My DIY facial

Autumn is a time when my skin traditionally plays havoc; I found myself the other day buying loads of stuff to take care of it (is there anything better than dropping a load of money in Boots on payday?!) Anyway, a weekly facial has become part of my routine.

Step 1- Nip+Fab Deep Cleansing Fix (£7.99 for 300ml)

nip+fab deep cleansing fix - Google Search

Image: Nip+Fab

I picked this up when it was half price; I’d read Charlotte Tilbury saying somewhere that using an expensive facial balm with a Clarisonic was a good way of giving yourself a facial. I did a cheaper version with this and I sometimes use my Magnitone Pulsar, sometimes I use a good old fashioned hot flannel (depending how lazy I’m feeling!) As for the product itself, it does cleanse my skin well and leaves it feeling soft. I don’t rate the smell though, as it’s a bit clinical and medicinal smelling. However, it’s a good price for a huge tub- swings and roundabouts.

Step 2- Superdrug Witch hazel mud mask (£2.59)

Superdrug Witch hazel mud mask

Image: Superdrug

This is my current face mask, but I’m not sure I’ll keep using it- it does sometimes make my skin go a bit red and feel slightly sunburnt for a few minutes after I’ve washed it off. However, this doesn’t last long and appears to have no lasting affect and my skin has been needing a bit of deep cleansing. Once this runs out I will buy another from the Superdrug range, as I think it’s a really good price and Superdrug products are usually brilliant.

Step 3- L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Extraordinary Facial Oil (£19.99 for 30ml)

l'oreal age perfect oil - Google Search

Image: L’Oreal

I first tried this when I got a sample in a magazine and I loved it. Oil is so important to the balancing of my skin, especially in the colder weather, which can cause my eczema to flare up. When I saw this on offer in Boots recently, I decided to purchase it. When I got it home, I looked at the box and discovered I’m probably ten years’ younger than the intended target market, but I don’t care. It smells divine, my face feels like it would sigh with relief (if it could) when it’s applied.  I will definitely repurchase this at full price.

Step 4- Botanics Ultra Calm Skin Relief Serum (£7.99 for 30ml)

botanics ultra calm skin relief serum - Google Search

Image: Boots

This is a recent repurchase and one that I swear by for sore, autumn- and winter-lashed skin. It’s not the thickest serum I’ve ever tried, but it works just as well on my skin as much more expensive serums that I’ve tried. This doesn’t sting or make my face feel tight and I’ll stick to using it as long as Boots keep making it!

Step 5- Therapi No.3 Honey Moisturiser* (£30 for 50ml)

800x800_RoseOtto_3

Image: Therapi

I love a good, thick moisturiser for night time and this is a very, very good one. Unfortunately, I’m running out, but I intend to use every last drop! The honey and rose otto work very well as skin soothers and my face feels soft, smooth and lovely the next morning. I can really tell the difference when I’ve used it the night before.

The Telling Error- Sophie Hannah

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I appear to be one of the few people who hasn’t read much Sophie Hannah; I remember reading a collection of her short stories a few years ago, but other than that, nothing. So when I saw her new novel, The Telling Error being offered for review on Bookbridgr, I thought I’d give it a go. Unbeknownst to me, this is part of a series, but I felt able to pick up the threads and get into the scheme of things quite quickly.

The story revolves around a newspaper columnist’s murder (think a sort of Tory Charlie Brooker) and a woman, Nicki, who is, it seems, incapable of telling the truth about anything. She’s been dragged into events thanks to an online affair and she doesn’t really help herself.

Although ultimately I enjoyed the book, I found it hard to get into. I didn’t like the character of Nicki very much and it’s hard to get on with a story if you’re not really connecting with the main character, I find. Maybe that’s just me. However, I enjoyed the ‘writing’ of the murder victim and I reckon Sophie Hannah had loads of fun with that one. There’s also a rather bizarre homage to Julia Donaldson, writer of The Gruffalo, which I particularly enjoyed. Probably because I’ve got so many of her books emblazoned on my brain…

In true thriller style, I found myself caught off-guard at times and squirming when I thought a particularly minor character was the killer- and relieved when it wasn’t them. (Trust me, it would have been wrong on a rather Game of Thrones type of level…)

I will check out more of Sophie Hannah’s books, if only to see why this one has divided her fans so much.

*Sent for review

Zombies, Run! 5k: Week 2

 

Image: New Scientist

Image: New Scientist

Week 2 was pretty much the same as week 1, although with added heel-lifts. I didn’t feel TOO daft doing those in public (week 3 is all about knee-lifts and stretches.) I’ve found that the slightly cooler weather is better for my running and I’m undecided if I prefer running in the morning and energising for the rest of the day or running in the early evening and de-stressing. What I HAVE discovered is that I find running round the local park a bit boring and I’m preferring to plan interesting runs around where I live. I know. What HAVE I become?

The story is starting to get interesting: things are apparently going missing from the township. Also, I am becoming more and more convinced in my head that Dr Myers sounds like Nicky from OITNB and that is actually helping me too.

Am I feeling fitter? A bit. Although I do sometimes feel heavier than others and I’m keeping an eye on my knee. It would be mortifying to get runner’s knee again so soon.

Week 2:

Total distance: 9.89km

Total time: 1:45:58

The Virgins- Pamela Erens

The Virgins (Aug)

I’m really getting through my novels at the moment, aren’t I? I guess it’s one of the joys of being on summer holiday. Anyway, I’d like to talk to you today about The Virgins. It’s one of those novels you know is going to be serious because it’s subtitled ‘a novel’, in case you were going to mistake it for a Russian tourist or something.

I was drawn to this because the blurb compared it to one of my favourite teenage books, The Virgin Suicides. Like The Virgin Suicides, this novel is set in the 1970s. It revolves around the love affair of two teenagers at a well-to-do boarding school in the States and their attempts to, well, not be virgins any more. The narrator is a slightly creepy boy called Bruce Bennett-Jones who seems to be far too interested in the goings on of other people.

After I read a book, I like to read the reviews of it on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s almost like me and the majority of reviewers read a different book. I hated this. It may be because I recently read another coming-of-age novel set in the 1970s, but this did not make me feel overwhelmed by the story, the characters or the writing style. If I’m honest, I was bored. I didn’t like the characters, the sex scenes made me cringe and I just couldn’t get into it as much as I would have liked.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is comparable to The Virgin Suicides, however much the critics of the New York Times tell me it is.

*Sent for review

Ah, moving

I hate moving. A couple of years ago, I wrote about my life-long hatred of moving and after the palaver of the last few months (seriously, ten months to buy a house. Seriously), I’m not sure I ever want to do it AGAIN. EVER.

However, there are some good bits about moving… yesterday my friend Charlotte and I (and her delightful hearing dog, Scout) went into the wilds of rural Sussex to sell a load of tat in a car boot sale. I’m seeing the selling of stuff as an activity with two benefits: 1) getting rid of stuff I’ve probably held onto for far too long and b) the money I make is going towards D’s new bedroom. I’m planning to live vicariously through my son- he’s getting a pirate themed room.

Image: Next

Image: Next

Although this is a bit TOO full on, I’m planning on taking certain elements of this. He loves pirates (his grandparents have just taught him to say ‘shiver me timbers’) and I figure that pirates have a greater lifespan than, say, a certain blue engine whose merchandise we appear to have acquired at an alarmingly fast rate of late.

The other thing I’m planning is the garden. Now, I haven’t seen this garden since November, so I can’t get into too much forward planning. I do know that after the success of this year’s tomatoes, I want to grow more vegetables and some fruits, but maybe not this scary variety of onion that looks like it was plucked fresh from a serial killer’s garden:

Onion (Salad) North Holland Blood Red Redmate

Image: Suttons

There is actually a perfectly good reason why I’m plunging myself into planning for the new house: denial. I don’t want to pack and I don’t want to unpack. Basically, I want the entire contents of my house to be transported- teleported, in fact- to the new house. Does anyone know if the TARDIS is available for house moves?

 

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go- Judy Chicurel

If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go (Aug)

Sometimes, I start a book and wonder if I’ll like it, only to be sucked in and find myself reading in the bath until the water’s gone cold. If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful is one of those books.

It tells the story of Katie, a teenage girl growing up in a working class community in Long Island in the 1970s. The novel documents her life and struggles among a band of misfits, drug addicts and veterans of Vietnam and brings the area and period to life vividly. Teenage pregnancy and drugs are commonplace, as is the guilt of the girls who are mainly Catholic. Each chapter reads almost like a short story in itself; the narrative is largely linear, but then we learn how some of the characters fare later on in their (mostly short) lives. The characters all have issues and most dream of escape, yet we don’t judge them in the slightest. This is just their life.

The writing is atmospheric and, as Katie is an outsider, it positions the reader in a way that we can empathise with what’s going on around her. I took a look at some of the advance reviews (this book isn’t out until October 30th in the UK) and got the distinct impression that it’s a bit of a Marmite book- you’ll either love it or hate it. Luckily, I really enjoyed it, as I thought the story developed.

*Sent for review

White Lies- Jo Gatford (and author interview)

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Before I begin this review, I’m going to issue a disclaimer: Jo is a friend of mine and I’m both immensely proud and insanely jealous that she’s written such a cracking debut novel as White Lies. Having a friend who’s a writer is beneficial though, as I get to interview her for the blog…

So, what’s the novel about? Well, it tells the story of Matt, a man haunted by the past and also the inconvenient fact that his brother has just died on his birthday. While this is bad enough, there’s also the fact that his dad has Alzheimer’s that’s getting worse, meaning that Matt has to keep telling his father that his favourite son is dead. There’s also a range of messy family relationships and deep secrets to keep you hooked.

I really enjoyed the book- I wasn’t sure what I was going to get, but I found it engrossing and the descriptions of Peter’s descent into himself was heartbreaking, funny and infuriating. The book also includes one of my favourite descriptive sentences of all time: part of the old people’s home is described as smelling of ‘chips and disappointment’. There were times when I wanted to strangle characters, others when I laughed and again when I felt deeply upset. There’s a lot here for a debut novel. You can buy it here.

I asked Jo a few questions- if you’re a budding novelist (or just nosy), read on…

cropped-tmss

 

1)       How did you manage to write a novel while being a mum to two small boys?
<Unhinged laughter> Slowly! I started writing the first draft just after my first son was born and he turned six in July just before the launch date, so it took its sweet time. It was very much a stop-start operation wedged in between work, having babies, and surviving sleep deprivation. There is no spare time, is there? I managed to carve out a few hours here and there to write, whether it was a Saturday afternoon in a café or late at night when I really should have been catching up on sleep. All very much facilitated by my wonderful husband who always makes sure I prioritise creativity over pointless stressing about work or doing the washing up. I actually go a little bit insane if I haven’t written for a while so the compulsive nature of it helps me to keep going, even if it does take me six years to finish a project.
2)       How did you make notes/research?
It’s been a long and slightly random accumulation of ideas and scribbles, really. For notes, I have lots of different notebooks which inevitably get lost around the house or stolen by the children for drawing on. Occasionally, just as I’m falling asleep, I’ll think of a perfect phrase or an important plot point and write myself a text message so that I’ll remember it in the morning. Although, sometimes I’ll read it back the next day and wonder what the hell I was talking about…
Research-wise it was a case of finding a balance between anecdotal stories (which are obviously very personal) and medical information (which can be quite dry and detached). A checklist of dementia symptoms doesn’t tell you what it’s actually like to experience the condition, or the effect it can have on relationships. For the emotional side of the story I spent a long time reading through diaries, blogs and articles written by people who are living with dementia, along with the perspectives of their carers and families. Hopefully the book brings together both sides of the situation; the sometimes innocuous day-to-day experiences, and the deep psychological impact.
3)       Which authors/books/films inspired your novel writing?
I tend to get inspired by whatever I happen to be reading/watching at the time, to be honest. In the last few years I’ve become much more influenced by short stories and flash fiction – I really admire the ability to create a fully-formed fictional world within a few hundred words. I think the skills needed to tie together a short story are extremely useful when applied to novel writing as you’re forced to make each chapter or scene as succinct as possible. My favourite author in all of time and space is Kurt Vonnegut, so in general he’s probably been the biggest influence on the way I’d like to get my thoughts out on paper.
4)       What are your three desert island books?
Arg. That’s not a fair question! Can I cheat and just bring a Kindle?
I could (and do) read Catch-22 over and over again to infinity, so that’s definitely number one – it makes me laugh and cry and would be excellent company when I inevitably found myself naked in a tree like Yossarian. Next would be Amy Hempel’s short story collection, The Dog of the Marriage, because it’s one of those books that does strange, wonderful things to your head and leaves you thinking about the stories for days afterwards. Third would probably be a big book of mythology or world history – it’s another sneaky cheat, really – so many stories and lifetimes contained within in one book.
5)       What are your ideal writing conditions?
 There’s a writing retreat in Devon called Retreats for You that is my idea of literary heaven. It’s set in a beautiful thatched cottage on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, and you get thoroughly looked after by a fantastic couple who ply you with food and wine and tea and cake while you spend your days writing/sleeping. Back in the real world my writing conditions usually involve at least one small child asking me for something, the looming threat of day-job deadlines, and excessive procrastination via social media, so having space, silence and time to write is a wonderful luxury.