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Sunday 16 September 2018

Recently Read: June

Lookit, I know. I'm miles behind on this but that cursed blogging break I took has completely messed up my book posts. Hopefully I'll have gotten around to reviewing everything I read during the Summer by Christmas. Who knows though, maybe not! 
Anyway, I read so many great books over the last few months that all deserve a proper review, so here we are.
Let me know what you're reading or if you've read any of this lot!

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Celebrated by the likes of Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and the late great Maya Angelou, BrenĂ© Brown is the current queen of self-help. An international bestseller, she has the academic chops to back up her knowledge on human behaviour - she's a research professor and has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. 
Braving the Wilderness is peppered throughout with her own lived experiences but also references her research to show us that we are, as a species, experiencing a spiritual disconnection, living as we do in an age of increased polarisation. In Braving the Wilderness, she introduces four key practices to reconnect ourselves and others.
And I get all that, but aside from a few interesting paragraphs, this failed to do a huge amount for me. I thought it was helpful to consider my social media usage more closely than I have been and I definitely did that after reading this but really I came away from it questioning what the point of it actually was.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Set in Dublin, Frances is a twenty-one year old college student, aspiring writer and occasional spoken-word-poet. She performs her poetry for audiences with her best friend Bobbi, who is also her her former lover. It's at one of their shows that journalist Melissa spots them, takes an interest, and asks to interview them. 
From there, Frances and Bobbi get drawn into Melissa's world; her sophisticated home, handsome husband, and pretence at insouciance are attractive to both young women in different ways and Frances, lacking stability in her life, increasingly loses control over her feelings and actions. 
I loved this book. At times, it reminded me of the characters TV show in Girls; twenty-somethings who have firmly jumped aboard the self-introspection train, to everyone else's detriment. There's something much more realistic about it in Conversations With Friends though. I don't think I've read such an insightful look at tangled relationships like this before and there'll definitely be lots of women reading it who can relate, at least in part to some of Frances's thoughts and/or actions. 
Rooney is an excellent writer, I'm really looking forward to reading her next novel. 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Four siblings sneak out of their New York building in 1969 to discover their fortunes from a travelling psychic. Each hears the disconcerting news of the exact date they will die and after that, their lives are changed forever. 
From that fateful day, we're swept along on an epic journey, through the AIDS epidemic in 80's San Francisco, flashy Las Vegas magic shows in the 90's, the life of an army doctor post 9/11, right up to modern-day research labs where the boundaries are tested between science and immortality. 
Each era is told from the perspective of a different sibling and it's hard not to become attached. I loved this book. I was going to say I cried, I laughed etc. but mostly I cried. 
It's a great read, you'll be absolutely hooked from start to finish.

The Surface Breaks by Louise o' Neill

This is Louise O' Neill's second novel of the year but this one differs from her previous works by being a modern-day adaptation of The Little Mermaid. That's the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale version by the by, not the Disney one. As this is YA, it's aimed at a slightly (ahem) younger market than I would be in so I did find the writing to be more simplistic than I've come to expect from O' Neill, even with regard to her other YA novels. 
Off the Irish coast, lives Gaia, a young mermaid who dreams of escaping her controlling father, who happens to be the ruler of their under-the-sea (bet you're singing it now) community. He's overtly misogynistic and treats his daughters like his own personal belongings; the better looking they are, the more they get shown off. He also decides all of their romantic futures, really, their futures in general. No one is allowed speak of their mother, who years earlier chose to leave the ocean to be with a two-legged man on the land. 
Gaia desires more than anything to follow in her mother's (literal) footsteps but is she prepared for the sacrifices she will have to make? 
The answer is of course, no. This isn't a happy story, if anything it's quite dark. If I was a young teenager, I think I would have enjoyed this more but I felt the feminist theme of the book was awkwardly wedged into the storyline in places and didn't sit well with my reading of it. Even though I appreciate the overall message of the book, it just wasn't for me, but again, for a younger audience, I'm sure the opposite would be true. 

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O' Toole

Described as a mix between Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham and Germaine Greer (not sure how happy she'd be about that last one), Emer O' Toole is an Irish journalist and feminist. 
Girls Will be Girls is a journey through her own life, reassessing why she does and says certain things. Where it looks like gender conditioning might be to blame, she explores it further in an attempt to break us out of our gender stereotypes. 
This involves but is not limited to; cross-dressing, full-body waxing, choosing not to wax, going on national television and waving hairy armpits about the place to the disgust of Eamon Holmes, head-shaving, and going full-on glamour. She's learnt lots of lessons in doing all of this, so you don't have to, and in the process she hopes she can open up all of our minds a little bit more. 
This is a fun read, her conversational style of writing means it flows along nicely and it's always interesting reading about people's personal experiences rather than just theories. I'm interested in anything feminism-related anyway, so if that's your bag you may well appreciate this too.

The Outsider by Stephen King

I've enjoyed most of King's recent books and this was no exception. 
The Outsider is about a horrific, unspeakable crime that occurs in a small American town. A young boy is found dead, having been brutally assaulted first. Seen in the area at the time is local English teacher and beloved little league coach, Terry Maitland. Without really thinking first, the detective on the case orders an immediate and very public arrest of Maitland, confirming his guilt in front of the entire town, his wife, and two young daughters. He protests his innocence but there's DNA evidence at the scene of the crime, plus the eye-witnesses. 
There's a catch though; Maitland has an ironclad alibi and the further the detectives delve into the case, the more unlikely and bizarre the whole thing seems. At its heart this is a detective story that dips in and out of the supernatural but it also touches on the phenomenon of accusing someone of something that will destroy their life if you're wrong- something we see more and more of on social media these days. This was a good read; creepy with a slowly building sense of tension and fear from the very start, as only King can, but it's also a cracking crime/thriller, if that's your thing!

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

This had been on my radar for a while and looked like it was set to be a big seller. Young British woman, Alice Shipley has moved to Tangiers with her wayward husband but has struggled to settle in; being an introvert, she hasn't ventured out into bustling Morocco that much. That is until her old friend Lucy Mason arrives. Alice and Lucy haven't spoken after an incident between them a year ago but outgoing Lucy might be just what Alice needs to get accustomed to her new home and soon they fall back into their old rhythms. That is, until Alice's husband goes missing and she begins to fear Lucy's controlling nature again. Set in the 1950's, this was marketed as a gripping psychological literary thriller in the style of The Talented Mr Ripley. Unfortunately it missed the mark for me. I spent a lot of it willing Alice's character to sort herself out, I struggled with the notion that anyone was as slow on the uptake as she was and found her extremely frustrating. Equally, Lucy's character is awful too, so I couldn't really root for any of them and I also didn't care that much about the storyline so it was a struggle. I wouldn't bother with this one.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2 by John Tiffany

Picking up where the last book left off, with Harry and Ginny's son going to Hogwart's for the first time, this is a play (written as a play; 'exit stage left' etc.) that deals with themes of disappointment, family struggles, and good versus evil (as per usual for Harry, am I right?). 
I really enjoyed this, and I know there have been negative opinions about it and about the stage adaptation, but for me, it felt like catching up with old friends. 
We get to see what Ron and Hermione, Neville, Hagrid and all the other favourites have been up to all this time while Harry struggles with the fact that his son is not quite what he or anyone else expected him to be. 
There's also some nostalgic time travel back into the original books! If you're a fan, you'll love this, but if you have the option of seeing it on stage instead, I'd go for that over reading it!


Monday 3 September 2018

Clarins Joli Rouge Velvet Lipsticks

These have been my personal favourite beauty product over the last month. They've been out since May but as is typical with me, I'm slow to getting around to becoming fanatical about a product and then feeling the need to write about it. These are pure beauts to apply; smooth, richly pigmented, matte, but not drying. 

Clarins Joli Rouge Velvet Lipsticks

In short, these are the perfect Autumnal lipstick. I know what you're about to say, "but Chloe, isn't this just you being obsessed with Autumn?" and yes, you have a point, but actually these have everything you need for this time of year; firstly colour- russets, warm nudes, corals (there's ten shades in the range), presented in a perfect soft matte. 

A matte that's slightly blurred around the edges, like you've had your lips around one too many cups of pumpkin spiced latte (that sentence could have gone in a very different direction. I know you were thinking it too. Durtbirds.) 

To add to it's perfectness, Clarins have mixed in organic samphire to hydrate and apricot oil so your lips are softer, rather than bedraggled, as mattes usually leave them in colder weather. 

Wearing Soft Berry in both of theses selfies. Going full Liz McDonald on the left- ready for a night out/serving Hot Pots. Glasses, hair tied back and a jumper on the right. It's a very versatile lipstick, is what I'm saying. 

Clarins Joli Rouge Velvet Lipsticks

You may want to buy more than one lipstick but you'll technically only need one. And that lipstick is, Soft Berry (below photo on the right). I've been wearing this with a luminous It Cosmetics CC Cream base, warm copper eyeshadow and a dusky rose blush from Bourjois
It's Autumn in a face, baby! 

Clarins Joli Rouge Velvet Lipsticks

Having said that, I'll also happily be wearing the other shades I have; Grenadine (a slightly darker pink but still really wearable for daytime as it has a bit of brown in there), Pink Cranberry (a brighter pink, slightly more in your face. I often feel pinks like this don't suit me that well but I can for sure see its appeal), and Joli Rouge itself (a very flattering shade of red that you'll want to wear all the way through Christmas...I'm sorry but it's September, I'm surely allowed say it now?!).

Clarins Joli Rouge Velvet Lipsticks

You can find these anywhere there's a Clarins counter, but here's a link to them on Brown Thomas, nonetheless. They're €24 each, but the cost per wear makes them excellent value!

Have you tried any of the Joli Rouge Velvets? If not, why not?! I jest! 
Let me know what your favourite Autumnal lipstick is!

*Products in this post were provided for review. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own, as always.