Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Loot Crate: September 2014: Galactic!

While I would easily say I am a Sci-Fi fan, I admit to never watching Star Trek or any of the Alien films. I'm not even much of a Star Wars anymore although I was as a kid. Firefly, Defiance, Doctor Who, those are my types of Sci-Fi. I'm a TV watcher more than a movie watcher. This Loot Crate had some great things, if you were a fan of the source material.



Such a full box!



Much like last month when Loot Crate and My Geek Box both had a Funko Pop!, this month they both had a Funko Mystery Mini. My Geek Box gave me a walker from The Walking Dead and Loot Crate gave me this exclusive Malcolm Reynolds figure to keep an eye on him! I love this. It's so cute and Firefly is one of my favourite TV shows which I spoke about here! If you haven't watched it, I promise you won't regret it.
Another Firefly item was the 10,000 credit. It's actually pretty neat and I kind of want a safe just to have this in there but I don't so I have no idea what to do with this yet! Any ideas?



Pretty much everyone who has a Tumblr has seen the gifs of the Star Trek Tribbles so despite never watching the show, I know what they are and I love this. It's super soft and well made.
As well as this in the- I know kind of what it is but not really category- was an Alien action figure of Alien, or does it have a proper name? I really have no opinion on this except it's kind of gross :') Time watch the movies.



Next was this neat Hans Solo poster, I'm not a poster person but this one is so cool- I think I have to find a place for it or find someone with a free wall.
And this Star Wars/ retro games magnet makes me need a proper fridge! I have a wooden covered one so have nothing to stick this too yet. Boy, you're lucky you have these compartments!



And the little add-ons that make this box so great; the usual magazine and badge, digital loot of the Halo comic and Pop Rocks! I'd never had Pop Rocks before but they were- interesting.

So this Loot Crate was an up and down one for me, and I was going to cancel like I canceled My Geek Box because of money saving but- next month is 'Fear' month and I'm just predicting some cool The Walking Dead stuff from this sneak. Want to sign up? You can do so here!

What do you think of this months Loot Crate? Are you a Sci-Fi fan?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Beauty Review: Essence - 'Hello Rosy'

Just a little NOTD today of this gorgeous Sparkle Sand Effect Colour & Go nail polish from Essence in the colour Hello Rosy! I don't normally go for pinks on my nails but the sand and glitter look of this is just too cute. It's just something a bit different from normal.



The application is a breeze with this, the brush is the Essence Colour & Go one which is short, wide and rounded at the top for perfect speed and precision. It's my favourite brush for nail polishes. The formula helps with this one too as the grainy texture seems to make the drying time super fast.

You only really need 2 coats but I go for three and it leaves a satin/ semi-matte finish. Adding a topcoat doesn't really do much, it seems to just sink in and I'm not a fan of the shine because it takes away from the texture. The one downside is that it doesn't last long. The great texture means that it's pretty solid and it chips within a day or two.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the sand look?

*I received this at the Manchester Essence Event but that has not changed my opinion!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Astrid & Miyu: September Secret Box!

I've been a little on the fence about the Astrid & Miyu Secret Boxes since I started getting them. March saw me liking the rings but wondering about the prices and June had me giving it one more go. This was that one more go and I can honestly say I am done with them.



So for the last time- what is in the box?



The only jewellery items in this were the Silver New Tricks Moon Necklace worth £39 and the Silver New Tricks Heart Bracelet. Which I would quite like since I have a friend who I call the moon of my life and could've passed this on to her except-



They're both not great quality. You can see in the picture the difference in colour of the two silvers and it's the same in real life. The heart bracelet is the nicer of the two but both the chains feel quite stiff and the charms are quite dull even with a good shining up. I have to say I'm a little surprised because in the past they've been really nice and decent quality even when I didn't like the design. But these just feel quite cheap and in no way worth the £39 each price tag they have.



The 'extra' this month was a card holder. These come in at a staggering £15 for PU leather and don't feel well made at all. At some points its sewed together but at others it seems like it's glued. I'm just massively underwhelmed by the entire box and wishing I had jumped ship in June.

Unfortunately you can't return Secret Boxes but my subscription has now been cancelled. Bye bye Astrid & Miyu. 

Sorry for the rather negative post!
What do you think of the Astrid & Miyu Secret Boxes? Do you subscribe?

Monday, 22 September 2014

My Geek Box: September 2014: Apocalypse!

This month, the theme for My Geek Box was 'Apocalypse' and as I said in my last post about My Geek Box, I was looking forward to it! I'm a big fan of the end of the world, zombies, survivors and things like that. The Walking Dead is in my top 5 TV shows and my favourite book is World War Z. I was excited. And I was right to be.


So what came in this months box?



The first thing I saw was a copy of World War Z! I've talked about this before on my blog here and love it. Since I already have it, I'm going to keep this for a giveaway I have planned. It really is an amazing book and I'm so excited that more people are going to get a chance to read it from getting it in the box!

My eyes were next drawn to The Walking Dead Mystery Minis box and opened it up to find the dang zombie from the first episode that is still the creepiest. Urg. This little guy is going pride of place on my Walking Dead shelf where my Daryl and Rick figures can keep an eye on him.

Keeping on track with the zombie theme, a Twinkie! This is a Zombieland reference and I'm half excited, half scared to try it. It sounds disgusting :') A couple of my American friends want me to try it on a Skype call so they can see my reaction. A log of cream and cake? That lasts for a really long time? Yikes.

The T-shirt this month was a neat zombie/Fallout one that's going to get passed on to a gamer friend of mine who will love it. The shirts are always really nice quality from My Geek Box although my inability to iron probably doesn't show it.

And the Glow Stick is a pretty cool idea although I have no idea what I'm going to use it for- save it for the end of the world I guess! It also came with a End of Days event discount code and the first My Geek Box magazine with a review of the End of Days event, interview with a cosplayer and other good stuff. Do I dare go to one of the events? I feel very strongly that I would die even in a simulated end of the world...




An all round good box! This is unfortunately my last My Geek Box for a while due to lack of funds but you can bet I'm re-joining as soon as I can. Next months theme is Nightmares and you can sign up here!

What do you think of this months box? Will you be signing up?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I've Been Guest-Posting!

Hey everyone! I've been guest-posting on some blogs I love lately and thought I would post the links to send you their way, and give you some extra reading this Sunday evening.



Over on Simple Beauty Chatter I show you how to gradient your nails with a sponge! It's really easy but looks amazing.
On Harriet Rosie I talk about how Excel makes me a better blogger! My blog timetable is a lifesaver.
And last but not least, I tell you 5 Things I do Everyday over on Beauty Bits 'n' Blogs! It was fascinating to think about.

Have you ever guest posted? Leave me links!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Fiction Friday: Book Review: The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements!

I'll start this review by saying that The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements* was one of the most beautifully written books that I've read this year. It had an amazing flow and rhythm that just made it such a pleasant read that I flew through it. The fact that Katherine is the developer of the Creative Writing A-level gives me hope for a new generation of writers. Anyway, on with the book review.


England 1646. The Civil War is raging and society turned upside down. 
What should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn and Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a deserting soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge. 
Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict, to the trial of a king.
Based on the real figure of the extraordinary Elizabeth Poole, The Crimson Ribbon conjures a mesmerising story of two women’s obsession, superstition and hope.


Everything about this book is right. I could gush over how amazing the writing is for hours but the story, the characters and the LGBT+ aspect; everything is well done. So I'm just going to focus on a few things that really stood out to me as a reader and as a Creative Writing student. 

Firstly, I have rarely been so gripped by the first twenty pages of a book. My snapchats I was sending out as I read are a testament to that. Go to a bookstore, sit and read for ten minutes and I can almost guarantee you will buy the book.

I'm not much of a historical fiction reader because I don't have a wide knowledge of history but consider me converted. Based in the time of Cromwell and Charles the 1st, even though I know almost nothing about this era but the book is easy to follow and has sparked an interest of this time in me. 

Our main character, Ruth, is a really lovely first person narrator that you really get attached to and even if her decisions may always not be the best, you can see clearly why she does everything she does and she grows throughout the book. 

And lastly, the story. I was expecting a witchy tale and I got so much more. Human nature, fear, love, politics, war. Hand on my heart, I was genuinely amazed at how this book packed so much into 300+ pages. I'm going to have such a book hangover from this in the best way.

Enough gushing? Enough gushing. I really recommend this book and can't wait to see what Katherine Clements does next. And don't forget to read Katherine's piece on why she developed the first A-level in Creative Writing here!

Will you be picking up The Crimson Ribbon? Do you have any historical fiction recommendations?

*I received this book as part of The Crimson Ribbon's blog tour. It hasn't changed my opinion.
**This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means if you buy anything from the links, I get a few pennies at no extra cost to you. Pretty neat, huh?

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Katherine Clements: Why I Developed the First A-Level in Creative Writing

I am very lucky to have Katherine Clements, author of The Crimson Ribbon* and creator of the A-level in Creative Writing here on my blog today as part of The Crimson Ribbon Blog Tour, talking about why she developed the first A-level in Creative Writing. Personally I took A-levels in every English subject I could get my hands on (English Literature, English Language, Theatre Studies) and the two months of English Language where we wrote our own pieces was my favourite. This led me on to start a BA in Creative Writing so I'm massively jealous of everyone who gets to do the Creative Writing A-level and was fascinated about how it came about. So without further ado! Katherine Clements.



I’m in an English lesson. Miss Taylor announces that she’s going to read a short story to the class. She waits for the class to settle and then begins. In one wonderful, terrible moment, I realise – the story is mine.

I feel a hot flush of pride as Miss Taylor reads on. Then, utter terror, as I understand that my story is about to be judged. It’s the first time I’ve had an audience, outside my immediate family, and I’m not prepared. I’m nine years old.

Many writers recount similar emotive memories: the book that kept them reading beneath the covers, the dutiful parent typing out manuscripts on duplicate paper, the passionate English teacher who first encouraged them to put pen to paper or, these days, fingers to keyboard. These early experiences help make writers. They are important.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead the development of the UK’s first A-level qualification in Creative Writing. By then, I was a writer of short stories, with a few publications under my belt and a novel in progress. I felt passionately about this project. It mattered to me. Not only did I believe it was valuable, exciting and long overdue but it mattered personally too.

My early journey as a writer is fairly typical. I made up stories when I was a kid, devoured the contents of the library, and attempted my first novel when I was twelve. But then, sometime in my early teenage years, I just stopped writing. Life happened. Other things took over.

It took me another 15 years to pick up my pen.

It’s often said that you need life experience to be a decent writer, and perhaps I needed that time, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I continued writing. Think of all the stories that went un-written, all that practice, all that learning. Would I be a better writer now? I expect so.

The first time I read my work aloud, much later, to a small, friendly local writers group, I panicked. I couldn’t get the words out. In the end another member read on my behalf.

I couldn’t understand what had happened. In my professional life I regularly spoke in public and ran events for hundreds of people, so why couldn’t I do this one simple thing? Because, this time, it was personal. It was Miss Taylor’s classroom all over again.

I never had the chance to explore writing at secondary school, much less work towards a useful qualification in the subject. I could have made art, learned to dance, specialised in drama performance or music composition, but creative writing wasn’t an option. Now, here was an opportunity to change that for thousands of students.

Anyone who does something creative, and puts part of themselves into their work, becomes vulnerable. Any creative pursuit has value beyond the output itself. The drive to explore and make something new, the desire for self-expression, is a good human thing. There’s learning, growth and sometimes joy, to be found in the process. And sometimes there’s fear and self-doubt and an overwhelming conviction that the thing you’ve made is the worst thing in the history of the world, ever.

When I did eventually begin writing again, I joined an evening class. Since then I’ve been to writers groups, conferences, residential courses and writing retreats, of varying quality and usefulness. I’ve met and been taught by amazing teachers, read books on writing, seen some of my favourite writers speak and been lucky to find supportive and inspirational mentors. All these things have contributed in some essential way to my experience of learning how to be a writer, and that means taking the bad stuff along with the good. It means doing it when you think you can’t. It means facing that self-critical voice head-on, learning when to listen and when to ignore it. My teachers – and among them I count all the fellow writers I’ve met and talked with, in all kinds of situations – have helped me to do that.

There’s been a lot in the press over the years about whether or not creative writing can be taught. I’ve never been taught creative writing at a university, but I do know how much it’s possible to learn about the craft of writing from others. I’ve learned the value of intelligent, sensitive and well-judged feedback. I’ve learned by reading things that have been suggested to me, or by taking apart a well-loved piece and seeing it in a new way. I’ve had teachers who were perceptive enough to say the things I didn’t want to hear, who pushed and encouraged and allowed me to get things wrong, so that I could, eventually, get things right. Writing involves a set of skills, tools and techniques that can be taught. Regardless of innate talent, everyone can improve.

We need teachers, editors, mentors and other writers to facilitate this. Writing is so often considered a solitary pursuit but it can and should be a collaborative process. I don’t underestimate how challenging this can be, but it is so valuable. That doesn’t mean you can’t go it alone, but learning from others certainly speeds up the process.

So, convinced of the value of teaching creative writing, I still had many questions to answer: Could we get teachers and students working together, as writers, in the classroom? Could we create a meaningful, rigorous course that promoted genuinely useful real-world skills? Could we give students the time and space to take themselves seriously, as writers?

The first intake of students sat their first exams this summer and the signs are good. I’ve heard from teachers, examiners and students and they all report good things. Teachers are enjoying the freedom, flexibility and democracy in a course necessarily led by students’ individual interests. And students are embracing the ideology of the subject, reading, writing, sharing, improving their work and growing in confidence. I’m delighted, and just a little bit jealous.

Miss Taylor never knew it but she gave me something that day in the English classroom: a little seed of hope that maybe, one day, I might be good at this. Doubt is an intrinsic part of any creative endeavor and it took me a long time to find the guts and determination to put my own writing out into the world. I’m pretty sure that without the teachers who’ve helped along the way, I wouldn’t have got this far. And, perhaps, if I’d been given the chance at school, it wouldn’t have taken me quite so long.

Thank you Katherine! My review of The Crimson Ribbon will be up tomorrow. Spoiler alert: It's great.
Do you wish you could take the Creative Writing A-level? Are you taking it?

*I received this book as part of the blog tour. It has not changed my opinion at all.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Sephora Haul from Rome!

While I was in Rome you know I had to pop by Sephora even if I was battling with a miserable cold and wanted to stay in the comfy comfy hotel bed. Because that's what beauty bloggers do. If you have the opportunity to go to Sephora, you go. Even if you sniffle all the way there.

I think I was pretty restrained! I went in with €30 and came out with some change which was good for me.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was a stand for the Formula X nail polishes that everyone in America has had for ages and this green glitter, 'Drawn to You', was calling to me. I love green and I love glitter. It was the most expensive thing I bought at about €15 but it is a beaut.

Speaking of glitter, my nail polish remover pot was taken from me at airport security *sobs* so I went to go look for another one and when I saw that this one was specially for glitter- notably the most difficult thing to remover ever- I had to get it. At around €9, it wasn't the cheapest on the market but if it gets my glitter off easy then it'll be totally worth it.



The kitten came to say Hi while I took this picture and actually fixed the white balance problem I was having so! Near the checkout I saw these Sephora own brand sheet masks and the rose one stood out to me. I love the scent of rose as well as it being my middle name, and since winter is coming up- a 'Ultra Moisturizing and Brightening' mask sounded like a winner. It cost just under €4. I'll report back if it's any good.

Have you ever tried any of the things I got? What would you get with €30 at Sephora?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Loot Crate Vs. My Geek Box: Heroes Vs. Quests: August!

Today I'm comparing two nerdy subscription boxes for you. The popular Loot Crate and the newer UK My Geek Box. Loot Crate did 'Villains' last month and came back with 'Heroes' this month, and My Geek Box had the theme of 'Quests'.



Two boxes of greatness.

Firstly, this months Loot Crate. I was so excited about this with the massive hype surrounding the Loot Crate exclusive Funko. Unfortunately my Loot Crate was majorly delayed and they had to send out another one but it came today and I was thrilled. Mainly because of the exclusive Funko everyone was raving about for the entire month.



HELLO GROOT. This thing is freaking adorable! Really nicely made and a welcome addition to my desk- I also really want the Baby Groot bobble head which is coming out in December too. How many Groots are too many?
Then came the Shwings which I'm currently deciding which pair of shoes I want to put on. You just have to thread these into your laces and you're ready to walk super fast!
Confession; I'm not a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, never really got into it so the Leonardo figure and sunglasses went right over my head. I'll probably pass them on to a friend but I can see them being really exciting to someone who knows the franchise!
This Sonic the Hedgehog air freshener from Epic Scents is so cute, I wish I had a car to put it in! And this magnet needs a home ASAP. And as always it came with the monthly badge and magazine, as well as digital loot for free/discounted games.



So this was actually my first My Geek Box as I was looking around for a UK alternative that might be a little cheaper. I think My Geek Box is going to do great things, I'm looking forward to the next box (Theme: Apocalypse) and I think it's great to support a UK company. But they don't have the same pull over the industry yet like Loot Crate does. I'll be interested to see where they go!



It came with; a Hodor Funko Pop! I've seen that people got different ones from Game of Thrones and if I'm honest, Hodor isn't my favourite but hey. And in keeping with the Game of Thrones theme, a Greyjoy bookmark. Again, if I had to pick one house in GoT I disliked the most it would be the Greyjoys but that's the risk you take with these boxes.
Next is a Lord of the Rings/ Reservoir Dogs mash-up t-shirt. I've never watched Reservoir Dogs but I have a buddy who would love this. And in keeping with the Tolkien theme, 4 The Hobbit postcards. This felt a little cheap, I'll admit. And lastly some Harry Potter Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. These are disgusting :') I have terrible luck and keep picking out grass ones!
Overall the whole box was a little hit and miss for me, I would've liked it a lot more if the Funko Pop! was a character I liked and the bookmark was a house I liked but hey.



Another thing to consider is the marketing that both companies do. It's a little confusing so bear with me. Loot Crate spend a month talking about the upcoming box, people have up until the day before they get sent out to subscribe, the box gets sent out then they start talking about the next box! Whereas with My Geek Box you have until the 31st of the month before to sign up, they're send out on the 15th but start talking about the next box on the 1st of the same month. So there was little hype about the Quest box for the 15 days before it came.

Want to sign up? My Geek Box is £16.99 a month and Loot Crate is £18.36 a month plus £1.25 as a 'non-sterling purchase fee' if you're with Santander weirdly but they generally have 10% off for new subscribers! Both have discounted prices if you go for 3 or 6 month plans. If you- like me- are pretty much just interested in the Funko Pops! then you might want to pop over here where if you buy 2, you get 10% off!

What do you think of these two?

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*My Geek Box is an affiliate link, as is the IWOOT link, to help for me to pay for more nerdy stuff! If you sign up with my Loot Crate link I get $5 off my next box, which is cool! 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Fiction Friday: Books I Read in August!

So this is a little late but as you may know if you read my Impromptu BRB, I was out of the country last friday when I would normally have put this post up and somebody didn't think to take pictures before she left! Anyway, I hope you forgive the delay- today I'm talking about the three books I read in August.



Outshine by Nola Decker*
Not pictured as I read an e-copy! I really enjoyed Outshine, I have a full review that you can read here and I'm still tempted to buy the paperback. If you're interested in reading some YA but dystopian isn't your thing, this is a really original YA Sci-Fi novel that I flew through.


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I'll admit that my interest in reading this book came from my love of Lost as it is referenced often. It's even Sawyers favourite book; "My favourite's Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men." I wanted something short to read as I had a bit of a book hangover and this was near the top of one of the piles of books I have. So I sat down and read it. And it was good, I can see why it's a classic and the commentary on the Great Depression is fascinating. I'd recommend it but..
There was one thing that stopped Of Mice and Men being a five star book for me and that was the treatment of women. Anyone in the comic book community and even some outside of it knows the phase 'Women in Refrigerators' which relates to Alex DeWitt being killed in Green Lantern and stuffed in the refrigerator to further the male storyline. Without going too much into spoilers (even though this book is from 1937), I had a Women in Refrigerators problem and I go more in depth in my Goodreads review if you're interested. To quote Steinbeck himself; Curley's wife is "not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie."
I have to disagree with Sawyer on this one.


Panic by Lauren Oliver**
Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. And who doesn't need $67,000?!
I really enjoyed this book and I definitely need more of Lauren Oliver's writing after reading this. It was very fast paced and the characters were all pretty interesting. It had me crying out 'why?!' at certain points and I think it really got into the mind of teenagers and what drives them.
And you can read my interview with the lovely Lauren Oliver here if you want to know more about how Panic came about!

So that's what I read in August! What did you read?

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*I received a copy of this to review as part of the blog tour.
** I requested a copy of this book from Book Bridgr. This has not changed my opinion on either books.
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means if you buy anything from the links, I get a few pennies at no extra cost to you. Pretty neat, huh?

Cate Sampson: Young Women who Fight

It's midnight, I'm sat on a plane next to a middle-aged man who has fallen asleep on his wife and I've just finished Splintered Light by Cate Sampson*. I put it down and smile because it was a really good book and I loved Leah, the female character. I'm inspired, I loved her, I put her in the kickass female characters category with Katniss and Michonne.
A couple of days later this posts drops into my inbox and I'm grinning from ear to ear. Today on Imogen's Typewriter I give you Cate Sampson, the author of Splintered Light, talking about Young Women who Fight.



I was worried about making my female protagonist a kickboxer. I didn’t want the ghost of Karate Kid hanging over her, and I didn’t want kickboxing to be the most important thing about her. Nor did I want the fact that she was a fighter to become shorthand for ‘feisty’ or ‘gutsy’, the kind of patronising adjectives which suggest girls in skirts and sensible shoes from the Famous Five. But after I’d visited Massimo Gaetani’s Carisma Kickboxing club in Cambridge, I knew I wanted to place her in a club just like that, with its mixture of explosive energy, ritualised aggression and camaraderie. It’s a place where there is danger, but it is also a place of self-control.

I keep talking about ‘her’ and ‘she’. ‘She’ is Leah, one of three teenagers at the heart of my new book, Splintered Light. Leah’s mother was murdered twelve years before the book begins, and Leah lives with her father, a police officer, who wants her to learn to fight to protect herself from the kind of danger that killed her mother. He is endlessly anxious about Leah’s security, urging her always to fear. And yet he spends swathes of time away from her, leaving her to look after herself while he vanishes on jobs Leah knows nothing of.

Leah pretty much brings herself up, and mostly she does the opposite of everything her father wants her to do. He says no social media, she’s on everything. He says don’t ask questions about the past, she asks questions. She loves kickboxing despite the fact it was her father’s idea. Not because she’s afraid, but because she’s good at it, because she likes the way it makes her feel in her skin, and because she’s found a loose-knit home there, among her fellow students. Most importantly, it’s a place where she’s in control, of her body, and her mind.

At the Carisma kickboxing club the day I went to watch the class there was a scattering of girls among the men, one or two young teenagers still early in their training and women in their twenties who were already kicking machines, focused and disciplined, their muscles performing exactly as they were told. There were powerful men and weaker, or less confident, men, just as there were powerful women and weaker, or less confident, women. There were men who didn’t mind getting hit, and men who did. So with the women. And make no mistake, this is a contact sport. When you get hit, it hurts. You could see it in the flinching, eye-closing moments when less advanced students let their guards down. But what was almost palpable was the focus and the discipline, and the mutual respect, the weaker for the more powerful, and the other way around. No one blindly hits out. If a strong boxer finds himself up against a weaker boxer, he holds back. It might be different in competition, but in the gym there is recognition that just because you can hurt someone doesn’t mean you should. Indeed, Massimo Gaetani always tells his students that the best defence is to run away – you never know when someone’s got a knife or a gun, and that trumps any clever move.

I found my inspiration for Leah in British women who have become champion fighters. Nicola Adams was the first female boxing champion at the Olympics, and then at the Commonwealth Games. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper she described how the boxing club had become a refuge for her in her teen years, ‘almost like another family,’ the coaches becoming father substitutes. Brought up by a single mother, who nearly died when she was thirteen, Nicola Adams faced similar hardships to those faced by my fictional Leah.

So too Ruqsana Begum, British women’s Muay Thai champion. As a Muslim teenager, she had to overcome the cultural expectations of her family to become involved in martial arts. Both Nicola Adams and Ruqsana Begum have been involved in the Fight For Peace organisation, which works worldwide to redirect the energy of young people who might become gang members. They teach young people control and discipline, and that fighting can be kept off the streets and inside the ring.

In Splintered Light, when Leah comes across a young man who is involved in crime and violence, it is a similar message that she passes on. There may be pain in boxing, but there is pleasure too, and much of that pleasure and the confidence that comes from the discovery of self control.

I really recommend Splintered Light if you're looking for a good contemporary YA novel. And thank you to Cate for this post!

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*I received this book as part of the blog tour. It has not changed my opinion at all.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: Essence Studio Nails Ultra Strong Nail Hardener!

When I was at the Manchester Essence event, I had my nails done by the Pamper Puff Girls and while I was sat there- Caitlin was talking to her Pamper Puff Girl about how to improve her nails. This product was recommended so I had to get one and test it out so see if it worked for me. You may remember in my Review of the Essence Studio Nails XXL Nail Thickener me stating; 'looking for something long term? I have another Essence review coming soon that might be for you!' Well- here you go!

Essence Studio Nails Ultra Strong Nail Hardener
Damn you reflective products being so hard to photograph!



Essence Studio Nails Ultra Strong Nail Hardener


It wasn't until I got it home and had a good read of the label that I saw the bolded: 'Contains Formaldehyde'. But never fear, despite the commonness of this on CSI, after going to Twitter with my worries I was promptly sent an email calming my nerves. That is stellar customer service.

Instructions of the Essence Studio Nails Ultra Strong Nail Hardener


Basically the formaldehyde is a nail hardening ingredient and the use of formaldehyde in nail hardening products is allowed by european cosmetics law if the concentration is under 5%. You should protect your skin and only use it for 3 weeks, with a one day pause for every two days with it on. But that is more than enough time for this to work in my opinion.

Brush of the Essence Studio Nails Ultra Strong Nail Hardener


So I got a big tub of Vaseline, a thick eyeliner brush and a good thirty minutes of nothing-else-to-do. I'm not going to lie and say this wasn't high maintenance because it was and luckily I'm quite good at watching TV out of the corner of my eye or I might have got a little bored but the results from this were great. It basically promises to strengthen and build up soft, brittle nails and it does that. Yep. This product works. My nails felt thicker and stronger after using this and didn't break from silly accidents.

Is it worth it? If you have thin nails and have a little extra time, I'd say yes. If you don't have half an hour a day to sort out your talons, then the Essence Studio Nails XXL Nail Thickener or my HG Boots Own Salon Nail Strength solution might be for you.

What do you think? Have you ever come across a product like this that works?

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*I received this at the Essence Manchester Event, but this has not changed my opinion and I'm not obligated to talk about it on my blog.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Fiction Friday: Books I Took to Italy!

Fact: I am the worst packer in existence. I went away for a week and as well as taking a loaded Kindle, I took nineteen books! Surprisingly, I was good with everything else I packed. No excess clothing or cosmetics in my case, but books are my downfall. I blame the fact that I'm a complete mood reader, but still... nineteen. Somehow I packed more for this week than I did for two weeks in Florence!



So! These books were; Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys. A Sci-fi classic I really have to get around to reading.
Do Androids Dream of Electiric Sheep by Philip K Dick. Another one I keep meaning to read but don't get around to.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. I've had this book for years and never read it even though I'm a big Sci-Fi fan when it comes to TV. 
Real Murders, A Bone to Pick and Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris. I've read her Sookie Stackhouse series and now I want to try her murder mystery books!
Red Rising by Pierce Brown*. I've read a little bit of this but I just found a read-a-long for December- Must resist!
True Fire by Gary Meehan*. I won this off Goodreads and it popped through the letterbox a couple days before I left-  it was meant to be.
Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard*. This is a review copy, hens the blank spine that I'm dying to get into.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch*. I talked about wanting to read this in my Books I want to Read before 2014 Ends post.
The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland*. I've been trucking through this for a while and really want to finish it, I can't decide if I'm a fan yet.
Splintered Light by Catherine Sampson*. I'm actually on the blog tour for this one so should really  get cracking reading it!
The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements*. Another blog tour book, I'm really excited about these!
On Writing by Stephen King. This was the one book my tutor from my degree recommended I read but I've only dipped in and out so far, I want to sit down and have a more detailed look through!
World War Z by Max Barry. Another one I spoke about in my Top 5 Summer Fictional Essentials post, I've read this every year and want to keep up the tradition.
Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie*. All these books I'm dying to read and so little time! This one is about the birth of printing!
A Shore Thing and Gorilla Beach by Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi. I talked about these in my Top 5 Summer Fictional Essentials post and way back in my Under My Christmas Tree post where I said I was going to save it for holiday reading.
Isn't it amazing I didn't go over my luggage allowance?! Have you read any of these?

*These books have either come from publishers, won from Goodreads or sent as part of blog tours.
**This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means if you buy anything from the links, I get a few pennies at no extra cost to you. Pretty neat, huh?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Impromptu BRB

Last week on Friday I decided that on Saturday I would go to Italy, it's really not as dramatic as it sounds as my extended family were already going and I had decided to stay at home to get some work done for my September 31st deadline. But things don't always go as planned and sometimes you have to change your plans quite drastically. Which meant I had about two hours to pack- almost impossible for me, get to the airport and get on a plane. Luckily the place I'm staying at is really nice and it's been good to get away, even if I did bring my degree work with me and every book that I've been sent to review over the past month. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.



Either way I didn't want to leave my blog for an entire week without telling my dear readers where I had gone, I'll be back home soon and a post on the ridiculous amount of books I packed for this week will be up on Friday.

How are you spending this week? Have you ever done anything big with no planning?

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