Sunday, 29 April 2018

Book Review: Still Me

The third and final instalment in a series that I have loved. Both Me Before You and After You easily make it onto a list of my favourite books, although for very different reasons. Louisa Clark is an incredibly lovable character as she’s so imperfect, yet always manages to stay true to herself, with her wacky outfits and clumsy ways. There’s a part of me that is so, so sad that this is the last time I’ll read about her with fresh eyes. The first thing that made me love the beginning of the book, where she embarks on a new life, a new start in New York of all places, was that she references her commitment to Will by saying yes to new opportunities. The series has always been haunted by Will’s decision to end his life, so it was a nice ode to him that Lou has kept her word, living her own life to the fullest. That being said, it’s hardly a surprise that Lou struggles to adjust to life in New York as the family that she works for is so incredibly rich that to go anywhere includes a limo or taxi ride - a very different world to what a down to earth suburban girl is accustomed to. It’s important to remember that although she was living in London, the city is very different to New York; for a start, those in the USA tend to take everyday fitness incredibly seriously, something that Lou definitely struggles with.

One of things that I absolutely love about Lou is her bravery and commitment to everything that she does; even though she struggles to keep up with New York life and manage her long distance relationship, in a world of secrets and lies. She loves Sam, but she also begins to love her new life, her job and all of the experiences she is having. She’s a modest person, believing that by being brave she’s doing exactly what Will would’ve wanted her to do, but in reality, yes he would be proud of her, but the experiences she’s having are a result of her own doing. She is shaping her world for herself, by herself. As much as she’s taking more chances and saying yes to more things, she’s still the same clumsy girl and that is what makes her so lovable and definitely relatable. Her personality literally shines through the page, she’s the kind of character that manages to feel like a friend; each book that I’ve read about her has been different in terms of place, relationships and even country yet she never changes, always staying true to herself. There’s so much to enjoy reading about as her adventures are always both believable and hilarious as well as sad, however I prefer seeing her plough through life without a care in the world, with her quirky fashion sense and understanding of what she does and doesn’t like. As much as it was lovely to see her thrive in New York, strike up a good relationship with her employer, get physically fit and embrace her new way of life, I actually love her best when she’s dealing with difficult situations and finding her own two feet on her own. Louisa is so strong, yet lacks so much self confidence and that it what makes her stories so lovely to read; she’s so normal yet so beautifully quirky!

I loved how this book started at one point, then developed further, with Louisa starting off in one job then slowly changing various elements of her life, from her relationship, to her friendships and even her confidence begins to change. Her friendship with Margot is a beautiful one; it showcases how age is simply a number and how an older woman can be the best influence on a young, broken woman. It was a pleasure to see them help each even though they’re from entirely different backgrounds, countries and ages there is always some common ground, something that places people together for a reason. Both of the ladies love fashion, which added another level to their friendship. Age is just a number may be a cliché, but in the case of Lou and Margot it definitely is true; like only true friends can, they argue, they sulk but ultimately they’re always honest with one another and it was great to see an older female character shown as good influence. Margot was just as influential for Lou as Will was, way back in Me Before You. She injected a dose of reality, a reminder that life can be hard but you can always find a kind, loving and supportive person wherever life happens to lead you. Relationships are at the heart of this series and something that Jojo Moyes depicts incredibly well; whether it is platonic or romantic, there is a healthy dose of realism relayed through description and conversation in this book - just as in reality, relationships don’t always work and life isn’t always easy. Louisa Clark is an easy character to love because her personality just shines through pages and words to the extent that she literally feels like reading about an old friend rather than simply a character. Even reading about her family felt familiar, how they love each other whilst constantly bickering. 

Overall I’m torn about this book; on one hand, I loved it. It felt like the perfect ending to Louisa’s adventures, but ambiguous enough that her life would be easily revisited, which is also exciting. However, the question on my lips even as I bought this book was ‘is it necessary?’ due to After You being so different from Me Before You and so I expected (rightly) that Still Me would be difficult once again. Although as a reader, I didn’t feel like I needed to find out what has happened to Louisa and some of the other characters, but at the same time I wasn’t disappointed as this novel did live up to my expectations. As I’ve already mentioned, I love this series because it feels real; there’s nothing extraordinary about Lou, yet she has a beautifully written character that makes you wish she was your friend. She’s clumsy, funny and never seems to know what to do, yet she manages to work her way through life doing the things that she loves, surrounded by the people that she loves. Each book in this series has been different; although the characters are familiar, the situations are always different and it’s also nice to see realistically how life continues regardless of tragic or difficult events. However, personally I liked that each book felt like a standalone novel, rather than simply the same storyline. One of reasons why I’ve loved this series so much is how realistic it reads; Lou genuinely feels like an old friend at this point. This book was a solid 4 stars; it wasn’t my favourite of the series but regardless I devoured it and so I’d recommend it if like me, you’ve fully committed to the series and it’s characters. It was a pleasure, as always.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

April Playlist

Hello again guys; I feel like I’ve lost my way a bit in terms of blogging recently and I’m not even sure why if I’m honest. It’s not that I don’t enjoy blogging anymore, it’s actually because I just never seem to find the time to finish off posts how I would want to (I’m a bit of a perfectionist haha) or I’m just not taking photos in good enough light. Basically, I need to get more organised. However, I am happy with how my life is at the moment; I’m reading more and more, plus having a better social life overall is making me feel super positive. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to music mostly as I walk to and from the bus stop on my way to anywhere. I find that when I’m listening to music I walk faster, at a more controlled pace and I simply enjoy the (smallest amount of) exercise within my day. As I’ve said before, my music taste is very broad; I listen to a variety of artists, genres, languages at any one time. I’m constantly making new playlists on my iPod, too. I love using an old school iPod rather than my phone because I feel like it’s so much more intuitive and user friendly; I don’t even have to look at the screen to change the song, it’s all in the click wheel. I don’t listen to music as often as I used to as I’m reading more often instead, but that’s ok. None of the songs listed below are in any particular order, they’re simply songs that I’ve been listening to constantly over the past month. What songs are you obsessed with this month? Let me know in the comments! :)

1. Speakerphone - Rixton
2. Devuélveme Mi Corazón - CNCO
3. Come and Get It - Selena Gomez
4. My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
5. What About Us - P!nk
6. We Don’t Talk Anymore - Charlie Puth (feat. Selena Gomez)
7. Ain’t It Fun - Paramore 
8. Strangers - Sigrid 
9. Échame La Culpa - Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato
10. One Thing - One Direction
11. Para Enamorarte - CNCO
12. I’m Yours - Alessia Cara
13. Touch - Little Mix
14. Havana - Camila Cabello (feat. Young Thug)
15. We Can’t Stop - Miley Cyrus

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Book Review: Milk and Honey

Generally, I’m not a poetry fan; however with this collection of poems I decided to give into the hype and give this book a try. In all honesty, this book is the tumblr and instagram hipster prop of dreams so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As a woman, I am a feminist. One of things I loved about this collection of poems is it’s femininity, realism and honesty. Using not only words but visual illustrations to further elaborate across many pages, the collected words really drew me into the soul of Rupi Kaur. Within the poems there was a lot of negative imagery surrounding themes of abuse, violence, sexuality and loss. As much as I devoured all of the poems, I wouldn’t say they were anything out of this world but I loved how relatable each of the parts were for me. Divided into four parts, ‘The Hurting’, ‘The Loving’, ‘The Breaking’ and ‘The Healing’ which was a self explanatory cycle of poetry imitating the cycle of life and emotions. Each part explored a variation of the themes I’ve already mentioned, although having the collected poems split into smaller chapters worked really well - it made it much easier to understand what topics were being covered in what chapter. Kaur takes the reader on a journey of her life in this collection, which makes you feel so connected to each and every poem, knowing that someone else has loved this.

I do feel like this collection of poems lived up to the hype for me; I’d say that this is likely because I began to read the poems with minimal expectations as I’m not overly familiar with poetry (or more specifically, reading poetry for my own enjoyment). I admired the honesty that seeped through each of the poems in all of the chapters, although the poems under ‘The Hurting’ were unsurprisingly the most difficult to read due to their harrowing nature; abuse of any kind is always hard to swallow and some of the depictions of sexual abuse in particular although in beautiful prose were difficult to read. Whether it is a subject that you’re personally familiar with or not, what the poems do is encourage you to think, to wonder and understand the kinds of battlegrounds that bodies can be for some people. For as much as bodies shouldn’t be a battleground, but a instead a celebration, there are situations and circumstances why some have issues with their bodies. Poetry is a subjective form of art and literature, in all honesty I can understand why this collection of poems has been so widely loved and so widely criticised; it’s not for everyone. It is a literal and visual journey of some of the best and worst moments of a persons life, which can be hard to contemplate. It’s easy to read words without meaning, but difficult to read with feeling. However, it is incredible that Rupi Kaur is so fearless within her chosen art form; each word is so carefully chosen, yet somehow extremely personal whilst remaining impersonal. 

The four parts give an understanding to the idea of survival; that even after a variety of bad times, there are always good times ready to experience. The splitting of various life experiences into multiple poems and ultimately four distinct parts that represent feelings worked well but also added another layer of sincerity to her writing. Although there were elements of chaos within the text, it was organised chaos; loose ends were neatly tied up and each poem (long or short) provided a specific meaning that added to the overall feel to the collection as well as carefully fitting into the themes laid out throughout the text. The poetry varied in length from a few words, to multiple pages, making each poem work as a stand-alone piece or part of the overall collection. Part four, or the ‘The Healing’, was arguably the most interesting to read, as everyone heals differently so it was definitely her perspective, her own process. Each of the parts tells it’s own story, using a variety of poetic techniques to do so; one of the reasons why I liked this collection of poems was the range of feelings seeping through the pages. We see feelings of hope, hate, love, shame and more. Feelings are such an inexplicable part of life, as much as some of the content was uncomfortable to imagine, it was easy to empathise, to invest yourself in Kaur’s storytelling, the narrative of her life.

Overall, I loved this. Not because of the hype surrounding it, or the hipster/tumblr/instagram youths who so often use various lines or stanzas alongside imagery to represent their own feelings. I’m aware that is a total stereotype, but honestly that is where I’ve seen most of the interest surrounding this book within the online world. This collection of poems felt like more than just a book as it is more creative than that; fully written and illustrated by Rupi Kaur, I loved how some of the poems were so subtly phrased, with carefully hidden meanings within the words openly declaring their meaning via some fairly graphic illustrations of sexual abuse, of pleasure, of the body, the world and more. Each emotion, each poem and each illustration conveys just how brave Kaur is; unafraid of the truth, never hiding from the pain of life, or hiding from the experiences life grants each individual. As I’ve said previously, I’m generally not a poetry lover, although that’s likely due to being forced to study only certain poetry, not poetry of my own choosing in the past. I would recommend reading this book, not to see if it lives up to the hype, but to change up your reading habits; try something new and indulge in another’s journey of life through lines, stanzas and illustrations. This is a collection of poems that I will not forget, each poem hit me with a different emotion, thought and even unintentional relatability. There is something for everyone in this collection, but I admit that it’s definitely a book that not everyone will enjoy, although for me it was easily a 5 star read.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Beauty Review: MakeUp Revolution x Soph Eyeshadow Palette

Hello again guys; after having such a success with the highlighter palette, I decided to bite the bullet and splurge (against my usual budgeting habits) and invest in the MakeUp Revolution x Soph Eyeshadow Palette. In all honestly, I’m not a massive lover of Eyeshadow, I find it all a bit of a faff... Plus I always seem to end up looking like I’ve got a black eye whenever I try anything new, so purchasing this was a big step for me! For £10, it does look and fell like good value for money as the palette itself feels sturdy to touch and I love that it includes a large mirror in the lid; one of things that I wished the highlighter palette included was a mirror, so that was a welcome inclusion. The cardboard outer packaging is cute, although the watercolour effect is a little pixelated in person, but the metallic bronze elements are cute, plus I like that the ‘Soph x’ logo is in the same font and colour on both palettes; it works well against the matte peach of the eyeshadow palette, too. For the price you get 24 different eyeshadows; 14 of which are matte shades and the other 10 shades are shimmers. The majority of the shades are warm toned, but I like that no two shades are similar, there’s a lot to choose from. Although the palette isn’t particularly bulky, it’s a fairly large size to hold so that’s a bit of a downside if you want to use it for travelling or applying make up on the go. The pan size for the eyeshadows are reasonably sized too; identically rectangular with the lightest shades in the top row getting steadily darker to the darkest shades in the bottom row. The added cellophane that tells you the shade names is a nice but unnecessary touch, although I leave the cellophane on top of the shades to keep the mirror clean so it is useful. 

When I’m feeling brave I tend to favour bronze, smokey eyes and this palette does that kind of look really well; there’s so many shades of bronze shimmers that work well and don’t crease once applied on the lid. I have a love/hate relationship with the pigmentation of the shadows in the palette as on the one hand, it’s great that they’re so pigmented for the price, but on the other hand it makes it difficult to work with when you’re like me and destined to make a mistake. I’ve not found any shadow that works better or is more pigmented than another, but I’m finding myself favouring the shades such as Pug, Pancakes and Cuppa Tea (two matte browns) for my everyday eyeshadow as I like a neutral shade on the lid, but I’m becoming a bit more experimental with using shimmers on top, such as Fairy Lights or Copper Coin. I feel like this is a great palette for all occasions but also a good way to get more experienced with eyeshadow as it’s reasonably priced, so you can wipe away mistakes and not feel like you’re wasting money. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve used this palette every single day and in all honesty, none of the shadows feel like they’re bad quality. There’s no chalky feel on the skin, no excessive fallout and no creasing after a couple of hours. I’m also pleased with the fact that none of the shadows look like they’ve taken a bashing after everyday wear so I’m hoping I’ll be able to use this palette constantly over the next few months. I was expecting the MakeUp Revolution x Soph Highlighter Palette to be my favourite palette of the moment, but I’m pleasantly surprised to be prefer the Eyeshadow Palette; I struggle with applying eyeshadow in general so it feels good to have finally found a palette that I can use and not stress about the expensiveness whilst still getting good results. I know it’s early days but I feel like I’ll end up repurchasing this palette once I’ve ruined this one and that is something I never thought I would say!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

This book is the one that I’ve been desperate to read for the past year; usually I’m not one to be tempted by any book that is insanely hyped up or on Bestsellers lists. However, there was something about this book that genuinely piqued my interest. Eleanor is a woman who is fairly unremarkable, on the offset. She is plain, has a stable job and lives alone. But there is so much more to her; she has a troubled past, with scars from burns all over one side of her body. She struggles with socialising, even with colleagues that she has known for a long time; she has a difficult relationship with alcohol, and with her mother. Despite these things, Eleanor isn’t unhappy; she actually likes her life, her routine of surviving the working week and then spending the weekend with vodka and pizza seems to be satisfying enough for her. Not only is she lonely, but she is determinedly so, doing all she can to avoid any form of contact with others and only getting phone calls from her mother, who is often verbally abusive towards her. Fortunately, they onyl communicate via phone calls so there is no opportunity for physical abuse as far as the reader can tell. However the relationship between them is so uncomfortable to read, but at the same time such a necessary part of understanding Eleanor and why she struggles with life in general as many look to their mothers for guidance.

Eleanor is a beautiful narrator; everything about her and her mind is so different that everything about the world is seen through her eyes and perspective. The only way to describe her is unique; she has very particular habits and ideas, especially about how to talk, work and dress properly but ultimately she is incredibly lonely. Yes, she does actively avoid any kind of social interaction, but that’s more because she thinks that she prefers her own company rather than because she hates the outside world. Working in finance for a graphic design company, naturally her colleagues are young, extroverted and don’t make much effort with her, either. To begin with, this story begins rather slowly as Honeyman needs to establish who Eleanor is before any action can take place; that’s not a bad thing, but it does make you wonder where on earth the story could be headed. There are a few things that start the change of Eleanor’s life: her office computer brakes, meaning that she meets Raymond; Eleanor and Raymond help an older man who collapses into the road and Eleanor watching a concert where she falls in love. What makes this story so clearly about love, is just how much Eleanor desires love without even realising; without actively looking for love she believes that she has found the ‘one’ and does what all sensible people do and get a makeover. Hair, nails, wardrobe and even a bikini wax! Her reactions to each of these things are hilarious and honestly, her character grows on you very quickly.

There are so many topics covered with delicacy in this novel that it almost seemed like a blur; relationships, abuse, death and mental health amongst many others. One of things that hit me the most about this book what the truth in the fact that everyone has good and bad days; however with the help of your friends you can always pick yourself up. Eleanor definitely has a reliance on alcohol, but all of her issues are ultimately connected to her past; her scars (both physical and mental) and her difficulties stemming from various care homes and foster carers. This is the kind of book that manages to get under your skin without your realisation; one minute you’re thinking this woman is strange and then the next you’re genuinely concerned about her, if she’s coping properly, if she needs some extra support at all. The amazing thing about this novel is that the plot is character led, yet you can imagine Eleanor as though she’s somebody you actually know; the bond between reader and narrator becomes unbelievably strong. Eleanor is a strong character and ultimately she ends up with a good job, good friends and good frame of mind after almost thirty years of heartache. There was not a traditional happy ending, but a realistic one; she is an extraordinary woman who enjoys a simple life and has found herself to be a survivor regardless of the odds.

Overall, I loved this book; yes, it was a slow beginning but oh my gosh it was such a good read. It was an unusual read about an unusual woman, who by her own description, wasn’t particularly beautiful, funny or clever yet she quickly grabbed my heart. There’s definitely a bit of Eleanor in all of us; unintentionally outspoken, insecure and strong. I loved Honeyman’s depiction of a lost soul; one who desperately needed some kind of support, some friends who could replace her lack of family. By the end of the novel, I assumed that I had guessed everything and I’m happy to say that I was completely wrong - some of the best books are those that surprise you and this one did that. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, or feel so much for Eleanor, Raymond and Sammy, each of whom had something that made them unique, a good friend even though they each had their own problems. I doubt I’ll read a book like this for a long time, but it’s one that I’m sure will stick in my mind; I’d love to know what happens next. This was an easy 5 stars for me, the issues that plagued this book were slowly unravelled with delicacy and ultimately the whole story just felt so inexplicably real that it was impossible not to get a little teary at times! I definitely recommend reading this, particularly if you’re a fan of books that don’t have a simple answer to every one of life’s problems.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Instagram Giveaway!

Hello again guys; this is a short little extra blog post! I recently won a giveaway by the lovely Lauren (link) on Instagram and it honestly made my week! I had been tempted to do a giveaway myself for quite a while, so I suppose it is about time, seeing as I’ve not done one before. Today I started a declutter of all of my make up (and room in general, god it was a MESS!) so I decided to do a giveaway for another person. Pictured above are all of the items that the winner will receive, free of any charge and none of the items have been used, as I’m a massive hoarder and it was time to bite the bullet and give an excess things to a new home. The rules are to follow my Instagram (link) account, like the above photo and tag the handles of two friends for an extra entry. UK ONLY, the winner will be picked at random and announced over on my account Saturday April 7 at 6pm. If this is something that you’re interested in, follow my Instagram link to enter, good luck! 🍀

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Book Review: Cruel Crown

After loving Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, it felt completely necessary to read this book. Although it is not a part of the series, it is an added extra; two short novellas, to be read alongside the main series. Generally, I’m not a fan of short stories, but I had so many unanswered questions (plus I was waiting for the second in the series to arrive) that I decided to throw away the rule book and give this book the benefit of the doubt. Split into two parts, it was an opportunity to understand a little more about the world through two very different narrators; it was a welcome contrast to Mare’s narration throughout Red Queen. The first and shortest of the two stories was narrated by Queen Coriane; allowing for the reader to understand further her engagement and eventual marriage to King Tiberias, as well as her own story; her shyness, her friendship with Sara and her brother Julian. Coriane writes her thoughts and feelings down in a Diary, constantly terrified of other people being inside of her mind, reading her thoughts and controlling her actions. Queen Song was beautifully written; definitely my favourite of the two stories but it explained so much about Court life, her feelings for Sara, Julian, Cal and Tibe, as well as her unhappiness with being Queen of Norta due to the amount of court women that openly despised her and wanted her crown.

The main reason I enjoyed Queen Song was because it read as more of a stand alone story, not simply a novella. This was due to Coriane being deceased in Red Queen, so she came across as a new character, rather than a shadow of a character. Although she is a character that is mentioned a fair amount, it was interesting to see the world from her perspective; I would never have guessed how much she despised court life, or how much Elara made her life a misery. It was also nice to understand more about the status within Blood Status; as Coriane may be Silver, but her House of Jacos is not one of those famed for riches, bravery or anything in particular. Even her power isn’t the most interesting or strong, so many of the other women at court actively make her life difficult. All in all, Coriane is both fragile and mysterious and Tibe became a vulnerable, gentle man in her presence; her love story was beautiful and so it’s a shame that their love was cut so short as they came across as really caring and supporting of one another. However, the second of the two stories, Steel Scars didn’t manage to capture my interest quite as much. It was longer and therefore more detailed, but it just didn’t flow as well; Farley is a fantastic character and she is tough, beautiful and determined to see through the revolution; that the Reds will rise against the Silvers. It was a great way to see a little more of the Scarlet Guard’s dynamic, as well as seeing more of Shade, Mare’s favourite brother.

Although the Steel Scars was longer, I felt as though it was not as well written. I understand that the Scarlet Guard is a rebel group, in the midst of becoming a fully fledged army so communication is key. However, to read the communications between members and the Command was really frustrating. Not only were the messages repetitive, they seemed to drag the rest of the text down; in all honesty I would’ve really preferred the story without them, they didn’t feel like a necessary addition to the text. That said, I liked the insight into military operations and seeing how Farley was genuinely a headstrong, confident female. One of the great things about this series is the range of strong female leads; unfortunately though, Farley didn’t come across in this novella as well as she does in the series, which was a shame as I was interested in seeing the world from her perspective. She seemed a lot more vulnerable in this novella, with her true age revealed; very different to how she appears in the series, however it was nice to see some of the conversations and/or situations between her and Mare from her perspective, some which are seen through Mare in Red Queen. She’s driven by the want for equality and it was nice to see how she deliberately undermines those above her in rank to see through to the end of an investigation. What was truly bizarre was little Farley’s personality comes across in this story; considering this is her point of view, I expected more. In the series she dominates those older, wiser and stronger, yet in this tale there weren’t many glimpses of that, although regardless she is still a strong character and I can’t wait to see what the future novels hold for her.

Overall, this novella is a great addition to the series, although I would only only recommend it if you’re willing to remember that it is a novella and not a full novel. It’s important to remember that this book is a part of a series but not a standalone novel. It’s a nice, quick read of less than 200 pages for both stories, plus it does allow for a little extra background information prior to starting Glass Sword. As I’ve said above, I preferred Queen Song not only because it was shorter and to the point, but because it showed a character that was only mentioned in the series; it gave a backstory to the majority of the events that happen in Red Queen and allowed for further understanding of the difficult relationships between Tibe, Cal, Maven, Elara, Julian and Sara as a result of Coriane’s death. I felt like Steel Scars had a lot of potential; ever since Farley was introduced into the series I wanted to know more about her and her motives. As much the text gives information, it hides a lot more. I was expecting more from the text, if I’m honest, although it wasn’t unreadable. It’s important not to compare the novella to the series; it’s an extra, not a necessity, but I would recommend reading Cruel Crown as it does provide a little more understanding for how hard it is to live as both Red and Silver. I’d rate this novella 4 stars, purely because although I felt one story was stronger than the other, both stories add to your understanding of Aveyard’s fictional world. I adored Red Queen and so this is was a nice addition to the series, even if elements of it were somewhat disappointing.

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