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Peter Talbott is a widower, who one day after work finds himself with a .45 pistol pointing in his face. It turns out that somebody has been buried under Pete's name - as well as his late wife's...and they're not the only ones. Suddenly, filled with outrage, Pete finds himself thrown from being an ordinary software engineer to being involved in theft, corruption, death, and some downright dodgy dealings. 'The Undertaker' will take you along with Pete on a journey of discovery, into a world of crime that he never thought possible. Peter is a genuinely nice character. The whole thing is written from his point of view, which makes it really easy to feel close to him. He's clearly just an ordinary guy, stumbling across and getting involved in some pretty extraordinary stuff, so the fact that he has his flaws (such as struggling to get over his wife's death and move on to carry on the rest of his life) makes it all more realistic. He has nothing to lose by following his instincts, and in the way in which Pete feels scared and incredulous, yet compelled to investigate has been conveyed well and believably by Brown. During his escapades, Pete meets and befriends Sandy, a younger girl who is also involved in the drama. Sandy is an equally likeable character, as she adds a youthful, feminine edge to the story and softens Pete up a bit! She's very feisty, but I personally wouldn't get along with her if she was real, as she's a bit too clingy for my liking! Nevertheless, I like the innocent edge she brings to the proceedings, whilst proving to be rather unexpected at the same time too! I really enjoyed this story, as it was full of excitement and action, including an explosion, a car chase and a run-in with a gang of youths. It was fast-paced and compelling to read, and several times found myself holding my breath with my heart in my mouth, waiting to see what would happen! It was very intriguing to try and figure out what was really going on, and the fact that the final outcome was plausible in real life is both scary and exciting! As I say, the story is full of action and this does include some violence. However, it isn't graphic and I doubt anyone could get offended by it. I felt that when it came to the violence, it seemed to be more about the action, and getting across who was pulling which moves or who was firing at who (much like in a film), and less about getting bogged down with grisly, gory, graphic details. As a reader, I neither want nor need to know the painfully drawn out, intricate details of anyone's injuries, so Brown has scored highly in this department by tackling it with respect and care. The plot itself, although it was a really good one, was a little simple at times. There weren't lots of layers and sub-plots all going on at once, which is something I don't come across too often in books these days. There was nothing overly detailed or complex about it, but this isn't a bad thing! It meant that 'The Undertaker' was a light read, which is sometimes nice if you just want a bit of escapism. If you're the type that prefers intricately entwined plots, then you may feel that this could have benefitted from sub-plot or two extra, to give it more depth. Otherwise, this is a lovely light read. Around two thirds of the way through, I found that the action waned a bit, and in a lot of other books I would complain that it was dull and that the story dragged. Not in this case! On reflection, this story is so full of excitement, action and intrigue that it was actually nice to have a let up, and to let the dust settle. Far from being dull, the story still kept my interest as the relationship between Pete and Sandy developed. It was during this section that they really got to know each other, and started working as a team, which was a pleasure to read as I had been willing it to happen the whole time! To quote Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together...! The only other niggle that I found was that there was Pete and Sandy, a couple of other essential characters, and quite a few others who we never actually meet. It's these last, distant characters, who we only know by name, that I found hard to get my head around. They all have American Italian names, which I found fairly similar to each other - and as there was nothing else that we could use to remind ourselves which name went with which persona, mostly blended into one. I know that it's a feature of the mafia type organisations and underhand groups in America, but it would have been nice to have a few different names in there, to differentiate between them. Either that, or make sure you concentrate when new characters are introduced! Overall, I did really enjoy this book. It was very entertaining and exciting, but if you're looking for a book with a deep philosophical meaning, this might not be for you. I can thoroughly recommend it if you want a light yet action packed read with loveable characters you can relate to, and a good old fashioned crime story to get your heart going! William F. Brown has previously published two other suspense novels, as well as having penned four award-winning screenplays. This book, 'The Undertaker' is an ebook and so is only available in electronic formats. A Kindle copy can currently be purchased from Amazon for the bargain price of £2.14, and I think this book is totally worth it! Many thanks to Mr. Brown for providing a copy for me to review. :)
I'm sure that you'll all agree that shaving (or your preferred method of hair removal) is a right pain in the proverbial. Sometimes, you just can't be bothered, but the consequence is that you end up with legs that could rival your cat. So the geniuses at Veet have sensed our frustration, and come up with this: Veet Hair Minimising Body Moisturiser. TA DA! The makers claim that this will slow down hair regrowth, so you only have to shave, wax, etc. less frequently, leaving you with smoother skin for longer. Sounds like the solution to all my problems! Well, one of them, at least... It contains a magic ingredient called ProMinimise, which is supposed to work by going straight to the hair follicle, slowing down hair regrowth. It also contains Aloe Vera which, as the bottle states, 'effectively hydrates your skin for up to 24 hours'. Sounds brilliant - no more Godzilla legs! I received my bottle for free as part of a product testing panel, but it is currently available from Boots for £2.49 for a 250ml bottle (normal price £4.99). This morning I also noticed that Tesco sell it for £4.99. It is available in two types: for sensitive skin, and for normal/dry skin. It is best applied daily, after showering, to the legs, body, or any other area from which you want to remove hair less often. It can be used after any method of hair removal. Most of the time I choose to shave as it's quick and easy, so after shaving in the shower I slapped this on to my legs and underarms. I find that a reasonable sized blob is needed to cover each leg - it's more than I would like to use up each time, although it's not excessive. I find that it's very runny, so don't go wild when you open the bottle up or you may have it dripping everywhere! Nevertheless, the runny consistency means it's really easy to rub in everywhere. It doesn't sink in immediately, but within just a couple of minutes will have been absorbed into your skin completely. It smells quite coconutty, and the smell lingers around for quite some time. I don't really like coconut scented beauty products so this isn't a deciding factor for me, but I know some of you may like it! When this moisturiser is first applied, it feels very soft and smooth on the skin, but I find that this feeling wears off quickly. When I apply a moisturiser I like my skin to feel soft and nourished for hours afterwards, but this moisturiser is very disappointing in this department. I don't agree with their claim on the bottle that it hydrates the skin for 24 hours - it may work for a short while, but nowhere near as long as I would have hoped. It isn't good for any serious dry skin - in fact, I wouldn't really use it just for dry skin at all. Nonetheless, although this is an important factor (given that they've actually called it a moisturiser), I wouldn't say it's the main selling point. What every girl's looking for (and perhaps a few blokes, too) is the hair minimising qualities! But does it actually work? Yes! When I first got this I used it daily over the space of a few weeks - now I just use it occasionally. Over the space of about the first two and a half weeks I only needed to shave my legs three times - once, at the beginning, again about six days later, and lastly about the same time again. Over the same time period, had I not been using this moisturiser, I would have expected to shave more like ten times, so it's a remarkable reduction. I also noticed that when the hair regrew, it was much softer and finer than usual. You know how when you shave it grows back thick and dark? Well, with this moisturiser it grew back almost like thinner, softer, natural hair. Lovely jubbly. However, I should probably say that, as I mentioned, I used it on my underarms as well, and noticed no noticeable change in the hair regrowth. The hair regrew with just the same texture, and at the same rate as normal. Not to worry, underarms only take a minute to shave anyway! So, after all of this, have those lovely people at Veet made something that's worth your hard earned cash? Yes and no. If you want just a plain old moisturiser, no. If I was judging this on just its moisturising capacities, I'd have to give it just one star. But if you want something to reduce hair regrowth, this is brilliant and so worth it - I'd give it a full five stars for this. As it is, I have to settle for three. It's handy to take on holiday when you won't want to hassle with shaving every day, but you may find you want to top your skin up with another moisturiser as well to keep it in tip top condition!
I'd owned my previous handbag since I was about 13 years old...don't worry, it wasn't bright or garish or related to any children's TV shows! It was just plain black and quite classically designed, but eventually it started to show its signs of wear and tear, and often left me wanting more space. So, it went to the great big handbag shop in the sky, and I set about finding a replacement. My requirements were clear (although perhaps a little fussy!). My previous bag was black, and although it was practical, in summer or with light coloured outfits it stuck out like a sore thumb, so I wanted a bag in a nice, neutral, light colour that could go with anything. I wanted a bag with a zip closing, and no flaps. Lastly, it had to be big enough to fit a book in it: bigger than my previous bag, at least, which struggled when I wanted to pop a second umbrella in it! So, when I stumbled upon this Maiden Bowl Handbag completely by chance in my local Clark's store, it seemed to tick all the boxes! It's a very neutral colour, like a creamy caramel colour with a hint of grey in it. So far, this has been perfect as it's gone with every outfit I've worn, even white. If I remember correctly, it was also available in black. The fastening is really clever - it's a zip fastening and isn't covered by a flap, but it's a zip with two zipper pulls. You know, like a suitcase where you have two zipper pulls and you can fasten them at any point around the suitcase? This is exactly the same, where you have one pull at each end of the zipper and the opening can be as big or as small as you want it to be. What I find particularly handy about this is that whether you wear your bag on your left or right arm, you can have the bag closed with both zipper pulls by your front, so no sneaky pickpockets can dip their hand into an opening at the back of the bag behind you, where you can't see. This is quite tricky to describe, but trust me that it's a really good feature! I've measured my bag, and it's 37cm long, 25cm high, and 13cm deep. This means that it's a perfect size for me, as I can fit a book in it! I've found that any average sized paperback can easily fit, even ones with 400+ pages. Perfect! On one occasion, I managed to fit my chunky paperback, two of those boxed wraps from Tesco, an umbrella, some A4 pages, my purse and my mobile, as well as all the usual handbag junk in comfortably, and there was still some room to spare. It's like a Mary Poppins bag: from the outside it just looks an average size, but it can fit loads inside! That said, when I've just got a couple of bits and bobs in there they don't get lost swimming around at the bottom - I think it is just the perfect size! I know some girls love pockets and pouches in their handbags, and although this bag only has a few, they're very practical. There is one small exterior pocket on each end, which I don't use, but they're good as they don't stick out as being pockets but just blend in with the rest of the design. On the inside, against the back of the bag there is a zipped pouch, a bit bigger than the size of a cheque. On the opposite side, there are two more pouches (not zipped) - one is a really good size, and the other is meant to hold a mobile phone. I own an HTC Wildfire, and it only just fits in the mobile phone pouch, so if you have any bigger models you may struggle to fit your phone in this pouch. I normally just keep my phone in the other, bigger pouch, or just in the main part of the bag. If you are interested in the same, light coloured bag that I have, you may be worried about it getting grubby or the dirt showing up. Well, I've had mine for quite a while and it hasn't got any marks or scuffs, which is really impressive. It's not real leather, but it's a good imitation, so it should be easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth if you have any spills. I can't find any information on what type of fabric the lining is, but it shouldn't really be a problem if it gets dirty as no one will see it! Oh, and the lining has a really pretty design printed on it! All in all, this is a fabulous bag which was a great purchase as it's perfect for me. It is a great, practical size and goes with any outfit, smart or casual, summer or winter. I'm sure that it will last me for many years to come, and its classic style means it will (hopefully!) never go out of fashion! I purchased mine for £17.49, although it was on offer at half price at the time, so the normal price is £35. It's definitely worth the money I paid for it, and even at the higher price I think it would be good value for money.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist, who is rushed back home from the Dover Port Mortuary as an emergency unfolds. A young man died and was taken to be examined, but later it appears that he may in fact have been alive when he was put in the cooler. Furthermore, on closer examination, his body had received horrific internal injuries, the likes of which Scarpetta has never seen before. At the same time, a little boy was killed in his own backyard, and Scarpetta's husband Benton (of the FBI) is convinced that the young man being charged with the death is innocent. But as the pair tries to make head and tails of the two cases, Scarpetta has the growing suspicion that someone is trying to push her out of her job. Just what has been going on while she's been away? This is the eighteenth book in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, but it is the first book by Cornwell that I've read. This isn't a problem as I understand that each book is a stand-alone story in its own right, but I think it may have helped if I'd read some of the previous books first. I felt like the characters all had a past, things which I was supposed to understand or take for granted as the reader, but as I didn't know anything about them I felt like I couldn't take to the characters fully. That's how I felt near the beginning, at any rate. I found Kay Scarpetta to be a very likeable character. She tries to do good by everyone else, and it was easy to see how she had such a hard time, feeling like someone was trying to push her out of her job. It's a very unsettling feeling, and Cornwell conveyed it well, especially as the book was written from Scarpetta's point of view. I believe that Cornwell's books haven't been written from Scarpetta's perspective for a while, so if you're well acquainted with the Kay Scarpetta series you may enjoy this change. For me, who was meeting Dr. Scarpetta for the first time, just thought it was nice to get to know a character through her own eyes. Benton Wesley, Scarpetta's husband, is a character who I didn't get on well with at all. He used to be the chief profiler for the Special Behavioural Unit of the FBI (incidentally, this is the same unit that features on the show 'Criminal Minds', although the two are totally unrelated) and has just rejoined them to help with the cases. I understand that as a member of the FBI there is a lot of information he may not be able to discuss, but he just took it to the point of rudeness. In conversation with his wife, working on the same cases, several times if she asked him a question he would just completely ignore it and talk about something else. Unless I'm missing something, I just found Benton rude and unsympathetic. A forgettable character. I'm finding this quite a difficult review to write, as I never really settled into the book properly. I thought it was quite confusing, as the different plots fitted together in an entwined, complicated way. I may have been tired when I read part of the book, but I don't think being fully awake would have helped me understand any better! By the time I'd finished the book, I still felt confused about some things, which for me is a real drawback in any book. I don't think that the acronyms or forensic language really helped matters, to be honest. There were loads of acronyms throughout the book, which were all very similar. Just three examples are the AFME (Armed Forces Medical Examiner), the AFDIL (Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory) and the DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). Although with each acronym the full name is given at least once, with there being so many they all blended into one which totally lost me. As for the forensic language, whilst the characters were examining the bodies there was plenty of specific, technical language. I have a very basic knowledge of medicine and the human body and can make educated guesses about what was described, based on word derivations and such, but for the most part I hadn't a clue what they were talking about. It lost me right there and then, and for any less confident reader I'm sure it would be very intimidating. One thing I found odd was that Scarpetta was awake for the whole book - well, at least the first 450 pages (bear in mind that the book only has 496 pages!). The whole book was set over the period of several days, but she doesn't get a wink of sleep. I suppose it is possible to stay awake for this long, but not really practical, and the fact that she was still able to function at such a clear, competent level without any sleep just pushed the boundaries of what was believable and what was not to me. It's only a little thing, but it was something I noticed and it felt out of place...as little as a nap in the car would have sufficed, but it never came! Finally, I have heard that many other of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta books culminate in a big action scene, with Scarpetta and the criminal coming face to face. Well, it doesn't happen in this book. Scarpetta actually does very little of the investigating herself, and at the end there was no big, exciting climax or anything. It was quite disappointing, and the whole book just ended in a bit of an odd, abrupt way. Maybe this is normal and is a part of Cornwell's writing that I'm not used to, but I was disappointed by it. Overall, obviously I can't compare this with any of Cornwell's other books so can't tell you if hardened fans will enjoy it as much or not: I can only say what I thought of it. As I say, I was disappointed by several aspects of the book as a whole. This is just another book in the series, nothing really that special or stand-out. Perhaps it may not have been the best place to start in Cornwell's repertoire, but either way I can't say I'm particularly drawn to read any of her others. If you're into forensic pathology and novels on the same subject, you may enjoy this book more than I did; if you're not, this may not be the book for you. A paperback copy and a Kindle copy can each be bought from Amazon for the same price of £4.49. Alternatively, The Book People are currently selling paperback copies for £6.39 each.
'The Distant Hours' is the third novel by author Kate Morton. Her first two works, 'The House at Riverton' and 'The Forgotten Garden' were published in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and both books were Sunday Times #1 Bestsellers in the UK. All three are stand-alone novels and are not part of a series. 'It started with a letter.' In 1992, Edie Burchill is a young lady who has a job she loves, a mother who won't open up, and a newly single life. One day, a long lost letter arrives for Edie's mother, Meredith, which sets the ball rolling to uncover the past which Meredith would rather be kept hidden. As Edie digs deeper, she begins to unlock the secrets of Milderhurst Castle, deep in the heart of Kent, to which Meredith had been evacuated during the war. Living in Milderhurst Castle are three elderly, lonely sisters: the twins Persephone and Seraphina, and their younger sibling Juniper. Percy and Saffy have spent the last fifty years of their lives looking after Juniper, who lost her mind after being stood up. But the past is never that simple, and it's up to Edie to uncover that which has lain buried for decades, and set things to right. 'The Distant Hours' is a book full of secrets and regrets, resurfacing memories, and the passing of time. This was the second book by Kate Morton which I have read. I read 'The House at Riverton' a few years ago when it was first published, and although I enjoyed it, I think I was a bit young to fully appreciate it. So it was with both excitement and wariness that I opened the cover of 'The Distant Hours', as I didn't want to be disappointed by lacklustre revelations. I needn't have worried. 'The Distant Hours' gripped me right from the start. Morton has a very easy-to-read writing style, which I find very compelling. Her vivid descriptions make the words come to life in a way I have never experienced before: she uses every sense to draw the reader in, to be able to truly visualise what they are reading. The great rusting gates beneath Edie's fingers; the thick smell of smoke; the coolness of the water in the pool; the beautiful swish of pink fabric and the treat of a wartime cake all involve the reader and transport you straight to London and Kent as you follow Edie and the other characters on their journeys of discovery. By the end, the revelations are not disappointing at all, and completely made sense to me. I hadn't imagined exactly what happened, so it was a real surprise which left me both feeling sorry for the Sisters Blythe, yet really understanding under the circumstances. It's amazing just what lengths people would go to to protect themselves and others, and the book as a whole will really make you think about your relationships with members of your family. The story was very gripping, right from the start. Not in a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat way, but in an 'I want to find out the secrets which this castle holds' kind of way. At 600 pages it is quite a chunky book, but I devoured it quickly and found myself loathe to put it down. The story jumps about between 1992 with Edie's explorations, and 1939-41 during the war. Each time there is a change of setting it is clearly marked at the beginning, and as long as you take note of the dates you won't be lost. The jumping back and forth isn't confusing in the slightest; instead, it is done very cleverly as just as Edie makes a discovery or a query, the reader is taken back to the time when it actually happened, by way of explanation. It is told from several different characters' points of view, but again it isn't confusing at all. The name of the character who will be taking you through that section of the book is mentioned within the first few sentences, so you won't be left grasping at straws as you try to guess who you're following. The characters themselves are all very interesting and dynamic, as Morton has presented them in a very believable way. Again, through her powers of description, the author has given us multi-dimensional characters, all with flaws and saving graces. Percy is fastidiously loyal to both the castle and her family, to the point of being controlling and taking charge of their lives, whilst her twin Saffy has been longing for a life away from the castle, a life of her own. It is just her weakness and her mothering instincts over her sisters which keep her rooted to Milderhurst. Juniper is quite different, with the reader being given fleeting glimpses into the nature of the once captivating and enigmatic girl, who becomes captured, reliving one awful night of her life over and over again. Edie is a thoroughly modern woman, who is discovering the world on her own, and although she has to rely on her rather difficult parents sometimes, grows and develops as a character throughout the book. These are just the main four of the character list, but the others are no less interesting and 'real'. Morton has not just brought the story, the castle, the setting to life: she has brought the characters to life as well. I get the feeling that some of what Kate Morton has written she has taken from her own experiences. Meredith, Saffy and Juniper all love writing, so when one of them (I don't recall which) makes a mental note to jot down a peculiar characteristic of someone they meet in their writer's journal, I wonder if it is something that Morton has done herself, in the process of writing this book. I hope that makes sense, but even if I'm wrong I get a strong sense that Morton has thrown herself into this book - on her website (www.katemorton.com/the-rest-is-history) it says that 'Kate continues to write the sorts of books she can disappear inside'. She has clearly done that in 'The Distant Hours', and she takes the reader with her. I ended up feeling completely satisfied when I finished the book, as all the loose ends were neatly tied up. All the little hints and clues which are fed to the reader throughout the book, without them ever noticing, all make sense by the end - and it really is by the end, as the last piece of the puzzle only fits into place within the last three or four pages. This is definitely a book which I will be reading again, and I would recommend any other readers doing the same, as there are probably hundreds of subtleties and nuances which go straight over our heads the first time round. The only - and I mean ONLY - thing I can find fault with in this book is that it contains a number of typing errors. I noticed at least seven which were glaringly obvious to me, such as incorrect punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors, and more. For example, Edie's mother was once referred to as 'Meredity' rather than 'Meredith'. All of the errors which I noticed were obvious things which should have been picked up on numerous times during the publishing process; they clearly haven't heard of proof readers! It's only a minor niggle, but I think a book of this calibre could have at least merited a bit of closer attention to pick them up as it certainly interrupted my reading experience. In short, this is a terrific book which I give a full five stars. It makes for very compelling, interesting, riveting reading and will have your eyes glued to the pages from the first page to the last. Kate Morton is a superbly talented writer, the likes of which are very rare, and 'The Distant Hours' has given me the kick-start I need to go back and re-read 'The House at Riverton', as well as pick up her other works, past and future. At the time of writing, a paperback copy of 'The Distant Hours' is available for £3.99 from Amazon, or for £6.39 from The Book People. A Kindle edition is also available on Amazon for £3.59.
Clarins was started in 1954 by Jacques Courtin-Clarins, when he opened the first Clarins Institut in Paris. Later, his two sons Christian and Olivier also joined Clarins, and they're still the President and the Director General of the company to this day. Clarins has become a permanent fixture on the British high street, with counters in department stores up and down the country. The company is world-renowned for creating high-quality products, including for the face and body, make up, fragrances, sun products and products for men. The product which I will review today is the Clarins Rouge Prodige True-Hold Colour and Shine Lipstick, which is currently priced £17 on both the Clarins and Boots websites. There are over 20 shades available, including pinks, reds and nudes. I own shade 109 Rosewood. What Clarins say: "An unrivalled formula that delivers long-lasting lip colour, shine and exceptional comfort. High Fidelity Pearl technology ensures that colour and shine stay true for hours while the creamy rich texture provides nourishing skin care lip benefits." First of all, this lipstick looks really posh and good quality. The casing is sleek and gold, and once you've removed the lid, the lipstick twists smoothly and gently up out of an elegant gold tube. There's no doubt that it looks really good quality, but for me I think it looks a little too grown up. I can imagine my Gran using something looking like this, but of course it should be the lipstick that counts, not its packaging! This lipstick is so easy to apply. It's very smooth and creamy, and just glides on. It doesn't drag or feel dry, and once applied your lips will feel really soft and smooth. If I was judging it on this alone I'd give it five stars, as the application is a pleasure. It doesn't have any sparkle and isn't high gloss, but does give your lips a nice sheen. It doesn't feel sticky or gloopy at all, but does give your lips a slightly moist look. It's hard to describe but it looks lovely and feels great to wear. I was lucky enough to win this lipstick so didn't have a choice in the colour which is a shame. The shade that I own is almost exactly the same colour as my lips, so although when it's applied my lips have a slight gloss to them, you can't notice the colour at all. I know this isn't a fault of the product, but for most people if you want to notice your lip colour I'd recommend choosing a brighter or darker shade. Now, this is supposed to be a long lasting lipstick, but with my one being the same colour as my lips it's very hard to judge where the lipstick ends and my lips begin. However, I've done my best. The shine lasts a while (a couple of hours at most), but doesn't withstand the trauma that is eating a meal and having a drink. This isn't uncommon with lipsticks, as your lips do take quite a battering during mealtimes, but on examining my lips after finishing meals I get quite a shock. It might be hard to notice with the shade that I own, but I could discern that the colour itself was still there on my lips. This is unheard of! A lipstick lasting throughout a meal? Whatever next?! The shine doesn't last that long, but the colour stays around for hours and hours! I'm sure that this would be much more noticeable with the darker or brighter colours. I haven't experienced any transfer with this product, or any smearing or bleeding. Once it's on, the colour stays put. The major downside with this product, in my opinion, is that even before the shine has worn off, my lips begin to feel very dry. I have a bit of an obsession with lip balm and having soft, smooth, moisturised lips, and hate the feeling of dryness. However, I found this lipstick very drying and soon felt that I needed a top up or some lip balm...but with the colour still remaining, I couldn't do that as I'd mess up my lip balm! I don't know what "nourishing skin care lip benefits" Clarins were talking about, but in my opinion they don't work. It starts out creamy and soft, but soon feels dry and uncomfortable. That's the price you have to pay for getting a long lasting lipstick, I guess, and it's up to you to decide which is more important to you. Overall, I think this lipstick is a bit of a let-down. It looks great and starts of really well, but the drying effect is something which I just can't overlook. For the rather hefty price tag and the brand name I was expecting something a lot better, although it appears to be very good quality. For me, I'm pleased I won it rather than having bought it myself, as I haven't been that impressed. I think that if this is the type of make-up that you can afford to buy regularly, you won't think it's anything special and you can probably get a lot better for your money; if this would be an extravagant treat for you, I think you'll be disappointed so look elsewhere.
Everybody loves a good laugh, and Michael McIntyre is a national treasure. Also, everybody seems to love a good 'celeb' autobiography - these days you only need be in the spotlight for a few months before your rags-to-riches life story adorns every bookshop's shelves. That's why, when I realised that Michael McIntyre hadn't released a story of his life until 'Life and Laughing' was published in October 2010 (with the paperback version coming out at the end of March 2011) I was very surprised...and keen to read it! This book tells the story of Michael's life, from his birth, right up until he found fame, and with a brief commentary on what has happened since. It has been a life of laughs and love, trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and this book has shown the public a side to Michael which very rarely gets seen. Being an autobiography, it is written by Michael McIntyre himself, which is very obvious from the style of writing. It is written exactly like he talks, and often I could even visualise him saying the words! He hasn't tried to be fancy or a flouncy well-practised writer, with an extraordinary vocabulary and meticulous grammar, the story edited to within an inch of its life. No; he has managed to put down on paper, quite simply, himself. It is a very honest account, and it's clear that the words have come straight from his mouth - no ghostwriter in sight! Michael is a comedian - his job is to make people laugh, and by all accounts it isn't forced or put on, he is a naturally funny person. This really comes across in his book, as it's very funny and there are jokes on each and every page. I'm not one for laughing out loud at books, but one of Michael's talents is that he turns ordinary, everyday events into hilarious moments, in a way that just captures life - he does this both on stage and in the book, and it really had me giggling several times at the things he says. Of course, if you're not a fan of Michael McIntyre or his comedy, firstly what is wrong with you?! And secondly (and more seriously) this book may not be for you as it just oozes with his comedy style. Once Michael finds his passion for comedy, he gives several examples of his scripts and jokes, to give the reader an idea of the types of material he was coming up with at the time. This is a nice touch, which takes us from simply reading about his life to actively getting involved in it. The reader goes from being an onlooker to an active participant, a member of his audience. However, before he even gets that far, in the first half of the book he uses some of his jokes to describe events - jokes which he has performed on stage. This only happened two or three times, but as I was reading I was sure I already knew the rest of what he was going to say...until I realised I'd seen him perform them on TV. This isn't a problem and of course he's allowed to pepper his work with his own comedy material, but in a way I felt a bit cheated. Couldn't he have described those events in his own, honest, factual words, rather than lifting them from a performance and making the events into a show? Perhaps I'm being picky, but I thought it was worth mentioning... As a rough estimate, I would say that the first third of the book is dedicated to Michael's life as a youngster, and there's a lot to do with members of his family and what they get up to. By the sounds of it they too led very interesting lives, and without doubt it impacted on Michael and the way he grew up and began to see the world, but maybe it would have been nice to have more of his childhood memories. How did he spend his Sunday afternoons? What did he think of his teachers? Did he ever hide his peas under some other food? His family obviously meant the world to him and played and essential part of his life, but he did devote a large portion of this book to them. It should be his story, not theirs. Furthermore, the third quarter (or so) talks a lot of Michael's struggle to succeed in the comedy world, and of his efforts at the Comedy Store and Jongleurs. I found that this part was - dare I say it - a little boring? It seemed to drag on a bit, but you could argue that this is a good thing. From what Michael says, it is an incredibly difficult thing to succeed in comedy and very few make it to real stardom, so perhaps this section drove home this point. His life was routine and unexciting, dragging on from day to day, and this is reflected in this part of the book. Hmm...maybe it isn't such a bad thing after all, but is actually a very clever, well thought out writing tool! I did get the impression on several occasions that Michael McIntyre was exaggerating some events. He's a funny man, and I know that his job is to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, but on occasions I felt he took things too far. I wanted to read about his life and what actually happened, not what could have happened if everyone was exuberant and everything was exaggerated. Again, this didn't happen a lot, but when it did I just felt like he was trying too hard and could have just expressed things as they really happened, honestly, without all the show. Nevertheless, I feel like I'm picking away at this book and finding faults with it at every turn, and I get the feeling I'm giving you that impression too... However, these are only occasional things I noticed, which only result in me knocking one star off the rating. It really is a very honest, captivating read. I said at the beginning that he hadn't tried to be perfect, he had tried to be himself, and that's why I think I can overlook these minor details. Had the book come across like he was a word-perfect author as well as a fantastic entertainer, I think I would have criticised it for not being personal enough. As it is, it's a remarkable personal account. The first half of the book is very jokey - it's a joke a sentence, or just about. It is very funny to read, but at times I just wanted a bit of seriousness. You know those people who laugh at everything and can never take anything seriously? And after a while you just want to shake them and tell them to not make a joke out of every little thing? That's how I felt once or twice through the first half, but by the second half the tone of the writing had changed completely. It was not such funny, laugh-a-minute type reading, but more serious and important. I guess Michael grew up and realised that life can be tough sometimes... This second, more serious half was actually very touching. As I said, the life of a comedian is far from easy, which Michael really manages to convey. He has experienced dejection and rejection, and I found myself feeling very sorry for him. His writing is very honest and conversational, which draws the reader in, so I went on his difficult journey with him. That's a very difficult thing for even the most successful of writers to do, so I commend him on his ability to convey his feelings! Behind all the gags and showmanship, there are some very endearing moments. If you look behind the performance at the man himself, this is a really touching piece of writing which gives insights into the life of Michael McIntyre which I had never guessed would have happened. Onstage, he is the ever-happy, chubby Chinese man when he smiles...but behind that life hasn't always been easy for him. I should warn you that there is some occasional swearing, which I felt was a bit unnecessary. In fact, it shocked me a bit at first, as I haven't seen him swear on stage, so I didn't think such profanities could escape from such a nice, posh man's lips! They are few and far between (well, maybe quite common when he tells of his wife going into labour!), but I got used to it. However, I'm not sure I'd be happy about youngsters reading it...perhaps you could censor it when you read it, by blacking out the rude words first, before you give it to your children to read! :P Also included at intervals in this book are pages of photos from throughout Michael's life, right from one of the first pictures ever taken of him, right until the moment he stood on stage under the spotlight in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. I love the photo parts of autobiographies - in this case there aren't too many pictures, but just enough to illustrate and document his life so far. Overall, despite what it may seem, I actually really enjoyed Michael McIntyre's autobiography. I am a huge fan of his, so enjoyed finding out how he made it to where he is today. It may not be perfect (which could lead me to believe that it had been put together pretty swiftly - if they had taken more time over the book's production maybe more of those little niggles could have been ironed out) but it's a really open account and I thank Michael for being so honest. If you are also a fan of his, I would recommend you read this as it won't take long to read (it's only 384 pages long) but will show you the man beneath the bouffant hair. At the time of writing, you can purchase a hardback copy for £10, a paperback copy for £4.49, or a Kindle copy for £3.99, all from Amazon. Audiobook versions are also available from Amazon at around the £10 mark.
Ray Hegarty lies dead in his daughter Sienna's bedroom. Sienna is found covered in his blood, but although she denies any wrongdoing, all the evidence is stacked against her. Professor Joe O'Loughlin is a psychologist who is given the task of writing a psychological report of Sienna, but as his daughter Charlie is Sienna's best friend, there are worries that his personal involvement is clouding his judgement. However, he's the only person who believes Sienna is innocent, so can he help her? Or is he barking up the wrong tree? This is a gripping, exciting story which combines abuse, lies, secrecy, racism and corruption, which will keep your attention til the very end. This was the first book I'd read by Michael Robotham (in fact, it was the first time I'd heard of him!) and I have been thoroughly impressed. Robotham is obviously a very talented writer, who is able to put together a detailed plot which maintains its momentum throughout. There are quite a few characters in the book, but they are all very clearly described and well-developed. The story is written in the first person, through the eyes of Professor Joe O'Loughlin. He is very likeable and believable, and he seems like a very caring bloke. Nevertheless, I did find him a little hard to visualise, as he seemed relatively young yet he had Parkinson's and sometimes had a mindset which seemed older than his years. I'm not saying young people don't get Parkinson's, as I know that sadly they can, but I just thought some aspects of Joe's character were juxtapositioned with some others. Furthermore, Joe is a professor of psychology, who likes spending as much time as possible with his daughters. That's it, not a former police officer, not a regular crime fighter, just a professor of psychology. He may have friends and acquaintances in the police force, but how he managed to get so involved in a criminal investigation is beyond me. I'm sure that in real life he wouldn't be able to have so much contact with the chief suspect, and he somehow always managed to go places and find out information which I don't think he should have been allowed. Some may call it artistic licence on Robotham's part - I call it stretching reality. On to other matters... There are several sub-stories to this plot and all are interlinked - the fun comes in by trying to figure out how. I often find that sub-plots within crime novels can either seem unnecessary, or very complicated and confusing. Luckily, this was not the case in 'Bleed For Me'! It'll make your brain work as you try to figure out how everything's linked, but it won't be in a bad way like you're trying to figure out what's going on. Above I mentioned some of the themes contained in the book, and there's no doubt about it that they're very mature themes. I will warn you that the abuse I mentioned is child abuse, but it has all been handled very sensitively. There are no graphic descriptions, and nothing is really described in any great detail, so it shouldn't be offensive or upsetting to most people. I think it must have been difficult for Robotham to tackle so many hard-hitting themes in one book, but he has managed well. I would even go as far as saying a teenager could read this book: of course, it depends on the maturity of the specific child, but as long as they are mature enough understand what these themes are about and that they're totally wrong, they shouldn't find this book shocking or offensive at all. Having said that, I do remember one sad bit...but I am quite a softie! I found it quite upsetting and nearly cried, but it's just part of my personality that I hate reading and watching things like that as they really upset me (I'm trying not to give too much away, but if you're worried about what it might be and want more details please send me a message and I'll spill the beans!). However, if any of you are real tough nuts you'll probably just think I'm being daft...the rest of the book really is quite sensitively handled! Along a similar vein, Robotham's writing style is very easy to read, and you won't find yourself struggling with any technical or detailed language. The Professor's a psychologist, there's a police investigation going on, and parts are set in the middle of a court room, but there is very little specific jargon relating to any of these which could fly straight over the heads of the uninformed. I have virtually no real-life knowledge of any of these professions or processes, but I still followed the story easily and could clearly understand what was happening...quite a feat of achievement! In fact, Robotham has a very easy to read style. In this book he has created tension, happiness, sadness, anger, curiosity and much, much more. The story is very gripping and draws you in from the start - and it'll keep you interested right til the end. In addition, what I like about Robotham's style is his sharp wit. This isn't a laugh out loud, funny book, but every so often he just puts in a little one-liner or quip which had me giggle and smile to myself. It's a superb way of lightening up what could otherwise be quite a tense book, and is a very personal, original way of doing so. Lastly, the chapters are mostly quite short, and if not at least they're separated into shorter passages. Not exactly James Patterson short, but short enough that if you need to stop reading (although why would you want to?!) you should be able to do so within a couple of pages. Overall, this is a really good book which has done British crime writers great credit. This book was only published at the end of last year, so hasn't been out all that long, but I really hope it becomes more popular and that Michael Robotham makes a bigger name for himself, as he really deserves it. 'Bleed For Me' isn't perfect, but it makes for great reading and will keep you glued to your seat. Enjoy! A paperback copy of 'Bleed For Me' can currently be bought for £3.98 from Amazon or The Book People, and a Kindle copy will set you back £3.99.
---Background--- Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström are a Swedish crime writing duo who are relatively new to the writing scene, their first book 'Odjuret' (which translates as 'The Beast' in English) being published in 2004. They have published five books in total so far, most recently 'Three Seconds' in 2009. Their books have already become popular, as they've been translated into several other languages including English and German, and they have received much recognition for their work, such as being included on the New York Times list of Notable Crime Fiction for 2009. Roslund has worked for many years as a news reporter and journalist in Sweden for 'Rapport News'. His writing partner, Hellström, is an ex-criminal who has turned his life around and now works on trying to prevent crime, as well as helping to rehabilitate young offenders and drug addicts. It is this remarkable combination which means their writing really works, as they are able to combine realistic knowledge of cultural attitudes and life inside a prison to create gripping, intriguing storylines. ---The Plot--- Piet Hoffman is an undercover intelligence worker, just about to make one of the biggest breakthroughs with the Polish mafia in Sweden's history. The only problem is that he has to go to prison to complete it - and once he's in there, he's on his own. What's more, not even his family knows of his secret life. Meanwhile, a drug-related murder takes place, and DI Ewert Grens starts investigating but hits dead ends at every turn. Clutching at straws, he finds a link between Piet Hoffman and the murder, and pushes to find out how everything links together. But what he discovers is like nothing he ever imagined, and involves decisions and actions he thought he'd never have to make... ---The Verdict: Pick Up Or Put Down?--- Pick up! All in all, this book is excellently written and very enjoyable. It is the type of book that is very enjoyable as I think everyone will find something within it that they will enjoy. Ewert Grens is a very likeable character: quirky, elderly, determined, driven, yet sensitive as he is still grieving over the loss of his wife. Personally, I can relate to him as he is very focused and hard-working and will not stop until he finds the answers he is looking for, which immediately earns him respect. However, he isn't infallible as the transition he makes whilst dealing with his grief is both touching and endearing. Piet Hoffman is the type of character who I think we, as readers, are supposed to warm to and like, but I found him a little difficult to understand. As Grens himself muses at one point, when Hoffman has a wife and children who he loves with all his heart, how can he even consider lying to them, let alone risk losing everything? His choices seem a little far-fetched and badly thought out for me, but even still I guess it all makes for a good story. At first the book may seem a little hard to get into. I found that in the beginning it was difficult to follow who was who (not helped by the fact that they all had fairly similar Swedish names which was a little confusing!), because as that point the goings-on were all still a little shady. However, stick with it as it won't be long until all becomes clear and it's easier to get a grip on who all the characters are. Having said that, although you may grow to understand and remember who all the characters are and what their roles are, at times I found it quite difficult to follow who was on which side (i.e. who was supporting Hoffman and who wasn't). There was one character in particular who seemed to change his mind several times within each conversation! This became a bit frustrating but I tended to lose concentration on what he was saying in the end! The story was very well developed and was fast-paced (sometimes maybe too much so? The characters seemed to fit an awful lot of rushing about into each day...) but you certainly won't be left bored. However, once Grens makes That Decision (you'll know it when you get there) I think the next part of the story drags on a bit and could be cut down a lot. Nevertheless, it certainly showed his persistence! This book is very exciting and captivating, and you'll find yourself getting drawn into it to see what happens. It's not a mystery and there's not a lot of guesswork to be done, but it's still so intriguing to see how things are going to unfold. Will Hoffman complete his task? Will Grens solve the murder? Will the truth ever come out? These questions will keep those pages turning! A large part of the story is set inside a prison, which is something I am fascinated in. I visited a prison last year and chatted with some of the prisoners, which was one of the strangest yet most interesting experiences I've ever had, so reading the descriptions of what life behind bars is like from Hellström (who also had first hand experience) just brought the whole story to life. I can't imagine spending years of my life passing time in a tiny room, without my family and fearing for my life, but thanks to Hellström the book gives insight into what it's like and how prisoners cope. I mentioned that the beginning of the book is a little hard to follow and found myself skimming a lot of it until I got to grips with who everyone was. Well, this is the type of book that once you get into it you wish you'd paid more attention in the beginning! So, I urge you - although you might not feel like it, it's a good idea to concentrate on what goes on in the beginning as then the rest of the story will unfold more easily for you. The fast pace of this book would make it perfect for a movie, and it seems like Roslund and Hellström wrote it with this in mind. It's full of action, intrigue, violence (although nothing too graphic or horrible), but still with a couple of touching and loving moments. I really hope they make a film out of it as it would work really well - they've even left it open so a sequel could work well too. As I said right in the beginning, there is something that everyone will like! ---Final Thoughts--- My review of this book comes to you with my wholehearted recommendation. There may have been a few niggles for me, but they will probably be ironed out of their writing as the pair complete more books. I have to detract a star because occasionally it was a little hard to follow who people were and what they were thinking, but overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. The characters were great and the plot was compelling, so much so that my mum even commented that it's the best book she's read in a long time! I'll definitely be looking out for some of their other books and I think you should too! :) You can currently purchase a copy for £4.46 from Amazon, or £6.39 from The Book People.
It was November, the temperature was dropping rapidly, and the threat of snow was growing with each passing day. At night, I ended up wearing two pairs of thick socks, legwarmers, a pair of long, thick winter pyjama trousers, a big winter pyjama top, a thick jumper, and covered myself with my 10.5 tog duvet, as well as two blankets each night...and was still cold. It was time to take control of the situation, and buy an electric blanket. I sent my mum on the mission of buying an electric blanket for me - mums know about these things, right? Right! She returned with the Silentnight Comfort Control Heated Underblanket. It came in different packaging from that in the Dooyoo picture - mine came in a zip-up plastic case - but I presume it's the same product! At the time of writing you can purchase one for £20 from Wilkinson or £24 from Littlewoods. I have also seen some on ebay for a much lower price - it's worth shopping around, as from what I see the price can vary quite a bit. If you're anything like me, you'll have images of electric blankets being big, thick, musty-smelling things which look like picnic blankets, which would be placed just below the duvet but on top of the sleeping person. Not very cool things, to be honest (no pun intended!). Well, think again. This electric blanket is plain cream in colour, and is made of a very thin, felt-like fabric. You can see and feel the heating elements running through the fabric, but they're thin and unobtrusive. To use, this blanket actually sits underneath you, directly above the mattress but below the sheet. This means that you won't see it, you won't have anything bulky weighing you down, and you'll probably be unaware that it's there at all. Much nicer than before! Attached to the blanket are several very long, thin cords which you should lace underneath the mattress and tie, to keep the blanket in place. This should be done firmly, but not too tightly! There is a little plastic piece which attaches the blanket to the wire, control panel and plug. This little plastic piece should go at the pillow end, on the top side of the blanket, but due to the positions of the plug points in my bedroom I currently have it at the foot end and haven't experienced any problems. However, it can become uncomfortable - when I originally put the blanket on, with this plastic piece at the pillow end it dug into my shoulder, and now I have it positioned at the foot end I woke up a few nights ago with it digging into my ankle, so I would prefer it if I could position it on the underside of the blanket. The blanket I have is for a single bed, which was what I was using at the time of purchase. The size of the blanket actually surprised me, as it doesn't completely cover the mattress. There's a space of roughly three inches at each side and the bottom of the bed which are not covered by the blanket, and a larger space at the top underneath the pillow. In principal this is fine as the blanket should heat the air in the space above it and under the duvet, but in reality if a foot or elbow strays to beyond the edge of the blanket, it'll get a sharp shock when it realises that part of the mattress is left cold! :( I've now moved into a double bed and am still using the same electric blanket, but I have positioned it on just one side of the bed. The strings to tie it in place are still plenty long enough to tie it on around the larger bed. I haven't measured it exactly, but the wire connecting the plug to the blanket is only around two metres long. This doesn't sound too bad, but if you're like me and don't have many plug points in your room, a slightly longer wire would be more practical. So, just before you get into bed, grab hold of the control halfway along the wire (which you should have connected to the mains) and slide the little switch up. The blanket has three heat settings; the higher the number, the higher the heat. There is also a '0' at the top and bottom of the control panel, which you can use to switch the blanket off. I usually switch it onto setting 3 to begin with, which is the highest setting, as this will heat things up quickly. Within fifteen minutes your bed will be more than warm enough to get into, and you'll certainly notice it. If you leave it on this setting for an hour or so, it will get so hot that you almost can't leave your legs on it or they'll burn! Once you're in (or when the temperature's reached your desired level), you can switch the control panel onto a lower setting for things to cool down a bit. If you choose to leave it on all night, which I often do during winter and cooler nights, it's best to leave it on setting 1 (the lowest heat setting). Much as you might be tempted to leave it on a higher setting, take my word for it that anything higher will get too hot after a few hours - the lowest setting definitely provides a comfortable level of heat for the whole night. Needless to say, you should keep your blanket covered when in use, in order to retain the heat. In other words, don't fold the duvet back! Also, when you get out of bed in the morning, or when you've finished using it, remember to switch it back to 0, or off, as you don't want to put yourself or your home at risk by keeping it on all day. Rather handily, the blanket can be machine washed and tumble dried on a low-heat setting, although it is preferable to let it air-dry if possible. As the blanket sits below the sheet I find that the sheet protects the blanket a lot, so I have never had need to wash it as of yet as it doesn't look dirty at all. Of course, you should read the instructions booklet carefully first before you do wash the blanket, to ensure that you safely disconnect all the wiring and electrics first. Overall, in terms of heating you up and keeping your bed toasty all night, I'd definitely give this electric blanket five stars. As it's from Silentnight you know it's good quality, and it's certainly more comfortable and practical to use than older, traditional designs. I find it much more user-friendly than hot water bottles, and the heat is spread more evenly as well. In addition, the three heat settings are certainly a bonus! The only things that let it down are the length of the main wire which I feel could be longer, and the fact that it doesn't entirely cover your mattress, but leaves a couple of inches round each edge which stay colder. For these two factors I have to knock off one star.
I'm a girl that loves a freebie, so when I was offered the chance to test out Rimmel's 25Hour Lasting Finish Foundation as part of a product testing panel I'm on, of course I jumped at the chance. This is a liquid foundation which comes in six shades: Ivory, True Ivory, Soft Beige, Classic Beige, True Nude and Natural Beige. I had to choose my shade online which was rather risky as I didn't know how true-to-life the colours were, but I opted for Soft Beige. I often have trouble with foundation shades as many are too pink for me, as I have a slight yellow undertone to my skin. However, when it arrived and I tried it out, I found that Soft Beige is actually a great match for my skin, much better than other foundations I'd used! However, I do feel that the shade selection is very limited - you'll be lucky if you happen to match one of the six shades they offer, which to me look either quite pink or orange! (Incidentally, when I compare my bottle to the shades on the Rimmel website, the colour on screen looks a bit paler and pinker than in real life. Something worth bearing in mind if you're looking to order online.) Rimmel claims that this foundation is 'Sweat, heat, humidity and transfer proof for up to 25 hours. Enriched with a revitalising Mineral Complex and moisturising Aqua Primer. Skin feels energised and hydrated all day'. So, once it had arrived, it was time to try it out. I don't own any foundation brushes and am not an expert at all the latest techniques, so I squeezed some out of the pump-action bottle and started applying it using just my fingers. Consistency wise, I found it quite a bit thicker than the Rimmel Match Perfection foundation which I was used to using, but after continued use I've become used to it and can now see that it's a real benefit as it means the coverage is really even. Although I just use my fingers to apply it, it's so easy to blend and doesn't sit thickly or heavily on the skin. As a result of my genetic condition, I have some circulation difficulties and find it difficult to regulate my body temperature. The result: in summer when I get way too hot and can't stand the heat, I tend to perspire more easily than others, and more easily than I would like! I've found that this can often cause foundation to 'lift' off my skin, especially on my forehead, which can not only make it look shiny, but means it rubs, smears and transfers off extremely easily. Not the case with this foundation! I fully support Rimmel's claim that this foundation is sweat, heat, humidity and transfer proof, as although the foundation still looks like it's lifting, if I press a tissue to my skin virtually no foundation rubs off at all. It is certainly the best foundation I've come across (out of both liquid and powder types) when it comes to staying put after sweat and heat. I'm not going to pretend to know whether this foundation really does last for 25 hours or not. I completely remove my make up every night before I go to bed, so only ever wear it for a maximum of about 16 hours! However, I've been very impressed at how it does actually last throughout the day. With other foundations my skin looked a bit tired and dry after a day's worth of wear, but with Rimmel's Lasting Finish 25 Hour Foundation it looks freshly applied all day. Rimmel have said that they made this product because they wanted a foundation that lasted as long as we can, and I think they've succeeded as I've never had need to re-apply or touch up the foundation at all. As I said, I can't claim to know whether it really lasts 25 hours or not (as I'm never even awake that long!) but I'm confident that this foundation would last if you have longer days than I do. To wear, it's very comfortable and doesn't sit heavily on the skin at all. In fact, I don't feel like I'm wearing any make-up, which is remarkable for a foundation which has such good staying power. Despite the fact that it doesn't rub or transfer off, this foundation is very easy to remove. It can simply be wiped off - I just use my everyday cleansing facial wipes, but any other make-up remover should remove this with ease. I can't remember exactly when I received my full-sized sample, but if I remember correctly it was about six months ago. My 30ml bottle is lasting me ages, and although I received mine free it is currently available for £6.99 from either Boots or Superdrug, to name just a few retailers. At this price, I think this is excellent value for money. Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. It gives good coverage and blends well, stays put all day long, even after sweating, it's cheap and great value for money as a bottle lasts for ages. I've been so impressed with it that I've actually given up on the previous foundation I was using (Rimmel Match Perfection) and am now solely using this instead!
My legs are left neglected under long trousers and jeans during the cold winter months, so when the sun starts to make an appearance and it's time to bare some skin, my legs are in much need of some T.L.C. My skin, when left to its own devices, gets very dry and scaly on my legs, and the tops of my arms can get quite dry too. I've been on a lifelong mission to find the perfect moisturiser to tackle the dryness, and after going through dozens of half-used bottles lying forgotten in my cupboard, I think I might have finally found it! ---What Is It?--- Sanctuary Body Lotion is part of the range created by the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden. The products were designed to give people the feeling of having a spa-type pampering session or therapist, right in the comfort of their own homes. What the Sanctuary says: 'Replenish, moisturise and stimulate your skin with invigorating ginger, nourishing jojoba and fragrant spices. This wonderfully fragrant, super absorbent lotion nourishes and stimulates the body, smoothing away dryness and revitalising tired skin. Invigorating ginger root extract is combined with nourishing jojoba and pro vitamin B5 for a super smooth finish and a warm tingling sensation.' This body lotion also claims to provide 24-hour moisturisation. Sounds good, doesn't it? I certainly thought so, and couldn't wait to try it out. ---What's It Like To Use?--- The lotion is dispensed by a pump-action bottle, which I'd never seen on a body lotion before. It certainly helps to keep things mess-free, but it is very difficult to get an exact amount out of the bottle. Sometimes a whole pump is just too much, but with a bit of practice I seem to have got the art of getting half a pump out down to a tee, which will have to do. All things considered, I've actually grown to look upon the pump-action method of dispensing body lotion quite favourably, as it is less messy, and to rub in a little extra lotion isn't that much of a problem in the greater scheme of things. In my opinion, this body lotion has the perfect consistency. Some may see it as a little runny, but it certainly doesn't run off my skin or drip at all. Instead, it's so easy to spread on my skin, and goes on so smoothly. It rubs in quickly, which is ideal in this fast-paced world where no one can afford to spend hours rubbing their skin. It sinks in quickly and evenly, and leaves great results that I'll get onto later... ---Sounds Good So Far...Is It Too Good To Be True?--- Not at all! The lotion rubs in easily, and doesn't leave any sticky or tacky feeling on the skin. This is one major requirement for me when it comes to moisturisers, as I think there's nothing worse than having your legs stick together for the rest of the day. Hence why this body lotion gets big brownie points from me, as instead of stickiness you get gorgeous soft, smooth skin all over. The moisturiser really is very effective, as it has really got to grips with my dry winter skin. Ever since the sun came out for the first time about a month ago and I got my legs out for a bit of a tan, I've been using this moisturiser at least once a day (twice at the beginning) and there is now no trace of dryness at all. All the dryness and scaliness is completely gone, and I'm proud to get my pins out in the sun! I am also prone to dryness on my heels - nothing drastic, but after a couple of rubs with this body lotion my heels have smoothed up nicely. However, it's not specifically for this purpose and if your feet need more care, you may prefer something a little more heavy-duty than this. I'd actually agree with the claim that it provides 24-hour moisturisation. I apply it every morning after my shower, but I never feel that I HAVE to apply it. My skin still feels suitably moistened and soft from the day before - I simply do it to keep my skin in check, and to prevent my legs from falling into disrepair again.... :o) As for that warm, tingling sensation, to be honest I'm not sure I really noticed it. The ginger is supposed to encourage blood flow to your skin, which should keep it healthy and glowing - I agree with it looking healthy and glowing, and my skin did feel warm and massaged, but I put that more down to my rubbing in skills rather than any tingling sensation. I have noticed a few comments on Sanctuary's website from other customers who have experienced a burning sensation from this lotion, so if you have particularly sensitive do be careful when using it. I can be sensitive to certain products, but have never had any kind of adverse reaction in my experience. The smell is delicious! You'll notice it as soon as you take the cap off, and it's one of the big strong points of the lotion. I don't know what jojoba smells like, so don't know if that's what I'm smelling, but to me it smells like a gorgeous mixture of nutmeg and lavender, with a very subtle hint of ginger in there as well. I normally don't like to use very perfumed products as I prefer to get my smell from perfumes and the like, but I love the smell of this and am happy that when I walk around I can still smell it on my skin hours later. I've received several compliments on the smell, and I can totally see why! ---I Want It! Where Can I Get Some?--- I was lucky enough to receive mine as a present from work at Christmas so I didn't buy it myself. I've been so amazed at the good quality of it that I've been dreading running out, as I was sure I wouldn't be able to afford anything this nice and fancy! However, I've been pleasantly surprised at what I've found, as it's remarkably cheap in my opinion! A 250ml bottle can be bought from the Sanctuary website at the time of writing for £5.10, which I think is extremely cheap. I was expecting a bottle to be nearer the £20 mark! Even better: the website currently has a 3 for 2 offer on their products, including this one, so it's high time to stock up. Alternatively, you can pick it up for the same price from Boots, or for the even better price of £3.77 from the Debenhams website, to name just a few options. I'm amazed at the value for money with this body lotion, and will definitely be buying some more when I run out. Considering the fact that I'm very picky when it comes to moisturisers and have tried so many which haven't been what I'm looking for, this is high praise indeed! ---Great, Before I Head Out To The Shops Is There Anything Else I Need To Know?--- The green, environmentally-conscious side of you will be pleased to hear that this lotion is manufactured in the UK. What's more is that the folks at the Sanctuary are against animal testing, so it's good on all counts. To give you some idea of how much I go through, I use two pumps for each thigh and arm, and one and a half pumps for each shin/calf. I've been using this daily for about a month, and have made my way through near enough half the bottle. I'd prefer it if a bottle would last a bit longer, but as it's such a good price I don't mind paying out for it a little more often. I love this body lotion and it comes with my full recommendation. It's exactly what I've been looking for as it has tackled my dry skin with ease, and it smells great too. What more could a girl want?!
---Background--- This is the second book in the notorious Millennium trilogy, written by Steig Larsson. The book was originally written in Swedish and was published in 2006 - it was translated into English and published in 2009. This sequel was also adapted into a film in 2010, which took just less than half a million pounds in its opening weekend in the UK alone. According to 'The Bookseller' magazine, 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' is apparently the first and only book which has been translated into English to reach number 1 in the UK hardback charts. It's easy to see why this book is so popular... Larsson had just delivered his manuscripts for his three books to the publishers in 2004, when he tragically and suddenly died aged just 50. He never saw his books published, and never knew of their worldwide popularity. However, we do know from his life-long partner Eva Gabrielsson that Larsson regarded writing as a relaxation method, through which he could follow up mysteries and conspiracies without putting himself or Eva in danger...fans of his can take solace in the fact that he died after completing something he loved doing! Interestingly, the original Swedish title of this book translates as the same as the English title - 'The Girl Who Played With Fire', whereas for the first book the Swedish and English titles are completely different (see my review on the first book, dated 11/04/2011). Perhaps it was this book, which is widely seen as being more successful than the first, which gave the publishers the inspiration to create the brand that is the Millennium Trilogy. ---The Plot--- Mikael Blomkvist has returned to Millennium magazine, and is working with journalist Dag Svensson and his partner, PhD student Mia Johansson on a massive project to expose some big names in the world of sex trafficking. But when Svensson and Johansson are found shot in their apartment, a murder hunt gets underway. At the same time, the social outcast that is Lisbeth Salander has been trying to create some stability in her life, after a year of travelling, and several years prior to that of rather dodgy enterprises. But when it's her fingerprints on the gun that killed Svensson and Johansson, she shoots straight to the top of the suspects list (excuse the pun). The problem is that she can't be found or contacted for love nor money. Blomkvist has worked with Salander before, and is convinced that she's innocent, so sets out to help Salander clear her name. But with Salander hiding from the police, and all the evidence stacked against her, is she really innocent? ---The Verdict: To Read Or Not To Read?--- When I read this book, throughout most of it I found myself comparing it to its predecessor. As a result, I made two clear comparisons between the two, simply comparing the first hundred pages or so, like for like. Firstly, I found that the first book was a lot slower in getting started, whilst 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' threw you straight into the thick of things, with lots of excitement and intrigue straight from the off. On the other hand, my second observation was that the actual mystery - the content of the story, so to speak - was quite slow to get off the ground in this book, although it started much earlier in the first book. So, in a nutshell: 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' offers a slower build-up of excitement although a quicker start to the story; 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' sees the actual story start more gently, but he excitement's there straight away. So, carrying along with the idea of the thrill of the ride, 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' has it in bucket loads. The writing is pacy - much more so than in the first book of the trilogy, and found that it really is a page-turner. Perhaps I should have thought a bit further ahead and titled this review 'The Book That I Couldn't Put Down'... However, despite all my comparisons, this could be a stand-alone book in its own right. During the first chapter or two, Larsson outlines the plot and the key character attributes from the first book - having already read it, I immediately understood what he meant and it acted as a good reminder for me, but if this had been my first venture into the Millennium books I would have been provided with enough information to understand the basics of the characters and their pasts. Nevertheless, there were other things mentioned in 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' which referred back to the plot of the first book. For example, the Wennerström affair was briefly touched upon: it plays a big part in the first book, and if I hadn't known that, the reference would have gone straight over my head. It seems to me that you don't need to have read the first book first, but it might help from time to time! On to the characters... Mikael Blomkvist is as hard-working, focused and loyal as ever, and Salander is her usual 'under-the-radar' self. In fact, for the majority of the book Salander isn't involved, which is surprising considering the whole book focuses around her. It is a clever technique on Larsson's part to do this, though, as in a way it gives a sense of what it must have been like for Blomkvist and the police. I often found myself thinking: 'Come on Lisbeth, give us your side of the story, I want to know what you're getting up to!', probably in a similar way to many of the characters. For a lot of the time she's a very distant character in this book, but when she comes out of the woodwork she does it in style. Action scenes abound, as Salander brings this book to life. I won't comment on Blomkvist or any of the other characters which appeared in 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo', as they're much the same in both books. Wouldn't want to repeat myself, and all that... I mentioned in my review of the first book that I was worried about getting confused from the Swedish names, but it didn't really end up being a problem. In this book, however, it was a bit more confusing as a lot of the names were quite similar to each other. Svensson, Johansson, and Eriksson, not to mention Blomkvist, Berger, Bjurman and Bjork, were all names which had me carefully think and sort out who was who. With a bit of thought it's possible to remind yourself which name corresponds with which character as within their own contexts you can figure it out - it's just that I don't always want to be getting confused over the characters in a book, as it's always better to read it smoothly and easily with no confusion at all. This was the one factor which I felt really let the book down, and I was considering knocking off a star for it...but when the book as a whole is better than the first book, I couldn't really do that now could I?! Finally, the ending to the book is quite something in itself. Don't worry, I'm not about to give anything away! All I'll say is that it ended in some ways a bit abruptly, and wasn't rounded off as completely as it could have been. Although I would see this as a disadvantage under normal circumstances, I don't in this case as from what I understand, the third and final book in the series carries on from where this one left off. 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest' not only rounds off the trilogy, but it seems to round off the story of 'The Girl Who Played With Fire', too! As I say, this book is, in my opinion, better than 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'. The plot and storyline are exciting, thrilling and intriguing, and had me guessing right until the very end. I found it nail-biting reading and finished the book in a matter of days. Once again, it's the characters that really make this story as they're so credible and easy to understand that they're a joy to follow. I await the start of 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest' with unabated anticipation! ---Last Thoughts--- If you're still not sure, please don't just take my word for it. During my research for the 'Background' section of this review I found that many critics also expressed their opinions that the second book in the Millennium series was better and more enjoyable than the first. We can't all be wrong...! Once again, if you're given the choice between the book and the film I'd recommend reading the book. I haven't seen the film, but at any rate if you read the book first, you can see how you enjoy it and make your own mind up about whether or not the film would ruin the magic of the book, as I fear it would. A paperback copy of 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' is currently available to buy for £4.49 from Amazon, or a Kindle copy can be bought for the slightly lower price of £4.27. To me, this seems well worth it and I'd thoroughly recommend buying it, especially for such a good price! I used the following websites for reference, and to gather some information included in the 'Background' section: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Played_with_Fire http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1216487/ http://www.stieglarsson.com/
If you've read some of my early reviews you'll know that I love nail varnish, and have worn it virtually every day for the past three years. As a result, nail varnish remover is an absolute must for me, as I change my nail colour several times a week. I've used all sorts of brands in the past, including specially-made cotton buds and gel nail varnish removers, but the latest one I've been using is Tesco Nail Polish Remover, a pale purple liquid. I can't remember how much I paid and no longer have the receipt, but if I remember correctly my 250ml bottle cost somewhere between the 70p and £1.80 mark. Not bad for a good sized bottle that will last for ages. I don't normally mention the appearance of the things I'm reviewing, but as there's no picture I'll briefly describe it so you'll know what you're looking for on the shelves. It comes in a plain, straight up and down bottle made of translucent plastic, through which you can see a pale purple liquid. The screw top lid is a pale purple and the plain label around the bottle is also pale purple in colour. I'm not going to lie - the bottle looks cheap and plain, but don't judge a product by its bottle! To use, all you need to do is dab a little onto a piece of cotton wool, or one of those little circular cotton pad things which I prefer to use. Then just rub it over your painted nails, and hey presto! The colour should transfer itself from your nails to the cotton wool before your very eyes - just like magic! As I mentioned, I have used many different types of nail varnish removers in the past, and this is one of the best. I find that it takes my nail varnish off very easily, and I don't need to scrub or rub my nails really hard to get them clear, which would damage both my nails and my cuticles. It's not quite as good as a single wipe and everything's gone, but after a few circular motions my nails are left clear. Last night I was removing bright orange nail varnish which is usually pretty stubborn, but on this occasion within a few seconds of starting each nail all the bright orange was gone. My nails also appeared to be less stained than usual, even though I never use a base coat. I put this down to the nail varnish remover! I must say that despite this, it's not infallible as when I use particularly dark or bright colours I'm unable to remove everything and my nails do stay a little stained. The very plain bottle mentions that it includes added moisturisers, but I'm not convinced. My hands and cuticles seem no more moisturised than usual - they're not dry, but using this nail varnish remover hasn't won me over regarding being moisturising. If you're interested in this because of its apparent added moisturisers, don't bother. You're better off using a separate hand cream! Of course, you should take all necessary precautions when using a strong chemical substance such as this. Don't inhale it and don't get it in your eyes. Really, don't. I made the mistake of splashing some in my eyes when I was 11 and you can take my word for it that it was one of the most painful experiences ever... This is a very effective nail varnish remover: probably the best I've ever used. It gets rid of even stubborn nail varnish quick as a wink, so as a result you only need to use a little so a whole bottle goes a long way. I have no choice but to recommend it - I'm desperately trying to find something to knock down its rating but I can't!
---Background--- This is the first book in the world-famous Millennium trilogy, by Stieg Larsson. Larsson was Swedish, and consequently the books have been translated from Swedish into several other languages, including English. It was also adapted into a film in 2009, which took the equivalent of nearly £2million in its opening week in Sweden. As of this time last year, Larsson had sold more than 20million copies in 41 countries - the entire series has clearly been resoundingly popular all around the world, and the titles have become household names. Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50 after a sudden heart attack. He had just delivered the texts for his three books to the publishers, so sadly he never saw his books published - or indeed the worldwide phenomenon that his works became. As a result, he was obviously never able to comment on or give interviews about his books, but it is quite clear where he found his inspiration. When he was 15 he witnessed the gang rape of a young girl called Lisbeth - he never forgave himself for not being able to help her, and if you've read the book you'll realise the relevance of this. The original Swedish title of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' was 'Män Som Hatar Kvinnor', or 'Men Who Hate Women'. I think that perhaps this direct translation would have been a more fitting title for the English version, as it certainly describes a prominent theme which runs throughout the text. ---The Plot--- Mikael Blomkvist is an investigative journalist, convicted of libel after publishing a damaging article on a prominent Swedish businessman, Wennerström. His magazine, Millennium, starts failing dramatically as a result, so Blomkvist decides to take some time away from the magazine to let things die down, before he can start rebuilding the magazine along with a further attack against Wennerström. Around the same time as he decides to distance himself from the magazine, Blomkvist is approached by another prominent Swedish businessman, Henrik Vanger - former CEO of the Vanger Corporation, and head of the complicatedly-entwined Vanger family. Vanger makes Blomkvist a proposal: live for a year with the rest of the Vanger family, and write a book to chronicle the Vanger family history. However, Vanger wants this to hide Blomkvist's true objective - to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Harriet Vanger (Henrik's granddaughter) almost forty years previously. Blomkvist takes up Vanger's offer, and as he starts to unravel the complicated history of the Vanger family, enlists the help of the socially-awkward, often-underestimated but super-sharp computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Together, the unlikely pair delves deeper and deeper into the Vanger family's secrets, discovering lies, betrayal, madness - and a lot of skeletons in the closets. As things become increasingly dangerous for them, they begin to realise the strength and power of the Vanger family...someone is out to stop their investigations. But who? And why? ---The Verdict: Is It All It's Cracked Up To Be?--- Absolutely is it all it's cracked up to be! But let's not get over-excited, take things one step at a time... First thing's first. The beginning of the book (I'm talking the first chapter or two) contains quite a bit of detail about the Wennerström Affair - the article that was published by Blomkvist, which led him to be charged with libel. It's all about finance, and the structure of Wennerström's companies, which was at first a little intimidating. I know next to nothing about how large companies are structured, financed or run - let alone those in Sweden, and I remember thinking that the book wouldn't really be my thing. However, I stuck with it, and it turned out that a lot of the detail given is superfluous. All you really need to know is that Wennerström ran some dodgy and underhand operations, and that he was a bad man! Don't let all the detail put you off: getting bogged down with trying to understand all of it won't be worth it, as it's not really relevant to the rest of the story. Just stick to the basics with all the financial and business jargon! Having said all that, I'm making a bigger deal of all that than it actually was - it certainly wasn't worth knocking off a star, it doesn't detract from the story, and it didn't last long at all. For me, plot and characterisation are the two most important things in any book - and in 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo', both are executed brilliantly. The characterisation is superb - Mikael Blomkvist is one of the easiest characters to relate to that I've ever come across. He's laid back, has a vice for no-strings-attached sex with his long-term friend and colleague Erika Berger, and becomes frustrated when he can't stand up for what he believes in - all these characteristics are beautifully and effortlessly conveyed, and make him seem, well...human. Lisbeth Salander's character is so striking that in real life she'd probably be too unusual to live as she does in the book. However, she is described so clearly, and her incredible intelligence means you can visualise her and understand her point of view as if it were your own - no matter how unconventional (or illegal!) it may seem. There aren't lots of fancy adjectives or other techniques used to describe any of the characters - I can't really describe how it's done, but the bizarre partnership, along with their interactions with Erika and the Vanger family, seem like the most natural relationships in the world. As for the plot: I can't fault it. The main story follows Blomkvist's search into the Vanger family's past, but there are several sub-plots to follow as well. Each is clearly defined by paragraph breaks, and the character and settings make it immediately clear what's being spoken about in each part. When it comes to the plot, there is no confusion whatsoever. The plot is pacy, but not overly so. You may feel it slows down quite a lot in certain places, but far from becoming boring it works with the rest of the book - too much pace and excitement can also get a bit tedious. The mystery of what happened to Harriet is enticing and leaves you as the reader both interested and guessing the whole time. Larsson's writing style is so simple and clear that this book is consequently very easy to read. Add this to the excitement that you'll get from the plot, and this book is definitely a page-turner. I couldn't put this book down - and the sun we've had recently gave me the perfect excuse to work my way through it! I could go on for hours talking about this book, but I'll try not to go on for too long! One thing I was worried about before I started reading was all the Swedish names. It's bad enough when I read an English book and all the characters have similar names; Joe, John, Joshua, Gill and Jenna...I'm all over the place and have no idea who's who! I certainly worried that this problem would increase tenfold with all the Swedish names. Plus, on opening the book I was provided with a Vanger family tree - this set alarm bells ringing as any book that needs the illustration of a family tree is bound to be confusing! However, I needn't have been worried at all. The characters all had totally different names, as the brothers Henrik and Harald Vanger were about the most similar they came. Thankfully, I was rarely left confused about who a character was, and found I didn't even have to refer to the family tree once! I think this clarity was down to the clear writing style, and that excellent characterisation, once again... For me, this book definitely lived up to the hype and deserves every bit of credit and recognition it gets. I'm finding it virtually impossible to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes it so special, but there's no doubt that this book is in a league of its own. The storyline is both impeccable, intriguing and exciting all at the same time, and it's written in such a way that it's so easy to read. I think it's the characters that really make this book, though, as they're compelling to follow yet so easy to relate to at the same time. It's the characters that have already enticed me into making my way through the second book in the series (which, by the way, looks set to be just as brilliant by all accounts!). It's just a pity that Larsson died so young, with so much untapped potential left inside him... Everyone I've spoken to who has read this book has been amazed by it - it's already become one of my favourite books, and is no doubt one of the books you must read before you die! ---And Finally...--- You get the book...and you get the film. I was very keen to see the film a few months ago, and now that I've read the book I'm glad I didn't see the film. It's the type of book where it's so exciting and interesting to visualise in your mind's eye, that for me, any attempt to recreate the scenes on film would just ruin it. I haven't seen the film and don't wish to, but if you're toying about which to do first, I'd recommend you read the book. You can currently buy a new copy of this book for £3.89 from Amazon (BARGAIN!!), or for £6.39 from The Book People. I used the following websites for reference, and to gather some of the information included in the 'Background' section: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1132620/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_with_the_Dragon_Tattoo