Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Karin Herzog Oxygen Face Cream

Today we are going to talk skincare again for a second, but bear with me while I talk about royals.
When Prince George was born, The Duchess of Cambridge was of course all over the internet again, old links for her beauty regime and fashion choices were cropping up everywhere as all relevant content was pushed into our faces. Being a bit of a Kate fan (man would I love to have her hair!) I had a browse back through some of those posts and came across one about her skincare choices. It was reported that she had been a great fan of the Karin Herzog Oxygen Face Cream until she got closer to thirty.

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Being in the market for a new day cream I decided that if it was good enough for Kate it was worth a try so I ordered a tube. Lets take a second to admire the packaging this tube of heaven arrived in shall we? Just look at it! I thought I had mistakenly ordered a collectible or something. Big points for the "special factor" upon opening the parcel.

I ordered from Feel Unique and got 50ml of product for  £31.45, which is pretty good considering it is usually £38 per tube. Feel Unique had it to me within a couple of days over a weekend, just in time for my old day cream to decide it was completely empty, it couldn't have been more perfect in the timing.

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Tubes that are only 50ml for a good chunk of money always make me squirm, and my boyfriend exclaim "how much!?" and I have to admit, when buying this with my night cream too I did feel a bit guilty knowing how quickly my normal 50ml bottles of day cream disappear. However I really needn't have worried with this. The texture of the cream is incredibly light, in a way it reminds me of Steamcream in that it feels whipped. However unlike Steamcream, a tiny bit of this product, I'm talking a pea sized amount, will hydrate my whole face and neck and it even feels then like I maybe have a tiny bit too much on. This tube is going to last me ages so it is definitely a good investment.

When you apply this, Herzog recommends using a brush so that you don't waste active ingredients on your fingers, and I have to admit I don't bother, I make sure my hands are really clean then slather it on. Another application tip she gives which I do pay attention to though is not to rub it in, but let it absorb on its own. This is something I had to get used to as I am notorious for being a bit rough with my face, but it helps it feel special to use, I feel like I am pampering myself every morning.

karinh2Now a bit about what is supposed to make this so special, it is an oil free formula which contains 2% active oxygen. What has oxygen got to do with good skin other than helping us stay alive? Well Herzog claims that it penetrates the skin to neutralise bacteria that cause acne and help clear out toxins. I honestly don't know if this is true, but it sounds good, and I imagine the oxygen content is what makes it such a dream to use.

The real bit that got me interested however was that this product helps balance the hydro-lipid film of the skin, it is effectively a sebo-regulator, it balances your natural oil production. Now I have been reading up about this layer that protects our skin and how acne is often caused by it being damaged, having seen huge results when on Roaccutane (which inhibits oil production just in case you aren't aware) I know now that the majority of my acne is oil based. Get rid of the oil and I don't get the spots. Obviously I can't stay on that treatment forever, and my skin seems to go back to a bit of oiliness once I come off it so I have been trying to find ways to regulate, rather than attempt to dry up all of my natural oils. If your hydro-lipid layer is damaged, you produce more natural oils to protect your skin from harm, so preserve that layer and your sin will naturally go back to being a "normal" type. I love this theory, and I really am noticing that my skin is a little less oily throughout the day, I am not glow free, but I feel less grubby by home time. I have also been experiencing less acne breakouts and my skin looks and feels much healthier than it has done in a while.

All in all, I am so glad I gave this a try, it is a little tube of luxury for my morning routine and I am so far reaping the benefits. I will obviously continue to use it and see how it goes, but I have a funny feeling it will be sticking around in my skincare routine for a long time.



Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Few October Favourite's

I thought it was time for a little "general stuff" update, with a few of my favourite things of the month.

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1. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Clay Mask £22 from Boots - I picked this up after hearing so much about it on YouTube. My sister also had good recommendations for it and I really wanted to try some Origins products, so far I really like it, and will have a full review up soon.

2. Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Bel Ami £24 from Boots - I was totally talked into buying this as part of a points event the other week, I couldn't resist, but let me tell you I am so glad I did. My normal winter lip shade is Clinique Black Honey, but this has been my choice since I purchased it. A subtle berry that is my lips but a shade darker. I think I have found my perfect pair in Boy and Bel Ami.

3. Downton Abbey - Is there anyone out there who doesn't watch this? If there is you need to change that stat! For a while there I thought I may have to stop watching because of the recent story lines (oh my god poor Anna!) but I feel better about things now, Downton I still love you!

4. Rib Jumper in Prune £32 from Next - Really this is just chunky jumpers in general, I really want a cable knit one, but I picked this one up last week with a left over birthday voucher (I don't usually have them left, last time I tried to spend it the machine wouldn't work, boo Next!) I like the zip detail on the sides of this one, normally I hate chunky zips but it is subtle here and doesn't look too grungey.

5. Seamed Ponte Leggings £12 from F&F by Tesco - These are comfortable as hell, thick enough to be warm in autumn and winter, and have a seam down them so they look a bit like jodhpurs. I love them so much I went back and bought a second pair.

6. A Street Cat Named Bob £4.60 from the Book Depository - I started reading this a couple of days ago and I absolutely love it, Bob sounds like such a charismatic cat, and when I started google image searching there are loads of pictures of him high-fiveing his owner. I do love a good animal story (if you've read this and want another cat book, Dewey is one of my favourites too)

What are your favourite things this month?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Book Review: How I Live Now ★★★

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I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this one, I picked it up off the library shelf on a complete whim after seeing that the copy we had was a world night book.

It turns out that How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff  is a young adult dystopian novel with a bit of a difference. Instead of being set after the catastrophe has occurred, the novel starts just before and continues during the fictional third world war. It tells the lives of Daisy, an American sent to live in England with her aunt by her father after she causes family trouble, and her English cousins who all live together in the idyllic English countryside. Daisy is originally very put out by being sent away and doesn't mix well, but then begins to form friendships with her cousins, and develops a romantic relationship with her eldest cousin Edmond. Suddenly Daisy and her cousins are left to fend for themselves when the war strikes and leaves their only adult stranded in Norway, meaning they have to come face to face with the horrors of war and learn to deal with all the physical and emotional trauma that war brings.

I haven't read of another dystopian novel which actually goes through the event that changes the world of the novel, they all seem to occur after the event when the characters don't really know of life any other way and slowly discover that life hadn't always been so awful. I liked that the story allowed the teenagers to grow by forcing them to experience the war as it happened, they had to deal with situations they previously wouldn't have even contemplated happening, such as potential starvation and trekking across the countryside to survive. In a dystopian novel this is pretty much the norm, but for these kids it isn't, they aren't faced with going into the arena every year like Katniss, for the first portion of the book there is no real fear. Along with the idyllic countryside, childhood innocence hasn't been spoiled by destruction and this made their new reality all the more shocking for them to experience.

While reading you very much felt like you were listening to a teenagers thoughts, the writing lacked all speech formatting which added to the reading experience as it made you think a bit more about who was actually involved in the conversation, and what was internal speech.
The teenage thought process was a little annoying to read as an adult, as it so often is, and I did find it hard to like Daisy as a character, she wasn't completely intolerable though just very self-centered, a typical teenager. My favourite character by far was Daisy's younger cousin Piper who she ends up spending quite a lot of time with, she read as balanced and the most put together despite being younger. I hope that this was intentionally written in to provide a contrast between the two girls and the effects that individual emotions can have upon someone in a crisis.

The main theme of the book is teenage love driving you to survive, and while I can understand that as a mode for storytelling, I can't say that I felt Daisy and Edmond were well suited. I was a bit weirded out by them being cousins, and felt that that particular tie was in no way necessary as any young man would have been a fine character to provide the focus for the teenage love angst. I do like the moral though, and it is true that for teenagers their relationships are the be all and end all. It becomes especially poignant for the ending of the story too, focussing on the idea that you never truly forget your first love.

The book has recently been released as a film you can see the trailer right here. I have to admit I am not exactly excited for this film, Saoirse Ronan isn't how I imagined Daisy at all, and I suspect they may have made her less the self-centered teen and more of a heroine for the film.

I enjoyed this book, but I was a bit disappointed by it. After discovering the plot I was excited for something a little different, and wished it hadn't been so angsty, I should have known better really!
I would still recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre, and even if you have read a few and are becoming a little tired of them, this one is just different enough that you might just enjoy it. An extra perk is that it is also not very long, or a series so there is less commitment!

★★★

Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Review: Ketchup Clouds ★★★★

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Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher tells the story of Zoe, a fifteen year old girl from England who has an awful secret that she cannot share with anyone around her. She is weighed down by the guilt about the terrible thing she has done, and then she discovers the perfect person to talk to, and inmate on death row in Texas. As Zoe writes to Mr Harris, telling him all about the past year of her life, she begins to grapple with her feelings about her situation, and learns a few things about life along the way.

I really like this book, I had picked it up on a whim purely because of the title, I thought it was such an interesting one and wondered how it came about. I won't spoil the explanation for it, in case you haven't guessed already, but it is quite beautiful, and I shall be using it myself in future. 

This is a teen novel, the main character is fifteen, but I don't think that this book is limited to that age at all as it has a message that can be understood by many. That message is about guilt and forgiveness, in particular forgiveness of yourself when you believe you have done wrong. Zoe battles with this throughout the book right up until it's conclusion. We read her teenage woes with a trepidation, knowing as a reader that there is something sad coming towards us, and that surely her behaviour must be the cause, but although it feels like watching a crash, you cannot help but keep reading because Zoe is just an innocent girl, and you know there must be a resolution.

The writing is simple yet elegant, the humour both suited to teenage sarcasm and wit, and the complex sense of humour of an adult. Reading it I was hard pressed not to smile at how (for want of a less derogatory word) cute everything was, even though if it had been written with adult characters it would have felt seedy and shocking.

The range of characters were interesting, we did not need many, and weren't introduced to a wide range, just enough to show multiples sides of human nature, their coping mechanisms and problems, their joy and means of expression.

I think this is a great book for if you want to read something which is both fairly simple in plot, but complex in the depth of emotion shown by the characters. 

I shall definitely be looking into Pitchers other work.

★★★★

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Aston Martin Owners Club at Snetterton

A couple of weekends ago me and my boyfriend went for a jolly day out at the Aston Martin Owners club session at Snetterton Race Circuit in Norfolk. Now don't get the wrong end of the stick, we don't own an Aston, we just know people who do, and we like to go along for the Vrooms.

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We hopped in the weekend car and zoomed through the county with me pointing out library locations as we went and popped across the border. I hope I don't offend anyone when I say, I found some of the place names in Norfolk to be very amusing! It sort of made me wish I had a funnier address.

When we got there we parked up and had a bit of a gander at some of the testing that was taking place, and just managed to catch a friend of ours taking his motor for a spin.

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We had a nosey around the fine specimens in the car park

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Then had a wander over to see this little green Morris Minor, which was being raced by a friend,

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The event wasn't all Aston Martins, it had a bit of everything, including a range of old and new cars.

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We saw lots of speedy driving, some cars going onto three wheels around the bends (though I think they all had extra "stabilisers" underneath)

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Lots of close shaves and wheel spin dust,

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And even witnessed a couple of spins off the track like this one I proudly captured on the camera.

  SnettertonSpin on Make A Gif

The grub was expensive but really quite good. I had a delicious broccoli pasta bake in the cafe, and sipped on copious amounts of water and maybe a pint of lime and soda as it was really a very warm day when in the sunshine.

If you have never been to a race circuit before, be warned even if it is very warm, there is little shelter so you will get wind burn, my face felt very tight by the time we got in the car to go home, and was even a little pink.

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I went with layers for clothing, and wore a vest top, a t-shirt, a hoodie by David and Goliath and then my Barbour body warmer, and took them off/put them back on as and when needed.
Jeans were a go to for this day out and I made sure they were of the thicker variety with my trusty Topshop Baxter's, I saw a few women shivering in leggings!
Long hair girls, you will need a hair tie!
Comfy shoes are also a must obviously, so I went with my fairly new but sort of bedded in Neon Pink Converses. They did the job but in poorer weather a boot would have been better, the day involved a lot of walking around to different viewing points.
Sunglasses are also highly recommended, there tends to be a lot of glare off the track and squinting just gives you wrinkles.
Note the bottle of Yazoo Milkshake is optional, I went with strawberry.

We ended the day by watching a friend race from the Pit wall, which I unfortunately couldn't take pictures of as the marshall told us off, and said it was signposted (I read all those signs before I got the camera out, they didn't mention cameras) I was a bit mad about it, but I didn't let it spoil the experience.

For my first race day I had a lot of fun. I have always wondered what it is like to hear the cars in person and it is quite loud, but not so much so that you need ear plugs. I have a love for vintage cars, so they were more to my taste than the new ones, but it gave a variety for all watchers.
If you ever get the change to go to a club racing day, I highly recommend it!


Monday, 14 October 2013

Book Review: Tom Cruise, you are not Jack Reacher! ★★★★

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Sticking with the theme of writing reviews about books I have read recently, I finished the first Jack Reacher book last week. I have been told for years that I would love this series so I was reluctant to start it in case all of a sudden it was all I wanted to read, as there are now 18 books and I need to be reading other things really. I bit the bullet though and picked up Killing Floor.

Killing Floor by Lee Child begins by introducing us to a man in a diner in a Margrave, Georgia, a town that has not seen a major crime in over 30 years. Margrave has just however been the site of a homicide, and our mystery man is unfortunately being arrested for murder, he does not accept his rights, he does not give his name, he is not guilty. Why is this man being framed and who really is to blame? As Jack Reacher begins to open up to the local chief detective they begin to work together to solve the mystery, and as secrets spill from the pot they start to uncover an ingenious plot that has corrupted a whole town.

I knew pretty much from the first chapter that I was going to love this book. The opening chapters have that mystery to them that has you completely gripped. Even though Reacher seems a bit dodgy you still find yourself endeared to his edgy manner because you are both clueless to what is going on, Reacher finds himself in an awkward spot and you are stuck there right along with him. He is really very charismatic.

If you have seen the film, which by the way is not based on Killing Floor so you can read it without worrying about knowing what happens, then you will know that Tom Cruise plays this charismatic gritty character quite well. Tom has got the stony faced stare down, it's like Blue Steel but more intimidating. But Cruise really doesn't have Reacher's other great features, he looks nothing like him (six foot five, ha!) and he doesn't seem to exude the same level of confidence that comes from knowledge and skill, not just cockiness. Basically, if you have seen the film, you will probably like the book more.

I wasn't fussed about the romance in the story, mainly because you know that it isn't going to end well. I sort of see Reacher as a bit of a James Bond figure, but a bit grubbier. He is always going to get the girl, but never keep her around. The characters seemed a great match but when one is still living in her home town and the other is a bit of a stray wandering from place to place you just know he isn't going to stick around. I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about that though because it really is just a subplot that helps the story along.

The pace of the story was fast, but not so fast that you felt tired after reading. The circumstances presented you with an event every few chapters that slowly helped you put together what was going on and I liked this, it kept me wanting to read, but it did not necessarily have the characters covering a lot of ground or jetting all over the world which kept the pace even. I didn't want to put the book down but when I needed to I didn't feel like it would be hard to remember where I was and pick back up again.

I haven't felt so much like I wanted to go get the second book straight away since I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books, that urge to go to the nearest bookshop and snatch it off the shelf and start reading straight away doesn't happen often with me. I did however hold off from buying book two for a week (mainly because it was out of stock, and ordering online just wouldn't be the same) and I have put it on the shelf and will not read it just yet. Maybe I can treat Child's books as a treat after reading a certain amount of other books, or just keep it for when I need a certain pace of book. I am definitely looking forward to picking it up.

Im going to give this four stars, but only because I don't want to give it five and then one of the others in the series blow me away, so who knows maybe I will have to amend this score at some point!

★★★★

Friday, 11 October 2013

Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk ★★★★★

I am stepping out of my normal routine here and I like it! The book reviews I have been posting for the past few months have been me playing catch up with books read quite a while ago, but this book was read only the other day, and I just have to blog about it because it is so wonderful!

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The first children's story book to have come from Gaiman's pen since The Graveyard Book in 2008, Fortunately, The Milk tells the story of a Human Dad who forgets to buy milk for his children's breakfast (and his cup of tea) and must make a trip to the corner shop to buy some. On the way he encounters aliens, dinosaurs, and Wampires, but fortunately, the milk saves the day.  

This isn't a long story, but it is an imaginative one. With illustrations by Chris Riddell bringing the story to life, Gaiman's words are sure to make adult and child giggle with delight. Now I may be a bit biased being a huge fan of Gaiman's work, but I genuinely find his creative mind to be fantastic, plus I really admire his little writing gazebo/cabin.
A wonderful adventure that could befall any of us as we pop to the shop for a pint of milk (not skimmed) ourselves, Gaiman has hit upon an every day occurrence that children can identify with and turned it into a marvelous adventure. The story telling reminds this reader of the stories told by her own father as a child, and I am sure they will do the same for children of all ages.

Marketed as being for children between the ages of 9 and 12, I think this book could also provide a dose of fun for ages both above and below that bracket, and I imagine many parents will enjoy sharing it with their own children.

My only gripe? The size. While I think the size is perfect for smaller hands, if jointly read by parent and child it may be a little difficult especially with a hard bound copy, and Riddell's illustrations would be wonderful in a larger format.

This is definitely a book I can see children I know enjoying, and I enjoyed it so much that at the half way point of reading my library copy I went and bought my own, and then the day after went and bought a copy to pass on to a friend. It is just that darn cute! 

The RRP is £10.99 for the hardback copy, and I happily paid £10 for mine in WHSmiths, but it is currently £5 at Tesco if you aren't sure and just want to give it a try (But I am going to have to link to The Book Depository, as neither of those places have it on their websites. Rubbish.)

★★★★★

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Updated Skincare

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It is autumn, the transition between seasons, which means it is time to change up our skincare a little bit.

Skincare has always been a bit of a battle for me, with my normal/combination very acne prone skin, which has also undergone roaccutane treatment so can also be very dehydrated.
I don't like to change up products often but there were a few items I had been lusting after for a while, I had heard about them all over YouTube and other blogs, so I knew I wanted to give them a try. I had been studying the skincare guru Caroline Hirons' blog religiously to try and gather information about the sorts of products I should be using and I settled upon the following.

Cleanser:
The Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm has become a bit of a cult product. A thick balm that melts to an oil when rubbed into the skin this balm feels very luxurious. I massage it into the skin, heat up a flannel and steam my face before buffing lightly to both remove the product and gently exfoliate. I love how this makes my skin feels, it is fresh feeling as it has a slight herbal scent, and generally leaves my skin feeling glowy and clean with no residue.

Toner:
Caroline recommended an exfoliating toner followed by a hydrating toner. I couldn't get my mitts on some of the London based ones, but I do have a Clarins counter in my town so I picked up the Gentle Exfoliator, which I sweep all over my face after cleansing on alternate days. It leaves my face feeling fresh and smooth, but is a little expensive for the size of the bottle. I would love to get some Pixi Glow Tonic at some point.
I follow this up with the Dr Jart+ Moist Moist Water Act Skin Mist, this is a spray toner which just helps rehydrate a little after the exfoliator and sure up the skin's barrier. This is may be the step I am least comfortable with as it involves spraying it on and leaving it there, which feels wrong to me, but spraying it on a cotton pad and wiping my face also doesn't feel right with this product. I may change this when I have finished the bottle. I also use this one in the morning after cleansing.

Serum:
I am a big fan of the Dr Jart+ Water Fuse BB Cream, which is what inspired me to look at the skincare from the same range, the Most Moist Water Up Serum is a light gel formula that is marketed for tired and stressed skin. It has a triple act formula with three active ingredients, plus it is packed with hyaluronic acid to plump up the skin's hydration levels. This serum has Oat extract which helps to soothe irritation and okra extract to soften skin and provides cactus flower extract for anti inflammatory properties.
I pop this on morning and night and it feels very refreshing, prepping my skin perfectly for my moisturiser.

Treatment:
Alpha H Liquid Gold has a huge cult following, and for a long time I have resisted purchasing it, selecting other high street products which claimed to do the same thing instead. Well unfortunately with this one it isn't just hype, I use this on alternate days as a treatment, applying after cleansing and leaving it on with nothing else and it leave my skin looking radiant, clear and soft by morning. I would go so far as to say this is addictive, I have to stop myself using it all the time.
I got my huge bottle from QVC on offer  and I recommend that you do also, as the normal bottle is not much cheaper, and half the size. I have very sensitive skin and I haven't reacted to the product, it leaves my skin tingly in a good way, it is very satisfying to use.

As you can see I haven't included my moisturisers or masks here, thats because I am not sure which ones to try for next. I need a new set of moisturisers for autumn, and am considering the Karin Herzog Oxygen Face Cream (if it is good enough for the Duchess, it is good enough for me!) but for the time being I am using Bio Oil in the evening (trying to shift those acne scars) and Eucerin Aquaporin Active Light in the day time. For masks I shall be visiting the Origins counter, I have heard so much I can no longer resist!

Do you have any recommendations for good day and night moisturisers?


Monday, 7 October 2013

#BooksAreMyBag

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Recently you may have seen canvas totes with Books Are My Bag blazoned on the side in bold orange font on your high street. You definitely will have if you have popped into a bookshop. You may be wondering what they are all about.

In a nutshell, it is about supporting Book Shops, bricks and mortar, pages there for you to flick through and books you can take home with you right there and then with a cheesy grin on your face instead of waiting around for the post man. The campaign is about encouraging people to visit their local book shop and give them your hard earned pounds instead of feeding the tax avoiding online giants *ahem*.

I used to be a bookseller, and obviously now I am a librarian, you wouldn't believe the amount of people that look at me funny when I say I still buy books, and that I still regularly go into my local shops to buy the books, and pay the full RRP. They act a bit like I am betraying my library, but sometimes authors and publishers need more of a boost than they get from the lending rights. So yes, I buy books on the regular (I should probably haul them a bit more but then I would be facing up to my little hoarding problem.)

As a former bookseller I have experience with discount prices, I know when a book shop can't really afford to discount a book as much as they do in order to match competition, and I really do not like big supermarkets putting book shops out of business. You can't ask for a recommendation from someone who is passionate about their stock in a supermarket or on a website. I know we are all striving to find the best deal nowadays, but the value of the written word should go beyond that. I'm not saying pay full price for all of your books all the time, especially if you are hard up, but every so often, ignore the fact that Amazon is cheaper, and pop into your local shop and buy a book at the market price. It always makes me think a bit harder about which book I am going to buy when I do this, and I usually end up picking something thought provoking.

Last week I popped to my local W H Smith's (I don't have a local Independent, or a Waterstone's *sigh*) and I went on my little journey around the very small shop and popped to my current favourite section, popular science. I keep buying from there lately, I am happy to pay more for a book that is going to teach me something. I picked up two books I have been wanting to buy for a while now, and proudly carried them away in my free Books Are My Bag tote bag.

So the first of the books I picked up was Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner RRP £9.99 - Linked price £7.19 at WHSmith, It is impossible to find things full price online!
(Also, I love that they have the two different spellings of Stephen, makes me wonder if when people talk about them they say "the one with the V" or "with the PH")

Freakonomics was published in 2005, and was a huge phenomenon, at the time I was at college and it didn't really hit my radar, but when Superfreakonomics came out in 2009, I was at the height of my book selling days and I heard a lot about it. I had always wanted to see what both books were about but I was a staunch fiction reader at the time, and bogged down with reading classics for university so never got around to it. Newly released as part of Penguin's new range of non fiction with a lovely orange stripe down the spine, it appeared in my local Smith's and I decided it was time to take it home.

Second up is Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre, RRP £8.99 - Linked price £6.47 at WHSmith online.
I find it a bit controversial that I bought this one, as some of my family work in the pharmaceuticals industry, but I found myself compelled to read after seeing it pop up all over the internet. I have to admit I will probably be reading this one with a pinch of salt because unfortunately I know that in order to make progress with drugs that can work for many many people, there will always be people who will have side effects, that is scientific discovery all over. Nevertheless, I am interested to see what Goldacre reveals and the edition I have also has responses to the book in it too, so it will be nice to read those. This thing is huge though, so I am not sure when I will get round to picking it up.

So those were my picks for my tote, how do you feel about paying full price for books?
If asked would you buy from your local bookshop to keep it open?
How often do you actually find yourself putting that into practice?

Maybe I should write a book exploring that.

For more information about the Books Are My Bag campaign you can visit the website here, their twitter @BooksAreMyBag and visit the Facebook page. To support the campaign pop to your local bookshop, buy a book and ask for your free tote, they are available until christmas.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Teen reads: Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex / The Changeling / Insurgent


Every so often I really like to just sit and read some teenage/children's fiction. There is something about the plot lines that seems to have a bit more creativity than a lot of adult stories, and when i want to rest my mind and free it from thinking a bit too much about who killed whom I reach for my young adult shelves.

Now that does not mean to say that these pieces of fiction are any less complicated than an adult piece, they just provide a different form of escapism. Here are a few reviews from the genre.

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If you haven't read an Artemis Fowl book, you might want to skip this review and instead go and pick up the first in the series as this review is for book 7, but for a quick brief on the story, Artemis Fowl is a millionaire child prodigy who discovers that there are fairies and other similar beings living beneath the earth's surface.

In The Atlantis Complex, Artemis and Co. are faced with a new problem, Artemis has contracted the deadly Atlantis complex, a fairy disease which presents itself as a blend of multiple personalities disorder, paranoia and OCD. This causes all sorts of problems as the general mastermind behind the teams problem solving is currently out of action, and Holly and the rest of the team must find their way out of their sticky escapades themselves.

When I read this I really wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the other Artemis books as I had let my reading of them lapse a little, but I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It often made me chuckle and kept me interested. The characters are fun, likeable and each very distinct personalities, making it easy to follow, and the plot was both clever and imaginative, especially suited to keeping young imaginations well exercised.

A thoroughly enjoyable light read: ★★★★


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As you know I have been reading a lot of Philippa Gregory over the past year or so, and when I heard she was going to be releasing a young adult book I knew I had to give it a read. The story is a bit of a departure from the norm, as it is not based in historical fact but a work of almost complete fiction, and the characters are a complete figment of her imagination.

Changeling follows Luca a young investigator sent by Pope Nicholas the fifth to seek out other worldly events and discover what they are all about. Along his way Luca meets Isolde, who is accused of witchcraft, but whom he helps to escape her imprisonment. The two along with their companions set about to investigate further strange occurrences across Europe.

While I was reading this book I felt a bit confused, it was hard to get to grips with and understand where the story was going, however at the mid point I began to feel like the story was actually a pair of shorter stories, like there were two separate adventures. We have Luca's story and Isolde's story and then their adventures together. Knowing that this was to be a series, I began to treat it as a series of connected shorter stories and it began to read a bit easier.

Unfortunately you can tell that Gregory isn't used to completely inventing her characters herself as they seem to lack depth and conviction, she does seem to be much better at adding to existing historical figures. I know it could be excused because she researches those historical characters in great depth, but I feel generally that young adult characters should be as complex if not more so than those in adult fiction.

One strength of the story that is consistent throughout all of Gregory's works is her attention to historical detail. As always she has made sure that we as readers can perfectly picture the places where the drama happens, and you know that she will have researched those details extensively to ensure that they are correct to the time period. For that I cannot help but recommend her.

The story is the first in a trilogy, the second of which, Stormbringers was released earlier this year. I haven't rushed to read it myself but for a young person who would like to try some of Gregory's writing before embarking on one of her epic series, this would provide a good taster.

★★★

insurgent1

I'm bouncing you back again, but if you haven't read Divergent, I recommend you pop over to my review here, and then buy a copy here (or any other good retailer), it is set to be the next big teen dystopian film series in 2014, so I recommend you get clued up!

In Insurgent we kick off right from where Divergent ended, with war looming over all factions. As Tris, Four and the other refugees flee the Erudite, they discover more about each of the other factions, and also discover a good deal about the force that is the factionless.

I was swept away again by Insurgent as the plot is fast paced and action packed, but I didn't love it as much as I did Divergent. I won't call it sequel syndrome, because I don't think that Insurgent could have avoided being "filler" purely because second books always have to pave the way between the development of the world and the solution to the problem, so the events in the story had to take place for there to be a resolution, but I didn't enjoy the read as much as Divergent.

I did love that we got some answers to some questions, and that we have more of a direction for the series throughout this book. It did feel a little choppy as we moved from plot point to plot point, but this added to the unstable feeling that runs throughout the series so far. This is mirrored by Tris's attitude throughout too, she feels a wide range of conflicting emotions which show range for a character who initially had been raised to exercise no self indulgence. I felt it added a level of discomfort to the story and would help a teen reader to identify with the seriousness of the situation.

Overall I felt this was weaker than Divergent, but still left me eager for Allegiant, and excited for the films.

★★★

And that film that is coming out for Divergent? Here is the teaser trailer. Looks good!




Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Autumn Winter Nail Polish Picks

Long time readers of my blogging antics will know I love to paint my nails, for a long time I tried all sorts of art and colours, and you may have been wondering where those posts have gone. Well, unfortunately I fell foul of the damaged nails problem. I am not sure if it was my Roaccutane treatment that did it or removing polish with a cheap remover a lot but all of a sudden they lost all their strength and started peeling.

This means that nowadays I am much more sedate with my polish painting, I don't have nail polish on all the time, giving my nails a polish free break of a week or so between reapplications, and I usually go for something that can blend easily with outfits or make a bold statement, but which ultimately I can get wear out of for at least a week before having to break out the nail polish remover.

Before my nails weakened, my brand of choice was OPI, and I had only tried other brands a little bit, but in the interim I have become a huge fan of Essie's diffusion line polishes, and they are now my go to for all my polishes. On my nails they last for an unbelievably long time (we are talking getting on for two weeks with only a bit of tip wear) and they apply smoothly and easily.

I thought I would show you the four shades I have picked out for autumn/winter this year. I may add a shade or two to this line up, but these are the ones I think I will be applying on the regular.


autumnnail

First up, my autumn pair. For my fingernails, it has to be Eternal Optimist, I have been wearing this for a couple of months now after picking it up as a cross between a neutral and a pink. I hate the mannequin hands look, as I have awful circulation in my hands so need a bit of colour to pep up my skin tone. This blush pink is just the right shade to look neutral but not cold.

For my toes I have been going with a vampy red in the form of Fishnet Stockings, When I bought this I got home and had a D'oh moment because in the bottle it looks very very similar to my brighter red Apertif, but once painted this dries as a very deep berry red, perfect for autumn when you want your toes to match the fire they are warming up near.


winternail

For winter, and by winter I really mean getting closer to christmas, I will probably switch it up but stick with the same colour palettes. For fingernails, I will be reaching for Tea and Crumpets, which I mentioned in my September lust list. I have been eyeing this shade up for ages, and although it looks a bit nothingy in the bottle it is really very pretty. Closer to christmas when there will be festive decorations around I will want a little shimmer and this provides just that, subtle shimmer which still looks classy.

On the toes I will probably go deeper in tone, this time reaching for a true plum in Bahama Mama. Although originally sold as a summer shade I believe, this immediately sang to me as perfect for winter, it is worth noting too that Essie shades last so long on my toes (they never ever chip, I only reapply because of nail growth) that I may only need to reapply these a couple of times, and they always still look glossy and freshly painted. Nothing better than your toes looking smart for the winter season.

Have you chosen your autumn/winter nail shades? Or do you prefer to just switch it up?