Sunday, 27 April 2014

Book of the Week: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

"Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines - it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits."

I love reading all sorts of books. Classic literature, well known bestsellers, books that my friends rave about - to be perfectly honest, I just want to read ALL the books. Sometimes, however, the best books are the ones you've never even noticed; the ones you didn't even know were there. I picked up Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan in Waterstones only to take advantage of a 'buy one get one half price' offer. I hadn't heard anything about the book or it's author before, but it had a quirky cover and, as it was in their book club, I found myself quite intrigued. After getting through it far too quickly, I can tell you that I found it to be a wonderful read. Full of contemporary adventure, and fun little back stories, it really goes to show that the unexpected can be just what the doctor ordered.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore tells the story of, you guessed it, a 24 hour bookstore run by a man named Penumbra (oh, the obscurity). Through the eyes of Clay Jannon, an unemployed web designer in desperate need of a new job, we learn about the mystery of Mr Penumbra, and how there is more to the shelves of his humble shop than meets the eye.  A lot more in fact, that cannot be seen even if you're searching. With Clay's knowledge of technology thrown into the mix, Penumbra's loyal customers team up with Google's (yes, Google. I always forget that there are actual people that work there) most promising employees in order to crack a code that's been puzzling readers for centuries. 

The one thing I really loved about the tome was the amalgamation of old and new - the coming together of book worshippers and tech wizards in order to solve an age old mystery. I will always be a book lover, but it's so interesting to read something that has a backbone based on literature, but that so well and truly incorporates the modern world of technology into its story. For me, it was this fresh and exciting perspective that really had me hooked. It may seem a little outdated in a few years, with it's plethora of references to Kindles and Fruit Ninja, but if you're of my generation, you'll love all of these contemporary allusions. I think delving back in in years to come will be a great blast from the past, reminding me of all those technological crazes that we love right now, but that will be long forgotten by then. 

Not a particularly deep read, it's a lot of fun, and had me smirking away to myself more than once. I'd consider this a great holiday pick for those who aren't huge fans of chick lit, or the soppy romantic stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I love a bit of Cecelia Ahern as much as the next girl but, to be honest, Sloan's writing is a lot more my cup of tea. So there you go - a quick, light review of a quick, light read. If you're not sold yet, Google it. There are actual people that work there, don't you know.

Have you read Sloan's contemporary tome? Are you a book or a Kindle girl? Let me know!


Friday, 25 April 2014

Something Beginning With...D: Diet

This week, I thought I'd cover something completely new to the world of Squares (the blog, not me). I wanted my Something Beginning With D to be a little different than a bog standard beauty post because, let's be honest, as much as we love them, they can get a tad repetitive. With that in mind, Diet will be the topic of today's post. Please don't misunderstand me, I hate the concept of dieting - to me they're just fads that go out of style faster than the last season's lippy. Anyone remember Atkins? Yep, me neither. I do, however, wholly believe in maintaining a healthy diet, and eating all the foods you like in moderation. Over the past few years I've really started to realise that no amount of miracle skin cream is going to make you glow if you're constantly chowing down on crisps and coke. Beauty comes from within, and that's a fact that often gets underestimated. Since ditching the brownies for bananas, I can honestly tell you that it has made a noticeable difference to my skin and hair as well as my health. Still, I'm by no means a health nut - long live the binge day - but I thought I'd put together a little something, sharing with you the small changes I've implemented that have made all the difference. 

Get Some Nuts

I love a cheeky snack between meals. My grazing food of choice was once the coveted Custard Cream, or a sneaky bag of ready salted. However, since around Christmas time (not AT Christmas time I must quickly add - be serious), I've been swapping out my fatty snacks for seeds, nuts, raisins and the like. No good if you have a nut allergy of course, but I find them equally delicious, and the natural fats in them are really good for you. Hazelnuts and almonds are my fave, and I'm quite partial to a nice walnut every now and again. Admittedly, I have had a bit of a relapse recently, since starting an internship with a steady stream of Kit-Kats at my disposal, but I've definitely streamlined the snacking over the past few months. I also make an effort to incorporate healthy things into my breakfast. A sprinkling of flaxseed on my morning porridge, or a blueberry or two mixed into some greek yoghurt. There's one of your five a day before you've even started! So there you go - step one of my new healthier diet. And the occasional Snickers never hurt anyone now, did it?

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away 

I actually think it might, you know. Apples, as well as being full of nutritious fruity goodness, are known in the beauty world for their marvellous detoxing qualities. So, like a kindergarten cliche, I've taken to popping an apple in my daily lunchbox. You really can't ever have enough fruit! Which brings us onto my next point...

Juice, Juice Juice!

Like the rest of the world, I've gone a little juicing mad. I love to make my own tasty concoctions, and the fact that they are so good for you might just be the biggest bonus ever. My favourite juice, which I have when I wake up, is a blend of apple, spinach and celery. Admittedly, it does look a little bit like toxic sludge, (see picture above apples!) but it tastes amazing, as well as being super good for you. One interesting little tip I've picked up is that it's better to have more vegetable based juices, so that you're not overloading on sugar from fruit because, however natural it is, too much sugar isn't the best. There are plenty of juicing books out there to give you lots of info. The Juice Master is perhaps the most obvious one, but my favourite is Super Juice by Michael Van Straten. I love that it has this  'at home' remedy section at the back, where it lists pretty much every illness you could think of, and gives you your cure through one of his delicious juices. Genius! He's apparently the UK's best known practitioner of complementary medicine too, so he must have a vague idea of what he's talking about. 

Water, Water Everywhere (And ALL The Drops To Drink)

As well as plenty of fresh juice, I've now made it a habit of keeping a glass of water on my desk, which I sip on when I'm bored. I'm massively guilty of forgetting to keep hydrated throughout the day, but I find that keeping a big glass within reach has remedied my parched state, and my skin has definitely thanked me for it. And that constant yo-yoing to the loo and back has to count for at least some of your daily cardio, right?

So there you are. They might seem trivial, but all of the little things add up, and I really feel great after striving to look after my body a little better. Of course, I'm writing this whilst gorging on the remnants of my Easter treats. The healthy eating resumes tomorrow.

What are your favourite ways to stay healthy? Any nutritious snacks you care to recommend? Let me know!


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wax On, Wax Off: Waxing vs. Shaving

As far as staying fuzz free goes, I've always been a shaving kinda gal. It's just easier, more convenient and, most importantly pain free. But having recently booked a holiday (Florence here I come!) I've been thinking more and more about the pros and cons of 'at home' waxing. Here, I've decided to put together a little debate; will I waver to waxing, or will I stay a shaver? We shall see.

With regards to shaving, I used to be a Venus lover through and through, but after receiving a Wilkinson Sword HydroSilk* razor in my OxMeet goody bag, I've been having a go with that. I must admit, maybe Venus isn't the only blade for me after all, as this one's pretty great. Similar to my old Venus Spa Breeze razor, it has moisture bars, meaning that my skin doesn't get dry and irritated after shaving. Honestly, I hate to shave my legs with any razor that doesn't have these built in moisturisers now, as I feel like they make such a difference! The HydroSilk also has 5 curve-sensing blades (fancy, eh?) for really close shaving, and let me tell you, it definitely earns the 'silk' in it's name. It's even got a travel cover, so it doesn't get all gammy in your wash bag. The perfect travel companion, no? Now, I know that shaving doesn't last long, and your left with stubbly pins mere days after doing the deed, but that's not an aspect that's ever really bothered me. Sure, it would be lovely to have silky smooth legs all year round, but even with waxing, that's never going to happen, so what's a couple of extra minutes in the shower for the sake of a little legwork? It's also important to note the pain free pull of shaving - the soreness of waxing was making me more than a little apprehensive. I gave it a go anyway, for comparison's sake, and here's what I thought. 

Obviously the big draw of waxing is longer lasting results, hence the reason I'm considering it for my travels. I don't really want to be spending valuable time abroad perfecting my summer legs, so it makes sense that I should give them a cheeky wax before I head off. After a quick trip up the hair removal aisle in Boots, I selected the Veet Wax Strips for Senstive Skin. I thought it wise to have a trial run before I went all gung-ho just days before my trip. To be honest, I'm not fully impressed with the results. I do love that the strips are impregnated with Almond Oil and Vitamin E for that little kick of moisture, and I favour the longer lasting results over those of shaving, but for me, that's probably where the benefits end. In terms of the pain factor, the initial sting is fine, but it throbs for a while afterwards, and leaves my skin looking a bit angry for the rest of the day. Not an attractive look, I can tell you! This does go down overnight, so I think I'd be safe doing it in advance, but another aspect I found rather irritating was the sticky residue left on my red legs after I'd yanked the wax strips off - the perfect finish wipes are nowhere near perfect by the way. Paired with the fact that you aren't supposed to wax over the same area twice, so any strays you have to tweeze from the tacky remains, it seems to me that waxing isn't really worth the trouble. It might be my novice technique that's causing all the difficulties, but I think I'll remain a shaving lady for the foreseeable future. 

Conclusion: I think I'll give waxing a go for my stint in the sun, although I plan to book an appointment for a professional wax to save me the hassle. But I'll be sure to pack my trusty razor - just in case. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

What about you guys? Waxers or shavers? What's your razor of choice? Let me know!

*PR Sample

Monday, 21 April 2014

Battle Of The Liquid Liners

I love a well defined lash line as much as the next girl, but sometimes that perfect liner can be a little elusive. After years of searching, I'm still not sure I've found the ideal product, but I'm definitely a lot closer, and a lot more informed. With that in mind, I thought I'd share with you a few of my faves, along with a couple of no-no's that you might want to avoid. 

My token brown liquid liner, I think this is my favourite of the lot. The perfect mix of sturdy and skinny, I love lining my lashes with it. I fear it's only a matter of time before I cave and buy it in black, as I think it's the easiest liner I've ever worked with. It's perfect for pushing into the roots of the lashes, and firm enough that I can sweep it across my lash line for precise, neat framework every time. As well as this, it's a given that the darker colours are true, but I've also heard amazing things about the more vibrant shades in the range, which offer bright colours with a great pigment. None of that wishy washy rubbish!

This is slightly less flexible than Stila, but still thin enough for a really sharp, defined line. And holy, moly, what a pigmented formula! I think it's probably the perfect size and strength to execute the  most beautiful feline flick, and I'd be able to say that with a little more confidence if I were any good at them! But hey, if Alexa Chung, queen of the wing, loves it enough to put her name on it, it must be a winner.

This is a liner I've fallen a bit out of love with. When I first bought it, I thought I'd discovered a new favourite, but I've found that it gets dry really quickly, and it's difficult to pick up enough product to draw a neat, black line that isn't riddled with patches and imperfections. Maybe I just got a dud, who knows, but it's been delegated to the bottom of my make-up draw nonetheless, and won't be resurfacing anytime soon.

A hell of a lot thicker than my other liners, it has the aesthetic of a marker pen. I find it difficult to get a precise line with this, probably the only reason I don't use it on a daily basis, but it's great for really working into the lashes and for doing the more bold looks. Be A Bombshell is also a brand that gear their products towards more sensitive skin, so if that's something you struggle with, you should definitely check them out. 

This one probably gets the least use of all my liquid liners, and I knew I'd made an error as soon as I'd bought it. It has a really thin brush applicator, designed for close precision work, which make me feel completely inept. Although you can get a much thinner line, it offers no control, and I end up smudging it everywhere. With a bit of practice, maybe I'll get there one day, but for now, I think I'll stick to my pen nib packaging. To be honest, it is just my preference that makes this a bit of a rubbish product for me. If you favour a thin liner brush over the angled equivalents, then I'd probably recommend that you give this one a go. It has really great lasting power, and I like the glossy finish it dries to. Unfortunately, I'm just not nimble enough to master the technique needed to use such a high precision brush.

So there you have it, and after careful deliberation, I think it's pretty safe to say that my winner is Stila! I love this product, and it would definitely be the first I recommended to somebody in the market for a new liquid liner. Eyeko and Be A Bombshell are not to be scoffed at, however - both equally lovely liners that give a great result. Sadly, Bourjois is not for me, but try your luck, it may be just the thing you're looking for. As for Loreal, shame on you! Dry, patchy lining is no good at all!

What's your favourite liquid liner? Do you like any of the liners I've listed? Let me know!


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Book of the Week: Perfume - The Story Of A Murderer

"Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an door cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."

OK, you got me. I judged a book by it's cover. I picked up Perfume by Patrick Suskind on a recent trip to Waterstones simply because it looked so pretty on it's shelf (or maybe it smelled good, who really even knows anymore)! Upon further perusal of the blurb, I was sold - I had to buy it and read all about this weird perversion of perfume. And honestly, I've never read anything like it before.  Despite being the story of a murderer, it's such a fun and interesting read. Admittedly a little strange, but completely unique, I was totally absorbed by a fantasy tale of perfumeries, grotesqueness and desire.

A strange little tome about a strange little man, Perfume documents the meanderings of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Born without a scent, society is unnerved by his perturbing presence, if they even notice him at all, and his supernatural smelling talent leads him on a twisted journey to hunt down the most perfect fragrance on the planet, even if that means partaking in a spot of murder along the way.

The intriguing notion that fuels the book is that scent has a much more profound effect on society than we are aware of. As well as Grenouille being considered an outcast due to his lack of smell, he is alone in the knowledge that the most beautiful of people are not attractive to us because of their good looks, but because of their enticing aroma. We only think that their appearance is what's beautiful because we consider sight to be the most predominant of the senses. I found this to be such an interesting concept that, although it's just a work of fiction, I got to thinking about all of the things that are made that much more attractive to me because of their fragrant beauty. Flowers, for example, or a slice of apple pie: both have their own aesthetic appeal, both are enhanced by their inviting bouquet.

The book itself is also written in a really unique way, something I found pleasantly peculiar. The dark, twisted tale is communicated in such an upbeat, lighthearted, almost humorous manner, which I found made it even more entertaining. Grenouille treats his murder victims, not as people, but as living vessels for alluring fragrances. And so the language in which they are treated, although rather alarming, is so abstract that you almost forget how harrowing the act is. I've never seen killing dealt with in such an interesting way, making this one of the most fascinatingly abnormal books I have ever read. 

If you're looking for something a little different to read, I would really recommend you pick up this weird and wonderful tale. A little worrying in places, brilliant in others, and witty throughout, I loved everything about this fragrant feast of a fantasy, and I'll definitely be looking into other works by this German gem of a writer!

Have you read Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer? What is your favourite perfume based read? Let me know! 


Friday, 18 April 2014

Something Beginning With...C: Concealers

Choosing what subject to broach this week was a bit of a no brainer for me. When I think of the letter C with regards to beauty, there's one thing that jumps straight to the forefront of my mind - concealing. Concealers are such a vital part of my make-up routine, one that I know I couldn't live without, and I've now got it down to a fine art! So here is a little overview of my concealing routine for your perusal. Enjoy!

My everyday routine consists of a trio of products. Now I know what your thinking - three concealers is a lot for just one face - but rest assured my friends, they are my holy trinity, and they all serve a purpose. 
First up isn't even, strictly speaking, a concealer, but a corrector. A creamy product with a peach tone to counteract any blues in the skin, I buff a little into the inner part of my under eye area, and over my premature crows feet (wahh!), as they tend to look a little bruised from time to time. My weapon of choice is the Bobbi Brown Corrector in the shade, Light Bisque. I'm in dire need of a new one, as I'm literally scraping out the sides at the moment - note the lack of pictures of the gutted remains. When I do cave and buy it, it will be my third little pot of erasing perfection. I always apply with a Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush, as I find it to be the ideal shape for the inner 'nook' of my eye. Nook sounds so much nicer than hollow, doesn't it?
The second product I use is, again, not technically marketed as a concealer, but an illuminating pen. Ever since my first dabble into make-up, the YSL Touché Éclat has been a feature in my stash. It's actually become something of a holiday tradition to nip into Duty Free and pick up a duo pack of these babies on my way to wherever I'm jetting off to. I use Shade 1 - Luminous Radiance, and I apply it over my corrector into the hollows of my eyes and pat in with my ring finger. If I've got a lot of time on my hands, or I'm really making an effort, I'll pop a little on my cheekbones, brow bones, down the centre of my nose and on my cupids bow for a lovely structured highlight. The idea of the pen is that it bounces light back, cancelling shadows and illuminating (funny, that) certain parts of the face. A lot of people don't really see the point of this magical little wand, but personally, I couldn't live without it. There are lots of others on the market, and I often find myself tempted to try the By Terry offering, but I'm not sure that, when the moment came, I would be able to cheat on my YSL beau!
Last, but by no means least, is my trusty Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. You'll be pleased to hear that this one actually is a concealer. A palette consisting of both a peachy tone and a yellow hued product, this stuff is full on Photoshop in a pan. A lot more hard and waxy that my Bobbi Brown Corrector, I could never use this under my eyes, as it would be too drying. The fact that it is dry, though, means that it stays put for hours, and is amazing for brushing over any blemishes or imperfections. I have the shade SC2 - I think SC1 might have been a better colour match for my skin overall, but because I use this on discoloured areas, I find that it's a lot easier to blend to a natural finish if it's a smidge darker than my natural tone. I apply with a bareMinerals Max Coverage Concealer Brush around my nose and on my chin, where I have some slight pigmentation, and then I use a Real Techniques Pixel Point Brush to carry out my trusty Lisa Eldridge pinpoint concealing. I absolutely swear by this stuff, and I've not yet found another concealer, high end or drugstore, to rival it. And believe me, I've looked!

So there you have it - my trio of 'can't live without' concealers. I'd definitely struggle in their absence, to the point where I'd choose them over foundation if I absolutely had to. Can't imagine anybody mean enough to make me choose though, so I'm probably safe!

What are your favourite concealers? Do you love any of the brands I covet? Let me know!


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Body Shop - Vitamin E Moisture Cream

I've never really had a go to moisturiser - one that I just have to repurchase over and over. When I run out of one, I tend to just grab the next product that catches my attention. However, lately my skin has become a lot more oily than usual, and my current stash just isn't cutting it anymore. On my hunt for a less rich, more balancing moisturiser, I discovered Cosmetic Lad by Lush, and I'm pretty sure that I've finally found 'the one' in terms of balancing my skin and keeping the grease at bay. Unfortunately, however, the sample I had ran out more quickly than I would have liked, and, until I can make my way to a Lush store, I have to make do with something else. Lucky for me, one of the amazing products in my #OxMeet stash was The Body Shop's Vitamin E Moisture Cream*. Originally intended to be an interim product, I'm actually super impressed with how good it's making my skin look! Not so great at tackling the oil, I feel like this will be the perfect product for me once my oil slick of a t-zone has returned to normal.

The Body Shop's bestselling moisturiser, it applies really lightly, almost to a watery consistency, and absorbs into the skin almost instantly. This is a godsend for my early morning starts, as I don't really have the time to sit around, leisurely waiting for my skincare to settle before I start slapping on my daily make-up. I absolutely love the way my skin looks and feels after using it - I almost glow. I think it might be the antioxidants of the Vitamin E that are giving me the supermodel sheen that I've been trying to perfect for years Whatever it is, it's amazing! As I stated before, its a little much whilst my oil levels are creeping up, but when they calm down, I'll be happily dipping into my little pot of vitamin goodness all the live long day. The only thing that it's lacking is SPF, which is so important to me, but hey, I guess you can't have it all, right? I'm so impressed with this moisturiser for creating the perfect base for the dewy complexion I crave. I'm sure it won't be long before I'm ducking into The Body Shop to get my mitts on the rest of the Vitamin E range - Illuminating Moisture Cream, I'm looking at you!

What's your favourite moisturiser? Are you a fan of The Body Shop Vitamin E range? Let me know! 


*PR sample

Monday, 14 April 2014

#OxMeet - Oxford Blogger Meet Up

Probably the last one of the beauty bloggers to write about it, today I'm coming at you with my #OxMeet post. My first ever blogger meet up, I journeyed to Oxford on 23rd March to spend the day with a lovely little group of people who shared my passions for beauty and blogging. An amazing experience, organised by Wonder Woman who, by day, goes by the name Adrienne, I left with a new group of wonderful friends, a goody bag to rival Santa's sack, and blog ideas coming out of my ears! Safe to say, a perfect time was had by all!
Mo, Asha, Tami, Hannah, Steph, Hattie, Rachel, Grace, Jess, Me, Ellie, Kelly, Jess, Adrienne, Danielle, Katy, Samantha
Thanks to lovely Sam for the image!

Our first pitstop was Wagamama, where we all came together for the first time over Chicken Katsu Curry and copious amounts of Diet Coke. Despite having never met any of the lovely ladies before, I instantly felt at home, discussing make-up and snap happy tendencies with my newfound friends. I sat and chatted all things intern with beautiful Jess (I hope yours went well by the way!), and I got a bit nostalgic for my student days when she told me all about her uni ball. Sat on my other side was the gorgeous Tami. I'd been following (read: shamelessly stalking) her blog for a while, so it was lovely to meet The Guilty Girl herself. It was such a great first meeting, and would have made the perfect icebreaker, had there been any ice to break. 

After a bit of an impromptu circle time, in which we all introduced ourselves properly, we mozied on over to Crabtree & Evelyn, where we were given an introduction to the company and its products. Kelly and I spent a fair amount of time lusting after their new Pear & Magnolia range, whilst the rest of the girls were pampered with hand treatments and manicures. Whilst we were ogling the C&E offerings, Adrienne took us out in groups to pick up our goody bags. It was like a little school trip, and I definitely felt a sense of childish glee when she handed us bags full to the brim with all manner of cosmetic goodness. It was during our little jaunt to pick up our marvellous goody bags that I got to talk to lovely Grace, a beautiful girl with a beautiful blog, which has just had a redesign FYI, so check that out! We left C&E with a cute little bag containing a few samples and a hand cream of our choice. Crabtree & Evelyn is such a beautiful shop, which I'd never really ventured into before. After seeing what they had to offer, I certainly won't be wondering past without a second glance again!

We then had a little time to kill before our next outing, so we went to Costa to refuel and have a good chinwag. I started slurping my delicious mocha, and my wish list proceeded to expand along with my waistline. It was here that mine and Katy's mutual love for Jo Malone caused quite a stir, and I added a glossy little Maybelline number to my growing shopping list - thanks Tami.

Our final destination was Lush, where we were treated to a Rose themed evening, complete with rose lemonade and delectable cupcakes. The Lush ladies talked about their new Rose Bubble Bar, as well as showing us their make up collection, which was a welcome surprise for me! Who knew Lush did make up, eh? As we all ambled around the store, getting skin consultations and colour readings, nattering about all our must haves and new discoveries, I felt so content to be part of the beauty blogging community. It's when you meet people like this that you realise what wonderful opportunities can come out of a hobby - something that began with you sitting in front of your computer, scribbling  down random thoughts about your passions. 

Of course this post wouldn't be complete without an ode to the gift bag - oh, the gift bag. Filled with products from Caudalie, Hotel Chocolat, The White Company, Wilkinson Sword, and Eye of Horus to name just a few, as well as the month's Glossybox and Birchbox offerings, I know I'll still be playing with all my new goodies for months to come! Sadly, due to the shambles that is the British postal system, we didn't get the wonderful bags from The Blogger Programme on the day, but I was so pleased when mine came in the post. It's such a perfect memento for the occasion, and mine's already hung up on the back of my door, storing all the lovely products I've saved for future blog posts. Thank you so much to all the generous PRs for providing such an astounding array of treats for us all. Know how hugely appreciated it was.

And that's all folks! I had the most amazing time, and will be eternally grateful to Adrienne for putting so much time and effort into the whole thing. 

Lots of Love,


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Book of the Week: The Secret History

"I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. this is the only story I will ever be able to tell."

You know me. I love my books. I also love Classics, so when my friend recommended The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a book about Classics students, I knew I was going to love it from the word go. The Secret History is one of those books that I'd never heard of before, but seems to have a huge following that I missed entirely. How does that happen?! Baffling ignorance aside, I was beyond excited to delve into its pages and, despite it being a hefty 600 pages long, I managed to power through it in less than a week. It's that good.

The Secret History centres on a group of Classics students in a sleepy little Vermont town. Recluses from the rest of the campus, the misfits immerse themselves in their studies, and come to consider themselves an elite group, above the societal norms,and boring existences of their fellow students. Their studies, however, take on a life of their own, driving them to murder one of their kin. A dark tale that toys with the boundaries of morality, it gets you thinking about secrets, and how they can eat you up and drive you to do the most terrible things.

You might consider knowing about the imminent death of Bunny Corcoran to be a bit of a spoiler, but it was completely to the contrary. The prologue of the tome provides an insight into the event itself, and the majority of the pages that follow are flashbacks to the years leading up to the tragedy. For me, this was the king of all suspense builders. You know it's coming, but, reading it through the eyes of complete newcomer, Richard Papen, you have no idea how or why. I think this is probably the reason that I flew through it in such a short space of time - I was desperate to piece together the puzzle and find out what was going on beneath the surface.

Another aspect I loved, which I think might be quite a specific one (sorry guys), are all the random lines of Greek slotted into the chapters. They're planning a murder, not the type of thing one discusses in public, so when in company, they speak in Greek, using it as their kind of secret language. I studied Ancient Greek at university, so I consider them little in jokes, and I love the book all the more for it. If you too have a knowledge of Classical Greek, then you'll loves this little lexicon of tidbits. If you don't, they do nothing to take away for them story, so don't you worry!

As well as this, with such an eclectic bunch of misfit weirdos, there's bound to be a couple of gems in the mix. My favourite of the lot is Frances Abernathy, whose homosexuality both leads to a couple of humorous misunderstandings, and is cause for many a emotionally moving scene. I also happen to think that his style and sense of humour make him the character I would get along best with, had they been real people, and had they not all killed somebody. It's actually at his secluded country house that most of the mystery unfolds.

Aside from the little niggle of having epic chapters that are the same length as some small books (I need a good place to stop, damn it!), I absolutely loved this intriguing page turner. The Classical references, the sense of camaraderie in the most twisted of circumstances, and the air of dark mystery that shrouds its pages, make this more than worth the sleepless nights spent up reading. This might have been the first Donna Tartt novel I have read, but it certainly won't be the last.

Have you read The Secret History? Are you a fan of Donna Tartt? Let me know!


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Something Beginning With... B: Bumble and bumble.

After getting super excited at my newly created SBW concept, I've definitely dropped the ball a little. But here I am on this lovely Saturday morning with the long overdue 'Something Beginning With: B' post. Now, I'm something of a Bumble and bumble fiend, so it only makes sense that they should be the focus of todays ramblings. The majority of my haircare routine comprises of their coveted offerings, so here is a collection of Bb. product that I would be lost without.

I'd had this knocking around for a while, but didn't really have an inkling of when I'd get use out of it. But having recently taken the plunge and cut my hair short, I think I'd go as far as to say that it's my new holy grail for hair styling. A soft pomade, I just rub the tiniest amount onto my fingers and run them through my freshly styled tresses. Say hello to tamed flyways, managed frizz, and an altogether glossier barnet. This little styling beauty was the only hair product I thought worth mentioning in my March Favourites and, as I plan to keep my hair short for a while now, I'm sure my beloved semisumo will remain pride of place in my haircare collection for a long time yet.

My hair is a little on the fine side, so it often looks a bit flat - droopy, if you will. For that reason, I've long been a fan of the Bb. thickening range for adding that much needed oomph. Sadly, I've run out of the shampoo and conditioner, and have made a promise to myself that I'm only allowed more when I have enough Boots points. You cannot even fathom the immense willpower this is taking. However, I'm still enamoured with the Bb. thickening hairspray. I just spritz it into towel dried roots and blow-dry, and it makes such a massive difference that I'm not too sure how I ever got by without it. It does have a tendency to go a little crispy if ever I get too trigger happy, but as I have to use it so sparingly, the bottle lasts me for ages, which can only be a great thing, really. 

I'm not a huge fan of hair powders. I find that they only ever dull my vibrant hair colour. However, another Bb. gem is their sough after pret-a-powder. Translucent and extra fine, I love this for adding a little texture to my hair and, again, have been getting much more use out of it since I went for the chop. I don't find that I have the same issue of dullness that I do with brands like Batiste, making it the perfect product for second (ahem, third) day hair styling. Another one of those great volumising products, I originally thought that the bottle would be awkward to use and wouldn't last very long, but it's fared surprisingly well in my clumsy, accident prone hands. 

Having fine hair, oils can often be an absolute disaster for me - like brushing lard through freshly washed locks. However, I've found a friend for life in the Bb. hairdresser's invisible oil. I used this a lot more when I had longer hair, running the tiniest amount through the ends. The result was silky soft, super shiny, frizz free tresses. It is also said to have strengthening qualities, but I lopped my ends off before I could testify - sorry about that! Now, I only really use it when my hair's feeling particularly dry, but I love it all the same! 

This thickening gem has developed something of a cult following amongst Bb. fans, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm one of the masses that launched themselves onto the dryspun bandwagon. As well as offering volume by the bucket load, I particularly like using this product straight after drying my hair.  Although I love the feeling of freshly washed hair, I'm not an avid fan of the fluffiness, always opting for a more 'lived in' style. And dryspun finish is exactly that in a can. Volume and strategic mess in one. It's everything I want in a hairspray.

I hope you enjoyed this little round-up of my Bb. babies. What are your favourite Bumble and bumble products? What haircare brand could you not live without? Let me know!


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Rose Amongst Thorns: The White Company - Rose Signature Candle

Usually I'm really not a candle person. They're either too strong and give me a bit of a headache, it goes in completely the other direction and I can't smell anything at all, or they have the burn time of a hair, and I really don't feel I've got my money's worth. On top of all this, having an open flame in my room isn't great for my anxiety levels, so I usually just call it a day and grab the room spray/perfume equivalent to the candle scents I like. However, a couple of weekends back at blogger meet up, OxMeet (more on this next week), I was treated to the most amazing goody bag, courtesy of lovely Adrienne, and in amongst the delightful cornucopia was the new Rose Signature Candle* from The White Company. Not something I would have thought to buy myself, I'm so glad I've been given the chance to catch a whiff of this gorgeous candle, its sumptuous scent potentially converting me to candlism.
The White Company is synonymous with clean, crisp and minimal design, an aesthetic I often covet, and the Rose Signature Candle is no different in this respect. Perched on my bedside table, it's a simple, beautiful addition to my bedroom decor. None of that gaudy packaging thank you very much! As for the scent, I often find rose to be a little overpowering, reminiscent of old ladies and potpourri. But this fragrant blend of rose, jasmine and lily is wonderful. Sweet and floral, yet fresh and contemporary, it's definitely a more modern twist on a classic rosy aroma. One of my favourite aspects is the fact that it fills my room with its delicate aroma even when it's not lit. It's so lovely to come home from work and have this beautiful fragrance wash over me as I open my bedroom door. It also means that I won't have to light it as much, and it will last a lot longer, its approximate burn time of 28 hours a mere fraction of the life I will get out of this beauty. The White Company could make a candle lover out of me yet!

Are you a fan of The White Company? Have you had the chance to catch the scent of this beautiful Rose Signature Candle yet? Let me know!


*PR sample

Monday, 7 April 2014

March Favourites

Another month has been and gone in the blink of an eye, and with it, another collection of products that I've been coveting. I find it hard to believe that we're already in the fourth month of the year, but with the clocks going forward, and sunnier evenings back in my life, I'm getting more and more excited for summer. And I think it's safe to say that this months product picks reflect my sunny mood. So, without further ado, here are my March Favourites.

NARS Duo Eyeshadow//Isolde

This has been in my collection for about a year now, and is one of my favourite eyeshadow duos of all time. I pushed it aside over the winter, favouring more autumnal, less metallic shades, but March saw me fall back in love with it, and I pretty much wore it everyday. A lighter antique gold, and a chocolatey bronze, these two shades pair together for the perfect spring/summer look. I usually use both together, sweeping the lighter of the two all over the lid and blending the bronze through the crease. However, for a sultry night out look, I go all out, using the bronze as a darker, more intense wash of colour which I adore! And these colour make my eyes look so blue! Never do I get as many compliments as I do when I'm wearing this delicious duo. It's a wonder I ever take it off at all!

Stila Stay All Day Eyeliner//Dark Brown

Another product I've had for a while, it never really fell out of favour with me. I just went through a bit of a phase of using a more intense black to line my peepers. However, old habits die hard, and gone back to using a softer, more subtle brown for a slightly more natural effect. This product  is, hands down, my favourite brown eyeliner. Perfectly pigmented, and super easy to use, the ultra fine felt nib gives me precision and control, and is great for those mornings when you need to do your make up in a hurry (every morning in my case - damn snooze button), and just don't have the time to faf about. It's like eyeliner for dummies really, and I love it so.

Sleek Blush by 3//Lace

I've never been one for powder blush, always picking creamier alternatives. I just think they give a more natural finish, and, contrary to popular opinion, I find them easier to work with. But in Superdrug a few months back, a friend of mine recommended Sleek blushes, and at £9.99 for three generously sized pans, I had nothing to lose. Admittedly, it has taken me a few months to end my exclusive relationship with cream blushes, but needless to say, I have now embarked on a glorious love affair with powders. All three products in this palette are beautifully pigmented and blend to perfection. Although my picture seems to portray a slightly pinky hue, the blushes are all in the orange family, my favourite of all the makeup colour families. I'm particularly enjoying Guipure, the middle shade of the trio which, when I bought it, I thought would be the dud of the collection that I never got any use out of. Boy oh boy, how wrong I was! A warm golden orange, shot through with flecks of rosy shimmer, I think it adds the perfect amount of glow to a flushed and dewy cheek. 

Benefit Gimme Brow//Light/Medium

Before I begin, I feel I should tell you that Brooke Shields is my brow idol. Like her, my brows have never been particularly arched, and, unlike her, they have never been all that thick either. I mean, they're not sparse, but I love the look of fuller brows, and I'm constantly searching for products that will help me on my way to Delevingne-dom. In March, I finally found it - my new holy grail eyebrow product. Benefit's Gimme Brow. I went for the shade light/medium, as that's what the woman at the Benefit counter recommended. Annoyingly, it's a little too light to wear over MACs Charcoal Brown, my everyday brow boost, with copious blending needed for a natural look. However, it's the perfect colour for those days when I can't really be bothered, or, more realistically, I'm running late, and I just comb it through solo for some extra eyebrow volume. It's amazing, I now have the brows of Lily Collins, and I'm never looking back.

Revlon Colourburst Matte Balm//Audacious

Everyone and their gran seems to have this product, in this colour, and for good reason! I love matte lips, but struggle to find the products that don't make my own pout look dry and flaky. The Revlon products, although not particularly moisturising, don't flake at all on me, which is a huge selling point! The tangerine hued Audacious looks almost neon on my pale complexion, and, for me, it's  perfect for rocking the orange lip trend.

Bumble and bumble.//semisumo

Since cutting my hair shorter, I've really been loving wearing it curly. The curls hold for longer without the extra weight, and it just looks so bouncy, voluminous and healthy. What I'm not loving, however, is the fluff and frizz that appear after drying. To combat this, I've discovered semisumo - a product that I've had knocking around for a while, but not really had a clue how to use. Now, I just rub a little bit of the pomade onto my fingers, and run it through my curls. The result is tamed flyways and a huge boost of shine. I'm so pleased this product finally got to see the light of day in March, because it really is a gem!

This nifty little moisturiser is actually designed to calm shaving burn, but I've now adopted it as my daily facial moisturiser. After having a skin consultation at Lush Oxford, the lovely Kym assured me that it's not just for boys, and I went home with a sample of it. Let me just say it. Life. Changed. I've recently had a bit of a lifestyle upheaval, commuting to London daily, and my skin type has really shifted. My previously dry visage has become a little too combination for any of the products I have in my arsenal; my newly irritating oily T-zone is a particular pain. But this product fully balances out the oils in my skin, and even after using a little sample, I've noticed a huge reduction in redness to the point where I barely need foundation any more. As well as all this wonderment, it smells so good I want to grab a spoon. Needless to say, I'll be shooting in to the next Lush store I pass to pick up a full sized pot of this magic cream! 

So there you have it. Another month, another product round up. Have you tried any of the products I've been loving? What are your March favourites? Let me know!


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