Monday, 21 May 2012

Hungry? ★★★★


I have witheld this review for many months, I finished the first in The Hunger Games series in December of 2011, but I have only just read the two sequels, and decided writing about them all at once would be best.

Obviously there are reviews of this series everywhere since the release of the film, and many many people have read them, seen the film, and are absolutely mad about them. It's Twilight all over again right? Wrong.

I too had initially been very sceptical about reading these, just as I was about reading the vampire novels, and prepared myself for a fun little read where I didn't have to think too much, but I have been pleasantly surprised. The Hunger Games is not simply a dystopian adventure where a kick ass girl gets to save her sister and gets to kiss a pretty boy, but a political lesson about the way we live now and what we could devolve to.
Occasionally I feel like directing the teens who are mad on this series to George Orwell or Aldous Huxley, but The Hunger Games really isn't so bad and it is teaching them a lesson in appreciating what they have, a lesson teens of today appear to be in dire need of.

Like most teen reads nowadays, the first novel is fast paced, we meet Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl who lives in District 12 of the city of Panem, a city where the Capitol leeches from the produce of the districts and lives in the lap of luxury while the twelve districts only just survive. We know right from the start that Katniss is a rule breaker, she will be our heroine, she steps in to save her younger sister when she is chosen to participate in the hunger games, a competition the Capitol holds for entertainment and to punish the districts for uprising in the distant past, by which each district is forced to sacrifice one boy and one girl to enter an arena and fight to the death where only one child will survive. Katniss is revealed as being quick, smart, but also fast to anger and terribly bitter about the life she is forced to lead.

The main body of the first novel features Katniss' selection at 'The Reaping' and then her preparation for the games themselves, followed by the actual games. The preparation for the games is a part of the novel I did not think I would find interesting, but Collins has turned it into a a venturing into the big wide world sort of situation with Katniss having to grow up fast as she realises she needs to manipulate her situation if she wishes to survive. The games themselves were interesting and kept me gripped, I do not believe I put down the book once while reading about the actual games.

After finishing the first book, which occurs directly after the games have ended, I was not sure I would be much interested in the second and third novels, mainly because it was not entirely clear where they were going to go. The dystopian elements of the series were blatantly obvious, but wether they were going to delve into these political issues was not clear and so I held off reading the sequels, I didn't feel the same rush to pick them up as I had to continue reading the first.

When I did however pick them up and start reading I found them interesting. The political discussion in the following two books makes up the main body of the plots, the result of the first novel has caused ramifications beyond Katniss' imaginings and she has to either fix them or join the apparent forthcoming uprising.

The second novel, Catching Fire, in particular had me going from crying to laughing within seconds, and the development of Katniss and Peeta's relationship truly interested me as it showed some real development to the characters, Katniss who had previously been quite cold and hard on the surface at times allowed more of her emotions to crack through. There is an actual games in this second novel, which I was not expecting, and it was a great twist, a fabulous choice by the author and surprised me.

I would say that the third novel, Mockingjay, is the most political, as at this point Panem is in the midst of a second uprising. I would say that in terms of story this was the weakest of the three novels, I was not gripped as I had been, and I felt the character developed less, but the lessons it could teach to young adults are important. Katniss realises that she is not the most important person in her world, that she is merely a figurehead and is being used somewhat, her attempts to change this situation often place others in grave danger, but ultimately she has some power to change her fate.

Overall I would say that the series is a great way of leading young adults into dystopian literature, and it has sparked many stories in this vein. It has the potential to show that age group that their material goods are not the be all and end all, and should be highly commended for doing so.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Blocking Pains

So I finished Ishbel last week, it is currently blocking on my living room floor. Man was it a pain in the bum to get that thing pinned out!
I am not sure if it was the Noro that I used to knit it, or just the pattern, but it did not want to stretch evenly, I managed to get it as close to even as I could and have left it, it will just have to be whatever shape it comes out as.


Now that it is finished I am not entirely sure how much I will wear it with it being so bright, but I am glad that the yarn has been used for such a pretty pattern as it really has knit up beautifully.
Maybe when I embrace my bright colourful side it will get some use, but in the meantime once it has been blocked there will be a Finished Object report.

:) xo

Monday, 14 May 2012

Agatha Does it Again! ★★★★


I would like to start this review by apologising, because I was absolutely certain I had written and published this one before, so it wasn't even on my radar as a review I had to write.

This book however, is as always with an Agatha Raisin story, hilarious. If you haven't tried M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin stories before I highly recommend them, but I do suggest you start with the first in the series. Today I will be reviewing book 22, As the Pig Turns.

If you haven't tried Agatha Raisin books before, Agatha is a middle aged, twice divorced woman who previously ran her own PR agency, but chose to move to the Cotswolds and has since opened her own private detective agency. The series is a bit like a traditional whodunnit, but set in the modern day, and even features comedy blundering characters, most of which manage to solve the mystery almost by accident, but with a little splash of deduction.

As the Pig Turns features really quite an ingenious crime, at the beginning of the story Agatha and her chums are going to a hog roast and discover that the hog is not a pig of the eating variety but rather a mutilated murder victim in the form of the local annoying policeman. Agatha and her friends come under a lot of stress trying to discover what happened to the pain in the bum police officer and become embroiled in a crime ring they really should have avoided, one of them is even kidnapped!

The book itself is not too long and is a nice light read, which I enjoyed while lapping up some of the fleeting sunshine last March, and I finished it in hardly any time at all. I would actually go so far as to say that this is the most fun of all of the latest Agatha Raisin novels, as Agatha isn't in the midst of one of her "obsessions" with the local men, trying to find herself her next husband. The next book in the series Hiss and Hers is out this autumn, and I shall be giving that a read too, as it looks like it too will be a barrel of laughs.


Monday, 7 May 2012

Oh NARS, I Love you!

From top to bottom, and left to right in the swatch, is Ashes to Ashes, 413 Blkr, and Lhasa

This post requires a large picture.

Last month I had a little splurge, I meant to post about ti at the time but forgot, typical, but I can't just let this one pass by, it needs to be documented because these are my first Nars Eyeshadow purchases and I believe they have stirred a passion within me which will cost me a lot of money. 

It all started when I heard about Lhasa, I'm not entirely sure where I first heard/saw it, it could have been any number of bloggers or twitter, but I saw it, and I knew I had to have it. I have a thing for taupes, I still haven't written the post about it, but I do love them. Lhasa is a perfect taupe for me. 
Then I saw a post comparing Lhasa to this shade I had never heard of before, 413 Blkr, a limited edition shade released to commemorate the opening of a Nars store in New York City. Oh now that was a pretty taupe with more grey, I love all taupes with grey, but I still loved Lhasa! I would have to bit the bullet and get both. You can only pick up 413 Blkr from the Nars website, and if you have used their service before you will know that they charge a ridiculous amount for shipping despite the items being TINY so of course I had to bump my cart up to get the free shipping, and I added Ashes to Ashes.

When they arrived I was quite prepared for Lhasa and 413 Blkr to be very close shades, but was pleasently surprised to find them completely different. The purple in Lhasa makes it a much deeper shade, much more like a crease colour than 413 Blkr which would be an all over lid colour for me.
Ashes to Ashes is simply a gorgeous brown, and one I think I have been searching for for a while, not too deep not too light, not too shimmery and doesn't make me look like I have an eye infection, perfecto!

The formula of these shadows is also fabulous, they are soft, easily blended, and richly, yet subtly pigmented. I am usually a staunch fan of MAC eyeshadows but sometimes find pigmentation and texture don't quite match up, but these shadows have a nice soft level of colour payoff when used which means it is hard to apply too much, and easy to blend them to the desired finish. They also aren't so soft that they go everywhere like my Urban Decay shadows do, which lord knows is good for me because I am awful at correcting mistakes with my eyeshadow application. 
They are the perfect shadow for me, and I can already think of a few more shades I would like, my purse is quivering with fear!

Nars Lhasa and Ashes to Ashes Eyeshadows can be found at a variety of retailers such as ASOS, House of Fraser and HQHair and are priced between £16 and £17, 
but 413 Blkr (£17) is only available at Nars Cosmetics

xo :)

Ever a Princess ★★★


Before I read this book, I wasn't really interested in historical fiction. I had thought about reading some, and there were particular books where I had really expressed some interest in reading them, but hadn't got around to it. I had been interested in Philippa Gregory's books in particular because she is quite well known for thoroughly researching her topics, something which was particularly important to me as one of the main reasons I had avoided historical fiction was because I have issues with British history. I know about many of the events that have happened, but when they happened gets jumbled up in my head. Obviously I chose Geography instead of History for GCSE!

I picked up The Constant Princess after asking a fellow librarian which book from Gregory's repertoire I should read first. Gregory has written many books spanning many generations of British history, and I was interested particularly in her collections based upon the Tudor period and the cousin's war (War of the Roses).

One thing to note about Gregory is that she hasn't written these series' in chronological order, in fact she has written theTtudor novels before the cousin's war, which preceded the Tudors. This obviously is a pain if you aren't sure what order the events actually occurred in history, but luckily I have people who do know! My librarian friend actually recommended I read The Lady of the Rivers first, the third installment of the cousin's war collection, as that was the oldest generation of character so to speak, but at the time it had only just been released and the waiting list was huge. Instead I chose to read the Tudor court novels before the collection of books about the War of the Roses. In a way I wish I hadn't made that choice, because although I was reading roughly in the order they were written, it did make it harder to follow everything.

The tudor court novels feature The Constant Princess, centred around Catharine of Aragon, The Other Boleyn Girl, centered around Anne and Jane Boleyn, and the Boleyn Inheritance, following Henry VIII's wives after Anne Boleyn. If you weren't aware, The Other Boleyn Girl was actually made into a film a few years ago, and I personally felt I knew a fair amount about Anne Boleyn from history classes, but Catharine of Aragon I knew next to nothing about. I knew she was Henry VIII's first wife, but nothing more.
Discovering that she was a Spanish princess, originally named Catalina, and originally married to Henry VIII's older brother Arthur certainly made things seem interesting, and although Gregory has padded out the bare bones of history and made the whole situation into a tragic story of love and determination, I really felt while reading that Catalina was a strong, determined woman, a writing skill which must be applauded as this helps the reader to want her to succeed.

I will admit that initially the story was hard going, mainly because it is a subject area I am far from familiar with, but because I love to research I was continually fact checking while reading, trying to suss out which parts of Gregory's story were drawn from absolute fact, which from conjecture, and which from the depths of her imagination. I felt the ending was rather stunted also, it moves rapidly into the realm of The Other Boleyn Girl, and I would have much rather have read some of those events from Catharine's perspective.

Overall I would say that despite a slightly difficult start and an abrupt ending, the in between in this story is wonderful. If you have never tried historical fiction before and want to give it a go, give Gregory's stories a try.


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Top Pout: Shy Girl

The sun is shining outside, that means I can write a top pout post about a very popular summer lippy, MAC's Shy Girl.


I haven't had this lipstick that long, or rather I have had it for a year but couldn't wear it because of my skin treatment, but oh do I love it!
This shade and MAC's ravishing are two of my favourite MAC lipsticks for summer and I think it is because they are peach. I have a bit of a love affair with peach when summertime comes around, I will maybe do a post on it. While typically someone with my fair skin should go for lighter pinks, once the sun is truly shining I shun most of my pink blushers and go for glowy peaches even though I have always been told that they weren't really right for me. 
Personally I think this lipstick, another of the Cremesheen formulas, is perfect for summer days when you don't want to look too done but also don't want to look like you haven't made an effort. Matched with a blush such as Vivo Peaches and Cream and a bit of bronzer this looks ever so pretty. I used to be petrified of shades like this, leaning far too orange for what I deemed acceptable, but these soft peaches are my attempt at doing something different.
Now my lips are fairly pigmented naturally, so this almost nude peach is very light on me, if I want more of an obvious peach that suits my natural lip colour better I go for Revlon Peach, and if I want a pop of colour I go for MAC Ravishing, or Ever Hip for a coral version, but for looking ladylike and pretty when you are around your grandmother and wearing a girly dress, Shy Girl is just the thing.

£14.50 from MAC Cosmetics

xo :)