31 December 2017

Recently Read: December


December was the month I got back into reading. Although I could have read another book or two with all the spare time I had, I really enjoyed reading the ones I did. While there are a couple of young adult books in this bunch, I branched out slightly and got stuck into a historical fiction (and a well known one at that), plus a science fiction time travelling number.

Seeing this is the last book post of the year, I thought I would touch on my reading goals for 2018. This year, I set a goal to read 50 books and I have no idea why I did that, considering it has been the most stressful and time-consuming year of my life so far. I reached 41 books, and while that's still a good achievement, I'm not going to be setting a reading goal for next year. I have always felt a tiny bit of pressure to read lots and read fast, but that does no good at all. Here's to savouring books and reading whatever when we want... anyway, here are the four books I read this month.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
I fell in love with Matt Haig's storytelling when I read The Humans a few years back. It's a genius book that I think anyone would love. His books tend to be very wise, emotional and a touch funny as well; in the case of The Humans, a lot funny. I knew I had to pick up his latest release and I was not disappointed. On the outside, Tom Hazard is an ordinary 41-year-old man, but he's actually been alive for centuries, enough to mingle with the likes of Shakespeare and Scott Fitzgerald. He's been a piano player in a fancy club in Paris during the 1920s, lived alone in secluded Iceland, and more. But now he's back in London in search of a more normal life, teaching history at a high school. He's part of a society that aims to protect people like him, who helped him feel less alone with his rare condition. This book explores what it's like to be human and how we should appreciate all those things that make us inevitably happy: art, books, love. Weaving in and out of different time frames from the 1500s to now, this book makes you feel a little less alone in thoughts about the meaning of life.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr*
I'm sure you would have heard of this book at some stage. All The Light We Cannot See is a well-known historical fiction that follows a blind girl from France and a German boy who joins the Hitler Youth Movement during World War II. They both try to survive this turbulent time and against all odds their lives intertwine in unexpected ways. It jumps from one year to another and back, as both children grow up with their own troubles and newfound possibilities. Both emotional and bittersweet, I found myself slowly working my way through this. Although it starts off slow, by the end I was bursting to finish it. Above everything, this book shows how there are always kind people in the world no matter what they are born into, or how they are destined to live their life. While it is a pretty long book to read, I think there's a reason so many people tell me they loved this.

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Although it's taken me a while to actually read this, I'm so glad December was finally the month I picked it up. Even though this may seem like a childish read, it's such a special book that I couldn't not give it five stars. This is Katherine's debut novel about a girl called Wing, who is teased not only for her unique name but her mixed-race appearance. She has a grandmother from China and another grandmother from Ghana, who help her through a tragedy; early on in the book her brother Marcus is involved in a terrible accident that leaves him in a coma. She picks up running as a way of dealing with this, and gets closer to her brother's best friend who she has had a crush on as long as she can remember. While reading, I never felt bored or as if the pacing was slow; I really enjoyed following Wing on her journey as she found something that made her feel alive, and above all discovered that being or looking different isn't a disadvantage.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
This is another book I have had lying on my shelves for a while, and this month I decided to finally finish it. I had read about 30 pages of this a couple of years ago but didn't feel compelled to continue it. But as I felt her other book Asking For It was really powerful and well-told, I thought it was only right that I gave Only Ever Yours a second shot. This is a young adult science fiction where women are bred and manufactured in labs to look perfect, all for the connivence and pleasure of men. Taking reality and turning it into the extreme, the book is set at a school where girls are taught how to look and behave. It explores the pressures young girls face with the advent of social media. While I loved the concept of this and thought the idea was a really powerful one, I felt like the execution lacked any punch. I gave this just three stars as I felt the world-building could have been stronger, and the plot was pretty weak. In saying that, if you do like the sound of this it might be worth reading just for the concept alone.


-Emma

*Review Copy

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28 December 2017

Best of 2017: Beauty


I had it in my head I wouldn't be doing a best of beauty post this year - I'm aware that I tend to talk about the same products over and over again. However, I thought I would round up just five products that really wowed me this year - whether they were new in 2017 or simply new to me. Whether high in price or a bargain, I really recommend these above everything else.

The Ordinary Coverage Foundation
It's no surprise this foundation ended up in my yearly favourites. Many people have gushed about this base for being effective yet really affordable. Even if you don't end up liking this as much as me - it's hardly going to break the bank if you give it a go. One of the best things about this base is that it's available in so many shades, from the lightest you can think of to the darkest. This is what many drugstore brands lack, so I think it's so great that you can find a perfect match for your skin. The coverage foundation is meant to be a higher coverage than the serum foundation, but I wouldn't say it's super high coverage. This is really nice though, because you still get really decent, even coverage without it looking or feeling heavy on the skin. It also has SPF 15 which makes it a great day-to-day foundation, and the best thing is it has absolutely no scent unlike those overpowering drugstore offerings. The only downside is this foundation sells out like hot cakes, but if you keep checking the ASOS website you might be lucky (at the time of writing they have a good selection of shades in stock).

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Everyone has been going crazy over this drying lotion, and I for one think it's worth the hype. I have had a lot of trouble with my skin since I was about 16, so I've generally given up on finding a cure for my acne (aside from medication that is), but this product really helps. When my skin is in a bad stage, I generally apply this every day or night, depending on whether I'm leaving the house. It helps shrink spots down and make them a lot more manageable. The key to this is to use it every day or every other day and get in a routine with it. Yes, you look ridiculous with pink lotion dotted all over your face, but because you keep it on for so long it is really effective.

Tanya Burr Selfie Lash Mascara
I've recently raved about this mascara, but in the last month it has definitely become my go-to product. I like that this is buildable and lifts lashes but won't make them look overly clumpy. This is a great mascara for those who like to have defined, separated, fluttery eyelashes. There are a lot of high end mascaras out there that do just as good of a job as drugstore price ones, in fact I would argue this mascara is better than those luxe expensive offerings.

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Melting Eyeshadow in Bronze Moon
My foray into high end eyeshadows has been brief so far, but I fell in love with this By Terry eyeshadow and there's no going back. They are named 'melting eyeshadows' for a reason - they blend extremely nicely, providing a pigmented, almost metallic wash of colour to the lids that is also wearable. I think there is only one other shade I would like to buy eventually, but Bronze Moon is such an all round beautiful shade for all skin and eye colours.

Too Faced Love Light Prismatic Highlighter in Blinded by the Light
I'm not going to lie, one of the main reasons why I love this highlighter is the amazing heart shaped packaging. However, I really rate this product after using it for a good few months. This shade is more of a cool toned pearl colour which I think would suit a lot of skin tones, but they also have a pink-based shade and a gold toned one. I would say this is a powder highlight, but it is a really creamy one and works best with a dense brush for ultimate pigment.


I hope you enjoyed this post even though it has a small amount of products, but I think it's probably a better way of doing it so I only include my absolute favourites and essentials.

-Emma

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24 December 2017

Best of 2017: Books


I always do a blog post at the end of each year rounding up the books I loved the most. I usually have more than five to talk about, but when it came time to decide which ones would make the cut, these were the books that I just couldn't remove from the final list. I truly loved each and every one of these books and really recommend you pick them up if you like the sound of them! They are in no particular order, they are all special in their own right.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
This book is about a girl who is a selective mute, and a boy who is deaf. They meet when the boy, Rhys, moves to Steffi's school and develop a friendship because they are the only ones at school who know sign language. They find unique and special ways to communicate, showing that sometimes a whisper is as good as a shout. This is a love story, but it's more than that; it's about friendship and communication. It gives representation to those who are deaf, have selective mutism and/or social anxiety and in my opinion is done so well. I think this more of what the YA (young adult fiction) world needs.

When it comes to YA, a lot of it can be pretty rubbish. However, I think there have been so many innovative and amazing releases in this category in the last couple of years; it's all about choosing the right ones. As well as offering representation for minorities, it is just a bloody. cute. love story. One important thing to note is that the protagonist, Steffi, isn't saved by her love interest. He doesn't fix or cure her social anxiety, which I think is incredibly important. This book was very well researched, informative but also just so entertaining. I absolutely loved it.


Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson is quite a well known writer in the publishing world but I had yet to delve into her writing until this year. I'm so glad I have, because her books are so easy to read and are incredibly entertaining whilst bringing attention to important topics. Margot & Me follows Fliss on her way to her grandmother's house in Wales, a grandmother who she doesn't get along with. But when she finds her diaries, she discovers there may be more to her grandmother than she thought. Fliss reads the diary entries and is transported to what seems like another world, during World War II. The diary features a wartime romance and her grandmother's biggest secret. The diary brings the two of them together, while Fliss battles something terrible that is happening in her own life.

One of the reasons I love her books so much (the two I have read!)  is they never drag. You just want to keep reading and reading. I loved the dynamic of Margot & Me, as it includes Fliss' perspective and diary entries from her grandmother during the war. This is a book about the importance of family and shows there is usually more to a person than meets the eye. It's pretty emotional, and you will get swept up in the love story taking place in the 1940s. If you're looking for an easy read, but something a little bittersweet, I would really recommend checking this book out.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman*
There was something so unique and interesting about this book I just had to include it in this line up. The main character, Eleanor, is different than most people. She lacks in social skills and takes everything very literally. In other words, she says exactly what she's thinking, which makes for some interesting and very funny moments throughout the book. She has a very structured life and a strict routine. Throughout the week she goes to work and comes home, and at weekends she buys vodka and frozen pizza and stays home. She's very, very peculiar from the outside. It's only when Raymond, an IT guy at her office, starts to get to know her through an unfortunate accident and moment of fate that she lets down the reins on her life and inch by inch her troubled past is revealed.

This was such an intriguing and different read; as I went through the first few chapters I was trying to guess what sort of story this would be. The fact that Eleanor is such a mystery is very interesting and I couldn't stop reading. Strangely, something I got out of this was that it's okay to have a simple life as long as you are content with that, and it's the people you meet and make friends with that is most important. That, and a bit of kindness goes a long way. Sometimes books are very plot-driven and characters aren't as complex as they could be, however the main thing I enjoyed from this book was Eleanor as a character. I've said this when reviewing this book on my blog before, but her character really highlights the shallowness and stupidity of humanity, overall revealing what truly matters in life.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber*
To be honest, I never read fantasy books. I think a lot of them can be the same and it takes a lot for them to really grab my attention. I was really excited by the prospect of Caraval because it involved a magical circus of some kind, reminding me of The Night Circus. Two sisters enter the world of Caraval, a strange place comparable to the peculiar fantasy land Alice explores in Alice in Wonderland. One of the sisters, Tella, has been captured by Caraval's mastermind organiser, and the other one, Scarlett has to find her. The trouble is, Scarlett isn't sure what's real in this weird world, and doesn't know who she can trust.

This is pretty much the only fantasy book I read this year, but it is one I truly loved and enjoyed so much. I was hooked somewhere around the middle point and could. not. put. it. down. It is basically a magical scavenger hunt that sometimes feels like The Hunger Games, with many twists and turns. I loved imagining the world the author had invented, and the best part was that it barely slumped at any point - I read it in just one day. If you're looking for your next fantasy read, or want to get into fantasy books a bit more I would recommend this one!


The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
It's quite an achievement for an author to have two books in my favourites list, especially when I've only included five! The Gender Games was something completely different to Margot & Me, it being her adult debut. I've only reviewed this just last month, but will recap anyway. Delving into a discussion around gender, Juno explores this topic from the perspective of a transgender woman. She covers why gender makes the world so messed up, focusing on her experiences of being both a man and a woman in her life. She has many stories to tell from when she was a gay man, to now as she continues her transition from man to woman.

One hundred pages in and I knew this book was amazing. I found it so, so easy to read; it was incredibly entertaining and witty while still being informative for those who know nothing about transgender people and gender (of course it is only just one perspective). So while I think Juno Dawson is just simply an amazingly talented and proficient writer, it's also important to note that she is also opening up an important discussion of how to include trans women in feminism. On the whole, a great book that reminds me I need to read more nonfiction and more about feminism from all angles.


*Review Copy
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16 December 2017

New in my Wardrobe


One of the reasons summer isn't my favourite season is because I can't wear my beloved jumper and jeans combo (most of the time), however I'm trying to somewhat embrace warmer days by picking up a few pieces that are suitable yet still me. You can't quite prise me away from my jeans even in summer, but I do have to bring out the t-shirts and open footwear. Summer in New Zealand has come round with a vengeance, but if you live in the Northern hemisphere, I think some of these items will still work during winter. I mean, I love transitional dressing and layering, so don't tend to buy items only for summer or only for winter.

The Velvet Blazer


My obsession with blazers continues, this time with a fancier edge. When scrolling on ASOS, I came across this gorgeous Vila Tailored Velvet Jacket. I had been on the search for another blazer so I could continue to dress like a Haim sister (in my dreams), and couldn't get this one out of my head despite it being a little more expensive. As soon as ASOS had a 20% off sale, I jumped at the chance to get some money off, and was really pleased when it arrived. I think this was quite a risky item to buy online, but something that payed off (if you ignore the creases in the photo). The blazer is pink velvet, yet from some angles it has an orangey tinge which I absolutely love, and when you roll up the sleeves you see a peek of the orange/rust coloured lining. This isn't exactly a summery purchase as I'll probably melt if I wear it often, but could be good for parties/events in the evening, or worn in autumn next year.

The Shoes

I thought it was about time I caved and bought some summer footwear because at the moment my wardrobe is full of countless sneakers and one pair of winter boots. I think it is quite hard to find comfortable summer footwear unless you really want to invest in an expensive pair, however the Spurr Tasha Slides from The Iconic (with literally the best, quickest shipping ever) suit me fine for now. I really like the simple style of these, and of course they go with anything. One thing I will say about these is they leave black marks on my feet when I wear them for the whole day, which isn't ideal but not the end of the world. These were really cheap, especially because I got 40% off at the time. I did buy a pair of blush slides at the same time, however I returned them because they were way too small - either my feet are wide or their sizing is off!

The other pair of shoes I bought recently were the Chuck Taylor All Star Hi by Converse because I absolutely love the look of them with jeans, especially when they eventually get a bit worn. Wearing these in summer is actually quite bearable, plus looks great paired with a casual t-shirt and jeans combo, because what else would I be wearing? I do have these in white, but they are so dirty and old now, I thought it was time for an upgrade.

The Hoops

In terms of jewellery, I was lucky enough to get a few pieces for my birthday, one of them being the Charlotte Penman Tempo Hoops. These have now become an everyday piece for me - they go with absolutely anything. Gold jewellery has been a favourite as of late, although I still love wearing silver, especially when it comes to necklaces. I think everyone has had an affinity with earrings, or even statement earrings, lately and I'm in no way over this trend.

As a side note, the t-shirt I'm wearing is from Haim's merch collection with Urban Outfitters. Although I got this a while ago, I thought I would include it anyway, especially considering how much I wear it. At the time it sold out so took a while to arrive, but they still have some in stock and it's now half price FYI.

The Jeans

Although I own enough jeans, I have been on the lookout for another pair to add to my collection, specifically a pair of light wash ones. I bought some a few months back but it ended up that they were too tight - I now hate the look and feel of skinny jeans. But as I was browsing in the Auckland Dangerfield store, I came across some I really liked the look of - the Tilda Jean High Crop Flick. The fit of these is high waisted (and properly high waisted), slim on the thighs with a small flare. I find these type of jeans just so comfortable and they will work all year round. If you haven't heard of Dangerfield, they are an amazing Australian clothing brand I would describe as quite kitsch or quirky - the pieces tend to be more expensive sometimes but they have good sales. I went heart eyes for all their jumpers in store last winter, so you can bet I'll be making a bee line for their store when the time comes around.

The Cardigan

I recently bought a lovely soft grey cardigan to take me through from spring to summer, and will serve me well from summer to autumn next year. The Miss Selfridge Cocoon Oversized Cardigan from ASOS goes perfectly well with jeans and a t-shirt year round, has such a nice, relaxed fit and has big pockets. If it has pockets, I'm sold. This cardigan was a pretty good price considering how high quality it is.

That's everything I've added to my wardrobe recently. I would love to know if you like any of the above items, and what you have been wearing lately during summer or winter!

-Emma

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7 December 2017

Beauty Haul and First Impressions


Long term readers of my blog will know beauty hauls are few and far between these days. While I love trying out new makeup, my bank account does not thank me for it. In saying that, November was a fairly spendy month for me and I decided to treat myself, after all, it was my birthday and I finished university so that calls for some celebration right? It can be so easy to buy so much these days with the onslaught of blogger recommendations, but I usually do a fair bit of research before purchasing. With that said, here's everything I bought from Mecca Maxima and Feel Unique...


Although my Mecca purchases don't look like a lot, I did indulge in a couple of more expensive items that have been well worth the money so far. First of all, I bought the NARS Soft Matte Concealer as everyone and their dog has been raving about it. With my old concealers running empty, I knew it was time to pick up a new one. On makeup days I don't usually wear under eye concealer as I find my foundation to be good enough coverage, but I typically need (or want, let's face it) more coverage on the rest of my face where I have scars and breakouts. I'm not too bothered by my acne anymore, but it does help when you find a product that actually covers them up if need be. When you dab this on with fingers, it melts and blends perfectly into the skin. It isn't drying at all like the name may suggest, and equally, it doesn't leave behind any shine.

On the topic of breakouts, I've been using the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion solidly for one or two weeks and it has been working great for me. On days when I'm just at home, I apply this on spots I have and leave it on for the entire day. You can put it on at night time before bed, but in my experience it tends to rub off easily especially if you're someone who tosses and turns. My sister and I both use this for our spots and it really makes a difference with continued use, daily, or once every couple of days. If your breakouts are really big and sore, it helps to dry them out faster and shrink them in size gradually over a few days.

Last month I felt like I had a gap in my makeup collection - I didn't have enough, or pretty much any, lip products that I loved and would use daily. Over this year I have really shied away from wearing any kind of lipstick apart from the occasional sheer nude. I find lipstick incredibly annoying, especially vibrant, matte formulas, which I thought I loved but I think I was just following along with trends. In comes the Surratt Beauty Lipslique in Bandy. I knew it was exactly the product I was after when I watched one of Estee Lalonde's videos where she talked through her monthly beauty favourites. One of the things I love about this product is the design of the packaging; not only does it have a gorgeous iridescent-like tube, but it's a lot smaller and slimmer than typical lipsticks, meaning it's easier to apply. It has a very sheer yet buildable formula that I would say is somewhat of a 'your lips but better' shade. A lot of nudes can be too pink and not look right on me, however I love this colour as it verges on being more brown toned. It isn't incredibly long lasting but I don't mind reapplying, and although expensive, I'd rather invest in a product I like rather than keep using ones I don't.

Lastly I bought a fairly cheap tinted lip balm, because as I said, I was lacking in lip options. The Frank Body Lip & Cheek Tint is a coffee scented tint you can apply to your eyelids, lips and cheeks although I've just tried lips so far. While I haven't used this a whole lot, one thing I really like so far is the scent - thanks to this little product, my whole draw smells like delicious coffee. I should get around to trying more of their products, namely the coffee body scrubs they are famous for.


It has been a while since I'd had a good browse on Feel Unique, but I have to say, I do quite like the selection of brands they stock. Two of those brands are Zoella Beauty and Tanya Burr Cosmetics, and while I don't usually give in to the hype of products bought out by YouTubers, I do love that their ranges are really affordable. I have actually never tried anything from Tanya's range, but I decided to pick up the new Tanya Burr Selfie Lash because I Covet Thee was raving about it. I haven't been too happy with the mascaras I've been using lately, so it was definitely time to try something different, and I'm actually really impressed with this one. It has a large brush, but not completely massive that it's hard to apply and control, plus it really lengthens lashes and provides decent volume. This mascara doesn't clump or make it look like you have five eye lashes on one eye, which is a thing I really struggle with.

I decided to pick up the Tanya Burr Peachy Glow Cheek Palette too. I haven't been reaching this for a whole lot so far, because the first time I used it I probably went a little overboard with the bronzer. These powders are pretty pigmented, I guess depending on what brush you use. I would say the bronzer is probably a bit warmer toned than most people would like, so in future I will be using a light hand with this. The blush, however, is a really pretty colour and the highlight is nice and subtle but still has decent pigment. I'm not completely wowed by this palette yet - I still need to keep using it - but I like how it has everything in one place and is a good size.

Lately I've really been missing having Lush baths, but because that can be a pretty expensive habit, I thought I would get one of Zoella's bath products in the hope it would last longer than Lush bath bombs. You scoop a small handful of the Zoella Beauty Scooper Dooper Bubble Bath under running water and it makes a decent amount of bubbles - just don't do it when the bath is already full! While I'm not in love with the scent, it's still pleasant and more of a summery fragrance anyway. I have used another one of her bubble bath products and while I preferred the other, I think these make a good substitute for Lush items.

As basic as it sounds, another beauty product I've been lacking in is an eyeliner pencil. I have never been one to use one, but I have been liking smudging brown eyeliner on my upper and lower lash line for more of a smudgier/softer eye look. When done right, I feel like this really adds definition and dimension to my eye makeup - if I can be bothered that is! The one I bought is the Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer; it has the soft, creamy pencil on one side and a smudger on the other. Secondly I picked up the BY TERRY Ombre Blackstar Melting Eyeshadow in Bronze Moon - quite the blogger favourite. I finally bit the bullet and bought this, as although expensive, I think they are worth it. I can be really lazy when it comes to makeup, so just being able to smother this all over the lids and blend has been a dream. The shade I went for is more cooler toned than my usual eyeshadow, but I feel like this sort of shade goes with any type of makeup and suits everyone.

Finally, I picked up the L'Oreal Paris Pure Clay Detox Mask. I think this is a smaller size as apparently this only has ten applications, but nevertheless I don't plan on using it too often. I have only used this once so I can't really comment on this product yet, however I think this one will be really good at drawing out impurities and leaving skin smoother. Hopefully this won't irritate my skin, but as it was pretty cheap it won't be much of a waste if I don't end up loving it.


Have you tried any of these products?

-Emma

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