27 June 2017

Favourite Books of 2017 So Far

My Top 6

I always love seeing what my favourite books from the first half of the year have been and if it stays that way come December. Here are the six books which you have to add to your reading lists right now because they're so good.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber*
This is the one and only fantasy book on this list. I don't read fantasy all that often, as I prefer my contemporaries or non-fiction, however if you're going to read one this year - let it be this. I couldn't put this book down. It was addicting, imaginative and intriguing, and for a pretty big book it only took me a day to read. This is about two girls who run away to the circus, and as one sister gets lost in Caraval, the other goes on a quest to find her - going on a scavenger-hunt type journey, where you don't know what's real and what isn't. I just fell in love with the idea of this story and the twists and turns you're presented with along the way.

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole
My first book of the year and definitely one of the most thought-provoking and memorable. After reading this I want to read everything about gender I can get my hands on because it's such an intriguing and interesting topic. This book is part scholarly, part biography - the author shares her personal stories of gender experimentation and discovery and breaks down the idea of gender as a social construction in a readable manner. I'm so glad I read this because it opened me up to some ideas I'd never really thought deeply about before.

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstorm*
I had to pop this one in the pile after I gave it 5 stars. I liked this one purely because I couldn't stop reading it and it was a nice change from the contemporary romances I often read. A compelling YA thriller, it follows a teenage girl called Gwen who goes to Europe in search of her father who's been kidnapped. I think I had craved the action that this book brings, following a schoolgirl who turns into an assassin just like that. How realistic is this book? Not very, but I had to include this for it's addicting nature and interesting storyline.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Have you heard enough about this book yet? If you haven't managed to pick it up yet, do it now because it's worth it. I was lucky enough to see Rupi perform some of her poetry this year at The Auckland Writer's Festival. You can tell the amount of passion she has and it reflects in her poems. I never would have thought I'd pick up a poetry book, but this is the kind I can get on board with. Her writing explores love and heartache in an accessible and wonderful way.

Margot and Me by Juno Dawson
This is a very recent read but I enjoyed it so much, it was definitely going on this list. Margot and Me is about a girl who moves to the countryside with her mum, to live with her strict Grandmother. Fliss has no idea what made her Grandmother so stern and hard, but then she starts reading her teenage wartime diary. She finally sees what has happened in her Grandmother's past, all the while going through her own struggles at school and with her mum. This book was witty and just a joy to read, but maybe have a tissue or two with you when you read.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
I've saved the absolute best for last because I strongly think this is one of the best books I've ever read. YA romance at it's best, this is about a girl who is a select mute who finds herself friends with a deaf boy. As she's the only one at school who knows sign language, they form a special kind of friendship with each other. This is a love story, but it's done so, so well. This is the type of book that makes you want to smile, squeal and laugh - it kind of has a special place in my heart.

Are you interested in reading any of these books?


*Review Copy

21 June 2017

New in: Antipodes Skincare

Three skincare products for combination skin

Recently I realised my skincare routine was lacking in something, and I had my skin to show for it. In other words it wasn't looking too flash. My skin is a combination of dry and oily, and acne-prone. I haven't had to take medication for my skin so far but it does have quite a lot of scarring and I always have breakouts. I've almost given up trying to find something to fix my skin, but these new additions from Antipodes are doing a darn good job at getting me somewhere. I'll explain...

Antipodes Apostle Skin-Brightening Serum
This is where I first dabbled in Antipodes products and I've since used up a whole bottle of this. It's definitely not cheap, but I honestly think this has worked magic on my skin since I've purchased another and started using it again. This serum is the perfect product for pimple-prone people like myself because it dries breakouts down without severely drying out your whole face. This does feel dry on the skin once you've applied it, but because it has some wonderful smoothing properties, it makes the perfect base for moisturiser. I can't rave enough about this stuff - it has my skin looking all bright and a bit more under control. I use this at night-time with an oil-based cleanser to balance out my complexion because it's a hard time having combination skin.

Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser
As this says 'skin-brightening' in the title as with the serum, I somehow knew this cleanser was going to be similar to the Apostle formula - and I was right. It smells like strawberries (absolutely delicious) just like the serum. I currently use my faithful Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel as my night-time cleanser because it's heavier and more moisturising, but I was definitely missing a lighter cleanser that I could use in the mornings. This is a lightweight gel consistency which foams up gently, leaving the skin refreshed, bright and not too dry. This maybe wouldn't be ideal for people with super dry skin, but for combination and oily, this is a stand-out product. I'm so glad I got this because I do think it's helped shrink down existing breakouts I have. It's no miracle cure (and I don't expect any products to clear up my skin immediately) but this has been a joy to use. It leaves the skin so smooth and even-feeling, just like the serum.

Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask
I would describe this as the perfect mask for when your skin is spotty but is also dry-feeling. As with the above products, I think this is ideal for those with combination skin because it doesn't clog pores and it's gentle on breakouts. The Aura mask is a very light-feeling, almost moisturiser type mask which makes it perfect to use two or three times throughout the week. After 20 minutes on, it will leave your skin refreshed but without feeling oily. I have to say, I do like the serum and cleanser the most, but out off the three this is the product I've experimented with the least so far - but I do like it.

Have you tried anything from Antipodes before?



15 June 2017

What I've Been Wearing

Millennial pink, slogan tees & denim

I'm well aware I'm no fashion guru but every now and then I do like talking about clothing. I do a lot of online shopping - that my bank account does not like. Recently I've acquired a few items that I've been loving and I'm going to show you how I've 'styled' them, if you can even call it that. And because I'm a bit of a music lover, I've scattered my favourite records throughout to match each outfit (aesthetically, if anything).

Take one look of at my blog and you'll know I'm loving pink to no end. There's no secret to my style, it's practically chuck on a t-shirt and jeans and I'm out the door, but I have been branching out ever so slightly. Not in terms of the pink tee, but I recently bought a pair of navy cotton Culottes in what was an oh-so-tempting The Iconic sale. I think people can tend to throw around the word 'flattering' a lot, and on paper these aren't that flattering on me but I like and wear them anyway. These are so comfy and will work well for summer and colder days. I've also been obsessed with my shearling teddy jacket from Zara (similar pictured). And don't forget the gold hoops, of course..

Record: The Last Shadow Puppets / The Dream Synopsis EP ~ Miki nail polish,
Anastasia Beverly Hills Renaissance Palette, Nobody's Child Shirt

And with pink comes red, the other colour I'm completely obsessed with. When I came across this slogan tee while browsing on ASOS I knew it was the one for me. I've never heard of the brand 'Nobody's Child' but on further inspection they have some top notch designs. I think this tee is best pared with my old faithful denim, more specifically my fairly new straight leg jeans in a midwash (similar pictured). I think this top looks great with my new vintage 70s suede jacket (similar pictured) although it does look slightly different (sans waist tie) than the one I've put below.

Record: Alex Turner / Submarine Soundtrack ~
The Bread and Butter Letter Sunglasses, MNG Bosque Blouse

When I spotted this embroidered blouse online I knew it was going in my basket right away because this kind of thing is a bit of a personal weakness. I do think these types of tops are great for work and also summer (although it's winter in New Zealand right now). I did wear this to work recently and with an oversized grey coat chucked on top it wasn't too cold. One thing I will say is make sure you size down if you like the look of this because mine is quite a bit big. Recently I've found my dream pair of jeans style and it's the kick flare. Life-changing. I love the look of flared jeans but kick flares are the tame version.

This t-shirt is decidedly summery and it's having me wishing for a bit of sunshine. There's nothing I like more than retro stripes and this is a fresh take on everyone's staple tee. Monki is probably my favourite shop that ASOS stocks - I'm always finding items I like from them, and when I went to their store in London let's say I was practically salivating over everything. I'm a very casual dresser as you may know so I would pair this top with another pair of kick flares (this time black - don't say I'm not imaginative!), a hassle-free tote bag and some vans.

So that's what I've been wearing lately, no doubt I'll be back on ASOS soon scrolling for more clothes. *Slaps wrist*



8 June 2017

Around The Web | #3

These are a few of my favourite things...

Every so often I gather enough things I've been loving from around the internet to put together one of these posts. Truth be told they might be some of my favourite to write because I get to gush about cool things and cool people. Cue the post, featuring a clothing line I'm obsessing over, a podcast or two and my new girl crush.

Alexa Chung's fashion brand AKA the one where I want everything
I'm sure you've heard Alexa has dropped her very own clothing line, featuring some seriously lust-worthy items. My favourites include the Screw You t-shirt (it's made for me), the I Love You I Hate You tee (what can I say, I love slogan tees), this gorgeous Stripy Mohair Jumper and this very very wearable but oh-so-me Striped Jumper in navy and pink. There are quite a few lovely items that are sold out now (sob) but the shipping to NZ is so expensive it's not like it matters much anyway.

Podcasts of the moment AKA some seriously cool chats with inspirational people
I'm not sure that's exactly the most catchy title, but I digress. Lately I've been back on the podcast bandwagon after being lazy with it for a while, but let me tell you, there's nothing better than clicking play on a 40 minute episode while I browse the net or get some cleaning done (or something). The first podcast I've been loving is Lily and Anna's new one called At Home With and I especially loved Lisa Eldridge's episode - I always have time for that woman. Perfect long commute material if you ask me. Next, an old favourite I've been falling back in love with is Emma Gannon's podcast Ctrl Alt Delete and her new episode with Sali Hughes is mega inspirational - it made me want to get around to reading Pretty Iconic and to pick up Pretty Honest. Lastly I loved listening to Juno Dawson's episode where she talks all things gender, especially because I'm reading her book Margot & Me at the moment (which is so good, FYI!).

Alexandra Savior AKA all round cool girl
I don't usually mention music too much in these posts but after I'd become obsessed with Alexandra Savior in the time period of literally just one day, I had to squeeze in a mention. She's a singer-songwriter who's just released her debut album Belladonna of Sadness which was cowritten with none other than Alex Turner... hmm, no surprises I like it a lot then? The only thing I need now is for both Alex's to do a duet and my life would be complete. This comes close enough I guess. As for her actual music, its described as being dream pop, indie pop or psychedelic rock, according to Google at least, which is right up my street. If you like the kind of music I do, definitely check her out - I think she's going to be big. My favourite songs from the album are Mirage and Shades.

Crime TV AKA the shows that are too good to watch just one episode of
You know I'm partial to a Netflix marathon or two and the two shows I've been binging lately are The Keepers and The Fall. NZ Netflix only has the first two seasons of The Fall so I've only seen up until then however this show had me captivated from the beginning. I love a good crime drama but some can be quite average - there's just something about this that is so good. Then I started watching The Keepers one day when it popped up on Netflix and I finished the series in a few days. It's a documentary series about stories of sexual abuse at a religious school in the 1960s and 70s and a nun who got murdered in 1969, the killer remaining unnamed to this day. I'd say if you don't like scary things you may be a little bit unnerved by this but it's just very interesting.

Not exactly ending on a light note, but let me know if you have any podcast or TV show/documentary recommendations - I'd love to hear them!



3 June 2017

Recently Read | May

What I read in May...

Each month I hope to read more and more, but I never seem to have enough time. I have however read four books this May, which isn't too bad of a feat, really. In the bunch this time is the latest in YA fiction and an adult fiction debut novel from the fabulous Dawn O'Porter. Here are my reviews on these books!

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstorm*
Walker Books, 2 February 2017

I'm not one to read a thriller, but I took a chance on this book and it turns out I loved it. The Cruelty is about a young girl called Gwendolyn who goes on a mission around Europe to find out what happened to her father, who's gone missing. In other words, it's sort of like Taken, but in reverse. I don't think it's a particularly realistic concept but I absolutely loved reading it for the action, the mystery and I also loved Gwendolyn as a character. She is quite cold and neutral, but very intelligent, and I loved being inside her mind and seeing what sort of decisions she would make next. She knows five languages and she's just kind of a badass. This book was simply an adventure, being fun and addictive to read, but it also incorporated serious themes like human trafficking which I've never really read about in fiction before. This book isn't a heart-stopping thriller, but it is a page-turner with a lot of violence and action. I'm not sure why I wanted to give this 5 stars, I just simply loved getting into this and I found it difficult to put down.

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt
Usborne Publishing, 1 February 2017

For me, Uncoventional was one of those books that was almost there, but not quite there. I couldn't bring myself to give it 4 stars. The premise of this book is something that is absolutely right up my street - Lexi Angelo, who has a Dad that organises conventions (and she helps out on weekends), finds herself falling in love with an author at one of the events. Think Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (but sadly, not as good). This was a bit like a fanfiction, with all the cute bits that you'd expect, however I felt the development of the relationship between Lexi and Aidan was not great - quite unconvincing and unrealistic. I have read my fair share of YA romance and only some authors manage to do it well. However, as I said, there were some really cute moments and if this story sounds intriguing, it may still be worth the read.

Release by Patrick Ness*
Walker Books, 4 May 2017

Patrick Ness is a best-selling and very popular author. His books, like The Monster Calls, are said to be amazing - but I've never read any until now, with his latest release. Release is about a boy called Adam who has struggles at home, as he's gay and thinks/knows his church-going family won't approve, and with his love life, trying to get over someone who he's loved or maybe still loves. At the same time, there's something else going on in the town where Adam lives, to do with a girl who was recently murdered. This part of the story is fantasy, and quite ambiguous. The stories don't connect in any way throughout the book (at least on a surface level) until the very end. I did find the fantasy part a little confusing and unrelated to what I thought was the main part of the book, with Adam. I loved reading about Adam and the struggles he has been facing, and faces across the one day this book is set across. I felt excited when the story went back to Adam, but didn't like the fantasy element to the book. I did find a connection to this story in the end, but it wasn't quite enough. Intriguing, but sadly not quite there.

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter*
Harper Collins, 6 April 2017

I was very excited to get my hands on Dawn O'Porter's latest release. After listening to her podcast, Get It On, I could only come to the conclusion that she's one cool lady. I love the sorts of things Dawn talks about, and it was no exception with this book. It covered a variety of topics that are so interesting, relevant and important to talk about, such as love, sex, periods, masturbation, pregnancy, abortion and so on. I also always love reading from dual (or in this case three) perspectives and how the character's lives intertwine with one another. This book is Dawn's adult fiction debut (she's previously written a young adult series), and follows three different women living in London - all with different views on some of the topics mentioned above, with different jobs and lives. I loved how the overarching message to this book was that it's fine if you have a different opinion to another woman, and women shouldn't bring each other down. A downside to this book was that some of the concepts were very farfetched and unbelievable, but maybe that adds to the fun of the book - it's fiction after all. I was a little indifferent to this when I first finished it but I do think it's worthwhile for any woman to pick up to have a laugh and a really good think.

Are you interested in reading any of these books? Let me know what you think!


*Review Copy

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