The Pastry Book Tag

Firstly, a big thank you to the lovely DriftingLexi for nominating me for my first book tag! And with all these yummy pastry-titles, I can tell it is a delicious tag already.

  1. Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling.

Is it cliché of me to write this? But I cannot think of a better example. Now, I cannot speak for every single person in the whole, wide world, but with over 450 million copies sold and countless of fans, huge theme parks, fandoms, merchandise and movies, this is probably one of the biggest and most-loved book series in the world. In my personal view, I started Harry Potter when I was about six years old, and now, as a twenty-one year old English graduate, this book series made me become a reader, a writer, a dreamer and an aspiring author. It helped me become the person I am today, have the values I have, and through Harry Potter, I actually met and made my best friend.

I just love this series too much. It’s in my DNA and part of my soul.

2. Macaron: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin.

Now, this was a doozy of a book. Physically massive, different narrative voices, a lot of intertwining plot lines, fantastical elements and one hell of a battle scene. Now, I love ASOIAF as a series. I’ve read it countless times, I’ve watched the series and for somebody who hasn’t read a lot of high fantasy, I thoroughly loved it. But I always struggle with this second book, even on these re-reads. It’s so large, has so many voices, so many different worlds and political points which do intertwine, but they are so separate in the same way. But, in the bigger picture, it is crucial for the series, and makes the other books look tiny in comparison!

3. Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat.

Fate by L.R Fredericks.

Okay, I am definitely one of those people who just obsessively buys books when I adore the blurb. And Fate had that. It had the tantalising words of ‘gilded salons of Ancien Regime’ and ‘courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists’, and I basically threw it down on the counter with my money. But this was one of the most disappointing books I’ve read. It was confusing, didn’t live up to the blurb, and only really tied the loose strings together in the last few chapters. I don’t like giving up on books, but this was one I was super close to doing.

4. Pain au chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else.

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

Once again, I judged it by the blurb. But this book, which initially had the premise of an alternate history linked with the Titanic and, I thought, would be focusing on a retelling of the Titanic and what happened really turned into this spy/detective novel that had far-spacing sections of Titanic that proved unsatisfactory. The novel wasn’t the best, as it was confusing, too long, rambling and unnecessary. If Kowalski just stuck with a retelling of the Titanic story, and did present an alternate timeline, it would have been far more interesting.

5. Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne.

Now, if you don’t know me, you won’t know that I have a vast (and I mean VAST, such as 150) collection of Imperial Russia books. I adore the Romanovs, and the period that surrounds them. So I will always read any fictional accounts of this period. And, completely by accident I found this book in a charity shop. Written by the same author as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Boyne is already an accomplished author, and this is another historical fiction novel. Set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, it focuses on a tale of a rags-to-riches peasant boy called Georgy who became the tsarevich’s personal bodyguard. However, when revolution swept over the country, Georgy has to follow the family to their exile, and his fate is sealed and tied to this family forever. Written in a very historically accurate manner, I found it highly enjoyable, and did catch myself actually crying at some bits. And for such a fanatic about the Romanovs, who usually hates the rumours of Anna Anderson and all the myths that came about one of the daughter’s surviving the assassination, this is a big deal for me.

6. Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Now, I adore this book so much. I love, love, love it. The story is just so interesting, Alex is a fascinating protagonist, and it has all the qualities of a brilliant dystopian novel that I search for. But I did find it very complex, just because of the Russian-influenced argot that Burgess writes in. And I think it if you read it and just didn’t over think about the language, it would be fine. But, of course I didn’t. I basically demanded a glossary next to me.

7. Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

I feel like this is a universal acknowledgement  that Northern Lights was just significantly better than the 2007 The Golden Compass. Despite the film having a fairly good cast, the novel was just better. Lyra in the film was annoying, whilst Lyra in the book seemed rebellious. The daemon-human bond was better explained in the book, and it actually tugged on the heartstrings of everyone reading it, and the film changed the plot too much and had an entirely different, and worse ending. I remember feeling like this when I saw it in the cinema, and I certainly feel like it now after revisiting both.

8. Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.

One of my favourite books of ALL time. Set in Barcelona, this book has a labyrinth of books, a masked figure, mystery, romance, decadence, abandoned mansions, death, obsession and the past catching up with the present. What more do you want? But there is one character in this novel. And this one character is the reason I put it under this particular heading. Because it is a tragic character. This person loved, lost and never really got over that loss. And this character, who is pretty central to the book, has to watch as their world is dismantled around them, and watch other characters find love, family and companionship, yet they can never truly be at peace. I don’t want to give too much away, but please, read it!

9. Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Another favourite, this novel is set in pre-war Japan, and surrounded by the cherry-blossoms, kimonos, geishas, tea houses and beautiful Japanese gardens. Written in a first-person perspective, this novel follows the life of a geisha working in Kyoto, and follows her as she goes through all the traditions of becoming a geisha, and working in a cruel, female-dominated world where her fellow geisha are as fake as the face-paint they wear. It also has war, death, destruction, abandonment and a little bit of star-crossed love, which I am very partial too.

10. Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.

Now this is a difficult one. Because a lot of the books I read don’t have food that is too difficult, or hard to find in my life. Like, I happily eat Japanese food, and Spanish food and Russian dishes. So, I’m going to finish as I started, and choose something from the Harry Potter universe. And I want to be left alone in Honeydukes, eat my heart out, have a dinner of Pumpkin Pies, and then wash all those delicious sweets down with a pint of Butterbeer (or even a tiny drop of Firewhisky).

So once again, a HUGE thank you to DriftingLexi for the tag.

Now, I pick my three!

Wallace @ Thoughts, Musings and Storytelling.

Becca @ Shih Tzu Book Reviews

Catherine @ Books Bird 

Thanks guys!

– Alice

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book Review.

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Fiction, Fantasy, Phantasmagorical Literature


“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

Now, if you’re like me, dear reader, you’ll have bookshelves in your room that are full to the brim with unread books that have never been organised, opened or touched past the initial removal from the Amazon packet or the Waterstones bag. In my tiny room at home, I have three floor-to-ceiling high bookshelves that are triple layered with books, and only about one-fifth of these have been read. There is even a Japanese word for this – ‘Tsundoku’. It is a real affliction for all us book lovers, and one that has no end, but just get progressively worst.

And, like me, I’m sure that you have little gems of novels tucked away that you picked up one day, bought and said ‘Yes, this is next on my list’, and whenever you rediscover it on your shelf, you have that little stab of guilt.

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was one of these books. I could see it every single day, drawing my eye in with the bold title, and gorgeous cover, but it was only recently that I finally grabbed it, and tucked it into my bag to become my train companion.

Published in 2011, and compared significantly to Harry Potter or TwilightThe Night Circus is a phantasmagorical historical novel, set against the backdrop of a myste

rious circus that appears on the outskirts of towns without warning or promotion, and it entrances all those who wander in. Alongside this circus – which also has intersecting chapters where you, as the reader, is put into the novel and you get to walk through the circus and get all the sensory experience of the circus – the plot focuses on two magicians – Hector Bowen, a public personality who performs under the guise of Prospero the Enchanter, and the other man, figure who is only referred as ‘the man in the grey suit’ or ‘Mr. A. H-‘ – and their profound rivalry which has spanned over countless generations, and has been played out as a ‘battle’ between their appointed pupils. And in this novel, Bowen decides to appoint his only daughter Celia as his chosen player, and his rival chooses a nameless orphan, who decides to be called Marco Alisdair. Following tutelage, both Marco and Celia start to develop significant powers of illusion, and are permanently bound and aware of the competition that they both are involved in, despite not meeting their adversary.

And alongside this competition, the reader gets to know about the origin of the Night Circus. Initially a creation by a producer called M Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre and more subtly, Mr. A. H-, it becomes obvious that the workings of the circus, the magical draw of it, and even the structure and tents, all stem from Marco and Celia and their conflict which manifests itself in each creating spectacles in an attempt to outdo the other. But, when the inevitable meeting does happen, Marco and Celia both find themselves falling in love with each other, and their battle becomes not only a test of their powers, but also in whether they can escape their drawn-out competition and rewrite their own fates, together.

Now, the plot is promising. And whilst writing the summary down here, I was reminded how involved I was in the story, and how much I wanted Marco and Celia to get together, and how impossible it all seemed. Morgenstern wrote Celia to appear to be a fragile beauty, but the strength of her desire for freedom, and her powers, made the reader really warm to her. And the same with Marco. Their love seems boundless, passionate and sensual, and that makes for very enjoyable reading. But, it wasn’t necessarily the plot that kept me going through the book, or even the sweet side-stories about the red-haired circus twins, Poppet and Widget or the clock-maker, Thiessen, but the sheer beauty of the writing, and description. Morgenstern has created a beautiful world, and one that is equipped with all the sensory flavours that you, as a reader, wants to experience. The description of the circus, the food, the clothing, and the individual tents makes you desperately want to visit it, and it has the right level of Victorian-historical-whimsy that is befitting a YA novel. However, for some readers, it may be a bit too much of a whimsical novel, and so sweet it may be cavity-inducing.

Another thing that I felt slightly off-putting about this novel is that sometimes it felt a bit confusing and the writing wasn’t particularly clear, and unfortunately, all in all, the ending did not feel entirely satisfying when you consider it against the novel as a whole. With a climax of the novel, it should be wham-bam-clear-and-in-your-face-exciting, but this felt a bit short to me. It seemed as though Morgenstern had an excellent idea of what she wanted to do, but she couldn’t quite convey it in the right way.

But, this novel does focus on the dreamlike, illusion and magic, so it could just be Morgenstern tried to write in this fashion. However, for a young adult novel, this one doesn’t fall short to be a good and satisfying read, the magic doesn’t feel too whimsical or forced, and the characters are written in a good way. I’d thoroughly recommend it!

So, if you as a reader, enjoyed:

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • Circus of the Unseen by Joanne Owen

Then you’ll love this!

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s website: Click Here

Author’s Twitter: Click Here

Instrumental by James Rhodes – Book Review.

Title: Instrumental

Author: James Rhodes

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Memoir, Autobiography, Musician Autobiography, Social and Health Issues, Survivor Literature.


“So I looked for distractions. I looked for a way out that didn’t involve homicide or suicide. And all roads led to music. They always do.”

The first time I heard James Rhodes, I was doing a late night trawl through YouTube, and stumbled upon him playing Greig’s ‘In The Hall of the Mountain King’. How I got here, I’m unsure of. And what happened after the 2 minute 15 seconds were over, I’m not sure of either. I just knew that I had found a musician that was going to become my favourite.

Now, one thing to know about me, is that I love classical music. I grew up with my grandparents constantly having Beethoven playing, and now, listening to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, I am transported back to being a little girl again and dancing around the living room, pretending to be Sleeping Beauty or Odette. My iPod has equal amounts of Ravel and Mozart against Lana Del Ray and David Bowie, and I frequently find myself tuning into Bach on train journey’s. But in my opinion, breaking into this industry as a young fan can be met with snobbery and disbelief that you’d rather be listening to Rachmaninoff rather than Rihanna. So, when I found this pianist, who wears trainers and t-shirts on stage, swears and gives the audience little insights to the composer’s life, and then goes onto to play such electric music, I was instantly hooked.

And this year, for the second time, I’ll be seeing Rhodes play. And excitement doesn’t really begin to explain my sheer anticipation for this event.

But when I heard his was writing an autobiography, I knew I’d have to have it, devour it, reread it and just learn from it. Because like the composers he talks about, Rhodes’ life has been a rollercoaster of staggering lows, and extreme highs. And in this memoir, he talks how music literally saved his life.

Starting from Rhodes as being a, as he describes himself, ‘a dancing, spinning, gigglingly alive kid who was enjoying the safety and adventure of a new school’, the author reveals that, through an after-school boxing club, he was repeatedly raped and abused by his PE teacher, a man named Peter Lee, for years. Now, not only does this harrowing account tug at the heartstrings of everyone reading it, Rhodes also gives the reader the straightforward fact that issues that surrounded the rape, such as multiple surgeries, scars that are both physical and mental, a host of depression and other mental illnesses and later on, significant drink, self-harm and drug problems, have plagued him through his life, destroyed relationships that he had, been the reason for numerous admissions to various psychiatric hospitals and centres around the world.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

So, this is a pretty brutal read. There is no way to flip it around. This novel could be considered too upsetting and harmful for some people, and Rhodes acknowledges that within the first few pages, and also gives trigger warnings when he can. Now, this addition was something that I found particularly clever and meaningful. A lot of books don’t do this, and a lot of people can be caught out unawares. So, kudos there. And as a memoir, it doesn’t hide anything behind a curtain of shame. His story is black-and-white, out there, and for you as the reader to digest as its gritty self. Rhodes writes about having friendships, being in love, being a father, getting divorced, re-finding love and ultimately having undying love for his son and his now-wife Hattie.

But alongside the memoir, this is a love letter to classical musical. Rhodes writes about how music inspired him, saved him and started to help him become whole again. And through a friend smuggling an iPod into him whilst Rhodes was in hospital, rediscovering the piano and the constant companion of Bach’s Chaconne, the deep scars inflicted on him start to knit together. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a piece of corresponding music that relates to the next few pages, and Rhodes gives the reader a short introduction to the composer and who they were, which I found to be one of my favourite parts of the books. Also, as all the pieces are available to stream and listen too, you get taken on a journey through the music itself, as well as the book. Rhodes also spends a lot of time addressing how stereotyped and warped the genre of classical musical has become, and how, by big labels and the music industry of today, how damaging they can be towards the progression of classical music as a reputable and popular genre. As, as a reader who doesn’t know much about the music industry, it was interesting to hear it from an actual musician who has an insider’s perspective.

Now, in actual publication sense, Instrumental almost didn’t see the light of day, as a vicious court battle ensued before release between Rhodes and his ex-wife, over a ban being slapped on it as, allegedly, the content could cause psychological damage to their son. But, in a Supreme Court hearing overturning the ban, this has not only garnered up mass support and media interest for the book, but also on how freedom of speech is accepted in modern-day society.

So, to sum up, in my opinion, this is an incredibly important book. Yes, it’s not the best written, and sometimes it goes on tangents, but the reader gets instantly sucked into the world of music, madness and medication. It gives Rhodes a voice to properly tell his story, and it sheds light on the sometimes forgotten world of classical music. And through his words and through the Supreme Court hearing, it may just be that book that could offer support and help for anyone suffering in the way that Rhodes did. So, please. Go and buy it. And sit down with some good headphones and a copy of Beethoven’s Symphonies.

Photograph: Susannah Ireland/Rex Features

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon.

James Rhodes’ Website – Click here.

The Supreme Court Hearing – Click here

The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan – Book Series Review.

Title: The Memoirs of Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons/The Tropic of Serpents/Voyage of the Basilisk)

Author: Marie Brennan

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Young Adult Literature, Fantasy, Mythical Fantasy


‘You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten..’

For the longest while, I’ve been wanting to get into a good fantasy series. After reading The Song of Ice and Fire, The Kingkiller Chronicles and The Lord of the Rings, I’ve got standards about the sort of epic, adventure fantasy that I wanted, yet I did not want to rush straight into one that focusses around high fantasy, wars and bloody conflict. I mean, not yet anyway.

I wanted to go down the route of fantastical beasts, gentle adventures and a discovery of the protagonist’s strengths through their narrative. So, after being drawn in by the gorgeous covers, and the fact that it was a memoir by a female protagonist, Marie Brennan’s novel series From the Memoirs of Lady Trent. This series, despite not being finished yet, as so far not disappointed about easing me into the world of the fantasy novel.

Written as a memoir by the legendary dragon naturalist, Lady Trent, whose exploits in the field of dragon identification have made her one of the preeminent scholars in her field, Trent writes about her childhood, adolescence and first adventures surrounding dragons. Known as this point as Isabella, a fairly unknown daughter of a lord, and an intelligent and mischievous young girl who comes from a family where social graces an
d values are the preferred norms for young ladies, Isabelle risks her reputations, her prospects, and her even her life in the pursuit of turning her passions into a real vocation. And from marriage, kidnapping, dragon attacks and exciting journeys in different terrains, Isabella gets her first taste into the life that she would eventually turn into a lifelong career.


In the first book, The Natural History of Dragons, the reader first gets introduces to Isabella as a young girl who gets her first taste of an obsession with dragons from discovering a dead sparkling, a supposedly insect that resembles a dragon. And from this, her obsession grows. However, the society in which Isabella was raised in, shows great displeasure over women educating themselves about science and adventuring, and she is forced into adapting into becoming more ladylike. Yet after a period of this forced behaviour, Isabella meets her future husband Jacob, and together they get involved with Lord Hilford, who organises a trip to the mountainous region of Vystrana, and Isabella gets her first taste of working in a region that is not only swarming with dragons, but also different religions, customs and battles against keeping dragons alive, and not turning them into a profit. And whilst on this expedition, Isabella encounters smuggling, death, exploitation of bones and a dragon graveyard, which not only changes how the world sees the beasts, but how they are seen to treat each other.

Image courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

In The Tropic of Serpents, Isabella enlists the help of a runaway heiress, the once standoffish scientist, Tom Wilker, and goes on another expedition to the place known as the ‘Green Hell’ – a tropical and deadly rainforest where she wants to discover the secrets of the elusive swampwyrms, and their breeding patterns. But like in all Isabella’s travels, there are political and religious strife that halt her progress, and whilst in the ‘Green Hell’ she becomes close to the people of the area, called the Moulish, and through them she learns the secrets of the area, the creatures and the war that is ranging between the locals and invaders. Isabella also grows in confidence over her ability in being a dragon naturalist, and she moves further away from her upbringing as a potential lady of social graces, and further into the realm of the scientific.

Image courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

And finally, in Voyage of the Basilisk, Isabella is once again on her adventures, but this time, she has enlisted the services of the Royal Survey Ship, ‘The Basilisk’ for an ambitious, two-year trip around the world to study all different sorts of dragons in their natural habitats. And this time, she’s not alone. Accompanied by her seven-year old son, his governess, Thomas Wilker and the hilariously motel crew, headed by the crazy Captain Aekinitos, Isabella once again has to deal with all sort of issues that delay her expedition, such as shipwrecks, sea battles and an attack by an angry sea-serpent, but that’s not all. Isabella has to also deal with issues without her personal life, with conflict with her young son, the attention of a chivalrous, foreign archaeologist, and the gossip that is spreading around her home country about her love life.

With the character of Isabella/Trent, Brennan’s novels are written in a first-persona narration style, and therefore she introduces herself as Lady Trent, and states that in her younger years, she was significantly different from what she is now. In fact, frequently through the texts, Trent reminds the reader that she was young, naive and inexperienced, and her actions may appear so foolhardy to readers, and even embarrassing towards herself. By Brennan giving two different versions of herself, she makes the reader interested in not only the past version, but the future version, therefore hints towards a slow character development in subsequent books.

Brennan also writes the style of a memoir extremely well. By not including anything that Trent would consider to be rambling or insignificant, she sticks with facts and opinions that she wishes to divulge, and doesn’t want to give any details about the expeditions that she thinks the reader would know about, or wouldn’t care. Now, I realise that this is a fictional account, and Trent isn’t a well-known dragon specialist, but in the way that Brennan writes is incredibly realistic, and sticks to the idea of a memoir being something that she has written and edited. I particularly liked when Trent was addressing her editor whilst writing. This is a subtle hint that Brennan has added in, and it shows that Trent, as an older woman, has developed something of a backbone.

As a younger woman, Isabella had to deal with growing up as the only daughter of a titled family, and therefore had to go through all the stigmas that come with it. Brennan really highlights the idea of a society that still have the social norms as chaperons, young women being used as bartering chips for a good marriage, and the idea of young girls being educated not to be adventurous. One of the parts that I found intriguing in the book is when a young Isabella tries to force herself to be more ladylike. She calls this her ‘Grey Years’, and it really shows how much she was forced into adapting a way of life that wasn’t natural to her. And when she couldn’t adapt, this also highlighted the fact that Brennan has made her into a flawed person, and not too unrealistic.

The rest of the characters could have done with a bit more exploring. Some of them felt flat, and despite being relatively important to the entire story arc, they didn’t live up to what they could have been. Jacob, for instance, is the love interest in the book, and despite this romance being nothing that is clichéd and the relationship between him and Isabella seems well-suited, he just doesn’t get enough of a background, or towards the end of the first book, him and the others just seem to peter out. But, later on, Brennan writes some characters that really flourish. Natalie – the runaway heiress, is a young woman who could easily be Trent’s protegé, and I enjoyed how Brennan wrote her to be like a high-class woman who, like Isabella, didn’t want to follow society’s expectations of her. She is courageous, and what I found very interesting, was the fact that she deals with her sexuality in a frank and honest way.

Another character who I enjoyed was Tom Wilker. He first of all started as a standoffish and aloof character who butted heads with Isabella, but as the novels progress, he gets fonder of her, and there is an underlying, romantic tension there that has not been resolved by the latest book. Wilker and Isabella are very similar personalities, so it is possible that Brennan wrote him to be her eventually romantic conquest, but also as an equal to her.

I love a good bit of world-building in with my fantasy, and this is something that Brennan hasn’t disappointed with. With the customs of Scirland, and Lady Trent, Brennan has clearly drawn on Victorian England, yet she’s written fantastical elements in with it. Dragons are just another type of wild animal that need to be scientifically explored, and not beasts from a fantasy novel, she’s imagined different countries with their own religions and customs, that get ignored by the foreigners. Brennan also got the Victorian idea of foreign travel being a new and interesting concept to the world of Scirland – (their version of England). There’s also a lot of Russian influences with the names and the religious structures which I enjoyed discovering.

Now, in my opinion, the first 2/3 of the first book follows an interesting and page-turning set of events, as we get Isabella growing up, going through her Grey Years and then going on her first adventure. However, the last third ultimately disappoints as the storyline became blurred, dry to the point that I had to go back to previous chapters to remind myself of past events, and with a clumsy use of red herrings, the novel just didn’t finish in a particularly neat way. And unfortunately, this pattern is similar in the rest of the novels. The first few sections are interesting, but when it gets into the politics and the worlds, I do find myself drifting slightly. But it may not just be Brennan’s writing, but my own attention span.

But, overall, I enjoyed these novels. They were light, a good introduction to an easy, and particularly not violent fantasy novel, but did have a slight dip in interest towards the end. I will be reading any following books, as the characterisation and growth of Lady Trent interests me, and I want to see exactly when she becomes Lady Trent, and when she becomes the brave, dragon expert that the world is familiar with.

So, if you as a reader enjoyed:

  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  • The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik

Then you’ll enjoy this!

Links:

To buy the first book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s website – Click Here.

Image courtesy of BookWormDreams.com

Zoella Beauty – Cross-Section Product Review

As a modern-day blogger, it is clear that YouTube would have definitely seeped into my consciousness. And I am well aware that in the past couple of years, some of the higher-ranking YouTube stars have released merchandise that goes past their own websites and into the high-street shops. And yes, I have bought into them.

And what did excite me when they first come out was the Zoella Beauty products – a line that was designed, and has had every step on the way, input from hugely successfully YouTuber, Zoe Sugg or Zoella. This line features bath and body creams, candles, makeup lines and fragrences, and are priced between £3-£8, so not overly expensive. The line has become hugely successful in participating Superdrug shops, and has attracted fans from around the UK to be able to buy pieces that Zoella herself believes in. So, I took it upon myself to try and test a cross-section of these products.

Over the last year when they came out, I have bought.

From the Original Collection:

  • The ‘Soak Opera’ – Bath Cream and Body Wash
  • The ‘Blissful Mistful’ Body Spray
  • The ‘Zoella Eyes’ Makeup Bag

From the Tutti Fruitt Collection:

  • The ‘Scrubbing Me Softly’ Body Scrub
  • The ‘Lets Spritz’ Body Spray.

The collection features a range of beauty products, from body sprays, bath washes and makeup lines. The packaging of these products are in a very Zoella-esque colour scheme, such as pastel colours, polka-dots, bows, and pretty handwritten labels. The original collection is in a more neutral colour scheme, such as white, light cream and pink, whilst the newer Tutti Fruity is designed with summer in mind – and features more of a vibrant pink, blues and yellows. With the packaging, and the products names, this collection is very desirable for younger audience of Zoella, yet the fragrances and quality design do appeal to the age bracket of 18 and above.

So, let’s get into the reviews:

The ‘Soak Opera’ – Bath and Body Cream (Original Collection)

This bottle was one of the products that impressed me the most. Not only did the name draw me in, but the size of it – nearly 500ml – seemed to be a good deal for the £5 it was sold at. Now, I’m not an idiot in the sense that I know there are better, and less expensive shower gels and bath creams on the market. But for it being a piece of YouTube merchandise that is widely available, I thought it was a pretty good deal. I’ve seen lower quality YouTuber merchandise for higher prices.

The ‘Soak Opera’ doubles up as a shower gel to use, or a bath cream that you run under hot water to create the highly-desired bubble bath that most girls want to experience in their lives. The liquid is a light pink in colour, and only the smallest amount needs to be squeezed under the water to make an entire bath’s worth of bubbles. Which I thought showed it to be a good piece of high quality bubble bath.

Now, the original collection all comes in one scent, which is both floral – such as gardenia and jasmine but also with a strong overtone of vanilla. Now, fragrance is a really personal thing in a person’s life. And unless floral tones are done well, they can smell cheap and sometimes nauseating. But with this line, the scent is still sweet, and highly feminine, but it is quite subtle in a way.

And in the case of the ‘Soak Opera’, the scent has been transferred well. But unfortunately, in my opinion, neither the bubbles or the smell remains when bathing. The bubbles disappear fairly quickly, and the scent just goes. And despite it also being marketed as a shower gel, the fragrance doesn’t remain either when being used that way. I do use it fairly liberally, and apply it to a loofah before washing my body, and despite it foaming up well, it doesn’t leave any gorgeous smells behind, which my Dove body wash does. And for a product that has such promise, this is a really unfortunate touch.

But, for a gorgeously marketed bottle, and quite a generous size at that, I will keep adding it to my bath.

The ‘Blissful Mistful’ (Original Collection) and ‘Lets Spritz’ (Tutti Fruity) Body Mist.

Now, if there’s one thing you need to know about me, is that I love body sprays. Not because I smell uneccessarily bad, or have a serious sweating problem, but because they are cheaper versions of perfume that can easily be bought, re-bought and if you break them or lose them it’s not something that is too upsetting. And they just add a refreshing boost anytime during the day, and you can easily store them in your bag.

And I have used the ‘Blissful Mistful’ scent for nearly a year now. And by the level of my bottle, it is safe to say I’ve used it a generous amount.

The ‘Blissful Mistful’ scent is from the original line, and has the floral/vanilla signature fragrance from the first collection. It comes in a glass, square bottle, with a reddish bronze colour lid and a polka-dot back. Now, for a scent that is under £10, it has got quite a good, light and summery scent that appeals to all ages, but like I said, for a scent under £10, it lasts a good few hours. Apparently it has Vitamin E oil in the fragrance too, which is also super moisturising for the skin. But like I said before, fragrances are a really personal touch, so I thoroughly recommend that you try it out before you buy. But to me, the scent is quite classical, clean and floral. And for £8, it can’t be missed.

And the ‘Lets Spritz’ Body Mist. Now, the Tutti Fruity collection is the perfect accessory for summer, as it’s not florally, but has a zesty, citrus fragrance that is very reminiscent of actual Tooty Fruity sweets. And with the high water content, and lack of oil with these body mists, they don’t linger on the skin in a sticky manner, but need constant reapplication. Which can be either good for people who want that burst of scent, or bad for fans of long-lasting perfume. Now, out of my two body sprays, I prefer the packaging of this one. With white lace detailing being visible through the back, a purple tint on the fluid itself and contrasting blue-greeny font and lid, which also has white polka-dots, this looks adorable on every surface. However, despite this burst of scent being fresh and not an overwhelming, or headachey smell, it disappears very quickly. I’ve timed it wearing off in about an hour. But, I guess for £8, it could be forgiven.

So a round up – if you want floral, sweet scents that stay on your skin – try the ‘Blissful Misful’, but if you want citrus, fruity scents that need a bit more application, give the ‘Lets Spritz’ a try. I keep both of them in my handbag, for the days when I want to feel a bit refresher, and not care about reapplication.

‘Zoella Eyes’ Makeup Bag

This bag is probably one of my most used, and useFUL pieces in the collection. Decorated in a bright scheme of aqua and coral polka-dots, as well as having a print of Zoe’s own made-up eyes, the bag is not only 100% PVC on the outside, therefore making it wipe-clean, but also spacious and roomy. Now, before my cosmetics grew just a tad too big for a regular size makeup bag, I used this as a everyday bag, and it has now downgraded to my everyday bits-and-bobs case. With it, I can easily store:

  • Folded-up full case of baby wipes
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Toothpaste
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Deodrants – roll on and spray
  • Body spray
  • Hairclips
  • Hairbands
  • Mini hairbrush

So, as you can see, it does store a lot of the essentials. However, one criticism I do have for it is that the interior is fabric, so it can get very dirty, very easily. However, the print, fairly good price of £8, and design that doesn’t necessarily scream ‘Zoella Beauty’ so will appeal to people who want to own a piece of YouTube merchandise without necessarily shouting about it, is worth it all. It’s a good size, surprisingly roomy and can fit in most bags as a travel makeup bag, or an emergency kit.

The ‘Scrubbing Me Softly’ Body Scrub.

Another surprisingly good quality product. This scrub is to be applied on damp, tough skin and to just exfoliate the dead stuff away. What I was impressed by is the price against the quality and longevity of this product. For £6, this 280g tub is guaranteed to last a long time, as the texture of this product isn’t soft and can be easily used up quickly. It comes out as quite a hard, but malleable texture that feels thick and unwieldy at first application, but I guess due to body heat, it melts slightly and can be easily spread. Enriched with blueberry and acai, this product not only keeps its fragrance long after application – which was my issue with Zoella’s own bath products – but it really does do the job. It seems to get all the dead skin away to leave a smooth skin surface. Also, with conditioning cocoa butter, this not only exfoliates but conditions, so you don’t necessarily have to moisturise afterwards. 

With adorable packaging of a light lemon, and dark pink highlights, I am tempted to say this is my favourite product out of the whole Tutti Fruitti line.

So, what is my overall opinion on Zoella Beauty?

As, I’ve said before, this is only a cross-section of the products, so if you want a more overall and better reviewer of every single product, I’m sure there is others out there. But in my opinion, Zoella has created a substainable beauty line that smells gorgeous, is a fairly reasonable price for her target audience and has given us all good quality products that I won’t be afraid to re-buy when I run out. And with two lines, she shows that she can bring out different scents that smell equally as good, and that she can go into different areas of body creams with the write blend of good packaging, good ingredients and good marketing campaigns. Like I said before, my only gripe is that I wish the products would have a scent that remained on the skin for longer, and truthfully, that there were more options.

Overall Review – 3/5