2018 – The Year in Roundup & How I Smashed My Goals.

So we’re just under two weeks away from the end of 2018, and what a year it’s been. I’m currently writing this on a blustery Saturday night, in my new home, with our Christmas lights ablaze and my partner starting dinner. And when I started this year, I never even thought this could be a possibility.

So, what was 2018 like for me? I’ll tell you.

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Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company 2016 Production) – Theatre Review.

Title: Hamlet

Cast: Paapa Essiedu, Marcus Griffiths, Tanya Moodie, Cyril Nri, Natalie Simpson, Clarence Smith, Ewart James Walters, James Cooney, Bethan Cullinane.

Director: Simon Godwin

Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


As I’ve said before, being an English student has given me the opportunity to watch dozens of adaptations, performances, reimaginations and versions of William Shakespeare’s plays. Howevhamlet_production_photos_march_2016_2016_photo_by_manuel_harlan_c_rsc_187355-tmb-img-820er, when I had the privilege to watch the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, I felt like I was watching something entirely new and entirely different.

Although still set nominally in Denmark, the play gives us something new and takes on a west African flavour. With cultural heritage and identity crisis at its core, Hamlet is first shown at his graduation ceremony oversees, but the death of his father makes him rush home to a country that he now feels completely lost in. And with the subsequent marriage of his mother to his father’s brother (later revealed his father’s power-hungry murderer), Hamlet is completely lost in the Danish court.

For the first time in RSC’s 55-year history, the titular character of Hamlet was given to a black actor. And what a marvel he has turned out to be. Paapa Essiedu shone with all the poise and calm of a seasoned actor, but with the young age of 25 and a baby-face to match, it is clear that this young man will become something of a success story in the coming years. When he spoke the immortal and well-loved soliloquy starting with ‘To be or not to be’, it was then we saw the once-suited and smart Prince turn into something new. We watch as tears roll down his face, his eyes half-closed and as though the words are tumbling from his mind. It is then we see Hamlet’s descent into madness and despair.

The cast were all beautifully selected, and fit in their respective roles well. We see Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (portrayed by Tanya Moodie) fall from a dignified and regal queen, into a shell-shocked mess, and Natalie Simpson’s Ophelia is sweet, suitably sassy and cocky in the first half, but distressingly unhinged towards the end. Edward James Walters also gave a chilling performance as the Ghost, as he rose in a mist of dry ice and traditional African costume, and Clarence Smith’s Claudius was sleek and well mannered. However, one of my personal favourite’s was definitely the portrayal of Polonius. Cyril Nr'Hamlet' Play directed by Simon Godwin performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, UKi has given Polonius a new breath of life, by making him somewhat of a court jester, as well as a scatty and fussy parent.

With Hamlet, so much has been done with it in the past, it may have been challenging to breath new life into this timeless play. However, with a thrilling soundtrack of drums, limb-jerking dancing and graffiti, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet is visceral, raw and gives us a rising star who doesn’t so much as shine but blaze as our mercurial Dane.

Hamlet is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until August 13th. Book now, or see it live at participating cinemas. Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company website for dates.

 

 

A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

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Tour dates and relevant blogs to visit!

Less FOMO, More GOMO! – Summer Plans and Enjoying Yourself!

With summer approaching at a frankly alarming pace, it’s definitely time for us to shack off our winter blues and coats, stuff them into a corner and pull on our dusty sunglasses and straw hats. So, with the help of Eventbrite and their wonderful summer campaign of putting our FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to bed, and embracing the GOMO (Going Out More Often), I’ve decided to share my own summer plans, and what to do when you’re on a tight budget, or just a little stuck for plans in this hot next couple of months.

1: Book a holiday!pirate-bay-staniel-cay-3

Now, I start on a high note, I realise this. People view holidays as expensive and tiring, but this doesn’t have to be the case. When I say holiday, I mean just time away from your normal life. If you want to have a holiday, but don’t fancy the exotic, book a stay-cation in your county or country. Stay-cations can be reasonably inexpensive, and can have all the feel of a new place, but with the familiarity of the language, currency and culture. Or just spend a night away from your house, and have a new view to wake up. Sometimes breaking the routine can really help you get in touch with yourself as a person, and not just a worker or whatever role you live your day to day life in.

This summer I’m flying over to Ireland and seeing extended family. I haven’t been to Ireland since I was quite young, so I’m excited to explore the country of my ancestors, and being able to reconnect with my roots.

2: Do something that scares you… Even once!

This is both a big and a small point. Scary things don’t necessarily come in packages of spiders, heights or small spaces, but in trying something new, or something that you never thought you wocomfortzone1uld do. But this is the summer of reinvention. So even for one hour in a day, do something that will genuinely scare you. For some people this is travelling, or buying and wearing a bikini in public. For some it’s going out socially, or conquering old fears. But once you’ve done it, the feeling of accomplishment will outweigh the initial fear, and you will be able to look back at that time and go ‘Yep! Well done me!’

This summer, I’ll hopefully be starting a new chapter in my working life. This wouldn’t just be a filler job, but actual experience in my chosen career path, and I’m so excited, but terrified of the future coming at me. I don’t feel ready to be an adult, and start this chapter just yet, but if I won’t do it at 22, then when will I?

3: Go to a concert or live music event.

It was Victor Hugo who said ‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent’, and this is a sentiment I love living by. Listening to your iPod when you’re running day to day errands, or on the commute from work fills an-argument-for-live-music1up those empty hours, and gives you something to look forward to. So why not actually witness it live? There is nothing I love better than going to a gig that I’ve been looking forward to, and hearing my favourite songs being played loud and proud in a room full of equally excited fans. Live music gets you dancing, gets you excited and gets conversations going between like-minded people, and even if the concert wasn’t particularly memorable, I’m sure the experience would be.

And this summer will be a huge one for live music. And whether you want to pay a  lot, or just find something free and local, it’ll always been something to reminisce on.

This summer I’m going to see the Hoosiers perform with my best friend, and I cannot wait!

So, these are my little summery plans and experiences, and I hope I’ve prompted any readers to go out and just take this summer by the horns and live it! Because I’m sure you’ll be regretting it come the cold November nights.eventbrite_logo_gradient_v2

And if you need any more inspiration for this summer, visit Eventbrite. They are the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world, and they help people find and plan events.

 

 

My Parisian Adventure – Day 2 (Montmartre, Sacre-Cœur, The Moulin Rouge and the Avenue de l’Opéra)

Second day in Paris, and I was raring to go. After an exhausting day travelling, my mother and I slept well that night. So the next morning we were up and awake for our first proper venture in Paris itself.
My mother had always told me that since I had planned the holiday, it was ‘my holiday’ and we could virtually do whatever I wanted.
So, my itinerary consisted of:
-Montmartre
-Notre-Dame
-Bastille
-Versailles
-Pere-Lachaise Cementary
-The Moulin Rouge
-The Eiffel Tower
-The Catacombs.
-Sacre-Cœur

So, the next morning, we decided that today we would tackle Montmartre, which in turn would tick off three of my places to visit. Montmartre is a hill in the north of Paris. And like many cities, Paris is a bit like a lot of tiny villages all tied together with a metro line running through them.
Montmartre is one of those little villages. And at the very summit of this hill, sits the beautiful Sacre-Cœur – a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. Constructed from travertine stone, the building is flawlessly white, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the landscape of Paris.
T10710717_896720940338085_7403967391679834447_nhe neighbourhood of Montmartre is also historically significant as being somewhat of a cultural hotspot for artists, singers and dancers – as well as housing the Moulin Rouge.
So, naturally, as a aspiring writer, I was inspired to go to this place of such cultural richness.
So the next morning, we set out. Now, getting from our flat to Montmartre was of course a metro journey. We went from Jaurés to Abbesses – which required a cross from Line 2 to Line 12 at Pigalle, but the journey wasn’t too long. And as I mentioned before, Montmartre is hilly. It takes good calf muscles to trek up those cobbled streets, but as we learnt later there is actually a small railway which carts you up from the bottom of the hill to Sacre-Cœur in under two minutes. So if you’re with elderly people/children and buggies – it may be worth considering.

But mother and I soldiered on. We moved through tiny streets of cobbled beauty, passing delicious smelling bakeries with stunning cakes and delicacies in the windows, and everywhere you looked, there were tiny balconies and filigree window panes, which made you feel that you had been transported away from the 21st century, and back to the period of having Van Gogh and Dai on your doorstep.

And of course, like any major landmarks in any cities, it was covered in tourist booths and shops, but they fit in with the quirky aesthetic that the district seemed to offer. But I was on a mission.

Onwards we soldiered to the very top of the hill, and stood in the shadow of Sacre-Cœur.
By then, we were exhausted and bought a very reasonably priced full tuna baguette from a nearby bakery (the name slips my memory, but rest assured, b10710582_896720747004771_6692114884752344325_nakeries in Paris are all delicious. Heck, even the filled baguettes we got from the local supermarket were outstanding), and we sat in a doorway directly opposite the basilica and had our lunch. Now, to me, that experience becomes one of the memories that you always look back on fondly.

Sacre-Cœur is a beautiful piece of architecture, and anybody who knows me knows that one of my biggest fascination’s in life, is with good architecture, so of course we went inside. It’s beautiful, peaceful and not as big as Notre-Dame, but the mosaic that is depicted within the ceiling of Jesus with a flaming heart is certainly breathtaking.
We lit candles for our relatives, and just took in this spectacle. It was cool, dark and a true sanctuary against the midday sun. And when we exited, we crossed ourselves in Catholic tradition and stood to admire the view of Paris spread beneath us. The view of the city is almost too much. Too much to look out, and too many different things to take in. But I urge anyone to go and stand there and admire the city below. It is so worth it.

After, a short journey down Montmartre led us to w10302243_891401324203380_6280579347706735622_nhere the Moulin Rouge stood, with its giant scarlet windmill alluding back to a different time. We took pictures, and made our way on the metro to the Avenue de l’Opéra, a very beautiful part of the Paris, which to me is the sort of Chelsea/Sloane Square of the entire city. Full of elegant shops, expensive boutiques and once again, beautiful infrastructure, the area just seems to give off the scent of wealth and elegance at its highest. We quickly visited the Fragonard Museum of Perfume on the Rue Scribe, which offers an interesting and rich history over how perfume has changed over the years, and then we sat down at Cafe de l’Olympia, and had our first crepe and hot chocolate of the trip.

There is so much to do in the city, that a simple excursion tired us out. However, the next day, I took mother on a proper walking holiday across the city, and we saw a lot of beautiful sites and got quite sunburnt.

 

My Parisian Adventure – Day 1 (Planning, The Apartment and the Journey)

In the summer of 2014, my Mum and I decided to go to Paris for a holiday. Now, I’ve been to Paris once before, but that was when I was fairly young and we did Disney and seeing family. But for this holiday, it was the first one I planned. I wrote about the first three days on my old blog, and found it to be a good way to travel down memory lane. So, I thought I’d include a line of blogposts about my experiences in travelling to Paris and what I got up too.

The planning took about six months.
Research went into restaurants, tourist attractions, apartment rentals, hotels, flights, Eurostar deals, Metro lines, RER timetables and supermarkets. I’m a very particular person and when it comes to visiting a foreign country, I go by the belief ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’. However, do not be alarmed! If you do find yourself in the French capital without any sense of direction or clue, it is so well signposted in both English and French it is quite difficult to get lost. The Metro (in my experiences) also runs quite regularly and with accuracy, and if you follow the major tourist attractions, you will navigate Paris with ease.

But for my particular holiday, I did plan every conceivable outcome.

So, where did we stay? My mother and I both agreed that we would rather stay in a apartment rather than a hotel. It would give us more privacy, and we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning or evening for set meals. We would be able to come and go as we pleased, and we could just relax.

So, I went on trusty old Google, and took on the difficult task of finding a centrally-located Parisian flat for reasonable prices.
Now, staying in Paris is just like staying in any major city. There are neighbourhoods to avoid, and places without good transport links into the centre. Also, if you are travelling into Paris via the Eurostar, it’s handy to have your base somewhere that is within reach of Gare Du Nord.

And after much umm-ing and ahh-ing, I finally decided on the sweet little rental of Studio Villette.872528_gallery

Studio Villette is a nifty little studio located in the 10th arrondissement, and near Canal Saint-Martin. It is within 5 minutes of the closest metro line (either Colonel Fabien, or the one we preferred, which was Jaurés) and the flat itself is in a very secure and quiet courtyard, with heavy doors, keypads and two sets of keys keeping you away from the street. As tourists, we found that using Jaurés was the best Metro station for us, as finding it was just a simple right-turn down the boulevard from your front door, and it is also near various supermarkets and delicious little restaurants. The Metro also ran every five minutes or so, and from Jaurés (with Line 5) you could reach the Bastille and Gare d’Austerlitz (from which you can go out of the city, and to places such as Versailles with). The neighbourhood was typical of anywhere you could find in any major city, and since we spent the majority of our time outside of our little location, it quickly became a comfortable place to go and have dinner.

We booked through the Roomorama.co.uk site, and found the prices extremely competitive, and for a week and splitting the costs, Paris suddenly became very affordable.
The studio was exactly what we wanted. With two beds (one being a queen-size and one being a single sofa-bed) it suited our needs down the ground, and with a little kitchen and bathroom, it was a place to go back and relax after a day of exploring the city. It also came with free high-speed Wifi, which the code was supplied after booking.

The owner, Maud was extremely welcoming and she gave brilliant directions on how to retrieve the keys, and left city guides for us. Also, for extra cost, she also supplied bedding and towels.
This apartm872519_galleryent easily took myself and my mother, and I’m sure it could could cater for three people sharing too. So I thoroughly recommend it, and will include links below to where we booked and the main website that it is listed under.

Now, I live in the South-West of England. So getting anywhere can be a right pain. Getting the train to London takes about six hours, and flying is ridiculously over-priced. Now, Paris was going to be a pricey holiday anyway, and the Eurostar for us cost about £70 each and we needed to get up to London for the early afternoon and through the cheapest method.
So my mother and I booked a National Express coach. We would leave at 4 in the morning, and get to London Victoria Coach Station at around 12.30.
Which we did. And the journey was long, yes. So tiring and so long as it disturbed our night sleep, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. There were comfortable seats, an on-board toilet, plug sockets and you were allowed to bring cold food and hot beverages with lids.
And it cost both of us £25 each.
Bearing mind this is from the farthest point away and was a return journey.
£25 was nothing.
So we arrived at Victoria, and caught the tube to St. Pancras, and began the checking in, which required tickets, passport etc. It’s a good idea to get yourself to the station about 45 minutes beforehand, just due to the fact that booking in and boarding the train can be time-consuming. Within St. Pancras they have a lot of amenities for holidays, but after checking in, the booths they have are over-priced and a lot like the ones you get in airports, so either be prepared to fork out for expensive sandwiches to eat on the train, or eat and buy beforehand.

eurostar-2ndclass-refurb2The Eurostar itself is a fairly nondescript service. It takes around 2 and a half hours, and you spend the majority of that above ground and looking at the countryside. Like other trains, they have bars on the train, in which towards the end of the journey you can buy Metro/Oyster cards, depende
nt on which way you’re travelling. However, these seemed like a lot of money for us, so we decided to wait until we got to Gare Du Nord, buy a single Metro ticket to get to our apartment and deal with the rest of the weeks journey the day after.
This suited us, but if you wish to be prepared, you could just go through the Eurostar and buy beforehand.

We arrived at Gare Du Nord around 4.30 in the evening, and began to start the last leg of our journey to our apartment. As I said, we bought the single Metro tickets (T+ ticket) which were around 1.70 Euros per travel, so not too bad.
Also, word of warning – if you wish to buy Metro tickets from the little machines, you need the exact money via coins to pay or a card. A lot of these machines don’t have paper money slots.
Our Metro journey was short but tiring, and finding the apartment was the typical first-day-getting-lost-which-direction-am-I-going strife. But after we dumped our bagscroque, we had a stroll down the boulevard and found a little restaurant on the corner where we had a delicious dinner of Croque-Monsieur, salad and chips. The restaurant was called Le Conservatoire, and I’ll list the address below. They serve a variety of meals, large portions for fairly good prices. Mother and I ate there three out of five nights, and despite the waiter not speaking much French, we got a friendly welcome.
All in all, we were travelling for twelve hours that day in different ways, so naturally we were exhausted.

So, that is my first day all sorted. Links for any necessary sites are below, and I’ll continue my Parisian posts in the next few weeks.

Studio Villette on Roomorama 

ParisHomes.Fr – Website featuring Parisian flats to rent. 

Le Conservatoire hklj

 

Winter Wedding Ideas!

A few weeks ago, TheBlackTux.com asked me to write my thoughts on a ‘Winter Wedding Ideas’ blogpost. Now, despite being a 21-year old single student, I love planning and thinking about weddings, and I adore winter as a season for fashion and clothing.

So I thought I’d share some of my personal favourites if I were planning a winter wedding, and what I would love to include to make the big day as special as it could be.

1: Faux Fur Wraps.

With winter bringing the cold weather and the chill wind over the UK9101289947166.jpg, I think a white faux fur stole or wrap would be the perfect touch to any festive wedding. To me, faux fur looks so classy if done right, and there isn’t anything better than being wrapped up in a fur jacket on a icy day. So why not incorporate into your big day? Perfect for outdoor shots, and adding a little something to any strapless dress, these wraps keep your shoulders warm but let your arms and movement be relatively free.

At the moment, Monsoon are doing some beautiful wraps, and I adore this Addilyn Feather Cape, as it does add a bit of vintage/showbiz glamour, and could easily be reworn after the big day. Also, with the addition of a embellished brooch, and fine-knit fabric lining, this won’t snag or damage any  bridal dresses. And retailing at £129, I think this is a steal for your big day.

2: Irregular Choice Shoes.

Now, these are definitely a very personal favourite. Some may call them garish, tacky, and some people wouldn’t touch these shoes with a barge pole for their wedding day.

But I adore them. Irregular Choice is such a unique shop, and I adore how each shoe looks like a work of art. No matter what pair of shoes you’ll get, they will be made well and be comfortable, and they’ll definitely send out a statement on your wedding day.

My two favourites are:

7129-1-lThe ‘Grin & Tonic’ vintage style boots.

With the gorgeous lace detailing, oversized bow at the front and moderate heel, has the perfect blend between outrageous yet sensible, and the flash of blue on the sole which could be classfied as your ‘something blue AND new’.

Retailing at £115.00

 

Or:

The ‘I Love You’ heels.

Now these are so unusual, gorgeous and statement-ish, you’d struggle to find more unique and quirky shoes for your wedding. With wedding-character heels depicting a bride and groom, brocade style and applique of ‘I ♥ You’ across the toes, these shoes are genuinely a mixture between art and footwear. Also these shoes come in a ‘Mrs and Mrs’ style as well.

Retailing at £149.00

 

3: Bandelettes 

Now, I’m going to be writing my own blogpost reviewing the Bandelettes Beige 1004 Bands, but I thought I’d include them in this. For curvier girls, or people with just bigger thighs that can rub together and cause irritation, Bandelettes are godsend. In a nutshell, they artrio-back-2014e  5.5 inch Lace Bands, secured with two strips of non-slip silicone that sit on the upper parts of your thighs and give that added protection and stop skin-on-skin chafing. And for a wedding day, when you don’t want to be wearing tights, Bandelette
s provide a discreet and comfortable way to wear that beautiful gown of yours without any chafing or unneccessary pain. They come in a variety of colours, including nude and white, and are reusable.

Shipping from the US – Retailing at $15.99/£10.55

4: Book Confetti.

As this is a literary blog, I had to do something with books. So why not combine two of your favourite things, and have book confetti! To me, there would be nothing moil_570xn-673572676_3ti2
re romantic than exiting the marriage venue and have Shakespeare sonnets rain around me as confetti. A quirky touch to any wedding, and completely DIY and money-saving if you wanted it to be. However, PaperHeartCreation on Etsy has a wonderful shop full of different types and styles of confetti, for relatively cheap prices.

 

5: Bridesmaid Gifts – Silver or Gold Snowflake Necklace.

In my mind, picking bridesmaids will extremely difficult. These are the women who help you on the day, keep your nerves down, tidy up your dress and just be the best people original_gold-and-silver-rhinestone-snowflake-necklacea woman can have on her bi
g day. So naturally, you’d want to thank them for all their time and effort. And whilst pursuing notonthehighstreet.com, I found the sweetest, wintery present for those special ladies. These snowflakes necklaces would be a touching memento from your big day, and with the option of a personalised star initial charm, they can make every necklace feel entirely unique to the person. A wintery goodie for your bridesmaid!

Retailing at £15 per necklace.

So yes, here we are! These are my top 4 picks for my winter wedding inspired blogpost. A huge thank you to Sam and everyone at TheBlackTux.com for influencing this post – head over there if you want to see a good suit and tuxedo rentals.

#Ownthemoment16

Thank you for reading!

 

Book Tag Thursday – Dashing Through the Snow Tag

I was tagged by Michelle at Book Adventures for this delightfully festive tag, so here we go!

The Rules:

  • Thank the curator – (Such a cool idea, thanks Astra)
  • Tag five people to spread the Christmas joy!
  • Have fun!

♥ Name a book you would like to see under your Christmas tree.

Hans Christian Andersen: Classic Fairy Tales (Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classics)

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I’ve been really into classical/un-Disneyfied fairy stories for a while now, and I’d love to own this very beautiful copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales.

♥ A book you’ll be reading during the Christmas season?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

I’ll be reaching for the good ol’ classics this year. Going to blitz this on Christmas Eve and hopefully not be visited by any ghosts.

♥ Favourite Christmas movie

The Grinch.

dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-movie

It’s become a tradition to watch this film over the festive season. I just love this tale so much! Plus Jim Carey makes me laugh so much.

♥ Do you like snow?

I like it to look at, and to build snowmen in. I don’t like it when it becomes slushy and slippy.

♥ Name a character you would like to spend Christmas with

Harry, Hermione and Ron. Honestly, a cosy Christmas at the Burrow without any Dark Wizards would be so fun.

♥ What fictional place would you like to spend Christmas at?

Hogwarts! Can you imagine the atmosphere, the food and the magic?!

hogwarts-christmas

♥ Fondest Christmas memory?

After Christmas dinner at couple of years ago, my dad and I went for a nighttime stroll where we ended up climbing over a fence, and walking along an abandoned pier.

♥ Can you say “Christmas tree” ten times fast in a row (pronouncing it correctly!)

YES. After a few attempts.

So I tag

Have a wonderful holiday everyone!

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

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