Friday, 28 February 2014

Book launch: A Hundred Pieces of Me


After the excellent Tinder Press first birthday party on Tuesday it was time for another bookish event the following evening, with the launch party for Lucy Dillon's A Hundred Pieces of Me. I really enjoyed this inspiring novel (find my full review here) and was very excited at the opportunity to be meeting the author herself.


I met up with Vicky from Books, Biscuits and Tea before heading to the launch's location; the iconic Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. This was such a fitting venue for a book event, the beautiful Edwardian building was stocked full of classical and modern literary works and I already promised myself I'd be going back to buy ALL the books (and one of their tote bags, because they're brilliant).


We were greeted by the lovely Vero from Hodder & Stoughton and wine (every good bookish event should involve alcohol in some form) before mingling with some of the other guests. We soon realised that a lot of people there were authors whose books I really enjoy reading! We first chatted to Rebecca Chance (who writes sexy and super addictive bonkbusters which I absolutely adore) before being introduced to people from the Hodder team.


Author Rebecca Chance, myself, Vicky and author Kate Harrison

It was particularly awesome to get a chance to chat to Alix from Wishlist (the fantastic Hodder women's fiction newsletter which I always spam on Facebook and Twitter...) and to be able to put a face to the person I'd been chatting with on social media (spoiler alert: she looks nothing like the Twitter avatar ;)).


Cute notebooks with the book's cover were laying around the event area ♥

After a lovely speech from Lucy (where she got a bit emotional as she was thanking friends and family for support during the writing of her novel) we took the plunge and asked if she would sign our books - which she happily did. We also spoke to her for a bit about the book's story, main character Gina and the open ending (which I apparently completely misinterpreted, oops).


We had a wonderful evening (even though, with so many amazing writers present, I did feel slightly like we were crashing an author party) - many thanks to the Hodder team for letting me attend!

Tinder Press first birthday party


This was a week of bookish events, first up on Tuesday was a birthday party for the wonderful Tinder Press, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group. In the one year they've been live, so to speak, they've already brought out a range of critically acclaimed novels such as The Invention of Wings, The Lemon Grove and Amity & Sorrow. There is always a great buzz around the publication of their titles which is a testimony not only to the quality of the books, but also to the fantastic marketing team.

The event was held at The Lucky Pig Cocktail Bar in Fitzrovia, which I'd not been to before but was the perfect intimate venue for the evening. As soon as we walked in we met some of the lovely people from the Headline team (Hi Sam! Hi Ben!) - it was great to be able to get a chance to chat to these guys in person after stalking following them on Twitter.

Bagging some spots on a very comfy couch at the back of the room we ordered our first round of cocktails before settling in for an evening of readings and author Q&As.

Peggy Riley (author of Amity & Sorrow) was the host and first welcomed to the stage Helen Walsh, who read a steamy scene from sizzling summer read The Lemon Grove. In a complete turnaround of genres Natalie Young then provided a taster (pun intended) from her novel Season to Taste (Or How to Eat Your Husband) - which sounded both grotesque and strangely alluring at the same time.

After an interval (and another round of drinks - we tried several of the cocktails on the menu and our unanimous vote goes to the delicious Lahore Libre), Roopa Farooki took the stage for a reading from The Good Children (I hadn't heard of this book before the event but this taster definitely made me want to check it out), followed by Morgan McCarthy who gave us a sneak peak of her novel The Outline of Love.

It was a great literary evening and, bonus, I walked away with a new read as well. The bar was decked out with copies of Tinder Press titles which had inviting "take me home" stickers on their covers and after Natalie Young's animated reading of what sounds like a modern day Sweeney Todd I couldn't resist a gorgeous hardcover copy of Season to Taste - I can't wait to dig in (the book, not the pies...).

OF COURSE I didn't take photos of the books or authors, just of the cocktails... #alcy

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Publication day interview with author Lucy Dillon



British author Lucy Dillon has five fiction novels to her name so far, including Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts which won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2010. Her new novel, A Hundred Pieces of Me, tells the story of Gina Bellamy, who after her divorce has to start over in a small apartment and decides to purge her belongings to just one hundred items important to her. I loved this inspiring novel and you can find my full review here. In this interview Lucy talks about her new novel, tackling the sensitive subject of breast cancer and inspiring women. 


Where did you get the idea for the book, Gina purging her possessions to just a hundred things important to her?

I'm a terrible clutterer. In an effort to get a grip on my hoarding habits, I read an American self-help book about a man who'd decided to reduce his stuff to a hundred things for spiritual reasons. Being a man, he approached it very practically but quickly developed a sneaky way of getting round his own rules - bundling all socks, underpants, vests, etc, in as 'underwear' and discounting anything his family used, like the piano or the car.

It made me think about what items were genuinely important to me, underwear aside, and what I was only hanging onto because it had been expensive or because I'd had it a long time. Then last year I packed up my house to get ready for building work, and found myself in the same place as Gina, with my life in boxes and a strange instinct to put back only the most vital possessions into my newly tidy space! 



If put in the same position what would you hold on to for dear life?

Anything irreplaceable like old photo albums, or family heirlooms. I'm terrible at recycling books, and I stash letters and postcards from friends in cookery books rather than throwing them out. But one thing writing A Hundred Pieces of Me made me realise is that what's important is having experiences, and enjoying them in your heart.

It's so easy with digital cameras and iPhones to get so caught up in taking photos of moments to post on Facebook that you miss being in them. I made a resolution this year to amass less and feel more!

What was the biggest challenge for you when tackling the sensitive subject of breast cancer?

It's such a wide-ranging, complex topic that no amount of research ever feels enough. When you're writing about a disease that, sadly, many readers will be extremely knowledgeable about from personal experience, there's a big responsibility to get the details right, and reflect not just the facts but the emotional impact and the aftermath and the effects on those around the patient. And everyone responds differently, so I had to concentrate hard to make Gina's experience her own.

And though it's a major element of Gina's journey through the book, A Hundred Pieces of Me isn't a novel about breast cancer; no one I spoke to wanted their cancer to define them, so Gina comes out of it a slightly changed person, but it's definitely not the end of her story.


Gina's friendship with greyhound Buzz was heartwarming to read, are you a dog person yourself?

Yes! Although I never realised I was until I rehomed a basset hound about five years ago, and she woke up the dormant dog person within. I love sharing my life with hounds; they bring real warmth and affection to a house, as well as a lot of hair and mud.


Despite all the trials in her life Gina's strong personality is an inspiration to readers, which women have inspired you?

My mother's a constant source of inspiration to me; she's juggled a career, a family, a house, and voluntary work, coped with serious illness with grace and humour, and is enjoying a happy retirement with a man she's lived her whole life alongside.

I'm very admiring of women who perform on world stages, but there's something quietly heroic about women holding families and lives and communities together that should be celebrated. When things are tough, I find remembering what my mother and grandmother have had to deal with much more of a kick up the behind than trying to aim for world peace or a solution to the Syrian crisis. 


What are some female authors or women's fiction novels you enjoy reading yourself?

I love Kate Atkinson's writing and her elegance with language and structure, and I'm a long term fan of Laurie Graham's novels, both her early modern ones, and her current strand of more historical writing.



Do you have any advice for those who aspire to become a published author?

Read as much as you can, and then write as much as you can. Don't worry about making things perfect, just focus on finding your own rhythm and style; writing's a bit like marathon running, in that you've got to get the miles under your belt first. And reading aloud is also the quickest fix for dodgy dialogue. 



Can you tell us what your next writing project is?

I'm about to start the next novel set in Longhampton, around the small hotel on the outskirts of town. There will be a dog it in, but as yet, I'm still at the 'sitting in a cafe with a notebook and four coffees' stage!

Lucy Dillon's A Hundred Pieces of Me is published today (27th February 2014) by Hodder & Stoughton.

Afternoon tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury



Walking into Bea's of Bloomsbury we were greeted by a display case filled with gorgeously enticing cupcakes in array of flavours and colours, which certainly whetted our appetites and we promised ourselves we'd be coming back after the afternoon tea to stock up with some lovely goodies for the weekend.

We spent our visit on the second floor of the restaurant, which was a narrow but very cosy area. We sat in a beautiful plush purple booth and there were teapot lights hanging from the ceiling - the perfect setting for an indulging afternoon of tea and cakes.


When we sat down at our table our plate with food was already waiting for us. Consisted of a variety of small savoury and sweet treats the presentation unfortunately lacked finesse as it seemed cluttered and swiftly put together, making us worry about the various flavours blending into each other.

Sat over two tiers, rather than three as seemed the norm on the tables around us, the food looked a little crammed together and several options were being smothered by others. It also meant that it was just sitting there while we were still deciding on our tea flavours and the traditional scones were already cold, rather than oven warm, by the time we tucked in.

When our drinks had been served we first tried the mini baguettes, which were an original variant on the more traditional cucumber and salmon sandwiches. This afternoon tea normally comes with three different flavours but we only received two, and so we can only comment on those. One of them had a generous spread of salami, but as a big fan of the combination mozzarella, tomato and pesto I loved that option the most and it was definitely my favourite of the two.

The scone was next, of course, which was big and surprisingly crispy and was lovely with the clotted cream and jam provided. I always enjoy taking small sips of tea while eating a scone and this one in particular melted in the mouth while doing so.

The other sweets on offer were a mix of average (a squishy passion fruit marshmallow), decent (a white chocolate cake and a raspberry meringue), delicious (a chocolate and raspberry cupcake and a chocolate and Bailey's cupcake) and absolutely divine (two types of chocolate brownies). There was a lot of chocolate going on which doesn't sound too imaginative but for a lover of all things cocoa such as myself it was a treat.


The tea itself was delightful; there were a variety of black and green loose leaf options to cater to everyone's taste and both my guest and myself really enjoyed the flavour we each chose. The pot was also large enough to be satisfying for a relaxing hour and a half of chat and nibbles.

Overall the afternoon tea was adequate, but not amazing. The presentation can use some sprucing up, cutlery would've been handy to eat some of the cakes and the food wasn't quite as dainty as we'd expected. However, the interior is lovely and enchanting making this an inviting establishment for its atmosphere foremost.

Add to that the beautiful setting with views over the St Paul's area (we particularly recommend that time of day when the sun starts to set over the city - covering it in magical orange glow) and you've got a great place to meet up with girlfriends for a lovely chat while enjoying some tea and cakes.

Bea's of Bloomsbury, St. Paul's, 83 Watling Street, London EC4M 9BX.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Blog tour: Interview with Rosie Blake


Rosie Blake's very funny debut novel How to Get a (Love) Life was published on January 29 (read my review here) and I'm super excited to be welcoming the lovely lady herself her to my blog today for a little Q&A.

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel! Can you tell us what How to Get a (Love) Life is about?

Thank you! Indeed I can – I can't resist telling strangers so it's a relief to be asked to share. Normally I just do without the prompting. Ahem. It's the story of Nicola Brown, an uptight and introverted young woman who has never had a date on Valentine’s Day. Following a bet with a work colleague, Nicola has to put aside her hang ups to go on as many dates as she possibly can in order to find the perfect man in time for February 14th.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your journey to published author has been like?

The usual – fraught with obstacles, tears, frustration, learning curves and a few failed attempts in drawers. Although I started writing ten years ago, I really started to focus on it after 2008 following a win in a writing competition. That gave me the boost and belief I needed to finish the book I had been writing and submit it. I got awesome feedback and devoured books, tips and all sorts about writing. I read an enormous amount (I still do) and started on another idea. Sending it in to the very first Novelicious Undiscovered competition was a big step for me, and it got some great comments. Then, a couple of years later, Kirsty contacted me to ask what came of the manuscript. When she wanted to read the full I knew something big had happened and when I signed the contract I of course ... cried.

What does an average writing day look like for you?

There is no such thing as I have a full-time job so I write late at night, on weekends, on holidays and whenever else I need to. I write best in the morning or evening so know now to stop procrastinating in the afternoon and do something else.

Do you have any goss on the guys in your novel? Are any of them inspired by Ryan Gosling?

There are a whole range of men in the book as Nicola has to date so many frogs to (maybe) help her stumble across her prince. A few are perhaps inspired* by real-life characters and, yes, a man did spend a date showing me 100 headshots and asking me to rate my top five. That actually happened.

*read as "men I wish to get revenge on"

How to Get a (Love) Life could be the title of a self-help book, so do you have any final tips and tricks for us on how to get a love life?

Oooh *rubs hands in glee, puts on best smug face* ...

I think you have to be buddies with your man so if you can't be yourself with him (and I'm afraid I mean totally yourself i.e – wearing a onesie while you eat an entire Black Forest Gateaux and watch Charmed season two with no shame), there is no point. Also if he can't laugh at himself run ... take to the hills and RUN.


Thank you very much to Rosie for stopping by my blog today! Her first novel, How to Get a (Love) Life, is published by Novelicious Books and is out now. You can (and should) buy a copy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Dinner at Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar



Set in the shadows of London landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and The London Eye, Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar is perfectly situated for a well-earned break after a day of exploring the city and strolling along the South Bank.

The restaurant and bar are beautifully laid out, looking both elegant and casual at the same time, and as soon as we arrived we were greeted with a warm welcome, which was a taste of the excellent service that was to come that night.


While sipping our fruity cocktails we ordered some starters that were perhaps not ideally matched to our mains, but were delicious nonetheless. My guest opted for the Cornish Oysters baked with Sage Cheddar Crumb. Being from New Zealand she's always had a wealth of fresh oysters at her finger tips and she hadn't tried them in the UK yet but she found these delicious and flavoursome. They were well presented on a bed of coarse sea salt, and for a starter six was more than enough.

I choose the Pan Fried Scallops with Black Pudding, Celeriac and Apple - which was excellent. I always find scallops hard to resist and I found they worked really well with the denseness of the black pudding, combined with the light tartiness of the apple and celeriac purees on the side. With three large scallops and a decent size of black pudding on the plate, this was a good portion for a starter - and it looked stunning on the plate too.


As Gillray's is a steakhouse we of course had high expectations of its namesake, but unfortunately we both felt that the bone-out Rib Eye fell slightly short of expectations. The pieces of meat were cooked well (medium rare per our order) and the flavour of the beef really came through, but both pieces were less tender than we'd hoped for as the fatty and muscular areas of the cut were more excessive. The more succulent pieces however were divine and went particularly well with the dark red Californian wine we'd been suggested to pair our mains with.

The sides we ordered with the meat were delectable and could not be faulted. The Cauliflower Cheese was soft and creamy, the Red Emily Sautee Potatoes with Shallots were flavoursome, the Portobello Mushrooms were big and juicy and the Truffle and Old Winchester Chips were possibly the most crispiest chips we've ever had the pleasure to try.


Even though we were satisfied from our mains, it didn't take much to be persuaded to give the desserts a try as well. My friend's Flourless Chocolate Cake was beautifully presented and very rich - a real chocoholic's delight. My Seasonal Meringue Pie with Ice Cream and English Custard on the other hand was light and slightly zingy, making it for me the perfect, fresh finish to an otherwise heavy meal.

Our waiter on the night was exceptionally attentive and helpful, offering not only a friendly service, but also excellent wine matching advice and even a basket of home-made Yorkshire puddings filled with cheese and with a spread of crème fraîche and mustard on the side (verdict: delicious) before we'd even had a chance to place our order - he truly went the extra mile.

With a knowledgeable and friendly staff, a diverse range of dishes and a stunningly beautiful location - we had a clear view of the majestic London Eye towering over the South Bank while the sun set over the river Thames - Gillray's is not only a convenient and delicious dining location but also a great place to meet up with friends or colleagues for some after work drinks.

Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar is located inside the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB.

Book review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer


My edition: paperback, published on 7th January 2014 by The Borough Press, 309 pages.

Description: "I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that."

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man's descent into mental illness.

It is a brave and ground-breaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.




Rating:

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday post #22



Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.


Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter (review copy)
Bad Brides by Rebecca Chance (ebook, review copy)
Skeletons by Jane Fallon (review copy)
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (ebook, review copy)



A few months ago I signed up to NetGalley but up until now I haven't done much with it because I already had so many physical books to review and I only request books when I know for sure I have the time to read them. I've now cleared some of my backlog and visited NetGalley to request some titles and oh my the temptation! There are so many brilliant books up there, some not out yet for many more months, that I really had to restrain myself and only request two. They're both titles I'm super excited for so I can't wait to dig in.

Skeletons and Arms Wide Open are novels I'm reviewing for LoveReading. I've already finished the Jane Fallon book which was unfortunately very disappointing. My full review will be up soon, but for now I can say that I felt very disengaged from the characters and the story to me was very predictable and didn't really achieve anything, which was a shame. Arms Wide Open is the next book I'm reading and I can't wait as I loved Tom Winter's debut Lost and Found when I read it last year (find my review here).

Finally, I'd like to mention www.bookbridgr.com, a new initiative by Headline to bridge the gap between publishers and bloggers. Even though the site is still in beta (it will officially be launched tomorrow) it already looks fantastic and it's set to be a great resource for book reviewers, so do check it out!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Book review: Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson


My edition: paperback, to be published on 13th March 2014 by Avon, 384 pages.

Description: Three blind dates
Two teenage boys messing up her plans
And one man who'll melt Alice's heart.


'You need to get back in the saddle…' Alice despises that phrase. She's fine being single – with two slothful teenage boys and a meringue business to run, she has enough on her plate without negotiating the troublesome world of modern dating.

However, Alice's three best friends have other ideas. Each one will present her with an utterly delicious, eligible man – all Alice has to do is pick her favourite.


Rating:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Book review: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon


My edition: paperback, to be published on 27th February 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 512 pages.

Description: Letters from the only man she's ever loved.
A keepsake of the father she never knew.
Or just a beautiful glass vase that catches the light, even on a grey day.

If you had the chance to make a fresh start, what would you keep from your old life? What would you give away?

Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a difficult few years she'd rather forget. But the belongings she's treasured for so long just don't seem to fit who she is now.

So Gina makes a resolution. She'll keep just a hundred special items - the rest can go.

But that means coming to terms with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring...


Rating:

Monday, 17 February 2014

Book review: A Little Love by Amanda Prowse


My edition: paperback, published on 13th February 2014 by Head of Zeus, 368 pages.

Description: Pru Plum is the celebrated owner of a famous Mayfair bakery. She wears Chanel and her hair is expensively cut. Few would believe that this elegant woman turned sixty-six last year.

But Pru is not the confident, successful businesswoman she appears. She has done shameful things to get to where she is today.


And she will do anything to protect the secrets of her past - especially when, for the first time in her life, she has finally fallen in love...



Rating:

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday post #21



Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.




A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke (review copy)
Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull (gift)
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (review copy)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (gift)
The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (review copy)
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman (competition win)
The Naughty Girls' Book Club by Sophie Hart (competition win)
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (review copy)
Tiny Acts of Love by Lucy Lawrie (ebook, review copy)



Last week I moaned a little about the lack of new reads, so of course since then I received ALL THE BOOKS! I'm stoked with my new review novels as they're all titles I've been wanting to read for a while now, either because I've been hearing nothing but great things about them or they're written by authors I absolutely adore (Clarke, Colgan). I've already read a few of them and they were amazing but I'm reading quicker than I can review - so I'll post longer thoughts in the next few weeks.

I'm also very happy with my copies of The Naughty Girls' Book Club and The Memory book, which I won in pre-birthday on Shaz's book blog giveaway, I can't wait to start reading them! The big stack of Fablehaven novels were a belated birthday gift. They look very interesting and different from the type of novels I normally pick up, has anyone read this series yet?

On Friday (also known as book giving day, ahum) Penguin held an brilliant campaign at St Pancras International station for The Fault In Our Stars. I read about it on Twitter and took an early lunch break to check it out. There was this huge display of the book on the lower concourse, an artist was drawing this amazing TFIOS art, I had my photo taken and I received a free copy of the book (which is brilliant because I only owned an e-copy so far) with matching book mark. It was a fantastic literary lunch outing and brightened up my otherwise dull work day.

So in all my week was pretty awesome, hope you guys had a lovely bookish week too! ♥

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Comvita Protective Day Moisturiser



There are many different types of honey and so they are classified by their floral source, the way they are processed or the region they are from. Manuka honey falls in the latter category as it originates from the nectar of the Manuka tree, which is only found in New Zealand and southeastern Australia. It's renowned for its unique flavour and health benefits, but did you know that the sticky treat can also be used in beauty products to feed your skin through external use?

Comvita is an international natural health and beauty company which uses Manuka honey in a range of its products, including the protective day moisturiser which I trialled for this review. This beauty product also includes other natural ingredients such as sunflower oil, macadamia oil and the New Zealand Kawakawa extract - making it sound very appealing from a natural beauty point of view.

The first thing I noticed when putting a small amount of the moisturiser on my hand was the strong sweet and floral scent. If it weren't for the fact that it had the pale colour and smooth texture of a cream, I could've easily mistaken it for a jar of pure honey. While I normally love honey, I initially wasn't sure if I would enjoy having this fragrance linger in the air and on my face when using the product, but I needn't have worried as I quickly got used to it and started to relish the enticing scent.

Lightly applying the moisturiser to my face the product felt sticky and I thought it might leave a slightly syrupy residue, like regular honey does when you accidentally spill it on your skin. Thankfully, this wasn't the case at all. Instead the product seemed to tighten my face, in a pleasant way, making it look and feel more even than before.

As I suffer from dry skin I usually have to touch up my moisturiser throughout the day, to ensure that no dry areas are visible. Upon using the protective day moisturiser in the morning however I found that I didn't need to replenish it at all throughout the day as my face stayed consistently soft and nourished. This was a wonderful unexpected bonus to using the product and was reason enough for me to fall absolutely in love with it.

The moisturiser is marketed as helping to minimise visible signs of aging. While after using it for just a few weeks I can't say with certainty that it does indeed do what it says on the tin, the way my skin felt tighter straight after use and looked nourished throughout the day does make me believe that using the moisturiser consistently has helped my face to look more healthy and rejuvenated than before.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Book review: The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne


My edition: paperback, to be published on 13th February 2014 by Quercus, 352 pages.

Description: When Evie Nicholson is asked to visit Kettlesheer Castle in Scotland to archive the family heirlooms, she jumps at the chance. Evie's passion for antiques means that, for her, the castle is a treasure trove of mysteries just waiting to be uncovered.

But in each heirloom lies a story, and in the course of her investigations Evie stumbles upon some long-buried family secrets. Add handsome, gloomy heir Robert McAndrew and a traditional candlelit gala to the mix, and Evie's heart is sent reeling with an enthusiasm that may just extend beyond the Kettlesheer silver...


Rating:

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sweetsation Therapy's Very*Berry Organic Oxygen Masque & Scrub



It's always nice to treat yourself to a little bit of extra pampering with a luxurious scrub or a face mask, in fact these are the kind of things I always enjoy buying for myself or as a gift for a friend. However, finding the time to actually use the products can be hard with a busy family and social life and so I often end up with shelves of unopened bottles and jars in my bathroom cupboards.

When I came across Sweetsation Therapy's Very*Berry Organic Oxygen Masque & Scrub I thought it sounded like a real winner as it combines the scrub and mask into one tub, making it easier and less time-consuming to use them in a row while taking a relaxing bath or shower. Now all that needed to be done was put the product to the test to see if it could in fact be both an exfoliating scrub and nourishing face mask, or if that was aiming too high for just a single product.

As soon as I opened the tub I was hit by the intensely sweet fragrance of chocolate. For a product that is called very berry and contains super berries such as goji berry and acai berry I was surprised that it didn't smell more fruity instead. However, as I'm a big lover of chocolate I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this unlikely hint of cocoa and the enticing scent had me opening the pot several times before even using it - just so I could smell it again.

I decided to trial Very Berry in the shower, so I could try both of the product's uses at once. While I found it a bit thin for a face mask, it was easy to apply and it surprisingly stayed in place for the five minutes I kept it on. It didn't dry out, nor did it make my skin feel uncomfortably tight, and so it was a pleasant mask to use on the sensitive skin of my face.

While the mask was working its magic I applied it as a scrub on my arms and legs. It was very easy to spread out because of its thin consistency but opposed to other scrubs I use I didn't find it was rough enough to properly clean off dead skin cells. It was too gentle and felt almost like a regular shower cream, so I'm not sure if it ended up exfoliating my skin on its own. When used with a scrub mitten however, it does work and left my skin feeling smooth and clean.

After I'd finished scrubbing my arms and legs I washed the mask from my face and immediately after I found that my skin was feeling incredibly soft, much more so than it has felt in a very long time. This feeling unfortunately didn't last very long, though it was nice when it did and it definitely gave me the feeling that my face had received an extra boost of energy.

I normally suffer from dry skin and so I was worried that perhaps by using the mask it would strip my skin of its natural oils, drying it out even more, but this wasn't the case at all. While not feeling super soft for very long, my skin did feel clean and smooth and when using my regular moisturiser afterwards my face looked rejuvenated and refreshed.

It is perhaps not the most effective scrub, but the lovely sweet scent and energising qualities of the face mask make this a product I'll definitely be returning to.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Book review: How to Get a (Love) Life by Rosie Blake


My edition: ebook, published 29th January 2014 by Novelicious, 220 pages.

Description: Some people book last-minute holidays, walk barefoot in the grass or party on a week night. Not Nicola Brown. Nicola is the kind of girl who double-locks the front door, leaves the plastic covering on new furniture, sticks to a super-strict diet and definitely, absolutely Does Not Date.

Her colleague Caroline – loopy, warm and exasperated by her, knows that Nicola's reluctance to lose control means she's living only half a life. And so she lays down the gauntlet: Nicola must cast aside her hang ups and go on as many dates as it takes to find true love in time for Valentine's Day.

The pick of local men is, quite frankly, a bit rubbish. And there are only three months until February 14th. Surely it's an impossible task? But, as Nicola is about to find out on her dodgy dates, letting go isn't quite as scary as she imagined. In fact, it's rather a lot of fun...

Rating:

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday post #20



Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.


Split Second by Kasie West (review copy)
The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton by Elizabeth Gill (unsollicited review copy)
The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis (gift)



I've not received many review books recently :( The annoying thing is that quite a few publishers have contacted me asking if I want to review something and even though I reply back straight away saying that I'd be delighted to I then never hear anything back. I always try to wait a week before emailing them again so I don't think I'm being impatient, but when publication dates rapidly move closer it becomes harder for me to review in time when something eventually arrives - if it even does at all... *sigh* Sorry, enough ranting for one post, on to the fun stuff!

I am super excited to read Split Second by Kasie West, the sequel to the brilliant Pivot Point (find my review for the first instalment in the series here). I had the pleasure of interviewing Kasie on my blog this week (see here) and HarperCollins 360 kindly offered me Split Second afterwards. I'm also very interested in reading The Dark Inside, which was a gift from the lovely Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea, who I got to meet this week in person which was wonderful :) (more about this later)

Last week I was invited to attend the launch party for Rosie Blake's debut novel How To Get a (Love) Life , the brand new novel from the Novelicious imprint - and what a delight it was. There were drinks, lovely bookish people to chat too, a hilarious speech by Rosie herself and these postcards with quotes from the book; all in all a great evening. I've also read (and loved) the novel and will post my review next week.

On Thursday I attended a preview screening of The Book Thief thanks to Vicky. We thought it was a screening held by Transworld Publishers (as they were the ones sending out the invite) but it actually turned out to be a press screening! I thought the movie was stunning, atmospheric and very authentic. It's a story told many times before but that didn't make it any less harrowing. Sophie Nélisse, the young girl who plays Liesl, was fantastic and really managed to carry the film and her innocence provided some much-needed light-heartedness to what otherwise could've been a consistently devastating story. I also really liked Ben Schnetzer (Max) who perhaps doesn't have the largest speaking role, but his haunting appearance certainly left an impression on me. Both Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson were amazing as well, but then I expected nothing less from them.

My one major gripe with this film though was the language; sometimes they speak and write German which is then subtitled and at other times they speak English with a German accent and the text in books is in English. I would much prefer the entire film was German for authenticity but I do understand that to mass-market it to an American/British audience they choose English instead (even if I don't agree with this personally). Either way, just pick one! Overall, while I didn't think this was the best film ever, I did find it incredibly beautiful and poignant and I feel fortunate for having had the chance to see it early. P.S. Bring tissues!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Limited edition shower crèmes from Imperial Leather



I cannot resist a product called "limited edition" and I'm sure I'm not alone with this. It evokes the feeling of something luxurious and special which I have to get my hands on before supplies run out and I don't get the chance to try it. So when I heard about the new limited edition range of shower crèmes from Imperial Leather my curiosity was certainly piqued.

The British staple goes back to the 18th century, when a Russian nobleman commissioned a brand of perfume named Eau de Cologne Imperiale Russe from Bayleys of Bond Street in London. The famous soap wasn't created until the 1930s though and the brand really gained momentum during the second World War when it became the soap of choice for many Britons because the bar was said to last longer than those of competitors. Nowadays they produce a variety of toiletry products, from body and hand washes to bath crèmes and shower gels.

For this review I tried the limited edition Mesmerising Shower Crème and Tempting Shower Crème, two new exotic inspired additions to the range. The main ingredients in the Mesmerising Shower Crème are shea butter and honeysuckle, and while they sound very gentle I actually found this product to be quite strong and masculine in fragrance, something I wasn't expecting from a tropical range.

True to its name however I was instantly tempted by the Tempting Shower Crème and its striking blue bottle. Laced with the scents of guava and lotus flower, it certainly evoked the feeling of being transported to an exotic destination - one where we were surrounded by the vibrant colours of tropical flowers and the sparkling turquoise ocean just a few feet away. Sadly, upon opening my eyes the sunshine instantly disappeared, but the delicate scent of the shower crème didn't as it pleasantly lingered after use.

Both shower crèmes are thick in consistency and lather well, making a little bit go a long way. The scents of each are very different - one feminine, the other more masculine - so whether you like a strong fragrance or prefer a fruity one, there will be a suitable option for you. I believe they're perfect as 'his' and 'hers', so you can treat both yourself and your partner to a limited edition tropical shower experience.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Blog tour: Interview with Kasie West


In November I read fantastic paranormal young adult novel Pivot Point (find my review here). And I'm super excited to be welcoming the author of the novel, Kasie West, to my blog today for a Q&A in celebration of the book's UK publication!

Hi Kasie, thanks so much for stopping by my blog today for a little Q&A. Can you tell us a little bit about creating the world of Pivot Point? Did you establish the history and rules of the Compound before starting the story or did it grow while you were writing?

First I came up with the concept. Addie's power was the first one I thought of since that was what I wanted to base the book on. And then I brainstormed other powers and rules that would fit in this world where people with mind powers would exist. So a lot of the world I built before starting. But then once I started I would sometimes come up against a challenge and have to figure out how the world I'd created would deal with that challenge. And then I'd have to go back and add the new knowledge to the parts I'd already written.

Imagine the Compound was real, would you like to live there or rather remain in ignorant bliss in the Norm world?

Hmmm, that's a hard question. Because as you'll learn in book 2 the Compound isn't necessarily an "everything is roses" place to live. There are secrets. But living there would mean I'd have powers and I do like that thought. But again, most of the powers in this world come with a heavy dose of side effects--a reason you wouldn't want to have that power. So......yes.....I think I would want to live there regardless of the down sides.

Where did you find the inspiration for the main characters? (and if Trevor is based on a real person, can we have his phone number please!)

When I start writing a story I usually have the basics and a back story for each of the main characters. But the more layered levels and nuances of each character come to me as the story develops. I put the people in situations and the way they react forms them more solidly in my mind so that by the end of the novel I've learned who they are completely. Then I usually go back and add a bit more depth once I've learned all their secrets.

If your mind was as advanced as that of the Paras what do you think your special ability would be?

This answer changes on a daily basis depending on my needs for the day. Today I've had to deal with some sad children so it might be nice to be a Mood Controller today and make the house a little happier. :)

I'm super excited for the release of the sequel to Pivot Point, Split Second (out 11 February in the US and 13 March in the UK), can you reveal anything about the story?

One thing you may or may not know is that this story gets another POV character--Laila, Addie's best friend. So along with another POV we need another cute boy, right? So yes, we have a brand new character you'll get to know in Split Second who plays a pretty big role in the book.

Many thanks to Kasie for taking time out of her busy writing schedule to stop by Page to Stage Reviews, we're already getting excited at the prospect of a new cute boy!

Have you not read Pivot Point yet but do you want to after reading this interview? You can buy a copy from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com or your own preferred retailer. Blurb:

Addison Coleman's life is one big "What if?" As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It's the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie's parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the "Norms", or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it's not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bio Sculpture's Spa Range & Pre Polish Treatment



I enjoy pampering myself but with a full-time job and a busy social life it's hard to find the time to do my own nails. Many women find themselves in a similar position and unless they make a salon appointment, which forces them to take a breather for a well-earned manicure and pedicure, it's one of those things that often slips through the net of a packed diary.

No more. Bio Sculpture has launched the Luxury Spa Range & Pre Polish Treatment so you can now turn your own home into a spa without losing valuable hours of your time. Quick and easy to apply, the products are great to use while catching up with your favourite TV programme; multi-tasking at its very best. The range consists of hand cream, cuticle cream, heel balm, executive base, vitamin dose, cuticle oil and nail varnish - everything you need to give your hands and feet the royal treatment. I tried a selection of the products and there wasn't a single one I didn't fall in love with.

Even though I'm lucky enough to have naturally nourished and smooth cuticles, and so at first I thought that there was no need for me to give them an extra special treatment, I tried the cuticle cream and instantly relished this really pleasant product. With the small opening it was super easy to apply to my cuticles straight from the tube and it smelled divine once gently massaged in. A tiny bit went a long way and after using just the one product I already felt like I was pampering myself.

I topped off my cuticles and nails with the multi vitamin treatment which encourages and stimulates healthy nail growth with vitamins and essential oils. I really enjoyed using the vitamin doze with its super soft brush, which was instantly absorbed, not leaving a shiny patch anywhere. After consistent use it not only helped my normally rather soft and brittle nails to become stronger, it also relieved me from the sometimes dull spots which seem to appear on my nails at random - a result I'm very happy with.

Finally I tried the heel balm, which was a very effective product as well. I sometimes suffer from rather rough areas on my feet, the heels in particular, and so the balm was a blessing in smoothening these areas. Applying it to my feet I instantly felt the rougher patches soften and after using it a few times I noticed my skin had become smoother and nicer to the touch.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the products from Bio Sculpture's new range. Easy to use they are perfect for women with busy schedules who'd love to pamper themselves but normally don't have the time for it. The products are not only quick to apply, but they also really do help to nourish your hands and feet and leave your nails healthy, strong and beautiful.

Book review: After I Left You by Alison Mercer


My edition: Paperback, published on 30th January 2014 in ebook (and to be published on 31st July 2014 as paperback) by Black Swan, 432 pages.

Description: Anna has not been back to Oxford since her last summer at university, seventeen years ago. She tries not to think about her time there, or the tightly knit group of friends she once thought would be hers forever. She has almost forgotten the fierce sting of betrayal, the heartache, the secret she carries around with her, the last night she spent with them all.

Then a chance meeting on a rainy day in London brings her past tumbling back into her present, and Anna is faced with remembering the events of that summer and the people she left behind. As Anna realises that the events of their past have shaped the people they've all become, hope begins to blossom for what the future could hold . . .

Rating: