What I Read In March

After reading so many great books in February, March had a tough act to follow. Whilst I didn't find a series I like as much as I like Penryn and the End of Days, I did manage to find a series I read just as quickly, and very nearly liked just as much as Penryn and the End of Days. Read on to find out what it was!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black 
After watching both her parents murdered, Jude is whisked away to live her life in Faerie - life there is difficult, made even more so by the cruel prince Cardan 

Holly Black is an author I've been aware of for a while due to her connection with Cassandra Clare, who wrote The Mortal Instruments, one of my favourite series ever. I'd seen The Cruel Prince, the first novel in a new trilogy, floating around on social media and it was this that I finally settled on after finishing the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy.

I feel a bit sorry for this book, because I'm pretty sure Penryn and the End of Days will be the best, if not one of the best, series I read in 2018. Because I enjoyed this series so much, it took me ages to get into The Cruel Prince and I didn't enjoy it as much as I think I might have done had I not read something so phenomenal beforehand.

Unfortunately it took me quite a while to get into The Cruel Prince. I found Jude absolutely insufferable, I couldn't get onboard with the way the novel is paced and I really couldn't figure out what the plot line was supposed to be. Eventually, about 75% of the way through, I finally started getting interested in what was happening. I always endeavour to NOT spoil things in these mini reviews, so it's hard for me to explain how I felt by the end but Jude really surprised me and the ending had me desperate to see how things pan out after all.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina has lived all her life feeling unremarkable - just a plain oprhan girl with a future in the army ahead of her - but when she is plunged into a life or death situation, her powers are revealed and her life will never be the same again 

For some reason, until I actually downloaded this book, I'd never actually heard of it before, which is weird, because it is so incredibly up my street. I actually discovered it because I'd stumbled across The Language of Thorns, another book by Leigh Bardugo, and my research into this book made me realise I might appreciate The Language of Thorns more if I read Shadow and Bone first.

I am so glad I decided to read Shadow and Bone because it was awesome. From the very first page I was completely gripped. I found Alina so relatable and human. Whilst I often like the characters in Young Adult (YA) fiction, I rarely see elements of myself in them, but Alina felt like someone who had similar thought processes, emotions and fears to me.

Brilliant characters aside, I also loved the twists and turns in the plot of this novel. There were a lot of things I just didn't see coming, the romance was believable and the ending had me desperate for more.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
The second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy

After finishing Shadow and Bone, I naturally launched right into the sequel, Siege and Storm. Like its prequel, I was instantly hooked. The introduction of new characters was really well done, and I soon found some new favourites. Again, the plot kept me on my toes and I found myself surprised and wondering how certain relationships were going to pan out. I also really liked the way that even though Alina narrates the story, she still keeps her secrets so you don't see some of her plans and schemes until she actually executes them.

My only tiny niggle with the novel was that I would have done certain things that Alina didn't. But I think that's more of a reflection of who I am as a person rather than a genuine issue with the story...

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 
The final book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy

Just as I did with Penryn and the End of Days, I finished Siege and Storm on a Friday evening on the way home from work and when I got home, I sat and read Ruin and Rising in one go.

What an epic conclusion to the series.

I loved the way the novel starts quite slow and than BAM - the action begins and it doesn't really stop until the end. There are some brutal scenes in the final book of the trilogy and some fantastic adventurous journeys. I was well and truly hooked.

I was, I must admit, slightly disappointed with the ending - it's not the way I wanted it to go - but, it was very well done and certainly in keeping with the cheesy ending I've come to know and love in YA fantasy fiction.

Did you read anything fantastic this month?

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Emily Jane has
read 13 books toward
her goal of
52 books.

What I Watched In March

After failing to watch much of anything in February, I made up for that in March with a few bingewatching sessions. Sadly nothing I watched was spectacular, but I don't really watch TV to be wowed anymore - it's more when I need to switch my brain off for a few hours and some of the things I've been watching recently are perfect for this purpose. 

Friends, Seasons 1-6
Come on, do I really have to introduce Friends to you?

Like everyone else in the UK, I immediately decided to watch the entire thing in order and from the beginning after the amazing announcement that Friends would be coming to Netflix in its entirety. Whilst I have seen the vast majority of Friends episodes before, I have never seen them in order and as my rewatch has proved, there are a few episodes I definitely haven't seen before. I initially really, really enjoyed my rewatch but I'm taking a break for now because it does get very, very repetitive. However, Friends is perfect for occasions where I need a short episode while I eat a meal and don't want to use too much brain power.

Don't Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23 
June moves to New York to start her dream job and live in her dream apartment, but disaster strikes when the company bankrolling her move goes bankrupt and she's forced to move in with Chloe, aka the bitch in apartment 23

As I was flicking through Netflix in an attempt to find something that wasn't Friends to watch, I stumbled on Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. I spotted Krysten Ritter and that was it, my decision to watch was made. 

At first, I really didn't get it. One of the main characters is some actor from Dawson's Creek who plays himself and...well, it's weird. I never watched Dawson's Creek so I was left a bit baffled. A lot of the humour in this show is also a little on the uncomfortable side.

That being said, this is perfect brain holiday TV, and I did find myself laughing out loud on many occasions. It was nice to get a New York fix and there's only two seasons, so it doesn't take over your life.

Jessica Jones, Season 2 
The second series of the TV show about "superhero" Jessica Jones, a woman with super strength

I'm actually quite surprised I decided to watch season 2 of Jessica Jones, because, if I'm honest, I don't think season 1 was all that good. I think it was hyped up a lot so when I got round to watching it, it was slightly disappointing. However, I clearly felt like continuing to Krysten Ritter phase I appear to be going through and managed to get through Jessica Jones season 2 over the course of one weekend.

I'm actually very glad I gave it a chance because I really, really liked this. It should have been difficult to go from watching short 22 minute long episodes that require no attention to hour long episodes that need all your attention, but I found my attention span quickly returned because I was invested in the story. Season 2 is much more of an exploration of how Jessica became the way she is, and I love a good back story. There were enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes and I found myself sad when it had ended.

The Good Place, Season 1 
Eleanor wakes up in the afterlife and luckily for her, she's in "The Good Place" - a place reserved for the top percentage of those who have lived their lives caring for and helping others. There's just one problem - Eleanor was not a good person. 

After Jessica Jones, it was time for me to go back to short, easy episodes that required minimal brain power again. I'd seen a lot of chatter on social media about The Good Place and Netflix had forced the trailer on me at some point so I decided to try it out.

Unfortunately the trailer made it look much funnier than it actually is - I only really laugh about once per episode. That being said, it's not terrible TV. I am quite impressed with how season one ended because I was stumped as to how they could continue this story line for more than one season and they actually have pulled that off quite well. I will be watching season 2 eventually, but I've got some other things I want to watch in the mean time.

Have you watched any good TV recently?

The Body Shop Matte Clay Foundation [Product Review]

As much as I love the Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation, at nearly £30 a pop, it's not a foundation I can keep repurchasing every time it runs out. I'm also unsure how I feel about Urban Decay being owned by Loreal and their website isn't very transparent about which products are vegan. So, my hunt for the perfect foundation began anew.

Discovering one that met my new cruelty free and vegan requirements was actually not that difficult. Every single time I logged onto Facebook, I was confronted by an ad from The Body Shop that featured their Matte Clay Foundation. In the ad, all the women featured looked slightly like they were wearing masks which should have put me off, but in fact, it was their mask like faces that got me interested in this foundation. Mask like = full coverage!

I was shocked to discover that this foundation was just £10. The Body Shop isn't really somewhere I've shopped before and I had it in my head that it was super expensive. The tube looks quite small, but it's actually got the same amount of product inside as my beloved UD foundation and being a tube, it means I can cut it open and get every last drop out.

Unfortunately, I am slightly disappointed by this foundation. You have to build up a few layers and use a lot of product to get full coverage. It also wears off in around four hours - but not evenly. I am forever catching sight of myself in the mirror at work and being horrified at my naked chin and nose, whilst the rest of my makeup is immaculate still. That being said, even the UD foundation didn't last well on my nose. I'm sure other regular glasses wearers can empathise with this problem!

However, the foundation isn't all bad. Once you get the hang of applying it in layers, the coverage is very nice. It really evens out my skin tone, hides my acne scarring and mostly masks the redness of any new breakouts - see the photo above, there's a brand new spot on my chin! There's no strong smell to the foundation and it doesn't break me out. With the exception of my chin and my nose, my base tends to last all day.

To get around the disappearing chin coverage, I've bought myself a little concealer and powder from The Body Shop, so I can touch it up during the day. Because there's a workaround, I will be repurchasing this foundation when it runs out, so it's obviously not too bad!

What To Do If Your Year Didn't Get Off To The Best Start

We are now nearly a quarter of the way through 2018! After what felt like the longest January ever, February went super quickly and March is heading the same way. I'm incredibly thankful that this year, I feel like I am achieving things and moving forwards. However, for the past few years, by the time March came rolling around, I felt like I was a failure, that I was never going to hit my goals and that yet another year of my life was going to be a complete write off.

If your year didn't get off to the best start, or you've yet to make any progression on your aspirations for the year, DON'T WORRY! There's still over 75% of the year left to make things happen. Here are some ideas on what you can do to ensure the rest of 2018 is your best year yet.

Assess where you are right now 
Why do you feel like 2018 hasn't been good to you so far? Have you experienced a personal tragedy? Were you unprepared when the clock struck midnight on the 31st December? Have you hit an unexpected bump in the road?

Set aside some time to look at where your life is now, and where you want your life to be. How different are these to each other? Until you have a clear idea of the gap between where you are and where you want to be, it can be hard to work out your next steps.

List your ideas about the way you want 2018 to go
Write a list about all the things you think you might like to do in 2018 - you don't have to do everything you write on this list, this is more an exercise to help you realise what might be possible this year. For example, my own list of goals for 2018 started off as a very vague list of ideas:

  • Eat healthier
  • Get more exercise
  • Learn to drive
  • Blog more
  • Travel more
  • Choose happiness

Turn your list into concrete goals 
Now that you have a vague idea of the type of year you'd like to have, it's time to start turning your ideas into goals. Good goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. In short, your goals need to be realistic, you need to be able to tell when you've achieved them and you need to set a deadline for them.

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, you might set yourself the SMART goal of ensuring you eat at least one portion of fruit or veg with every meal and snack you eat each day by 1st June 2018.

Start taking action
Earlier this year, I blogged a lot about the importance of going out and actually living your life, rather than falling into the trap of always planning but never actually bringing those plans to life. A good plan is a good foundation for achievement, but you can't forget to actually do the things you need to do to get where you want to be.

Accept that life will never be perfect
One of my biggest downfalls is that the second anything goes wrong in my life, for example I have a day where my mood is very low or I get a cold so I can't do the things I'd planned to do that day, I assume that this is it, this is the end, my life is over. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I feel like I've failed if things aren't good for me all the time. There's a very annoying belief in my head that one day, I will be happy and I will never be unhappy again - but obviously, this will never be the case because that's not the way life works.

Overcoming the idea of perfect is one I imagine I will be working on for the rest of my life, but the older I get, the more I'm learning to deal with it and not give in when things go wrong or unexpectedly.

These are just a few of the things I do when I feel like I've hit a brick wall in my personal development and need to reset. If you're reading this post the day it goes live, or 75% of the way through the year, I hope it can help you get going again.

Do I Have To Be Accomplished?

I don't know about you, but every time I log onto social media, I am confronted by the idea of the "Girl Boss". All around me, fellow women are "killing it". There are bloggers landing book deals, working with amazing brands and pushing out great content on a daily basis. This places huge emphasis on accomplishment and achievement and I've been constantly asking myself: "do we have to be accomplished?"

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing other people doing well and achieving their dreams. I will never not clap for the people I love when they're absolutely smashing it, but I think this current obsession with "bossing it" can get unhealthy. Everybody needs a break sometimes for the sake of both their mental and physical health. 

I have dreams. I have goals. I want to be successful - but my definition of success is likely very different to your version of success. To me success isn't owning my own business, earning millions, driving a fast car or living in a house that's far too big. I consider myself successful when my basic human needs are taken care of, I can afford to treat myself and I'm happy.

Some of us are much happier just doing enough to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. When I finish work for the day, I have finished work. I'd rather use my free time to pursue the things I enjoy, instead of relentlessly trying to achieve things for the sake of looking accomplished.

We don't have to be girl bosses. We don't all need to hustle 24/7. It's OK if your job is just a job rather than a career that others aspire to. It's absolutely fine if you spend your spare time watching TV or curled up with a novel. You don't have to be working towards a goal every minute, every hour, every day.

I guess the message I am trying to get across is you do you. If "you" is constantly outdoing yourself, then carry on. If you is living a slower, calmer life where you quietly pursue the things you want to pursue, then continue to live your life. You are not any less of a human being if your accomplishments are different the accomplishments of other people. 

Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette [Product Review]

My favourite colour in the whole wide world is pink, and I just love pink eyeshadow. Sadly, until recently, finding an eyeshadow palette with mostly pink shades in it was very difficult. When I first spotted the Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette, I was drawn to the large number of pink tones in it. At just £6.99, it was a no brainer, I had to have it.

As you can probably see from the pictures, the lettering on the palette does not stand up to the test of time. However, when a palette costs less than a tenner, I'm really not that bothered about the packaging remaining pristine.

I suppose what's important is how the product inside performs.

In terms of performance, each shade is a bit hit and miss. Generally, the lighter shades of the palette are not as good as the darker shades. They lack pigment and it requires a lot more product to build up to the colour you want. However, I really, really like the darker shades. You barely need to use any product at all to get a really deep, intense colour.

The shade range is really versatile. You can great soft, subtle and delicate looks, or go seriously grungy and smoky. This means I get a lot of wear out of it.

The Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette is a really great little buy and although it's not quite as good as my Urban Decay and Too Faced palettes, it's also a fraction of the price and the shade range was exactly what I was looking for when I bought it. Recommended!