Friday, 30 December 2016

My 2016 Playlist - The Songs That Got Me Through

I've said it before, but 2016 was a difficult year. Music has always been a big part of my life and this year I took to recording the songs I was loving. Some of these are mellow tunes that I listen to at work, others remind me of specific places, times, or people. All of these I have loved and have listened to over and over again this year. I'll link each with their YouTube video where possible and I'll also put a link to a Spotify playlist at the end, as some songs might not be on YouTube and some are definitely not on Spotify!

These are in no particular order...

Golden Boy - Elf Kid
Woah Is Me - Grieves
Tiny Glowing Screens Pts 1, 2, and 3 - Watsky
All This And Heaven Too - Florence and the Machiene
Afire Love - Ed Sheeran
Cold Arms - Mumford and Sons
Loose Control - Matt Simons
Born In a Taxi - Blk Sonshine
Then Ok - Julia Nunes
Clean - Taylor Swift (link to Kina Grannis cover as the original isn't availble)
New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
7 - Catfish and the Bottlemen
Can't Give It Up - Ekkah
The Missing - Cassius
Sexual - Neiked
400 Lux - Lorde
To Build A Home - The Cinematic Orchestra
Late Night Tales Continuous Mix - Bonobo

The Spotify Playlist

I hope you enjoy listening to these as much as I have!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My Bookish 2017 Goals

I am someone who is fairly goal driven and I like to give myself tasks for personal improvement every now and then. The new year is a very cliched time to do this, admittedly, but if we can't enjoy a little cliche then what can we enjoy?!

At the beginning of this year I set my self some personal reading goals, which included reading more non-fiction, reading more diversely, and reading more short stories/plays/poetry/non-novels. Some of these goals have been a success (non-fiction books have made up a sizable chunk of this years reading list) and some have been less so (there are only a couple of non-novels on my list... whoops). With that in mind, I thought I would set myself five public goals, to spur on my 2017 reading...

1) Read more non-novels! Yes, this is going straight back on the list as it is something I am desperate to do. I have a short story collection on my TBR shelf already and I've got a play on my kindle ready to go, so I'm hoping to start off the year on the right foot. I also want to read at least one graphic novel this year, as well as more magazines.

2) Read more diversely. Another repeat goal. This was a goal I completed with relative success this year, but I want to improve even further next year. I read significantly fewer books by white men and significantly more by women - mostly because I graduated from university so could choose my own reading list! However, people of colour and LGTBQ authors didn't get as much of a look in as I would have liked, so I'm going to focus on reading more from these groups in the coming 12 months.

3) Re-read! I used to love re-reading books but I haven't in so long. This year I have re-read two books (Paper Towns and We Were Liars) and I really enjoyed the experience. I want to re-read Pride and Prejudice, the Harry Potter Series, and NW next year (at the very least).

4) Review more books. I hinted at a video project in my last book review and I'm going to hint again here! I'll reveal more in the new year, but I'll say that it will be mostly going down on Instagram... I really enjoy recording what I read and reviews are the perfect way to do that.

5) Read more! This year, as the time of writing, I have read 32 books, with a further seven (7!!) that I am part way through. I'm going to aim for a solid 40 next year - fingers crossed I can make it. I used to read a book a week, so it really shouldn't be that difficult but we shall see.

What are your bookish goals for 2017?

Friday, 16 December 2016

16 of 2016 - Favourite Books, Cruelty Free Beauty, and Other!

The end of the year is finally upon us (well, almost) and this little blog post has become somewhat of a tradition. I'll admit, it was a little harder picking out favourites this year than it has been in the past. 2016 hasn't been kind to anyone - personally, politically, and emotionally this year has been fraught with turbulence - however there is certainly some good in all that bad. As usual, I'm splitting this list (much like this blog) into books, beauty, and other. So, here goes...


1. Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari - I read this book in the first half of the year and it has stuck with me ever since. Witty and lighthearted, this book explores heterosexual romance and the way finding 'one true love' has changed in the past century or so. I'd really recommend this book to anyone interested in the way humans form relationships, as well as anyone who is looking for an 'easy in' to non-fiction writing.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir - This is somewhat of a cheat entry because I'm including the film as well as the book. The Martian was one of my biggest surprises - I watched the film because people had said it was good, expecting to enjoy it but not love it. Instead, I laughed my way through the whole experience and went about recommending it to everyone I could! The book was a similar experience and the two are perfectly interlinked in my memory.

3. Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill - I'd been wanting to read Louise O'Neill for a while so I was very happy when my sister gave it to me for my birthday. This is by no means an easy read: set in a dystopian world where girls are 'made' rather than born, there are schools for girls to train them to become perfect wives, concubines, or celebate teachers. This story follows one girl (and one year group) as they battle with body issues, social shaming, and boys - it's a scary look into the way that we view relationships and what constitutes the 'perfect woman'.

4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - This was another surprise for me, as I expected this to be fusty old classic that I was forcing myself to read 'because I should' rather than because I'd enjoy it. I fell head over heels in love with this book and these characters. Scout, Jem, and Atticus are all perfect characters - all of them flawed but all of them trying to do right by themselves. The story is told from Scouts perspective as she grows up to learn what a good man her father, Atticus, is, as well as the unjustness of the world around her.

5. Sweet Home by Carys Bray - I was trying to read more short story collections this year and, though this was the only one I got around to, Sweet Home has made me want to continue in that endeavour. The stories in this collection centre around family and relationships and they are all touching and heartbreaking in their own little way. I am excited to read more work by Carys in 2017, as well as more short stories!

6. The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss - This was the stand out book of the year for me. Told from the perspective of a father whose daughter stops breathing, this book examines what it means for life to go on. I really want to re-read this book now, as I read in at a stage in the year when I felt fairly invincible (not only pre-Brexit and pre-Trump but also prior to an event which has changed the way I view mortality forever) and I think my reaction would be markedly different. I think I would appreciate this book more on a re-read and, if possible, love it a little more too.


7. Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks - These have been the standout products of 2016 for me and they practically haven't left my face since I bought them at the start of September. You can read my review here.

8. Real Techniques Beauty Blender - This little orange sponge has changed the way I apply cream make-up. I hardly ever wear foundation but, when I used to hate how awkward it was to apply with a brush or with my fingers. Now I feel so much more confident when wearing it. I also wear concealer under my eyes every day and applying with this has made my concealer last longer and look better.

9. Arbonne FC5 Oil Absorbing Day Lotion - I only got this towards the end of the year but it has definitely been my favourite daily-use skincare product! I had been having a real struggle finding cruelty free moisturisers that weren't too heavy or didn't break me out whilst still providing my skin with moisture and this one ticked all my boxes. It is a little bit pricier than my usual (£30 rather than between £3 and £10) but it has been worth it for me.

10. The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer - I have used this product every single day since I bought it and I'm only just starting to hit pan. I love it!

11. Curly Locks by Phil Smith Be Gorgeous - This is a cheat because this is a range rather than an individual product. I had been looking for new cruelty free shampoos and conditioners in the supermarket because my usual choices were all from city shops (I don't live far from my local city but it would always mean a trip out to get products rather than just adding them to my (mum's) weekly shop). The Phil Smith Be Gorgeous range is exclusive to Sainsbury's, cruelty free, and appears to have ticked all my boxes! I especially like the Curly Locks Spray, which I use before diffusing my hair... speaking of which...

12. BaByliss Pro Speed 2100W - I never thought I'd see the day that a hair dryer made it into my daily hair routine and yet here we are! Use this hair dryer with its diffuser attachment every single day and it gives my hair the volume I've been desperately craving without giving me frizz - yay!


13. Travel - I have been lucky enough to go on four fantastic holidays this year and I really have caught the travelling bug. I kicked off the year with a once in a lifetime tour around South Africa - I still want to write a mini travel guide for this trip as there were some huge highlights that I don't think anyone should miss out on when visiting this stunning country. My next trip was a four day city break to Munich! One of my best friends was living there for a few months studying, so I paid her a visit and explored the city at the same time. I'd really recommend visiting the city in summer as the weather was divine and perfect for laying out in a beer garden! The third trip was a family holiday to New York City for my Dad's 50th. This was such a whirlwind trip and we really hit all the highlights - you read my attraction highlights here and my food highlights here. My final trip was a quick getaway to Portugal with a couple of my best friends, more to get some sun than to explore the culture (although we ate some great food).

14. Watsky - I don't think this will be a surprise to anyone that Watsky is on my list of 2016 favourites! His music has meant a lot to me during a few pivotal moments in my life and, once again, when things hit their lowest Watsky was there to lift me up again. I wish I had been able to stick around after his show to shake his hand (unfortunately we had a train to catch) but, judging by his past it won't be too long before he is back!

15. Plants - Whilst I was at university I really began to appreciate the importance of greenery. I had moved from the countryside to the city and I was missing the foliage both inside and outside. Since moving back home I have purchased and been gifted a number of plants and I love them all very dearly! I probably don't look after them as I should but their little green presence in my room does wonders for me - especially in the colder and darker months.

16. Nutri-Bullet - I got my Nutri-Bullet for Christmas last year and I think it is probably my most used Christmas present ever. I have used it every single weekday (well, almost) for the entire year and I can't imagine life without it!

What are your 16 of 2016?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Girly Cruelty Free Date Night Makeup - Winter 2016

A lot of the makeup looks I see around this time of the year tend to go one of two ways. Either they are focused on golds and plums, or they are anchored around a smokey eye and bright red lip. Whilst I love these two looks, they are very striking and sometimes I feel the need to lean towards something a little softer. I actually love paler looks for the winter, especially when paired with cream coloured knitwear. This is my girly winter date night look!

Products Used:

Brows - NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Ash Brown
Eyeshaddow - Makeup Revolution Light and Dark Eye Contour Palette
Mascara - Arbonne It's A Long Story
Eyeliner - NYX Matte Liquid Liner
Concealer - Hema Longer Lasting
Highlighter - The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer
Bronzer - Makeup Revolution
Blush - Hema Satin Blush
Pressed Powder - GOSH BB Powder
Lips - Charlotte Tilbury Lip Liner Pillow Talk

I've added a highlight to the corner of my eye, as I think it really helps to open up my face. I've used a super neutral shade across the majority of my lid (it's a stunning peachy colour in the palette) and have gone in a rusty brown in my crease. I've also blended in a slightly cooler toned brown, too, to stop things straying too far towards the red end of the spectrum. To finish the eye I added a delicate flirty cat-eye flick (I've missed this look) and lashings of mascara. 

The lip liner is definitely one of the pricier elements of the makeup look, but if you're treating yourself this Christmas I really recommend investing in it. It's the best neutral lip I've found and it really is a 'your lips but better' kind of effect.

I've been a big fan of this blush and highlighter combination. The blush has a gentle glow to it alone, but the highlighter really adds another dimension. I've brought the highlighter onto my brown bone, too. I love the stronger brow look in the winter months but I have tried to tone it down a little for this look.

I couldn't resist whacking a filter or two on my favourite selfie! I love the way a filter can highlight certain elements of the look or neutralise other elements and I don't think there's any shame in using them!

Let me know if you have a go at this look - and any products you'd swap out to get the same effect!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

#reviewsdaytuesday The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I was lucky enough to be sent this book for review by the lovely people at Ebury (thank you) a couple of months ago. I actually finished it and filmed a short video about it  (I'm working on a video book review project which will be launching in the new year) a month or so ago, but I've finally gotten around to writing up my thoughts!

The book arrived in this beautiful wrapping paper!

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in middle-ages Russia, in a remote Northern Town. The story follows a young girl, Vasya, from birth to early womanhood (approximately 13-15) in time when the the community she knows and the home she grew up in is changing wildly.

Early in the story we see Vasya's mother die during childbirth, her older siblings move out and become married off, and her father take on a new (much younger) wife at the bequest of the Russian royal family. The new wife is deeply religious and is greatly troubled by the spirit world. Vasya is deeply connected to the spirit world and is born with an ability to see and communicate with the demons who care for and protect the house and community. An ardent priest also moves to the village at the same time and the villagers begin to listen to his teachings. The priest teaches the people to fear the demons, to fear the magical elements of the world that they don't fully understand, and in turn those elements begin to fear and resent the people.

This book is very much about the battle between old and new, as well as the battle between fear and trust. The fear in the book is caused by a lack of understanding (and an unwillingness to learn) - anyone who is not on the side of 'good' is immediately on the side of 'evil' and anyone who challenges this binary way of thinking is rejected from the community. The voices that speak the loudest in the book - which are not necessarily the voices who know the most - are treated as the voices of authority.

Although it is set many years ago, the themes of this book actually speaks to the things we're seeing in society right now and I couldn't help but notice the many mirrors it was holding up to the world today. It's really obvious that book has been heavily influenced by Russian fairy tales so I think it is fitting that it transforms into a fable-like text. It warns of the dangers of fear, it warns of the dangers of listening to the voice that speaks the loudest, it warns of the dangers of scaremongering.

I enjoyed reading this book - it didn't necessarily grip me but it was a pleasant reading experience - but the further away I have come from reading it the more I have enjoyed it. I'm glad I waited before writing a review, because I needed the distance to realise exactly what the book was doing. It is much more than a 'coming of age' story and I'd recommend giving it a read. Also, not least because this book is set in northern Russia, it is the perfect 'curl up by the fire' kind of read, too!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is published on the 27th January 2017 by Ebury Press.