Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity Book 2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


Last year, I got the chance to review the wonderful kick off of the Monsters of Verity series, This Savage Song on my blog, and I loved it!

So when Titan Books sent me the sequel and conclusion to this series (without even requesting it, so a huge thank you to Titan Books for keeping me in mind), I was thrilled. Obviously, I had to do a reread of the first book, and I fell back in love with the world that Schwab created, along with the badass characters that she wrote about.

Without giving too much away, Our Dark Duet is set six months after the big climatic end of This Savage Song, and the world of Verity is thrown into chaos. With the monster issue really becoming a problem, and war between human and creature becoming an inevitable reality, we follow as our protagonists battle to save their cities along with themselves. August has become the leader he never really wanted to be, and Kate has become the hunter she always knew she could become. But when a new monster comes into a fold – a monster that seems unstoppable, uncatchable but reaping devasting power, Kate and August are thrown together again in a battle that will determine the real winners. Lives will be lost, blood will be spilled and sacrifices will be made9781785652769.

Our Dark Duet shows real character growth, as both August and Kate have to deal with relationship issues from newcomers, along with having to confront demon’s from their past. Schwab has maintained this easy flow of writing that I commented upon in the first book, and she has once again made the story very readable and addictive from the first page.

With a new monster coming into the fold, this gave the novel a much-needed kick that I was hoping it would have. This Savage Song did leave the story
off with a good cliffhanger, but I didn’t think it would be enough for the entire book to be based around, as I felt it would’ve weakened the storytelling. So to have a brand new nemesis mixing with the older ones became very effective.

However, I do have some criticisms about this novel. I felt the solution to the new monster’s death was a bit rushed and didn’t feel as strong as it could’ve been, along with the speed of the final battle. There were also character’s who seemed relatively important at first, and then really disappear without a trace. Having them come back into the narrative would’ve been a cool little reminder for me.

But this was a good conclusion for the Monsters of Verity series. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

Our Dark Duet is out on the 13th June – preorder now.

La La Land (2016) – Film Review.

Title: La La Land

Cast: Ryan GoslingEmma StoneJohn LegendRosemarie DeWitt

Director: Damien Chazelle 

Genres: Musical, Drama, Modern Classic

Rating: 5/5


Tipped for a flurry of wins at this years Oscars, and already scooping 7 awards at the Golden Globes, La La Land has been the film that everybody has been talking about this January. Initially, I wasn’t sure of what to make of it, due to the sheer amount of press attention and comments I’ve heard from various people, but thought it was high time to check it out. Safe to say, as soon as the credits went down, I was hooked.

Written as a love letter to Hollywood, this halycon romance showcases everything bright and beautiful about Los Angeles, as well as touching on the Golden Age of cinema, the dizzying heights of early-day love and how dreams can be achieved, but to what sacrifice.

We follow the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress turned on-set barista, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a cynical jazz pianist. With adorable meet-cutes, this couple fall in love and each push the other to achieve their dreams. However, when Sebastian is given a rhetorical Golden Ticket for his rs-la-la-land-3d3a431a-8329-4539-b953-51e2d61a396cmusical career, we watch as the couple struggle with long-distance romance and broken promises. Set amongst modern-day Los Angeles decor, this film reeks 1950s architecture, culture and clothing. With the atypical ‘burst-into-song-at-any-random-moment’ bits of traditional musicals, La La Land will not only guarantee to make you smile, but also want to jump on the next plane to LAX.

This movie is not only beautifully shot, but saturated with primary colours and heady extended dancing shots. Both Stone and Gosling play off each other well, and there is clear chemistry between the two actors. The audience are fully aware that they’re not Fred and Ginger, nor the best singers, but they make the dancing and singing work with their natural talent. This is writer-director Damien Chazelle’s second musical since Whiplash, and the director has not failed to deliver.

If you’re expecting a heady movie that is very plot driven, La La Land isn’t the one for you. This is more of an experience, and it has been remarked that this movie has done to musicals ‘what The Artist did for silent movies’ by The Guardian. For fans of feel good movies like Moulin Rouge, Casablanca and Singin’ in the Rain, I’d thoroughly recommend this movie.

La La Land is out in cinemas now.

My Roman Rendezvous – Day 1 (Planning, Prices and Travelling)

Apologies for this not going up sooner – I took some much needed Christmas/New Year break out to spend with family. Regular Sunday scheduling will be coming back soon.


Every year, my mother and I have tried to go abroad and visit somewhere together. We did Paris (the whole saga you can read about on this blog) a few years ago, and earlier in the year, we decided to book a week in Rome – a city that I’ve studied extensively through my Classical Civilisations course.

Now, Rome holds a very special place in my heart. After studying and reading all about it, I knew it was somewhere where I was dying to get to. Unlike Paris, which was something I booked all by myself, we decided to try out a travel agency and went with Thomsons (a UK-based agency).

We flew from London Stansted, which is bit of a way outside the city, especially as we had to travel from a family member’s house. But after arriving after about three hours on the coach, we got into Stansted for the flight. I’ve only flown a few times in my life, and Rome was easily my longest flight yet. But the connection was smooth, and thanks to our travel agency, we had a transfer to the airport into Rome City Centre. The airport (Rome’s Ciampino) is the smaller one, but located closer to the city than the larger Leonard da Vinci – Fiumincino airport. The transfer time was just under half an hour due to traffic issues.

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Image credit – Hotels.com

Whilst arriving in Rome, we were taken straight to our hotel. Situated just Via Cavour, and on Via Principe Amedeo, The Hotel Giglio Dell’Opera was just under 5 minutes from the central railway station (Termini) which has connections all over the city. The hotel is also surrounded by tourist giftshops, restaurants and is just under 18 minutes walk to the Colosseum along a relatively straight route.

The hotel was comfortable, with an incredibly helpful management team. Our room was fairly standard, with a big open window, clean bathroom and fresh linen every day. However, like I’ve stated before, as long as the room is clean and comfortable, I’m not that bothered about the aesthetics.

For a charge, the hotel lets you use the WiFi and there is a comfortable lounge and bar section for coffee and alcoholic beverages. Downstairs there is also a fairly large breakfast room, which my mother and I used to fill up on for the day. The breakfast was fairly simple and continental but had delicious pastries and coffees.

However, please be aware that there are city taxes in Rome for tourists. For us, it was €3.00 per night, per person which wasn’t too bad. You usually pay this for the hotel, or could possibly organise it through your travel company.

For our entire trip; flights, connections and hotel, it was around £300 each. Now for the location of the hotel (very central, clean and quiet), this was a fantastic deal. I’d happily pay this again for the ease of travel and staying. On top of this, we also must have paid about £100 extra for other expenses (coach and train tickets, tourist attractions in Rome etc).
Rome isn’t a particularly expensive city if you don’t eat in fancy restaurants, fill up on breakfast and perhaps grab pizza from local eateries for lunch, rather than have sit-down meals. As it is quite a small city, we barely used any public transport – only a bus to and from the Vatican – and we happily strolled through the late-April heat.

In my next blogpost, I’ll be describing the first day of our holiday, in which we decided to visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

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Winter Wardrobe – Adore Me and My Top 3 Outfits.

With the winter months closing in, and the glint of Christmas on the horizon, there is no doubt in my mind that my favourite time of year is officially here.

Now, my life is pretty hectic at the moment. I’m a full-time Masters Student, who has two other side jobs, along with maintaining time to see my friends/boyfriend. So, when the lovely sleepwear team at Adore Me reached out to me and invited me to do a flat-lay piece (something I’ve always wanted to do, but never tried it yet) about some of my favourite lingerie/outfit ideas, I thought it would be a great idea to incorporate three of my typical outfits all in one post.

So here are my three go-to looks for the big areas in my life:

Work/University

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When I go to University/Work, I find that I want to look smart but ultimately be comfortable. This navy dress is knee-length, so I usually pair it with some tights and a cardigan, and with the statement lace collar, I find that that’s enough of an accessory to make my outfit complete. For a smarter look you could dress it up with a blazer and heels, but I usually go for flats. These black ballet pumps are always going to be classic, yet the sweet cat face gives the shoes a quirky touch to dress it up. For lingerie, this bra is a go-to for me. I love it so much, I have the same design in a number of colours. With minimal detailing on the cups, it doesn’t show through the fabric of the dress, yet gives me enough boost and support to make it ridiculously comfortable.

Date Night

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Like most girls in relationships, I love dressing out and going out with my boyfriend for dinner/dates. For date-night outfits, I try to keep it quite simple, and let my heels/jewellery do the talking. This simple LBD is a really tried-and-tested favourite of mine, and with the simple neckline but statement cutout sides, I feel it gives the dress some edge. My heels are these gorgeous lace-up booties, which are ridiculously cute but always quite comfortable. If I want to make this into quite a fancy night out, I may wear some statement tights, or even fishnets to make it a little sexier.

This bra is the ultimate thing in padding and push-up. The deep red colour makes it feel quite saucy to wear, and I always feel at my fanciest whilst wearing it.

Loungewear.

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With Christmas fast approaching, I love digging out some Xmas jammies and getting cosy for a night by the fire. These pyjamas are new, but I can really see myself living in them for the next few months. The Grinch is one of my favourite Christmas movies, and I just couldn’t say no to them in the shop. This polka-dot bra is another really cosy piece of lingerie that I love wearing. With minimal padding, it feels almost like a bralet/sports bra, which is perfect for those lazy evenings. I also find the thicker straps to be really comfortable to wear.

This was a super fun post to do, and I really found it fun to think and pair my outfits together.

Visit Adore Me for a subscription service for lingerie and underwear! For all sizes and all types, Adore Me will blow you away with their amazing prices and deals.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Book Review.

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Self-Help, Mind, Body and Spirit, Healthy Living


 

I must confess I’m not one for traditional self-help books. I’ve also considered these sorts of books to be mantra-chanting-full-of-pity accounts, and never picked one up to read. However, when Bloomsbury sent me Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to review, I was intrigued by the front cover, and subtitle of ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear’.

As an English Masters student and budding writer, I knew how challenging living creatively could be, and as an author who stayed on the New York Bestsellers List for 3 years, I felt she could be somebody to look up too.

So I picked up this book without any knowledge or expectations of whether it would help, me but I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Big Magic follows Gilbert’s own creative processes, and from that, she imparts her wisdom/tips and tricks in order to get people think and living creatively. She offers insights into the writing process, inspiration, making new ways of work, embarking on dreams or just adding a little bit of mindfulness and passion into our everyday lives, whilst never feeling too lecture-y or self-pitying. img_3534

The book is split into six sections, which lead naturally into each other, and really are enjoyable reads.  Gilbert’s writing style is fluid, natural and remarkably unpretentious for a NYT Best Selling Author, and she seems to take on the world with wonder and majesty. She is aware that her own successes are amazing, yet she comments mainly on the joy of writing. The author also divulges the reader into her own backstory and upbringing, but doesn’t separate that from her message of living in a magical and creative way.

One thing I love about this book is her theory about ideas as sort of visceral beings that chose owners and you have to work with it. This really spoke to me, and I found myself taking real note from this book.

There has been some critics of this book, and it is true, it wouldn’t have been published if it wasn’t for the soaraway success of Eat, Pray, Love, but I personally don’t care about this.

I found this book to be a interesting read that helped me structure and subtly change my views on creativity. Whether or not I change my writing style or how I write, is a separate matter, but all in all I found this book to be a light, whimsical read that will, above all things, make you want to take up a pen, paintbrush or video camera and get creative.

 

Big Magic is available now through Bloomsbury Publishing House

 

 

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) – Film Review

Title: David Brent: Life on the Road

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Mandeep Dhillon

Director: Ricky Gervais

Genres: Comedy, British Sit-Com, Comedy, Mockumentary

Rating: 3/5


I’m not the biggest television watcher. I usually find things on Netflix, or on iPlayer catchup. But when it comes to actual sitting-down-television watching, it’s not really my thing. However, there is one thing that I love, and would happily sit down to watch, and that is good British comedy. Harking back to The Two Ronnies, Open david-brent-lor-main-posterAll Hours, Only Fools and Horses and Steptoe and Son, British situation comedys (sitcoms) will guarantee to put a smile on my face, and provide an easy and funny watching experience.

But there is one series that I have watched time after time again, and that is the 2001-2003 BBC mockumentary series, The Office. Following a fictional paper merchants, and the day-to-day life of its employees, The Office has a host of lovable and hilarious characters. But, to me, there is one standout character. And that is the irritating manager, David Brent.

Ricky Gervais’ character of the hapless, hilarious and dreadfully un-PC office manager garnered legions of fans, who tuned in weekly to see his antics, and after The Office finished its run, fans were left with a hole in their lives.

However, when it was announced that Gervais would bring his character back to life in a feature length film, there were mixed reactions. However, after seeing it last week, I was pleased to say that the film felt fresh, but with all the charm of The Office.

Over ten years have passed since we last left David Brent. And now, the middle-aged and largely friendless rep has decided that he wants one last hurrah into the music world, and re-visit the music world of his youth. Bringing back his old (with none of the original members) band, Foregone Conclusion, Brent finances an ill-fated tour around the South East, and lives out his dream of pop stardom.

Overall, I’d say this film was a light-hearted, laugh out loud journey. It was never meant to be serious, nor did David Brent necessarily have to change as a character. He was always going to have this vein of being un-PC, yet in this film we do see more of a sensitive side to Brent. His dealings with mental health issue, loneliness and romance were always brushed off in a typical funny manner, yet felt very personal if you explore it.

For me, the songs were the funniest parts, as the lyrics were so offensive that they couldn’t work in any other scenario other than with David Brent. The humour was often light, off-handed comments that almost make you double take, and the storyline was quite sweet in the way that Brent never stopped believing or dreaming.

What I was very happy about is the fact that the jokes were all fresh material, and it wasn’t a compilation from the series. Unfortunately, as I stated in my Absolutely Fabulous review, this happened in that film, and felt very disappointing.

The David Brent movie isn’t meant to be hard-hitting movie, and may not appeal to fans of the show who found David Brent irritating, but I found it funny and lighthearted.

The film is out now.life-on-the-road

 

 

 

Healthy Snacks + Superb Smoothies.

Feature image credit – Mitch Altman

If you’re like me, you’ll agree that makeup does hide a multitude of sins. It can make our cheeks look chiselled, colour our lips a deep plum or ruby red, or give us cat eyes that even Cleopatra would’ve been proud of.

However, we all know that it doesn’t matter what we do with the powers of Beauty Blenders and foundation, if we don’t eat the right sort of food, it’ll leave its tell-tale marks on our skin.nuts.com_summer_glow_x2_v04 (1)

With bloating, bad skin conditions and an overall just tired look, your body and skin takes a real beating down. I was inspired by Nuts.com to write this post on healthy snacks for healthy skin.

(Now, I’m not a wizzkid or expert in healthy eating. I could easily eat custard creams until the cows came home. But I am passionate about doing little changes to your diet that will help you feel and look healthier)

1: Healthy Snacks

We’ve all been guilty of it. Whether you work from home, in an office, on the go or just in an environment where you can get access to food, snacking can be inevitable. And ‘bad snacking’ on biscuits, cakes, crisps or chocolate, is particularly rife because they are SO moreish. So what I’ve started to do is pack a little snack box of trail mixed and assorted fruits. My personal box contains:

And I find that only a small handful will get me fuller, give me more flavour and more texture than regular refined sugary snacks. I’ve never managed to eat my entire snack box, and can barely eat a third during the day due to how filling it can be. These snackboxes also last a pretty long time, so can be eaten over a few days, and will be the perfect addition to any pantry/larder.

Also, sometimes I add some berries into the mix. Berries such as blackberries, blueberries and boysenberries are great antioxidants and really promote skin clearing. I suffer from keratosis pilaris, and have found that eating foods rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin A foods can really impact on how clear the skin can look.

2: Super Smoothies

At this present time in my life, I’m constantly on the go. I always find time to sit down and eat main meals (such an important thing to do for digestive reasons), but for snacking and drinking, it’s an entirely different story.

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Image credit – Quinn Dombrowski

That’s why I love smoothies so much. Smoothies, when made with the right and healthy ingredients can fill a stomach up and can be sipped everywhere. If I’ve got an really early start, I find myself making a smoothie to be a good replacement for a sit-down breakfast, as I can’t eat really early. Smoothies fill me up until my next meal, and they can made of all sorts of crazy things.

My favourite breakfast smoothie is taken from Deliciously Ella’s book:

  • 2 bananas
  • 2 handfuls of frozen berries
  • ½ a cup of hazelnut milk
  • 3 tbsp oats
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Wizzing them up in a blender until smooth gives you a delicious and filling smoothie. Also, with the added cacao nibs, this gives the smoothie a decadent chocolatey taste for a morning treat. Or, why don’t you add a shot of iced coffee to give you a morning caffeine boost.

 

So, I hope this blogpost has helped at all. Like I said, I’m not an expert/trained in nutrition, but I’ve found this works for me. Careful of allergies if you’re going to try any of these recipes out.