produced following this turn of events. I found this absolutely fascinating and was glued to it. 

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is another one of those ones I started a couple of years ago and put down, intending to finish but never did...until now! I've read a few Hornby's and I think this was the first that really puts the reader into a man's brain, which is an unusual place for me to find myself! Rob and Laura have just broken up. He's decided he's cool with that; he can do all the things he couldn't do while in a relationship, like listening to his music and see new girls and generally act like Laura was never in his life. But that gets him thinking about his previous relationships and being the self-obsessed ass he is, he's compiled a list of his top 5 breakups, who he then has to contact and obsess over, all the while thinking about how he can get Laura back and if he really wants to be with someone at all?
This is a weird one for me, I've liked other Hornby books but Rob is quite difficult to relate to. I mean, he's not likeable at all. I know that's the point of his character but it doesn't make it a more enjoyable read by being aware of that. It's still a good read and parts did make me chuckle but the fact this is part of a genre called "dick-lit" (I'm not joking, look it up), maybe says it all.

And that's the lot!
I will of course eventually be back here with my October and November reads so stay tuned!
Have you read any of these?
Tell me what you're reading right now, I'm nosey like that!

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Christmas Book Gift Guide 2017!

I say this every Christmas but books really do make the best presents. I've limited the selection this year to just fiction, non fiction/autobiographical/celebrity books and thrillers. Mostly because these are the main genre of books I've read myself this year so I can easily give my opinions but also because I'm smothered with a head cold and can't think straight. If there's anything glaringly obvious that you think I've missed, do let me know (I'm still buying one or two last Christmas presents and I always welcome help!).
I've tried to include only books that I've read myself but there's one or two in there that I've bought, haven't started yet but have heard that they're excellent.


Eleanor Elephant Is Completely Fine
This was a big seller this year. I read it during the Summer (full review HERE) and loved it. It deals with complex issues like child abuse and mental illness but with a truly endearing and loveable protagonist that will make you want to reach into the book and give a big hug to. This is an emotional roller-coaster of a book; I cried and laughed many times. 

The Break
This is the latest from everyone's fave, Marian Keyes. It just won the best fiction award at the Bórd Gáis Irish Book Awards and rightly so. I've read this one but I'm way behind on my book reviews so I'll lay out the general idea here; Amy and Hugh have been married for years. They have teenage children and are happy. At least that's what Amy thinks. Hugh decides he wants a break from their marriage and plans to go travelling around the world. Without Amy. Free to sleep with other women. Amy now has to work full time, look after the family on her own (including her own full-on parents and siblings) and come to terms with effectively being single all of a sudden. This is a great read, Amy is a lovely, personable character and this is classic Marian Keyes. A lovely gift to find under the tree!

Oh My God What A Complete Aisling
Another I have yet to review, I wasn't even aware of the Facebook page with the same name (I joined it after reading the book and then swiftly left again; too much squabbling) but there was already a big following for the Oh My God What A Complete Aisling way of life. This is the novel; Aisling is a country girl, working in Dublin. She loathes notions and wants nothing more than to settle down at home with her boyfriend and get married, at last. He, unfortunately has different ideas and Aisling has to build a new life for herself with new flatmates, old friends, a stressful job situation and a family illness to deal with. This is a really pleasant read; everyone I know that's read it has enjoyed it and identified with one of the characters. it's very well written. 

Little Fires Everywhere
This was my book club choice for this month. I read it mostly on the plane to and from California and found it a really well written, easy to read and interesting book. It flows beautifully and Celeste Ng is an author I definitely want to read more from- I love her style of writing. The Richardsons are a relatively normal family living in an affluent suburb of Cleveland. Elena is the matriarch of the family and lives her life very much by the rules- she thinks that's how you succeed. Single mum, artist and free spirit, Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive into town and shake everything up. All the Richardson kids fall for Pearl and her mum but Elena turns on Mia when she gets involved in a local adoption and Elena decides to do some investigating into Mia's murky past, with dire consequences for everyone. 

Small Great Things
I haven't read a Jodi Picoult in years so this was a surprisingly enjoyable and gripping read. Ruth is a delivery nurse in a maternity hospital in the US. She's experienced and good at her job and arrives into work as usual to take over the care of a new mum and her baby. The couple instantly demand a new nurse- Ruth is black and they are racists. Things go from bad to worse when the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is blamed. She finds herself in court, defending not just her actions, but also her skin colour. This is a really interesting and thought provoking read. 

The Alice Network
I just bought this for 99p on Kindle, I'm pretty pleased with myself cause this was a bestseller this year and may well be a future book club read. This is an ideal choice for fans of historical literature. Jumping between 1915 and 1947, focusing on female characters going into world war one and coming out of world war two and the secrets that connect them.

Non Fiction

When Breath Becomes Air
The story of a neurosurgeon who had to come to terms with being a patient himself after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. A surprisingly uplifting book. Full review HERE

What Happened
The 2016 US election from Hillary Clinton's perspective. I just finished this one on Audible, read by the woman herself and I enjoyed it- it's obviously politics heavy but that along with feminism interest me so it's not surprising I liked it. It may be a bit full on otherwise!

The Gospel According To Blindboy In 15 Short Stories 
This is actually a collection of short stories that I haven't read yet but knowing the madcap humour of the Rubberbandits, this offering from Blindboy Boatclub should be brilliant!

Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body
I haven't read this one but I did read my first Roxanne Gay book this year and I loved it- she's an amazing writer. She released Hunger this year; a memoir about food, weight and self-image. This sounds depressing but honestly, her writing is so worth it. I can't wait to read this one.

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions
This is a short read but one of those books that you could dip in and out of again and again. This is a letter of advice from author and feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her friend on how to raise her baby daughter to be a strong, independent woman. I feel like every new parent (and everyone else too) should read this. 

David Sedaris: Theft By Finding
Author and comedian David Sedaris is hilarious. This is a collection of diary entries of his from 1977 to 2002. There's plenty of laughs in here, full review HERE.

Bonus suggestion; Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (yes, THE Tom Hanks)


Magpie Murders
I've only started this on Audible but loving it so far. Susan Reyland is an editor, just given the new manuscript by a bestselling crime writer to read. It's an homage to Agatha Christie; old school big country house, disturbing murder in a sleepy English village. So far, so in-keeping with the author's style of writing but as Susan reads on, she's convinced there's a real life murder detailed in the manuscript. 

Stillhouse Lake
This one took me by total surprise this year- Gina is a normal housewife, with two children and a loving husband. Her life gets completely turned upside down however, when it's revealed that her husband is a brutal and sadistic serial killer. Although Gina knew nothing about it, the internet does not believe her and her and her kids are forced to go under cover and live their life on the run. They start to settle somewhere until a young woman is found dead near their home. It starts to look like a copy-cat of her husbands has caught up with them. This is a serious thriller that you won't be able to put down!

Final Girls
This is part horror, part thriller. I loved this one and read it in record time! Full review HERE

Roanoke girls
Another brilliant thriller, disturbing at times but again, another proper page turner. Review HERE

The Kind Worth Killing
I loved this one. Perfect for anyone who really enjoys psychological thrillers. There's lots of books claiming to be psychological thrillers but that don't quite meet the mark- not the case here! Full review HERE.

The Dry
I also just got this one for 99p on Kindle (absolute book bargain hunter) and is another bestselling thriller released this year. FBI agent, Aaron Falk is called back to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Luke, who 20 years ago was his alibi when he was accused of murder. It looks like there's more to Luke's death than first appears and with that, long buried lies from Aaron's past start to come to the surface. 

Bonus suggestion; All The Missing Girls. Another great thriller, review HERE!

And that is the lot! 
Have you read any of these?
Have you any other good suggestions?
To the comments!

Monday 4 December 2017

Lush Star of Wonder | Christmas 2017

I mentioned the Star of Wonder in my 2017 Christmas Gift Guide (HERE) and promised I'd take a closer look at it, in case you wanted to know exactly what you had to look forward to!
I think you can't ever go wrong with a present from The Body Shop or Lush under the tree; they're universal pleasers. Everyone loves them because their products work, but also feel fun and different. I also love them both because they are cruelty free and in particular, Lush are making a concerted effort to reduce their packaging, something I'm trying to do myself so it feels like doing some good with your beauty products!

Lush Star of Wonder

Honestly, there's so many wonderful gift sets from Lush that you could get any size, shape or price that you want and come away with an ideal gift but I think the Star of Wonder is particularly special. Here's what's inside:

Lush Star of Wonder

  • Shoot For The Stars Bath Bomb
  • Star Light Star Bright Bath Melt
  • Naked Shower Gel Snow Fairy
  • Naked Shower Gel Twilight
  • Naked Body Conditioner Snow Fairy

Lush Star of Wonder

So these are the newbies. Snow Fairy and Twilight are bestsellers in their usual shower gel format and to cut down on plastic packaging, Lush are bringing out "Naked" shower gels this year. Same great scents, same great body cleansers, just better for the environment. You can lather these up in your hands, get lots of bubbles and inhale the sweet scent!
The smaller pink pot is the Naked Body Conditioner Snow Fairy. I hadn't used a body conditioner until Lush's African Paradise, which I loved. That was in one of their reusable black pots, but they've gone one step further and made this one without packaging. This is great for dry skin- shower, apply this on wet skin all over before rinsing off to get softer skin stepping out of the shower. 

Lush Star of Wonder

There of course, has to be a bath bomb in there. I've used Shoot For The Stars a few times before and I love it. This is a tropical blue explosion that fills your bath with a gorgeous, relaxing scent and Brazilian orange and bergamot essential oils to soften your skin. 

Lush Star of Wonder

I was really excited to see one of the "Fun" products in there as it's one I've never tried but always wanted to! You can use this in a few ways- use it as play dough and make your own very pink Christmas angel for the bath, crumble some off under the tap for bubbles, or use as soap in the shower. All with the classic candy floss scent of Snow Fairy. 

Lush Star of Wonder

And finally, the real star of the show, literally! This fella is what's covered all the other products in silver glitter! Star Light Star Bright is a bath melt, which means you can pop it straight into your bath or, break some of it off to make it last longer. It's packed with Murumuru butter and ginger and lime oils so it makes the bath water silky soft. The perfect Christmas treat!

You can find out more HERE or in-store. 

Would you love to wake up to this on Christmas morning too?!
What's your all time favourite Lush product?

*This blog post features products that were provided for review. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, as always.