Book Love: Top 5 Children’s/Young Adult Series

I just finished re-reading Checkmate by Malorie Blackman (from the Noughts and Crosses series) and it reminded me just how much I still love series from my younger years – they just give me all the feelings!  Obviously these books are particularly special for me because I feel like I’ve known the characters for years, but even so I think they’re brilliant.  In a fit of nostalgia, I thought I’d list my favourite book series from my childhood/teenage years, so I hope you enjoy.

5) The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Surely everyone knows these by now?  They made a film out of the series with Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews and, as ever, got a lot of things wrong.  The books are much better than the films, honest.  The quality does start to tail off a bit towards the end of the series, so I’m not sure I ever read the very latest ones, but the first in particular were funny and relatable, and had a good love story going on that was a bit different from the usual – I still love a good romance, but it’s always best when it’s not the main focus.

4) Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison

Otherwise known as the ‘Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging’ books (and no I do not accept the adapted title given to the film).  I laughed myself silly at these books when I was a teenager, and probably still would now to be honest.  They were my embarrassing, snorting with uncontrollable laughter on the bus books.  I would need a re-read to do a proper review (not a bad idea actually!), but, in short, these are the diary of teenage Georgia Nicolson, telling us about her bonkers family, friends and school in a hilarious manner.  The comings and goings of her life are occasionally slightly ridiculous, and yet perfectly relatable for a British teenage girl.  From what I remember, they weren’t particularly rude or grownup, just very, very funny.

3) Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

Before Hogwarts, every girl wanted to go to Malory Towers.  These were just lovely boarding-school books that take you back a few decades to years of jolly hockey sticks and french irregular verbs.  In true Enid Blyton style, they’re full of moral lessons, but not so much that you feel lectured and certain characters can do no wrong.  This is a lovely, innocent kids series that I still like to have a quick read of when I’m feeling nostalgic.  Timeless.

2) Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Blimey, this is a good story. I wrote a bit of an ode to the first book in the series here when I started my re-read, and I just finished the third one, which still manages to be equally as good.  Have a look at my first review to find out what it’s all about, but I think my favourite thing about this series is the fact that it progresses.  Characters really do grow up and develop, instead of keeping the same traits they have aged 12 at the start of the first book.  I find that the character voice, especially for the teenagers, can be a little off at times, but the story and the character development are absolutely good enough for that not to matter.  I feel like I know these characters inside out and these (along with my number 1) are the books that get me jumping for joy and reaching for the tissues.  Highly recommended for everyone, teenage and up.

1) Harry Potter by JK Rowling

A predictably dull choice, maybe, but I absolutely flipping love Harry Potter.  And I’m not ashamed to say it!  I started reading these books aged 7 and was part of the generation that grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I’m not sure I can say much that hasn’t already been said – I know some people aren’t keen and think they’re overhyped, but you get that with any bestseller.  I still think JK Rowling is a brilliant writer and is especially brilliant at building up a world for her stories to take place in (this is what I loved about The Causal Vacancy too – mini review here).  I can (and do) read these books over and over again.

So that’s it for my favourites – I’d love to hear yours in the comments!  What series did you love when you were younger?  We can have a reminisce together.  Or if you have kids and know of any great newer series, I’d love to know and I can pass them along to my little brother and sister.  Leave your tips below!

The Favourites #1

Hello lovely people!

I’m back with a bit of a roundup post.  I know that monthly favourites post are super popular in the beauty blogging world, but since my blogging is sporadic at best I thought it was best not to attempt to commit to a monthly post…  Instead, here’s the first instalment of my new ‘The Favourites’ series, where I’ll round up all the things I’ve been a bit obsessed with recently.  I’ll try and do them fairly regularly, but we’ll see how we go!

Favourites 1

You’ll probably recognise most of these favourites from the haul posts I did a while ago – there were some hits and misses, so let me know if you’d like reviews of the stuff I didn’t love.

I’ll start with the beauty bits, from left to right of the photo:

  • Soap and Glory Heel Genius Amazing Foot CreamLike most of the rest of the blogging world, I love most things Soap and Glory.  I pull this pepperminty, bright blue, utterly marvellous foot cream out whenever my feet are getting a bit too hard and gross – it’s been doing it’s duty recently so that my feet can be flip-flop ready at a moment’s notice whenever the sun decides to show itself.  Slather a good amount on before bed, stick some socks on and feet are silky smooth by the morning.  Miracle worker, and it’s only a fiver.
  • L’Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil.  This stuff makes my hair gorgeous and soft.  It’s stopped me being tempted to shell out 30 quid on some Moroccan Oil.  And it seems like it’ll last me forever.  Enough said.
  • Barry M Gelly Polish in Prickly Pear.  Every blogger and their mother have been going on about these nail polishes lately and I’ve been loving this one.  I have to say, I’m not sure they quite live up to the hype (I have the orangey-coral Papaya shade as well, and just can’t get it to last more than a day without chipping or just peeling off!), but this is my perfect spring colour.  I’ve never really been a fan of blue nails, so this is a great shade for me to branch out from my usual pinks and corals to try a lovely lilac pastel shade.  I like.
  • L’Oreal Skin Perfection Micellar Solution.  Apparently this is the high street’s best answer to Bioderma.  I’ve never tried Bioderma, but I do like this a lot – it gets off all my makeup really easily, without leaving any horrible residue.  It seems to work on eye makeup almost as well as my Clinique eye makeup remover, which I find pretty damn impressive.  This has been an absolute saviour for me over the last couple of months as I’ve been doing a couple of shows, so I’ve been using this to get my stage makeup off backstage – much better than face wipes!  From the looks of things, this and other L’Oreal skincare is currently on 2 for £6 at Boots and Superdrug, so get in there quick for a bargain.
  • MUA Undressed Eyeshadow Palette.  I’ve been pretty shimmery with the eye makeup recently, so this has replaced my lovely Urban Decay Naked Basics matte palette for everyday and nighttime wear.  I didn’t want to pay out for the original Urban Decay Naked Palette as I didn’t think I’d get enough wear out of it, and I think I was right as this seems to be suiting me fine.  I generally only wear the lighter shades, so I’m glad I didn’t go for the expensive option, but I find them nice and easy to wear, and I like having the darker options for eyeliner.  It’s also turned me into a big fan of the gold sparkly eye for nights out – I never thought I’d be that brave!
  • Lush Popcorn Lip Scrub and Blistex MedPlus Lip Balm.  My lip-saving duo.  I have pretty dry lips – not so much that they hurt or cause me problems, but I do need to take care of them. The Lush Lip Scrub tastes amazing (it’s made with salt as well as sugar) and I’m pretty sure it’s making a difference.  I know a lot of people think these are overpriced, but I’ve been using this every day and it still seems brand new.  I can’t see myself needing to buy a new one for at least a year, and I’m positive I couldn’t make a scrub that tastes this good in my kitchen.  The Blistex is a heavy duty lip balm that’s a bit tingly, but is completely wearable.  I’m not a fan of Vaseline or Carmex as I feel like they make my lips drier overall, so I’m thanking my lucky stars that I’ve finally found something that works!

You can all see something else in the photo – my book of the last few months has been the bestseller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Blimey, that’s a good book.  I obviously don’t really want to give anything away about it, but I will say that everyone should PERSEVERE.  I was not into this book at all, then halfway through it clicks.  Trust me.  I promise.  I keep seeing people giving up before the halfway point and I just want to beg them to keep going!  If you’re one of these people, then consider this my plea to you.  I recommend this, and I’m really not a thriller girl in books or films.  Amazing characters, amazing twists, and brilliantly thought through – it kept me up reading until the small hours of the morning.

In the TV category, Mad Men is back!  This has excited me massively.  I love this show, it’s one of the few I watch.  I’m obsessed with the imperfect storylines, the unpredictable plots and, of course, how completely gorgeous the whole thing looks. This show is my weekly escape and I love that the creators have managed to keep the things we love about the show while still letting it move on – too many TV dramas end up going round in circles with the same love triangles and breakdowns.  SPOILER ALERT: If you’re watching, is anyone else a bit overexcited about Peggy being reunited with everyone?  God, I love this show…

I’ll leave you with some lovely music.  I went to see Matchbox Twenty in concert in Manchester the other week and it’s rekindled my obsessive love for them (Rob Thomas especially).  If you don’t know who they are, Matchbox Twenty are a rocky-pop band that have been massive over in the States for years.  They’re one of my mum’s favourite bands, so I’ve grown up listening to their music since I was about 3 years old.   The lyrics are ingrained on my brain!  I’ve had the latest album on repeat in my car lately, so here are a couple of my favourites from that, but you can expect some classics to pop up on this blog at some point.

Radio is a great upbeat song, guaranteed to cheer me up:

And Overjoyed is utterly lovely and chilled out.  And I’m kinda in love with the video…

If you want any more in depth reviews on anything I’ve mentioned in here, just let me know in the comments.  And of course I’d love to hear your recommendations – what have you been loving recently?

Book and Fashion Love: Things I’ve Bought Part 2

Hello lovely people,

Following on from yesterday’s beauty haul post, here are some more things I’ve bought recently.

Books

First up is something I’ve not bought in ages: brand new books from Waterstones.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I treated myself to new books that weren’t from the charity shop, so this is pretty exciting for me (yes, my life is that sad).

As you can probably tell, one of these books is not like the others – the Doctor Who Doctionary (£9.99) is a present for my little brother’s 8th birthday next week.  He’s Doctor Who obsessed and likes being able to show off his knowledge with little facts, so this looks perfect for him.  It goes through all the different characters and gadgets in the show; I’m hoping this will be a hit, but sadly I’ll be back at uni by the time he gets to open it.  Let’s hope for an enthusiastic Skype call!

The two books that actually were for me are Gone Girl (£7.99) by Gillian Flynn (I’m slightly ashamed of myself that I’ve still not read this, so we’ll just skip over that) and HhhH (£8.99) by Laurent Binet.  This last book was actually recommended by one of my lecturers before Easter, so it can almost count as an educational purchase!  It’s a fictionalised account of a real-life assassination attempt on Heidrich, the head of Hitler’s Gestapo.  I’m looking forward to reading this, but don’t really know what to expect so I’ll be sure to post a full review when I finish it.

I know I could have got all these books cheaper online, but I do still really love bookshops.  There’s something about a leisurely browse of the shelves that the Amazon website can never quite replicate.  I’d actually forgotten how much I enjoy it, so on my bucket list of things to do before I leave Bath is the scoping out of a good indie bookshop (I know there are a few) for me to while away the hours of procrastination.

As a side note, how ridiculous is it that I’m still curled up by the fire in April?  I was going to photograph these books by a vase of daffodils, in some vague pretence that spring had actually arrived, but then I decided to be realistic and show you where I’m actually going to be delving into these books!

Clothes

Last but not least on my list are some clothes I picked up from random sales in the Trafford Centre.  Apologies for the dodgy photos, but I’m still searching for the best place to photograph clothes.  I might have gone a tad overboard on the navy and blue/white stripes… oops!  In my defence, the slouchy cotton top on the right was only £2.99 in the Gap store, although it’s back to £9.95 on the website here.  It’s super relaxed on comfy and is perfect for my chilled out jeans and tee days – most days, if I’m honest!

The other two were both reduced to £20 in John Lewis and were unexpected treats from my mum.  The dress on the left is from Warehouse (it’s still available in a size 14 here) and is fitted and really flattering.  It’s not the most practical dress for work as it’s a bit short, but I can see myself wearing it for a nice meal out or for cocktails with friends when we want to get a bit dressed up.  And it isn’t low cut, so no worrying about falling out!

In the centre is a Fat Face butterfly print tunic.  I can’t find this exact one online anywhere, but the style is the pixie tunic and there are some other prints on sale here.  It’s really comfy but still looks like you’ve made an effort, slightly too short to be worn on its own, but will look great with leggings and should be good for the chilly weather that seems to be sticking around.  I’m a big Fat Face fan – everything I’ve bought from there has been super comfy and good quality, so I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of this.

So there we go, a shorter post than yesterday to showcase my recent purchases.  Reviews will be coming as soon as I get chance to wear/read/use them!  Do you have anything I’ve featured?  Or have I inspired you to get out shopping?  What do you think of them?

Pretty please follow me on Twitter and Bloglovin‘ if you like the look of this post, and leave a comment with any suggestions.  Thanks!

Happy Easter And Some Book Love

Hello lovely people,

Happy Easter!

And welcome to longer days now the clocks have gone forward!

I’m spending this Easter Sunday lounging on the couch and making plans.  I’m sorting out work for my final term at uni, looking forward to light evenings and warmer weather, and planning my spring/summer reading.

I’m a member of the Goodreads “College Students” group, who lead two reading challenges every year – one for spring/summer and one for autumn/winter.  The spring/summer 2013 challenge kicks off tomorrow and runs until August 31st, with 36 different challenges.  It’s really relaxed and fun, and a great way to work through your to-read list without being too structured.  If you’re on Goodreads then you should definitely go and check it out – some of the categories this season are to read a book with an Easter-related cover, and to read something to celebrate ‘Eat an Oreo Day’.

If you fancy a look at my rough plan of books-to-read for this challenge, you can see it here.  As you can see, it’s a work-in-progress, so any suggestions for books I should add would be very welcome!

I especially need suggestions for something by P.G. Wodehouse.  I read a compilation of Wodehouse stories before and said then that I wanted to read some of the original books to get to know the characters more.  There’s one challenge here that is to read a funny/comedic book (June 4th is National Do-Dah Day, or Salute to Silliness), which I thought would be a great opportunity to get back into the Wodehouse!  Any tips on where I should start would be wonderful.

I hope you’re having a wonderfully relaxing long Easter weekend.  Let me know what you’re getting up to, and pretty please leave any book suggestions in the comments!

Book Love: Classics Club Book 1 – Rebecca

You’ll all be thrilled to know, I’m sure, that I did in fact begin my Classics Club challenge last month as planned, but have just now got around to reviewing my first book – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  I picked this up from the Oxfam shop and devoured it in under a week (I was working full days at the same time, so that’s more impressive for me than it sounds!).

I adored this book and genuinely couldn’t put it down – it caused a few late nights of midnight reading, which doesn’t often happen for me with grown-up books.  If you want to read a serious book, but aren’t a fan of Dickens-esqe classics, I would completely recommend Rebecca.  It comes across at first a bit of predictable chick-lit but really is anything but.  There are so many themes and literary references underlying the story and I thought the characters were fantastic.

I didn’t know anything about the story before reading it, and I’m really glad of this so don’t want to give anything away.  I’ll just say that I didn’t find the story totally ridiculous, but it definitely didn’t turn out as I expected and for me it was a total page turner.  On a similar note, I read the Virago edition with the same cover as this picture, but Sally Beauman wrote the introduction in my copy.  If you haven’t read Rebecca before, definitely don’t read the introduction first.  I found it really interesting for adding a bit of literary analysis, but it does give a lot of the story away too.

I’m so glad I bought a copy of this book, because it’s definitely going on my re-reads pile.  Even though I know the story now, I still reckon I’ll get a lot out of the second reading, and I’ll probably pick up on loads that I missed before.  There are a lot of layers to this book, but it’s totally possible to enjoy it without delving into all the detail.

A wonderful start to my Classics Club reading, and I’m definitely off to track down some more Du Maurier books now.  Any recommendations?  I’m totally at a loss for where to go next, so any advice in the comments would be much appreciated!

Book Love: Noughts and Crosses, the re-read

Has everyone read Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman?  If you’re in your early twenties and the answer is no, what on earth were you reading instead during your teenage years?

Noughts and Crosses was my absolute favourite book when I was in high school (though it probably did share that spot with Harry Potter) and I’m currently rereading the trilogy.  It is as wonderful as when I first read it.  At least five times as a teenager I finished reading this book in bed in the small hours of the morning, crying under my duvet.

Now, believe it or not, I’m 21 and nothing has changed.  At 1am last week, there I was with tears in my eyes.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

If you’ve never read Noughts and Crosses, especially if you have even the slightest interest in Young Adult fiction, I urge you to go and find a copy immediately.  If you have read it, go and dig it out again – I promise it has aged well.

In case you don’t know, the book is set in an alternate world where black people (Crosses) are in charge and whites (noughts) are, as their name suggests, considered worthless.  It tells the story of Callum and Sephy, a nought and a Cross, who are best friends discovering the difficulties of living in such a divided world and dealing with other people’s prejudices.

I cannot do this book justice with a summary.  It is heartbreaking, emotional, a brilliantly constructed world that can’t fail to draw you in and leave you amazed at the unfairness of it all.  And the scariest part lies in the parallels drawn between that world and ours.

Yes, the situation of black people in the western world has improved tremendously over the last 50 years, but it’s still nowhere near perfect and 1963 really isn’t that long ago.  And deep-seated prejudices are still evident everywhere – they may not be related to race, but the principle is the same.  In my opinion, this book should be compulsory reading for everyone as a teenager, when they’re starting to secure their world view and figure out what they believe.

I’m now halfway through the second book in the series, still as gripped as I was aged 13.  I can’t recommend Noughts and Crosses strongly enough.  Malorie Blackman has done amazing work.  Thank you to her.

Book Love: My Book Haul

As promised, I bring you more details of my book-buying mini-splurge last week.  Apologies for the delay – I had the most minor internet problem possible, which still somehow made WordPress decide not to work.20130116-214143.jpg

So, my books.  They came from Oxfam Emporium on Oldham Street in Manchester, just off Piccadilly Gardens.  I buy almost all my general fiction books from charity shops at the moment – they usually have a more-than-wide-enough choice to keep me going for a while, they’re loads cheaper than buying new, and you’re helping charity.  Surely there’s no better way?  If you happen to be in the Manchester area, this Oxfam in particular has a good range of books, and I always have to rein myself in when I go to browse in there!

This time I did pretty well, I managed to keep it down to five books at £2.99 each (it was originally four, but as I left the till I spotted The Jaguar Smile, which has been on my to-read list for years).

  1. The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie has, as I say, been a book I’ve wanted to read for years, and I’m already halfway through it.  It’s non-fiction, about the author’s trip to Nicaragua while the revolutionary Sandinista’s were democratically running the country and were being unfairly attacked by Ronald Reagan as a result of Cold War politics.  I totally realise that this is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (!), but it’s something I’ve been studying at uni and is a subject I find totally fascinating.  It’s probably also a good introduction to Rushdie for me, since I stand half a chance of knowing what he’s writing about!  So far, needless to say, I am loving it.
  2. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.  Atonement (review here) is one of my favourite books, as well as the first book I read after starting my blog, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of Ian McEwan’s other books, so this seemed like a pretty good bet.  No idea what it’s about, more info to come!
  3. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  I remember exactly when I first heard of this book.  Someone very enthusiastically recommended it to me in my high school library when I was in sixth form, and I immediately thought, “Ooh I must take that out and read it, it sounds good”.  Five years later, I’ve finally got my hands on a copy!  This is also now on my list for The Classics Club, so it’s very high on my upcoming list.
  4. Regeneration by Pat Barker was a book I’d never heard of before I bought it, but was recommended by the friend I went shopping with (who knows me very well after ten years, and whose opinion I completely trust).  It’s about the First World War.  It’s supposed to be good.  That’s all I know.
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker.  Another book on my list for The Classics Club.  Also recommended by previously mentioned friend.  Looking forward to reading it.  Enough said.

So that’s it – yet more books for the shelf.  And all old, previously read and loved books.  I can’t wait.  Anyone read any of them?  Any other recommendations – of books or charity shops?  Is anyone else a charity shop lover?  Drop me a comment if you feel like it and let me know.