Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Five To Help | Fake Awake

Recently, one thing and another has meant I've been needing to function on far less than the optimum amount of sleep. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I value my sleep and how truly terrible I am at getting up in the mornings, so I hope you can appreciate the importance of honing my morning routine to take as little time as possible - if it means I can manage an extra four minutes in bed, I am all over that! All that said, I do like to look as presentable as possible, and so a quick-but-effective make-up routine is a must as far as I'm concerned.
Top Five Fake Awake Bbloggers
I tend to wake up with super-puffy eyes, which certain family members find hilarious; it's really not a good look, at all. I find that washing my face as soon as possible after I get up helps to wake me up, and I tend to press a cold flannel over my eyes for a few seconds after cleansing and before toning, as I find this really helps to take down the puffiness. I then whap on (technical term!) my eye cream and moisturiser, and give those a few minutes to soak in while I get dressed, sort my bag out for the day, brush my hair, that sort of thing... Then it's time to get a face on!
Faking Awake FOTD
[Products used: MAC Prep + Prime; Bourjois 123Perfect CC Cream; Soap & Glory Kick-Ass Concealer in '01 Light'; Benefit High Beam; Essence All About Matt Setting Powder; Deborah Milano Natural Blusher in 'Cherry'*; MUA Pro Brow Kit; GOSH Forever Eyeshadow Stick in '02 Beige'; Soap & Glory Thick & Fast Mascara]
Highlighter is a godsend for brightening up dull, tired-looking skin and making your face look a lot healthier and generally more alive; I'm loving Benefit's High Beam at the moment, finding that three or four dots along the top of each cheekbone, blended in with the fingers, work wonders to lift my complexion. A good concealer for shadows in the under-eye area goes a long way to waking the face up, and I'm a massive fan of Soap & Glory's Kick-Ass Concealer. This little compact actually contains two shades, a yellow-toned one which I use under my eyes and a more neutral-toned one which covers any blemishes rather nicely. After setting my base with powder, a sweep of blusher adds a bit of colour back into my face and prevents me having to rock the deathly pale look of the recently deceased. I'm having a bit of a revival of love for Deborah Milano's Natural Blusher in 'Cherry'*, which is a super-pigmented shade and requires an extremely light hand. That said, it builds up beautifully to give a healthy flush of colour to the cheeks and it's been working well for me lately. Onto the eyes - I really enjoy GOSH's Forever Eyeshadow in the shade 'Beige', which is a shimmery champagne type shade; it's quick and easy to apply and works well along the lashline as a liner to really open and brighten the eyes up, blended all over the lid for a quick shadow look, or as a base for powder shadows to prolong wear. Finally, a quick coat of mascara only takes a few seconds to apply but I find it really helps to bring a look together; my all-time favourite is Soap & Glory's Thick & Fast Mascara as it's a great jet-black colour and gives my lashes length, definition and volume.
So there you have it! Do you have any top tricks for faking a wide-awake look for early mornings after late nights? What are your must-have products for brightening your face up and making yourself look alive?

[*Products provided for consideration.]

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Review: Yves Rocher Long-Lasting Moisturising Hand Cream*

I was recently sent a few bits and pieces from French beauty brand Yves Rocher to try out, one of which was their Long-Lasting Moisturising Hand Cream*, which I was super-keen to try as I really struggle with dry hands, due to how much I have to wash them at work!
Review Yves Rocher Long Lasting Moisturising Hand Cream
I really like the way the cream is presented, in a sunny yellow plastic tube with an easy-to-use flip-cap. The product information is printed in both French and English, which is helpful; my GCSE French will only get me so far with beauty products, unfortunately! The English version gives you the following information: "Formulated with protective organic arnica, this cream cares for your hands: • It instantly and lastingly moisturises • It offers protection from external aggressions • Your skin regains its supple softness. Apply daily. Gently massage until cream is absorbed."
Yves Rocher Hand Beauty Care
I've been keeping this tube on my bedside table as the 75ml size is just a little too large for carrying around with me; I tend to keep a tube of hand-cream in my pocket at work to apply on-the-go, so this would just be a bit on the bulky side. I apply this at bedtime and first thing in the morning, using roughly the amount shown below and massaging gently until it's absorbed; I find the cream soaks in fairly quickly and leaves my hands feeling smooth but not sticky or greasy. There's a pleasant floral/botanical-type scent to the product which fades upon application, lasting only a minute or two on the hands.
Yves Rocher Long Lasting Moisturising Hand Cream
Formulated without parabens and using natural oils and waxes in place of petroleums and paraffins, this hand cream is ideal for my dry & sensitive eczema-prone skin; it's been working well to keep my hands at the dry-and-itchy level, rather than cracked-and-sore as they often are, particularly during the colder winter months! If you're looking for an affordable and effective natural hand cream, this is a great place to start and one I'd definitely recommend picking up! Yves Rocher Long-Lasting Moisturising Hand Cream is priced at £3.90 for 75ml of product, though it's currently better than half price at just £1.80, which makes it an absolute bargain!! It's also available in a handbag-friendly 30ml tube, priced at just £1.50.

[*Product provided for consideration. This does not affect my review in any way.]

Friday, 23 January 2015

Say Hello to Minted.com*

I've recently been introduced to Minted.com*, a beautiful site offering stationery and art pieces from a global community of designers. From beautiful, customisable notebooks and stationery, save-the-date cards and invitations, right through to gorgeous, unique art prints which would be perfect for gifting, I'm pretty sure Minted have something to offer everyone!
The beautiful Folk Family Tree is available in three colourways on a choice of two paper types, framed or unframed, with prices starting from just $46 and increasing for bigger prints; I think this would be a lovely gift for parents or grandparents, as well as being a beautiful addition to a family home, perhaps as a house-warming gift to yourself (I'm all about treating yourself!).
There's a huge selection of art pieces available, from photography and abstract through to geometric prints and typography-based pieces, but the Love print and the Abstract Triangles both really stood out to me as pieces that would work beautifully into any home; again, they're both available framed or unframed and in a huge range of sizes to suit any space and budget.
I am also loving the look of the Maps & Landmarks collection, which features all the US states and a selection of other maps alongside landmarks such as bridges. You can choose to upload your own photos which are fitted to the shape of the map, but I particularly like these foil maps, with this UK foil map available in two sizes starting at just $32; I think the gold foil on the white background is just gorgeous and, again, would work perfectly in almost any home. Other collections include birthstones and constellations, both of which offer some beautiful, eye-catching pieces.
Finally, if you're planning a wedding or know someone who is, Minted could be perfect, offering a huge range of save the date cards and wedding invitations in some stunning designs, which are obviously fully customisable to your own details! I adore this Garden Lights Save The Date Postcard, which is available in quantities starting from 25 for $47, getting cheaper the more you order!
I'd really recommend having a little browse of Minted if you're looking for unusual gifts, something to brighten up your home, or any kind of stationery! There really are some beautiful pieces on offer and I know I'll be coming back to the site time and again in future. Have any of these pieces caught your eye? Is this the sort of thing you'd like to give (or receive!) as a gift?

[*Please note I have been offered store credit in return for this post. This doesn't affect my opinions in any way and all words are my own; I wouldn't be interested in the store credit if I didn't like the products, now, would I!?]

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Review: GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation

I really didn't need anymore base products but somehow a tube of GOSH's X-Ceptional Wear Foundation in shade 12 'Natural' found its way into my basket in Superdrug, and somehow made it through the checkout, and home with me for a little trial... "GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation Long Lasting Makeup with Vitamin E is a soft and creamy makeup with exceptional covering. Gives the skin a matt and beautiful finish which lasts for many hours. The formula is perfume-free." Sounds good, right? But does it live up to its claims?
GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation 12 Natural Review
The packaging isn't anything particularly special, a black hard plastic tube with a screw cap and a medium-sized nozzle which makes for relatively easy application, although I think as I come to the end of the tube it could be quite difficult to get all the product out. I've found this foundation applies best with a dampened BeautyBlender, giving a decent level of coverage and making my skin look bright and even, without looking cakey or overly made-up. The shade I have, 'Natural', is pretty much the perfect match for my pale winter skin, which is amazing as I do tend to struggle to find a good shade match. The coverage isn't quite perfect and I'd still add concealer over dark circles and any particularly bad blemishes, but there's definitely a medium coverage here, and it's buildable to medium-full without going cakey.
GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation Review
I'd argue that the finish is more of a satin than matte, although I always set my base with a powder which does leave a matte finish. The foundation itself lasts really well on my oily skin (bearing in mind that I do always use a primer underneath), easily making it through a ten hour day, although I do find I become a bit shiny quite quickly and need to blot and/or touch up my powder. That said, even without doing this, the coverage is still in place at the end of the day when I get in from work, so I can't really knock the foundation in that respect!
FOTD GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation
As a first foray into GOSH's make-up, I've definitely been impressed and I'm looking forward to seeing what else the brand have to offer in the near future! GOSH's X-Ceptional Wear Foundation is available from Superdrug, priced at £7.99 for 35ml, in a choice of six shades; there's currently up to £5 off GOSH products so now would be the perfect time to treat yourself! Have you tried any of GOSH's base products? What would you recommend I try next from the brand?


Monday, 19 January 2015

New Year, New... Everything!? | A Wishlist

One of the things I always find in the first few weeks of a new year, is the overwhelming urge to throw away all my accumulated junk and replace tired, worn items with shiny new pieces! Obviously this would be very wasteful, not to mention impractical, particularly when I'm meant to be saving up for a car... That doesn't mean there aren't a handful of pieces I've got my eye on, though! From knitwear through to notebooks, here are a few things I'd love to freshen up every aspect of my life.
New Year, New... Everything!? Wishlist
Dark Romance Rule Leather Notebook, Paperchase, £15
GOSH Forever Eyeshadows in BlueGreenLight Copper & Plum, Superdrug, £5.99 each
How seriously warm and snuggly does the Aida Knit from Blue Vanilla look?! Christmas may have been and gone but I'm pretty sure it's getting colder as the weeks pass, and I'm finding I need more and more layers to survive the trek to work, so this cosy jumper would be a lovely addition - and it's reduced in the sale, bonus! I absolutely adore the Dark Romance design from Paperchase, and whilst there is no argument whatsoever to be made that I need any more notebooks, I still think this would make a lovely addition to my desk (figuratively speaking, as I'm currently operating from the top bunk in my bedroom at my parents house!). I recently bought one of the GOSH Eyeshadow Sticks in the shade 'Beige' and have found it super easy to wear; it's a beautiful, bright shade that I can apply in seconds, and it lasts so well on my oily lids without any creasing or transfer. There are some lovely shades in the range, but I love the look of these four! Washi tape cannot be described as an essential by any stretch of the imagination but it's just so pretty and there are some really beautiful designs available at the moment; I'm pretty sure I could write a wishlist consisting exclusively of washi tapes! I love the look of mercury glass and candles are a must-have, especially in winter, for creating a warm and cosy atmosphere; what better way to combine the two than this gorgeous Anthropologie candle? I'm not sure what use I'd find for this pretty chest from Matalan - maybe I could re-organise my make-up into it!? I've been feeling in need of a little make-up storage shake-up for the past few months... I've read so many good things about Bee Good, I do see myself trying some of their products this year and the Honey & Propolis cleanser sounds beautiful. Accessorize have some beautiful, delicate pieces in at the moment; I treated myself to a set of stacking rings last week, but I love the simplicity of this triangle cut-out ring. And, finally, these cosy-looking bootie style slippers are reduced at New Look and would be just the ticket for keeping my feet warm until summer gets here!!
Do you get the craving for new things in the new year? Do you like the look of any of the pieces I've picked out here? Have you treated yourself to anything new and lovely?

[Please note this post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for clicks and/or purchases. This contributes to the running costs of Just Jess, and I have not been paid to write this post.]

Saturday, 17 January 2015

NOTD: Lollipops 'Voyage à Paris'

Lollipops isn't a brand I'm overly familiar with, although apparently they started out making accessories fifteen years ago, diversifying into beauty in 2010. I received this nail polish in a Birchbox a few months back now; 'Voyage à Paris' is a beautiful bright, classic red shade which I've found to be opaque within two coats, drying quickly to a super high-gloss finish. This is the sort of shade that suits everyone and is a real staple to have within your nail polish collection. Photos below show two coats of 'Voyage à Paris' with no base or top coat - naughty, I know!
Lollipops Voyage à Paris NOTD
NOTD Lollipops Voyage à Paris
'Voyage à Paris' is available exclusively from Birchbox, priced at £7 for 10ml. It's a gorgeous shade and, although not particularly unusual, its high quality means it's definitely one I'd recommend adding to your stash, as you can never go wrong with a classic red - I actually wore this on my first date with my boyfriend! Have you heard of Lollipops before? What do you think to 'Voyage à Paris'?


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Underhyped Brands: Boots Botanics

You know those brands that you use a whole handful of products from, but never really hear much about? I decided it was high time I shared a couple of those, the products I use and why I love them. Maybe you'll discover a new favourite brand! Today I'm looking at the Botanics range at Boots, which is a really affordable range and there are often offers running taking the prices to absolute bargain levels. I'm currently using seven of their products, mainly from the All Bright range, which aims to counteract dull congested skin.
Underhyped Brands Boots Botanics
Botanics All Bright Micellar 3 in 1 Cleansing Solution | £2.99 here | I use this as my first cleanse of an evening to remove the bulk of my make-up before I go in with a cleansing oil; it seems to do a really good job and it's nice to see just how much gunk and grime comes away on the cotton pad each night.
Botanics All Bright Cleansing Toner | £3.99 here | I have reviewed this product in full if you'd like more details, but suffice to say I absolutely love it; it's my evening toner of choice, containing AHAs which act as chemical exfoliants to helps smooth and brighten the skin without the harshness of manual exfoliants. This is a fab budget-friendly door into exfoliating toners and I honestly don't see myself purchasing anything more expensive when this has been so effective for me.
Botanics All Bright Soothing Eye Make-Up Remover | £3.99 here | This is a bi-phase formula which you shake to activate, and I've found it really effective in gently removing my eye make-up; the oil part of the formula means it lifts away even waterproof mascara without too much hassle. I tend to just hold a cotton pad soaked in remover over my (closed!) eye for around ten seconds, before gently wiping away.
Botanics All Bright Purifying Face Scrub | £3.99 here | I use this every second or third day in the shower; it has quite a similar consistency to the St Ives scrubs so requires a light hand to apply it, and I tend to concentrate on the more congested areas around my nose and chin, but it does work pretty nicely to leave my skin feeling softer and smoother.
Botanics Organic Facial Oil | £9.99 here | I've actually reviewed this in full as well, so do click through if you'd like to read more about the product. In short, though, I tend to use this most evenings before I apply my moisturiser just to give my skin a little helping hand. I do have oily skin and I haven't noticed and increase in oiliness or blemishes from using this, so if you have oily skin and have been scared to use an oil, this is a budget-friendly way to give it a try and I'd really recommend picking it up!
Botanics All Bright Cleansing Foam Wash | £3.99 here | I keep this at my boyfriend's for when I stay over, so I don't have to cart all my skincare and toiletries back and forth. This gets used both morning and evening when I'm there; I use it twice in the evening, firstly just massaging in and rinsing well to remove the bulk of my make-up, and then repeating and removing with a warm flannel to ensure my skin in properly clean. In the morning I just use it once, massaging in and rinsing, often in the shower. It works well for me and smells gorgeous!
Botanics Shine Away Invigorating Face Scrub | £2.69 here | This also lives at my boyfriend's so I only use it a couple of times per week; it smells lovely and has a really nice, fine texture which leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth but doesn't cause any irritation. I wouldn't like to comment on the mattifying claims as I don't think I use it consistently enough, but it would be an added bonus if it helps keep oiliness under control!
So, those are the Botanics products which currently feature in my skincare routine! As you can see, I use quite a few products and have had good experience with them all; I'd definitely recommend the range as an affordable option which should offer something for most people, including dry skins, oily skins, anti-aging, and the brightening products I use. Have you used any Botanics products? Are there any other products from the range you'd recommend I try?


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Six Mini Reviews #11: Sarah McNamara, Malin & Goëtz, Calvin Klein & More...

My mission to clear out my beauty sample stash is continuing into 2015, so with that said here is my first installment of samples I've used up! I really like these beauty minis as a way of trying new products which I mightn't otherwise get to, and it's an affordable way of trying higher-end products without having to invest. I think I've got quite a nice mix of products in this post, so I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.
Six Mini Beauty Reviews 11
Six Mini Reviews 11
Sarah McNamara Miracle Skin Transformer Hydroactive Microderm | Well that's a bit of a mouthful! This generous sample lasted me a good few weeks of using in the shower every other day, and I really enjoyed using it; aside from a lovely scent (always a plus!), the consistency was spot-on for my preferences, and it gave just the right amount of exfoliation to leave my skin feeling smooth but not scrubbed raw. A definite winner for me, although the £25 price tag for 50ml of product would put me off buying the full-size for the time being. Maybe one day!
Agave Healing Oil | This cute little phial of hair oil was a Birchbox sample which I've been using on the ends of my hair after washing, whilst still wet, for a few weeks. My hair is waist-length so the ends are pretty prone to dryness, and I'm keen to try anything that helps to minimise split ends and breakages. This oil has a lovely light formula which soaked into my hair quickly without leaving any residue or greasy feeling, just silky soft hair. It also smells beautiful which is always a bonus! At £16 for 60ml, this is a mid-price hair oil option and one I'd love to buy in the future.
Ghost Eclipse Perfume | This was a magazine sample and I found that I really liked the rollerball packaging; it somehow felt like less product was being wasted as I could apply it directly to my skin without half of it being lost in the air around me. This is very much my type of scent, fresh and fruity with notes of sweet bergamot, lemon, mandarin, apple and peach. It might be a fragrance more suited to summer but that wouldn't put me off wearing it year-round, and starting at £24.50 for 30ml, this is an affordable choice.
Malin & Goëtz Grapefruit Face Cleanser | Another magazine sample, this cleansing gel smells absolutely beautiful and has been my morning cleanser of choice for the past few weeks; it lathers nicely and leaves my skin feeling clean and refreshed to start the day, removing any traces of oil and grime which may have built up overnight. It also wakes me up nicely! At £25 for 236ml, this isn't cheap but a little does go a long way and the massive bottle would last an age, so I'd definitely consider purchasing this if I was feeling particularly flush.
Calvin Klein Euphoria Eau de Parfum | I'm not altogether sure that these little magazine samples even count as actual samples, but I am in the habit of cutting them out and keeping them as they're handy for refreshing perfume through the day without having to carry a full-sized bottle around. The little wipe in the sachet is the perfect size for popping a little bit of scent onto the collarbones and wrists. I did like Euphoria in a generic kind of way; it's nice and I'd wear it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so, with prices from £37.50 for 30ml.
Ilcsi Flavonoid Extra Mask | This came in a Birchbox and I have to say using it was a bizarre experience; a little like spreading jam on my face, both in texture and in scent, although it dried to more the consistency of yoghurt... It did smell pretty nice, though, and once washed off my skin was left feeling smooth and hydrated and looking a bit brighter; at £39.95 for 50ml, this is an expensive product (especially considering the 5ml sample was only enough for one usage!) and as I tend to go for clarifying/deep-cleansing masks above brightening, it's probably not something I'll be buying in the future although it was nice to try as a one-off.
Have you tried any of these products? What's the best beauty product you've discovered through a sample? Do you have a favourite way of picking up samples, or of making sure they get used?


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Review: Essence I ♥ Extreme Volume Mascara

Hello and welcome to my first beauty review of 2015, and we're starting as we mean to go on with a budget-friendly mascara - but is it worth spending your cash on? I received Essence's I ♥ Extreme Volume Mascara as part of a giveaway prize last year, and have been using it as my day-to-day mascara for the past few weeks. "Mascara for extreme volume; ultra black; ophthalmologically tested."
Essence I Heart Extreme Volume Mascara
First things first, I can't help but think the tube is just too chunky, I can't see why it needs to be so fat - it makes it harder to store and means it takes up more space in my make-up bag so it's less than ideal for travelling with. Maybe a minor thing but the little things can add up! That aside, the packaging is quite nice, with the product name printed in hot pink on the black tube - simple but effective. The wand features a standard brush-style application - none of these new-fangled plastic combs or spoon-shaped things here! - though the brush is a little on the larger side.
Essence I Heart Extreme Mascara Wand
I find that the mouth of the tube doesn't tend to remove excess product from the tip of the wand, meaning you have to remember to do this yourself or risk ending up with mascara-blobs in the corners of your eyes - never a good look! The large brush makes application a little tricky, as it can be hard to reach the inner corner lashes without getting mascara blobs on the lids - see photo below...
Essence Mascara Review
I'm lucky in that I have quite long lashes as it is, so in a mascara I'm generally just looking for a jet-black colour and a nice amount of volume, rather than anything extreme in terms of added length. For me, though, I felt that this mascara actually made my lashes look shorter somehow. Seriously, I don't know how it would achieve that, but everytime I apply it I feel like my lashes end up looking kinda stumpy...?!
FOTD Essence Mascara
[Also wearing: Laura Mercier Foundation Primer; Rimmel Lasting Finish 25H Foundation in '100 Ivory'; Benefit High Beam; Soap & Glory Kick-Ass Concealer in 'Light'; Makeup Gallery Smoothly Does It Pressed Powder; NARS Powder Blusher in 'Douceur'; MUA Pro Brow Kit; GOSH Forever Eyeshadow Metallic Eyeshadow Stick in '02 Beige'; Essence I ♥ Extreme Volume Mascara]
I should mention that this mascara lasts well - I've not experienced any flaking or smudging, even when wearing it for 14+ hours - and removes reasonably well with an eye make-up remover on cotton pads. I do get a nice dark, black colour but, rather than adding volume as it claims, it has a tendency to clump a little if you try to apply more than one coat, and that alongside the fact that it somehow manages to make my lashes look shorter means this isn't a winner for me! All in all, the little things have added up to make this a pretty poor offering as far as I'm concerned; the excessively chunky tube, the mascara blobs not being removed from the wand, and the way it looks on my lashes, mean I won't be repurchasing this and I don't really feel like I could recommend it, though I wouldn't be put off trying other Essence mascaras as for the price they have the potential to be an absolute bargain! Have you tried Essence's I ♥ Extreme Volume Mascara? Did you have a similar experience? Would you recommend any other Essence mascaras, or should I give them a miss?


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2014 | My Year In Books

Last year, I set myself a challenge of reading fifty new books (that is, books I'd not read previously, not necessarily new books!) over the course of the year, and I was really pleased with myself to actually exceed this target! I kept a note in my Evernote app on my phone, adding each book to my list as I completed it, and it was really satisfying to see how the list grew. I decided I'd share my year in books along with my highlights and a couple of lowlights...
2014 Year In Books
A warning; this could get to be a very lengthy post! First up, here's the full list of books I finished:
  1. The Man With The Shattered World - A. R. Luria
  2. The Winter Ghosts - Kate Mosse
  3. The Windchime Legacy - A. W. Mykel
  4. I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai
  5. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
  6. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
  7. Little Children - Tom Perrotta
  8. The Rosary Girls - Richard Montanari
  9. The Complete Short Stories: Volume 1 - Roald Dahl
  10. Relentless - Simon Kernick
  11. Ellis Island - Kate Kerrigan
  12. Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella
  13. Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella
  14. Need - Carrie Jones
  15. How Did All This Happen? - John Bishop
  16. Entice - Carrie Jones
  17. After Obsession - Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel
  18. Tithe - Holly Black
  19. Ironside - Holly Black
  20. Valiant - Holly Black
  21. Fire - Kristin Cashore
  22. We Have Always Lived In The Castle - Shirley Jackson
  23. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
  24. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
  25. Down And Out In Paris And London - George Orwell
  26. The Last Lord of the Moors - Isabella Brooke
  27. Teaching The Old Duke New Tricks - Isabella Brooke
  28. As The Crow Flies - Damien Boyd
  29. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
  30. The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith
  31. The Genesis Code - John Case
  32. Middlesex - Jeffery Eugenides
  33. The Girl With All The Gifts - M. R. Carey
  34. The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
  35. Never Saw It Coming - Linwood Barclay
  36. Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life - Nina Stibbe
  37. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
  38. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  39. Daughter - Jane Shemilt
  40. The Aftermath - Rhidian Brook
  41. Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld
  42. Hannibal - Thomas Harris
  43. Hidden - Marianne Curley
  44. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
  45. Broken - Marianne Curley
  46. Together Apart - Natalie Martin
  47. Finding Emma - Steena Holmes
  48. Game - Justine Elyot
  49. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
  50. The Girl Who Never Came Back - Amy Cross
  51. Blacklands - Belinda Bauer
  52. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Phew! 52 books. I'm actually really proud of my achievement, and whilst some of these were tough going (Pride and Prejudice, I'm looking at you!), for the most part I really enjoyed my year of reading. Here are some of my favourites and not-so-favourites; these are by no means meant to be reviews or anything like that, just a little sentence or two on what I liked about my favourite books of the year.
American Gods, Neil Gaiman I'd not read any of Gaiman's work until last year, but I really enjoyed American Gods; the concept of the story was one which really appealed to me and I think it worked beautifully, Gaiman's writing style is right up my street and I'm definitely keen to read more of his work. American Gods is definitely a longer read and it did take me a couple of weeks, if memory serves, but I found it well worth the effort. I also really enjoyed Neverwhere, which was the first book of Gaiman's I read.
The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith I started this knowing full well that it was written by J.K.Rowling and I have to admit, I half-wish I'd had the opportunity to read it not knowing. That aside, I loved the book - the characters were really nicely built up, the storyline drew me in, and I finished feeling like I'd got to know Cormoran Strike. I was keen to read more and actually pre-ordered Silkworm on my Kindle, which again I really enjoyed, and I can't wait for the next installment.
Middlesex, Jeffery Eugenides I read The Virgin Suicides a few years back now and remember being in two minds about it (I wanted to love it and found the whole concept so interesting, but felt like something was lacking in the execution). I happened to flick through Middlesex at a friend's and ended up being unable to stop thinking about the story, so I bought it and found it an absolutely fascinating read. The idea behind the tale and its presentation were spot-on for me. Again, Eugenides is an author I'd love to read more of.
The Girl With All The Gifts, M. R. Carey I think this was my favourite book of the year, I absolutely loved the premise and the execution - such a good story and so beautifully told. I really felt like I got to know the characters, and became invested in their lives. I started this without really knowing what to expect (the blurb gave very little away) but quickly got hooked in! Another author I'll be looking to read more from in 2015.
Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld I was actually sent this to review (you can read my thoughts here) and as I mentioned in my post, I really liked the idea behind this tale and how the two halves of the story worked together and reflected each other, progressing one alongside the other. I started reading Westerfeld's Uglies series but got waylaid by Pride and Prejudice so I only actually read the first book, so the rest of them are on my list for this year.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler As a Psychology graduate, I found this utterly fascinating! I won't give away the premise of the story but suffice it to say, you should expect the unexpected with this one - it's a book that's stuck with me and I actually bought this for my best friend for Christmas, I enjoyed it so much. In one way, it's a tale about a typical family, but it's also a lot more than that.
Blacklands, Belinda Bauer Indulging my love of the morbid and macabre, I really enjoyed this book for a couple of reasons, not least because I find serial killers endlessly fascinating! I was also glad that Bauer kept her nerve, so to speak, and went with the logical ending (to my mind) rather than going back on herself somewhat in pursuit of a happy ending.
Books Read in 2014
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell I wanted to love this, I really did! I actually enjoyed the first third or so of the book and thought it had a lot of promise... And then it kind of lost me, and the rest of the book was a real drag to get through. I loved Animal Farm so I was really disappointed that this went downhill so rapidly for me, although it didn't put me off also reading Down and Out in Paris and London... which kind of lead me to conclude that Orwell isn't for me and Animal Farm was a one-off.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen I was so hopeful when I bought this! I'd been meaning to read it for years and this edition was so beautiful I decided it was a sign... Unfortunately, the pretty cover didn't really make up for the fact that this was a supremely dull story. I'm sorry, I know it's a classic, but it just did nothing for me and I managed to drag it out for around two months - I could have read another ten books in that time but I just didn't want to read it! Nothing happens!? Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't think Austen is for me.
All in all, I've really enjoyed my year in books, and putting this post together has been a lovely look back on my reading over the past twelve months. I'll definitely be keeping a list again this year to keep track of what I read, and I've got a little idea for a bit of journaling, too, which I might share if I get time to actually get round to doing it! What was your favourite book of 2014? Have you read any of these? Any recommendations for me to read in 2015?