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Wednesday 15 August 2018

Recently Read: April & May

I took a blog break so I've a fair bit of catching up to do. A lot of excellent books have passed through my hands over the last few months, I'm excited for what Autumn and Winter brings, reading wise, as Summer has been so kind. 

I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara
I'm a big My Favourite Murder fan and when they mentioned this True Crime book by journalist Michelle McNamara, I had to read it. The GSK (Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist), committed 12 murders, over 50 rapes and 100 burglaries in California between 1974 and 1986. Up until very recently he had never been caught, in spite of a wealth of evidence, including DNA. 
Bizarrely, I started reading this the week before the GSK was caught, which made it even creepier finishing it. McNamara sadly passed away before this happened but it's partly due to her that he was found- she coined the moniker "Golden State Killer" and really brought his crimes and his victims back into the public conscious. She actually died before she could complete the book so the last third reads a bit disjointed- it's put together by other people with her notes. I obviously don't hold that against her but it does make it a less cohesive read. 
There's also quite a lot of repetition when it comes to his M.O. I felt a bit like, we understand how he committed these crimes and reading the details of his cruelty over and over again was really unpleasant. I more felt like she did that for each victim but it still was difficult to get through. 
Having said that, if you're a true crime fan, then this is one you'll definitely want to read.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
This has been on a lot of people's "must-read`' lists this year, so I had to get it when I spotted it on Audible. I generally like these sort of books; self-introspection with a side of light heartedness. Dolly Alderton is a journalist/columnist in her late twenties and I felt like that really came across in her memoirs. You know the way the TV show Girls was heavily focused on the self obsession of twenty-something year olds? That's how this felt to me, and being in my mid-thirties, I feel like I've moved on from that and so struggled a bit with some of the chapters in Everything I Know About Love
It took me a while to get into the first half of it. I thought the parts where she touched on her issues with alcohol and disordered eating were on the verge of being insightful but that really only became prevalent later in the book. 
There was much about her jealousy of her best friend finding love and happiness and that was a difficult read, to be honest. I suppose it was brave of her to include it as it doesn't reflect well on her at all, but it wasn't enjoyable to read. 
The chapter on her going to therapy was well written and the heavy focus on female friendship was excellent. It was a stand-out for me actually, reading this book. 
Similarly, the chapter on Florence, her friend's little sister was heartbreaking and beautifully written. Like a lot of books in this genre, there was some filler thrown in, with some of her old columns shoved in there and overall, I didn't laugh as much as other people seem to have reading it. That might just be me being cantankerous though.

The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle* by Stuart Turton
This is one of my favourite books of the year so far. Described as a mix between Agatha Christie, Quantum Leap, and Inception, this is a murder mystery set in a big old country house, but with a twist. There's lots of literary tropes you'll recognise here; the aforementioned country house for one, a murder victim with many potential culprits, old school clothes and weapons (it's set in the 1920's) but the author meshes that all together with some sci-fi thrown in, making it feel new and fresh. 
Our narrator wakes up in a forest, in someone else's body, covered in blood. He makes it back to the house where he finds out that his name is Aiden Bishop, there's going to be a murder and he has 8 chances to solve it. 8 chances meaning 8 days, each day will be the same day (Groundhog Day thrown in for good measure too). 
Each day he'll wake up in a new host's body; some are helpful to his cause; young and agile, while others deter him further; old and immobile, drugged, psychopathic etc. 
Lots more obstacles are placed in his path as he slowly begins to unravel the mystery and find out why he's there in the first place. If he doesn't solve the case, he's stuck there forever, so the heat is very much on. Practically every page has some new twist so I did find it slightly confusing at times and it can be quite dark. Having said that, it's probably the most original story of this genre that I've ever read and it was a real treat for someone like me, who loves a good murder mystery. 
I'd highly recommend this one. 

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
I've read a few of the late, great Nora Ephron's books before (and of course, I've seen the films), but Heartburn kept popping up on those "books you have to read" lists and so I found it on Audible, read by Meryl Streep (who also acted in the film adaptation). 
Rachel is a cookery writer, she's seven months into her pregnancy with her husband Mark, when she finds out he's cheating on her. It's narrated by Rachel so we hear all her thoughts- whether or not to take him back, to kill him or forgive him, all mixed up with her favourite recipes. 
I enjoyed this and I really liked Rachel but I think that was definitely helped by the amazing Meryl on audio.

Watch Me* by Jody Gehrman
Watch Me is a tale of obsessive love gone very badly wrong, but with a twist. Kate Youngblood is a creative writing professor, intent on getting tenure in the college where she works.
Lately she's been feeling somewhat isolated; her best friend has had a baby, leaving their friendship on hold and her husband has left her for a woman ten years younger than her. Added to that, her second novel has failed to garner any of the praise or success of her first, and overall she feels like she's losing at life.
The one glimmer of hope is the weird intensity of her budding friendship with her student, Sam Grist, who is both an excellent writer and can apparently see right into her soul. He can see right into her soul because he's stalking her and has been in her house and through her things, but Kate of course, doesn't know that.
As Sam's obsession grows, Kate senses something is not quite right but in her vulnerable state, almost refuses to see it. Parts of this psychological thriller seemed slightly ridiculous to me but then when I finished the book I thought long and hard about the nature of loneliness and what we'll do as a species to feel connected to each other. The portrayal of Kate as an insecure, ageing woman, on the surface glad not to face catcalls from men anymore, but secretly missing the attention, did feel realistic, even if some of her actions were really difficult to countenance.

The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine
I try and be measured with book reviews. I don't like to be overly negative; one woman's trash is another's treasure after all, but I struggled with this one.
The first half of this book is unbearably slow. I pushed through on holidays and got to 50%. Then I gave up, cause as I always say; life is too short for bad books.
However, I then began spotting this book everywhere; it was picked for Reese Witherspoon's book club, loads of people on Goodreads were saying "push past the first half, it's SO worth it!", and so I did. To be fair, I finished the second half in a couple of hours and it did flow much better than the first, but that ending. Oh lord no.
Daphne Parrish seemingly has it all; married to the handsome and wealthy Jackson, with two beautiful daughters, a stunning home and a group of similarly rich friends at her beck and call. And Amber wants it all. Posing as a plain Jane who wants to help with Daphne's charity work, she soon worms her way into the Parrish's life, with a view to usurping Daphne and becoming Jackson's new wife. Amber's awful internal monologue is the entire first half of the book. No one is that evil; people are shades of good and bad, never just one or the other. It's poor form to write a character who has literally no redeeming qualities, but that aside, she's also not a very interesting person to read about for 300 or so pages. Daphne is certainly a more enjoyable read, and she takes over for the rest of the book, thankfully, although her experiences contain unpleasant subject material that was difficult to absorb.
That twist though (cause you know there's always a twist). I won't give too much away but I had figured it out for the most part. As despicable a character as Amber is, I was really horrified by the ending of this book and the message it sends about violence against women. I can't say anymore than that but really that tipped me over the age to hating this one, if the ending had been better it could have redeemed itself, but as it stands, it's a firm no from me (insert Simon Cowell gif).

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Someone Who's Been There by Cheryl Strayed
I read Wild last year and really enjoyed it, so when I heard Tiny Beautiful Things being discussed on My Favourite Murder (I get my book suggestions from other places than there, promise!), I had to get it. The audio version is read by Strayed herself, and she has a really calming, gentle voice, which is so pleasant to listen to. 
Sugar was an online anonymous columnist that became incredibly popular, thousands of people turned to Sugar for her brilliant life advice. It's since been revealed that Sugar was of course, Cheryl Strayed. This is a compilation of some of those letters and replies from Sugar, many of which stopped me in my tracks. Cheryl shares a lot of her own life experiences in her replies, which at times felt a bit like she was saying "hey look, I've had it worse", but somehow she still manages to turn it around with some really sterling, life-changing advice. I also cried more than once, it's an emotional rollercoaster and definitely worth a read!

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Translated from Italian, the Neapolitan series are four books (this is book one) about the lives of two friends, Lila and Elena, from childhood onwards. Both have very different personalities and we follow them as their lives veer off into different courses in the poor neighbourhood in Naples they are growing up in. I read this while we toured around the Amalfi coast so I have a bit of a soft spot for it, but as I didn't really like any of the characters, I'm not feeling a major sense of urgency to read the next three in the series. Although I probably will at some point, even if I need to go back to Sorrento a further three times (any excuse) to do so.

And that, is that. June and July get their own months cause I was a reading machine throughout so I'll be getting on to writing up those reviews soon. 
Have you read any of these?
What are you reading right now?

*Denotes that books were provided for review, in this case by NetGalley. I was not paid for these reviews and as always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday 9 August 2018

Clarins Summer 2018

Summer is almost over (I know, I know, I'm sorry) but the sun is still inexplicably shining brightly over Ireland and you can still get your hands on the rather beautiful Clarins Summer 2018 collection. I'm here to tell you why you should. 
Every year I look forward to the Clarins Summer releases- this year is no different. They epitomise Summer for me; bronzers, bright lips and slicks of eyeliner, pops of aqua coloured mascara. It's all you need for the freshest face at the warmest time of year (apart from sunscreen, obvs. Get it on ya!).

With that palm tree adorned gold packaging, the Supra Mascara screams Miami to me. I love that shade of green and I was really excited to use this, but I find it only works for me when I apply it over black mascara, and it really needs a few coats to build up. This fella is €26. 

Stationery fiends, assemble! You're gonna want the 4 Colour All-In-One Pen, a clickable, retractable
eye and lip liner pen. 
There's one lip liner; a fuchsia. This is a lovely bright pink, ideal for this time of year. 
The other three are for the eyes; an aubergine, turquoise, and a black. 

I tend not to wear purples a huge amount on my eyes, as they don't accentuate my blues as much as I'd like, but I've been using the green and the black lots. I love that turquoise for a slick of colour, it feels really fresh in a market that's saturated with nude eyeshadows at the minute. 
Plus, how handy is it to have this in your bag- four colours in one for €36.

Next up, the Water Lip Tints. I have three of the shades; Violet Water, Rose Water and Red Water. There's one more that I don't have, Orange Water
All four are designed to be as light as water, but tint your lips with a punch of colour, hence the name. Up to now, we've had similar ideas from Clarins and lots of other brands too; lip oils or lip stains (that dried the bejaysus out of your lips). 
This is unique in that it feels like a good mix of the two. I always loved lip stains for that beautiful water colour effect it provides, but I can't stand how dry they left my skin. 
These however, are really comforting on. I wore one of them all day at a wedding with regular touch ups after food, Prosecco, smooches etc and my lips felt perfectly soft afterwards. 
These are definite winners. 

They need some attention during application; you can't just lash these on and go. I apply, then blend with a finger, making sure it's not giving me an added lip line that I don't want. You can build these up from the lightest hint to a fuller hit of colour. I usually put on one or two layers, then add a balm over it. 
I love how this looks- it's so very pretty. 
Like you've been lying in the sun eating raspberry ice pops. 
See? Perfectly Summery. 
My favourite is Violet Water, because I gravitate to those shades naturally. On me it comes out like the aforementioned raspberry, while the Rose Water looks like a neon pink, and Red water is an orange/red on me. 
I like all of these, at €21 they'll last you well and I find them to be quite versatile. 

Have you tried anything from Clarins Summer 2018?
Anything catching your eye?

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Sephora Hauling (European Edition)

Great news! Both Copenhagen and Malmö have Sephora! Stockholm does too but I didn't check that one out. I have a rule; if I find a Sephora on holidays, I must find products we don't have at home, and I must purchase those products. It's an imperative really. 
Scandinavian Sephora had lots of brands we have here, including some fancy ones we don't; mostly the Sephora own brand and lots of very cool K Beauty. 

These lipsticks are from the Sephora own brand, they're called Lipstories. The packaging on these are what sells them; each has a theme that matches the shade in the bullet. The outer tube is a firm card while the case the lipstick is in is plastic, it kind of reminds me of Paul & Joe. Anyway, they combine three finishes; matte, metallic and satin. These both have a satin, cream finish but give the full on colour of a matte. I really like these- I bought the red in Copenhagen, wore it and had to get another shade in Malmö. No. 24 Deep Water Bay is a classic blue toned red, so it's flattering on, while No. 3 Oui! is a nude/pink. My go-to nude is Charlotte Tilbury's Pillow Talk, and this is similar but with slightly more brown in the mix, which is still really lovely on. 

I'd heard a little bit about Nudestix, an American brand of multi-use make-up crayons. These are their Nudies (I'll take this opportunity to advise you not to type either "nudestix" or "nudies" into google); an all over face crayon that you can use on your eyes, lips and cheeks. 
I got Bare Back (don't type that in either), a mauvey/pink that looks natural and really flattering on. I find it a bit too pink on my eyes on it's own but it's perfect as a blush and lip colour. There's a little stippling brush at the other end of the tube, which is really handy for travel but I always find these a bit weird in make up products as they can be hard to clean. You can also just blend the crayon out with your fingers. 

I've wanted to try Lipstick Queen's Frog Prince for a while. I enjoy a gimmick, I just didn't want to spend the money on a full size when there was a chance it could be a lip balm in fancy packaging, so I got the mini version in Sephora's aisle of doom (i.e the shelves along the queue for the tills. Designed to make you want to spend more. It's very effective.). The idea with this is that you apply the green lipstick and it transforms into a plummy pink shade on contact with your lips. I like it! It is a total gimmick, there's literally no reason why you couldn't spend way less and get a tinted pink lip balm instead, but you do you.

I've previously only tried the Sephora face masks so I decided to branch out and try a moisturiser. This is the Intensive Instant Moisture+ Cream. Packed with Hyaluronic Acid for those of us with permanently parched faces. I like this, it's not too heavy, not too light, and it sinks in nicely.

I love Gucci Bloom; it's a powdery, floral, feminine perfume that has vintage vibes but still manages to feel modern. I also love the rollerball section of Sephora- we tend not to get rollerball perfumes as freely in Ireland as they do elsewhere and I find them ridiculously handy for throwing in your bag-they don't take up much room and they're a great way to try out pricey perfumes for less. 

Alright, put aside the fact that this is called "Avocado Soup", which granted, is disgusting, and focus on the fact that this is a really effective Sleeping Mask. Sleeping Masks are my favourite Korean skincare finds. It feels like you're doing something special, but really you're putting on a slightly thicker night moisturiser. 

It smells really good and feels soothing on. I like. Skinfood have a whole range of these kind of products, but I'm all about the moisturising so I kind of ignored the rest.

The Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz is a repurchase. I've gone through a few of these (in the shade blonde), it's probably the best brow product I've ever used.

I go through brown kohl liners like it's no ones business. I use them instead of black cause it's a bit more flattering with my skin tone and eye colour and I generally smoke the line out with some shadow. I hadn't tried the Glide Liner from Sephora's own brand before, so I said I'd give it a go. I really like it; it's a twist up, so you're not losing any product with sharpening, it glides on and works equally as well with a fine line as it does smudging it. 

This was actually a purchase from a Scandinavian budget shop called Normal. It's kind of like Dealz; beauty, house stuff, sweets etc. They had these Revlon Color Care and Shiine Color Bombs for cheap and in my shade, so although we can get these at home, I had to pick one up. My hairdresser recommended this to me before for brightening up your blonde. It's kind of like a purple shampoo but isn't drying at all, so it conditions and adds shine as well as freshening up the colour. 

I hadn't tried anything from Zoeva and got suckered at the aisle of doom again with this super cute mini palette. This is the Cocoa Blend Voyager palette. All of these shades are stunning on blue eyes, but personally I'd get rid of Bitter Start (top left) and add in a dark shade. 
Anyway, as the name would suggest, this will be very handy for travel. It's also worth noting that this fella is just over a tenner, if you want to try Zoeva without buying a full size palette. 

I'm an absolute sucker for face masks, although I've since stopped buying them as much lately for environmental reasons. Much packaging for little product. Both are eye patches because I have lots of ones just for the face and my eye bags are large and unseemly. I love Tony Moly but the Panda's Dream Eye Patch were a bit weird. They felt like a strange black cloth over my eyes and didn't feel particularly comforting. I'm not sure they helped my skin much either.

Too Cool For School Coconut Eye Serum Patches are designed to hydrate around your eyes. These were definitely a lot nicer to use (they also smell delicious) and my skin felt incredible afterwards! Super soft and smooth. I'd definitely buy more of these if I found them. 

And that is that. 

Have you tried any of these?