Friday, 26 June 2015

Book Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella, the well-known woman behind the Shopaholic series, has ventured into the tough market that is YA fiction with her latest release, Finding Audrey*. Released earlier this month on the 4th of June, we are in for a treat with the story of a teenage girl with anxiety.

"Audrey can't leave the house. She can't even take off her dark glasses in the house. 

Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you. . ."

Can we all please take a moment to appreciate (and giggle) at the name Linus. Where do authors come up with things like that? It never ceases to amaze me. All I could think about the whole way through reading this book was noses. You know, sinus/linus... There is a similarity, you can't deny it. 

On a more serious note, Sophie has really hit the nail in the head with this one and produced a real winner. I have a feeling that Sophie is well on her way into successfully breaking the YA genre following her success with her previous novels. She has created incredibly likeable (and relateable) characters that you just want to keep reading more about and cannot get enough of. I absolutely adored the mum in the book. I feel like it is my own mum but in book form which made it so enjoyable and hilarious to read. Sophie has a natural gift for writing, one that many people can only aspire to achieve. She manages to tackle issues in a way that leaves you feeling uplifted and warm and fuzzy inside. 

Finding Audrey goes a lot deeper than I expected it to. I am going to be honest - I was expecting a fluffy, typical YA romance novel that glosses over the important issues like anxiety by Sophie Kinsella faces it head on here. We gradually learn that Audrey has gone through some traumatic bullying at school that has left her afraid to face the world, something which is common amongst many young teen girls today. Her family do their best to support her, but they are pretty bonkers and, umm, 'eccentric', I guess you could say. She is tasked with making a documentary of her life and communicating through a camera lens. The scripted scenes are actually some of my favourite parts of this book, written like an actual stage show. 

This book is unique in the sense that not much actually happens. Does that make sense? There is no real major build up to a big event, which is unusual. It is more about the little things that made this story even more amazing, like venturing out to Starbucks, or going on a bus, or meeting someone new because for Audrey, these are big events. I also loved the mum's obsession with the Daily Mail newspaper, as she constantly tries out new ways to spend time as a family. The obsession with technology and gaming amongst teenage boys plays a major role, which I feel is a very true to life representation and really adds to the authenticity of Audrey's story. Similarly, her relationship with Linus is truly heartwarming, as he pushes her out of her comfort zone and forces her to face up to her dark thoughts and finally get her life back in order. 

This book made me laugh, smile and cry. Most importantly, it made the THINK. Every action that we do has an effect on people and it is important to always remember that. Bullying affected Audrey so deeply, as I am sure it does many people. The actions of others can have a major impact on lives, and you may never realise the extent of it. Bravo, Sophie. I cannot recommend this book enough.


*Advance copy provided for review purposes. See full disclaimer here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Mini Book Haul

2 book-related posts in one week? I must be keen.

You may or may not have seen this photo on my instagram earlier (@hollylabeau - shameless plug) but I thought I would share it on here regardless. I have a serious addiction to buying new books and I buy them quicker than I can read them. I have a giant pile by the side of my bed of books that I have still to read, and now I have three more to add to it. 

Us by David Nicholls
Famous for his novel, One Day, David Nicholls is an author that I have heard great things about but never tried out for myself. I had popped into my local Asda at the weekend to pick up a few essentials and spotted this for only £3.85. It took me all of five seconds to go through the thought process of 'Should I buy it? Probably not, I am meant to be saving. Do I need another book? Definitely not. Will I get it anyway? Aye, okay. Let's do it.' The blurb doesn't give too much away but it leaves you wanting more, which is exactly how you want to feel (don't you just hate when they tell you practically the whole story on the back of the book? It's like watching a movie trailer and it shows you the end).

Emma by Jane Austen
After reading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for my advanced higher English class, I have got the Jane Austen bug and want to read more. This is my English teacher's favourite one so I knew it had to be the next one that I read. Although the language is really hard to get to grips with, Sparknotes is an absolute lifesaver with its chapter summaries. This is £1.99 on Amazon and theworks.co.uk but I got it on the latter because I had a free delivery code. If I didn't have the code, I probably would have gotten the Amazon purely because the cover design is cuter.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
I love the Mortal Instruments series and have just gotten round to buying the last one, which is absolutely huuuuge by the way. This should keep me occupied for, ohh, about two days. It's been a while since I read Clary's story so I might have to go back and recap what happened previously before starting on this book. It was a steal at £1.99 again on theworks.co.uk, which is pretty amazing considering 630-odd page book. Somehow, it is now back up to £10.99 so I wonder if the reduced price was a mistake or if I just timed it well and purchased it on a day that it was reduced. Read my review of City of Bones: Mortal Instruments book 1 here

Have you purchased any good books recently? I am open to some suggestions!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Book Review: Elizabeth is Missing


I haven't been reading as much as I would like recently, and that is all down to that dreaded time of the year for us students - it is exam month. Although I haven't studied anywhere near as much as I probably should have (and that is a result of my poor motivation), I haven't really been sitting down and reading many books. That being said, I have had Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey sitting by my bed for a good few weeks now and I have been reading a chapter or two every now and then. It has taken a while, but I have finally finished it.

THE STORY

 Elizabeth is Missing follows Maud, an elderly lady suffering from dementia. The synopsis from Amazon goes (roughly) as follows: "Emma Healey's stunning debut novel introduces a mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon's Christopher. Meet Maud... 'Elizabeth is missing', reads the note in Maud's pocket in her own handwriting. Lately, Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud determined to discover what happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war."

The story jumps between the present day as it is seen by Maud and her confused brain and her as a young girl, as she follows the various clues and mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Sukey and Elizabeth. Written in first person narrative, you get a real insight into the mind of someone suffering from dementia. You are told something one minute, and then Maud will have forgotten it a few sentences later. It is one of those rare cases that you sometimes know more than the main character themselves, and it is entirely refreshing.

MY THOUGHTS

I have to admit, there was something about this book that made me struggle to properly get into it. I don't know if it was just me or if it had anything to do with the book, but I really struggled to concentrate with it. Like I said, I read only a couple of chapters at a time and it took me a while to get through it despite it not being a particularly long book, and yet normally I fly through books. That said, there really is nothing else like this book. It's about time that I read a unique book - something that isn't just the same story AGAIN, but with different characters. It's not often a book told from the point of view of an elderly lady lands in my hands, but this time I am quite glad it did.

Throughout the story, the passages on Maud's childhood become progressively longer as the present day information become shorter and shorter. This is something that you would expect from an elderly dementia sufferer due to finding it much easier to recall the past, and I thought that in this respect it was very cleverly written. However, I just didn't feel like I really connected with Maud as a character. I don't think it is that I couldn't relate to her (as I am not 82 years old...) because I have read plenty of books before in which the main character is nothing like me, I just didn't feel much sympathy towards her. The whole way through the book I was thinking there was a massive hole in the story - surely Maud could have figured out what happened to Sukey when she still had her memory? Why wait until 70 years after she disappeared to become obsessed with it? I understand that her not knowing where her friend Elizabeth is has triggered something inside her about her missing sister, but surely she would have found some evidence before then. Maybe I am just reading too much into it (haha, reading, geddit?). 

Apart from that, I would say that it is a very well written book that is an enjoyable read, but possibly not my favourite book that I have read so far. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset whilst reading it, so I will go back to it and read it again at some point, but for now I will leave it at that. That said, I would say that I think you should check out this book (bit of a contradiction, I know) because it is quite refreshing to read something a little out of the norm every once in a while. A little change can do you good. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

My Latest Addiction: Airheads


Ever since the postman popped these through my letterbox, I have been on a sugar high with the deliciousness (is that a word?) that lies within these packets. Chupa Chups latest release features five different flavours of chewy sweets that will have you salivating at the mouth just thinking about them.

Introducing, Airheads*.

I've never reviewed food of any sort on my blog so I'm not really sure what to say here... Um, they taste good. They look pretty good. I debated long and hard with what flavour is my favourite and I finally decided on the apple one, closely followed by strawberry. They were all nice, but those two were my favourite. There seems to be a lack of blueberry ones in the packet though, but that may have just been the ones I had. Like, the pictures above show the only blue one in the whole packet!! It's a tragedy. Complete and utter tragedy.

With Talia Storm as the face of the new product, these are set to be a hit for sure. I was trying so hard to be healthy this summer and get that 'beach body' for going on holiday but that all went to pot when I received these and now I have come to the conclusion that I don't care. I may regret that once I am lying on the beach in a skimpy bikini but for now I am happily stuffing my face with calories and sugary goodness.

Get yourself down to your nearest shop and buy a pack of these because you literally won't regret it (apart from in a few year's time when you look back on your holiday photos...).


This is basically me every morning, but I'm not sure I look quite as good...

*Items in this post were provided for an honest review. See my full disclaimer here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Penguin Platform (& a big book giveaway!)

Boy, am I excited to be writing this post! I have recently been introduced a fantastic new online community called Penguin Platform for fellow lovers of fiction.

What is Penguin Platform, I hear you ask? Well, it is basically a book lover's heaven. It is joy in the form of instagram and youtube videos. It is nerd central and I wholeheartedly include myself in that category. In a nutshell, it is an online community for 16-19 year olds who love fiction and want a place to share this love with other avid readers. It spans across various social media sites, including Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and and Twitter and encompasses everything from 'the story behind the story' to enjoyable interviews with authors and other exclusive content!

Named by readers themselves, Penguin Platform is a place for teens to encounter new books and learn more about the ones they love, as well as an inside look into the publishing production. With a whole host of book recommendations and author interviews in the works, this is sure to become a success for all of us out there who appreciate the written work. It has only been available since the start of April and is therefore still in the set-up stage, but there are a few youtube videos already uploaded which you can check out. My favourite so far is the interview with Jennifer Niven, author of All The Bright Places, in which she shares her favourite books of the moment. You can watch the video below.


And that brings me on to the exciting part of this post - giveaway time!

You have the opportunity to win all the books mentioned in Jennifer Niven's video on the Penguin Platform YouTube channel, as well as her own novel mentioned above. This means that one lucky person will win a fantastic five book bundle - All The Bright Places, Wonder, The Outsiders, Saving Daisy and To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish I was able to enter, the prize is so good! I am particularly excited for the winner to receive To Kill a Mockingbird because IT IS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. If you have not read it, then shame on you. I literally know everything there is to know about that book and have already pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman. Does that make me a sad person? If so, who cares.

A few things to know before you enter:

  • This giveaway in open to the UK only (sorry!).
  • It is open until the 26th of May, so you have three weeks from today to enter.
  • I will contact the winner to let them know and to get their details, which I will then pass on to Penguin Platform so the prize can be sent out.
  • All entries will be checked to ensure that they are viable.
Enter using the rafflecopter widget below. Good luck, and happy reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
NOTE
This is not a sponsored post, however Penguin Platform are providing the giveaway prize. The winner will be chosen at random after midnight on the 26th of May.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Nepal Needs Your Help

PLEASE READ TO THE END TO FIND LINKS TO DONATE.

As someone who visited the beautiful country of Nepal just last summer, it has hit me especially hard with what is happening right now in the aftermath of the earthquake. I am sure you have seen countless news article and photographs all over the internet, TV and newspapers and heard about how it is the worst earthquake they have had since 1934. The awful pictures of houses and landmarks crumbled to a pile of broken bricks are actually almost too much for me to handle. I keep seeing new ones surfacing, and it is the photos of the places that I have visited that are the hardest to look at. Knowing I have stood in the exact spots where they were taken and have my own photographs to prove it is heartbreaking.

I will never forget the feeling that I got as soon as I heard the news. My first thought was that I hope the friends I made there are all okay. There's the Nepali guides I spent three weeks with and can now proudly call my friends (I even have them on Facebook). There are the teachers and pupils of the Shree Mahendra school in Bhaktapur, one of the worst affected areas, including the young girl that made me the friendship bracelet that I still wear today. That school was already in really poor condition, and now it will be even worse. The kids that were trying to get an education to better their lives will now struggle. There are the hotel workers that greeted us, the waiters and waitresses that catered to our needs, the shop owners that tried to make as much money as possible out of us to feed their families, and the people I simply passed in the streets. Each one of those people has been affected, in some way or another. The reality is that some of them are probably no longer alive. 

I am grateful for Facebook's new feature that allows people to check in as 'safe'. So far, all of my friends but one have said they are alive. My teacher that came with us last year has emailed the company we went with to ask about the last one, and the school. One thing that I can't believe is when one of them managed to get internet for a short period of time, messaged me saying 'hi'. That was all. I replied back saying the same, scared to ask what was happening. Then he asked me how I was. HOW I WAS. Never mind the fact that I have just been in one of the worst affected areas, Holly, and I know people that have died, but how are you? Can you believe that? The people of Nepal are the kindest, most thoughtful people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. They are poor, and they don't have much, but they are always thinking of others.

Here are two photographs that I took of the ancient Durbur Square in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, last July.







And this is it now.


Below is a photograph of my friends and I in a place called Monkey Temple, a sacred place for monks. Following it is a photograph of it now after the earthquake struck.




Of course, I planned on donating, but it was a video that I saw on Facebook that kicked me into action. It showed two of my friends carrying stretcher after stretcher (and by this, I mean a few planks of rickety old wood) of cloth-covered bodies down to the river for what I presume was a mass funeral. That is what really made me understand the true extent of the issue. I am not going to lie to you here, I cried my eyes out after watching that video.

There is not much we can do at the other side of the world from this disaster, but you can donate. Even if it is just a couple of pound, anything you can afford will make a difference. It will be a couple of pound more than they had. If you can spend £10 on a new foundation, £30 on a new pair of heels or over £100 on a pretty designer handbag, you can spare a few pounds to  help those who are really in need. Think about it. Which is more useful? The bag, or the people?

I am currently in the process of raising money in conjunction with the others that came with me on my visit and my school to send to the school we helped in whilst we were there. Money is desperately needed to fund the regeneration of the country in the long term, but for now the priority is food and medical care. You just need to look at the second photograph in this blog post to see the queue of people waiting for food. There is very little clean water, leading to life threatening diseases such as cholera and dysentry. The people who did manage to survive are now starving and homeless. 

Please give generously.

To donate, follow any of these links.

UNICEF (specifically for helping children)
Red Cross

View more of my photographs of how Nepal used to look here.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Money Saving Tips For The Shopaholic

With university just around the corner, I need to learn how to make my money last longer and resist the urge to spend on unnecessary things. To help me in my quest, I have put together a list of Dos and Don'ts that I will be attempting to follow and thought it may help some of you out there who are struggling to stick to a budget. I am here for moral support if you need a shoulder to cry on after not buying that new lipstick.

If you are a student, apply for a discount card // Cards like NUS are available to get you discounts in all your favourite places to shop. Although there is a small fee to get it (£12, I believe), it will save you money in the long run. This means that you can still buy that outfit for your night out, but feel a little less guilty about it because you didn't pay full price. However, you still need to be careful. Don't just buy something because you think, 'hey, I get a discount so why not?'. You still need to be wise. Do you really need it? Are you only spending the money because you are getting it cheaper?

Shop your stash // Have a hunt at the back of your drawers for things you bought a while ago and forgot you even had. You might even end up liking it more than you thought you did! Better yet, if you are a blogger, you can even turn this into a great blog post. It's a win win situation.

Don't buy something new just because you are bored of the old one // I am incredibly guilty of this, and end up with a bottle upon bottle of half finished foundations. Similar to the last point, try to use things until they are actually finished before going out and buying a new one. There really is no need to buy a new blush every couple of weeks when they last aaaages.

Compare prices // Different retailers sell the same products for different prices so it is definitely worth shopping around. Even if you are only saving a couple of pound here and there, it all adds up and you can end up saving a fair bit of money that can be stashed away for emergencies (like when you have had a particularly bad week at work/school - definitely calls for a shopping trip).

Sign up for cashback websites // My favourite is topcashback.co.uk and I use it regularly when shopping online. Most retailers are available, although not all, helping you to get a little bit of money back each time you place an order. Like the last point, it may not be very much but again, it all adds up and you can save a good bit of money. The money is stored in your account and can be transferred into your bank account at any point. I like to leave it in my topcashback account so that I can see it adding up because then I can keep track of how much I am saving. You can even use it for money off your insurance or holidays.

Think before you buy // This is the most important fact that I have to drum in to you. Do you really need it? Would your life be so different without it? If the answer is no, put it back. You'd be surprised how often you actually manage to do it.

What are your top tips for saving money?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How Much Is My Face Worth?

It recently popped into my head that I have actually got quite a lot of relatively expensive makeup that I use on a daily basis, which must be costing me a fortune. I hummed and hawed about whether it was a good idea to add up the price of my 'face' and eventually decided 'why the hell not'. As I am writing this sentence, I don't yet know how much it is going to add up to and am feeling slightly nervous about the result the calculator on my phone is about to show me.

Bare Minerals Original Foundation - £26
Maybelline Fit Me Concealer - £5.99
Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder - £3.99
Benefit Gimme Brow - £18.50
Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette - £38
Benefit Roller Lash - £19.50
Rimmel Lasting Finish blush 'Live Pink' - £3.99
Soap & Glory Solar Powder - £11
Revlon Lip Butter 'Berry Smoothie'- £7.99
------------------------------------------------------
TOTAL - £134.96

Well. I guess that explains why I am always complaining about having no money, doesn't it.


P.S. A very exciting giveaway is coming your way very soon. I am nearing the end of the planning stage so keep an eye out for the blog post!

Monday, 20 April 2015

20 Reasons To Celebrate Being a Girl

Look at me, posting twice in the space of a week! People really do change after all. I've actually really missed blogging this past month and, like I said in my Life Update post, I am ready to get back into the swing of things. I thought I would start off with a fun, feel good post to celebrate us females. We are the superior species after all. 

1. You can totally blame a bad day on your period, even if it is not that time of the month yet. Instant forgiveness and a 'please never bring your period up again' look from all males.

2. Similarly, it is acceptable to buy yourself a new handbag after a bad day to cheer you up. And what is a new handbag without a matching pair of shoes? And maybe a new lipstick?

3. There is no need to aim to pee. We also get to sit down and rest our legs.

4. Women statistically live longer than men (go us!)

5. We have a wide variety of wardrobe choices - skirt, dress, trousers, shorts, you name it.

6. It is acceptable to have crushes on both male and female celebrities.

7. Guy's clothes can be worn for comfort without getting a strange look.

8. There is no need to shave our faces daily (or at least I hope there is no need...).

9. Concealer can be used to cover everything, including the giant spot that appeared on your chin overnight.

10. Make-up is a life saver when you are having an ugly day. Make-up is also a life saver when you are having a half decent day.

11. Dry shampoo is always an option when you cannot be bothered washing your hair, so basically every day of the week until you work up the motivation to actually get your hair wet in the shower.

12. We give awesome advice.

13. Every single detail can be shared with friends, even the embarrassing things, so that they can laugh and cry along with you.

14. We can take pride in the fact that we have neater handwriting than males and can therefore forge notes to hand in at school that state we have a doctor's appointment at 2.15pm and should therefore be excused from class.

15. It is assumed that we are all bad drivers so it is acceptable to make plenty of mistakes and blame it on our gender.

16. We are always right, no matter what people tell us.

17. We can paint our nails, talk on the phone and make dinner all at the same time. Yep, women can indeed multi task.

18. There is a built in lie detector for me in our brains. Don't even try to tell me that you didn't eat the last bar of chocolate.

19. The current monarch is a woman. Nuff said.

20. We can write lists called '20 advantages of being a girl'. I feel like '20 advantages of being a boy' wouldn't go down as well and may be considered sexist.


Let's all celebrate our womanliness together. Woopee for being a lady!

What do you love about being a girl?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Life Update.

I would like to start off by saying hello after my extended absence from the internet/blogosphere. You may have noticed that it has been one month and one day since my last post - something that has annoyed me every day as the figure increased, yet I did nothing about it - and even longer since I last tweeted. I'd like to be able to say I have a really good reason for this, but truth be told, I think I just needed a break from it all after being relatively dedicated for so long. I feel refreshed and ready to get the ball rolling now and churn out some more posts for you all. 

I may not have been blogging and tweeting much, but life has certainly been hectic and full of twists and turns this past month. I am still no further forward in knowing where I going to university because I am the worst decision maker ever. I have a few unconditional offers from some really great universities, meaning that I don't need any more grades and am guaranteed a place. I just have to buckle up and pick one so that I can get my student finance and accommodation sorted. I have a fair idea of which one I want to pick but every time I log on to the UCAS website I panic and close my laptop. 

I also passed my driving theory test yesterday which I am very happy about as I am one step closer to being able to drive, and can now book my practical test. I'd love to pass before the summer, although I doubt I will actually be able to afford to buy a car and pay the insurance and upkeep, as well as go on two holidays and start uni in September. WHY IS LIFE SO EXPENSIVE RIGHT NOW.

Speaking of holidays, the countdown is now on till summer! This year is gonna be a good one, and I am especially excited to have a week in the sun with my friends in Malia, before jetting off to the USA to visit my sister and my new little nephew who was born last night! He has been named Gabriel, which I am still not sure about but it is definitely growing on me. His big brother Noah is a very excited five year old right now, and Auntie Holly is equally happy.

Exam time is also looming, so I really need to start getting prepared for that. My mum thinks I have been doing a lot of studying over Easter, and I don't want to burst her bubble by telling her the truth. I need to find the motivation from somewhere, but it just isn't happening yet. Any tips on how to locate this so called motivation would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for listening to my rambles, and I hope you are as happy as I am that I am back in business! What have you all been up to recently? Any holiday plans for the summer?

Monday, 16 March 2015

5 Things: Spring Nails

L-R: Barry M Gelly Hi Shine Dragon, Nails Inc South Molton Street, Rimmel 60 Seconds Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Sinful Colors Unicorn, Rimmel 60 Seconds Breakfast in Bed

Although it may not feel like it when you step outside and have to run back in for a scarf and gloves, it is pretty much spring time now and therefore time to break out the pastels. This is my favourite kind of nail polish to wear, especially pastel pinks. Barry M's 'Dragon' nail polish is my pink of choice at the moment (you can see it on my nails here) but I'm also loving 'Parade' by Nails Inc which is a much brighter, more coral offering. I think 'Breakfast in Bed' from the Rita Ora collection for Rimmel is next on my list for what I am wearing this spring!

What is your favourite spring nail colour?

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Now I Just Want Summer

The most celebration-filled months are well and truly over and Christmas and New Year are just distant memories. In a bid to try and not be too disappointed about this fact, I am looking on to all the things that 2015 is still to bring. There is one main thing on my mind right now, brought to the forefront because of the dreadful weather Scotland can't seem to shake off - SUMMER, WHERE ARE YOU?

I absolutely cannot contain myself in anticipation over this summer. I am going on two holidays - yep, TWO - so I will definitely getting my fair share of Vitamin C as I sun myself in Malia and the USA. My friends and I will be spending a week on the Greek island of Crete to celebrate the end of our time together in school (still can't believe I am almost finished high school forever). Then I am back for a week before jetting off again to sunny Pennsylvania to visit my sister and her family - her second baby is due in just a month and a half! She's also booked us a couple of nights in a hotel in Ocean City, Maryland for a change of scenery while we are there. Summer 2015 is all about the travelling for me, it seems!

The picture above shows the new bikini I bought for myself in Primark on Sunday in preparation for my holidays. It was only £10 for the set which I thought was incredible considering how it doesn't seem to be any worse quality than the far more expensive alternatives out there, plus it has the prettiest print I have ever seen on swimwear. Even though it is only March, I decided I would just get it because no doubt my size would be sold out by the time it got nearer to summer. I am so glad I did, although it is making me very impatient for June...

What are you looking forward to most this summer?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Mother's Day Gift Guide with Not On The High Street


Mother's Day is fast approaching so it's time to start thinking about what you are going to get the special lady, if you haven't already. Lucky for you, I've done all the hard work and put together some bits and bobs that I think you and your mums might like. My personal favourites are the card (it is so something that I would say to my mum for a joke!), the makeup bag by Alphabet Bags which you have probably previously came across on the internet, and the kindle cover because the options include Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird. Wow, I really am a nerd.

Just to let you know, this isn't a sponsored post, I just think that Not On The High Street has some really fab Mother's Day gifts! There is definitely something for everyone there with varying prices so you can easily find something in your budget that you know your mum will love. Remember, it's the thought that counts! View them all here.

What are you getting your mum this Mother's Day? Share your ideas!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

MAC Syrup Lipstick

Apologies for my lack of presence on the blogging front lately. It's been one of those weeks when I just couldn't be bothered getting round to blogging. It is just so much work! People do say a little break every now and then can do you good, and now I am back and ready to get back into the swing of things.

Oh look at that. I bought a lipstick while I was meant to be saving my money for going on holiday and moving away for university in September. A new lipstick is in the necessity category though, is't it? I'm pretty sure it does. Especially when it is from MAC.

I own one MAC lipstick already in the shade Chatterbox (review) which I won in a giveaway and decided it was time I branched out and bought one for myself. I tweeted asking for recommendations and quite a few people mentioned Creme Cup which was actually the one I planned on getting but the shop I was in didn't have it in stock and I wanted to see it in person before spending the money. But then, a beautiful muted pink caught my eye and it was love at first sight. Enter, Syrup.

Syrup is a lustre finish, so it is smooth and glossy on your lips even if they are all dry and cracked like mine are. The colour doesn't sink into the cracks and make them look really gross, like many lipsticks do for me. It is a perfect wearable every day colour with slight plummy tones, which seems to match my skin tone perfectly. Although many people hear this and associate it with autumn/winter makeup, this is such a pretty understated colour that it could be worn all year round. It's one of those your-lips-but-better you always hear bloggers going on about. The only downside to it being a lustre formula is that the colour doesn't stay put for very long, but I don't mind topping up throughout the day. It probably only lasts a couple of hours maximum so luckily this isn't something I see as a major issue.

This is definitely a shade that deserves a lot more recognition than it gets! I highly recommend it if you are looking for a new addition to your daily makeup routine.

Holly

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

I'm a chick lit kind of girl. I like soppy teenage romances that make up for my lack of love life and give me lovely little daydreams for when I am supposed to be listening to what my teacher is droning on about in Business Studies. Because of this, I was utterly taken by surprise by the absolute enjoyment I got out of reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon - the name is a mouthful and a half.

This is probably not something I would have chosen myself, but one of my friends in my advanced higher English class is studying it for her dissertation and loved it. When I saw that it was part of a three for £10 offer on Amazon, I reckoned I would give it a go and see if I agreed with her thoughts on it. Boy, was that a good idea.

"I saw four yellow cars in a row on the way to school which made it a Black Day, so I didn't eat anything at lunch and I sat in the corner of the room all day and read my A-level maths course book. And the next day, I saw four yellow cars in a row on the way to school so it was a Black Day too, so I didn't speak to anyone and for the whole afternoon I sat in the corner of the library groaning with my head pressed into the joint between the two walls and this made me feel calm and safe. But on the third day I kept my eyes closed all the way to school until we got off the bus because after I have had two Black Days in a row I am allowed to do that."

I have never read anything like this. It is about a fifteen year old boy called Christopher who has Asperger's Syndrome. He likes everything to be very practical, and can't handle change. He hates specific colours, such as brown. He doesn't like his food touching (a bit like me actually). He likes things to be simple and to the point. He works everything out in a methodical mathematical manner (that's some alliteration there, Holly). He doesn't like it when people phrase questions too openly, they should ask exactly what it is they want to know. So when his neighbour's dog is murdered with a garden fork during the night, this is a mystery to him. Who did it? Why would they do it? He decides he is going to find out, and write it all down in a book as he goes along. 

Curious Incident is a touching story that gives you a real insight into the mind of a young boy with Asperger's, or so we are led to believe by the blurb. It never specifically mentions what behavioural disorder Christopher actually has in the book, but it is clear he lies somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Haddon's reluctance to apply a label to him throughout the story may suggest that Christopher is not fully aware of it or doesn't find it an important fact to mention, or it could possibly be down to the author not wanting to offend or be overly specific. Because of his inability to understand other people's emotions and what is happening around him, we are able to notice things which he does not and read between the lines, in a way. We can pick up on things and understand why things are the way they are much quicker than Christopher can himself, especially when it comes to his relationship with his dad. This makes it a compelling read that had me turning the pages for hours on end, when I really should have been sleeping or doing homework...

Have you ever read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (I still can't get over how long that name is)?

Holly

Friday, 6 February 2015

Benefit Roller Lash


I am already a huge fan of Benefit and have loved almost every product of theirs that I have tried. One of my absolute favourites is their They're Real mascara and I have gone through almost two tubes of it now. My one issue with it is it doesn't hold the curl for the whole day for me, probably because my lashes are so straight to begin with. Even when I curl them first before applying the mascara, I still don't see lasting results. Cue the release of the latest Elle magazine which has the Roller Lash as a mini freebie. Swoon.

Currently exclusive with the March edition of the magazine, this new mascara claims to remove the need for eyelash curlers because it can do it on its own and make you lashes look inconceivably long without clumping (what a horrible word). The release date is still a few weeks away yet but you can pick up this sample size for only £4 with Elle, which is not bad at all considering that the full RRP is going to be £19.50!

This mascara has been in development for FOUR WHOLE YEARS so it really should be amazing with all the planning and preparation that has gone into it. According to Benefit, it is perfect for those with short or straight lashes that struggle to find a decent daytime mascara. It produces a girly, curled look with the revolutionary Hook and Roll brush which catches, lifts and curls the lashes with an eye-opening effect. The curl is apparently designed to last for twelve hours, which is a big claim but not a fake one.

This mascara really does help to lift your eyelashes and make them look perfectly fluttery. What I love about it is that it really separates your lashes and doesn't leave you with about three in total if you apply more than one coat. I couldn't believe how curled they were when I first tried it out on one eye and compared it to my normal mascara on the other. It's amazing. The price is pretty steep at almost £20, but it is no more expensive than They're Real and look how many people own that. This is a sure chart-topper in my eyes (pun not intended) and is worth every penny. Spending ban aside, I will be purchasing this little beauty the minute it hits the shelves. I highly recommend you pop out and buy Elle to see if you like it too, rather than wasting too much of your money and end up not liking it (although I find that very unlikely).

Have you tried out Roller Lash yet?

Holly

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My First Ever Lipstick Repurchase


Now, are those not just the biggest hailstones/snowflakes you have ever seen? I can't believe the size of them. Trust me, they hurt A LOT when you are walking along outside and they start flying down from the sky. I speak through experience. I never imagined I would ever use them in a photo for my blog because it literally never snows where I live because it is so close to the coast, but wonders never cease.

Fun fact about me: I have never repurchased a lipstick (well, until now). It is just one of those things that seems to last forever, like nail polish. So, in all my years of wearing make-up, it has taken me until now to find a lipstick that I love enough to use up completely and buy another one. Enter, the Revlon Lip Butter.

Okay, fair enough, my repurchase cost me £3 on The Lovecats Inc's beauty blog sale, but I was planning on going into Boots and paying to full price for a new one (and I hardly ever pay full price for anything. Ever.) so I'm glad I spotted it on Helen's blog before I did so and saved myself a little bit of dot dash (is that a real saying for money or is it just something my dad made up?).

These lip butters are the most luxurious lip products I own, a word which is usually used to describe more high-end beauties. I have three, Berry Smoothie (my favourite, clearly), Candy Apple (a beautiful red) and Strawberry Shortcake (a blue-toned pink, although I'm not a huge fan of the colour of this one). Berry Smoothie is a clear winner in my eyes out of the ones that I own because it is my favourite colour to wear on my lips - that lovely, deep pink shade that can be worn day or night. It glides on beautifully, leaves my lips feeling so supple and smooth and has a fab lasting power. If it was a person, I would hug it.

Have you ever tried it?

Holly

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sunday Reflections #4

I Wore: This tartan dress to go shopping with my mum yesterday. I love wearing it because it is so soft and comfortable, although I do always have to keep checking to see if it is tucked up and showing my knickers to the world because it is loose so you don't feel like you are wearing anything! I made a VERY exciting purchase in MAC on this shopping trip which you shall see soon...

I Ate: Fruit! Yayyyyy, I finally started healthy eating! Round of applause, please.

I Watched: My usual TV shows on the internet, i.e. The Flash, Switched at Birth, Chasing Life, etc, etc.

I Read: Pride and Prejudice for my Advanced Higher English class. So far, I have absolutely no clue what is going on, I don't know what the attraction with Mr Darcy is and Sparknotes has become my best friend.

I Loved: The new Benefit Roller Lash mascara which came free with Elle magazine. I only tried it out for the first time today but I already know that I am going to love it. More on this topic coming soon.

I Blogged: About the snow day on Thursday (keep reading to find out the reason for it) and I also shared some tips on choosing a university.

Highlight of the week: I actually have two this week because I couldn't pick between them. The first is I managed to get Thursday off school because it had a power cut before I even got there in the morning! It was 8.15 am, I was still in my pyjamas, hadn't done anything with my hair and looked like something out of a horror film with just my foundation and eyebrows on (not a good look). I was going to be late anyway, as I am every day, but it didn't matter because they tweeted (yep, my school is that tech-savvy) that it was cancelled. Best day ever! Unfortunately, the power was back on Friday so I had to do my Business Management prelim which brings me on to my next point. One prelim down, three to go!

Holly

Friday, 30 January 2015

Picking the right university for you - a beginner's tips

I am not at university, therefore I cannot guarantee that my advice is 100% accurate and should be followed to the letter. However, it is that time of the year for school leavers across the country where we have to decide our fate and basically determine how the rest of our life is going to pan out. I am sure a lot of you are in the same boat, or have been before. Deadline day (aka D-Day) has now passed - it was the 15th of January or something round about that for applications to Scottish universities, and possibly England too but I'm not sure about that - and now everyone has to play the waiting game as the fate of a significant proportion of the population lies in the hands of admissions offices across the country.

I am incredibly lucky for I have already heard back from all five of the universities I applied to, and have known about my offers since before D-Day (I'm in demand, I know). For many people though, it could be weeks, even months, before responses come through. I now just have the hard choice of which university to attend. Easy peasy, right? Not like it could affect the rest of my life or anything. Pffft. 

A girl recently told me that to pick the right university for you, all that needs to be done is listen to your heart. She made it sound so easy with one simple way of knowing - pick the one which you were most excited about when the offer came in. It took me all of 0.35 seconds (roughly...) to come up with the answer. Probably the one that I cried about for about 2 hours straight after finding out I had got in just TWO DAYS after submitting my application. If that is not obvious, I don't know what is.

I think the mistake that a lot of people make is going somewhere that they feel too comfortable with or that they know someone else is going to. It is going to be a very daunting experience but you have to think about it clearly and logically. Don't attend a university just because your friend is going there too. That is a seriously bad reason for choosing it, no matter how tempting it may be. Chances are, they won't be doing the same course as you anyway so you would hardly see them so why go there if it isn't the best option for you? You also need to think about the reputation of the school. A lot of people say that this shouldn't be a factor when choosing which university to go to, but I think it should be. Here's a little scenario for you. You apply for your dream job in your chosen career. you and another applicant have practically identical applications, with the only difference being where you attended university. The other candidate went to a very prestigious school with really high entry requirements. You went to a good school, but not quite as high up in the list. Who gets the interview/the job? Probably the other person. If it was harder to get into that university and they managed it and also came out the other end with a degree, that makes them look like a better candidate for the position (this is a hypothetical situation obviously, I am not implying you couldn't do it...). Obviously, you don't want to pick a university just because of how it is going to sound on job applications (e.g. University of Glasgow). There is no mistaking that it will look better but that can't be the only reason you are going. It might be fantastic uni but if it doesn't offer the perfect course for you then you need to think of your other options. Your decision should be made on the course first, and then the university's reputation.

If you are not applying till next year, it's never too early to start looking at courses and prospectuses to prepare for the year ahead. If you have an idea of what it is you would like to do, you will be able to attend open days at the university and visit the specific department you are interested in. I did this and the university which I am planning on going to (I think) had a great department with brilliant lecturers so it really did help me with my decision. If you aren't sure yet, think about what you enjoy. Do you love reading? What about English Literature? Animals - animal biology or zoology? Design - fashion or architecture? The list goes on. If you can, ask to speak to your school's career advisor.

So this post ended up being a lot longer than I thought! I had no plan for it, just sat down with my laptop and started typing. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing... Anyway, no matter where I - or you, if you are in the same position right now - choose to go, life will be dramatically different and there is no doubt about that. Any tips on how to ease yourself gently into that process, or how you chose which university to go to? Help a gal out, will ya.

Holly

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Snow Day






I think this may be the first every snow day I have had from school. Like, ever. I live on the coast so it is practically unheard of to get any snow at all, and now we have had it twice in one week (see Sunday Reflections #3)! This may not look like a lot of snow to you but it is loads for us! Well, this is a mixture of hailstones and snow (the biggest hailstones I have ever seen). It did actually snow for quite a while this morning, but by the time I ventured outside it had stopped. The weather isn't even that bad at the moment, no worse than what we usually get in January, but there was a lot of thunder and lightning through the night and around 8am this morning and do you know what that meant? A power cut in the school!

Just imagine my joy at finding out that school had been cancelled for the day. I was still in my pyjamas, greasy hair piled on top of my head because I was too lazy to wash it and half my makeup done (foundation and eyebrows are not a good look when that is all you have on). Being so tech-savvy, my school tweeted (yep, tweeted) that it was cancelled because of a power cut. Hallelujah. Best day of my life. It's a shame it's not tomorrow that this all happened actually because I have my first prelim then (i.e. mock exam) so I would quite like to miss that! Today has therefore become a study day/picture taking day for the blog/procrastinating day - my favourite kind.

How has your day been so far?

Holly

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sunday Reflections #3

I Wore: Basically every knitted thing that I own. I think I might have had enough of this cold weather now, hurry up summer.

I Ate: Unhealthy food, AGAIN. Right, healthy eating starts Monday. I PROMISE.

I Watched: Chasing Life and The Flash after the finally returned after a break for Christmas! I love both these shows and have missed them so much over the past few weeks. I practically ran home from school so that I could get on the internet to watch them.

I Read: Textbooks, ugh. I have mock exams starting next Friday and only just started studying on Thursday. Oops.

I Loved: Olly Murs' most recent album 'Never Been Better'. I've been listening to it while studying at school to block out the noise because there is literally nowhere quiet to sit there. Even the library is noisy because it is open plan and has a classroom joined onto it with the loudest teacher in the world.

I Blogged: I posted a review on the Collection Cream Puff in Fairy Cake which is a really pretty coral matte lip cream, announced my project for February with Advertise with holly la beau and Change, a post about my life in the near future.

Highlight of the week: The snow! I live on the coast so we hardly ever get snow so it was very exciting to wake up on Wednesday morning to a white garden. It was hardly loads of snow (see picture above), but a lot more than usual! This is the first time this winter that it has snowed in my town so you can imagine my excitement. I can't even remember if it snowed last winter. The little villages around my town all get snow because they are in the hills but we are very flat. As much as I loved looking at the snow, it was a right pain trying to walk to school when I discovered that the snow had frozen solid on the pavements...

Holly

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Change

Change. You either love it or you hate it. It can bring fresh, exciting new opportunities just waiting to be experienced, or it can bring sadness, darkness and pain. Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable and we can't always see it coming. It might just spring on us one day, totally unexpected, and the world shifts. Or, it can be gradual. Little things changing each day and then, bam! Life is different in every way possible.

I'm not change's biggest fan. I like things to stay exactly where they are, no surprises. Unfortunately, I have reached that point in my life where I can't do anything about the major shift that looms ahead. In just a few short months, I leave school for good and get launched out into the big bad world, kicking and screaming. Then, in September, it's time to move away from home and start fresh at university. I feel like I am simultaneously ready and totally unprepared. I don't want to live in a totally different city to the people who I have spent over 6 hours a day with, Monday to Friday, since I was five years old and had my very first day of school. It's weird to think about. Although, I suppose it provides me with a clean slate. I can reinvent myself into whoever I want to be. The new cool, sophisticated and outgoing me. 

I don't know if I am quite ready to say goodbye to High School Holly and hello to City Holly. City Holly just isn't who I am. At least not yet.

Side note: My handwriting looks so very swish, don't you think? Bravo, Holly.


- Holly
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You can now buy cheap advertising space in my sidebar for your blog or small shop. See here for more info and to buy a slot for February! Prices start from £1.50.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Advertise With Holly La Beau


I've decided to open up some advertising space for any types of bloggers or small independent sellers (such as Etsy shops). Now I know I don't have the most popular blog out there with a huge amount of followers, but what I do have is a great range of loyal readers who always read and comment on my blog, and also a good amount of unique visitors just passing through. Because of this, I will be charging a veeeerrrry small amount for an advertising space. I will be able to put it towards giveaways and products to review, along with other things to improve my blog, and you will hopefully get something out of it too! All of this information will be in my tabs bar under my header for if you would like to come back and read it. This may or may not be a permanent thing or there may be slight changes, it depends on what the feedback is and how well it goes down.

Please email me at hollyjmckie@hotmail.co.uk if you are interested in advertising, or if you would like any more information. Advertising will run from the first till the last day of each month, beginning on the 1st of February if there are any takers.

The Packages:


LARGE: £2.50
Two available each month. First to book a spot gets top of the list. 

What you get:
- A linked 240x180 blog button in my sidebar
- A section in my advertisers post at the end of each month (screenshot of your blog or photo of you, a paragraph, social media links)
- A #ff every Friday throughout the advertising period
- A mention at the bottom of every post
- Shoutout on Instagram
- A blogger interview on my blog


SMALL: £1.50
Four available each month.

What you get:
- A linked 240x180 blog button in my sidebar
- A section in my advertisers post at the end of each month (screenshot of your blog or photo of you, a paragraph, social media links)
- Mention at the bottom of one post per week



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