Monday, 27 February 2017

Non-Bookish: A Few of my Favourite Things from February.



I like my TV shows weird. In fact, the weirder, the better. The Kettering Incident is weird. It is very, very, weird. It's creepy too. I'd describe it as Twin Peaks meets The X-Files, set in Tasmania. I've heard it described as the Tasmanian Twin Peaks, so I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to describe it as such. This is currently airing in the UK and Ireland on Sky Atlantic. I couldn't wait for episodes to air week to week, so went ahead and binge-watched on Sky Go. Forget Stranger Things (over-rated in my opinion) I''m all about The Kettering Incident.

One annoying thing you should know: A second season of The Kettering Incident has not been commissioned (as far as I know) and I can't find evidence that another season will actually happen. So, if you want all your questions about this show answered (and you will have questions!) maybe don't watch until you know a second season is happening for sure. Or do watch - just be prepared to figure things out for yourself.

*****





The new Deliciously Ella book is my favourite book of Ella's to date.

*****




Garnier micellar oil-infused cleansing water: I've always used the original (pink cap) Garnier micellar water, but last month I decided to go wild and give this one a try. I actually think the original water is better suited to my skin. This one, which contains argan oil,  is for dry and sensitive skin. There's no way in the world that I have dry skin: I just didn't read the description on the bottle before I bought it.  Duh. So, even though this is probably not the best fit for my skin, it smells divine, and that's why I love it. It also leaves a bit of a greasy residue, which is OK if you're using it as the first step in a double-cleanse (which is what I do), but otherwise probably not great. So, why did I put it my favourites? Oh yeah, it smells great.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream: Provides deep hydration for stressed skin. My skin gets deeply stressed at times. This stress is most usually caused by those terrible twins, winter weather and central heating. This works.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1% Blemish Formula:  This is from The Ordinary Range of skincare, which offers high-end products at affordable prices. I've picked up a few pieces from the brand, so may do a full review soon, you know, if I ever get back into writing beauty reviews. (That kinda fell by the wayside, didn't it!) Anyway, so far this has been doing a good job of my blemishes disappear fast -or at least faster than they usually do. And it cost around €6. Worth trying out!

*****



New Music Obsession

Alexandra Savior



*****

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Gathering Dust: The Books That Got Left On The Shelf.





 So here's a little story. 

You might have seen my recent review of The White Princess by Philippa Gregory? I purchased that book around about three years ago now, but for one reason of the other hadn't gotten around to reading it until last week. Admittedly, I was prompted to read it on hearing that the TV adaptation of The White Princess would be hitting screens very soon. Anyway, on finishing the book, which I enjoyed very much, I decided to continue with the series. Goodreads told me that The Constant Princess was the next book up, so I made a mental note to pick up a copy sometime soon. Later, it occurred to me that the cover of The Constant Princess looked familiar and after a a little rummage through my very stacked shelves, I discovered that I was actually in possession of a copy of the book.

It's true. I have so many books that I totally forgot that I, in actual fact, already own a copy of this book.

I'm telling you all this, because on finding my long-forgotten copy of The Constant Princess (I figure I've had it for around about a decade!) I decided to have a look through my shelves and dust off the other books that I bought years ago, but somehow never got around to reading. It soon occurred to me that I have stacks of unread books.  Just some of these books are pictured above. I have lots more. Stacks and stacks of books that once upon a time I considered must-reads and yet, to this day, I have never read any of them.

Why do I do this? And how do I stop? 


Here's a quick run through of the books pictured above, why I wanted to read them, how long I've had them, and also why I've never gotten around to reading them. I figure if I talk about it for long enough, I might actually shame myself into reading all the books I've left gathering dust on my shelves.


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: OK, so first up, Code Name Verity. This is actually a review book that I never got around to reading (tut tut!) In my defence, I rarely request or accept physical review copies, so chances are this was sent to me unsolicited. Still. It totally sounds like something I'd like if I ever got around to reading it. I've had this one since its release in 2012, and I also have a copy of the second book in this series, Rose Under Fire, which I obviously also haven't read. The reason: when it comes to historical fiction, I am very much a mood reader. It's not really an excuse, but it's probably why I set this one aside and then never got around to picking it up again.

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly: This was Erin Kelly's debut novel and I was so super excited to read it that I rushed out and bought a copy way back in 2009.  I'm really not sure why I never got around to reading this one. Did I have something else going on at the time? I'd hazard a guess that I was deep in a Gossip Girl binge-watch, but I really don't know.  What I do know is that I probably won't ever read this book.  I have a confession to make: I always read the book before checking out the movie or TV adaptation, but in the instance of The Poison Tree, I broke my own rule by watching the TV adaptation a few years back. Since it's a psychological thriller and I already know all the twists, I fear I've kinda ruined for myself what would probably have been an enjoyable reading experience. Boo.

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory: I reckon I've had this for around a decade, maybe a bit less. I probably bought it after reading The Other Boleyn Girl and then, like so many books before and after it, it just fell by the wayside. Thankfully, The White Princess has re-invigorated my interest in all things Tudor, so I plan on getting to this one soon. Yay!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: When I first started blogging (way back in 2010!) Before I Fall was the book everyone was talking about. I didn't read it, though. I still haven't. I can't actually remember how I came to be in possession of this. I either won it in a giveaway or a kind blogger friend sent it to me (I'm thinking Tammy or Simay but I am really not sure. My bad). Anyway, I started reading this last year, and my bookmark tells me that I got as far as page 135, before giving up. Hmm. I seem to remember that I wasn't really feeling the book, but at the same time, I went though a major reading slump last year, so maybe I'll get back to it at some point.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons: This book has been on my shelf for the longest time; so long that I can't even remember how long I've had it. I really, really, really want to read this, but my copy has the tiniest text. It's so small I'd need a magnifying glass to read it! Seriously.  I don't know why the book was printed this way.  I'm planning on picking up the e-book of this at some point. Not only does the book have teeny tiny text, it also weighs a ton.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood: I think I picked this one up at a second-hand store. Either that or Bookmooch. Remember Bookmooch? Is it still around? Anyway, I've heard all good things about this book and it won The Booker Prize, so I should really read it sometime soon. Looking through it now though, I see that this book also has really small text, though not as tiny as ridiculously small text in The Bronze Horseman. 

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick: I actually have two copies of this book. The copy pictured is one I ordered on import from the US when the book first released over there in 2012.  You'd think I'd have read it after going to such trouble, not to mention expense. Then I have an ARC from when the book released in the UK last year. I also have a copy of What I Thought Was True by the same author. Haven't read that either. I need to add these books to my Summer reading list. I've heard amazing things!

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton: I know exactly when I bought this book. I bought it on the week of its release back in 2010. For a few years running I used to joke with my blogger friend Vicki that any day now we'd get around to reading this 670 page book. I'm not sure if Vicki ever got around to reading it, but I know I didn't. I also have a copy of Morton's The Forgotten Garden that's been gathering dust on my shelves for even longer than this one. Ooops. I remember liking Morton's The House at Riverton, so maybe I should actually read this. Any day now, I swear.



There you go. Just some of the books that have been left to gather dust on my shelves. Do you have any books that you rushed out to buy but then just didn't get around to reading for whatever reason? Tell me: why do we do this?

Tell me about the books that have been gathering dust on your shelf for the longest time.  

Which of my 'left on the shelf' books do you recommend I read first?  Let me know in comments!


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Book Review: The White Princess by Philippa Gregory.


Product details:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd.
Paperback, 549 pages.
Release date: February 27th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Series: The Cousins' War #5.
Reviews of Other Books in Series: The White Queen, The Red Queen.
Source: Purchased.

 The haunting story of the mother of the Tudors, Elizabeth of York, wife to Henry VII. Beautiful eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville - the White Queen - the young princess Elizabeth faces a conflict of loyalties between the red rose and the white. Forced into marriage with Henry VII, she must reconcile her slowly growing love for him with her loyalty to the House of York, and choose between her mother's rebellion and her husband's tyranny. Then she has to meet the Pretender, whose claim denies the House of Tudor itself.



 Think you have the mother-in-law from hell? Think again…

When Elizabeth of York marries King Henry VII, following the defeat of her uncle Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, she not only inherits the title of Queen, she also inherits Henry’s mother, the deeply religious yet unnervingly ruthless Margaret Beaufort, who will do just about anything to keep her only son on the throne. Right from the start, it is made clear to Elizabeth that her marriage is necessary evil, a political alliance forged in order to unite the houses York and Lancaster and bring to an end, once and for all, the bloody battles that have characterised The Cousins War.  Of course, in the Fifteenth Century, such an arranged marriage was not unusual. Rather, it was the norm. But for Elizabeth, marriage to Henry is difficult on a number of counts. First off, she saw her parents, King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, marry for love. Then, there is the fact that, as depicted here by Philippa Gregory, she is deeply in love with her uncle, Richard III, whom she had been expecting to marry when he returned victorious from the Battle of Bosworth. But, as we know from history, battles don’t always go to plan. Instead, as this book opens, Richard is dead, and Elizabeth is expected to marry the man who took -some might say stole- his crown.

Wow, what a time Elizabeth of York lived in. Unlike her grandmother Jacquetta of Luxembourg and her mother Elizabeth Woodville before her, Elizabeth of York is not to full of mischief, plotting and scheming. Rather, she keeps her head down and her mouth shut. And who can blame her? She lives in a court where her every word, her every move, is reported back to Margaret Beaufort, who is just biding her time until she can disgrace her daughter-in-law as a traitor. Though Henry has the crown, he can never rest easy in his rule. The people of England see the crown as ill-gotten, and Henry as a usurper. Many are still loyal to the house of York, and are just waiting for the day when a York heir rallies troops and rises against the king. To this end, Elizabeth lives in a court that is increasingly suspicious and untrustworthy of those around them. Henry is especially suspicious of Elizabeth’s mother, the wily Elizabeth Woodville, and is fearful that she may have an ace up her sleeve: a rightful York heir in the shape of her son, Richard, who went missing from the Tower of London, years before.

Henry deals with many of these supposed York heirs over the course of his rule, boys who come from far and wide to stake a claim on the throne. The most famous of these is Perkin Warbeck, who is depicted here as the rightful York heir, Richard of Shrewsbury.  In his good looks, his brilliant smile and his easy charm, Elizabeth recognises her brother at once, though she can never identify him. To do so would be to deny her own children, Arthur and Henry, the heirs to the Tudor crown.

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading The White Princess in anticipation of its TV adaptation. For some reason it always takes me an age to get around to reading historical fiction, but when I do, I mostly enjoy it. I guess some historical fiction can be a bit of a slog, but not this series.   Philippa Gregory writes with such verve that, thought I always devour her novels quite greedily, I am always still hungry for more. And that can only be a good thing. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Three New TV Shows I Can't Wait to Watch!

So many TV shows, so little time!

I've tried to cut down on checking out new TV shows - I really have. Since September I've only checked out two new shows* - This is Us and The Crown - and thankfully both were hits. Even better, both have been renewed. I've been there before with those one season wonders (Vanished, Six Degrees, Flash Forward) and I'm determined not to get bitten again. For that reason, I'm a big fan of limited series. I watch it, it's done, I move on. There's no anxious wait for renewal, no unresolved plot line to ponder, and best of all, no predictable descent into mediocrity round about season four or five. Limited series and anthology series are, for me, all round winners.

Here are three upcoming series I can't wait to check out!





The first series of FEUD, Ryan Murphy's (American Horror Story, American Crime Story) latest anthology series, centers on the rivalry between screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on the set of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" This promises to be a whole lot of fun - and it's got a stellar cast: Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson are all attached. 

Feud premieres March 5th on FX.


*****





Based on the Philippa Gregory book of the same name, The White Princess tells the story of Elizabeth of York and her marriage to the Lancaster victor, Henry VII, following the death of Richard III. I really enjoyed The White Queen when it was shown a couple of years back, and the trailer for this one looks great too. I've also just started reading The White Princess in anticipation of this show. I can never watch the movie (or TV show in this case) without first having read the book!

The White Princess premieres April 16th on Starz.

Suggested accompaniments: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, The White Princess by Philippa Gregory.


*****





Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, a darkly comic book with unsettling undertones, provides the inspiration for this series, which has a total A-List cast. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley star in this tale of domestic disturbia with a wicked twist. I read the book that this is based on a few months back, and while I enjoyed it, I guessed all the twists along the way, so I'd love if this adaptation threw a few surprises into the mix!

Big Little Lies premieres February 19th on HBO.

Suggested accompaniments: Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.





* I also checked out Kiefer Sutherland's new show Designated Survivor, but two episode in that wasn't working out for me, so I dropped it.  Harsh, but with so many TV shows, that's just the way it has to be. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.




Product details:
Publisher:  HarperCollins 
Hardcover, 384 pages.

Release date: January 26th 2017.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.


Only two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

It’s said that the only people who really know what goes on in a marriage are the couple themselves. But what if even they don’t know the truth?

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?


Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise could never have guessed how wrong things really are and just how far someone might go to hide it.


 They say that every marriage has its secrets and that’s certainly true of David and his beautiful wife Adele, a golden-couple living a truly charmed life.  Not only do David and Adele have an enviable lifestyle, they also have the perfect marriage, or so it seems to everyone around them. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and all is not so perfect. Louise knows this. Right from the start, Louise knows that her new boss is not entirely happy with his life - or his wife. How does she know this? Well, Louise may be David’s secretary, but before this, she was a woman he met on a night out – a woman he proceeded to kiss on that same night out.  Then there’s his drinking, which is a little out of control, to say the least. And that’s not all. Following a chance encounter, Louise and Adele become friends, and soon after this Louise starts to realise that David may not be the perfect guy after all.  Too bad then that she might just be falling in love with him.

Well, well, well…
                                                              
I have to say that it’s not too often I’m surprised by psychological thrillers these days. I read so many that I’ll often spot a plot twist long before it happens on the page. Not this one, though. Nope. Turns out the hashtag got it right.  I do love a good twist, especially when it’s one that’s as well-plotted and intricate as this one is. Behind Her Eyes is horrifically twisted, and even a touch macabre at times. It’s also brilliantly executed and addictive – one of those books you simply can’t put down, even if you have a whole lot of stuff you really need to be getting on with.  All readers are different, though, and it turns out that some readers hated the ending of Behind Her Eyes, calling it ‘far-fetched’ and even ‘ridiculous.’  It’s not at all. Or maybe it is if what you’re looking for is yet another run-of-the-mill read that follows the tried and tested rules of every other psychological thriller out there. This is no run-of-the-mill read, that’s for sure. It’s certainly not your average thriller. The storyline here might seem familiar, but let me tell you, Behind Her Eyes is like nothing you’ve ever read before.  In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough doesn’t just break all the rules, she makes up a whole new set of rules - and that makes for a truly immersive reading experience.

Apart from the dedicated #WTFthatending  hashtag that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter, I didn’t know all that much about Behind Her Eyes before going in and I think it works best that way.   That can be said of most psychological thrillers, I know, but it especially applies here.   I will say this: Behind Her Eyes requires you to keep an open mind. It also requires a little suspension of disbelief and a vivid imagination. Keep that in mind, and you won’t be disappointed.   It’s certainly the most fun – in a very dark and twisted way – that I’ve had reading a book in a long time.  A total winner. Read it now before someone spoils that WTF ending for you.


In short: Highly imaginative in a totally-twisted very off-the-wall sort of way, Behind Her Eyes is the must-read thriller of 2017.
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