Friday, 17 July 2015

Haul Ass to... the beauty bargain basement!

It's been a while hey?! But I'm back with some Friday treats for you and this week there are 50 of them! I cannot take any credit whatsoever though as I am simply pointing you in the direction of Sali Hughes' 50 best buys under £20 recent round up which you will find if you click here. For those of you who don't know, Sali is an all round beauty guru who writes a regular column for the Guardian and who, when it comes to make-up, hair and beauty products, is the bomb. 

I came across this list a couple of weeks ago and straight away at least half of the items went on my wish list. Some I had already come across (hello fellow Elnette devotees) others were completely new to me and I am looking forward to giving a whirl, for example the Vichy serum which I've seen on twitter is causing quite the stir and the burt's bees hand cream which sounds gorgeous and has been requested for my upcoming birthday :-). I have already purchased the wet brush which I love! It is a godsend if, like me, your hair resembles a birds nest after being washed, especially as I have recently been doing the 'reverse wash' - has anyone else? Maybe a post topic in it's own right! 

Has anyone got any favourites from this list? What about other budget buys you love?

Gems I have come across myself include this Collection 2000 concealer which I honestly can't tell apart from Touche Éclat when it's on, baby oil as an all round moisturiser and Max Factor's False Lash Effect mascara which for some reason I haven't replaced despite it running out around a year ago and none of the replacements I've been using since coming close! 

I hope you find something you like and join in the beauty chat. What else are you going to do on a Friday afternoon?! 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

VSH Book Club #4... To Kill A Mockingbird

If ever there's a book which needs no introduction it's this one, so I'll keep it brief!

I have chosen this classic in honour of the sequel Go Set a Watchman which is released on 14 July, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was first published. Go Set a Watchman is possible the most anticipated sequel EVER, with a serious amount of hype surrounding it.  It's pretty impressive that so many years on the original is still regarded as a must read, and it was definitely one of my favourites growing up. Like me, you may have read it as part of the English Literature curriculum at school, and I am pretty intrigued to revisit it and check out what *insightful* comments I scribbled down in the margins!

I have to admit that I have forgotten much of the story so I am really looking forward to discovering characters Jem, Scout and Boo Radley, amongst others, again. The story is set in 1930s Southern America and is told through the eyes of Scout, whose father (all round legend Atticus Finch) causes somewhat of a stir by defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. The book has sold over 30 million copies and won the Pulizter Prize. Enough said. 

I don't want to read the sequel (which you can pre order now) without being up to speed on the original, so if you feel the same then please join me. If you have never read the book, grab a copy now and I promise you're in for a treat!

Versions are available for kindle here, or you can pick up this paperback edition here. Personally, I have fallen a little bit in love with this gorgeous limited edition so will be very jealous of anyone who gets it!

Happy reading!! 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

VSH Book Club #3 - All The Light We Cannot See Review

Apologies for the lack of book club posts last month, I blame my return to work, plus the fact that this was a bit of an epic read! Hopefully we will now be back on track with a book a month, so make sure you come back tomorrow for the reveal of July’s choice.

So… All The Light We Cannot See. I really, really liked this book. It is definitely my favourite of the books I have read so far this year and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to get stuck into an intriguing story with a focus on character development. History buffs or just those with an interest in the Second World War are unlikely to be disappointed.

The book has two main characters, Marie-Laure, who at the outset is a 12 year old blind girl living in Paris with her father, and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan of a similar age whose best friends are his younger sister Jutta and an old electrical radio which he manages to salvage. The short, sharp chapters of the book mostly alternate between Marie-Laure and Werner’s narration, and it is their parallel experiences of wartime, and eventual convergence, which make the story so effective. Whilst the two are only in each other’s company for the shortest of times, it was for me one of the stand-out sections of the book, with Doerr managing to avoid an overdose of sentimentality.

Marie-Laure was my favourite of the two protagonists and in particular I embraced her relationships with her father, then later her uncle, as authentic and necessary. Guided around Paris and then Saint-Malo (the coastal town of Northern France where she and her Father flee to) by hand carved model cities, Marie-Laure develops into a young adult who takes on the task of smuggling illegal broadcasting messages to her uncle with minimal fuss or fear, which seems natural given the way in which her father raised her. The absence of her Father for at least half of the book, and the lack of resolve on his disappearance, is hauntingly sad but entirely ordinary given the story’s context. Inhabited by the power of books, Marie-Laure’s coming of age culminates in a 5 day stake out in a secret attic, during which time she reaches out and finds, albeit unknown to her, the ears of Werner, via her uncle’s rogue broadcasting station.

Werner stumbles upon the voice of Marie-Laure narrating one of her favourite stories, followed by a cry for help of “he’s going to kill me”, whilst he is trapped in post-bombing hotel ruins. Werner ends up there after being plucked from obscurity at the orphanage and saved from a life of mining thanks to his knack for audio engineering. His natural talent sees him excel at a Hitler Youth School under the protection of a Science Professor and older student Volkheimer, whose friendship with Werner is slow burning and subtle. Unsurprisingly, the Academy is a brutal breeding ground for oppression and indoctrination. Sent out to the field at the early age of 15, Werner manages to rejoin Volkheimer and his team as they travel east, trailing and uncovering illegal broadcasters, ultimately leading him to Marie-Laure and a moral decision he must make.

The story is captivating, and I can see why there have been comparisons with ‘The Book Thief’. I have probably not read a book as atmospheric and one which so effectively conveys the reality of wartime Europe since Markus Zusak’s offering, although the latter remains far superior for me. The jumping from one time frame to another worked well I found, as it kept up levels of intrigue as to how the main two characters would fare in the last few months of
the war. The empathy felt for the two young adults was the strongest point of the book, together with the beautiful language used to paint a vivid picture of their immediate surroundings. Amongst the best bits of writing were the chapters in which Marie-Laure, deprived of both her site and her closest companion, sets foot onto the beach for the first time, as the healing powers of the sea and accompanying wildlife almost leap up out of the page.

The downsides of the book and few and far between. I found it a little too drawn out around the middle section, when Werner’s time at the school is depicted in great detail. Here there were also a number of characters which did not, in my opinion, add anything substantial to the book, and bordered on clichéd. For example I would have happily given up time reading about the Academy’s almost cartoon like Commander, and spent it instead following the plight of Marie-Laure’s imprisoned Father. I also think that more narration from Werner’s sister would have made the chapters she does offer towards the end more effective. She is an intriguing young girl but unfortunately her descent into adolescent is only briefly explored. The book also tracks the plight of a supposedly cursed precious stone, and in particular the quest to discover it by a terminally ill captain of the Reich. I found his chapters the least enjoyable, and although his involvement is key to the much anticipated encounter of Werner and Marie-Laure, I thought he was given too much page space.

Despite those small flaws All The Light We Cannot See has made its way into my top 50 books (if such a list existed!) and the beautiful imagery of conflicting childhoods, and the difficult decisions made in the years that follow will stick with me for a while. I do wish that I had read this in fewer sittings, as I feel the time I took to keep dipping in and out probably diminished the overall effect of the read. If you haven’t read it yet then definitely do so, but try to start it when you have a decent amount of time to dedicate.

Overall, a beautifully written book with a clever way of uniquely telling what is essentially a much told story.

What did you think folks? Would you recommend to a friend?