Wednesday 31 July 2013

Books Are Amazing... July Edition!

Welcome to the July edition of Books Are Amazing. July is my favourite month because of birthday reasons! And books are my favourites because they are BOOKS. This month's blogger is the lovely Niki from Time For Twee,  a blog that I have read for almost as long as I had this one. S'very good. You should read it - she writes beautifully. This month Niki is doing a bit of a spin on the usual books post with a graphic novel themed post instead. So! Over to Niki...

Hello. First of all, thank you Sarah for letting me guest blog! You can normally find me on Time For Twee which is a bit like a 16 year old girl’s diary about music and hanging out with my friends and eating too much food all the time.

I write for film and television, so it’s probably not surprising that I asked if I could write about graphic novels. They have a natural appeal as it’s storytelling via a visual medium rather than just words. Space on the page is as important as space on the screen, and it helps me think about ways of telling my own stories without using as much dialogue (show, don’t tell!). I love all books but I thought it might be fun to stick to graphic novels and if you’ve never read one before, perhaps this will be an encouraging introduction!

I think it’s a shame that I still feel kind of intimidated whenever I go into a comic book store – although there are loads of female graphic novelists and comic book artists out there these days, there’s still a sense that it’s a scene dominated by guys. As well, if you’ve never read a graphic novel before, it’s tricky to know where to start. There are so many brilliant ones to choose from. So here are some of my favourites...

Blankets by Craig Thompson
This is a heavy duty debut graphic novel - a coming-of-age autobiographical tale of growing up in a Christian family when your belief in God is coming into question, the joys and pains of being an elder sibling and the ecstacy and heartache of falling in love for the first time. It’s a painfully observant retelling of the awkwardness of adolescence and the never-ending uncertainty of relationships, drawn exquisitely in beautiful detail, as Craig meets his first girlfriend Raina at a Christian camp. As an outsider at home, in school and at camp, Craig depicts meeting someone who you understand and understands you with the obsession and thrill that sadly rarely lasts beyond your teens. He shares the intimacy of his long-distance relationship with Raina as he goes to stay with her family for two weeks – the perfect moments of pure cohesion with your lover and the heartbreaking alienation because you cannot possibly always feel the same way. Craig’s story is easily identifiable as he plays out the end of one phase of his life and the beginning of another. It would be easy for this story to become something bitter and angst-ridden but Craig is a delicate and fair storyteller. If you liked 500 Days of Summer, this is a good call.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (Volume 1) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim is the 23 year old Toronto slacker bass player in Sex Bob-omb and dating a high schooler called Knives Chau. She’s Chinese, so Scott thinks that’s pretty cool. Until he meets Ramona Flowers, a roller-blading, American, Amazon delivery girl who can travel through sub-space. As well as teaching Scott that eating garlic bread for every meal would make him fat, Ramona inspires a love in Scott that transcends everything, like ever. At first he thinks his biggest problem will be breaking up with Knives, but it soon transpires that in order to date Ramona, he must fight and defeat all of her seven evil exes, including the mysterious Gideon. So, if you’ve already seen the movie, you’ve got the gist – this is a wise-cracking, video-game loving story of triumphing over evil when you’re really super lazy but also happen to be totally awesome at kicking ass. The series of graphic novels tell a slightly different story from the film, but it’s stuffed full of quotable lines and cool, funny Canadian characters, from Wallace Wells, the gay roommate Scott shares a mattress on the floor of his apartment with, to Kim Pine, Scott’s sarcastic drummer not-evil ex-girlfriend. My favourite character is Envy Adams, singer of The Clash at Demonhead and Scott’s totally evil ex. But it’s hard to pick just one... If you like video games or pop culture or obscure band t-shirts (so that’s all of you, right?), you will love the books. Go read the books.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya is a Russian immigrant teenager, socially awkward, a bit chubby and generally uncomfortable with who she is. Weren’t we all? Well, perhaps I wasn’t a Russian immigrant but all the rest of it, I’ve been there and in some respects, I still am. I guess the even bigger difference than our country of origin between me and Anya is that I’ve never fallen down a hole and befriended a ghost. When one of Emily’s bones ends up in Anya’s backpack, it allows Emily to leave the place where she died, and become Anya’s BFF. Whether Anya likes it or not. At first, Emily is a positive presence in Anya’s existence, but... you know how your best friend was also often your worst enemy when you were a teenager? This book captures those moments of uncertainty about whose side your buddy is really on – yours or hers (IT’S HERS!!!). The cleverest thing about this story is how well it encapsulates adolescence without looking down on it. There is no condescension, and no teenager would ever feel patronised reading it – yet as an adult, it’s not angsty, it’s simply a wonderful reminder of what it was like to be that age. Truthful and funny and a tiny bit spooky (it’s got a GHOST in it!), this is a perfect read for anyone who loved Mean Girls or The Craft. Twilight fans might like it too, y’know, if you’ve reached the stage where you want to read something with an actual narrative...

HildaFolk – Luke Pearson
A little girl with blue hair and a sort of fox-dog-deer pet called Twig (WANT!!!) who lives with her Mum in a fantastic world. That’s Hilda. HildaFolk is the first in Luke Pearson’s series of stories about this charming, perceptive kid, who is brave and fearful and adventurous and joyful, as she explores and draws and tries to understand the magical beings she meets. This is a story about troll hunting, naturally, with all the warmth of a Tove Jansson book and all the heart of any Hayao Miyazaki film. I’ve followed Luke Pearson’s progression since stumbling across his blog years ago, and all of his books so far have been an absolute delight. It would be so easy for this little girl to be cloying or irritating, but she’s written with such careful strength and wonder and humour, it’s impossible not to love Hilda. There’s a special attention to the magical and unexpected details in the background, whilst also paying tribute to the truthfulness of being a kid. If you’ve ever loved a Studio Ghibli film or if you can’t get enough of the Moomins, you must get onto the Hilda books.

NOMADS – Lizzy Stewart
This very short little ‘zine has a meandering narrative, as the title would suggest. There’s no big story here – it’s simply an observation of female adolescence, patrolling your neighbourhood with your gang of mates – nostalgia-tinged, whimsical and occasionally inducing a stab in the heart – a single panel of a girl on a bench with a boy accompanied by the brief but poignant statement ‘We suffered the occasional loss’. Oh, the betrayal and the envy and the love and the gossip and the understanding and the wishing – as you pound the streets, lazily with no sense of purpose, full of sugar and possibilities and repetition and constant change. Lizzy’s depiction of purposeless, purposeful youthfulness is simple, and perfect for it. This would appeal to fans of The Virgin Suicides – so reminiscent of your dreamy, languid teenage years.

Paying For It – Chester Brown
Chester Brown is a Canadian cartoonist who’s been producing work for decades. Paying For It is an autobiographical, pro-prostitution story. By which I mean, Chester Brown visits prostitutes, pays for sex and thinks it should be legal, so he wrote this about it. It’s obviously controversial, starting with his decision to give up on romantic love and his desire to continue having sex despite this. He presents it a natural choice, to decide to become a ‘john’. I read this book curiously – I wanted to know why a man would choose to frequent prostitutes for a purely sexual relationship, completely forsaking any chance of love – could it be more than just selfish, mindless lust? Well, no. He suggests that he is helping these women, but whether he means to or not, I feel like his true guilt seeps through. This book is difficult to read and made me angry, disgusted and uncomfortable at numerous points. ‘Paying for sex isn’t an empty experience if you’re paying the right person for sex’ he insists. But I will argue until the end of time that the right person will only ever be someone you don’t have to pay for sex. Read this if you are a woman, if you’re a man – it’s an education in how not to end up a terribly alone and selfish human being, trying (and as far as I’m concerned, failing) your best to justify your lust by comparing it to precious love.

AEIOU Any Easy Intimacy by Jeffrey Brown
And of precious love... Jeffrey Brown’s ‘girlfriend trilogy’ documents every moment of his relationships – the butterflies-in-the-stomach beginnings, the heart-wrenching-awkward-unsure-middles and the inevitable-crushing-world-ending finality. All presented with a warm sweetness that is probably the only reason his ex-girlfriends haven’t sued him for his reveal-all honesty. Although told from his point of view, Jeffrey never shies away from his own inadequacies and failings, his neediness and insecurity but it’s not just a self-deprecating self-bashing. The story of his trainwreck of a relationship with Sophia, from the moment they alight the platform to the squealing of brakes on mangled metal as their romance shudders to a halt is as funny and adoring as it is painful and cringeworthy. Jeffrey is juvenile, Sophia is troubled – they are never going to make it. But if Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind taught me one thing, it’s that the end point isn’t necessarily what’s important. And it seems that Jeffrey’s books are based on a similar notion – sometimes love is agony, but it doesn’t matter because of the moments when it’s not. ‘Do you still believe in love?’ asks Jeffrey’s friend Daniel on the phone. ‘Yeah’ he replies mournfully. ‘I just don’t believe in girls’. Ouch. But oh so good. If you caught Save the Date featuring the awesome Alison Brie, Lizzy Caplan and one of my favourite actors, MARTIN STARR, it might interest you to know Jeffrey co-wrote that film! He also directed the Death Cab For Cutie video for Your Heart Is An Empty Room. Which officially makes Jeffrey Brown more emo than anyone ever.

Nelson – by various artists
I’ll keep this short – Nelson is edited by Rob Davis & Woodrow Phoenix, and written by 54 different artists, telling the story of one woman’s life, Nel Baker, in little yearly snapshots, from her birth. I’m very lucky to share an office with one of the contributing artists, Alice Duke, but it features many talented people such as the aforementioned Luke Pearson and the well-known Posy Simmonds who wrote Tamara Drew. A unique but simple project that constantly produces surprises, laughs and does a truly fantastic job of representing the wealth of different styles of drawing and storytelling to choose from when it comes to the world of graphic novels. You’re bound to find something you like here because every single page is completely different. It reminds me a little bit of The World According To Garp, in that it starts at the very beginning of a life, and takes you on through all the unexpected twists and turns. One of my favourite moments is when the invention of Facebook allows Nel and us to have a glimpse into the life of a character introduced early on, who we lose touch with as the story progresses. Just like real life...

And that’s it. I hope you’re inspired to find something new you might like, whether you’re a graphic novel veteran or if you thought comics were only for boys who like superheroes (you should probably like those too though).

Monday 29 July 2013

Put on your war paint.

Every now and then people ask me how I started my blog. I tell the story of how I tried to start a beauty blog, managed a post or two and then realised I didn’t know nearly enough about beauty to write a blog on it. And the longer I’ve blogged for, the more I’m aware of that. There’s a LOT to know about beauty, you guys. I mean, I know the basics – I wear makeup most days, I know how to do different things with my hair – but I’m still clueless when it comes to brushes, blushers and lipsticks. I like what I like, y’know?

The thing with beauty products is that I am INTERESTED, if not knowledgeable. I love finding out what are other peoples’ hero products, and in turn love to pass on my favourites. Which is what I figured I’d do.

OPI Rapid Dry TopCoat
Best topcoat ever. BEST TOPCOAT EVER. I can’t say it enough. When they say rapid dry, they mean it. This stuff is touchdry in less than a minute – it means I can paint my nails just before I go to sleep. And I do! And it never smudges! It’s not the cheapest topcoat out there, but it’s worth spending a bit of money on. It helps your manicure last longer, too. But mostly it’s that quick drying magic I love.

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation
So, I’m a high street girl. Clothes, shoes, makeup. High street all the way. But Rimmel’s finest is nowhere near my face by the end of the day and I realised that it’s become time to invest in something a bit more… well, good. At the Witch Skincare bowling event a couple of months ago, Lisa Valencia did my makeup and told me to invest in some Laura Mercier. And, after a disappointing colour mixup at Space NK, I am now in possession of this awesome little tube. The first time I wore it to work my colleague – who I was picking up at 7am – remarked how fresh faced I looked. It’s magical. It’s not heavy, but has a lovely matte, flawless finish. Am definitely a convert to the good stuff.

Boots 17 Tattoo Me Liquid Eyeliner
Some days you do your makeup and think with concern ‘This has got to last me until at least midnight.’ Not possible, right? WRONG. Well, I can’t vouch for the rest of your face, but this stuff will keep your flicks intact until the next morning. I don’t know what it’s made of. Maybe tar. But it does not come off. It’s incredible. I mean, if you mess up your eyeliner, you’re totally screwed, but hey. Not my problem. (I don’t use this every day, FYI. Because its indelibleness scares me)

Moroccan or Argan Oil
Ever since I’ve started using a Moroccan type oil on my hair, it’s been so much more manageable. Brushes slide through it with ease! Frizzies are a thing of… well, not the past, but there are less of them. I don’t really understand how an oil can be non-greasy, but it isn’t. I feel weird if I don’t use it now. And my hair feels gross. I am loving Aldi's own at the moment!

Revlon Ultimate Suede ColorStay Lipstick (no. 10)
I am not a lipstick person. I keep debating writing a post about how I am not a lipstick person. I put on lipstick and feel like a little girl who has been playing with her mums makeup. It’s just not for me. But the other day I was on my way somewhere and felt a bit peaky, so I grabbed this at the Boots in King’s Cross. And I love it! It doesn’t feel like REAL lipstick because it’s super moisturising, like a lipbalm, and the colour isn’t THAT far off my natural lip colour. It just makes me look a bit more healthy. And I like a lipstick that doesn’t make people squint at me and say suspiciously ‘Are you wearing LIPSTICK?’ which usually means ‘It looks weird!’

Urban Decay 24/7 Eye Pencil
I'm a kohl girl 4 lyfe but lately it's been so hot that I've been abandoning it. However, I keep hearing amazing things about the 24/7 black eyeliner, and due to my love for Urban Decay's coloured liners, I figured I'd try it out. I've only been using it for a couple of days but it is so far smudge free! I am impressed.

Carmex Clicksticks
I bloody swear by Carmex. My lips hardly ever get chapped any more and the lime one smells of mojitos! You can FINALLY buy the clicksticks in the UK, but my American friend Cat ships them over to me. They are about a third of the price in America - it's outrageous. I'm off to the States again in November, I'll be bringing back a suitcase of the passionfruit flavour. Yum.

Light Up Mirror
I got sent this recently to review from Pebble Grey and it's come in so useful already! No more squinting at my iPhone in selfie-mode in the back of a dark cab, hooray. The lights on this mirror are super bright, too which is so handy.

Now I desperately need a pretty new makeup bag to keep everything in. Seen any good ones lately? I'm eyeing this Manoush one at the moment.

Friday 26 July 2013

Looking for the time of your life.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to Lovebox by the awesome Witch Skincare crew. VIP BABY.

It was an awesome day - very chilled, which was just what I fancied. Lots of sitting (love a good sit), chatting and good music. We even spotted a couple of celebs too - Tinchy Stryder, who genuinely looks like a little boy. Oh, and Mutya! I was excited. AND Vanessa from the Saturdays. Crazy times. VIP kind of is the way forward. The loos are nicer (they flush and everything!) and you can usually get seats. That's pretty much the only difference but both those things make it all worth it, right?

I bought a new dress which I love so MUCH... but not in these pictures. It looks meh. But in real life it was so cute! A lovely cut with a floaty swirly skirt and a cute polka dot print. Sure, it needed a sneaky safety pin because a deep V is no girl's friend, but that's okay. Most of my clothes have sneaky safety pins. That's the whole point of them. THEY'RE SNEAKY.

Dress - New Look
Havaianas Flipflops c/o Spartoo
Flower headband c/o Witch

Anyway, I feel like it needs another outfit post because this kind of doesn't count, but just believe me here - IT'S ADORABLE.

I totes regretted wearing my trusty Havaianas flipflops though. Sure, my feet were comfy and supported all day, but the colour of them! Eeeesh. It was gross. Festivals = dusty.

Thanks for an awesome day out, Witch! You're MY festival essential. *suckup face*


Wednesday 24 July 2013

Where did the party go?

This year has gone so ridiculously fast. Somehow it is the end of July, which means that my birthday is around the corner. Always takes me by surprise. I keep getting asked what I want for my birthday and I always end up saying I don’t know. Because I don’t! I can’t think of things! Ah the pressure! I’ve been trying though, and have finally come up with a little list of things that would be super nice to find at the foot of my bed on Monday. Or any day, really.

An iPad
I WANT AN IPAD SO BAD YOU GUYS. I didn’t, for ages, and then I started thinking more about how much I could use it when I was away, and now I really bloody want one. I’m hoping for a few donations towards one from my family. It’d pretty much make my life.

There’s so much I want to read right now! God, books are the BEST. I’m desperate to read Neil Gaiman’s new book, I’d really like to read JK Rowling’s new one and I’m sure there are more that I don’t even know about. Books are just one of the best presents ever.


Most of my perfume stash is almost run out (I swear the remainder of my Vera Wang Princess evaporated in the heat!) so I really want some nice smellies to replace them all.

Flash Gun
I so want a flash gun for my camera. A good friend of mine always uses his at birthday parties and the quality of his pictures are ten times better than mine (and we have the same camera!). It's been on my list for YEARS.

New Dress
Lately I've become a touch obsessed with website gazing for ladies dresses, and I'm currently eyeing this from Bank. I think I can pull off that little cut out! It's so subtle!

Also maybe this dress too.

Sparkly Nailpolish
Mandatory, tbh.

New Music
As much as I heart Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, my ears are crying out for a change. I keep hearing that Arc is excellent, so on the list it goes!

I'm a bit obsessed with buying Converse at the moment, but I'm dying for a less chunky pair. These are from the 'dainty' range - the perfect trainers for dresses!

I know, I know, "I Wants Don't Get" but it's fun to think about, right? What's on your wishlist right now?

Friday 19 July 2013

Because we are your friends, and you will never be alone again.

I always want to subvert expectations when I talk about bloggers hanging out. I mean, you all think that it’s all cupcakes, posh cameras, outfit photos and pretty dresses, right? But it’s not like that at ALL.

Ahem. Okay, it’s a little bit like that. I spent last weekend at Sarah’s beautiful new house with some other babes and we had the BEST time. We did spend a lot of time doing cliché blogger things – I mean, that Sarah does have a knack for making exceptionally photogenic baked goods – but to be honest, most of the time was spent chatting and laughing. A lot. (Those are the best weekends, aren’t they? When you don’t remember much of the conversations, only that your face hurt from laughing pretty much the whole time.)

Warwick is a beautiful town, and we had some awesome lunches in shady pub gardens (I’m still thinking about my bacon and watermelon salad from the Lazy Cow). We explored the Castle which is gorgeous and huge – I couldn’t resist the chance to take some outfit photos in the pretty rose garden. This is one of my favourite summer dresses – it’s a couple of years old now, but it still gets wheeled out every year. And we really are having the summeriest of summers, aren’t we? It’s lush, even though I’m melting on a pretty much constant basis.

Dress – Dorothy Perkins
Hat – River Island
Shoes – Primark
Sabrina Leather Backpack  c/o Spartoo

We spent Saturday night at the proms which were amazing! We loaded up our picnic hampers (so many beautiful hampers – I really bloody need one now) with all sorts of M&S goodies and set up a little area with our camping chairs and nibbles. So much fun. None of us could see the stage, but did it matter? The music was just a lovely background to all the gossiping. Plus, there were fireworks! Bloody love fireworks.

Honestly, SUCH a fab weekend. Thanks for being the hostess with the mostess, Sarah! And thanks for all the giggles Alex, Char, Rosie, Gem and Roisin! Can we do it again soon, pretty please?

© Essbeevee | Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, St Albans, Tring food, lifestyle, & parenting blog. All rights reserved.
Blogger templates by pipdig