Saturday, 28 February 2015

Non-Bookish: A Few of My Favourite Things From February.


February might be a short month, but that doesn't mean I didn't have time to find some favourites.

Here are some of the things I loved in February 2015.



So, one of my favourite parts of Oscar season is the Red Carpet. I always watch the live coverage on E! although I have to say that E!'s red carpet coverage this year was a mess! They lost exclusive rights to ABC (I think), abandoned live coverage of the red carpet half way through the show and to top it all off decided to subject their viewers to the "expert" opinions of Khloe Kardashian - who then proceeded to trash-talk everybody and their dress - while all the while looking like a complete and utter mess herself. Yeah. Get it together E! 

Anyhow, these were three of my favourite looks of the night. I thought Margot Robbie looked amazing and I loved Lupita's dress. Lupita's dress was STOLEN from her hotel room after the ceremony, but I think it's since been returned. I'm glad Rosamund Pike got her look together for the Oscars - some of her red carpet dress choices have been, well, kind of a disaster.

As for the Oscar ceremony itself - I only caught the highlights show - but I didn't enjoy it. Uh. Neil Patrick Harris was not funny. Ellen did a much better job.

*****




February also saw the return of my favourite Shonda Shows.  Here's my quick take on those:

Scandal: OK - Scandal just gets crazier and crazier. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm a huge fan of this show, but some of the storylines lately have been um, not so great? I'm talking the 'auction' storyline - what even was that? I'm also talking Huck and that bloody mess of a bloody massacre. I really think I'm done with Huck. Also, they really need to save the character of Fitz. There's been a Fitz character assassination going on now for a couple seasons. Ugh.

Grey's: Guys, Grey's is SO GOOD this season. I know that Grey's has had some not so great seasons, but this year, it is really back on track. And that's post-Cristina Yang and everything. I really thought the show would suffer when Sandra Oh left, but it hasn't at all. The Jackson/April storyline was especially heart-wrenching. Grey's has become a must-watch show once more.

How to Get Away with Murder: OMG! The How to Get Away with Murder finale was just full of surprises! I might have gotten off to a shaky start with this one, and I still haven't totally warmed to any of the characters, but HTGAWM has gotten better and better with each episode. I am fully invested now and can't wait until Season 2. 


*****



I don't know why I label this monthly round-up 'Non-Bookish' because I always seem to mention books in this post in some shape or form. Anyway, this month the Deliciously Ella cook book is on my list of favourites. I'm definitely guilty of buying cook books and then never actually using them, but this one is different. I've made the Lentil Bolognase a couple of times, and it is tasty - although I feel like the recipe maybe needs a little bit of tweaking as the texture is a little dry - or maybe my cooking is to blame!

My sister made the Raw Brownies from this book and those are THE BEST THING EVER. So yum!


*****

February was a great month for music with new releases from Lower Dens, Best Coast and Chromatics. Chromatics have a new album out soon, which I am very, very excited for. In the meantime they've done the soundtrack for the Ryan Gosling directed movie Lost River (along with label mates Glass Candy and Desire). Listen to Yes (Love Theme from Lost River) below.



*****

CURRENTLY READING



I've just started on Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. I'm only sixty or so pages in, but so far so good.

Have you read Vanishing Girls? What did you think?


*****

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Arianne's Review Round-Up: Black Dove White Raven, Still Falling, Stung & The Here and Now.



For fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Wein’s novels represent the very best that YA historical fiction has to offer. Entertaining, compelling and utterly original, Black Dove, White Raven is the latest addition to Wein’s triad of mesmerising, powerful novels about wartime pilots, human conflict and the bonds which hold us together — and tear us apart. 

Independent, strong-willed Em and quiet, patient Teo have grown up on American airfields. Em’s mother Rhoda and Teo’s mother Delia were best friends and stunt pilots, but after losing Delia in a tragic air crash, this makeshift family must choose whether to stay in the States and face continued discrimination because of Teos’s skin colour, or live their lives according to Delia’s wishes — in the country of Teo’s ancestors, where new opportunities could await all of them. A country of equal splendour and poverty, clamour and wilderness, the promise of Ethiopia proves impossible to resist — but with the secrets of Teo’s heritage still be revealed and war suddenly looming on the horizon, it could just be the most dangerous move they’ll ever make.

Black Dove, White Raven has an incredible concept, but it just didn’t match quality of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire for me. It’s weighed down by backstory, particularly when it comes to Em and Teo’s unconventional childhood. I wanted to see more of them as teenagers. I didn’t love the writing style and also felt Teo and Em deserved a more solid ending, as while it’s dramatic, it just doesn’t do justice to the depth of the bond they share.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of upsides worth mentioning. Whether you’re looking for diversity, unusual settings, a focus on friendship, insight into a lesser-known historical period, or even just devastating and brutal emotion, this book has it all. Not quite a five-star read, but excellently researched and very engaging.


Four Stars.
Release date: March 5th 2015.

*****




From the author of the award-winning Grounded and Taking Flight comes another hard-hitting novel about struggles, choices and self-acceptance — this time with a romantic twist. This is the closest to mainstream contemporary YA I’ve seen from an Irish author in years (excluding the glorious Vendetta by Catherine Doyle, which is part forbidden romance, part Mafia murder saga like to give even The Godfather a run for its money) and it’s definitely a trend I’d like to see more of. 

Still Falling tells the story of Luke and Esther, two ordinary teenagers who can’t help but fall for each other – but while many love stories take the ‘us against the world’ angle, this is a book which shows that Luke and Esther may just be their own worst enemy, particularly when it comes the secrets they’re trying to keep. This book is John Green meets Jenny Downham: potentially cheesy and overdone, but chilling and dramatic instead.

That said, I did have a few issues with the book. I wasn’t enamoured by the story to start with, as the characters don’t immediately jump off the page. Well-read fans of US and UKYA may find it difficult to look past the difference in quality between books like this and other more polished titles on the shelf; with standards skyrocketing, it’s easy to lose interest in a narrative which lacks the polish and shine found in books by Stephanie Perkins and Katie McGarry. For more reluctant readers who need their own world more directly reflected in a book, however, Still Falling will certainly appeal — and throw in some surprises to boot.


3.5 Stars.

****



2014 was a fantastic year for UKYA, and 2015 looks set to be no exception. This thrilling, highly-anticipated sequel to series opener Struck (also known as Storm and Stone) is stuffed to the brim with high-octane chase sequences, brutal fight scenes and dangerous deals of the extremely shady kind. I’m a huge fan of Joss Stirling (including the books she’s written under various other pen names), so when I read the premise for Stung, I knew I had to add it to my TBR; then I read the opening line (“Kate Pearl stood on the green wheelie bin in the alley that ran along the back of her mother’s house…”) and I knew I’d definitely have to read it.

Stung’s plot is gripping from start to finish. It has the feel of a real thriller and I can easily see it being made into a gritty kid/teen TV show or one-off special. Framed for a crime she didn’t commit and hunted by a gang of ruthless killers, sixteen-year-old Kate is risking everything just to stay alive. With traitors at every corner and peril at every turn, Kate hasn’t got time for romance — that is, until she meets Nathan. Locked in a frantic race against time, Nathan may be the only person she can trust — or the person who could hurt her the most. 

Kate is a fantastic heroine. She knows she’s not the only one keeping secrets, but with her life on the line and chances of survival looking slim, she’s prepared to do almost anything to clear her name and make it through each day. While she’s not as glamourous as fellow female lead Raven, she’s resilient and resourceful, and I loved that. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Nathan’s character as much as I’d hoped and his romance with Kate feels forced. The writing style as a whole let me down; it may be practical, but it’s also flat and uninspiring. If there’s one downside to the recent skyrocketing standards of UKYA, it’s that writing styles which lack flair soon fall by the wayside.

In short: Joss Stirling’s Stung isn’t without fault, but it’s still a taut, exciting adventure.


3.5 Stars

*****



I love the premise of this book. Time-travel love stories and parallel universes are a bit of trend in YA at the moment, but unfortunately I’m still looking for a novel that does the concept justice after reading this lukewarm foray into science fiction from the author of the wildly successful Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series. 

The cover may be spellbinding but things quickly go downhill from there. In spite of — or perhaps because of — all the hype for The Here and Now, I don’t know anyone who’s enjoyed this book, and since reading it, I not only understand why, I agree with them. There’s only one thing worse than a badly written book, and that’s a badly written book with absolutely no passion or energy in the narrative. Reading this book was like reading an instruction manual — in fact, you’re probably better off reading an instruction manual instead, because at least a manual would be useful. 

The opening chapters are meandering and unfocused, and it’s a trend that continues throughout the novel. The main characters — particularly Prenna — are totally passive and the romance lacks all semblance of a spark. The central conflict is solid but with little to no believable explanation for other events in the book, it never cements itself as a truly memorable novel. 

I wish there was a better way to say it, but this book is just plain boring — it barely held my attention and I couldn’t bring myself to invest in the characters. This is a book as generic as its title and if you’re looking for an exciting sci-fi romance, I’d steer clear of this limp and lacking effort.


Two Stars.

*****

Monday, 23 February 2015

Five Budget Beauty Bests!



It's no secret that I love a good beauty splurge. And also, just like books, when it comes to beauty, I am guilty of falling for the hype from time to time.  Sometimes I just can't help myself, but I've also learned that with beauty products, just like with anything in life, if it seems too good to possibly be true, then it probably is.

Anyway, now that's out of the way, I'd like to introduce to you some of my Budget Beauty Bests. Because as much as I love to sometimes stupidly splurge on skincare products - that all of those glossy ads and glowing blogger reviews are making me buy - well, like most everybody, I love a good beauty bargain too. 

These are the bargain buys that I repurchase over and over again. Everything here is widely available in pharmacies and supermarkets across the land. The prices I've listed are from Boots - I buy almost all of my drugstore beauty from there due to their 3-for-2 and half price deals. 

*****

Original Source Vanilla and Raspberry Shower Gel €3.19.
This sweet scent is my favourite budget shower gel. I usually stock up on this when it's half price at Boots and it is so much better than almost any other budget shower gel you'll find.  I keep meaning to try the rest of the Original Source range - because it all looks good - but I can't seem to stop buying this one in order to try anything else. As the fruity ingredients suggest, this has a bursting-with-fruity-goodness fragrance - and its almost smile inducing it smells that good. A happy burst of sunshine for your shower. Also, this is vegan - and tested only on people. An all round win!


Garnier Ultimate Beauty Oil Lotion €6.49.
It's not often that I'll include a body lotion in a 'best of' anything. Usually when I have a body lotion on my bedside table, it's one I've received as part of a gift set, and more of than not I only use half of it before it expires and I have to throw it out. I don't know why - I just never remember to use this stuff. Anyway, what I'm saying is that I rarely completely use up bottles of body lotion - until now. I'm coming to the end of my rather large (250ml) bottle of this stuff, and I definitely want to repurchase. It doesn't matter that I  have 52 bottles -slight exaggeration- of body lotions that I haven't even opened yet - this is the one I want. It really works. And it smells really nice due to its four beautifying oils - Argan, Macadamia, Almond and Rose. Also, it's non-sticky, which is always good. Really good value for its size and ingredients. 


Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer €5.49.
This concealer is a revelation. Seriously. I keep buying this in bulk because I keep on expecting the price to go up and up and up. It's great value for such a good concealer. I've used Benefit's Boing concealer for years, and while Boing is a great concealer, it's also €24 a pop. So, I've been using this collection concealer more and more - and let me tell you - it is just as good as any pricey concealer out there. I discovered this concealer last year via a Zoella vlog - and I've been using it ever since. If you are looking for a concealer that won't break the bank and really works - as in covers up EVERYTHING your skin can throw at it - then look no further than this. 

Also, super pale people (like me) buy this in 'Fair'  - it will work for you.


Carmex Lip Balm €3.39.
I am a convert to Nuxe's Reve de Miel but for years Carmex was my favourite lip balm and I always have a pot to hand. Hey, I bought my first pot of Reve de Miel 'just to try it out' and got hooked, but I won't be abandoning my trusty old Carmex any time soon.  Carmex contains Aloe Butter, Cocoa Butter, Menthol and Shea Butter. Oh, and it makes your lips tingle, which I like (love). I've heard this can also be used to soothe cold sores. A multi-talented essential, then.


Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water €6.29.
Remember when everyone went crazy for Micellar waters and started spending obscene amounts of money on certain French brand of water that is very difficult to get in this part of the world? In fact, I'm not sure if Bioderma is yet available in Ireland (pretty sure it's not) but it is easier to get (from the UK) than it used to be. Now, I never spent crazy amounts of money buying Bioderma Micellar Solution (I have always wanted to try it, though!) but until Garnier launched their Micellar Water, I had been spending €15/€16 on the Avene and La Roche-Posay offerings. Both very good, but this one is just as good. Also, the bottle is huge. And I don't think I have ever paid full price for this. It's usually on offer in Boots, and I'm pretty sure I saw it on sale in Penneys/Primark for €3 once-upon-a-time. Like I said, Garnier have been coming up with the goods recently!

****


What are your favourite Budget Beauty Bests? Let me know in comments. I'd love to discover a whole bunch of great budget beauty finds! 






Malorie Blackman launches Online Book Festival for Teens!



How cool is this?!

Malorie Blackman - in her capacity as Children's Laureate is launching an online book festival for teens as part of World Book Day.  So, if you feel like you've been missing out on those oh-so-cool bookish events that always seem to take part in the US and the UK, here's your chance to take part. There are no travel costs, no expenses and you won't even need to leave the comfort of your couch!

Here's the 4-1-1 on the event (from the Teen Fest website):

On 4 & 5 March from 6–8pm WBD TeenFest will bring amazing authors including Holly Smale, Marcus Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman and Derek Landy straight to your screen! With Hangouts and interviews, how-tos, blogposts, playlists, prizes and much more, each night will be packed with brilliant booky stuff as well as the chance to chat with other readers and writers.  Oh, and did we mention… it’s FREE!

-Hang out with your favourite YA authors
-Get the lowdown on the latest YA fiction
-Get writing tips, tricks and inspiration
-Share your#SHELFIES
-WIN BOOKS!
-UPCYCLE your old books
-LISTEN TO and CREATE playlists
-Discover some TRADE SECRETS
-And LOTS MORE!

Teen Fest events will take part across a spectrum of Social Media outlets including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


To keep up to date with all Teen Fest happenings sign up to the Mailing List and Follow @WBDTeenFest on Twitter.


I think you'll agree that the line up of authors taking place in the event is pretty spectacular!




Click HERE to see a full list of participating authors.






*Images and additional information via: http://www.wbdteenfest.com/

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