What I Read in February

It would seem I have replaced my bingewatching habit with reading instead! I didn't finish a single series during February, but I did read five books, three of which have made their way into my favourites. Reading has well and truly reclaimed the top spot on my list of hobbies.

Here's what I got through this month:

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown 
Loosely based on real life events. Alice is the sister of famous witch finder, Matthew Hopkins. She returns home to Essex widowed and with child to find her brother consumed in the pursuit of witches. 

With my America trip looming ever closer, I'm on a mission to save money. I could just go the library and get books there, but that takes more effort. Instead, I've been finding myself scouring the 99p section of the Kindle store which is how I came across the Witchfinder's Sister.

Unfortunately, this was the weakest book of the bunch this month. I picked it because I fancied a change from all the Young Adult (YA) I've been reading recently, and it certainly satisfied my need for something different. It was also gripping enough to get me through to the end quite quickly.

However, I felt like the story couldn't make its mind up - there were elements of the supernatural in there that never quite developed properly and it felt like the climax was always coming but never quite made it.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter 
Abby Williams left her small town Indiana home 10 years ago and has been trying to erase her past ever since, but when her job takes her back home, she's forced to confront the things she's been trying to forget 

I'm normally very sceptical when people famous for one job, switch to another, models turned actresses, actresses turned singers etc. However, I really like Krysten Ritter and her first novel sounded like exactly the type of book I used to love before my YA obsession started so I thought I'd give it a go.

I really enjoyed this book, a definite page turner. I loved the Indiana setting, the very real depiction of the lasting impact high school can have on you and the mystery was revealed at exactly the right pace.

I found some of the story line slightly far fetched, and a lot of what Abby did felt brushed under the rug by the end, but overall a really good book. I hope Krysten Ritter writes more!

Angelfall by Susan EE
It's not long since the angels came to Earth and destroyed everything, but life will already never be the same again. When Penryn's sister Paige is snatched by a vengeful angel, Penryn is forced to team up with another angel to try and rescue her disabled sister. 

After taking a short break from YA, I was ready to jump right back in. I carefully researched and planned a reading list, which I saved on my Goodreads account, just to spot Angelfall on sale for 99p in the Kindle Store. It has more of an apocalyptic vibe to it than other YA novels I've read, and since I really enjoyed apocalyptic TV show Van Helsing recently, I thought I might enjoy that kinda thing in book form too.

What I didn't bet on was just how much I'd enjoy this book!

Straight away, I found myself incredibly invested in Penryn as a person. As someone who has three younger sisters, it was incredibly easy to empathise with Penryn's pain when Paige is taken, and understand why she'd risk so much to try and rescue her.

The world in which the novel takes place is also convincing - it takes place just weeks after angels invade Earth and whilst there are no detailed descriptions of everything that happened, there is just enough information that I felt satisfied. The fact that it's never fully explained just adds to the element of confusion and not knowing that the people in the book are feeling.

Perhaps most surprisingly in the novel is I even felt convinced by the romance. YA is notorious for Instalove that develops far too quickly, and intensely, and has me like "NOOOOOO ONE feels like that about anyone in real life!" - but here, the romance is secondary to the plot line as a whole, it develops very slowly, and it's not dreamy - it's befitting of the setting in which it takes place.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of YA with a dystopian, apocalyptic, fantastical vibe with a dash of teenage sexual yearning thrown in for good measure.

World After by Susan EE 
The second in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy, of which Angelfall is the first 

After enjoying Angelfall so much, I couldn't wait to get stuck into the second novel in the series, World After. Unfortunately, I'd only give World After 4 out of 5 stars as opposed to 5/5. This is simply because there wasn't as much Raffe in it and I'm still in a mood about that!

Pettiness aside, I still really enjoyed this novel. It was great to get a bit more insight about why the angels had come to Earth and further explore the themes of family and whether it's worth being blindly loyal to someone just because they're the same species as you.

End of Days by Susan EE
The third and final novel in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy (crying face...)

I finished World After on the bus home from work on a Friday night, and when I get home, I brought all my snacks into my bedroom, downloaded End of Days, and sat and read it all in one sitting. Part of me thinks I should have dragged it out longer because I was enjoying the series so much, part of me understands that was never going to happen.

After only giving World After 4 of 5 stars, I'm giving End of Days 5 stars.

I loved everything about it: the amount of Penryn and Raffe together was just right, there were scenes between the two of them that nearly KILLED me and although I predicted the general idea of the ending, I didn't predict exactly how the ending would come about and it really didn't disappoint.

I really hope they make these books into a TV show or a film, I want more!

What have you been reading recently?

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Emily Jane has
read 9 books toward
her goal of
52 books.

What I Watched In February

This must be a first since I first started writing my monthly roundups of the TV shows I've been watching, but this month, I haven't finished a single TV show. Sure, I've been keeping up with my weeklies (Riverdale, Lucifer) and I've had Friends on in the background a lot, but binge watching is something I've lost interest in.

So, instead of writing a round up of the things I watched this month, I thought I'd share some of the TV shows I loved during my time off blogging last year.

A man uproots his entire family and moves them into the Missouri Ozarks after promising to launder millions for a cartel 

When I first saw the trailer to this, I thought it had a kinda Breaking Bad vibe to it - you know, father going to extreme lengths to provide for his family. I also thought Ozark seemed quite funny, so I added it to my to watch list.

Despite being wrong - it is not like Breaking Bad, and whilst the show certainly has funny moments, it's also pretty damn dark in places, I am so glad I watched this TV show. It's got a great story, a range of different and interesting characters and it has somehow added to add yet another destination to my bucket list.

I really recommend this show and I can't wait for the next season. Just don't watch it on a train like I did. I apologise to everyone who was on that train and confronted by unexpected boobs.

Santa Clarita Diet
A Santa Clarita family is turned upside down when a mysterious vomiting bug leaves Mom craving human flesh 

First thing's first, Drew Barrymore's hair in this show is INSANE. It's so long, it's the perfect colour, and I spent a lot of time distracted by how jealous her hair makes me.

If you can get past the beauty of Drew, Santa Clarita Diet is a great show. It's got quite short episodes which I actually quite like these days as it's good for after work viewing. Despite the obvious violence that comes alongside a show about people eating people, Santa Clarita Diet is a very bright, sunny and funny TV show. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the, if you really think about it, horrifying story line, and the comedy.

I'm looking forward to the turn it will take in season two.

The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! A group of interesting women sign up to be a part of a new wrestling show - based on a real life wrestling show! 

Definitely not a show for you if you don't like silly, often controversial, humour. Another one with quite short episodes, so it's great if you're strapped for time. I liked the different range of characters in this show and it was nice to watch some light hearted and human for a change.

Alias Grace
Based on a true story and a book by Margaret Atwood. A young girl is imprisoned after the inhabitants of the house she was a maid at are all brutally murdered - the twist is, she's not quite sure whether she was responsible or not 

I sat down and watched this entire mini series in a day. I did this because I was desperate to know the truth of what happened. If you like to have a definitive answer, don't watch this show...!

Sadly, the problem with TV shows based on real life mysteries that were never solved is that the ending of the TV show is always going to feel like a cop out.

That being said, I did really enjoy Alias Grace. I found it very engaging and the Grace/Mary scene towards the end was INCREDIBLE.

The Mist
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name - The Mist is a horror series about a town that falls into chaos when an unnatural mist falls 

I've never actually read a Stephen King book before, but I have seen the film adaptation of The Mist before. The ending of that film was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things I'd seen at the time, so I was expecting something similar for the TV show.

However, I found the vibe of the TV adaptation had a very, very different vibe to it. Having not read the book, I don't know if the TV show was a closer adaptation or not. The TV show is definitely creepier and more sinister. I was expecting to find it a bit too much for me, but I am actually really disappointed to find out the show has been cancelled after just one season.

Orphan Black
A young woman watches her doppelganger commit suicide and assumes her life, inadvertently finding herself in the middle of a massive conspiracy 

Orphan Black is hands down one of the best TV shows I have EVER watched. I cannot believe it took me so long to get round to it. I binged all of it in an incredibly short amount of time because I just couldn't get enough of it.

Whilst the story line is truly fantastic, what I liked best about Orphan Black was Tatiana Maslany's performance. She plays multiple characters in the TV show and I was truly blown away by how she managed to make all these characters seem like completely different people. It got to the point where I kept trying to Google who was playing the clones because I would genuinely forget they were all Tatiana. I've never seen anything like it.

Do you have any recommendations of binge-worthy TV shows?

Barry M Matte Me Up Metallic Liquid Lip Kits [Product Review]

I first tried a liquid lipstick a few years ago and I haven't looked back since. I find them to be much more long lasting than traditional lipsticks, and when they say matte, they actually mean matte.

But unfortunately, super matte and super matte alone gets boring after a while, so when I saw metallic liquid lipsticks growing in popularity, I knew I had to get my hands on some.

The obvious choice was the Matte Me Up Metallic Lip Kits by Barry M. These kits are vegan and cruelty free, available on the high street and really affordable - exactly what I look for in my makeup. The shades I went for were Avant Garde (purple), Couture (rose gold) and Allure (deep pink).

Each kit comes in a cute metallic box that matches the shade of the product inside. As you'd expect in a lip kit, there's a liquid lipstick in the box with a matching lipliner.

Unfortunately, I don't think the lip liners are that great. I never bother using the Couture lip liner, because it's so pale, I don't feel like there's any point. The other two have a lot more pigment to them, but unlike some other lip liners I own, they're very hard and it can be difficult to draw a smooth, accurate line with them. On warmer days they're a bit easier to work with.

The lipsticks themselves however have become my fast favourites. Couture is a lovely, shimmery nude pink with golden shine running through it that I wear almost daily. You don't need much product to get an opaque layer on the lips. Of the three shades I bought, unfortunately, Couture is the least long lasting but I find this is the case with all lighter shades of lipstick, no matter what the brand is.

Allure is the next most worn lipstick I own, a deeper, more fuschia based metallic pink. When I'm not wearing Couture for work, it's usually this one that I'm wearing instead. Providing I don't need eat or drink an excessive amount, I can get a good six hours wear out of this lipstick before it needs a top up.

I get fewer opportunities to wear Avant Garde, but I try to take the opportunity whenever it arises! Being such a dark purple, it's a little harder to work with. The lip liner is essential here to keep the lipstick in check! I find Avant Garde slightly less metallic than Couture and Allure, but there's still a definite hint of shimmer to it. The best thing about Avant Garde is it last all day (or all night!), even if you're eating and drinking.

As a trio, I'm very happy with these lipsticks. I like the formula a lot, I love the shades I picked and the lasting power is pretty decent. I also think the price point they come in at is affordable and well worth it.

Have you tried the Barry M lip kits? I'm thinking of picking up some matte shades next.

Afternoon Florals

Outfit Details:
Dress, Belt and Shoes: Primark

Photos by Lauren of Blonde Vision

I recently made the decision to unfollow Primark on Instagram. Why did I come to this decision? I was fed up of seeing clothes on there that aren't actually available in UK stores! Without fail, every single time they posted something I would have liked to buy, it wasn't available here. One such item was the dress featured in today's post, so imagine my excitement when I saw it popping up on the Instagrams of a few UK bloggers! I quickly rushed to my own local Primark, just to be disappointed that I couldn't find it. Eventually, I went home to Yorkshire for Christmas, and was lucky enough to find it in the giant Leeds Primark. Hooray!

I love this dress so much that even though it's quite extravagant, I've already managed to wear it three times: Christmas, Boxing Day and for Afternoon Tea. Every time I wear it, I feel much more sophisticated and put together than I actually am. Maxi dresses aren't really something I've embraced in the past, but this is actually my second lace maxi dress and I think because they're sheer and I can wear a short dress underneath, I've finally found a way to make longer dresses work for me. 

Unfortunately, at 5 foot 2, this dress is incredibly long on me and it actually drags along the floor. Whilst this wasn't such an issue wearing it around the house over Christmas, I knew it was going to drive me mad when it got its first outing outside of the house. I'm sadly not handy with a needle and thread, so altering it wan't an option, and I've now completely given up heels that are more than an inch in height, so what was I to do?!

Eventually, it finally clicked that I could wear a waist belt and tuck the excess dress into that. I already owned three waist belts, so I tried them all on and sent pictures to my sister. I wasn't really sold on any of them, especially the one she said looked the best. 

A few days later, I was in Primark when I found myself in the belt section. There was an entire stand dedicated to reduced belts at £1-4ish each, around half of which were waist belts! As soon as I saw this velvet, corset style belt for just a quid, with just one size (my size!) left, I knew I'd found the one. I ran home and showed my sister, and she agreed! 

At first I was quite miffed about having to wear a belt with it, but now I'm happy, and it also makes it look like I put thought into my outfit rather than just throwing a dress on!

Do you have any dresses that just make you feel GREAT? What are they like?

Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

A few weeks ago, I hopped on the train to London feeling very excited because I was on my way to my first ever afternoon tea. Despite being born in Britain, and living here my whole life, I'd somehow managed to go nearly 27 years without ever participating in this Great British tradition.

The chosen venue was the Ham Yard Hotel, tucked down a small side street close to Leicester Square tube station. I was lucky enough to share my my first ever afternoon tea experience with my fave blogger babes, Lauren, Nirvana, Jenny, Justine and Tanya.

Before heading to the hotel, me and Lauren headed into Kensington to take some outfit photos. Although very mild for a January day, it was still very cold once we took our coats off to get the shots we wanted so this didn't take as long as expected! As a result, we ended up at the venue very early but they were more than happy to seat us then and there while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive.

While we waited, the service was very attentive and friendly, and we were given nice glasses of iced water to keep us going while we chatted and browsed the menu.

Once everyone had arrived, a waitress explained to us how everything works and asked if any of us had any dietary requirements or allergies. One of us has a nut allergy and they were happy to work around that. We were also given a selection of drinks to choose from: besides a selection of teas, we were offered coffee and hot chocolate as well. I personally went with a mint tea. 

Our food then arrived shortly afterwards. There was a separate nut-free stand, a stand to serve two people and a stand to serve three people. Each stand had a lovely selection of extravagant desserts, cute little sandwiches and of course, scones! Our waitress explained what everything was and left us to dig in. 

Now here's a little disclaimer: although I am now eating a mainly vegan diet now, I deliberately did not ask for the vegan menu. The reason for this being that although the Ham Yard website says a vegan afternoon tea can be created if notice is given when booking, there is no indicator of what a vegan afternoon tea would actually include. In fact, there's very little information about the standard afternoon tea available beyond "a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones" which you know, is obvious. Me and the girls all agreed we much prefer to see exactly what's on offer before we go out for food. 

Now, grumbling aside, I have no regrets about ditching the vegan diet for this day. I tried every sandwich except the ones with egg and they were great, which is weird, because I'm not a huge sandwich fan. There was a lovely pesto and mozzarella one, but I liked the chicken and salmon ones a lot too. The scones were still warm from the oven and the coffee and walnut macarons are the kind of dessert I dream of. I would have liked to see more chocolate-based desserts, but in all honesty, I was so stuffed on scones, sandwiches and macarons that it wasn't too much of a loss! 

All in all, I had a really good time at my first ever afternoon tea. I enjoyed the food and the lovely little conservatory full of quirky decor really added to the atmosphere. At just £22 each as well, I feel it was very affordable for central London, particularly because we ended up taking food home with us because there was too much to eat then and there! We were given little boxes and hotel branded bags to take our leftovers in as well, which really added to the positive experience. 

If you're ever looking for an afternoon tea in London that doesn't break the bank but still takes place in a cool location with tasty goodies, I'd recommend the Ham Yard Hotel. 

What I Read During January

For the past few years, I've set myself a goal to read 52 books in a year - an average of one a week. Each year, I've failed, but I also get just a little bit closer each time. In 2017, I managed 41 which is the most I have read since I finished university. If January is going to set the tone for the rest of 2018, I'm suddenly feeling very confident that this is the year I finally hit 52.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman
The Book of Dust is the long awaited follow up to Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Whilst the story does feature a baby Lyra, the original trilogy's heroine, the real star of this story is young Malcolm Polstead whose life changes forever after a biblical-style flood. 

When I first heard that Phillip Pullman was going to be releasing a new set of novels in the His Dark Materials universe, I admit I was sceptical. His Dark Materials is one of my favourite stories on earth. I've read it a few times over, most recently last year, and each time it leaves me open mouthed at how brilliant it is. There was a part of me that felt like it should be left alone - but in the end, my desire for more won out. I'm so glad I decided to give this book a chance because it was amazing. Each character is great - with likeable traits and flaws that make them seem so human. The fantastical elements are surprising and unusual. I am seriously looking forward to the next instalment.

The Kingmaker by Gemma Perfect 
Everleigh is the Kingmaker. On her 17th birthday, she will die and her life's blood will determine which of her two brothers will be crowned king...except Everleigh is different. She is the Kingmaker who will live. 

Funnily enough, I read this book completely by accident. There was a book with a similar title on my "To Read" shelf on Goodreads, but I kept seeing ads for The Kingmaker on Facebook. I assumed the ads on Facebook were for the same book as the one I'd seen on Goodreads because the plot line sounded so up my street but in the end it turns out it was a different book!

Despite the brilliant idea, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The story line had such great potential, but unfortunately I found the world the novel takes place in very two-dimensional and even the adult characters seemed really infantile to me. However, the book was so affordable I bought the entire trilogy at once and so I decided to persevere.

Seize the Crown by Gemma Perfect
The second novel in The Kingmaker trilogy 

Unfortunately, I found that this novel had the same issues as the one that precedes it. I continued to dislike all the characters and felt frustrated at how shallow the world in which it is set is. However, I did find my interest growing in what was going to happen next and I quite liked the cliffhanger ending, although it was slightly predictable.

Born to Rule by Gemma Perfect
The third and final novel in The Kingmaker series

After the shock ending of the Seize the Crown, I found myself curious to see how things were going to play out in the this final novel. At last, I felt like there was some character development in this novel and it felt like there was some differentiation between the different characters that tell the story - in the first two books, I would often have to double check whose chapters I was reading because they all sounded the same to me. Whilst the ending was predictable, I did read this final book much more quickly than the others as it was slightly more engaging. Certainly not the best series I've ever read, but I don't regret spending time on it.

Have you read anything enjoyable recently?

Keep up to date with my 2018 reading challenge: 

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Emily Jane has
read 4 books toward
her goal of
52 books.