Wednesday, 16 December 2015

T5W: BOOKS TO READ BY THE FIRE


Welcome back to Top Five Wednesday! I haven't done one of these in such a long time but this week's topic of 'books to read by the fire' was just too good to miss. As always, Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can check out the complete list of Wednesday-ers here.

For this topic I chose books that aren't necessarily Christmassy reads but would be perfect to snuggle up with on a cold winter's night and while away the evening in front of the fire. They all have a magical or mysterious aspect to them that makes them perfect for a dark Winter's night. So without further ado let's get into my recommendations for books to read by the fire:



01. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.
I've just started reading this as it was my TBR jar pick for this month and I'm so glad I picked it up as it's the perfect winter read. Set in rural Iceland in the harsh winter of 1829, Burial Rites is the story of Agnes, who, having been charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. That synopsis sounds pretty depressing but although the story is quite dark in places, Kent's writing is beautifully lyrical and so atmospheric that it's the perfect book to curl up with by the fire.

02. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
A magical realism novel set in Victorian times, The Night Circus centers around a mysterious travelling circus that only opens at night. But the novel is also about the secret competition between Marco and Celia, two strangers who have been trained since childhood by their mentors expressly for the purpose of this strange game. The competition isn't a battle, instead it is about intense magical one-upmanship, but unbeknownst to Marco and Celia, only one can be left standing at the end. The Night Circus is a very atmospheric, carefully constructed, character driven novel that weaves together so many perspectives and timelines. It really is so beautifully crafted and the magical atmopshere that's woven so intricately throughout the novel makes it a perfect Winter read.

03. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
I read this book back in May for the 2015 Classics Challenge but I really wish that I'd saved it for this time of year as it's such a wintery read. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a children's classic set 'long ago, in a period of history which never happened' where England is overrun by wolves. Cousins Bonnie and Sylvia are sent away from their home by their evil new governess Miss Slighcarp and the story unfolds from there. It's a fast-paced and heartwarming adventure story, with lovable well-developed characters. Again, the story is extremely atmospheric, Aiken's descriptions draw you right into the world and the writing is compelling and beautiful. This is a really quick read and perfect if you're looking for a heartwarming winter tale.

04. The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer.
I've gone on about this series of unique fairytale retellings a lot but let me repeat that you really need to read this series if you haven't already! The Land of Stories is about twins Conner and Alex who accidentally find themselves in the fairytale world and run into all sorts of trouble and adventures as a result. I absolutely love this series, as it's middle-grade/early young adult the books are really easy reads and they're just so lovely and heartwarming. You really can't go wrong with fairytale retellings in winter and this is the perfect series to go for.

05. The Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens.
This is such an obvious one but I've actually never read Dickens' A Christmas Carol, so I'm planning to curl up by the fire with this book which contains the classic Christmas tale alongside some other of Dickens' festive writings. I'm reading this for the 2015 Classics challenge so look out for my review coming soon!

Have you read any of these books? What's your favourite winter read?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

THE WINTERLICIOUS TAG

I'm back today with another tag! I haven't done one of these in a while and I thought it'd be a fun way to celebrate the holiday season and ease back into blogging after a little break. So let's get into the questions!

01. Favourite winter nail polish:
I love Barry M's 'Raspberry' all year round but my favourite festive nail look is a neutral like Barry M's 'Almond' with a gold glitter polish over the top. I don't think you can beat a glitter in winter!

02. Favourite winter lip product:
This has to be the Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvets in 'Frambourjoise' 'Plum Plum Girl'. I know I've banged on about these a lot but I'm just obsessed with them. They're so easy to apply, they're not drying and they don't budge at all. I love wearing bold lips in the winter time, they just make me feel very festive and pulled together even if the rest of me is an exhausted mess.

03. Most worn winter clothing piece:
I would say my H&M coat which I wear whenever I go out but honestly as I spend most days at home, it's probably my fluffy dressing gown - does that count as clothing?

04. Most worn winter accessory:
My lovely memory foam primark slippers or my H&M snood, which is the perfect snuggly scarf.

05. Favourite winter candle:
I'm gonna be a stereotypical blogger and say the Yankee Candle in 'Christmas Treats' because it really is amazing!

06. Favourite winter beverage:
Hot chocolate! I love it all year round but it's extra amazing in winter, snuggled up in bed with a book. I also really like Costa's caramel fudge hot chocolate from their festive menu *drools*.

07. Favourite Christmas movie:
There are so many! When I was little I used to love the film 'The Greatest Store in the World' which we had taped off the tv, I wish I could watch it again but I think it was a tv special and I can't find it anywhere!
I also really love The Santa Clause and obviously Elf and Love Actually.

08. Favourite Christmas song:
This is another really tough one! Probably any version of 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)'. But I also love 'Step Into Christmas', 'Driving Home for Christmas' and the Boyz II Men version of 'Silent Night'. You know what, just go and check out my giant Christmas playlist on Spotify.

09. Favourite holiday food or treat:
Aldi do the nicest chocolate reindeer for 99p but I also can't say no to some quality street or a bit of Cadbury's yule log.

10. Favourite Christmas decoration:
My parents have this tiny glittery silver santa tree decoration, that was weirdly a wedding present even though they got married in springtime. I've loved it since I was little and it takes pride of place at the front of the tree each year.

11. What's at the top of your Christmas list?
Books! Obviously. I pretty much only asked for books this year, you can see my current wishlist here.

12. What are your plans for this holiday season?
I'm so excited for all my family to be together over Christmas. My sister is coming home from living in Malawi and I haven't seen her since January so I'm really excited for that! I love our Christmas, it's just perfect. You can read about how we celebrate in my 'Welcome December' post.

So that was the Winterlicious tag! If you're reading this then consider yourself officially tagged!

What are you most excited about this Christmas?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS WITH ZAZZLE*

We're now almost a week into December, and if you're anything like me then the initial excitement over the arrival of the festive season has been replaced by a feeling of mild panic. There's still so much planning, decorating, present buying and wrapping to be done, and what the heck do I get for the sister who has everything or dad who's notoriously picky?! Well, calm down and grab a cup of tea, because I've got that sorted for you with some brilliant (if I do say so) gift ideas from Zazzle.

Now I've never really been the best at Christmas shopping, I struggle for ideas and get really exhausted and anxious wandering round the shops and the whole palaver usually ends with me coming home with a headache and no presents. So when Jess from Zazzle contacted me at the end of November asking if I wanted to review some of their Christmas gifts I jumped at the opportunity. A website where I can get all my Christmas presents and personalise basically anything in a few clicks? YES PLEASE.

You heard it right, Zazzle is an online superstore where you can customise and personalise pretty much any product you can imagine. I spent a good few hours just browsing their site because it's HUGE, but their navigation is super helpful and intuitive so you can browse by pre-designed products (which are usually customisable), blank customisable products or just search for keywords.

So without further ado, onto the gift ideas!



I personally believe that you can't Christmas shop without buying a little something for yourself, so after browsing their 'gifts for her' section I settled on this gorgeous print and these two personalised notebooks. They have such a great selection of pocket and larger spiral notebooks, all completely customisable right down to the font and spacing.

I also ordered myself an amazing print of the concept art for the Hogwarts Castle from their Harry Potter store (YES THEY HAVE A HARRY POTTER STORE, OMG, I KNOW!!). I had to remind myself that I was supposed to be getting Christmas gifts for other people, it was really hard to restrain myself from buying all the Ravenclaw merch! So if you know anyone who likes Harry Potter (that's basically everyone because duh) then anything from there would be a brilliant idea.



One of my favourite items is this notebook with a personalised cover design made from Instagram photos. I chose to customise this for my sister with photos from when I went to visit her in Malawi, it was super easy to connect to my Instagram and upload and arrange the photos. I think these notebooks would make a great gift for a sister or a friend, as everyone loves stationery and the personal touch really makes it special. I also went for a personalised luggage tag for my sister, these would be great for anyone who loves travel as they're really sturdy and instantly recognisable on your luggage.



As I mentioned earlier you can find items related to pretty much anything on Zazzle, and as my mum is a huge Pride and Prejudice fan I decided to customise a couple of items along that theme. Firstly I went for this 'I love Mr Darcy' tote bag, which I thought was hilarious. You can find so many designs for these tote bags and with the 5p carrier bag charge now in place, everyone needs one of these!



You can also upload an image onto pretty much any item so I decided to get a bit creative with a coaster. I chose a marble coaster and designed a quote from Pride and Prejudice using Picmonkey before uploading it onto the site, the whole process took about ten minutes and I think it looks awesome! I think coasters are a great present for parents and grandparents, especially if they're personalised, and I was so impressed with the quality of this - it looks really expensive!

Another great idea for the older generation is a personalised photo magnet, I don't know about yours but my mum and grandparents love anything with mine or my siblings faces on them (cringe), and these are super easy and affordable.


I'm not sure if it's just me, but I think dads can be really hard to buy for. They're probably sick of getting the same old socks and Twiglets for Christmas so I think it's worth putting in the extra effort to find something that fits their interests. This is where Zazzle's keyword search came in really handy; my dad is into fishing so a quick search of 'fly fishing' led me to this amazing design which can be printed on anything from a tie to a mousemat. I decided to go with a print which I'm going to have framed so he can hang it in his office. I love that with the prints there's such a huge variety of sizes you can go for and the ones I ordered were all amazing quality.

Everything I ordered came really quickly (within a week) which really impressed me, particularly as some things were shipped from the US. Overall I was really pleased with everything, from the usability of the website to the quality of the gifts. There really is such a huge variety of products on Zazzle that you could get all your presents in one go, plus they always seem to have some kind of discount or deal on the go so look out for that!

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? What do you think of my choices?

* Disclaimer: the products linked in this review were sent to me for review purposes by Zazzle. However all opinions are entirely my own and I would never review something that I didn't honestly love!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

NOVEMBER READING WRAP UP



# of books read: 4
Genres: 1 YA Contemporary, 1 Horror, 1 Memoir, 1 YA Fantasy.
Total # of pages read: 1468

Although I read only one more book in November than in October, I immensly enjoyed every single book. Sometimes it's better to read a handful of amazing books rather than a plethora of average ones, quality over quantity and all that. So let's get into the wrap up...

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard | ☆☆☆☆☆
Beautiful Broken Things is a 2016 release but I was approved for a proof e-copy on Netgalley and I'm so glad that I got to read this wonderful debut YA. The story follows inseparable best friends Caddy and Rosie, and what happens when the mysterious and exciting new girl Suzanne comes into their lives. Beautiful Broken Things explores a range of teenage realities from crushes and parties to more serious topics, without ever becoming an 'issue' book. The emotions in this book are so raw and honest and so intensely relatable that at times it was like Sara was writing from inside my own head. There's something special about this book that really sets it apart from other contemporaries, I think it's that it's just so REAL. I'm convinced that this book is going to be a huge hit when it's released in February next year so you'd better get your pre-order in now.
I have many more thoughts on this book so a more detailed review will be up closer to the release date.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix | ☆☆☆☆
This was a leftover Halloween read that I finished up in early November. Horrostor follows a group of employees tasked with investigating strange goings on in an Ikea-esque furniture store on an overnight shift. Things quickly go from a little creepy to pretty darn TERRIFYING. I must admit I am quite easily scared but I think even the most hardcore reader would be a little unnerved by some of the goings on in this book. Everything from the creepy setting of an empty superstore to the catalogue-esque design of the book is so well thought out and in my opinion the concept is executed really well. It was a pretty quick read and I'd recommend it for any time of year, not just Halloween. I also think it would make a great gift as the book design really is excellent.

Binge by Tyler Oakley | ☆☆☆☆.5
If you haven't heard of Tyler Oakley then where have you been?! But honestly this guy is not only one of the most successful YouTubers but he's the downright king of the internet.  I'm definitely not your typical YouTube fangirl (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I really do think Tyler is brilliant. I pre-ordered his book a while ago and was really excited when my signed copy arrived at the end of October. I haven't really been interested in any of the recent 'YouTuber' books but I honestly think Tyler creates such great content and was hoping his sharp wit and humour would translate well in writing - and I wasn't disappointed! This book is full of stories he promises that he's never told on the internet, so it really is original content as opposed to an alternative format of his Youtube videos. The chapters are chatty and informal enough to feel like he's talking to you, yet his writing is so sharp and well-crafted that it never feels sloppy. No T no shade to other Youtubers who've released books but Tyler's writing is just on another level; he knows how to write and every line is drenched in his particular brand of witty humour with just the right amount of sincerity. This book had me honestly laughing out loud throughout but also contained some really great heartfelt moments, and unlike some other memoirs I've read, I really felt like I knew Tyler a bit better by the end of the book. Even if you're not really into memoirs, I'd still recommend this, it was a ridiculously enjoyable read.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | ☆☆☆☆☆
I'm still reeling from this book so it's kind of hard to give any other review than THIS BOOK IS INCREDIBLE AND YOU MUST READ IT NOW. This book was probably my most anticipated release for 2015 so when I finally got my hands on it for my birthday I was over the moon. I dropped everything and read it immediately. Carry On is a YA fantasy that was inspired by the fictional 'Simon Snow' series that the main character in Fangirl wrote fanfiction about. Phew, that sounds confusing, but it's really not. In my opinion you don't need to have read Fangirl before Carry On, as it definitely works as a stand-alone novel. Carry On follows Simon Snow, the prophesied 'chosen one' who is supposed to save the world of Mages, and his roommate, and arch-nemesis, Baz. Carry On is about their final year at the Watford School of Magicks, whilst several wars are waging in the world of Mages, and it's full of magic and politics and monsters and kissing and it's just bloody wonderful. This was definitely my favourite read of November and possibly my favourite read of the whole of 2015. The moment I finished it I immediately wanted to re-read it and soak up all my favourite parts and find little things I missed the first time round. If you like YA, or you like fantasy, or you know what if you're a human who can read, then you absolutely need to read this book. I have way more thoughts on this so I'm probably going to be doing a full review soon!

So those were all the books I read in the month of November and I bloody loved all of them. My December TBR will be up soon so keep an eye out for that! Although I'm super tempted to just re-read Carry On for the rest of time...

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What did you read last month? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

WELCOME DECEMBER


I'm so excited that December is finally here! I feel like I've been waiting the entire year for this magical month and now that it's arrived I'm in my element. This morning I dug out the 'Christmas box' from under my bed and unpacked all my festive jumpers, Christmassy socks, Christmas films and decorations for my room. I've been blasting my Christmas playlist all day and I'm all ready to start wrapping presents and soaking up as much of the festive season as I can.

If you couldn't already tell, I love Christmas. I love tinsel and fairy lights and all the tacky decorations we overload our Christmas tree with. I love the excitement of opening my advent calendar every day. I love mince pies and pigs in blankets and turkey and smoked salmon and tins of Quality Street and basically ALL OF THE INCREDIBLE FOOD. But mostly I love spending time with my family and doing all of our Christmas traditions.

Our Christmas day is always the same and I absolutely love it. I start the day by dragging my sister out of bed to come and open our stockings from 'Santa' ;) in my room before getting ready to go to church - my mum is Catholic so we always go to the early Christmas day service with her. After church my extended family comes over and we have an amazing breakfast of croissants and bucks fizz before heading to the living room to open presents. The whole present opening session usually lasts about four hours because our whole family goes completely over the top on present buying, we've even been known to take a break to have Christmas dinner and come back to the presents after. Our Christmas dinner is epic and we stuff ourselves silly before collapsing in front of the fire to play games, watch the Downton Abbey Christmas special and eat too many Quality Streets. It's basically the perfect Christmas.

So until that wonderful day arrives I'm going to be enjoying every festive moment that this month brings and hopefully getting a lot of reading done in the meantime. I've got a jam-packed blogging schedule this month with a lot of festive posts so I hope you'll stick around for that, and I hope you have a wonderful December!

Do you have any festive traditions?

Monday, 30 November 2015

NOVEMBER FAVOURITES



So before you know it, it's the end November and this is only my fifth post of the month. But I'm not going to give any rubbish excuses, because sometimes life happens and that's okay. Even though I love November I'm actually a little happy that it's over because it makes way for the festive season, my favourite time of year!

But before we start decking the halls and hanging our stockings, let's take a look back at November and all the things that made it wonderful with a good old fashioned favourites post!

01. My birthday!
I'm not usually a birthday person, I don't like to make a big deal about it or have a huge party (mainly because I have a deep-rooted fear that no one will show up), but this years birthday was the best one in a long time. Last year my birthday happened to coincide with the first day at a new job so no one in the office knew and it was kind of a scary and underwhelming day. But this year I spent my birthday in my university city, Newcastle, having dinner with friends and going to see Haus of Edwards perform in a drag show. It was absolutely incredible. Haus of Edwards are three drag artists who were on RuPaul's Drag Race, one of my favourite shows ever, and they totally lived up the the hype. They looked sickening and their performances were out of this world. I highly advise you to check them out on YouTube.
I then came home to spend time with my family and as a bonus I got some wonderful presents (mostly books) which I'll be showing you in my November book haul, so keep an eye out for that.

02. 'Warm' - SG Lewis.
My addiction to this song for the last couple of months originated with SunBeamsJess' vlogtober, which featured so much great background music that it inspired the creation of my 'chill vibes' Spotify playlist, check it out for some great tunes.

03. Primark slippers.
When in Primark earlier this month, I couldn't resist a new pair of slippers especially when I saw that they have a memory foam sole! They're insanely comfortable and warm and at only £4, you're crazy if you don't go and get some right now.

04. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
This book has no doubt been my favourite book of the month, maybe even my favourite book of the year. I'll be talking more about this in my monthly wrap up, but for now, just go and read it, you won't regret it!

05. How to Get Away with Murder.
I'd seen a few people on Twitter talking about this series that was recently added to Netflix so I decided to give it a go. I watched the entire first season in a few days and now I'm completely caught up and have to wait until FEBRUARY for a new episode, which is devastating. Guys, this show is INSANE. Just trust me, go and watch it now.

06. Balance Me Pure Skin Face Wash.
This has to be my favourite cleanser of all time, it's definitely my most repurchased. I hadn't had it in a while due to lack of funds so I was over the moon when mum bought it for me for my birthday. I'm so glad to have it back in my life! I have super sensitive skin and this is perfect, it removes makeup so easily and it just does wonders for my skin. Holy grail product for sure.

07. Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in 'Plum Plum Girl'.
I am so obsessed with this formula. I now have three of these but I think this shade is my favourite, it's a deep red/plum shade depending on the light. It's super easy to apply, not drying at all and doesn't budge an inch, even through a several course meal. If you're looking for a fail-safe bold lip, these are the ones to go for!

08. Jacob's Cracker Crisps.
Aka my new addiction. Asos included a sample pack of the 'thai sweet chilli' flavour in an order last month and I thought 'ooh these are nice'. Flashforward to this month and I don't even want to think about how many large bags of these I've consumed. My favourite are the salt and vinegar ones and if you put a pack in front of me, it'll be gone before the day is up. It's a serious problem, but for now I really don't care. *crunch*

09. Mac 'Heroine'.
I'd been looking for a purple lipstick for a while and although I searched the drugstore high and low I couldn't find ANY true purple lipsticks. They were all pretty much pink or really dark reds, so I ended up in Mac. Now lord knows I can't afford Mac right now so after uhming and ahing for ages, thankfully my wonderful boyfriend swept in and insisted on buying me 'Heroine' for my birthday. I absolutely love it! Although it looks scary in the bullet it's actually really wearable and I think it really suits my colouring. It's a matte formula so it lasts really well and I can see myself wearing it all year round.

So those are the things that have been making me happy this month! I'm so so excited for December 1st as it means I can finally get out the decorations and start playing my Christmas playlist non-stop! Bring on the festive season!

What have you been loving this month?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

CURRENTLY



As you might have noticed, I've been a little absent around these parts lately. I mentioned in my Goodbye October, Hello November post that doing blogtober completely wiped me out and that I was planning to have a bit of a rest in November. Well that both has and hasn't happened.

I've been dealing with a lot of health issues this month. I've mentioned before that I'm living with ME (or chronic fatigue syndrome) and due to completely overdoing it last month I've been in a bit of a state healthwise ever since. My birthday also happened last week which was amazing and I'm planning to talk more about it in future posts. So after that I was completely exhausted and have basically been bedbound. So as you can imagine, blogging wasn't much of an option.

I'm starting to get back into things now so I thought I'd give you a little update on what's going on in my life in the form of a 'Currently' post:

Reading: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which I got for my birthday last week and IT'S SO GOOD. After I finish this post I'm getting right back to reading because I just can't put it down.

Watching: How to Get Away With Murder. Spending quite a lot of time in bed this month has reacquainted me with Netflix and after hearing all the hype about this series I decided to give it a go. Guys, I'm addicted.

Planning: blogposts for the rest of the month, I really want to up my blogging game again.

Making: I haven't been well enough to be doing much making but instead of a birthday cake last week my mum made me a huge pile of Nigella's chocolate brownies and they were HEAVENLY.

Stocking up on: Christmas presents! I want to get pretty much all my Christmas shopping finished before December so I can just spend the festive month wrapping and enjoying myself :)

Wishing for: an upsurge in my health. Like quite a lot of chronic illnesses, ME is never the same one day to the next. Some days I feel great but most are kind of terrible. Being so unwell makes it difficult to do even the smallest things so it would be really great to just have a little run of good health, even for a week, just to get things done.

Enjoying: the build-up to the festive season. I don't actively start celebrating Christmastime until December 1st but I'm enjoying seeing all the festive tv adverts come out and watching Christmas lights going up everywhere. I'm getting more excited by the day.

Trying: to get my life together and get back into a routine of productivity.

Eating: I'm currently pretty addicted to Jacob's Cracker Crisps. I don't know what it is about them but I just can't stop.

Goal Setting: I'd like to get to a point healthwise where I'm able to start working again, even part time, because although my family and boyfriend are incredibly supportive, I really need to start earning money again and I generally just want to get my life going in a better direction.

Learning: that it's okay to step back once in a while and put yourself first.

What's been going on with you lately?

Saturday, 7 November 2015

NOVEMBER TBR


I'm out of my reading slump and ready and raring to read as many books as I can this month. I'm finally excited again about getting back into reading and picking up new books - hooray!

November is my birthday month and hopefully I might get some books for my birthday that are definitely going to jump right to the top of my TBR. So with that in mind I've only chosen a few books for this months planned TBR and I'm hoping to get through them before my birthday on the tenth. So let's get into the books I plan to read this month...

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
This is a proof e-copy that I was approved for on Netgalley. Beautiful Broken Things is a story about female friendship and all the feels. It follows best friends Caddy and Rosie - who are inseparable despite attending different schools - and what happens when the exciting and mysterious new girl Suzanne comes into their lives. I got this from Netgalley last month and started it on the train one night, before I knew it I was over 100 pages in and couldn't put it down. Unfortunately life got in the way and I didn't managed to finish it last month but I picked it up again at the start of this month and I've already finished it! It was incredible and wonderful and there will be a review up soon.

Horrorstör by Grady Henrix
I started reading this for Halloween week but due to previously mentioned slumpyness, I didn't manage to get it finished before the end of the month. Horrorstör follows a group of employees who have been tasked with an overnight shift in an Ikea-esque furniture store to investigate strange goings-on. If you've ever worked in retail then you'll know how creepy big stores can be after they're closed and I certainly wouldn't want to be locked inside one, not knowing what's lurking in the shadows - this book is that fear manifested and it's pretty terrifying.

Binge by Tyler Oakley
I was so excited to received my signed pre-order of Tyler Oakley's Binge last month. I haven't been interested in any of the recent crop of 'YouTube' books but this one definitely had my attention. I've been watching Tyler for a couple of years and he's just so hilarious, I knew I'd love his book. It's basically a collection of hilarious stories about his life that apparently he hasn't yet shared online. I think it'll be a quick, light read and will definitely provide some laughs.

So I'm excited to get those books read at the beginning of this month and then hopefully pick up some new exciting books if I get any for my birthday! I want to start doing more book reviews so look forward to those!

What are you going to be reading this month?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

OCTOBER READING WRAP UP


# of books read: 3.
Genres: 1 MG Paranormal, 1 YA Fantasy, 1 Classic.
Total # pages read: 925

As I mentioned in my How to Deal with Reading Slumps and Goodbye October, Hello November posts, October was a very weird month for me reading-wise. I leapt into the month ready and raring to go with blogtober and got so caught up in it and enjoyed doing it so much that I spent most of every day and night working on blogposts and that didn't leave a lot of time for much else. I ended up in a pretty deep reading slump that was hard to get out of. When I did have the time to pick up a book, I just didn't feel like reading. I started several books in an attempt to get out of the slump and didn't really end up finishing them. Now I've learnt that the thing to do is not to force it, just let it play out and read when you feel like it.

It feels strange that I had such a struggle with reading last month because now November has arrived and I've already finished two of the books I started last month. Oh well, it all floats on okay.

So here's what I thought of the handful of books that I did end up finishing next month...

The Scream by Joan Aiken | ☆☆☆☆
For a middle-grade book, this is pretty damn creepy. It's kind of hard to describe the story without ruining it so I'll just say it involves death, curses and a mysterious island. It was an extremely quick read at only 86 pages and I read it one evening before bed, which maybe wasn't the best idea. Joan Aiken is just ridiculously talented in terms of the scope of her writing and this is truly demonstrated by her ability to create a chilling and compelling narrative in such a short book.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas | ☆☆☆☆.5
This is the second book in the Throne of Glass series and I read this as part of Dewey's 24 hour readathon, which I really enjoyed. I was so pleased that I read a whole book in a day, especially with how my reading had been going. I can't say much about the plot because of spoilers, but this was a really good pick for the readathon as it was fast-paced and pretty intense so it kept me going. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book and I'm now super excited to carry on with the series.

Dracula by Bram Stoker | ☆☆☆.5
This was my October pick for the 2015 Classics Challenge so I won't say too much about what I thought because you can read my little review here. I read the first half and found myself struggling a little (due to slumpyness) so I finished it up on audiobook. Dracula is now part of the public domain so you can find the audiobook for free in a lot of places, I listened to it on YouTube whilst going about my day and found it a really refreshing way to 'read'. It was a perfect Halloween read and I found the story surprisingly immersive and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend giving this a read (or a listen)!

So those were the few books I finished last month. Considering how slumpy I was feeling and how busy I was, I'm actually pretty pleased that I even finished those! Hopefully November will be a bit of a better reading month though as I'm actually in the mood to have a rest and snuggle up with a book.

What did you read last month?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

GOODBYE OCTOBER, HELLO NOVEMBER

Goodbye October,

It was so lovely to see you this year. Last year I spent your month in Malawi, which was amazing, but it meant that I missed the beautiful changing of the seasons. October, you have been that wonderful in-between time before the weather turns icy, where the air is slightly crisp but the sun is still sharing it's warmth.

You really brought it this year October. The weather has been surprisingly pleasant and the changing colours of the leaves have been more vibrant than ever. I've been walking my dogs in the early evening just in time to catch the beginnings of the beautiful sunsets you've been gracing us with all month long. I haven't minded that it's getting darker earlier and earlier because it's a wonderful excuse to clock off and snuggle under a blanket.

I absolutely loved doing blogtober but I must admit I am quite relieved that it's over. I worked a little too hard last month to get blogposts up every day. I know from a reader's perspective a small post every day doesn't seem like much but it's so much more than that. It's making sure you get all your photographs taken during the increasingly dwindling daylight hours, then editing those shots and planning and writing every post to make sure they go up on time. As well as every single day there were quite a few nights spent working long after dinnertime and when I did have some downtime I felt guilty about it and felt I should be working on something. As a result I didn't get a lot of reading done, as you'll see in my monthly wrap up, and didn't even really watch any tv programmes either. It's been awesome to feel so productive and get a great response from blogtober but I'm looking forward to a little bit of a rest for November.

So goodbye October, you've been beautiful and busy and fun but it's time for a new month, more changes and a fresh start...





















Hello November,

You came bursting onto the scene this morning with blue skies and a low but warm autumn sun. I can't quite believe that it's November 1st and I still haven't worn a coat yet. The weather has been so unseasonably warm that today I went for a morning walk with no layers over my jumper and I was still pretty toasty.

You, November, are the month of excitement, possibility and anticipation. I love your month because it's the month I was born. I'm an autumn baby and I think that's why I feel a special connection to this time of year. I love the timing of my birthday (November tenth) because it's beacon of joy between the dying down of Halloween and the start of the Christmas excitement. I'm not the biggest birthday person but it's always nice to feel a bit special for a day and spend time with my favourite people. This year I'm going up to my old university city, Newcastle, with my boyfriend, to have dinner with a friend and go to see a drag queen show. I'm ridiculously excited. We're going to see Haus of Edwards, and if you haven't watched Ru Paul's Drag Race then you're seriously missing out.

Although I've been enjoying the unexpectedly warm weather, I'm excited for the colder weather that November promises. On my early evening dog walk, I watched the mist creeping in over the fields, a sure sign that frosty days are ahead. I'm excited to wear my new coat and fluffy socks with boots. I'm excited to wave sparklers and watch fireworks, preferably whilst clutching a hot chocolate and a hot dog with extra onions.

Come at me November, I'm ready for you.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

2015 CLASSICS CHALLENGE: DRACULA


Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating:☆☆☆

A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancée and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that he hungers for so desperately? [summary from Goodreads]

When I discovered this classic:
This is another classic that I think I've always been aware of but never thought to read until I caught sight of it in a charity shop. I admit that the amazing cover design definitely drew me in to actually buy it and discover the story.

Why I chose to read it:
I bought it in August with the idea of reading it for this month's classics challenge as it seemed a perfect Halloween read. 

What makes it a classic?
Although Bram Stoker didn't invent the idea of the vampire he definitely defined our modern interpretation of vampires, and Dracula (published in 1897) has inspired endless works of horror since. Whilst reading I realised how little I knew about the actual story and history of Dracula so I did some research on the book, it's inspirations and it's reception upon publication. It's interesting to note that readers of the day considered it just another enjoyable adventure story and it didn't reach it's current iconic status until film versions started to appear. It is now considered to be amongst the greatest works of gothic horror and since 1931 the book has never been out of print.

What I thought of this classic:
On first picking up the book I was surprised to find that it is an epistolary novel that is comprised of letters, journal entries from various people and newspaper reports, that, pieced together, tell the story of Count Dracula's invasion of Britain. I think I expected it to be an entirely first person narrative but the epistolary style is actually quite typical of the gothic genre and makes the novel seem more believable even in it's most far-fetched moments. I enjoyed dipping in and out of different characters' perspectives and seeing all the seemingly disparate pieces come together at the crux of the novel.

The overall narrative was well-constructed, quite fast-paced and exciting. I enjoyed the plot as a whole and would have rated Dracula higher if it weren't for my next point.

The one thing that irked me throughout the entire novel was it's intense sexism and celebration of the patriarchy. The novel is obviously of it's time in that respect but the representation of women as damsels who are weak and need constant protection is still pretty enraging. Even the strong female presence in the novel, Mina Harker, whose wit and bravery are essential to the progression of the narrative is ultimately diminished because of her gender. At one point one of the male characters remarks in surprise that, because of her intelligence and conscientious actions, Mina 'has a man's brain'. And when it comes down to taking action at the crux of the novel, the same male character forbids Mina to take part, as 'it is no part for a woman [...] her heart may fail her'. Without spoiling anything, the women in the novel can be categorised as either; pure and innocent but ultimately weak, or sexualised, violent and evil - either way they are objectified. This book encapsulates the problematic depictions of Victorian women and it just really pissed me off.

Ignoring the above (although how can I?) I did actually objectively enjoy the book and think that as a work of gothic literature it is pretty brilliant although in terms of gender representation it's apalling. I do think it's definitely worth reading to gain an insight into the origins of modern horror.

Will it stay a classic?
Definitely. The continued iconic status of the vampire in pop culture is rooted in this novel and I imagine that as long as the idea of the vampire is continually recreated in modern literature, television and film, people will come back to the original classic to see where it all began.

Who I would recommend it to:
Horror fans and anyone interested in gothic literature. 

The 2015 Classics Challenge is hosted by Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.

Happy Halloween! 
Have you read Dracula? What did you think?

Friday, 30 October 2015

OCTOBER FAVOURITES



Sadly, blogtober is nearly over but that means that it's time to reflect on everything that's been making me happy throughout this busy, changeable, blustery month.

I've been so busy with blogtober that I haven't really had a lot of downtime to indulge and enjoy things as much, but over the month I've taken note of the little daily things that have been making me happy so that's what I'm sharing with you today.



01. Primark cosy blanket
I mentioned this blanket in my Autumnal Haul post and it's probably the best thing I bought this month. It's been making my days and nights super cosy and whether I'm frantically writing blogposts or curled up watching Netflix, you can be sure I've been snuggled under this blanket. It's so gorgeous and soft and such a bargain so head to your local Primark and get one before they're all gone!

02. SunBeamsJess' Vlogtober videos
I've loved watching everyone's vlogtober videos this month but I've been particularly enjoying SunBeamJess' vlogs. I stumbled across her main channel at the beginning of the month and was instantly charmed by her down to earth personality and amazing style, I was so pleased to see that she was doing vlogtober and I've been hooked ever since. It's been really nice to see university life through her eyes and it's making me nostalgic for my own uni days, especially as she's studying English Lit like I did.

03. Lush The Comforter shower cream
I freaked out when I found this little beauty on a trip to Lush Nottingham earlier this month as I thought these new Comforter shower creams were exclusive to the Oxford Street store - apparently not! This is my absolute favourite scent by Lush so I'm really happy to have it in shower gel form and I'm now wishing I'd bought a bigger bottle!

04. MUA Heaven and Earth eyeshadow palette
I've had this palette for so many years, I don't even know when I bought it, but I rediscovered it this month when looking for orangey/coppery eyeshadows, as I was craving more autumnal makeup looks. This palette contains 12 eyeshadows in varying warm shimmery shades. In my opinion it's a pretty good dupe for the Naked one palette, the shadows are all nicely pigmented and blend smoothly, and at only £4.00 you can't go wrong. I've been using this pretty much every time I've worn makeup this month.

05. First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser
This month I noticed that I was running out of my beloved First Aid Beauty 'Ultra Repair Cream' moisturiser so I decided to pick up the First Aid Beauty 'FAB Faves to Go' kit which contains the Ultra Repair Cream, the Facial Radiance Pads and the Face Cleanser. I've had this kit before and I think it's such good value for money and a great introduction to the brand. I've got really sensitive skin so I'm careful about skincare products but all of these are great and so gentle on my skin. I particularly love the cleanser as it's so great for a second cleanse or a morning cleanse in the shower - it's just so gentle and hydrating, it doesn't leave my skin feeling tight at all. Give this kit a go if you're looking for some pretty affordable but slightly higher end skincare!

06. Rimmel Exaggerate lip liner in 'East End Snob'
I didn't realise how much I loved this lip liner until it unexpectedly ran out earlier this month. The only bad thing about it is that you can't tell when it's going to run out so I had an upsetting moment half way through using it one day when it just wouldn't turn anymore! As the days went on I realised how much I was missing it so I had to go out and buy a replacement. It's just the perfect liner to wear under pretty much any lipstick to emphasise the colour and increase the wear-time of the lipstick. I absolutely love it and now know I can't live without it!

07. Soap and Glory Supercat eyeliner
I've never really been one for liquid eyeliner because I've never found a really good one before, it always just took too long and ended up messy or wonky - so I kind of gave up. I'd been hearing people talk about the Supercat liner for years but never bothered to pick it up until I was casually browsing Boots one day this month and feeling a bit spendy. Well, I bought it and let me tell you; I'm in love! It's seriously the easiest eyeliner I've ever used, it's really easy to do a thin or thick line and takes about 30 seconds and then doesn't budge all day. I've been wearing it most days since and I'm definitely a liquid liner convert.

What have you been loving this month?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

ON MY SHELF BOOK TAG


I've got another fun book tag for you today! The On My Shelf tag was created by Iain Broome over on YouTube and has been replicated many times since by some of my favourite booktubers. I was recently watching Sanne from BooksandQuills do this tag and decided I would give it a go myself. The premise is that you are given sets of two random numbers and you correspond the first number to that number shelf in your book collection and the second number to that number book on that shelf. You then share your thoughts on that book or a particular memory you associate with it. The idea is that every book you own has it's own story and this tag gives you the chance to talk about books that you might not have otherwise. At the end of Sanne's video she provided some numbers so those are the ones I've used here! Let's go...


Shelf 1, Book 3: Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
This is my adult fiction shelf and this copy of Bridget Jones' Diary actually belongs to my Mum I think, but I seem to have commandeered it. It's pretty battered and beaten up, I think that's because it made the rounds through quite a lot of people before ending up on my shelf. I remember watching the film when I was a teenager then instantly wanting to read the book, which at the time I think I was disappointed by. I'd quite like to re-read this to see if I like it more now that I'm older.

Shelf 2, Book 8: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This is my classics shelf and the book is the copy of Great Expectations which I studied for my English Literature A-Level, so it's pretty battered after being thrown around in a school bag and thumbed through many times. It has a lot of post-its marking particular pages and is filled with notes written in pencil, some of the notes are helpful but there are quite a lot of doodles of personified vegetables for some reason - I wasn't always the best student haha. I quite like these lime green Penguin Popular Classic editions as they're simple and pretty cheap but they look great together on a shelf.



Shelf 6, Book 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
This is quite possibly my favourite shelf - my Harry Potter shelf! And the first book on this shelf is the new UK Bloomsbury edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I have the original UK editions that I bought when they came out, but they kind of belong to the whole family so I decided I wanted to buy my own editions and I absolutely love the new ones. The cover art is beautiful and they all have foil stars dotted on them - they're just amazing. I have read this new edition and I think I'll be re-reading the series every year from now on.

Shelf 8, Book 15: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This shelf is my second YA shelf and the book is the beautiful yellowy-lime edition of Eleanor and Park. I'm pretty sure I got this for either my birthday or Christmas last year from my parents because I'd read Fangirl and loved it. I love this book!

Shelf 3, Book 24: Crushes, Cliques and the Cool School Trip by Karen McCombie
This is my children's/tween shelf, I say tween because back in my day YA didn't really exist as a genre and there were books for slightly older children instead, so I wouldn't really class some of the books on this shelf as YA. This book is part of a series I used to collect when I was younger called Ally's World, which follows the eponymous thirteen year old Ally as she navigates all the usual teenage issues. This is one of the later books in the series and was published in 2004, when I was a teenager (yeah I'm old). I remember really loving this books when I was younger as they were the closest to YA I could get my hands on at the time - I think there might even have been a bit of kissing *gasp*. Today's YA is so different, so much more diverse and covers issues that were taboo when the Ally's World books were released so I think it might be interesting to go back and read these to see how I feel about them in comparison to new YA.

So that was the On My Shelf tag! It was fun to look at some books I haven't picked up in a while, but it was interesting that I've actually read all of those books - there are a lot on my shelves I haven't read yet!

If you're reading this, then I tag you! Your numbers are: 4 and 7, 9 and 12, 1 and 5, 10 and 16, 7 and 1.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

T5W: HALLOWEEN RECOMMENDATIONS



It's Top Five Wednesday time again! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can check out the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is celebrating the season with 'Halloween recommendations'.

I haven't read very many books that really scared me so I just chose a handful of books that I've read that are creepy or a little spooky. All of these books are perfect Halloween reads and some of them will probably have you sleeping with the lights on.



01. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.
This isn't so much scary as downright disturbing. I don't really love this book, purely because it really kind of disgusts me, but I guess that's the point. I have a very strong stomach and I'm not shocked easily but whilst reading this there were times when I had to just put the book down and walk away and remember that there are still good things in the world. It is really excellently written and will probably freak you out so I'd recommend it if you think you can handle it!

02. Horrorstör by Grady Henrix.
This is a very recent purchase and I haven't quite finished it yet as I'm gradually reading it over Halloween week, but what I've read so far has creeped me out quite a lot. It's a terrifying tale set in an Ikea-esque furniture store where strange goings on have been happening whilst the store is closed, so several employees are tasked with spending the night at the store to investigate - creepiness ensues. This book is really clever and I absolutely love that it's designed to look like a furniture catalogue with just small hints of terror.

03. Dracula by Bram Stoker.
This is probably the original Halloween classic so I don't think I need to explain what it's about. I won't say too much here as I'll be reviewing it for the 2015 Classics Challenge later this week, but I'm really enjoying it so far and it's surprisingly very readable and engaging!

04. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.
This little book is part of the Penguin Little Black Classics collection and it's definitely worth the 80p. It's a small collection of Poe's short stories and it's perfect for a quick read before bed on a dark, stormy night. These stories are all I've read of Poe's work and it definitely had me intrigued and eager for more creepiness.

05. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
You're probably familiar with the film, which I found genuinely terrifying, but you might not have read the book it was based on. The book is quite different from the film and although whilst reading it didn't seem quite as chilling, I found that afterwards I couldn't stop thinking about it and I did actually have to sleep with the lights on as I was jumping at every creak outside my door. This is relatively short too - so great if you're looking for something quick this Halloween!

Those are my top five Halloween book recommendations! I'm looking forward to finishing up Horrorstör this week as my creepy read but I might not be reading it too late at night!

What are your top book picks for Halloween?

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

HALLOWEEN NETFLIX SUGGESTIONS



If, like me, you're forgoing the shrieks and thrills of a night out this Halloween and instead choosing to curl up under a blanket with some spooks and chills then these Netflix suggestions might just come in handy.

01. Dexter
Dexter is one of my favourite tv shows of all time, it's edge-of-your-seat intense and so addictive! It follows quiet and unassuming blood splatter analyst Dexter Morgan, who moonlights as a serial killer who only targets murderers. It's definitely scary at times and it's a really good one to marathon.

02. American Horror Story
The great thing about American Horror Story is that it's an anthology series which means that each season is in a completely different setting with totally different storylines so you don't have to watch them in any particular order. I started with Asylum but my personal favourite, and the scariest in my opinion, is Murder House. 

03. Scream
This is a new Netflix original series which is a loose sequel of the classic horror film franchise. A cyberbullying incident leads to a murder which stirs up memories of a crime spree from the town's past. It's a clever, self-aware slasher series centered around a group of teenagers with a whodunnit mystery at the centre. Definitely one to have you hiding behind the blanket.

04. The Babadook
The Babadook is a terrifying psychological thriller which favours real stomach-dropping horror over tired jump scares. Troubled widow, Amelia, is finding it impossible to deal with her son Sam's intense fear of monsters but when a creepy children's book turns up in the house, Sam's obsession begins to turn sinister. I'm not the biggest horror film fan but I thought this was brilliant and so different from anything else I've seen. It'll have you sleeping with the lights on for sure.

05. Zombieland
This one is for those of you who prefer laughs over scares but really anyone will love this comedy-horror. I hesitate to even call it a horror but it does have zombies in so I guess it counts. Zombieland follows an unlikely group of zombie apocalypse survivors as they try and make their way in the new world and decide what to do next. This is one of my favourite films and I could watch it over and over. It's pretty hilarious and Woody Harrelson is just excellent.

As I said earlier I won't be going out for Halloween so I'll most likely be snuggled up with Netflix or a spooky read. If you prefer reading over watching then look out for tomorrow's post on my top five Halloween book recommendations!

Do you have any Halloween plans?

Monday, 26 October 2015

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE BOOK TAG



It's getting close to Halloween so I thought I'd do the zombie apocalypse book tag! I don't usually do Halloween nowadays but I'm kind of obsessed with zombies year round. They're definitely my favourite Halloween 'thing'. I love zombie films and The Walking Dead is one of my all-time favourite tv shows, so this is the perfect tag for me!

This tag was created by Nathan Hale on YouTube and basically the idea is to pick five books and using the questions provided, pick your fictional character zombie apocalypse survival crew.

The Rules: 
Pick five of your favourite books and write the name of the books on pieces of paper. Put the pieces of paper in a bowl and pull one piece of paper out to choose your first book. Open the book to a random page and the first name you see will be the answer to question one. Use the same book for question two, but turn to a different page. Pull out a second piece of paper to choose your second book, use this book for the answers to questions three and four. The third book will answer questions five and six, the fourth book questions seven and eight, the fifth book questions nine and ten. Then you have your survival crew!

My books:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

My zombie apocalypse survival crew:
Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
01. Who is the first person to die? 
Neville! This kind of makes sense but also makes me really sad!
02.Who is the person you trip to get away from the zombies? 
Umbridge. This is the perfect answer even though it was completely random *cackles*.

Book: Crown of Midnight
03. Who is the first person to turn into a zombie? 
Dorian. Meh, this kind of sad but I'm not actually that bothered, does that make me terrible? haha
04. Who is the person that trips YOU to get away from the zombies?
Celaena. That shady bitch, she probably had her reasons though, she's much more of a survivor than me.

Book: Fangirl
05. Who is the idiot of the team? 
Cath. Which makes absolutely no sense.
06. Who is the “brains” of the team? 
Wren. Which equally makes no sense. Stupid random page picking.

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go
07. Who is the team’s medic? 
Ben. This kind of works, I can see that.
08. Who is the weapons expert? 
Manchee?! Hahahaaa, this is hilarious, let's give the dog all the weapons!

Game of Thrones
09. Who is the brawler? 
Jon Snow. He's an excellent fighter in the books so I'm glad to have him on my team!
10. Who is the Team Captain?
Catelyn. I'm actually a big fan of Catelyn and she's fair and makes tactial decisions so that's fine with me!

This was such a fun little tag, I love doing things like this! If you're reading this then I tag you!

Which fictional characters would you have in your zombie apocalypse survival crew?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

BOOK COLLECTION ORGANISATION



I am a book collector. I collect books, always have, always will. And I refuse to feel guilty about that.

In my mind, there are two extremes on the spectrum of book collections. One is the hyper-organised, meticulously categorised, aesthetically harmonious collection. This usually has a cohesive theme and carefully curated editions.

The other extreme is the (organised?) chaos of a maze of books, piled precariously on any available surface, filling every space. It's a mish-mash of shapes, sizes, genres and editions, lovingly interspersed with bric-a-brac, sometimes bookish, sometimes not.

I love the idea of both of these and I think that my collection falls somewhere between the two. My books are rigorously categorised; first by genre, then author, then chronologically. But I also have a fondness for knick knacks: framed photographs, snowglobes, painted buttons and teacups. My shelves are a reflection of my personality, not only of my taste in books but of my obsessive tendencies, my sentimentality and my slight eccentricities.

I recently reorganised my collection because I got a new bookcase and I'm still in the process of arranging everything just how I want it. My various bits and pieces of random things are slowly making their way back onto the shelves, so the above photos are actually an unusually tidy representation of my collection. If you'd like me to do a bookshelf tour, with exactly how I organise everything, then please do let me know.

Is your collection big or small? Organised or messy? I'd love to know!

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