I hope you all have a wonderful few days and enjoy good times, good food, with good people.
Tom and I are off to Paris in the next couple of days, so I’m taking this opportunity to have a few days out from blogging. I think a bit of radio silence on here is good every now and then; it’s especially good for creativity I find.
I’m sure I’ll still be reading and commenting on blogs and active on social media, so I’ll still be about. If you want to keep up with me over Christmas and on my travels in Paris, here’s where you can find me:
I don’t know about you, but I love it when we get towards the end of the year and I get to find out what people’s favourite books of the year were. Today, I’m sharing my 9 favourite books of 2015, and I hope you’re going to share some of your favourites with me.
Watch the video above or read on to find out about the books that have topped my list this year. Click on the title or author to read my review.
The first book I read in 2015 got the year off to an excellent start. After hearing Cait at Paper Fury talk about The Raven Boys and Maggie Steifvater repeatedly, I finally delved into The Raven Boys and boy was the wait worth it.
Maggie creates stunningly detailed worlds, that leave you wondering whether or not the world you’re reading about is in fact the world you’re living in.
I love books that deal with mental illness and give readers an accurate portrayal into the life of someone with a mental illness, or what it’s like to care for someone with a mental illness, and All The Bright Places does both of these things.
It tells the story of Violet and Finch who meet as a result of difficult situations they’re both in. It’s heartwarming and absolutely heartbreaking all in the same book. I’m still not over the book and I read it about 9 or 10 months ago now.
The Rose Society is somehow even better than Marie Lu’s 2014 release, The Young Elites. It sees Adelina become even darker and more ruthless, much like Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen. The beautiful world is even more enchanting and I found myself wishing it was a place you could visit more than once.
See above. Fangirl is one of those books I put off reading for so long because of all the hype around it but this is another one that absolutely lives up to the hype. Yet again, Rainbow Rowell has created realistic and relatable characters that you end up feeling like you know by the end of the book.
Fangirl is a lovely blend of learning to become independent, friendship, coming of age, family issues, and a sweet romance to top it all off.
Like All The Bright Places, Your Voice Is All I Hear is an important book that gives readers an accurate portrayal of mental illness. This book allows you to read from the point of view of a girl who finds herself in a relationship with someone with schizophrenia.
It looks at not only the issues of being in a relationship with someone with mental illness, but also the pressure, stigma and comments from family, friends, and classmates.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – J. K. Rowling and Jim Kay [No review yet, but keep an eye out for one in the New Year.)
This is everything I wanted the illustrated copies of Harry Potter to be and so much more. Somehow, it made the story even more magical and I found myself excitedly turning the pages not only for the story, but to see what stunning illustrations were over the page.
This is not a book to read when you fancy a cosy afternoon with a nice book. Absolutely nothing good happens in Only Ever Yours, but don’t let that deter you. Louise O’Neill drags you into a world where women are clearly second class citizens and spend the childhood and teenage years training to be everything a man could want.
It deals with sexism, eating disorders, competitiveness based on appearances and more. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an important one.
I didn’t write this in any kind of order, but I did definitely save the best ’til last. And so, it should come as little surprise to you if you’ve been reading my blog for a few months now that I’ve chosen Magonia as my favourite book of 2015.
Magonia is so unlike anything else I’ve read before, and I fell absolutely head over heels in love with it. The world building is amazing, and I can’t help but wonder if something like Magonia exists every time I look up at the clouds.
It’s a wonderful combination of life, friendship, love, family, action, space ships, and more.
Go on, tell me what were the best books you read in 2015?
A few weeks ago, Tom tasked me with creating a gingerbread Hogwarts. We roped our friends in and ended up with a slightly (ok, very) weird gingerbread Hogwarts.
It’s fair to say we had delusions of grandeur because it was so much harder than expected, and we had to scale down quite a bit. Nevertheless, it was so much fun and we all laughed so hard.
Tom turned out to be some kind of gingerbread castle building wizard. He drew up some brilliant plans, and the rest of us made the dough and cut it out. Well, I say the ‘rest of us’, one of my friends is an excellent ‘supervisor’.
Getting the castle to stick together was pretty hard. None of us had ever built any kind of gingerbread structure, so we went into it thinking it would be easy. We were wrong. Getting the icing consistency right was hard enough. And in hindsight, we probably should have tried to level the pieces before sticking them together, but you live and learn, right?
In the end, we ended up with a couple of braces. My friends Dad works in engineering and he just laughed as soon as he saw it. He also questioned if one of the braces was a lean to, so we tried to disguise it as a broom shed.
By far the hardest part was trying to figure out how to make the towers for the turrets. In the end, we stacked a few ice cream cones together, and covered them in gingerbread.
Once we’d managed to get the castle to stick together without dropping apart as soon as someone breathed near it, we began to decorate it. And that’s when things got ridiculous. I should have seen it coming, I should have known.
The Supervisor got very carried away with the icing and silver balls. (Just look at the snowmen…or maybe not.) The rest of us are mega Harry Potter fans, so we asked what he was doing covering all of the ‘roof tiles’ with silver balls. He claimed they were solar panels.
It took us 8 hours in total, and we all laughed so much it hurt. We’ve decided that in 2016, we’re going to attempt to make a Hobbit House. The Supervisor can handle the grass, I don’t think it’s possible to go overboard with grass on a Hobbit House.
Have you ever made any kind of gingerbread construction?
When I think about Christmas, I think about being all cosy, and reading a book that makes you go all fuzzy on the inside.
I’m always on the hunt for a nice fuzzy books, so I thought I would share my favourites with you in the hopes that you will share your fuzzy books with me.
Anna / Lola / Isla – Stephanie Perkins
What list of fuzzy books would be complete without mentioning Stephanie Perkins’ heart-warming trilogy:
Anna and the French Kiss
Lola and the Boy Next Door
Isla and the Happily Ever After
I defrost a little inside just thinking about those three books. For me, Anna is definitely the sweetest and the best, but you really can’t go wrong with the other two either.
If you enjoy books with realistic characters that you feel like you know, getting a serious case of wanderlust, and some of the cutest romance, then these books are for you.
Love, Rosie – Cecelia Ahern
I picked this up partly because the main character shares my name, and partly because the film was being advertised everywhere when I went to Dublin last year.
Love, Rosie is a fuzzy story about the lives of two best friends, that starts when they’re in school together and ends when they reach middle age (though the film ignored a huge chunk of the book – the book is waaaaay better). The characters are so real, as are the experiences they go through.
Throughout the whole book, you’re mentally screaming “ADMIT YOU LIKE EACH OTHER, DAMMIT!”. Definitely one to read if you want to be all fuzzy inside and have a chuckle too.
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl is everything you need in a coming-of-age romance, and more. The romance is balanced against Cath going to university, leaving her Dad behind, making her own friends, dealing with her twin sister wanting to do things on her own, handling being in uncertain situations, and more. It works perfectly, and I think Rainbow did a wonderful job of creating situations that a lot of people can relate to.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – Jennifer E. Smith
If you’re short on time over Christmas (aren’t we all?), The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is exactly what you need to fulfill your fuzzy reading needs.
It takes place over the space of 24 hours, is fast-paced, gripping, and took me about four hours to finish. Despite the short reading time, everything is wrapped up nicely, though of course you wouldn’t complain if you got to find out what happened next for the main characters.
Dream A Little Dream – Giovanna Fletcher
All of the books I’ve mentioned so far (apart from Love, Rosie) have been young adult books, but if you’re looking for characters who are mid-twenties, Giovanna Fletcher has you sorted.
Dream A Little Dream deals with the frustration of our MC’s career stagnating, annoying people in the workplace, sucky bosses, dealing with exes, wonderful friends, and, of course, a romance right out of your dreams. I’m sure we can all relate to at least one of those things there, right?
It’s one of those books that has you hooked from the first page and desperate for more when you reach the end. Luckily for you, Giovanna has released a festive novella called Dream A Little Christmas Dream, which I’m sure will be just as good.
What fuzzy books do you recommend I read over Christmas?
One of the things I’m perpetually on the hunt for, is the perfect foundation and I think I’ve found my foundation soul mate. (If such a thing exists.)
A few months ago, I ran out of my Bare Minerals foundation and wanted to continue my quest to find something with slightly heavier coverage and that helped control oil a little better. I was hunting on the Feel Unique website, when I discovered Nude By Nature. I’m not going to lie, the pretty packaging did catch my eye. I couldn’t find a huge amount of reviews for this product, but they’ve won a few awards and had a lot of good press and reviews for other products, so decided to give it a go.
The packaging is really clean and pretty, with a sleek rose gold lid that wipes clean easily. Unlike most mineral foundations, you don’t tip this product out into the lid. Instead, Nude By Nature encourage you to push your brush through the mesh sifter in the top, tap excess off, swirl around and apply. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you tipping the product into something else, but you couldn’t really use the lid it comes with as you can see from the photo above.
It took a bit of getting used to pushing the brush into the mesh, but I’ve actually found it to be tidier and I’m definitely wasting less product, which is always good. I was worried it would damage my brush but so far it hasn’t. I suspect that as long as you have a good quality brush, you won’t damage your brushes. (I use Real Techniques Retractable Kabuki Brush, if you’re interested.)
Product & application
The mineral foundations I’ve used previously have always had light-medium coverage, but I feel like Nude By Nature gives what I would consider almost medium coverage on first application. Coverage can be built up easily, but you do have to be careful to make sure you buff it in well, otherwise you can end up with slightly orange areas.
While it does give medium coverage straight away, it isn’t heavy or cakey; it’s lightweight and soft.
It applies really smoothly and covers up redness and blemishes quickly and easily. I know this is a bit of a cliche in the beauty world, though I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase on my blog, but it does leave you with smooth, radiant-looking finish.
Of course, you aren’t going to completely cover and erase the odd bright red spot, but this does a pretty good job.
As you can see in the photos above, my skin is being naughty at the moment and although it doesn’t erase the blemishes, it’s not doing a bad job of concealing them.
With combination skin, I always worry about how products and my skin will get on, and I’ve had no issue with Nude By Nature’s offering at all. I find that it helps control how oily my skin is better than any other mineral foundations I’ve used. Of course, there is the odd day where my skin does feel a bit oily at the end of the day but most of the time, I will get to the end of the day and my skin still feels matte.
Talking of the end of the day, the lasting power is good and I have no complaints about it at all. I work in a bar now, which means I’m often rushing around in toasty areas, and it doesn’t melt off my face or anything. It just stays.
I have pale skin and went for the lightest shade, W2 Ivory and it matches like a dream, though apparently it does adapt naturally to match your skin tone.
Nude By Nature’s shade range is quite good and ranges from W2 Ivory through to C7 Chesnut, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a shade that matches your skin tone.
A few other key points:
It contains SPF 15
It’s cruelty free and vegan
Contains Australian Kakadu Plum for Vitamin C
Contains Jojoba Esters to nourish skin
Contains Kaolin Clay to give a flawless finish
No parabens, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. (Visit the Nude By Nature website for a full ingredients list.)
Value for money
At £25 (from Feel Unique) for 10g, you are getting good value for money when you compare it to Bare Minerals, who sell 6g for £26.00. Yes, you can buy mineral foundation for a lot less, but if you’re looking for something with slightly heavier coverage off the bat, and that just stays, I really don’t think you can go wrong with Nude By Nature’s Radiant Loose Powder.
It’s hard for me to say how long this product will last me, though I expect it to last at least 6 months, and I imagine it will actually last around 9 0r 10. £25 for foundation that lasts me three-quarters of a year is perfectly fine by my standards.
A lightweight, oil-controlling foundation without any of the nasties that gives medium coverage off the bat, and excellent value for money.
I love this foundation and I do intend on buying another pot when I run out.
November wasn’t a great reading month; I finished a grand total of two books, and I’m not setting myself a much bigger target for December.
Click play on the video above, or read on to find out which books I read in November and what I plan to read in December.
As I said above, I only finished off two books in November. I didn’t finish anything off at all during the second half of the month.
The first book I finished off was Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. This is the fifth and final book in The Percy Jackson series. I put off reading this for a while because I didn’t want the series to come to an end. These books have been the perfect books for when I’m busy or if I’m feeling in a bit of a reading slump and want something light, fast-paced, and fun to read.
The Last Olympian is absolutely action-packed and I felt like I needed a bit of a rest after finishing it. There was so much going on that, at points, I got confused about who was who. All in all, it was a fun book that I tore through, and I gave it 4 starts. You can read my full review of The Last Olympian here.
The second book I finished in November was The Olive Fox November Book Club pick, and that was The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. I got through this in about 4 hours, and it’s a good job it’s a short book because I doubt I’d have finished it otherwise.
It takes place over the course of 24 hours, and starts when Hadley misses her flight to London to her Dad’s wedding to his new woman. She’s not happy about that at all, and isn’t over her parents divorce. While waiting for her next flight, she meets Owen, who by a stroke of luck that only happens in books, is on the same flight as her and is sat a seat across from her.
There is instalove, but the book takes place over 24 hours so you can’t really complain about that. Jennifer E. Smith does a brilliant job of helping you understand why the two characters like each other, so it’s really not a bad case of instalove at all.
December to be read
With Christmas, holidays, work, and revision coming up, I’m not setting myself a huge goal but I am hoping to finish off three books:
Allegiant Collector’s Edition – Veronica Roth
The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting – Holly Bourne
My True Love Gave To Me – Stephanie Perkins: This is December’s Olive Fox Book Club pick. I got about three quarters of the way through this last year, so I’m looking forward to starting it over and finishing it off.
What did you read in November, and what are you hoping to read in December?
Nope, I’m not talking about characters I’ve got a crush on, I mean the entire book.
There are some books I enjoyed so much that I feel like I’m crushing on them from afar, admiring them, while they go about their day (sat on my shelf) completely oblivious to my existence. I can’t be the only one who feels like this, can I?
Magonia – Maria Dahvana Headley
Oh, I have a definite crush on this book. I read it at the end of July and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I really want to read it again, but at the same time I don’t – does that even make any sense? It feels so sacred that it would be wrong to read it again.
I loved everything about this book. The world is wonderful and is something I wish existed for real – in fact, maybe it even does?
The characters were people I liked and really rooted for. My heart was aching as I read, desperate to know how things would turn out for them.
I’m so eager for the next book to come out, and I’m definitely regularly stalking Maria’s Twitter profile to look for any Magonia sequel-related hints.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E. Lockhart
This book is that crush that’s so cool that every little thing they do drives you crazy. Where do I even start on why I love this book so much?
To start with, Frankie Landau-Banks is just an awesome person who is going to play by her rules regardless of what the ol’ boys club want her to do, and I respect her so much for that. The tone of voice, and the way this book was told was really enjoyable too because there were a few occasions where E. Lockhart broke the fourth wall, which I loved.
We Were Liars is definitely E. Lockhart’s most popular book, and I think The Disreputable History is so underrated. In my opinion, it’s better than We Were Liars (which I loved by the way) and is well worth a read if you enjoy YA books set in boarding schools with a take no prisoners female lead.
Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins
Oh Stephanie Perkins is the Queen of creating YA books you slip right into and feel like you’re in whichever wonderful location the characters are at.
What I loved so much about Anna is that Paris in itself becomes a character, and you feel like you’re discovering Paris while you’re reading along, which is amazing. How can that not be amazing?
The characters are realistic, there are multiple issues, the romance is the most adorable thing ever, and just squee.
Ok, your turn; what books do you have a book crush on and why?