Sunday, 11 November 2018

September & October Books



A little late getting this one to you I'm afraid, but nonetheless I do, of course, have a lot of thoughts on the books I've been reading over the last two months. I've been rather busy recently, so reading has been the perfect way to end the day and unwind before going to sleep. Writing about what I've read, however, has just been something I've put of again and again. Anyway, no more rambling, here are my thoughts on my recent reads.



The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

After reading the other His Dark Materials books, I found that this one lost a little something when it moved from a fantasy/adventure book to more of a young adult romance. The Subtle Knife was definitely my favourite book in the series so I didn't expect that this one would top it to be honest, and I did find it rather anti climatic overall. I find Lyra really lost her character in this book, which, I can clarify, is not what usually happens when a girl grows closer to adulthood and definitely should not have been what happened to this particular girl. I get that she would grow more self-aware and self-conscience, but becoming completely submissive to some boy who's the same age as her (and therefore lacking the maturity she's gaining, as boys, of course, take a while longer) was utterly disappointing and quite disturbing. Offering us a character that can make her own decisions and fight for what she wants and then literally giving up her whole identity for a boy is the most appalling of choices Pullman could have made for this book, both for its target audience - kids the same age as its characters - and for anyone who enjoyed the essence of the previous books. I was disappointed, to say the least. I get that it is what it is, and I can't deny that I found the discussions of the power of religion intriguing, but it just didn't work this time.


Orlando by Virginia Woolf

I think Modernism just really isn't for me. Something just makes novels of the era far too difficult for me to follow and stay interested in. The concepts are all very interesting, but there's something in the way language is used that just makes it seem so utterly dull to me. The way that Orlando changes as he moves through distinctly different time periods seems like the kind of thing I'd love to read, exploring the experience of being a woman with the knowledge of how it feels to be the a man and to be treated as a man. But I truly found it painful to read due to the style. I'm sure it's just me and me distaste for the style, but if you also dislike the tropes of modernism and struggle to see the story beyond them, I'd recommend giving this one a miss.


The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is such a brilliant author, is the sense that she draws you in and completely absorbs you into the story, making it feel like you're almost there, watching the events unfold. The Heart of a Woman is the fourth book in her series of autobiographies, and focuses largely on her part in the civil rights movement from the late-50s to early-60s. This is actual the first of her books that I've read, as the subject matter is something I found noteworthy, but it certainly won't be the last. I was truly captivated by both Angelou's story and her style of writing. Reading a black female writer's account of this period in time and how she felt throughout it was truly fascinating, thought provoking, and rather heartbreaking. It felt a lot like reading a diary, somewhere in which its author could actually be honest about how they were feeling about all the things that they had to face each day, whether that be events specific to the civil rights movement, or to being a mother, or a woman, or all of these things at once. It was compelling in a way that I rarely find, where the author doesn't wish to overwhelm the reader or make their writing exciting on purpose, but where the book ignites something in you through its simple honesty. Wholeheartedly recommend.


History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

This book was so odd in so many ways. It follows a teenage girl known as Linda as she tries to make friends and feel apart of something, but ends up befriending a woman and her child who live in the same area as her. The family she befriends appear very strange and isolated, indicating that they've got something to hide: their religion and its ultimate implications. Stylistically, it was very easy to read, which sometimes convinces me that I must be enjoying something, but honestly, I really did not enjoy this book. Whilst reading it I was obviously aware that there was something very off about the whole thing - this strange family befriending a random girl - and so it was bound to end in some disaster or another. The book kind of explores having someone else's religion or belief system, as such, thrust upon you in a way you're slightly unaware of and therefore less resistant to. Linda is effectively groomed, in an apparently paedophilic way, into a religion. And I just hated the idea. I hated the idea and I hated how it was done in the book. I found myself just getting more and more wound up by this stupid girl who seems to just want to make friends, but ultimately she actually just wanted to play some grand part in other people's lives, even when she knew what must have been going on because it was impossible to miss, especially when you're being fed into it. It was just bad.


It by Stephen King

I might have mentioned in one of my previous book posts that one of my colleagues is a die-hard Stephen King fan. Therefore I've been told constantly that I need to read one of his most famous books, It. I thought I'd save it for October, since it's certainly a Halloween read should we start confining books to seasons or holidays. This one's pretty crazy, although I'm sure anyone who's seen the film would know this by the general gist. The main characters are all very likeable, making the situation they're thrown into entirely unsettling and, at times, upsetting. It is, of course, a sizeable book, meaning that there were times when I was completely confused about where it was going or would end up; sometimes this was frustrating but more often than not, I really liked the suspense. I have to admit though, I don't know what could have been cut out of the book to perhaps make it more concise. It's very much a complete work that you need to read in its entirety to appreciate and understand what's going on throughout. The way the book shifts in time is done rather ingeniously, mapping out everything that happened when the group were younger as the characters go through the motions to remember and understand what should be done as adults. The only real disappointment for me was the ending. No one wants a happy or an easy ending to a book like this. And as much as I know that there were dramatic deaths and trauma to get to the end, it just felt like a bit of a cop out to be honest. Overall, one I'd definitely recommend reading just to find out where King's going with it.


The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

I find sci-fi novels from the era in which The Body Snatchers was written very hit or miss. They are often fragmented in such as way that makes them barely readable. Luckily, however, this novel is written in a far easier style, but a basic structure following Miles Bennell in his attempts to understand and avoid the alien species invading the bodies of all those in Santa Mira. I really enjoyed reading this novel; it was a nice, easy read, but still kept me in the Halloween spirit after the dramatic and more complex It. The creatures that are formed in the novel, coming from seed pods and mimicking the appearance of a specific person, take over the actual body of the person they have evolved to look like. They are then unable to reproduce, meaning they are effectively taking over the human race in order to eventually wipe it out. The only reason they appear to do this is because they are parasites. The book has obvious nuances of political fiction, making the invasion a not so subtle comment on the anxieties of cold war and the nuclear arms race of the 1950s. All this makes the book very politically aware and shows the damages that could be done by nuclear war, with the potential to annihilate mankind, vocalising a major concern during this era. An easy read with a strong underlying message. Definitely one worth sparing a few hours for.


Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black definitely has a similar feel to it as Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, so I now completely understand the comparisons I read about before deciding to buy this book. The novel follows the eponymous character, Washington Black, as he escapes slavery by means of an unusual form of transportation: a 'cloud-cutter', or as we would perhaps recognise it, an airship. It's a book that mixes adventure with the horrifying facts of slavery, giving the means of escape through flight and then through further travel, but all this movement as a result of a constant fear of being caught and taken back to the life that was hardly a life at all. It's a really beautifully written novel, despite its powerful, haunting imagery. I did find that towards the end of the novel, when the characters start jumping from place to place almost pointlessly, it did lose something and felt rather unfocused, which I didn't enjoy so much. The book seems to offer a well-known message: knowledge is power. The more Washington continues to learn and better himself through gaining knowledge and putting it to practical use, the closer he comes to being his own, fully formed person. By the end of the novel he is a scientist, but sadly knows there's little chance he'll receive recognition due to the colour of his skin. The novel presents the period following the end of slavery very well, showing the turmoil ex-slaves face in trying to be a highly-functioning member of society. It's an honest, a sad, and yet somehow still triumphant book. I really enjoyed reading it.


Until next time.



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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Autumn, but sunny




Top: New Look
Jeans: Topshop
Shoes: Dr Martens (via ASOS)


On Sunday, my Mum and I went down to Windsor Castle. I got her a day trip there as her Christmas present last year, so we were rather late in going (the tickets were going to run out soon), but we picked a glorious sunny day to go.

I thought I'd share the outfit I wore, featuring my no. 1 favourite autumn piece right now: this jacket. Does anything say autumn like a bright rust orange jacket? I think not. I picked this up in Urban Outfitters a couple weeks ago when I was in Birmingham. It's the perfect jacket to through on with a neutral outfit to give the look some life. It's denim, so a texture that suits everything, and I got it a little oversized so it would be comfy with jumpers as the weather gets a bit crisper.

I paired the jacket with Topshop blue/black Jamie jeans - my go to skinny jeans - which I rolled up at the bottom for the look all the kids are going for these days (when I was young, having your jeans too short just meant they were too small (glad it's #fashion now so I don't have flashbacks)). Tucked into the jeans, I wore a thin roll neck top from New Look. Cream is one of my favourite colours to wear, as it compliments my skin tone so much better than white, and this top is the perfect thin layer for the current weather and will equally be a good layering piece come the winter.

On my feet I just slipped on my Dr Martens shoes. These are the Gibson Flat Shoes, which are ideal for pretty much any occasion. I've been wearing them nonstop since the weather cooled down, as I love to smarten up a more casual outfit like this one with a slicker shoe.


Until next time.



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Sunday, 2 September 2018

August Books



August has been dominated entirely by fiction. I just needed to escape from real life for a while and is there really any better way than by book? Here's what I read this month.


The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin

Honestly, not the best start. I can really appreciate what Le Guin was doing with this text, and parts of it I thought were brilliant, but sadly they were overshadowed by my general feeling of dislike for the novel. It felt too jumpy for such a short text; jumping around between characters and whatnot is normally fine for me but I just felt like I didn't really know what was actually going on with anyone because there weren't enough words to explain. I liked the premise: set on a different planet that has been colonised by earth, effectively portraying colonisation as it was during the British empire but on a bigger, more extreme scale, and reducing, as a result, a peaceful species to violence. I read somewhere that the novel was Le Guin's negative response to the Vietnam War, which makes perfect sense, and maybe explains better why the book feels so fragmented. I think if it were longer and the plot was bound together with more complex characters then I could've loved it. But sadly just didn't work for me.


The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

If you liked the first book, you'll love the second. Still baffled by how I've never read the His Dark Materials trilogy. The plot development is so interesting, I can't remember the last time I was so intrigued by a set of books. I love that there are so many different ways I can imagine these texts going and yet they still seem to surprise me (and I'm someone who constantly spoils books for myself because I've thought of all the possibilities and have worked out what will happen, so this is pretty rare). I liked seeing a world more like the one I recognise, especially because the books are largely set in Oxford, which is where I live, so I'm constantly recognising the exact locations that are being presented, which is actually quite exciting. It makes the books seem more real because they're so close to home for me. Seeing Lyra's character develop in tangent to Will's is really compelling, and her adjustment to the different worlds they've discovered alongside her personal growth sit really nicely together. Pullman is a genius.


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is such a tragedy and yet such a triumph. I have never been so compelled by a war novel. And I had yet to read one written from a German perspective until now; it really struck a chord in me. The novel truly reminds us all that every man who fought in WW1 (or 2) was just an ordinary person, with no real anger toward anyone on the other side, but rather just doing a mandatory duty. The novel truly portrays the stolen youth of war. The main character and his friends had literally left school and joined up, and the text shows the inner turmoil that this has caused them. Paul has to endure the deaths of all his closest friends, even having to go to one of their mothers and explain to her that her son is dead, attempting to convince her he didn't suffer, lying outright so she wouldn't have to know the truth. The novel shows the personal devastation of war that its author experienced outright. Though the book is specified as a novel, it is certainly somewhat anecdotal, perhaps part of how the author accepted what really happened and coped with how difficult it all was. Definitely one I'd recommend.


The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

Honestly, I thought this book would be so rubbish, but I liked the idea of the plot so I gave it a go anyway. It wasn't an intellectually challenging work of fiction, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the way the plot progressed. Essentially, it's a book about an elitist group - actually a family with three strands - who want to breed in a way that keeps their bloodline 'superior'. Naturally, this formula of rich people with an elitist regime means incest. I think you're not meant to work it out until the characters realise what's going on, but it's pretty obvious from the get go. It was a very easy read, so if you prefer a book that you can breeze through rather than having to think too much about it, then I'd recommend this for you. The characters are interesting and I thought the plot moved nicely, but overall a bit too basic for my typical liking.


Jazz by Toni Morrison

Having only ever read Beloved by Toni Morrison, I thought it was about time to get stuck into some of her other texts, starting with Jazz. Jazz is set in 1920s Harlem, and is essentially a historical novel depicting the black experience of the Jazz Age, a time typically looked at as joyous and prosperous. The structure of the novel works in a musical way, with different characters seemingly creating their own stories, which are then worked together to form one overall composition. A lot of these different section where we focus on different characters are still exploring the same events, just from different perspectives and at different times - before/during/after. I loved this novel. It felt so truthful throughout, despite the different voices and lack of one overall trustworthy narrative. I think the changing voices added to the honesty of experience, portraying the Jazz Age for what it really was for African Americans: not all it's cracked up to be. Morrison is such a talented author and I'm excited to continue reading her work.


Home by Salman Rushdie

Home by Salman Rushdie is a part of the Penguin Vintage minis series, featuring thirty different authors speaking on a subject they a specifically well written about. The texts draw from various different works of the writers', compiling what is fundamentally a basic guide to their work, giving you a little dip in to their writing so that you can decide on what further reading you'd be interesting doing on their topic/work. Rushdie's book is focused on the notion of 'home', what it is and how to deal with feeling at home somewhere you are not recognised as belonging. Rushdie discusses the struggle of being Indian but attending school and university in England, giving personal insight into issues of racism and his own sense of belonging - speaking perfect English and yet still being labelled 'other'. He also delves into his family living in both London and also their moving to Pakistan, somewhere he could not accept as a home. It was a great way to get into what Rushdie writes about in his fiction and I'd be interesting in reading Midnight's Children after reading this mini.



Until next time.



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Sunday, 26 August 2018

Summer Favourites '18

How crazy that this summer has been a REAL summer - in England. Can you believe it? Because every week that the weather has continued to be warm, I've gotten more and more confused, and now that it's finally cooled down a bit I don't really know what to do with myself. It's been nice in many ways: I've gotten to wear all my pretty summer dresses without fearing a potential downpour at any given moment; I've spent a lot of time just relaxing and reading, because it's been too warm to do much more; and, most importantly, I've gotten some much needed vitamin D (we're all deprived in this cold country). However, working in the warm weather has ultimately been hellish, so I'm not too sad to say goodbye, and I'm already planning my A/W wardrobe.

Anyhow, here is everything I've been loving for the past three months. It's fairly concise, since it's been too warm to bother about much, but everything here I well and truly love.


Makeup


A major summertime rediscovery has been the Rosie For Autograph Bronzing and Highlighting sticks. These are great for creating a super glowy look and bronzing up the face whilst keeping it looking natural. I feel like a total bronzed goddess when using these products, so of course I love using them most in summer, when I'm usually looking a bit pale in comparison to everybody else. The formulas are so creamy, they're really easy to work with,they  and create the perfect summer look. So. Good.


No-brushes-necessary makeup is usually my favourite kind, so it's no surprise that I love the Glossier Lidstar in the shade Fawn. This is essentially a liquid eyeshadow, so you just swipe in on your eyes, pat it out so it covers the lid and hey presto, you're done. I like that it's super subtle and yet when the light hits it, it hits it. It's also buildable so you can get a darker shade, but I prefer just a flick of colour. Fawn is the prettiest purpley taupe, which works great with green eyes.

How great that I've FINALLY found a mascara that I truly love. I have been in such a rut with mascara for so many months now, but the Glossier Lash Slick has finally gotten me wearing it again. It's such a great formula; not too wet or dry or clumpy or thin. It gives a natural but awake look, which is all I really want from a mascara, defining and lengthening your lashes without trying too hard to do anything else. It's my ideal mascara and I'll be wearing it for a long time to come.


Skincare


I don't change up my skincare too often now that I've finally gotten a good routine with products that work for me, but I've been trying out Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate and it is a dream for my skin. This stuff. Phenomenal. I wake up in the morning and my skin is revitalised. It does so much with just a couple of drops. My skin feels so well hydrated, it feels smoother, my complexion is evened out over night, it's everything I've ever dreamt of. I got this as a sample in last year's advent calendar and I know full well that I'll be buying a full size the second I run out. I use it probably about twice a week and my skin is reaping the benefits. Love this stuff.


Fashion

Midi as a concept. As someone who's never been over the moon with their thighs, the concept of midi length is something I should have considered forever ago. It's floaty and airy and looks dreamy and elegant and everything I desire to be. Being tall as well it's ideal, as I don't need to worry that anything will be too short like with mini and maxi lengths. My favourite midi length item is a wrap dress from Pull & Bear. It's a gorgeous blue floral print and I feel chic as heck whenever I'm wearing it.



Books

My favourite books from this summer have been Countdown by Alan Weisman and The Northern Lights & The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. Countdown is all about the issue of population growth and control, which I find so interesting and is such an important topic for people to be informed about. Whereas The Northern Lights & The Subtle Knife are the first two books in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, following a young girl called Lyra on her quest to understand the conflict between the church, dark matter and other worlds. If you're interested in further thoughts on these books feel free to take a look at my July Books post, which is slightly more comprehensive.


Music


So Sad So Sexy by Lykke Li is basically the coolest album you'll here all year. I love the electropop style of her music and how she's managed to make every song on the album a total hit. This has been on repeat in my car pretty much since it came out. My favourites include Jaguars in the Air, Bad Woman and the eponymous track So Sad So Sexy.

A very recent favourite is Sweetener by Ariana Grande. Her earliest albums were generally a little too bubblegum pop for my liking, but this album in particular has really shown her growth into her own musical style. A few favourite tracks are No Tears Left to Cry, Better Off and Everytime.

Despite loving these two albums, my song of the summer has to be from another artist altogether. Sigrid is yet to release her debut album, but it's already penned to be a hit. A major favourite from her recent Raw EP is a track titled Schedules. The song feels really nostalgic, like a lot of summer hits tend to, and is, in general, an absolute tune. 100% highly recommend giving it a listen.

(women are the best)


Film


Okay so I went to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again without having even watched the trailer, knowing full well I was bound to love it. However, in not viewing the trailer before hand, I was not aware that Meryl Streep's character, Donna Sheridan, has died, therefore leading to me being absolutely NOT emotionally prepared to see the film. There were tears, but there were also a ton of smiles because this film, despite it's lack of Meryl Streep, is full of joy. When ghost Donna and Sophie were singing together I was thrilled to finally see Meryl Streep whilst also being heartbroken by the fact she was a ghost. Lily James was brilliantly cast as young Donna. I thought her portrayal was really great. Honestly, a beautiful, wholesome film. Oh yeah, and Cher is in it!! You've got to watch it.


Also two of my best friends married each other this summer! Maybe my favourite of all favourites.



Until next time.



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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Thinking about the future



It hit me the other day that two of my best friends are marrying each other in less than two weeks. That some of my old friends from school are already married or are getting engaged and planning the rest of their lives. And I'm just not there.

There's something rather bittersweet about seeing your friends moving forward with their lives whilst you're very stagnant. I feel a little left behind and like I'm not progressing through life as quickly as I should be. But equally I know that I don't want what they've got now, right now. I am not ready to have anyone dependent on me - dependent on me for love, or happiness, or life (I know a lot of my friends are already wanting kids). I'm not there and I'm good with that, and yet because I'm not in that mindset I do feel inadequate.

It's such a silly thing, because I'm not one to dwell, or to compare myself to others, but I do feel behind. I don't know if that's necessarily a personal feeling, or if it's based on the things people say - you know when someone says how happy they are that they've done such and such, and then they'll be like don't worry you'll get there soon!! No thanks, hun. I don't want it. And I think I just need to stand up and say it. I don't want what you want. I don't want what you have. It's not bitter, it's not resentful; it's just having different desires. It's having different things that make you happy, and different things that make you enjoy life.

I read something the other day about time stamps and how people have age dependent goals for their lives. I can honestly say I've never had that for anything, and looking at how my friends who think this way about what they're doing and what they're achieving, I could not be more glad. They act like they're running out of time, and it means they're going for the wrong people, they're not being young whilst they can, they're so focused that they ignore all the other wonderful things life has to offer. It shouldn't matter what age you are or if you attain these 'life goals' within certain time scales. I think if you live like that you'll never be truly happy, you'll just be looking ahead to what you have to achieve next and how little time you've got left to do it.

So no, I don't want my own house but the time I'm 25; I don't want to be married by the time I'm 28; I don't want two kids and a dog by the time I'm 32 (okay, the dog part I do kind of want). I don't see the point in limiting yourself to your age. Age truly is just a number and you don't need to do anything by any certain age. You need to learn to love the journey to all the things you want, whenever they end up happening for you. Or you'll end up bitter and unsatisfied. And that's not a life I want to live.

I'm not in a rush.



Until next time.



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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

July Books



It's been quite a slow month of reading for me. I think the thought of holding up a book for more than an hour in the heat we've been having was just too much to bear. Nonetheless, I've thoroughly enjoyed and been truly interested by the book that I've read throughout July. Two non fiction texts and a novel I couldn't believe I hadn't read years ago. Here's what I read in July.


The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr

This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. We all know who Martin Luther King Jr was and we all know a little bit about what he did for the civil rights movement; but I think it's important that we know the extent to which he went to for his cause, a cause that was essential and that he fought long and hard for. It was interesting to learn that he just kind of fell into the civil rights movement. People liked him, they trusted him, and they thought that he was someone they could feel safe to march with, without fighting a physical battle. I loved finding out how passionate his wife was about the cause, and how she was willing to raise their four children largely without him, because she knew he was doing something very important for those children's future. His life is an entirely inspiring one and I think it's wonderful that his autobiography was fully pieced together after his untimely death. I don't think anyone could have fully comprehended how he must have felt throughout that time, with this book. An amazing insight into the life of a monumental historical figure.


The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

From a book that I think everyone should read, to one which everyone seems to have already read. How did I miss Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy growing up?! This would have been right up my alley growing up, but I know I had a tendency to want to read more 'grown up' books, which looking back I doubt I understood much of. I actually remember seeing the Golden Compass film when I was younger though, which is based on The Northern Lights. I think the film definitely oversimplified the book, and perhaps gave it the wrong target audience, focusing on a younger crowd. There are some really interesting ideas in here, with the church fighting to suppress and essentially stick to what they know, whilst a few try to discover another world and how to get there. It was such an exciting read; I loved how all the different characters from various lifestyles and backgrounds came together for a cause they found important. I cannot wait to read the next book, which will definitely be on my August books list.


Countdown by Alan Weisman

Despite how much I enjoyed and was interested by the other texts I read this month, this one was the climax. This is a non fiction book about population. Naturally this means it looks at the growing issue of overpopulation, population control, and the effect that population is having on the planet. I'm a bit of a serious tree hugger, so this book felt really important to me. I've had an interest in environmental/ecological literature for some time now; I actually wrote on the topic for my dissertation at uni. I think if everyone read this book they would understand why I feel the way I do about the human race: it is a problem. We've populated the planet excessively and now we're running into trouble with the amount of food we can produce versus the amount of people it has to feed. There are some great ideas in this book, yet they don't come across as forceful at all. It's more a presentation of the facts, combined with various beliefs around the world, and how if we looked at those beliefs from different angles, we might not be in the debacle we are now in. Population is due to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050. If that happens, it's all going tits up. I would 100% recommend reading this book and educating yourself on the population issue. If you read the book and take on some of the ideas it has to offer, there's a chance that we'll start to reduce overpopulation and not reach the dreaded number we're heading to, at the expense of so many other species.


Until next time.



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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Glossier: Top 5 Products



Glossier are a very well known brand at this point. Having launched in the UK almost a year ago, there's been some time to test out the brands products. I've primarily invested in their makeup, designed to work simultaneously as skincare - which makes a big difference as the products feel like they aren't just on your skin, but doing something whilst there.

So, I thought I'd let you know my top 5 Glossier products. Some are newer releases, and others were in the first order I made and I've since repurchased.

5. Solution

Of course the Solution was going to make the top 5, but even I'm surprised it wasn't higher up. This stuff is just great. It's effectively a gentle acid that helps to exfoliate the skin, keeping it clean and therefore helping rid the skin of blemishes and evening skin tone. This has worked well for me since I first used it at the beginning of the year and it's safe to say I can see myself using it for many years to come. I now use it every other day, instead of everyday as I did originally, as it's made such a difference to my skin that I don't feel the need for it everyday.


4. Super Bounce

The only qualm I ever had about the Solution was that my skin often felt rather dry the following morning. I saw someone online mention that they used Super Bounce the morning after they had used the Solution and it rehydrated there skin really nicely. Having started using it only recently, I'm glad to say that it's certainly worked the same for me. Super Bounce is a hyaluronic acid vitamin B5 serum - it brings back the softness and resultantly the 'bounce' to your skin, leaving it smooth and hydrated without any waiting around for it to sink in. Love this stuff.


3. Boy Brow

Next up is the Boy Brow. This has quickly become a cult classic in the brow world. To begin with I didn't love it, but I think as the product began to dry a little it became the perfect consistency for me. I am very much a lazy girl when it comes to brows: I've never bothered using a pencil or such to fill them in, opting for a brow gel to just add a bit of volume and fill the little areas that are on the sparse side. This is a great product for that. I use the brown shade and it blends in with my natural brow colour really nicely.


2. Lash Slick

As much as the Lash Slick is a very new release from Glossier, I can wholeheartedly say that it deserves the number 2 position. For, I kid you not, about eight months, I've avoided using mascara almost completely. And the reason for this was that I just hated every formula I had and that I came across, to the point that I couldn't bear the thought of using any of them. Nothing looked nice or went on how I wanted and I ended up so discontented every time I tried using mascara. Lash Slick was - not to be dramatic or anything - the last mascara product I was willing to try before I gave up on it forever, and I'm glad to say it was everything I could possibly want in a mascara. It separates and lengthens, giving your eyelashes amazing definition, yet still looking on the more natural side. It also comes off really easily - another major issue I have with every other mascara - with just a little micellar water. A dream.


1. Perfecting Skin Tint

And the product reaching the number 1 spot is, of course, the Perfecting Skin Tint. I am, through and through, a skin tint/tinted moisturiser kind of girl, so I certainly know what I like in this sort of product. The Glossier Skin Tint does not disappoint. One thing I often find difficult is to find a shade light enough for my complexion, as a lot of the time brands seem to struggle to get a super pale shade and even the lightest colour is too dark for me. But Glossier have gotten it just right and the shade combined with the formula gets 10/10. It is a weightless product that works to even out skin tone without losing sight of your natural features, whilst at the same time it effectively hydrates the skin. My skin feels nicer after I've taken the product off at the end of the day than before I put it on in the morning, which is definitely hard to come by. The best. A worthy winner.



Have you tried any Glossier products? What are your favourites?


Until next time.



Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
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Email: abbielour18@gmail.com

Saturday, 30 June 2018

June Books



Again, a nice varied collection of books this month, going from recent fiction to a collection of journalism and back to short stories set in World War Two. Enjoyed, questioned and passed on to others for judgement, here's what I thought of this months reads.


Kill Your Friends by John Niven

Kill Your Friends was an angry book. But it was intriguing and it worked. I don't know how accurate Niven's representation of the music industry really is, but it was thoroughly convincing and certainly appeared authentic despite its extremities. I think none of us ever like the first person narrator as much as we're convinced we do. It's so easily to be led astray and made to believe that what they're doing is perfectly justified and valid simply because we're in their head. We're viewing the reality that they're creating for us and it's a complete trap. Ultimately Steven Stelfox is pretty much the devil incarnate. He's conniving and manipulative to the point that he'd kill to further his career, and yet is so drugged up you're made to consider whether he's wholly aware of what he's doing. He is. He obviously is - he makes plans requiring a lot of effort to execute and yet performs them seamlessly. It's a rather sickening novel, but nonetheless makes for a good, though slightly unpleasant read.


Lines in the Sand: Collected Journalism by A. A. Gill

As much as this collection is titled 'Collected Journalism', it does conclusively read as a memoir - a reflection of the author's life, particularly his final years. The collection focuses primarily on the theme and issue of migration. It moves from migration in Europe - looking at the Syrian crisis - to wider fields like Latin America. However there are a lot of other articles, which are often wholly unconnected that are also a part of this book. And it this sense it felt oddly fragmented, like the book didn't fit together very well as a whole. As much as I can appreciate that the migrate crisis is so poignant and of the moment, there were some really nice segments where Gill is talking about his children and taking them to different places or watching them learn; I feel like the book would have read better for me if parts like this weren't so out of the blue and essentially so few and far between. Individually the articles were all very intriguing and thought provoking, but ultimately I wasn't convinced by the way they have been formatted together.


Into the War by Italo Calvino

I also read a collection of three short stories by Italo Calvino this month. This is actually the first text I've read of his, despite If On a Winter's Night a Traveller having been sat on my bookshelf for upwards of three years. The stories are set in 1940 at the point of Italy joining World War Two. As much as we see the cusp of war in the stories, we also see the narrator - essentially Calvino, as the text is certainly autobiographical to a point - on the cusp of adulthood. I think it's certainly an interesting book to pick as a first Calvino text, as it's offered some biographical context in a way that I'm aware none of his other books do, and this could, perhaps, actually be beneficial in reading further works of his. Overall, the experience created in the stories feels very authentic and actually a bit emotional in the sense that you can see Calvino's character as someone with certain morals and ones which the other boys go against. It feels a lot like he's discovering the person he wants to grow into.


I'm also currently about two thirds of the way through the autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr, which I'm quickly devouring. I'll let you know what I thought of the whole thing this time next month.



Until next time.



Social media/contacts:
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Email: abbielour18@gmail.com

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Skincare 101



Trying to nail down a skincare routine is harder than organising a get together with my biggest group of friends.

I have been drafting and redrafting this post for, I kid you not, five months. Basically, since around the end of last year I started changing up single elements of my skincare routine one at a time. Certain things just weren't working for me anymore so it was time to introduce some new products. I'm a great advocate for slow progress and I think you should always only change one skincare product at a time, giving it a good month to check how it's working and see if you're happy with it before looking to change any other products. If you change everything at once you've got little hope in knowing, for example, which product is breaking you out or drying out your skin etc etc. So that's what I've been doing and I've finally gotten to a point where everything is working well and my skin is looking real nice.




First things first, Garnier Micellar Water is a staple in so many people's skincare routines and I am no different. It is my favourite formula for removing makeup and even just giving my face a quick refresh. There are obviously a few different versions of the micellar water and my personal favourite is the Pure Active formula. It makes my skin feels super clean and soft, and is a product that I feel contributes to decreasing spots and keeping them at bay. I love this stuff.




Next up is another Garnier product, again from the Pure Active range. Garnier Pure Active 3 in 1 Clay Face Wash is amazing for me. It purifies, unclogs pores and mattifies the skin - ideal if you're on the oilier side and your skin is prone to imperfections. I use this probably about three times a week as a more intensive facial wash than the micellar water. I'll usually just use it as a face wash - it works well to exfoliate whilst washing your face too, which is a bonus - but one every two weeks I'll put it on as a mask for five minutes. This just gives a slightly deeper clean.




One I've spoken about a few times now is the Glossier Solution. It's a game changer. It's essentially an exfoliator with three gentle acids which are intended to help reduce the appearance of pores, spots and redness. And I think it does this really well. It is a little drying, which is the only downside I've experienced, but it's worth needing to work a little harder to moisturise. I've been using this for almost six months now and I'm now at the point where I feel comfortable reducing my usage to every other night as opposed to using it every night, simply because I'm getting very few blemishes now and I'd like to avoid my skin getting any drier unnecessarily.




I've finally found an eye cream that seems to actually do something. Hallelujah. Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream is the one. I feel that I'm not fully awake in the morning until I've used this product. It feels really hydrating and seems to reduce puffiness nicely. And I'm hoping it's working well below the skin as a preventative means to reduce wrinkly eyes as I get older.




The most difficult product to get right for me was definitely moisturiser. I've tried many a moisturiser in attempts to find one that really works for my skin, from various brands and various ranges within brands. In the end I settled upon the Garnier Skin Active Moisturiser with Aloe Extract. I wanted something light and refreshing that would hydrate my skin without needing an excessive amount of product - which was a problem I was having with other moisturisers: they just didn't hydrate my skin enough. This one is great. I use it morning and evening and my skin has never felt better. It doesn't break me out (another serious moisturiser struggle) and just helps my skin to look it's best.




Those are my main staple products, but in addition to these I will also use face masks twice a week. I will vary the mask I use in relation to what my skin seems to need. A few favourites include The Body Shop Chinese Ginseng and Rice Clarifying Polishing Mask - this one is great for a bit of extra exfoliation and also helps to brighten up and revitalise. For a mask more focused on hydration, my go to is the Garnier Moisture Bomb sheet masks. There are several different versions of this mask and my favourites include the Chamomile mask, the Lavender mask and the Green Tea mask. All great for hydration but they all also work in slightly different ways in addition to this. For example the Chamomile mask is very soothing and the Lavender mask helps relax the senses.


So that's my skincare routine in a nutshell. It's taken a great deal of time to formulate, but it truly works for me. I like that it's there's not a mass of products, and for the most part they're all really affordable, meaning I don't get a little sad every time I need to repurchase something. I think simple, minimalist skincare is definitely most effective for me.


Until next time.



Social media/contacts:
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Email: abbielour18@gmail.com

Thursday, 31 May 2018

May Books



May's been a little busier than usual for me, so my book intake for the month was slightly more limited as a result. Nonetheless, some interesting reads, including a romance from the Victorian era, a recent humorous novel, a diary and a recent text on race and racism. An eclectic selection for the month of May.


The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Honestly, wasn't a fan of this one. I didn't really like any of the characters and didn't find it to be a particularly stimulating read, with the style just feeling uncomfortable throughout, which made it quite the chore to get through. I never wanted to pick it up and read it, I had to keep thinking, 'oh it'll get better, just do a couple chapters,' but overall it just wasn't for me. It's kind of a historical novel come romance, which even as a genre didn't work for me. Historical novels tend to be something I enjoy, but I think the added elements of romance just didn't mesh well. I appreciate the struggle that the text poses and how Hester is represented throughout the novel - and therefore as a woman in history during the time period - but despite that, I just didn't like it.


The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

I was so excited to read this book having loved Jonasson's first novel, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, and I can safely say, this one did not disappoint. Jonasson's writing is so fast paced and interesting that you can get entirely lost in not just his stories, but equally his storytelling. His style is so colloquial that it often seems as though he's recounting something that's really happened, which I love and think fits in wonderfully with his stories, as his character leads truly eventful lives. I really liked the character of Nombeko and following her life and literal journey was something I considered genuinely intriguing and exciting. Jonasson seems to has an interest in nuclear weapons, as like his previous novel, this one also follows the goings on during the time of atomic bomb development. But he manages to make this seem like such a trivial task in his texts that it really makes you laugh at the enormity of what's actually going on in the books. I loved this text - I'm usually someone who prefers much more serious themes and styles, but Jonasson's writing is just sincerely entertaining and satisfying.


Go Ask Alice

One of my co-workers lent me this book and I could barely stop reading to take a sip of water. Since reading it, I've actually found out that it wasn't a real diary, as the anonymous author indicates it must be, which in some ways made me feel a little more comfortable about the book. By all means, the content of the text is not something that should make you feel comfortable, but rather concerned and upset and like you're losing a friend throughout - it did make me feel this way, especially whilst I was reading it and thought it was an entirely true story. The book is about a 15 year old girl who develops a drug habit, leading her to run away from home multiple times - some of which she was barely aware of what she was doing. It was traumatic and heartbreaking just as a reader, dealing with a great number of issues that young people in the 70s no doubt endured. It is an extremely well written text, which was what impressed me most whilst reading it believing it was entirely real - I was so intrigued that Alice had such a command of language and narrative whilst at the same time being a drug addict and struggling from one day to the next. I can understand why an author would have taken the opportunity to use a diary structure to comment on drug taking in the 70s, as it is evidently a style that elicits a response, but at the same time it's difficult to know the extent to which the text places itself in the real world, when it is in fact a fiction book. It's one that made me think a lot and feel a lot, but in the end I'm not so sure of what to make of it.


Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

I picked this book up at the end of last month and was keen to get stuck into it. Reni Eddo'Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race has been all over the internet since it's initial release just a year ago. Just the cover of the text itself is so striking, I instantly wanted to know what it's author had to say. The book is spectacular. It is informative, expressive and sincerely important to the modern day discussion on race. I felt that I learned a lot and thought a lot about what Eddo-Lodge offered in the book, and having read it I feel more informed on issues concerning race, such as feminism and class and how race is always interlinked. As a white person, I have, prior to reading this, deeply considered my position of privilege, but this really reiterated that to me and helped me to understand a position I have never personally been in. The book is up to date and yet historical, recognising that we must know where issues of race have stemmed from. I was blown away by Eddo-Lodge's articulation of the topic, simply laying the cards on the table in a way  that's impossible to ignore. I hope that you too will read this text and truly take in what it has to offer, and you too will help the anti-racism movement in your day to day goings on. This book has helped reignite the message in politics and in society generally, so I hope that you and I and so many others can help keep it going.



Until next time.



Social media/contacts:
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Outfit Diaries 001: Barcelona

Although I was in Barcelona for four days, I've only got two outfits of note, considering day one was a travel outfit and day four was a day spent on the beach (not so body confident that I'm ready for bikini pics yet). Nonetheless, I thought I'd share with you my two favourite outfits from the trip.








Top: New Look
Skirt: ASOS
Jacket: Missguided
Shoes: Adidas
Sunglasses: Ray Ban


The first was worn when we went to La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. It was comfy and practical - considering there is a dress code for the cathedral (covered shoulders / nothing too short). The skirt is one I mentioned ages ago in an ASOS currently coveting post. It was something I was sure I would get a lot of use out of, especially considering the struggle I have with finding skirts that aren't too short on me. Midi is the ideal length if you're a tall girl, as you haven't got to worry that it's too short like a mini skirt or, again, not long enough if it's a maxi style. This one just has an elasticated waist, making it really comfortable and wearable, and also features some pleats, adding a little something to the shape and way it falls.

I paired this with a little came top from New Look. Yellow is my favourite colour, so I love that it's really in at the moment and loads of shops have a lot of items featuring the colour. I like that it's striped so that the whole outfit isn't just blocks of colour and the fit of it is perfect. Then I added my denim jacket from Missguided (via ASOS) to the outfit, so that it was more appropriate for visiting La Sagrada Familia and chucked on my Adidas Stan Smiths - the most comfortable and yet fashionable trainer for a day trekking around the city. And my sunglasses are prescription Ray Bans - the style is Clubround Classic.








Dress: New Look
Shoes: Adidas
Bag: Topshop
Sunglasses: Ray Ban


The following day I wore one of my new favourite dresses. This one is from New Look and cinches in at the waist before flowing out to a midi length (I'm obsessed). I love how neutral this dress is and I also appreciate that it's more or a cream than a white, as in my pale state white doesn't always look very flattering on me. I can't wait to keep wearing this dress throughout the summer - it's nice and airy and yet entirely elegant. Again, I teamed this with my Stan Smiths for the comfort factor (if we weren't walking around all day I'd have had the perfect sandals to pair with it), and added in my circle bag from Topshop. I love the gold studded detail on this and how it worked to keep the outfit very neutral.


So those were my favourite outfits from my trip to Barcelona. Simple, comfortable and warm weather appropriate. Excited to continue styling these items throughout the summer.


Until next time.



Social media/contacts:
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Email: abbielour18@gmail.com

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Barcelona

For about four years now, my best friend, Charlie, and I have had a dream. The dream was to go to Barcelona and just be in Barcelona for a few days. It finally happened, and we loved it.

We planned the trip only a couple of months in advance and wanted to have as much time to just absorb the city as possible. We were there for four days, giving us lots of aimless wandering time, which was one of my favourite things about the trip.

Our hotel was the Eurostars Monumental, which was just a couple of blocks away from La Sagrada Familia, giving us the most incredible view from our window.


It's definitely a hotel I'd recommend. The room was perfect, the staff were friendly and really helpful, and the breakfast was phenomenal. Five stars.

We arrived at around midday on Monday, allowing us all afternoon to walk around and explore. We found a cafe for a pick me up and looked online to find out where some of the buildings we wanted to see were located. And then we were off on a long walk across the city. Some of my favourites finds from that day were Gaudi's Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.





We only had one day with scheduled entry times for attractions, which was our second day, on which we went to both La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. The cathedral was insane. I couldn't believe how much attention to detail there was and how everything had a meaning. It was very special and wonderful to see how committed they still are to making Gaudi's vision come to life. You 100% have to do the audio tour, as it explains all the amazing intricacies of the building. We also went up one of the towers on the Nativity side, which not only gave us great views of the city, but also allowed us to see how detailed the building is even near the very top.









I loved Park Guell. I'm definitely a park person - when I went to New York, Central Park was a major highlight - and so wandering around and see how architecture and nature had been incorporated was one of my favourite parts of the trip. We also went to the Gaudi House Museum in Park Guell, which gave us more of an insight into both the man himself, the way he worked, and how the furnishings of a building were often as important to him as the outer structure itself. A really great place and somewhere I can certainly see myself going back to.










Our third day was more of a central city day. We headed out and down to the Arc de Triomf to start with. It was such a beautiful structure and we spend a good while in the little park there in awe (and also dog watching, of course). From there we headed to Parc de la Ciutadella, which we meandered through and ended up in a rowing boat. We then strolled through the Gothic Quarter and down to La Rambla. I loved the atmosphere in the area and how carefree the whole place felt. We hung out on Rmabla de Mar for a while, soaking up the sun and watching the boats float by.







From there we headed up to see the Magic Fountain, which was enormous?? It was very relaxing to just watch the water and overlook the city below. We also saw the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya whilst we were up there, which is such a grand building, truly overlooking the whole city.




On our final full day we headed down to the beach - as Brits who live quite far inland, we couldn't help but enjoy the novelty. It was the warmest day of our visit too, so it was very well selected for some time to lie down in the sun and read. On that last evening after we'd had dinner, we grabbed some ice cream and went and sat outside La Sagrada Familia, gazing up at the building that had truly captured our hearts.





We had such a wonderful trip to Barcelona. It's the most incredible city, with beautiful architecture and scenery. We've low key already planned to go back once the cathedral is finished.

Already excited for our next adventure together.



Outfit post to follow.


Until next time.



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