Thursday 28 February 2019

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne Book Review

I first watched The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas years ago, and it was a film that really affected me. I still remember so clearly absolutely sobbing, I had no idea that the ending would be that, and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. It was on the TV recently and I caught the last 45 minutes or so of it and it spurred me on to buy the book as I really wanted to see how different that would be.
A flatlay photo - the boy in the striped pyjamas book flat, flowers next to it, ribbon draped across
'Nine year old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adorning wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.'

My review

Once I started this, it did feel familiar and not just because of the film, so I do have a sneaky suspicion that I have read this before, maybe when I was in school but either way it was a book I wanted in my collection, especially after reading The Tattooist Of Auschwitz at the start of the year. It didn't take me long to get started on this and right from the very start it was an easy read. I've been doing mini book reviews on my Insta stories (if you want to see those, you can follow me here) and I mentioned in that this is quite a simple story so I found it was all really easy to follow. It's told by nine year old Bruno and I think John Boyne has got this so right. It's like he was right in his mind as it never felt too young or childish and you couldn't tell it was written by someone older, you could really believe the naivety and confusion that Bruno was feeling.

It probably helps I'd seen the film first but I found it really easy to picture everything as the story unfolded. We don't get loads and loads of detail, but I suppose because of where they were living and the actual main plot that was going on between Bruno and Shmuel, it wasn't needed but I still found I could set the scene all the time, almost like I was seeing it through Bruno's eyes too.

Obviously anything to do with Auschwitz is just devastating so I knew that this wasn't going to be a comfortable read but I didn't feel it was too heavy, meaning I do think it's probably suitable for people of all different ages (within reason obviously). Going back to the narrative being from Bruno's point of view, this meant for a long time he never knew what was happening and could only go on his fathers words that what he was doing was okay so it wasn't until nearer the end, you really feel the more powerful and emotional side of it if that makes sense. It's the interaction between Bruno and Shmuel that really gets to me. They are worlds apart and it's just so sad to think of anyone who was in the same situation as Shmuel, being punished for absolutely nothing. I just always think 'how did this ever happen', it breaks my heart.

From reading reviews of this on Amazon and Goodreads, it seems to have gathered quite a lot of criticism since it was released but I personally really enjoyed it. I'm not sure enjoyed is the right word but it's another book that's quite hard to review as it's such a sensitive subject. I do think it's translated to screen really well and therefore I do prefer the film over the book and I do find the ending is much more impactful on screen but I'm still really glad I read this. It's quite a short story and a quick one to get through so if you want a book to add to your reading list, I'd definitely recommend this.

Have you read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas? Did you prefer the film or the book?

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Wednesday 27 February 2019

My Favourite Musical Soundtracks #3

I've shared two posts like this before, but it's time for another as I JUST LOVE MUSICALS. I'm always playing music especially when I'm working in my office, that's my time to just put on a soundtrack and get focused and I actually find it helps every single day. There are endless musical soundtracks I listen to so here are 5 new ones I've had on repeat over the last few months.
collage with soundtrack covers - pretty woman, heathers, six, mean girls, sweeney todd

Pretty Woman

This has literally taken over my life. There have been rumours for a little while that it will be heading to London sometime in 2019/2020 but as there have been so many other musicals confirmed, it's taken me such a long time to get round to listening to the soundtrack and paying it any attention. And now I can't stop. I've only ever watched Pretty Woman the film a few times but this has had such rave reviews on Broadway so clearly they've done a good job in translating it to stage. The whole soundtrack is just catchy songs one after the other. I think my favourites are Anywhere But Here and You're Beautiful. I really hope if it does come to the West End soon that Samantha Barks comes over too.
A gif of pretty woman the musical


We were lucky enough to see this towards the end of 2018 when it was playing in the West End for a limited run, and it was brilliant. We've seen some amazingggg shows but nothing had a reaction like this, people went insane whenever the Heathers came on and I think there were some serious Carrie Hope Fletcher fangirls in the audience so it was LOUD. It was an incredible atmosphere though, and ever since I've loved listening to the soundtrack. Candy Store, Shine A Light and Meant To Be Yours get played often now!
A gif of the three heathers from Heathers the musicall


This is currently taking the West End by storm and rightly so! It has been claimed as 'the most uplifting piece of new British musical theatre' so this has certainly been added to my list to see in the future. It tells the tales of the six wives of Henry VIII, who have turned their historical heartbreak into a 75 minute celebration - it's full of sass and attitude and the soundtrack is on another level. I've lost count the amount of times I've played this over the last month or so, it's so motivating and powerful, just listen to it if you haven't already!
A gif of the six queens from Six the musical

Mean Girls

I can't wait for this to come over to London! Which let's face it, it has to. The film is such a classic now, and the soundtrack is up there as one of the best I've listened to over the last year. As it's based on the movie, it's not like you don't know what's going to happen in the show but the songs they've added fit so well with the story. Some of my favourites are - Apex Predator, Revenge Party and World Burn. 
A gif of the plastics from Mean Girls

Sweeney Todd

Okay this is a little different to all of the other soundtracks I've shared so far, and whilst it's not one I've listened to loads and loads, it's been one I've put on occasionally after watching (and loving) the film a few months ago. Also I know this is technically the film version rather than the stage but I think it still counts. I thought Johnny Depp was just brilliant in this! It's full of great songs, some of my favourites being - Pretty Women, Johanna and No Place Like London.
A gif of Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd
Are you a fan of any of these musical soundtracks too? or have you been lucky enough to see any of these on stage?

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Tuesday 26 February 2019

Lush Peachy Bath Bomb Review

The peach bath bomb. The Lush product so many people have been talking about over the last few months. I've said before I'm all for anything peach scented, coloured, or tasting, so as soon as I saw this was part of the Valentine's range, I knew I had to try it.
flatlay - Lush Peachy bath bomb in the centre, everything everything book on the right hand side, essie nail polish on the left side, ribbon in empty space
The first thing I have to mention with this is how pretty it is. A beautiful peachy orange, dark pink and even pastel green sneaking in too. I love the really bright and colourful bath bombs from Lush so one like this would always catch my attention in the shop. Aswell as being aesthetically pleasing it also smells absolutely gorgeous! I've heard from a few people that they weren't massive fans of the grapefruit and peach scent but I adored that aspect of it. I find a lot of the time with bath bombs, the scent will linger for ages after using, and that did happen with this but I also didn't even need to remove it from the packaging to get it's sweet scent. It's definitely strong but I didn't find it overpowering.
bath bomb when first in the water
Now onto what happened when I put it into the water. Straight away it went mad. It wasn't one to just sit and fizz away quietly, it was going all over the place but I liked that as it meant so many pretty colours and patterns emerged. It was a fun one to watch and it definitely didn't go within seconds which has happened with other bath bombs in the past and is always disappointing for the price they usually are! You want them to last so I really liked that element of it. As you can see from the photos, it started with just pastel pinks but the water eventually went a deep orange colour whilst the bath bomb carried on fizzing away. The only thing I can find fault with when it comes to Peachy is that it didn't really do anything to my skin. I don't think that's the main aim with this anyway, but a lot of the time I find with Lush products they really nourish and moisturise my skin. That didn't happen with this. But to say it's £3.95 and actually a really decent size, overall I think it's pretty impressive. Sorry my photos don't do it justice!
bath water when bath bomb had finished fizzing. Deep orange colour with pink patterns on the top
This is only limited edition as far as I'm aware but I'll definitely be picking another one of these up if they come back in the future. I'd love to know if you tried anything from the Valentine's range?

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Monday 25 February 2019

In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green Book Review

I've got a list of books on my Amazon account that genuinely goes on forever but In A Cottage In A Wood was one of the first I added, months ago. I finally got round to reading it in January and I got through it all in one night but it left me with all sorts of questions!
Book in the centre, stack of books in the background, pink fluffy pillow on the left hand side in the background
'Her dream home will become her worst nightmare. Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve's hands and jumps to her death in the icy Thames below. Two weeks later, as Neve's wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap - a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all of her problems. But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare - a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever...'

My review 

I'd not read anything from Cass Green before so I had no idea what to expect but as I love thriller novels, I had high hopes for this. I think because I'd been wanting to read it for so long, I was just really hoping it wouldn't end up being a disappointment. Luckily the book gets off to a really good start. I instantly felt quite tense, even just from when Neve is first walking through London in the middle of the night and spots Isabelle. It's a situation you can't really imagine yourself being in but I was so desperate to get through the book and find out why things happened as they did that first night.

After the tragic night where Isabelle jumps into the Thames, Neve is left with her cottage to do whatever she pleases with. As she feels her life is a bit of a mess in London, she decides to risk everything and travel down to Cornwall but once she arrives, she realises she might have made a huge mistake. I had an idea in my head of what the cottage would look like so as soon as Neve arrives, I felt creeped out. A few things that happen over the next few days genuinely scared me because all I could think was, what would I do? She's in the middle of nowhere and living somewhere that Isabelle clearly couldn't cope with any longer, for whatever reason. I think Cass has written it in a way that really puts you in the situation too and throughout the whole book, I just felt on edge.

Whilst she stays in the cottage, Neve meets several people but I didn't trust any of them. I'm sure that was the intention but I genuinely questioned everyone and just thought Neve would have been better just getting out of there! Eventually everything starts to make sense though and we figure out who really has been the issue the whole time, but this isn't until the end really. They literally leave you hanging until the last few chapters but I think it was way too late. I found there was very little explanation of why things had happened they way they did with Isabelle, why Neve sort of becomes the next target and then what happened afterwards. It's almost like the author remembered they had to round things up, so it was just 'oh I'll take it here' and that was that. I think a couple more chapters would have been perfect to really give us just a bit more information and have a clearer idea of everything. The ending just seemed a bit random and I was left feeling a bit flat afterwards.

I am happy I read this, and overall it was definitely compelling. It's dark, full of suspense and keeps you guessing, but I think it was just maybe a little bit too much of that towards the end.

Have you read In A Cottage In A Wood?

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Thursday 21 February 2019

L'oreal Hydra Genius Moisturiser Review

I've tried a few new beauty products over the last month or so including the Garnier Micellar Gel Cleansing Wash and the Fresh-Mix Tissue Masks, but one that has blown everything else out of the water is the L'oreal Hydra Genius Moisturiser. I had been wanting to try this for absolutely ages so I finally treated myself and it has changed my life when it comes to skincare.
flatlay - bottle of L'oreal Hydra Genius moisturiser laid in the centre with its packaging. Props scattered around it including flowers, blusher, a london trinket dish, essie nail polish
I've never really been one to use a moisturiser, I tend to be pretty lazy when it comes to a skincare routine but my skin has just looked so dull recently and I felt I needed to add some new products in. I still have a pretty basic routine that I follow but this is always the last product and I genuinely look forward to using it each day. 

What is it?

The Hydra Genius moisturiser has been inspired by Asian skincare which seems to really have grown in popularity over the last few years. This is still pretty new as far as I'm aware and it's known as 'The Liquid Care'. It's a moisturiser that instantly refreshes your skin with its water-like texture and instantly locks in moisture leaving you with a healthy-looking glow. The aloe water continues to release hydration for upto 72 hours after use too, giving skin continuous hydration and there are three options available in the range - Dry & Sensitive Skin, Normal to Combination Skin and Normal Skin.

What do I think?

First of all I really like that there are 3 options available meaning no matter what your skin type, there is hopefully a bottle for everyone. The one I went for after much deliberation was the Dry & Sensitive Skin bottle. I have known certain products to be a bit too harsh in the past and I wanted something that was going to be as gentle as possible, yet still make a difference. I've been using this each evening after removing my makeup, though it can be used in the morning also. Just one pump of the Hydra Genius evenly covers my face and neck, a little bit really does go such a long way so I think it's likely the bottle is going to last me a while. I massage into my skin in circular motions which allows for better absorption and I find it soaks in within seconds. The reason I never really used to use moisturisers before this was because any I had tried always left that sticky feeling afterwards, I hate when you can feel the product sitting there on your skin but none of that happens with this. The lightweight serum absorbs into the skin so quickly and it always leaves my skin feeling incredibly soft. I just always feel so refreshed after using this and I do think after regularly using this for over a month now it's made a difference to the brightness of my skin. It just doesn't look quite as dull as I felt it did before and each evening I always notice there's a bit of a glow which is a nice change! I just absolutely love this product. I had a feeling it was going to work well with my skin but it's exceeded all expectations. It's even an incredibly pretty bottle too which is an added bonus. This tends to be £9.99 in both Superdrug and Boots which I actually don't think is too bad at all, to say how long the bottle is expected to last, but I actually got mine from Amazon! It was just over £6 and it's exactly the same as any other so that's a little tip for when it comes to buying new products, it's always worth shopping around.

'The Liquid Care: Fresh as water, hydrating as cream'

Bottle of L'oreal Hydra Genius Moisturiser stood up in the centre. Pink fluffy pillow to the back right hand side and a stack of pink books at the back left hand side with flowers on top. Rose petals scattered around the bottle with the box packaging laid next to it
I'd love to know if you've tried the L'oreal Hydra Genius Moisturiser too? Let me know if you have any other skincare recommendations too!

*Affiliate links used in this post

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Wednesday 20 February 2019

My Top 10 Hamilton Songs After Seeing The Show

In Summer 2018, when I was fully addicted to all things Hamilton, I shared my top 10 favourite songs from the soundtrack. Now I've been lucky enough to see the show (you can find out what I thought here) my opinion on some of the songs I considered favourites has changed and some I'd not really liked at all sounded completely different live. So, I thought I'd do a revised list of my top 10 songs. I'd love to know if you've seen the show, if any of your favourites changed too! I know this post probably won't be for everyone, and it's totally fine if you don't carry on reading, but theatre is my favourite thing to write about so I really couldn't wait to share this.
Hamilton seat ticket held up from dress circle, view of the stage in the background
1. The Room Where It Happens - This was only second on my previous list but this and Wait For It have swapped since seeing the show. Both are absolutely amazing on the soundtrack anyway but this was just something else live. Sifiso Mazibuko who was playing Aaron Burr on the day went stole the show for me and this song was a real moment. I even cried because I was just thinking 'OMG this is my favourite, this is happening, it's so much better than I could have imagined'. I know, I'm a mess. I think my face would have been such a picture during this.

2. Wait For It - It was very difficult to move this to second place as it's been a song I've adored since the very first listen but The Room Where It Happens just had the edge. This was everything I had hoped it would be though. Another song by Aaron Burr, who is one of my favourite people in the show #teamburr. It's just so powerful and something I'm sure a lot of people can relate to in a world where there is so much competition and it can always feel like you're lagging behind compared to everyone else.

3. One Last Time - This was number 6 in my previous post but it jumped straight up after seeing it live. Dom Hartley-Harris as George Washington was absolutely brilliant, so fierce in the role when he needed to be but then songs like this come around and he just made you want to cry. He fully deserved all of the applause afterwards, it didn't seem like it was going to stop. This is a song that gets me every time I listen to it now. Also if you haven't already heard the latest Hamildrop which is a remix of this, it's incredibly special - it features Barack Obama!
4. Right Hand Man - This wasn't actually on my previous list at all. It was never a favourite of mine before but seeing it in the show with the whole ensemble, I just felt it was a real moment and by the end of the song, I just thought, where did that come from? It was never one I expected to love so much but it shows just how well Dom plays the role of Washington.

5. The World Was Wide Enough - One of the final songs and one of the biggest moments in the show. Hearing the song whilst seeing Burr and Hamilton duel, resulting in Alexander losing his life, was EMOSH! The part where Alexander know he's dying and he tells Eliza to take her time - it was on a whole new level compared to the soundtrack.

6. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story - The final song of the show, and I was an absolute mess. After Phillips death, I didn't really stop and then obviously the final duel comes along too and then this, so I just had to let it out. It's a really beautiful moment where the whole cast come together to celebrate Eliza and what she went onto do after Alex died. It just rounds the show up perfectly and it was even better live than I could have ever predicted.

7. Dear Theodosia - This is number 7 like on the previous list so one of the only songs to not have moved around. As I said in the last post it's one of the more chilled out songs which is very much needed after the show being full on for so long! Your brain has to go into overdrive to keep up so this is a really nice moment. Sifiso as Burr and Ash Hunter as Hamilton just sang this beautifully.

8. Yorktown -The was actually number 3 before so it's dropped a little, but that's not because it wasn't as good as I was expecting, some others just blew me away. It really is a stand out moment in the show - the choreography, the whole ensemble getting involved and the immigrants line with the reaction it deserves, it's definitely special to see.

9. Satisfied - This song is one of my favourites and the staging of it is so clever. I loved the use of the revolve stage and in the opening to the song, they quite literally rewind back to helpless which was incredible to see. I had no idea how that part would work but it's mesmorising and I'd go back just to see this song again. I think one of the massive benefits you get from sitting in the circles rather than the stalls for Hamilton is having the view of the whole stage and seeing elements like that in all their glory.

10. Cabinet Battles - Both of the cabinet battles were even better in 'real life', and just so funny. The cast have clearly put their own spin on the roles so there were so many quirks and little things added in that you wouldn't pick up on just from the soundtrack. The cabinet battles really do show off the casts talent and it was nice to see so many of the ensemble involved too!

I already wanted to see this show again but writing this has brought back so many memories. It was only two months ago but it feels like forever! It's such an exciting show so I really couldn't recommend it enough. It's like nothing else on the West End at the moment.

Are you a Hamilton fan? Let me know if you've seen the show too!

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Tuesday 19 February 2019

Current Netflix Top Picks #7

Time for some more of my current Netflix picks! I've been enjoying a real mix recently, from classic films to hilarious comedies and even documentaries, some of which I can't get over!
collage - Netflix logo on the top. Several show posters at the bottom - White Gold, Sex Education, Grace and Frankie, Fyre Festival, Abducted In Plain Sight

White Gold

I actually first watched White Gold when it was on BBC2 in 2017 but I re-watched it recently as the second series has just been filmed, and it's just such a funny show. Set in the 80's, Ed Westwick, James Buckley and Joe Thomas play the three charismatic salesmen at a double glazing showroom in Essex, who will do anything to get a sale. I was already a fan of Ed Westwick, who is known for playing Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, but he is just brilliant in this. It's such a funny show and a great one to put in the evening, I can't wait for the second series to come out.

Sex Education

I think pretty much everyone has been watching and talking about this show, but it completely deserves all of the recognition it's getting at the moment. It's about a socially awkward high school student Otis who has absolutely no experience in the love department but can surprisingly give good advice about it (due to living with his sex therapist mum Jean, played by Gillian Anderson). He and classmate Maeve decide to set up an underground sex therapy clinic, and each episode is just hilarious. I love all of the characters, Eric is literally one of the best people in the world. We ended up watching this all so quickly so now I'm already excited for series 2!

Grace and Frankie

Each episode of this show is fantastic! I first heard about this a few years ago but it's just not really been on my radar until recently. After watching Gavin & Stacey, Friends and Miranda more times than I'd like to admit, I was in the mood for a new comedy and I thought I'd finally give Grace and Frankie a chance. I had five seasons to catch up on so I've been thoroughly enjoying watching a few episodes each evening. If you've not watched or even heard of this before, it's about two former rivals Grace and Frankie whose worlds come crashing down when they find out their husbands have fallen in love with each other and want to get married. It sounds so silly but it's made such a fab show. The two ladies realise they've now got to help one another, and put their differences aside to get through. It's just so funny. Jane Fonda is an icon.

Abducted In Plain Sight

Okay this documentary is UNBELIEVABLE. All the way through I was just thinking, what the hell am I watching. After seeing so many tweets about this, I had to watch it and I'm still not over it. This tells the true life story of 12 year old Jan Broberg who was abducted from her small church-going community by a trusted neighbour and family friend in 1974. Not only was it sad to know of everything that Jan went through, but I was left feeling pretty disgusted at her parents. You'll know why if you've seen it too, I'm not quite why sure they agreed to the documentary to be honest because they didn't come across well at all and in my personal opinion, they completely failed that child (I also think the mum may still have a thing for B). I'd absolutely love to know if you've seen this too and what you thought. It's just crazy. 

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

Another documentary that blew my mind, how could something so crazy, actually happen?! If you've somehow not heard of the Fyre disaster, it was made out to be this new extravagant, luxury music festival back in 2017, all of the big influencer's like Kendall Jenner were talking about it. People were expecting lodges on the beach, some of the biggest bands in the world, something special but unfortunately it all went horribly wrong. What they actually got was cheese sandwiches, tents and pretty much every music act cancelling, it was a mess. The documentary shows just crazy it got and how much the people behind it really knew. It's mind-boggling how they thought it could go ahead when they were well aware they had no chance of pulling off what they had promised. It's a really interesting watch so well worth a try if you like a good documentary.

What have you been watching on Netflix recently? Have you been loving any of these too?

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Monday 18 February 2019

Johnny Be Good by Paige Toon Book Review

I mentioned in my latest book haul that I'd treated myself to another of my favourite authors books. Paige Toon has been a go to for me when I'm in need of a soppy romance read, ever since Five Years From Now last year, so I'm currently trying to work my way through all of her books, and the latest was Johnny Be Good.
Johnny Be Good by Paige Toon in the centre. Pink fluffy pillow in the background on the left side. Stack of pink books at the book on the right side. A star trinket dish also in the photo
'Celebrity PA to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg's glam new life in sun-drenched LA is a whirlwind of showbiz parties and backstage passes. Cool, calm Christian, in town to write his famous friend's biography, helps keep Meg's feet firmly on the ground. But with Johnny's piercing green eyes and a body Brad Pitt would kill for, how long will it be before she's swept right off them again?'

My review

I feel like I run out of things to say with each book I read of Paige's as they all end up impressing me just as much as the last! So I'm sorry if sometimes these book reviews come across as a bit repetitive, I want to keep up with posting about each one I read but I suppose there's only so many different ways you can say how much you've enjoyed something. Anyway, let's get onto Johnny Be Good. I know from just the synopsis above it probably comes across as quite cheesy, but it's certainly not like that all the way through, and I kind of like books like that. Like all the books I've read from Paige before, it ends up being a really difficult story about falling in love with someone you probably shouldn't have.

Like with One Perfect Summer which I reviewed not too long ago, I instantly liked all of the characters. As soon as Meg and Johnny are introduced, you know where it's going to go and though I knew there would be various dramas throughout, I was already hoping it was going to end how I pictured. As you might imagine it doesn't take them long to fall for one another, but with Johnny's career as it is, he's not quite willing to give anything up just yet and understandably Meg doesn't know where she stands. I always say this but Paige writes in a way that makes you feel everything the characters do, so I always find myself questioning what I would do too. Though you know Johnny might not be perfect for Meg, you can't help but hope they find a way one day. That being said, I had my ups and down with Johnny as a character. After initially liking him, I did find his 'bad boy' ways with drinks and drugs became a bit too much as the book went on and I found Meg put up with more than most would, but maybe that reflects real life? I suppose that's how it is for some people and it's not necessarily something that can just be over and done with in a day.

We eventually get introduced to Christian, Johnny's best friend and this made me re-think everything! The complete opposite to Johnny but in a way, just as much of a match for her. This is when Meg has to figure out who she really wants to be with, but as we find out in the sequel Baby Be Mine, the decision is kind of taken out of her hands. Talking about the sequel, I actually really enjoyed reading this knowing there was more to come. No matter what happened at the end, or who she chose, I knew the story wasn't quite over so I ended up reading the sequel the day after I finished this and I ended up getting through that just as quickly.

I find Paige's books such an easy read which is part of the reason I get through them so fast I think. Each chapter just flows into the next and doesn't require much thinking so they're always very hard to put down. Though in the middle of this it did slow down a little and there was quite a lot of things that did seem to happen over and over again with no character really learning anything, towards the end it really picked up and I was soon thinking I need to finish this, I need to know what happens next. I've finished the sequel now which I enjoyed just as much as Johnny Be Good. I think it had the perfect ending for all of the characters involved, so I don't personally think the third follow up Johnny's Girl was necessary. Now I just need to pick which Paige Toon book to read next!

Have you read any of Paige Toon's books?

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Thursday 14 February 2019

Recent Favourites - Six The Musical, Baking & The Body Shop

After posting monthly favourites consistently for a good year or so, towards the end of 2018 I got a little bored of them. I found I didn't have much new to share each month so this year I'm planning on doing a few roundup posts every so often instead, I thought it would be a good way of still sharing things when I feel like it but without the pressure of posting at the start of each month! I'm thinking I'll share a few bits TV wise aswell as beauty products, maybe books I've read recently and a few other bits here and there.
collage - sex education netflix, six the musical, my desk, llama imperial leather, biscuits, garnier


Let's start with TV because there have been some incredible shows out recently! We don't tend to go a day without watching something on Netflix and one show that stood out to me was Sex Education. I know pretty much everyone has been talking about it, but rightly so! It's about Otis who doesn't have much experience with girls, yet lives with his mum who is a sex therapist so he's grown up surrounded by manuals, videos and open conversations about that department. When people at school learn about his family, he ends up forming a underground sex therapy clinic with classmate Maeve, to deal with everyone's problems. We ended up watching this so quickly so I really hope it's not long before series 2. Another show I've actually really enjoyed is Cleaning Up on ITV. I didn't think it looked that good just from the trailers but I found myself watching it a few weeks ago and I've been really looking forward to a new episode each week since. It stars Sheridan Smith as a divorced mother and office cleaner, who has an issue with gambling and money so she resorts to insider trading to try and solve all of her problems. Finally Catastrophe came back! Unfortunately it was the last series and it ended just on Tuesday, which is such a shame as it's a fantastic show. It stars Sharon Horgan as Sharon Morris and Rob Delaney as Rob Norris, two people who become a couple after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant following one night in London. Several series later, they're now settled with two children but life is still as chaotic as ever. It's just brilliant, each episode is hilarious.
Sex Education, Catastrophe, Cleaning Up


I've not tried a load of new beauty products recently but a few that I keep going back to are the Garnier Micellar Cleansing Wash, The Design.Me Puff Me and The Body Shop Peppermint Body Butter. I mentioned the new Garnier cleanser a few weeks ago so you can find my full review here but in short, I actually prefer it to the original micellar water. It removes makeup like a dream and doesn't leave my skin feeling dry or tight which I have found with other cleansers in the past. Sticking with the skincare theme, I've also been loving using the No Drama Llama Foamburst from Imperial Leather. I got it for my birthday and it smells gorgeous! The peppermint body butter from The Body Shop has been used so many times over the last few months too. I can't get enough of minty scents and this always makes my skin feel lovely. Finally, I've been so impressed with the Puff Me Volumising Spray. It's such a unique product! Though it's a powder, just a few sprays at the roots of your hair really make such a difference
Garnier Micellar Cleansing Gel Wash, Body Shop Peppermint Body Butter, Puff Me Volumising Spray


Somehow I've managed to read 16 books since the start of 2019! I've set myself a goal of 30 for the year so at the moment it's looking like I'll get a bit more than that if I carry on as I have been, I just love reading so much. There were a few books I wanted to mention but the first one has to be The Tattooist Of Auschwitz. I said in my review of this that it's going to be a hard one to beat despite it only being the first book of 2019 for me, but I still stand by that. It's such a heartbreaking story but an important one so I highly recommend this if you've not read it yet. Another book that impressed me was Johnny Be Good by Paige Toon. I'm sure you know by now she's my favourite author and her series on Johnny and Meg was such a lovely read. I don't think the follow up to the sequel was really needed but the first two were brilliant. A final book that impressed me was A Cottage In A Wood. This had been on my list for a while and whilst I did think the ending seemed a little bit rushed, overall it's a great book. Full of suspense and incredibly creepy!
stack of books


One of the things I had to mention is my new office! I'm still yet to get a proper photo of it but I'm beyond happy with it. I've started filling my desk with the excessive amount of stationery I've somehow collected, my programs from each show we've seen have pride of place, and loads of the postcards I've been picking up on each trip we've been on are up. It's just so me. I've felt incredibly motivated over the last few weeks and it's meant I've been getting so much blogging done. Something else I've been really enjoying since the new year started is baking! I really wanted to get back into it after losing some confidence with it last year and so far I've made these Mary Berry biscuits a million times over the last month, my Easter Chocolate Cake for George's birthday, cookie dough buns and my vanilla sponge with caramel icing, it's just my favourite way to chill in the afternoon. Finally, it wouldn't be any sort of blog post from me unless I mentioned a musical and my current go to soundtrack is Six! This is has rapidly grown in popularity over the last few months and now it's in London for the foreseeable, I'm really keen to get a ticket!
Six the musical poster
Are there any products you've been loving over the last month or so too? Let me know if you have any film/tv recommendations too!

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Wednesday 13 February 2019

Lush Unicorn Horn Bubble Bar Review

It's been quite a while since I last reviewed a Lush product! I've been stocking up on bath products from Bomb Cosmetics and The Body Shop over the last few months, but I was still so happy to receive a few Lush bits for my birthday, one of those being the Unicorn Horn Bubble Bar.
Lush Unicorn Horn Bubble Bar in the centre, pink Essie nail polish to the left. Pink fluffy pillow in the background on the left hand side, a stack of pink books in the background to the right with flowers on top
I absolutely love the bubble bars from Lush, some of my previous favourites being The Comforter and Brightside but they're not often something I think to buy myself. I tend to go just for bath bombs but actually bubble bars can be used countless times and tend to be far more cost effective so I'm definitely planning on picking a few more up now I've finished with this particular one.

I'm pretty certain Unicorn Horn is just part of the Lush Valentine's range, so it's only around for a limited amount of time which is a shame but it just means you have to stock up while you can. It's £4.50 which I don't think is too bad at all for Lush, especially given that you can get at least two uses out of it whereas sometimes you can be spending around a fiver just for one bath bomb which is gone within minutes.

So, the first thing I love about this is all of the colours - pastel purple and pink, with a bright yellow running around it. Just so pretty! I have no idea why I've not picked this up before as it's so me. When I actually used this, the first time it turned the water into a light purple colour, full of bubbles and the second time it was more of a bright pink, both as inviting and beautiful as the other. I used half each time and just crumbled it under hot running water.

Aswell as turning my bath into pastel heaven, it also had such a gorgeous scent. It contains relaxing lavender oil which is known for it's balancing and calming qualities, and it also helps with a good nights sleep. It also contains neroli which increases serotonin levels in the brain, lifting our mood, something that is welcome addition to any products for me. I liked this because it had a much more floral scent than a lot of other products from Lush, and it filled the whole room after I used it. I find the scent of bubble bars and bath bombs always lingers for a while afterwards which I'm definitely not complaining about.
Lush Unicorn Horn bubble bar in the water - purple
Lush Unicorn Horn Bubble Bar in the water - pink
There were so many things I liked about this so I'll definitely be buying a few more in the future. I just wish it was sticking around for longer! It's made me want to try a few of the other Lush bubble bars now so let me know if you have any recommendations!

Have you tried this particular bubble bar?

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How To Make An Epic Coffee & Walnut Cake*

Is there anything better than sitting down, at the end of a long and busy day with a big ol' wedge of coffee and walnut cake and a brew? Not if you ask me there isn't! That is why I have made it my quest to make the most epic coffee cake ever! Something that you can not only get the recipe for but also some pointers on below. Just don't forget to save me a slice!
A tray of walnuts, a close up of one in the centre

Tips For An Epic Bake

First off, before we get to the recipe section, there are some other tips you need to know to ensure your bake goes smoothly. One is that if you are going to have a successful bake, each and every time, no matter what the cake, you need to have the right tins and grease them well. In fact, if you want your cake to be truly epic, greasing two sandwich tins, as Delia recommends at, then adding a circle of greaseproof paper is the way forward. Then when it comes to getting a perfect round out once it's cooked, it will be dead easy. 

Secondly, when it comes to getting your cake to rise epically, you need to do two things. The first is to separate out the egg and the whites and beat the latter separately. Then gently fold these into the mixture along with the yolks and other ingredients, and your cake will be light, fluffy, and grow to epic proportions. Additionally, baking your coffee cake for longer (about 25 mins) on a lower setting, of around 180 degree centigrade, can help you achieve an even bake all around. It will also stop those unsightly peaks occurring that can make your bake look less than splendid, and hard to decorate. 

Finally, if you want your cake to have the most intense coffee flavour then using real coffee like the stuff available at is best. Just remember to make it up to the required strength before and allow it to cool a little before you add to the mix. Otherwise, it will start cooking the mix, and you may end up with a lumpy cake!


3 eggs
170g self raising flour
170g caster sugar
170g butter at room temperature
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp proper coffee of your choice


When decorating your coffee cake, you will want to include some tasty buttercream icing. Now, a lot of people get all het up about this, but really there is no need. In fact, to make the best buttercream all you need is 1 pack of butter, and one 500g bag of icing sugar, as well as 2 tbsp of extra coffee made up, and electric mixer. Just start with creaming the butter until it goes white and then sift in the sugar bit by bit. Add the coffee as you go, and even just a drop or two of water as that can make it much easier to blend and will give you a lovely light whipped finish. Then you can decorate with walnuts to your hearts content. Just be sure to make it epic!

*This is a collaborative post

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Tuesday 12 February 2019

Garnier Fresh-Mix Tissue Mask Review

Face masks are usually a weekly thing for me, sometimes more. I just love finding time for some self-care so I can properly chill! I love to run myself a hot bubble bath, use my favourite skincare and hair products and just chill for an hour with a good book before a relaxing evening. A part of my pamper evenings always involves a face mask, and one that I was really excited to try was the new Garnier Fresh-Mix Tissue Mask.
Garnier Fresh-Mix Tissue Mask - Vitamin C Shot in the centre of the photo. Flowers to the right hand side in the corner
There are currently two masks available in this range - the Vitamin C Shot and the Hyaluronic but the one I chose when we were shopping in Leeds recently was the Vitamin C mask. Though I love the original moisture bomb masks from Garnier, these are so quirky! I loved the idea of basically making your own face mask so once I spotted they were on offer, I had to grab one.

The way this works is that there is one section with the hydrating formula which has been enriched with Vitamin C, and then in the other section you get the ultra-absorbent dry tissue mask. I'm not going to lie, I did struggle a little with mixing the two together but I think it just takes some getting used to! All you have to do is follow the arrows and dotted lines on the back of the packet, fold several times so the juice can break the seal and then leave for 1 minute so it can fully infuse into the tissue. It's then the same as any other sheet mask, unfold and apply, smoothing down at the contours of your face and then massaging in any excess serum afterwards. It's a bit more effort than usual face masks and does take a few minutes to get the hang of but I actually really liked it! It was quite fun to sort of make my own mask and it's not something I've seen before in a skincare product.

Once it was fully infused, the tissue became almost cushion like and it fitted perfectly. It was absolutely freezing at first though but I find most sheet masks are! After 15 minutes, I really did find it had made a little difference to my skin. It looked brighter and felt incredibly soft. It does say on the packaging that the more you use these masks, the more noticeable the difference would be but they're pretty expensive so I don't think they'll be a regular addition to my skincare routine. Both masks in the range are currently £2.66 at Boots so it's well worth picking one up now if you want to try as I think they're usually over £4. I'm really keen to try the Hyaluronic mask now to see if it's as impressive as this one!

Have you tried either of the new Fresh-Mix tissue masks?

*Affiliate links used in this post

Similar posts - MasqueBAR Face Masks review // Garnier Micellar Cleansing Gel Wash review

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How To Plan A Great Gap Year*

Gap years are something that we often hear about, whether it is a result of seeing those elephant print trousers plastered all over Instagram, or whether you're listening to somebody tell you about how they've come back from Asia, after 'finding themselves'. Whilst it can all get quite cliche sometimes, there are some great benefits of the gap year, from helping you to grow in confidence, to allowing you an insight into how other people live. If you want to take the plunge and do some exploring for yourself, follow these simple tips.
Photo shows a woman sat on a boat on a river, trees are the backdrop

Sort Out Your Finances

One of the first things you need to think about before you go on a gap year is your finances, and every traveller does this differently. Many work whilst they travel - in bars, in vineyards, or even as bloggers - and others save up beforehand, and use all of their time to explore instead. However you decide to do this, you should look at how much it's going to cost before you head out, because it's not great to be stuck somewhere with no cash.

Think About Your Commitments

Before you hop on that plane, you need to sort out some of the boring stuff first. For example, can you get out of your contract yet for your rent, and do you have anybody (or anything) who is dependant on you? By this we mean, you're probably going to have to drop off your four legged friend and some dog products at your parents for a while. We're not suggesting that you would forget about this, but it's worth thinking about well in advance.

Look For Good Deals

If you're going to have the best gap year possible (and your money is going to take you pretty far) then you need to look out for those great deals. It's an old-age trick to delete your cookies after you've been searching for flights, as some airlines have been known to hike the prices up. It's also a good idea not to just buy the first flight you see, or book the hotel that looks amazing but will cost you thousands. Be more economical!

Choose A Well-Thought Out Route

Before you decide to go to China, and then to Australia, and then to Vietnam, costing you a lot of money and taking up a lot of time too, think about your route properly. Even if you haven't made any big mistakes here, you could be missing out on something better, just because you haven't done your research. For example, could you get a boat or train somewhere, instead of a flight? Look into these things thoroughly.

So, if you're looking to go on a gap year, there are many things that you need to think about. From sorting out your finances and thinking about existing commitments, to getting the best deals and choosing clever routes, don't miss out on these simple tricks, and you'll save yourself time and money, whilst still having a great experience. Good luck, and happy travels!

*This is a collaborative post

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Monday 11 February 2019

Tell Me A Secret by Jane Fallon Book Review

It's only been a few weeks since I shared a little book haul, but since then I've bought even more - I genuinely dread to think how much I've spent on books over the last year! One of those was Tell Me A Secret by Jane Fallon. She has over 10 books I think but this is the first one I've ever read from her, and I'm so glad I gave it a chance
book stood up against fluffy pillow, flowers next to it on the right hand side, a pineapple dish to the left with a pink essie nail polish on top
'Best friends Holly and Roz tell each other everything. So when Holly gets a shot at her dream job after putting everything on hold to raise her daughter, she assumes Roz will be waiting to pop the champagne. But is she just imagining things or is Roz not as happy as she should be? And now she thinks about it, a few things don't quite add up... Perhaps it was a mistake to tell Roz her secrets. Because it takes two to tango. But only one to start a war'

My review

As soon as I started this book, literally within the first few pages, I knew I was going to enjoy it. I'm not quite sure how to explain but instantly it felt comfortable if that makes sense. It was just one of those 'yeah I'm going to like this' moments and it stayed with me the whole way through. It was a revenge novel rather than a pure thriller so it's not like anything I've read so far this year but it was a really nice change. If you've been reading my book reviews, you'll see I read a lot of thrillers, some that are more crime related too and then on the other end, I am all for a soppy love story, but this is different to all of those, in a good way. Similar to a Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews, it was just 'normal' and a really lighthearted read from the beginning.

I was a really big fan of Holly, the main character, from the start. I think we all know how it feels when you're proud of yourself for something but then someone comes along and tries to spoil that, you can just tell when people aren't really happy for you and unfortunately that's what she has to deal with throughout the whole book. Her friend Roz turns on her pretty much straight away but quite quickly Holly realises Roz has some secrets of her own, and that's where this war in the workplace starts. Neither are willing to go down without a fight. Though you're supposed to root for Holly anyway as she has done absolutely nothing wrong, I really did like her. I related to her struggles in the workplace - feeling on the outside and never really fitting in, so in a way it was nice to read more about that side of what goes on because I think a lot of the time people don't quite realise the true extent of how it is sometimes, it's not all rosy for everyone. 

Talking of the characters I liked, her best friend Dee was just the best! She was hilarious every time she popped up in the book and it was so nice to see their friendship only go from strength to strength throughout. Everyone needs a friend like her. I found I was willing for things to go well for her after her own struggles too, just as much as Holly. She's also one of the only characters I didn't question either. Jane Fallon has made each character suspicious, all of the weird things that keep happening after Holly's promotion, it doesn't seem like they were all just down to Roz, so I was always second guessing each person. This did mean I figured out one person who was also in on the act sooner than I was probably supposed to but it was a very clever twist to the story and put a different spin on the reasons for Roz acting the way she was.

This book was just full of drama. It had tension, it was extremely funny at points and on the whole incredibly engaging. I also really liked that it was focused on female friendships (or how difficult they can be at times) and there wasn't a love interest. It was very much about several different women, all with their own struggles and though it's only told by Holly, we uncover more and more about each person as the story unfolds. It was one of those books I genuinely didn't want to end. It's just made me want to read all of Jane's other books now!

Have you read any books from Jane Fallon?

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Thursday 7 February 2019

The PR Secrets Tag

It's been a little while since I last took part in a tag post so I couldn't resist the PR Secrets Tag that I spotted on Jenny's blog a few weeks ago. It was originally created by the lovely Jasmine at Thoughts From Jasmin so make sure you head over to her blog too! I think when it comes to working with brands and earning money from your blog, it's easy to think we shouldn't talk about it or 'brag' but I love seeing other bloggers doing well and we should all be proud of ourselves! I personally think we should all be a little more transparent about it, so I think a tag like this is such a good way to start.
Laptop to the left side with an image of my blog on the front, a book open to the back right hand side to cover the space, a book called One Day In December played on the right side of the laptop with a red nail polish on top

Do you remember the first brand you worked with? When, how and what was it?

The first ever brand I worked with was Niion, early 2014, who sold different baking bits so I reviewed one of their new cookie cutters. Looking back now, the review was horrendous, as were the photos but at the time I was so excited that a brand wanted to work with me only a month or so into blogging.

How do you get the majority of your PR opportunities?

I tend to find Facebook and Twitter are both quite useful when it comes to finding opportunities. There are a few great groups on Facebook that tend to update quite regularly and it's always worth searching the #bloggerswanted, #bloggersrequired hashtags on Twitter. It can go quiet sometimes so I do also pitch to brands myself every so often which I've had quite a lot of success with in the past. I do tend to get emailed from brands/PRs themselves now too but it's taken a long time for that to become a more regular thing!

Are there any brands you work with on a repeat basis? How did that happen?

There are a few PRs I've worked with several times, especially SparklePR who are some of the loveliest girls I've ever worked with! Whenever I'm sent anything I always make sure I actually feature it on my social media and my blog, and I tend to stick to similar time frames every time which I think people like. I think if you can show you're consistent and do actually use the products they send, then it builds up a good relationship. I've also worked with Soap and Glory a few times now too which I still can't quite believe!

Who has been your favourite brand to work with and why?

My answer is kind of the same as the last question. I adore working with Soap and Glory as they've been a fave brand of mine for such a long time. And again, SparklePR are just brilliant. They're always grateful for any features I do which is nice as a lot of the time brands don't even acknowledge you when you send them the post you've collaborated on! Kathleen are also one of the best brands I've worked with. So friendly, and they even sent me a Christmas card! I love when brands are like that as sometimes brands do like to try and make you feel like they've done you a massive favour by choosing to work with you.

Who has been your least favourite brand to work with? What did they do? (Give a vague description but naming isn't needed)

I can't think of a specific brand, I've been quite lucky really that no-one has ever really been that bad. There have been odd occasions where a brand has took longer than the agreed time to pay an invoice which is frustrating, and there have also been a few that have wanted loads of amendments making to a post once it's live, but overall most brands I've worked with have been great.

Has there been anything big that you've perhaps reluctantly turned down because you knew it wasn't right for you?

I can't think of anyone that I've been desperate to work with that I've had to turn down. Again, I think I've been quite lucky that the majority of the time the opportunities I'm offered are usually relevant to my blog anyway. There's been quite a few times I've said no to collaborations though where there is no budget or very little. We deserve to be paid, and to be paid fairly so I'm not afraid to say no now if it's not going to be worth it.

What's your favourite kind of PR to receive? (e.g. food, beauty, fashion)

Ooh, food is always nice! I started out as a food blogger so it's always nice to get some sort of food or drink to try. I'm really into beauty now though so I've loved getting a few more make-up and skincare bits to try over the last few years too.

What would be your dream brand collaboration?

There are so many I'd love to work with - Yankee Candle, Lush, Essie, Bomb Cosmetics, The Body Shop. Maybe one day!

I've absolutely loved answering these questions, I think this tag is such a brilliant idea! Feel free to take part and copy the questions, I'd love to hear your PR secrets too!

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